Taipei 2014 Day 21

I have class in 20 minutes so this will be a quick on.

I took a break from my phone drama yesterday to meet mysterious Tainan C and Barton (both are pseudonyms). We met a in the MRT Guting station underneath Exit 2, which I had chosen because I believed it would be cooler down below. I didn’t know who to look for since Tainan C is a pretty low profile… so low-profile, that I assumed that he was a missionary language learner. Anyway he recognized me from a distance, and asked me if it was creepy. It wasn’t at all creepy of course.

We had a tight schedule so I took them to Mix Cafe. While Barton and Tainan C were ordering I mouthed to the owner 《我邀請他們客,不要讓他們付錢》 (“I will be treating them; don’t let them pay any money!). The boss gave me a slick Lando Calrissian nod of acknowledgement and when the time came, I 請’ed them within an inch of their life. I 請’ed them so hard, they started spitting blood and teeth fragments. They were trying not to sob but I saw the tears in their eyes.

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We had a lovely fish dinner and talked about Taiwan, language learning, etc. I found myself trying to explain my new philosophy on immersion, which I wrote about once here, but I realized I my explanation was too labored; I need to concentrate it down to a fortune cookie. I’ll work on that later this afternoon after four hours of class.

Before I knew it my new friends were off on another mission; I was glad to meet them. I turned my attention to my phone drama and my upset stomach… but as soon as they were gone I realized I had forgotten to take a picture with Tainan C and Barton.

Unrelated: Here are the places where the locals recognize me and by now know my order: Benny’s cafe; Pucheng Jie Breakfast Counter. Oven Coffee. Something Ales. Today at Oven Coffee I managed to say hello, and the dude was immediately “Medium iced-Americano, real mug, no sugar, heavy on the ice cubes, VIP Card discount. Anything else?” I swear the first time I came here I paid 90塊 for my drink; today I paid 46塊.

The clock and the music say that it’s time for me to get up and go to class. It’s “Fall” by Clay Walker, so I”m going to Clay Walke-right outta here (puns seem to be less embarrassing for expats).

Minor Laowai Phone Bill Drama

Yesterday: I walk into the 大哥大 store and tell them that I can’t make phone calls, send text messages, or use 3G internet. They say something in Chinese and I’m like yah yah, what 300塊? Alright here you go, 300塊, just make it work.

Today: 10:30 am I walk into the 大哥大 store and talk to the same lady, and say that I paid 300 bones yesterday and I could send a text message, but my 3G still isn’t working. She says oh yah, 300塊 was for phone and messaging service; 3G internet is the other 180塊. I’m like, yah, ok, let’s make it happen buh-bam, 180塊 hook me up. That’s USD about six bucks and a quarter; let’s make it happen.

We sit there for about a minute and the 3G internet isn’t kicking in. Does it take a while, I ask the lady, or is it right away? Right away, she said. Ok, well, I gotta go to class; if it still doesn’t work after class I’ll come back, ok? Sure, she says! Thank you for coming in! Thank you for helping me! Everybody is friends.

Today: 4pm. After a pizza, an iced tea, and a “lazy tiramisù” I walk back to the 大哥大 office. My 3G internet starts working on the walk there, but my text messages fail to send. I walk into the office.

They absolutely don’t care that the right-away 3G update took 5 hours to happen, what do you expect? I told them, though, that I still couldn’t send a text message. They look up my account and said, yes, you’ve spent it all. I said, SINCE YESTERDAY? And they were like yes; your account has a very limited number of minutes, and if you make international calls it gets used up very fast.

I look around me to see if I have gone back in time to an era where anyone on earth still made international phone calls. Look around, look around… nope; it’s still 2014. I haven’t made any phone calls, I said. I received a phone call, I offer, and they jumped on the computer.

Oh! they say, FROM WHAT TIME TO WHAT TIME! Aha! They caught me.

From 15:28 until 15:30. It was a two minute phone call, from a Tainan phone number.

Do you want to talk to someone in English, they ask me? Sure, I say.

