Tag Archives: Taiwan

There’s Only This

Three essays about living in the moment.

周六在政治大學上合氣道,有做名為後兩手取腕㧕的技法。此技法是對手從後方抓手脖時將他帶到前方、通過一肢手向下壓制 。再練習當中,先輩問我:
「你有沒有感覺上你在推我?」
「有」
「你想要控制我,但是要先控制你自己。」
我再做一次,仍有推他的感覺。先輩就有幾會得平衡感再站直了。他解釋
「你推我,我也只會跑得遠。但是你破勢了。要先控制你自己才可以控制我。」
我點點頭 。然後試試將他帶到前方後,不推而讓他靠近我身体之處將他指導下去。此時做得好。

釋放希望控制別人時,反而較易得到希望的結果。

Saturday evening Kizomba class
The lead teacher is a Brazilian woman with skin the color of a milky café latte and big bright eyes. She shakes my hand, in greeting, and as we exchange names she continues to hold my hand, and maintains eye contact. I feel connected, and the rest of the room falls away, and I feel as if the rest of the room has fallen away for her, too. It feels completely natural, but not sexual. It was like sharing a glass of water with a friend on a hot day.

When we break contact, she becomes teacher again, and I assume my role as student. I feel a deep admiration, and wonder if I will ever be able to make people feel as comfortable.

During one set, she sees that we are uncomfortable with each other. Many of us are meeting each other for the first time, and kizomba is a dance done in close proximity. “Ok,” she says kindly, “hug it out. I want you to hug each other, get it all out. Connect with your partner.” She leaves a moment of silence, and then continues with teaching us another move sequence.

There is a male instructor. I ask him a question about leading a move called the Estrella. He shows me by facing the same direction as me and connecting his right hip with my left hip, and he counts beats and moves. I move with him, and instantly understand.

After the kizomba class, I go with B, O, and K to a salsa party, B (who is Taiwanese) said of a Taiwanese instructor that he was the “best Taiwanese instructor, excluding foreigners,” because she said “there is something the foreign teachers have that Taiwanese teachers don’t have.”

I think I know what it is – I felt it in the way the female teacher made time stop a little for self-introductions by holding onto my hand a little longer. I felt it in the way the male teacher took me through the timing for the Estrella without using any words to explain. I think it is in the way Brazilian or other Latin American people are so comfortable with touch. They use it just as fluently as they use words to talk. Americans feel like they need to talk to stay connected. Japanese people feel like they need to maintain a respectful distance. Taiwanese people use touch a little bit more, but Latin American people are carrying on entire conversations with touch. I felt a little homesick for a place I’ve never been.

土曜日のキゾンバクラスの後、サルサのパーティーにいった。ある男と話したて分かった事。サルサはオンワンとオンツーの踊り方がある。違いは踏み出すのを一と五の表紙にするのか二と六の表紙にするのか。私はずっとオンワンで踊ってきたが、最近のニューヨークと台湾の流行はオンツー。音楽は同じサルサの音楽けど、踊り場の人の動きを見ていてもよくわからなかった。待っても何も起こらないけど。
踊ってない女性に聞いた 「オンツーでしょう?」
「そう。」
「俺はオンワンしかやったことがない。」
「私は逆にオンツーしか踊った事がないけど、リードすれば頑張って付いていく。」
そこで踊った。何回か失調したけど、協調を取り戻して、案外一緒に踊れた。なんだかオンツーの踊りなれている人の所為かビートの前に動こうとしている用に感じて凄く流暢に動けた。
曲が終わったら、「ありがとう」と俺が言った。
「あんまり付いていけてなくて、ごめんね。」
「いいえ、とんでもないです。」
前話した男がこっちに来て「いい動きをしているね。」と褒めてくれた。
俺は微笑んだ。「ほんとに?いやーね、相手はオンツーしかやったことがなくて、俺はオンワンしかやったことがなくて、よく動けたな。」
「オンツーは少しなれないといけない。俺もずっとオンワンだったが、今はみんなオンツーしかやらないから、なれるしかなかった。少しずつなれてきた。」一拍おいてから話し続けた「まだオンワンのほうが少し得意けど。」

