The zoom of cars and scooters in the streets, the whir of our window air conditioning unit, unintelligible voices in the hall, cool sweat perpetually dripping down my back; all a gentle reminder that we are back “home”. Through the beauty of both being teachers, Chris and I got to spend the last seven weeks in the States with our family and friends. We had a wonderful time with everyone as we caught up from last year and tried to store away few extra memories to last us through this next year.
In honor of the transition from our native home to our adopted one, we decided to put together a couple of top ten lists. The first list is the top ten things we will miss about the good ol’ US of A. The second is the top ten things we are looking forward to in the good ol’ Tai of wan.
Top Ten Things We Will Miss About the Old Country
10. Eating bar-b-cue and grilling out. BBQ and all of the trimmings that come along with it are pretty much American delicacies. The only pulled pork you can find around here is stuffed inside a sweet pastry… go figure. We also love throwing burgers, brats, chicken, steak, or any other protein other than tofu on a grill. Grilling is forbidden in our apartment complex and the adjacent park, although it is perfectly okay to burn fake money in large quantities to honor your dead ancestors. Again… go figure.
9. Recognizing grocery store ingredients. While it is true that I don’t do a whole lot of grocery shopping, I actually do like to cook every now and again. I would just like to be guaranteed that it is, in fact, soy sauce that I am putting in my stir fry and not fermented goat bile.
8. Driving. It is really nice on an especially hot or rainy day to just be able to hop in your air conditioned vehicle and get where you are going.
7. Road Trips. Along with the driving, it is really fun to be able to plan road trips to see a part of the country we had never visited before. In Alabama, I got to go on a trip with the Simpson/James ladies and in Colorado, we got to take a trip with my sister and her boyfriend. Filling a cooler with snacks, popping in a homemade CD or iPod and singing along, and driving to your MapQuested destination is truly Americana at its finest.
6. The weather. All of our friends and family suffering through a sweltering Alabama August can commiserate with us on this one. The second half of our summer was spent in the perfection that is summer in Colorado. It is warm enough during the day to go hiking or enjoy lunch on the patio, but cool enough in the evenings that a dip in the hot tub is refreshing. Stepping off the plane this morning, the humidity smacked us in the face like a 2 X 4 soaked in steaming hot water. It will take me a while to recover.
5. Food Network / ESPN. We actually do get a variety of channels on our T.V. here and a handful of those are in English. However, Food Network hasn’t made its debut – though I have a feeling it would just be frustrating because I would be inspired to cook and I would be faced with the problem found in the aforementioned grocery store difficulties. We also get three sports channels. But, as it turns out, no one else in the world cares about American football. For those of you who know Chris, missing out on a season of Auburn football is a BIG deal. Wish us both luck as we try to do it again this year.
4. Queso dip. Cheese in general is hard to find around here. Especially elusive is the chemically altered cheese food served in Mexican restaurants. Though it has nothing in it resembling a natural food product, I find it delicious and miss it terribly while we are here. I haven’t decided if it is fortunate or unfortunate that queso doesn’t tend to ship well.
3. Paper towels in the bathrooms. In Taiwan, one in about every fifty bathrooms comes equipped with paper towels to dry your hands. This may sound petty, but after I wash my hands, I prefer to not have to shake them off like a shaggy dog after a bath. Often, we are forced to resort to thin tissues that, instead of drying, simply leave giblets of wet paper all over your hands. I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t cut it for me.
2. Being able to read signs and ask for help (and understand the answer). I will admit that our lack of language skills rests solely on our shoulders. And, most of the time, we can get our point across to whomever we are speaking. But, sometimes, I just want to know what a menu says or why I’m being yelled at on the bus. Is that too much to ask?
1. Friends and family. Of course, the number one thing we will miss about America is you. Well, and maybe Tica.
Top Ten Things We Are Looking Forward to in the New Country
10. Cheap entertainment. Walking through the park by our apartment every morning is quite an adventure (see blog Just a Walk in the Park). We are definitely looking forward to what new antics and “exercises” Mary Poppins has learned over the summer.
9. Getting a haircut. It really isn’t about what they trim or how much, it is about the haircut experience – the fact that they take two hours to wash and massage your scalp before they cut has had me pining for a pruning all summer. Cross your fingers that, in a state of massage euphoria and language confusion, I don’t accidentally agree to fuchsia highlights.
8. Being able to walk everywhere. While a car can be nice, we definitely appreciate having no idea how much gas costs or the price of a parking space at our apartment. On most days, we really enjoy getting out in the city and hiking through the concrete jungle.
7. Planning vacations. Road trips are pretty much out of the question but weekend trips to Hong Kong or South Korea are not. We have had a blast exploring this part of the world and are getting geared up for some new trips this year.
6. Bringing food into the movie theater… legally. Admittedly, the rush of sneaking an entire package of Oreos past the ticket taker is somewhat exhilarating. But, I have to say, I much prefer not having to pull my snacks out of my pants and socks before enjoying them during a movie.
5. Milk Tea. Quite possibly Taiwan’s greatest contribution to the world, black tea is seeped in milk and then spiced with cinnamon and cardamom and finally sweetened with lots of sugar. Delightful.
4. Cheap food. I don’t have to explain how wonderful it is to get a great, traditional Taiwanese dinner for two for $3 USD or to stuff ourselves with fresh sushi for $10 USD. I’m telling you, you’ll save so much money eating here that the plane tickets will practically pay for themselves.
3. No tipping. Speaking of cheap food, there is also no tipping in Taiwan. In fact, the States is pretty much the only place in the world that requires such a high tip at restaurants. Come on, America, get with the times! Let’s move to the metric system and cut out this tipping bologna!
2. Playing the dumb American. Whether it is walking past annoying street surveys or offering vendors ridiculously low prices while bargaining, playing ignorant American (though not always effective) is always fun.
1. Friends. The number one thing we are looking forward to in coming back to Taiwan is seeing friends we made last year and making new ones this year.
Here’s to another year in Asia!