Winter is Coming, Zhongli edition

Winter is coming. We tell people in America it gets cold here in the winter, and they are sympathetic. They know cold. Cold is not great.

“How cold does it get?” they ask.

We cringe when we tell them it gets down to 50°C (around 10°C) because we know they will laugh.

“That’s nothing!” they say.

Yes, but: the houses here are built to be cool in the sickeningly hot and humid summers. So they are built of concrete, often with tile floors and even tile walls. The windows are often big to allow for creating cross breezes, and the ceilings are high. The kitchens are tiny in the newer houses, because nobody wants to be stuck inside cooking in a hot kitchen when you can get dinner outside for cheap.

There are often air conditioners in the apartments, but never heaters. The weather starts to get unpredictable, from day to day, then hour to hour, then one day it starts raining and doesn’t stop raining for two weeks and your clothes and the linens and the bathroom start to smell of damp.

The cold seeps into the wet concrete walls and settles on the ceramic tiles. You want to cuddle up for warmth, but keep your icy feet to yourself if you aren’t wearing socks. You can see your moist breath in the living room. You hang your clothes, but they take three days to dry. By then they are stiff and they smell weird. Room temperature water is cold, and even if drinking cold water weren’t culturally proscribed, it’s hard to do on a cold day. Stick to tea or coffee.

There’s no hot water in the taps to wash your hands. You do it anyway, bracing yourself, cursing if a drop gets on your sleeve. The students’ sleeves are wet and dirty all day. Your contact-lens solution is cold. The toilet seat is very, very cold. The shower is hot and you never want it to end because when you step out it will be cold.

It also starts getting dark earlier and earlier, so that the sun is rising with you in the morning and sets by dinner time. If you’re working 9-5, you might miss it.

You know how in the U.S., if you’re lucky enough to have a car, and lucky enough to have a car-starter, you can stand in your living room, drinking your first cup of coffee, and turn the car on by pressing a button, so that even if you have to move some snow to get to work, it will be melted by the time you get outside?

Yeah, well, in Taiwan you drive a scooter, rain or shine. You don’t want to get wet at all, because any part of you that gets wet on the way to work is going to be wet all day, and cold. You put on rain boots, rain pants and a giant poncho over your winter coat. You don’t want to wear the kind of gloves that will get wet, so you wear big waterproof winter gloves (they are never really waterproof though); or you put industrial rubber gloves over your nice woolly ones. Then you do up your poncho over your scarf, and then put on your helmet, visor down. That’s how you drive to work. In the summer, you would have stopped on the way for a coffee or a sandwich, but in the winter you’ll have to take off half your gear just to go in the store. Then it’ll get wet and so will you, so no coffee today, no sandwich. Just drive in the cold rain, your nose running and your hands too encumbered to wipe it.

You take off your rain gear when you get to school. But not your coat, your gloves, or your warm rubber boots because even if you have a space heater at home, there’s no heater in the schools, and you and the kids are all bundled up for the whole class. (Some of the babies will come to class in so many layers of shirts that they get damp with sweat in the cold and can’t move their arms very well, so out of compassion you and your co-teacher remove three or four undershirts and only put them back on again right before Gramma comes back to pick them up.) It’s too cold these days for the kids to go outside, so we all stay inside, locked up germ-incubators, always sputtering and coughing, red-eyed and hoarse, until spring.

“You think that’s cold? Back in Russia…”

Okay, yes. But it still stands that 50°F is a lot colder here than a crisp autumn day is back in Pennsylvania…

Amateur Vagrant Weekly Link Roundup Sep 30, 2016

I’ve started a bullet journal! While I loved the excuse, any excuse, to buy a new notebook and some colorful pens, I am not sure how this is different from any other notebook. But I’ll give it a sincere try through the end of the year, and continue in 2017 if it’s helping me be more productive.

I found this bullet-journaling blog called Tiny Ray of Sunshine, and it quickly became a new time suck for me.

This week, I read Beloved by Toni Morrison and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The two books couldn’t be more different, and reading them back to back like that is an excellent way to make obvious the stark difference between the lives of poor, black people and rich, white people in late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century America. I intentionally started This Side of Paradise after I finished Beloved because I needed a chance to recover emotionally. But black people in the United States don’t get to recover before the next murder by cop, do they?

