So our week continued in more or less the same pattern. We woke up at 7 in the morning and watched cartoons with our breakfast until 8. We watched the popular One Piece and the show with about police officer Ryotsu Kankichi. Both are popular Japanese cartoons, they translated into Mandarin obviously so we had no idea what was going on but by the end of the week I actually grew really fond of the Ryotsu show even though I’m not a big Anime fan. This was how we bonded with the intern. Nin-Hua is a 19-year-old college student who was living with the family for the summer. I could tell Deng had grown fond of him because he often refered to him as “little brother” a tearm of endearment in Mandarin. Nin-Hua didn’t speak much English, I have a sneaking suspicion he knew more than he let on, but eventually we began to communicate.
It started slow, he was a little shy at first, I initially took his not talking to us as disinterest, but by the second day he was typing questions to Matt on his translation application. The four of us would often work on the same project, or Deng would leave the three of us to work on some assignment and come gather us when it was time to stop. As each day passed communication improved. Not just with Nin-Hua but with the rest of the family and Deng as well. I tried to speak what little Chinese that I can and Deng wanted to know the English name for just about every farm tool. My favorite translation is of back-hoe which in mandarin is called “magic hand”. When we finshed the morning work we would sit around and chat with a cold drink or bing-bung (popsicles, literally ice-stick) if we were lucky. While one of us was in the shower the others would sit around and talk until we all had our turn, then we would help set up for lunch. Some days his mom cooked, others we got rice boxes.
After lunch we would retire to our room and nap until 3 when we woke up and worked for a few more hours then showered and ate dinner around 7 or 8. Everyday that’s how it went; wake up, eat, work, shower, eat, sleep, work, shower, eat, sleep. The perfect kind of life for me. Each day we had a new task. One morning we worked in the greenhouse weeding the bed of chives. It took 2 hours to weed an entire row by hand, and it was easily over 100 degrees inside the greenhouse. While we were weeding Nin-Hua and Deng picked all the gourds a few rows down. That same afternoon Nin-Hua took the weedwhaker to what was left of the gourd vines, and we raked it up. That was an all day group project, just for that little section of one greenhouse.
I love being able to see the results of my work, and being able to have that visual self assesment. That is one of the reasons I find working outside so rewarding. One of our jobs was digging a trench from the water ways on the side of the road into the fields to feed the irrigation system. One day after we dug the trench we would see the fields flooded the next day. Another task we had a few times was fertilizing the corn fields. We also spent a few mornings planting corn seeds.
On Wednesday, Deng shook things up a bit. Instead of our break until 3, we went to the Taiwan International Hot Air Balloon Festival about an hour away to try to sell some of the farm products. We set up our booth with other local famers or agricultral organizations and waited for attendees of the festival to arrive. They never did, I don’t think we sold a single thing while we were there. Nin-Hua took a nap under the table immediately and Deng did some paper work. We wandered around the rest of the festival for about an hour. There were no other people there. We went back and hung out with Deng who gave us a mini lesson in writing characters when he got bored of his paperwork. We did this on Wednesday and Thursday and both days we didn’t sell anything.
On Wednesday we were expecting to go back to the house and get our evening work assignment. However instead of driving home Deng drove us to the beach. The beach in Hualien was a nice rock beach, packed with Chinese tourists and too rough to swim, but nice none the less.
We picked up noodles after leaving the beach and brought it home for dinner. I love Taiwanese noodles and I was starving so I was really excited. They were huge portions of noodles. I think I was the only one who finished all of mine including Deng and Nin-Hua. His mother had previously commented on how much I eat and everyone seemed shocked I finished it so quickly. I leaned back on the couch and said “Wo hao bao” (I am full) and patted my belly, when I heard a creak. Then suddenly the wooden couch collapsed and I was on my ass on the floor. I couldn’t stop laughing it was something right out of a cheesy comedy sketch. I think that was a bonding moment right there, when we were all comfortable enough with each other to laugh at something so ridiculous. It was after that I felt like I lived there all summer. I know that in years to come Deng and his family will always remember the fat American girl who broke their couch.