Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Intellectuals in Yilan

Chuni is an intellectual (but fun). So are her friends. I don't hold it against them. They seem to be incredibly nice people despite that. I always encourage them to speak Chinese so as not to encumber the free flow of their conversation by trying to speak English. This also helps mask the fact that I am not an intellectual. They just hear that I am a lawyer and they presume I know a lot. I smile and nod. We'll just keep it at that.

Today we went to visit a childhood friend of Chuni's, Po-Ching Wu, in Yilan. She told me they went all through school together and were best friends. He got his PhD in Mechanical Engineering in the US and had been the president of Yilan University until he was appointed Commissioner of Agriculture and had to step down. Now he is the VP of Academic Affairs and teaches something that helps farmers be more productive.

I figured if I was going to spend the day with this very accomplished man, I better not chew the loaded betelnut. It was hard not to since GooGoo's husband, Zhen-Nan, was smiling from ear to ear expectedly telling me he needed to leave for work soon. I pretended I didn't know he wanted to watch me chew it and said I would see him later. (No one understands what I'm trying to say (in English!). Greg says I mumble. Merbe I do..) I think Chuni was relieved. She said she would never ask someone to eat something she wouldn't, but HELLO, pig Fallopian tubes are pretty much on the menu every day...so that's saying something.

We took a beautiful bus for the hour ride to Yilan through one of the world's longest tunnels. Po-Ching (Dr. Wu), met us at the bus station and took us to his office at the University to meet some colleagues. I used my "Please don't feel as if you need to speak English". They both taught at a medical school. I can't even remember the names of the courses they taught. They were at Yilan helping Po-Ching monitor the National College Exams which were being taken there today. There were stressed students everywhere as we walked to Po-Ching's labs.

He showed us a machine that bags tea and gave us dried day lilies, mangos and spicy peanuts. Then we drove to his house, which was big and beautiful, to meet his wife and daughter. He has one daughter at the University of Chicago and another starting to work on her Masters in law at Georgetown University. These are the kids we didn't want in OUR classes!!

They took us to this amazing restaurant for a TEN course lunch! Oh, boy. Everything was so beautifully displayed. It started with the waiter placing for different tiny dishes in front of each of us. One representing sour, sweet, bitter and I don't remember, all parts of life. The only one you could have more of was the sweet, as you can't have enough sweetness. In between each course we got a plum slushy to cleanse our palate. The pictures will have to speak for the rest. The waiter did invite us to check out the ladies room since it was very nice. It wasn't a trough and there was a gently gurgling streaming fish tank thing next to the toilet. Chuni said the little sign said that it was to mask the "natural" sounds ladies make in the bathroom. I wanted to ask Po-Ching if the men had volcanoes in theirs, but I didn't think it sounded intellectual enough. In any event, it was much more pleasant than the nasty one we used at the McDonalds the day before where I was trying unsuccessfully to keep my skirt out of harm's way when my iPhone fell out of my bra and nearly plunged into the trough. All that and you have to bring your own paper into the stall. I still haven't talked Chuni into going commando, so underwear should at least multi-task.

After lunch, we went to the Center of Traditional Arts and saw many beautiful Taiwanese crafts. Chuni bought hand made special candy, but I was relieved we weren't eating it. Since it had been an 1 1/2 hours since we ate a ten course lunch, Po-Ching insisted we try a cold Taiwanese treat of shaved ice, red beans, black rice, boiled peanuts with a side cup of warm tapioca balls in a sweet sauce to dump in a little at a time.

After that, Chuni and I took the bus back to GooGoos where she met Michael to go out to dinner with Michael's girlfriend's family. I got a reprieve from eating and just enjoyed some bing cherries GooGoo just had shipped in from the US. GooGoo and I loaded all of our crap (we now have an extra suitcase from GooGoo in addition to the tons of shopping bags) into their car and took me and all the crap back to Vicki's. I couldn't remember what floor Vicki lived on or her last name even though I stayed here for 3 days, and it was a bit of an ordeal getting in with all the crap. Can you see why Chuni and I are good travel partners?