We had two days off this week for Typhoon Megi. Last week, we had a four-day weekend for Moon Festival that was mostly rained out because of two other typhoons, Meranti and Malakas.  We usually don’t get hit very hard when there’s a typhoon, but high winds can still make it dangerous to go outside.

The thing is, for most of us, most of the time, typhoons are just really bad weather that might result in us getting a day off. So we make jokes about stocking up with ramen and vodka, and we laugh at this determined lady eating her pork bun even as she’s losing her umbrella to the wind. But some people die in nearly every typhoon, so we can’t joke too much.

Here’s another thing that’s not funny at all: restrictive abortion laws that make it practically impossible to get an abortion. Imagine working retail, feeling lucky to even have that job, then having to request three days off from your manager (and having to lie about it, because you don’t need to tell everyone you’re trying to have an abortion), having to figure out a way to get across state (even gas is expensive), finding someone else to take care of your kids while you’re gone, finding the money for a hotel for two nights since you have to wait 72 hours from the time of your first exam until you can actually have an abortion–and imagine these “small” hurdles being so impossible that you end up having another kid. That’s fucked up, man. Well, Lady Parts Justice League came up with this spoof of Beyonce’s  Formation to spread information about the bullshit that is Louisiana’s abortion laws and regulations. Please note the stodgy, white, rich, old, male lawmakers making laws that have nothing to do with them (but I bet if they knocked up a mistress, they’d find a way past their own laws real fast). Ew.

Prep yourself to handle the next troglodyte that wants you to answer for “black-on-black” crime every time they hear about an innocent black person being executed without a jury during a routine traffic stop with this informative post. It’s mostly tweets, so yes, you do have time to read it.

This has been a problem since Emancipation — a broad interest in policing black communities sitting next to an entrenched indifference in actually protecting them. “Poor black neighborhoods see too little of the kinds of policing that do the most good, and too much of the kinds that do the most harm,” Eric Monkkonen, the late UCLA professor, once wrote.

And look, here’s a whole syllabus for a Black Lives Matter course. Let’s get informed, one book, one story, one article, one video, one movie, one day at a time. I love a good syllabus.

At the moment, I am finishing up a Yale series on Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. If you’re as ignorant as I was  a year ago, read the books, listen to the lectures, and watch Midnight in Paris. Or don’t, because I’ve been heartsick in love with the Roaring Twenties and the Lost Generation and the Jazz Age since then, like I was in love with NKOTB when I was in fourth grade.

And oh yeah, of course, there were some debates or something this week. The brilliant Alexandra Petri called them The Mainsplaining Olympics and I’m with her. Honestly, Clinton couldn’t have made Trump look any dumber: the man got up there and bragged about not paying any taxes. But nothing he says will deter his supporters from voting for him, and there’s just too many of them. I don’t want him to win, but maybe if he does, we’ll all have to recognize America for what it is: backwards, racist, misogynistic, pharisaical, prude, and hypocritical. I’m a teacher and if I had to write comments on the report card, they would be “America is not living up to her potential.”

But between global warming (it’s worse now than scientists realized or predicted) and Plato’s observation like 2500 years ago that democracies give birth to tyrannies, does any of this even matter?

Ah, but being so cynical is naive, too.

Winner of the “No shit!” Award is this little piece from The Washington Post on the effect class size has on student learning. Apparently some people, probably not teachers, think that class size doesn’t matter.  IT MATTERS. Especially as a language teacher–the more kids in the class, the less opportunity I have to interact with your kid. Give me eighteen students, one or two with legit behavioral problems, and my goal goes down to each kid speaking once per hour class.

Fun stuff:

  • Taiwan was voted the friendliest country for newcomers* (apparently they didn’t take the terrifying driving conditions into account here)
  • Did you know that Taiwan is the Butterfly Kingdom? I love butterflies! I now have like ten more places on my must-visit list
  • Bad Bitches in the Canon: What if Anaïs Nin and Flannery O’Connor had been friends?

    O’Connor had something Nin did not, besides success as a fiction writer. What Nin needed more than any night of boning Henry Miller was to hang out with a person who could laugh at her and with her, who wasn’t trying to sleep with her, who wasn’t using her for her husband’s money, who read her writing for what it was instead of what it wasn’t. What her writing is, for the record, is fucking brilliant.

*does not apply to people from Southeast Asia hired as laborers or domestic help here in Taiwan

Do Americans give their parents money?

Are Americans expected to give money to their parents like people in Taiwan?

