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Posts Tagged ‘family’

Dinner in Yingge

Tina’s “grandparents” flew in from China to visit. They’re part of some other part of the family. I have officially quit keeping track of things since half of the people are just family friends referred to as “aunt and uncle”.

We met up with Jim who picked up the entire family in the car, and began the drive to Yingge ( a distant suburb of Taipei near Taoyuan). We had been one other weekend to visit with other aunt and uncle, but this group is the family that is more directly related. We quickly get lost, from what I can decipher of the high-tension chinese going back and forth from the front and back seats. We are already running late, and I get a view of every possible side of Taipei on the interstate as we get on and off and on and off and switch roads. Seriously lost. An hour late we finally find our way there.

Me and Tina are allowed to sit at the table that has all the men and the two most elder wives/sisters; a big honor. After introductions the whiskey toasts begin. What is a family dinner without toasting in Taiwan? The glasses are very very tiny, but the grandpa hosting has an eagle eye for an empty drink. Gambei! (which means bottoms-up, drink the whole thing). Me and Tina are cheating the system with tiny tiny sips.

I learn that pretty much 95% of the dinner is seafood, raw fish, scallions, lobster, crab, giant whole fish. So my dinner quickly becomes the one tiny platter of chicken (why do they leave the skin on whyyyy ew) and the two soup courses (bamboo and walnut, and mushroom and chicken). As you can imagine soup for dinner and whiskey toasts leaves me carefully trying to not meet anyones eye so I’m not introduced and toasted, or always pretending to eat soup so that my chopsticks are not laid down and then…..toast.Tina’s visiting grandma and grandpa lived in Nashville for 20 years, so their english is very good but they are sitting on the other side of the table. Apparently this grandpa lectures tina everytime she sees him about how she needs to be a doctor or lawyer and how she’s wasting her life and needs to be a strong, smart women. Apparently its impossible to win with him and she’s taken aside to recieve her yearly lecture while I make small talk with JIm’s sister who has some basic english.

Julie goes on and on and on and on about her boyfriend (she’s 19). Dating here is a very serious affair. There is no casual dating for most teenagers and all things are pretty formal for most girls. So in her asking me about boyfriends and past boyfriends in America, her eyes widen and I’m pretty sure she has no grasp of how different it is, or why I’m not married after dating someone for more than a year.The conversation goes around and around with neither of us really understanding the mindset of the other. I feel that the maturity levels and viewpoints of teenagers and 20 somethings here is alot younger, I felt like I was talking to a 15 year old. Perhaps its why most of the people we meet and get along with are 27+. Any younger and its really like they’re in highschool, their parents have such an influence and there are so many school pressures, etc at younger ages.

We finally leave, and I get some candied tomatoes at the nightmarket. Yes candied tomatoes for dinner woooo. We also buy some mung bean gluten balls (not their name but its what they were). Why the fascination with gluten here I don’t know, basically it gives things a gooey, chewy texture. Like you’re eating a giant booger. It doesn’t taste bad, sometimes sweet, its just..

Booger-food.

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Been a bit MIA.

A lot has been happening since Thursday.

Friday I went to work and watched Keith the other English teacher all morning. Apparently the class I watched is the pre-K that I will have as kindergartners in a week. I am prospectively teaching one kindergarten class and two 2nd grade classes. The kindergarten class is more fun but also mind-numbing it seems – this is M, what begins with M, can you say M….ad infinitum. 2nd grade its getting them to write sentences and learn more vocab which I don’t really know what to expect in that aspect, we’ll see. I have a giiiiant teachers guide and tons of books, workbooks, etc that we’re supposed to work from. So I think its just a matter of organizing it and presenting it. Let me channel Ms. Forehand and Ms. Harper, my own kindergarten and second grade teachers. Thinking back I learned to tie my shoes in Ms Forehands class, and about green eggs and ham and Christopher Columbus. In Ms. Harper’s class all I remember is that she had painted the entire room peach, which clashed with her red hair, and that she used to exclaim at Stephanie Jones when she was being bad (which was always) that “Stephanie, you’d drive a dead man to drink”.  Good or bad I don’t know about that.

In talking with Keith, I learned he’s from Saginaw, MI (wooo relatives). And that he’s been here 8 years. That, on top of the Australian yard-sale girls who have been here 4, the German guy who lives in the building who has been here 18, and Tina’s teacher who has been here 8, I have to wonder why does everyone stay so long? Do you really settle in like that? I can’t really picture more than a year here, but everyone seems to assume we’ll change our minds. It kind of freaks me out when people keep telling us how long they’ve been here.

