The wind is howling in Hsinchu. It has been for about a week. 50 kph wind gusts burst through our windows, making the drapes fly around and causing the doors to spontaneously slam shut (at 3 am sometimes). A typhoon "the size of western Europe" tore through the Philippines, and has lingered about in the South China Sea for the last couple days. And while it has made life hard for some, it has made Hsinchu rather enjoyable, aside from all the rain. I enjoyed my day off by drinking tea and coffee and lying in bed, reading about internships and enjoying the breeze whipping through the house and the weird pre/post-storm light coming through the windows (STL people will understand this).
I'm still fighting it here. I haven't resigned to the fact that the culture is different here and that I should just assimilate and learn something new. I seem to be on this one man mission to Americanize everything here so I feel more comfortable. A lot of little things bother me. Here is an example:
We are required to have printer cards at school. You pay 100 NT and get a card to print out papers and copy things, etc. I have been having this problem where I keep accumulating cards with 15-20 NT on them, and they are useless, because all the papers I need to print out are bigger than 20 NT will buy me. I bring this up to the librarian, and in true Taiwanese fashion, she calls a small meeting of a handful of people to discuss how to fix the situation. She returns to me, looking very satisfied, and says "You need to buy a new one". I explain to her that my problem is that I am wasting 20 NT for every card. So a girl leads me to the printer room, looks at the computers, and then at the printers, and says "You need to buy a new one". I am starting to figure out that this is the only English they can say to me. Which irritates me even more. Not that I expect Taiwan to be filled with English speakers, but that in an international college that is vying for the precious American accreditation, NO ONE speaks English in administration, the library, or anywhere else (aside from our department secretary).
So I threw a small hissy-fit, told them I didn't want a new card, and stormed out. As I made it into my building and toward the elevator, the giggling Taiwanese girls in the elevator did another very Taiwanese thing; they started pressing the close button when they saw me coming toward them. As I have mentioned before, the Taiwanese do everything possible to avoid awkward situations, and riding in a elevator with a foreigner definitely qualifies as awkward. I made it to the door with enough time to shove my arms in and rip the elevator open. I am assuming I looked like some crazed, bald, American Hulk or something, cause when I did this, all the girls cowered into the corner of the elevator like scarred little puppies. They remained silent and huddled close until we made it to the 5th floor.
On a happier note, I feel like I can understand a very small, minuscule amount of Mandarin, enough to catch a word here and there on the street and get excited cause I know what it means, or to order coffee AND hand them the correct amount of money. School is going really well and I feel like I finally have the endurance I have been looking for. It's really going to be up to me to challenge myself in grad school here. I could get by quite easily by doing the bare minimum. There is a lot of "suggested assignments" that I could skip and not be penalized for, grade wise. But, I want to make sure I am fully prepared to do my thesis next year and for my job when I graduate, so I have to push myself which is not always easy. It feels a little bit like extended undergrad here, which is disappointing. I was really looking forward to being academically challenged. The possibility is still there, its just not compulsory.
We are finding more places to eat, which is awesome. Leah and I went to "The Mosquito" with some friends last weekend, and we dined on cold beef, ostrich (which was awesome), birthday shrimp, and gambei'd a lot beers. The table next to us was celebrating a birthday, and decided to buy us a large amount of beer. I took one of the bottles (they are like 600ml) over to the table later on to share with them, and it turned into "drunk guy" telling me to tell his wife she was "bullshit!" for agreeing with George Bush. He repeated this a lot, and when I would look at her, she would just shrug. Then I would try to pour a round for the table, and it would end up just being me and this guy, and him telling me that Bush "OK and not OK, but all the time OK? Bullshit!". Eventually I just stood up and said "Ok....Happy Birthday!" and walked away. It was at this time that drunk guy decided I looked like Charles Barkley, and for the rest of the night, I heard "Ba-ka-ree!". I tried to explain to him that Charles Barkley was black, but that just made him say a lot of things in Chinese and then say "Ok BaKaree!". This guy was a jackass. Eventually all the women apologized as they helped him and his friends out.
So I have had these songs in my head that remind me of 2003 when I was at MSU. That was a time of such magnitude that I cannot fully explain it here. But, this song has been in my head all day now, so I will close out with its video. Zia Jian!