Thursday, July 10, 2008

More Random Chatter from the Other Side of the World

If you're wondering if I have anything coherent to say about Taiwan yet, the answer is still no. I'm still babbling on about 18 different things in every post. Deal with it. It's my blog and I can babble if I want to.

I really was going to try to take a picture of the front of the hotel this morning. I want the picture of "The Classy Hotel for Classy People" as much as y'all do, believe me. So I got downstairs before the allotted time for my driver to take me to work, but she was early too. Curses! Foiled again!

However, I did take pictures on the way to work. One of the odd little things about Taiwan is the buses. They all have curtains. Since I saw one while we were still parked, I managed to get a picture without any other traffic in the way. You have no idea what a major feat this is. This is the street I will have to cross to get the aforementioned picture, and I'm not sure I'll survive. But for you, dear reader, I'll try.

Anyway, bus. With curtains.

The bus gods were smiling on me; I saw this one half a block later. In purple too -- my favorite color!

Riding in Taiwanese traffic isn't super scary, but it is, um, interesting. The scooter people often act like they have a death wish (kind of like motorcycles in the U.S., but at lower speed). This is the part of my drive to work that always makes me bite my nails just a little.

No, it's not a one-way street. It's not one lane. It just looks that way.

This is the really sweet woman who drives me to and from work every day. I failed to get her charming white gloves into the picture. She's really great. How do I get one of her in the U.S.?

I went to lunch at a super yummy restaurant with co-workers today, and afterward they stopped and got everyone this:

It's called bubble tea. Apparently you can get it in California, but not Texas, of course. It's sweet tea with milk and these oddly addictive "bubbles" in the bottom that you suck up through your enormous straw as you drink. They look like giant soggy Cocoa Puffs. They don't have much of a taste really, but they're chewy. I was told you haven't realy visited Taiwan until you've had bubble tea. Thank you sir; may I have another? YUM!

I wish I'd had my camera at lunch, but I'll try to describe it. I had snap peas, steamed white rice, a bowl of broth with (I think) okra or a close relative in it, a bowl of what was described as teriyaki pork (didn't taste a lot of teriyaki, but it was very tasty), a bowl of spicy sweet/dill pickles, and a dessert that was sort of gelatin-like on top with other stuff on the bottom (also very tasty).

I did have my camera at dinner. See if you can guess what is pictured; I'll name each one below the picture. The first picture is what my co-workers told me was the most delicious. I took a bite and wasn't so sure... I'll tell you why after you guess. What is this food?

This is bamboo covered in mayonnaise. The one that I got had a ton of mayo on it, and I'm not a big fan of the mayo, really -- a little goes a long way, in my book. I tried a few pieces with little or no mayo and liked it much better. It's firm in texture with a light, sweet flavor.

OK, next up: what's on these two plates? Easy ones!

The plate on the left is eggs; the one on the right is some sort of green or lettuce. It tasted very similar to what I had at lunch yesterday, but they said it was different. Still yummy.

Last picture! This is my own personal dinner (as opposed to the group dishes that the last two pictures were). What are these?

The plate on the left is rice noodles -- you add the egg and greens and stuff to the top and eat it all together -- and the bowl on the right is meatball soup. I loved them both, but naturally didn't finish them. My co-workers were afraid I didn't like my food since I didn't finish it, but it seemed to me as if I ate and ate and ate and there was still food left! I was dubious about the meatballs, not sure if I wanted to try them, but they were amazing, so I'm glad I did. And I definitely left the table full.

It's so funny; they keep trying to get me to say I want American food, and I just don't. I want to soak up all the Taiwanese culture I can while I'm here. I truly wish I could speak (or read) some Mandarin since most communication is done that way.

That brings me to a question that Coach Jenny asked about the language barrier. The truth is that there really isn't one. The Taiwanese people are taught English in school, so virtually everyone knows at least a little bit. Certainly some people are more fluent than others, but I haven't had a problem communicating with anyone at work at all.

I'm here for training, so I'm having three two-hour training sessions per day. Today I had the same trainer for two of the three, and he was so nervous about his English! I told him his English is much better than my Mandarin, but he still looked worried. It was endearing really. He's clearly very technical and really had no problem communicating anything -- we picked it all up with no problems (there were a couple of other people sitting in as well).

My trainer for all three sessions tomorrow spent a couple of years in the U.S. for school, so he's quite fluent in American English -- and very funny too. He joked today that we may not learn anything but jokes from him. Ha! Just like his buddy, he doesn't give himself nearly enough credit.

Oh, incidentally, for any of you gluten-free peeps (I know at least one who may be reading), I think tonight's dinner may have been safe for you. Hmmm... move to Asia?


Brian said...

I'd be surprised if you can't get bubble tea in Austin. There's at least one place here in Colorado Springs that serves it. The bubbles are usually some form of tapioca.

Brian said...

in fact, because I'm a geek, here are some "Texas Bubble Tea Locations"

looks like there are at least seven places in Austin that serve some form of bubble tea.

Matt said...

You can get bubble tea in Austin. There *used* to be a place right by my house, in fact. In the strip center of misplaced toys.

Cindy said...

Well, lookie there, a little piece of Taiwan right here in Texas. Can't beat it!

Sounds like you are being quite adventurous with your food choices - very admirable!

A frequent Asia traveler in my group STRONGLY suggests you eat at her veryfavorite place in Taiwan - Din Tai Fung. She said the Pork Dumplings and the Beef Stew w/Noodles are fabulous! Last time she was there, she ate there twice.

Becky Laswell said...

I'm sure you can get Bubble Tea here. I actually remember when it was the big new thing at Cornerstone ('00 maybe). I think I remember hearing that the bubbles are made from tapioca, which I have an aversion to, for no good reason.

Lisa said...

Thanks to everyone who did more research than I did -- my eyelids were drooping last night when I posted. =) I'm glad to hear I can get bubble tea when I get back to Austin; I really liked it.

As for Din Tai Fung, I will go on Sunday when two of the people here (co-worker and manager) will be good enough to show me around Taipei for the day. They will also take me to the national museum, which I've heard is fantastic. Also fun: I'm taking the train to Taipei, which takes 20 minutes (as opposed to an hour drive). On Saturday, a different co-worker will show me around locally. Happy happy joy joy!

andrea said...

I know a GREAT place where you can get Bubble Tea. It's right next to the awesome place that serves amazing Pho. Let me know if you want to go.

andrea said...

I just read to the bottom :) I LOVE Asian food because a lot of it is GF. Thanks for thinking of me. We will have to get something yummy to eat when you get back.