VarietyCurious John

English Service host John Van Trieste is curious. There’s nothing about Taiwan’s many cultures that he doesn’t want to know more about. Join him every week as he gets to the bottom of yet another question. What will he be curious about this time?

What's On

19 September, 2020
English Service

The country of Indonesia is home to more than 267 million people spread out over more than 17,000 islands that cover nearly two million square kilometers altogether. So how would you go about looking for just one of those 267 million people if you didn’t even know their real name? This isn’t a hypothetical question: it was the real question that faced a young Taiwanese student earlier this year. This is a story of traumatic separation and reunion against the odds, and here to help me tell it is RTI Indonesian’s Tony Thamsir, who was part of the search effort that made the happy ending possible.

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12 September, 2020
English Service

It’s the premier spectacle of the late summer, a tradition dating back centuries that appears on tourist posters advertising Taiwan abroad and always attracts large domestic crowds, too. And it’s been canceled. Despite Taiwan’s success in tackling COVID-19, there are some events, it seems, that are just too big to hold. And this, an annual obstacle course race held to mark "Ghost Month", is one of them. When the event had to be called off, Mr. Lin Lian-sheng, director of the organization that puts it on each year, was left in a difficult position.  The event honors ghosts said to wander the earth during this time of year, and race or no race, they still need to be appeased. After asking the gods for special permission, though, a solution to the problem came: why not hold a Ghost Month cook-off and worship ceremony instead?

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05 September, 2020
English Service

We’re now in September, but as far as the traditional lunar calendar is concerned, we’re still in the midst of Ghost Month, that time of late summer when spirits are given a month long reprieve from the underworld and return to haunt the world of the living. Across Taiwan, it is common for households, neighborhoods, and companies alike to present offerings to the wandering spirits to keep them well fed and prevent them from causing mischief. RTI is no exception- each year, without fail, we present a rich array of fruits and other goodies for the ghosts to enjoy. Dream Lin of RTI’s PR department has seen his fair share of these Ghost Month offerings through the years, and as we stand next to each other during our 2020 Ghost Month ceremony, I ask him how the spread we put out compares with the average Taiwanese household or company.

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29 August, 2020
English Service

We find ourselves in the midst of Ghost Month once again. This is a time of year in the late summer when spirits are said to roam the earth and misfortune awaits those of us among the living who offend them. It’s perhaps the most tradition-bound time of the whole year, with an array of do’s and don’ts that grows and grows depending on how tradition-minded you are. But what is ghost month at its core, and what are these spirits that are supposed to be roaming the earth anyway? Folklore and Feng Shui expert Chang Hsu-chu is here with us today to delve into a subject many people grow up with, but few seem to completely understand. 

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22 August, 2020
English Service

We have it easy. No matter where we are, we can Zoom, Skype, text, or call anyone we know, and be confident they’ll get the message. But that hasn’t been the case for all that long. Taipei’s Museum 207 has just opened an exhibit called “You Send, I Copy” that revisits the history of sending messages in Taiwan. Through artifacts borrowed fromTaiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom, the National Science and Technology Museum, and private collectors, this exhibit tells a story that mirrors the evolution of modern communications around the world, but which in other ways is distinctively Taiwanese. Here to tell us more about this exhibit is museum director Hua An-chi.

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