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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Jezebel

Perusing the blogosphere, stumbled upon this:

Jezebel’s Western/Asian fetishes

While it barely scratches the surface, I’ve seen evidence over and over of this exact scenario here. I would confidently say 85% of Western men here have/are interested in Asian girls.

Its interesting in bars to walk up to a guy with Tina and instantly see what happens. Their eyes snap to Tina and immediately start chatting…Asian fetish. Why bother. Back to square one, pick someone new.

I have met some guys here very interested in Asian culture, travel, or here to study mandarin, but frankly there are ALOT of men here who simply enjoy being worshipped by Asian women. These girls follow them around, are very quiet and submissive, and also see it as a status symbol, as if they are better than other asian women since they snagged a western man. I guess its a win/win situation, but I always wonder about the depth of the relationship. After dating my share of local Asian boys I do know that the culture boundary is often too high to surmount. For those who actually marry (and alot do) does this power division always remain? Do the men actually enjoy these silent, shadowy girls? Is that enough?

However, for example, a month or two ago I was having dinner with an American guy friend, and one of his close friends. I had met this guy with his Asian girlfriend several times before. She wasn’t there tonight, apparently they had broken up. As we were chatting and eating, he stopped and said “Wow, its so strange to have a girl join the conversation. You actually talk and have an opinion, haha that’s crazy”. I don’t think he meant it in a bad way about his ex-girlfriend but just that, that was how it was. She was very quiet, and the guys always chatted amongst themselves, be it because the English was too fast for her, or she just had nothing to relate to their arguments.

I hear alot here that I am very outgoing, loud, brash. But I don’t really believe so. Sure I am confident about myself, but I think that it is only in contrast to these Asian girlfriend stereotypes where you can see the difference. I ask my asian guy friends…do their girlfriends act quiet-like this  as well, or are they more forceful with same-culture-matches? Is it all a front? Perhaps I just haven’t been here long enough to understand fully, my viewpoints have changed again and again as I get more experience interacting with people here.

If you do see a western guy on the street he is very very often with his asian girlfriend. If you do manage to see a western girl (I feel that there are ALOT more foreign men here than girls, either that or they are ALL hiding from me) I have never, ever seen one with an asian boyfriend. Why? Why is this?

The only reasons I can come up with is that American/Western girls are more attracted to the western esthetic…sporty, strong, all-american. Needless to say, you will not find that very often in the men here. Murses are carried, hair product is carefully applied, and thin, lanky body types abound in the men here. Timidity is not really a thing one wants in a boyfriend, I guess with a girl that’s great but a guy? Not so hot.

I guess I’m unusual in that my “type” plays more closely to the kind of guys here than the sporty kind. Give me a guy with some dorky glasses, tight pants, and some shaggy hair any day over some guy fresh from the gym. When me and Tina people watch in Taipei, its funny to watch her go for the “western” style guys and me play straight into the most asian of asians…. I didn’t even know this about myself before I came here. Strange.

Those that I have dated, with some I get the sneaking suspicion that I’ve being dated purely for novelty, for show. Like, look I’m an Asian boy AND I got myself this white girl, Wooo I am awesome.

It’s not really a great feeling to have. It part of the several hurdles I’ve faced. Also the fact that since my Chinese skills are abysmal, and most people here are pretty insecure about their English speaking skills, I only attract men so cocky about themselves (and their english) that they are kind of assholes.

Not to say I haven’t met several charming boys, very sweet and polite. In the end though, its all too different and I feel alot of it has been interesting, and eye opening, but “interesting” shouldn’t really be an adjective you use for relationships, now should it?

I’m not sure if I have made too many over-arching generalizations, or been inadvertantly racist in my stereotyping, but I’m only voicing what I, myself, have thought about and observed in my months here. Please let me know what you think, anecdotes, etc. I’m really very interested. I feel like I could fill books and books with all the cultural nuances I notice and think about here.

(haha some very old, unflattering photos of the king of vain himself. I think this was failed asian dating attempt #4. Reasons? Secret other girlfriend….not cool mr. not cool at all)

will2 willandi

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A culture of clothing.

So the past few weeks I’ve been scoffing at the fact that people keep complaining about how cold it is. The temperature outside rarely dips below 60, often resting at a cool 70 or 65.

