Month: May 2013

The Culture of "Did you eat? " in "The Taiwan"

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By Joshua Dent

“Hi ______! (insert English name here) How are you today?”

NOTHING will KILL a conversation in an ESL classroom in Taiwan like the words “How are you?

I can almost guarantee that you will always get the same robotic response “I’m fine, and you?”

This is quite the difference from let’s say asking a 13 year old American ‘”valley girl” the same question.

I would imagine some 7th grade teachers probably avoid this question like the plague in fear of hearing about some girl’s shopping trip for an entire period of Chemistry class.

Trade “How are you?” for “Did you eat today?”
For my approximately 211 days of residency here in “The Taiwan,” I was desperately trying to find out why nobdoy would give you an honest response to this question.

I can’t tell you how many poor innocent children I wanted to shake the shit out of just to get another response besides “I’m fine.”

I just wanted to see some sign of life. I would have even taken a “Fuck You!”

I hope that I finally struck conversation gold this past weekend. A friend of mine explained to me that around dinner or lunch time it is much better to say “Did you eat today?”

Coming from a middle-class family in America who never once had to worry about food this was quite the suprise to hear. There also seems to be no shortage of food here either.

Apparently, this dates back to thousands of years ago when food wasn’t always an assumed reward or gift for a day’s work. I was also told that this is the ultimate way of showing that you care about the person.

One more reason for a very dry and monotone answer to this question exists.Reason #2 stems from the idea of always being humble. This works for if they are having a bad day or a good day. They don’t want to ruin your moment if they are having a bad day, and they certainly don’t want to rub it in your face if times are tough for you.

So, ESL teachers and Taiwan expats, give it a try if you don’t already know this information. I know for me I found this very helpful

Taiwan Culture Shock & 4 Google Free Ways To Handle It

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I have been living and travelling in Taiwan for almost 7 months. It has been wild ride of up and down emotions that included a brutal battle with culture shock.

” I want to strangle somebody.”

“Only 312 more days, 22 hours, 15 minutes, and 27 seconds more until my contract is up.”

I found the above quotes written in my daily journal.

I am certain they should have been a pretty clear indication that something more than just the funny noise the lousy air conditioner makes at my place of employment was bothering me.

I spent the first two months taking pictures and updating my Facebook status about 3-5 times a day. I was absolutely blown away by the magic and huge differences I was discovering in my daily adventures.

Everything was NEW and EXCITING!

I am not sure why it took me to realize something was wrong.

Day 61(Roughly)
The magic and excitement of watching a pack of 75 year old Taiwanese people gamble on checkers was bound to wear off sooner or later.

Trust me when I say it happened really freaking quick!

It just seemed like overnight Taiwan lost its fun. And, my boss and my two female coworkers went from cute and innocent Taiwanese girls, to (in my head) raging bitches over night.

The job, my job performance, and my outlook on Taiwan rapidly went haywire before I could even blink an eye.

It all culminated in a crashing halt roughly 60 days later with my boss and I having a coinciding temper tantrum like two 14 year olds, and me walking away from the job by giving her a big fat “eff you!”

It took me about 3 days to recover from my hangover after “letting off steam” the night after I quit.

To say I am set in my ways is a MILD understatement to say the least. I once got reprimanded at work for “too many complaints” about me not having my shoes tied.

Can you imagine how many people must have complained to force my boss into calling me into the office and having a conversation with me as a 33 year old man about keeping my shoes tied? I still chose not to change my ways that time and went out bought a pair of lace-less dress shoes.

The point of my shoe lace rant is this. I realized pretty quickly that I finally better read up on Taiwanese culture, culture shock, and just how I went from super-passive to a rotten, and miserable angry son of a bitch without even knowing it.

I am feeling 1000 times better now about my new job, the culture, and adjusting to this new life. This is how I am handling it.

1. Read a Self-Help Book
I am not saying that you have to put on your baby blue vest sweater, and bow tie while you look in the mirror and say “I really LOVE YOU!”

You still should never doubt the power of positive thinking no matter what your “life situation” is.

I just reverted back to my childhood when I realized this sort of mental condition was really bogging me down and keeping me from living the life I want.

My father had a panic attack in approximately 1992. Now, I love him to death and don’t want to bash him by any means. The SAD reality is that after the panic attack I watched him never leave the house for at least 10 years without carrying his “bottle of sedatives.”

The doctor even told him countless occasions that they no longer had any medical effect on him. The entire world knew the problems were only in his mind, but he still would not leave the house without them.

I didn’t realize until I got into my 30’s the desire and passion within me to not let my mind “mind-fuck” me.

