Friday, 15 August 2008

The Trouble with Gongguan

When being told about the city sights and places of interests in the first days of this trip, I was told about a place called Gongguan Station. In fact, we made a quick stop there on our second day, just to see what it had to offer from a quick glance. Throughout the last week of class, my students had been asking me what I was interested in seeing in the city, wanting to take me around and show me the city themselves. When one of my students, Ray, asked me that question, to which I responded, "I would really like to go to Gongguan Station and Night market." Ray almost choked on his drink as he looked at me through the smudged lenses of his black-rimmed glasses, his eyes radiating shock. I couldn't understand this response. I was told it was a good place to go. After getting his swig of green tea down, he repeated my request, followed by miming the actions of flashing his chest as if questioning if he heard me correctly. Now extremely confused, I said it again. "Gongguan Station...the shopping district? Right after Wanlong Station?" It clicked. His chest rose with a sigh of relief. "Do you mean Go-ng-guan?" he asked me. I had said it incorrectly. I pronounced it gone-guan. He proceeded to tell me the difference in pronunciation. 'Go-ng-guan' was the shopping district off of the MRT. 'Gone-guan' is the word for stripper pole. That's right, I had inadvertently asked my student to take me to a strip club instead of a respectful shopping part of Taipei. "Oops, my bad," has become a part of my daily conversation here.
Now knowing of its abundance of shopping options and proper pronunciation, I set out to take it in all that the district had to offer. Keeping me company and helping me navigate, is Anna. We pass store after store, each selling clothing, jewelry, purses, and eye-wear. After a while, the clothing stores begin to blur together. But the occasional hilarious store name keeps us entertained. "Oh My God" "I Swear" "The Dancing Cow." Anything in English here, whether it be on a store-front sign or spelled out on a t-shirt, is more than likely grammatically incorrect. My favorite from Gongguan tonight, was "Is Coffee Always Fresh." As a person who dedicates so much time to the language and words in general, these signs hurt my soul. :) All the more reason why I am here, spreading the knowledge of proper English--someone has to put an end to this insanity. Then again, everyone needs a few funny things to take a picture of and send back home!

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