Taipei 2014: Post-game Wrap Up

So I’m back in Seattle now and enjoying the crazy roller-coaster of jetlag.  I’ve got a couple of weeks until I have to be in to work, but plenty of planning and stuff to do before that starts up again.  I’ve had a couple of days to think about my time in Taipei; here are my thoughts.

I had a good experience with Taipei Mandarin Institute (TMI). I got a super convenient room with a private shower, and the kind of lessons I wanted for the price of USD $400 per week.

When I showed up, I made it clear that I didn’t want to be spending any time reading any boring ass insulting useless bullshit dialogs and readings that I’m accustomed to. So my classes were mostly conversation: me talking my face off for hours at a time.  My teachers didn’t expose me to any new grammar, instead they gave me room to practice the grammar I had already been “shown.”

Here’s the deal; a lot of programs show you a bunch of stuff; they say “Look, here’s 了, here’s 才,here’s 把 and 被”… and then they brush the dust off their hands, pat themselves on the back and say that they have taught it to you. They conflate showing with teaching, and when the student doesn’t master it by the Friday quiz, everybody blames the student.  It’s like showing someone how to drive but then not letting them get behind the wheel; or showing someone how to dribble a basketball without letting them actually dribble a basketball.

In my one-on-one conversation classes, they put me behind the wheel; they handed me the ball and let me dribble it.  The teachers and the curriculum were not pushing me into new territory.  I had plenty to say, and the need to communicate made me stumble onto important new grammatical territory myself. My biggest area of growth was in my ability to discuss movies, which is something I did both during and outside of class.

As for reading, I didn’t do a lot of it.  However, my teacher sent me the link to a bunch of stories and fables on PDF, which I’m now reading voraciously.  The link is a little 複雜 hard to navigate, so I’ll post them here as I download them.  The thing about reading them on PDF is that I can zoom in on the characters and see them… my eyes are getting old.

As for my speaking, my Chinese is a lot tighter now.  I think I’m now capable of being interesting to hang out with in Chinese.  I can be charming in Chinese and not have to rely on my good looks or money to keep people’s interest.  I think.  My tones are tighter, my sentences are tighter, and I’m using a lot more vocabulary.

Finally I have to say something about Taiwan.  That country is safe, clean, modern, convenient, friendly, and inexpensive. The food is good, it’s easy to make friends, there’s plenty to do, and plenty to talk about.  I saw a lot of Mandarin learners making some counterproductive learning choices (like over-studying, or defaulting to English), but Taiwan is still a really good place to be.  On “Conducive to Language Learning,” Taiwan scores a 9/10, right below Italy.

If you have questions about my stay in Taiwan, just ask.  Remind me to blog about:  Immersion by Relationship, Overstudying, Default to Target.

Taipei 2014 Day 29: Last Day

Last night I went to dinner alone, since a lot of my friends have already skipped town. I felt lazy so I stayed in the area, and went to the 蛋包飯 joint around the corner. It was easily the worst meal I’ve had in Taipei. All it was was a plan omelet over rice, and then covered it ketchup gravy, accompanied by a shake & bake pork chop. I have to say, that was worse than Joe’s Time

This morning I got up and called Eva Air to see if I was still on the “Waiting List” for a mileage upgrade to Elite Class. I’m on the waiting list because they’re still waiting to see if someone will pay money for that seat. If not, they’ll let me have it. So it could go down to the last second. I hope I get it!

I had plans to meet Taiwan A 🐟 at 1pm, so at 9:30 I went and had breakfast. All the breakfast counters were closed; the owner guy warned me yesterday 《明天休息!》so I said goodbye and thanked him for all the breakfasts. This morning I ended up at Benny’s, ordered the weird brunch, and said goodbye to Shy Kid, who told me to come back soon and find him. I didn’t say goodbye to any of the rest of the gang there, but I still may go back later.

Then I came home and packed my bags. Everything fits.

After that I met Taiwan A 🐟 for dim sum, and we ate our faces off. I gifted her my receipts (there’s a national drawing at the end of the month) and some coupons and loyalty cards I had started, and a bag of Oberto’s Natural Style Beef Jerky, which I had brought for the plane ride over.

