Monday, December 05, 2005

Catching up to Christmas

Early last week the Catholic ministry on campus lit the Christmas tree here in the central plaza area, and you never heard such a raucous religious occasion. Cheerleaders, fireworks, Miss World (a graduate of Providence), a nativity scene, fireworks, loud music, a choir (which got my hopes up only to sing one rather lame carol in Chinese that I had never heard before). Speeches galore, more fireworks, a collection, exchanging greetings (the peace of God be with you), and no telling what else as Frances and I decided we had enjoyed as much as we could stand and left before the end. The fireworks were still going off, and being launched from about ten feet away, so falling all over everywhere. In the States we would have had an ambulance standing by and the fireworks ignited about a mile away. I never thought my hearing would be damaged by a Christmas tree lighting, but that’s what I get for thinking. Wistful memories of our celebrations at St. Andrews (and how I will miss them all this year) followed me from the scene.

The program to go along with the lighting of the tree was a mixture of things. Some other Taiwanese Catholic universities sent delegations to participate in our ceremony; one of them had sent the rather acrobatic cheerleaders who were exhorting such loud cheers from the audience when we arrived. Another part of the ceremony featured a group of international students who each said “Peace on earth, good will to men” in their native language, which was impressive and reminded us of our international flavor. The choir sang, as noted above, and some recorded Christmas carols (traditional western ones) were also played at a very high volume. Miss World made a speech which was well received by the audience, and some student groups were honored. Not for studies, as I had thought, but for excellent Christmas decorations in some of the buildings on campus. All this on the first night of December. The graduate students have invited me to a party later in the month which happens to fall the day their papers are due, so naturally I had to give them an extension to the next class period. In short, the holiday season is upon us. Hallelujah!

The Christmas decorations in department stores have been out since mid November. Taiwan’s approach to Christmas makes the States look restrained. It’s commercialism with a capital K, but then Christmas here really is a mostly revenue-generating occasion, since most of the people here are not Christian. (At least I think this is true; they are Buddhist and Taoist, and probably other groups are represented as well.) The Japanese department store, which I call King Kong Mitsubishi as a functional approximation of its actual name, has already done mailouts and coupons for Christmas shoppers. They have coupons for discounts and free things here just as we do, but the coupons are about 1” x 3” and hard to read as they are so tiny. It tickles me to see them because they are so little! Even the 7-11 gives out coupons. If I could read them I might even want to use them; who knows?

The bikers at Providence gate

On Saturday my friend Melanie from Nanjing was here and we went with a bunch of Bessie’s students on a bicycle riding adventure. The Taiwanese government has taken an unused railroad bed and made it into a bike trail. Then, to make it easy to enjoy, they have set up stands where people can rent almost any kind and size of bicycle for very little money near the entrance to the trails.

They are trying to get people to be healthy and get outdoors but not stay in their cars. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our country did this? I’m very impressed. Anyway, about twenty of us students and adults went there and rode bikes for the afternoon, and it was great fun after I got my bicycle seat adjusted and someone showed me how to change the gears.

I haven’t ridden a bike for a very long time and never had a bike with gears, so I had to adjust myself a bit, but it was lots of fun and I went all the way to the end and back, about six miles, which made me very happy.
I made some photos of the lovely scenery and flowers we saw, but they didn’t all come out.

Afterwards the adults went to an absolutely marvelous seafood restaurant where the fish are alive when you order and then prepared and served to you immediately, so to say they are fresh is an understatement. In fact, the tail of the very delicious sashimi provider was still moving when it arrived on the table. Should I worry that it didn't keep me from eating some?

Buttermilk skies in Taichung on a beautiful day!


At 2:56 PM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Pretty pretty lights! Watch out for the fireworks, yeesh. The cycling looks really wonderful -- although I'm not sure I'd go biking along the bayou even if there were bikes for rent. At least not Feb-Nov.

We have had unexpectedly cool and pleasant weather. I was particularly pleased because I finally got to wear my red wool cape, but there's a lot of moaning and shivering from the native folk. I couldn't be happier -- if only it would stay cool!

At 1:22 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

I know what you mean. Everyone here swears they are freezing and it's about 40 F at the very worst. Cool, but certainly not freezing. Parkas and mufflers and gloves and ski caps abound, and I keep walking around in my snug wool sweater from Peru that Barbara brought me last year and smiling at everyone.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Well, Pat, I like to think of you always smiling at everyone. It's a great image!


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