The Old House

Family shrine inside the living room.

My father’s house was made of wood, built during the Japanese occupation, and has a lovely overgrown garden bordered by a wall. It’s honestly a bit creepy. Some of the rooms still have the tatami down (I remember sleeping in one of them long ago, itchy from the mosquitos, and hot from the lack of A/C.), and while many are stuffed with boxes , the place wears an air of overgrown desolation. Old awards granted my uncles are on top of old furniture.

I think I may have been about to start high school when we visited long ago. My grandmother was still alive. My father was rather upset because I wouldn’t bai bai to the ancestors, bow with incense in hand and talk to them in my head. Going to church and Sunday school as a child, my knees were a bit stiff to be bowing to any “graven image” and telling my dead relatives hello. We had never had any incense or anything like that around. My grandmother was actually Catholic. I learned that her conversion was made possible because it was okay for her to revere her ancestors which would not have been accepted in Protestant-type systems.

Back door of the main house.

I popped into a couple of the outer buildings this time, and found that the spoons are still carefully nested against each other in the kitchen cupboard, with pots and pans still neatly piled away. I made a rapid retreat from one of the dusty bedrooms when I heard a skittering sound I was too chicken to investigate. The garden has a lovely overgrown aspect to it, though I did walk face-first into a cobweb.

One of the three wells.

Back door of the garden.

The mosquitos I remembered were still there, and I was once more popular with them.

At one point, I noticed five on my left hand. Aiming at my wrist, I slapped it dead as it was filling up on my blood. Unfortunately, my camera was also in my left hand at that point, and made a rapid descent to the concrete floor where it bounced, and the batteries fell out. After a moment of horrified silence (my family must have thought I was crazy and had just tossed my camera to the ground until I showed them the dead mosquito on my wrist), I picked it up, popped the batteries back in, and the top back down (I think there’s a crack curving around my shutter button now), and it worked!

I may be in the market for a new camera if anyone would like to advise me, though. It still works, but every now and then the LCD does a little wavy flicker dance. My Canon A75 has seen me through Korea and a chunk of New York and Taiwan and I’ll be sad when it’s finally time for it to retire. I’m debating on whether to go big, heavy, and powerful with an SLR or itsy bitsy with a ultra-compact or something-in-between like what I carry about daily now. Of course, I don’t think Fisher Price makes digital cameras– one able to withstand my dropsy would be good.


4 Responses to “The Old House”

  1. 1 countlibras
    May 14, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    “My father was rather upset because I wouldn’t bai bai to the ancestors, bow with incense in hand and talk to them in my head.”

    Bad girl! 😉

    We never had incense, but I always did and still do bow three times.

  2. May 14, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    I bow three times for my mom’s ancestors ashes in the little house that is by a river in Tainan. We were all church-goers at the time. There I was told that bowing was a matter of respect, not worship. We also weren’t supposed to be chatting with them or anything and there was no incense.

  3. May 16, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    That’s so interesting about your grandmother and Catholicism…I’ve read about a lot of places/traditions where Catholicism made more inroads than Protestantism precisely because of that ritual adaptability, saints days, etc [another example is some caribbean island cultures, where vodou and other spirit-worship sometimes gets combined with catholicism]

    love, love, love your blog…. I’ve just caught up on it, and the picture of the green tea field [above] made my day.

    by the way, Fisher Price DOES make digital cameras:


    Due to an exploding water bottle, I very sadly just laid my canon elph to rest [So. Sad], but purchased a fuji finepix that was on deep discount on amazon. so far I am happy with it.

  4. May 16, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    SQUEE! (First time I’ve used that word– but I’m an explosion of warm fuzziness at discovering the Fisher Price digital camera– though I confess, the boy’s blue bubbly one is more to my taste to the pink flowery girly one! Being near-sighted in my dominant eye, I adore the idea of the double view-finder… If only the photo quality was better– but I’m sure Fisher Price will come up with generation 2.0 soon enough.)

    I’m so glad I was able to make your day with the tea leaves on the mountain! (Forgot to mention that we sipped tea made from those bushes, and it was clear, fragrant, green and lovely). Moment of silence for the elph. Really, there is something to be said for a camera that sounds like elf.

    On behalf of the blog… Love you back!

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Free Rice

May 2007
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