When lunch was over, I took the train to Guting and walked the rest of the way. I have a couple hours to kill before dinner, and then there’s still plenty of time to get to the bus station, then to the airport, and then get on my flight. It’s about seven and a half hours until I’m wheels up.

This is probably my last post from Taiwan. I think I had an even better time this time around than last time, and I’m grateful for all the new friends I’ve made and for all the old friends I was able to reconnect with. I didn’t get around to seeing everyone, which is a little disappointing, but I’ll catch them the next time around.

Next summer? Maybe come back, live in a different city. Or maybe go to the Philippines or Brazil. I could stand a summer in France or Italy for a refresher. I’ve still never been to South America. We shall see… Until then, thank you Taiwan!

Taipei 2014 Day 28

Yesterday…

Talked my face off in class for four hours.

Went to lunch with Pashan T to the ESL-themed restaurant called “Joe’s Time.” Which was weird. I had red Thai curry chicken and rice; Pashan T had Police Tempura (fried dough) and fried cheesy tater-tot wedges. And tall iced teas.

My one sweet for the day was the 全家 Family Mart 霜淇淋 soft-serve flavor of the month: 水蜜桃!THE HONEY PEACH!

I chilled out for most of the afternoon, and then went to dinner with Pashan T, who wanted to check out places across 和平路 Heping Road… a domain I haven’t explored this time, but somehow I have vague memories of going there two years ago…

Long story short: I stumbled upon the 2nd floor restaurant that Skritter Jake had taken me to in 2012, the time when I 請’ed him so hard he saw stars. We shared a table with an older couple, who ignored us except to stop me from confusing the soy sauce from the vinegar. We got cold cucumbers, tofu disguised as tripe sausage, kangkong, and two baskets of 湯包 soup dumplings. Each basket came with a screaming hot bowl of broth, which I was trying avoid but what are you gonna do.

After that I said goodbye to Pashan T (he’s over the Pacific now, on his way back to the states). Then I did a quick wardrobe change and met the gang at Revolver. Here’s who was there: Polish P, Swiss German S, French E, Polish D, Irish D, Taiwan T, Swiss French T, and everybody’s favorite, German G. Taipei A showed up later, and it started getting loud, so me and Taipei A bugged out and went to Something Ales for a quiet beer and a long and involved conversation about Mexico.

Today is my last full day in Taipei. I’ve got one more sleep and then tomorrow I’m wheels up. A lot of my friends have left and moved on; and a new crew has come to replace us at the Taiwan Mandarin Institute. I’ve achieved a lot of my Taiwan goals, but there were some things I didn’t get to… some people I wasn’t able to reconnect with… and some mandates of Aussie L’s that I didn’t get around to violating. I’ll have to find my way back somehow.

At this point it’s final goodbyes, last minute shopping, and sentimental meals. Like that grilled mackerel that I just ate just now, dang…

UPDATE: OK, so my plan this morning was to buy some tea to take back with me, as if I were going to integrate the Taiwanese tea ceremony into my life in Seattle; guh. Taiwan Amy 🐟 sent me to the train station, where there are many tea shops in the underground mall.

Here’s the deal; when they dug into the street to build the Taipei Metro, they also built “metro malls,” which are like shopping malls the length of the entire boulevard. I mean, you might as well build the underground mall, since you’re digging anyway.

When I got to the train station, I realized there wasn’t a single metro mall attached to the train station, but four. Four gigantic malls. The ones under the boulevards turned out to be luggage and underwear malls; but the QMall turned out to be exactly the shopping hell I was looking for. I looked around for gifts (wind-up toys? crazy socks?) and after a while I decided to bolt so I could go home and cry.

I pulled myself together enough to get that mackerel I was talking about, and then on the walk back, I wandered into the tea shop that I had not dared to enter. The Taiwanese tea ceremony is pretty complicated. Today, I entered.

I told the lady I wanted to buy a teapot and pourer thingy for four; I could buy the rest of the kit in America. She picked out some pots to show me, and I picked a purplish brown number. Then she asked me about tea, and I couldn’t tell her what I wanted, except for that I wanted oolong (because Taiwan Amy 🐟 told me I did). She showed me a photo of four shades of tea, and when I said “number 2” she said I was picking out all the educated choices for a dude that just wandered in off the street.

