Free Dinner

By greenteapanda

December 31, 2007

Category: Travel

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Today was quite an unexpected day. It took nearly five hours of driving in the mountains to get to Lishan. Once I got there, I realised I did not have my regular glasses. I had left them on the bus. Fortunately, the bus was left open and I was able to retrieve my glasses case off of the floor.

After getting a room and buying some fresh pears (they are grown around Lishan), I went to a Centre with information about Atayal (泰雅) culture.

I don’t think they get many foreigners there, and certainly not many that are able to speak Chinese. Being the only customer there, the lady in the place asked me tons of questions about comprehension of different things. On the one hand, it was good to have some Chinese practice, but on the other it interfered with my ability to absorb the information. There was also one place where I did not understand, but the English translation on the wall was even less understandable. It was not a case of the English being funny – I looked at it over and over again. At least there were some nice setups displaying Atayal culture physically.

The grammar was so bad I had no idea what was being communicated. I couldn’t help but let it be known, and the lady asked if I could translate the things better. I begrudgingly agreed to do one, and even that was not entirely useful. After translating the Chinese again and making the grammar appropriate for English, I found out the computer at this Centre did not have any keyboard. The lady did not have an email address. I gave her mine, but I don’t think I will get any emails from her because it did not seem she could  copy down my email completely and fully.

I went on a hike after that, and saw beautiful colours in the sky at sunset.

For dinner, the town has two places claiming to serve at least some vegetarian food. One was closed, the other did not have a menu that matched up with information on their own sign. I went instead to a place on the second floor of some building. I figured it might be good for me to ask them if they could make me a  vegetarian meal. Inside there were two large tables of people, though at first I did not pay much attention to them. This restaurant did not have any menu, so the cook just said what kinds of things she could make that were vegetarian.

After selecting some newspaper articles to read (including one proudly proclaiming that National Taiwan University once again ranked better than Peking University), I sat down near the two large tables at their request. I talked for awhile with one of them, and as it turned out, one of the tables was composed completely of Tibetan monks!  I never prepared to talk about Buddhism in Chinese, at least not to the extent I would with a monk. While I did learn some language related to Buddhism in mainland China, I have found that some of it is not appropriate in Taiwan.

This trip, when I went to Suao, I went to a museum specialising in coral that was carved into Buddhist motifs. Some of them obviously took years to complete. Anyhow, when I was there, I found out that 菩薩 (Pusa) is not a Buddha in the same way my previous dictionary from mainland China led me to believe. Using those characters, the Buddha in question is a woman, not a man. For the male Buddha, the text kept saying "Buddha" in roman letters.

The last person in their group paid for my meal, even though I could not attend their ceremony the following morning (I would be taking another bus).

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