Friday, January 22, 2016

So, I drank three cups of tea

I have a lot of feelings about this world, many of which focus on how we're heading towards hell in a stylish yet affordable hand basket. But, that's not what this is about.

My time in Taiwan thus far has been filled with some great surprises, including but not limited to amazing tour guides through the national museum and stinky tofu (thanks M and K). As traveling often goes, there have been some hitches. I have found myself in a foreign country with no access to my funds and a cell phone which doesn't charge with the immediacy I am used to. While both of these are solveable and definitely first world problems, they are frustrating nonetheless. Don't worry, Mom. I will be alright.

So, despite the steady showers, I decided to rent a bike and lose myself in foreign scenery and thoughts. As showers shifted toward downpours, I sought refuge under a tent with loads of furniture seemingly abandoned. Bonus: there was a puppy sitting on the table. So, Jericho and I sat watching the rain for a while.  I was thinking about all the small things (not the song but actual small things) that have been great in this past week.

Then, an older man pulled his bike up and told Jericho to get off the table in a string of syllables (suspicion: Jericho is perhaps not the dogs actual name). The man dried off the table at which I was having my belly button time*, then brought out a huge thermos.

Using no words, he motioned towards the thermos, pointed at me, and mimed drinking. I nodded and he pulled a cup out of nowhere and poured some tea for me. He settled into a wicker chair and had some belly button time, himself. That, that was when I started writing this, furiously penning it into a pocket notebook (in other news furious writing = cursive, I guess. I was surprised, as well). Anyway, I finished my tea and moved to a different spot on the table, so I could write more easily. Before I sat down, though, he snatched a towel and dried the seat and table to make sure my paper didn't get wet. He poured me a new cup of tea and gestured a "continue working" motion, so I listened. He settled down behind me, watching me, watching the rain, watching Jericho-not-Jericho.

And this, this is what I have been thinking this whole writing time: is this my language now? I have been slowly losing my English as I have lived abroad. I am not nearly as bombastic as I once was. I am not even close to sufficient in Korean to make up my language deficit. But, as I embark on a two month journey to all sorts of places, I'm learning a new language: one of kindness, universal gestures, yes, no, drink, friend. It is beautiful and humbling. I put so much effort into verbal communication--saying things exactly right (and often miffed when others do not follow suit). My voice is now a set of movement, a dance with intricate steps.

In that moment, I tried to choreograph the perfect way to express my sincere gratitude for the tea. So, I drew him a picture. It was in the classic Botsford style of stick figures and no sense of proportion whatsoever. I gave it to him, and he looked flabbergasted. He just kept looking at it and smiling. He put it in his pocket and then took it out again to laugh. He poured me a final cup of tea, and we sat and watched the rain fall content in our belly button company.

*Belly Button Time is a Botsfordism which means you take time to stare at your belly button and contemplate the complexities of the universe.

Note: I will update with photos as soon as I can access them.