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Wrap-up

As the year draws to a close, I’m sitting in my parents’ living room waiting for my father to mix me up a Collins, whatever that is!  Things could definitely be worse.  I think reverse culture shock will be gentle, although the recycling and public transportation are things I’ll miss until I return to Taiwan.

I left Taiwan 17 days ago, and I’ve been home in California for 9.  It’s past time to wrap up this blog and start my new life!  I will, however, have a few back-dated posts that got lost in my drafts folder, so feel free to search for those in your spare time.

Happy New Year.  I’ll see you again soon, Taiwan.

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Music

I bought an ocarina today.  There wasn’t really a reason other than how beautiful it was, but as I looked through the tiny song book that came with it, I found a song that I thought would make one of my friends laugh.  I came out to the landing of the hotel where I’m staying to use the computer, and what song should I hear drifting up from the lobby but “Dust in the Wind.”

That brought on a dose of instant nostalgia as I thought about fun times from high school tinged with the inescapable melancholy of the song, and it all mixed in with my feelings about leaving Taiwan.  I have less than 20 days before I go home and take on the next big phase of my life, which is one of the reasons I came to Jiufen for a little one day/one night vacation.  It’s lucky that Jiufen is so pretty or I’d probably be getting weepy right about now.

I’ll post pictures and more about the town itself when I get access to Bluetooth (tomorrow night when I get back home), but aside from the fact that all the stores are pretty much closed by 7:30, I have had a wonderful day in Jiufen and Jinguashi.  The weather held up nicely and the two towns are gorgeous, and where they’re not gorgeous, they’re excitingly twisty and mysterious.

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Out of the blue

On Wednesday nights, I teach a corporate class that really has me torn in two.  On the one hand, I usually have fun with the class, especially the three ladies.  On the other hand, the two gentlemen are way out of their depth and it’s hard to keep everyone learning without embarrassing the guys.

This Wednesday, the louder yet less skilled guy was on business in Hong Kong and that made it quite a bit easier.  The class proceeded pretty normally, ending in a discussion of favorite stars and celebrities.  At the very end, as we were packing up, the quiet guy who never asks his questions in English, but rather in Taiwanese (or Chinese, out of deference to me), suddenly began muttering to the “translator” of the class, a kind and bossy woman who I cannot stop from translating for the slower students.  She said, “Jason would like to ask a question,” and I looked straight at him so he would speak.

And the question knocked me for a loop: “India, 你們美國…..words…..words…..words…..黑人嗎?”  I couldn’t even parse it because it was so out of context, so I sat for a minute to make sense of it.  He was asking, apropos of nothing, about racism against black people.  I answered that it was getting better, but he went on to ask about whether we looked down on Asians, and all of it was just far too difficult to explain at his level.  I settled for saying that it’s mostly a problem of language.  If you sound American, you’re better off than if you don’t.  I also joked it up by mentioning how much people everywhere hate tourists.  Too light?

I love these kinds of conversations, but I wish he’d been at a level to really discuss it…

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“Can you sing?”

Last time the read-a-thon rolled around, I was powering through The Return of the King, but as I read this conversation between Denethor and Pippin, I had to stop and ponder for a few minutes.

‘What would you do in my service?’
‘I thought, sir, that you would tell me my duties.’
‘I will, when I learn what you are fit for,’ said Denethor. ‘But that I shall learn soonest, maybe, if I keep you beside me. The esquire of my chamber has begged leave to go to the out-garrison, so you shall take his place for a while. You shall wait on me, bear errands, and talk to me, if war and council leave me any leisure. Can you sing?
‘Yes,’ said Pippin. ‘Well, yes, well enough for my own people. But we have no songs fit for great halls and evil times, lord. We seldom sing of anything more terrible than wind or rain. And most of my songs are about things that make us laugh; or about food and drink, of course.’
‘And why should such songs be unfit for my halls, or for such hours as these? We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it? Then we may feel that our vigil was not fruitless, though it may have been thankless.’

I perhaps didn’t think about it as much as I should have, and in July I was surprised by my Chinese teacher pulling a movie-Denethor!  We had no warning, but were told to sing a folk song for our classmates.  I foolishly chose “Little Sadie,” a gruesome and kind of hard to sing ballad, which was awkward to explain after I finished.  I feel I could defend it now, but off-the-cuff and in Chinese?  It was tough.

We don’t really have bards, troubadours, or song-of-greeting traditions any more, but I’m bringing it back for a day.  Here’s the challenge: represent yourself, your country, or your people (whoever they may be) with one song.  You don’t need to sing it yourself, but I’d still like to hear the tune, so provide a link or video and tiny explanation in the comments or on your own blog, and I will choose the winner after 3 hours.  That means time is up at 0700 UTC.

For prizes, see this post, but know that there will be a book for first place, and postcards for 2nd and 3rd.  It’s international, my friends!  Now, can you sing?

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Last day

I’m coming to the end of my last day in the US (airports don’t count), and I am almost done packing. Packing is always one of those things where you think “I could have done that better,” but never actually do. I almost made exhaustive lists and ran down them, but there was too much stuff, and as long as I have my paperwork and some clothes, I’m really okay.

Today was Shrove Tuesday, so there was a breakfast-for-dinner party that I was able to use as a send-off for myself and as a way to say goodbye to some church people, especially the ones that have been missing the last few weeks. I also find it more comfortable to mill around in someone’s home than in the normal after-church coffee hour, so it was a great time.

On an unrelated note, I am not going to beat my video game before I leave.  I wanted to beat just one game, but I keep getting my face eaten by stupid mutant things.  Everyone, please sympathize.  Empathize?

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T -3 and counting

Still not packed, and I have a few more people to see.  There’s also a lot of photocopying to be done for my alien resident certificate once I get there, so I have some busy days ahead of me!

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