More Random Thoughts

1) I'm guessing that most of my future e-mails will be organized the way this one and the last one are.  Most of the time, nothing particularly interesting or extraordinary happens to me, so I'll only have various unrelated ramblings on Taiwanese culture to relate.

2) If you know anybody else to whom I should be sending these e-mails, please let me know.  I've already been told of a few friends who, for one reason or another, I had left off this list.

3) Several of you have suggested starting some sort of blog.  I plan to put all of these e-mails together in some sort of fashion at some point in the future, but I prefer the e-mail format for a number of reasons:

a) You can forget to go to a blog; my e-mails keep popping up in your e-mail inbox, and are harder to ignore. 🙂

b) It's much more convenient for you to reply to my e-mails to comment on one thing or another, and I really enjoy all of your replies.

c) I'm lazy, and doing a blog would require slightly more work. (Guess which reason is the most important.) 🙂

4) As most of you know, I spent the fall of 2001 in Alicante, Spain, learning Spanish.  My Spanish has now degraded to the point of imbecility, because, I suppose, (to use a computer analogy) my brain keeps overwriting it with Chinese.  I guess my brain just figures that they're both foreign languages, so the must be the same.  This leads to some interesting situations.  At first, whenever I didn't know a word in Chinese, I would feel powerfully tempted just to put the appropriate Spanish word into the sentence instead, coming up with some quite amusing sentences.  Now that my Chinese is significantly more advanced, this doesn't happen as often, but when I try to think in Spanish, I end up thinking in Chinese instead.  I've even had cases where I've been thinking in English and will come up with a Chinese word.  There are some cases where the Chinese way of saying something is just more efficient, and I guess I'm becoming pretty bilingual if my Chinese is intruding it's way into my English ability.  Rock.

5) My boss is very tall for a Chinese guy, but his older brother is somewhat shorter, although still above average.  I asked my boss why he was so tall, and he replied that it was because he played basketball in high school.  That took me a few seconds to fully process.  Isn't that an odd way of thinking?  I always thought (and I think most Americans will agree) that you are good at basketball because you are tall.  It seems very strange to me to say that playing basketball makes you grow taller.  I mean, I can see where kids who play sports will be more athletic, probably healthier, and therefore may grow taller.  But I see no reason why it should be confined to basketball.  Any doctors out there who can help me on this one?

6) So, if you are carrying a bag, and you sit down somewhere, where do you put your bag?  I think most Americans will just put it on the floor.  No Taiwanese person will do that, because "The floor is dirty."  It doesn't matter if the floor has just been cleaned.  There is some sort of cultural taboo about putting your bag on the floor.  Taiwanese people will always put it on a chair, even if it means that they then have to sit precariously on the edge of the chair.  I have had students fall out of their chairs in class because they had so many books in their bags that they couldn't sit in their chair properly.  This is funny to watch, and it sort of makes up for the times on the bus when there aren't enough seats because everyone's bag is on the seat next to them.  While they will move them if asked, most Taiwanese people are too polite to ask someone else to move their bag (I am not that polite), but they are not polite enough to move their bags without being asked (I am that polite) so you can have a really crowded bus even though there would be seats available if people would just move their bags.

7) If I see a Taiwanese person on the street, but they are in a hurry, they don't say "Hi".  They say "Bye-bye".  This is really strange to me, but it does make sense.  It signals that they are not ignoring you, but are in a hurry.  It's just really strange to an American, since I'm pretty sure that we tend to say "Hi" or "Hey" or some other variant whenever we first see someone we know, even though we may be in a hurry.

8) I've noticed recently that Taiwanese people are very willing to talk about people behind their back.  This is something we do in the US, too, but Taiwanese people will literally do it right behind someone's back.  They also won't really lower their voice very much, so the person under discussion should be able to hear what they are saying.  This is bizarre to me, since I thought the whole point of talking about someone behind their back was because you didn't want them to know what you were saying.  I think it may have to do with the Asian concept of saving/losing face.  Even if the person being discussed does hear, they can't acknowledge what's being said, because then they would have to get in an argument about it, and allowing your temper to flare causes you to lose face in this society.

9) There's a really funny trend in clothing here, I don't know if it's also in the States, too.  Many girls here have sweatpants, with writing right across the butt.  This is a great excuse for guys, of course.  ("I wasn't ogling her, honey, I was reading her pants.")  The great thing about Taiwan, of course, is that English is cool, but most folks' command of English is not that great, so you get a lot of English on clothes, signs, and even official government notices which is really comical.  My favorite phrases seen on woman's tushes: "Juicy" and "Endless Play".  (Insert juvenile comments here)

10) I'm proud of myself for being more organized lately.  I've actually started using my PDA again, and I think this is the longest sustained usage of it since I bought it 5 years ago.  Of course, now it's hideously outdated, but it's pretty useful to me.  I may trade up to another one, soon, if only to make my life that much more convenient by getting a combination cell phone/PDA.  Taiwan is a great place for gadgets.  The Taiwanese are nuts about technology, too.  I think Japan uses them as a test market for all the latest stuff.

11) Ok, that last one rambled a bit, but who's counting?



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