Monday, June 19, 2006

Pat came from Taiwan

FOR BESSIE . . . (and apologies to Eleanor F.)

Pat came from Taiwan

With her NT well spent;

She had had her full share

Of delight and content;

She had been to Japan

In snow and in blossom

Eaten many a teppan

But nary a possum.

Into China she ventured
With some trepidation
But she walked the Great Wall

Of that interesting nation.

She bought a gold dragon
Of cloisonné ilk

She drank from a flagon

Embroidered with silk.

The Forbidden City

Caused her to sigh;
She thought it a pity
And ironic to die
In Tiananmen square
Like those students deceased
At the lovely gate there
Named Harmony/Peace.

She had stood at the rim
Of Taroko’s huge canyons;

She had pedaled a dragon

And admired the banyans.

At Providence university

She pushed to the brink

And despite their diversity

Urged students to THINK FOR THEMSELVES (and I'm aware this part doesn't rhyme or keep the meter )

‘Til mid frolic and shout

And tinsel and litter

The lights started out

Making everything glitter.

And dazed by the noise

Of the heretofore shy ones

With her toys and her joys

Pat came home from Taiwan.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Down by the sea with Vivian (and other stories)

Last weekend Bessie and I took a trip to Yilan to the green festival and Hualien and the wedding of her college roommate. While in Hualien we stayed with a friend of hers and his wife and child, Vivian. If ever a child was aptly named, this is she. She is the most lively, charming little sprite one could ever meet and quite endeared herself to me. The family picked us up at the train station and took us to the wedding party, where we met the bride and groom.

Bessie and the groom and another Taiwanese grad student shared an apartment in Albany while they were all getting Ph.D.s in various things. They have all remained good friends and keep in touch and visit each other.

The wedding party was interesting. The actual wedding was performed the weekend earlier in Taipei with just the parents and the couple and immediate families present. The bride's grandmother had died, and the wedding had to be done in the next hundred days or postponed for three years (Taiwanese customary procedure). So now the couple was having a party to share the event with their friends.

They began the celebration by processing in to music and drinking a toast to each other. Then several people got up and made speeches (in Chinese, would you believe it?) to the happy couple, and then a "movie" (consisting mostly of still photos) was shown of the couple in their courtship. Much laughing and shouting accompanied the movie and the speeches.

The party had many guests and Vivian soon attracted a young admirer who followed her around, and she stayed with me as much as she could. We made a lively threesome. At least two of us did.

Vivian soon tired of the wedding party and began to urge her parents to take us all to the beach. They were happy to do so, much to everyone's satisfaction, I'm sure. The beach was very beautiful; mountains come right down to the shore. The shore, alas, is covered with rather large rocks and smaller pebbles, which makes for uncomfortable walking for sissy Americans. The Taiwanese make special sidewalks of large rocks so one can get "foot massage" by walking on them. The charm of this custom has yet to overtake me, however, in my staunch (and very patriotic, no doubt our president would insist) American embrace of comfort and ease.

Lots of people were fishing on the beach with huge poles and lines. Peter, remember when you caught the giant redfish with a very cheap short pole and half a (no longer alive) shrimp amidst many expensive rigs lining the beach, much to the dismay of their owners? A very small boy was taking a fish off the hook and making me very nervous, but his parents were unconcerned.

One of the children cried out that the fish was dead. THe father assured them that he had only fainted and would be fine later.

We adjourned from the beach to a nearby cafe to watch the sun set and have a glass of wine.

Vivian and her mother are both very beautiful. I don't know why these are sideways; they were straight when I loaded them.

The next day we girls went sightseeing, visiting a lotus farm and a lovely lake where we rented a paddle boat. It was the wrong time of year to see many lotus blossoms but Vivian got to feed the fish and we saw a few anti-establishment blossoms.

Our paddle boat was a dragon, and he performed well, protecting us from the rain storm which began as soon as we had paddled away from the shore. The only problem with the paddle boat was that it had been built for people who are short. Really short. So when I put my feet on the pedals they were also under my chin, not a very comfortable position for anything, let alone exercise.

Being tall in a land of short people has more disadvantages than one would think, actually. I have learned to walk stooped over from having had so many encounters with low-slung architecture. I don't know how Yow Ming managed. I have hit my head so many times I long ago stopped being able to count them . . . But I know why he was easy to recruit to leave China, and it has nothing to do with money! The poor kid wanted to be able to stand upright. I know exactlly how he feels. Well, close to exactly. Somewhat, perhaps.

The storm we got was impressive.

When we walked towards the gate to get on the plane to leave, I heard Vivian's little voice calling out "Golemon I miss you!"

A few days later some friends from Yilan visited and we went to my favorite place for lunch. Fanny and Cliff have a wonderful restaurant serving continental food.

I'm trying to persuade Fannie and Cliff, the owners, to let me FedEx them to Houston. They could make a good living just off my friends alone . . .

This past weekend Bessie, Noelle Richards, an American exchange student at Providence, and I went to Taipei for a marvelous dance recital and a tsai jian (see you another day) visit with Nick Papp, my AIT friend.

We walked around in the plaza a few minutes before the performance, enjoying the lovely evening and the beautiful surroundings.

As luck would have it, Lee Ang attended the same recital and we got a photo of Nick and him as they were chatting. Nick knows lots of famous people because he works for the state department.

Lee Ang was so glad to see Nick he invited us all to a private party after the dance performance at the Grand Hotel in a private suite. Although Nick really doesn't like to stay up late, we persuaded him to accept the invitation so we could come along for the fun. It reminded me of the time I talked to Kris Kristopherson in the lobby of the hotel in the Summit after his concert. He invited me to a party too, but I had a date and couldn't accept. (It wouldn't have been right anyway, what with him married to Rita and all . . .this part is a joke, mother) In any case, the party was quite swell, as you can no doubt imagine from similar experiences you have had with celebrities. You know the drill, more lobster and caviar than anyone can eat, champagne, chocolate mousse—same old same old. I was hungry for Chinese food when we left . . .

We finished the weekend the next day with a trip to a national park north of Taipei in the mountains. It was beautiful and Kara Wang drove us everywhere. Some photos follow:

Vendor of Calla lillies from the nearby fields . . .

On top of a mountain in front of a field of those lillies.

I want a tree fern like this in front of my house in Houston!

Hikers from Canada stopped to talk to Noelle. Who could blame them?

No mountain is complete without some lucky dragons to protect it!

Sure enough, Noelle is reading a sign warning hikers not to cross the fence as "attack cattle" lurk on the other side.

Alas, my three friends!!! Only I have 'scaped alive to tell this tale. (Not really, of course. Where is Monty Python when you need a good line?)