Sunday, November 16, 2008

MUTT Ch. 4--Not yet serious

All this seems ridiculous so far, granted. What is interesting about this character me? Why should you follow him any further into what is, after all, not an exotic fantasy land, but instead just another sweltering Asian capital, one you can read about any day in The Economist or Time? I'm not sure. Maybe it will help you overcome my crankish first chapters if you put yourself in my shoes. I know this might not be easy. But give it a try. Just imagine you were me that first day in Taiwan. What's your situation? What do you expect from the place? As follows: You have a PhD. in Classics from a good American university. You are 29. You wrote a dissertation on the Greek satirist Lucian and the Russian theorist Bakhtin. Regardless of these academic credentials, you couldn't land a university job in the States, and you didn't want to be a taxi driver, bartender, hotel desk flunky, drug dealer, or waiter. Going abroad to teach English for awhile seemed like a decent idea. And you'd heard good things about Taiwan. Everything might have been fine that first day, but you left your contact numbers in a folder on a chair at the airport. You felt stupid about that, of course, but you knew it was a simple enough mistake, and probably within an hour or two you'd solve the problem of finding the school.

But then the drink with the frog eggs had reminded you of a scene from early childhood--a period you'd rather forget--and your fatigue from the long flight, your easygoing nature, and the involuntary memory from childhood all combined to provoke you into a harmless but ridiculous act: offering some of your drink, two bits of candy as it were, to a child who was terrified of you.

Then you were on the street again. There was sweat running off your head, down your neck, and down your back. It was around 1:30 p.m., and your good mood was giving way slowly to confusion and giddy fatigue. You had just crossed the planet, you were in the wrong time zone, and you were lost. All the signs around you were a blur of Chinese characters, and the people seemed completely taken up by the bustle of their day, paying you no attention at all.

Imagine you were me that first day. The situation wasn't serious, but it would be soon enough.

On to Chapter 5

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