Day 4: Language, Culture, and Food

by Theresa

Friday, June 28, 2013

The three focuses of today’s lessons. 

My morning routine is still in tact, although my roommate and I were both so exhausted this morning. My body is calling for a long night of sleep tonight!

Language class started so early, so breakfast was a stop at the Family Mart for pre made nǎichá (milk tea) and packaged mángguǒ (mango).


All prepped for the first day of school, representing Ashland University!


I had so much fun in class. We learned SO MUCH, and I think I will be able to retain most of it each day. Probably a combination of great teachers, small class size, being surrounded by the language 24/7, and really wanting to understand.

The first part of the morning was dedicated to practicing sounds and phrases. First we rehearsed speaking as a group, and then went around the room, learning in a conversational style. For example, the first thing we HAD to learn was names, since we all go by chinese names in class. So the teacher asked one person, “what is your name?”, and that person would say “my name is…”.   Then that person would turn to the next person and ask “what is your name?”, and so on. It was awkward at first, but later in the day, we could all tell the difference that it made.


We also started to learn about the structure of Chinese characters. This was completely amazing to me. I had no idea that there was a structure and as soon as we went over the facts, everything seemed so much simpler to understand.


Practicing the characters that make up my chinese name

The second part of the morning was my favorite! We had a different teacher, and she started by reviewing what we had already learned. We ended on the topic of “how are you?” and continued learning when she told us many different ways to respond (Very good, good, so-so, not bad, bad). Once we got that down, she showed us how to apply that to various nouns.

Sounds like such a thrill, right?!

Just kidding. What made me excited was that all of the nouns were about foods and taiwan! How’s coffee? Coffee’s great! How is the weather? The weather’s not bad. How are hot dogs? Hot dogs are bad. How are hamburgers? Hamburgers are fine.

The fact that I knew we were talking about food had me so engaged that the time flew by, and before I knew it, it was lunch time! We had less than an hour to grab food, drop off our books, clean up, and get to the bus stop for our cultural lesson, so back to Family Mart it was!

FamilyMart is popular just like how 7/11 is popular. Similar to our Starbucks, but its a convenience store

FamilyMart is popular here, just like how 7/11 is popular. Similar to our Starbucks, but its a convenience store

Our final “class” of the day was a cultural lesson about traditional asian tea ceremonies. I didn’t know what to expect, but once I got to the tea house, I didn’t want to leave!


We started with a presentation on asian food and tea. I hardcore geeked out.


even more excited!

It’s fine because I’m getting a degree for it.


Some things I learned about food and tea culture in Asia:

  • Most of the chinese food in America is styled after cuisine in Hong Kong
  • Just like how Europe has so many different styles of food, Asia has even more variations since it is bigger
    • Some areas focus on rice, others on noodles, bread, spicy/not spicy, etc.
  • Taiwan offers sweet soup in place of American desserts like cake, pie, and cookies
  • Historically, Taiwan has been heavily influenced by other regions because of political changes, which is reflected in their food offerings
  • In Taiwan, rice is viewed as food for the poor. In the home, wealthier people have mostly meat and vegetable entrees, with a little rice. At weddings, there is no rice served because it is supposed to be a special occassion
    • The standard is to serve 12 courses in Taiwanese weddings
  • At parties and gatherings, no one will leave until the host has “excused” the group with a toast
  • When brewing tea, water temperatures range from 80-95 degrees F. Water that is too hot could burn the tea leaves and destroy the flavor
  • Tea Masters are highly professional people. They train for a long time and earn their equipment. For example, the tea master I met spent many years practicing until she earned the pot you’ll see in my pictures. It is pure silver!


After the information, came the ceremony, and I could not have been more excited!


We had Oriental Beauty, a type of Oolong, and cold tea that came from a tea tree that is over 1,000 years old (our tea master told us this is incredibly special), and finished off with nǎichá (milk tea), which I officially just love. Imbetween teas, we had a tasting of traditional pineapple cake (delicious, but tasted like fig to me) and a skewer of dried tomatoes and mango.

IMG_4052 IMG_4060 IMG_4063 IMG_4066


Seriously guys, they told us that fruit here is sweet, but I did not expect the tomatoes to taste like candy! I bought a can to share with all of you just so that you would believe me.

You're all in for a treat with this!

You’re all in for a treat with this!

Our teamster was also a lot of fun. Her english was just as good as our chinese, but luckily we had Greta to translate for us.


This is the pot that is pure silver


She opens the teapot with this utensil because it gets so hot

Utensil has a dragon head

Remember when I said the class style was really effective? It’s okay, if you forget just go read the fifth paragraph. This is where it came into play. I knew just enough to piece together phrases, and every time I said something right, our tea master would crack up and say “hěn hǎo” (very good).



This was especially great because the more you talk to people, the more mistakes you make, and they end up teaching you something you wouldn’t even know how to ask. I can not express how much I think I’ve learned today.

I kept thinking that I need to come back to Asia in the future and visit all of the different regions. Anyone wanna go with me?

After tea, we walked over to dinner. We ate an actual restaurant, and I happened to order something that seemed to be Italian? Spaghetti and marinara with a smoked or steamed salmon. I was so hungry that I forgot to take a picture—oops!


Some of the tables had swinging benches as seats

Accidentally dressed like twins today

Accidentally dressed like twins today

After dinner, a group stayed out and shopped while another group (me included) came back to the dorms to pack—we are moving to nicer dorms tomorrow!

My roommate and I also had our first run in with laundry this evening. One of the more advanced language students tried to help us, but we ended up just pressing buttons until it seemed to be right. 2 hours later and I think they are ready to go in the dryer…..

Tomorrow is an early, early, early day! We are going to hike around an area called Sun Moon Lake, attend an American festival that is dedicated to Americans in Taiwan celebrating the fourth of July, and also go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant near the Jade Market. Sunday we are going to get up even earlier to hike near the school and visit a temple and park where they practice martial arts. I don’t plan to write over the weekend, but check in if you like, and I’ll definitely be back by Monday!