我朋友問我:美國人會不會給爸爸媽媽錢,好像台灣人給父母紅包?

我的回答是:平常,我們不會給父母錢。我們覺得爸爸媽媽有自己的錢。其實,他們需要錢的話,好的孩子一定會幫忙:給他們錢,幫他們支付電費,等等。台灣跟美國差不多:每家庭不一樣。

amateur vagrant zhongli taiwan do americans give money to their parents

The quick answer to this question is no. American adults aren’t expected to give their parents a big lump of money at Christmas the way Taiwanese adults give their parents money at Chinese New Year or on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Continue reading “Do Americans give their parents money?”

The old man and the cab

The time I took an off-license cab from the airport

I’d been living in Taiwan for two years already. I knew the drill. I knew it was NT$400 to get a tab from my house to the airport. It was NT$600 to take an official airport taxi home. I wasn’t going to give anybody NT$200 (US$6) extra for the same trip.

this little piggy went to market and was never heard from again
this little piggy went to market and was never heard from again

On my way to the official taxi stand, a few men furtively approached me, whispering “Taxi? Taxi?” I pointed my chin at an old man, the least-dangerous looking one. He gestured for me to follow him into an elevator. I figured we were getting into his taxi parked in the basement. Instead, we got out and hailed a bus. The whole time the old man, kept chattering that I should continue going with him, but I couldn’t speak enough Chinese to ask for the details. He grabbed up one of my big suitcases himself and pulled it onto the bus.

I looked at everyone on the bus and looked at the old man. I didn’t know what was going on, but the old man had a friendly face. This is how stupid girls like you die, I told myself. At the same time, I was annoyed about being on a bus. The whole point of taking a taxi was the comfort and convenience of being in a car without having to stand and hold a greasy pole in a smelly bus full of other people. But before I could decide what to think, whether to be scared or angry, the old man was shooing me off the bus.

Now we were at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. In Taiwan, you rarely ever have the luxury of feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere with no other people around as far as you can see. But on this dark night about ten years ago, I felt like I was alone with that old man at a brightly lit gas station in the middle of empty lots or rice paddies, but no houses or night markets or police stations or parks full of nosy old grandmothers and noisy children to mark my presence or my imminent disappearance. Now I was alone with this old man, me and my baggage, at a lonely gas station on a dark night. I was going to die trying to save NT$200, the price of a beer or a 12-inch sub sandwich.

The old man gestured for me to wait a moment at the edge of the gas station, on the border between light and dark. He disappeared down the road. My heart jumped and my mind twirled. Was I standing there waiting to die? How could I get away? Where could I go? Did he have a weapon? Was he going to bring me somewhere and rape me first? Did he have friends? I imagined the headlines my mother would read. Who would notify her that I was dead? How long would it be before they would find my body? Surely they would find my body. What if they didn’t even find my body and my poor mother never knew what happened to me?

The man came back in a beat-up Camry, an old brown, boxy thing. I had thought at least I would be riding in a yellow taxi, just not an airport taxi. This was just some old guy’s car. I was about to get in some strange old man’s car.

I helped him put my suitcases in the trunk and the backseat. I took the passenger seat in the front. There was no headrest, though. If he didn’t try to rape and kill me, but we got in an accident, I would certainly die from whiplash. He asked my to repeat my address, and I did, explaining that I lived by the new Sogo in Zhongli. He was familiar with the area. I took it as a good sign that he wanted to confirm our destination, an indication that he actually wanted to take me there and not to some abandoned country shack where a bunch of gangsters would assault me to death.

My breathe was fast and shallow. I carefully read every sign on the higway, desperate for to confirm that we were definitely going to Zhongli. We passed the first exit, and I wanted him to take it, even though I knew my house was closer to the second exit. When he took the second exit, I felt like I could afford to stop imagining myself jumping out of the moving car.

I looked at the old man, and he did have a friendly face. Grandfatherly. I imagined he had a grandson, a little boy too young to be awake at this hour. A little boy who needed money for food, clothes, tuition, etc. A little boy who wanted a bicycle. Obviously, Grandpa wasn’t rich, or he would be driving around in this beat-up old Camry missing a headrest, driving strange women home from the airport for NT$400. He was taking a big risk: he could be charged a lot of money if he got caught. He did what he could to minimize it, though, parking his car a bus ride away from the airport. He wasn’t technically picking up passengers from the airport. I bet he was already counting the money in his head, NT$400. Not much, but a start. A few trips like this, and before you know it, Didi would have his new bicycle, a red one with a bell and a flag. There’d be enough money to pay his school bills for the next semester.

