steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Ni hao Knowhow

Usage note. Several people here in Taiwan have asked me whether I've been to Asia before, and when I tell them I once went to Ankara they don't feel this counts (or only on a technicality). It seems that the word here carries connotations closer to American than British usage.

Meanwhile my little Mandarin phrase book is remaining sadly unused. Here in the hotel people somehow guess that I'm a Westerner (what is their secret?) before I've opened my mouth and greet me in English. Outside I've generally been accompanied by my hostess, who is Belgian but has lived here for thirty years. I occasionally chip in with a "xièxiè" to show willing, but it feels a little pathetic. Tomorrow will be the acid test, when I take a solo day trip to Taipei, weather permitting. What will await me?

Today, though, has been another talk, and another university campus. This one is a Christian college, and perhaps for that reason is even more focused on Christmas than the rest of Taiwan (which is saying something). Here the festival has been given a superhero theme, as you can see from this picture of my guides, Ivy and Betty, in front of the chapel:


And here's my eerily convincing impression of a cardboard cut-out at the nativity scene, where I look considerably less animated than the postpartum Virgin. Personally I think that "pumped" is a viable alternative to "serene":


The strangest feature of the campus, though, was the female students' dormitories. While the male students are free to come and go as they please, the women have a curfew (with nighttime checks to make sure they're still in bed), and are surrounded by a high wall with broken glass and razor wire:


I mean, wtf?

What else? Ah yes, on the plane I watched a documentary about the making of these things:


It's a plate of plastic food, which is displayed in the window of a restaurant so that you can see what you'll be getting. Here's the whole menu:


This practice started in Japan before WWII as a way of speeding up service (no excuse now for dithering over menus!), and has become an art form there, one they're beginning to export to other parts of the far East. I was pleased to catch a glimpse here in Taichung.

Less delightful was the discovery of this more recent Japanese import in my minibar:


A pocari, as you know, is a type of mongoose that thrives in the hot springs of Hokkaido.

Goodnight, all.
Tags: language, real life, taiwan
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