English Article Written By Alice Chen and Jackie Leong
Winding through the alleys of Jincheng, we sought out our first solo food-ordering experience with nothing in mind, except that we needed breakfast. We passed by the usual fare-bakery buns, milk tea, local coffee shops-and found, tucked next to a turkey restaurant, the place we would soon find ourselves frequenting almost daily. Along with most of the other ETAs on Kinmen, we found, and kept, danbing as both a trusty staple and a go-to favorite.
Danbing, however, is more than food. For both of us, it was our first meal without guidance, and our first experience ordering on our own in Kinmen. The person to whom we now affectionately refer as "Danbing Lady" made it a good one: she put us at ease, encouraging us to speak more, treating our mistakes with patience. From then on, a trip to Danbing Lady's was both a weekend ritual and a treat. A few weeks in, and going to her shop became a point of comfort and familiarity, rather than merely a delicious challenge.
It seems strange, finding such ease in things both small and mundane. One familiar spot in Jincheng, by larger standards, cannot automatically make an entire city home. And yet, food is so incredibly indicative of our own cultures and our cultural experiences that it was probably impossible for us not to use it as a small foothold as we struggled to understand and integrate into Kinmen's local culture. Danbing itself is a more local find, and to order it, we had to stretch outside our comfort zones, use a language we were unfamiliar with, and interact with aspects of a culture we did not know. It was terrifying that such a simple act of ordering breakfast required for us to be so vulnerable. And yet, we were pleasantly surprised when our stumbling efforts were met with only kindness and encouragement.
The most rewarding part of finding Danbing Lady's place has been sharing it with our friends. When asked, "Where do you want to go to breakfast？" or even just, "Anyone hungry?", we responded from then on with "Danbing Lady!" every time. We could not wait to introduce other Fulbrighters to her kindness and of course, her wonderful food. One particular friend of ours who came with us only once now makes it a point to go every day after school for his after school snack.
Those small moments are what made us call Danbing Lady's place one of our first "homes" on Kinmen. Though we have since been met with equal warmth and sincerity elsewhere, and beyond the reach of Jincheng to other cities and townships, we still remember our original spots of comfort as places to which we return again and again, as we seek out that feeling of being accepted in a place yet still unfamiliar to us. As we acclimate to Kinmen life, we find ourselves becoming attached to other spots-places and people that we find similarly safe and reassuring, but for us, Danbing Lady will always hold the first, and most important, spot in our lives.