Saturday, December 10, 2011

hanging out with my co-workers

Sometimes, after classes have finished, the Chinese staff invites the English Teachers to hang out with them. I love the Chinese staff at my school because they are all so nice and friendly. Most of them speak pretty decent English but they tend to speak in Chinese mostly. It's funny to have them tease me in Chinese and then be surprised when I tell them I understand what they said. Most of the swear words and put downs in Mandarin are very similar to the Cantonese ones.

The first time we went to a KTV bar. My first KTV experience in Taiwan in an actual building rather than on a tour bus. The place we went to didn't have any modern English songs, just some old ones I've never heard of though I did find Lemon Tree. Anyone recognize that song? I remember singing it with friends back in SF. I didn't sing at all because I don't like the sound of my voice and I think I'm pretty much tone-deaf. The English teachers just listened to the Chinese staff sing in Chinese. It was cool when I heard a song I recognized from a Taiwanese drama. I participated in the singing by chanting the few English words in songs and the one or two chorus lines in Chinese that weren't complicated.

The Chinese staff had bought a whole bunch of night market snacks to share! Super friendly. I bought pearl milk tea from a chain I haven't tried before.

pearl milk tea from yes! tea
I had Eamon, one of the TAs, teach me how to say little ice, lots of sugar in Chinese because a lot of the drink places tend to ask you how much ice and sugar you want. When we were buying drinks he forced me to deal with the cashier by myself. So when the girl asked me a question in Chinese I automatically assumed she was asking how much ice and sugar I wanted. I proceeded to launch into my spiel about how I wanted little ice and lots of sugar, fumbling and messing up the words. It didn't help that she kept giving me this blank face like she had no idea what I was talking about. I turn to Eamon to confirm I said the words right and then he proceeds to say something to them in Chinese. He then tells me that no one says lots of sugar in Taiwan, just normal sugar or a little. Why didn't he mention this before when I asked him to teach me lots of sugar in Chinese in references to pearl milk tea drinks?!?! This is why I do not order food by myself in Chinese.

The second gathering had more people and occurred last week. When I was invited I asked what we were going to go eat and the answer I got was heart of sheep. I was like ehh wtf?!?! and had to ask someone else before finding out we were eating sheep eating hotpot! So much more appealing that eating a sheep's heart. We went to a hotpot place down the street from the school which only served mutton. Hotpot places work differently here in that it's one price for all you can eat. When I saw what was offered I wasn't really feeling Taiwanese hot pot. It's vastly different from the hot pot places I've seen in America and from what I've seen in Hong Kong dramas in terms of what food was offered.

hotpot food offerings
The food was in a refrigerated compartment that people could go up and select whatever they wanted. A lot of random stuff like tofu, meat dumplings, and corn on the cob. The brown stuff on the bottom was the only kind of meat they had. This is what I got...

Mostly just mushrooms and cabbage. The yellow package is ramen noodles which actually turned out to be the best part of the meal. I totally snuck two packs of ramen noodles into my bag. My co-workers were shooting me WTF looks and I just went you guys don't do this?? I guess this must be a mainland Chinese thing to do, I would have taken the packets of napkins too but didn't want to push their sensibilities. After paying $230 NT or so for this meal of mostly vegetables I was gonna get my money's worth!

hot pot
They only had one kind of hot pot broth here and it's the water they boiled the meat in. Wasn't super flavorful and no one adds any sauce or seasoning into the pot, all additional seasoning go into mini bowls that you just dip your cooked food into. Pots of the broth can be found in kettles on the side tables with the condiments. In Taiwan it's all about serving yourself, I guess that is why there is no tipping system in place. I enjoyed the experience of hanging with my co-workers and learning something new more than the meal itself.

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