これで自分の歳をちょっと感じた。それと同時に、やってきた事は無駄じゃない。この曲で二人がしてきた訓練をもとに、失調を許してお互いの意図を探ったら、よく動けた。一曲では始まり、進捗、そして終わりがある。そこでの勝負は一方通行でやり直しがない中で、いかにお互い支え合って楽しく動けるか。もっと踊りに限らず、即興的に、相手のいいところに準じて、利になる事がしたい。

Ups and Downs in Taiwan

In Taiwan people are mortally afraid of the downs. For example, the public health service makes doctor’s visits cheap, enabling people go to see the an ENT specialist every time they catch a cold, which they do.

Here’s a recent conversation:

“I have a cold.” I said.
“Have you seen a doctor?”
“No.”
“You should go see a doctor.”
“I don’t typically see doctors for colds. They rest a little and are over it in three days to a week.”
“I guess rest will do the trick, but in Taiwan, we like to get well immediately.” He sat upright to suggest vigor. “Here, you should try this. I have a cold, too. I took this this morning, and I feel better already.”  He handed me some herbal medicine.

It seems I have not gotten used to the air and water here, as I have had two colds and a case of food poisoning since arriving in October. In none of the cases did I see a doctor, but made a quick recovery with rest and tea.

It’s not just that people really believe that they will get well faster with a doctor’s visit and some medicine. They are in a veritable rush to get well. “Get well immediately.” is a phrase often bandied about. Another conversation:

“Don’t you want to get well as soon as possible?”
“The infection is still there, the medicine just masks the symptoms.”
“But don’t you want your nose to stop running?”
“The nose is running to flush out the virus. If you mask the symptoms it could take longer to get well.”
A pause. “You have a very interesting way of thinking.”

So it seems to me that people are afraid of the down that a sickness gives, and want to put their bodies on the up, using whatever artificial means available.

There is a definite lack of negative space compared to what I am used to. Often when I am speaking with an a customer about something complex, he leaves no down-time for thought, and no verbal confirmation of “Do you get what I’m saying?” He does not even detect my body language when I am trying to gather my thoughts or when I am trying to say something.
I have to quite literally while he is talking say “Stop. Give me a moment to think about that.”

And then there is that incident that I wrote about here (in chinese), a phenomenon where people are really afraid of apologizing.

I would think this is an isolated incident, but I was speaking about it with a foreign friend of mine who has been in Taiwan for three years. Being a foreigner, people saw him as a neutral party, and he literally had people come into his office crying because someone else at the office was mean to them.

“It’s like their egos are really fragile, and they’re afraid that any little admission of wrong will cause their entire psychological edifice to come crashing down.”

Which brings me to the thought that the admission of downs as well as ups into one’s world requires a bit of fortitude and perspective, without which the downs will appear crippling. It is according to this is a belief that I have tried to cultivate myself: to rest when my body is telling me to rest, give pause to allow someone else to think, apologize when I have done something mean, and shrug when someone has said something that I’d like to ignore. All of these things require a silencing of the ego. I feel like this is something that I learned from Japan, and I feel like I’m bumping up against a society of people that hasn’t had as much practice.

For an example of how ego gets in the way, yesterday I was on the phone with the customer for nearly an hour an a half while he presented 11 slides about a problem and his proposed solution. The trouble was, he was so confident of his proposed solution that he brought it up frequently, and the entire presentation had a spin toward his proposed solution. It was hard sort through what was opinion and what was fact. At one point, I had to say. “Look, I know you feel that that would solve the problem, but I don’t understand what the problem is. Can we please talk about the problem first? Then, we can talk about proposed solutions.” I made my frustration very evident in my voice, and exaggerated the relief in my voice when I finally understood the problem.

Then, what he took 11 pages to explain, I typed up a 1-page email with two graphics that and sent it to our engineers.

