Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Monday, 29 June 2009
Tuesday, 30 June 2009 03:20

Stone village

Liu Wan Cun is a small village in the province of Guizhou that sits idyllically in a mountain valley. The Chinese call this type of topography a shangu and in their minds it always evokes both beautiful scenery and poverty. Liu Wan Cun has those features because it’s located in the limestone region of the province with breathtaking jagged karst stone formations but with very limited land for agriculture. Indeed, the valley of Liu Wan Cun is farmed intensively and farm fields even stretched up to the sides of the mountains in the form of terraces. Farmers here grow wheat, rice and corn depending on the availability of water. During the year they alternate with other crops like rapeseed and water chestnuts. While there are spots in the province that have dense forest, there is little vegetation that could be called forest on the hills around this village. There is a noticeable abundance of weeds, some scattered small trees that appeared to be local varieties of pines, and shrubs that farmers could use as firewood and materials for building houses. But the hills are also the source of small streams that provide the villages with water even in long dry spells or seasons. They are also feeding grounds for goats and sheep.

Nobody seems to have any explanation as to why this village (cun) is called Liu Wan, two Chinese characters that simply stand for six hundred thousand. However, if one lets his imagination wander, the name six hundred thousand could refer to the boulders of limestone that seem to grow all over the ranges of rolling mountains. For geologists, one could perhaps see a perfect area of study which could reinforce theories of rocks and earth formation. For tourists, there is the picturesque landscape which is perfect for both professional and neophyte photographers. Around this area there are first class scenic spots like the cascading falls of Huangguoshu, or Long Gong (dragon palace) which is a cluster of giant limestone caves, and hotels were built close to these places to accommodate tourists and nature travelers. However, it is tough going for people living in these remote areas who are mostly cultural minorities like the Miao, Bouyi, Dong, Yi, Shui, Zhuang, Bai, Tujia, Gelao, and Gejia. Because it’s a limestone region, except for few places, subsistence agriculture has been particularly difficult.
Stone is what villagers in this area have plenty of, and it is no wonder that their houses are also made of stones. Human settlements have been adapting and making use of the resources of their natural surroundings and the people here seem to have perfected the craft of transforming these stones into materials for building houses. A characteristic of limestone is that you could easily chip it according to the desired size, thus the walling of the house are stones cut into rectangular shapes and the roofs are made of wide but thin slabs of stones.

We were brought to Liu Wan Cun by a Chinese friend, Thomas, who works for an NGO called New China Link. This NGO was started by an Irish teacher, Matt Carpenter, who used to teach English in a university in Guiyang, the capital of the province. Guizhou is one of the poorest provinces in China, and while Matt was teaching in the capital the haunting presence of poverty in the countryside was brought to his attention. So he had been thinking of a possibility of extending help to the poor villages. After six years of teaching he had come to know some local people and provincial government officials who helped him to set up what he had always wanted to do. Thus the New China Link was born.

The center where New China Link based its operation was in the town called Zhenning, which is more than two hours drive from Guiyang. Started in the year 2002, they have gradually done projects which Matt categorized under the heading of human development. Getting a little funding from Ireland, NCL has helped the poorer families build small houses, provided some village access to water and started livelihood projects.
Thanks to the NCL’s vehicle and the new gravel road that the government built recently, what used to be a day’s walk from the highway took us only about thirty minute drive from the NCL center. Then we had more than an hour’s walk on trails that go through the fields of these mountain valleys before eventually arriving at Liu Wan Cun. It is one of the villages where NCL has water and livelihood projects. Villagers no longer have to go far to fetch water, with their buckets carried on top of their heads or on their shoulders using a bamboo or wooden pole. Instead, water is brought to their houses. Making possible even a very basic need such as water has dramatically enhanced people’s livelihood and has allowed them not only easy access to drinking water but better facility in maintaining small gardens, raising hogs and poultry.

One of the families we visited has a harelipped child. For a poor family living in a shangu (mountain valley), the possibility of a simple harelip operation would be unthinkable. Nora Mary, also an Irish teacher who recently joined Matt, has contacts with another NGO that runs a health care project in Kunming, capital of the neighboring Yunnan province. Because I live and study Chinese in Kunming, I volunteer to be available to help in whatever small things I can do. It could mean accompanying someone, like a child with a disability from these villages to get medical treatment in Kunming. I know it’s only very little but as Matt said, if people are willing to do little things, one could never underestimate the impact the little things can have on people. I remember Mother Theresa who once said, “One can only do small things with great love.”

