Friday, April 30, 2004


was the headline on the small card placed in my office mailbox. The card went on to ask if I were "[l]ooking for bigger size brand-name shoes?" and told me where I could find some. It appears these cards were given only to the foreign teachers.

I don't know whether to feel insulted or grateful. Maybe I'll check out their website.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Talk about bad timing...

So this morning I'm talking to the secretary about the health examination form that she had given us and pointing out that it doesn't include a lab test for syphilis (one of the three required exams for foreign teachers, along with TB and HIV). So she calls the Labor Affairs Council to check with them about whether or not we needed a syphilis test and why it isn't on the exam form. I'm standing there next to her, health exam form in hand, and she's on the phone talking about this and talking about "梅毒" (mei du, syphilis) this and "梅毒" (mei du) that and in the middle of it all, a work-study student who's in one of my classes comes in to the office to deliver the mail. This is how rumors get started...

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Getting my ---- together

Well, we're back to square one here, stool-wise. The secretary in my department made some phone calls and determined that the online form that I linked to below (in paragraph 3) is outdated and the current form requires the stool sample and leprosy test. So I've got my "Chang's Feces Examination Apparatus for parasite ova conc and O.B" [sic] and I'm ready to make my contribution. Excuse me while I find the latest copy of the China Post--I'm always moved by that paper...

Update: Now after calling the authorities again, our secretary got yet another answer: we don't need the stool sample and the online form I linked to below is the correct one. When she asked why they'd told her before that the stool sample was necessary, our secretary got the response: "Who told you that?"

I'm afraid to suggest that the curtain is now going down on this little water-closet drama...

Friday, April 16, 2004

More stool news

Well, this blog is becoming very ... ummm ... excrementally focused... Sorry about that. (Perhaps I should change its title to "Jonathan Benda's Excremental Vision.") But I want to add that I have found some laws related to the health examination issue for foreign university teachers (and other foreign professional workers).

I checked some information on the website of the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training (行政院勞工委員會職業訓練局) which has the information about the hiring of foreign professional workers (外國專業人員). That site has a health examination form that appears to be for workers of our... ahem... class (?). That is, there appears to be a different health examination form for foreign professionals.

The information about health examinations for foreign professionals is located here. The laws that specify who's who under the labor law (specifically, which category of foreign workers university teachers fall under) is located here.

These are in Chinese legalese, though, so I'm still not sure even after slogging through this stuff. People with better Chinese (legalese) reading skills than I, please look through this information and let us know if my suspicions are correct. It's possible that I'm misreading all of this, so please someone doublecheck for me.

Thanks again to Scott for spurring me on to do a little checking!
More on the health examination mentioned below

You might notice that the health examination form I linked to below doesn't actually mention a stool sample or leprosy examination. Scott Sommers says in his response to my post that his school didn't mention those tests. I'm currently checking with my school about this--it's possible we received an old examination form. More on this later...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Foreign university English teachers as foreign labor

While I wasn't paying attention, the status of foreign university teachers in Taiwan changed slightly. We found out the other day that instead of getting our work permits through the Ministry of Education, we will now have to apply through the Council of Labor Affairs. We are classified as "foreign professional workers" (外國專業人員) according to the information on the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training (行政院勞工委員會職業訓練局) website. This puts us in a category with "sports coaches and athletes," seafarers, full-time foreign cram school teachers, etc. (See "FAQ for hiring foreign professional workers".)

Unlike other foreign workers (domestics, caretakers, construction and factory laborers), foreign professional workers don't appear to have a limitation on the duration of their employment. Other foreign workers can work in Taiwan for up to 2 years before their employers must apply for an extension--the total amount of time they can work in Taiwan can't exceed 6 years. (See "Rights and Obligations of Foreign Workers").

Like other foreign workers, however, foreign professional workers need to get a health examination as part of the application process. This also seems to apply even to university teachers who have been here for several years already. The health examination includes a medical history, a physical examination, and laboratory examinations for HIV, tuberculosis, a stool examination for parasites, and a check-up for leprosy. It's easy to feel rather offended by such examinations for a couple of reasons: 1) most of us have never had to go through this before in Taiwan; 2) those of us who are university teachers don't tend to think of ourselves as possible carriers of HIV, TB, parasites, and the like. However, I wonder if, related to this second reason, our response doesn't grow out of a class-based and, for many of us, race- or ethnicity-based sense of our identities as white-collar workers who come from "developed" nations. I've complained myself about this whole process, partly because being required to take an examination that implies I might have parasites offends against my sense of myself as a "clean" person. (Ignoring the question of where has my sense of myself as "clean" come from? Has it not come at least partly from my identity as a middle-class white Euro-American?)

