Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Time I Tangled* with Chestnuts and Lost

Years after her visit to Taipei, one of the things my mom continues to remark on is the traffic. Often there are no sidewalks or they're very narrow/not well kept or they've been taken over as a parking lot. In Taipei everyone shares the sidewalks and roads equally be it cars, motor bikes, bicyclists, pedestrians, food carts, etc etc.

So that's my preface to the time I lost a fight with a food cart.

I was on my way back from one of my teaching jobs trying to navigate a particularly difficult sidewalk. It was very narrow, full of cracks and potholes, there was one huge tree you had to carefully circumnavigate...and all the other people trying to do the same. I had a strategy that involved a lot of duck and weave which usually worked for me, except for when it didn't. There was one evening when the foot traffic was pretty heavy and I was doing my duck and weave but apparently didn't duck enough.

I will further preface this by saying that I often wore my hair in pin curls because it was an easy way to get 3-4 days out of one hairstyle AND beat the incredible humidity there. I think this was before I discovered hair product and so needed all the help I could get.

Back to the ducking and weaving. There was usually a vendor on the corner of this street who sold roasted chestnuts. Usually I was able to get around but between the many pedestrians, my usual distracted state, and the fact that I'm a wee bit taller than your average Taiwanese person (who probably all fit under the cart roof just fine); this time I had a problem. One of the pin curls got caught on the edge of the cart roof. Without my noticing. Until I tried to walk on. And got yanked viciously back.

It took forever to untangle me. I could only feel whatever mess was going on up there and the poor little man who ran the cart was trying to help but couldn't reach my hair. I was doing my best to assure him that it was ok and no worries etc etc...but still. And of course it felt like the entire country was there to stare at me as they walked/drove by.

I did get a a handful of free chestnuts out of it though. He felt so bad he insisted I take some. I must have looked a sight walking the rest of the way to subway...big white girl whose hair was kinda crazy to begin with now made worse by some errant dangling curls and pins munching on roasted chestnuts.

*Also, get it? Hair, tangled...hahaha

That particular sidewalk featured in several embarrassing moments for me. In addition to the hair incident, there was also the time I fell down. This time it was the blasted tree that did me in. I was trying to step around the roots that had pushed their way through the sidewalk when my foot caught. And I went down. Hard. I fell flat on my face and lay sprawled across the sidewalk.

That's not's my hair. Just so we're on the same page.

There's an interesting little quirk about Chinese culture that I learned...others' embarrassment is so embarrassing for everyone (which is one of the reasons my roommate said I was Chinese...I even have to cover my eyes during movie scenes in which people do embarrassing things). So people in Taiwan often went out of their way to avoid noticing someone so as to not further their embarrassment. Which meant that before I recovered and lay sprawled across the sidewalk with my feet dangling into the street, other pedestrians ignored my plight and stepped right over me.

It was really quite polite of them if you think about it.