Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan


Finding a Gym: The Return of Captain America

About one month ago I had to make a new hole in my belt because my waistline had shrunk. I don’t know how this had happened because I don’t watch what I eat particularly, and eat more McDonalds than I would care to mention. My descent from hulking Adonis to frail wimp has been a slow and gradual one, rather like watching Captain America on slow-rewind. Having a multimillion pound gym so close to us in Edinburgh was something I had grown accustomed to, and something I definitely took for granted. When I came to Penghu there were only 3 possible gyms. The first is owned by the windsurfing club and only opens up to new members once a year. The second was a guys private gym which would mean paying him to personally train me each time. The final one was found just before coming back for Christmas, located at the University, but for some ridiculous reason, only opens between 7-9pm each night!

I reached the point two days ago where I had to put a second hole into my belt. My current jeans are already slightly too big, and so I now constantly have to pull them up else I end up walking like a youth out of the Wire. All of this is about to change because two day ago whilst FIona was talking to one of her fellow teachers, found out that there was indeed a gym that I could use, and almost no one knows about it. Even the lady palying ping pong in the gym complex didn’t know of its existence. The best part. It’s free!

It is very basic and looks like a prison gym. One medium/large room with some rusting benches, squat racks, dumbbells, weight plates, and an expensive looking Precor multi-gym thing in the centre which has a bench station/leg press station/and lat pull down machine as well as some other cables. In short, it’s got everything you would need to become the next Arnnie. I have lost all of my strength after almost a year of sloth and am In a lot of pain after only one workout. I’m convinced that I’ll regain this strength pretty quickly because of the muscle memory that I spent years building, (increasing the number of neural connections to each muscle fibre), and am looking forward to a 12 week transformation with my brother. I’ll soon be the hulking Adonis that I once was. I have also downloaded a nifty little app to record each and every aspect of my progress, (JeFit)



The one where Fiona meets the President

Mǎ Yīngjiǔ 馬英九, (61) is the current president of Taiwan, having recently won the presidency after a close race with the DPP.  He is a democratic leader, and has made ever effort to force all corruption out of his party in the past 4 years of his term. He has also built up strong relations with China, which are the most stable they have been in many years, and trade and tourism between the two countries is booming.

Having successfully secured another term in office thanks to Fiona’s hard work, he vowed to thank each volunteer in person.
Yesterday was Penghu’s chance to meet the newly elected president. Fiona had been asked to represent the KMT party in handing him flowers on stage. Whilst handing them over, she said to the president in mandarin, “we did it, we won”. “Well thank you” came the reply. She rushed off stage star struck, having finally spoken to her idol. It was then her chance to get a photo with the president, who remembered her from before.  He asked which Uni she had studied at, and she replied in English, “The University of Edinburgh, Sir.” and he replied, “Well, the pretty ones must be academic as well.”

For this next section i’m going to switch to the first person, and assume the role of Fiona for the duration. I’m not used to writing dialogue, so will do my best.

I was rushed off once more but was able to meet with the vice president, Wú Dūnyì 吳敦義 (64). He asked me what mix I was. I told him that I was half Scottish, half Taiwanese, and then continued the rest of the conversation in Taiwanese, (the local language). He was impressed by my vernacular and flawless oratory, and commended me for my linguistic virtuosity. (I may have embellished this bit).

I hung around for a little while longer, hoping to get one last chance to meet my president. To my utmost delight, the security team shouted that there was time for 100 autographs, something we had all been told would be an impossibility. I thrust my hand into my handbag only to find a fine silt of chocolate crumbs, spare hair bands, and an innumerable amount of pens. I then searched my pockets, only to find my iPhone. This would have to do I thought. Slinking up to the autograph table, phone in hand, I coyly placed in onto the table. He looked bemused and charmed, and looked up, only to meet my gaze with a glimmer of recognition. He took a few seconds to process how best to sign my phone, and then asked in English, (as is his want), “What did you study at University?”
“I studies Politics for four years, sir, and my dissertation was in fact on the successful democratisation of Taiwan”. He tried to continue the conversation, but security once again dashed my hopes.

After some mild chit chat with my KMT colleagues, I resigned myself to the fact that this was the end of our brief whirlwind romance.
As I turned to leave, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I spun round to to meet the gaze of my interlocutor, and saw the bespectacled face of the security staff. He said that the president would like to know my real name. “Tien shin 田欣 is my real name” (Sweet heart; a homonym). “The president would also like 10 minutes of your time if possible.” We walked over to the table where he sat, and as I approached, he stood up to his full height (some 6 feet and perhaps a few inches more) and greeted me thus,

President “Do you like politics?”

Me: “Yes sir, it is my passion.”

President: “And what would you like to do with your life.”

Me: “Well that is a big question, but I know eventually I would like to set up a charity to help women.”

President: “And what about politics.”

Me: “What do you mean by that sir?”

President: “What about politics?” he repeated.

Me: “Sir, are you asking me if I would consider going into politics.”

President: “Yes, thats exactly what I’m asking you. I’m somewhat of a talent scout, and in two years time, there will be city or country council elections. Would you like to participate in that?”

Me: “I am honoured sir, but it is something I would have to consider carefully. Especially considering my age, as I’m only 23. ”

President: “That’s not a problem. That is the minimum age. Are you a member of the KMT?

Me: “2 years sir.”

President: “I think getting young people into the KMT should be one of our highest priorities.”

Me: “I totally agree, I think the youth vote is one of our greatest weaknesses.”

President: “Do you know of my under 40’s list of legislators?”

Me: “Yes sir, I thought it was a great list.”

He then asked me for my name and number. As this entire conversation had taken place in English, I had the entire room staring at us, bemused.

I realised that I has no business cards, and only a TalkEasy flyer in my bag. I was mortified that I would have to fumble through my giant Longchamp bag, filled with crisp packets, pork scratchings, scampi fries and chicken’s feet. I panicked and shouted, “pen and paper anyone.” The security offered me a post-it note and pen immediately, and I wrote my name and number hurriedly. He laughed, surprised that my name was indeed 田欣. “Wasn’t there another politician with that name? Yes, unfortunately, she was a DPP city councillor.” We both laughed, and thus was the end of my encounter with the president. His parting words were that he would give me a call. I await this day, if it ever comes.

P.s. I was awoken this morning by a call from an unknown number stating that it was the secretary of President Ma’s office. It actually turned out to be Dorris who often like to phone up and pretend to be other people, the rascal. Now each time my phone rings, my heart skips a beat.


Ghost writer: Gwilym james (as Fiona Potter).

Mǎ Yīngjiǔ's signature, 18/2/2012