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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

福壽雙全 Live Long and Prosper

Yilan traditional market
Chinese New Year began on February 19th, ringing in the year of the Wood Sheep. This year was the first Lunar New Year Spring Festival, that I felt I was missing out. This would of been my 7th consecutive Chinese New Year in a row, my 9th in total (counting when I lived in Tamsui 15 years ago). Of course I know some of the traditions and preparations; that big family reunion dinner, new clothes, red envelopes, every day has some kind of traditional protocol -what to eat- who to eat with-special greetings. I can say that this year I really missed the idea of family togetherness.  Oddly, this is the first Chinese New Years I didn't buy red underwear (a common tradition) maybe I should of bought a pair of red panties with dancing goats and sleeping sheep, hardly a compensation. 

Yilan City
Usually I am in a nearby foreign country for 2 weeks and don't feel like I missed out- Taiwanese celebrations are so noisy with in your face fireworks and jarring temple music at the crack of dawn. This year I went to Chiang Mai for a blessed week and got a taste of New Years celebrations Thai style. 

年年有餘! Or “may every year end in abundance.” Since the character for “abundance” (yu, 餘) is a homophone for the character for “fish” (yu, 魚), fish a traditional symbol, motif, and food for CNY.

My whole month has been one big New Year holiday. Like the mighty ram, I pretty much headbutted my job off a cliff (see, "Blissfully Unemployed"). The whole reason I up and moved my daughter and I to Yilan was soon down the alpine abyss. Not satisfied with that, I sadly cemented the final status of my man/woman drama into pleutonicness on the last day of our Thai trip. The whole out with the old in with the new taken to a supreme level. Not that I have a throw away mentality but  it was just time to be honest with myself.

Chiang Mai

I was not expecting Chiang Mai, and our guesthouse to cator to so many Mainland Chinese tourists (see, "Record High") . It was kind of bizarre and at the same time completely normal to tell the young mainland Chinese lady, to keep her voice quiet, people are trying to sleep at 2 in the morning (I think I might of opened her door and let myself in). On the upside, my daughter had playmates her age at the pool from the Mainland, so as we spent our down time poolside, mostly with a lot of Mandarin. I casually enjoyed the guesthouse owners complaints about Chinese tourists- the same complaints I've heard from Taiwanese people - their Center of the World Entitlement (see, "Nouveau Rich" and "Chinese Database"). For the most part, the Chinese tourists I encountered there were fine, no crazy headlines. They were utterly tickled and impressed at my kid's impeccable Taiwanese accent.

Chiang Mai
In Chiang Mai they have a small China town east of the old center/moat. For several blocks it looked like the neighborhood was painted red. On our last day, we had a chance encounter on the way to breakfast in the old town. In front of Thapae Gate, there was a Chinese New Years celebration with different groups of the community in full costume. Unlike Taiwan, it was relatively quiet and serene, no fireworks and the whole thing lasted about an hour. If you would of slept in, you wouldn't even have known what you were missing. What caught my attention was the 5 year old boy on the top of a dangerously high pole, my daughter half joked, "They're going to sacrifice him!" I could not believe what I was seeing. I caught his performance and the Pole Lion Dance here:

It's still technically New Years, and with the 3 day 2-28 weekend, the holidaze just keeps on going. It will culminate on Lantern Festival which is March 5th this year. So with all the energy of this New Year sweeping clean out the innermost cobwebs of my life and my being, the appropriate maxim would be,  "大展鴻圖"  or "May you realize your ambitions." I'm still ever on the quest to realize what my ambitions may be- but look out for the day when that vision is crystal.

 As of right now I'm enjoying the ride, trying to keep my eyes open. I'm in an interesting and uncomfortable place of transition, ie, I'm broke, super single, missing my lost friendship and looking for an afternoon job in a new city where I still hardly know anyone. Its like one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs, "I sure don't know what I'm going for, but I'm gonna go for it for sure." Not a boring way to start the new year.

Previous Posts on Chinese New Years:
Last year's trip to Burma, "Stuck in Singapore" (I never did finish writing about our fabulous trip to  Myanmar
Chinese New Year to Me


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