He turned and turned and I recognized my neighborhood. We were on Yanping; there was Carrefour, now the Ring Road, and yes, that’s right, this is my street, and just left here, this is my building. What a nice old man, I thought. Poor guy with his old car, just trying to make a buck. I’m not rich, but I don’t have to work that hard for my money, and nobody else needs it but me. When he put both my suitcases on the sidewalk, I gave him the full NT$600 fare, imagining he’d put the extra money toward the imaginary bicycle for his imaginary grandson.

amateur vagrant story time taxi from taoyuan airport to zhongli taiwan

walk like a taiwanese woman

This was drafted (but not posted) in 2012, shortly after I returned to the U.S. after six years Taiwan and China. 

One of my co-workers remarked that without even looking up he knows it’s me walking across our big office because he recognizes my shuffle. Before I could even explain myself, he told me he figured it was from my time in Asia. Something about the way I walk makes him think of a Japanese geisha or a Chinese woman with bound feet, he said.

I knew what he was talking about. It’s a walk that I became so familiar with in Taiwan/China that I didn’t even realize I had adopted and exported it. It’s the walk of a much daintier woman who is afraid to own her personal space. It’s the shuffle of a bullied girl who is trying to disappear, or the handicapped stride of a woman running in high heels. It’s Nathan Lane’s Albert from The Bird Cage. It’s a Spice Girl. It’s affected.

(Once a Chinese woman in Shanghai was getting on my nerves because she jogged, but kind of stomped her feet, whenever she needed to move across the office. I turned to another Chinese co-worker with a clenched jaw and asked her if she’d noticed how annoying and loud it was every time So-and-so ran across the office. “I think she’s trying to be cute,” she said. And she was: It was supposed to be a dainty, girly traipse, but she was slamming her feet down and not landing on her toes.)

Then there’s also the way I eat. I make Chinese food* for J. As we are eating with our chopsticks, I realize I am shoveling rice and pork into my open maw from the bowl I am holding up to my mouth. His bowl sits on the table and he eats a one bite at a time. He can feed himself with chopsticks, but not as efficiently as me because I am not picking up up my food, I am sweeping it into my mouth. He doesn’t say anything, but I put my bowl down on the table and try to eat Chinese food like a Westerner, without too much enthusiasm, without anything that looks like desperation.
amateur vagrant posing for a pic in taipei
The worst has been the way I can’t remember not to be opportunistic in crowds. There’s so much respect for personal space in the U.S., but I can’t suppress the instinct that I developed after years of trying to get anywhere in Asia. I dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge down the cereal aisle. “Whoa,” says J. I’m so embarrassed, but there’s no good way to explain to someone that there’s no other way to get through a crowded grocery store in Taiwan. I’ve perfected these skills over six years and now they are useless.
You can predict some of the things you will miss about a place when you leave after spending a meaningful amount of time there, but it’s harder to predict the ways you might change. I grew up in Taiwan–I was there from the time I was 23 until I turned 28, and then I spent another year, another birthday in Shanghai. (Also I went to high school in Hong Kong.) I knew that I learned a lot about live and love, figured out that I didn’t want to teach, etc. I didn’t know that I had absorbed different ways of taking up and using my space. I couldn’t have realized that until I got back “home”, and actually it’s been hard for me to break these relatively new habits.
It’s interesting, though, to think about the different ways people take up and use their personal space, and why culture and population might have an impact on how our relationship to our space is structured.
*My Chinese food was never very good, but I was “homesick.” And at the time, I had no plans of returning to Taiwan to live. I was doing what I could. 

Dongao Harbor

We get there just before 4:00 to meet the boat as it’s coming in. There is already a small crowd of Chinese people waiting. Everyone looks clean and fresh and the parking lot is full of new sedans, so I guess none of them are Dong’ao locals. We aren’t, either, but we’re barely dressed in swimsuits and cover-ups. We’re going snorkeling after this, and then we’ll take the fish up to the cabin. We want a tuna big enough to make sushi and grill the leftovers.

I watch an old man toss an empty liquor bottle–the local stuff I’ve often seen but never drank–into the ocean, followed by a plastic cup. He looks at it for a moment, bobbing on the surface, then he walks away.

