Samstag, 23. Juni 2007

How Luo2 You1 (羅優) was born ...

... or the image of Germans abroad.

What are those gentlemen doing in the bath tub? -Click here-

Maybe some people have the idea Luo2 You1 is a strange pseudonym. But, actually it´s a real name - a real Chinese name, just written in the phonetic transcription of Han Yu Pinyin.

Luo2 You1 written with traditonal Chinese characters

In the 94. year of the Chinese Republic, at the 6th day of the 5th month, Luo2 You1 was born. The place of his birth was the Yanchao Township Household Registration Office. The office is situated in No.585-1, Jhongmin Rd., Yanchao Township, Kaohsiung County 824, Taiwan.

How could this happen? Somewhere in Canada several years ago a Taiwanese girl met a German guy. They fell in love and decided to share their future. The eternal promise was sealed by the wedding.

Although the government of the Republic of China avoids to restrict the freedom of its citizens – with all advantages and partly also disadvantages – at least it´s necessary to register the marriage. In Taiwan a marriage is almost a full private case, an agreement between two families shown to the public. By contrast the German government still acts in the role of an old lord of the manor, who could decide who marries to whom and always felt care for his bondslaves. The Medieval system existed til Napoleon blow out the Holy Roman Empire and all those German principalities. Still nowaday the effects of the pre-Napaleon era lasts.

In China the emperor was seemingly not very interested in the affairs of his subjects as long as they payed obidient their taxes. At least he had to know the number of the inferiors and their formal relations. In the modern society of Taiwan the household registration offices fulfill this task for the rulers.

So marrying in Taiwan needs four basic steps: 1. asking for the blessing of deities in front of the ancestor´s shrine, 2. public notary at the District court (to get an official document with international recognition), 3. household registration office to indicate the event to the government, 4. public wedding party. Don´t ask me how many steps it needs in Germany to marry in Taiwan - or much worse - to marry a Taiwanese in Germany!

Step No. 3 was the less spectacular one: no guests, no special dress, no ceremony. However, a new person was born: Luo2 You1.

Place of the Household Registration Office in the center of Yanchao.

If a Taiwanese marries, he or she has to change the ID card, because the name of the spouse is also imprinted. At this moment people with a Latin name are asked to get a Chinese one. One reason is the missing space on the Taiwanese ID-Card. Usually people in Taiwan have full names of 2 or 3 characters. My full western family name has 23 character. Although Taiwan likes to create an international environment and is quite open to foreign influences, there are some cultural limits. As well as Chinese have to romanize their names in the western countries, Westerners can also respect the Chinese culture.

The demand of the friendly clerk in the household registration office met an unprepared couple. My first proposal "Yu Lung Shan" refused harshly my wife. "Lung" means dragon, the sign of the zodiac in which I was born. "Lung Shan" can be also interpreted as a translation of my German family name. There is some association with "Zhong Shan", Dr. Sun Yat-Tsen, the founder of modern China, too. "Yu" is similar to the beginning of my German first name. Besides, "Lung Shan" is a famous temple in Taipei. This was the reason, why my wife disliked this name.

Which girl wants to marry a temple? Lung Shan Temple in Taipei, still unmarried in April, 2004

Very soon „Yu Lung Shan“ appeared as Ford Prefect in Douglas Adam´s „Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy“. So better to look for an alternative name.

Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent – Don´t be misleaded by the dominant life species in Taiwan, if you have to choose your name!

After some consideration my wife decided to name me „Luo2 You1“. Luo2 is actually a normal Chinese family name. In Taiwan and China nobody will think about it. Well, Germans are usually quite curious and will ask the meaning. In combination with other characters „Luo2“ means to be busy, looking for a reason, end a task ... „You1“ means excellent, outstanding and reflect the wish of my wife to get the husband :-) My wife had also the idea the sound of Luo You follows the frist sillabs of my family and my first name. Well, for me its only a prove that Asian and Western ears are different, at least my wife´s and mine.

