Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Yes, I told them, I was just there. And I don't know what it's like at all."

More about cultural generalizations. I think that making cultural generalizations is probably a pretty normal thing to do - not that that's a good excuse. Tonight I was listening to This American Life on the way back from the night market, and one of the speakers said something that clarified the problem for me. "The world is a prejudiced place, but it's prejudiced for the weirdest, least meaningful reasons imaginable. A few years ago I toured six German cities over a span of nine days... [I was struck by the fact that] 'The citizens of Germany are friendly and nervous.' ... Now, I can see that my reasons for viewing Germans as friendly is completely unsophisticated. I believe Germans are nice because they were nice to me, which is kind of like trying to be a meteorologist by looking out a window."

That's not to say that it's wrong to try to draw generalizations about a culture or a people from relatively little interaction with them; that is to say, however, that one should look at one's experiences like a skeptic. I've been trying to, but it recently struck me that I may well be failing: a girl at the hot-pot place that I eat at every night (more on that later, when I have more time!) recently expressed some surprise when I told her how nice I think people are here. She said that my being a foreigner probably has a lot to do with it. I may not entirely agree; for one, I think she probably lacks comparison (New York, anyone?), coming from a smaller city in the south, and for another, I've seen evidence of kindness, or at least very good manners (e.g., cosplay photographers and the MRT), in places not related to me. All that being said, when I think back to my original judgment that yes, Taipei people are indeed incredibly nice, I realize that that opinion sprang from a few situations that were centered around me, and it wasn't until later that I had a legitimate basis for that belief.

Anyway, enough with this theoretical nonsense. I've been having way too much fun lately to prep that final Snapshots update (Part III). Yesterday was a typhoon day - school cancelled, raining all day (and more), and pretty windy, but I wasn't particularly impressed. Then again, I didn't go out for long, because an umbrella doesn't really save you from getting soaked in sideways rain. I've been using the extra time pretty well, I think - preparing stuff for the coming year (scholarship issues, coordinating the Bridges ESL program, etc), reviewing a lot of characters, and most importantly... watching Harry Potter movies dubbed into Chinese! I saw #5 yesterday and #4 today, and I have to say, it's a great experience. #5, by the way, was better, for a reason I'd never notice while watching it in English: it has a lot more colloquialisms and simpler/more casual dialogue, whereas #4 is taken up by a lot of Triwizard Tournament discussion and the like.

Don't think that I speak the language nearly well enough to just sit down and watch the movie in Chinese; that would be amazing, but I of course used English subtitles. But I'm really excited to be at the point where I can understand the phrasing well enough to be able to in many cases know which words I don't know, and in some cases even to pick up (and write down!) various expressions. I'm very disappointed in my ability to hear tones, though, which apparently is significantly worse than I thought. In at least half of the new movie vocab I've written down in pinyin in order to look up later, I've gotten the tone mark wrong. (Pinyin is a way of Romanizing characters into Latin-style letters for pronunciation purposes, with numbers or 'accents' for tone markings; e.g., "夢" = "meng4.")

Anyway, here are some photos to fulfill Light Fellowship reporting requirements; look for better stuff later this week.

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, dubbed in Chinese with English subtitles. I now know how to say "Merlin's beard!" and "Dumbledore is not a Muggle" in Chinese.

P.S. The subtitle is supposed to show Madame Maxime's accent, but it's pretty close to what Dumbledore sounds like in Chinese - more of a "dwo" sound at the end, though.

2. Two of the very few photos of my bike trip, both taken at the very beginning when I stopped to apply sunscreen. Pictured in the first is the Batmobile - not the scooter, but rather the bike.

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