in lue of a wooden cart pulled by two sturdy white oxen, i was picked up at Ershuei station in a sexy black toyota jeep by two of the friendliest faces, both beaming adorably with their dimples and shining black eyes. Uting was at the wheel. a sassy little minx with layered hair and a small build, english impecable (as she says she likes the whities), and quick with the punch. Lin, sitting in the back with two little girls (ueew who we call dinosaur because she eats everything and maeko who's smile can make you melt), warmed my heart with her light humor and side grin, her friendly energy has a sarcasm that matches my own, where teasing is endless and friends and family are mutual. they took me first for my first taiwanese hot pot for dinner... made me eat pigs blood (snickering to each other)... my tongue is still healing. we drove to their house, shared by their grandma, mother chang, father chang, brother Lon Lon, brother's wife Ping Ping, and Lin (Uting lives and works about an hour away and only comes home on the weekends). the family was hesitant and i was tired, so our visit was brief as we would leave for deep mountain early the next morning.
Uting prepared me for a very long mountain trek. she said we would be walking for hours and that i would not return until late night. i would be very very tired, and would work very very hard. ... i was picked up in the jeep and the ride only took around 20 min. it was beautiful, breath taking really, wheeling our way up and around the mountain, with green haze in the distance and tea fields teiring up all around. their factory is called deep mountain and it is nestled in a small valley with the most dreamlike scene surrounding... clean rows of tea funneling up, whispy trees shooting out here and there, moutain fog slowly drifting. in front of the factory warehouse, four tarps were laid out with tea leaves scattered evenly about. our work, for most of the day, was to take a corner of the tarp, one person on each end, and roll the tea leaves to the center. then we would proceed to scatter the leaves evenly on the tarp again. Lin told me that this was the first step, after picking, as it softens the leaves and breaks down enzymes. we would do this about two times per tarp... there were two additional loads of tea leaves that came that day from two different farmers. then we would take the tarps inside and scatter them out on massive machine trays. repeat the same process on these trays about every 30 minutes or so. there was a sturdy woman, whom i am told to call auntie, who was quite the pro and hardcore taiwanese who scattered the leaves like a robot. there were also three factory workers... one whom Lin calls fatty who is head hancho... who chew beattle nut all day and are in charge of rolling, frying, and baking the tea. i will learn more about this process tomorrow. most of the day was spent scattering leaves intermittantly with snacking on boiled peanuts, chocolate, baked goods, and lunch involved goose, porks, bamboo soup, fish... you name it... it was delicious. Lin also took me to visit the neighbors bee farm. by this point the fog had settled dense and all i could make out were two headlights under a netted tarp, and the sound of bzzzz all around. auntie (i'm supposed to call all the women auntie) and her husband (whose name means handsome in english) taught me about something called royal jelly as they picked baby bee embryos from honey comb with a small ivory toothpick. Lin walked me through a lane lined with white boxes and the humm of bees could be heard everywhich way. it was the dreamiest scene i have ever been in. we left around 8pm. it was dark... the mountain deep.
i am staying at their 'aunties' house. it is huge with several empty bedrooms, a couple of flat screen tv's, house slippers, and a two headed shower... yep... two!! this week has been amazing and i am beyond thankful to the kindness that they have shown me. the food is amazing and always resembling a small feast. the work is mostly weeding in Lon Lon's two year old tea farm right behind the house i am staying, with my new boyfriend Yan Yan (black and white and smells... well of goat) neighing in the distance. Lin taught me caligraphy, as well as to ride on her scooter. i learned that taiwanese start counting their age from conception and that fortune tellers set the date of engagements and weddings. Lin is getting married soon, and i got to meet her to-be husband (whose name in english is sausage... and that's what we call him) as well as their 'match-maker.' Lon Lon is an amazing artist but has chosen to be a farmer. today Ping Ping taught me to make soap! tea tea tea, snacks, and bicycling. it is all a hazy crazy wonderful whirlwind right now... and it all started with a little place called deep mountain.