#TaytakesTaiwan: The good, the bad, and the “should my food be moving?”

#TaytakesTaiwan: The good, the bad, and the “should my food be moving?”

GREETINGS FROM THE FUTURE! Well, the future, in my case, means living in a time zone 13 hours ahead of those at my beloved second home, James Madison University. Hey there, friends! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Taylor Herndon, a sophomore theatre/SMAD double major and editor of Reduced Pulp. This semester I’m participating in a JMU exchange program right outside of Taipei, Taiwan and I’m here to share what I can of the adventure with YOU. Taiwan has such a rich and lively culture, so I thought it’d be best to kick things off with a few tips that I’ve learned since arriving:

  1. 7-11 is the backbone of society.
    Now when I say the backbone of society, I mean THE backbone of society. Bus pass, SIM card, dinner, the place to pay student fees, wedding venue.  Get you a convenience store that has it all.
  2. Pictures can and will be taken for every occasion.
    I am ALL about this. I tend to feel bad for wanting to take so many pictures back home. Usually someone’s waiting on me, the background may not be anything special, etc. But here? Going to a tourist attraction? Take pictures. Make a new friend? Take a picture with them. See an exchange student? Definitely take their picture. Be sure to bring flags or fun props that people in the picture can use too.
  1. You’ll collect awkward hugs like souvenirs.
    If you’re a hugger like me, Taiwan will bring you a whole new world of awkward interactions. Even when you think you’ve read all the signs right, you’ll still be faced with the painfully ungraceful side-hug, single back pat situation. Whoops.
  2. The garbage trucks…have a song?
    That’s right folks. Hear that obnoxious little jingle blasting all over town? That’s not an ice cream truck, no no no. It’s the opposite: a trash truck. And, when you have a serious phobia of garbage trucks like me (bad experience, long story) that cheerful little ditty will haunt your nightmares.
  3. Back of the line, kid.
    The culture of Taiwan is very respectful overall. You always pay when you get off the bus, you give up your seat to the elderly, and you always wait in line. In the subways, they actually have lines painted on the floor to direct lines. And even if you could run in front of everyone, you just don’t. The other day, a man accidentally skipped me in the bubble tea line, then apologized for a whole five minutes when he realized he’d committed such a sin.
  4. Green eggs and…Kit Kats?
    I could write 500 blog posts on Taiwanese food itself, but the Kit Kats were specifically intriguing to me. I had heard rumors of the ominous green candy, but never had the pleasure of gracing my taste buds with it until now. They’re made out of matcha tea, which is essentially just green tea ground up, and they actually taste heavenly. I have now even committed myself to trying all of the green pastries I can find…. we’ll see how that one goes though.
  5. If kindness could kill, there would be a genocide.
    Okay that sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s needed to emphasize my point that Taiwanese people are SO. KIND. I already touched on the fact that it’s a respectful culture in general, but they really deserve more credit because these people are like JMU’s best door holders on steroids. The one time I gave up on chopsticks and tried to use a fork (my first mistake), I ended up slinging my fish across my plate, and thus also slinging the dark red fish sauce ALL over the sweet girl next to me, but was she even upset? Nope. Was she just a precious angel who laughed it off and said not to worry? You bet. A friend of mine literally ran into old man with his bike and the old man apologized to him! Two days ago, a girl who I had never met sprinted to share her umbrella with me when she saw that I didn’t have one. Even the Starbucks employees give me extra chocolate syrup. God bless Taiwan.
  6. Cold water…isn’t the norm???
    Maybe I was just raised in a household that was too traditional, maybe it’s the influence of my wild peers, maybe it’s just because it’s convenient, but I like ice in my water. There, I said it. I’ve lived this way all my life, but when it’s cold in Taiwan you definitely don’t drink cold water. Because the water dispensers have hot water and anything else would just make you more cold, right? People have stopped me every time, assuming I’m choosing cold on accident, to question if I know how to work the water dispenser.  Basically my whole life is a lie.
  7. Stinky tofu. Self explanatory.
    Stinky tofu is one of the first things that the locals will ask you about because they know it’s a hot topic of conversation. It’s made throughout Taiwan and “stinky” is an understatement. This tofu taints the air with the smell of dead dreams and discolored rainbows. I actually cannot breath when I walk by it and have to hold a scarf over my nose. Just in case I don’t have a scarf handy, I have now calculated all the stinky tofu stands in my vicinity and how long I can hold my breath to get past the range of its stench.
  8. Taiwan is home to the cutest dogs ever. EVER.