So they dial up the English service, and the lady supposedly speaks English , but it’s all takka-takka-takka-takka-takka. English words, but I have no idea what the hell she could possibly be talking about.

I can’t hear you, I say. It was true, I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Also, she’s speaking some kind of horrible corporate bullshit English that doesn’t make any damn sense. All I really understand is “Do you bring your passport.” Do I bring my passport? See, I would prefer it if when you spoke English to me, that you say something that might make sense…

Anyway, the plan is to go to the next 大哥大 store three blocks away, and bring my passport, which is the magic key to unlocking their company’s pendejadas. I hand the phone back to the lady that’s been helping me, and she writes some info down for me on a slip of paper, so that I can make it to the next store. I ask her, “is it worth it? If I go there with my passport, will they fix it? Because I’m only here 10 more days, and I have plans tonight; my friends are waiting for me. Will they fix it or is it just kiss my 300塊 goodbye?”

“Kiss my 300塊 goodbye” made her feel bad, which was my intent. She said I should go, they would print out my usage history, and figure out what the deal was; it should be fast.”

I go to meet my friends. Have a lovely dinner. Forget to take a picture. Walk my friends back to the metro station, and then go find the next 大哥大 office.

By the way, “大哥大” is just a way of saying “cellphone” but it’s also the brand name of the company. Literally translated, “大哥大” can mean “Big Brother is Great.”

Big Brother is Great.

I walk into the next 大哥大 store, thinking this was a service center or headquarters or some kind of passport-receiving agency which will explain to me how I have, indeed, burned through 480塊’s worth of phone and internet credit, which were supposed to be separate anyway… in the span of 24 hours.

I walk in and it looks like just another branch. No extra authority; no manager, no special nothing; just more 大哥大 kids in their gross polo shirts.

In my opinion, polo shirts are gross. Sorry, Latino friends.

So they hear my story and refer me to someone else, and accuse me of making international calls and data-rich text messages and burning through my money like the FAT DECADENT WESTERNER I am. They bring out a big printout of all of my usage, and I ask, can you show me where I made a phone call yesterday? Can you show me where I sent a text message yesterday?

They offer to have me talk to an English speaking agent on the phone, and I was like… yah, fine.

This time it was a man, whose English was easier to understand, but he was still speaking the confusing corporate double speak. I honestly honestly honestly did not know where he was going with it until he said “… so I will return your 380 NTDollars to your account and will make sure it Never. Happens. Again.”

I have no idea what happened. I asked him, and he explained again, and I still didn’t get it, but I was happy that I was getting my credits back. I asked him to explain it to the lady in front of me in Chinese so that she would know my situation, so as soon as I handed her the phone SHE HUNG IT UP.

She looked at me like, “so, how’d it go?” And I said, “I wanted you to talk to him so he could explain it to you.”

Oh, sorry, she said. I smiled as my heart filled with a vague hatred, which I asked Jesus to take from me.

Just now I dialed 867 to check my account balance: three hundred one point one NTDollars, is what it said. Phone calls work, text messages work, 3G internet works. What was the problem? Don’t ask me, I have no idea.

Comprehension questions. What did you understand? Answer in complete sentences in English or in Spanish.

1. Did I do something wrong?
2. Why did they need my passport?
3. What did the man on the phone see differently, that the woman on the phone and three people at the counter failed to see?
4. I have this desire in my heart to go back and make five people feel like total dumb-ass piles of shit for wasting two hours of my life due to their incompetence. That’s unreasonable, and totally wrong of me to want, right? I don’t have to do that. Do I? Of course not. Right?

Taipei 2014 Day 21: Typhoon Day

There is not a whole lot to report about Day 21. Our classes were cancelled due to Typhoon Matmo. I spent the morning doing laundry; I already reported about breakfast in yesterday’s post.

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I had a 火車便當 “Railroad Lunchbox” with a 雞排 chicken steak, at a spot across 辛亥路 Xinhai Road, that Pashan T and I walked by the other day. It was good, and it was only 80塊 (USD $2.67). There was the chicken steak, steamed potato, tofu cubes, soup, greens, half a soy sauce egg, and a seaweed bow tie.

