I arrived in Taipei on a red-eye from San Francisco. Exiting the airport in the early morning, I was met by warm air heavy with moisture that occasionally burst into showers and, on the following day, torrential rain. Inclement weather = museum day.
En route to the National Palace Museum, the home of what is widely regarded as the finest collection of ancient Chinese art - which may be true but [SPOILER ALERT] contains limited English translations and is more overcrowded with slow-moving masses than SF Chinatown on a nice day, I spotted signs at Shilin station for a cake and pastry museum. So, intrigued and unsatisfied by the jaunt through Chinese history, I doubled back in search of the latter.
The Kuo Yuan Ye Museum of Cake and Pastry grew out of the family-owned bakery founded in 1867 as a way to commemorate the traditional methods and recipes that the business is founded upon. Or at least that's what I think it's for; again, little to no support for English-speaking visitors.
Since by this point in the afternoon the rain showed absolutely no signs of letting up, I decided to kill some more time by taking part in what the brochure referred to as the "Creative Pastry DIY Experience." The nice man who helped me sign up for the class warned me that it was in Mandarin but, I figured, after being berated by French people in culinary school, how hard could it be? I wish I had taken a picture of the sign-up sheet, because I felt pretty lame writing the anglicized version of my name (M-i-s-a) underneath rows and rows of characters.
It wasn't difficult copying the instructor to make the pineapple-filled cookies, but I found myself unable to communicate with the other students at my table, which included two mothers and their young children.
Now that I've moved on to Japan, I am still experiencing locals speaking to me in their native language and expecting me to understand. But, alas, I don't.
More thoughts on not speaking the language of one's ancestors in a previous essay here, and no doubt there will be more to come.