Every time I have a trip, weather is not good. I left the airport in Taipei, and headed for Taipei station using the MRT, wondering the city is similar to Tokyo.
“Ni hao, wo xiang qu Hua lien…?”. I did not know the exact pronunciation of 花蓮, so I wrote ‘花蓮’ on paper. “一个人?”. “Dui.” She explained the type of train, the departure/arrival time, which platform I should go, etc. “ni hui shuo ying yu ma?” I wanted to make sure that my understanding is correct in English. She gestured to say “No way”. “Haha, ok, xiexie!”. I got hyper since this was the first time to use Mandarin to survive, and it seemed to work. I studied Chinese for two years and got the best grade in the class 8 years ago. But I’m always listening real Chinese people’s conversation everyday at Berkeley, so my listening skill should be better than before. Mandarin in Taiwan sounds softer than Chinese one.
There was still time until the train departures, I walked around Taipei station. Modern buildings are the same as ones of any Asian cities. But the stuff behind of those buildings are different from city to city, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Tokyo.. It is interesting. I got some baozi for breakfast.
It was cheap and good. When I travel to countries far from East Asia, Chinese restaurants always have saved my life; Chinese people live all around the world. It is very nice I do not have to care about food this time.
Store staffs do not often smile in Taiwan. At first, I wondered if I am annoying. But once they opened up, they were warm. Taiwanese people are shy?? I felt that people generally try to avoid eye contact. For your information, Japanese people glance.
In the train, woman sitting next to me spoke Japanese very well. At first, we had a short conversation in Mandarin. From my accent, she thought I am Chinese. As long as she said, I move my tongue too much and it is not Taiwanese style.
I cannot speak Mandarin well or local language, so it was nice she spoke Japanese. She bought me bento, saying it is famous. Xiexie! I think the smell of paigu (排骨) gives a somewhat strange impression for ordinary Japanese, but I am familiar with that after I came to Berkeley. Chinese restaurants have been my lifeline in America as well.
She said she studied in japan for 8 years.
“My father likes Japan, and sent me to Japan. It was in the 1970s.”
“At that time, freedom was restricted in Taiwan, so people tried to send their kids to America or Japan before they become 15. After they become 15, they could not easily go out of Taiwan.”
“Lots of smart people went out of Taiwan in those days. People think it was Kuomintang’s political failure, but they don’t admit it.”
She said with a grin.
But, even after Taiwan became democratic, people again decided to support Kuomintang, right?
“They do not restrict people just like they used to be and the media can criticize the government now.”
“You know TV reported that Ma Ying-jeou is gay at the end of the year repeatedly? I don’t like that our president is gay.”
I don’t know. But It does not matter even if he is gay.
“Are you gay?”
No. Just I am from San Francisco.
“Japanese don’t talk about politics, right?”
Ah, maybe. Japanese are not supposed to talk about politics, religion, and favorite baseball teams in public spaces.
“Taiwanese are fanatic about politics. The wedding party I attended last time was ruined since a politician, some guests don’t like, was invited. They had a quarrel there.”
Her son got married with Japanese woman and he is actually Japanese now. She has a house in Japan and often visits them. That is why her Japanese is very good. But she said her son sometimes points out that her Japanese is somewhat old-fashioned. She does not care about where her son lives but her husband wants his son to come back to Taiwan. Old men may be lonelier than old women. She said overseas Taiwanese are coming back to Taiwan from America these days since health insurance in the U.S. is not good compared to those of Taiwan. I thought that 海外華人 (overseas chinese) do not come back to their home, so I was surprised; I also may not have to think about where to live in my future so seriously.
She passed me her phone number and told me to call her if something happens, then we said goodby. Xiexie!
Hualien is virtually the first city I visited in Taiwan. The city looked similar to that of Japan, except that there are too many motorcycles. People burn incense in front of shops. I like incense; I sometimes go to Chinatown just to get them. Although the downtown of Hualien is far from the station, I walked since watching how people are living is fun. The speed of cars is not adequate for traveling. Each house has a Taoism altar at the front door. Those Taoism altar remind me of 幽幻道士 I liked to watch when I was small.