After that there was four hours of afternoon KTV, the karaoke joint where you and your friends get your own private room. It was a blast of course. My personal favorite was Smooth Criminal, but not everyone enjoyed that song in the same way.

After KTV, we went to a Japanese ramen place next door. I had a bowl of spicy ramen.

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There was a metro ride home, and then I met 喬丹 again at Something Ales for a glass of cider, which was on draft and served on the rocks. The owner bartender (note to self; find out his name soon) gave us some homework; he told us to try a certain delicious peanut. He wrote the name for us.

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I woke up this morning at sunrise, as I am prone to do. The sky was crazy red from my shower porch; a red that doesn’t come through in the photo, despite the filter I put on it. Enjoy!

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Why I’ve Switched to 注音符號 Zhuyin Bopomofo ㄅㄆㄇㄈ

I don’t think anyone has any interest in this post.
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When people see my Chinese notes, they notice that I am annotating my new vocabulary words with the Bopomofo phonetic notation: ㄅㄆㄇㄈ, more formally known as 注音符號, which is the system that they use here in Taiwan to give phonetic readings; it’s a system that predates the advent of Pinyin in Mainland China.

And when people notice that my notes are annotated with ㄅㄆㄇㄈ, they always say, “Well, I’m sticking with Pinyin because…” It’s very important to them that I know why they’re sticking with Hanyu Pinyin. I didn’t even ask or bring it up; they just saw my notes and start their testimonial.

When they finish, sometimes I give them some of the reasons that I have switched to ㄅㄆㄇㄈ, but they DON’T CARE. It annoys them to hear my reasons. I will be surprised if any Mandarin learner has made it down this far in the post.

A couple years ago, I tried to get my classes to learn ㄅㄆㄇㄈ, but they were horrible HORRIBLE at it, so I gave up. Since ㄅㄆㄇㄈ and Pinyin are almost exactly parallel, they are horrible at Pinyin as well, but they’re comfortable with it, and honestly, it’s easier for me to see Pinyin mistakes and mark them wrong. So my classes stick with Pinyin and I don’t evangelize ㄅㄆㄇㄈ anymore.

So anyway, nobody asked, but here are the reasons I’ve switched to ㄅㄆㄇㄈ:

  • I already learned it. It took, what, a couple of hours to learn it. I switched my dictionary to show me ㄅㄆㄇㄈ, and zero Pinyin. At first I’d forget a symbol, but then I hit the audio play button and could associate the sound. So now that I know it, and I got familiar with it, why wouldn’t I use it?
  • The Taiwanese are better at it. I’m studying in Taiwan, my teachers prefer it, they don’t mess it up. Incidentally, it’s the 2nd Language speakers and the Mainlanders who send SMS text messages that are really good at Pinyin, but I’ve met more than one Mainlander who will tell me “CH” when I really need a “Q.” I haven’t found that among the ㄅㄆㄇㄈ-using Taiwanese folks.
  • Pinyin looks too much like words. Pinyin is only supposed to be a phonetic guide, and to the Chinese people who use it, it totally is. However, I’m literate in a few languages that use the Roman alphabet, and when I see Pinyin my brain immediately sees a word. And then my brain does something interesting: it TOTALLY DISREGARDS the Chinese character that I’m supposed to be reading. And I mean TOTAL. DISREGARD. When I’m trying to become literate in a language, TOTAL DISREGARD is not my friend. I can force my eyeballs to look at a new character, but then the Pinyin is RIGHT THERE, calling to me. My familiarity with ㄅㄆㄇㄈ is not that automatic; I tend to look at the character first, and only check the ㄅㄆㄇㄈ if I’m not sure how to pronounce it.
  • I can read Taiwanese-produced short stories that have in-line ㄅㄆㄇㄈ annotation. These are often charming, and therefore, readable. As an audience, I actually desire to continue reading until the end. I enjoy reading those short stories! The Pinyin-annotated readings, on the other hand, as a rule tend to be either totally mindless dialogs with everybody agreeing about something everybody already knows; or something horribly boring about the modern infrastructure of some industrial province; or something culturally offensive about how Westerners all collectively and simultaneously invented prostitution and then forced it upon the people of the Middle Kingdom.

