Thursday, March 22, 2012


You know that dream...the one where you find yourself wandering the halls of a high school, nodding your head at guys and winking at cute girls?  You're not sure how you got there.  You don't really remember the layout and even some of the people; you think to yourself maybe it's more of an amalgam of lots of places and times than a strict remembrance, but it feels perfectly normal until you realize people are staring and pointing.  And then you notice what's wrong:

Son of a bitch; I'm naked, aren't I?

As I get older, two things occur to me.  First, that dream isn't as intimidating or awkward as it used to be.  Body image concerns and general embarrassment are a little like stage fright; some people have to get loosened up a bit and afterwards they're totally fine, and some people just need practice.  Some people can't get past it, and some just never give a shit in the first place.  The older I get, the less I am concerned about what people think of me in general.

Second, when it happens in real life the judge isn't nearly as tolerant as one would hope.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

문제 없어 / "Bai-bai"

The phrase 문제 없어 (munje eobs-eo) means "no problem"; useful when responding to any number of inquiries, but perhaps most importantly it signals that you are having a good time while getting hammered on 폭탄주 (pogtan-ju) or "bomb drinks".  If your host asks "it's okay?", knowing this little snippet of Korean will make them laugh, display that you are sober enough to continue drinking, and having fun.

If at some point a co-worker mangles this phrase, and then begins speaking in Spanish, your Korean host may simply waive to them like a child and say "Bai-bai" to indicate that Elvis has left the building.  P.J. O'Rourke said it best: the Irish of Asia.  I'm a big man and I held my own last night, but it's daunting to see a man half my size keeping pace with the soju bombs; in the States it would be expected that someone my size could pound a few shots strategically hidden in a similar number of beers, but here they seemed genuinely surprised.  If they tell you it isn't a competition, it's because they are assuming it probably isn't much of one, and they're likely correct; these guys do this once or twice a week all year long.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Taipei / Big Spicy

This is the most polite culture I've ever witnessed in my entire life; the most insulting thing I've heard anyone call anyone else is the equivalent of "dumb head", and people appeared shocked by the epithet.  They drive like maniacs, weaving in and out of one another using yellow double lines, parking spaces, and sidewalks as suggestions rather than requirements...but it works for them because they pay attention and give way without fail.  Most foreigners I think misunderstand when they see people wearing face masks that the person wearing the mask is afraid of getting sick, when in reality the person wearing the mask is already sick, and is being decent enough to make sure they don't fuck anyone else up.  Respectful to one another, kind to foreigners with an infant's vocabulary and only passable pronunciation in their language (like yours truly, for instance), and genuinely pleased at even the most meager of effort to acclimate and participate, Taiwanese people may be the nicest in the entire world for all I can tell.

I will acknowledge that they also may have also found it somewhat endearing that prior to learning anything more useful, I practiced the phrase "非常大辣" (fēicháng dà là), which means "very big spicy".  Perhaps watching me turn crimson and give them a thumbs up while voluntarily eating what I can only describe as lava and noodles is simply entertaining.

Regardless, I fucking love this town.