I have been struggling with many things here, but I woke from a dream Monday with a thought that has made things slightly better. I noticed when I felt wronged, I often rehearsed what went wrong, and ended by rehearsing several alternate scenarios for putting them in their place and regaining the upper hand. My thought was – what if I rehearsed forgiveness? What if I ran through the entire scenario, and figured out what to say or do to put the other party at ease, build a bridge to lead him across, or simply shrug and send him off?

This sounds like a small change, but it’s been a revelation to me, and I wonder if I can hold it, where it will take me.

But I still yell at the motorcyclists when they pass too close (they speed away without looking at me), and I’ve noticed the motorcyclists and cars pass a little farther away when I am wielding a folded golf umbrella like a baton.

Housing Surprises

My things have not arrived. They were supposed to have arrived Friday (two days ago), but the moving company is estimating Oct 15. There was a shipment delay whose cause I have not yet identified.

However, since I had planned for this possibility, it has been the least of my problems.

20140928-090754.jpg

My bed is a rollable camping pad. No sheets, but I brought four aikido uniforms. The tops of two are pillows. The rest of the camping pad is wrapped variously with another top, two bottoms, and an small towel. A large towel is a blanket. The uniforms are all clean, and I ran a rag across the floor, which is now clean enough to eat off of. I still have one more uniform for training, which will be able to wash with the washing machine I bought yesterday.

I have slept three nights on this so far, and it is comfortable. The first two nights were in a room with a window toward the four-lane Xinhai Road. Being about 100 meters away from the road, I had thought that it would be quiet enough. With the window closed, it was indeed quiet enough to fall asleep, but every so often throughout the night, very loud motorcycles would speed by, waking me up. I suspect these have been modified by having their mufflers removed.

There is another bedroom, with a window on a courtyard. I had tried to sleep in this one the second night, but when I turned the air conditioning on, it did not smell right, and when I lay down, my eyes became very itchy. This was in spite of making the floor clean enough to eat off of. I turned the air conditioner off, but worrying about what was in the air, I returned to the first room – the one with the window facing Xinhai Road. My eyes did not itch upon waking up.

The third night, I slept with the air conditioning off in the second room – the one with the window to the courtyard. With the air conditioning off, my eyes were fine. As I was falling asleep, I was woken up once by my neighbor’s retrieving and replacing the shower hose from its receptacle. Evidently, the wall is thin here. However, the road noise did not bother me, and I slept through the night.

I was woken this morning by the cooing of innumerable pigeons. It seems that my downstairs neighbors are farming pigeons on the balcony just under mine in the courtyard.

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my courtyard balcony

This explains the few downy feathers I found yesterday morning when I scrubbed the balcony. One other thing I noticed after I scrubbed was a strange biological smell – it was unpleasant enough that I closed the sliding door to the courtyard, which I had hitherto kept open during the day because it had a cooling effect on the entire house. I thought maybe the mildew in Taiwan is different, but now I know that it was the faint smell of bird shit. They probably do a good job of cleaning, or else it would have been instantly identifiable. The mystery of my itching eyes is also now solved – I attribute it to particulate bird shit and bird dander having made their way into the air conditioning unit. The problem with this is that even if I ask the landlord to clean the air conditioning unit, it would not solve the root cause, namely that my downstairs neighbors are farming pigeons. The problem is mitigated by the coming winter months, which will make the air conditioner unnecessary.

I had thought I might avoid surprises by choosing to rent in a neighborhood with easy assess to universities and the financial district. The trouble with new places is that old intuition and common sense don’t work anymore. My co-worker told me he was thinking of moving. He is considering paying six times market average to live in an upscale shopping district, which I had thought this was hideously wasteful, but now I wonder if paying that much allows one to avoid surprises.

Having finally gotten a good night’s rest, though, I am in good spirits.