However, after a couple days of misting rain, I’m starting to admit that 60 degrees combined with wet, perpetual wind….is really cold. Not like freeze your breath cold, but damp, clammy cold that reaches down your neck and makes your toes chilly.I am now officially beginning my hunt for a legitimate coat. Good thing everystore carries 100 different kinds since people dress like its 0 degrees and a blizzard. However finding one that doesn’t have bows, or glitter, or fur, or random poufs sewn on is becoming a challenge. I just want a wool coat people.

Me, in my pathetic streetvendor sweater, post-trashtruck run, post freezing mist. The curly hair has been running rampant recently. (For mawmaw who wants real pictures of me, yep still look the same)

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In contrast to my skimpy single sweaters from streetvendors, my students come in with 6 layers on, shirt, turtle neck, sweater, then down vest. Then of course they’re hot and peel 3 layers off. Thomas, with his broken arm, makes it a giant event just to get his coat off, over the cast.

Then Ivy will see they’re down to just shirt/turtleneck/sweaters and yell at them, saying “its cold outside, why don’t you have your vest on”?

What?

Also I have to complain a bit about clothing standards. I recognized immediately upon arriving in Taipei that apparently all my clothes show too much decolletage. Now you know, I’m not parading around with my chest on full display, but apparently the area below the collarbone is too “sexy” for everyday wear. Whatever, after buying a couple of nightmarket tanktops, and shirts cut crew neck, I’m mostly compliant for everyones expectations. However last week I decided to wear a sweater and a skirt with boots to work. I’ve worn skirts before, no problem…I always wear leggings because they do that here, and I recognize that I’m very tall so theres more leg to see than usual. Still the skirt is almost to my knees…remember the test in middle school…skirts must be beyond the fingertips…I pass, flying colors.

Since I was wearing the boots and knee socks, and long sleeve sweater I decided to skip the leggings. There was about 4 inches of knee cap showing. I arrive at school to choruses from my second graders of “teacher you sexy”.

Jesus…Ok, collarbones, and knee caps…too much for society here. Note to self.

The next day, Elisa comes to school wearing black tights and the worlds tiniest grey skirt. No comment, no looks. I’m seriously 2 inches from seeing her tight-clad butt. So bareskin no no, but as long as you pretend to cover it up…all systems go.

Grr. double standards.

In other news, heres a picture of my racist toothpaste. I’ve been meaning to post it for ages.

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Nothing like a black guy with realllllly white teeth to sell toothpaste products. I mean, I want shiny teeth like him. Plus this brand comes in amusing flavors like mango, apple, green tea, etc. I went with the mint.

McSweeney’s <—–Also again, one of my favorite literary “magazines” is having a sale. A mga awesome sale. Too bad the international shipping defeats all sale prices. Nevertheless, I will hopefully be the new owner of two new editons in 4-6 weeks. One of which is an issue i drooled over at Borders before I left, but stupidly didn’t buy. The cover folds out into this fantastic square poster of ink artwork. Each issue is bound differently, with varying designs and artists, in addition to writers. I’m waiting for all my Miranda July, Eggers, Oates, Stephen Elliot goodness to arrive, so I can devour it.

I think I would very much be interested in going into bookbinding, or fine press books when I go back to the states. Kurt S. gave me the name of a press in New Jersey once, I should get in touch with, I need to look them up again. Its a bit of everything I love. Art plates, typesetting, unique books.

I want to say double thumbs up to the coffee and corn chips at Ikari Coffee, the corn chips send me straight back to Coco, and its way more yummy than Starbucks.

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Dinner in Yingge

Tina’s “grandparents” flew in from China to visit. They’re part of some other part of the family. I have officially quit keeping track of things since half of the people are just family friends referred to as “aunt and uncle”.

We met up with Jim who picked up the entire family in the car, and began the drive to Yingge ( a distant suburb of Taipei near Taoyuan). We had been one other weekend to visit with other aunt and uncle, but this group is the family that is more directly related. We quickly get lost, from what I can decipher of the high-tension chinese going back and forth from the front and back seats. We are already running late, and I get a view of every possible side of Taipei on the interstate as we get on and off and on and off and switch roads. Seriously lost. An hour late we finally find our way there.

