“The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success” (abridged version), pt.5

Posted on February 16th, 2010 4 great comments. Room for one more!

…continued from previous part.

Sometimes fate provides the best illustrations of the topic at hand. Tonight, for example, as I was nearing my flat, I passed a regular panhandler seeking the usual “money for food, sir?” He probably could use food, truth be told; he’s skinny, has an unpleasant complexion, and wears early-eighties Bill Gates goggles replete with the chunkiest of lenses.

I have the “no” head-shake down so well now that I can even do it from behind. Which I did. Question stopped. Alas, it took Goggles less than half a second to shout to a compatriot across the street asking if he could get a “pipe for a dollar fifty?” I honestly have no idea if that’s in any way realistic. But that’s not the point.

What Goggles did was to demonstrate the importance of just doing something in order to kick-start the Ultimate Success® machine. The first attempt doesn’t have to be successful, as long as you’re focused on the near-term goal — research, planning, and organization will just flow naturally from there.

Goggles will get his pipe. You bet.

Step 6 – Do Stuff

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On the outskirts of Taichung City there were fields and fields of muddy, flooded rice paddies bordered by sloppily-paved embankments that farmers, and their vehicles, used to get around.

I’d lived in Taiwan for about two years before one day noticing that a car had just exited one of these paddy roads at the foothills near my house (the island is mostly mountains). That meant that there had to be something on the other side!

I should point out that these weren’t really roads – the driver of the car I’d noticed advanced very carefully. He had about half a foot separating him and a hilarious dip into the short-grain Chinese staple on either side. And, although a car could barely fit, farmers insisted on taking farm vehicles on these embankments. Okay, the tractors and trucks were smaller than North American ones, but still bigger than a car. Serious business atop tarred and dilapidated concrete slabs, let me tell you.

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I should mention that, although it’s probably since improved, traffic priority in the country was based on size and aggressiveness. On a motor scooter, you generally gave way to cars. Cars gave way to mini-trucks. Mini-trucks gave way to farm vehicles. So on. Red lights were a suggestion, sidewalks were simply another place to drive. Just about every cabby flashed a gloriously red Betel nut smile, usually while spitting joyfully red sludge on the sidewalk.

The floor-cleaner-tasting nut (of course I tried it!), created a short-lived intoxication not unlike alcohol. I believe a certain level of actual alcohol was considered to be a stimulant, but that could’ve been a y-guo myth (why-guo-ren: foreigner). Despite that story, the cabbies drove around at a very controlled level of intoxication, that much was certain, so I’m sure there was some acceptable limit. I’d often be offered Betel nut (with a courtesy spitting cup), and a can of beer when hitching a cab. Just requested to keep it low.

Cabbies thought that the farmers were crazy drivers. Not in a bad way, they were just Hakka, proud, salt-of-the-earth folk – darker, stouter, and more lascivious than the expatriated mainlanders. Fun bunch. Their farms and homes peppered the hills and people definitely didn’t stop for anything on their roads or in their fields. I think everyone just knew that. I knew two other things that I could offer up in a Hakka tussle, “pie say” (excuse me), and “dou shia knee” (thank you) — not 100% sure about the second one. Failing that, I’d throw a little Mandarin in there. If that didn’t go down, I’d lift up the visor on my helmet and point to my face: See? Whitey!? Her Majesty’s loyal subject!? I’gnant!

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You’d be surprised how often that worked. And I figured I could ditch into the rice if the hammer came down out there on that skinny road. And it did, of course.

I was halfway over the paddy when the tractor appeared on the opposite end, rolling toward me at a good clip. He was on the wall before I even had a thought. Remember the bridge-crossing scene in Stand by Me? Yeah. But with a tractor instead of the train and a puttering, two-stroke engine facing the wrong way instead of a screaming fat kid. I screamed a little in my helmet also.

