Did you know that today is National Blueberry Popover Day? And National Pack Your Lunch Day (hopefully you packed your popovers). And National Napping Day. Amid a handful of others. Wild.
Anyway, ahoy. Or as we locals say, Nǐ hǎo! …better yet, 你好
Believe it or not, it took coming all the way to Taiwan’s stage two today to realize that this language is so absurdly foreign to me that it’s so much more than being “like another language”. It’s like reading a barcode or something. Or more like staring at a barcode and having no idea whatsoever what it means. Strolling a modern city a la Taipei on stage one, sure sure, you can get by because there are English subtitles on most things. This is likely exaggerated when most visits outside of the race hotel are chiefly centered around visits to Starbucks. Throw me a bone, I’m jet-lagged.
But fast-forward all the way to last night when a few teammates and I are perusing a far less globalized Taiwanese city by venturing to a crowded street fair/circus/food court to stretch our legs after dinner. We’re so far out of our element it’s nearly beyond words. Let’s just say that I’ve never had such a hankerin’ for chicken feet as I did last night. Nor have I seen that much fried offal skewered up and fried in all my life.
Here’s another one; we finished today’s stage, were hurried onto a quartet of buses to shuttle the riders 150km to the next hotel (coincidentally, today’s stage was also 150km… or was supposed to be, but ended up 140-some odd Ks), but naturally that took a solid 90 minutes of sitting still on the bus amid gale force winds in the middle of an unused airport where the race finished, as we watched the race staff complete awards ceremonies, then disassemble the entire ginormous stage before we decided to fire up the engines and skidaddle. Needless to say, it’s the royal “we”. So the fish out of water aspect, we then drove maybe ten minutes before we stopped at a highway rest stop to allow riders to fuel up. There was a 7-Eleven which offered everything you might expect for 100 hungry cyclists, except that everything is in Taiwanese which makes it suddenly startlingly obvious how you have no idea what you’re eating without being able to read the title, ingredients (or even stumble through if you’re mildly familiar with a sister language), or even understand the cartoony picture adorning the container. Is this a cookie or a duck liver casserole? Beats me, I’ll take two. Or here, mystery green carton.
Plus there are these tasty treats, but all these foreigners are freaking out “Are they sweet? Savory? What flavor is this? Oh, I can’t have any cabbage. There better not be cabbage in these! And pork. Nope, won’t eat pork.”
Other observations besides that I don’t speak Taiwanese:
1) 7-Elevens are EVERYWHERE.
2) Everyone is extremely friendly and attempts to be hospitable even when the language barrier is truly impossible. Often deep into a conversation in which most native cultures would pull the plug and be annoyed, the Taiwanese are very friendly.
3) The race hotels accommodations are outstanding and there is internet everywhere.
That’ll do. I’m hungry, that duck liver cookie didn’t tide me over. Dinner time.