            

    This is hard to even put into words, but all of the dogs are 1000% fluffier with huge eyes that just melt your heart. Also, people are all about mobilizing their pets, so dogs (and even cats) will just sit in the tiny floor of a moped and drive along with their owners. They also have accessories like you’ve never seen before. I identify as a cat person, but I would be a dog person for Taiwan’s dogs.
  9. As for the English products…well they’re trying.
    Finding clothes/bags/other various merchandise with English phrases that just make zero sense has become a new hobby of mine. The other day I saw a girl wearing a shirt that read, “MILK. COOKIES. BREAD.” In large letters and couldn’t help but wonder…. what is the bread being used for in that situation? Also a popular marketing slogan for gyms here is just, “We want your body!” written on large signs. Good.
  10. Get out of your comfort zone!
    If Taiwan has taught me anything thus far, it’s that the world begins outside of your comfort zone. Do something that scares you. Take leaps of faith. There’s a big world out there waiting on you. (Also, #GoDukes).

About the Author

Taylor Herndon

Taylor Herndon

Writer & Editor

Taylor is a sophomore theatre and SMAD: digital video cinema double major who is STOKED to be working with Reduced Pulp. She overuses to word “nifty,” and is a firm believer that Kevin was the superior Jonas Brother.
When not doing theatre/SMAD things, she can likely be found studying Chinese, taking pictures, stalking the quad cats, or thinking of a witty tweet. In the future, she hopes to act, travel, and break the world record for the most coffee dates in one week. She is so excited to share her love of the arts with JMU & you can follow along with her on twitter at @freckleface_tay.

The Slam of Silence

The Slam of Silence

The Slam of Silence

Buckle up kiddo, it’s time to talk Denny’s. If you scoffed you might as well stop reading now, do yourself a favor, and throw your hate-spreading computer, tablet, or digital device out the window of your wretched abode. If you refuse to accept the divine intervention that is America’s Diner, than I have no words beyond this point that will guide you to salty-sweet salvation. Your journey is your own, but from this point onward I will speak as though I speak to fellow acolytes of the 2am oasis.

The Grand-Slamwich. Unmatched. Unparalleled. Unbeaten. Our beloved fathers list this ambrosial concoction as such: two scrambled eggs, crumbled sausage, bacon, shaved ham and American cheese on potato bread grilled with a maple spice spread. Served with hash browns. 1,390 calories of pure existential ecstasy. For a mere 11.50, you can transport your taste buds to another plane of decadence and indulgence.

Perhaps we grew greedy. Perhaps we grew selfish. Perhaps we have tasted forbidden fruit. Whatever the case may be, we have indeed been cast from Eden. The Grand-Slamwich, as we know it, is not more. For the sake of sanity, all persons in the following narrative shall remain nameless, but believe a fellow acolyte when I tell you that everything I regale to you is true.

It is midnight. We are hungry. Naturally, we make our pilgrimage. As we enter the Denny’s, we only speak of the dish. The experience. The Slamwich. Eagerly we open our menus, dejectedly we look at our wallets. None of us can afford the aliment. We order cheaper options, yet can only speak of the toasted felicity of the ‘wich. Taking pity upon us pious wayfarers, the waiter makes a decision. In an act of selfless benevolence, he presents us with the dish itself, shining in the moonlight, free of charge.

A meal to share. A bestowal rare. We say a prayer. We take a square. We prepare.

Despair.

This is not the comestible of our forefathers.  This is not what we have sacrificed so much for. This is not Grand-Slamwich. This can barely even be called a Slamwich. Denny Above, this isn’t even a SANDWICH. Tears. Anger. Hate. We turn to the waiter, searching his eyes for the motive of such betrayal. He has nothing to say for himself. With the strength of ten ordinary men, my compatriot begins to tear through carnage of sausage, ham, and cheese. Realization dawns in his burning eyes.

“Where’s the maple spread.”

We turn again to the waiter for some sort of explanation in this hopeless world. He proceeds to dictate the harsh truth of our time: the maple spread has been removed from the recipe. Though some locations still carry the nectarous butter, tragedy has befallen the chain. Apparently, heretics have claimed that the maple spread is “too sweet” and “clashes with the rest of the sandwich.” Excuse me? EXCUSE ME?! WHO ARE YOU TO QUESTION AMERICA’S DINER? You know nothing you pathetic excuses for patrons. Because of you, the pious are denied entrance into the Valhalla known as the Slamwich. You can rot in IHOP for all I care.

I present this information to you not for indifference nor impotence, but as a call to contemplation. The future is dark and the world is cold, we must take it upon ourselves to forge the future we wish to see. Though the maple spread may never touch our yearning tongues again in this lifetime, we can and must carry its spirit in our hearts in everything we do for its efforts to not be in vain. Though it spent but little time with us here on earth, it is up to us to keep its message resounding throughout the oncoming night. We had our time in the sun, and it is now time to bring our own light to the darkness. Perhaps, indeed, the real maple spread is the friends we make along the way.

