Tea and Roller Coasters
I’m being presented with an unexpected gift from someone I don’t know. I don’t know the proper protocol in this situation. In some cultures you are expected to immediately accept with a gracious thanks. In others, it’s best to protest strongly that the gift is too much before eventually accepting. In others, a gentle protest.
I’m eating dinner at a restaurant with Wei-Chen (Tammy) and her family. One of the summer 2015 employees at Mount Rainier, Tammy invited me to her city, which I readily accepted. When I tell her aunt that I like Oolong tea, she is delighted, and asks me to accept two types of Oolong tea and a teapot.
Taking a guess, I assume that I should graciously thank them for the gift, and accept it. As far as I can tell, I made the right choice. I hope I made the right choice. I would hate to make a major faux-pas with a family I just met.
The server brings a teapot of hot water, and her aunt opens another package of the Oolong tea. The rest of the dinner we drink delicious tea. Happiness.
After dinner, we drive to a cafe above the city for more tea. I feel like I will float back to the hotel. They drop me off after midnight and soon I am asleep.
Morning. I’m lost. Off the map. Not that the map is very helpful, as it was hand-drawn by some hotel employee and covers only a small area, not enough for my morning run. I’m lost in a city I only arrived in last night, in which seemingly no one speaks English, and where of course everything is in Chinese. I have no money and no phone.
Being lost is not an unusual situation for me. And also rarely a problem, as I rarely have somewhere to be at a specific time when I am traveling. Usually being lost is just a temporary loss of orientation resulting in a longer walk or run. And often, it leads to serendipitous encounters. None of those are bad things when I’m on vacation with no plans. But in this case, I am on track to be late for Wei-Chen and her family to pick me up. The map only lists street names in Chinese characters, even though street signs are also romanized. In any case it does not matter as I have wandered far off the map on my run. A quick 3 mile jaunt is turning into a slow 6 mile run with constant stops to try to get re-oriented.
I show someone my map and point to my hotel location, through sign language they direct me they way I just came. Nevertheless, I follow their lead. I ask someone else 2 blocks later; they direct me back in the direction I just came from. Crap.
I repeat this several times and eventually make it back to the hotel 10 minutes after I was to be picked up. I return to a message from Tammy that they will be one hour late in picking me up. Crap. My stress was for nothing.
Still, this is Adventures in Kevin’s World, so getting lost is appropriate.
Wei-Chen, her mom and sister pick me up for lunch. I’m delighted when they take me to a beautiful temple dedicated to the goddess Mazu – “Mother Saint Of Heaven.” After they pray, they patiently wait while I continue to explore. I’m fascinated by temples in Taiwan. How could I not be? They are (to me) exotic, beautiful, completely foreign, and incredibly colorful. Often a hubbub of activity, the temples are a very different experience from somber western churches. Most temples are either Buddhist or Taoist; I have yet to easily tell the difference.
That night, we go to one of Taichung’s night markets. Too much food. Of course.
(as always, click on any of the images to view larger. They look much better when you can see them!)
Last day in Taichung. Tammy, her sister and I go to a local amusement park. It’s nothing like the parks I am used to – when you grow up near Cedar Point everything else pales in comparison – but it is still a very fun day. And even better – we have the place nearly to ourselves as it is mid-week. We typically walk right onto every ride. Though that can easily lead to some queasiness when you do the roller coaster two times in quick succession…
I can now say I have ridden roller coasters in 2 countries. Life could be worse.
That night we eat dinner at her aunt’s house. The food is delicious. I want to stay here, and eat her aunt’s food every day. After dinner we retire to the outside courtyard for, you guessed it, more tea. Cup after cup after cup. I am gifted yet another teapot.
I’m comfortable and happy and I don’t want it to end.
Many thanks to the entire family for being such incredible hosts! I am very grateful and appreciative for your kindness and hospitality.