Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Random Asianess: Election Time...Again

Well…it’s election time here in Taiwan. We’ve been here for 9 months and this is the second election we have gone through. Elections are somewhat different here than we’re used to in the United States. I’ll walk you through the process for just a moment.

Every body here is running for a number. I have no idea what the number means. It’s like living on Sesame Street. “I’m Oscar the grouch and I’m running for the number 5.” See the sign in this photo. That “lady” is running for the number 5. There are lots of banners and signs and posters on every signpost. By the church there is a light post that has signs plastered all the way around it. But so far, I haven’t seen anybody walking around the post and looking at all the signs. Maybe like in America, people are apathetic about voting.

The candidates have all kinds of events to get people to vote for them. Last Friday night we came home to find our street completely blocked off by a huge tent that our neighbor put up. (He’s running for the number 2.) And the next morning he had a huge event. He set up a karaoke machine and people came from far and wide to sing, really loud off key Chinese songs. I recorded part of one for you.

I think this is a risky campaign event. Sure the people who got to sing, they might vote for you, unless another politician had better songs and let you sing louder. But what about the people who have to listen to the singers? They have to be thinking to themselves, if this guy would allow this in our neighborhood, what other atrocities will he force us to endure, in our own neighbor hood. On the other hand he served this delicious fruity type of soup, It has Leachy nuts and plums in it along with these little gooey balls made with rice flour. The neighbors came out of their homes and swooped down on the event for that. Even I got a bowl so maybe it was a trade off. If you put something good into someone’s stomach, they can handle a lot more offensive noise.

Finally, the last campaign trick is to run a little truck down every street blaring your message to the people. And begging. You hear the words Bai Tuo (Bye Twa) that means, "please." So they go down the street yelling, "Bai Tuo, Bai Tuo." Our friend Elliot, who happens to be 8 years old calls them the bai tuo guys. I've made a video of the trucks that came by in about an hour. This is by no means a complete sampling.

They start at about 9:00 am and continue until about 9:00 pm. Some of them are so loud that you have to wait for them to go by before you can continue to talk. The politician, and a group of supporters, walk along beside the vehicle and drop off flyers and gifts at each house. We get a lot of small tissue packs, and notepads, that kind of thing. I even received a bottle of hand soap. The politician wears a golden sash with the number he’s running for on it and his supporters smile a lot and wear gold vests.

So let me evaluate the candidate for the Number 2.

He blocked off the street with his tent – minus 4 points
He allowed people to sing karaoke in our neighborhood – minus 10 points
He served plum, Leachy rice soup, - plus 5 points
He had a truck that blared music and bai tuo – minus 5 points
His supporters kept blocking my garage door – homicide, in this case is justifiable – plus 0 points
He’s really grouchy to customers in the store he runs, so my wife and kids won’t shop there – (This is a very important consideration.) plus 100 points.

Total Voting Points – That’s plus 86 points – It looks like we have a winner.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwanese History:  Double Tenth Day
Taiwanese History:  The 2/28 Massacre
Taiwan Travelogue:  The Revolutionary Martyrs' Shrine

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