One of Floyd’s and my favorite little restaurants here in Taichung is called the Orange Grove. At least, we call it that, because much of it is painted orange, and it has big round orange lanterns hanging out front. Maybe someday when we learn to read Chinese well, we can figure out what the sign out front actually says.

Although we love the food at this place, unfortunately, they have no English menu or pictures. Usually in the past we’ve gone there with friends who can translate and order for us, but this time we were on our own… but we figured somehow we’d manage.

Well, we stood there looking dumbly at the unintelligible menu and waiting for inspiration to strike while the three or four employees and one other customer watched us expectantly. One of the ladies remembered us from the last time we had come and asked in Chinese if we wanted the sweet and sour fish again (at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what she was asking; I saw her look of recognition and heard the word for “fish”).

However, we felt like something different this time. Finally Floyd asked for “gung bao ji ding”(kung pao chicken), which, as one of the few dishes we know how to say in Chinese, has become our standby for such times. Then I decided I wanted some cashew chicken, which we’d had before and knew they fixed really well. But I couldn’t remember the word for “cashew”, and all I managed to communicate was that I wanted a different chicken dish. They seemed to think I meant instead of the gung bao, and I tried to explain that we wanted both, and they kept trying to guess what other kind of chicken I might want, but of course I couldn’t understand most of what they said.

 Finally the other customer stepped in to help, announcing that he spoke a little English. So we told him in English what we wanted, but he didn’t know what “cashew” meant. Finally, in desperation, I took out a piece of paper from my purse and drew a cashew. The results were instantaneous! Immediately, every face lit up, and they all exclaimed, “Oh, yao guo! Yao guo ji” (a phrase which I have since carefully memorized).

We all laughed in relief, and nodded, and they ushered Floyd and me to a table. Well, we were delighted when the cashew chicken arrived, and it was just as good as we remembered. But the gung bao ji ding hadn’t come by the time we finished, and we wondered if they had gotten mixed up after all and thought we’d changed our original order. So Floyd caught a waiter’s eye and said “Gung bao ji ding,” and he said something and walked away. We thought maybe he was telling us it was on its way, until we heard him repeat our order to the cook. We had to wait awhile longer while they cooked it, before our second dish finally came. And then, to our surprise – it was more cashew chicken! We managed to hide our reactions from the restaurant staff, but needless to say, we were somewhat confused! (They were too, obviously.) The best we could figure was that they must have thought that we thought “gung bao ji ding” meant “cashew chicken” all along. And the worst of it was, we assumed they’d remember us again, and next time we came, if we tried to order kung pao chicken, they would remember that we really meant cashew chicken, and that’s what they’d give us from then on!

Oh well, at least it was delicious!

Well, the sequel to that story happened the next week, when we went to the Orange Grove again, but with our friend Elaine this time (who speaks almost fluent Chinese). Not only was she able to order several different dishes for us, but she also talked to the serving staff and explained our last time’s misunderstanding, which she had gotten a big kick out of when I described it to her. She had a long conversation with them, parts of which she translated for us as it went along. Apparently they told her how we’ve been in several times and that the last time especially was a communication disaster because they have no English menu. The main lady asked very seriously if we had liked the food we had just eaten, so that she could remember it and serve it again every time we come, to avoid further misunderstandings. Floyd and I got a kick out of that! We ended up settling on three particular dishes which the staff assured us they would remember, and agreed that unless we brought a translator or found some way to tell them otherwise, they would serve us those same three things from then on whenever we come.

Is that funny, or what?! But so practical! It was touching how concerned they were for us. And I think it’s fun that for the first time in my life I’ll be able to walk into a restaurant and ask for “the usual” and they’ll know what I mean!

As we were leaving, I turned and said, “Yao guo ji hun hao chi” (the cashew chicken was very good), and they were all excited that I could say that (and say it correctly, apparently, tones and all). I was quite proud of myself! I know it sounds silly to make a big deal over such a small thing, but honestly, our language learning is progressing extraordinarily slowly, so I have to take my little triumphs where I can get them. And knowing we can go to the Orange Grove any time we like and to get a meal we’re guaranteed to love is definitely a triumph!

To read more about the Orange Grove and other eateries Floyd and I like in Taichung, click here to read my blog post “Some of our Favorite Restaurants”.

Or, click here to read about one of our previous dining misadventures!

