Taipei, Taiwan 臺北
I said I was done with travelling for the time being. Turns out sometimes trips just happen, and a bunch of factors led me to say goodbye to home again, but just for three weeks. (There is an end!) Being in Hong Kong for a wedding meant a short hop over to Taiwan, a nation (for lack of a better word… we’ll get to that later) I’ve been to around 20 years ago, but only remember of it a hotel room shared with my family and a hospital: I was sick the entire time. Never saw anything else other than some traffic, but never felt curious enough to return either.
What was I thinking?!
Amongst the hordes of Hong Kong tourists I encountered (and eavesdropped on) throughout Taiwan, there’s one primary thing on the minds of visitors. I count myself in that crowd, and certainly didn’t have to hear it from them: it’s the food.
Food food food food food.
Macau is currently quite well-known as Las Vegas of the East — although, given how much more money is involved here, maybe Las Vegas should be the Macau of the West. Anyway, gambling. Not what we’re here for. But through a relative’s friend that does go to Macau on the regular exactly for that, we scored a free night’s stay at a swaaaanky hotel (with a casino attached that we just ignored), along with the fast ferry tickets. Yay, free trip!
What interests me far, far more though is Macau’s history relating to Portugal. Macau (Oumun in Cantonese) originated as a trading port established by the Portuguese, who were later given the land by China in a far less acriminous manner than the UK with Hong Kong — the Portuguese first considered Macau a colony, but later a “Chinese city under Portuguese administration” prior to returning it back to China in 1999. Like Hong Kong, Macau essentially acts as a country in all but name, with its own flag, passport, currency (Macau pataca, pegged at HK$0.97 but used interchangeably), and legal system. Portuguese is still an official language alongside Cantonese, and bilingual signs here seem so weird to me, especially in particularly Hong Kong-looking areas! Even bus routes are in Chinese and Portuguese, with no English. (Though finding someone that speaks Portuguese another matter — you’re far more likely to find English speakers.)
There’s a common saying in Southeast Asia, often displayed on t-shirts: “Same same but different.” I never really got an explanation as to why, but I think this really applies here.
I spent a year on exchange in Singapore, which concluded five years ago. I remember the first days of after arrival, how overwhelmed I was by everything: the stifling heat, the flashy buildings, the sheer amount of people, the efficiency, the incredible variety of food.
Thika to Nakuru, Kenya
Good, clean, and fair food for all. Little by little, this lesson is being taught in an increasing number of schools throughout Kenya, thanks to the initiatives of Slow Food International (also here) and their 10000 Gardens in Africa (also here) project. Food is a necessity, so why not also make it something accessible that enables people?
Again through my sister, I was connected to her friend and school colleague Samson, who happened to be working in the Thika area this past week, setting up new gardens. Since he was busy the first few days, he handed me off to his friend and slow food affiliate, Faith.