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The fall had fallen on Taipei. This made me particularly happy because now, I could wear pants and limit the area available to mosquitoes to just my toes (and my! How they partook gladly of what was left), and I could finally break out those boots from home I had previously been unable to wear because of the infernal heat.
This was good, as I did a lot of wandering, and I had deduced a few weeks prior that I must have the largest feet in all of Taipei. Finally having shoes that fit was heaven.
What sweetened the deal further was the fact that, for the first time in my life, I had actual time to wander. I would randomly pick out a park on the map, and I’d take a walk. I let go of the guilt of having work to do, (and oh, how we students feel that guilt when we are having fun, feeling that we ought to be studying) knowing that roaming and immersing myself was my work. It was the reason I was here, and after my few hours of class each day, the great outdoors became my teacher.
In my travels around the city I finally began to let go of some of my food predilections, particularly after accepting invitations to dine at the homes of some of my language exchange partners. Disliking food for no particular reason at all suddenly seemed silly to me. One of those foods was seafood. How I figured I’d go live on an island and refuse to eat seafood is laughable to me now. The conversations often went like this:
“Oh, that’s OK, I really don’t like oysters,”
“Have you ever tried one?”
“Well….well, no, I guess I haven’t,”
“Then how do you know you don’t like them?”
uncomfortable squeamish pause consisting of mental preparation
“…..Pass the oyster”.
It went on this way until I decided that eggs, sushi, any fish at all other than salmon (really, WHY is it so fishy?), clams, cow tongue, Kangaroo, Venison, and even coagulated pig’s blood were at least worth a try. Now I actually greatly enjoy these foods, minus the pig’s blood.
I came to realize how ridiculous it was for me to just shut off my mind to certain foods. How “Ugly American” of me to turn up my nose at something perfectly edible! When these language partners of mine were kids, they had no such freedom to say ‘no thanks’ to the dinner on their table. It started to make no sense to me that I did have those freedoms, or that I ever wasted something perfectly good.
Aha! Studying abroad had yet again broadened my horizons and changed my way of thinking. I knew there had to be some reason I was doing it.
Then came the day I discovered man-guo bing. It was like the clouds parted and shined on the door of Ice Monster on Yong Kang street. Sure, it sounds simple enough. It’s finely shaved ice, topped with sweetened condensed milk, and mango (or other fruit, whatever your pleasure may be) along with sorbet. I think he key is the succulent mango in Taiwan. It is amazing, and to say it changed me is an understatement.
To this day, I still dream of it. Man-guo bing sometimes visits me in dreams, but only cruelly, as it’s a fond but distant memory to me now.
And so, this funny American girl with big feet and a predisposition for hamburgers had actually learned to eat fish! and eggs! and pigs blood!? Old habits don’t necessarily die hard, as it turns out.
Self Realization Number Four: I can eat anything.
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