Monday, April 30, 2007


I finally decided to buy a scooter, as I now have enough money and some confidence that I will not wreck my scooter in the first week of driving it. I'm still kind of ambivalent about it, since one of the joys of leaving the US was not having to take care of things with motors.

Buying a scooter definitely falls under the category of Things That Are Harder Than You'd Think. I thought that if I learned to say "I want to buy a used scooter for $10,000" in Chinese, and I'd say it at one of these used-scooter shops where there are three men just sitting on stools, staring into space and smoking, that would be enough, but it's not. A couple of shops have told me they don't speak English (grr! I am not speaking English!); a couple have told me that they don't sell used scooters, and a couple have asked if I have a Taiwanese friend I can call. I guess the most frustrating part is that it's not like I'm interrupting them from fixing a scooter, or even watching TV. They are sitting on stools. That is all they're doing. You would think they had time to spend ten minutes trying to communicate with me. So I will need to get someone to help me. Which isn't a big deal, just finding time. And also Taiwanese people always have some specific opinions about how much I should spend, or what size scooter I should get, which don't always match my opinions. But I should get one soon.

On the entertaining side of things, I've started to study for my scooter license. There is a written test, which is a combination of multiple-choice and true-and-false questions. The manual you study from is just a collection of 300 possible questions. It is mercifully in English, but the English is sometimes creatively translated. Many of the things are common sense but others exemplify the difference between the Western way of doing things and the Taiwanese way. For example:

A true/ false question: "To practice bad driving morals will bring dishonor to the motorcycle operator and his family." (That's true, by the way.)

Here's a multiple choice question: "You're driving when oil causes you to fall. You: a) count it as bad luck and drive on; b) report to the nearest police station; c) put some branches on the road to warn other drivers." Yes, in the US putting branches on the road would never be the correct answer, but here- it's all part of good driving morals!

The few things I have to work on are the impenetrable system of arm-gestures the traffic-directing policemen use (I could figure them out it they just had a list of them with what they mean, but it's all presented in the true/ false section, so you're like "oh, so that doesn't mean traffic from the right can proceed with caution...") and the differences between motorcycles, huge motorcycles, and huge heavy motorcycles ( most of which are what we would call scooters, not motorcycles). I think I'll be OK! We'll see!

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