2013年9月25日 星期三

Moon Festival and Typhoon Usagi

How was your Moon Festival?  If you spent it in Taiwan, hopefully it was suitably festive.  If you spent it outside Taiwan, hopefully you had some kind of fun.  I'm not sure how big a deal Moon Festival is in China, Singapore, and Hong Kong, but perhaps it was equally festive in those places too.

Those of us in Taiwan spent most of our Moon Festival indoors.  Typhoon Usagi arrived last weekend, so Moon Festival for most Taiwanese people was WINDY.  The rain didn't really start until Friday, the day after Moon Festival, but it was still difficult to get barbecues started with the wind whipping around like that.

On Moon Festival my mother-in-law came over from Kaohsiung 高雄, and she stayed with us for the entire four-day weekend.  There are certain contexts in which I enjoy my mother-in-law's company, but it is definitely a love/hate relationship.  She has a way of asking the same questions over and over, and being stuck inside with her for three days started to wear on me.

We did manage to barbecue on the roof of our apartment building Thursday night.  We have a pretty good view of Taitung City and its environs from our roof, and aside from the wind it was a pleasant place to barbecue.  The weather was very cool that night, and I got pleasantly drunk while I was eating.

Friday and Saturday, however, were beset by rain.  We weren't really able to go out on either of those days, though we did manage to visit the new (old) steak house on Friday night.  This is the former "Bulls" 公牛隊 steak house, which has recently been renamed and reopened under new management.  I was never fond of "Bulls," and I think their food is much better now.

Saturday was a journey into the darkest heart of boredom.  It rained and rained and rained, and the wind was very strong all day.  I spent most of this day reading Frank Herbert's "The White Plague," which is a truly awful book.  I would have read something else, but "The White Plague" is the last of Frank Herbert's novels I had yet to read, and I was determined to get through it.  I enjoy reading as much as anyone, but getting through that book was like cramming for a particularly unpleasant exam.

By Sunday the typhoon was subsiding, and I was able to get out a bit more.  My mother-in-law also left on Sunday morning, so there was less tension in the house.  We ate hot pot at this place on Shin Sheng Road 新生路, and I was surprised at how good it was.  I also had a chance to go swimming in the Flowing Lake 活水湖, and even though another thunderstorm rolled up at the time it was still great to be in the water.  Swimming in the middle of thunderstorms isn't the safest thing to do, but I found it exhilarating.

By Sunday night Typhoon Usagi was on the way to China, and the weather was growing calm.  I got into bed at a reasonable hour, thankful for the four-day respite from work.  I felt very refreshed and ready for the coming week.

Hopefully you had other good experiences on your last weekend.  It is good to take a break now and then.  Taiwan's next holiday is Double Ten (10/10), and I'll be getting the day off for that one as well.  Have yourself a great week - or at least have yourself a better week.  Perhaps I'll see you during the next barbecue, holiday, or typhoon!

Typhoon Usagi

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2013年9月18日 星期三

Moon Festival/Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節 (中)

Happy Moon Festival!!!  中秋節快樂!!!

The Chinese here was written by 張青史, while the English was written by me.  This version of "Taiwanese Holiday Stories" (台灣節日故事) was published by Windmill Illustrated 風車圖書 in 2012.


Mid-Autumn Festival

(15th Day of the 8th Lunar Month)

農曆八月十五日, 是我國傳統的中秋佳節這時候是一年秋季的中期, 所以稱作中秋農民曆裡, 一年分為四季, 每季又分孟, , 季三期, 因此中秋也稱作仲秋八月十五日的月亮又比其他月分的月亮更圓, 更明亮, 所以也稱為秋節, 仲秋節, 八月節, 女兒節或團圓節, 是全國眾多民族共同的傳統文化節日, 也是僅次於春節的第二大傳統節日.  The 15th day of the 8th lunar month is the Mid-Autumn Festival, our country’s traditional holiday.  This time falls within the middle of autumn every year, so it is called Mid-Autumn.  In the lunar calendar, a year is divided into four seasons, and each season is divided into periods called “Meng,” “Jong,” and “Ji”.  Because of this, Mid-Autumn Festival is also called “Autumn Jong.”  During the 15th day of the 8th lunar month the moon is fuller and brighter than in other months, so this day is also called Autumn Festival, Autumn Jong Festival, 8th Month Festival, Daughter’s Festival, or Reunion Festival.  It is a holiday unique to our country’s people and culture, and after Chinese New Year it is the most important traditional festival.