But, there is also another meaning: Luo2 You1 sound almost like „Loriot“. This refers to the cartoonist and comedian Loriot who holds the mirror to his fellows Germans. Too often I tried to explain my wife West German humor in a kind of private integration class. Now came the revenge: Who cites and repeats countless times Loriot´s jokes and sketches, will finally become a „Loriot“ too.

Montag, 18. Juni 2007

Kaohsiung (高雄) - 2nd part

The former mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa, described during the Holcim Forum 2007, what a good city characterizes in his opinion. Some of the themes, that he mentions, were also noticed by the temporary resident of a big city in Taiwan. Therefor I decided to compare the thesis of Peñalosa with the current situation in Kaohsiung to get a better understanding of the live and development in Taiwan´s big cities. The first part will be continued:

This time "Maiden´s Prayer", composed by Tekla Badarzewska-Baranowska, is performed by a real musician and not by a Taiwanese garbage truck.

"Dammed cars! Of course, except mine ..." works only in the frame, that the government offers. When I went as a student from Dortmund (a university with incredible big and free parking lots, but regularly overcrowded, and with missing suitable urban transport connection til 1983) to ETH Hönngerberg in Zurich in the mid 1980s, I was surprised: high parking fees even for the students and no warranty to get a free place. So, it´s better to leave the car at home.

Since 1984 the H-Train with a length of 1 km connects the two campus of Dortmund university. Before there were many cars and few buses on the former village roads between the two places.

Peñalosa: “If car use is to be restricted, there must be good public transport. Transport is a social status game: From fancy cars, to trams instead of buses. Zurich is Europe’s richest city. Yet 60% of its population takes public transport every day and 20% walk or bicycle. Yet many upper middle class citizens of developing cities would not go near a bus or a subway.”

Siemens delivers Kaohsiung´s new metro trains, seen by Steve Schönemann in Hasloch, October 2, 2006 (Source:

Not really inviting looks the current urban transport in Kaohsiung 2007.

“Bicycles tend to integrate people in a more democratic manner. Bicycles are not a minor issue. They are central to the good city of the future. Bicycles are not for the poor: Denmark and the Netherlands have a higher income per capita than the United States. And nearly 40 % of their population use the bicycle daily. A protected bicycle way is a symbol of democracy. It shows that a citizen on a $ 20 bicycle is equally important as one on a $ 20,000 car. Quality sidewalks and protected bicycle paths are not cute architectural features: they are a right. Unless we believe that only those with access to a car have a right to safe individual mobility.”

A little couple rides bicycle in Gushan Road. If you don´t have the right to get a driver´s license and you lack of money this is the best manner of transport in Kaohsiung. If you have a driver´s license or enough money, don´t do it. It´s probably too dangerous.

“Sidewalks are the most important element of a civilized city’s infrastructure. Cars parked on sidewalks, or parking bays where there should be sidewalk, are symbols of inequality and lack of democracy. Quality sidewalks are a symbol that shows that citizens who walk are as important as those who have a car. A city that is safe and friendly to pedestrians and bicycles almost certainly is a good city.”

Even a short walk in Kaohsiung - like in almost all Taiwanese towns and cities - is a hurdle race: parked cars and scooters block the way, storepresent their goods on the sidewalk. You have to cross the kitchen of restaurants and wokshop. The construction of the new metro offers the chance to give roads a new design with wide sidewalks.

“Is public pedestrian space a frivolity in a developing country city facing many difficult challenges? Tourism is a pedestrian activity. Most of what provides joy and is memorable in a city are its pedestrian spaces. Most of what government at the national or local level do are MEANS to eventual wellbeing. Public pedestrian space is an END in itself. IT IS QUALITY OF LIFE ITSELF.”

Public pedestrian zones like in Germany are unknown in Kaohsiung and other Taiwanese cities. Although the café at the “Urban Spot Light” is still closed, people like to sit here and enjoy the space in a central area free of cars and scooters.

“Lack of access to green spaces may become the main factor of exclusion. A good city provides many free pleasures. No child should grow farther than 3 blocks from a park.”

The Central Park of Kaohsiung was a former sports ground and got recently a new design. The artificial pound with a big bridge looks very expansive. Lees expansive design elements and more parks could be a better solution for the city.