So there are a lot of steps I have to take to get this clay teapot humming; I have to soak the whole thing in water over night with a pinch of tea inside, throw it out, do it again; wipe the outside; clean but never wash the inside. Over all, only use oolong tea in the pot. There are a lot of rules.

Taipei 2014 Day 27

Yesterday? Seems like a long time ago.

I have been waiting for, like, 50 years for Guardians of the Galaxy to come out, 我很期待看那一部電影。 So excited. So finally yesterday arrived, and I was all LET’S GO LET’S GO LET’S GO! Other people were like “wait whut? wait, who else is going? wait, can we go at night?” When all that drama was finally sorted out and we were fully committed, the questions became, “wait, whut is this movie even about? wait, who’s in it? wait, is this movie even good?”

Of course, that quickly became “If this movie is bad, we are holding you personally responsible, JP.” And I was like “wait, who are these people, why are they here, when did I become responsible for their entertainment?”

Anyway, I was so excited about the movie that I literally wet my pants literally a hundred times, and my eyeballs literally exploded out my face until I died to death.

Fast forward.

After the movie was over, my three friends were fully squee-ing with delight; squee all over themselves and on the walls and floor. They turned to ask me how I liked it and I was like, yah, 還OK吧. It was alright. Just alright.

For me, seeing Zoe Saldana is enough to make a movie worth seeing, despite her alien skin color. I was excited about seeing Chris Pratt, since he was a chubby, funny guy who got all ripped and became a movie star; I told my teachers that was the American Dream. But I don’t think the movie gave his character enough room to be charming and likeable. The best scene in the movie was when the fox was pushed too far.

Anyway, after that we met up with Pashan T and his friend 謝 and went to get yakitori, which is definitely called 日式燒烤 here, and not “yakitori.”

There were several strange things about this yakitori restaurant.

First of all, on the menu they listed family-style orders priced for four people, five people, four people, and seven people. What were we supposed to do, since there were six of us? The waiter came, and we were like now what?

Of course, the Taiwanese people didn’t know what we were talking about. As far as they were concerned, there were family-style orders for four, five, six, and seven people. But when we English speakers looked again, we failed to see where it said “six.”

The issue was, it was printed in huge Chinese characters, and then below it were bold English translations. The people who are used to reading English–all of us–completely disregarded the Chinese characters; our eyes when straight to the English, where it said “four.” The Taiwanese people, including the staff that works there, completely disregarded the English and looked only at the Chinese characters, which said 六 “six.” They tried another menu, but they all were copies with the same mistake. Who knows how long they had been using those confusing menus.

The point of the story is: if you put an English translation anywhere near the character it corresponds to, the character will be COMPLETELY DISREGARDED. Our eyes don’t even go there. And same with the Taiwanese people; they totally disregarded the English. This is just a fun trivia fact for everyone… unless you’re trying to learn Chinese, then it’s a daily disaster. Latin alphabet annotations (whether English or pinyin) are BAD BAD BAD; get them away from the characters if you want people to have a chance at becoming literate.

The second weird thing about that restaurant was their 8點乾杯; if your glass is empty at 8pm, they will replace your drink for free. So we all ordered drinks and then 8 o’clock rolled around and we all lifted our glasses to finish them… but then the staff came around and said no no no. It turns out they first have to do arena-style introductions of each table, one by one, explaining what birthday or special occasion they were all celebrating. Then they got to our table they announced we were all TMI students, except for German G, who is at 台大 the most prestigious university. The MC with the mic was going on and on and on, and finally 20 minutes later we could raise our glasses for the 8點乾杯.

The next event was a kissing event. If two people from your table could lock lips for a total of 10 seconds, the house would gift us a free plate of pork. So I nominated Taiwan A and German G, who were ALL OVER IT. Free pork, baby! But apparently it was only a one-time thing; there was no free meat for any subsequent kissing.

At 9pm they announced that beers were buy 3, get one free; and that whiskey drinks were BOGO. Whatever.

Around 9:30 they came around with paper and told us to address envelopes to ourselves and write letters to our future selves; they would mail the letters to us in December. I didn’t see any other table having to do this, but when it got to us we all started writing on each other’s letters and it turned into yearbook signing. Also there was a whole mess of languages going on; I wrote in Chinese and Spanish.