Nora, Thomas, I and two other companions at that time were sitting inside this family’s house and each of us was offered a cup of green tea. It is only through this family’s hospitality and in our informal conversation that we get a chance to listen to their stories. The father’s surname is Liu, and he said that the hare lipped child was adopted which explains why there is a second boy in the family who is three years younger. In these villages, the young people go to the cities to join the millions of people from the countryside looking for work in the coastal regions of China where most of the manufacturing industries are located. These migrant workers have become the country’s source of cheap labor. Farmers like Mr. Liu would stay in the village for the planting season and then leave the farm to the remaining members of the family, mostly the small children, mother, and grandparents, to join the millions of the moving Chinese population. From another family that lives next door to Mr. Liu, both young husband and wife went to Shanghai to work, leaving their 2-year old child in the care of the grandmother.
Mr. Liu walked with a limp and Nora asked him why? A few years back, Mr. Liu went to Beijing and worked in a construction company, but he said, luck was not on his side because a few years later he met with an accident. He broke his right leg and was told that he could no longer do strenuous work. He received a small amount of compensation which he used to buy medicines to recuperate and the rest he used to construct his small house. Life has been hard for him ever since, and he has been feeling particularly useless because of his handicap. I noticed that the three middle fingers in his left hand were missing and he said he lost them in an accident when he was cutting trees. Any little help he could get from NCL, especially for his harelipped child would mean a lot to him. Nora promised that she would be in contact with people who are doing medical missions like “operation smile” so they could avail of their program.

When we were leaving the village, we were led by another man who is in charge of looking after the water project. The families in the village contribute a small amount of money for the water project and the money collected is used to meet other needs of the community. The farmers see the value of communal sharing, cooperation and participation. The man accompanying us was their community leader. It was already midday and the noon sun was starting to bite our skin as we were retracing our steps back to where we came from. Our local companion was insistent on inviting us for lunch. He said it was their way of thanking us. Thomas being local himself and belonging to a cultural minority has a gentle way of refusing such hospitality without offending the man’s sensibilities. However, he walked with us up to where the NCL vehicle was parked. And we said goodbye, promising to see each other again, which is the real meaning of ’zaijian’, a word that is used to bid goodbye to someone.
While we were driving back, there weren’t many words spoken, perhaps because we were all exhausted or maybe because every parting leaves a feeling of sadness. But somehow I could hear the words of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet who lived more than two thousand years ago. He said, “No sorrow is greater than the parting of the living; No happiness is greater than making new friendships.”

We still passed those scenic spots that brought visitors from other parts of China to this place but this time the landscape had taken on a new significance for me. I realized that those were not the reason for our coming. And when I thought about the people I had just met in the village made of stones, I couldn’t help but feel a profound sympathy for them. It’s true that they do adapt and survive even in most difficult conditions in the countryside but they are grateful for the little help and friendships extended to them from well-meaning people. It is through mutual help and cooperation that hardship can be overcome or at least difficulties in life can be bearable. It is for families like that of Mr. Liu that the work of Matt, Nora and Thomas has made a lot of difference.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2009 02:47

[南方澳] 海岛洋边渔人渔事

绘图/李金远
本文亦见于2009年7、8月号《人籁》特刊


因为行程仓促,没能邀纪录片《南方澳海洋纪事》的导演李香秀到南方澳一叙,其实是很可惜的事。李香秀导演是独立纪录片工作者,1999年完成的《消失的王国──拱乐社》是耗时六年精心制作拍摄的纪录片,在台湾观众眼前重提歌仔戏「内台戏」时期盛极一时的拱乐社,并追溯这歌仔戏王国因为电视媒体的出现,及现实政治环境对台语的压制,最后终告土崩瓦解的故事。

这部纪录片下了相当的历史研究工夫,当年便曾受到国际影展的青睐,对台湾人来说,更是对台湾本土艺术史的珍贵记录。2004年李香秀的《南方澳海洋纪事》也同样理想性十足,以南方澳鲭鱼围网渔业的兴衰起落为主轴,谈到了青年人口外流加速当地渔业衰退的问题,也呈现来自各地的外籍船工,所带来的多元文化和宗教,是少数专注在台湾渔民「海洋性格」的影片。