Self-help books can do wonders for getting you back on track and avoiding the mind-fuck.

2. Stay HUMBLE

This one is an absolute must. This is the starting point for anything I can talk about from here on out.

I had to really sit down and think about it for a moment. I came to this outrageously different and foreign land with nothing more than 2g’s in my pocket, and a hope from some sort of paper or contract I signed with funny characters (Chinese letters) that somebody would pick me up at the airport and I would have a job two weeks later.

It is enough to make the average man cry just thinking about it.

That is how I realized I just needed to become extremely more humble about everything I was doing.

3. Forget About the Past

You read any spiritual guru’s work and they will let possibly let you know hundreds of times in a 200 page body of work that the past is just an illusion.

Why does it take that many times to sink in? Many of us have this unconscious draw to what happened in our past. You probably feel like it defines who you are as a person, right?

I know most of us will not believe that the past is an illusion and I am not trying to change your mind.

However, I realized that everything I did in Taiwan I was comparing to when I lived in Spain as an English teacher in 2004.

What good was that doing me? ABSOLUTELY ZERO!!

To dwell on the past, is the surest method possible for continued failure.

4. Forgive and Forget

. This is a skill that can only come from being humble.

It is also extremely critical that you take some time even daily if necessary to forgive yourself.

I knew after spending several months in COMPLETE misery that this would not be an easy task. However, I have no choice but to find ways to go back and forgive myself for everything to keep it from further resonating and polluting my mind with nothing but toxins.

5. Learn As Much As Possible About the Culture

I only knew when I came here that they all drive scooters down really cool-looking alleys and they liked to learn “The English.”

Being 35 years old , with an MBA, (bilingual in Spanish) and working for a “call center” that was about all the information I needed to get the hell out of dodge and try somethihng new.

Well, guess what? If you go into a completely different culture without learning the unwritten laws of the land, you are going to be one sorry soldier once that Taiwan Honeymoon period ends.

It is actually even a bit more shocking once you start learning more about the culture. There are some things that will piss you off beyond belief.

” A white complexion is powerful enough to hide seven faults.” This is just one saying I learned that pissed me off.

But, reverting back to the guess what, this isn’t my land. I just need to be aware of it.

Big nose means great career and money is another belief of some Taiwanese people. Much of their society has to do with status, beauty, and people’s perceived perceptions.

I grew up listening to the Grateful Dead and with a solid foundation in treating everyone as equal no matter what they look like, or the color of their skin.

I am still horrified by the vision of watching this 13 year old Somalian kid, Mohammed Mohammed being chased by 20 “cool kids” just because he was black 22 years after it happened.

You can imagine the disgust I felt when I started to learn this stuff. Again, it is just something I have to accept as belief systems out there.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t millions of Taiwanese people here that care about nothing besides the goodness of the soul of the person. The point is to just be more aware of my surroundings.

Are you currently in a situation completely new to you? It doesn’t matter if your Indian mother-n-law moved in with you, the recipe should always be the same.

You must stay humble, learn, and grow. Belief systems are just that, a system. Mine is no better than yours. It is just different. The more I can learn to accept them, it will only benefit me in the long run as a person.

Taiwan on Two Wheels

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By Devon Banks


Imagine New York City during rush hour during the peak of summer. The air is heavy and humid and you are covered in a film of gritty sweat.

Thankfully, you’ve got air-conditioning. The cars, like cattle, race quickly to try and beat the red lights. Bike messengers swerve in and out of traffic. Pedestrians, frustrated from the heat and hot sun, try to cross whenever they can.

The noise from the construction beats through the windows and the glaring sun shines in your eyes. This is a nightmare commute.

Driving in NYC rush hour isn’t even close to the nightmare I face daily. Trust me. I drive in one of Taiwan’s largest cities, Tainan, every day. The driving here is what nightmares are made of.

Picture this: change every NYC car into a scooter, a two wheeled motorized vehicle that is capable of speeds up to 80km/h where the driver sits down on a comfy seat and controls brakes and acceleration with their hands.

Continue to envision some scooters are brand new, complete with digital displays, bright colors and rhinestone accents. If that isn’t flashy enough for you some, even have purple lights accenting their sleek curves and screaming engine.

The less fortunate, including myself, drive ones held together with cable ties and duct tape puffing along surrounded by a black cloud of exhaust. Similar to Frankenstein, they are assembled from corpse pieces of scooters well past their days of glory. We are lucky to have rear view mirrors and working speedometers, even luckier to be able to go above 35km/h.

The same goes for bicycles. Some are brand new fixed gears while others were made before the dawn of modern time. The entire bicycle is covered in rust, including the seat. Usually, they are ridden precariously by an ancient Taiwanese man or woman who looks like they could topple over at any minute as they weave in and out of traffic and across busy roads carrying their grandchildren in little wooden backseats.

