Thursday, March 26, 2009

Taiwan characters: Eric and studying Chinese II

This is one of Eric's funniest stories about studying Chinese. He was driving around lost, looking for a school; obsessing over finding someone to ask directions who wouldn't speak English to him.

That guy has a suit on so will try and speak English. Couple of young girls in jeans and T-shirts. Students. Will try and speak English. A betelnut stand manned by a middle-aged woman in surfing shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops. Okay.

He stopped at the roadside in front of her stall.

“Chong Kai Road, Lane 26. You know where it is?”

She looked at him in horror, and a chunk of confidence went.

“Chong Kai Road, Lane 26. You know where it is?”

“Ah, a foreigner speaking Chinese,” she shouted loudly. "Now he is leaving when I want to tell him where to go. Why he bother to stop?”

Eric drove on fuming.

He saw a young boy, maybe sixteen.

They won’t speak English with a gun to their heads, and maybe he is shocked to see me but I won’t know: their expression never changes.

“Chong Kai Road, Lane 26. You know where it is?”

“I’m sorry. My English is not so good. It is a sad story. My parents push me to learn but I had no interest. I’m sorry,” he said before hurrying off into a shop.

Twenty minutes later and he would have to ask anyone if he didn’t want to be late. He saw a smartly dressed woman in a business suit - late-twenties walk by. She would definitely speak good English. He didn’t have time anymore to give people lectures about speaking to him in Chinese so he decided to speak English and get this over with.

“Chong Kai Lu. Ne jer dao zi na li,(Do you know where it is?)” said Eric.

She lifted up her sun glasses and shielded her eyes with her left hand.“Oh. Hi!” she said. "You go straight until you get to a gas station, and then turn right.”

“And then?” interrupted Eric in Chinese trying to let her know to speak it.

“It is about two blocks down on the right. What are you looking for?”

“A school,” said Eric now speaking English. “Hey, what is the matter with you Taiwanese - See a white man and assume you have to practice your English? That is the way you stereotype us?”

“I was born in Canada. Fuck you,”she replied.

Eric desperately tried to quell feelings of self-loathing by telling himself he wasn’t to know, and it was in fact her fault because she should appreciate issues of racial sensitivity and identity where she was from.

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