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.


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