About the Author

Rob Condas

Rob Condas

Writer & Editor

Rob Condas is a sophomore at James Madison University, and is currently pursuing a B.A. in theatre. His fashion sense has been described of that of a “hipster Mr. Rogers,” which he begrudgingly does not dispute.
He hopes to someday run a creepy old book shop that disappears the day after you buy one of its mysterious items. His position at Reduced Pulp is that of editor
and writer.

Midnight Ghosts

Midnight Ghosts

You keep blinking to stay awake.

Pushing yourself through it

Hearing that sweet guitar melody

 

The hands hold your head

Every sound is amplified

Shadows are footprints on the walls

Fighting (un)knowns

 

You think better in the dark

The skeletons are still in the closet

Humor makes you smile

You’re wiser than your age

What have you got to lose

By staying awake?

About the Author

Florence Babatunde

Guest Contributor

Mother of Sharks

No one knew exactly when she got here.  A few people had had classes with her, and reported her as being mostly quiet and smelling vaguely aquatic. Her family must have been rich, because people had been seeing her for almost six years now. She was quintessential to every JMU student’s college experience; tens of thousands of people couldn’t imagine college without Mother of Sharks ever-present in the background.

She sat at the small peninsula that jutted out into Newman Lake, with the branches of the low-hanging willows brushing at her back. She usually had a hand or foot in the water, no matter how cold it was. A few people liked to hang around her—she wouldn’t talk much, if at all, but her company was comforting. Once someone asked why she was always touching the water, and she said she needed to be there if her shark needed her.

Now, Newman Lake wasn’t a proper lake. It was spoon-shaped, manmade, and wove its way through southwest campus. The part of the lake that represented the “handle” of the spoon ran over large, smooth rocks, and was thin and shallow enough to be considered a brook— and it even babbled. Students weren’t allowed to jump it in anymore due to a syphilis outbreak in 1991 after Sigma Sigma Sigma made their spring pledges skinny dip in it. Every Saturday morning, a couple local rednecks would park their cars next to the lake and try to fish. They never caught anything, as the lake was too polluted and stagnant to support aquatic life more complex than an STD. As far as the student body knows, her shark was the only fish in the lake.

It is important to mention that, despite all this, she had a shark. It stayed in Newman Lake. Some people said it was a baby Great White. Others said it was a tiger shark. A minority of students vehemently believed it to be a smooth-hound shark. Mother of Sharks didn’t know. Someone asked her once, and she said she wasn’t sure—she just knew that the shark was hers. It was gray, and it was bigger than Mother of Sharks, but it liked to lay its head on her lap and be petted. It purred.

Every year, there would be a group of people—usually freshmen, usually girls—who liked to spend their time next to Mother of Sharks. Every year, they asked the same questions, and every year, they got the same answers.

“How did you get a shark?”

“She’s followed me around my whole life.”

“Don’t sharks have to keep moving forward or they die?”

“I suppose so.”

“Then how is she able to stay still while you pet her?”

Mother of Sharks would just shrug.

“Are sharks supposed to purr?”

“She does, isn’t that enough for you?”

Usually they stopped asking questions after that.

Stories of the shark’s heroism abounded on campus. She had a clear sense of morals, which was odd for a shark. Before the shark arrived, the grass surrounding Newman Lake was a popular place for dorm-ridden students to make love away from the prying eyes of their roommates. It was easy enough to find a good shadow, lay down a blanket, and rub genitals together. Unfortunately, the believed secrecy also made it a stomping ground for robbers and rapists. The shark liked to bite them.

She never removed a limb. People who had been bitten said that she wrestled with your appendage just enough to scare you—and leave a very distinct scar. A person with a dotted half-moon scar was not spoken to. It was an unspoken rule.

The administration wanted to control the shark at first, but they couldn’t ever find it. They would ask Mother of Sharks.

The president of JMU would be flanked his staff, wearing a purple dress shirt and no tie and trying his best not to flinch every time the willow branches brushed against him.

“Where is your shark?” they would ask her. She would wrap her arms around her knees and address them calmly.

“I don’t know.”

The president would smile just a little bit tighter.

“It is your shark, correct?”

Mother of Sharks would shrug.

“She’s followed me around my whole life.”

“Then you have to know where she is.”

Mother of Sharks would shrug again. The president’s smile would grow grotesque.

“You have to understand that she endangers students.”

“Only the bad ones.”

The president never learned how to respond to that.

The shark investigation stopped when the vice Dean of Students was caught with a half-moon scar on his left arm and promptly fired.

If you listened closely, you could hear Mother of Sharks talking while she and her shark cuddled. The shark would purr, and Mother of Sharks would whisper.

“Thank you, thank you for staying. Thank you for all you do. One day I’ll save you, too. One day I’ll give back to you. I’ll pay my debts.

“I’ll pay my debts.”