Dear MeiGui: So what's wrong with "bai bai" snacking?
Originally published in The China Post, 1/04/09
Iím an American guy dating a completely unreasonable local girl. She is refusing to talk to me just because I grabbed an orange off a ďbai-baiĒ table while we were walking down the street last week.
Itís not like anyone saw me do it; and there was so much stuff on that table anyway. Certainly, nobodyís going to miss one orange. Still, she said something bad is going to happen to me for taking that piece of fruit. She claims, if I donít run into some kind of misfortune myself, someone close to me, like family or friends, will.
I donít get it. This is the modern world. I myself was raised as a Catholic, but I donít believe in all that nonsense anymore. How can she be so superstitious?
-- Rejected and Scorned in SanChong
Dear Rejected and Scorned;
Whether or not you are a practicing Catholic, I donít think you would like to see a non-Catholic washing their hands and face in the holy water at your local church.
The food presented on ďbai-baiĒ tables in front door entrances of homes and businesses is generally meant as an offering to a particular god. It is believed that the gods consume the food in spirit; and afterwards humans can gain certain benefits by eating this food. It is further believed that the food itself loses a degree of flavor in the process of the offering.
This is a very important ritual for believers in Taiwan. By offering this food to the gods, family members are believed to gain protection, good health and general positive fortune. As your girlfriend told you, it is believed that a person who disrespects the process will be punished by the gods; and either they themselves or someone close to them will suffer a grave misfortune.
Quite frankly, misfortune should befall a person who behaves with such little respect for other peopleís belief systems. Personally, I am no big fan of organized religion, but I do have the good sense to respect the beliefs of others.
Take a lesson of Scully; you donít need to believe, just respect the journey.
-- Oranges and apples arenít all that different, MeiGui
Iíve been living in Taiwan for several years, and had such a hard time finding a boyfriend; but finally, after years of trying, I met a nice guy whoís really interested in me.
Although heís not highly educated; he works as a mechanic in a motorcycle shop; he is a good person from a decent and traditional Taiwan family. Since he has introduced me to his parents and relatives, they have gone out of their way to show me every kindness. The problem is that my boyfriend refuses to brush his teeth.
He says itís not his familyís habit to use a toothbrush. He feels rinsing his mouth with a cup of tea after eating is good enough. But let me tell you Ė itís not. He has the worst breath that Iíve ever encountered. How do I get him to start brushing?
-- Orally Challenged in TaiChong
Dear Orally Challenged;
Oral hygiene has always been a deal breaker for me. After all, itís not your boyfriend who has to kiss himself. I think itís time for an ultimatum Ė buy a toothbrush or else.
-- More than bad words come from a dirty mouth, MeiGui