Face and Guanxi



Endless bitching got us out of this place, Chan Wu. It was just the beginning but it gathered enough momentum to relocate us downtown in a reasonable hotel.


Saving face took over next. The potential embarrassment over this cultural debacle and military style coup convinced them some action should be taken. ‘Convinced’ might be a euphemism, saving face after all is seldom a matter of choice, it’s a social trust that measures your integrity. It’s not easily restored once lost.


This leads us full circle to Guanxi. Thinking back to our first class seemingly years ago, we learnt of Guanxi: Chinese relationships. It’s the eastern equivalent of it’s not what you know, it’s who.


This is what got us across the line or border or whatever separates reality from this Kung Fu Kingdom. Some ‘officials’, perhaps government or triads, pulled the necessary strings to make the final preparations for the move.


I’m glad I’ve managed to see and participate in real life scenarios of what we learnt in class. The practical experience, however unplanned it was, has taught be the most about doing business in China.






The Beast of Sonder, so prevalent in my previous journeys, has returned more majestically and unexpectedly than before; permeating, not through people met on the street, next door or behind some mat laying on the ground of some cold pedestrian tunnel selling goods you never really need, but from the people I know.

‘Know’ is a loose term. I know their names, perhaps their major or favourite sport, but being with them continuously for days at a time creates an unspoken closeness.

The façade, socially superficial if you’d dare not or care not to take a closer look, conceal amazing remarkable people whose stories may run deeper than the light can penetrate the ocean or a richly colourful coral reef of skills, stories, desires and achievements above which you could float and ponder for almost an eternity.

But after three weeks your oxygen is low. You’re fading fast, the experiences of this other reality become blurred like a dream you can barely remember. Suddenly, a fierce reality jerks you back to its boat with a rope around your brain and rationale, but not without tearing a piece of yourself that invariably slips away and falls back into the water.

These China experiences I’ve had, while similar in theme or agenda, are remarkably different with the people who are with you. Each having their own influence you can only pray is not dissolved from your soul in the same way this fairy land will dissolve into a dream you think you’ve had before.




15/07/2013 12:39pm

The flashbacks are brief but intense, like large drops of rain on a humid day, although they feel less like your friend who sits behind you on a plane or train poking you on your skull and more like a bubble escaping from a small gap on the surface of your brain.


You never quite know what the bubble might contain, if it’s real or a concocted recollection.

It was strange and melancholic how quickly the atmospere changed yesterday afternoon. The short and intense two weeks fell away so fast it was easy to lose balance. But the outlook remains positive, contrary to previous international experiences, we have the oppurtunity to regroup and reminisce, and I hope we do.


the imposter

I don’t have much to offer you from here in Taiwan. I have a routine now, but it hardly brings anything to the table. Literally. Aside from the fact that my current residence doesn’t actually have a table but only a desk, I can’t even post the cute pictures of muffins and other assorted delicacies that I’ve been known to cook up from time to time.

Because we also don’t have a kitchen.

Sure, I’ll make a sandwich or eat a yoghurt. I might even enjoy it. But you couldn’t want to know about that, could you? As mentioned previously, I’ve often considered documenting my culinary expeditions, Taiwan, after all, has some of the tastiest bites in the east, but that’s just he problem, isn’t it? You see, my stomach and my mouth seem to have an agreement, of which my brain is oblivious. As, usually, the food is somewhere between the two scheming organs before I ever think of taking a snap. But perhaps it’s for the best, I don’t think I could maintain a blog about food.

I hardly know any adjectives.

This is also a problem. As for every word I don’t know in English there exists a subsequent word I don’t know in Chinese alongside the one or two characters used to write it.


可是有问题。你不会说中文。所以,你现在用谷歌翻译。Never mind.

I should also note for my Chinese speaking friends, that the above paragraphs were written to be understood by Google Translate, and my Chinese grammar, while still poor, is not quite that atrocious.


Taipei’s closest and subsequently most popular beach, Fulong, (possibly short for ‘FUcking LONG way from Taipei’) is supposedly busy on the best of days. Last weekend, well, it was ridiculous.

The reason being that our visit coincided with a music festival featuring none other than Taiwan’s Super-Mega-Stars 五月天 aka Mayday.

We managed to find, within the crowds, space enough, not to sit, but to rest our bags, so that we could wallow in the shallows.

There wasn’t a lot of space in the water either.

dong lai cha vs. bing nai cha

On my last trip to Taiwan, I hadn’t really thought about the endless debate amongst tea enthusiast in the Asia-Pacific region. Now, when I say Asia-Specifically I mean Hong Kong and Taiwan and their respective ‘dong lai cha’ and ‘bing nai cha’, which essentially means ‘Iced Milk Tea’, often served in ridiculously large, 700mL sealed cups, containing little, chewy black beads; also known as pearls.

This past year means I’m already likely to lean towards favouring Hong Kong’s contender for best iced-beverage (having uttered ‘dong lai cha’ at least 7 times a week), and after Alex recently pointed out that the Taiwanese favour powdered milk as their source of lactose compared to the good ol’ fashion sweetened-condensed variety, I was reassured in my decision.

Now, I’m not saying Taiwan has nothing to offer in the way of hot-then-cold liquids steeped in picked-and-dried goodness, a.k.a iced tea, but it is most certainly supplied by another avenue.

Hong Kong: 1; Taiwan: 0

The everlasting battle continues…

I’ll stick to buckets of green tea for now.