這天夜晚, 人們仰望天空玉盤般的明月, 自然而然會期望與家人團聚遠在異鄉的遊子也藉此寄託對家人和故鄉的思念之情, 所以又稱為團圓節”.  During the evening on this day, people look up to the sky, and see the moon hanging like a great jade plate.  During this time families are also reunited, and those living in the most distant places return home to enjoy their families and the memories of the places where they grew up.  For this reason Mid-Autumn Festival is also called “Reunion Festival.”

中秋一詞最早見於周禮一書, 而真正形成全國性的節日則是在唐朝周代在中秋夜要舉行迎寒和祭月祭品中, 月餅和西瓜是絕對不能少的在月下, 將月亮神像放在月亮的方向, 點燃紅燭, 全家祭拜, 燃後由當家主婦切開團圓月餅切的份數要先算好全家的人數, 不論在家裡或在外地的, 都要計算在內, 不能多切也不能少切; 大小也要一樣.  The earliest record of the phrase “Mid-Autumn” occurs in the book “Jhou Li,” and the earliest description of this nationwide holiday goes back to the Tang Dynasty.  During the Jhou Period they held a “welcome the winter and worship the moon” activity, and during this activity they made numerous offerings of moon cakes and watermelons.  During the following month, it was thought that the moon god was present on the moon, and they lit red candles, the whole family made offerings, and afterward the family was reunited and the women would cut the moon cakes.  Before they cut the cakes they had to calculate the number of people in their family, regardless of whether these people were in the house or in some other place.  Everyone had to be counted, it was not permitted to cut too many or too few pieces, and the pieces had to be the same size.

moon cakes

在北宋, 八月十五夜, 不論貧父老少, 都要穿上成人的衣服, 焚香拜月, 祈求月亮神的保佑南宋時, 民間以月餅相互餽贈, 清以來, 中秋節的風俗更加盛行, 許多地方形成放天燈, 走月亮, 舞火龍等特殊的風俗.  During the Northern Song Period, on the night of the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, no matter one’s wealth or age, all had to wear adult clothes, make offerings to the moon, and seek the moon god’s protection.  During the Southern Song Period, people gave moon cakes to each other.  After the arrival of the Ming and Ching dynasties, the customs surrounding Mid-Autumn Festival became more firmly established.  In many places they hung lanterns, strolled beneath the moon, engaged in the “fire dragon dance” and other special customs.

台灣早期在中秋節流行吃月餅, 柚子, 闔家團圓賞月, 最近十多年來, 則盛行在這一天夜晚舉行烤肉, 大街小巷, 香味四溢, 令人垂涎三尺說不定哪一天, 人們會把中秋節稱作烤肉節”.  From the earliest times it has been fashionable to eat moon cakes in Taiwan during Mid-Autumn Festival, and also to eat pomeloes and walk with one’s reunited family beneath the moon.  In the past few decades it has become popular to barbeque during the evening on this day, and from every street and alley comes the mouthwatering smell of food cooking.  It may be that one day people will call Mid-Autumn Festival “Barbecue Day.”

台灣從前流傳著偷著蔥, 嫁好尪; 偷著菜, 嫁好婿的諺語, 因此, 未婚女子會在中秋節晚上去別人的菜園偷拔蔥或蔬菜, 只要成功了, 表示很快會嫁個如意郎君這種說法其實沒有科學根據, 而且偷拔菜是違法行為, 所以現在已經不流行了.  In Taiwan has also persisted the “steal an onion, marry well, steal a vegetable, marry a good husband” superstition.  Because of this, on the evening of Mid-Autumn Festival unmarried women will sneak into other people’s gardens and steal onions or [other] vegetables.  If they succeed, it means that they will soon marry their “Mr. Right.”  This superstition has no scientific basis, and it is also bad to steal vegetables, so this behavior is not so fashionable now.

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2013年9月13日 星期五

Taitung's New Movie Theater


It feels strange to write this, but as of this summer Taitung 台東 has a new movie theater.  This new movie theater is near the corner of Shin Sheng Road 新生路 and Guang Ming Road 光明路, in downtown Taitung.

The new movie theater, Showtime 秀泰電影城 by name, is the second cinema to open in Taitung.  The first cinema was on Da Tong Road 大同路, not far from the Seashore Park 海濱公園.  The old movie theater was about the size of my living room, and it burned down two or three years ago.  Some locals have fond memories of it, but I can’t say that I miss it all that much.

In the interim between the burning down of the old movie theater and the opening of the new one, they showed movies at the Cultural Center 文化中心 on Nan Jing Road 南京路.  This, in my opinion, was the best place to see movies.  It was never crowded there, the screen was huge, and the tickets were cheap.  The Cultural Center didn’t have the best selection of films, but wandering down there to see the latest blockbuster was enough for me.  I always felt that the ease of seeing movies in that place far outweighed the poor picture quality.

