For more than a week I’ve been on a mission to find a tea that I actually like. I’m not talking about hot teas, but about bottled chilled teas sold in convenience stores. Today I found an apple tea (ping cha) that I like. Mission accomplished.
I’ve come to really enjoy lunch with my coworkers. They talk to each other in front of me in fast, slang, colloquial Chinese, but usually one of them will fill me in on the parts I don’t understand. They’re always amused in a kind way by my construction of Chinese sentences and they help me chose which foods to eat.
The Mystery Food
Today’s lunch found us at a dumpling shop a few blocks from our office. When we talked in, I saw a counter top with several tofu-looking dishes that I didn’t recognize. When I asked what these foods were, they were described to me almost entirely using terms like “vegetarian,” “from beans,” and “with tofu.”
Because I was interested in trying some of these things, we ordered an appetizer that allowed us to pick five or six of them. The first bite I picked up was green and roughly the size of two die (as in game dice with six sides).
The first bite I picked up was green and roughly the size of two die (as in game dice with six sides). As I put it in my mouth, a coworker said, “you know what that is, right?”
Suddenly all four of my coworkers paused what they were doing and looked at me.
So it’s not tofu…I thought to myself as I started chewing.
My coworkers watched me. I was getting nervous, and considering the state of my stomach in the last few days, more than a little nauseous.
After I swallowed the green thing, I told my coworkers, “Wo bu xiang zhidao,” or “I don’t want to know.” I really thought I might throw up.
I really thought I might throw up if they told me. I’m not kidding. I was nauseous before we even sat down, so this was not a pleasant experience for me.
By the end of the appetizer, my stomach was calming and I began asking them what the green cube had been. They wouldn’t tell me.
“After we eat,” they said.
I asked a few more times, with no answer from them. After lunch I asked twice more. They still wouldn’t tell me. As of 10 minutes ago, they had decided that they will never tell me what the green cube was*. I don’t know which is worse: my own imagination or whatever the food really was.
When we got back to the office, I showed a colleague a photo another Scholar had send me of the turtle she was served (with feet, claws, and shell still attached) in Cambodia. I asked her if whatever I ate was worse than the turtle. She looked queasy and say, “yes.”
*They held true to their word: It’s been ten years, and I still don’t know what those green cubes were!
I Do Not Love Asparagus Juice
Since these edible adventures really don’t ever end, my coworker Chi-Fang offered to let me try her asparagus juice after lunch. I love asparagus. I know now that I do not love asparagus juice.
One final food note: Last night, feeling a little bit homesick, I was thinking about how as a kid, my mom usually grocery shopped for us. When my dad made the occasional trip with Mom he would, without fail, bring home Oreo cookies. I found a small box of them at a grocery store here (probably paid way too much for them, but oh well) and had Oreos and milk before bed last night. : )
Studying Mandarin Chinese
I started Chinese lessons on Monday. Six hours a week (three days, two hours/day). My placement exam put me at a “hi my name is” level of proficiency, so the program director told me I’d need the beginning book and workbook.
A good student, I bought book covers and wrote my name in my books in case I misplaced them. On Monday my teacher and I finished ten chapters, and yesterday we completed the books, which means I was a lot more proficient than the test told me I was, and that I no longer need the $40 USD worth of books I was sold.
A Blonde in Taiwan
I’ve been told that my blonde hair is the envy of the office, and I’ve now been around the girls enough that they talk about their body images around me. A girl who’s like 22 inches around, is about 5’3″ and wears like size 4 shoes said today that her stomach was too fat. I asked her how her stomach could be too fat when I couldn’t even see her stomach! She said, “well it’s too fat compared to how big my boobs are.” I laughed.
I think the girls here have such petite bodies and such pretty skin. It’s interesting to me that the “you always want what you can’t have” carries over into other cultures, too.
Big Adventures of the Non-Culinary Kind
I have big adventures of the non-culinary kind planned for the next few days. Tonight I’m going to the biggest bookstore (shudian) in Taipei. Tomorrow we’re going to see River Journey, and Friday we’re going to see I’m Your Man. Sunday I’m going with several coworkers to another town, called Yilan, in northern Taiwan to see a Ju Percussion Music School children’s performance. I’m excited and I’ll take lots of pictures.
Originally written and published on my blog, A Year in Taipei on September 20, 2006.
I wrote more than 300 blog posts during my year in Taipei, Taiwan. I don’t know yet how many of those posts I’ll recreate on MilliGFunk.com, but for now, at least, you can come back on Thursdays for a #ThrowbackThursday to my #YearInTaipei.