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.

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

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

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

Some schools assigned your numbers by IQ ranking.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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11. Putty erasers are in high demand.

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12. These are pretty cool too.

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

The commercials for them were everywhere.

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

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

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

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17. He rents you Japanese Super Nintendo games.

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

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18. On your walk home from school–

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

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

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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.

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22. Sometimes the variety shows had good contestants.

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

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

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

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

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28. Your dad wants to bring you shrimping tomorrow.

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

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

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31. That the first subways will change everything.

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

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

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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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