Hello again. Welcome back to beautiful Ithaca, land of chapped lips and unattractive winter boots. I hope you all had a great break — though I’m not sure it could have been as interesting as mine.
You see, my roommate hails from this lovely island off the coast of China: Taiwan. I needed no more convincing from her to go than, “There’s really yummy food. And cute boys.” Sign me up!
There was a minor detail, however: Though my roommate’s Chinese is effectively fluent, mine was limited to two phrases, each of which took me three months to learn: Wo xiang chi beijing kaoya (I want to eat Peking Duck) and Qing gei wo yi ping pi jiu (I would like a beer, please). You can see how this might be problematic. Regardless, I landed on the mainland — perhaps one of 12 Puerto Ricans that the country of Taiwan has ever seen— eager to improve my Chinese.
Understandably, my roommate hated me at this point, as I grilled her throughout the entire 14-hour monstrosity of a flight in order to improve my speaking by the time we landed.
I ended up leaving the plane knowing how to count to and write the numbers one through three (one line, two lines, and three lines … well, it was a feat for me.) So now, I guess, I can order three Peking ducks and two beers, if I felt so inclined. At this rate, I would leave Taiwan a drunk, triple coronary waiting to happen—which does not necessarily sound all that bad.
Very early in my trip, however, I noticed something interesting. Though I was not the only white person on the block, I was getting stares. Not just the occasional oh-wow-that’s-a-great-pair-of-shoes-stare. Oh no. Not even the subtly-turn-around-and-look-at-her-butt-stare. I’m talking mouth gaping, eyes wide, head turn 180° type stares.
Now I will admit, I am basically the sexiest person I know. But even for me, this was excessive. I asked my roommate, but she could offer no explanation. I like to think it was because people were mistaking me for Angelina Jolie.
After a brief moment, and after the second starer (who, I might add, turned out to be incredibly foxy), I quickly got over the excess attention and turned my mind to more important matters, food.
In any country, for me, cuisine is a make or break deal. Seriously, I have the stomach of a 460-pound man. My appetite is a bit small, but if at least one person tells me it’s edible, chances are it’ll be in my mouth before they have a chance to explain what it is.
This habit has led me to paths of deliciousness (head cheese) and paths of not so deliciousness (do not, for the love of god, ever eat an ostrich burger.) If there’s a food I don’t like, chances are there’s a preparation I do. So I had high expectations for Taiwan.
Apparently, Taipei is renown for its night markets. To me, there is something incredibly sexy about food on a stick.
Among my roommate’s family, however, night markets are also renown for the chronic diarrhea they induce. This is not so sexy.
But then I heard that they had pig’s blood-rice cakes on a stick, anonymous-meat sausages, congealed duck blood, stinky tofu, and fried shrimp heads. You can see where my priorities lie.
Normally, you’re supposed to ease yourself into street food. Get used to the different organisms floating about. And certainly not drink any street drinks not in a bottle.
I followed exactly none of these points.
Upon returning home, I felt a slight shard of regret. So I took about 15 Pepto-Bismol … you know, just in case. I figured that would cover me for the night.
The next morning, I beelined for the bathroom. And… nothing. For four days, in fact. Nothing. You get a new lease on life after that.
All that being said, I highly recommend Taiwan. Now, given this review, I’m not counting on the Taiwan tourist agency to hire me any time soon. But I have returned to Cornell with a lot more than I left it with: a list of foods that would gross out any sorority recruit at a party, a ton of misspelled clothing, 3,000 Hello Kitty pencils, and … oh yeah, I learned a new phrase too: Wo xiang ni de mama.
Cristina Stiller is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at [email protected] Believe You Me appears alternate Mondays this semester.
Original Author: Cristina Stiller