From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fieldnotes From History (2)

Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Fieldnotes From History."

Part of an occasional “Round and Square” series that follows the blog’s main theme (east meets west, round meets square, and past meets present), these snippets from my early fieldnotes are reproduced as they were written by hand—and then revised on an ancient desktop computer—during my fieldwork stay in Taiwan (1985-1987).  All entries are the way that I left them when I returned to the United States in 1987 (some nicely-stated and some embarrassing). I will allow myself an occasional comment when something makes me wince after a quarter century.

2 May 1985
I awoke this morning at 5:00 a.m., took another bath, dressed, and walked out onto the streets. 5:00 is wake-up time for most of Taipei. Vendors in tiny street shops and wagons were setting up by 6:00, and the streets were crowded by 7:00. I slipped into a small corner shop near New Park, ordered a Coke, and watched old men in sleeveless t-shirts doing martial arts routines, and students preparing for school. (Students work very hard here, and don’t get much sleep. I see them everywhere, in buses, restaurants, or parks, nodding off, often with their faces gravitating towards bowls full of noodles).

I watched a short, fortyish woman prepare noodles and soup. The interior of the shop was a greasy yellow. Over the years, it appeared, cooking oil had splattered into every corner of the room, making the walls look like old flypaper. A man walked in, mumbled something, and was promptly served a steaming bowl of noodles. I pointed to the noodles the proprietress was stirring and said that I wanted some too. She nodded and said “san shi liu kuai” (NT $36; US $.90)  I reiterated, in Mandarin, that I wanted the soup. She nodded again. I waited patiently while she continued to slowly stir the noodles with a large stick. An older man, with a wart on his lip which almost touched his nose, and tickled the end with three strands of reddish-brown hair, slowly, arthritically, descended a greasy iron staircase connecting the shop with the living quarters. He began helping the woman cut carrots, pinch the edges of wontons, and stir noodles. I waited.

A young couple entered the store, whipped off a few rapid monosyllables, and was promptly served soup and noodles. I then realized that the woman hadn’t listened to me, and assumed that Americans didn’t ever eat at little shops and food stands. She thought I had asked for the price of a cola. I stood up and rudely, I guess, pointed to the couples’ noodles and soup, and said in Mandarin that I wanted “one of those.”  The man smiled, his wart vanishing into his flaring nostrils, and promptly served me a steaming bowl. When in doubt, point.

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