Friday night Tina and Lulu went to go see The Coffin, a scary Thai movie. Since #1. I thought it’d be in Chinese and #2. I really can’t handle scary movies, what with the overactive imagination, instead me and Amber went to go see Mamma Mia. We were worried that Amber, who is 9, wouldn’t be able to sit through the whole thing, especially since it’s in English. However, she loved it. She kept exclaiming to me during the movie, “That’s so crazy”. The singing and dancing and the three daddies apparently really tickled her. I’m glad.

Also I’d heard that Pierce Brosnans singing was hoooorrible. But. I think it was more the faces he made while singing. He looked constipated or overly intense which made the sub-par singing ridiculously comical. After that, a night market for some browsing and a late dinner. As we arrived the stink of, well – stinky tofu was pretty horrific to me, and pretty much everywhere but I got used to it after a while. Stinky tofu is basically rotten tofu that people like to eat here, I don’t know why, and no I’m not planning on trying that. I did however eat this bread ball thing with veggies and soy sauce inside that was amaaaaazing, as well as applejuice – everything is blended right there in front of you, and icecream between two cake things.

Saturday we signed the contract on our apartment. Woohoo. Or rather, Tina and her Aunt and Uncle signed the contract since I’m not really a legit citizen. We actually took the first apartment we looked at since finding furnished, 2 bedroom apartments between Neihu, and Da-an, near the subway, with AC, a kitchen, a washer, AND under 20K was proving pretty difficult. This one is on Civic Blvd. Across from this neat old Railway Workshop place that I’m dying to get into an take pictures, I think its abandoned and from the 1960s. It’s only down the block from the Death Star Mall, (in reality the Living Mall) and maybe 5 blocks from Tina’s Aunt and Uncles, which is nice. Some distance but not too much. We only need to buy one more bed for my room, which is the smaller one, and a tv. Other than that, some intense cleaning, some curtains, maybe a lamp or two and voila. New home. We’re going to move in Wednesday after they install internet and fix a leaky hot water heater. For a better summation -see Tina’s blog.  Pictures will follow I promise.
After that, we went to stay for the evening with Tina’s mom’s side of the family. The family tree I’ve been mapping in my head is ridiculous with everyone having so many brothers and sisters etc but I guess you have to do the rounds of meet and greet. When we arrived, Tina headed straight for the bathroom, which left me with various relatives and a four year old that gave me one look, got giiiant eyes and hid behind his mom. Apparently I was the first white person he’d ever seen and this was a bit scary. After a lot of coaxing he eventually warmed up to me later and was adorable, we played with a bowling set and they tried to get him to speak English. Every single parent tries to get their kid to say hello in English to me, and 97% of the time they clam up, and won’t perform on the spot. I don’t blame them. Later, he was counting to 10 and chattering about how he loves Diego from Dora the Explorer. Spent the night, watched Superman, slept like crap. Had lunch, Wii tennis and bowling, afternoon nap, watched this one part of Van Helsing that I’ve seen 15 times but never seen any of the rest of the movie. Blahblah, daily things. Errands, old-house, cards, mushrooms and rice and turnip soup for lunch, shopping for the apartment, shower. The end.

Also – pictures, rather late of things that have been happening.

Uncle Ming’s birthday – 46.

Uncle and Aunt being silly. Post cake.

Delicious cake. Cherries and Chocolate

Mr. Traffic conductor guy. At rushhour he stands there in addition to the traffic lights because everyone inches into the intersection during reds, getting ready to cut people off. See the scooters right where the cars are turning, yeah. Lets not even talk about pedestrian crossing problems.

This is a typical number of scooters at the light during rushhour. Picture this on all four sides. Intense

Last but not least, Tina and her pudding. It has a layer of coffee flavoured stuff at the bottom, pretty tasty.

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Foods and family

Le tired.
I need a bit of veg time.
Today was the family day big time. We went to get dumplings for lunch. Heavenly, up till the point where I had to eat about 3 more dumplings past my limit then try the congealed pigs blood at the bottom of the hot and sour soup…that was a bit ick. Still yummy dumplings though.

After this we went and got fruit and eggs. And then drove a bit out of town to visit Tina’s grandfather’s sister in the town of Yingge. Apparently the town is famous for its ceramics so we went to this touristy part and wandered around, looking in all the shops and eating all sorts of things. I bought a cheap watch and an ocarina…impulse buy, oh well. While there we ate some candied tomatoes on a stick….amazingly amazing amazing, given my deep love for tomatoes.

