By Joshua Dent
It was an above average winter day here temperature wise in “The Jongli.” The sun was actually out for most of the day which can be a real delight in the winter time here due to the heavy amounts of constant rain and drizzle we normally receive.
I left work from “The Shane School” at my normal 9pm departure time.
I have bitched about this many times now. But, the diet just feels so scarce in protein and other vital nutrients in Taiwan. I have no scientific evidence. I am just going off how my body feels.
I think this is because everything is just RICE, RICE, RICE, and more RICE. I actually feel like my Dad use to feel when we had Chicken Croquettes for dinner growing up as a kid.
Chicken Croquettes were the frozen balls of must have been imitation chicken. My mom used to throw them in the microwave when she didn’t feel like cooking for 5 people after a long shitty day at work.
The Chicken Croquettes used to cause a 12 hour delayed gagging reflex for poor Pops, as we used to call him.
My brother and I could always hear him from our shared bedroom on the second floor of our house on Filetown road, gagging along the side of the house the next morning at 5 a.m. sharp.
It was like clockwork. When I woke up, my brother Ryan would just say “Oh shut up, it is nothing, Pops is just gagging Chicken Croquettes again.”
But, I can feel you Pops. When I see rice now, I am starting to become on the verge of gagging. This is quite the problem since rice is everywhere here.
MItch Hedberg has a classic line about rice also “Rice is good , if you are hungry, and you want 2 million of somehting.”
Tonight, I realized that I hadn’t eaten peanut butter in a long-ass time. To those of you that know me well, this would be quite the astonishing news. I even used to put Peanut Butter on spaghetti.
That was when I decided to make the 2 mile walk after work to the large shopping center, Carrefour. I left the school thinking it would just be a typical walk to the store and back. Boy, was I in for a big surprise!!!
I got my peanutbutter, bread, banannas, and a few other items I needed. I was so hungry due to the typical day’s meals including mostly just huge heapings of rice. I actually decided to dive into my stash of peanutbutter on the way home.
No spoon, no napkin, no problem. I am kind of a wild savage anyway. It was almost like I could pretend to go camping.
There is a bridge on top of the one river here in Jongli. There is absolutely nothing spectacular or breathtaking about this river. The river looks quite gross and over-polluted to be honest.
But, that wasn’t stopping me from sitting under the bridge to eat my peanut butter and bannana sandwich. I just remember thinking about how delicious it was. It was so satisfying just to know that I actually wasn’t going to be hungry in an hour after eating this thing.
I am not going to lie though. Sitting under a bridge in front of a polluted river eating a sandwiich solo on a Thursday night will fuck with you a bit. I started to think that maybe the single life isn’t going to keep me sustainable for that much longer. I started to wonder if I had all the solo adventures one could have in a lifetime.
But, those deep and inspiring questions didn’t last very long. At 10:30 p.m., under the Jongli bridge, I suddenly was struck by such an overwhelming fear. I am not even sure I knew what it was at first. My body became so tense. It also felt like my mind was going at warp speed. It was going so fast that I couldn’t make out of any its instructions.
I got right up with half my sandwich in hand. I started marching right back to the Carrefour before I could even think.
I always carry a blue and black $5 WalMart book bag with me . I keep my journal in there, some markers for work, and normally it is filled with tons of beer can receipts from 7-11.
Again before thinking, I just started dumping out the contents of my entire bag right on the corner of Yanping Road. In the 2-3 minutes it took me to dump out the bag, and frantically scower through it, I would say about 15 Taiwanes people walked by with their own confused looks.
I knew Josh had fucked up.
That was when I realized I did not know where the keys were to my apartment.
My Chinese is still minimal at this point, and I don’t know many people here.
Emergencies like that will scare the living shit out of you. I am in this crazy place I call “The Taiwan” and I can barely communicate any needs to anyone.
I was thinking , Oh My God, I am going to have only two options. Sleep on a park bench, or find a bar to drink until the sun comes up if I don’t find them.
So, I frantifally retraced my steps through the Carrefour. Carrefour is about 10x the size of your average Super Wal-Mart in the US. These places are humongous shopping malls.
I probably spent a good 30-45 minutes nervously walking back and forth in between every aisle hoping that I somehow dropped them there. I went back to the belt rack where I bought my belt as well. I was looking on top, bottom, behind, of every rack I thought might have crossed my path.
I headed downstairs and searched every sqaure inch of the bread, peanutbutter, and bananna aisles. I am suprised I didn’t start opening up loaves of bread to look in there.
That was when I decided I would finally ask for help from security.Of course, the guy spoke abosulutely no English and wasn’t much interested in finding somebody who could speak some English.
That left the two of us in an awkward battle of charades as I tried to mime out that I had lost my keys at the store. I think I emptied my pockets, and made a fisted turning motion with my right hand, and just kept saying over and over again until he got it “NO KEYS” . Then I would point towards the ground ,and put my hands in the air and say “MAYBE, HERE?”
The security man looked at me in my hour of despair with an absolutely blank look on his face. He didn’t give two shits that this American lost his keys.
I am not sure if he just got on the radio to appease me. But, he seemed to act like he was sending somebody to see if the keys were turned in anywhere.
It was no such luck for me on this particular Thursday evening. There was not much I could do at that point. With no spare keys ever made, I knew I was pretty much fucked.
I walked outside the Carrefour at 11:30 at night feeling absolutely defeated. How could I have put myself in this bad of a predicament?
I knew at that point that I had to have left them at work. My boss and I pretty much hated each other. I was so just pissed off at myself, and disgusted with the whole situation that I personally couldn’t have brought myself to call her at 11:30 at night.
It would have been like taking help from the devil after you are already defeated. So, I decided to suck it up and make the decision to wait and go back to the school to check if they were there until the morning.
That was when it was time to make decision 2 for the night. I had to choose between finding a bar to drink at until the morning, or just going to get a hotel. I remembered I at least had some money with me and sleeping on the park bench wasn’t going to be a neccesity.
I figured in that pissed off state of mind I would probably do some serious liver damage if I went to the bar. So, for one of the few times in my life, I made a somewhat sane decision.
My first night in Taiwan, they put me up in a fairly upscale “sex motel” that would only cost about $30US dollars for a one night stand.
So, I staggered into the sex motel feeling just disgusted and deflated after the hour long search for my keys returned unsuccessful.
They tried to charge me double the normal price due to a special weekend. I told them they were crazy, and they wheeled me back in with a price closer to US $30.
The room was dark and dreary as can be. Of course, the night stand was filled with condoms, and q-tips. I am not sure how condoms and Q-tips go together. But, whatever!
The Shane School opened up at 11:00 the next day. I waited until then to go back.
I wasn’t even wound up at this point. I just knew I would have to face whatever consequences if the keys were not there. So, I strolled into school still wearing the same clothes I wore the previous night to work.
I didn’t say much to my boss even though it looked like I was coming to work 5.5 hours early today. I walked to my desk. And there those precious little basturds were. They were sitting right on top of my desk. Right, where I left them!!
I was pretty much emotionless at that point. I think I drained my entire supply of anger, stress, worry, and frustration the night before turning Carrefour upsided down looking for my keys.
I didn’t even say anything to my boss. I just could not let her get the sense of satisfaction of knowing I fucked something up. So, I just grabbed them and said “See You Tonight!”
Not a word was ever said about this between the two of us.
“Zai Jian or Bye-Bye”