Exchange those clearly marked streets and sidewalks of NYC with vegetable markets sprawled onto the road, stinky tofu stalls blocking crosswalks, and sidewalks so uneven that if you take your eyes off it for even a second, you risk the chance of eating concrete for lunch (which is probably better than the stinky tofu anyway!).

Oh, and you know traffic lights and stop signs…

Those are called suggestions and “pretty red signs with letters”.

Since most people drive scooters, they have to adapt those scooters to carry whatever it is they need to carry. And people here carry everything from sacs of groceries to live chickens, to ladders, to full queen size mattresses.

For some people, that means placing small wooden chairs on the ground to put their babies (in addition to the other two or three kids already sharing the seat), metal racks on the back to strap on 3 or 4 propane tanks with bungee cords or attaching giant plastic bags over all possible surfaces to carry recycling around the city. Not only do I have to maneuver around these giant scooters, I have to pray their goods don’t fall on me as I try to pass.

Yesterday, I saw a Typical Taiwanese guy in his thirties driving a Frankenstein scooter down Dongning Rd, one of the busier roads in Tainan. His lips and teeth stained red with beetle nut, his shaved head covered by a $3 plastic helmet, his feet covered by the $1 plastic sandals and his scooter laden down with a heavy load.

What was this tough guy carrying? An old milk crate strapped to the front of an old scooter filled with four of the cutest, small dash hounds!

Let’s not forget my personal favorite. My friends and I call them the foot draggers. These are the old ladies who drive at a turtle’s pace, their speedometers never hitting greater than 15km/h. with their feet dragging along the side. Their fresh fruit just purchased from the market purchases, hangs out of the basket.

They also never wear a helmet, as it would ruin their salon styled roller set. These ladies are stylish. There is no way they are going to allow a helmet to flatten their sexy grey curls.

I’m sure at this point you would choose NYC rush hour over Tainan traffic any day. But you wait, there is still more to this Taiwan experience.

Are you wondering where can you drive a scooter in Taiwan? Everywhere! Parks, bike paths, alleys, right side, left side, grass, alleys, one-ways and of course the road. And remember how red lights are a suggestion?

Well, it a suggestion that is rarely followed, especially by those old ladies and propane cylinder lugging mad men. That’s right, men carrying two or three flammable, explosive propane cylinders are the most likely to run red lights.

My city, Tainan, has one stop sign, let’s just say, I’ve been here seven years and I’ve never seen it, it must be a legend.

I forgot to tell you about the cars. The scooters make up about 60 percent of the traffic in this chaotic urban jungle. There are still lots of cars. Some drive fast, some slow. Some drive on the left, some on the right. Some turn right from the far left lane and it’s a guarantee that they will race to turn left on green before the oncoming cars get going.

A three point turn in Taiwan becomes a thirty point turn. Would you like to do a U-turn? Anywhere you like is acceptable.

How about change lanes? Just cut someone off. It’s ok, they’re expecting it. Did I mention the busses?

Why even bother, they act just like the cars. Just really big, scary, smoky cars.

The miracle of Taiwan is that nobody honks, no one gets road rage. Drivers wait patiently while someone blocks the road for ten minutes to parallel park.

Almost killed by someone cutting in front of you and slamming on their brakes? Happens every day, just laugh it off.

Get in an accident? Don’t call the insurance company. Just pony up some cash and let’s get on with your day. It’s an economic model of supply and demand that seems to work most of the time.)

So, who wants to go for a ride? I can’t guarantee your safety but I can guarantee it will get your heart racing.

A Note About The Author

Devon Banks, in the words of Robert Frost, is taking the road less traveled  She left the hospitality industry in 2006 to pursue her dream of living in Asia. She has spent more than 15 months over the last 7 years exploring new places.
She has eaten everything from crickets to stinky tofu to dog,  tried every liquor known to man, pet tigers, climbed volcanoes and swam with sharks. All this while learning Spanish, Chinese and getting her MBA. She is in the middle of writing a book about her experiences.
Would you like to know more? She is currently looking for new adventures in marketing or hospitality. Check out her LinkedIn profile at

3 Holistic Ideas to Solve The Taiwan & Phiipinnes Crisis

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I currently reside in Jongli, Taiwan. Jongli is a smaller Taipei suburb that is roughly 40 minutes south of the capital city.

I ABSOLUTELY adore both Taiwanese people, and Filipino people. I am only 6 months into experiencing both cultures.

Both cultures seem to have many different morals and ideas. I respect the hell out of both of them.

