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I was asked to share about the best gift I ever gave and I’ve been mulling the question over in my mind. I don’t have an answer. I’m just as thrilled to give the perfect gift as I am to receive it, but nothing is standing out above the rest. That said, there is one item that took some extra effort to find… and turned out to be more of a gift for me than the recipient!
In my last full-time job before having kids I did a lot of traveling, including trips as far flung as New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, China, and the Philippines. Before I left to each new country, I’d ask my mom if there was anything she wanted. She loves to cook and she likes to experiment with new ingredients. Before my trip to China and Taiwan, she put in a special request for bubble tea. Now, at the time I had never heard of bubble tea and I’m pretty certain that my mom wasn’t quite sure what it was, either. Still, I had nearly a week in Taiwan to hunt it down during my journey.
When I arrived in Taiwan, I first asked my hosts where I could find bubble tea. They had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. So off I set through the streets of Taipei in search of the elusive (and mysterious item). I didn’t know what I was looking for exactly, but I assumed that someone would know. Unfortunately, I don’t speak much more than a word or two of Chinese, so trying to communicate was an entertaining challenge. All week I asked about bubble tea and all week I received blank stares. Finally, I stumbled into a small tea shop. A young employee saw me and immediately knew I was an American. He came over to introduce himself with excitement and explain that he was practicing his English. When I asked about bubble tea, he laughed, and told me that I could buy the ingredients in any grocery store. He set me off in search of tapioca balls, the key ingredient in bubble tea. I bought my mom a large bag and started packing for the trip home. The next day, my host took me out for dinner and presented me with a gift: two bags of tapioca balls for bubble tea!
As it turns out, bubble tea is a sweet tea that has tapioca balls (or pearls) in it. I personally think it’s disgusting. Why would I want gelatinous balls floating in my tea? Sadly, my mom agrees. She ended up with three bags of the stuff, which I assume she eventually threw out. I, on the other hand, ended up with some great memories of my adventures on the streets of Taipei.
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