Despite what my extended absence from here suggests, I have not been suffering a cold for the last week and a half. Well, I guess I have in a way: Colin caught it right after me, and I then had to watch him suffer.
Everyone’s healthy now, though. And not just healthy, but thriving. I’m going to try to catch everyone up on the last week and a half in a few chunks.
When I was mid-sickness, Thursday Oct. 8, laoshi invited the eight of us out to dinner after class. The restaurant was in walking distance, with a dining area the size of a living room. We were the first customers of the night, but a group that looked suspiciously like a bridal shower followed quickly. I eyed the box of chopsticks sitting beside the envelope of napkins on our table: those reusable chopsticks are partly the reason for concern about spreading Hepatitis B here. Or spreading my cold to my entire class.
Laoshi ordered for the group, checking with me that I like eggplant since I wouldn’t be able to have the pork or beef dishes. Even so, when I ladled both the vibrant purple cubes and a spicy tofu dish into my bowl of rice, tiny bits of meat came in with the thick red sauces. Picking around as best I could, I soon had myself a bowl half full of meat-flecked red-stained rice. What am I going to eat out of now?
I layered fresh rice onto the eggplant remains in my bowl, and reached for the spicy kung-pao chicken. Cubes of water chestnuts hid among the chicken and red chili. A whole fish lay on a platter in the center of our round table, set atop a delicate orange sauce with flecks of perhaps green onion in it.
The meal proceeded with less conversation than one would expect for a dinner party. Laoshi prodded us with questions in Mandarin; Colin spoke with the Hui-chian and Xiong-ji in Japanese; I concentrated on eating around the meat in my rice. The plates of food grew gradually empty, and finally all that was left were the scrapings of the sauces and the skeleton of the fish.
By the following Saturday, two days later, I was feeling back to normal, and Colin and I went with Pascal and Andy up to Danshui for dinner. According to Colin’s guidebook, there was a jazz bar and grill at the Fisherman’s Wharf up there. The specific club eluded us, perhaps changing its name in the time since the book had been printed, but it was a pleasant evening nonetheless. We strolled along the empty upper level and admired the inky water and sky, a boat ferrying day-trippers back to town, a fireworks show going off far back down the coast.
On the lower level, a man waited with “votives” (the unrelenting misting would have made real candles difficult) to presumably propose to a special someone while a crowd looked on. But besides that, the row of restaurants was not nearly as busy as I would have expected on a Saturday night—and a holiday to boot. It was 10/10, National Day, marking the day in 1911 that revolutions began that led to the creation of the Republic of China one year later. Major celebrations around the island had been canceled, like the Moon Festival, in recognition of those affected by Typhoon Morakot.
Nothing at the wharf seemed worth stopping for, save a sugar-covered doughnut that tasted faintly of sourdough that Colin bought. Our foursome returned to Danshui and found food in the night market stalls—a barbecued squid, an apple slushee, a milk tea, a cup of deep-fried mushrooms, a cup of deep-friend crab bits, a meat bun, two bowls of agee (fist-sized pouches made out of tofu and filled with clear noodles and fish soup), a small sausage stuffed inside a larger (rice) sausage, and two ice cream cones (grapefruit for Pascal, chocolate and vanilla for me).
I quite like Danshui. I get ice cream there.