Taiwanese hospitality is something that can take you aback. Coming from the train station, unable to pronounce the name of my destination to a taxi driver, a young man on a scooter asks me if he can help. After asking him to translate to the taxi driver, he shakes his head and tells me to hop on, he had just finished dropping off his girlfriend and had to go that way anyway. My first scooter ride in Taiwan was through the rain, with bags, wearing a helmet inlined with Hello Kitty and hanging on to the coat of a young man that seemed to know the same and only rule of driving in Taiwan (see below posting for the rule).
Tanner Coleman and Alexis Gregg are two amazing Americans who have helped make my trip to Taiwan possible because of their Art Residency at Taiwan’s Museum of Ceramic Art (posting soon to come). They befriended Wen-Hung, a worker at the museum and an all around amazing guy who has the the same hospitality trait that seems to run so deep in this culture. He invited us to spend Chinese New Years with him and his family in Chaiyi, a two hour drive south of Taipei.
We depart for Chaiyi, a small village in Taiwan that we’re told has never seen foreigners before. Wen-Hung’s family lives there and farms everything from crabs to avocados the size of your head. They do well, and have the traditional housing structure: Grandfather and 1st son in the main house, 2nd son in the house to the right (if your facing the main house), 3nd son living in the house on the left, the youngest son in the house on the outside to the left.
Some of the family speaks English. Some very well, some not so well. English is an international language and therefore taught in their public school system when they are young. It sticks to some, it’s deported by others, but either case is better than my Chinese or Taiwanese. With one word having five different meanings depending on how it’s said, it takes me days to pronounce “happy new year” correctly and I find non-verbal communication is the bridge over the language gap with other family members.
We show up just in time for tea time. A lot of families have a table specifically for tea time that they can assemble and break down with ease. It has all the handy convinces you’ll ever need, including an area for snacks and a drain for the spillage that comes from pouring.
Cutting into the largest avocados I have ever seen, Wen-Hung tells us they are a different breed of avocado that love the climate in Chaiyi. The oldest tree they have will produce over 1,000kg (2,200lbs) a season and how they turn them into “avocado milk” as the main way to consume them. Along side our hardly slice of avo, we have dragon eye fruit, purple peanuts and fish flavored chips.
Soon to post: a tour of the farm and a BBQ of epic proportions and species