Monday, July 03, 2006

Chilling in Hualian (花連)

While leaving the sidewalk hotspot, I started looking for somewhere to eat. In doing so I discovered what could be best described as a "hang out." They got food, drinks, tons of games, books, and wireless internet. It is even brightly colored like Saved By The Bell's "The Max" but with less neon (okay, they are nothing alike, but it came to mind).
After getting off the train, I braved the rain and hit up a hotel and asked them how much, their price was about $50 US. I hit the road and asked the next place. In terrible English she said the rooms were about $25, I said okay, I was going to go a looking, then she went to $22, I said thanks and started to leave and she dropped to $18. It was a good play on her part because I did not even think of it as negotiating until then, so I said whatever and I am there.
She had more expensive rooms with internet, but they were wired. By the way, its a pain to explain that I can't use wired internet because of a small traveling project.
On the way here a tall blond guy who looked like a missionary minus his lack of the "uniform." I saw him speaking Chinese to get directions and afterwards we ended up talking. I discovered he was from Utah and this was his second time here, the first time as a missionary.
I think my obsession with missionaries is partially the Chinese thing. The missionaries here are all learning Chinese, if not Taiwanese, which puts them in a rare class of foreigners. I have come to believe that one should never compare their language skill against another, its too abstract and there are so many ways to judge (I know a boat load of people who can read more than me, a boat load that can speak better than me, but much fewer that can do both).
The missionaries are famous for their Chinese, and I want to know how they learn. My impression is they have virtually no English (and they don't have to teach!) which sure would help. However, I don't know if they have some kick ass system of learning or if the average missionary has been here for at least two years (that number is probably much greater).
The other main school I think about is the Foreign Service. I almost entered the foreign service and often worry that I could have learned more there. However, my very sweet friend Sally, who was interviewed for an American Visa, said that my Chinese was better than all six agents that interviewed her. True or not, that made me feel pretty good.
Last thing, speaking Chinese has led to some super awkward moments. The hotel lady originally kept using terrible English and I answered in Chinese. It took her a very long time to stop thinking about how to say what she wanted in English and realized that I actually was speaking Chinese. A better example was when I came in here, there were a group of students playing cards who just started blatantly talking about me like I was not in the room, saying "he speaks Chinese" no less. It was mad awkward because I ended up shooting them a dirty look without intending to do so.

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