Saturday, February 10, 2007

A little bit proud, a little bit afraid

I am kind of proud of myself right now. It is Saturday evening, about twenty past six. Right about six o'clock, a jackhammer started somewhere on my street. Now, the ridiculous traffic is still my biggest complaint about life in Taiwan, but noise is a close second (you can see a few of my noise posts, like this rant about noise and this complaint that I live in the noisiest place on earth). Usually all I do is complain to people about how noisy it is, but this time I decided to take action.

First of all, a little justification for why I felt that using a jackhammer at this time was out of bounds:

Number one - Saturday is not a work day. If one desires to do home improvement work, one should do so during hours when one's neighbors can reasonably be expected to be away from home at their jobs.

Number two - Six o'clock is after normal business hours, which again suggests that if one begins to do noisy home improvement work at this time, it is likely that one's neighbors will be home and will be bothered by said noise.

Number three - I have had at least four beers, and after six months of continuous jackhammer repairs and reconstruction being done on neighboring apartments, I have finally had enough of this bullshit.

My course of action: I put on some pants (luckily I thought to do so) and walked out onto my street to find out where the noise was coming from. I soon found it about three units down the street. A guy was pulverizing the sidewalk leading up to the (illegally extended) doorway of a ground floor apartment. He was bent over his jackhammer and didn't even see me coming. I plunged the kitchen knife repeatedly into his back as the blood spurted up onto my face, chest, and arms...

... uh....

Actually, that didn't happen. What did happen was I said, "Hey! What the fuck?" and I pointed to my watch when he looked up. I went on to say, "Do you know what time it is?" Of course he didn't understand a word I said, but he got the gist. Then I said in my best Mandarin, "Xian zai bu neng," which means something like, "You can't do this now." He replied with, "Bu neng dao," which sounded good enough for me, so I turned and stalked off. Just before I went back into my apartment, I realized I would rather he didn't know exactly where I live, so I took a detour and wandered around the park for a few minutes.

Now I'm back home, happily and safely typing away on my computer. I finally took control of my life. I finally did something, instead of just whining about my problems. I feel a little euphoric, but there is a little twinge of fear nagging at me. I'm a stranger in a strange land. I'm easily recognizable in a country that is 99.99% Chinese-looking. If I offend someone--righteously or not--and he or she decides to get me back, there is little I can do to protect myself.

I have to say that it is a really weird feeling to live in a country where I'm illiterate and can't really speak enough of the language to negotiate any kind of serious situation on my own. I can't even call the police or medical services if there is an emergency (I tried once when one of my neighbors went crazy and attacked me--the police never came). After living as a white, middle-class male in the United States for the first thirty-six years of my life, it is a truly eye-opening experience to be the marginalized minority of society. Of course, I still have about two or three times the earning power as most of the people around me, so it isn't like I'm living in an impoverished situation, but when it comes to having control over my environment, I'm at a definite disadvantage.

Not that I'm complaining... at least not any more than usual. I'm just pointing out how helpless I feel sometimes. But, hey, it is my choice to be here, right?

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