Taiwan Goodbye

The workshops are over, the photos taken, the post-workshop dinner endured (not the company – it’s just that when I am finished the workshop, I am finished – but the final dinner is obligatory) – and this time, once again with the pig intestines. I’ve tried ’em three times, guys, and they’re tough, rubbery, unappetizing looking, and they taste as if someone urinated near them some time before serving. The rest of the food is delicious, however – succulent fresh bamboo, a casserole of tiny thin eggplants, a kind of sandwich thingie of bacon, spinach, ground peanuts and cilantro, dessert is salty plum and sticky rice.  This is Hakkaa food – from the nomadic people of the mountains.

Daniel brought a nice French wine.  I ask him where he gets his English name, he says his wife gave it to him – it involves a long story with the lion’s den that I cannot fowwow as the consonants and vowews get interposed (if I had liked the pig intestines, we would have gone for the ‘peek’s brud’ – pig’s blood.)  Mostly they take an English name in English classes, and use it when they have to give something in Roman characters – say, on Amazon – or when they are taking classes from English-speakers like myself, but otherwise it lies fallow.

Aside from the pig intestines, what will I miss?

I won’t miss the pollution, that’s for sure – my throat is raw, my eyes burn, and my skin is randomly and scarily itchy.  The surgical masks that seemed a bit over the top at the beginning now seem de rigeur.

The rooster waking me up, and the two men who run the red and yellow (of course) exercise circuit in the tiny kids’ park below my window. No old men with wispy beards doing Tai Chi out there in the morning, tant pis.

I’ve even grown ruefully fond of the celesta “Moon River” and “Feelings” in the hotel dining room.

Seriously, everyone here has been more than kind, totally generous, fully attentive, and eager to learn.  The last two days in the hospital were sobering – how much abundance and choice we live in in America, while others struggle against the odds.

It is hard for an American in this intricately kind and gentle culture not to give offense – we are such blunt instruments.  It will be a relief to be able to say what I mean without having to think three steps ahead about the consequences of my words.  Someone went all across town because I casually mentioned that I like coconut milk.  God knows what I said that I missed the consequences of!  But Ben seems happy, and face seems to have been saved all around in general.

Next stop, Tokyo.


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