Friday, April 30, 2010

Culinary adventures in an ACTUAL Chinese house

This blog is taking a new adventure, along with me, as I spend the summer in the Republic of China. I've got an internship teaching English at Zhong Xin High School and I'm ready and willing to tackle whatever that involves. Especially if that involves crazy Chinese food.

OK, where to begin? Um....

Just kidding. That was the computer down in the common room of the apartment building - I tried it but it was exceedingly slow. The keyboard isn't actually all that weird if you know how to set it up to type in English. Luckily, though, I found a rogue wifi signal in my bedroom and I'm blogging in style on my laptop. Ok, so, from the top:

I spent yesterday and/or the day before flying on big machines through time zones and I can say I've never been more glad to get out of an airplane in my life.

We got in at 9:00 at night local time and met our boss and our host families, who had been waiting for us for about an hour and a half. It was so nice to see them, though, and they were so exceedingly hospitable. I'm staying with a couple who teach math at the same school I'll be teaching in and they brought me home last night after a quick stop at the grocery store.

Let me just say quickly: any anticipation I might have had about Taiwan was relieved as soon as I realized that their grocery stores are every bit as magical as grocery stores in Japan. I don't know what it is about grocery stores that soothes my soul, or why it should be this way, or whether I should be looking into getting some professional help, but once I realized that I was going to be able to buy wonderful foods that made me happy, I was just fine.

We bought just a couple things to tide me over until the weekend. They asked me what I liked and I said fruits and vegetables so that's what we got. The most exciting thing, though, is that we bought some durian - something I've always wanted to try just because it's weird. The husband doesn't like it but the wife does and she asked if I was brave enough to try it and I said "you cannot scare me with food." (Actually, I don't know what I said. It was late and I was tired and I was supposedly speaking Chinese.) So the durian awaits in the freezer and I shall report on it when I get the chance.

They showed me around the 7th floor apartment where I'm staying and explained several times how to work everything, double checking for understanding where needed. I was happy to find that I was understanding most of what was going on, but I am still kind of vastly unable to communicate, leading to some rather funny interchanges.

"You brought your own ricemaker?"

"Oh, wait, no," I corrected sleepily. "But I have used one before and I know how to use it."

This is the view from my 7th-floor balcony. I like the gardeny terrace stuff going on in our building's courtyard.

This morning I woke up at 6am, as is my body's impeccable talent to do, and tried to fall back asleep but succeeded mostly in just resting until about 8. The family was gone to work by then and I had the morning to explore. I went running on the apartment building's treadmill (yessss!) and then took my sweet little time getting ready and dressed and heading out to find my way around the neighborhood.

When we drove through town last night I had been thinking "Wow, this is just like Japan!"

The omnipresent 7-11s and even a Family Mart seemed to confirm it for me...

However, upon venturing out this morning I noticed one significant difference: Japan has sidewalks.

It's kind of nice. In spots. When you can fit between the parked cars and oncoming traffic.

Our apartment building is rather nice and has this commons room downstairs with a couple of computers, a whole shelf full of books I can't read, a giant movie screen and, best of all, it's festively decked out for Christmas!

The wastebasket is very glad.

The neighbors probably wasted no time in deciding that I'm totally nuts. I was trying to be discreet but the minute I go to take a picture of the wastebasket someone's out for a smoke break and stares straight at me.

I like this statue in our building's courtyard. I like to call it "The Joy of Childhood: or, Scared By a Dog."

It's a very nice place, actually, and I don't mind spending most of the day today inside. First thing when I got back I had to try the fruits of my trip to 7-11

"They have Calpis Water! Just like Japan! Oh joy and rapture, it's just like Japan!"

I tasted it to discover it is not, in fact, just like Japan. It's like Japan with a sour yogurt taste. I'm just going to go ahead and assume that was intentional.

And this wouldn't be a blog of culinary adventures if I didn't include my first culinary adventure - I made myself a stir fry and some fish. Maybe the fish here comes pre-salted like it does in Japan? Or maybe I was out of it and added way more salt than it needed. Anyway - salty fish. Oh, well. It wouldn't be an adventure without the occasional salty fish.


  1. Wowza girl! Kelly said she saw you at the airport--she only got to go to Arizona though. You always make me smile--"the joy of childhood and the glad trash" will keep me smiling the rest of the day! Good luck with your adventure!

  2. Excellent write-up, A!

    The architecture reminds me of Spain. Quite a lot, actually. How odd!

    And OHMAN, proceed with caution when cutting open the Durian. Perhaps it's merely my vulgar american senses, but goodness heck I nearly cried the first time I smelled the stuff. It tastes pretty alright, tho, so I'll be curious to know your experience. >_>

  3. You're in *Taiwan* and so excited to have access to a *treadmill*? Ha ha, I guess it's safer anyway.

    I'm glad to see you're going to keep up this blog.

    Reading about all your "like Japan" comments, I kept thinking of lots of inappropriate comments regarding colonization, but I'm afraid that if I post them in public people would think I was serious. :)