So, the Taiwanese like to claim that ㄅㄆㄇㄈ is a more faithful representation of Mandarin phonetics, and I don’t care about that. As someone who is literate in English and French I’m long past the point where I need an alphabet to be completely consistent.

However I have to say that I haven’t totally abandoned Pinyin yet. Besides having to teach it to my students, for now it’s also easier to type characters using Pinyin, since I already know the keyboard.

In any case, there you go, the reasons that I use ㄅㄆㄇㄈ; reasons that no one has ever asked for. We can all now go back to our oyster omelets in peace.

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from MandarinPoster.com

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Taipei 2014 Days 19 and 20: Typhoon Matmo

I had the early class yesterday so I didn’t get breakfast. I went to class… new teacher again… I’m getting good at telling my story. During our ten minute break, I took 20 to chat with J at the Desk and then get a breakfast burrito to go, as they had sold out of 蘿蔔糕。 I scarfed it down in the hallway and then apologized to the teacher, telling her they deserved longer breaks.

After class I waited for the next class to let out, and then joined them for some sushi across the street. We each shelled out about $10 USD and the sushi was good. We were a little 隨便 (sloppy? reckless?) with our ordering and got a few two many of the greatest hits. The issue was 1 order = 2 pieces. Rookie mistake. We ate well though and I was satisfied that the eurofabulous guys were more painstaking in researching their order, but ended up getting some rookie sushi. Like the tamago in the case that looked like a snorefest.

Pashan T and I walked around behind 公館 and hung out in Pica Pica for a while, studying. That’s about when Typhoon Matmo started raining on Taipei. When Pashan T left I sent him with the umbrella, because it’s a shame to show up all soaked. I was about to leave too, but then I thought better of it when the rain seemed to quintuple before my eyes. I went back inside and got another iced tea.

About half an hour later, there was a break in the rain, and I made my way back home. At 7pm I went downstairs and bought another umbrella. Then Pashan T showed up and we got pizza at So Free, an outdoor pizza counter with a wood-fire oven. I got Mushroom Asparagus and Pashan T got Banana Almond. Banana Almond pizza was delicious; there was no extra sweetness or sauce beside the banana slices, and somehow the cheese tied it together. Mushroom Asparagus was great too.

Afterward we stopped for a beer at Something Ales in my building. It was a recommendation from Aussie L. The owner was sitting on the patio having a cigarette, but came in to serve us and start working when we showed up. We split a bottle of Elysian Brewery’s Savant IPA, and I could not stop being excited about Seattle ales. I didn’t even know they bottled it; but of course in Seattle I never have to open a bottle of beer.

The owner was a cool guy to talk to, just as Aussie L had reported. He poured us water and some snappy local peanuts that are JUST BETTER than American peanuts. The bottle was 300塊 and worth it.

When I got back to my 6th floor apartment, the typhoon started howling and the rain sounded like a firehose. The building itself seems rock solid, but the windows shook a little in the wind, a wind that went from howling to screaming.

It’s now 9:45 am the next day. Oven Coffee shop opened, so I’m getting breakfast now. Iced coffee and a bacon egg bagel. There’s a lady in here with a 蛋餅 to go, so not everything closed. The gusts are strong now, and people are gasping. I’ve got a load of laundry in the wash; I fear most of it will have to machine tumble dry, as my shower porch is a drippy mess.

Anyway, the best part about breakfast today was that when I sat down, the radio started playing “Blue Skies” (Frank Weiss). I’m sure I’m the only one that knows.

Taipei 2014 Day 18

Did anything happen yesterday?

