Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Furniture Care, Haggling, Language and More

Bill Thayer comments on yesterday's post from Les Duffin and also talks about haggling, learning Taiwanese and other things:

Les and Don, we also purchased a number of furniture from Ricardo Lynn, the store that Les mentioned on the traffic circle in Shih Lin. We have had very little problem with cracking. The main problem that we have experienced was the glued pieces becoming unglued. I think this problem may have resulted from several factors such as the wood drying and becoming smaller and the use of inferior wood glues. I have been able to fix these problems, for the most part, with American carpenter's or wood glues, which when dry last virtually forever.

The other thing that my wife and I practiced in Taiwan had to do with what we called, at that time, the "two price" method of retailers. That is to say that there was one price for indigenous people and a higher price for foreigners. To offset this assumed methodology, we would shop and decide what we wanted, leave and my wife who is Taiwanese would later return alone and make the purchase. We also used this approach when we had visitors such as those who came TDY/TAD and we took shopping.

Having made many return trips to Taiwan since mid-1970's the latest of which was two years ago, the "two price" method has been greatly reduced and practically eliminated in the larger urban areas such as Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. However, it is still practiced in rural areas and among certain small street vendors and retailers who do not put price labels on the items they sell. I attribute the diminuition of this practice perhaps to the increased presence of foreign owned businesses such as the large Japanese owned department stores like Mitsukoshi and Sogo and American owned businesses or franchises such as McDonalds, 7-Eleven, Starbucks, etc.

It also helped that I spoke and understood to a degree the Taiwanese (Amoy) dialect. In the early 1960's, I was stationed at Linkou. One day, I was shopping at the Catholic bookstore in Taipei and happened upon two English-language lesson books for Taiwanese published by the Maryknoll fathers in Taichung. So I started learning the Taiwanese dialect, mainly so I could ask my wife's mother who only spoke Taiwanese and Japanese for her daughter's hand in marriage. When I finally became sufficiently proficient and acquired enough courage to pose the question, her response was a resounding and emphatic "NO". Well, anyway over time my wife's family was sufficiently impressed that I had learned some Taiwanese, they finally consented or maybe acquiesced.

Anyway, back to the Taiwanese lesson books. About ten years ago, I visited the Maryknoll language school in Taichung and a priest gave me a tour, including their bookstore. Maryknoll priests are headquartered in upstate New York, but they developed their own phonetic system for the Amoy dialect. Maryknoll priests who are assigned to parishes or missionary work in Taiwan, Singapore or Fujian province attend the school to learn the Amoy dialect. Since I purchased my first books back in the early 1960's, the Maryknoll language school has come up with a vast array of teaching materials, including CD's and English-Taiwanese and Taiwanese-English dictionaries, and greatly enhanced lesson books of more advanced Taiwanese dialect. The language school is located on the grounds of a Catholic church on San Min Lu in Taichung.

Taiwanese, by the way, is more difficult to learn to speak and understand than Mandarin, simply because there are more tones. but not as many as in Cantonese or Shanghainese. It is also made more difficult, because of the lack of written learning and teaching materials, which until the mid to late 1990's resulted in the enforced learning of Mandarin.

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