Did I mention that we were grilling our own meat the whole time?

Finally the time came to part ways, and Pashan T and I shared a cab back to the neighborhood. We stopped at Something Ales for a drink before calling it a night.

Taipei 2014 Day 26

I talked my face off in class today, which is nothing new. We talked about some of the previous day’s vocab words, as well as tipping customs and a little bit about minimum wage.

I mentioned the pinyin dilemma (how my brain totally disregards a Chinese character if there is pinyin or English anywhere near it). I somehow got onto the subject in typing in 主音 (a.k.a. ㄅㄆㄇㄈ Bopomofo) and I mentioned that the last thing I’m hung up on is typing; I’m not yet familiar with the tuvw keyboard. At that point my teacher started googling for tuvw typing tutors; and I noticed she was pretty into it. At first she wanted to make me play; then she wanted to try herself… and pretty soon she was trying all the games. When break time came around, she wanted to stay in and play the typing tutor game. I took my customary walk around the block.

After class Pashan T and I met Taipei Amy at 天台食堂, a theme restaurant near the 14 exit of the East Metro Mall connected to the B_ Zhongxiao Fuxing station. The afternoon tea included soup dumplings, some fancy ڽ| turnip cakes, some tofu custard which we dressed with sweet peanuts. Dessert was the black sesame mochi ball.

喬丹 showed up once we had finished, so we ordered up another couple baskets of soup dumplings. After that, we tried to go to the 溫古 Wengu Cafe which I remembered from 2012, but it was packed. So instead we wandered into the Carousel Cafe, which looked empty and humorless despite a life-sized horse lamp, giant teddy bear, and a display case full of baumkuchen. We got desserts.

Afterward, we wandered aimlessly, and then rented a booth at MyFun, which is a 14th floor lounge where you can just hang out. It’s basically an airport lounge without the airport. Your rental fee covers beverages and you can use a computer or check out a comic book from their collection. Some people take naps in their booths; others take business meetings. We were in a booth in a giant bay window, and we all just 低頭族 smartphoned until 喬丹 was ready to claw our eyes out, he was so hungry.

Polish P joined us and we all went to a hotpot and hotpotted for a couple of hours. I helped Polish P with her chopstick grip, and she pretended to enjoy W ampalaya (bitter melon).

Taipei 2014 Day 25

So yesterday I went to class and talked my face off as usual.

After class there was lunch at the chirashi-teria; I got karaage. Pashan T did a random point on the menu and got grilled saba, which made both me and 喬丹 envious.

Later for dinner, 喬丹and I met Swiss T and Polish P and found the cantonese bbq place across from the public library. Later we went for a drink at the Speakeasy in Xinyi, which is an expat bar. Swiss T couldn’t join us, but 喬丹, Polish P and I held down the bar for a while. Speakeasy H and Philly C were working, and there were all kinds of characters, including Polish D and Polish C, Taiwan S (who did coaster tricks) and Taiwan J (who shook his head at her).

Later Pashan T wandered in, and then Taiwan Amy, and German G with German S, and about then all hell broke loose. The Polish boys wanted to make Mad Dogs, but had to settle for Prairie Fires. I managed to sustain a crazy conversation in German with Polish P; later German G started doing play by play of a situation we were viewing through a frosted window, followed by some color commentary and analysis by Taiwan S, whose sense of humor is deadpan and wicked. Earlier she had held court as she described all the ways that she hated pandas personally. People started trading eyeglasses, and singing Queen. Some people asked me how to toast in Tagalog, and by the end of the night everyone was toasting “Lasing!”

Of course I left the party early; got in a cab and talked my face off with the cabbie. Not sure what all he was talking about.

Taipei 2014 Day 24

So yesterday after class there was some minor lunch drama; I was happy to teach Taiwan Amy the phrase “like herding cats.” That’s one of my favorite similes in English.

We ended up at Coda, which is the North American comfort food restaurant run by some Canadians. I ordered the Chicken Cordon Bleu burger, which was good, but upon further reflection I might have liked it better if I had taken it off the bun and eaten it with a fork and knife. Not everything has to be a burger, you know. Later I realized I had eaten just another 雞排。

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I hung out with Pashan T at Picapica, which 喬丹 has renamed “Pikachu” so that’s that. Around 5pm I went home to take a nap, which may seem geriatric to you… but it’s so, so part of an expat summer language study lifestyle it’s not even questioned. That nap is on the calendar, kids.