The deeply tanned gentleman at the wheel wasn’t intentionally trying to kill me, I believe. He was simply hammered. He didn’t seem to be looking up most of the time, definitely not concerned about rolling his ride. I had to make a quick decision so I engaged in a heart-stopping game of chicken as I gunned it for a shallower patch of mud at his end of the field. I would’ve been smushed by the time I got my trusty 90 c.c. Kymco Sniper halfway turned around. Five feet above the paddy at that point. Pretty sure old Snipey wouldn’t have survived that.

The look on the farmer’s face as he rolled to a stop to look back at my splayed form … what the fuck are you doing in my rice, y-guo? Then he suddenly broke out into a bubbly bellyful of laughter (I think he was even holding a can of affordable Taiwan Beer), and rolled on outta there. I pulled Snipey out of the mud, resolute to finish what I’d started. Not like I was gonna follow that guy.

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Pretty soon I’d made it through the paddies and onto a dirt road, through a neato bamboo forest, past some awesome traditional Chinese houses, and ended up at the base of Dah-Kun, a fantastic hiking trail. It terminated deep in the hills on a terrace that overlooked the city, on which stood a gold and white temple dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy. Seven-minute scooter ride from my front door – if I could make it past the gauntlet of rice.

Since you’re reading this now, you can assume that I spent considerably more time studying the habits of the farmer my second time there. The third time, I greeted that fucker good morning in my best Mandarin as we passed on the dirt road. He was surprisingly punctual — I was early. I won!

After that, I discovered a back road that led even deeper into the mountains. Well, I won’t bore you with the details of some of the stuff I found there, but you can see how that first leap — and I did kinda jump from my bike — was almost necessary. I’m sure it’ll work just as well for you. And, you know, you’ll probably survive, but I take absolutely no responsibility.

And for the audio book version of this series, I’d like to take this moment, as you’re driving to wherever you’re driving, to invite you to take a stretch, take a deep breath, refresh yourself an…KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD!!

Continued in next part…

4 Comments on “ “The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success” (abridged version), pt.5 ”

  • stanya
    February 18th, 2010 8:32 am

    Great and funny experience from traveling in your case for sure. We've been travelig a bit too but the worst what ever happened to us was when we were trying to leave communism behind. We had little car 18 years of age this time. Determined to find better and free life for our kids, girls 17 and 4 and boy 7 and ourselves we packed the car with minimum to survive 2 weeks vacation and drove to Slovakia the only border-crosing point, heading to former Yugoslavia throughout Hungaria. We came to the border around 4 p.m. obediently lined up in already few hundred meters long line, when all of a sudden 2 guards appeared beside our car and commanded us go directly to the border building. When we arrived there, they ordered us to unpacked everything out of the car, and leave it on the sidewalk. They went throught all our stuff and inspected the car almost with magnified glass. Found nothing they ordered our older daughter and myself go to the office for search. It was really humiliating because we both had to strip completely and for 17 year old girl it was damn experience. After they've found another nothing they striped our car again and we ended up in the office for questionig. Little like german gestapo, fortunately without beating. They wanted me to take the kids and go back home immediately and leave my husband there for another interrogation. When we refused to do so the officer called to our capital perhaps to their head office and got the instruction to confiscate our passports and return us home with temporary documents. So after 6 hours of interrogation and harassment we had to pack the car and go back. We foud out later on that someone inform them about our intention to leave the country. For sure this person made this vacation for us unforgetable. Anyway next year we found another way to go and this time after lot of self-denial we made it to Austria, waited for visa and folloving year we finally made it to Canada.

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  • Patrick
    February 19th, 2010 9:11 am

    That's some trip, Stanya!

  • arief
    February 18th, 2010 8:12 pm

    Big city big opportunity…I always here that quote, but never make it true in my life..just wanna visit tokyo, sydney, paris and some others to see the worder of this world…while buying thing i'm interested such as venetian mirrors, sakura, mini opera house and of course the eiffel…hope it comes true…

    Read more from arief at: http://www.w4adt.com
  • Patrick
    February 19th, 2010 9:12 am

    It will if you believe it, Arief. Oh, and if you save your money too :)

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