I went back to Lumi Dance School on Friday for another session with Momo, and we moonwalked to a Michael Jackson song. No big deal.
[I would be so much cooler if I just knew what song it was, but I don’t. I think the song started with a cougar growl, but I could be mixing it up with another song from the class. Anyone have any ideas?]
After Friday’s moonwalking excitement, I spent most of Saturday pent up in the apartment while Colin went to try to take the Foreign Service Officer Test. He was gone all morning, but computer errors prevented him and the other Foreign Service hopefuls from taking the test.
There’s technology for you, huh? You think your system is going to run more smoothly and be more standardized because you’ve got the whole thing running on the Internets, but then it crashes and you have to reschedule the exam for all of these people who took off work or came in from out of town.
Anyway, while Colin was off doing that, and even after he returned, I lied around the apartment and watched the different shades of grey move across the sky. Saturday marked the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, and from the looks of things, no one was going to be able to see the moon that night.
Laoshi had explained that because of this summer’s Typhoon Morokat, from which residents of southern Taiwan are still recovering, city-sponsored celebrations of the Moon Festival had been canceled. She suggested a spot in southern Taipei that would probably still feel festive, a bridge at the MRT stop we take to get to Wulai.
“Colin, I really think we should go tonight.”
“OK, we will. But you know it’s probably going to be raining, and there might not be anything going on.”
I persuaded him with my optimism and cabin fever, and he sent a message invited Pascal and Andy, who agreed to meet us at the station at 7.
We emerged from the station to a not-too-rainy night in Xindian. Pascal led the way to the Pitan Bridge, a pedestrian bridge with colorful lights chasing each other up and down the cables. A small night market served as a gauntlet for a large stage that had been set up for live music, with hordes of Taiwanese families and couples gathered around, undeterred by the falling mist.
We crossed the bridge in search of a vegetarian restaurant that I’d read was supposed to be good. Every head in the small restaurant turned as the four of us walked in. Situated at our table below an ornate Buddhist shrine, Andy read to us the menu—kung pao chicken, vegetarian steak, gingered fish… wait a minute, what kind of vegetarian place is this?
All of the “meat” was vegetarian, made out of tofu or something like it. Colin enjoyed his vegetarian beef and Andy seemed pleased with her gingered fish. Pascal, not wanting his dinner to think he wished it to be anything but itself, went with a tofu dish, and I, craving tomatoes, got the tomato-fried noodles. What came was a Taiwanese attempt at spaghetti, I think, and tasted like a grown-up Chef Boyardee dinner. It was satisfying nonetheless.
We crossed back over the bridge to check out the concert, where a Taiwanese duo was singing wedding reception classics like “You’re Just Too Good to Be True” and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” Pascal whipped out dessert—moon cakes! I bit into a cookie crust filled with brown sugar nougat and pine nuts. Colin traded me for his sweet and savory cake with red bean paste and a hard-boiled egg yolk in the middle. The third kind had meat, so Colin ate my share—poor guy.
There were once ten suns that took turns circling the Earth, but one day, all ten suns came out, burning the crops and people. The Emperor knew something had to be done, so he called on the greatest archer in the land, Houyi, to shoot down nine of the suns. Houyi did so, saving the people, and the Emperor rewarded him with a pill of immortality, of which half was to be for his wife, Chang’e. “Make no haste to swallow the pill.”
Houyi took the pill home, where Chang’e swallowed the whole thing, either because she wanted to save the world from her tyrannical husband, because an apprentice had discovered the secret of the pill and had tried to steal it for himself, or because she was silly and drawn to its effervescence. It depends on which story you read. All of them end up with Chang’e floating to the moon on the power of the whole pill, with Houyi chasing partway after her either out of heartsickness or rage. Chang’e grabs a rabbit on her way up to keep her company, and during a full moon, you can make out a rabbit on the right half.
On the 15th of every lunar month, Houyi visits Chang’e in the moon, and that is why it is so full and bright on that day.
Despite forecasts of rain and cloud-filled skies, we got to see the moon and the rabbit for about an hour on Saturday night. The crowd clapped as the clouds parted, revealing a bright, full moon.
The night ended with fireworks, bursting in the sky low and behind the stage and raining off the pedestrian bridge. We wondered aloud why they wouldn’t shoot to fireworks off next to the stage or away from the stage entirely as the crowds dissipated, and when no one had any suggestions, we joked about a couple in a swan-shaped pedal boat that appeared to be stuck in the middle of the ever-darkening river. I don’t recall seeing them ever get out…