But, I think the main thing is that hey always treat you with the HIGHEST respect you could possibly even imagine.

I have had friends of no longer than 5 minutes apologize that they had nothing to offer me at that very moment. I have been completely blown away by the kindness of both of them,

I will also mention that I am 100% in the middle on the recent Taiwan Philipinnes tragedy. I am not in any way trying to prove who is right and wrong.

I am actually trying to prove what would happen if we for once in our LIFETIMES forgot about who is right and wrong. Can we put our valued egos down as world citizens and governments alike to bring peace?

Let this message serve as a general suggestion around the world.

****Disclaimer- *****- I am deliberately leaving a lot of the “media-reported” facts out. I simply don’t believe them.

#1-The Media “Is What It Is”
What is the first thing you do when crisis hits? You probably turn the TV, Internet, or your favorite media source on.

Let’s just face the fact that these reporters and writers alike are waiting for moments like this and how they can make a name for themselves. It is no secret that they will deceitfully hype up an OUNCE of drama they can get their hands on to twist and turn things into a magical story.

It personally makes me want to vomit. I suppose not all reporters are like this.

These reporters that commit these “false stories” could make a true name for themselves by bringing the 100% truth and adding their own unique perspective.

I would have much more respect for reporters in general if somebody could go out to the site of some big story that turned out to be nothing and actually have the guts to admit “It really was nothing.”

I am not condoning anyone for watching the news reports as they continue to unfold. I do however BEG and PLEAD with you to always keep in mind the purpose of the reports are to get your own blood boiling.

My goal is to even get just ONE person to stop and think that maybe we don’t know the facts before wishing harsh deeds on anyone from either side in this standoff.

#2- Forgive
Let me start out by saying that I am deeply sorry for the loss of the innocent Taiwanese civilian. I am also just as sorry for the 3 allegedly-related beatings that have happened in Taiwan since then.

I know if I had a personal tie to any person involved that the hardest thing in the world would be to actually forgive them

The Taiwan-Philipinnes crisis is no different than situations faced by many of us. For example, a friend or family member gets bullied, beat up, car accident, etc. The situation is that somebody you love and trust dearly has been “wronged.”

How many have you ever thought right away “I look forward to growing as a person and forgiving this person for the horrible injustice that was served to my friend or family? “

I am 100% certain that nobody has raised their hand yet.

I have learned that forgiveness is actually the most powerful tool we can adapt as human beings. It also happens to be one of the most difficult skills we could learn.

My hope is that one day irrelevant education like Algebra can possibly be replaced with more suitable life skills like learning to forgive. It takes way more courage to forgive and forget than beat the crap out of somebody.

I can only speak for American citizens since that is my background. But, I know that we only learn things like forgiveness from our parents. If you were fortunate enough to learn these skills from your parents, give them a hug next time you see them. You are in an elite percentile.

Most of us think how can we get back at somebody after we have been wronged. The only reason we think this way is because our parents told us to. And guess what? Why did your parents teach you that way? I could confidently bet all $4,326 of my life savings that it was because your grandparents told them to.

Can you see the never-ending circle of insanity? That is why I would still urge all sides involved that forgiveness is our only viable option.

My hope is that one day in our lifetimes we can see a country forgive a heinous act. Is it possible that others countries can think ” Well, I suppose there is no point in attacking them. They won’t even bothered by it.”

I am not certain it will happen in any of our lifetimes. But, I really think that is the only way to end the insanity of a world that is striving to always protect its ego no matter what the continent, race, ethnicity, country, skin color, religion, etc.

Lack of forgiveness essentially causes so many unnecessary problems.

#3 Be Thankful For What We Have
I am certainly not claiming to be a newsreporter in this article. I am simply trying to offer a completely alternative view of how I feel we could solve this issue and prevent further deaths, and beatings.

Taiwan and Philipinnes have been going back and force since this incident first happened. Taiwan started out by demanding an apology from the Philipinnes’ government. As recently as a few days ago, an apology was sent to the government.

But, what happened? The Taiwan government gets apology and disbelieves the lack of sincerity.

Now,if the people in power were living by the motto of always being thankful. I strongly feel that if both sides lived by this motto further injury, and the potential for even more loss of life could be avoided.

I don’t mean to only attack the Taiwan government in this issue. What if the Philipinnes sincerely looked at Taiwan’s further demands, and said “Let’s be thankful they don’t want anymore.”

What happens then? They meet the demands, and crisis is done and shut at that point.

I am certainly know things are much more complicated than this especially with “Big Brother China” looming largely in the background.

