Friday, March 27, 2009

Taiwan characters: Eric and studying Chinese III

The fastest route to learning Chinese is to get a local girlfriend who doesn't speak English. But, as i say, if you a newly graduated college boy used to dating middle class college girls, the downside is they will not only speak good English but want to practice - good English is there status symbol.

A year or so after being in Taiwan Eric was hoping his girlfriend Fiona Li would be interested in working with him so they could improve each others language levels. She had other ideas.

Eric got off the bed, where he had been sitting listening to Fiona practice her English on his room mates for twenty minutes now. Sitting in his living room talking to his room mates had started at around the same time as he started talking to her in Chinese. She furiously denied it of course, but she should know he was soft not stupid.

Anyway, he had to go to work early the next morning, and the last two or three times she came back, she had sat in the living room until two or three and there hadn't been any sex. He went to the doorway, today would be different, he was going to put his foot down. He went to the kitchen and got himself another drink, he would give her another twenty minutes.

About half an hour later. "Sorry, Fiona, would you like another drink?” he said.

“Hey, Fiona, good talking to you…Again - but I have to go to bed,” said his room-mate, Mike - It was the code signal Eric had given him to let him know.

Fiona took her glass of wine and sat down on Eric’s bed.

“Hey, I bought a frame. What do you think?” said Eric.

“Very nice. Now you just need to get a proper job. You can’t just do nothing all your life.”

Eric was shocked her directness, but he reassured himself with the knowledge that he was a foreigner and so he had told her to be direct. Maybe, it was a little crude, but learning to be direct was a process and he couldn’t expect her to get it right immediately. But he wasn’t surprised: the Taiwanese were money orientated people and he realized he had to get things together if he was going to stay with one of them.

Eric leaned across and began to fumble.

“I am tired, I need to get up early tomorrow,” she said.

“We haven’t had sex for two weeks now - What’s up?”

“I said I am tired. I can’t just turn the feeling on you know.”

“I think after this much time the feeling would be turned on.”

“You are so direct – You know when you talk to the Taiwanese girl, you shouldn’t be so direct.”

“So it is alright for you to be direct with me.”

“But you are the foreigner.”

Eric wanted to say I think we should use one method or the other – directness or indirectness – in approaching talking to each other. Ideally, it would be directness. This was another gripe but he would leave this for now.

He got out a Chinese newspaper he was reading. "Ok," he said. "Can i ask you a question? Can I say - "

"Eric, i am tired. It is late and now you want to ask me questions about Chinese."

"It is the only time i get to speak to you - as you only sit in my living room..."

"Don't i help you with your Chinese now? Let you speak to me in Chinese?"

"You - " Eric cut himself short guessing the futility of saying what he wanted to say: You let me speak in Chinese but never correct me or listen whereas I correct you all the time.

"I am sorry," said Eric. "It is just after a couple of weeks..."

“We are Taiwanese girls. It is not all about sex,”she replied.

Eric rubbed his eyes. It was that comment again. He had meet many girls for whom it was all about that. Weren’t they in a relationship so there was nothing wrong anyway? He read that article that said Taiwanese women were more interested in shopping than sex. It wasn’t his experience from the past. He kind of thought that was because they were in bad marriages to some guy there parents had introduced them to. They were afraid to get divorced. They were being coy. They hadn’t been fucked properly. There was a commonsense answer to pull together, but the cultural soundbites were swirling and changing direction too fast.

He sat back on the bed and began to mope.

“Come here,”she said pulling him out of his boxers, and rather matter-of-factly starting to relieve him. He was sure she was reading the front page article on the local English newspaper that he had left on the bed, and it briefly occurred to him she was not interested. Still as things were under way sincerity on her part was not necessary.

He shuffled himself back down next to the newspaper.“That is better, eh. Don’t want you to get a stiff neck,” he said.

Ten minutes later. “Okay, now,” she said one hand wiping her mouth and with the other briefly rubbing the top of his thigh before giving it a pat, like a mother consoling her spoilt kid.

“You have to be soft with us Taiwanese girls, you know.”

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