||Jul 22 2000
"Half Baked in Taiwan" is a blend of practical information, memoir and two cultures clashing. "Half Baked in Taiwan" is a quickly read yet informative book peppered with humor and insight. Readers, saddle up, mount a beast called culture shock and hang on for a jolting ride. The so-called Westernization of Asia is a misleading exaggeration.
Buy your copy!
Barnes & Noble.com
"The overall experience of being a Westerner living in Taiwan can cause one to feel a vast range of emotions. From the very start 'Half Baked in Taiwan' is exceedingly humorous, insightful, and easy to relate to. I found myself laughing so much that my co-workers took notice," says Steven Aukstakalnis, expatriate and editor based in Taiwan. Hear that noise? That's the crunch of two cultures clashing. Taiwan's culture is Chinese. Saving face, Chinese Lunar New Year, Chinese cuisine and the exacting social art of gift-giving are just a few of the Asian customs to which visitors must adapt themselves, for if they don't, they risk constantly being at odds with their hosts, hosts like Jane Lan, a Taiwan native with strong opinions. Jane provides an Oriental counterpoint to Fowler's Yankee perspective. Mr. and Mrs. Tsai, who are so Asian they’ve shunned adopting Western first names, introduce Fowler and her husband to the Taiwan that tourists usually skim over. With Fowler as a guide, readers will meet aboriginal children, attend a wedding, meet a sexy woman with prescient knowledge, and zip around the Republic on an "iron horse." Even supposedly simple tasks like buying a bunch of broccoli at the local "wet market" become, for the half-baked foreigner, a mind-shifting experience worth writing home about. Read the book and get a rice bucket full of laughs.
Why do Taiwan's package designers bother printing the words "Buckwheat Noodles" and "Beauty" in English on packages of noodles and magazines, respectively, when all other information on the packages or magazines is in Chinese characters. What implied promises do those few English words convey to Taiwan's consumers? Drawn in by the English word, I feel let down and then deceived when I see the remainder of the printed matter is Mandarin. The use of token English seems half-baked, akin to Braille on an elevator panel in a building otherwise rife with obstacles for blind people.
Tom and I knew we were in for a spliced language treat when we went shopping, because we frequented the "Imporped Food" section. In an unintentional nod to truth in advertising, packets of powdered instant coffee blended with cream and sugar were labeled "Coffee Bland." "Dedclothes" were in aisle five and "Wstant Foods" were in aisle seven. The sign on the infant clothing store announced, "Me need baby delicate children's garments." If it's deodorant you want, (lots of luck!) shop at the "Pharmary." Thighs a tad flabby? Try Seaweed Defat Soap containing "minerals and medicines which can osmosis skin and make subcutaneous fat got off." Does it work? Need you ask?
It's Just Like Here, Only Different
So you're thinking about visiting Taiwan. So you're thinking maybe you should read about life in that island nation before you go. Then "Half Baked in Taiwan" is the book for you. Beth Fowler, self-described expatriate American, has written a funny, insightful, and at times shocking, account of her life in Taiwan.
Fowler explores and explains to us pale (thus the phrase "Half Baked") Euro-origin Westerners the Taiwanese version of such activities as eating, driving, sports, dating and marriage, stimulants both legal and addictive, earthquakes, shopping, personal space, and that all-important, yet often misunderstood, "face".
Bear in mind in Taiwan many of these activities are conducted simultaneously, with little regard for anyone's safety.
Fowler, a world traveler and accomplished observer of human nature, has produced a book that is more than just a travelogue. Even as she is relating her experiences in Taiwan through a Westerner's eyes, she is detailing an ancient Asian culture as it enters the 21st century. Buddhist monks jostle with old ladies in the post office. The military conducts exercises in case the Peoples Republic of China invades the Taiwan Republic of China. Christmas decorations may stay year round. "Why take them down? They're pretty."
Some comments for when you go to Taiwan. Save your efforts to be American style friendly. Traditionally, Chinese rely on close friends and family to fulfill their business, financial, babysitting, and care giving needs. Never strangers. They simply are unaccustomed to, and sometimes confounded by, our "Hi! How you doing?" friendliness.
Finally, if someone says to you "You've gained a little weight" you are to be complimented. Why? Because that means the speaker is showing a sincere concern for your health. If you have indeed gained weight, well, you have "more gravity".
You see, it's just like here. Only different.
"…Exceedingly insightful and easy to relate to. I found myself laughing so much that my co-workers took notice." Steve Aukstakalnis, Caves Books, Taiwan.
"I liked most of it." Dad
"…Humorous blend of travelogue, culture clash and fish-out-of-water tales." Chris Mautner, Harrisburg Patriot News
"A wry take on Taiwan." John Bugbee, York Sunday News
"…Professional and highly readable." Jack Barker, www.travelmag.com.uk
"Loved Half Baked in Taiwan. I laughed a lot and wanted to cry
also. Fantastic. Can't wait to read your next book." Barby Holder, www.BarbyHolder.com
"Congratulations on joining the few elite authors who covers Taiwan with insight and intelligence."
Jeremy Teigen, Political Science grad at University of Texas & former Taiwan resident.
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Reader Reviews for "Half Baked in Taiwan"
|Reviewed by Victoria Murray
|What a wonderful blend of information and humor in the difficult task of adjoining two cultures. by this talented author!
Victoria Taylor Murray
'Thief Of Hearts'