Friday, July 17, 2009

Taiwan lifestyle: Going to the Filipino disco to get an Indonesian

Sundays in Taiwan were usually a haze of hung over self-reflection and rest, starting at two or three in the afternoon – The disco in Taipei ended at eight in the morning meaning you were either there until the end desperately trying to pick up or you had done…Either way, you were getting up late – but this week was different. John had stayed in on the saturday night desperately trying to arrange a romantic date to offset the loneliness from knowing he had been in Taiwan three years.
The date had back fired and now he was insisting we had to go with him to the Filipino disco on the Sunday afternoon.
“Come on, we are taking you to the Filipino disco to get an Indonesian,” said John.
If you hadn’t been successful on the Friday or Saturday, then there was still a chance on a Sunday. John had first discovered the Sunday afternoon Filipino disco concept by accident in Hong Kong a few years ago - After going to Neptunes in Wanchai at the normal time and taking a girl to a hotel, he had been racked by guilt and agreed to her request to meet her back at the same disco at three p.m. the following afternoon. The request to meet her inside bothered him, but he dismissed it as assuming she meant outside - both were unfamiliar to Hong Kong and language was a problem so why not choose a place they knew, he rationalized. It took a while to convince himself, but after standing outside for 20 minutes he accepted that the place was open, perhaps as a restaurant during the day – and besides it was hot on the street and he was getting a lot of strange stares so he decided to go down for ten minutes. It was not pleasant inside...
The Chinese girls like us in Taiwan, so he hadn't thought about whether the equivalent existed here. Then about a couple of months ago Matt (the whore accountant) had knocked on his door to inform him he had found a ‘great disco’ and ‘would he like to see what he had met there?’ “Amy, turn around once, please. Man, it like being with a whore again,” had said a proud Matt, a tear in his eye.
The disco was in the old part of town near the combat zone. We checked nobody we knew was around and then bolted down the stairs, before finding a table.
“It is a little lowlife,” said Eric for all of us. Our sensibilities were being assaulted by the sight of so many dark-skinned middle-aged women happily dancing away to Filipino techno music; women who you only normally saw in the street or in the park pushing 90 year-old pyjama-wearing Taiwanese people with drips and oxygen masks around in wheel chairs; worried faces for very good reason that their charge might croak at any minute and they would be blamed.
Just to clarify, said Eric. “On our part, that is! We are the lowlife.”
John spoke, “Boys, this is easy compared to Hong Kong. First time I went down those stairs out of the light and saw a packed disco of big fat old lairily grinning white foreigners in rugby shirts, dancing badly with the girls who were still there from the night before because they hadn’t scored yet, I had to summon all my reserves of scuzziness to hang around. Here there are not many foreigners - besides Matt of course. Give yourself a couple of minutes to get over the acute embarrassment and self-loathing at your own sadness and you should be able to get yourself something good.”
“Why is it the Filipino disco? Surely it should be the Indonesian disco,” asked Eric, hoping he could get a serious discussion topic going, and thus ignore where he was.
“Filipinos are the pioneers of the Sunday afternoon disco…” John started to explain.
His point was two-fold: all maids used to Filipino before, and, Filipinos are the blacks of Asia known for their laid back, outgoing nature and love of music and dance (a brief look at the traditional culture of surrounding countries and it is easy to see why) Because of this Filipinos have cornered the ‘Live Band’ market – in Shanghai, Hong Kong, all over Japan and in Taiwan pubs proudly display signs for ‘Filipino Live Band’, because it will bring in the punters like a picture of a blonde white guy outside your English school. Now, popular culture means everyone can sing and dance and the majority of maids are Indonesian because they are supposed to be more conservative, but “…still any shifting of the feet on the Lord’s day of rest in Asia will be affectionately referred to by its flipper heritage. Now, go and get something.”
Matt had just arrived with exactly what you would expect him to on his arm. “I have been with her for a while now. I like her,” mused Matt. That could have been the end, a sufficient reason for his going out with her, but once what he had considered what he had said his expression changed to I’m sorry, that is not a very good explanation and he felt compelled to continue, “She is low maintenance – only has Sunday off – she’ll clean my apartment and bring me food. If I come here with her, she’ll only want one drink…Oh, and I have to buy her a phone card once every two weeks. That is acceptable for a girlfriend I think?” He was genuinely concerned to get confirmation on the last part.
“So I am bored, give me today’s history lesson. I can see you have something to say, and I doubt it is a good joke you heard,” said John to Eric. He wasn’t going to go to the dance floor, because he knew we would disappear home at the first chance of seeing him not looking or busy. Eric always tried desperately to educate us all about Taiwan’s history.
“Man, I bought this book last week…You know it is bullshit that Taiwan has always been a part of China. A brief history goes like this. Up until the 1600’s the island was populated by people of Malay and Polynesian descent, the aboriginals, then the Dutch took the island briefly, but were driven out by a small Ming dynasty army, which had fled the mainland because the Ming had been defeated by the Ching – much like Chiang Kai-Shek and the commies. The Ching came then to defeat the Ming, but did not occupy or annex Taiwan, because they were not really interested in the island, just getting rid of the remnants of the Ming. Over the next 200 years, Chinese from Fukkien province emigrated to Taiwan because of starvation. They weren’t sent by the Chinese government but had come seeking opportunities much like the Europeans going to the new world. And they inter bred with the aboriginals.
