Long long ago in a land far far away…
The people were suffering, there were ten suns in the sky. Hou Yi was a renowned hunter and shot down nine of the ten suns, making him a hero of the people. One of the gods awarded Hou Yi with an elixir that would make Yi immortal. (This is where the different versions begin) Chenge, Yi’s wife, was deeply in love with her husband and knew he did not want to live forever, even though the gods commanded it. She took the elixir herself and flew up into the sky and became the moon. A beautiful representation on Yin and Yang, Chenge the moon and Yi the Sun. However, some say, because of his newly found fame as a hero, Yi became somewhat of a ladies man and his wife Chenge got jealous. One day when he was out she snooped through his belongings and found the elixir. She did not want him to keep it for himself and drank it. She flew up to the sky and became the moon, being forever immortal. The gods took pity on her being lonely on the moon and sent her a rabbit, which is why on this side of the world they see a rabbit in the moon rather than a face. And something about a man eternally chopping down a tree on the moon, then somehow moon cakes get thrown into the mix as a way to send secret messages under some evil emperor, and then you walk around with a pomello on your head, and that is about the extent of my understanding of the moon festival. Today Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival, is celebrated as a national holiday, complete with a day off, fireworks celebration, traditionally barbequing and the one day a year suburbian Taiwanese families brave the elements and “go camping”. This year it fell on a Thursday, allowing for a four day weekend.
I celebrated my first Moon Festival going camping with a group of strangers. I found a meet-up group on-line for young adults living in Taiwan. A mix of ex-patriots from various countries and Taiwanese. It was recommended to me by my coworker Micheal, who was taking the vacation to go visit friends and family back home in Michigan, so I was on my own for the break and decided to just go for it. I got the contact information for one of the group members leaving from Taoyuan area and we planned to meet at Taipei Main Station on Thursday morning. Usagi put a serious dent in the plans, after much debate about going or not we finally arrived at FuLong beach at about three in the afternoon on Thursday. FuLong is a beach on the North East side of Taiwan about two hours from where I reside by public transportation.
My companions were a Taiwanese girl a couple of years older than me and her friend and American guy, another English teacher living in Taoyuan, neither of them knew anyone either so we were all in the same boat. They arrived with a backpack each, I had my 40L pack almost full and my sleeping bag attached and felt like an idiot. We met some more of our little group at the beach and stayed until about 7 when it started raining and we headed to the campsite. There, we met the remainder of our little group; about 5 Americans, 2 South Africans, 7 Taiwanese, and later joined by 2 Germans.We made introductions and rented all our tents, and sleeping bags for those who didn’t bring them, and set up. The campsite was a space with six wooden platforms, specified spaces, for you to put your tent, lots of rules. Everyone picked their platform and hesitated, I looked around and started cracking up when I realized no one knew how to set up a tent. I started tent building lessons for the group until everyone kind of got the hang of it. After everyone was settled we started our night at the 7 and then tried to find somewhere to get food and waited for the super typhoon. The only place open on the holiday was a lunch box place. So we had lunch box and beers and then went back to 7 for more beers before going to the beach. We made a bonfire on the beach (well, I did) and hung out all night, and waited for the super typhoon. The Temple near the pier had a little family celebration, so we got a nice fireworks display along with our bonfire. We made it a pretty late night of bonding and celebrating the autumn harvest and got back to our campsite somewhere around three AM, and still no super typhoon.
Friday morning comes (at about 11:30), a bright and beautiful day. We ate breakfast at the service center and discussed our night, re-introduced ourselves and headed to the beach (with a quick stop at 7 of
course). It was deserted, everyone was cowering in their homes in fear of the super typhoon. We had the entire beach to ourselves.
Most everyone got in the water at some point, I played in the waves the whole time we were there, my first time in the Pacific Ocean.
We spent a full day at the beach then went to 7 and back to our campsite, all the while waiting for the super typhoon. The campsite had a barbeque package that one of our members bought for the group earlier, unfortunately for me and the other vegetarian, it was all meat. We ordered and ate our lunch boxes while the rest of the group tried to “barbeque” on a small gas stove. The plate was big enough to cook one group of items at a time, 10 pieces of bacon took about 20 minutes to cook, so everyone got one slice of bacon, then they tried the sausages, that took about forty minutes, so then everyone got one sausage, you get the idea, a very slow process. The barbeque part was a little jar of soy sauce, barbeque flavored. I thought of how many Americans would be horrified that this was anyone’s idea of a real cook out. We hung out and played games all night, with only a few more trips to 7 for beer, and waited for the super typhoon. We turned in early, midnight, just to be awoken around 5 am by Usagi finally arriving.
After everyone got out of their soaking wet tents in the morning we decided to pack up while there was a break in the weather. We packed and returned our stuff had breakfast exchanged contact information and went our separate ways.
I didn’t get back and comfortably dry and settled in my apartment until around 4, but the trip was well worth it. I met some cool people, some people I will definitely see again, and can say I braved Usagi and went beach-side camping in a super typhoon.
Saturday evening I went over to the Su household for family dinner. Angel and David were both home from school for the holiday. David and I went to Tai Mall Saturday night and got ice cream and played arcade games (just like my students; me “
What did you do this weekend?” reply “I go to Tai Mall to roller-blade.”). It was nice to have a night just to have a properly cooked meal and get to bed early. Sunday I did some errands (finally got a hotplate Whooop Whoop!) met David in Taipei for a little and went to the Su’s for dinner again. Like any doting mother Lisa made sure I ate until I could not move and then sent me home for a good nights sleep, like me she is a teacher and she said the day after a holiday you are going to need all the energy you can get.
Even though it was just a long weekend, I am starting to feel as though I live here, and things I thought in the beginning were so foreign are becoming more natural and comfortable everyday. It has been one month and a few days and I am just started to get that sense of belonging one feels when they have found a home.
That being said, never forget that even though you may find a home you should never settle. Valar Morghulis, but first all men must live.
Zhōng Qiū Kuài Lè!
(Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!)