Monday, January 16, 2006

Bags and Mosquitoes

Soon after I arrived in Taipei, last year, I met up with another expat whom I'd contacted to find out about his experiences. When he greeted me in Taipei, he gave me a cloth bag filled with something that looked like a shortish-handled`badmitten racket. The bag, he said, was a reusable shopping bag, so that I wouldn't have to keep buying plastic bags at the stores. The "badmitten" racket, was for mosquitoes. . .

First, the bag. I don't know if Taiwan ever had the brown paper bags for placing grocery items, as is very prevalent in the US. When I went to Taiwan some 25 years ago, everywhere there were plastic bags. The concept hadn't moved to the US. I thought they were neat. They were neat, but soon, the government of Taiwan recognized that there was a real garbage problem, and mandated charges to customers for the plastic bags. All the stores had to comply, but the street vendors are exempt. I read, somewhere, that this helped the garbage problem a little, but I don't have hard facts. . . I reuse my bags, and try to avoid having any vendors give me plastic bags, but, in spite of that, my plastic bag collection is still growing.

Now, the mosquitoes. The expat assured me that there would be mosquitoes, and that the solution was this racket thing. It has a little button on the handle, and when pressed, makes the paddle part of the racket become an electrocution machine. . . Fortunately, I went through the whole summer and never saw a mosquito in my apartment. Then came winter. Something happened. First, it was just one in a week, but gradually, it progressed to multiple mosquitoes in a night, which is annoying because 1) I get itchy mosquito bites if they manage to get to me, 2) I'm not really keen on all of the neat little diseases that they like to spread, and 3), they're noisy and wake me up when I'm sleeping (assuming that the upstairs neighbors haven't already done that. . .). So, enter the mosquito racket - push the button and swat at the air, and be happy when the sparks start flying. It's like having one of those bug zappers that people hang out in their yards in the US, except that there's no cage around it, so don't test it out with your fingers, as seems the natural inclination of all of us who are curious about it. . . ZAP!

FYI, I just made it to Michigan for the week of home leave that I get for this assignment that I'm on. I'll be back in Taiwan well before the January 29th Chinese New Year, and am looking forward to an empty Taipei as everyone promises me that folks head out to the home towns in the south of Taiwan for the week's holiday.

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