In 1887 the China government formally declared Taiwan part of its territory for no other reason than they expected Japan to annex it, and they wanted to stop Japanese expansion. Eight years later they lost the Sino-Japanese war and signed Taiwan over to the Japanese forever. Up until then the Taiwanese had been living in a state of de-facto independence for 200 hundred years and, when they knew they were going to be given to the Japanese, they declared the Republic of Taiwan; so, for a long time they have had a sense of national identity.”
Josh: “And where did you get this information from? I don’t think from KMT or Chinese Communist Party sources.”
“Of course! You have to search hard for the suppressed truth.” Perversely, Eric’s support for Taiwanese independence was as strong as his hatred of people who like to practice their English.
“But they were whipped by the Japanese? – When they tried to declare independence.” John only liked to deal in hard cynical facts.
“Brutally and swiftly! Yes, of course, but that is not the point, anyway…Taiwan was only ever a part of China for 8 years is the point. Josh, you are an immigrant, too. Your ancestors moved to a new land to give themselves a chance.”
“Didn’t the Taiwanese butcher the native population? I have no sympathy until they redress this injustice,” said Josh.
“Native populations get wiped out. Look at our own countries. Anyway, the government is trying to do something.”
“And I don’t live in Canada in protest. Next time tell us about what the government is doing for the aboriginals then we might listen to your claims of Taiwanese moral superiority.” John and Pierre were realists but they nodded anyway because they knew it made Eric angry!
I was feeling uneasy for another reason. There had been a sizeable earthquake a few week ago and the paranoia hadn't settled down yet. “I feel uncomfortable here – if the big one comes my soul ain’t gonna rest easy knowing my crushed body was dragged from the rubble of the Sunday Afternoon Flipper Disco,” I sighed. "I mean, presumably, getting dragged broken and bleeding from the night-time disco next to a girl in a mini wouldn't be fantastic, but at least i would be going out next to something young and hot. This...Hmm...Ah...This is just a little above being found in the ruins of a whorehouse.
“I ‘ave set up an immigration agency to advise on emigrating to, or studying in France. I know it will succeed! As a side business!” announced Pierre, with another business idea and not wanting to be left out.
“What the fuck do you know about emigrating to France?” John pointing out the obvious.
“Not a bad idea, man, but I think this is already a competitive market with sophisticated structures in place. You need to generate a lot of contacts in France. Meet some lawyers there. It is going to take a while and a lot of money to establish a credible brand name, but an interesting challenge.” John and Eric frowned having no idea why Josh bothered to consider Pierre's ideas.
‘Anyway!’ dismissed Pierre his expression asking John and Eric why Josh had to couch business in such bullshit ways when it was simple. “I have already figured it all out. I already have a friend of mine going to all the other agencies, pretending to be interested in immigrating. Once I know the procedures and costs I under cut them. I cannot afford advertising, but I have my contacts at the French school and I will keep it small. Let the word of mouth of what I am doing spread. You know I don’t mind talking to people…You know what the real fuckin’ clincher is – I am really sending them to England, but going via France because it is easier to get in.” Of course, nobody else had actually thought of this.
“Sounds a bit like a foreigner job to me,” spat out John who was in a bad mood. "After teacher it is a few small steps to agency for sending students to your country, and then helping Taiwanese emigrate. You aren't even stretching the sides of the cultural straight jacket."
“Not at all. Most companies in this industry are Taiwanese and I am not telling people I can do this, or you should work with because I am a foreigner. I go to them and say, “me being a foreigner offers you nothing, but I am offering you a better deal as a person. It is better for you to work with me.” Nauseated we all turned around to try and take our attention off, what Pierre said.
“You want to sit here?” said the pretty Filipino at the next table to John. There were still a few left in the Filipino disco.
“You are not with those guys?” he asked because they were large Africans.
“No, they are bastards. I hate Indians and Africans, coming here trying to pick us up. What do they think they are?" she said. "Hey. It is unusual to see white guys here. I bet you have a Taiwan girlfriend, don’t you? Why you like the Taiwan girl?”
Coming here hadn’t worked out how she had expected – her cousin had got married to an Australian she met in Hong Kong and she had expected something similar; she had been told Chinese girls didn’t like white men, but this was Taipei not Hong Kong. Everyday she did a shit, menial job for Taiwanese and then at the weekend, she had her 2nd class status shoved in her face again, having to spend it getting hit on by huge Africans in white suits and sneakers who could dance or middle-aged married Indian businessmen who couldn’t. And, the worse of it all was she was a passionate colorful Filipino, so how could the westerners prefer dull Chinese girls?
"Don't worry, we invented most of the world's sports but we are crap at them now," said John.
"What?" she replied. Then going back to her original subject. “I always want to go Hong Kong.”
“There at least you could have been taken the piss out of and used by guys worth being exploited by eh?”
“What?”
“Nothing…Anyway, would you like to go to a hotel?”