台北で部屋探し

なかなか条件に合うのはないのね。日本では十年前に部屋を探していた時に二件目の物件で決まったから、あんまり条件が厳しくないと思うけど、それは多分自分の感覚がたまたま日本の風土にあっていた。台北で部屋を見ていくと以下は条件であることが明らかになった。

  • すべての部屋に窓がある。見た四件目の物件は全く窓のない。ウエブの写真で分からなかった。
  • 煩わしい家具が入っていない(台北は一人暮らしの部屋を借りるとよく家具が付く。日本で床の上で暮らすことになれたので、あんまり机もソーファも使わない。料理も当日調理して当日食べ終えるので、近くにスーパーがあれば、冷蔵庫もいらない。)

ウエブではなかなか見つからないので、6月の出張に不動産屋に訪ねた。好みの場所を説明したら、話していた担当がいるのに、横から別の従業員が割り込んで、ちょうど新しい物件の情報が入りましたと説明した、その物件はどこにあるのかと聞いたら、全く私が求めた場所から離れた場所だった。

その不動産の担当と夜待ち合わせしてある物件を見せてもらったら、その物件は日本の部屋と同じ値段と大きさだった。台湾の物価にしては高いけど、高層マンションで見晴らしがよかったが、ワンルームでベッドが無駄に場所を占めていて、台所がなくて料理ができない。

「ここは料理できなさそうですが。」
「料理なんかするんですか。」
「たまに自分好みの味、あるいは素朴の味の物が食べたい。」

あの物件を見終わったら、不動産やは「あれで行けなかったら、他の物件もこういうワンルームで料理ができない部屋なので、見なくてもいいかもしれません。」
「うん、おそらくそうです。またおねがいします。」と言って、帰った。

ここで、条件が増えた。

  • 台所、せめてレンジが付いていて、料理ができる

見ていくとまた増える。

  • 閑静な地区に位置しているか窓の遮音性がいい。台北では住宅と商店がほとんど別れていないので、道の音は東京と比べても煩い。見た三件めの部屋は上記の条件を満たしていたが、松山空港の近くにあったので、飛行機の離着陸の音がよく聞こえていた。
  • 四階層以上の場合、エレベーターが付いている。五つ目の物件は上記の条件をすべて満たしていたが、六階層にあって、しかも階段がなかった。運動は怖がらないけど、階段が狭くて、自転車や出張の荷物をもっての上り下りはきつい。

 

面白いのは前述の条件は日本の一人暮らし向けの部屋に当たり前に付いている。悲しんで、台湾暦が九年のアメリカ人同僚に相談したら、「お前は日本になれすぎているよ。」自分の当たり前と環境の当たり前が一致しないのこんなに苦労するのだね。環境の文句言っても、同情する人もないね。

実は不動産に行って聞いても、台湾の不動産屋はよく売買に携わっているので、賃貸の物件数が少ない。ウエブで探すと物件数が一番多いと説明された。

探し続けた。いよいよ、七件目。今回は自分の個性と台湾の国民性が違うからこそ、いい物件を安く借りられる。

上の条件をすべて満たしていた。それに

  • 不動産に電話で問い合わせしたときに、「どこにあるか分かる?すごいはずれだよ!」台北では地下鉄の駅から5分以上はなれていれば不便と判断される。最寄り駅はのんびり歩いて15分。これは実は東京のマンションより歩行時間が少ない。しかも会社まで3キロくらいだから、歩いたり、走ったり通える距離。
  • 立地は若社会人が好んでいるところまで地下鉄を一回乗り換えないと行けないので、これもきっと若者に人気がない物件だけど、私に取っては師範大学と台湾大学の裏門に歩いていける。大学の合気道道場に通いやすい。

見に行ったら、古い物件で、ださくておしゃれじゃないけど、古いからこそ、静かな住宅街で、すべての部屋に窓が付いて、ベランダがついて、台所が付いて、エレベーターがなくてもビルが低層しかも…

  • 湿気対策にトイレは外への窓が付いている。
  • 物件の表にも裏にも窓が付いている。前と後ろを開けば、風が通る。
  • 安い。東京にすんでいた所より安いし、台所なしの構想ワンルームマンションより安い。
  • デカイ。専有面積約130平米。リビングで畳を敷いたら、雑魚寝でも稽古でもできる。寝室二つがある。ベランダ二つ。

今日の11時に大家さんと会って、契約をサインする。