URLs on a scrolling marquee are just wrong

posted in: cross-culture, taipei | 1

URLs on a scrolling marquee are wrong

Scrolling neon signs are everywhere in Taipei, and often in the most incongruous places–it’s like no one notices how much it ruins the perfectly nice university gate, local park, or even temple, behind it. It carries an ugly touch of modernity that isn’t even that modern in our smartphone world. Really, are you supposed to read the URL, remember the cid, and then type it into a browser? [confused.]

228 “Incident”

posted in: cross-culture, taipei | 0

Today is a public holiday to commemorate 2/28. Since we didn’t know much about the origins of this holiday, we decided to take a (rainy) walk down to 228 Peace Memorial Park to check out the museum.


The museum was free but unfortunately all in Chinese (except for a single-page brochure in English). So although it was decent-looking enough, we didn’t spend too much time there.


The first part of the museum had a lot of Japanese paraphernalia, probably to give background to the “Incident,” which occurred shortly after the Kuomintang took over from Japanese rule in Taiwan. While the KMT may have been welcomed by some in the beginning, economic mismanagement led to inflation, food shortages, and a large black market. On the evening of February 27, 1947, the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau went to confiscate contraband cigarettes from a street vendor named Lin Jiang-mai (林江邁) at the Tianma Tea House — which I just found out is around the corner from where I live. The so-called Incident started with one of the Monopoly agents butting Ms. Lin in the head with his rifle, which caused an uproar in the surrounding crowd. As the agents tried to flee, one of them shot into the crowd, killing a bystander.

Protests erupted on February 28, and government forces fired on some of the protestors. Riots grew over the following days, and on March 8 the KMT launched a crackdown, executing 3,000-4,000 Taiwanese around the island (Wikipedia), including many high school students. All told, the number of people killed in the ensuing weeks is estimated to be between 10,000 to 30,000. This is why many prefer the term 228 Massacre instead of Incident. It is now identified as the starting point for a 38-year suppression of political dissidents by the KMT, dubbed the White Terror (白色恐怖).


As this topic was taboo for several decades, I’m not sure we’ll ever know the whole story. My uncle told me there’s actually another 228 museum in Taipei, with information in English, so I hope to check that one out soon.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nairobi

posted in: cross-culture, nairobi | 0

The strangest thing, when shopping at Nakumatt Prestige, I’ve been approached several times by black people speaking to me in Chinese. The first time it happened I was so startled that I chatted with them back. They’re always Jehovah’s Witnesses (presumably learning mandarin in order to convert the many Chinese in Nairobi) who inevitably invite me to an event “all in Chinese” at their centre nearby, all while handing me literature to peruse.

At another nearby spot, under a nice shady tree, there’s often a white woman sitting with a young white girl in a wheelchair, both distributing this literature. (Because who could say no to a girl in a wheelchair??)

I actually ran into this white woman with her husband yesterday, who of course invited me to their next Chinese event, at Eastland hotel (a Chinese hotel nearby) next week. I politely declined with the convenient excuse that I’ll be going to Norway. After explaining that my husband has family in Norway, the woman tells me I “should really read this then”:


After chatting with them briefly, I learn that she’s from Michigan and he’s a Montrealer. And the reason they live in Nairobi? Why, because there are so many Chinese here! (No, I don’t get the logic either.) And yes they speak Chinese: 一点点。


Christmas in Nairobi

posted in: cross-culture, nairobi | 0

The weather is always great in Nairobi, so being 25 degrees every day makes me forget that it’s almost Christmas time. There are some tell-tale signs though, like the workers in Santa hats at Nakumatt:

xmas time at nakumatt

We live near the Junction Mall, and I saw them set up a Santa corner–but it was only now that I noticed his hours: a full two hours every Saturday…

Santa is available for 2 hours

Meanwhile, I was having lunch outside when the Maasai group passed by. At least that’s what I presume it was. Every Thursday there’s a “musical” Maasai market at the mall, but this group was very silent as they marched by…

The Junction on Thursdays

Norwegian queue culture

posted in: cross-culture, oslo | 0


I think this ad, by the public transportation authority of Oslo (ruter), is hilarious–and passive-aggressive. It says: “THANKS for showing a queueing culture…”. And yet if you’ve ever been on a bus or train in Norway you would know that Norwegians don’t queue, they mob (while jabbing with their elbows, or at least that’s how it feels to me). Same thing happens at the canteen at work–while the foreigners have carefully and patiently formed a queue, some Norwegians don’t appear to notice and just cut straight to where they want to go. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they just don’t have a “queue culture”.

Go ruter.

meet the somalis

posted in: cross-culture, oslo | 0

meet the somalis

Over the past year, my colleague Cindy Horst has been researching how inclusion and exclusion processes have affected the Somali community in Oslo. As part of a larger “Somalis in European Cities” project, it has just released a wonderful set of illustrated stories depicting life in seven different cities around Europe (click image above to access). Somalis are one of the largest and perhaps most conspicuous refugee groups in Norway, and do not receive the most flattering portrayals in the media–particularly given the recent Westgate attacks being potentially linked to a Somali-born Norwegian. But these stories illustrate the diversity of asylum-seeker experiences here, from the difficulties of those who wait years before being “processed” by the state, to the children of refugees who want little to do with Somali culture. Check it out!

Meet the Somalis is a collection of 14 illustrated stories depicting the real life experiences of Somalis in seven cities in Europe: Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Leicester, London, Malmo, and Oslo. The stories allow readers a unique insight into what everyday life is like as a Somali in Europe. Meet the Somalis is based on the firsthand testimonies of Somalis in Europe interviewed during six months in 2013.

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