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?)


At 2:48 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

I just want to post a comment on Lee Ang, who is one of my favorite directors and I think is very talented. Of course the little story about him is fiction but would have been fun if true! I certainly intended no disrespect to him in any way.

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Jean said...

Dear Mrs. Golemon,

May I please call you Patricia?

I have read through all of your Taiwan posts and found them most interesting and bringing back memories. Thank you for your writings.

My name is Jean. I have been teaching English to adults for 18 years. I have been teaching in Orlando, Florida for the past 13 years but, before that, I taught at the Chinese Military University in Taipei and at the Army College in Pietoe.

I am an American but, while living in Taipei, I married a Taiwanese man. He and his two children and I moved to Orlando where we have been for 18 years. Next year he and I plan to move back to Taiwan, to Yilan, where his family lives. So, I am trying to make contact with any Americans over 40 who live in Yilan.

I would love to be able to make contact with Peter and Arlene Regan or any others that you might know of in Yilan.

Thanks again,


At 12:10 PM, Blogger chris said...

Dear Pat
I got stuck reading your blog... very unusual for me! You see, I was in Providence Uni a few years earlier..let's see..1992, and Bessie shared many adventures with me too (trips to Taipei, hikes up mountains...) Your lovely pictures and stories brought lots of memories back! But: I've lost touch with Bessie. Would it be possible for you to contact her on my behalf? (and ask her whether I may have her e-mail address?)
Thanks very much !
Kika, at


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