Me and Tina are allowed to sit at the table that has all the men and the two most elder wives/sisters; a big honor. After introductions the whiskey toasts begin. What is a family dinner without toasting in Taiwan? The glasses are very very tiny, but the grandpa hosting has an eagle eye for an empty drink. Gambei! (which means bottoms-up, drink the whole thing). Me and Tina are cheating the system with tiny tiny sips.

I learn that pretty much 95% of the dinner is seafood, raw fish, scallions, lobster, crab, giant whole fish. So my dinner quickly becomes the one tiny platter of chicken (why do they leave the skin on whyyyy ew) and the two soup courses (bamboo and walnut, and mushroom and chicken). As you can imagine soup for dinner and whiskey toasts leaves me carefully trying to not meet anyones eye so I’m not introduced and toasted, or always pretending to eat soup so that my chopsticks are not laid down and then…..toast.Tina’s visiting grandma and grandpa lived in Nashville for 20 years, so their english is very good but they are sitting on the other side of the table. Apparently this grandpa lectures tina everytime she sees him about how she needs to be a doctor or lawyer and how she’s wasting her life and needs to be a strong, smart women. Apparently its impossible to win with him and she’s taken aside to recieve her yearly lecture while I make small talk with JIm’s sister who has some basic english.

Julie goes on and on and on and on about her boyfriend (she’s 19). Dating here is a very serious affair. There is no casual dating for most teenagers and all things are pretty formal for most girls. So in her asking me about boyfriends and past boyfriends in America, her eyes widen and I’m pretty sure she has no grasp of how different it is, or why I’m not married after dating someone for more than a year.The conversation goes around and around with neither of us really understanding the mindset of the other. I feel that the maturity levels and viewpoints of teenagers and 20 somethings here is alot younger, I felt like I was talking to a 15 year old. Perhaps its why most of the people we meet and get along with are 27+. Any younger and its really like they’re in highschool, their parents have such an influence and there are so many school pressures, etc at younger ages.

We finally leave, and I get some candied tomatoes at the nightmarket. Yes candied tomatoes for dinner woooo. We also buy some mung bean gluten balls (not their name but its what they were). Why the fascination with gluten here I don’t know, basically it gives things a gooey, chewy texture. Like you’re eating a giant booger. It doesn’t taste bad, sometimes sweet, its just..

Booger-food.

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The business.

Since today all we did was go to one interview for Tina and I sat in Starbucks and colored in my journal, we’re going to skip ahead to a more general topic. One, which is gross, yet, fascinating, and ever present.

Squatty-toilets. As I refer to them.

When I was in French squat toilets were a rare, but present occurrence, usually only way out in rural areas. Here, everywhere.

Tina’s aunt and uncle business,- squatty toilet, the subway- squatty toilet, mc donalds- squatty toilet, the mall – squatty toilet. You get the picture.

Now people in the US might think ewww. Why, why would you choose that over a sit down one. Apparently wikipedia has a lot of reasons why, check them out because some are really amusing, but the number one reason is its cleaner believe it or not. Apparently since you’re not technically touching anything there is nothing to get dirty. Personally, I just don’t want to have to crouch down that close to my business. And I have to convince myself to go, because it seems so wrong. Carol – I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t survive here given your “shy bladder” as you call it.
And I haven’t even crossed the bridge of what happens if I need to #2. No, no, never going to happen. Not  a possibility.

Now usually there is a selection of sit down and squatty in public bathrooms, because the handicapped stall has to be sit-down. When me and Tina wait in line for the bathroom I play the squatty-lottery,  every time hoping that the sit-down one will be free when I get there. Sometimes I lose – oh well.

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Taipei,

It feels like I’ve been here a thousand years yet not at all. Really I haven’t had consistent sleep since I left Wednesday afternoon, however it is now Friday night. I’m a bit frazzled. But heading back way back…
Wednesday. Me and Tina flew to L.A. We played scrabble and cards most of the way. Tina beat me both times…ridiculous. We tried playing spite and malice but since I haven’t really played since I was 12 or so, I think I was missing a lot of the rules. Maybe mawmaw can remind me.

