Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Dec 09 2021


Late last month I gave a talk to some students at Shih Hsin University, known for its journalism program. The invitation came about in a rather unusual fashion: I was walking down by the river a few months ago, as I have been wont to do in lieu of wandering the streets of the city due to Covidian caution these past few months, when a Western dude in inline skates zoomed past, stopped and then came back to ask me if I was, well, me. Surprised that he recognized me at all, much less in my mask, I just stammered that I was in fact me. He introduced himself as Luke and said he was a fan on my book, and just wanted to tell me, which was nice. Afraid I hadn’t left a very good impression as I had been off in my own little world at the time, I wrote an apology on Facebook, which he saw and responded to. It turned out that Luke, an American, teaches a composition class at Shih Hsin and he invited me to give a talk there.

So one sunny day in late November I went over to Jingmei, meeting Chenbl at the station. We had some tasty Vietnamese food at one of the many such restaurants in the market there, an old-fashioned, cobblestone tub, shirts-hiked-up-around-stomachs kind of place, and then stopped by a Family Mart so I could inject some coffee and chocolate into my system before walking over to the university. Shih Hsin is an interesting place, geographically speaking, set by the river in a little mountain valley accessed by a long tunnel. The class, however, was in a building along the road, so we didn’t get to traverse the tunnel. Chenbl had some trouble with the school’s interface and his venerable notebook, but we fixed it eventually.

Luke gave me a nice introduction; he had told me that he usually uses a mix of Chinese and English in class, so I kept it that way, reminding myself to switch languages every so often depending on which language was more suited to whatever I was talking about. I am usually hesitant to do this as I’m not used to switching back and forth; my interactions tend to be either purely in Chinese, such as if I’m talking with Chenbl or my co-workers, or in English, such as when I’m hanging out with the Ramblers. When I go back and forth, both languages tend to suffer. Still, I made do. There was too much to cover in two hours and I skipped quite a lot in the end, but the students seemed to enjoy it and even gave me a signed card afterward. I wish that we’d had time for Q&A at the end, as the state of Taiwan’s media is quite precarious to say the least, and I was interested to hear their views on that.

It was deep twilight when Chenbl and I walked back out onto the road outside the campus, through the streets of Jingmei, which, I keep having to remind myself, is actually an interesting area though I whoosh underneath it twice a day on the subway. We found a nice Japanese restaurant and enjoyed some tasty sushi. I was relieved that the speech was concluded; I’m never quite sure exactly what to talk about when people ask me to talk about myself. I’d rather hear about them. It’s like the aux cord on a road trip: I’ve already heard my favorite music; I’d rather discover new stuff from other people’s favs.

In other news, the site is now on the new host, and the links are mostly fixed. I’ve updated the links on the sidebar as most of the old ones no longer exist. It’s a bit frightening to look back at how much the internet has changed since this site’s inception, and not much for the better. All of those quirky, interesting sites are history, and now everyone’s just being awful to each other on Twitter and Facebook. It’s depressing. Blogs have largely gone away, somewhat replaced by subscription email lists I guess. One bright spot I’ve recently come across it Craig Mod, an American man who combines his love of Japan, walking, photography and writing into a kind of coalescent platform on his site. Alas, I lack such skill in organizing all of these things, but it’s still an interesting model and has given me some ideas for the evolution of this site going forward.

posted by Poagao at 11:12 am  

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