Today is a weird day. I tried to wake up early to go to the popsicle or lime sauce manufacturer Yi Sun. If I were to go I gotto reach by 8, that means I would have got to get up at 6. I got up at 6.30. Screwed up. And then Professor Lin and Mike asked for the articles and picturers that we’re supposed to be doing. It’s a bit difficult because I have not digitalized them! I got up at 8.30, brushed my teeth and open my computer. Somehow I went and searched for Wei Wei Jia Persimmon Cake farm on facebook. I found them, and I even found the boss’ own page! And then in one of their posts I read about Da Jie (elder sister), the poster girl, was sick and is warded in Taipei. That explains a few things.
First, I wasn’t wrong that there was someone missing yesterday. Second, now I understand what the hyperactive Er Jie (second sister) was talking to Jack. Jack would be leaving for Taipei next Monday, and Er Jie was going to follow for her own business, and that she would not have found time to visit her sister. Which, she said, was going to invite unpleasant comments from people. So she would not be going. Da Jie actually injured her hip while working. A fresh update, Da Jie is scheduled to be discharged today! Da Jie Get Well Soon! So I went on to Hsinpu myself today, without Carol and Varda.
They went earlier, I had to do my laundry. Bo Sung is sick, nose bleeding (I read from facebook). I reached Hsinpu about noon. Just in time for brunch. So I took my bike and ride to Tian Xin Road (田新路), in search of the 菜包(Vegetable Bun) recommended by Farmer Chen. He said its on the right side just before Ren Ai Road (仁愛路). But the only 菜包 I found was 廟前菜包。So I went in, and apparently, they started business early morning and therefore, at noon, the buns are all finished. The lady boss told me that if I were going to get them buns, I have to go in the morning. After lunch its time to work. The picture below is 味衛佳’s “假日專用停車場”(Parking Spaces on Weekends and Holidays). You should be able to see two cars, one with a satellite. It’s a TV Station, 中天. I did not know why, but I would have thought that its味衛佳，how normal it is for the media to be here to promote them.
Apparently there has been a confusion about the price of the persimmon.
The tv guys are running news for the coming electorial campaigns. One of them party stated that a persimmon can be purchased for 2 taiwan dollars, which is ridiculously cheap. I do not know much, but because the persimmon cakes and raw persimmon are much more expensive than that, it has caused a stir and that’s why those guys were in Wei Wei Jia today. They stayed for a few hours, interviewing everyone they could get. They asked only one question, what do you think of it. Me, I replied that the party that produced the news must tell their source of information, to allow people to check. And then I got to work. It was 1 pm.
First thing everyone said when they saw me was have I had my lunch. They had just had theirs, local home cooked. Shame I had mine, I’m gonna go up earlier tomorrow just in time for lunch! And here’s the wow part, Brother Teng, the persimmon massage master, told me that if the boss invites you to lunch, or more specifically, asks you if you’ve had your meal, that means he likes you, he thinks you’re a proper person trying to learn his trade! Naturally I was very happy! In fact, I’m never sure if the boss liked me, but I’m sure his wife does! Because I met her at the cross road into their farm when I came in, she saw me and greeted me. And, them ladies at the counter said hello to me as soon as they saw me too! There’s basically 3 departments in this little factory, as I would like to see it as. Women stay indoors, men stay outdoors. Men do the drying which involves moving decks and decks of persimmon cakes up every morning, and move them down at sunset or if it looks like it is going to rain. And then there’s the massaging.
So steady and speedy hands are needed here. Brother Teng told me that the boss expects a lot from his employees. But that’s another story. For me, I’ve been trying to make sure I don’t make any mistakes, not to spill any of them on the floor and look like an idiot. Because they could manage the workload by themselves, so I should be there to lighten the workload, not increasing it. Women’s jobs are the peeling parts, where each persimmon is handled, also the packaging parts, which are done by the two lovely ladies at the counter.
My day is all about men’s work. They have a chief - brother Teng, his sidekick, the boss’ son (future boss), and now, me. Every persimmon cake is massaged once a day, from the 3rd day onwards, for 5consecutive days.
There is two things to savour here, first, the persimmon cakes which are hand picked, cleaned, peeled, and massaged for 5 days consecutively which also includes 5 times of quality control. Second, the persistence of Wei Wei Jia to continuosly use traditional manual methods to produce their fruit. I know the persimmons looked awesome, but the main view of the picture is the boss. He was talking to the TV channel about the 2 dollars persimmon case and he explained his case for about 15 minutes on that phone. Love for persimmon is one thing, but business is business.
They were all a bit serious today but it got better when a friend of brother Teng came and visit him with a few tourists. It is his childhood friend and he gave her a special treat – he changed a new red tee and took photo with her. And then my buddy called, asked me where I was, and said he’d come here and spend some time at Wei Wei Jia. Like every other tourists, they were given popsicles by Er Jie.
And they ate and started to do work. Both Aiesecers, especially the girl showed the true spirit, I showed her once how to run the peeling machine and she picked up a pair of dirty gloves and started doing, and then she said it was fun! All in her full formal suit! As I said, brother Teng’s mood went better after that. He started talking more.
Before, he kept telling me how strict the boss is, and the boss gave him orders to teach me well. So if the persimmons are not up to the standard, it would be his fault because he didn’t teach me well. That was his reasoning, I guess it should serve as an alert to me anyway. But then when he started talking, we talked a lot. Some are bullshits, some are serious.
We talked baseball. He said Hong Chih Kuo is better because he could pitch, and could hit. Well the Dodgers should listen then! Haha! I tried asking him about hakka people. But as a former Marine himself, the discipline instilled in him is still evident. He doesn’t really care about what hakka culture means, he doesn’t have kids. But if he does, he said he would want them to speak hakka and being able to understand that food comes from hard work. He compared Hakka and Minnan bosses too.
According to him, hakka people are more understandable, but at the same time, the standard bar is high. Minnan bosses are less approachable, if you like to do it, you do it, don’t like to do it, go away. He doesn’t like pictures, I think it is respectable just like the ladies in there. I promised him I will not take his without his approval. There was a primary school teacher who often visited Hsinpu because she was doing her PHD thesis.
She said she had two classess with Professor Lin but she is with another lecturer now. Then someway along, after the TV interviewed me, Brother Teng started calling me 帥哥(handsome), so now I’m known to them as handsome everyday. Ain’t bad uh ? =) This photo shows that persimmons are being stacked on trays on loading carts and kept indoors, because sun has set. I helped loading these carts by taking down the trays from our heads above.
It is hardwork, but the harder part, I guess, would be to unload them from the cart back on to the open air because taking them down is always helped by gravity, while the other way is anti-gravity… And when there is no people, and the trays of persimmon cakes are all kept safely, its night time.
They are pretty, the persimmons, as so many pictures have shown, but to them, and to me temporarily, its a nother working day. The boss and everyone else said I could go again tomorrow, so that’s it.