Getting the Answer Right the First Time

Besides being old there’s at least one other trait that I share with one of America’s current crop of presidential candidates… I often slip up when talking and say the wrong thing. Not so serious that Fox News will be jumping on my case and demanding a government investigation or media assassination,  but enough to hurt feelings and perhaps damage relationships. On January 8th, over dinner with some students, I got it right, though.

I’d been forewarned by a quite possibly apocryphal story of a  foreign professor who departed in the mid-90s. He had done some very good work for a decade, spoke Chinese well enough to deliver his classes in it and  read Chinese well enough to grade his graduate students’ papers. This man had a balanced life. Apart from his scholarly work, he appreciated music and was deeply interested in computer equipment, building his own systems from parts obtained at nearby shops.  But family situations militated against continued life overseas, so a departure date was scheduled. 

In the midst of a million things to be done, meals to be shared, and interviews to be given, someone asked him what he would most miss about Taiwan. The way the story is told, his first answer was, “the computer parts stores on XX street.”  

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We’re back in Taiwan in connection with the presidential election… not America’s election, but Taiwan’s. One evening I sat with former students over a meal, and was asked what I’ve most missed in the 17 months that I’ve been gone. I think I got the answer right, I said, “Taiwan People”. That was followed up with two other things, “Taiwan food” (always a good answer in this culture) and “speaking Taiwanese.” These are the things that hold neighbors together, people, food, and communication.

Sure, I miss things akin to the apocryphal story’s “computer parts stores”, but not that I’d mention them. Otherwise you could start to call me, “Joe.”

David Alexander, who now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan, is back home to vote for president on January 11th.  


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