Afterwords, Pashan T and I met again for dinner, and he had the brilliant idea of going to Taipei 101. We started at the food court.

Here’s the deal; Americans are good at making gross food courts and feeling gross about them. What is that? Taiwan, on the other hand, basically IS one contiguous food court; an island of impossible small kitchens and public places to sit. So we picked the Indian kitchen, which isn’t the French Laundry, but it isn’t the Factoria Mall Food Circus either. We got a tandoori chicken and a chicken in cream sauce; served with nan but no rice. It’s Taiwan so they 送’ed us the soup and salad.

Later we made our way up to the observatory on the 89th floor, and then the 92nd floor rooftop balcony. We could see a thunderstorm flashing to the southwest, and they’ve engineered the safety barriers to whistle a clear note in the wind. It’s really more of a ringing than a whistle. Later we made our way down to the obscenely showy coral products showroom and then back down to the ground.br />
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We found our way to a food court where I had a little cup of ice cream. There was a takoyaki stand there that I’m quite excited about, but I wasn’t hungry at the time.

So the two vocabulary items that I have a crush on are 星際異攻隊 “Guardians of the Galaxy” and 復仇者聯盟 “The Avengers.” Of course, the verb “to avenge” is so connected with “to swear, to vow” that I use the whole chunk in my sample sentence 我發誓為你復仇!”I SWEAR TO AVENGE YOU!” which is a surprisingly entertaining thing to say in daily life here in Taipei.

Also fun to say are: 我發誓對你的敵人復仇!”I VOW TO EXACT VENGEANCE UPON YOUR ENEMIES!” and 我要對你發誓復仇!”I SHALL SWEAR SHALL TAKE MY REVENGE AGAINST YOU!” It turns out I really love saying those things to people.

Another word I had a crush on yesterday was 章魚燒 taokyaki. Pashan T’s crush vocabulary was 漂浮 “to hover/to float,” in the context of 漂浮冰咖啡 “an iced coffee float.”

I spent a lot of yesterday trying to write a language learning post; I wanted to list the principles I follow. The post was getting away from me so I left it for another day, but here are the principles.

1) The Language Learning Instinct is available to us at all ages. It may be different than when we were babies, but it still happens by instinct rather than by force of will.

2) All language learning is local.

3) Practice four skills with real people.

4) Language Immersion should be relationship-based (as opposed to based on time or location).

5) Don’t memorize vocab; have a crush on it until you own it.

6) Using textbook grammar in the wild is worth a hundred points.

7) Your brain has it’s own timetable. It’s not a contest.

8) We learn from mistakes; so for the love of all that’s dear MAKE MISTAKES.

So that’s a list of eight random principles I follow in language learning; I don’t know if there are more or if I can make some coalesce. I’m not sure if I can rank them or explain them, or make people believe them. I’ll try to write some posts explaining these principles in the future.<

Taipei 2014 Day 23

I’m back at Benny’s Cafe at the moment, to write. The AC is set to Arctic Despair and the music is making me a little tense at the moment, but the kids that work here just made me really happy. The’ve known for a long time that I’m the 無糖/不要放糖 “no sugar, please” guy. They nod to me when they come in to work. Today, the Smiley Girl brought me my iced tea and asked, smiling《你要吸管嗎?》”Do you want a straw?” She pointed to the tower of straws on the counter and I happily said “no thank you.” I’ve been returning the straws to the straw tower every day, just because I don’t need plastic wrapped in plastic to drink my sugar-free iced tea. I like Smiley Girl and Shy Boy, who had a cold last week. I noticed Elf-Lookin’ is wearing a sick mask today, poor kid.

Note to self: 吸管 (1st tone, 3rd tone). In Shanghai they taught me to say 管子,that was the same day they taught me how to say 法棍.

