Sunday, June 21, 2015

Say goodbye again / 又說再見


I asked the girls to write stories about the age of eighteen last summer. I'd been keeping the essays, thinking about using them as the inspiration for their graduation gift. I believe unrevised writing has its value as well, so I simply illustrate each story on a postcard. 


     I use the colored pencils of Fabriano given by Jun and Irma. The color tones are rather unique. 


     As for the other class, I use the three-color pencil from Czech given by Christine. After reading the stories, it dawns on me that I have very limited understanding of the girls and their lives. 


     There is a ritual for opening the gift. Everyone looks for the envelope with their name on it. She'll find her story and postcard. 


     The girls also give me fantastic gifts. Thinking of me as the Little Prince, everyone creates a postcard based on the figure. 


     My locker becomes an eye-catching gallery. 


     The girls also prepare a pot of blooming roses to go with the postcards. 


     Another three years have gone by. In the process, the girls have taught me much, and then comes the time to say goodbye. Strangely, I do not feel particularly sentimental. The commencement feels like another ordinary day. I am very sure that one day we'll run across each other or grab a cup of coffee somewhere. I guess for me, life is an ongoing journey, and the three years are part of it, instead of an independent segment. 


     What kind of teacher will I become next month? I am looking forward to my change! 

Saturday afternoons / 週六午後


I spend my Saturday afternoons working as a volunteer in the TAI herbarium. Unlike the past, I am no longer alone now. We have turned the weekend children's museum project into a long-term activity, which means that there are fun games every Saturday. The project is open to the public, so for those who are interested, you can call (02)3366-2463. 


     On the first Saturday came a group of third-graders. I made them draw the portrait of Dr. Kudo, the first   curator of the herbarium. To my surprise, they are all into drawing. 


     While I am sorting the photos, I recall the portrait lessons in Camberwell. Since it was a Saturday and neither were we in school, I didn't feel like pressure the kids by constantly reminding them of the passing of time. They really took their time and seemed so involved. 


     Each of these kids has their own artistic style!


     After they were done with drawing, I asked them to cut the portraits into pieces and piece them together again randomly. This should be the introductory lesson to Cubism. 


     The boys couldn't help making fun of each other along the way, but they are an adorable bunch. The chubby boy in the back didn't feel like leaving at all. It always warms my heart whenever I encounter kids that enjoy the short stay in the herbarium. 


     After the kids left, it was time for the adults to have fun. Today Xin-huei told us to make puppet birds. 


     My eagle. 


     The sky would become so colorful because of the birds! 


     Last Saturday we attended a one-day workshop. In the morning we learned about the rice paper plant and Taiwan Pleione. In the afternoon we made Taiwan Pleione with pith paper (only the petals). Though it was quite chaotic, it was a fantastic day! 

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Matsu Pilgrimage in Beigang, Yunlin / 北港朝天宮媽祖遶境


Matsu is the sea goddess whose birthday is celebrated on March, 23 on the lunar calendar, which is around April or May on the solar calendar. However, the staff of Chao-tien Temple in Beigang, Yunlin has the tradition of taking the cult of the goddess to the homeland of Matsu in Meizhou in southeast China to worship. They return on March, 19 on the lunar calendar to Taiwan, which is why it is the date of the pilgrimage. The one-day pilgrimage was lengthened to two days after 1955. 


     We take the earliest HSR ride, but by the time we arrive at Beigang at 9:30 a.m., the pilgrimage has started in front of the temple. 


     In the two-day-long pilgrimage, the six sea goddesses (ranking from No. 6 to No. 1) and the other gods worshipped in the temple will tour around Beigang to inspect and bless the locals. The cults are placed in exquisitely-decorated palaquins carried by numerous bearers, ushered out of the temple in order. 


     Apart from the colorful palaquins and well-organized bearers, no celebration can do without firecrackers. The moment we step into Beigang, we are immediately welcomed by the "passionate" explosion. 


     The Matsu Pilgrimage is the yearly religious event in Beigang, so many people who grew up here will go back to their hometown at this time of the year to be part of the celebration. Every goddess has a specific group of bearers who are extremely loyal and devoted to their task. During our stay in Beigang, I strongly feel that the whole town is involved in the event, and there is such cohesive power resulting from the locals' enthusiasm for their culture. 


     In the photo is the earliest form of setting off firecrackers. The fire stove is topped with the iron of a coulter. When the charcoal heats the coulter, it can be used to set off the firecrackers and thrown at the palaquins when lighted. 


     To witness the process, we try to gather in front of the temple, but the moment the firecrackers let off, it feels like my eardrums are about to break. Then the smoke forms into huge gray flowers floating into the sky. Despite the deafening noise, it's impossible not to feel thrilled meanwhile. Many bearers' faces turn "black" at the end of the parade because of the smoke. 


     A tremendous budget is spent on firecrackers. The remains have to be immediately cleaned by an excavator. 


     I visited Kyoto, Japan for the renowned Gi-on Festival in mid-summer seven years ago. In fact, the Matsu Pilgrimage in Taiwan is no less significant than that though I see only a handful of foreign tourists in Beigang. Besides the event, the unique local feel and wonderful food of Beigang also make the town a must-visit place for both Taiwanese and foreign travelers. 


     After the ceremony of welcoming the gods out of the temple, it's time for a quick break starting at 10: 30 a.m. At the same time, other things are going on. For example, the floats that are going to tour around the town can be found on the streets. 


     Every float has its theme based on folklore or religious stories. On some, children put on traditional costumes to play the roles in the story. Other floats feature musical or dance performance by adults. The  earliest floats were carried by people, later by animals and today they are fuel-powered. 


     Since cosmeticians are in great demand during the celebration, many people volunteer to help out. There are indeed many special moments to capture during these two days.


     The parade starts again in the afternoon. This time worshippers from other temples in Taiwan bring the statues of their gods to worship in Chao-tien Temple. The parade is accompanied by many traditional performances featuring different famous figures in Taoism. 


     The bearers seem to have their own routines. They will shake the palaquin and move their bodies at their own tempo. 


     The statues and palaquins are dazzlingly decorated. 


     As the sky darkens, it is time for dinner. Basically, people living in the same neighborhood will hire a chef to prepare the feast. Every family sits down at the round tables placed in front of their house celebrating not only with their own relatives but also with friends from afar like us. Thanks to Guei-mei, we are blessed with the privilege of experiencing the Beigang-style dinner party. I can't describe in words how friendly these people are. 


     At six p.m., the floats will begin touring around the town. The children will throw candies at passers-by. We have so much fun picking them up. It is said the sweets will ensure us a smooth year. 


     The float parade lasts late into night when the town drowns in fast-beat music and and festive fireworks. 


     I thought about experiencing the Matsu Pilgrimage for years, and how fantastic it is that I've made it this year. To be honest, this is a festival that Taiwanese people have to take part in at least for once in their lifetime! 

參考網站 / reference website: