Archive for February, 2009

15
Feb
09

Valentine’s Day

Taiwan celebrates the idea of love three times a year by including the Valentine’s Day of February 14th and the Japanese White Day in addition to the traditional seventh day of the seventh month when singletons go to temples to burn incense and pray to meet a lovely significant other.   On the February 14th Valentine’s Day, Taipei 101 lights up a heart and malls everywhere are dotted with sales for your sweetie (Really, the US should be so inclusive– we could have tried stimulating the economy with Lunar New Year withdrawals to give each other money in red envelopes).  Taiwan has also adopted White Day from Japan.

The traditional 7-7 day is the once-a-year meeting of the weaving maid and the cowherd across a bridge of magpies.  It always rains on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, since the couple are said to be crying at their reunion.  This past summer I got to visit a temple to observe the dances and sniff the incense celebrating 7-7 day.

In spite of all these modern celebrations of love, traditional Chinese love stories as far as my limited knowledge allows are rather grim.  My aunt and I spent a good chunk of the summer watching old period movies from Hong Kong that my mom and her sisters watched long ago.  The love stories all end unhappily.   An emperor falls for a mistress-spy from one of his conquered kingdoms, who costs him the empire.  A fairy falls for a human and ends up forced to return to heaven alone.  The one happy story was based on a real-life artist-poet who infiltrated a household so he could woo one of the daughters and make her his wife (in real life she was his ninth wife.)  My aunt said the abundance of  sad stories is because people there love to cry at a good tragedy.

So people in Taiwan have three days to either feel bitter, depressed, and lonely, or nervous, warm and fuzzy.

Whether you’re in a cosy couple or single and free, I hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day with chocolate on top.

7-7 day Chinese poem (scroll down for the English translation).

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09
Feb
09

Surfacing

I can’t quite believe that it’s February.  Outside a full moon has made my quiet street glow with a sparkle of frost.  The spruces behind our house are taller and fewer than they once were.  It is shiver-cold and the air has that snap that Taipei was always a bit too soggy to reach.

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted and responded to all the lovely comments that some of you have left me.  I know it’s been quite a while, but I guess I’ve needed to be a bit taciturn.  I miss Taiwan.

I’ve relished in living with an oven again (though I was disappointed that my lasagna was crunchy and my first attempt at brownies were weapons-grade hard on one end– apparently I needed to ingratiate myself with the new oven),

and raking leaves (though perhaps I was rather over-enthusiastic after getting over my cold and raking for six hours straight with some joyful jumping in the piles was not such a lovely idea though it was the right sort of fall morning for it),

and voting (though I managed to be welcomed so heartily by the cold germs of the US that I coughed my voice up that morning and had to slide my driver’s license as if I were being carded to spare the election volunteer and myself from my threaded painful squeaks attempting to spell my name.  Hopefully I didn’t infect the buttons),

and shoveling snow again (though I’m still waiting for a satisfying blizzard to dump a couple of feet on us– an inch of dusty flakes was too easy and a few inches of sludgey slush with a crisp skin of ice was too heavy).

It’s hard to believe that I still wear a tan line on my derriere (okay, to be honest, it’s a sunburn-turned-tan– little swimsuit skirts do not provide full coverage and I was tan-armed, white-legged, and baboon-bottomed thanks to short sleeves, slacks, and snorkeling on Tioman with a life jacket that conspired to turn me into a colorful duck with my bum bobbing as I looked for fish, but I digress as usual…and I can’t believe I’m mentioning my bum in my blog– I obviously should be asleep).

I’m back to living in my mother tongue of English and the ever-present quest to figure out how to be a proper grown up, yet avoid stodginess.  So far this has involved glancing at want ads, catching up on Jane Austen movie adaptations, perusing online class offerings, walks, narrowly avoiding car accidents as I accidentally run yellow lights red, moving furniture, painting a wall and two corners, reading journals from 4th grade (apparently the principal denied girls the right to play soccer, and I had a lot of quizzes), typing up a Christmas letter for a hunt-and-peck writer who had lots of children and grandchildren to inform everyone of, talking to wise people, a House marathon with my cousins, contemplating my Myers-Brigg’s personality profile (but I couldn’t decide what first letter I am), and being gravely warned away from child predators by my friend’s precocious 3 year old (a rather avid watcher of political commercials who was going to vote for Barack Obama and was impressed by the State Attorney General’s crackdown on the aforementioned child predators).

Being back in the place where I grew up is disconcerting.  For the first time since I left high school, all of my stuff is in one place (with the exception of one box lingering in Taiwan or in transit), albeit mostly in boxes and piles.

These photographs have been lingering in my head (ETA: I think they rather visually depict my topsy-turvy state of mind lately).  They’re from my grandfather’s pond in Tainan.

If you’ve been clicking through waiting for me to come back to the world of blogging, or waiting for me to reply to e-mails, comments, etc., thanks for your patience.  I’ll be rewarding it soon.  In the meantime, I hope you have the chance to go outside and see your shadow from the full moon.




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