I reserved the hotel just before I left Tokyo. Then, after arriving at the downtown, I noticed that I printed a wrong map of the hotel; I could not locate the hotel. Since I knew the address, I asked some local people. But nobody could locate it. The problem was the hotel name and address was written using alphabets. “Chung-Fu Rd. Chung-Fu???” At first, I thought the reason, local people could not locate it, is they could not connect alphabets’ sound and Chinese characters’ pronunciation. So, I tried to pronounce ‘Chung-Fu’ in various accents, but failed (T.T ). Later I found out that the corresponding street name is 中福. It is different from mandarin’s pronunciation (Zhong-fu) or the local pronunciation (Jian-Fu). So where does ‘Chung-Fu’ come from? Hakka?? Anyway, I gave up and got a taxi. Taxi drivers should know any hotels in the city. But he could not locate it either. As seen in the U.S., Chinese hotel, restaurant, etc have English name that is hard to guess from the original Chinese name; only the English name was printed in my voucher. He started driving the taxi. The taxi was heading for the outside of downtown with great speed.
The direction seemed to be wrong. I was really sure that the hotel is in the downtown, so I wanted him to stop, but I do not know how to say “stop” in Mandarin (>_
I succeeded to tell him of my feeling. I love Taiwan. I love Asia. The driver called his company and I could talk with a personnel who speaks English over the phone. You should have done it before you started driving… But she could not find the hotel either since the address should not be pronounced as “Chung-Fu” (T_T) I don’t know the correct pronunciation. Then, next, another personnel who speaks Japanese(!) was on the line. Amazing, your company has a person who speaks even Japanese…. But, I know English. It is not a matter of languages.
“Do you know the hotel’s phone number? I can call the hotel to locate the address.”
Ah, You were so smart.
“OK, I ask the driver directly.” I can say that in Mandarin.
“Da dian hua.”
His eye gleamed.
After he hung up the phone, he made a thumbs-up. He looked like the guy playing guitar in 海角七號. The hotel was at the corner where I got the taxi.
An old man welcomed me at the hotel in a very soft attitude. Although he could not speak English, he spoke Japanese a little bit. Why you can speak Japanese?
It is interesting that his Japanese is old-fashioned. Japanese language before 1945 is preserved inside of this old man.
The wall was “painted” like fusuma.
He reserved this Japanese style room for me. This room seems to be special since as long as I checked, other rooms were not like this.
It was getting dark outside. I entered a random eating place by confirming that the menu is listed near-at-hand. I cannot pronounce Chinese characters even if I understand the meaning. So, the only way to order is to point a finger at a name of dish listed on the menu; I cannot order at eating places where the menu is on a high place. Anyways, at the restaurant, I just ordered as the shop corner suggested. He especially pushed miso soup once he knew I am Japanese.
“ミソシルは？” “ミソシルは？” “ミソシルは？”
The amount of food was so large that I thought I could not eat everything on first glance, but they were light taste and easy to eat. Food in Taiwan tastes good as I expected. I am really sure that any restaurants in Taiwan can succeed in Berkeley.
The hotel had a family atmosphere. I did not know how to use the shower in the bathroom, so I went down to the front desk. An elementary school boy, instead of the old man, was at the front desk this time. He could not speak English or Japanese. I had to explain the problem in Mandarin. In this kind of case, if I explain problems in Japanese, it sometimes works in Asia. But shower is shower even in Japanese >_<. I did not know how to tell the problem in Mandarin, but I cannot go to bed without having a shower. After a long interval of silence while smiling each other ^^, only I could say was “qing ni gen wo lai”. Ah, he’s coming. He directly headed for my room and showed me how to do it. Ah you know that strange Japanese was occupying the Japanese-style room. He was firm. When I said xiexie, he got shy and run out of my room. 超Kawaii ^^ He will be a nice guy.
Next morning, when I went down to the front desk, the old man was sleeping in the bed behind the front desk, saying “鍵置いておいて”. “OK, xiexie”. “タイトウに行くか？” “うん、ありがとう”. He started dreaming again.
Dogs are free to walk in this city. Heading for the Hualien station, I was chased by one small dog (Tom) maybe because I kicked dog dirt (<-accident). If I tried to change the side of sidewalk, Tom came with me. When I was in 7-Eleven, Tom was waiting outside.
Umm, apparently, he comes with me.
I don’t like dogs so much.
