Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On a Lighter Note...

I think this blog needs more pictures. Here is a couple from the temple at my favorite night market ShiLin 士林. The lanterns have been put out and lit up for the Lunar New Year.

I didn't leave Taipei for New Year's which turns out to have been a mistake. Everything shut down and to top it off it was cold and raining the entire week. Oh well, live and learn. 新年快樂!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Anthropology in the Public Imagination?

A few days ago a friend called me up and asked for help. It wasn't anything that important or serious, but it would have involved me lying to a third party, so I politely told my friend that I was uncomfortable with the situation.

At the time I got this phone call I happened to be in a public space and so naturally the people I was with asked me about the phone call. The favor my friend had asked me for wasn't anything private so I told the people I was with. The people I happened to be with weren't in anyway connected to any research I am doing, they were just some friends at the hostel, but they of course all know that I am an anthropologist and that I am in Taiwan to do research.

After telling them the story of the phone call they asked me why I had refused to lie. I thought the answer to that was obvious, but apparently not, so I explained to them why I felt uncomfortable with the situation which included ethical concerns about my behavior while in the field. To my horror someone then replied, "Yeah, but isn't that what you anthropologists do? You lie to get into a group and then study the people?"

I immediately went into defense mode and corrected this person's misconception, but what they said stuck in my brain. What gave them this idea? As far as I know I am the only anthropologist this person has met (I don't know if they have read any anthropological texts) and I all but wear a sandwich board explaining who I am and what I am doing here. I am so transparent about my intentions that I even explain it to people whom I have no intentions of involving in my research just in case.

A couple of days after this conversation I went back and asked this person where they had gotten this idea again. They said they didn't know.

Now I wonder, when I tell people I am working on an anthropology PhD, what does that mean to them?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Personal Experiment - the Beginning

During a couple of my trips to one of the cyber cafes here in Taipei I have met locals who are near fluent in English. Now I understand that most (maybe all?) students here study English in school, but I am talking about meeting people who at first sound like they may actually be ABCs and not locals of Taipei. During my last trip to the cafe I finally broke down and asked one of these guys how he got so good at speaking English. His answer was short and sweet. WoW.

I have been considering off and on since arriving in Taiwan buying a Chinese version of WoW in an attempt to meet people and brush up on my language skills, but I never got around to it for several reasons. After a while I gave up on the idea and forgot about trying to use video games to work on my Chinese skills.

Three days ago though, the idea reemerged in full force while I was walking through the mall near my house. I walked into one of the video game stores and was perusing the DS titles available when a box cover with large Chinese characters caught my attention. It was the Sims online. I immediately decided that this would be the perfect game for me to learn Chinese with. It is a life simulator and so my idea is that the vocabulary I will be confronted with in the game should be words and phrases that I can put to use and practice in my daily life.

The game is downloading right now. I can't wait to try this out.