Upon take off, there was a seat in between the Taiwanese woman and I. I sat reading for a while, but once we were in the air... she seemed somewhat obsessed with coming up with ways to get my attention. She was holding a large SLR film camera... She'd look in the viewfinder, look past me and out the window, and then grunt and nod to herself. After a while, she seemed to let up on the attention seeking and I continued to read. The stewardess came by to offer tea or coffee. I asked for coffee. With milk, please. Then, my row mate seemed to be too distracted by her camera to notice the stewardess. I got her attention and she struggled in English to order tea.
Once the window of communication was open, it was time for us to talk. The stewardess left us with our hot drinks and the woman unbuckled her seat belt and switched to the seat next to me.
"Are you a student?" "What are you reading?" "I have a son and a daughter." My daughter lives in Texas." "Look out the window... mountains!" "I study. I study. (pointing at her camera.)" ETC.
All was in truly broken english. It was pretty difficult to figure out exactly what she was getting at. I figured she just wanted to talk... which is partly true. But it was when she found out that I had anything to do with cameras that the lessons began. She made me look through the view finder, pointing out the light meter on the righthand side. Then, she'd look and say, "I see... I see..." then lean over and draw a + sign on my thigh. "No good..." she drew it again "No good..."
She then would point the camera at something darker... she made me look... then she took a turn. "I see... I see..." Then, drawing out a - sign on my thigh. "No good... No good..." I tried to agree with her. Tried to tell her, "Yes, that's correct. You want the indicator to be in between those two signs. Right."
This process continued for what seemed a century and I wondered... Would this woman cease to repeat this even if I could confirm what she was asking in her native tongue? By this time the stewardess had returned. I got a sandwich and she asked for an apple. As the stewardess walked away, the woman turned to me after making sure the coast was clear and handed me the apple. I tried to motion... "Oh, I'm fine. I have this sandwich." She pushed the apple onto my tray and pointed to her teeth as if to say, "They'd break out of my mouth if I ate that thing."
After some more motioning and broken conversation, it was time to land. At this point she began to lean completely over me to look out the window. I asked her if she wanted me to take some pictures of the mountains from the window, but then thought again and said, "Just switch seats." She lit up and switched immediately. As she got comfortable, she laid down the film camera and produced a digital camera from her bag. She snapped and snapped... only pausing to look over her shoulder and motion, "Thankyou. Thankyou."