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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Adventures in Taiwan or Why I Cherish My Blog Header Picture.

In 2002 when Henry's Grandmother died in England, his Dad took him away to the funeral and didn't "allow" me to go. We were separated at the time and I was just not included. I was really sad and could not stand staying uselessly home alone so I hastily planned a trip. My 1st ever to an Asian country. Actually I didn't plan. I bought a ticket. Packed in 20 minutes. Forgot my glasses (1 hour eyeglass places are cheap in Taipei). Didn't have time to get NT. (Taiwanese money) Didn't call my bank to let them know I was leaving the country and subsequently got cut off from all cash AND credit and had to panhandle while abroad. (A tale for another blog.) I had no idea what I was getting into food, language or culture-wise. But I AM a true wanderlust so I just got on the plane and went.

I landed in the People's Republic of China and the first thing I saw after exiting the huge metal can I had been flying in for 15 hours, was a sign that said: Drug trafficking is punishable by death in the R.O.C.

Luckily, I didn't even have so much as a sleeping pill on me (I forgot those too.)

After successfully clearing customs, I tried to hail a taxi to take me to the hotel I had hastily booked online. (There's that word again) The address, 70 Yong Kang Street, seemed simple enough, only I didn't know that no one in Taiwan speaks English and they don't understand Western letter characters. Do you see any anywhere?

I ended up finding the right bus bus to town (about an hour away) and finding my "place." I needed a bath, a bed and breakfast in that order.

Everything in Taiwan is crowded. Floor space is measured in "pings" there which is roughly the size of two tatami mats, or 3.5 square meters. The room was a super small 10 pings, and 8 flights of stairs up. It was about 110 degrees there with no air conditioning. The bathroom was a little room with a shower head sticking out of the wall, a sink and toilet but no tub enclosure or shower curtain. You just showered in the room and everything got wet. I hastily showered and went to bed.

Wide awake at 5:00AM the next morning (it's tomorrow there today) I decided to take a walk down the street and look for food I could actually EAT and maybe a real cup of java. I had no idea that the food in Taiwan consisted of stuff that we Americans would NOT want to put in our trash, let alone our mouths. Anyone for some nice juicy chicken testicles with a swig of cobra blood to wash it down?
Or how 'bout a freshly beheaded chicken. White or dark meat? (Skin sold separately)

I came upon a 7 Eleven, but nothing looked familiar inside. I bought a carton of something that looked like iced green tea (give me caffeine please) and took it outside in the already sweltering morning. As I was walking and drinking my "tea" I realized I was getting a buzz, and not the caffeine kind.

Anyway, I know my limitations few as they are. I was definitely in a world I had not anticipated or prepared for, yet I found myself here and needed to make the best of it.

I found a good cup of tea here. Well actually the tea tasted like an ashtray but it was better than anything I had discovered so far. They also had good cold noodles that tasted like peanut butter. I probably walked about 2 miles before I saw... a COFFEE SHOP! WITH WESTERN COFFEE! And a menu WITH PICTURES that I could point to. Hurray.

Walking to that coffee shop every morning, for the 7 days I was there, became my morning ritual. So did slowing down a bit and planning future trips better.

I have been back to Taiwan twice more since then. And I have learned to LOVE the food and culture a lot. But I made sure to go to my Chinese Barista each time.

There are Starbucks on every other corner now but I still love my coffee shop the best.

It was 4 stories tall so I took my camera and my coffee to the top floor and set it up on the timer to capture the moment. THAT cup of coffee WAS good to the last drop.

And 6 years later it's the header of my blog.


Cheri said...

This post was good to the last period.

just jamie said...

Mom, I didn't even know that story. I love it. And mmmmm... that coffee looks divine!

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

We've been waiting long enough. Time for the panhandle post.