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Voices From Taiwan

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Friday the Thirteenth in Taiwan

(4/13/2018) Today is Friday the thirteenth, a date most westerners associate with ill tidings, negative omens and bad luck in general. An entire blood-soaked film franchise is based on Friday the Thirteenth’s nefarious nature, and more than a few folks avoid traveling on the 13th day of any month that happens to fall on a Friday. In Taiwan, however, the date is meaningless, and more than one Taiwanese friend has asked me, “Josh, why is Friday the thirteenth considered an unlucky day in America?” To which I’ve wisely answered (being something of an expert in both Taiwanese and American culture): “Errrrr…let me get back to you on that.” And then consulted our good friend Madame Wikipedia on the subject. While there are a few theories floating around, there’s no concrete evidence pointing to exactly what – culturally or scientifically – makes the phenomenon of triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number thirteen)…

We Support and Empower You: An Interview with Womany’s Wei Shuan Chang

From the moment we meet it’s clear that Womany Media Group founder and CEO Wei Shuan Chang is an earnest woman. Regarded as one of Taiwan’s thought leaders in the field of female empowerment and entrepreneurship, Wei Shuan answers my first question (“Tell me a little about Womany”) not with an answer, but with a request: “Actually, I’d like to know a little about you first, if you don’t mind.” Only after I’ve satisfied her with details of my bona fides as a writer, along with some light back and forth establishing my history in Taiwan and Chinese language ability (though the interview is held in English at her request and my convenience), does she begin telling me about Womany. “In a nutshell, Womany Media Group was established in 2011 as a gender-friendly media community group, with a vision of leading programs to empower women,” she begins. “Gender, feminism, empowering…

Taiwan Culture Blooms at InBlooom, Taipei’s hippest fabric art shop

Dadaocheng is a busy neighborhood on most days, especially in the weeks leading up to the Lunar New Year holidays. But even on the busiest days things are usually a bit quieter on two blocks west, which is where you’ll find InBlooom, a shop specializing in both selling print goods and in teaching Taiwanese printing art to locals and visitors alike. Taiwan Scene sat down with InBlooom co-founder Ama Shen to talk about the elusive nature of Taiwanese art and culture, the transformation of the Dadaocheng neighborhood, and the idea of art and culture as tools in Taiwan’s soft power arsenal. Ama Shen is a slim woman, with a short bobbed hairstyle mildly evoking the style of the flappers in the roaring twenties and the flowing, colorful garments one would expect from someone whose stock in trade is beautiful fabric. But behind her style lies deep questions about what it…

A British Barber in Taiwan

Taiwan has attracted foreign talent for decades, but to our knowledge Daniel Bullivant is one of a select few Englishmen to make his name as British Barber for Gentlemen in Taiwan. Though he came here six years ago to travel, fate had other plans. After meeting his wife in Hualien, Daniel opened up a barber shop in the charming east coast city. In the process, he’s created a most unique experience for himself and thousands of satisfied customers. Taiwan Scene sat down with Daniel for a chat about his Taiwan experience. On why he chose Hualien: Hualien was just on my list as a tourist, as a place to visit in Taiwan. So my friend lent me his bicycle and I cycled over Hehuan (mountain) to Hualien, and it was here that I met my wife and settled down. On the pros and cons of working in Taiwan: On…

Traveling in Taiwan as a woman (but not only)

Too often, a female traveler cannot experience a place in the same way as a male counterpart. There are always added dangers, prohibitions, assumptions, expectations and just those extra things women notice because experience and necessity have trained us to do so. If an exception exists, it might well be Taiwan. During an eye-opening semester in India, for example, I found myself not only experiencing it as another culture, but also as a country where I found myself sexually harassed multiple times. “What a lot of people don’t get,” I typed furiously to a friend after one such occurrence, “is how a woman traveling can’t see a place the same way as a man. It’s different in a certain way, though, it’s a not only, but also kind of different.” Later, I took the lead in arranging travel in Cairo, I enjoyed it not only as a vibrant city where…