What this site is about.....

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I started this site back in 1996 because at that time there was hardly anything on the net except for Chris Murphy's wonderful web site. As I rummaged through my experience (we had just moved back to Taiwan), so many of the problems and troubles that I had encountered seemed to be avoidable with proper preparation. So, I decided to create something comprehensive, and nice to look at too, that would useful and informative, offering lots of pictures, and lots of things to think about.
Dusk drops on Taichung.
After the site went up I started noticing that I was getting a steady stream of letters from people who lived in Taiwan and left, and who really enjoyed all the little comments on Taiwanese life, and the pictures. So with them in mind, and with the original goal still in mind, the site began to evolve.
Students mob a market set up to raise funds for student activities.
Since then digital cameras have become cheap, the Net has exploded, and the number of Taiwan sites has multiplied enormously. What was once a small, almost intimate internet has become a vast wasteland of identical soulless commercial websites that emphasize a kitsch, exotic view of Taiwanese life, tempered by a slight bow to the widespread if imperfect knowledge of foreigners that There Are Some Problems In Taiwan. This site has also been built as a response to those websites. Some of them provide excellent information on visas and jobs. But they aren't going to tell you why so many windows are barred, or how to avoid counterfeit money, or why living next to an open plot of land is a bad idea. It is to fill that role that I constructed this website. 
Women dicker for clothes in a morning market.
Of course, this more balanced view of Taiwan often comes as a shock to those expecting the "Come teach in Taiwan and make a million dollars in an exotic foreign culture!" point of view. People who think that any criticism of another culture is a form of ethnocentrism often have indignant reactions (the reality is that there is nothing on my site that the Taiwanese themselves do not complain about; who do you think I learned about Taiwan from?!). It is possible to make a lot of money here, and enjoy yourself, and learn a lot about a different culture. But you will only start learning when you stop seeing it as "exotic." Living and learning in a foreign culture is work. Taiwan might be vacation from life, but it is not a vacation from work.
Sanitary and safe conditions prevail in Taiwan's small factories.
The pictures and text on the site emphasize the reality of everyday life in Taiwan. Life in Taiwan is not about goings-on in weird temples and hikes to beautiful mountains and gorgeous beaches. The truth is that work in Taiwan sucks you in: one day you wake up, and you realize you've been living in Kaohsiung four years but have never been to the East Coast, just three hours away. The lived experience of Taiwan is predominantly urban, and 99% of one's time is spent in some sort of urban experience, dodging cars running red lights, buying delicious food from a sidewalk vendor, waiting for a bus or an elevator, or bopping in and out of a convenience store. Don't think "exotic Asia;" think "Newark, New Jersey," and you'll have a much better picture of life in Taiwan. Thus, the images I have chosen reflect that reality, and not the once-a-year trip to clean, beautiful Alishan or the East Coast. Certainly you will spend many hours lolling on the beach. You just won't do it every week, or even every month. When school is in session, as a foreign English teacher in a cram school, you might be working as many as six or even seven days a week. You'll barely be able to crawl home some nights, much less motor down to Kenting National Park for some scuba diving.
Stationary stores:  I am a helpless addict.
Some technical notes...

Initially, the images here were taken with an HP 612. When it reached well over two years old and passed its 5,000th image, I bought a new camera, a Fuji S5000. That camera lasted for 30,000 images in two years, and then it gave up the ghost. The bulk of the imagery of this site was shot with that camera. Now I am using an Olympus C-770 and am looking to purchase a Nikon D80. Some images at this site were taken with my wife's Benq DC2300. I generally shoot the pics at 22000 x 1700, then cut them down to 500 X 375 or 750 X 562, and finally save them on 68% compression in ACDSee. That way they are usually between 22 and 75 kilobytes, small enough so that I can mount many while retaining high levels of image clarity. Between the three cameras I have about 50,000 images of the island to chose from.

In the mountains in Nantou.
I use Netscape composer to make the web pages. I prefer simplicity. I hate animation and despise pages with lots of cute colors. The images provide all the color a website needs. I also hate advertising. The Net, and the world, would be better off without it.
A French gun emplacement from the punitive expedition of 1884 still guards the ridges above Keelung.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has written with questions, comments, corrections, or just to chew the fat. You guys have made it all worthwhile.

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