In this blog, I decided to share a couple experiences from my life these past two months. Even though they might not be as magnificent as you may hope, I hope they can give you some insight on some encounters you may experience in Taiwan or another country entirely.
Exploration at Jingmei Night Market
Night Market Encounter
Casually walking through the streets filled with stalls, leaving no space between each other. You can find shoes, knickknacks, deserts, savory treats, and pretty much anything you can imagine. In one of those specific stalls, they were selling food where chicken, veggies, and more were put into one bag and shaken with special seasonings. It is a Taiwanese delicacy; despite it not necessarily appealing to my taste palette, I will never forget the conversation I had with the owner.
I was standing in line at the stall, sweating over how to order and what to say. Google translate on my phone and fingers drawing up as many characters as possible; it was finally my turn. As soon as I came face to face with the boss, you could immediately tell he knew I was a foreigner. I looked at him and pointed at one of the items on the menu and said in Mandarin, “I want this”. It seems I must have misunderstood what was on the menu , as he just looked at me as if I was crazy. The sign had an A, B, or C option which I thought were separate meal options. They were actually different options you could add to the meal. He just smirked and asked me again what I wanted, but I couldn’t understand a word he said. So naturally I told him, “I don’t understand, my apologies.” Of course, that was in Mandarin. He looked at me and smiled, replying in English, “Don’t worry, I will take care of it for you.”
As I waited for my meal he was asking me a couple questions such as, “Where are you from?” and “What brings you to Taiwan?” I answered honestly and then he began telling me how he was in Ohio studying English. At first, I just thought it was cool he did all that, until I realized he said all of that in Mandarin and I understood. I was beyond happy! He put veggies I have never seen before in my bag for free and even worked with me on how to properly say it! I left with a bag of goodies, a great conversation, and new words in my vocab that I forgot five minutes later. Gotta say, it was one of the best culturally immersive experiences I have had so far.
The owner let me take a picture from behind the stand
Morning Coffee at Toast
I gotta say I am proud to say that I am a regular at a breakfast stand next to my apartment! Every morning, I walk up and greet them in Mandarin. They greet me back and without asking, they start making my morning coffee. I have to say, it feels like I won a competition in “who can be a regular” if that is even a thing, I don’t care I won.
What’s even better, is that I get to have a morning conversation without feeling pressured to be perfect at speaking Mandarin because they understand my current situation. Instead, they actually help me with my pronunciation and repeat sentences for me or explain it in a different way so I can fully understand. It’s now come to a point where if I order a sandwich they will make sure I say it before I can get my sandwich! It’s honestly so much fun. Of course, if I tell them I have a test that day they will give me my coffee and sandwich and let me go on my merry way because they know I want to study. They would wish me luck that day and then on the following day ask me how it went.
The funny thing is, most of the coffee shops I go to usually have baristas who help me just like they do. For example, at a Starbucks they asked for my name in a way I have never heard of before and so the barista explained that there were actually three different ways to ask for someone’s name and ranked differently on politeness. Now, I try to go to different coffee shops ranking friendliness, coffee taste, and atmosphere, because if I learned anything from coming here it’s that you can learn a lot from just talking with a barista.
Coffee Study Hours
Trip to MaoKong Tea Mountain
I will say, this story isn’t really much, but it was quite a fun experience that my language exchange friends and I reference almost all the time. I believe in one of my blogs I shared a photo of a group of us going to the zoo. This little story takes place on the same day, but after the zoo.
We decided to go up to MaoKong mountain to have dinner. It was right next to the zoo, a very convenient place for us tired hungry folks; plus, you get to ride a gondola! It was absolutely beautiful and since the gondola ride is about twenty minutes long, we decided to enlighten ourselves with fun songs in both English and Mandarin. We had dinner in a beautiful restaurant, although a little on the expensive side. Nevertheless, it tasted absolutely amazing.
On the way back to the gondola, there was a family walking in the same direction. They had a cute little girl with them hanging out with her nanny or older sister, I have no idea. She was behind us and her parents were in front of us. How do I know the people in front of us were her parents? Well… she, as loud as she could, suddenly started saying “Mom! Dad! WAIT FOR ME!” Of course, she said it in Chinese, and for some reason just makes it better because it’s “Mama! Baba! Deng Deng WOoO!” Absolutely adorable. And she proceeded to say that in splits until we reached the gondola. We couldn’t help but laugh.
Now, anytime we meet up with each other and one of us is falling behind, we would yell that phrase just like the little girl and then burst into laughter saying it. Who knew a small little phrase like that would bring so much joy in some trying times.