I watch the crew of the ship. Only one man looks Chinese. He is bigger and paler then anyone else on the boat. He’s handsome in a rugged kind of way. I imagine he knows all about boats and the ocean and fish and weather, all very practical and good to know. Hemingway would probably like him. He is obviously in charge. The others are much darker, younger, thinner–almost gaunt. They scuttle over the boat and the dock in heavy rubber boots, but their pants are thin and loose on their thin legs. I’ve read articles about slavery in the Asian fishing industry. Are these guys employed legally, healthily, gainfully, happily? They are talking and laughing with their boss. They are smiling. Do slaves smile?

The crew notices me and they elbow each other and point at me with their chins and their eyebrows. I smile at them, even though I know they’ve taken off my tunic with their eyes. One of them chirps “Hello” in English, in a high, tight voice that belies his bravado. I’m feeling generous and I know I’m safe, so I say, “Hiiiii” back to him. I allow myself the lilt, like I’m flirting or talking to a kid. The men laugh and put their heads together in a huddle. I assume men all over say the same disgusting things about women, especially women who don’t look anything like their mothers or sisters, but I’m on the shore, in the daylight, surrounded by respectable people, within sight of my husband who looks big and strong. I’m not wearing pants, but I feel like I can afford to be friendly.

The men hitch the orange tubs of fish and ice to a pulley and this way move their catch from the boat up onto the dock. Other men tip the heavy tubs into crates and the cold water, pink with blood runs down the concrete of the dock back toward the ocean. A man tosses a puffer fish onto the concrete. It’s garbage, but I watch it gasp for air and the crowd gasps. I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself and I don’t want to get in the way, but I want to grab that fish up and toss him back in the ocean before he drowns on the shore. I imagine trying to get a hold of his slippery tail while avoiding his prickly body and trying to carry him back to the water. A mother runs over there, with her son, and picks up the fish. I’m so glad that sh’s going to save him and she tosses him off the dock, but she doesn’t aim and the fish lands in another orange tub full of fish and pink, icy water, back on the boat. She shrugs at her son. Later, more puffer fish will be tossed onto the concrete and the fishermen will kick them or step on them indifferently. In between assaults, their flanks will heave as they die in a long panic. The little boy who watched his mother fail to save the first fish will watch the men in their big boots kick the others and he will cautiously toe at them with his sandals until the adults warn him off. I want to save the fish and show the boy, but I imagine this happens every day at 4:00 so what difference will it make? I hate myself for being cynical, but I don’t move.

A woman walks along the front of the crowd to where I am standing and watching and she stops right in front of me so that I can only see the hair on the back of her head and nothing else. Her husband comes to stand behind her. “If you want that fish, talk to that man. If you want that fish, talk to that man,” he says. She wanders across the path of the orange tubs as they swing from the boat to the crates. Her daughter tries to follow her, but the father catches her by the arm just before she collides with a floating tub. Now comes the son, with a poodle tucked under his arm like a handbag, and the grandfather behind him. The heavy tubs swing around them and the pink water flows past their feet but they are unperturbed. Nothing bad can ever happen to them.

J waves me over. I haven’t been paying attention to him, or N—, or F—-, but they’ve already chosen and paid for a tuna. A big one, and it only cost NT$400. Later, N— will take the fish and a knife down to the driveway, and when he comes back he’ll have big strips of red meat ready to cut into sushi, and a bag of bones and skin for miso soup. The sushi is delicious, fresh and firm, but it makes me nauseous. I can’t stop thinking about the pink water and the puffer fish, but I don’t stop eating.

J took this photo. If you look, you can see me by the far pillar watching what's going on. The woman and her son are looking down at the boat after she tossed the puffer fish back into the tub. Can you spot the boy with the poodle under his arm?
J took this photo. If you look, you can see me by the far pillar watching what’s going on. The woman and her son are looking down at the boat after she tossed the puffer fish back into the tub. Can you spot the boy with the poodle under his arm?

 

amateur sashimi
amateur sashimi

How to lose a friend in 10 gifts

amateur vagrant zhongli taiwan friends tadpoles pondGiving gifts here, even money, gets really formal, really complicated, and really stressful, really fast. No gift or gesture goes unacknowledged, with interest.

The first year we worked together, I’m certain my Taiwanese co-teachers Missy and I exchanged Christmas gifts, but I don’t remember what they were. I only remember her that after they were opened, we joked about how no one gave her gifts anymore because everyone bought things for her two young sons.