My breakfast counter ran out of 蘿蔔糕 turnip cakes by the time I got there, so it was 蛋餅 a Taiwanese breakfast burrito with bacon and egg. Lunch at Kiwi Gourmet Burger, practice Chinese with Taiwan Amy

Afterward, I did my evening walk in 公館 Gongguan neighborhood, and stopped at Picnic, a charming cafe which appears to be all whimsical and casual and crafty, but the staff is very professional, silent behind the counter, and the food is immaculately prepared and presented and I spent almost 300塊 on a slice of quiche, a salad, and a little pot of iced tea. Totally worth it. Totally worth it. Plus, it would have been more expensive in the states; and probably less polished and a little bit irritating. The menus were all hand bound, hand illustrated, hand lettered books that my old man eyeballs could barely read, and I didn’t really get any pictures of it except for the wifi password, which is someone’s phone number so I won’t post it. Sorry, Frankalicious.

I got all my homework done there, and then walked home. Had a little chat with my roommates.

What else is going on? There’s a typhoon coming; from the satellite photos it looks like it’s coming STRAIGHT FOR ME. Not worried, but class might be cancelled. Tomorrow is laundry day anyway.

I’ve broken through the two-week headache barrier that I had spoken about before. I’m happy to report that on the other side of that headache barrier is a lazy attitude. I’ve felt this in France, Guatemala, Italy, and the last time I was in Taipei… that the first two weeks I try really hard to speak correctly, and that is accompanied by a headache (I’m not claiming a causal relationship). Now that that period has passed, I’m feeling pretty lazy about making language acquisition happen. Actually I know it’s happening, so I feel like I can just go about my day and talk my face off to people and make mistakes and get misunderstood and corrected and that’s just how it is. I’m not longer feeling like I have to hustle to make myself understood.

You know the scene in The Matrix, when they shove a guitar cable in the back of Keanu Reeves’ head, and he convulses in the chair, and then it stops, and his eyes open wide, and he says “I know Kung Fu.” That’s what the first two weeks feels like; like it’s all flooding in.

I know Kung Fu.

Unlike Neo the One, the information is still coming at me in a torrent. However, it no longer feels overwhelming.

I have, however, started to worry about going home. There are a LOT of social calls I haven’t made yet, and I have less than two weeks to make them all. I also worry about going home and not getting to practice Chinese every day.

Some ideas I have about future posts:

  • Why I’m all about 正體字 Traditional characters now.
  • Why I’m all about 注音符號 Bopomofo phonetics now (i.e., ㄅㄆㄇㄈ…)
  • Some people study too hard; it’s counter productive.
  • I hate the way they use the term 西方 “Western” here.
  • Cute animal! DON’T PET IT, STUPID.
  • Why we don’t go around calling people “Foreigner.”
  • Tagalog next summer? or Japanese? Or Portuguese? Or back to Italian or French? Pros and cons of each.

Finally, the an update on my cockroach friend. I walked into my shower this morning and found Mr. Cockroach halfway up the door, his legs caught in the hinge. When I opened the door, he fell into my room. So I swept him up with the dustpan and brought him to the common room, where there is a motel. He’s now halfway in the hotel, and I don’t think he’s coming out.

I like to think that there was just one cockroach that I kept seeing repeatedly, and that my shower porch was just a spot he was passing through. There’s nothing there for him but dry surfaces and lonely times. Now that he’s checked into the motel, I have a feeling that the rest of my stay in Taipei will be roach free.

DO NOT BURST MY BUBBLE PEOPLE. DO. NOT.

Fear of the Non-Standard

Back in the fall of 1993 I was studying in Avignon, France. We’d have classes four days a week, but Wednesdays we’d take day trips throughout Provence. We went to Aix-en-Provence, Nimes, Arles, Les Beaux, Gironde, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Marseilles, Les Saintes-Maries-la-mere, la Camargue, Gourde, l’abbey de Sénanque… I cannot believe I remembered all those Wednesday destinations, but I feel like I’m leaving someplace out.

Our French lit prof was a jolly English prof at the Avignon Fac. He was married to an American woman and had a son, V, who had a French accent, but was nevertheless a native speaker of English. He came with us on one of the Wednesday trips.

