Thursday, May 14, 2009
I lived on a busy street above the night market in Taiwan when I was modeling there. There was an internet cafe I used to check emails at once I was done with my shoots. It was a cool place, really chilled out. One night, it was so busy that I shared the long sofa with an American guy sitting next to me. We were busy typing away on our computers until he turned to me and asked me something in perfect Mandarin. I looked at him blankly saying "uhm, sorry I don't speak Chinese" He looked surprised but switched automatically back into English "oh, sorry. Was just asking you...do you mind if I smoke?" I was sitting in the smoking zone coz there were no other seats available so it was really polite of him to ask. He technically didn't have to.
I wanted to edit a poem I'd been working on but I couldn't seem to download the file. I asked the staff there to help me but they couldn't do it. The American guy I was sitting next to managed to solve the problem. It was nice being able to converse in English at a normal rate. When I was getting round Taiwan, I spoke slowly or had to show taxi drivers the address in Mandarin or they wouldn't understand me.
Turns out, this guy (let's just call him John) was a jack of all trades. Strange trades. I found out a whole bunch of random things about him and the pieces of the puzzle were coming together but not quite forming an entire picture. I started to wonder whether he was a spy or was previously with the CIA, who knows? Let me tell you why. We sat there for hours and his background was unique, incredibly diverse. For starters, he spoke quite a few languages including Russian. There was a mention of the military and being in service to the US govt but he didn't elaborate on it, surprise, surprise *wink*
He collects knives back home in the US (a shiver ran down my spine). I had to ask why knives? but it was surprisingly quite a hilarious story. When he was a youngster driving across the States, his car broke down and he got stranded in some middle of nowhere town. He didn't have enough money to fix his car so he had to get a part time job! The only entertainment in this sleepy town was a knife throwing competition, can you imagine? He decided to work there till his car got fixed. He ended up staying in that town for more than a month and he was throwing knives every day. He became really good at it.
He said some people do this as a hobby in the outdoors in big open spaces (like archery) and he kept training from that point onward in the art of knife throwing. I raised my eyebrows "what a strange hobby you have there. I mean, mine's tap dancing" He laughed good naturedly. OkaaaY.
That's not all. He's also trained in "tracking" in order to find a person, animal or dead body in a jungle or anywhere for that matter. One of the "exercises" he had to do in training was to track the sound of a drum in the snow. He was trained under some of the best trackers in the world. Hell, I never knew such jobs existed. This guy really came from another planet. As I sat there with my crazy make-up and greenish eyeshadow, I started to feel comforted that modeling was quite a safe job. Only time I've been blindfolded was for a fashion spread, know what I mean? And it had holes in it anyway lol ;)
OMG, can you imagine he was placed in the snow and had to find a beating drum using all the senses minus your eyesight. He said instinct has a part to play in tracking as well. I asked how far away the drum was and he said it took him 6 hours to find it! And they were not allowed to stop until they did because, sometimes, time is of the essence and people's lives could be on the line in certain conditions. This was crazy sh*t!
Anyway, when my poem appeared on screen, he asked if he could read it. I said "of course but I've never published anything. I just write poems when I feel like it. It's a mood thing" I couldn't think WHY he'd be interested to read my poem. I mean this was Mr Knife-throwing, we track dead bodies, hunter in the snow init?
As it turns out, he has published his own poems. Can you believe it?? He even asked me to come to a live poetry reading at a cafe in town so I could read mine out, huh? CIA or not, he was a sensitive fella under all that training. He shared with me which poets he liked and was referencing websites I had never even heard of. They were all poetry sites. I was shell-shocked. He really knew a lot about poetry. Who would think..?
We exchanged numbers but I only met up with him once for dinner before I left Taiwan. He said he presumed I was a world traveler and probably been on many dinner dates in my life (no, la not THAT many) but he could guarantee that I would never in a million years guess where he was taking me to dinner. Okay, I was curious. He said he hoped I wouldn't be offended and to please "dress casual"
On the way to dinner, he stopped by a car mechanics, "should I wait here?" I asked him thinking he was going to pick something up. He grinned, "no, we're eating here" He was serious??? Wtf? Was I gonna eat on a car bonnet or what? ;) A really friendly European man climbed out from under a car he was fixing to greet my friend. He shook my hand warmly and then said, "well, you must be here for dinner, it's right through there"
I was intrigued. After walking past the cars out front, we entered what looked like a homey kitchen out back. No way!!! The mechanic's wife actually ran the cutest, most charmingly unexpected "restaurant" at the back. She was even wearing an apron and fussing over us. The restaurant only had one wooden table and a long bench that could sit 6 people on each side tops.
I started wondering whether this really was a restaurant but she produced a simple laminated menu. OMG! I started cracking up. This was just too funny. He was right. I've certainly never been to dinner at a car mechanics before. A few guys and a blond girl arrived and we all sat together because there was only one long table haha. I guess they service their cars there coz you would never know about this place otherwise. The stories exchanged over dinner were a melting pot of all our different cultures. I enjoyed it. Such interesting conversations...
After dinner, by contrast, he took me to an elegant tea house in the mountains for a nightcap. It was an amazing view up there. This was such a change of scenery from the hustle and bustle of the city. I loved the cold, fresh air.
I didn't meet John after that night coz I never made it to that poetry reading he invited me to but I saw him briefly just before I left the country because he said he wanted to pass me something. He "tracked" me down at a nightclub (no la, I'm kidding. I told him where I was with my friends lol;) I was really surprised. He actually wrote a poem for me and he wanted me to have a COPY of it coz he was going to be sharing it anyway at his next poetry meet!
This is what I love about traveling. You meet all kinds of interesting people and you learn NOT to always judge a book by its cover. I wouldn't have picked out the 'poet' in John, that's for sure :) Well, I lost track of him completely (perhaps he intended for it to be this way in his line of work. Honestly, I've still no idea what he does) but wherever you are, hope you find me in cyberspace coz this entry was dedicated to you so here's your COPY I'm sharing with everyone ;)
Live the moment. Our life is but a collection of moments...
- Jojo Struys
- I find blogging quite therapeutic. It gives me a chance to express my thoughts. I'm currently a TV host living in KL and the mother of 3 confused looking pugs! ;) If u have the time, my modelling shots, tap dancing clips, full biography and TV trailers are all on www.jojostruys.com :-)
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