At least one person said "Merry Christmas" today, in an attempt at cultural sensitivity. Even though the holiday isn't important to me, I thanked them for their kindness, not wishing to explain the complicated cultural and religious meanings of Christmas for an American.
Today, I got lost. I can't remember the last time I was lost as thoroughly as I was today, although I think Brooklyn in 1999 comes close. However, it is hard to really get lost in American cities, for several reasons. First, most American cities are laid out on nice Cartesian grids, using either the New York or Philadephia Systems, with numbered or named streets running parallel to each other. Second, I've visited many American cities. Third, most American cities tend to have businesses grouped together: you will usually not find a machinist inbetween a lingerie store and a butcher; and this makes districts easy to identify. But fourth and most importantly, I've had a lifetime of invisible folk lore and stray references and an entire geographical mythos implanted in my brain. Perhaps some of you now reading this live in Manhattan. Probably a good amount of you have visited it frequently. But there are many of you who haven't, but I bet you still know a few things about the city: that in the middle is Central Park, which includes the Met. You may know that on the westside is The Dakota building, where John Lennon was shot, and that to the North is Harlem.
Manhattan is an obvious example, Denver, Colorado or Atlanta, Georgia may not be as easy to navigate around based on cultural memories.
But still, I doubt I could get lost in America the way I got gloriously lost in Tainan, where every alley way's twists and turns may lead to a hidden temple, or more likely to a 7-11. Every jutting alleyway seemed to offer a shortcut to some new discovery, or at least to the possibility of food. But I just kept on getting drawn further and further in, until I found some middle school students, who looked like English speakers, who encouraged me to knuckle in and to just find a taxi.
Since the taxis are cheap, I did this.
I didn't enjoy it at the time, which is too bad, since soon my sense of direction will reassert itself once I get used to having a tropical sun to read off of, and even in this windy, never ending city, I may not be able to get lost.