Then we get to LAX. Baggage lines, check-in lines, security lines. We checked all of our bags – most of which were over weight -one of which was way way overweight and no one said anything, while the poor people next to us we being turned away for having 5 kg too much. I guess it pays to be two cute girls.

We sit in LAX, I fall asleep with my face smushed into my backpack since its only midnight but my body thinks its 3 in the morning. They make announcements incessantly for four hours. Since all the airlines in this terminal are to Asia I’m starting to get a taste of the lack of Americans. The plane before ours was headed to Tahiti. The whole lounge was filled with couples. I want to go to Tahiti! We get on another plane. Tired but they’re serving dinner. The guy next to me spills orange juice on me. Not too bad except its filling my shoe…ew. Now I can’t sleep. Great. Sleeping pill to the rescue! I wake up again 6 hours later. Tina is still asleep… and she sleeps the whole trip almost, all 13 hours. I watch Prince Caspian on the screen in the seat in front of me, and then an episode of 30 Rock and then some Arrested Development and then play Bejeweled. Yes, they have Bejeweled on the video menu…the worlds best, mind-numbing time killer. The pilot kept announcing turbulence but honestly it was the smoothest flight I’ve taken in forever. Me and Tina didn’t even notice when we landed it was that smooth.

On the drive in I sat in the backseat taking in everything. The smog is pretty ridiculous. It almost seems like you’re perpetually in the center of a 5 mile bubble, and everything outside of that lives in a grey, hazy, cloudland. Tina’s Aunt and Uncle live right in the downtown-ish. You can see Taipei 101 when you look down side streets, but seeing as it’s the tallest building in the world, its probably a lot farther away than I realize, living in haze land.
All the ladies here are so concerned about maintaining the palest skin possible, its like living in the Victorian age. Everyone carries umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun, and these elastic sleeves to pull over their arms when they’re on their scooters. The face mask is also apparently an accessory here, when riding your scooter. The sheer number of scooters and cars is insane. This city is a parallel parking nightmare.

Went and hung out at their work for a bit. Went and exchanged money, went to this mall that looked inside like the Death Star. Seriously, you go in the doors and half the building hanging above you is the biggest sphere-deathstar looking thing ever. And inside of it is store after store of fantastic clothes and everything you can think of for pretty cheap compared to the same clothes in the US. The Anthropologie of my dreams where everything is 15-30$ instead of 300$. I think I brought too many clothes from home.

Lunch of noodles and bubble tea. The Wu’s discover my rudimentary Chinese and have fun talking about my “wo mi lule” .  Some random lady smacks me on the back of the head because we both have curly hair? Or something? I had no idea what was going on. Hopefully this isn’t a trend.

Only one day and I’m having to get used to the staring. It’s a bit weird. One stare, ok I get it, there are NO white people here. I catch eyes again and then again and if it’s the third time, seriously…you have to stare that long? Is there something on my face? What’s wrong? I am seriously tempted to stick out my tongue sometimes or cross my eyes. Tina says maybe they think I’m famous….riiight a famous person in flip flops with frizzed out hair.

My first real sleep in “three” days, consisted of a 2 hour nap, which went by in seconds and upon waking I felt like some one had punched me in the face I was so groggy. We watched CNN for a bit and the end of Elizabethtown on TV. Hearing Ryan Adams on the tv while I was taking a shower almost made me forget I was in Taipei.

Hotpot for dinner. Boiling broth that you stick different veggies and meat in, along with your own bowl of sauces. Mistake with the peppers, my sauce was crazy spicy. I had chicken, and beef, bacon and lamb. And dun dun dun the infamous fried blood! Dark purple in brick sticks, we put it in the broth so that it got a bit soft….actually it was not that exciting…it didn’t really taste like anything and had a chewy texture like a soft fruit bar or something.

Overall I give it a “meh” on the gross factor.  Other new food adventures. Mung beans for dessert – they looks like peas but are kind of sweet, sweet peas really. Grass Jelly, a sweet syrup with dark brown jelly cubes in it.

Other observations to follow. It’s only been one day yet it seems like ages. But that might be all the sleep deprivation. Maybe not so in depth later, but I’m trying to process it all right now. Bed time I think.

pictures to follow I promise.

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