My old friend and co-worker Nathan has been back in town this past week and it’s been great! It’s been nearly three years since he left Taiwan and he wanted a chance to come by before starting law school this fall. His friend Joel, who hadn’t ever been to Asia is here, too.

We’ve hiked all over the city, gone to the computer market a few times, hung out with some of my newer friends and eaten lots and lots of good food they can’t get in Michigan. One thing that’s been kind of surprising to me is that Nathan doesn’t seem to have lost much of any of his Chinese skills, where were always better than mine were back in the day. He seems just as capable as ever at getting around town, talking to guys in electronics shops about modding cellphones and video game systems, and just generally being entertaining in Chinese. In fact, when we went to a River Runners meeting last night, he ended up surrounded by about five Taiwanese women the entire evening seemed to completely entranced by his story-telling!

The Master Storyteller
The Master Storyteller by Mark on Zooomr

Then today, under the pavilion by the guāngguá shàngchǎng, somehow he picked up a guide from out of nowhere who took us around to all the tea stands and taste tested various teas from à’lǐshān, nántóu and various other places.
Tea Tasting
Tea Tasting by Mark on Zooomr

Joel, on the other hand is a complete Asia newbie. Not only, did he decline to eat any of the traditionally “scary” Chinese foods such as intestines, cow’s tongue, duck’s blood, frog meat, etc, but he was unable to handle tofu!!! Or use chopsticks! I hadn’t realized there was anyone to speak of really who couldn’t, at least in my generation. His chopstick skills have improved noticeably, but Nathan and I still weren’t able to peer-pressure him into even trying a piece of it!

I guess Muskegon, Michigan must be quite a bit different from the Denver-Boulder area in Colorado. I think my grade school cafeteria had tofu and gave us chopsticks to use on occasion. I never really went through the jarring culture shock I saw him experience. Still, we managed to show Joel a great part of Taiwan, he loved the computer markets and I think he’ll be back with a bit more culinary daring in a year or two. Hopefully my apartment will be cleaner by then and I can be a bit better of a host.