I grab a seat on the couch near the door of my school yesterday, and across from me, a headline catches my eye.
We’ve got a little bookshelf right as you walk in with a few dated parental magazines and the daily newspaper. They’re there for parents who come in and may have to kill a few minutes waiting to chat with our “Principal Mommy” (院长妈咪). The paper is almost always Apple Daily, one of the island’s traditionally sensational media brands.
Today, right across the top of Page One is some flashy photo of a half-nude girl in a loving embrace. The headline was something along the lines of: “Lesbian Couple Takes Naked Wedding Photos.”
Stop the press!
It’s this type of story that pleasantly reminds me of the progress being made here in Asia. The fact that this is Page One news here is telling (granted you had to jump to an inner section for the full story). Taiwan’s free press, with such a tiny island population, generates half its news from viral videos and Facebook feeds. By doing so, it does a decent job of reflecting trends with a very young, fresh feel.
That this paper is sitting on the shelf where my 6-year-old students walk in is perhaps a little troubling. But it’s also a reminder of the type of post-traditional society Taiwan has become. Most cultural traditions are stronger here than across the strait, yet the Taiwanese have done a stand-up job of modernizing belief systems.
Thanks to not living under Mao in the ’60s-’70s, the island still has deeply rooted religious traditions with a much more liberal society to boot. So while I sit here listening to the drum-banging squeal of another motorcade announcing the arrival of the dragon, I can’t help feeling that much happier to be back.