Butterflyblue

木曜日, 12月 23, 2004

Taiwan

    We arrived in Taipei after a mere 3-hour flight from Japan on the evening of the 21st. Misa had arranged for us to stay with the family of her Taiwanese friend. Although the friend herself was not around, the family has been taking very good care of us. They even came to pick us up at the airport. Since we'd never met them before, this was a bit tricky. Misa sent them our pictures, and we knew their names, so eventually we managed to connect at the airport. They took us to their spacious 2-story house in Taipei, where we get to stay in comfort as long as we're there.
    The grandmother of the family tries the hardest to communicate with us. Unfortunately, the language gap is rather substantial. Although both Misa and I are studying Chinese, they speak Taiwanese at home, which is a completely different language. The father speaks understandable Mandarin and some English, but when the grandmother speaks Mandarin it's still nearly impossible for us to understand her because we're not used to her accent. Some words sound the same to me when she says them, especially basic verbs like "eat" "to be" and "go". In Mandarin, eat is "chi" (prounounced "chur"), "to be" is "shi" (pronounced like the English word "sure,") and to go is "qu," (pronounced like the English word "choo" as in "choo-choo" - without the tones, of course). But in Taiwanese, the way she spoke, all three words sounded like "sz" to me. "Sz, sz, sz," she says, and I don't know whether to eat, or go, or what.
    Misa is better at understanding her than I am. The grandmother is always urgently trying to impart some information to us or ask us questions. Occasionally we triumph over the language barrier and understand each other, but its a hard-won victory. When she talks to me she often rubs my hands together with hers, saying my skin is pretty.
    My vegetarianism was no problem from the beginning. Misa told them before we came that I was a vegetarian, and it was almost a non-issue. Each morning before we wake up, the grandmother goes to a food stall across the street and gets us two veggie burgers for breakfast. It is essentially a vegetarian hamburger, but with lots of sprouts and even bits of fruit (I think) in it. Very delicious. She is also always feeding us fruit. Fruit is abundant in Taiwan, and there are many varieties we've never seen or tasted before. Even though it's the middle of winter, we had fresh orange juice the grandmother squeezed herself, red fruits something like apples but with more water content and different-looking inside, kumquats, bananas, melon. There is always lots of fruit on the table and the grandmother is always urging us to eat more of it.
    Also, when we go out I see a lot of signs for vegetarian restaurants--su shi in Chinese. We ate at a vegetarian buffet for dinner tonight and although I wouldn't say it was all that great--huge pieces of konbu and imitation fish were featured--it was filling.
    Overall, I have a favorable impression of food in Taiwan. There are a lot of delicious things. The grandmother's sister made us some sweet bean soup that I rather liked. It was a pitch black liquid in big styrofoam cups when she gave it to us, and we had no clue what it was--it reminded me in appearance somewhat of motor oil. They said it was a kind of tea. It was hot, and so black you couldn't see the bottom of the cup. Then Misa told me to look at what was in the bottom, and sure enough when I used a spoon to scoop at the bottom, there were a lot of beans and mochi-looking things in it. They sprinkled peanuts on top and we ate it. The taste was sweet.
    Then there was a kind of dark-brown vegetable with a lot of pointy ends. They had been talking about corn, for what reason we didn't know, but when we broke open the hard brown vegetable and scooped out the inside with a toothpick the way they taught us, sure enough it tasted like hot buttered corn! We were very surprised.
    Taiwan is also the birthplace of bubble tea, my favorite kind of drink stand. There are plenty of coffeeshops too.
    I'm having a satisfying time in Taiwan. We went to the National Palace Museum and the night market on the first day. Today we took the train to Hualien, which took about 3 hours. From here we can go to the scenic Tarokko Gorge, Taiwan's #1 tourist attraction, by bus tomorrow. We're staying the night in Hualien, at a guesthouse run by a Japanese man and his Taiwanese wife called Hi no de (Japanese for sunrise).
    In other news, I turned 30 today. I haven't had much time to dwell on it though, which is good. I turned 10 in my own country, 20 in Japan, 30 in Taiwan. Where will I be when I turn 40? I hope it is somewhere good.

6 Comments:

  • At 1:03 午後, Anonymous 匿名 said…

    Happy birthday!

     
  • At 6:41 午後, Blogger homodachi said…

    Happy birthday!

    You make it look good: seeing you breeze through 30 makes me feel less apprehensive of that milestone. :)

     
  • At 1:49 午前, Blogger Evelyn said…

    Happy Birthday !

    I have never been to Tarokko Gorge even though I was born in Taiwan. I left when I was 12, when I go back, I visit relatives, but don't really go sightseeing much.
    dark-brown vegetable with a lot of pointy ends - trying very hard to picture what it is, but nothing comes into my mind =b

    Merry Christmas too =)

     
  • At 10:34 午前, Blogger Matt said…

    Happy birthday! I bet you turn 40 in a country that isn't even a country yet, it's part of another country struggling for independence, and will break free when it discovers a renewable fuel source that saves the world. Also, 30-year-old women are totally hot, so post photos already. (Ahem. Sorry to break up the oestrogen party.)

    I too am curious about the pointy vegetable, and jealous of the readily available bubble tea. I only know one place to get it in Japan, and that's in Ikebukuro.

     
  • At 7:49 午後, Blogger butterflyblue said…

    I'll post pictures of the spiky vegetable and other things soon. Pretty-sunshine is putting my photos on a CD for me. Not having my own computer, uploading photos is a bit slow, sorry! But I did take plenty of pics with the intention of putting them on the blog.
    Evelyn, I think you're lucky to have relatives in Taiwan! It's a great place to visit!

     
  • At 5:04 午後, Blogger Seneschal said…

    Is the spiky vegetable 菱角?
    It's a five pointed vegetable, tastes a little like potato...

     

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