Sunday, March 29, 2009

Impromptu Activism

I was near Taipei Main Station the other day, which also happens to be by all the buildings for the various branches of government for Taiwan, and I somehow ended up getting brought in to a small-scale protest. There's pretty much always a little DPP camp protesting outside of one of the government buildings (I'm not sure which one). However, last week was the first time that anyone from the protest has actually approached me.

On this particular day, there happened to be some well-spoken academics or professors of some sort among the bunch, and the protest seemed to be particularly lively. I was walking by them, minding my own business, when one of the professors asks me in perfect English, "Hey! Do you know that Taiwan is not China?" I have no idea why he asked me. He probably wanted to stir up more excitement by bringing in the token foreign opinion, but I was kind of happy to be asked nonetheless. Let me just say that I don't presume to be an expert on Taiwan, and I realize that I'm sort of a guest here. However, that doesn't mean I don't have my opinions. I think it would be horrible if Taiwan were forced to become a part of China against the will of the majority. That's basic democracy, isn't it? So I told the people, that no, I didn't believe that Taiwan is a part of China, and they all cheered. At this point I was speaking Chinese, and one of the people asked me if I could speak Taiwanese. I looked at my feet and sheepishly told them no. You should have seen the look of disappointment on their faces. To be honest, Taiwanese is just not as practical as Mandarin, and there aren't as many resources for foreigners to learn it. I was feeling pretty bad, but then I said "uh, pai se" and they all cheered again. I sat down and hung out with them for about 20 minutes (unfortunately I could only speak with them in Mandarin, but they didn't seem to mind too much). It was kind of surreal.

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