Yesterday, the breakfast lady in a maid-lookin’ apron was telling me about passion fruit, the indigenous Taiwan specialty. She asked me if I had ever had it before, and I said, yes, Brazil people eat it. No, she said, not the same. Passion fruit is from Taiwan.
Today it was a dude in a suit; no apron for him. He told me it was 百香果. Mmm, the fruit of a hundred aromas. But the more I thought of it, the more bǎixiāng guó sounded like transliteration! I’m not sure if it is or not, but that’s what I’m going with. Indigenous Taiwan specialty, hmm? Next time I will give apron lady a piece of my mind.
No I won’t.
So when I got down to the breakfast buffet, Brenda of Canada was asking Suit what all the congee toppings were, explaining that she didn’t know any of them, and she just found them so interesting. “Our breakfast is over there,” she said, gesturing to the chaffing dishes of scrambled eggs, limp bacon, celery greens, taiwanese sausage with peppers, yakisoba, homestyle tofu, and stewed chicken legs.
“That is also Taiwanese breakfast,” says suit, correcting her.
Back to the congee toppings. “What’s this, what’s this?” Brenda kept asking, and Suit couldn’t keep up with her as he looked for English translations on his phone.
So I jumped in. “That’s daikon radish… That’s a spicy cucumber…”
“What are THESE?” she asked, pointing to the bowl on the corner.
“Those are peanuts,” I said, helping myself to some steamed rice. Steamed rice is good in Taiwan, by the way; not like that cheap tasting mainland People’s Liberation rice.
“Are you from here?” Brenda asks. She is cheerful enough for everyone in the room.
“No ma’am,” I say, “I’m from Seattle.”
“Oh, I’m from Canada! So we don’t have this!”
I looked at the congee bar and tried to thing of something that wouldn’t sound mean. I don’t want to be a mean person.
“Where in Canada? Not from Vancouver, obviously….”
“Oh! I’m from Victoria!” She says, happily. She is genuinely happy.
“Then you should know what this all is!” I said.
“No, we don’t have this. Maybe at the Empress. I should have brought my Chinese friends along!” Amazing.
I was hoping she would work in the wax museum next… but instead she went back to her table to report the happy news that I was from Seattle.
I noticed that the Canadian bus load was starting to gather in the lobby. There were a few independent thinkers still in the dining room, chatting amiably about their jet lag and hotel bathroom experiences; e.g., “I got up at 4 to go to the bathroom!”
But before too long they were all in the lobby, forming a big Canadian circle, where everyone stands as an equal, each equidistant from the center point, taking up all the space in the room. Amber knows what I’m talking about.
And then, they were gone. They must have had an 8:30 roll-out. Goodbye, Brenda.
I think today I shall try to find myself a textbook. At the very least I have to leave my hotel room. So that they can make my bed.