On Testosterone and its Attendant Stupidities

There's a moment, right after you've been punched in the chin one-too-many times, when you can't see what's around you.  All you see is little flashes of light, set against a black background.  It's a very well-known phenomenon, referred to (in English, at least, although the idiom in Chinese is almost identical) as "seeing stars".  What I hadn't known before is that the stars multiply with each punch to the chin.  The first time, I only saw five or six.  From there, the stars bred, so that by the time I woke up on floor, struggling to answer the difficult questions of "What's your name?" (Ben), "Where are you?" (Taipei) and "How many I fingers am I holding up?" (twenty-seven), I had experienced, directly, a view of the Milky Way that astronomers would kill for.  (And here we've been spending all this money on NASA…what a waste.)

So….no, I did not make that up.  It really happened.  Last Saturday night, in fact.  There's a dance club here which sponsors a Fight Club night once every month or so, and (being a male, single 25-year-old, no known children, parents currently residing safely on the other side of the planet) I decided, with some friends, to go fight.  For those of you who have seen the movie Fight Club, it wasn't like the movie.  It was just boxing, done by rank amateurs (yes, that would be me.)  So, yes, I lost.  In fact, I think it would be safe to say that my butt got thoroughly whooped, my ass kicked, my head handed to me on a platter, [insert own favourite idiomatic expression for losing here].  It would also be safe to say that I will not be doing that again.  This may have something to do with the fact that I lost, but probably has more to do with the fact that the guy left standing (who I am still friends with, thanks for asking) was in more pain than I was the next day.  I figure any sport where the only two options are losing or pain is not for me.

In other news, the other day I drove a car for the first time in Taiwan.  I had bought some furniture for my apartment, and rented a van to carry it.  It was one of the more nerve-racking things I have done.  (Boxing isn't nerve-racking.  Boxing involves too much testosterone, which acts to deaden important nerves, like your brain.)  This stems from the Taiwanese habit of driving like lobotomized crack-smokers.  The Taiwanese know this, but will not admit it until they've known you for a while.  I had a conversation where, when I brought up my favourite example of the taxi driver I saw taking a left turn from the rightmost lane of an eight-lane road WITHOUT SIGNALING, the Taiwanese person responded that no other drivers had run into the taxi, so therefore Taiwanese were good drivers.  (I did not see stars when my jaw hit the floor on that one, but I'm still not sure why.)  I did manage to get the van back to the rental place without adding any more scratches than it was given to me with, but it was a near thing.

As far as my Chinese goes, in two weeks I will be enrolling in a 15-hour-per-week class, so I expect my learning curve to acquire a much more positive derivative quite soon.  (For those of you who have forgotten your calculus, this means a) you should have studied harder and b) my Chinese will improve faster.)  Which means I hope to finally be able to make some claim of fluency within the next few months.  I have reached two notable milestones: 1) I think I can finally understand most of what I hear and 2) Taiwanese people have started getting peeved with me for not understanding what they say.  The second one doesn't seem like a good thing until you consider how painfully polite they are.  A Taiwanese person will compliment you on your Chinese when all you have said is thank you.  The fact that they are starting to get annoyed with me means that they think my Mandarin is good enough that I really should have understood what they said.  So it sounds strange to say it, but I hope more Taiwanese people get pissed off at me.

I suppose, if they get really mad at me, they can challenge me to a boxing match.

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