I feel as if sometimes all I talk about is food, but we spend a large part of each day eating or in restaurants. Most of the time I’m trying to scheme how to not eat more since I always get stuffed long before the meal is under way. This whole “snack” then appetizer tiny dishes, then main dishes that keep refilling is nice and delicious but semi-stresses me out. I haven’t been hungry in 3 days because of perpetual food. We went to a grocery today and I discovered that they have almost anything I could want in the way of American food. Doritos, Haagen-Dazs, fruit loops they have  it all. But in the mean time, noodles, mystery “fungi” as Tina refers to it, and endless amounts of flavorless jellies…whats with the jelly Taiwan? Really?

Back to the house in Yingge
4 hours of sitting while Tina’s family chatted, family, extended family, all sorts of people. I let all the talking wash over me, picking small words out, trying to decide what certain phrases were that I hear over and over, and playing guessing games about what people are really talking about. Thinking that Tina and her aunt are talking about shopping or something only to have Tina ask me if the subways are clean in NY… lets me know how clueless I really am. But after 45 minutes of this I am a bit bored out of my skull, and itchy, and tired. I guess it all can’t be soaring highs.

Tomorrow:  Getting Tina’s Taiwan id, and searching for jobs. Her relatives find it impossible to believe that we will be making 60,000NT a month, despite all our claims and explanations. They just don’t think people would pay that much for tutoring. We can’t wait to get our jobs and prove them wrong. Personally, I can’t wait to settle into a routine and an apartment, even though this has been great thus far.

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This weekend was me and Tina’s going away party with all our friends. I’d been hoping all week it wouldn’t rain and I got my wish. It was a bit toasty out but we had some cold beer. We grilled out, made sangria, played with kittens, shot off fireworks, and had a bonfire with marshmellows. It was pretty amazing.

On Sunday after waking up on the ground outside since me and Franklin decided to sleep by the fire, I groggily got up and went to Aunt Freda and Uncle Tommy’s. We were supposed to be looking at Rachel’s wedding pictures and I figured we have some sort of minor hurrah for me. Apparently it was all for me, which was nice and pretty surprising. Andrew thought I was lame for believing the excuse to get me there, oh well. We celebrated all the holidays I’m going to miss – Thanksgiving dinner, then christmas and birthday presents, then birthday cake with 23 candles for my birthday in April. It was really fantastic. I got some goodies to help me in Taiwan.

The weekend continued with mini-golf with Steve and MaryBeth and Rachel. I scored something in the abysmal 70s. If it takes me longer than 4-5 putts I get frustrated and start just smacking the ball, which doesn’t make for a great score.

Its weird that the departure deadline is close enough now that everything is a last time. I kind of hate that. I want to soak in Nashville a smidge more. I need more pint nights at Flying Saucer. I need more exhibits at Cheekwood. I need more fried pickles from Rotiers, and late night wanderings through Vandy. I need more smoky shows at Mercy Lounge and dinners at Las Palmas. I don’t have enough stored up yet. I need more balderdash, and donuts, and afternoons sitting silently with coffee and newspapers at a wide assortment of coffeeshops. I need my printshop and Grimey’s and the ducks I feed in Centennial. Will they all fit in a suitcase?

Becoming a bit sentimental with the departure of Franklin. I’ll see him next year. Damn thats a long time. Bit of a painful spot left from the separation. Not everything can be easy.

But moving on, a bit of a lyric that came on the morning I graduated as I frantically ran around my room looking for shoes. Pertinent to moving on, doing things, and searching out hidden remnants of paths I might like to wander down…

“We emerged from youth all wide-eyed like the rest. Shedding skin faster than skin can grow, and armed with hammers, feathers, blunt knives: words, to meet and to define and to… but you must know the same games that we played in dirt, in dusty school yards has found a higher pitch and broader scale than we feared possible…The first chapters of lives almost made us give up altogether. Pushed towards tired forms of self immolation that seemed so original. I must, we must never stop watching the sky with our hands in our pockets, stop peering in windows when we know doors are shut. Stop yelling small stories and bad jokes and sorrows, and my voice will scratch to yell many more, but before I spill the things I mean to hide away, or gouge my eyes with platitudes of sentiment, I’ll drown the urge for permanence and certainty; crouch down and scrawl my name with yours in wet cement. ”

-The Weakerthans, Sounds Familliar

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