9 comments:

KARMINA said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Susan

http://ovarianpain.net

dan said...

Hi Karmina,

Thanks for your kind words.

Sorry is it Karmina or Susan?

Anonymous said...

Geez, I have only read 2 of your posts and I think that you are pathetic. White people are the biggest whingers around - when you live in Asia all you do is bitch bitch bitch, or you are a bunch of condescending imperialistic bastards. If you think that I don't understand your crappy sense of humour and cheap sarcasm think again. I have lived in the western world for longer than you have lived in Asia and I didn't waste time bitching like you did. Get the message: you are in a place where nobody invited you. I have lived in a westen country for 20 years, I speak English better than Chinese, and I grew up here but I don't B-I-T-C-H like you. If you don't like why don't you go back.....sheesh you are PATHETIC and you...PISS...ME...OFF.

Anonymous said...

And I bet you are too wimpy to let my comment be seen by others so you have to moderate it you PISS WEAK NANCY BOY!

Anonymous said...

Nah forget what I said before. I shouldn't have been so rude and not taken out my anger on you. Hope that you can meet someone nice in Taiwan and not have to resort to those discos. I get angry sometimes at the way western foreigners behave in Asian countries. I don't know you and though I find some of your posts offensive I shouldn't be one of those psycho netizens. Sorry.

Dan Chapman said...

Hi Anonymous,

I kind of believe all humans are capable of great acts of stupidity and kindness. Life is complicated.

Even in this article i take the piss out of the foreigners concerned.

Anyway, this blog is not a sex blog and if you read through other stuff you'll find it has lots related to work and culture in general, most of which is aimed at the foreigners not the locals. In particular go to any of the stuff labelled expat culture, or stupid foreigner.

Another anyway: You finished on a good note so i am not trying to argue with you. In fact, just explain that if you check some of the other posts you'll find i am not attacking asians. I love Asia.

Perhaps I should get some posts up on another topic quicker...

Best regards,

Dan

Martin said...

Hello Dan, I am reading your blog as I would a book, which is to say that I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I lived in Taiwan for a number of years myself and got married to a Taiwanese lady. We now live in the UK, but often reminisce about Taipei.

Your write wonderfully. Your blog gives a highly entertaining and informative account of the trials and tribulations of young westerners in Taiwan.

Martin said...

Hello Dan, I am reading your blog as I would a book, which is to say that I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I lived in Taiwan for a number of years myself and got married to a Taiwanese lady. We now live in the UK, but often reminisce about Taipei.

Your write wonderfully. Your blog gives a highly entertaining and informative account of the trials and tribulations of young westerners in Taiwan.

Dan Chapman said...

Hi Martin,

Thanks for your kind comments.

I am kind of opposite: still in Taiwan and reminisce about the UK.

Cheers,

Dan