Perched at the edge of the Shi'lin market road, as she munched harmlessly onto some veggies, a taxi driver harkened in the background, collecting all his English words with great effort, an unmatched prowess to convey: "Eu... Eu...ahr a rabbit!" Huh, what! And,then came the aha moment, well yeah, I was munching on a carrot. He wasn't the only one, almost every third passerby was slightly amused at a carrot muncher, so was the shop keeper who broke into genuine hundred percent laughter. Of course, even you would, if 95 shops in your market sold every variety of meat possible, and the other 5 had fruits (rose apples that leak and burst in your mouth!). This was the story of every lunch and dinner in Taiwan, the vegetarian grumbling and fussing drones in the air, "NOT meat, not chicken, not beef, not pork, not fish, not salmon, not eggs...ve-jee-tay-rean". This baffled most people there, there remains little to eat, though you can always resort to rice cakes, tofu and bean pastes!
Anecdote two: KFC is home
So, after a satisfying shopping spree for 2.5 hours, hunger screamed from the deepest corners of my stomach. This is how I thought of food in Taiwan: Hunger-food-daal-rice-not-vegetables-fruits-mcdonalds-all non veg-despair-hunger-apples-sigh. But, I thought to take my chances, to go to KFC to eat vegetarian, yes, something a normal Indian vegetarian would never do. Of course I found nothing, but I desperately bought a beverage. As I sipped on it, the familiar taste, of at least something tasting the same made me feel so good! For people who scream hoarse at these capitalist food chains, there are certain experiences that only KFC and McDonalds reproduce anywhere you go. Thank God for that.
Story of the city, workshop and scrubbed clean solitude:
The workshop to begin with, was good, very vague but, a lot of food for thought. The people I met, never had imagined meeting someone from Kyrgyztan or Moldova, but I did and loved it! The city, yes, how American! All clean, large 'freeways', less people, the modern buildings, typical urban imagination, tall and shiny. Maybe its just a scared little girl's first time in the foreign lands, but it was so different than where I live. Not only do cows and dogs stay out of the picture, but also the personal space seemed larger. The freeways to me, seemed hopelessly alone, or maybe I am just very uncomfortable with halogen lamps and buzzing cars. These are the fleeting impressions of Taipei, though something remarkable to leave you all with: the way the people thank and welcome anybody at all. Shie shie, for all the warmth.
Bah-bye (head tilted at 45 and hand shows peace sign) :)
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Day 2 in Taipei:
Set the alarm for 6 (IST) and wake up to 9:36 a.m. Taiwanese time, rush hour. Made it in the nick of time, talking back starts. Flash talks, presentations, keynote speeches, activity, lots of drilling, questioning, talking it through to the extent that this digital native begins to doubt her own focus/aims/agenda etc. Confusion is healthy (at least on the first day). The evening follows with an equally packed entertaining city tour. The Shi'da night market! Trust me, this has to be one of the most intercultural (hah, I had to use that as a foreign delegate :P )experiences I've had: vegetarian Greek food in Taipei on the Chinese Valentine's day! Yes, it was the valentine's day (or a similar legend) here and the menu had pink hearts (I sound like a journalist now, this daily blogging destroys my obscurity techniques).
So, the highlights of the day, things you might want to do if you too get a free unexpected trip to Taiwan:
Stinky Tofu!!! As the name suggests, this food stinks horribly, almost (mildly disgusting) but you should eat it, worth an experience. True, it grows on you, like beer. (I am not the faint hearted, mind you!)
Jasmine tea: Iced tea with jasmine flavor, I tried the orange and Jasmine before that, tea is something I've learnt to appreciate here.
Of course I owe the pleasure of a head dive into Taiwanese peculiarities to Nishant and Zona (shie shie!).
Now, that all the worldly details are done with, the parallel universe of the mind and the eyes are discovering the place bit by bit, open spaces, fewer people, vacuum nothings happening around and giving some temporal space to gulp the surroundings in. Sleep evades me, rightly this city doesn't make me want to curl up and snore. There are few pictures with this post, of the food, street, people at conference.
(ps. the waiters are really cute and earphones really funky :P)
Goodnight world, too soon for India, too late for Taiwan!
Sunday, August 15, 2010
There, made it. Crossed the seas and got the stamps. Ran around and seen all the gigantic airports. This is of course quite unlike the well cherished 'first overseas trip' dream I ever harbored which included the entire family crying and waving goodbye, garlands and some fancy overcoats (drama is essential). Before I start on how this trip is turning out so far, you all unknown thousand faces must know, I will try my best to update everyday, for four days at least, sort of live blogging, with pictures.
Now, philosophically, beyond the realm of yummy duty free swiss chocolates and a purse full of money, waiting for you to spend it, there lies a larger sigh. There is always some respiration in between a lot of action. This particular deep breath was a nostalgic realization that people are shaped by their pasts. Everything that we do is usually motivated by our past experiences and while occupied at the surface level with this exercise,we are also simultaneously creating the present of the past (like Schlondorff's 'Ten minutes...") And that is why, the oh-so-existential self seeks oils and spice in the midst of lush south Indian cuisine, and the moment it migrates to the ever desired dreamy north India, it runs to the nearest 'Sarvanna Bhavan'. There, while eating the last morsel of butter masala roast dosai, I realize the past is changing too, the present's filling it.
Now, for the Formosa isle, or Tai-won! It rarely occurs that I board a flight/train early. I ran again, almost missed it. Here I am posting some pictures of the "much" coveted Hong Kong airport that I could hardly see, given the rush and some Taipei street photos. The food, yes, boiled vegetables and rice, some awesome canned orange and jasmine tea and a few chopstick battle hours later, the digital native is breathing online :P Tomorrow should be fun, the workshop starts and so does the city tour! Will post, as the promise is made. Only to remember that they break real fast :)