Lessons in gratitude, moderation, and duck’s blood


I had a long and contrived travel post I had typed up about the beautiful Bitan bridge, our first true sightseeing adventure this past weekend. But couldn’t bring myself to complete it: a sure sign that no one was going to want to read it.

That isn’t to say it wasn’t an amazing experience of Taiwanese kindness and lush forestry, but life moves so quickly (here and everywhere) that it no longer feels relevant, the day filed away in mental categories of a week ago, about 8640 following minutes of Taipei taking precedence.
Instead, I’d like to give you dear friends (because if you’re still reading at this point, I either care about you a lot, or I would very much like to) a baozi-sized bite of Taipei that I’ve discovered in just under a week:

    • If you walk up a slippery stone path partially covered in moss and trees next to a bridge on a rainy day, you will find a Buddhist temple full of elderly folk celebrating the Buddha’s birthday. They will ply you with cinnamon-fennel herbal tea, leaves for a sore throat and to rub on bug bites, and invite you to sit down to their elaborate, meticulously-prepared, vegitarian, delicious meal, having met you 30 minutes prior.
    • If you want to eat fresh vegetables, go to another city. Anything green is almost always accompanied by a sheen of grease.
    • If you want to eat fresh fruit however, you can just about go swimming in guavas, mangos, lychees, pineapples, the peach’s green-skinned cousin, and the list goes on and on and on.
    • If you think bilingual is nice, think again. At least one of your coworkers will be sexta-lingual (Orissa, Hungarian, Hindi, Mandarin, Taiwanese, English) You will decide there’s no reason you can’t learn the four Mandarin tones and embark on a self-fool-making journey.
    • If you think your Indian mother thinks/talks/plans/lives food too much, you do not know the food culture of the Taiwanese, where night markets and food stands and holes in walls and restaurants are the religion, and steamed dumpling, the communion.



  • If you serve yourself what looks like an interesting mushroom at the local lunchbox (biandang) place, you will be eating pig’s ear. You will spit it out.
  • If you find black tofu in your soup, it will not be tofu, but rather cubes of duck blood.
  • If you drag yourself out of bed to go on a morning run, you will be rewarded with the best sweat of your life in 84 degree 7:30 am weather, and perhaps cross paths with another really sweaty foreigner, in a sea of perpiration-free morning commuters. The two of you might exchange a slightly uncomfortable but slightly familar smile because you know what its like to sort of like being sweaty.
  • If you are not careful, you will drink boba or tea or sweet milk every day.
  • If you are not careful, you will resent the genetically-blessed Taiwanese ability to inhale all edible (and inedible) things in sight and still be a mostly beanpole-sized people. Moderation will take on a whole new level of difficulty.
  • If you had a little too much fun on a Wednesday night and really want to just eat some greasy familiar food the next day and go to KFC, the line is outrageous, the lettuce is brown, and the chicken, dark meat. In other words, avoid like its bubonic.
  • If you take the MRT at commute time, it will be an exercise in standing really really close to people in moderate phone-staring silence. But if you look just outside, the lush greenery will seem to spill in from the mountains, over the city buildings, and through the train windows. You will still enjoy your commute.
  • If you leave work at 6:01 pm, you will be the first to leave.
  • If you had previously dreamed that your future might be a medium-sized life in the counterfeit canals of Venice Beach, your worldview will change. Your mind-picture of a 9-5 life will expand to timezone-endless.

Taipei is decadence, its consumption, its accessibility, its kindness, its a distant office mate named Rick showing up at my cube with creamy mango milk in hand at 3:30, and exclaiming “tea time!” And its all I can do to not slurp it down all at once.


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