Here is a picture of a cute dog.
Hi puppy dog! You fill my day with marshmallows, sugar candy and rainbows.
Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s a picture of a goddamn trash can:
Like I mentioned in my last entry, I try very hard to stay positive about my time here in Taipei, and about life in general. I firmly believe that at least a third of the battle in keeping your equanimity intact as an expat is maintaining a somewhat pragmatic, if not sunshine-y attitude, towards life and all its minor and major annoyances. This is not a hard task most of the time.
But sometimes, there are things I need to vent about. I am sure there are other people who have the same complaints as I do about certain things, so I am going to make this into a regular series called The Gripes of Wrath. Well, it might not be a regular series. Honestly, it depends on where my blood sugar and maturity level is at any given day, but… here you go…
#1: I Can Has Mandarinz???
A couple days ago, Ron and I took a taxi cab. The driver totally misheard me when I gave him the address we were headed to–he thought I said hào (number), when in reality I had said xiàng (lane), even after I repeated the address several times. Now, I know that I do have an accent, but it’s not so bad that I mix up my xi, ang, h and ao sounds.
After he finally figured out the address (Ron practically had to bellow it in his ear) Sir Wacky Sack turned to me and asked me where I was from. When I told him I’m a hua yi from America, he started going on about how he had driven ever so many hua yi before and I was the first hua yi he had ever met who couldn’t speak Chinese and it was completely unbelievable that someone who was of Taiwanese descent could not speak Chinese, blah blah blah.
I nearly snapped back, “I’ve taken a lot of taxis before and you’re the first taxi driver I’ve ever met who can’t drive!” But as both Ron and my mom pointed out to me later, you do not provoke the person who is in control of the (erratically) moving vehicle you are stuck in.
Sir Wacky Sack’s comment about my Chinese really took me off guard, and it did bother me, even though I conducted an interview entirely in Mandarin right afterwards (imagine that!). I’ve never had anyone been so rude to me about my language abilities after hearing me say so little. Then again, antagonistic, patronizing comments like these balance out all the kind comments I get about how nice it must be to be bilingual (yes, it is nice, actually) and how adorable my accent is (usually this comes from young women). Sometimes people will tell me that it’s great I can even speak Mandarin because they’ve met hua yi who, tsk tsk, can’t squeeze out a word of their “mother tongue.”
Well, let me tell you something about these hua yi. I’ve know many hua yi who speak even less Mandarin than I did when I first moved here. And you know what? Those individuals include Ph.D.’s, award-winning journalists, and engineers with M.I.T. degrees (and, I assume, those awesome Brass Rats). Whereupon certain of the bilingual hua yi I’ve met are the most feckless little ne’er-do-wells I know. Obviously, it goes both ways. But my point is, the fact that some hua yi did not pick up more Mandarin when they were growing up is not due to laziness or lack of intelligence. It is simply the way their cookies crumbled.
When I was still a Mandarin student, I often felt like I was operating on a deficit. No matter how much I felt my Mandarin was improving, I knew there were people out there who would continue to pass judgment on me or my family because I could not speak Mandarin very well when I came here. Certain crackpot armchair cognitive linguists seem to believe that you are born with a language chip in your brain based on your ancestry, and that is your duty to your race to maintain that chip. I know those people are silly, but after the umpteenth time of being scolded or laughed at by some random stranger for not speaking Mandarin more fluently, it starts getting under my skin.
After I complained about the taxi driver incident (in Mandarin, natch) to my mom, she told me that the best way to respond to comments like that is with an exaggeratedly polite “這樣子非常對不起,” which means “Oh, I am so very sorry about that,” but in a snarky way.
I realize that a sarcastically breezy attitude is the best approach to dealing with this foolishness. After all, in the next few years, my Mandarin will continue to improve and my experience of Taiwan will continue to deepen as a result. Sir Wacky Sack, on the other hand, will still be driving his taxi down the wrong side of the road.
Ah, that feels much better. Potential upcoming entries in The Gripes of Wrath (in no particular order):
–“Hey, why doesn’t anyone ever accuse me of having a white fetish?” or The Perils of Being in an Interracial Relationship in a World Filled with Creeps Who Inexplicably Think They Have the Last Word on Your Relationship
— “No, I’ve never actually noticed that I am Asian! Thanks for letting me know!” or Growing Up Unmellow Yellow in America
— “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would still have little hooky horns that will go on an eyeball-piercing mission if one more person tells me that I have to change my last name after marriage in order to prove my commitment to Ron and our future, unplanned, hypothetical children, and who cares because… apparently, I am marrying them, too.” I mean, I’m all for polyandry, but I just don’t swing that way. Sorry dudes!