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The strange gets stranger

I have had a handful of “interesting” encounters with people in Taiwan. Too many to not just share.

When I travel, people are more inclined to stare. But I feel in Taiwan, they love to come up to foreigners and share the craziest lines as a way to practice their English or even see if the person can speak Mandarin. And I know for sure being black, a woman, AND traveling solo in Taiwan, I’ve had one too many funny, weird, creepy, and interesting interactions with locals in this country. Here’s an example of just a few:

The funny

Selecting Snacks

We’re by a food stall in the night market where this lady sells a snack called 年糕 which is a deep-fried rice cake. Anyway, my friend ordered and the lady thought I chose the darkest pieces because my skin is so black. I hollered. The audacity.

“WOAHHHHH YOU CAN USE CHOPSTICKSSS???!!!!”

So in Hualien, I took my friend to a restaurant near our hostel for he wanted some noodles. Mind you, a lot of Taiwanese people if they see you and you look Asian, they automatically assume you can speak Chinese. He looks Chinese, but his parents are from Hong Kong, yet he grew up in Canada so he only learned Cantonese. She doesn’t know that. Anyway, so when she saw us and looks at him directly and asks what we want. But he can’t speak a word of Chinese, so I am doing all the talking. But its still not coming to sense to her that that I can speak. She’s still looking at him and I am responding. Alright, c’mon now.

So we sit down and she asks if we want forks or chopsticks, I said chopsticks for it is no problem. I can eat with both. In her mind, I don’t think she processed that I can speak Chinese still and that I wanted chopsticks so she came back and brought chopsticks for him and a fork for me. This has happened to me more times than I can count on my fingers, but this was the first time in a while I have encountered this. My friend has never seen an interaction like this before so he’s shocked, but also laughing. And she eventually when I called her back brought me a pair of chopsticks. Girl.

A few weeks later, I met some super nice Taiwanese people over dinner who I told them that I lived in China for a year, I did a work exchange in Japan and now in Taiwan traveling and soon to start studying. When our food arrived, we started diving in and when I picked up my chopsticks and casually started eating, their eyes grew so big and were amazed that this black person can use chopsticks. I was laughing so hard, like what? I would think they could put two and two together after I have mentioned that I have lived and traveled to other Asian countries that I SHOULD be able to eat with chopsticks…but I guess not?

The weird

Club Encounters

Visited my local Latin music spot called M Taipei. This guy approached me at the club and immediately said: “I am a gay.” How am I supposed to respond to this question? Couldn’t help but to laugh. Then in Chinese, he proceeded to say 我喜歡黑雞巴 which means “I like black dick” because it is so big.” Wow. Didn’t expect this one. “Well, I can’t give that to you so…..” Taiwanese people stay wildin’ as usual. He seemed very excited to see me at the club. The way he approached me made it seem like I was the first of my kind to have been spoken to in ages and he also seemed pretty desperate. He proceeds to say “Your kind is hard to find out here in Taiwan.” Yep.

And why would I do that?

Stopped by a sticky rice shop for lunch. The shop keeper practicing his English asking me where I was from and told me I was very sexy. Ew. Then proceeded to ask if we could get married. I told him. Do you know how old I am? He’s like how old? 23. He says: “I’m 43, you’re too young for me.” Sir, even if that wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t have happened.

HIIIIIIIGGGHHHHH like a kite

When I first came to Taiwan, I was volunteering at hostels where I would work in exchange for a free place to sleep. Nice right? One of my duties was to go into each room and change the bed sheets. I entered a room one day and thought no one was there. As soon as I opened the door, someone slid their curtains from their bed really fast and with enthusiasm. She said hi in like a playful way. Being nice and responded back. She started asking me an array of questions like why I was in the room and blah blah blah. But then it got weird. She was looking really hard at me and said “You look like a dancer” I said “Not really, but I do like to dance.” Then she asks me “So can I use your body as a sculpture?” Come again? She Repeated what she said then explained: “Its because I am a sculptor and I am working on a project and I need a canvas.” Um ok. She continues: “My sculpting skills aren’t that good but that’s ok.” and like laughed in this high pitch yet very uncomfortable way. It was so weird. Then she’s like asking me why I am in Taiwan and blah blah blah and it was weird for as I was observing her, she would laugh and she had a high pitch voice so it would go up and then come down to like an undertone type voice. It sounded off as if she was like laughing as if she was secretly plotting something and I didn’t know. And on top of that, she was moving around in her bed a lot, more like swaying back and forth. She was on the top bunk and there is a bar right outside the bed you can hold to climb up and down the bed. She placed her arm there and swing back to back and forth. It was so strange. I was trying to make the beds as fast as I can so I could leave and not be bothers. Then she asked me my age and when I asked for her age yet, she told me 3 different things. I knew then that something was wrong with that lady. She’s like “I am so sorry I am super high today.” That explains enough.