李香秀的作品对有志行旅台湾、认识本土的人来说,就好像量身订做一般合拍。《拱乐社》的时代背景是战后的云林麦寮,但影片场景遍及台湾西部北中南。《南方澳》则以1970年代起的南方澳为主题,不但呈现渔港人事的悲欢离合,也投入太平洋的怀抱,在台湾北海上捕捉了鲭鱼事业的壮丽过往,以及「海海人生」的甘苦。

中央山脉是奇妙的,本身是菲律宾海板块与欧亚大陆板块交界处,是东亚岛弧的高峰线,纵切了台湾,划分了地理,此外更是两种不同文化的分水岭。西部台湾面向亚洲大陆,东部台湾则迎向大洋,两者迥异,但安然并存于这座奇特的边缘之岛。

诸多因素使然,生活在海岛上的许多台湾人,对海洋抱持的竟是深重的陌生和隔阂感。对许多人来说,与其说海洋是另一种环境,是另一种生活方式和文化的起点,还不如说是一道界限、一种束缚、一片恐惧的深渊。但东台湾之行来到南方澳,望著渔民出海的港口,在转身真正投入中央山脉之前,还值得留步片刻,倾听大洋的呼唤。


更多李金远游台画选,请见2009年7、8月号《人籁》特刊

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Tuesday, 30 June 2009 02:44

[南方澳] 海島洋邊漁人漁事

繪圖/李金遠
本文亦見於2009年7、8月號《人籟》特刊


因為行程倉促,沒能邀紀錄片《南方澳海洋紀事》的導演李香秀到南方澳一敘,其實是很可惜的事。李香秀導演是獨立紀錄片工作者,1999年完成的《消失的王國──拱樂社》是耗時六年精心製作拍攝的紀錄片,在台灣觀眾眼前重提歌仔戲「內台戲」時期盛極一時的拱樂社,並追溯這歌仔戲王國因為電視媒體的出現,及現實政治環境對台語的壓制,最後終告土崩瓦解的故事。

這部紀錄片下了相當的歷史研究工夫,當年便曾受到國際影展的青睞,對台灣人來說,更是對台灣本土藝術史的珍貴記錄。2004年李香秀的《南方澳海洋紀事》也同樣理想性十足,以南方澳鯖魚圍網漁業的興衰起落為主軸,談到了青年人口外流加速當地漁業衰退的問題,也呈現來自各地的外籍船工,所帶來的多元文化和宗教,是少數專注在台灣漁民「海洋性格」的影片。

李香秀的作品對有志行旅台灣、認識本土的人來說,就好像量身訂做一般合拍。《拱樂社》的時代背景是戰後的雲林麥寮,但影片場景遍及台灣西部北中南。《南方澳》則以1970年代起的南方澳為主題,不但呈現漁港人事的悲歡離合,也投入太平洋的懷抱,在台灣北海上捕捉了鯖魚事業的壯麗過往,以及「海海人生」的甘苦。

中央山脈是奇妙的,本身是菲律賓海板塊與歐亞大陸板塊交界處,是東亞島弧的高峰線,縱切了台灣,劃分了地理,此外更是兩種不同文化的分水嶺。西部台灣面向亞洲大陸,東部台灣則迎向大洋,兩者迥異,但安然並存於這座奇特的邊緣之島。

諸多因素使然,生活在海島上的許多台灣人,對海洋抱持的竟是深重的陌生和隔閡感。對許多人來說,與其說海洋是另一種環境,是另一種生活方式和文化的起點,還不如說是一道界限、一種束縛、一片恐懼的深淵。但東台灣之行來到南方澳,望著漁民出海的港口,在轉身真正投入中央山脈之前,還值得留步片刻,傾聽大洋的呼喚。


更多李金遠遊台畫選,請見2009年7、8月號《人籟》特刊

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受訪者
LeAnn‧美國‧女
宣教士
1990年來台


訪談內容
我讀研究所時,立志從事海外宣教工作。但畢業後,並未馬上實踐自己的目標,那時我加入四健會 (編註:即「4-H Club」,為美國農業部農業合作推廣體系管理的非營利性青年組織),並被派往牙買加工作兩年,這兩年的經驗使我對適應異文化具備信心。因此,當我得知教會正招募來台宣教人員時,便主動爭取這個機會。

