Sunday, 22 January 2012

Re-acclimating

I’m staring out my deluxe room, extra-large window, taking advantage of my 11th floor lookout to watch the sporadic fireworks being light off and trying to make out the hard-to-hear voice over some loud speaker.  Taoyuan reminds me of an old school Las Vegas, with LED lights on steroids.  In general, Taiwan has more colorful signs hanging off the sides of shops and stores.  Taoyuan illuminates those signs with unnecessarily obnoxious flashing, whirring and blinking rainbow lights, projecting videos on TVs and billboards.  I’m not sure how much Las Vegas-like activity goes on here but I do know LED arrows for miles lead to an “I do” motel which was followed by an “Oh ya” motel a couple blocks later.  A place called “Forbidden City” had a big window with a living woman, provocatively sprawled on a chair. 
View out of my hotel window
The “traditional Lunar New Year dinner with Professor Pao’s family” turned out slightly different than I expected.  I knew we were going to a restaurant because his mother didn’t want to cook for ten.  I didn’t realize it would be an Italian restaurant!  So it was interesting to see pizzas and pastas advertised on a menu written entirely in Chinese with orders taken by waitresses who didn’t speak English.  Especially when you are surrounded by Italian café décor with menu items written in English as decorations.  It's kind of sad that the whole world seems to be moving away from traditions these days, especially in this instance since food is so important to Asians.  However, the most important part of the tradition is spending time with family.  And the family atmosphere was full of jubilant bantering and lots of laughing, something I could understand and enjoy despite mostly Chinese conversations.
They reminded me the Superbowl is approaching rapidly.  I tried to disguise my complete obliviousness but the Superbowl on my radar is analogous to Chinese New Year on most American’s minds.  If it weren’t for the grocery stores selling chili and chips, I won’t even know it was happening.  Snoopy sister may not speak much English but she loves football and has perfected yelling “touchdown!” (she demonstrated and it was better than I could do, haha).

New Year's Eve dinner with Professor Pao's family
So very nice dinner and it ended in the traditional lucky money distribution.  It was very generous of Professor Pao to include me in this family tradition- so I got “hóngbāo” 討紅包 too!  I guess the Italian dinner should help me transition to a US state of mind.  I’ve already had to struggle not to put “happy new year!” on the bottom of e-mails I’ve been sending to Americans.  I anticipate that some Americans might look at me like I’m crazy if I continue to speak in the exaggerated pantomime that is helpful for communicating here. 
Speaking of a US state of mind, I’ve got to brace myself for a 5:30 AM shuttle tomorrow morning.  I probably should make an effort to contain the explosion of clothes erupting out of my suitcase.  Xīn nián kuài lè! 新年快樂! (Happy New Year!)