Exotic New Facts About 台中市

[The following is a brief, loose imitation of a passage in Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. That passage describes what you might learn if you’re ever at Enfield MA’s fictional “substance-recovery facility,” Ennet House for a while. The sentences in bold are his.]

If, due to work purposes or the circumstance of desperation, you ever chance to spend a little time around a densely populated Southeast Asian city like Taichung, Taiwan, you will acquire many exotic new facts. You will find that South Africans often lie on their résumés about their qualifications, and tend to get away with it. That the ominous language barrier is usually solved first with broken English, then with subsequent use of a smartphone app (i.e. Google Translate and/or Pleco[1]), then with various forms of miming, and finally (as a last ditch effort) a bilingual third party. That the stereotype about Asians and driving is not only true, but is often a matter of life/death; a reality which generally supersedes one’s political correct impulses regardless of how high a given person scores on the PC-scale. That construction projects can happen very quickly when the mayor is up for re-election[2]. That Chinese is, believe it or not, really really hard, and that learning English as a Chinese speaker is likewise hard. Also, that trying to learn a language the same way you learn math(s) is going to either mean that a) your math(s) will end up superb and your English only mediocre, or that b)your English will be excellent and your maths won’t, like, be, at all. That the boundaries between American English and British English can fall apart very quickly[3]. That the standards of beauty here are very different from standards of beauty in the West, and that women often make fun of foreign men for dating ugly local women[4]. That some parts of the world don’t really know what’s happening in the world outside of their own country better than Americans do, even if they’re as, if not more, educated. That the sidewalk is a place for scooters and the street is a place for walking; which people don’t really do anyway. That if you walk out of the shower with wet feet, the coal in the air will leave a dark spot on the floor when the water dries[5]. That people always seem to be getting sick, but it’s ok because it only costs 100元/3.16USD to go to the doctor and get 3 days worth of medicine[6]. That chicken heart tastes significantly better than you think it does, while chicken butt tastes only marginally better than your prejudices dictate. That no matter where you are, you are within walking distance of a 7Eleven[7]. That the tiny red peppers are quite painful, but the big red peppers are ok. That old people are sometimes cooler than young people. That a man telling another man that he is beautiful is sometimes considered a compliment and not necessarily weird and/or gay [Edit: yes it is]. That your body language can change according to who you spend time with. That you can’t see the horizon except for the day after a typhoon[8]. That dryers are superfluous. That drinking beer before engaging in cardiovascular exercise is not always frowned upon, though usually inadvisable. That there’s an alleviating serenity in being surrounded by people who are relatively docile. That being a mosquito-hunter can be a lucrative endeavor if you are good at it. That Islam can actually be a religion of peace[9]. That the green supermarket doesn’t sell lunch meat, but the blue one does. That lots of people have no idea what the words on their clothing mean, and might prefer not to wear them if they knew[10]. That once you go from having a little money to having a lot, it’s nearly impossible to give up money for the sake of freedom. That the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law can be a challenge when they live in the same household. That education and wisdom are separate psychological processes. That people who are smart but not too smart are the most fun to be around. That the most well traveled people have the most complicated opinions about other cultures. That the most charming guys carry false beliefs about what it is about themselves that girls actually like. That taking the bus is free within a certain boundary. That people’s idealized living spaces are pretty much always out in the country with a big lawn and trees, quiet, and with a swimming pool, but that they actually would probably still live in the city even if they had enough money to fund their dream home. That there’s a conspicuous correlation between taking games seriously and taking life seriously. That people who don’t stop talking about themselves sometimes have the most interesting experiences to talk about. That high-fives are a valuable currency which must be kept well-accounted for. That ‘Westernization’ doesn’t make anything more quintessentially Western at all, but simply more convenient at the expense of local culture. That no matter what, people always look for ways to engage in ritual, with results that often appear comical from the outside. That when you live on an island, it is disadvantageous to be afraid of boats. That adults enjoy playing games just as much as children do. That the games adolescents enjoy most involve elements of victimization and humiliation, if only on a microscopic level. That it’s unwise to poke fun at somebody you don’t know very well, and that it’s even more unwise to worry obsessively over whether you’ve hurt their feelings. That it’s easy to distract someone who has a lot of knowledge, because they’ll rarely pass up an opportunity to tell you things they know. “That cockroaches can, up to a certain point, be lived with.” “That most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking.” “That loneliness is not a function of solitude.”

[1] An offline Chinese dictionary that enables the user to look up words, create flashcards, and scan characters. [2] Former mayor Jason Hu (KMT) sped up the city’s planned construction of a new MRT on Wenxin Rd. to the point that it was visibly closer to completion every day. This, even coupled with the announcement that Martin Scorsese would be filming a new movie in Taichung, did not prevent him from being ousted by his DPP opponent, Lin Chia Lung, who took office on A.D. Christmas Day 2014. [3] Is it a package or a parcel? Mail or post? Is the ‘t’ in “fish fillet” silent or not? Does one wear pants or trousers? Do “you have” it or “have you got” it? I dunno, cheers mate. [4] Mark Zuckerburg, for example. [5] Taichung is neighbor to one of the most-polluting coal plants in the world. [6] “Oh you have a cough? Here’s a prescription for steroids.” [7] There are over five thousand 7Eleven’s on the island. The R.O.C. is not, so to speak, on Thailand’s level however, which has thousands more. [8] See Note 5 [9] There’s a mosque on Dadun Rd, across from Zhengxin Park, the reconstruction of which was completed in A.D. 1994 after the Chinese Muslim Association received funds from Saudi Arabia. There’s nothing remotely violent about the practitioners at said mosque, beyond kicking dogs every once in a great while, allegedly, because they simply don’t like dogs, allegedly. [10] Phrases like “Little Miss Trouble” and/or brands like Playboy end up on more shirts than is probably necessary.


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