Lost in Translation

What I was trying to order: “Watermelon juice” What I really ordered: “Western few juice.”   What they were trying to tell me: “You owe 5NT”  (NT is the currency in Taiwan) What I responded:  “No thank you, I don’t want a bag.”   What my teacher asked me: “Where do you often go to buy things?” What I answered: “I eat often.” After this last doozy my teacher taught me this useful phrase.   Characters: Pīn​yīn:                          jī​tóng​yā​jiǎng Meaning:                    This means “the chicken talks to the duck.”  In other words – I have no idea what you said because I’m not a duck and you certainly sound like a chicken.  It’s a phrase used when people can’t communicate with each other. So, I’m obviously still learning the local...

Our Stuff

WAY back in January 2013 Tex and I spent a few days sorting every single thing in our apartment into various piles in preparation for the packers/movers: 1.)    Throw away immediately (ex: dust bunnies, broken CD’s). 2.)    Save it for a week before we decide to throw it away (ex: ‘Do you know what this metal thing goes to?’). 3.)    Donate to Salvation Army (‘Uhh…no, you’re never allowed to wear that again’). 4.)    Give away to friends/family (‘You, uh, want this thing that I don’t want?’). More significantly… 5.)    UAB (Unaccompanied Air Baggage) For two people the weight is 450 lbs. These are items we selected from our mountains of stuff for living at Oakwood Falls Church in a furnished apartment for an indeterminate amount of time.  All we knew at the time was that we would be at Oakwood for longer than 3 months but less than 2 years.  We wound up living there for 6 months. We purchased a scale to make sure we were underweight.  Two things we didn’t know: the weight limit also includes the packaging they use for your items so you don’t really get a full 450lbs and we were limited to 3 large boxes.  Even though we were underweight we still had to move items out of UAB because they didn’t fit in the boxes. We packed a few decorative items in our UAB including our wedding photos and a few trinkets.  The rest included kitchen stuff, clothing, and electronics.  Oakwood provides a pretty decent kitchen package with just about everything you need to prepare basic meals. Here is a helpful post from a fellow Foreign Service blogger (http://diplolife.blogspot.com). Larger families may have some difficulty with what is provided, we were just happy to have a dishwasher and a walk-in closet. 6.)    HHE  (Household Effects) EVERYTHING else. This is the hardest one.  The weight and size limits on UAB and suitcases force you to be very discriminatory about what you are packing.  However, HHE is another story all together.  You can put anything in there, with few exceptions.* We’ve collected a lot of furniture, lamps, bedding, clothing, knick knacks, completely weirdo gifts, sentimental crap, and books to last a lifetime.  It’s all in HHE.  Unfortunately, unless you can watch 4-5 packers/movers like a hawk… We got the hookah supplies with no hookah.  We got a lamp shade with no lamp.  We got baby clothes, car wax, etc. HHE is a magical shipment that turns this:   Into this:  How HHE works: After you’ve separated your UAB and whatever you’re packing in suitcases EVERYTHING else goes in your HHE.  The movers did a fairly good job keeping an inventory but it can be a bit vague and a bit illegible.  Seemingly a million years after you’ve moved out of your home, and forgotten about everything you own, you open up that inventory and put check boxes next to the items you want.  A box might be labeled “bottles.”  If you have home brewing equipment like ourselves “bottles” is a little vague. We have a LOT of bottles. I wish that we had taken 10 minutes after everything was in boxes to look over the inventory that the movers created.   If we had taken this time perhaps we would have clarified “gold mirror” and wound up with the one we wanted instead of a beat up old yellow one. We still have one more small shipment to go. Please stay tuned for my next post, “holy crap, I’d rather move again than find a place for all of our stuff.”   *“It’s Your Move” is a helpful publication published by the State Department to explain how best to prepare for a...

Organic?