But of course not everyone felt that way.  A lot of people wanted Taitung to have a “real” movie theater, primarily as a way of attracting tourists.  The Taitung County Government, ever responsive when it comes to business, went out of its way to make this happen.  Almost before anyone knew it, they were digging up the old Guo Gwang Bus Station 國光客運, and laying the foundations of what was to be Taitung’s first true multiplex.

The old movie theater

After I returned from Seattle this August, I had my chance to see this multiplex for myself.  My wife and I snuck out to see “Elysium,” and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I never imagined something so big and so modern sitting in the middle of Taitung City.  There were stores and restaurants on two floors, escalators that worked flawlessly, and on top of the building there was the multiplex itself, with more screens than I could readily comprehend.  Not only were they playing “Elysium” in this multiplex, but also several other films at the same time.  Not only could I see a movie there, but I could also visit Mister Donut, buy clothes at Uniqlo, or enjoy the most expensive hot pot yet seen in Taitung.  It was all a little hard to process.

And as you might imagine, most of the people there were tourists.  There were tourists from Taipei, tourists from Japan, and (I'm sure) at least a couple of tourists from China.  As I stood there, waiting for the movie to start, I reflected on the growth that Taitung's tourism industry has experienced, and how much things have changed since I first moved here in 2006.  Back in 2006, if anyone had tried to build this kind of multiplex they would have been laughed out of the county.  Back in 2006, it would have been a no-win proposition.

Yet then again, it might still be.  I can’t help but wonder how many people frequent this multiplex during the weekdays, and I can’t help but wonder what their business will be like from September to January.  It will take a lot of money to keep that theater open.  It will take even more money to keep those clothing stores and restaurants profitable.  Can the tourists really sustain that place?  The 200,000 or so people in Taitung City sure can’t.

I guess we’ll just have to see.  Similar places stay open in Hualien City 花蓮市, but then Hualien City has at least three times as many people as Taitung.  It might be that the place is closed before next summer.  It might be that the whole thing was a scam from day one.  In Taitung you never know.  Often a building project like that starts out with the best intentions, and then someone higher up gets their hands on it, and finds a way to launder cash through the project.  I’m not saying this is the case with the movie theater, but one never knows.

I kind of hope the place stays open.  It will be nice to see the big blockbusters on the day they come out, and to have another shopping center with air-conditioning.  At the same time, I wouldn’t be so sad if it closed down.  In the event, I could just go back to Kaohsiung’s Dream Mall 高雄的夢時代, a place where I prefer seeing movies anyway.  No matter what stores Showtime has, it will never have screens as big as Dream Mall, or as many stores and restaurants to choose from.  You can easily spend a day in Dream Mall, while half a day in Showtime is already pushing it.

I realize that the attraction of a place like Taitung is the slower pace of life, and the lack of development.  With this in mind, the idea of a multiplex in Taitung can be kind of depressing.  It helps to remember that one person’s “east coast paradise” is another person’s crushing poverty, and there were a number of economic reasons behind building this movie theater.  While I can’t say that I favor this kind of development, at least it’s not another coral jewelry outlet, or something even worse for the environment.

Wherever you are, happy Moon Festival 中秋節快樂.  Perhaps I’ll be seeing you at the movies.

Taitung's Cultural Center

2013年9月12日 星期四

Our Seattle Summer 在西雅圖的暑假 2 (中)

Pike Place Market

We spent A LOT of money in Montana.  Most of this money went toward gas and restaurants.  We usually cooked our own dinner in whatever campground we were visiting, but it was difficult not to eat lunch out every day.  I must add that I also spent a large sum on beer. 
我們在蒙大拿州花了很多錢, 大部分是油錢和去餐廳吃飯。 我們通常在露營區煮晚餐, 但是在外面煮午餐不方便 , 而且我也花了很多錢買啤酒。

Seattle Waterfront

Before we knew it the end of August was approaching, and it was hard not to count the days until we got back on the plane.  I found myself wishing for more time, especially because I could see that leaving would be hard on my mom.  She only sees us every two years or so, and no sooner are we reacquainted than we are in the airport - yet again - saying goodbye. 
八月快要結束時, 我越來越覺得回去的那一天快到了。 我開始希望在西雅圖的時間可以變長一點, 因為我知道我們離開以後我媽媽會很難過。她每兩年跟我們見一次面, 我們在一起的時間很短 , 一下子我們又在飛機場再一次說再見。