He asked me once about how to pronounce the word “aren’t.” Most of us do it all in one syllable, and the syncopated vowel means that the /r/, the /n/ and the /t/ are all crammed together at the end of the syllable. We don’t think about it, but it’s gotta be tough for the folks who don’t like consonant clusters at the end of a syllable. Aren’t, aren’t, aren’t .

So I told V what I could (i.e., you don’t have to release the /t/) but it was tough for him, especially on the first day. So I told him, you know, I don’t really use “aren’t” in regular speech. You aren’t, we aren’t, they aren’t.

I told him, that I, for one, had a strong preference for “You’re not…, we’re not.., they’re not…” It’s an alternative; it doesn’t solve his problem, but it means exactly the same thing, and in this case, my work-around is actually a preferred, at least by me. V was glad about this alternative, but what he really wanted was to feel good about saying “aren’t.”

But you know; you’re not going to feel good about unfamiliar phonology on the first day. If you don’t believe me, watch an American try to pronounce Tagalog words “ngayon” and “ngiti,” Take video, that’s worth a chuckle. Maybe they’ll successfully pronounce it on the first day, but it won’t “feel natural” in their mouths until much later.

Anyway, I offered V the non-standard alternative of saying “ain’t,” which is not anybody’s standard English, but it’s OBVIOUSLY A NATIVE-SPEAKER CONSONANT-CLUSTER SIMPLIFICATION OF “AREN’T.” Look at it with the eyes in your face: aren’t vs. ain’t. Obviously V wasn’t the only one uncomfortable with syllable-final consonant clusters; some native speakers were uncomfortable with it as well!

At this point, the girl with the curly red hair sitting a row behind us in the bus said “NO!” She crossed her forearms in the air and then did a grandiose, slow-motion X-chop while shaking her head emphatically, a Goddess of Dialect Orthodoxy. “DO NOT. SAY “AIN’T; THAT IS NOT. CORRECT. DO NOT. LEARN THAT.” she declared. “IT’S BAD.”

Holy smokes, V, that woman is going to strike you down from the sky if you use “ain’t.” My mistake. Later I slaughtered a dove and laid it before her in sacrifice.

Except I didn’t. “It’s not standard,” I told V, “but people say it in casual situations.”

I know that the girl with the curly red hair wanted to protect V from the filthy habits of the unwashed, uneducated “ain’t” sayers of the English speaking world. She wanted V to take a place beside her, in the pantheon of dialectal orthodoxy, where non-standard variations must not even be KNOWN about.

From my point of view, this was a bilingual kid, a NATIVE SPEAKER of English, who knows all about register and prestige standards, and its smart enough to handle an auxiliary verb. Did she think he was stupid?

Yes, she did. Protect him, he’s too stupid to navigate “ain’t.”

As for me, when I think about the people that say “ain’t” in my life, I’m glad that I know them; they make my life experience richer. Some of them are Americans, some are British… my Grandma Juling who lived in San Diego used “ain’t,” she lived a long life and passed away peacefully, surrounded by family. The “ain’t” persecutors failed to take her joy.

As an addendum, I’d like to mention that this story is DRIPPING with racial subtext, even though I didn’t mention anything directly. I didn’t think it was important to get into that over a pronunciation question. Still, it’s all there. We all saw it.

Taipei 2014 Days 16 and 17

Day 16: Saturday

Yesterday I got all my laundry done, all of it. By 9:30 I was at Benny’s cafe working on a language learning post. I’ll get to it tomorrow.

喬丹 met me at Benny’s and then we took the train up to Shilin and then looked around for the number 30 bus to take us to the National Palace Museum. We looked for about 30 seconds and then I hailed a cab, which ran its red light and slowly and awkwardly pushed its way through oncoming bicycles and pedestrians to get to us.

