A Toast

Today we left Hsinchu the way we came – in the midst of a downpour  with me huddled in the backseat of my father’s car, clutching the seat with my life as the black Camry darted in and out of traffic.

We checked out of the Hotel Royal Hsinchu a little before noon. It was the kind of posh hotel where people open every door for you and a lady plays Bruno Mars on the piano in the lobby and sushi is served at breakfast near the omelette-making station. Nice, but not for me.

I was still recovering from the drowsiness of combined jet lag and allergy medication. Through the rain I spotted the areas we had explored the day prior. From the street market to the hair salon to the restaurant at which we had dined with several of my father’s students, it was all there on the same main road as a flock of scooters whizzed by.

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Dinner itself was, as it usually goes here, an experience of curiosity, confusion and learning (at my expense, of course). The restaurant served Hakka cuisine, as well as Taiwan Beer’s Gold Medal brew, which flowed copiously from the two tables next to us. Toasts of the lager, whiskey and orange juice were made frequently throughout the evening. At one point I had taken a drink from a tea cup and unexpectedly tasted a tinge of salty bitterness.

“Did I just drink dipping sauce?” I asked Ben, prompting him to try it himself and being met with his refusal.

“It’s plum juice,” I was told. I’m still unconvinced.

I tried more dishes for which I did not know the names of, let alone what ingredients comprised them.

And with that was another experience of learning to dive in and try something new, with little hesitation about whatever consequence may present itself. If anything, you’ll at least get a good laugh out of it. Tonight we dine with more colleagues in Taichung, more people wanting to meet “The Americans.” Maybe this time with less drowsiness too.

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