All entries for Monday 27 June 2005

June 27, 2005

The first jie jie in Kaohsiung

After spending two whole days in Taiwan, I am starting to get settled in. It is a little frustrating that I don't know much Chinese, but still it is more than the other gwei zi (foreign ghosts). In true flashman style, I will surely have this figured by the end of the week. However, my poor communication skills are complimented, as ever, by charm and a sharp wit — the perfect combination for an adventure.

Late yesterday afternoon I returned to the hotel and, as surprising as it may seem, I did some work. I have never had the experience of working alone in a hotel room before, and I quicky decided it was not for me. Luckily, there is a slightly busier environment down in the lobby with a television and constantly playing fairy music. You know the jewelery boxes your little sister used to have that wound up and played that awful twinkling music while the fairy twirled around — that is what it is like, except that it is played through loud speakers. Then there is the wireless internet connection down here. Today it is working, but only for ten minute intervals. The only interesting thing down here is the people. I have been one of those annoying people that speaks to everyone — the receptionist gets asked a question about Chinese as often as the Internet goes down.

I went for several walks yesterday afternoon and evening. I was wandering around in the dark last night, and I found a temple. There was a nun there giving a talk, very passionately I may add. I did my best to get near to the inside of the temple, but I felt a bit nervous about going inside — I felt I was being watched. Which brings me to another point, as I walk around Kaohsiung I know I stand out as a foreigner, and I know everyone is secretly watching me, but very rarely does anyone look at me directly. Completely different to Thailand where you get looks and smiles, here everyone keeps their eyes under strict control. Once you get into a conversation there is no problem, but initial eye contact is a real problem. Anyway, I wandered around the streets a bit longer and then returned to the hotel to learn a couple more words from the receptionist before heading to bed.

This morning I headed down for breakfast, and without a word from the waitress we got served eggs, toast, ham, coffee and juice. Not quite what I was expecting, and hardly a match for the previous day, but I was still positive the rest of the day would bring good food. So positive I was, that I set out for a walk in search of something fresh. Luckily I didn't have to go far before I found a lively little market. I wandered about smiling like a confused foreigner before eventually buying some pineapple. Then I had the buzz — so I bought some lychees too. I already had enough fruit to keep me going for a couple of days, but as the day went on I ended up giving most of it away. After a bit more work in the morning, I took my supervisor and a friend we had made on a hunt for a vegetarian restaurant. As we meandered about the streets, I was trying to identify the chinese symbol for vegetarian. I couldn't. Next plan was to unleash a few words on unsuspecting street stall owners. This proved highly successful, and eventually I was directed to a very small vegetarian street vendor who had only a couple of tables — all of which were empty. I confidently strode over, and to my delight there were about 20 vegetarian dishes laid out. We were told to help ourselves and given rice and soup. The food was pretty good, but I am not sure Meurig and our friend were that impressed. Later on in the day, Meurig didn't come out for dinner, and our friend told me that she had been advised not to eat on the streets. I told them there was no way I was going to travel halfway around the world and go for a MacDonalds — a suggestion that had been made to me earlier!

As it happens, the evening meal was a great success. This time I was more cautious, and waited until we found a nice looking restaurant. It happened to be Japanese and I had a good feeling about it as soon as I entered. This was probably due to the cute waitress that was smiling — and speaking a little English! Until this point I had been very disappointed at the skirts in Taiwan, I had been here for two days and not one worth a second glance. But this was a real treat. I told her I was vegetarian and she said that she would order for me. She made a good choice too. The food was really good. By the time we left, I was full, with food, and excitement that Taiwanese girls might not be too crazy after all.

Quote of the day Go to 'Today's Quote'

John Irving
"If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it."


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