Those guys, you know.
It's a weekend, and we're foreigners, sitting in front of the local convenience store. We're foreign because we're in Taiwan, and not in the foreign place we came from. We're foreign because we're wearing the wrong/right kind of clothes, and foreign because we're speaking the wrong/right kind of language.
And those guys come up, drunk as lords. Where were they drinking, before they met us? What had they been doing, before the Heineken? Before the betel nut? Before the cigarettes?
"Drink," they say, "You can be our foreign friends tonight. You are all foreigners, and of course you don't know anything about Taiwan, so let's be friends, and we can teach you many things about it."
Beers are distributed to various people. Betel nut is chewed. Cigarettes are lit.
"You are all foreigners," say those guys, "So you don't understand Our Culture. Let me tell you about Our Culture, even though I don't believe that you'll ever understand it.
"You see," say those guys, "There's this thing called Taiwan, right?
"...and in this thing called Taiwan there are many holidays, and foods, and languages. But of course you are all foreigners, and you wouldn't know about this.
"We have Chinese New Year, and Moon Festival, and Dragon Boat Festival. You, being foreigners, have Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and Easter.
"We have stinky tofu, and chicken feet, and dumplings. You, being foreigners, have hamburgers, pizza, and French fries.
"We speak Taiwanese, and Chinese, and Hakkanese. You, being foreigners, speak only English.
"You see we know about all of these things because we can learn your language, and we can know your culture. You, being foreigners, can't learn our language, and can't know anything about us.
"So you see, foreigners? Afterward, you will wonder why we are saying these things - but it doesn't matter now. Afterward, you will wonder whether we value Our Culture too highly... or not enough. Afterward, you will think and you will think and you will think. But it won't matter then, because we will never tell you."
And on they talk as more beers are passed around. And we, the foreigners, are left wondering what to say. Is this Culture they speak of really so hard to understand? Are those guys really so far beyond us?
...but even this doesn't matter, because now they are leaving. They are off to some bar, or KTV, where not-so-young girls will pour their drinks. They're off to some place with flashing lights, and expensive company.
Those guys. They're always so eager to tell us about the place we live, even if any fool, anywhere, understands any place as well as they do.
Better, perhaps, to have another beer. Better, perhaps, to give - and to receive - offenses. What point, after all, in arguing with those guys? Or in trying to impress them?
Some of us could speak their language, I think. Some of us could speak of Their Culture, in that same language. But would they really hear the words we spoke? Would they ever see through the foreign, to the part of us that isn't?
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