Maria Holland

A Precious Carving of . . . Cabbage?!?

In Uncategorized on October 4, 2009 at 11:22 pm

As I was bending over to close my locker last night, I felt the building move.  I thought it was some typhoon-strength wind, but Alice didn’t feel it so I wrote it off as vertigo.  This morning, though, I found out that it was an earthquake!  The epicenter was near Hualien on the east coast, but it was felt in Taipei.  That was my first earthquake ever!

This morning I went out by myself for the first time to go to Mass.  I took the MRT to ZhongXiaoXinSheng, successfully transferring lines.  I went to Holy Family Catholic Church, which was recommended to me by some Catholic friends in Xiamen.  Incidentally, they were also in Taibei this weekend, so I got to see them at Mass. 

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The church is very big and much more modern-looking than my churches in Xiamen.  The priest was Filipino, maybe, and spoke very good English.  His homily was very interesting because he tied two topics together, one very Chinese and one very Catholic.  The day before was 中秋节, or Mid-Autumn Festival, and Chinese people have a custom of sending mooncakes to each other, which are symbolic of the full moon that we all see no matter where we are.  He connected this to the Eucharist, the other circle-shaped food that connects all of us believers, regardless of distance. 

The congregation had a much higher proportion of foreigners than my church in Xiamen, so I think the message was specifically geared towards that demographic.  It definitely resonated with me at least, being so far from all the people I care about but comforted by the universality of the Body of Christ. 

At the end of Mass, they welcomed Carmen and John (my friends) back, visiting from Xiamen, and asked all visitors to introduce ourselves.  Then we went down to another room for food and fellowship.  It was everything that I had hoped to find in Xiamen, but didn’t, so I greatly enjoyed the morning.  

After Mass, I walked back to the station to meet up with Aleid and our new tour guides, my friend’s sister and cousin.

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We began the tour with one of Taiwan’s traditional foods, beef noodle.  We ordered it with half beef, half beef tendon, just to try.  I didn’t like the consistency of the beef tendon (very gelatinous), but the beef was among the best I’ve had in China. 

For dessert, we went to another 豆花 place.  I tried a variation and liked it a lot better than the original.  Mine had a lot of shaved ice, which was drizzled in honey for sweetness.  It also had tapioca pearls and jellies made from sweet potato and taro, which I don’t like in drinks but were delicious in the dessert. 

The main event of the day was the National Palace Museum, which was good because the weather was really crappy.  (Typhoons do that, I guess.)  The National Palace Museum is pretty famous, because Chiang Kai-Shek got away with a lot of ancient Chinese treasures when he retreated to Taiwan – my guides told me that the stuff in the equivalent museum in Beijing is cheap.

There were a lot of vases, as we expected, but some interesting treasures.  My favorite was a sculpture of bokchoy, or Chinese cabbage, made out of jade. 

Jade Cabbage

Initially, I thought it was totally ridiculous, but it grew on me as I thought about it.  First of all, it is quintessentially Chinese.  Bokchoy is eaten in everything here, and I believe it is even considered to be symbolic of prosperity.  Secondly, the artistry is quite impressive.  The artist used the natural coloring variations of the jade to mimic the coloring of the vegetable. 

After the museum, we continued to a big clothes shopping area.  It was massive, but very odd – they wouldn’t let you try on the clothes, and I don’t just mean that they didn’t have fitting rooms. 

We ate dinner in a small place on the street.  It was very simple Taiwanese fare – Chicken and rice with a side dish of bamboo.  Salty and delicious.

Again, it was great to have native people show me around.  Another bonus of today’s tour guides was that we spoke Chinese more than English.  Up until today, the only new word I had learned was ‘lighter’ (打火机) when I was trying to help out another American at the hostel.  Today, though, I learned ‘century’, ‘jade’, ‘dynasty’, ‘guava’, ‘bamboo’, ‘ginger’, ‘popular’, and more!

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