Ok so yesterday I was just marveling about the convenience of my apartment. I live in a building on Roosevelt Road, so the front door opens into a colonnade. All the main roads are lined with colonnade here, which is very nice on rainy days. Yesterday I was thinking about all the places I can get to on a rainy day without an umbrella; in other words, just places on my block. I can get morning coffee, an evening drink, buy an umbrella, do all my grocery shopping at a supermarket, buy fresh food at the farmer’s market, go to the drug store, get a Taiwanese breakfast, and pick up something from the bakery. Also, the metro station is directly below my building, so I can also get to anywhere the metro goes without needing an umbrella; essentially without crossing a street.

Yesterday, I wanted to meet up with South Africa M, who lives a little out of the way. She’s recovering from a medical procedure, so her friend California B met me at the metro station We stopped for burritos to go… I got a carnitas salad because I can’t stand flour tortillas anymore. Anyway, there was a bus ride to a 7-Eleven, then a little bit of a hike to another bus, and then a short walk into South Africa M’s mountain chalet, where the three of us just hung out for a few hours, sitting in the living room and talking like grown ups.

When I met South Africa M two years ago, I wasn’t sure if she was going to make it here. Two years later she lives on the side of 陽明山 Yangming Mountain where it’s cool, and you hear the rush of the wind in the leaves instead of the groan of motor bikes. She says it takes her over an hour to get to work; a short walk, a long bus, and a longer metro ride. But she lives in a mountain chalet; the bus has huge windows, and the train she takes rides three stories in the sky, and takes her to her job in 淡水. In other words, she works at a weekend tourist destination, and lives in a different weekend tourist destination. She was so happy way up in the mountain, and I see why. She keeps two dogs. Three kittens were just born on her roof.

She had me walk to the back porch to get a look at those three kittens, and of course there is the view of a little forest canyon behind her place. I looked up a little in the tree and saw a spider the size of a hoodie sweater, sitting in a web the size of a jumpy house. I wanted to shriek and gather up my skirt, but I somehow kept my cool and went balk inside calmly. I reported about the spider as big as an old man’s over coat, and they laughed casually and said, yes, the spiders grow to the size of two-car garages here.

California B and I took a little walk around while we were up in the mountain; we checked out the views from the Chinese Cultural University and then wandered back down to the main road somehow and caught a bus back to the metro station.

When I finally got back to my neighborhood, I thought about the extreme convenience of my neighborhood, and then compared it to the relative inconvenience and natural bliss of the Mountain Chalet. I think most Americans would feel more at home in the Mountain Chalet, for the quiet and the privacy. But truth be told, this is still Taiwan; the Mountain Chalet is two blocks from a bus line, and that bus comes every five minutes.

When I finally got back to my neighborhood, I had a meal of steamed fish with lemon, a short walk home, and then a quiet beer at the bar downstairs.

Today I went and saw 22 Jump Street with Taiwan Amy. I was hoping to see Lucy but apparently it doesn’t come out here until the end of next month. I looked at the other movies; Hercules is the big one that came out Friday, and it looks like a shame. Amy proposed 22 Jump Street and I thought… eeew ewwwww…. but yes, that’s exactly what I need to see right now; a dumb summer flick, with jokes and bad guys, and some bros dancing around with guns. I used some grammar from last summer to tell Amy that I decided to come with her because 《我把冷氣放在第一位,第二是和你過時間。》(I put AC first, spending time with you is second!) which of course she saw coming from a mile away and finished before I reached the comma. The point is that seeing Jonah Hill and the other guy, plus no Asians in a movie… that’s way, way down the list. I was a little surprised, though, that it passed the letter of the Bechdel Test, if not the spirit of it. Anyway, I’ve thought about that movie too much now.

銀河守護者》Guardians of the Galaxy comes out on Thursday, and Amy is down to see it with me. 《銀河守護者》is my vocabulary crush for the week.

UPDATE: apparently the translation for the Taiwanese market is 《星際異攻隊》, which is great news for me since I already know most of those characters anyway. “Interstellar Unusual Attack Team”

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At first I had it confused with 《復仇者聯盟2:奧創紀元》but that’s not coming out until next summer. I’m glad, too; because 《復仇者聯盟2:奧創紀元》seems a lot more difficult to remember for some reason. More difficult than 猩球崛起 Planet of the Apes, which I never wanted to see to to begin with.