“Waterfronts are so unique, they should never be private and exclusive. Waterfronts should have pedestrian infrastructure, preferably without motor-vehicles alongside. This are most memorable places of a city, not its highways.”

The love river is an example of the urban transformation in Kaohsiung. Once the rivers drained the fields and the plains. Then it became a cloaca of the industrialized city. After many improvements the promenades and cafes along the river invite now visitors in the evening and at the weekend.

A new big project is the development of the abandoned harbour area between pier 1 and 22. When the harbour administration gave up the usage, it became the biggest pedestrian area of Kaohsiung. Here is the place where the city can change from an Asian boomtown to a real ocean capital.

“The challenge for a good city is to improve public transport and spaces for pedestrians an cyclists. Wherever people use public transport, it is rarely out of love for the environment. In a truly advanced city, rich and poor are integrated as equals in many locations and activities: transport, sidewalks, bicycle-ways, libraries, parks, cultural activities.”

Bicyclist rides on a former industrial railway line along the recently opened harbour area. Though the weather condition with heat, typhoons and heavy rainfalls are sometimes harsh, at least people are sometimes willing to leave their air conditioned cars, if they see useful alternatives.

View from the former British Consulate to the harbor side of Kaohsiung, that is full of chances.

Sonntag, 17. Juni 2007

Kaohsiung (高雄) – A city advances! – Eine Stadt steigt auf!

When I wrote my remarks about the communism in China Lu Er Fu and my wife complained: Why you show Kaohsiung (高雄) in this way as an ugly result of capitalism? Do you ignore the changes and all those recent improvements the second biggest city of Taiwan? Okay, I regret.

The German Ruhr Area in the 1960s: Wanne-Eickel´s Röhlinghausen district

Even pictures, on the one hand of my old home town Wanne-Eickel, located in the coal mining area of the Ruhr (I still remember the impressing big black mountains of stored coal that covered big parts of the city during my childhood.) and on the other hand of the tropical paradise Kenting, that shows the real beauty of Taiwan, could not calm „wo de Tai Tai" (my wife). So here is an article about the „real" situation in Kaohsiung – of course from my point of view.

Kenting in April, 2007, a love harbour for Taiwanese-German couples

Recently I read an article about the Holcim Forum 2007, that discussed about "Urban_Trans_Formation". One of their speakers was Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia. During his three year term (1998-2001) as Mayor he led massive efforts related to transportation, land use and housing for the poor, pollution abatement, and the critical need for public spaces.

Of course, you can´t compare the situation of Bogotá and Kaohsiung. The conditions are too different. Bogotá is the capital of a developing county. Kaohsiung reached almost the level of an advanced city, although its history is quite short. However, Peñalosa describes what is a good and sustainable city. This counts in South America as well as in Asia or Europe. Here are some of Peñalosa´s thesis summarized and combined with the situation in Kaohsiung:

View from "Kaohsiung shrine" or also called "Martyr´s shrine" to the city of Kaohsiung. The first guide book that I first purchased about Taiwan, written by Werner Lips, described the women of Taiwan as the most sad women of the world. But, can men be happy in this environment?

Peñalosa: "The 20th Century will be remembered as a disastrous one in urban history. The question is: Do we dare create a different, better city? How do we want to live? The measure of a civilization’s success is not its gross domestic product or its technology, but its citizens’ happiness. A quality city can provide much joy. And it is a magical good, because its capacity to provide joy does not wear out."

The children in a kindergarten of Kaohsiung enjoy the program of their volunteer assistant English teacher with German accent. How will be their situation, if they leave the class? Can they play later in a garden or do they have to face the terror of traffic?

"Beyond survival, happiness we need 1) to walk, 2) to be with people and 3) to not feel inferior. A city that is good for children, the elderly, the handicapped, the poor is good for everybody else. In every detail a good city must show respect for human dignity. In terms of transport, a good city is not one with great highways but rather one where a child in a bicycle could go safely everywhere. A transport system tends to produce a kind of city and a city is a means to a way of life. Therefore the urban design and transport issue is the same."

