New Year’s Eve

img_4939_2_1.JPGAs the New Year is a time for new beginnings, I figured it might be good to actually enact (resurrect would imply that it had life at some point) this blog.

After virtuously doing laundry, and donning a blue knit embroidered dress older than I am, shorter and clingier than I generally wear (this is an unfortunate sort of discovery when one really needs to wear SOMETHING, but my aunt, the former owner, was a bit smaller than I am, the only reason the thing fit was because it stretches), I hopped into the subway in my slightly dressyish red clogs not approved for cranky ankles. Was stared at in the subway by a lounging (albeit somewhat aesthetically appealing, albeit amusingly so) fellow with his cap on sideways, and promptly hid behind masses of people getting on the train. (Note to people who stare at me– I’m already self-conscious. Be subtle if you must gawk at how odd I look.) (Note to guys on the train– Sitting as if you’re about to fall off the seat with your legs wide open as a frog’s is more funny than cool, and in a large press of people, when kids and elderly people get on the train, be a gentleman.) /snarky notes.

I went to my aunt’s for a general large family gathering, where we ate lots of yummy food, teased my cousinlet (2-yr-old son of my cousin) with wine (he was fascinated with the little glasses, and kept sticking his tongue in it to lap up the edges of the left-over red liquid), and saw my grandfather’s love-letter to my grandmother in Japanese. Back then, after contact had been made with my grandmother’s father by the matchmaker, my grandfather sent a love-letter to her workplace, a kindergarten. They weren’t supposed to see each other before the wedding, though he managed to steal a peek at her (this was apparently a somewhat common practice for men to be able to see their intended prior to the wedding).

Also saw the family tree, which I couldn’t fully appreciate, being that it was entirely in Chinese (I could only recognize our surname and parts of names here and there), and being that it included no women. Somehow we’ve managed to have a family without any women (documented, of course. As illustrious as my father’s family is, they have yet to accomplish the asexual reproduction of males). I find this ludicrous. Lest you think that this is only an old artifact of my ancestors, I will only point out that the aforementioned cousinlet was added by his mother since his father is a son of a son of a son of a….! I’m not there, though my brother is. My cousins and their children are not there, though their brother (though not his daughter) is.

Maybe this year, I’ll come up with a more complete family tree… grrr.

My New Year’s Eve was spent with the apparently 500,000 other people in Taipei watching Taipei 101 (ee-ling-ee) count down its levels to midnight and then erupt in fireworks. I was under the stoplight at Xinyi Road and Keelung Road with a bajillion people. There were waiguoren (foreigners) cooing at an adorable little girl held aloft by her father, couples with their cell-phones poised to catch photos of the fireworks, all of us pressed together in a mass focused on the fireworks. They actually shoot fireworks out of the different levels of ee-ling-ee, and the entire building at some points gets obscured with smoke. As a former New Yorker, it was a bit odd seeing a tower engulfed by smoke, but kind of nice to see that it could actually be a good thing.


I also learned why fireworks tend to be shot out over water in the US, as ash floated through the air, pelting us slightly (found little black specks on my coat), and several of us got ash in the eye (me, included). I watched part of the display through my hand with one eye squinted shut, which sort of ruined the effect.


I fumbled through the crowd past the line-up of blue port-o-potties (tsoh stinky), Jolin’s rousing performance (for some reason in Taiwan, whenever I’m passing a random free display of pop music, I seem to be present for Jolin) bands of teenagers tossing cards at each other, or drinking smirnoffs, and finally joined the mass of people pressing for the Taipei City Hall subway station.

I was encased with people on all sides of me (a particularly irritating ajumma, which is Korean for an older, pushy, strong woman, was pushing through the crowd and made it impossible for me to actually stand up straight at one point). We could smell each other, and feel the heat of our bodies pressed together into a very large human variety of meatloaf. Thankfully there was a cool breeze that would find our faces every now and then. The most frustrating aspect was that the crowd did not really move. By the time several people around me had given up on getting into the station, there was no way out of the huge mass of people pressed against each other.

I couldn’t help wishing that the Taipei police would do what the Koreans did when I saw the most incredible display of fireworks in the island in the Han river in Seoul (which I can’t remember the name of at the moment), which was to actually shut down the station for safety reasons, and just let people linger there for an hour as the crowds thinned. Of course, that display of fireworks wasn’t at midnight, since it was for a contest, but still, at least the crowd there (which was also giganormous) moved, even if all one did to move was lift one’s legs up and down, the forward motion being supplied by the huge press of people walking together.

At one point, outside the subway station, a car came through, escorted by a policemen, and distraught friends of the woman who was obviously passed out within. There was less than a foot of space between the slowly moving car and the people on the sides of it. As it passed by, people crowded behind it, hoping to move forward in its wake.

I realized that Taiwanese people can be rather competitive when people were rushing in line at Newark Airport for a flight departure that was two hours away and would be delayed perhaps an hour or two more, just to get to the check-in counter.

However, the press to get into the subway station was truly ridiculous. Upon reflection, I figured that as bad as it felt to be outside in the press of people, inside would probably be worse, so when a little train of three people started making their way away from the station, a bunch of people, including me, joined them.

I walked past Sun-Yat-Sen Memorial Station in a large press of people that overflowed the sidewalk, even though there was traffic back on the street. Walked away from Zhongxiao road which wasn’t as full than the subway station mass, but still too crammed, into a little lane and passed bars of partiers and finally descended into the Zhongxiao Dunhua station into a not-so-crammed end subway car (General Rule of the Subway: the cars at the end will generally be emptier than the cars of the middle) to Taipei Main Station.

The crowd (a fairly decent rush-hour-type crowd) changed lines there, and the train swept through empty stations at 2:30 AM (the subway generally closes after midnight– the last trains leaving their starting stations at midnight and finishing their run past midnight).

People were still shooting fireworks off in the park for fun when I got home– these were fairly respectable fireworks too, that spangled and swirled in different directions, multiplying the way a kaleidoscope’s images bloom with a twist. It’s kind of cool that people can do that here. So the year began with a lot of bangs, which will hopefully keep the bad spirits away.


2 Responses to “New Year’s Eve”

  1. January 10, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    I really like the word “cousinlet.”

    I also really like the fact that Korean actually entails a word for “older/pushy/strong woman.” (In English, we call this “Jewish mother,” har har har, just kidding of course)


    Such adventures!

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Free Rice

January 2007
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