See, because that's the first thing. The spelling I was taught, Pingtung, is the old spelling from when whitefolk were more concerned with their own pronunciation than the correct one, it seems. Today's correct pinyin spelling is Pingdong. So there's that.
I met a really great girl in the hostel who was also headed to Ping(tu/do)ng for the same study program as I was, so we decided to travel down together. She talked me down from using the High Speed Rail, and thankfully, because it was less than half the cost to just sit on a bus for about five hours instead. It was great, too, to look out the windows and witness things passing by. English on less and less of the signs, until it was only pinyin on some of the road signs telling you what exit was coming up. One of my favorite things to do anywhere is to look out the window and see people going about their lives and think about how that's a slice of someone's whole existence, and just witness it and take it in for a moment. So that was just glorious and fun for me.
Jennifer (the girl from the hostel, and I'll always change people's names when I blog about them to be fair and respectful) is a much better speaker than I am, or at least more confident and I think her vocabulary is bigger, too. So she told the driver we would need to step off at the National Pingtung University of Education, and when we arrived he let us do just that. There were some kids waiting at the gate with cameras, and they walked us to the dorms where our roommates were waiting with cute signs they'd made for us with our names. I gave high fives all around (because, in my experience, it's impossible to give a high five and not smile) and headed up to the room.
Let's talk for a minute about how sweet my roommate is. So so sweet, y'all. She asked whether I was hungry, and I found that I was a little peckish so she put me on the back of her scooter (ERRBODY be driving scooters over here, y'all) and we headed out with a friend of hers. First they took me to a tea spot so I could speak English to a friend of theirs who's apparently been studying it. Poor boy looked so frightened! He just stepped back and another girl stepped up and said HALLO HALLOOOOO! Which is apparently how all Taiwanese people greet Murrikans, and it's really endearing.
From there we went to this little place where they will fry up all sorts of vegetarian goodies for you. I had these mushrooms... holy jesus, y'all, so amazing. They asked did I want spicy, I said yes, middle spicy, and it was .... like my mouth can still remember how good it was and it makes me salivate to think about. I'm going to have to eat that at least once a week.
I shouldn't have talked shit about the food before I came! My roommate took me back out today (after ordering breakfast in, an omelette with tuna and corn, strange but tasty) for some noodles that were ridiculous. RIDICULOUS. NT$35 gets you a serving of noodles, free soup and free sweet black tea. That's like a buck and a quarter, y'all! I killed it. Thick noodles in some kind of bean sauce with sprouts and green onions and heavy sesame flavor. I ordered more to go, it was so good. It was also right next to a tea shop where they had the kind of tea the lady who worked at the hostel in Taipei got the night she took us out to the night market. Some kind of Chinese watermelon that we don't have a name for, dong hua or don gua or something... SO GOOOOOD. Got back and passed out and took a HUGE nap. I had the longest most complicated dream I can remember having in a long time. Which means, the mattress I bought when we went out was a good idea. Last night the mattress they gave me felt like a flat hard tabletop held up by springs, knives, death and hatred. I got this thin thing to put on top for about US$20 and a much flatter pillow and boy howdy it was glorious. I almost flew in the dream, which I haven't done in a looong time.
Guess what's not illegal in Taiwan? Montecristo #4. Pardon me while I step outside for a long and glorious smoke.