Two days later I, unfortunately, ran into her again, but this time it was in the lobby of the hostel. I just finished my shift and I was in a rush to go and meet a friend. But she stopped me. To be courteous, I stopped to chat for a few minutes. I was asking her why she was in Taipei and she literally said “I came to see my brother and_____________” She just paused and looked into space. She stopped talking and it wasn’t for like a second, but 10 long seconds. I was sooo confused. Began trying to help her finish her sentences by asking like travel? visit him at the hospital? getting married? And she just kept saying no. Then she tried again “I came to see my brother and_____________” Nothing. She was looking another way and her face was stuck. Its as if she saw something that disturbed her and paused. I looked back to see what she was staring at, but nothing was there. So I said, “Oh its ok…” But at this moment, I knew then that something was wrong with her. And somehow we got to her talking sh*t about the guy who works at the front desk to me. Its super weird for she started talking to me in Chinese at this point. I never disclosed to her that I knew Chinese and she didn’t speak Chinese to me two days prior. But funny enough, I understood everything she said and then she switched back to English. But after this, I was very freaked out by it all and I had to excuse myself soon after. Never saw that lady ever again.

The ugh

Big misunderstanding

My friend invited me to this lady’s steamed bun shop. Inside there was a very old woman that was the mother of the woman’s ex-husband. She was 99 years old. She only spoke Taiwanese and I could not understand a word she was saying, but I could tell by her body language that she did not want me there. My friend shared with me that she has never seen a black person before, she didn’t understand how my skin was so black, and why I was there. The shop owner assured that he and I were dating (why do people who come together of the opposite sex always assume that we’re dating???) asked me where I was from. Could not believe that I was from the US and said that my skin was too dark to be from there. My friend explained that my parents are African and immigrated from the US, but I wish he would’ve said that people from all around the world that come and live in the US and we all consider each other Americans, despite the difference in race or color of skin. But I also didn’t think he wanted to get so technical with it. I actually laughed it off at the time it did happen, for I wasn’t surprised by her question. After we left, he was very shocked that that happened and continuously apologized to me. But I explained to him that this is, unfortunately, wasn’t the first time it happened to me and I wasn’t surprised that it did happen.

You nasty

Riding back home from the bar one night on a YouBike. The roads were empty. It was 4 am in the morning and a taxi driver slowed down, up beside me and gestured his finger with shaping one hand as a circle inserting his pointer finger in the circle as a sign to have sex. I was very disturbed. Just why?

The ???

Ain’t nobody got time for you

First impressions are everything. My friend moved to his new place and I met one of his housemates who I questioned deeply. The first thing that came out of his mouth was that “I am American” and as I start talking and asking him where he was from and all, the more I realized that what he said was a lie. I will and never will understand why anyone would lie about their nationality if otherwise, It is just plain ole stupid esp if you’re talking to someone that’s from that country and can catch a hint. I thought maybe for a moment he was born there but grew up in Taiwan but no, he studied abroad there for a year a few years ago.

But then as we continue to talk partially in Chinese / English. I noticed something. He would blurt out questions, answers without even taking the time to listen or hear what I said from before. It was as if I was talking to a wall. He also would say the words “dope” too often and in the wrong context. And I explained to him why he was using it wrong and how he should use it, but he went ahead and continued along with what he was doing before as such. Whatever. I am not sure if it was because his English wasn’t good enough to understand or he just was a bad listener. Either way, I was annoyed.

By our third meet up, I have declared that I did not like this guy. My friend insisted to continue bringing him around because “he was nice.” I will say it once, and one time only. Someone being nice is not enough for them to be a friend. And he was always around. It was so annoying. When I would come to visit my friend at his place, he would sit by us and bother us as we were trying to do our work. After telling him that we have work to do, he would insist and continue on. I came by one day and he was sitting on the couch when I opened the door and he was like “I knew you would return, I was waiting for you” And I looked right at this man, gave no reply and continued on. He was very annoyed that he wasn’t getting any attention that he would typically get and asked if I didn’t like him and I continued to ignore him. If I don’t like someone, I am not gonna give you the time, the energy, space from me for its a waste of my time. I won’t tell you that I don’t like, you but showing you will be enough to understand that it is time to step back.

And living in the world of social media now, I personally don’t go around blocking people unless they harass me on social. But at the same time, I don’t wanna see you on my feed if I don’t like you so I clicked that unfollow and thought nothing more of it.

