Happy New Year!
Chinese New Year is to Taiwan what Christmas is to the United States. We have a week-long vacation this week, stores are full of decorations and special foods just for the holiday, and the year’s animal is prominently displayed everywhere.
This is the Year of the Dragon. Not to offend anyone, but that’s so much cooler than Year of the Rabbit, which was last year.
Sunny, my tutoring boss and one of my good friends, invited me to go with a group to Taipei to the annual Taipei Lunar New Year Festival street market. I piled into a car with Sunny, her son Jack, Annie, and Annie’s mother. We were meeting Sara and her mother in Taipei.
Jack, Annie and Sara are in one of my tutoring classes; I teach them, their younger siblings, and three more kids.
We arrived in Taipei, found Sara and her mother, and made our way through busy streets to the market.
It was busy, loud, and a visual feast. Vendors called out for people to try the foods they were selling. As I passed one vendor, he yelled, “English! Camera! Facebook!”
Each time we passed a stall with samples, Sunny would make sure I tried at least one. She would call out to me, smiling, with a toothpick or cup bearing a new food held in my direction. I was well-fed, though I’m not entirely sure what I ate.
There is one thing I am absolutely certain I ate. Sunny turned to me as we walked through the market. Her eyes were wide, a smile creeping onto her face. “Mandy – stinky tofu?” That entire experience merits its own post, coming soon.
Before heading back to Hsinchu, we passed a table where an older man and his wife were selling personalized paintings for the new year.
After learning what you wanted, he dipped his large calligraphy brush into gold paint and went to work.
The kids and I stood by, transfixed, as he worked. We ended up with several pieces; one for each of the kids and several more I could give away as gifts. I did, of course, keep the largest and best looking one for myself.