Striking up a conversation with a group of people at a coffee shop

I was reading this French contemporary book « Combats et métamorphoses d’une femme » d’Edouard Louis (Seuil, 128 p.,), English translation: A Woman’s Battles and Transformations by Édouard Louis, at a random coffee shop in New Taipei. The English translation was published this summer in August 2022. The original French edition was published a year before in April 2021.

Have been reading a lot of contemporary fiction lately

The one that I’m reading is the original French edition. I’m quite determined to work on my French language this year. Currently my French reading and comprehension level is about intermediate, around B1 level. So this little contemporary book is perfect – slightly harder than my current level – I suspect it’s somewhere between B1/B2, with a few longer texts in B2/C1. I’m only half-way through the book and I’m already looking forward to his upcoming publications, hopefully a fiction, which I will be sure to pick up when it comes out. To get a taste of what it feels like reading a best-selling contemporary french literature, I typed out a short text from page 15.

An excerpt from « Combats et métamorphoses d’une femme » d’Edouard Louis


Je ne voulais pas que tu saches qu’à neuf ou dix ans déjà je connaissais le goût de la mélancolie et du désespoir, que j’étais prématurément vieilli par ces sentiments en moi, que chaque matin je me réveillais avec ces questions dans la tête : pourquoi est-ce que j’étais la personne que j’étais ? Pourquoi est-ce que j’étais né avec ces manières de filles, ces manières que les autres identifiaient, et ils avaient raison, comme la preuve de mon anormalité ?

Networking with people outside your industry

While enjoying my coffee, I took a few pictures. The coffee shop’s layout was a bit off – I wished there were more seats in the café. There was so much space but not enough seats, strangely. Unlike most cafés in Taipei city. It would have been the opposite.

On a lovely Monday afternoon (no rain!), my initially 40-min French contemporary reading session pour un livre français contemporain quickly turned into a 20-min “meeting new people” (aka networking with people outside your industry) session, chatting about some of the possible lifestyles we could have if we live in cities in Canada, the US, and Adelaide (the largest city in South Australia, according to the internet).

It was interesting to actually strike up a conversation with a small group of young aspiring nurses who are Taiwanese. Folks who are born and raised in Taiwan. Young working professionals in their late twenties who worked their way up to become registered nurses in well-established hospitals, one happened to be within walking distance. I guess it explains why I met them at this particular coffee shop at this particular hour during the day – it’s close to where they work.

Starting a conversation with random people sharing the same table in a coffee shop – it seems to be something that is rather unusual to see in Taiwan. It could be a natural thing to do for a foreigner from the West, not so natural for a local. Every time it happened, it was with a westerner.

First time was with a geek-looking gentleman from Adelaide, Australia who had worked and lived in London as a software engineer for over eight years. He was doing some Mandarin language classes. We met at a small coffee shop in central Taipei on a weekday afternoon. The coffee show was a few blocks from where he took his language courses. It turns out he happened to know a lot about the making of pastries, desserts, breads, james and jellies, and just cooking in general, which was quite a mind-blowing moment for me when I first learned it. It’s quite hard for me, or anyone really, to want to cook in Taipei. There’s inexpensive nice restaurants everywhere you go.

The other time it happened involved an American-looking economist/data scientist. Somehow we stroke up a conversation while he was busy doing a programming session with his Asian American friend, accompanied with his wife and a young child hanging out at the other table nearby. We met at a restaurant overlooking a beautiful river in New Taipei on a Sunday afternoon. The restaurant had a lot of space, somehow, with a bit of retro-style interiors.

For this time (which would count up as the third time meeting new folks at random coffee shops and restaurants in Taiwan), the four nurses I met at this coffee shop on a Monday afternoon, it turns out one of them (his name is Peter, I later learned) has got himself a website set up: After they left, I spent another 20 minutes browsing his wonderful blog.

I noticed his blog is packed with information about what to do as an immigrant nurse in Australia, how to kick-start your nursing career, etc. I’m not a registered nurse, know nothing about how advanced practice registered nurses work and their way of life, let alone discussing some of the ways to advance your career as an immigrant, in particular, addressing aspiring nurses with a degree from Taiwan but without a bachelor’s from a university in Australia. Even that I still find some of his blog posts quite interesting.

For instance, there’s one post about his favorite podcasts. In the list, he mentioned a podcast “All in the Mind”. (I wonder why the link is so long?) According to the program’s website, it’s an exploration of the mental: the mind, brand and behaviour – everything from addiction to artificial intelligence. Sounds interesting to me already. I’m particularly interested in human behaviour research. I might give it a go and listen to one of their latest episodes.

I’ve put together a draft for my next blog post. It’s going to be about Solidity workshop, CS50 Lecture 3 Algorithms, some books and films I enjoyed this past week.