But this is when it personally becomes a ? for me and also funny.

So my friend who lives with him is his roommate. Now I don’t take the time every day to see who follow and unfollow me. Who has time for that? Plus I don’t care. But apparently, 2 weeks later, he realized that I did. And I guess in his mind, me doing that to him, was the downfall of all of the friends he met through my friend. So their relationship went down as well. He approached him about me unfollowing him and like why? I didn’t even tell my friend that I did such a thing. Why does that matter? How does this involve him?

And from there, he stopped talking to him. Unfollowed him and the other friends he met through my friend as well. And then would do the obnoxious and yet petty things to mess with him. My friend teaches online has his sessions in the living room area of their space. He would sit beside my friend and carry on a conversation loudly on the phone. Just why? Also, my friend would leave his stuff on this same table, but neatly in the corner of it. This is a medium sized table with 8 chairs around it. He came by him one day in the bed and asked why he left his laptop there? He has no space to eat. Mind you, the laptop and his items were in a small corner of the table. You have all of this space. What are you complaining about exactly? Stuff like this really makes me laugh for I will never understand people’s logic or reasoning behind it all. Then he complained about him to the landlord lying about having guest over getting sloppy drunk and being loud and having them sleep overnight on the couch. The landlord confronted my friend through text about it, but nothing more. Then posted it in their group chat about it. And crickets. And did I mention that this man is 28 years old? Grow up.

I can’t even be mad and take half of the things that people say personally. For I know they mean nothing by it and lack the knowledge or education to know ant better. Most of the time, I laugh and keep it moving.

“I just want to vent”

It is mid-afternoon, just received a massage and was heading back into the city. Place my foot down onto the escalator and notice a guy rush right behind me breathing all over my neck. I glance over slightly and here he is staring sooo hard right at me. I’m thinking to myself “Please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to meeeeeeee.” and here he goes and starts talking to me.

He had a bad day and wanted to vent…someone was stalking him on Instagram and has left some comments to him in his DMs with multiple accounts which he needed a native language speaker to decipher. Mentioning that he was gonna find him and kill him and also called him a “bitch ass n***” multiple times. He proceeded to ask me what that phrase meant and was talking very loudly on the MRT and thought it was ok to repeat this phrase multiple times casually. I told him to stop and to never say it aloud again. For although many Taiwanese people don’t speak English, a lot of them can understand and speak better than when I lived in China so I am wary even when talking English to someone in public about sensitive topics. Certain people both young and old surprise me every day with their English speaking capabilities.

Then proceeded to attempt to crack some very ignorant and stereotypical jokes about how all black people can dance and can rap. It’s old, we’re tired, Stop.

So this is when it gets weird. Around this time was the World Cup and I mentioned to him that I will be in MAJI Square to watch it. MAJI Square is a place where they have tons of restaurants and bars and big open space. Many people come here to hang out during the day and socialize at night. But I didn’t mention what time or where I would be there. Later on, when I got there, there were tons of people chatting, chilling while watching the game. It was pretty dark but they had this big projector screen so you can watch it for free without having to buy anything. So I found a place to sit and somehow he found me not too long after I found a seat. facepalm He kept trying to talk to me during the game, which is like a no-no for me. Then after the game, he revealed how he’s from Kaohsiung (a city 5 hours away by bullet train) and was in Taipei for the weekend. He grew up living with his parents and he could not really do anything or go out late at night. But since he was in Taipei alone, he can do whatever he wants. Dangerous, if you ask me. Then he started talking about picking up women and how he would go out to the club and how he got drunk for the first time and would try to force himself on them. This man is 26. 26 Y’all. I felt quite uncomfortable during this time for how poorly he spoke about the women he attempted to pick up. I was just thinking to myself “why is he telling me all of this? Is this how he’s trying to hit on me, for if he is, it is not working.” So I told him that I may just get going and he was like “Ok” but I thought he would leave but he kept standing there. Like who tf are you? Can you leave? So I waited a few minutes but he kept standing there. So I finally said, “Ok I am gonna leave now. “ He’s like I can accompany you to the MRT” and I was like “No, I am ok.” And I quickly walk away.

And then a few days later I revisited MAJI square for another game and just like before, he found me sitting down watching the game. Wtf. I haven’t really spoken to him since or last occurrence and he told me he that day he was going back home to Kaohsiung. This time, I saw him come up to me from a distance. Its as if he knew I would be here so he waited to prow onto me. Weirdo. And I asked him “Oh I thought you were going back home to Kaohsiung?” He’s like “Oh I had an opportunity to come back to Taipei so I did” This guy’s story doesn’t seem right. Something is definitely not adding up. I am not sure what it is exactly but I smell something fishy.

