Friday, February 25, 2011
Home for the Holidays
Back to Taiwan: Treehaus
I took a week-long layover in Taiwan so I could be with friends over Christmas and New Year's instead of the depressing alternative. My former apartment was otherwise occupied so I sought lodging from my trusty friends: the church crew that got me free digs in Kuala Lumpur when I posed as a Methodist minister and at Tree's haus, who let me crash at his Freiburg frat.
Taiwan was sort of gussied up for the holidays. The government buildings in Taichung (Taizhong for Mainlanders) had put Christmas lights on the palm trees.
My week involved lots of music but mainly in the form of karaoke. On Christmas I was feeling nostalgic for holidays gone by so I made the traditional Terwilliger chili. I was cooking a veggie version since Tree's mom is a strict Buddhist vegetarian (and almost exclusively eats things that are considered medicinal vegetables). I thought no meat or dairy was good enough but I was scolded for bringing onion and garlic into the house! Every strict Buddhist knows that these vegetables increase labido and are therefore contraband. I thought that garlic and onion really had the opposite effect considering their role as lead causes of halitosis, but obviously I had to respect the rules of the Haus. I ate my pitiful no meat, no garlic, no onion, no fun chili and watched Christmas Vacation to gain perspective about what a truly failed Christmas looks like.
But really I was so happy to be back in Taiwan. The people are so wonderfully friendly, I speak the language, the weather is awesome, food is delicious, cheap, and plentiful, and everything is extremely convenient and open 24 hours. Such a contrast from Europe.
At night I took the post walk dinner with Tree's mom and sister. Christmas in Taiwan is mainly a couple's holiday, which is a little odd. I thought that the 2011th anniversary of an unwed teen mother's giving birth would not be conducive to romantic promenading and again I was wrong.
I met the family on Skype after my Christmas was over. There's was just beginning!
My sister wanted to show me Jack, her dog. But it just looked really inappropriate.
My dad flashed us his tickets. . . not sure where he was trying to get in.
Then my sister licked my mom. It was nice to have this familiar piece of home on Christmas.
The Big C
At New Year's I went to Taipei to karaoke with friends, eat, and see cool concerts. There was an outdoor concert that cycled through 5 different traditional groups, all of whom I'd seen before but my favorite was Caifeng Yuetuan, pictured here. They are playing a punk version of 傻瓜與野丫頭 (The Dumbie and the Wild Girl) which is usually a silly duet sung between middle aged couples at karaoke but became a dueling punk/jazz fest in their capable hands.
The girl playing the largest instrument, the da ruan is my hero. (Da means big. I play the middle sized ruan, zhong ruan.) I think she may only have become famous because of her punk hair cut, but her attitude while playing is simultaneously enthralling and frightening. After some bass licks she has the habit of pacing the edge of the stage, daring the audience to try something on her watch. And I definitely daresn't try anything. Also don't let the duds on these cold Taiwanese citizens fool you. Their subtropical island only got down to the lower 60s at night on New Year's Eve. But I suppose everyone has the desire to wear woolly hats and scarves sometimes so you might as well let them indulge without too much judgement.
After the concert I headed out to see the New Year's fireworks. It was a big year for Taiwan because the Republic of China (not to be confused with the government of communist China which is called The People's Republic of China) turned 100 years old. The government was founded in 1911 with its capital in Nanjing in the Mainland. In 1949, after the Chinese civil war, the communist government pushed the Nanjing government out, the Republic of China became exiled in Taiwan. Somehow over the years the R.O.C. has lost its ambition to retake the Mainland, but they still keep track of the years according to when Sun Yat-sen founded their government.
I embedded a video of the fireworks celebration below. They shoot the fireworks from Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taiwan and tallest building in the world outside of Dubai. The display was impressive but totally frightening to an American in a post 9/11 era.
The next day I headed from subtropics to the equator to enjoy the relentless heat of Singapore!