Once at the museum, we found the secret elevator to take us to the secret tea house on the top floor. There we shared a table with a lady lunching on her own, a mom and two adorable elementary school kids, and a Canadian couple living in Thailand. The food up at the top was pretty ok. The Canadian dude was doing some funny Mainland stuff like calling across the room for the 服務員… precious! The mom was showing her son and daughter how to have afternoon tea, and also helped me order some sticky rice that had special names at that place. The daughter was enthralled with me after I spoke with her mom; she marveled at me, contemplating as she chopsticked her green tea mochi ball.

The stuff in the National Palace Museum was pretty nifty. The quick and dirty story is that the KMT grabbed a bunch of stuff from the Forbidden City as they evacuated, safeguarding it from the Japanese and the PLA. We saw the bronze collection, the jades collection, a couple of calligraphy and painting collections… skipped the furniture gallery because we were getting museum fatigued.

Cabbed back to the metro and then train back to our neighborhood. I got dinner alone later at KGB; a gourmet hamburger that didn’t quite do it for me. The fries were great, and I walked through Gugong to get some overpriced frozen yogurt, and then stroll back through the neighborhood.

Day 16: I Marveled Twice Today.

I had an early breakfast and then met PaShan T at 7am. We trained to the bullet train station, I bought my tickets and then we went back up top to find some coffee and breakfast for him.

After that we found our way back to the bullet train station; the train wasn’t ready for us, but there was free wifi!

We got on the bullet and then we were in Hsinchu before you could say “bless you.” The best part of the ride is of course when the train emerged from underground and you could see country side; towns with rice patties scattered in among the buildings.

Hsinchu M met us at the bullet train station, which was a MARVEL. It felt spacious and simple and futuristic and I thought I might be living in the Jetsons world. We got in his car and he handed us a couple of frozen bottles of water and then we drove for two hours to 日月潭 Sun Moon Lake, which is a National Park. When we got there, we took the sky lifts to the Aboriginal Park, which is this Indigenous People themed crazy fake in a bunch of ways and probably a little insulting but still it was an easy day for us… them park within the national park. The sky lifts were spectacular. We had lunch at the Maya Cafe, underneath a fakey fake Maya pyramid. On the menu for us: Teddy Bear fried porkchop.

After that, PaShan T and I crossed the lake in a boat where a guide was doing some stand-up comedy tour-guiding in Chinese. We met up with Hsinchu M on the other side, and then went to find the Paper Dome, which is a tourist trap. Back in the parking lot, we tailgated a yellow watermelon, and spit our seeds onto the gravel.

Then we drove a couple of hours back to Hsinchu, which was a lot of traffic. Hsinchu M old us we could take a nap so were LIGHTS OUT IN NO TIME FLAT, NOT KIDDING. The man told us to sleep and we SLEPT. Finally we got to a Thai restaurant and ate well: papaya salad, panang curry beef, braised fish, grilled chicken, cabbage, and a shrimp cake.

Freeway>bullet train>metro>home. But not before Hsinchu M could gift us with heavy red mangos.

Taipei 2014 Day 15: Bad News Day

Yesterday the news kept getting worse and worse. Those kids in Gaza getting gunned down at the beach; the plane shot down over Ukraine… When Typhoon James sent me a image of a storm system headed straight for Taiwan in a couple of days, it almost seemed like like good news, since there’s still a chance that storm might veer east and tear up Luzón instead.

I showed up for my 11:30 class and the elevator was out. So I had to walk up 12 flights of stairs. It was silent in the stairwell, so all you could hear was the sound of my sandals on the tile and the sound of my left knee clicking. When I got to the top, J and the Desk told me I had missed my 9 am session. I had totally spaced it out; at 9 I was in the cafe sipping my iced coffee and wishing they’d schedule me for the 9 o’clock sessions. Oh well.

For lunch I went to a cantonese BBQ place with 喬丹 and T. You will all be glad to know that I’m proficient at ordering roast pork on rice. However the veggies they threw in were 苦瓜 ampalaya (bitter mellon). Although I am my mother’s son, I don’t eat the ampalaya. Which is too bad, because my mama gives an indignant speech about people who don’t know what real pinkakbet is.

