I spent tonight packing my two suitcases and had many bags of gifts from the city to pack away, in addition to the gifts I purchased for my daughters and my girlfriend. We received gifts from the Bureau of Transportation (twice), the Police Department, National Cheng Kung University, Hayashi Department Store, and the Mayor’s office. Today, the Bureau of Transportation gave us personalized gifts, including a printed photo album of all the activities we did, a DVD that I have yet to review, a personalized mug, and a personalized baseball cap. I have been overwhelmed with the hospitality of the city during our visit and pleasantly surprised by all of the gifts we have received. I look forward to sharing them with my family when I return home and all of these gifts will help preserve some great memories from my visit.
In addition to the hospitality offered by the different city departments, the graciousness of our local IBM hosts, Lisa Chen and Anny Tseng, has made our visit very comfortable. In addition, Red (Daddy) Chen, who works for the local vendor hired by IBM, has taken care of all of the logistics, including picking restaurants for us and ordering (too much) food when we went to different Chinese restaurants. When I go back home, I’m not looking forward to doing my own food shopping, cooking meals, cleaning a table, and doing my own laundry. I do look forward to eating less food so I can lose some of the weight I have gained. If only I could take back some of the fantastic mangoes with me. I will miss that the most!
It is amazing how during a short 3 week period you bond with a group of fellow IBMers that you’ve never met before as you spend day and night working, eating, and drinking together. In addition, I have made new friends from halfway around the world, and I know that if I am fortunate to ever make it back to Taiwan, I have people that I can visit in this very friendly country.
On Thursday, we took a trip to the Yujing district of Tainan, which is the major area where mangoes are grown. As we stepped off the bus, we passed a roadside store selling mangoes. The sweet smell was in the air, and I was unaware of how the day would progress.
We then walked through the town towards the wholesale market. Here, they sold a variety of different mangoes. The main mango that is in season at the moment is the Aiwan mango, also called the Irwan mango, which is close enough to my name meaning that I was approaching mango nirvana. Apparently, this mango came to Taiwan in the 1950’s from Florida, where I was born and raised.
We purchased a bucket of mangoes for us to eat for the remainder of our stay here. The cost for about 22 mangoes was 400 New Taiwan dollars, which corresponds to about USD $13.33, which is around 65 cents per mango. In my local food store, I would pay over 5 times as much and they would not be as ripe. We then proceeded to the “Mango Ice House”, where they use mango in a variety of dishes. We had mango bread. I had a chicken dish with a mango sauce. For dessert, there was mango pie, mango ice cream with mangoes over shaved ice, and mango pudding. My mouth was watering and I kept eating. Two days later and I still feel full from eating so much mango. And I keep eating them whenever I can. We are in the height of the mango season in Taiwan, and I’m truly in mango heaven eating these ripe and tasty mangoes!!!
Mango Ice Cream with mangoes over shaved ice
I thought I’d write a post about the social aspects of eating in Tainan.
Last week, after our first day of meetings, we had a formal dinner hosted by Mayor Li of Tainan on Monday evening. The five of us were seated at his table along with the Deputy Mayor, the General Secretary of the Tainan government and IBM Taiwan’s General Manager. The meal was a 12 course meal and this was our first such dinner in the city. There were 4 other tables at the dinner where other IBMers and government officials were eating. At their tables, each course was served family style. This allowed them to take small portions. However, at our table, we each received individual plates for each of the courses. By the 7th course, I was completely full. This presented a dilemma, as it was my understanding that it was considered rude to not finish what was served to you. The mayor left after the 4th course to attend another dinner, but the remainder of our hosts were still at the table. Finishing every dish. I then noticed that the IBM General Manager was not finishing her plates, and felt safe that I could partially eat each dish. What concerned me more at this point was that I had 3 weeks ahead of me and I could not imagine how I would consume a 12 course meal each night. Fortunately, that was the only time we had to eat each of the courses as well as have so much food.
On Thursday evening, the Director-General of the Bureau of Transportation hosted a barbecue, which was more of an outdoor buffet. The 5 of us were seated at different tables with members of the Transportation department. Being a barbecue, it was time to drink beer. The beer glasses were about 4 ounces. The atmosphere is that you raise your glass, say “Gambe!!” and chug down the 4 ounces of beer, and slam your glass down on the table. At my table was the Deputy Director of the bureau and I was informed that he was the best beer drinker among the group. So he looked me in the eye, and the challenge was on. I was up for the challenge. Then they replaced my 4 ounce glass with a 24 ounce mug. Fortunately, I did not have to finish the mug of beer each time they shouted “Gambe!!”. But it was clear to my new friends at the table that I was up to the challenge of drinking that much beer.
My colleagues have also found out that I am a mango lover. I grew up in Florida with a mango tree in my back yard. I eat Mango sorbet at home almost every night. I get mango smoothies. I can never have enough mango. The mangos in Taiwan are fantastic. We have had mango over shaved ice. I drank a 32 ounce carafe of pureed mango juice. I purchased a tub of cut-up fresh mango at the Taiwan night market. I’ve had our local host purchase more for me to consume in my room. I cannot get enough mango. When we have meetings with government officials, they often supply us with snacks, which sometimes are fruit bowls containing mango. I am in mango heaven.
Tonight, we had dinner with the Bureau of Economic Development. The table had the largest lazy Susan I have ever seen. Fortunately, the dinner was served family style and I could maintain some portion control. What was fun was that they brought the dinner in using someone carrying in the food like a street vendor. The conversation was fun, and the food was excellent. These experiences have all added to the pleasure of being in Tainan.