Sunday, July 31, 2005

Time for a bitch session

I don't want my friends to think I've morphed into someone completely different, so I guess it's time to air some of my gripes about Taiwan life. Nothing is major, nothing makes me hate it here or hate the people, but I do tend to get annoyed a lot. It's still better than driving in the US! And since I'm not alone in my observations, I thought I'd share.

Taiwan people have this weird way of walking. It seems to be completely impossible for them to walk in a straight line. And they apparently have zero peripheral vision, because they are constantly veering into me when I'm walking alongside them. My Japanese friend, Kieko, relates the same experiences. We laugh about it a lot as we're walking together, trying to avoid the people who are so intent on crashing into us. And they will come out of a store without bothering to check the sidewalk for other people (and there are always other people), but will just walk right in front of me (I'm usually charging along pretty rapidly) and proceed to mosey along at a snail's pace.

Their speed of walking is the other thing that bugs me. I can't walk that slowly if I try. I just can't. My normal pace leaves most of them in the dust, and if I'm trying to exercise and walking at my three-mile-per-hour stride, it's like I'm running compared to them. This is probably my biggest frustration here, trying to get somewhere fast and being unable to because I'm in a traffic jam of slow people. I'm pretty good at weaving, but there are parts of town that are so clogged at lunch time that I just have to grit my teeth and slow down a bit. I'm hoping that in time I'll be adopting more of this lazy, I-don't-have-to-be-anywhere-soon way of walking.

Apparently Taiwan people drive much the same way that they walk, because I hear the guys who ride scooters to school complaining about the way the cars just veer from one lane to the next without looking. I guess my friend drives like that, too, but it's not so noticeable inside the car, and she's a darned good driver (anyone who can navigate their way through Gaoxiong traffic deserves a medal, in my opinion). I still can't figure out why it can take 8 hours to drive to Gaoxiong on a weekend, when it's only the same distance as from Chico to San Francisco, a drive I could make in 3 hours, no sweat. Granted, the roads here aren't quite as wide as California highways, but 8 hours??!! Sheesh.

My final gripe of the day is reserved for the people at the convenience stores who don't seem to understand the concept of a line and the person who got there first being served first. It's kind of funny that this very polite society can be so pushy and rude at a 7-11! It just doesn't fit with the rest of the place. You gotta be quick here to get your items rung up, because if you hesitate for an instant, looking for your wallet, someone will barge in front and get their stuff paid for before you have a chance to say, "Hey! I was here first!" And heaven help you if you aren't fast enough to get out of the way after you paid for your things, because whoever is behind you will push. That seems to work at the other stores, too.

So, why are these people who are in such a hurry at the stores unable to walk a little faster to get to their destinations outside the stores? It's a mystery.

None of the above makes me love Taiwan people any less. I prefer their company to that of any other place on earth and will gladly put up with these minor annoyances to live here. At least here I don't read the headlines every day to see that a child was murdered, a family was killed by the father because the wife wanted to leave, police officers were shot at while on a simple domestic disturbance call, etc. Yes, we have crime, but not on the same scale as the US. It was a complete shocker last week that a teenager was kidnapped and killed because the kidnappers grabbed the wrong kid. That's an infrequent occurrence here, not a daily one. And when they catch the perps, it's likely they'll be executed, not stuck in a posh jail for a few years.

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