Friday, 8 November 2013
Talking in Taiwan (2) School of Nursing, Yang Ming University, Taipei
Second leg of the High Speed Train – the fifty minutes had disappeared before I got the chance to even half-finish writing my talk for the School of Nursing, due at 1330. And – in Taiwanese hospitality fashion that I’m now getting too used to – Lue’s ophthalmologist sister had invited us to lunch. Ten minutes back at the hotel afterwards to hastily scramble together the rest of the talk, as a Prezi.
Arrived at the talk just in time, to an audience of about 50 – mostly young student nurses. A bit of a technical glitch (almost exactly the same as last Saturday) when they couldn’t get my laptop to connect to the ceiling projector, so had a bit of jokey banter with the audience which seem to relax everybody – or at least it did me, and probably not the frantic technicians who were on their third projector by this time. I couldn’t really do without it as most of the talk was a photo slide show about different aspects of greencare. But it sparked into life and I was off – for about an hour. After the talk we had a good half hour for questions, and what good questions they were too: from ‘how do I start it on my ward?’ to ‘what is the inspiration that people need to get engaged in it?’ to ‘if it is aesthetic, how can you show that?’.
Off to the northern end of the metro to see sunset over Fishermans Wharf from Lovers Bridge in Tansui, and the planes streaking across the purple sky reminding me where I would be in just over 12 hours. Ever willing to pack in a few more activities, we then went to see Lue’s brother in the ophthalmology practice which he shares with his sister – but he was overcrowded with patients, so it was just a quick ‘hello’. Interesting to see how a medical clinic looks though (busy!).
Anxiety then started to rise as my nostrils twitched and Lue led me to sit down in a fast-food joint, opposite but about 10cm away from an attractive young Taiwanese woman who was tucking into a large bowl of rice noodles. It was almost embarrassing to have to watch her expertise with the chopsticks from 10cm away, but I think I picked up a couple of useful tips about how to hold them together, and how to shovel considerable volumes in without dropping it all over the place.
The anxiety was turning to panic as we waited and watched – then it arrived: the challenge was on. Having failed to master the art of enjoying stinky tofu the first time round, I was to be allowed a chance to redeem myself. Lue made it sound even more attractive by explaining that it was in a spicy dish with large intestines. I also found a large vermillion jelloid mass in my bowl, which I thought might be liver – but I was informed was clotted pig’s blood. So – unable to bear the shame and humiliation of a second failure – I dug the sponge-like slabs of stinky tofu from the bottom of the bowl, thought of England and demolished them. By the third or fourth I was almost wondering if I was getting to like them, but I don’t think I’ll be doing an experiment to find out for sure any time soon! Sadly, I was too full by then to manage the intestines and pigs blood – and simply basked in the triumph of my gastronomic achievement.
From there back by metro to the ‘must see’ Shilin night market – dazzlingly bright, noisy and smelly (guess what of!). The food hall downstairs was utterly bonkers – how could so many people be packed into a vast brightly-lit underground hangar with raw food bits of everything imaginable and more besides, mountains of freshly cooked food stacked up in every direction you could look, stalls, cafes, cooks, and swarms of people seemingly all mixed in together ? But so it was; we had a modest bowl of soup and single dumpling.
I have already mentioned a few branches of Lue’s extensive family, and as we were walking off the metro, we met two more of them, who were duly introduced to me. And – just to top the lot for warm and generous gestures to a stranger like me – they insisted I took packet of special spiced pork to have as my supper when I got back to the hotel. Food they had bought for themselves and their families, they gave away to a poor starving wretch like me!
And so, with hospitality overload and gratitude fatigue, and not quite having captured in this blog what Taiwan is really like, to bed. What an extraordinary week, and what amazingly generous and kind people.
New Thing of the Day
The frenzy of the food floor at the night market – and the question to which I need to give serious thought: why are Taiwanese people so thin?