New Years in Taipei!

Before I go back to the narrative of my holiday, I changed my comments to haloscan, but i haven't decided if i will keep them yet... sadly i discovered when i did this that i erased all my old comments... i'm not sure if they'll come back if i change the setting back. In other blog upkeeping news, I have had more than 1000 visitors now!!! That number shocks and amazes me.

Anyways, overall, my first Chinese New Year was rather enjoyable. I learned to recognize a lot more Chinese phrases that are used all the time, especially "Ying wen shenme shuo" (how do you say _____ in English, which was being asked to other chinese people when those brave souls were trying to talk with me!) . In Taipei we stayed with Amy's mother and brother who were very nice. Amy's mother is a high school principal, who is retiring soon. I could definitely see the whole recripocal giving thing working with her.... I broke out the cookies (which were well received at each place) and she was immediately digging in her closet to find something to give me... amazingly she found this jacket that she'd brought back from America (she had a number of them apparently). Now I can't imagine why a small Taiwanese lady would buy any number of large men's jackets, but though a little big, it does fit ok, and you'll be able to see it in later pictures. Later when I gave her some Canada souvenirs she hurried to her room to prepare a "Hong Bao" for me. Giving gifts is a very important part of this culture, though not so much sentimental value is attached to them. I'd say it's more a way to gain face. The Yo's came with a van-full of gifts to give to the various people and received many more which occasionally would end up at the next house we visited, especially the large bags of fruit which were a popular item (more than the 5 of us could eat, that's for sure).
The firecrackers started fairly early in the morning on New Year's Eve, and continued right back here in Yuli, especially the first day I was back. For dinner we ate some special foods including jiaozi (boiled dumplings which are represent wealth and good luck becuase of their shape), turnip cakes, hot pot, and a whole fish, which we could only eat the middle of (not the head or tail which i wansn't too choked about) I was told it was because the word fish sounds like the word "more than enough" symbolizing that they will have more than enough in the coming year. They also eat a very long vegetable that is steamed and symbolizes long life. Another big favourite was chicken cooked in wine a dish which i believe actually translates literally as "drunken chicken." There were of course lots of sweets as well though some strange things like 'sweet fish jerky' and a few other things which were best avoided. Close to midnight we exchanged Hong Bao and the kids really enjoyed the Canadian money i gave them. Jack and Amy gave me one with NT$1000 all in 100 dollar bills (more lucky since they are red). This family really has been too good to me! Oh yeah, and then we sang "O Canada" hahaha this is not a traditional Chinese New Year practice, but I gave the family bookmarks with our national anthem on them, and they wanted to sing it. Jack and Joey sang Taiwan's flag song for me too. (Taiwan has a number of national songs, and this one they told me is the most upbeat).
The next day we braved the traffic jams to visit Ying Ge, a town with a huge pottery museum (which unfortunately was closed) and lots of pottery shops and opportunities to learn. It took us over an hour to get there (apparently the rest of Taipei had the same idea), but only 20 minutes to return! Thankfully that was the only traffic jam we hit the whole week, which is miraculous. So I had my first experience of making pottery, though I wouldn't say it was ideal conditions.... for one, I couldnt' really understand the directions the man was giving me! But anyways, something that looks like a vase came out of it... i'll be sure to post a picture when I get it in the mail two weeks from now. I really enjoyed making pottery though, and would love to take a class sometime... it is a hobby I hopefully can pursue sometime in the future. That day was Joey's turn to have a bad day.... he was making some amazing creations on that pottery wheel, but being the perfectionist he is, he would keep trying to tweak it until it would fall and he'd have to start over again.... but he was insistent on getting the perfect object.... time though, was not on his side... it came time to leave and he didn't have anything to show for it... he was pretty upset :( oh yeah, and after that when we were trying to turn around they got a really deep gash in their van... not a good day, but they handled it all quite well. When we were with Jack's family later in the week he was able to share those experiences and what God had taught him through them. It was really cool!
Ok I'm getting tired of writing for now... so here's a few pictures... i'll write the last installment tomorrow ok?
Going in reverse chronological order...

Making pottery

Annie and Joey making pottery

Amy's Family

Amy's mom giving me a Hong Bao

Taipei 101 sign

Taipei 101 from the ground

National Palace Museum

Some more beautiful sights along the Pacific coast of Taiwan on the way to Taipei