Small Lizards and Other Roommates

October 29, 2002

10/29/02- Treat or Trick!

Greetings everyone! So, I have moved out of the dorm and into new digs on Singlung Road, or Hsinglong Road, or Xinlong Road, or Xinglung Road… depending on which map or street sign you happen to be looking at (romanization of Chinese characters is not the least bit consistent in Taipei, which makes for endless fun with addresses and place names).

I am renting a room from a retired woman who speaks no English. So far, she is a pretty stellar landlord/roommate. She explains television programs and ads to me when I don’t understand (i.e. restates them in different terms, since we have an “all Chinese, all the time” household), took my watch to get the battery replaced last week, and often gives me all kinds of new and exotic foods to try.

Last night, after eating my “western style fresh salad” with chopsticks (this actually works much better than you would think), I settled down for an evening of Korean television soap operas, er, I mean Listening Comprehension Practice (they are dubbed in Mandarin and have Chinese subtitles). At one point, I got up to get some raisins out of my room and I noticed in the mirror that there was something funny on the opposite wall. It turned out to be a Small Lizard.

I have to admit I was not immediately thrilled with the notion of sharing my room – or even our apartment – with a Small Lizard. This, I know, betrays a real lack of Small Lizard Tolerance on my part. At first, I just watched with dismay as it walked across the wall and entered the bathroom. Then I grabbed a small bowl and a piece of paper with the hope of trapping it and bringing it back outside (where I, close-mindedly, tend to think it belongs). Unfortunately for me, it saw me coming and managed to hide in the door jamb. After wasting a fair amount of time lizard-hunting (chasing would be more accurate; it moved remarkably quickly), I reached an important conclusion: there are worse things than living with one Small Lizard. For example: 1. Living with a large lizard. 2. Living with a snake of any size. 3. Living with any number of large bugs, like cockroaches. 4. Living with a great number of Small Lizards.

In other words, having already missed the dramatic climax of my Korean Soap Opera, no longer interested in raisins, and forced to admit the lizard-hunt was an exercise in futility, I opted to live and let live, and went to bed. This morning I mentioned the-new-roommate-that-happens-to-take-the-form-of-a-Small-Lizard to my landlady, and she said she saw it herself this morning. She was wholly unconcerned, which gave me the impression that this was not the first time this sort of reptilian invasion had occurred in this particular apartment. She did mention that it was likely “more afraid of me than I was of it” (is there any culture that does not use this phrase??).

There is still a bit of a creepy, a-Small-Lizard-might-be-watching-me feeling, but everyone assures me that there is little chance of me coming into direct contact with it, and no chance of my room becoming the site of some sort of Utopian Small Lizard Colony. My teacher pointed out that Small Lizards eat insects, so that is actually an advantage to having the Small Lizard around (like keeping a good mousing cat, I suppose). I see no immediate opportunity of discussing the prospect of contributing to the household with the Small Lizard, however, and therefore will accept this on faith.

In other news, Halloween is just around the corner. This holiday has been embraced with some enthusiasm in Taipei, though some things have been lost, so to speak, in the translation. For example, a giant banner over one convenience store reads in large English letters, “Treat or Trick!!!!!!” There are all kinds of greeting cards in the stores that read, “Happy Halloween Day.” Then, of course, there is the student group on campus that is sponsoring a party, complete with costumes, candy, and “Watermelon Carving!!” Actually, I think this is because pumpkins are rare, small, and expensive in Taipei, but if a pumpkin was not available to me in Washington, I don’t know that it would occur to me to make this particular substitution….

Anyway, everything is fine here. Classes are good, the weather is lovely, and the noisy campaign season in preparation for the mayoral election is finally almost over (which means no more trucks driving down the alley behind the apartment blasting loud music and recorded campaign promises. Perhaps the Small Lizard is just seeking a temporary reprieve from the pressures of politics on the street).

Copyright 2004 by Meredith Oyen