Park conversations

One of the nice things about not having homework is that I have more time to talk with people in park during my morning exercise; I don’t have to hurry back to get in a couple hours of studying before work.

If you don’t mind waking up a little early and you’ve got the time, early mornings in the park are a great time to sit around and yak, and maybe get some exercise while you’re at it. That’s what everyone else is doing, unless they’re doing tai-chi or a musical choreography routine. Morning exercise is a social event.

Today I got to talk with Wang Xian-sheng (Mr. Wang) and Zhang Mama (Mrs. Zhang). We went through the usual stuff about where we’re from and how long we’ve been in Taiwan and all the people they know that have been to America and how I am so tall and my hair is curly and Americans are so big and Chinese are small – all in a humourous combination of my very sparse Mandarin vocabulary and Wang Xian-sheng’s slightly larger English repertoire (Zhang Mama has zero English); just barely enough to get the info across. These are the things they (people in the park) bring up almost every time, but the repetition is good practice so we don’t mind.

Then Zhang Mama asked if I was Catholic, or at least said something about praying to Mary, which a first I mistook for asking whether I was Buddhist/Daoist because the praying motion she made looked like how they wave the incense in the temples. I got it when she asked again while crossing herself. So we had a little exchange in Mandarin (with very bad grammar) about, ‘No, I don’t [praying gesture while vaguely parroting the word I thought she’d used] to Ma-li, but my xi-wang (hope) is [someone else].’
‘But in America everyone goes to church.’
‘But in America most people’s xi-wang is in money, not [someone else].’ After another 15 minutes of ‘conversation’ both myself and Wang Xian-sheng had to go, but it was fun, and they said if I bring paper next time they’ll write some words down for me.

Another guy – one of the sword tai-chi guys – showed up right before I left with a bag full of weapons. He hung it on one of the chin-up bars and started stretching. He wasn’t very talkative, but he did show me his sword (wouldn’t let me play with it though). Maybe he’ll warm up and I can get my hands on it one of these days.

3 thoughts on “Park conversations”

  1. now don’t forget those important hand skills and body gestures when you have to use the restroom. they may make for a very embarassing moment, but when you have to go – you HAVE to get the message across.

  2. Funny you should bring up potty communication… one quickly-apparent cultural difference is the way some private details just aren’t private here. Not only do people freely offer information, they don’t hesitate to ask or comment about stuff Westerners would either politely ignore or euphemize. Last week at work, co-workers were talking (and asking) about having “running bowls.” There’s no “restroom” or “washroom” or “bathroom” here; it’s a toilet in both languages, let’s just call a spade a spade! High-context culture my eye! Not when it comes to bodily functions.

    For a non-potty example, after eating all that pig’s blood cake (zhu1 xie3 gao1) I got a huge zit on my forehead – literally maybe the biggest in my life. And the night it was biggest we were having another New Year’s dinner at our new bosses house – we were new and they were sort of giving us a special treat to make us feel welcome. One lady, at the Chinese equivalent of Christmas dinner, points to my zit and says, “How do you say in English? Plimp… plimplo… plimpler…”

    “Pimple. Too much ???.”

    “Oh. Pim-pol.”

    We’d been well warned about this cultural trait, and many of the English speaking Taiwanese are aware of it… just not that one. But you can’t expect people to act outside their culture in their own country!… it’s just not rude here. And when in Rome…!

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