Happy New Year.
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way*, let me show you some photos from my first holiday season in (guess where!) Taipei. Christmas in Taipei is a relatively low-key affair, at least compared to New York City. For one thing, we didn’t get the day of from class, though we did get today (New Years) off. There aren’t very many decorations, for another thing–just some lights and banners on some streets, including Shida Road, and in shopping malls.
It made me miss New York City quite badly. I’ve also been homesick for the past couple of weeks, in part because this is the third Christmas I’ve spent away from my family in California. Every time I thought of Central Park covered in snow (despite having lived in or right next to the city for eight years, all my mental images of NYC at Christmas are still from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York) or my mom and dad’s lovely house in the beautiful North California sunshine, it was like getting stabbed in the heart with a jagged piece of glass over and over and over and over and over again.
Then again, I am back with Ron and no longer have to trek ten minutes from the subway to work wearing a small pile of coats, sweaters, leggings and a pair of heinous boots while the snow and wind sandblast several layers of epidermis off my face, so I really can’t complain. One of the things I learned over the past two years is that if I want to lead an intriguing international life of mystery and glamor, I just have to come to terms with the fact that I can have everything that I want (Taipei, the Bay Area, New York City, Ron, my Mandarin studies, my family, my friends, my favorite yarn stores, my cats, our neighborhood cats here, etc.), just not all at once.
On Christmas Eve, my Shida classmates Dave and Ael hosted a party in Ael’s uncle’s beautiful Tienmu apartment. They cooked a ton of delicious food, including burritos!
There was also a bottle of champagne (or, as the Continental would say, cham-pay-nah):
Ael’s uncle had a Christmas tree set up. It was not real (I can’t imagine how much a real pine Christmas tree would cost in Taiwan and, besides, chopping down a coniferous tree here would be a bit like killing a unicorn), but still very pretty and festive. Here is a close-up with Dave:
On Christmas Day itself, Ron surprised me with Brunhilda, an Angelica Eve Blythe doll. I’d gotten use to the idea that Blythes are completely out of my budget while I’m on scholarship, so being able to enjoy that new Blythe smell once again was a treat:
I have some photos of her out of the box that I’ll post in an entry about our trip to a doll cafe/store in Taoyuan. My mother also sent me some new clothes in my favorite color, black, and a cashmere sweater for Ron that I will steal from him soon (evil laugh). Thanks mom!
On New Years Eve, I went to an all-you-can-eat Japanese BBQ with a bunch of other students from Shida. Here is Amy responsibly saving my half of the table from food poisoning by making sure our seafood and meat was actually cooked before we greedily grabbed it:
The servers handed around a bunch of marshmallows for us to toast, which reminds me that I should have a s’more night for my classmates. Ron and I haven’t been cooking in our kitchen because I fear the hot plate jerry-rigged to a gas line that our landlords put in our kitchen in a lieu of a stove (or at least a hot plate not jerry-rigged to a gas line), but we do have a microwave.
In Taipei, New Years Day is rung-in by blowing up Taipei 101. What I mean to say is, a breathtaking fireworks display is crafted to look as though it is emanating in great bursts of glitter and firelight from Taipei 101’s graceful form:
It seemed as if all of Taipei went to watch the fireworks–there were huge crowds of people in Taipei Main Station and in trains headed east to the Xinyi district. I went across traffic back to a relatively deserted Shida Road to meet Ron after he got off the evening shift at his paper. We counted down to 2008 at Underworld, where industrial band Fish and the Bedroom Riot was playing its farewell show before breaking up:
Anyway, now is the time for my end-of-the-year round-up, where I list everything I’ve accomplished over the past year in order to make myself feel like I’ve actually done something besides looking at pictures of dolls and yarn on the Internet:
1) I moved from New York, where I’ve lived for all eight years of my adult life so far, and moved to Taipei to reunite with Ron and study Mandarin at Shida.
2) I am now functionally illiterate in Mandarin, which means I can pick up a newspaper and understand what each article is talking about, even if I can’t actually read the whole thing. I can also now understand, if not fully comprehend, a lot of blogs and other Web sites in Chinese, therefore opening up a whole new world of sites with doll and yarn pictures to surf. Four months ago, I couldn’t write my own name in Chinese, so this is quite an accomplishment. My speaking has also improved from the level of a incoherent four year old’s to that of a pathologically shy ten year old.
In the next year I hope to:
1) Achieve at least the Mandarin reading/writing level of a low-performing Taiwanese high school student, thereby opening up a whole new world of fashion magazines and trashy gossip rags to fritter away my time with.
2) Start working as a journalist in Taipei when my studies end in May.
3) Maybe start planning a wedding (as in, the one in which Ron and I get married). It’s hard planning a wedding from across the world, but I can at least start looking at invitations, photographers and dresses. So far the only things I am certain of is that we want to get married in California (nice weather, relatively easy for most of our relatives and friends to access) and I don’t want to wear a white dress. I will look like a marshmallow (reference above photo).
*Ha ha, I’m kidding, I’m not that big of a misanthrope.