Last night, Y’s junior high school classmate Nathan picked Y and I up from Y’s parents’ house to go to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Cafe Grazie. It is one of the many restaurants in the enormous shopping complex in Jhongli called Metrowalk.
Before talking about the dinner, I should mention something about public school friendships in Taiwan and how they differ from my experience in the States. Students here in Taiwan maintain the same classmates through their courses in each level of education. This means that Y had the same classmates in junior high, and when she graduated to an upper level high school, she had new classmates who she shared the same classes with throughout those years. This system facilitates close friendships to form that you carry thoughout life. Y stays in touch with all of those friends even though she lives in a different country and has progressed to graduate school. I have maintained only one friendship (outside family) since junior high: Bert. Even though I hear from classmates or hear about them from time to time, I do not do things such as go out for dinners or plan special trips with my former classmates as Y does with hers. Besides having different classmates for different subjects throughout school, I never formed close friendships with most of the students I shared classes with in school. I know that cliques form and some friends do stay in touch over the years from K-12 education, but I believe this is not the norm. In the States it seems that you make more friends through the workplace or networking beyond school rather than in it. The exception could be graduate school, because you are finally sharing an intense educational experience with a select group of people who you share a common field of study with (this is a shoutout to Seth, Dave, Masaya, Kolter, Swaralipi, Sohom, Geoff, Robin, Tim, etc.).
Cafe Grazie is so popular right now that you have to make a reservation in advance. I’m glad that Y’s friends picked this place, because it was delicious. Y and I picked the “Venice Set,” which includes a drink, antipasta or appetizer, soup, main pasta dish, and dolce or dessert. Y went for a shrimp/seafood au gratin dish while I opted for a vegetarian red sauce spaghetti.
We had a good time chatting with her friends from junior high including: KT, Nathan, Jean, Yifang, Yi-win, and Kiwi. I was particularly happy to talk in English with KT about project management and lighting technology. He works for a company now doing project management for new and innovative forms of illumination. He used to work in LCD technology, but he switched companies when he saw more exciting engineering opportunities in lighting than in LCD.
I realized the most striking thing about the meal on the way home: It was the first time during our trip to Taiwan that I had used a fork rather than chopsticks.