Chuck E. Cheese, Alderwood

During our last week in Seattle I attended my first Mariners game in Safeco Field.  I went to see Black Sabbath at the Gorge the day after.  To my surprise, I enjoyed the Mariners game more than the concert.  This might have been because I got falling down drunk at the Mariners game.  This might have been because I also saw Sabbath back in 1999, just before I first moved to Taiwan. 
八月的最後一個禮拜我第一次去Safeco Field看西雅圖水手隊的棒球賽 ,  我也去了Gorge AmpitheaterBlack Sabbath樂團表演 。 讓我驚訝的昰我喜歡棒球賽勝過於樂團表演 ,  可能是因為看棒球賽時我喝得很開心 ,  也可能是因為我在1999年看過Black Sabbath的表演了 

I-90, Eastern Washington

All in all it was a great vacation - maybe the best ever.  Of course it wasn't cheap to stay in Seattle for so long - even though we stayed with my parents - but I think the expense was worth it.  By the time August 27 finally rolled around, we had actually spent less money than we'd originally anticipated. 
這個暑假可能是我們有史以來最棒的假期了 ,當然去美國那麼久旅費不便宜 (就算是住在我父母家)  ,但是還是很值得的 。 直到827, 我們在美國的旅費不如我們想像的多。

Lolo National Forest, collecting firewood

My only real complaint about our vacation is the traffic in Seattle.  We often encountered gridlock where I-5 meets I-90, and the combination of 520 closures, Highway 99 closures, and various sports events made for stressful drives.  There were a lot of drivers in Seattle with predictably short tempers, and one had to be careful when crossing the street. 
我暑假最討厭的事情就是西雅圖的交通 。 我們常常在I-5I-90交會處碰到塞車, 或是520或是99公路停用, 還是其他的運動比賽讓西雅圖的路況很糟糕 。 那裡的駕駛很容易生氣在那邊過馬路要很小心。

Gallatin National Forest

It's funny, looking over them now, how little the pictures here convey.  When I remember our trip, it is all the things that aren't in these pictures that I miss.  I miss the smell of the trees in Montana.  I miss the smell of beer in the breweries.  I miss the sound of people talking, and the taste of the food.  Mostly I miss the warmth of times spent with my family, and the excitement of driving off into the unknown.
我現在看這些照片覺得很奇怪 ,我最想念的東西都不在裡面, 我想念的是蒙大拿州的樹香, 啤酒廠的味道, 人們講話的聲音, 還有食物的味道。  我最想念的是跟家人在一起溫暖的感覺, 和開車前往陌生地方的興奮心情 

Yellowstone National Park

I wish that I could take you there.  Not only to Seattle, but to the moments spent in that place.  I wish I could explain how the sky looks from Orondo Beach, but these things have to be experienced, and words fail to express them.  Hopefully you can get out there yourself some day, if you haven't been already. 
我很想帶你們一起去 , 不只是西雅圖 , 而是我們旅程中去過的所有地方 ,我希望可以跟你們介紹Orondo Beach的天空, 可是這是文字或圖片都形容不來的感覺 希望你們有一天可以去那裏親身經歷。

Cape Disappointment State Park

I wonder when I'll get out to Seattle again.  Two years?  Three?  However long it is, I hope it's sooner rather than later.  I still want to get out to Grand Teton National Park, and I'd like to spend more time around Grand Coulee.  I will also be missing my Seattle family and friends, and I look forward to a day when we can talk again. 
我不知道什麼時候可以再回去 ,  兩年還是三年﹖ 我希望不用太久 ,  我還想去Grand Teton國家公園, 也想再去Grand Coulee  , 我當然也很想念美國的親戚朋友,  我期待下次的再見。

Mariners Vs. Angels

Time goes by so fast.  I can't believe it's already September, and that I am typing this in Taiwan.  It's good to be back in Taitung, but I can't help but feel a little bit sad, looking at these pictures of places that I won't see for at least two more years, if not longer.  The world might seem small at times, but it's still a long, expensive way from here to there.  I don't think having good times in Taiwan will be a problem, but we all miss our hometowns now and then. 
時間過得很快 ,  不敢相信已經九月! 回到台東是很快樂的事情,  只是覺得在台灣的感覺很奇怪 , 看到上面的那些照片, 想到最快還要兩年才有機會回去, 我就開始有思鄉情懷 。 世界有時候看起來很小, 可是到西雅圖還是又貴又遠  。我在台灣的生活是美好的, 只是有時想念我的家鄉.

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