Friday, November 23, 2007

Wasai-- Ghosts in the Garbage

When I first arrived in Taiwan I was working for Hess language school. The first week here was dedicated to training us how to be English teachers, and also giving us a brief introduction to Taiwanese culture.

Training was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of hard work. There about 56 new teachers when we started, but the numbers soon began to whittle away as the days went by. It felt like I was on some bizarre reality show and people were slowly getting voted off the island. I think that many foreigners come here with the wrong idea, and when they realize how different things are here, and how powerless they are to change that, many of them go running home with their tails between their legs.

We had lectures all day from 9am till about 5pm. After work we were allowed to go out and explore Taipei. This provided many of us, with our first taste of culture-shock. At Shi-Lin night market, many people ate strange things like sheep brains, pig intestines, stinky tofu and chicken-ass-kebab. One American teacher, who refused to eat the food at the night market, headed straight for McDonalds. He emerged looking pleased with himself as he gobbled down a Big Mac and fries. He wasn’t looking so happy a while later though.

Taiwan has very few public garbage cans, and while he was looking around for a place to dispose of his trash and unwanted fries, he saw some people gathered around a large tin drum with a roaring fire burning in it. Taiwanese people were throwing paper into the fire, so he casually strolled up and threw his garbage in, too. We soon saw him running down the street with three angry Taiwanese men close behind him. He had just learned the hard way about the tradition of Ghost money.

In Taiwan many people believe that burning ghost money as an offering to your ancestors will bring you or your business good luck. I think that business has closed down now and there is a McDonalds in its place.
Submitted to Wasai Taiwan by: Stuart Wilson
(Hsinchu, Taiwan--- Cape Town, South Africa)

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