Saturday was the first day of the lantern festival, which comes 15 days after the new year and ends that holiday season. There wasn’t anything to plan for in training the next day, so I set out with two of my fellow teachers to see the festivities in Taipei. We thought they would be in the plaza of the Chiang Kai-shek memorial, but it was pretty empty when we got there. A security guard directed us to the Sun Yat-sen memorial a few stops away on a different MRT line, and as soon as we got off the train, we could tell we had it right. There were children all over, dragging or being dragged by their parents, and once we got aboveground, the crowds only got worse.
As we slowly made our way to the plaza, I noticed what I thought was a plastic bag in a tree, and I was secretly disappointed, since I am always pleased how clean Taipei is compared to Los Angeles. After a minute or two, I saw that it was really a bubble sculpture floating down from the sky, and that there were scores of them! I made it my goal to find the source of these awesome creations and poke them or something, but I failed in that. The plaza was too crowded and there were other things to see.
My impression of the lantern festival is that it’s kind of a cross between the Rose Parade and Epiphany: Epiphany in that there are traditional sweet foods, some spiritual significance, and the date is dependent on a previous holiday, and the Rose Parade in that there are ornate lanterns [floats] made [from flowers] by companies and groups that tell a story or show a fun image. The link to the Rose Parade certainly wasn’t hurt by the posters and lanterns everywhere advertising the International Flora Expo running until next year!
I’m certain I’m missing a lot here, but it’s an impression, and understanding can come later. That’s how I’m running with a lot of things right now: housing, teaching, navigating Xinzhuang. All the understanding and comfort in my surroundings will come with time.