Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#26 What’s up in Taiwan Podcast

So recently I’ve been listening to a Podcast called What’s up in Taiwan

My boyfriend and I are big fans of Asia. We want to live elsewhere in the world if we can (especially Europe), but for now our focus is Asia.

We’ll both be leaving Japan in 2 months time – sad! After relaxing, recouping, and getting some more job skills in the US, we intend to move back to Asia, this time to Taiwan.

I found this podcast randomly when searching for “Taiwan” in the iTunes store, and it’s been incredibly insightful about some of the positives and negatives that foreigners experience while living in Taiwan.

The podcast interviews foreigners (ie: non-Taiwanese or Chinese) who either live in Taiwan, or travel there on occasion. The show does a good job of trying to get people from all sorts of different countries, and learning about the people themselves and listening to their accents or their experiences can be pretty interesting in and of itself.

The foreigners interviewed are usually in Taipei, though sometimes the show will interview folks living in more rural areas.

The show host grew up in Taiwan, then spent the majority of his teen/young adult life in the US. Thus he’s fluent in both English and Chinese, though the show is done entirely in English. If Chinese comes up, they explain what the word/phrase means. The host seems to have a lot fun with the podcast when he can and does impressions or silly gimmicks at times, especially at the beginning of an episode.

This podcast never really gets old, because all the people interviewed are different and unique, and sometimes you get to learn random extra things from their interests (like the stray dog/cat situation in Taipei, the New Age music scene, a bit about Taiwanese business practices, etc etc).

I highly recommend this show to anyone interested in visiting or moving to Taiwan, or interested in the expat experience in general.

Learn more about the world! Or at least this particular corner of the world, at http://whatsupintaiwan.blogspot.com

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Omake #7: Himeyuri Student Nurses

So today my JTE (Japanese Teach of English) wasn’t at school because she had to take her aging father to the doctor down in the prefecture capital of Matsuyama.

On my desk this morning there were two booklets labeled “Himeyuri Peace Museum” – one in English and one in Japanese. In one of the current English textbooks on the lesson we’re on, there was a mention of the Himeyuri Peace Museum as the ALT character had gone to Okinawa for her Golden Week Vacation.

Anyway, I started to read the English one, thinking it would be some stuffy piece about museums, but then my world was turned upside down.

I don’t think I ever really connected what “Peace Museum” means. It’s more than a museum – it’s a war memorial, really. A tribute to the terrible things that have happened, reminding us of them and hoping to keep the memories alive so that we may never have war again.

I was shocked at what I was reading; it didn’t feel real. There were many of the surviving nurses’ personal accounts written in that book, which were both grotesque and sad. I can hardly believe people, and young girls at that, have been through such trauma in their lives.

I won’t be able to properly explain it, so I will link you to a Japan Times article that gives all the proper statistics and background information.

Japan Times Article: Only teenagers, they were pressed into service. Student nurse recalls horror of Okinawa fighting

There also appears to be a documentary that was originally Japanese but also had an English version made. I’m not sure how to obtain it though.

I highly recommend reading some of the nurses’ testimonials if you can manage to find some on the internet.

Okinawa also apparently has a public holiday on June 23rd every year, called Irei no Hi honoring the people who died in the battle of Okinawa. It wasn’t just these nurses, or soldiers, but quite a large number of civilians as well. Please try and remember this day if you can, or even just think about this incident in history, and say a prayer for world peace.

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#25 Pan Am

I first heard about this show in a magazine (Ladies’ Home Journal I think).

There was a column of “If you like X, then you’ll like Y” talking about upcoming TV shows. One of them was “If you like Mad Men, then you’ll like Pan Am.”

Pan Am is a period drama that takes place in the early 1960s, which is exactly when Mad Men happens.

I had only vaguely heard about the airline Pan Am; as many know, it’s now defunct. Wikipedia tells me the company ran from 1927 until 1991.

I personally don’t know much about its history, though amazon seems to have a DVD that chronicles it, if you’re interested:

Pan Am: The Golden Age of Aviation

The show follows one Pan Am crew, including its Stewardesses and Pilots. There’s 6 main characters – 4 stewardesses and 2 pilots.

Why do I like this show?

1) They travel the world on their flights. They’re based out of New York, but often get a couple of days in their destination country before having to fly back home. The characters get to go to Italy, Germany, Indonesia, Russia, and a host of other places. For a lover of travel, languages, and cultures, this show really caters to those interests.

2) The characters are all very vibrant. They’re beautiful people and have vibrant personalities. Of course there’s love entanglements between them, and you learn more about each of their background histories as the show progresses. I guess that’s one of the things a drama does best – lots of character development, and lots of conflict and intrigue to keep you watching.

3) A neat twist is that one of the stewardesses is actually a spy for the Cold War. As a stewardess she’s able to go all over the world with an obvious alibi (she’s just doing her job) so she can do other things on the side and not be suspected. This adds quite a bit of suspense to the show and it’s really interesting to follow her and the assignments she gets.

Pan Am recently finished their first season in February.

Rumor has it, the show has been canceled. That’s quite sad, though I suppose it is more of a niche-interest show. Not everyone can relate to the characters, who travel the world and have all sorts of adventures. It takes someone with wanderlust to really delve into the show. I personally think it’s amazing – I’ve loved watching it, and it’s stirred up some welcome wanderlust in me recently. I’ve also grown attached to the characters in the process, so it will be sad if they don’t continue.

But sometimes amazing shows just aren’t compelling enough for the mainstream. This was certainly the case with Firefly.

Firefly – The Complete Series

Looks like even a blue ray version has been released, for those of you with the amazing TVs and Blue Ray system:

Firefly: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

It doesn’t look like there’s a DVD of the first season of Pan Am yet which is really sad. Separate episodes seem to be released, but not a full volume yet.

There is however a renewed interest in the Pan Am image, and amazon sells Handbags. I really want one….but they’re a bit pricey. Still, they’re quite classy. Maybe someday!

I’d personally probably go for one of the white ones. All the classiness of the Pan Am image without being too stark and blue like the others are. But then again white gets dirty easily. Hmm….

Also despite an appropriate DVD, there’s apparently a Sound Track CD.

Music From & Inspired By Pan Am

For those of you with a kindle, there’s a kindle-only (sorry book connoisseurs) non-fiction book written by a Pan Am stewardess chronicling her time employed at Pan Am and the adventures she had with them between 1969 and 1991. This is the first time I found out about this book actually, but it’s going on my “to-read” list for sure!

Pan Am Unbuckled: A Very Plane Diary

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