I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this:

Mysterious Morsels

I’m assuming that this will be a multi-part series judging from vast amounts of interesting food I’ve discovered here in only a few weeks.  This is by no means a food blog but it’s hard not to share these delightful finds. For starters, they put tiny fish in the rice snack mix.  I’m not kidding.  It looks like regular ol’ snack mix, and then, there is a fish.  A WHOLE, tiny fish. Tex said it was pretty gross.  Maybe he just needs to get used to eating little, salty, tiny, crunchy fish.  I don’t plan on getting used to it. I later discovered that there is, in fact, a tiny fish on the bag.  In my defense I was completely jet lagged when I purchased this snack.  Lesson learned. Now we can move on to the ever delicious Denmark Burger.  What is a Denmark Burger you ask? I still have no idea.  I Googled Denmark burger but I don’t think this is the same recipe: This multi-layered breakfast sandwich consists of egg, processed cheese, lettuce, tomato all on a croissant bun.  What could make this sandwich better? Yup, you guessed it, Thousand Island dressing. ? Tex and I were both hungry enough to enjoy it but we didn’t truly understand it.  I’m not sure what food shops in Taiwan think of Scandinavian cuisine, but it definitely involves Thousand Island dressing*. I might try something different next time. Last, but certainly not least, in this snack mix is the dragon fruit.  Taiwan has tons of interesting fruits and vegetables.  They have avocados and mangoes here the size of your head.  Out of the dozens of choices at the market the dragon fruit was the most difficult to resist. So, we bought one. Isn’t it beautiful and scary? The inside is even cooler. I found the flavor a bit lacking. I like stronger flavors.  It was sweet and the seeds are totally edible, kind of like a kiwi fruit.  It reminded me a lot of star fruit – a whole lot of buildup and then… meh.  Tex seemed to enjoy it.  I think I might just be an apple girl.   * Since starting this post I’ve found Thousand Island Dressing everywhere.  It’s on pre-made salads, there are three different brands at the grocery store, and they put it on sandwiches.  Feel free to enlighten me on this phenomenon. Wikipedia hasn’t given me any...

Foreign Phrases

For those of you who haven’t put yourself through the torture of learning Mandarin, here is a brief explanation of the nightmare I’m currently going through. The Chinese language is made up of 4 tones (5 if you count the neutral tone). Google Translate isn’t always the greatest tool for translation but it works in this instance.  As you can see from this page, googletranslate.com, pronunciation is extremely important. (The pronunciation for ‘ma’ is below the box on the right.) One wrong move and you’ve called your mother a horse.  Also, the characters on that page are “traditional” characters. They are almost solely used in Taiwan and are generally more complicated to read and write than the “simplified” characters found in mainland China. Adding to this delightful mix is pīn​yīn.  Pīn​yīn is a phonetic pronunciation system used to assist those folks reliant on a Latin alphabet system (such as myself) how to pronounce characters.  Pīn​yīn is very helpful up to a point. The problem is that people become dependent on it and then it becomes more difficult to learn characters.  That’s the boat I’m in right now. It’s not as though menus are written this way.  Every sign, menu, and bus schedule is mostly written in characters. I just want you all to know that this is the hardest thing ever!  That being said, it’s a great challenge and I really enjoy learning it.  I’m planning on posting more Chinese words under the “foreign phrases” series so I wanted to give you a bit of background. ***** Character: Pīn​yīn:                           Rè Pronounce it:                   This is a tough one to pronounce. Loosely put the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth and say “ruh” in a sharp descending tone. It helps if you keep your teeth closed. This is 4th tone – my teacher calls it the ‘angry’ tone. Meaning:                         HOT! It’s so hot here!  It’s unbelievably hot all the time.  I know some of you are suffering in the desert heat and some of you don’t have air conditioning but it’s SOOO hot here. The locals carry around umbrellas to protect them from the sun but I refuse to carry one because the idea of carrying anything but the clothing on my back makes me fear fainting.  I’m afraid to walk 6 blocks home with milk because I’m certain it will spoil by the time I get there. I would have hope for an upcoming fall season, but I fear I’ll never experience it as evidenced by this t-shirt I found at the weird grocery store.   We’re...