The past month or so has been hectic and hurried. I’m leaving for the U.S. in less than 12 hours, and have yet to pack a single thing. I’ll likely end up chucking a few things in my bag around midnight before I head to the airport for an early morning flight to Korea. It’s truly strange to pack up my whole life for an entire month. Work, friends, scooter, apartment, daily routine – zaijian until August. Taiwan feels a lot like home right now, and I know I’ll miss it while I’m away.
My neighborhood never fails to entertain, so let me share some of my most recent sightings. I specifically chose to live in Sanchong, an area bordering Luzhou, where I work. These two districts are older, densely populated, and extremely traditional, but Sanchong ups the crazy and crowded with a gangster scene. I rarely see other foreigners here, which allows me to really immerse myself in the culture and language. Not a day goes by that I don’t see or do or experience something that, not so long ago, would have boggled my mind. Now it’s just everyday life.
Because Sanchong is so traditional, people’s religious beliefs influence a lot of what goes on. Almost every day I see someone burning hell money in an urn or setting up a table of offerings to the gods outside their home or business. My own workplace does the same twice a month – I’m not sure how they determine which days are auspicious or require atonement, but incense and gifts of food are set out at regular intervals. Then there are the miaohui – maybe translated to temple fair in English or, as I prefer to call them, god parades. At least every other week one of these shows come roaring through my hood, showcasing the gods themselves in idol form, temple dancers, various statuary, mediums that perform intercessions for residents, and a ton of firecrackers.
When someone dies, a procession traipses around the block too, utilizing many of the same characters as the temple parades, though usually with a decidedly worldly element – pole dancers and nightly performances for those sitting the wake. This past week someone died, and their funeral procession carried on for hours. It included some of the more beautiful temple flags I’ve seen, so I took out my camera and took some shots.
At the end of May, my rugby team played the first ever game of women’s 15s in Taiwan versus a Hong Kong team. We lost, but fared quite well all things considered. We’re hosting another team from Hong Kong in August, also 15s – and now we’ve got experience!
Mid-June was Dragon Boat Festival. My team started practicing in April, and toward the end of May we got a few really nice mornings out on the river. Race day weather, not so great. We had a four-day weekend this year, and the Taipei International Dragon Boat Championship was held over the course of three of those days… and it rained on all of them. Talk about a hard race, with pelting rain and a strong current. Still fun times, though, and a really great cultural atmosphere. We were slotted in a heat with two professional teams, and came in just six seconds behind the number two boat. Not good enough to advance, but good in the grand scheme of the heat, especially since we finished light years ahead of the final boat.
I’ve been working long hours the past couple months in order to graduate my class, and finish everything that needs to be done before I leave. I will miss their graduation ceremony, which falls pretty much the same time as Tom’s wedding (with the time difference), but I still had to get them performance-ready by that time, minus the week I won’t be here. Graduating to primary school is a huge deal for children in Taiwan, which means it’s also a huge deal for their teachers. Huge deal = huge amount of work. I’ll save that rant for another post, though, and just say that I really will miss these little rugrats.
We were just told this week which classes we will teach next year. I’ll take my B3 class, the original derps who happen to by my all-time favorites, to G3 (another grad, yay!). This will be my third year with them. I’ll also take a class who is a year behind, as well as an after school primary English/science class. It’s a ton of classroom hours, but I’ll be done with teaching every night by 7pm.
So that’s about it. A few more random scenes from my neighborhood.