Oh!My & The Tower of Pijou

Trip Start Sep 17, 2011
Trip End Jul 19, 2013

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Flag of Taiwan  , Taiwan,
Thursday, September 22, 2011

"E-bei hei-seh pijou."

"U-bai.  Xeixei."
- New friend using some sort of language ninja magic power to help me order a drink in Chinese

On the initial drive into town, Maggie pointed out a watering hole near my apartment where all the local foreign teachers gathered on Thursday nights.  The name of the pub was literally just "Oh! My" and Foreigner Night had arrived.  Oh!My was slick to a fault and usually empty too, having the feel of an underused hotel bar.  What it did have good though was a cozy outdoor seating area with long wooden benches and decent house-brewed beer, two things hard to come by in these parts.  

When I got there a few people were already hanging out around one of the outside tables.  I recognized two from my school, Ned the Brit & Carrie from Canada.  Ned had only been in Jhunan a week or two and was practically as new to the group as I was but the rest had clearly known each other for some time.  The Jhunan foreigner crew at the time was about a dozen strong.  There were Phil and Lalo, Americans who worked at the same school together in the industrial part of town.  Lalo was even from LA same as me.  Megan and Kyle were a couple from New Zealand & Canada respectively, they worked a few blocks away by the main elementary school.  There was also Zev, a fellow Hebrew from the South whose drawl came and went with the ale.  I introduced myself and joined the conversation.

Something furry bumped my leg as I sat down. 

Not all Dogs are Equal

Both Carrie and the Kiwi/Canuck couple had spastic jet-black dogs with them who spent most of the night chasing each other around the sidewalk and yelping at passersby.  When they'd come up onto the patio, usually as food was being served, the Oh!My servers seemed very uncomfortable.  Carrie's dog Jeff would say hey to them with a friendly bark and the waitress would just awkwardly stare and twitch around him. 

I soon learned the reason why: these were rescued street dogs, a fact that was apparently obvious by appearance as with a few exceptions no one in town seemed to own a dog larger and fiercer than a small fluffy poodle.  Street dogs are second-class citizens while poodles, particularly brown ones, are the 1%.  The street dogs were all sharper-looking mutts with some native Taiwanese wild dog blood mixed in.  If you took a street dog for a walk in a busy sidewalk you'd get scorned by parents.  Don't even think about taking them to the park.  Carrie and Megan recounted some funny stories where they'd made that mistake.

I mentioned the stray that'd greeted me at the train station the day before.

"It was brown?  Maybe that was Buddy!"

Carrie & Megan had given all the star street dogs around town names and tried to take care of them when time and and work allowed.  Megan's dog was friends with Buddy and one other whose name I forgot, both of whom they'd taken in for a bit to get spayed and vaccinated.  I should mention, Taiwan has a pretty big stray dog problem, so much as the "Stay Safe" section of Lonely Planet has a bold headline specifically for "Dogs."  The Jhunan ferals were all pretty chill though with one exception, to be elaborated on in a later entry.

The Drunk Businessmen

There isn't a huge drinking culture here but when the locals do go out, good luck putting a cap on it.  "Gan bei!", effectively "Cheers!" in Mandarin, means "bottoms up!" and friendly ridicule will come fast if you fail to finish your glass.

About halfway into the night one of the bar's only other customers walked outside to meet us.  He was a balding chubby middle-aged fellow, I'd guess a businessman though I didn't have much to base that on, and boy was he was trashed.  Just a little louder than necessary he asked us, in Chinese, what our names were, where we were from, what we did, etc all the standard icebreakers.  He spoke no English.  We were only about two or three names deep before he cut us off and beckoned us to join his table inside. 

There was a moment of unanimous hesitation as few probably wanted to deal with his drunk antics.

"We're gonna look like A-holes if we don't," someone pointed out.

And so we went inside.

He barked something at a waitress and introduced us to his two friends, one of whom was Japanese and greeted us with a hand-bow different from the Taiwanese version.  It never occurred to me that there'd be a difference - a small new thing I learned there.  He also seemed a good deal more sober than his friend.   Within moments the waitress reappeared with a giant plastic tower of Taiwan Pijou.  When you order enough beer for a table here, it comes in a seemingly bottomless plastic tower with a spigot, not a pitcher.  Mr. Drunk Guy started pouring us glasses when a radroach from Fallout3 crawled inside the tower. 

Drunk Guy barely noticed.  Luckily our cups were safely poured and we paid our "Gan bei!" duties to our new friends.  He followed us back outside soon after while his friends remained in.  He kept talking to us in slurred forceful Mandarin, now well beyond the translation abilities of the two teachers there who could speak some of the language and apathetic (or oblivious) to the fact that we couldn't understand him.  He was having a blast though.  There also wasn't much room at the table so every few minutes he'd accidentally rub greasy shoulders with Megan.  Megan did not like this.  I thought it was kind of hilarious.

Eventually all parties were done for the night especially the Oh!My staff.  Mr. Drunk Guy paid our tab before we could even ask about it, was escorted off by his Japanese friend, and my first run-in with fabled Taiwanese generosity toward foreigners was finished.  It would not be the last.

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Clinton on

C'mon now...don't knock "Drunk Guy"... I've met him all over the island! Nicely told...wish I'd been there to meet him!

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