fulbright Taiwan online journal

fulbright Taiwan online journal

Author: Robert Siegel 席博安

Robert Siegel 席博安
Robert Anthony Siegel is an associate professor in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is the author of two novels, All the Money in the World and All Will Be Revealed. His awards include O. Henry and Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Michener/Copernicus Society and the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown.

Last Fragment from a Taiwan Notebook: Traffic, Turn Signals, Fate

A day or two after our arrival in Taiwan, my family and I stood at the edge of the narrow road just outside the college campus where we now lived, wondering how to cross the street. There was no traffic light, no crosswalk, no sidewalk, and no break in the traffic, which was made up almost entirely of motor scooters. Coming from America, land of the Humvee and the monster truck, a motor scooter sounds like a child’s toy, but a torrent of them is actually pretty scary. We watched for a while, looking for a gap in the flow, lurching forward and then retreating. Finally, we lost heart and went home. In the weeks that followed, we learned how to cross that street, zigging and zagging between scooters with the casual air of a Taiwanese college student out for bubble tea. We never really stopped to consider how out of character that was for us, anxious American suburbanites normally obsessed with rules and safety—tending to equate the two, really. It was like we’d left our order-loving, non-jaywalking selves behind in America, along with our two overweight cats and Big Gulp cups. Meanwhile in our travels through the city we

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Fragments from a Taiwan Notebook

The flight to Taipei was a 13 hour-long tunnel through about a million movies, and Taipei was a glimmer of signs in the dark. We’ve woken up in a gorgeous hotel room. Outside the window it’s Times Square but with palm trees. Next, we drive south to Taichung. Maia: “I could get used to Taiwanese hospitality.” We’re in Taichung, in a house on campus, and it’s a little bit like living in Jungle Book. There are geckos walking across the ceiling and frogs in the kitchen. Outside there are cobras in the tall grass (we’re told) and bats at dusk, peacocks and weird butterflies. The main road is lined with banyan trees and their branches look like they’re dripping into the ground. Plus, it’s really steamy. But the people are incredibly hospitable in a completely informal way, and the food is just astounding. Papaya for breakfast, mangoes like poems, a kind of red candied tofu… At night any open space is utilized: lines of women shyly dancing to the music of a boom box, their exercise routine. Everyone in unison. Whenever you hear a tinny rendition of “Fur Elise,” it’s a garbage truck passing by. Food at the night market:

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Research & Reflections

fulbright taiwan online journal