But, what if leaders took this giant step forward for humanity? Would we have the next Martin Luther King on our hands fighting to teach others forgiveness, and thankfulness?

Again, we live in a world where we are taught to never show weakness. These virtues continue to be passed down from generation to generation.

What are the side effects of these demanded virtues? They are horrendous to say the least.

I am only 35 years old. And, I would venture to say millions have died in my lifetime alone in this never-ending attempt to protect our ego’s.

We always want to show we are strong, we want more, etc. The list is endless.

It has gone for centuries now and it NEVER, EVER works. What do we really have to lose by trying a different approach?

This is a very interesting topic. I have Filipino friends, and Taiwanese friends alike. I sincerely hope anyone with relevant interest in the topic can see this as a peaceful commentary or discussion.

Now is your chance to tell me what you think. Please comment below if you would like to talk further about any of these radical ideas.

“Here’s My Number, Call Me Maybe Rage!"

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By Joshua Dent

#2 Pencils

Did you ever hear a song so many times that you felt like you were one note away from deliberately gouging out your own eyes with a bright and shiny #2 pencil?

Carly Rae’s “Here’s My Number, Call Me Maybe” had me reaching for my trusty #2 on many occasions this past winter in Jongli, Taiwan.

“The Jongli”

Never heard of Jongli, Taiwan? What’s wrong with you? I am just kidding.

There is no reason you should know “The Jongli.”

It is just a small suburb of Taiwan’s capital city Taipei. To me, it’s urban and flat, with a river that smells like the dumpster behind Mcdonald’s.

Family Fun- 99 Red Balloons Style

I really am not kidding about how bad I hate that song. I was very close to going absolutely Ape-Shit if I heard that song one more time.

NOTHING in this ENTIRE world pissed me off more this last winter than day, after day, after day, after day of hearing the WORST song in American history.

I would have to go back to the early 80’s when my brother and sister, Ryan and Kori, used to lock me in the family station wagon and blast Nena’s 99 red balloons to find a song I hated like that.  Do you forget what I am talking about? Don’t worry, I got you covered with a link.

As you probably noticed, I can’t even bare to type the full name of Carly Rae’s song because it will pop in my head. We will call it “The song” going forward.

This, REALLY is Crazy

If the stores, bars, and gym weren’t enough, it even made its way into the Taiwan elementary schools.

One Saturday morning, at roughly 11:30 a.m. on another cold and wet winter day, I was cruising on foot going north on my normal street, Yanping Road. I still try to do as much as possible on this street so I don’t get lost.

That was when I walked past “The Chungli English Village.” This is a huge elementary school that ships kids in from all over our county to study English.

It is comparable to Disney World inside from what I have been told. Each classroom has a different Walt-Disney based theme.

This Saturday morning walk was a little bit different. I noticed about 250 kids or so outside the school playground. Saturday morning school is surprisingly not too bizarre for “The Taiwan.”

The trouble came when I could hear the music playing in the background. I knew right away it was “The song.”

I angrily approached the outside of the school. I just stared in complete disgust for what seemed like the longest 30 seconds of my life. My nasty and evil suspicions were confirmed that these poor children were being forced to sing and dance to “Here’s My Number.”

I felt like I was locked up behind bars for 15 years for a crime I didn’t do as I watched these kids forced to sing and dance to this shit. I was absolutely helpless. I had no power or ability to make it stop.

Madgun 520 Birth

Let me start out by saying one thing. I am an absolutely horrific musician. I played the banjo, kazoos, and a few other random instruments on occasion for many years. I never really progressed past “Skip To the Lou My Darling” level songs.

After I watched the horrible incident of those kids singing and dancing, I felt like I had to fight back against the noise pollution of pop music. I decided it was time for me to get back into the music scene. Kazoos and Banjos are few and far between in “The Taiwan.” I chose against my neighbor’s wishes to start shopping for an instrument

I am certain my neighbor appreciated this. I went with one of the softest and most docile choices you could make as a beginning musician. I decided it was time to buy an acoustic guitar.

Shopping for a guitar in a country where you don’t know the language isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. I just so happened to get lucky that the store owner I bought it from had a friend across the street to help us translate some of my questions.

I found the beauty of a guitar I now call “Madgun 520” after only visiting a few stores.

I was fully equipped with a capo, gig bag, and tuner. It was time to go home and start practicing like a mad man.

Next time, we will go on an adventure to the Shane (Taiwanese pronunciation- Shan) school to see what happened after I got a wild hair up my ass to show off my two chords to a room full of 8 year olds.



"No, China! You Can’t Have Josh Dent and The Biggest Head in The Majors!"

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By Joshua Dent

Did you ever have this weird and sick feeling in your stomach that you might be in China before the end of the month?

