Monday, November 19, 2007

Wasai--- Gan Bei 乾杯

Gan Bei! The man who appears to be the leader of the group cried at the top of his lungs. At this point, the other 5 men around the table pick up their small glasses and practically inhaled the beer that was in them. This happened more frequently as the night wore on. I didn't need to steal a glance every once in a while to notice the decibel level of the conversation rising.

When I took a look at them to see what the commotion was all about, if I made eye contact with anyone they'd raise their glass to "cheers" me. Before I knew it, I had slammed my way through 6 small glasses of beer in an attempt to be polite. Feeling a little flush in the face myself, I tried telling them that in America, "cheers" is a toast to something, and doesn't require liquidating an entire glass. Their "gan bei", or "dry glass" literally, could be deadly in America where normal beers are 12 or 16 ounces. It was hard to communicate with the drunken Taiwanese at first, but that seemed to matter less and less as the beer flowed like water at a chili eating competition. The group proved to be a friendly bunch, albeit red faced and intoxicated.

The highlight of the evening was later when Mr. Wang downed about 12 ounces of Kaoliang (an extremely potent local Taiwanese liquor) in one gulp much to the joy of the group as they were cheering him on. That must have brought him over the edge though, as 5 minutes later he proceeded to fly into a furious rage, knock the table over and get slapped in the face by his wife while being restrained by several friends. That ended his night but the others kept on buying Taiwan beers and toasting us all into alcohol induced comas.

Contributted to Wasai Taiwan by: John Zadrozny

(Tainan City, Taiwan--- New York, the U.S.)

Visit his website: The Real Taiwan


related post:

Taiwan Baptism by Beer, Yellow Wine & Betelnut

I had just recently arrived in Taiwan during my first visit for a year of study and doing nothing, when a new friend – a business man from Taipei that pulled me into a sort-of language exchange friendship – asked me out on a drinking date. Well he did say let’s go for A beer and have some dinner. Of course at the time it did not occur to me that the phrase “drink one cup” in Chinese does not quite refer to the number of beers or drinks that is actually planned on being consumed. Usually though it does entail very much more than just A beer.

We stopped at a road-side open-air restaurant, or shall I just say “lu-bien-tang” and my dear friend, knowing I do not have any aversion to beer, ordered A crate of Taiwan beer together with a horde of various food dishes.

We drank, we ate, we talked, we drank some more. He taught me – or tried anyway – various local drinking games. Cannot quite recall what they were though. And we drank again. It was fully impressed upon me that slowly sipping your small glass of beer is not acceptable in any form. It is impolite. And especially impolite if you sip your small glass of beer ALONE. So it went through the course of the evening. Both of us taking turns to slam our glass into that of the other and downing the contents.

Until it seems, my friend decided that at the current rate, he will be way drunk before I even reach the initial effects of dizziness. So, in all his wisdom, he reached for his secret weapon.

A quick call to the man of the stall and two small plastic glasses appeared on the table. Each filled with less than an inch of a yellowy alcoholic beverage, which I later learnt by complete surprise was called Yellow Wine or Hsao Hsing.

Prodded by my dear ex-friend, we both consumed the contents in one smooth gulp. Now, I am a very daring person. I am always willing to try just about anything and no matter how bad the experience was, smile when I’m done. I could not smile. I really could not. Not this time. No way. That drink must have been the absolute worst beverage that has ever passed my lips.

You may ask, why I earlier said “ex-friend”? Well, I had hardly put down my glass and was still gasping for reality, when he his open palm extended toward me and on it an inch long green item of botanical origin. “Taiwan chew gum” he proclaimed.

Still having the most horrid taste in my mouth, I thought that anything he could offer me might help get rid of that taste. Man! Was I wrong! There is no worse combination than Yellow Wine and Betel-nut. Put that together with a really full stomach of beer and a rookie Taiwan visitor, and all you get is disaster.

I will spare everyone the torrid details of what happened exactly 3 minutes later. But all I can say is, I suffered really badly. And have never touched either Yellow Wine or Betel-nut again since that day.

Thinking of this night and many other similar experiences in Taiwan, brings to mind how different things are here when out drinking with business people compared to back home. Here I think the emphasis is on drinking as much as possible in the shortest possible period. And never sip your drink slowly by yourself.

Submitted to Wasai Taiwan by: Jason Burke

No comments: