Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Well, I must declare that I finally feel much more like a fully functioning person in this society. Strange declaration, but it's really quite amazing when learning a language and being immersed in a situation that requires daily use of that new language. You realize how your language skills have grown by leaps and bounds, or so it seems, just by your increased ability to be self-sufficient. There was a time when I barely understood what store clerks were saying to me- ok, sometimes that still happens especially if they speak in Mandarin Chinese, but in the past, it was most likely that they were simply saying: "Miss, here's your change" or "Miss, you've forgotten your receipt" as I rushed out of the store absentmindedly. And that, the receipt, isn't something that you want to leave behind because most store receipts in Taiwan have an 8 digit code printed on top, that serves a lottery number, which is checked bimonthly to see if you've won anywhere from NT$200 to NT$2000! It just goes to show how much the gambling impulse has proliferated in Taiwanese society.

In the past few weeks, I've taken my computer into a shop to get fixed (my computer is still in the shop, so my blogging has been slowed down considerably), replaced a watch battery, and shopped in the open market all on my own. It's ridiculous, but you really take for granted how easy and seamless it is to do the most basic things in a familiar place or the nuiances of language you need to use to communicate what you want or need to get done. It really makes me marvel at how illiterates survive. I sometimes think that I could equate my experiences with illiterates who must survive based on common sense and learn through trial and error. Either that or develop some strange supertitious behavior. It doesn't seem that long ago that I didn't know how to take the city buses in Taiwan because the buses, bus stop signs, bus maps, etc. are completely written in Chinese characters. There's not even any Pinyin written on them! So when I was first in Taipei and Kaohsiung, I'd often just take a guess by taking a bus that seemed to be going in the general direction that I wished to go in, or just went for a random ride to see where the bus went. At least the MRT in Taipei had Pinyin written on all of the signage and English announcements at each stop. In Kaohsiung, they have only recently started the ground breaking for the MRT. The completion of the MRT will take 5 years or more.

I've been doing some more socializing thanks to my language exchange partner "S" with whom I've found a "partner in crime"- we both love to dance and once a week or so, we go dancing, not clubbing- because I would hardly characterize the "dance scene" in Kaohsiung as clubbing. It's been fun. I had forgotten how amusing these venues can be, with the various cast characters and pick up routines. There's usually a "femme fatale wannabe" who looks more like a streetwalker (there's certainly no mystery or challenge there), foreign men on the prowel who, with a wink of an eye pick up women (no witty conversations or cheesy pickup lines required), relatively more flamboyant individuals such as gay male couples or a lone man or woman who seem to be there truly just to dance and live it up. "S" and I were enjoying the attention, flirting- when the right person "makes eyes" at you... it made me realize how long I've been "out of circulation" since the dating scene here is pretty much nil. In as much fun as it was to be around all that testosterone, and energy, that somewhat derailed by seedy remarks like being propositioned for a one night stand. And one wonders why I don't bother to hope, wonder or dream about finding a relationship here.

Monday, August 05, 2002

I haven't had access to my own computer for about a week now. I do have access to the internet through another computer but I feel rather unsettled not having use of my computer, i.e. full access to my files. Two weekends ago, I happily purchased a CD burner and promptly came home to install the software. Oddly enough my computer wasn't able to read any CDs and then I discovered- it didn't even recognize the CD rom drive! My computer has been on the fritz for the past while. I should have known that something like this was bound to happen sooner or later... It seems that my computer has been taking progressively longer and longer to boot up and the operating system has been extremely unstable as of late... with it freezing up on me when I try to multitask.

So, last week, one of my friends , "J" who loves to tinker with computers kindly agreed to take a look at my computer and to basically strip off all of the software, backup my files and reinstall Windows 2000 professional on my computer, hoping to improve the stability of the operating system and to solve the problem with my CD rom drive. She asked me some basic questions about my computer: How long have I had it? What kinds of problems have I had with it? What was the nature of those problems? Had I had a problem with the CD rom drive before? Yes I had. In fact, when I first bought the computer it wouldn't read any CDs, so I couldn't even install Windows. Fortunately, I had a friend's friend who's some kind of computer wiz fix that problem. J mentioned that it would be nice to know what exactly the problem had been and how it had been remedied. She also recommended that I periodically clean up and reorganize my files so that my operating system would run more smoothly and efficiently.

In the midst of all this questioning I felt like I was giving a medical history of sorts. And then it occurred to me that so many things, namely, inanimate objects, do indeed have "medical histories" or "personalities", that are vestigates of human usage. Do you need to jiggle the handle or door knob to your house or room "just so" or to pull or push the knob in a particular fashion in order to open the door to your apartment? Do you have a favorite CD that has one particular favorite track that's been worn out from being overplayed? Ever notice what parts of the soles or heels of your shoes always wear out first or in which knee a hole first appears in your favorite pair of jeans? The fragile cover of a favorite, old, well-read novel? One of my friends' apartments in New York had such charming quirks. She declared that the light in her kitchen had a personality of its own. The light did not immediately turn on upon a flick of the switch.... Once switch was flicked, it took its time, readying itself for its long task at hand, slowly flickering on occasion and at first dim, then finally as if a fruit ripe for picking, the light gently became fully lit.

Charming as these personifications may be, I don't find such similar flaws quite so endearing when it comes my computer. A computer is supposed to make our lives more efficient and convenient for G----'s sake!

My friend wasn't able to figure out what the problem with my CD rom drive is and I don't think that my computer is in much better working order now. Now I'm going to have to take it back to the manufacturer to fix the CD rom drive and as luck would have it- my one year warranty just ran out! What a pain in the #$@%* !