On Tea, Spiders and Nerds

So, yes, I’ve pulled out of my slump (finally) and am posting again.  I’ve made a few changes in my life here.  I’ve quit my kindergarten job, so now I have all my mornings free (except for Fridays, when I have a private student.)  I’ve added a few more private students to make up the salary.  I’m still taking 2 hours of one-on-Chinese class a week.  My spoken Chinese is actually getting pretty good, although it’s nowhere near where I want it to be (I can’t read or write well at all).  I’ve been seeing a Chinese girl from Myanmar whose English isn’t very good, so we always speak in Chinese, which I feel is a good benchmark to reach.  (Note: There is plenty of communication that can be accomplished without actual spoken language.  Please don’t ask me for any elaboration on this.) Strangely, “able to communicate with the opposite sex” is not a level of skill that the Foreign Service acknowledges.  (I’m guessing this is because it’s impossible in any language.)

Anyway, on to the spiders.

Last night I went with some friends to Muzha, which is a suburb of Taipei well known for it’s tea plantations.  Taiwan makes some fabulous tea.  So we took a taxi up into the hills.  When we got there it was already dark.  The taxi dropped us off on the road, but to get to the tea houses, you need to walk on some paths through the forest.  So, we’re walking along, when we notice these big webs off to each side of the path.  Sitting right smack in the middle of these webs were these humongous yellow-and-black-striped spiders.  The spider’s body was about as big as my thumb, and the legs extended out much farther, making the whole thing just bigger than my hand with fingers fully extended.  The webs were about as big as my torso, as well.  Not something you want to mess with.  I had horrible flashbacks to the scene in “The Lord of the Rings” where Frodo is attacked by Shelob.  (Actually, first I thought of the scene in “The Hobbit” where the dwarves are attacked by the spiders in Mirkwood.  This is because I am a huge nerd.)

Speaking of nerds, I have not been able to find a Chinese word that encompasses the concept.  The English textbook I use for teaching translates “nerd” as 白痴 (“bai-chi”), which is better translated as “idiot”.  I think the reason there is no real translation possible is that our cultures are too different.  In America, it is not generally considered good to spend all day with your head in a book, or to do too well in school.  (Unless you have Jewish or Chinese parents. I’ll bet there’s no word for nerd in Yiddish either.)  In Taiwan, when school lets out for the day, you just go to a different school, to study more until it’s time for bed.  Everyone is a nerd here, by American standards.  Probably why I fit in so darn well, eh?


4 Responses to “On Tea, Spiders and Nerds”

  1. Bill Says:

    Spiderman was originally a nerd. Go back, get bitten, and see what happens.

  2. Ro Says:

    Yeah, I second Bill on that notion… I wanna see that:)

  3. Vivian Says:

    I believe there is a phrase that comes close to nerds, “su dai tze,” but it may translate to bookworm.

  4. Ben Says:

    I think I’ll pass on the spider-bite…I’d probably just turn into a super-bookworm…Protecting Libraries Everywhere.

    buh dum bum

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