A Day In A 90’s Taiwanese Childhood

Uncle Shun’s Ghost Stories were our Goosebumps. There were only 3 state-controlled TV channels. Everyone had to go to school on Saturdays.

1. Every morning, you wake up to this sound:

Old school mosquito net repairmen are really shouty about their wares.

2. Brush your teeth. Grab radish cakes from the breakfast shop downstairs. Run.

3. Yes, going to school on a Saturday sucks, and you wonder why you must stand through a flag-raising ceremony every morning too.

4. Roll call! Say ‘有!’ when you hear your number.

Some schools assigned your numbers by IQ ranking.

5. Air raid sirens wail across the city. It’s a drill. You duck under your desk and find the underside crusted over in smeary snot.

6. It’s your turn to sweep the classroom. You open the janitor’s closet to find this:

Fuck! Scream for the teacher to come over.

7. Sometimes your math teacher would bonk you on the head with your own abacus–

8. –because you’ve been secretly reading this under the desk.

“Uncle Shun’s Ghost Stories” were Taiwan’s Goosebumps. They were so popular that they were banned in most classrooms.

9. Recess time! Scavenge for cicada shells in the bushes. Plant them in other kids’ hairs.

10. Or trade sweet contraband with classmates. Everyone loves basketball now because of this comic.

11. Putty erasers are in high demand.

12. These are pretty cool too.

13. Blinging your textbooks with 哈比 book sleeves makes you hot shit in 1st grade.

The commercials for them were everywhere.

14. If you have these pencil boxes, you are a god.

15. Go hang out at the local stationary shop after school. Buy laminated cards of pop stars or cartoon shows.

16. The old shopkeeper yells at everyone to shut up. He doles out free marbles and pogs to the quieter kids.

17. He rents you Japanese Super Nintendo games.

Everyone learned how to read rudimentary Japanese this way or were horribly lost.

18. On your walk home from school–

19. –you’re convinced that these recycle bins are watching you.

20. Back home, you choose from 3 state-controlled TV channels. You could watch 包青天 decapitate Soong Dynasty crimesters.

21. Or you could watch this creepy critter fart across the centuries.

Kids would buy bags of potato chips just to get plastic toys of this guy.

22. Sometimes the variety shows had good contestants.

23. Or you could go watch a movie at the theater –

25. – and smuggle in snacks in a plastic bag from here.

26. But you have to stand up and sing the ROC national anthem before any movie. It’s the law.

27. At home, all the adults are antsy about the first democratic presidential election. And China firing a missile over the island.

28. Your dad wants to bring you shrimping tomorrow.

29. You pray for a typhoon to cancel school on Monday, so you can stay in and sing karaoke.

30. You don’t yet know – that the 90’s will end in a giant earthquake.

31. That the first subways will change everything.

32. That two-day weekends will soon become the law. That the music will get better.

33. That you’ll graduate elementary school listening to Mayday – the first major pop band to sing in your grandparents’ native tongue.

34. For now, you are just confused and happy, bright at the edge of the millenium, briefly, mercifully six years old.

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