來台灣以前,我對台灣所知不多,只知道台灣在亞洲。為了瞭解台灣,我到從前就讀的大學圖書館,尋找可供參考的資料,可惜只發現一本討論兩岸政治的著作。剛好,當地的公共電視台播出四集介紹台灣的節目,分別從家庭生活、經濟、政治等不同面向介紹當代的台灣,這四集的內容,構成了我來台以前最主要的台灣印象。

當時影片中有一幕,鏡頭從台北羅斯福路某個天橋往下拍攝來往的人車,因為空氣污染十分嚴重,所以路上的摩托車或腳踏車騎士,多半戴著類似軍隊用的厚口罩。我初來台灣時因為班機抵達的時間是夜晚,沒辦法仔細觀察四周的景象,可是第二天一早醒來,看見陽光下的台灣,忍不住讚嘆:「哇,好乾淨!」這實在是因為那一幕給我太深刻的印象,讓我一直覺得台灣的空氣很恐怖,而且,比起我之前待過的牙買加,台灣也確實乾淨許多。


除了原先計劃的宣教工作,我也在台灣的大學授課。記得到銘傳大學試教那天,我依著自己過去在美國的學習經驗,準備許多問題等待在課堂上和學生討論,沒想到提問後,台下只剩少數幾個學生抬頭看著我,其他人都趕緊低下頭,這實在大出我意料之外。因為在求學時代,我並沒有太多亞裔的同學,即使有,我也很少注意他們在課堂的表現,我從沒想過亞洲人面對課堂提問,反應可能有所不同。突然面對這樣的狀況,讓我措手不及,在講台上十分尷尬。

後來我才知道,學生不是真的不知道答案,他們不願意回答是因為害羞、害怕別人認為這樣太出鋒頭,或擔心表現太好,以後別人都會找他們問英文作業。這麼多年來,台灣學生的討論風氣一直沒有太大改善,不過後來我發現,如果能使班長或班上幾個學生帶頭參與討論,那麼就能帶動整個班級的討論氣氛。

這和我過往在美國與牙買加的經驗並不相同,我想可能是因為台灣重視團體、重視「班級」組織的關係。在美國,一般人很少有班級概念,從中學開始,每個人都是各自選課,不是班級一起上課。但在台灣,同班同學是非常有意義的,班級是一個有凝聚力的團體。而重視團體中長期的人際關係,也影響到一個人畢業後的生活。

例如在美國,當人要處理問題時,常用的方式是自己去查書、找資料。但在台灣,多數人會透過人際網絡來尋求解答。舉例來說,假設今天有人要查某一個人的電話,在美國他最可能去查黃頁;可是在台灣,多數人會說:「你可以問某某人,他知道。」台灣人遇到困難時,通常會先尋求周邊人際關係的協助,先想這件事是不是我的朋友、家人或鄰居,有辦法幫我解決。

這兩種方式各有優點,不過台灣人的作法,比較容易拉近人與人的關係。從另一方面來說,我也聽過有些人抱怨,別人只在有問題時會來找他,感覺很像被利用。

此外,重視人際關係的特色,也反映在台灣人對待宗教的態度。在西方,人們對宗教信仰的選擇,涉及對真理、對是非的判斷,不同信仰的人,會有很清楚的界限。即使是親友,如果對信仰的看法不一樣,最後也可能漸行漸遠,不太往來,因為彼此沒有相同的價值觀。

台灣人則不同,台灣人重視群體關係的和諧,認為個人追求真理並不會妨礙與其他人的交往,很少人會因為宗教因素,拒絕與其他信仰的人作朋友。遇到信仰不同的對象,台灣人很容易先找到兩人間的共同點,從而發展彼此的談話與交情。就這方面來說,我覺得台灣人對信仰的看法比較寬容,再說,人與人間如果不先找到共通點,要如何展開對話呢?因此,我覺得這是很不錯的看法。

本文亦見於2009年7.8月號《人籟論辨月刊》

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Monday, 29 June 2009 20:54

「免費」不是關鍵

推廣博物館,關鍵不在「入場票價」,而是在「教育」。

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