Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Grist from Sollie

Hi Y'all,So last night I was a little depressed being American... oh, and I ate Sea Cucumber, but it wasn't the worst thing I tried yesterday.

So we got up early last night, and went on this great hike to the waterfalls - they call them water curtains. How cute. It was much like crossing suspension bridges and tunnels through areas in California. From there, we ate, and for the first time, I was needing a little comfort food so I indulged in hash browns. Mumm greezy.

So from there, we went to this high school which was a giant place, almost college-like but a private high school for 800 students. They had 11 piano classrooms and 3 tea ceremony classroom. Wild. Oh, and they were very green - no air conditioning to waste energy. Doh.

From there we went to the Buddhist University, which was amazing. Someone is donating major money for this place. It too was awesome, and they treated us to a vegetarian lunch. They only serve veggies - some Buddhist thing about not wanting to kill animals. Also, there were sleeping dogs all over the campus - wouldn't want to disturb anything.

At this time they ran out of things to show us, and we drove to some random places... went to the beach... super rocky, but I did buy some melon ice cream. Went to a fish museum/store. They had a few fish, but sold lots of dried fish. Hummm. From there to some Japanese WWII hotel/art exhibit.

It was there that group leader took me aside and said, do you want to try some stinky doba? Huh? Do you mean stinky tofu? Yeah, yeah, tofu. So we walked down the street to where I just knew there was an open sewage pipe. We walked into the hut, and he ordered up some of their stinkiest. Lots of people in the hut just eating away, and I am about to die of stench poisoning. Finally the offending food came out, we put some chili on it, and ate away. It tasted like regular tofu, but wowie! That smell. By the time we finished, everyone was on the bus, and waiting for us. I walked into the bus, and they all smelled me. Hahahahahaha.

From there we went to a restaurant for everyone else. Lots of fish stuff, but also a protozoa named Sea Cucumber was served. It reminded me of chicken Jello that Grandma Sophie used to serve.

Next up, a train back to Taipei. On the train, many of the principals were joking and being really loud. A meekish passenger from the train asked them to be quiet. They didn't. Later she stomped up to them and sternly told them to shut up as her baby was trying to sleep. They grinned and chuckled under their breath the way a 7th grader would when told to stop laughing at a classmate who just spurted milk out of their nose.

I was sitting next to one of our guides, and we had a discussion about how Americans appear rude and ugly on a world scale. Once we returned to the hotel, a part of my group decided to go to McDonalds because they didn't eat any of the dinner. The Taiwanese people may be the nicest people on the planet. I have been here a week and have only spent a few dimes on internet use.

Everything else in my 5-star trip they are paying for. Every person we run into is the kindest most gentlest person you can imagine, and our group is loud, thankless, craving McDonalds, and ordering beer and pork at the restaurants, and knowing not even the most basic Chinese words. I feel a bit embarrassed by the American tag today.

Off to Korea tomorrow. Not a moment too soon...


Sollie, is a long-time crew member of W.E.T. River Trips. A guide with an extraordinary sense of fair play, people-skills, guide skills and leadership. His observation is telling. As Americans, we need to keep the perspective of a guest when we travel to other countries. Respect their culture and their language. Try to learn at least a rudimentary level of communication such as "thank-you" or "good-bye." The locals will be impressed with your attempts. The world welcomes us, we just need to have a bit more manners out there.

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