Recently, after we’d finished reading Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, I assigned my 5th graders a project where they each had to make up their own world. One assignment that was part of this activity involved writing a list of laws or rules for the inhabitants of their imaginary world. Most of these were what you might expect – no stealing, no killing, be kind to everyone – but some students came up with some truly creative (and even downright bizarre) ones. I just had to share some of my favorites! So here they are, edited for spelling and grammar:

Thou shalt eat pizza once a day.

Thou shalt not give any entertainment alongside the road that will cause traffic.

Do not kill flies. You may kill fleas, ants, mosquitoes, and other insects in the hunting season instead, or go in the market to get food.

You must not fight in battles. You must only defend yourselves, but you can fight in war.

Thou shalt not throw or leave vile garbage on the street, sidewalk, or anywhere else for whatsoever thy reason.

Thou shalt not give birth to babies before the age of 25.

Everyone in (the land) is equal; only important people are higher.

Thou shalt not throw dirt in people’s ears.

If you injure or kill an earthworm, you shall be put in jail forever.

Thou shalt not smoke, become drunk, or chew betel nut.

Thou shalt not eat vegetables that are poisoned. Such vegetables I speak of are okra and broccoli.

Thou shalt not play dodge ball.

Thou shalt salute thy flag at 3:14:43 a.m. each day.

Every family has to take a health test every year, or they will be reminded to do so.

Factories shall not produce air pollution.

Thou shalt never wear jeans, for it is a sign of bad luck to wear such uncomfortable things.

Thou shalt not aggravate thy older brother.

Want to read more unusual laws?  Click on the links below to read my posts about students’ imaginary world projects from other years:








Yesterday Floyd and I and some friends drove up to the mountains to enjoy a day in a national park called Sun Link Sea. Why is it called that? I have no idea! Though it boasts of some beautiful waterfalls, flowerbeds, forested mountain peaks, and even snow at certain times of the year, there is nothing remotely resembling a sea for miles around.  Except maybe the sea of clouds visible when you look down from some of the viewpoints.

It took about two and a half hours to drive up from Taichung, counting a few pit stops and wrong turns. It was a beautiful blue sunny day, and we enjoyed some great mountain views along the way. It’s always nice to get out of the smog and be reminded that there’s more to Taiwan than city. For the last part of the journey, we drove through thick green forest, with strikingly bright poinsettias growing wild beside the road. Huge spider webs stretched from tree to tree or from branch to ground, but we saw no other wildlife.

Once we were up at our destination, we enjoyed a picnic lunch beside a slow green river, near a few restaurants, gift shops, cabins, and a tourist information center. From there we decided to hike to the “Blue Dragon Waterfall” a mile or two away. (I hesitate to even use the word “hike”, since we were on a paved path the whole way, reminiscent of some of the so-called “hiking trails” I remember in Yosemite. But it was a pretty walk, in any case, with the river on one side and forest on the other.)

As we were walking, the mist started to blow in up the river. We were all surprised at how quickly it was moving in. Within a couple of minutes, the sky was no longer blue, and we couldn’t see more than a few yards in any direction. It gave the forest a mysterious, spooky look, and as for the river, we could barely see it at all.


It was kind of fun walking through the misty woods. You can imagine our disappointment, though, when we got to the grand viewpoint, with the thunder of falling water all around, and were unable to get even the tiniest glimpse of the waterfall through the fog!

After walking back to where we’d started from, we decided to try to see another waterfall, but we were tired and unwilling to risk walking all the way only to be disappointed again. So we “cheated” and took a little tour bus a few miles upstream, where it dropped us off right by the other waterfall. There was less mist in this area, so we had a good view, and were able to walk right up to it. Once again, they had walkways all around, so it wasn’t exactly wild and pristine, but it was beautiful nonetheless. We were even able to walk around behind the waterfall into a shallow cave, and look out at the river and the plunge pool from the other direction.

When we returned to base once again, we decided to enjoy the water for just a little longer before we had to leave. We rented two paddle boats for half an hour or so, and Floyd and three of the others had a great time pedaling up and down the river, racing each other, feeding the ducks, and switching boats mid-stream. I ran along the bank, meanwhile, and took pictures and video.

We had to hurry back home so as to be out of the mountains before it got dark. The mist was bad enough, but driving down that twisty road in the dark as well would have been a little too scary for some of us. We hated to leave such a scenic spot, but it was good to know we had discovered a place where we can go to retreat into nature again sometime.