Motor scooters and cars dominate the traffic in Kaohsiung. The German city walker feels very often like poor rabbit. Local people are seemingly used to this, like the lady on the left who collects potential recycables to supplement her scarce pension. The driver of the car on the right doesn´t respect the traffic rules and ignores a one-way-road. Inbetween the garbage truck plays "Für Elise" composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, wrongly in the clip labelled as "A Maiden´s Prayer" by Tekla Badarzewska-Baranowska:

"Most of what destroys quality of life in modern cities results from trying to make more room for cars. Polluting or clean, cars represent problems to urban quality of life. There is a competition for space and money between cars and people. Government funds for roads in big cities compete with funds for schools, nurseries, parks, housing, libraries in those cities and rural areas. Is a city friendly to cars, or a city friendly to people sustainable?"

20 lanes of concrete occupy the space around the toll station at highway 10 northbound. The loss of orchards and fields in the surrounding of Kaohsiung was during the last decades enormous. New road and industrial zones cover the ground where the parents of today still could play as children.

"Cars are extremely recent in human history. They are a means of social differentiation. There is not a "natural" level of car use in a city. It is Government which determines, explicitly or implicitly, how much will the car be used. Political pressures from car owners and other car related interests are so massive, that often it is forgotten that cities are for people, not for cars. If there was more space for cars, there would be more cars. If there was less space for cars, there would be less cars."

In Kaohsiung is free space for parking scarce and fees are high. If you don´t respect the rules easily your car can be towed away. At least they write the number of the license plate and a telephone number on the pavement, to get the information, where you can pick the car.

"Solving traffic jams with more or bigger highways is like putting out a fire with gasoline. Despite giant highways, eg Atlanta has more traffic jams every year. A long time ago advanced cities such as Manhattan or Zurich decided they would NOT build more road infrastructure in order to alleviate traffic jams. There are frequent traffic jams in Manhattan and nobody thinks that is a problem. If you are in a hurry, you take public transport. Traffic jams are effective means to achieve public transport use and Density. For traffic it is the same to double the number of cars, as to have the same cars do twice the distance. Be careful with the demands of the higher income groups: They rarely use the city. They only care for its roads, in order to drive from one private space to another."

This is a Picture of the picture of the construction site at the main station placed by Kaohsiung´s city government. The Zhong Shan Road crosses elevated the station area. However, what will be the future? The project provides an improved public transport and reduces the cut caused by the railway in the centre of Kaohsiung - or will the railway tunnel only offer more space for cars?

According this model of Kaohsiung´s future we can call the city "little Germania". The historic station building looks like a fly´s shit.

"When shopping malls replace public space as the meeting place for people, it is a symptom that a city is ill. Great cities do not have shopping malls. Their best shops always face public space."

The "Dream Mall" in Kaohsiung is the biggest shopping mall in Taiwan. Does it mean the city is ill?

"With good design, a modern city should still have communities. Density is the most important element of good transport, regardless of whether we use trains, buses, taxis, bicycles or walk."

A new residential area with high density is under construction at Nei-Wei-Pi Cultural Park in Kaohsiung. I worry if high density, a museum and a park are enough to form a good community.

"Can we design a transport system without knowing what kind of city we want? Transport is a peculiar problem: It gets worse as a society gets richer, clearly a not sustainable model. Which is the objective of our transport policy? a) Provide efficient mobility for all or b) Minimize traffic jams for the higher income groups? Transport cannot be solved simply with money: It takes changes in our way. In developing country cities transport is clearly not a technical, but a political issue. Who benefits from the policies adopted?"

The central park of Kaohsiung was in spring 2003 the place a light rail exhibition. A Siemens tramway connected two station on a former sports ground. It was a big event for the kids and their grandpas. The project is postponed, although its much cheaper than the metro construction. Because it seizes the oversized car roads of Kaohsiung its also a social and democratic concept according Peñalosa.

A virtual trip of 6 minutes with the tramway in Kaohsiung. The second part of the post will show the really beautyful places.