I am assuming probably not, but stick with me as I explain.
It is probably hard to figure out what I am up to these days. I can’t decide myself.

No Exit Letter for You Josh Dent

My head is spinning in 7,000 different directions. My one bit of solitude is that I know I have no choice but to stay positive. That is the only way you can persevere through this kind of mess.

The plan for today was round to take on Round 3 at the Immigration Office. The difficult part about handling matters of high importance in Taiwan is the idea of “losing face.” This directly translates to people will give you the wrong information to avoid telling you that they don’t know something.

I was told last week, or doing round 2, that I would have to get some sort of “exit letter” from my previous employer to be eligible to apply for a 90 day extension on my current working visa. This would allow me to stay in the country hassle-free.

I sarcastically thought right away “This should be fun.”

The reason I anticipated a fight was that I basically walked out on the job after the boss told me she wasn’t going to pay me for a class I taught. It was also the WORST group of kids I had.

Round 3 at the Immigration Office was supposed to go as follows.

My only duty was to pick up an “exit letter” from my last employer. Then, I could take that to immigration and get a 90 day extension on my Visa while I look for another job.

Of course, it couldn’t be that easy, right?

I found out that my employer wasn’t willing to give me the exit letter at roughly 10 a.m this morning.

I will preface this with “I really miss yoga” and not letting my mind “mind-fuck” me on a regular basis.

I was in Chinese Class when this news was delivered to me by former colleague. He was quite worried to give me the information. However,, it certainly has nothing to do with his actions.

I played “Mr. Cool and Calm” on the outside. I actually responded to him with “Whatever!” That is my code for when I am actually really nervous about something but I am not willing to tell you that.

I knew right away that it was no big surprise that they were going to play as many games as possible to make this process very difficult for me.

My original instinct was that they were just messing with me. But somehow, about 15 minutes later, my mind was just flew into some sort of excessively spinning circle.

Leaving on a Jet Plane to China

I had myself convinced that I was going to be kicked out of the country by week’s end and there was no hope. At that point in the morning, I wished I would have remembered the part about staying positive.

I thought I had absolutely NO emotional tie to Taiwan. Then, I quickly realized that was not TRUE. I have had lots of great and interesting experiences in a really short period of time.

It got a little weird up Planet Josh at that point. I might as well keep going. I say it got weird for good reason. I quickly just figured I would go to China if anything happened.

It is a pretty bizarre day when you are saying to yourself . Oh Well, I will just go to China if I get kicked out of this country. When I was a slave to a desk, 401k plans, and my gym membership, that self-talk just didn’t seem possible

Taiwan Immigration Office

I rushed to the Immigration Office after Chinese class. The Immigration Office is not exactly a place where you go to feel good about yourself either.

At roughly 3p.m., Miss Shu at counter #7 pressed the button to let me know that me, or #185 (my ticket number) was ready for her attention.

I hope this gives you that same kind of DMV robotic feeling of what I was facing. I guess we could say it was like trying to get the DMV to waive a suspended registration fee from 2007. It just so happened to be this DMV was in “The Taiwan.”

Miss Shu seemed absolutely horrified when I came to the counter and I greeted her “Ni-Hao” with a “Hello.” I tried to be extra nice and smile a lot.

I started to talk. I guess I never even asked her if she spoke English. I just assumed she had this ability since it is the “Immigration Office.” I really tried hard to speak slowly and clearly as possible.

Suddenly, Miss Shu had a look of complete terror on her face. This was after I handed her my pile of notes I had written on the back of my Chinese character practice pages. I am not sure if she had flashbacks of her English teachers screaming at her for bad pronunciation, or it was my shitty-looking writing.

However, I could tell she just had absolutely no clue what was going on. I was trying not to die on the inside.

Taiwan Dwarf Frank Saves Josh

Somehow, I must have kept my cool enough for this 47 year old near dwarf-sized Taiwanese guy named Frank sitting next to me to feel like I was somewhat approachable in my hour of need. Frank was over to my left at counter #6. He seemed like a bit of a regular there. I am not sure that is a good thing. But, he turned to be very useful for me.

The fastest 2 minutes of my life rushed by. I couldn’t for a million dollars tell you what Frank and I talked about. But, I suddenly pulled out this innate ability to have a fluent sounding conversation in Chinese with tiny Frank.

It reminded me when two of my childhood TV heroes, Kevin Arnold from the Wonder Years, and Bart Simpson suddenly learned French when thrown into a sink or swim environment.

Suddenly, counter #7 refilled with a wave of calmness. I think the lady knew that I could actually speak a little bit of Chinese took all of her fear of me and my big head away.