The MOE-operated work permit system of the past allowed foreign university English teachers to identify ourselves as different in kind as well as in degree from foreign laborers. Now that we have to operate under some of the same rules as other foreign workers, the class- and race-based differences that underlie our identities (and our reactions to this change in administration) might become more pronounced. On the other hand, the new situation might also allow us to identify more with other foreign residents of Taiwan.

Note: Scott Sommers, whose blog I've mentioned before, has started a lively discussion on the concept of foreign English teachers (in Asia) as "economic migrants." One of the issues that Kerim Friedman raised in response to some of Scott's comments had to do with the race and class of Westerners 'migrating' to Asia to teach English (see "Migrants" on Kerim's blog). I'd be interested to hear how the status change I'm discussing above might affect, if not the economic status, the self-identity of university-level English teachers in Taiwan. As I understand it (correct me if I'm wrong), (legal) foreign English teachers in cram schools have always gotten their work permits through the Council of Labor Affairs. As Scott mentions (somewhere), there's often a lack of identification (and even some level of suspicion) between foreigners who teach in cram schools and those who teach in universities. Now that we're all--to some extent--in the same boat, there seems to be one less feature of our professional lives that distinguishes us.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

CNN Online once again misinforms the public about Taiwan

The end of an article by CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott announcing the resignation of the "[t]op U.S. Taiwan official" mentions the aftermath of the presidential election and referendum, concluding, "A referendum that accompanied the election on whether Taiwan should declare independence failed to pass." This statement marks a new low in CNN's sloppy coverage of Taiwan.

Update (9 April 2004): The article on the CNN website has been revised. The abovementioned quote has been removed and replaced with three paragraphs describing the referendum questions and the fact that less than 50 percent of eligible voters voted on the referenda. (I should note that after posting the message of 8 April, I sent some feedback to CNN Online regarding the article. Thanks to Chris Benda for pointing the revision out to me, though!)

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Bush's America

Paul Krugman has a great column that showed up on the Op-Ed pages of Thursday's Taipei Times: "Bush's America becomes a byword for deception, abuse of power", describing how the Bush administration "responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts ... with a campaign of character assassination." People are finally beginning to see the light...

Friday, April 02, 2004

More on the Washington Post interview

Yesterday's Taipei Times contained an article claiming that the writer of the Washington Post article that I mentioned below apologized for misinterpreting Chen's statements. The way in which the alleged apology has been communicated to the public is quite suspicious, though. The Times cites "[a]n official of the Presidential Office who wished not to be named" as saying that Philip Pan said he was sorry for misrepresenting Chen's comments. Why would the official want to remain anonymous? Why hasn't the Washington Post printed a retraction, or at least a correction, of Pan's article? And why does Pan (and David Hoffman) continue to do his smoke-and-mirrors act in an April 1 article that in paragraph 5 links the new constitution to Chen's campaign pledges about relations with the mainland and in paragraph 13 cites Chen's argument that the constitutional reform plan has nothing to do with mainland relations?

Here are the two paragraphs in question, from the article entitled "China Denounces Taiwan's Leader, Rejects Call for Talks":

First, paragraph five:
Chen said in an interview with The Washington Post this week that he had won a mandate despite his victory by only 0.2 percent of the vote and refused to back down from any of his campaign positions on relations with mainland China, including his pledge to write a new constitution and implement it by 2008.

And paragraph thirteen:
Chen also argued that his proposal to write a new constitution had nothing to do with Taiwan's independence and was instead aimed at deepening democratic reform and improving governance in Taiwan, by reducing the size of the legislature, for example. [This paragraph is followed by China's rejection of Chen's comments and the PRC's accusation that Chen isn't sincere about cross-strait peace.]

Now I would like to see Pan's previous article retracted or corrected, but I don't think my wishful thinking is enough to make it happen. And I'm wondering who is really served by Pan's "secret" apology to Chen. It certainly hasn't changed anything about how the Post is covering the situation in Taiwan.