After lunch, we all went to Benny’s to try to plan some day trips, but we failed. We left around nap time without having decided anything because we are some Hemmingway style-expats who talk, decide nothing, and schedule naps. I had a bowl of chirashi for dinner.

Then I met Aussie L and Lorraine; we got a cab to the train station and stopped at a ramen counter. I told him his new name was 高澳貓, which is not haoting, but it backfired on me because I had written it in simplified. Simplified!

We caught the bus out to Taoyuan, got the man checked in, stopped for a last bottle of water, and then escorted that pirate to security, and he caught his flight back to Brisbane. He cursed me with a clippy koala toy and a 3-pack of snacks.

With Aussie L out of our hair, we went to the bus stand; Lorraine helped me get a ticket to the train station and then ran off to catch a different bus. As for me, I wasn’t clear on where to go or stand, so I bought a bottle of water and sat down for a little bit. When the time seemed right on the big board, I went back outside to get on a bus, and the guy told me I had missed it. After a good five minutes of being baffled and trying to reassess my situation, I bought another bus ticket, this one to a different location, and then found my way home. I wasted USD $4 because I didn’t know how to take a bus!

On the way back my phone died, and I was able to get off a message that I wouldn’t be joining my friends for KTV, due to the bus fiasco. I got off at 古亭站 and walked the rest of the way home. I stopped for a bowl of 乾麵 “dry noodles” at a cart on the street corner, and then I went home and slept.

Today will be better. I already did all my laundry. I’ll be meeting a friend for some 牛肉麵 beef noodle soup up in 新北投 today. I think it’s supposed to be a Spanish lesson.

Taipei 2014 Day 14: Halfway-point Blues

Well, it seem like I’ve hit the two-week point. 17 days left in Taipei.

Yesterday for lunch 喬丹 and I decided to stay in the neighborhood so we got some simple 炸排骨飯 fried pork chop, which is one of the basic meals in Taipei. We went to 龍城什麼什麼.

Tooled around at Benny’s for the afternoon, and then went home and realized there that I had been walking around with a shaving atrocity on my face for the last 48 hours. There was a big swath of my chin that my razor just failed to find the day before. I sent an accusatory text to 喬丹, who had just eaten a pork chop across from it, and he just answered “haha I wasn’t going to say anything.” Guhhhhh

Nap time, and then I met Aussie L for his last night in Taipei. He asked me for recommendations on where to have dinner, which is weird since I’ve been here two weeks and he’s been here two years. So I recommended the spots I’ve been to: German restaurant, mountain side tea house, downtown movie themed tea house… Aussie L chose a German restaurant in 公館 Gongguan called 歌德 “Goethe” and ate some meat.image

Aussie L wanted to make sure his fingers were in the shot.

Aussie L wanted to make sure his fingers were in the shot.

Afterward, L was organizing a night of clubbing and I was like, nah dude, see ya bye… and walked back through the back side of 公館 Gongguan, the same neighborhood I strolled through the other night. Lisa in Toronto gave me a couple of missions to find some places; I found her noodle shop but not Café Trouvé. I’ll look agian.image

Today I woke up at 4am, wondering how to say “although” in French. I was too tired to look it up. My mouth was forming the word “bien” but my mind wasn’t clicking. I went back to sleep and got up a couple hours later. I was bummed out by the shootings in Gaza, the passenger plane shot down over Ukraine, an article about men who think they’re awesome because they’ve decided to validate women (newsflash; they’ve BEEN valid all this time), and a facebook discussion about how white people want to dictate other people’s ethnic labels. I also realized I had a mosquito bite, and that my housing situation is ethnically segregated.

I going to take Aussie L to the airport tonight as he moves back to Oz. Obviously he doesn’t need my help, but when I move, it’s something that I would have others do unto me.

I have four hours of class today. The conjunction “although” in French that I was looking for was “bien que” or “quoique.” If I used to know the word “quoique” I have no memory of it.

17 days left in Taiwan.image

Foreigners only?  Seems kind of sad.

Foreigners only? Seems kind of sad.