Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Had the onion pork chops at the Taiwanese coffee bar in Zhengzhou this evening. I am back to finish up the extension course I am teaching at Zhongyuan Institute of Technology. These Taiwanese coffee bars are all over the place. I think I have seen them in every city I have been in. In America, you really have two choices. You can go to a coffee shop like Denny's, or Village Inn, and get a cup of coffee with free refills, or you can go to a coffee bar and get the gourmet stuff. In China, there are no coffee shops. So if you want coffee, the coffee bars are your only option. In Beijing, there are plenty of Starbuck's outlets. But I don't like them. Go to Starbucks, and you have a tiny table the size of a dime. The Taiwanese coffee bars have large rectangular tables with upholstered couches. But the Taiwanese coffee bars also have a menu, with some really special items. I like Chinese food, of course, but there are two problems with eating at a Chinese restaurant. First, of all, you have to be able to read and speak Chinese, because the menus are in Chinese, and the fuyuans definitely don't speak English. The other problem is the Chinese restaurants are designed for groups. The menus don't contain individual orders. You order an arrangement of dishes, and share them as a group. In China, if you are eating with a group of people, you can't beat the traditional Chinese approach, because the food is extraordinary. But if you're on your own, a coffee bar is much simpler and more convenient.

There is another issue for me. I am a studier. It's against my religion to go into a restaurant without my books, unless I am with a group. The Taiwanese coffee bars are not study bars like the ones I am used to in Wudaokou. Taiwanese coffee bars don't provide individual reading lamps. In fact, they really aren't the best place to study after dark, because they tend to dim the lights, so it's hard to read. But during the slow part of the afternoon, when they are not busy, they are generally a very good place to study.

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