Heavyweights and Featherweights

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Make no mistake Taiwanese and indeed most Asians I have met are heavyweights when it come to family, tradition and financial responsibility. However, give any one of them a serving of alcohol and watch their faces glow and their karaoke skills become markedly more colorful.

I find this charming, they are the perpetual freshmen at the party drinking wine coolers and actually feeling it. What I find less charming is when I am judged as a westerner who drinks and who needs to drink a relatively much larger quantity than them to feel the same effects.

This is why I appreciate going to the import beer store and talking with the Taiwanese female owner who offers me a pint with a smile, good tasting notes and a characteristically northwestern lack of judgement. I am not an alcoholic, I am western.

Which leads me to my second truth, I drink because I am at my most optimistic and charming after half a bottle of wine. This often attracts people who I then make plans with in a semi-inebriated state. Plans that my sober self has to follow through with.

Sometimes these drunkplans are good, the make me go running with that guy I talked to and now I will have a new person to take Chinese class with next quarter. Or sometimes it means I have to drink coffee with that friend-of-a-friend I chatted up at the wedding when I drank too much horrible watery beer.

I am pretty sure there is a lesson in this that adds up to less alcohol consumption would be healthier for me, but I am not interested in listening right now.

There is that trashy bumpersticker meme that says, “No good story starts with someone eating a salad.” And while I think that is an interesting challenge there is a good point to me made. Maybe getting myself into these scrapes as “the girl who can’t say no” is more character building than the person who was great at leaving early.

I still leave early. It just I make optimistic plans before I do and then I get to learn things the hard way, just like I always have. Those are the only lessons I remember anyway.

When I talk to my responsible Taiwanese friends who never had a blackout drunk night in their whole college experience I wonder if maybe they missed out on something. Maybe it was something bad they missed out on, but they missed out all the same. You never feel as free of responsibilities as when you drink irresponsibly.

It is an act of independence, a sort of salute to your friends and enemies: “I will drink this much because I refuse to be in control and I might inconvenience any one of you tonight in my quest for perfect uninhibited utopia.”

While I no longer advocate this selfishness for myself, I think is is an important reminder to myself of what I don’t want to be or become in the future. Without that marker, that boundary already crossed I wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t be satisfied with just reading and experiencing it second hand.

Fires of Dulan

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I am no surfer. The closest I came to that growing up in Montana was my sister’s two month fascination with skateboarding and bruising my tailbone in a skate park near our house.

Despite my lack of experience I jumped at the opportunity to take the train to visit the South African surfing hostel in Dulan, Taiwan. Friday evening we jumped the Kaohsiung express to Taitung arriving at one in the morning. The two hours on the train only allowed more time to enjoy libations and catching up with friends because Taiwan has no open container laws.

The local beverages of Taiwan include primarily beer, Kaoliang 高粱 a sorghum liquor and balida medicinal alcohol.  PAOLYTA is the balida brand necessary for these weekend excursions.

The trips to Dulan require surfing, beach bonfires and excessive drinking. The best places were food are the reasonable priced Vietnamese restaurant and newer Italian restaurant both on the main street. The local drinking stations include the 7Eleven and the Sugar Factory although the music happens early around 9 or 10 so get there before 11 or you will miss out.

If you find yourself in this part of the world don’t be surprised by the kindness of strangers. Don’t be surprised by the quantity of beer consumed. Don’t be surprised to be walking home from an all night beach party at five in the morning.everyonenight