Right Now at the Grammercy Cafe

20140727-110357-39837380.jpgI tried to go study at Picnic or PicaPica cafes in 公館 Gongguan, but they hadn’t opened yet. I didn’t want to go back to Benny’s because I knew it would be crammed full of brunchies so instead I found a brunch place.

It’s call the Grammercy Cafe and there’s a big sunny atrium and a big spacious dining room with high ceilings. You serve yourself water and silverware. They’re playing country music. There’s nothing but Taiwanese people in here eating their fussy brunches.

When the lady sat me, she handed me a menu that was all in Chinese, tiny tiny font, plus the order form which had tinier font, and then a pen. And then she walked away. What this means is that I am 100% dependent on my reading comprehension skills.

I find my 冰美式咖啡 iced americano and get that out of the way. Check. I can read that.

Then I find the section that’s 早午餐 something something; I’m pretty sure those characters together mean “brunch.” The prices also seem to suggest they are a fussy brunch.

There are only a few bunch options, but I don’t recognize anything. I start reading the titles, and my eyes rest on 班尼 [ban-ni] which means nothing to me, but I can see that there’s ham and eggs in the description, and it’s only 280塊 (USD $9.35) which is expensive to Taiwanese people but cheapy cheap to me, so I find it on the check list and mark it off. Check.

Here’s what came to the table:

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Eggs benedict. 班尼 “ban-ni” was probably the start of the transliteration of “benetict” which I might have read if I hadn’t given up. The eggs were perfectly poached the old fashioned way; none of those UFO shaped electric poacher eggs. The yolks were cooked but nice and runny, a deep orange color. Each egg rested on a slice of canadian bacon atop an un-toasted English muffin. There was also just the right amount of hash browns, a fruit salad which consisted of cut guava, cut bananas, and little grape tomatoes. To top it all off there was this thick creme in a jar topped off with some caramel syrup (which I poured off). Oh, almost forgot; little pieces of boneless fried chicken. Little pieces of boneless fried chicken are totally a breakfast item here. Not kidding.

My super tall iced coffee was included, of course.

As I look around I can see people are eating thick waffles with a fruity ice cream sunday on the side; also some thick french toasts and some dinery-y egg-and-hashbrown numbers.

Taipei 2014 Day 21

I have class in 20 minutes so this will be a quick one.

I took a break from my phone drama yesterday to meet mysterious Tainan C and Barton (both are pseudonyms). We met a in the MRT Guting station underneath Exit 2, which I had chosen because I believed it would be cooler down below. I didn’t know who to look for since Tainan C is a pretty low profile… so low-profile, that I assumed that he was a missionary language learner. Anyway he recognized me from a distance, and asked me if it was creepy. It wasn’t at all creepy of course.

We had a tight schedule so I took them to Mix Cafe. While Barton and Tainan C were ordering I mouthed to the owner 《我想請他們客,不要讓他們付錢》 (“I will be treating them; don’t let them pay any money!). The boss gave me a slick Lando Calrissian nod of acknowledgement and when the time came, I 請’ed them within an inch of their life. I 請’ed them so hard, they started spitting blood and teeth fragments. They were trying not to sob but I saw the tears in their eyes.

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We had a lovely fish dinner and talked about Taiwan, language learning, etc. I found myself trying to explain my new philosophy on immersion, which I wrote about once here, but I realized I my explanation was too labored; I need to concentrate it down to a fortune cookie. I’ll work on that later this afternoon after four hours of class.

Before I knew it my new friends were off on another mission; I was glad to meet them. I turned my attention to my phone drama and my upset stomach… but as soon as they were gone I realized I had forgotten to take a picture with Tainan C and Barton.

Unrelated: Here are the places where the locals recognize me and by now know my order: Benny’s cafe; Pucheng Jie Breakfast Counter. Oven Coffee. Something Ales. Today at Oven Coffee I managed to say hello, and the dude was immediately “Medium iced-Americano, real mug, no sugar, heavy on the ice cubes, VIP Card discount. Anything else?” I swear the first time I came here I paid 90塊 for my drink; today I paid 46塊.

The clock and the music say that it’s time for me to get up and go to class. It’s “Fall” by Clay Walker, so I”m going to Clay Walke-right outta here (puns seem to be less embarrassing for expats).