I met another of Nelson's tutors- this time for chemistry, and after Vicki insisted I eat some cream cheese stuffed bread she waited on a long line to get today, I took a nice bath. Vicki has the latest cool little bath towels, too. They are very soft, small and extremely absorbent. I take 2 showers or baths a day and am still slimy most if the time. Still on the no deodorant path, though. Greg says using deodorant CAUSES you to smell. Maybe he is right.

I sure hope Chuni doesn't share this link with her intellectual friends. Bad enough her family follows it! :-) Chia, would you like to write a guest blog tomorrow on honor of the 4th of July? It's just another day in paradise here.
GooGoo, you can chew the betelnut...


  1. oooh! I want to try the thing with the beans and the shave ice and the tapioca balls even though it sounds slightly strange! And cream cheese bread, yum!

    Hopefully you got to bed at a reasonable hour since you wake up before dawn it seems!

  2. Hi Colleen,
    Thanks for the ivitation. Since I don't know how to blog as a guest I'll just put in as a comment.
    Yes, it is 4th of July here and we are getting ready for BBQ later today. It has been hot for the past few days and we are still under water restriction because a stupid water company forgot to maintain their water pipes and let them collapse under a bridge (my unofficial assessment of the situation). Finally we got some rain this morning and it saved the grass and my garden.

    Reading your blogs and pictures, I have been reflecting on the place that I grew up and went to college. It has changed so much over the years and the changes have been mostly for the better. What you are seeing now was not like that when I grew up . Toilets did not have flush and you could see all the way to the bottom. I did not see a private car owned by someone I knew until I was in 6th grade. The worst part was people were divided and you could get persecuted just for having a different opinion. During my mandatory military service after college, I was stupid enough to write a letter to Chuni and expressed my honest opinions about the "Formosa Movement" at that time. The letter was intercepted by a "mail inspector" in the post office and my unit was notified. I was under heavy bombardment for a few days by my superiors and I had to admit "my mistakes." Fortunately, Taiwan was already in the dawn of democracy and there were good people there to save me from worse consequences. Today I can say that Taiwan is an amazing, beautiful place with the most open-minded people, who are very sensitive and mindful to the strangers, the outsiders, and the under-privileged.

    Over the past three decades, Taiwan, as well as a big part of the world, has been trying to catch up with the United States. The people there know that nothing is for granted and everything they have today they have earned it in a very hard way. Turning around and it is the mentality that we can learn from the rest of the world. Nothing is forever and we have to continue to work hard to keep what we have today. For example, if we do not properly maintain the water pipes, they are going to collapse and burst sooner or later :)

    4th of July, it is a time to celebrate the past and look forward to the future. It is a special year of our family: Michael is going to college and Richard is in his 2nd tour to Afghanistan. I want to thank you for your companionship with Chuni and Michael and the blogs about the trip. And I am still waiting for you to chew on the betelnuts with special leaves so you may blog even more :)

    I also would like to thank God for His grace shining upon us. We can not forget God really blesses America, which is the reason why we prosper today. May God also shine His grace upon those we have sent in the harm's way and bring them home safely, soon. At the end, I want to share a poem that I wrote when we sent Richard off earlier this year:

    In darkness we drove south on the Delmarva shore,
    Passing by fields in sleep and farmers on the floor.
    A few silent words spoke loud where you headed for;
    In distant mountains there was an unfinished war.

    In sunshine we drove north on the Delmarva plain.
    Overheads we heard the roaring departing plane,
    Where your band of brothers bonded like a steel chain.
    Soaring eagles, be back in amber waves of grain.

    1. Very beautifully written Chia, thank you for sharing!
      -Hannah (colleen's daughter)

  3. I agree with Hannah... the tapioca thing sounds delicious! I love tapioca, black rice, red beans.. yummmm! This day sounds so nice and more beautiful pictures!

    Thanks for sharing Chia. Your words make me want to learn more.

    - Aquisha