Then I moved to Shanghai and she came to China to visit her husband in Suzhou. We met for dinner. I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, but I waited until the last minute to look for a gift and ended up only with remote-control cars for her two young sons. She gave me waterproof mascara. I was embarrassed that I didn’t have a gift for her. She and her husband paid for our dinner. I felt guilty.

Back in the US, I crocheted an infinity scarf for her. She sent me a big canister of green tea.

When I told her I was moving back to Taiwan, I asked her if there was anything she wanted. I brought her what she asked for and some souvenirs for her and her boys.

Missy took us out to dinner at a nice restaurant and paid for me and J, her two boys, and two of our coworkers. We appreciated her generosity, but held off on inviting her out to dinner because we were hemorrhaging cash those first few months. The debt hung over me until we treated her to dinner a year later. She drove. She didn’t let us pay for everything since there were two of us and four of them. I felt like it was too little, too late. I was embarrassed again.

Meanwhile, an an intense coffee/tea exchange began at work. I don’t know who initiated it. I was getting coffee from her at least once a week and was reciprocating each time. Some days, either of us would have two or three coffees from each other and other friends.

The first Christmas in the office, I gave everyone gifts ranging from candy bars to small houseplants. They were more like Christmas gestures, really. But I gave Missy a big bag of imported cookies, hot chocolate, and marshmallows. We still hadn’t taken her out for dinner. I figured because it was food, it wouldn’t be seen as too extravagant, but there was a lot of it, so it would still look generous. But then Missy gave me a stamp with my name on it. I was very happy to get a stamp and received it in the spirit of Christmas. But it was awkward handing off a bag full of food and getting a stamp back. I felt like I had definitely made a faux pas. Fresh from the States, where my friends and coworkers gave each other thoughtful Christmas gifts, I made a bad call. I was afraid I had embarrassed Missy.

I gave her a bar of handmade soap for her birthday in January, something small that I thought could recalibrate the size of the gifts we were exchanging.

The coffees and teas continued.

For my birthday in June, Missy gave me a lovely, oversized purse with a smaller matching handbag. It was very pretty and well-made.

The next Christmas, I didn’t give gifts to everyone in office. Maybe that was a bad strategy, but I felt like unanticipated, unreciprocated gifts were creating an ugly awkwardness around a holiday that I really wanted to enjoy, guilt-free. But then Missy gave me a very nice, very large tube of department-store hand cream. I felt like running out to get her something after the Christmas holiday would be very awkward, so I didn’t.

Instead, for her birthday in January, I got her a nice toiletry set from The Body Shop.

I came to work one day and Missy said, “I bought you a coffee, but I didn’t realize you came in late today, so I gave it to another teacher.” I didn’t mind. I figured I was kind of in the black, but so was she, and that was good an opportunity as I was going to get to stop this mad cycle of drinks.

I spent my birthday in the U.S. so there was no celebration in Taiwan and no gifts. After I came back, I found a new job.

I haven’t kept in touch with Missy or anyone much since I left. I work evenings, they work days. Missy has family obligations, while J and I like to do our own thing. There are probably lots of reasons why we drifted apart. I think that can happen to any two people after enough time and life experience. But I know for me the weight of worrying about the gifts, the ugly pressure of feeling obligated, the awkward mixture of friendship and money, was making me feel confused and resentful toward someone I wanted to be happy to see.

I had to bring this all up with another Taiwanese friend for some perspective. She told me about two famous Chinese people–singers? actors?–whose gift-giving spiraled out of control. They were buying each other vacations and cars and expensive jewelry. They finally had to call it off or risk going bankrupt. (At least that’s the version of the story I’ve taken with me.) We agreed not to mix our friendship and money. I tried to pay for her dinner later that night because it was so cheap, but she stopped me. “We just hang out, we don’t buy things for each other, okay?” she said. That sounds perfect to me.

the worst people in the world

I see this almost every day when I am driving to work at the intersection of Zhongfeng Road and the Ring Road. Some inattentive person closes the gap between the scooters and the cars and the dozens of scooters coming up behind have to line up between the cars or block the right-turn lane trying to get out of the way. There’s a big ol’ scooter box and it’s mostly empty. Everyone just sits there in between buses and garbage trucks, breathing in fumes and trying not to get when the right lane starts moving.

It makes me crazy mad.  the worst drivers in taiwan zhongli