This time around, neither team scored by the time 90 minutes came around so they did the additional 30 and no team scored then and then penalty kick. So he was just sitting there with me complaining about the game and I was getting soooo annoyed. I just wanted to watch the game in peace. That night, I planned to visit a spot there named Triangle after the game ended, so to evade him, I left MAJI Square for a bit and came back later to go to Triangle. Blocked him on Insta and haven’t heard or seen him since.

Lots of issues to unpack

Now my housemate…where do I even start? I have a lot of things to say about him, but we’ll keep it “short”.

To give you some background, I live in a shared house. There are 12 of us? (Not sure, sad I know) that live among 4 floors (technically 3). We all have our own room and we share multiple bathrooms, a kitchen, and a nice big living room area. Only talking to him once before, he came up to me and was excited to share that he was moving closer to where my room was. At this time, I didn’t know him and I found this quite odd that he disclosed this information to me. Makes him sound like a pervert. He asked me if I wanted to switch rooms with him mentioning some bs about his room walls were pink and pink is for girls. Sir bye. His room has no windows. That is a big no-no for me.

So when he moved in there, I noticed he carried a stench. Every time I walk by his room, I can’t explain it, but it smelled like someone died in his room and he was holding a dead body in there. This man takes showers every day, but somehow still manages to smell like a decaying body. Ok.

And he spends a lot of time at home, like I mean a lot. Do you even work? How is he surviving? But then again, its none of my business. I don’t think he talks to anyone outside of our apartment for he seems to talk to himself a lot. And he also mentioned how he has cut off relations with his family back in the states, so I would assume that he has no one. I noticed that he would get up maybe around 11 in the morning, eat some frozen food, watch TV in the living room and then hang out right outside his room all day.

In the hallway connecting to our rooms, there are many windows along the wall. So he would open one and just stand there for a long time. And it is not like there’s anything interesting to look at or even a nice view, he would just stand there for long periods of time doing nothing. I asked him one day “What are you doing?” He says “Oh I am just getting some fresh air.” Cool.

Then I noticed that every time I would exit my room in the mornings, he would open his door right after. It’s as if he was waiting right at his door for me to leave my room to exit out as well. I confronted him about it and he just laughed it off. Right.

But beyond all of his weird tendencies, I think he has some issues for based upon the convos we have had. I can tell that from his tone and the anger he possesses in our conversations, he had a very troubled past and as a 43-year-old man, he had yet to fully recover from them.

I remember just recently, came home very late one night from the bar and I was in a kitchen grabbing some water. This man appears out of nowhere and me thinking Oh sh*t he’s gonna talk to me. He starts complaining about Taiwanese people being racist. Mentioned that he went to a grocery store and wanted some Aunt Annie’s Maple syrup, which is used to put on Pancakes. Lady rudely told him that they don’t have stuff like that. And once he mentioned that it was something he would always buy in the US, she came for him saying that he should go back to the US if he wants it that bad. Me thinking, this man has been back in Taiwan he said for almost 15 years, why would something like this bother him? Of course what she said was pretty messed up, but I feel like we as people need to look past it and see it more as people who know no better. People like that will never get to me for they don’t understand so why should I care? Isn’t he used to people saying stuff like this? He had many reactions of this type while living in Taiwan all the time so I was surprised that it is still getting to him. He’s like “it really bothers me” in like a whining tone. Sir, you are 43 years old. I am not here to help guide you through the little interactions you have with ignorant people. This is basic sh*t. I don’t know what he went through during his lifetime, but definitely something dark, but I am not here to help you work through that. He has to figure that out for himself. I feel bad for him, but also I am not about to break my back to help him with that.

Another time, I was helping my friends move out of our apartment and he came to help. So we were sitting in the living room waiting for the UBER to arrive. Everyone was silent looking at their phones stressed about moving everything and all. And then there was him sitting on the couch. He looked a bit displaced. Staring out in space wondering about some shit. Just right before all of this, he asked me for money for his ass was broke. Smh.

But anyway, he stepped out the living room for a few minutes and when he came back, I noticed something different about him. The end of his nostrils was super red and, I saw small speckles of white powder of the tips of them, and at the same time, still looking so much out of it. Did he really just snort something? He indeed did help move their stuff, but he looks like he was floating on air. I was kinda scared to keep starin at him for I didn’t want him to know that I can tell. I also didn’t want to ask to cause a scene so I waited till after we separated to ask my friends but they did not seem notice at all.

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