As I walked some blocks, another dog (Cathy) joined. Ah, increased… I said I don’t like dogs. At first, I thought they were just playing. But later, I found out Cathy was trying to stop Tom.
As we walked another several blocks together, another three dogs were approaching to us. It seemed that Tom and Cathy invaded other dogs’ territory. The fight was started there; finally, I could go alone while hearing the dog’s cry backward. I am sorry for damaging the dog society in Taiwan.
Few buildings were around Taitung station as I had heard from the woman I met on the train from Taipei to Hualien. She told me that the old station in Taitung downtown was abolished recently, so the downtown is now far from the station. If I have a chance to come to this city ten years later, the scenery around the new Taitung station will be very different from now.
The taxi driver had an exotic face and handsome. Once he knew that I am Japanese, he played Japanese song from the list of his favorite music. The title was ‘Powder Snow’. Listening to the song with the theme of winter while surrounded by palm trees; this kind of things often happen if I visit South East Asian countries ^^
台東 is spelled as Taitung using alphabets, but people pronounced it as Taidong in mandarin manner if I’m correct. And, People in this city pronounced 日本 as ‘Jitpun’ not as ‘Riben’. At first, I wondered why local people use English, saying “Japan”, “Japan”, “Japan….” Then, after a moment, I remember that, in Taiwanese language (台語), the pronunciation should be like that.
I entered a random eating place by confirming that the menu is near-at-hand again. When I was thinking what to order, the shop master’s telephone rang.
“Wei? moshi-moshi?? …. ”
After he hung up the phone. I asked.
“ni shuo ri yu ma?”
“..ni shuo moshi-moshi….”
I heard wrong? Anyways, the food was again very good.
Although He had been unamiable while I was eating, after I paid him, he smiled and bowed his head, saying “謝謝你好.” You act so differently ^^; Ah, there are people who bow even in Taiwan. I thought only Korean and Japanese bow his/her head. The girl at a tea shop also bowed. As I told her that I am Japanese, she welcomed me with applause ^^ どうもありがとうございます！
That night was windy, so I was watching TV after strolling the city for a while. It was interesting there were various programs, discussing bullying in school, Taiwanese aborigines, Hakka people, the relationship with mainland China, anti-Japan movement, etc.
I had to go back to Taipei on the same day. The taxi I took to go back to Taitung station had a previous customer. Although the driver, whose mouth was pure red from biting betel nut ^^, was still serving the customer, he willingly took me to the station. I paid him NT$200 and, at the same time, he promised the previous customer that their pay becomes NT$200 less. That means, even though he could not earn any money by taking me to the station (rather, considering the time and the gas, the opportunity cost must have been more than $200), he took me to the station. I really appreciate you. The previous customer seemed to be little bit upset, though.. ^^; People in this city were amiable. Boy at hotpot restaurant told me how to eat by gesture with a happy smile once he found out that I am not Taiwanese.
If I leave Taitung at noon, I can arrive at Taipei around 7pm. Although it was just after I took a meal, I got bento at the station; I had to be on trains for several hours. The girl of the bento shop was so nice. She waved to me three times when I got the bento, when I got up from a bench, and when I passed the entrance gate. I can survive this year because of your smile ｐ(*^-^*)ｑ
It was already dark when I arrived at Taipei station. But the city was full of life than when I saw the city two days ago during day.
By the way, what are the boys pushing notebooks or key-holders with an excessive prices around station? Are they targeting foreigners who don’t know prices in Taiwan well? “How much is it?” “$300!” “バカじゃねぇの？” They said they need money for school. But apparently your bag is much more expensive than mine 怒･･･(-_-ﾒ)
You know people even like your age were working at night market. If you need money, you should work. But, at the same time, I could imagine that there are many Japanese women who buy such useless stuffs they sell; the boys looked cute.
Many people speak Japanese in Taiwan, especially, in Taipei. If I said something in English, they asked me why I don’t use Japanese. Umm, at least, I do not get used to use Japanese outside of Japan. If I am outside of Japan, English comes out more naturally than Japanese. Still, I felt a little bit awkward that I can communicate with people outside of Japan in Japanese.
At the hotel in Taipei, although I do not mind to speak English, girl at the front desk was forced to practice speaking Japanese by her boss.
“あとぉ ミネラルウォタは 冷蔵庫に あります”
Ni de riyu zhen hao a!!!