We communicated back and forth in shitty English, and broken Chinese, and got the extension I needed.

This was probably the most beneficial blog update for me personally. I could actually hear some of your voices in my head throughout saying “Josh!!”

No going to China after all.

Little Frank, you saved my ass man!

I am too STILL too cute for China!

Best Taiwan Embarrasing Story

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By Joshua Dent

It was a fairly typical weather day for March here in “The Jongli.” The sky was a bit overcast which is also normal.

The early a.m. temps were hovering around 15-16 degrees Celsius. For those of you not familiar with Celsius, that means for me at least that shorts and a sweatshirt would be comfortable.

I was really excited about today however. I was headed to “Monkey Mountain” in Kaoushing. I have been hiking hundreds of times back home in Arizona. But, the reason I was so excited was that you can actually see monkeys right next to you on this trail.

My opinion is that part of being male is that ,around the time of your 13th birthday, it is only natural that you will start to adore monkeys for the rest of your adult life.

For me, it isn’t even the monkey’s ablity to swing from tree to tree while eating banannas all day. It is actually even more simple than that.

I will always smile from ear to ear if I see them put their hands under their armpits, and make those fantastic monkey noises.

I think this strong emotional tie I have to the traditional monkey stance was further cemented by my father many years back.

My Dad goes about 5’7 and to say he gets stressed out easily is a major understatement. However, he often has an inept ability to pull of some comedic brilliance without trying.

We were “celebrating” my brother’s wedding for the week in San Diego when we decided to go to the zoo the day before the wedding. The Dent’s are no different than any other family. After one week of group travel, we can be at each other’s throats a bit.

But, “Larue”, which is his middle name, pulled out a brilliant trick that afternoon. While the entire family was walking through the San Diego Zoo pretty irritated with each other at this point, he calmly walked up to the gorilla cage. He didn’t say a word to any of us as he did this

That was when he started making the monkey noises and parading side to side while chanting at the gorilla “You can’t get me!”

It was one of the funniest things I ever saw. This 57 year old man, who also happened to be my father, parading back and forth chanting a a gorrila. I feel like I will still be laughing at that years from now.

Back to “The Taiwan,” I was feeling pretty stoked about heading down to “Monkey Mountain” for the day.

One of the most amazing parts about coming 15,000 miles away from home is that all of those your nasty and old habits that you hoped you were fleeing from, they seem to all pop up ONE by ONE.

Some of them are good memories like the monkeys. But, others are not so hot, like “Online Dating,” especially for long distance.

I was taking a 3.5 hour train ride to meet a complete stranger who I had only exchanged a half-dozen emails or so with and spend the afternoon hiking in the wilderness with. For some, that might seem like extremely bizarre bevhavior. It really didn’t even phase me to be honest.

I had been doing online dating off and since I was back in my early 20’s. It even ranged back to the days of dial-up AOL chat rooms. That was when you were lucky to get a picture before you even saw the girl. That is because it would take 25 minutes for the picture to load on your screen.

But, Taiwan’s dating culture is extremely different so far for me. It is a pretty safe gurantee that most girls here will pretty much do anything to be friends with a Westerner.

It is different from American standards since “friends” actually means friends and no other shenanigans. I expected Becky to be like most of the girls I met here so far. I was pretty certain that she would treat me like a king for the day. And, I could decide from there if I want to pursue futher friendship with her.

When I got to the train station, she was just as I anticipated. She was actually very tall for a Taiwan female. She was maybe even the same height as me if not taller. She was also VERY attractive.

Like I said, I knew going into the day that it couldn’t really go “that bad.” We had abut an hour long car drive to get acquainted. I was kind of disappointed to be honest that she didn’t have a scooter like the rest of Taiwan.

Her English was really really good. She actually spent two years studing at NYC University. So, it actually saved me from having to struggle through my awkward Chinese. I was also feeling quite comfortable with just being able to get to know somebody in the local culture while speaking English.

We took a few quick pictures with the Budha statue at the beginning of the trail and headed up to see the monkeys.

That was when I started to get excited. I knew that within a few minutes I would be side by side with monkeys. The trail itself is more like a steep set of sidewalks. It is far from the hiking I am used to in some Arizona’s most rugged terrains.

It was still really nice after being here for 5 months to actually get out and enjoy the wilderness a bit. I am still scared to drive a scooter. So, that unfortunately leaves my weekends a little bit more limited.

But like I said, your same patterns come back with you no matter how far you run away from home. It was no different this afternoon. This isn’t a bad thing either.

