I'm starting to get a little better at figuring out what's going on around me. And I feel like my communication skills are getting better all the time. I haven't, for instance, accidentally used the word wife when I meant to say grandmother in at least 48 hours.
My host family, Clark and Claudie, are kind of fantastic. They teach me all sorts of handy vocabulary, like the name for the hussies who sell addictive palm nuts out by the highway. They also keep buying me food, which I'm trying to put a stop to. They can't let me live in their house for free for four months and also buy me food all the time. Even if it is in a particularly delicious effort to feed me the weirdest creature in the sea.
Sunday night I was relaxing at home when Claudie asked me if I'd like to go walk around. Here, let me simulate what a conversation sounds like to me in Chinese:
"Hey Anneke, we 要情班份過含walk around內焰狗椒mountain beautiful偶氣象比來you think?"
So I say "Sure! OK!" and we get in the car and we drive somewhere and I know there will be some degree of walking around at some point.
Well, this time where they drove me was out to Neiwan, which is indeed beautiful and does allow ample opportunity for one to walk around.
Here are Clark and Claudie, being their adorable selves.
And here, for size comparisons, is Claudie next to a giant American. (drawn to scale)
Well, it turns out that this place we were walking around was indeed very mountain beautiful but wasn't so much a stroll through the woods as it was a giant market for tourists. I was feeling kind of self-conscious since it was a Sunday and I was trying to figure out how to keep the Sabbath and not offend my hosts at the same time.
It was all of about 30 seconds before Claudie bought me something to eat.
I thanked her graciously and rehearsed ways to fend off the next purchase. We saw a stand with steamed buns for sale. "Anneke! You want to eat a steamed bun?"
"Actually," I said to her, trying to be discreet and speak the right language all at the same time, "I don't like to buy things on Sundays."
"It's what my church believes. We don't go shopping on Sundays, because we don't want to make people work."
"Interesting," she said, thrusting a steamed bun in my hand. She spent the next 20 minutes coming up with novel ways to overcome this inconvenience.
"Hey Anneke! I know! See, these people who work here are Taiwanese, and they would have been here anyway. So you're not making them work."
"Yeah..." how on earth do you say "it's the principle of the thing" in Chinese?
"Hey Anneke! I know! See, I'm Taiwanese, and so if I buy the things instead of you, no problem!"
She is such a sweetheart. I tried to formulate some more sentences but I don't know if any of them worked. I had to watch myself from then on out. I saw a takoyaki stand - those beloved octopus pastries from Japan and expressed my delight at seeing something familiar. "You want me to buy it?" Claudie whispered surreptitiously.
Naiwan was totally beautiful. The hillsides here look like one giant, green, lush allergy attack just waiting to storm through my sinuses. Good luck so far, though...
Which brings us to our next culinary adventure, which we entitle: Uh Oh! We Know How to Walk to the Grocery Store!
After work yesterday we decided that Hui Lian (who is staying with a family in Xi Feng) should come play at my house. So we got our moms to sign permission notes and cleared it with the bus driver and she rode home on my bus after school. It was so liberating that I forgot that I am a fully functional adult.
We ventured out of my house down toward the area where I thought that one grocery store we saw might be and eventually we found it! Which lays the foundation for me cooking a lot more of my own things and gradually overcoming the problem of constantly having food bought for me. Plus, if I went to the grocery store surreptitiously on foot, without asking anyone to drive me, there wouldn't be anyone to demand that they pay for my groceries. Mua ha ha!
So Hui Lian and I began our Grand Adventure.
Of course they sell Ke Kou Ke Le here - this is civilized society.
Everyone says good good eat! The funny thing is, this makes perfect sense in Chinese.
We got some rice (which is harder to pick out than I anticipated) and a lot of vegetables and a few too many items that I got all excited about because they have them in Japan. Like chewy milk candy. Be still my soul!
We went home and made some Japanese curry. And I made Hui Lian eat some of the durian. Oh! I forgot to report on the durian! Wish I had some photos. Bottom line is: not too bad. I don't love it and I don't hate it, but I maybe actually like it. We bought it as already in the little internal segments, each wrapped in their own stink-proof plastic liner, and Claudie just threw it all in the freezer when we got home and then sat me down and fed it to me one night promising it was "just like ice cream." It kind of was. I don't know that I'd enjoy the texture unfrozen - I can't imagine what it would be like. The smell was actually kind of fun - it smelled like an Asian grocery store - and the taste was very sweet and strong but no more offensive than an overripe banana. It had a little of that alcoholy tang that an overripe banana has too - maybe that's just the taste of strong fruit. Anyway, nothing too drastic. Hui Lian agreed, though she was a little more dubious about it than I was.
But we fed her Japanese curry to cover up the durian aftertaste and I have a gigantic pot of leftover Japanese curry and this is the country, remember, where no one eats cold food or leftovers and so they don't even have microwaves (I think there's a custom official somewhere saying "we don't need to stinkin' microwaves") so I enjoyed the experience of cold leftovers for lunch today which really, honestly, wasn't too bad. And that last sentence was way longer than it needed to be so I think it's time for me to go to bed. Until next time, brave friends. And remind me to tell you about my student named Egg.