April 14, 2006

Connecting Images

In one of my lessons today (actually, one lesson today that I managed to repeat in five of the seven sessions that I taught) one of the phrases to introduce and expound upon was "show-off." Taiwanese people love to show off as much as the next person, but they don't like to talk about it and no one would admit that they did it from time to time. I myself often show off my ability to wiggle my ears and have been told that I look just a ridiculous as the women in the mall who walk around the place dripping Coco Chanel accoutrements and trailing a cloud of that noveau riche funk.

Taiwan isn't the only place in the world that has such boorish people, and I'm not saying that the US has fewer per capita. I live in Taiwan now and this is what I'm noticing. People like to flash their money around, show off how disposable their income is. At the Jaguar club on Taichungkang Rd, a fortune is dropped every hour on booze, etc. One bottle of Johnnie Walker, which can be purchased at the 7-11 for about 30-40 bucks, US, sells at the Jaguar club for about 600. Now, ain't that some shit? At the Jaguar, services are provided. I don't know the extent of the services provided, cause I'm neither rich nor that foolish to part with such amounts of money. One service that businessmen pay a lot of cash for is the oppourtunity to show how little money means to them or how big the new growth money tree in their backyard is.

Blessed are the big spenders for...no, I just made that up.

According to someone who knows about this nightclub subject no better than I do, men entertaining at the club hire a girl to hang out with them in the room and listen to their jokes. These babes get 1000NT tips for pouring a round of drinks. I'm not going to be judgemental, since, hell, I've never even been to one of these places. I am taking donations however. I figure I only need about US$500 bucks to do the right amount of research. When the hat gets to you, just let your conscience be your guide.

A good friend of me mailed me her copy of Memoirs of a Geisha, a book which has been recommended to me over and over again since I moved to Taiwan. I have no idea why it took me so long to move it to the front of my reading queue, but I went through it like a scooter through a night market--that is, I was oblivious to everything around me as I plowed through chapter after chapter--loved the book. The Jaguar scene in Taiwan seems to be almost out of the Gion district, but like so much else in Taiwan that is copied from guo wai, an important ingredient is missing.

The clerk at the 7-11 (sorry, I forgot to check on the price of Johnnie Walker Black, I think 750ml is around NT$1400 or something, if you really want to know, I'll go back and look) with the tattoos on his forearm and the pierced earlobe looks quite the hooligan, until his squeaky voice tells me "95 dollars" and he sings "Bye-Bye" as I walk out the door. The attitude is missing, but the look is right on. The cakes you get at the bakery on Meitsuen Rd look incredible with their snow white frosting and shaved chocolate. Too bad each mouthful is like a spoonful of air. I can't figure out what's missing, but it's a key ingredient.

Even the smart-asses in Taiwan got nothing on the ones back home. (Now I'm just reminiscing but bear with me a moment). Take my brother. We lived in Illinois growing up. It's a great state, full of wonderful people and wonderful smells that stay with me all these years later. Today I recalled a scene that I hadn't thought of in probably 20 years. Driving down some highway or other in the north part of the state, maybe even in Wisconsin, but this scene played itself out more times than I can remember.

The 1977 VW minibus is driving through green pastures past red farm houses the sky is miles high and for miles around we see nothing but corn or soy beans, or, indeed cows. The maternal unit was in 4H and drilled the names of cows over and over again. This became too much to my high-school wiseguy brother in the back seat who stuck his head out the little window in the back and shouted "MOOOOOOOO" at every gang of cows we came across.

Heard of what?
Herd of cows.
Of course I've heard of cows.
No, a cow herd.
What do I care what a cow heard, I have no secrets to keep from a cow.

And then my sister whipped out her sense of humor and opined that "That's one cow whose going to give chocolate milk tomorrow!" Funny Funny Family. My brother's still a funny guy, though I never get the impression that he's showing off, I think he just has an innate ability to make people laugh till the milk comes out of their nose. How many times have I wished to have that gift. I mean, think about it. You're in Taichung, teaching; the class isn't going well because some snot faced kid is feeding you smart ass answers on the left, and sabotaging conversations on the right. If only you could give him a look that would cause milk to squirt out of his nose uncontrollably for about three minutes...I daresay you wouldn't have problems with the cretin after the fourth incident. I'll have to find out if there's a Taoist spell for milk fountains.

Still haven't decided if it's possible to show off in English class. That is, the students haven't decided. I know for a fact that some of them do. Especially the ones who use three dollar words like "perspicacious" in class. Perspicacious as they may be, making the word do a noun's work as is won't fly. Only a very small segment of society with or without skills, is up to showing off in class. The rest are still kind of meek, speak when spoken to, oh god please don't let me make a mistake in front of my peers, kinds of mice. In Class.

Out of class is a ball of wax of a different color. Parents continue to push their children towards anyone who doesn't look Eastern and insist that they practice English. Parents can't help it, they're proud. Misguided, but.... The folks that drive me nuts and bring me half circle are the ones who roll down their windows or slow to a crawl and look sideways out of their helmets and shout "How do you DOOOOOOOOOOO" as they pass. Never waiting for an answer. Never attempting to practice anything else.

I know how the cows felt.

Was there a point to all this? I'm sure there was at some time. Umm. No, probably not. Well, thanks for reading this far anyway. Ok, now get back to doing whatever it was that you were doing.

1 comment:

Teacher Gerry said...

Great Blog. I really like your simile of "...like a scooter through night market..."

I've visited Changhwa City 5 times over the past year and of course have taken the train, the back of scooter and car to the TaiChung night market.

I miss Taiwan and I'm happy to find your Blog and read about your experiences there. I'll be back in a couple of weeks.