The fresh air, and a little bit of solitude away from the constant steady stream of traffic noises that I ALWAYS hear in “The Jongli” gave me some time to get into “I Can Conquer The World” mode. I can’t tell you how many business plans have been thought about on the tops of mountains. But, I normally let doubt creep in by the time I get back to my car.

From the date perspective, it was fine. I am not the most outgoing person on a first date anway. And, she also seemed a bit nervous about speaking English with me. I just had that general feeling of it would be a great afternoon but not much more than that.

We got not more than 100 yards into the hike. That was when we were greeted by our first group of monkeys. They were rather tiny monkeys.

It still seemed really cool to be standing 50 yards away from a bunch of monkeys. You get that same chance at the zoo. But, without any zookeepers or gates in sight, it just made it seem that much more awesome. It is just a completely unique experience .

For my standards, it was a very short hike. We did get a constant stream of monkeys to observe.

That was when Becky and I decided to go have lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in the neighboring city Tainan.

I had no idea the embarassment I was going to create for the both of us when she suggested this idea. So, I went with a “Sure” when asked if that was a good idea.

That was when we walked into a very tiny Vietnamese restaurant. It probably only had a maximum seating capacity of 15-20 people.

That is no problem to me. Those are normally the restaurants with the best tasting food.

So, we sat down in the closely grouped seating arrangement pretty much side by side with this older couple that was sitting at the table next to us. The seats were tiny bar stools that were very low to the floor like in the movies.

Without having a clue of how to read the menu, I told her she could go ahead and order for me. She tried to explain to me what she ordered. But, I really didn’t know what to expect.

Moments later, trouble was on the horizon for both of us. The waitress brought two gigantic bowls of soup to our table. They were filled with some sort of giant fish stick looking items in the soup.

I took the cue from her as to how to eat. I realized that she was pulling the fish out of the soup with chopsticks.

That was when I went into panic mode. I had recently started to progress pretty rapidly on my chopstick ablities. But, I would still say I probably only went from about a 5 year old to an 8 year old in ability wise.

I believe I even started to sweat a little bit from my brow. She actually looked right up at my big ass dome at one point and said, “Are you OK?’

I immediately blamed it on the food being “SO Spicy!” That was a God Damn Lie. I knew chopsticks were in my future.

I really wanted to show her that I could use the chopsticks. She told me 3 times before I started to eat that it was ok to use a spoon.

I kept smiling and saying “Yeah” in my stoner voice like I always do. I couldn’t give up. I wanted to show off my skills. These giant fish sticks were pretty tricky to eat with chopsticks.

To me, they seemed awefully slippery. I made a couple of minor drops as I tried to pick them up a few times. But, I finally figured it out. I thought I was on cruise control from here on out.

That was when I got too cocky for my own good. I don’t even remember how it happened. But, I picked up this thing I keep calling a piece of fish. It wiggled its way right out of the chopsticks just before it got to my mouth.

The debauchery was ready to begin at that point. The fishdropped right into the biggest bowl of soup I had seen since I was in Taiwan.

It was still filled to the brim with sauce. It somehow dropped in the soup, and completely splashed the 55 year old lady sitting next to me.

I just thought to myself “Oh Shit!” I really didn’t know what to do. In Taiwan, they pride themselves on not getting angry in public. So, I again followed the cue of my friend sitting across the table from me.

I am certain she saw it happen, and she knew why the lady had to suddenly get up and “use the restroom” It was because her jacket was covered in soup sauce.

But, she just looked at me with her big brown eyes, and said “It’s ok.”

I just thought to myself it is really good sometimes to be a Westerner in Asia. In America, I probably would have had to kiss that ladies ass for hours.

Dating is not perfect in Taiwan by any means. I actually find it even more confusing than dating American girls. My general conclusion is that they do actually believe in love still . And, these girls will do anything to fall in love with an American.

But, after I ruined the poor old lady’s jacket, and embarrassed the hell out of both of us, it was time to head back to the train station for my Jongli departure.

One of the weirdest things about dating here so far is that the first date will NEVER end with a hug. I have been on so many dates before in America where I absolutely couldn’t stand the girl I was with. The date always ened with a hug, and “I’ll give you a call sometime.”

I learned quickly that they don’t like that at all. Becky dropped me off at the train station. I didn’t realize it until later that she probably looked my way wanting the hug. I think I had been scarred by actually being “denied a hug” on the 2 other dates I had been on that I just assumed I would say BYE, and that was it.

However, today was a little different. I actually got a scratch on the back, and a “You Take Good Care.”

I was back to the Jongli. I just had this weird feeling when I left that if I ever do move down to Tainan that I would go for her. But, it just seemed impossible to manage a relationship on the island four hours apart.

We shall see if we meet again.