The girls, CJ, and me in a photoshopped Bunun outfit

The Rite of Spring

Aaaah, can you feel it, radiating from this picture?

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Spring was in the air. And also the in the title of this update.

In this update I’ll write about two main events in my Taiwan life: finding out that I passed the intermediate Isbukun Bunun exam and the visit of my lovely classmates from Sinology, back in the day. Have fun reading!

Passing the Bunun exam

Those among you who have been avid readers of my blog for a longer time probably know that a few years ago, I got the chance to study one of the indigenous languages of Taiwan. The language we did that year in our fieldwork class was Bunun, and to be more precise the Isbukun dialect.

If you are suddenly falling out of the sky, not knowing what in the world I am talking about, I advise you to read this post. And if you are already firm on the ground, you can also read it again, as a friendly reminder.

Anyway, after that semester, I have also been working on the Bunun part of the Formosan Spoken Language corpus, as I also mentioned here. Well, now the language elicitation is finally coming to an end, and I have had to say temporary goodbye to my dearest Hanaivaz. Here are some pictures of us working together, as well as Eric, my colleague who is technically my superior for this project.

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One time I took a toilet break and found my other classmate Mergen in my spot, causally talking with Hanaivaz.

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But yeah, this is all to say that without Hanaivaz, my Bunun skills would probably be non-existent. For instance, she coached me for the Bunun intermediate language exam and I got a really good score. The exam itself was not super hard, but without preparation it is impossible to get a passing grade. Apparently I did pretty well, because I was invited to a ceremony for people with the highest scores. Here are some pictures of that event. Let’s see if you, the reader, are any good at Where is Waldo?:

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In the picture below, they interviewed me on stage. I already forgot what I said exactly, but I had this whole speech prepared in Bunun that I did not get to say. So here is that web exclusive, exclusively for you:

Saikin hai tupaun tu Thomas. Malas Bunun tu ngan hai tupan tu Dahai. Saikin hai Taiwan Daigaku tu isnanavaan. Mazima saikin itu Bunun tu halinga. Tuza tu uninang mahtuang saikin aip tu hanian isia imu tu tanangaus matuduldul mapasadu. Tuza tu uninang. Mihumisang.

Which translates to:

I am Thomas. My Bunun name is Dahai. I’m a student at National Taiwan University. I like the Bunun language. Thank you very much for allowing me to stand in front of you today, seeing each other. For real, thank you. Wishing you the best.

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There were some other non-indigenous students too, mostly from Japan. But the one that made the strongest impression was Pan Yu-Hsiang, a student at Tsinghua University, which also hosts an impressive linguistic department here in Taiwan, and who is really good at his indigenous languages. If I remember correctly, he is also doing Bunun, but another dialect.

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Now, as you may have noticed, I am wearing a somewhat special outfit. Hanaivaz brought these traditional clothes for me, but it was a bit last-minute. Maybe next year I’ll be wearing even more traditional clothing.

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Finally, to close off this topic, here is an interview with me that was broadcast on the National Indigenous Television of Taiwan.

Next year, (in a few months), I might be taking the newly-established mid-high level!

Visit from my classmates of Sinology

Next on the agenda is the visit of my classmates. This was a plan that was first conceived of a few years ago (more precisely, when I was first back in Belgium after starting my PhD – read about it here).

Since the girls – Joke, Anneleen, Silke and Mandy – would be travelling to Shanghai afterwards and then to Inner Mongolia with another girlfriend of us, Yoana, the time in Taiwan was pretty limited. But luckily, even on a temporal budget, #temporalbudget, we can visit some nice places here.

For instance, there is the mandatory campus tour that I try to give / impose on all of my visitors. This starts at the main gate and goes past the Drunken Moon Lake – the forbidden lake during Ghost Month (right now) because of, well, ghosts:

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Then there are such highlights as the view from Chunky, aka Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall:

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As can be seen, life is not a pony camp. We did some calisthenic sports and foot torture as well:

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Of course, temples were also on the menu. Here are the Confucius temple and the Baoan Gong:

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This and countless (okay, not countless, but a lot, given the time that was allowed) other things we did. For instance, we went to hot springs together in Beitou, walked around Tamsui (my hair is horrible in these pictures, pls ignore), went to sing karaoke in the shady Japanese ktv that has a surprising large amount of English songs, ate hot pot, talked about cows and calves, did the necessary gossiping etc.

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However, the one that was a first for me in Taiwan was (finally) taking a trip to Yangmingshan, named after Wang Yangming 王陽明, one of the four great Confucianists – although I think recently he has fallen a bit off his pedestal.

So, we met at the MRT, in our best hiking outfit.

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And then we took the bus to the mountain trail. Since I had never been there, I did not know how long it was going to last. This fact, however, did not seem to have made through to Anneleen, who kept asking every ten minutes if we still had a long way to go, and I just kept saying, “I think it’s about half an hour left”. About one and a half hour later (or so it felt) we finally arrived at the highest trail, where we hiked a bit up and down. We even got to see dinosaurs!

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And CJ saw a snake (no pic sorry).

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But yeah, this literally was the highest point of their visit. And as you can see from the real emotions caught on camera below, I was very reluctant to see them go. I really hope they can visit again, so we can venture more out of Taipei and into the Great Beyond.

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Memorable moments

To conclude this udpate, here are some funny or memorable moments that I cannot deny you guys.

Remember when, the department was transformed into a wushu (for Western audience, read ‘kung fu’) camp?

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Remember when, I ran into Austin from my summer school 4 (four!!) years ago, randomly roaming around on the streets? Good luck with your restaurant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Remember when, we had a dinner date with CJ, Saito and Emily? That was some good ramen!

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Remember when, we had pizza and Greg wanted some of the spicy whatever-that-is in the jar and the jar decided that it would grant ALL OF THE SPICINESS!

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And finally, remember when we discovered a bar that has happy hours and is now our weekly week-closener?

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The North Remembers.

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