We had a fun sleepover in a nice hotel in Taichung with Chuni and Yin Ling aka "Linda King". She is 63 like my sister and uses henna in her hair like my sister. She is very lively and says she feels like 28. I say I feel like I'm 15, but I'm not sure that's good. We talk late into the night about our lives. She is a retired school teacher. She is the 13th generation of the founding Emporer of the Ching Dynasty and extremely down to earth. We exchange emails.
Seven of us crammed into Matthew's car early this morning and headed for the little mountain village of Chuping where Chuni and some of her college classmates volunteered years ago. It is a village of the Aboriginal Bunong tribe and were invited to attend the wedding of the village governor's daughter. I was so excited!! I love weddings and this tribe is known for their beautiful voices, so I knew the music would be great. Plus, I was guessing this crowd would drink!!
The ride up the curvy mountainous roads was amazing and showed mudslide damage from a recent typhoon. We passed by Hehuan Mountain which means "Happy Together". How appropriate for this wedding day. I, of course, started singing the Turtles song.
Matthew Chiang Le-yi runs a foundation that brings Taiwanese kids to other parts of the world to do community service and over the past 3 years he has brought over 30 youth from this village to South Africa, Malaysia and Cambodia. The villagers know and love him. There was a picture of Chuni's group from 30 years ago still on the wall! She looks just the same.
We sat in the balcony for this Catholic service. Half the church was the choir and the music was fantastic. Dogs wandered in and out. Some guests dressed fancy, but Michael fit right in with his t-shirt and shorts. The maid of honor and best man had a full time job rearranging the bride's gown every time she moved!! The service was very similar to our Catholic services. I could even sing the amens and hallelujahs. They give peace by bowing. (The Maryknoll Missionaries converted this area and the 3 small villages have produced 5 Catholic priests.) After the service, all the family pictures were taken in the church, while we headed down to the reception. Woooohooooo! Taiwanese beer on the table along with cartons of tea and juices. Soon after, a full bottle of whiskey was brought to each table!! I knew these were my kind of people!!! (The intellectual biking group yesterday wouldn't even let me stop in to the winery on the route to get out of the torrential downpour. And they were giving free samples...ouch!)
There were sweet tea roasted watermelon seeds on the table for us to snack on when we sat down. They went well with the beer. Then the real food started coming and coming and coming. We had tiny little bowls and plates. Dish after dish came out and were starting to pile up, though we were doing our best to keep up. I promised myself I would take at least one bite of every new thing. The pictures will speak for themselves. There were dancing groups and singers performing and one dedicated her routine to the "foreignors" and sang a couple songs in English for my benefit! I was definitely the only Caucasion face there. The village has approximately 500 people and they all turned out! The bride changed outfits and hairstyles 3 times and there were many toasts. If there was a wedding cake, I didn't see it. The church and school were designed by Matthew's sister who is an award winning architect here.
Mid afternoon, we all headed back to Taipei. As Michael says, we were all in a "food coma". I was glad I didn't have to drive and even glad I was in the little 3rd back seat so I could snooze a bit amongst the mostly incomprehensible chatter. Chuni often slips into "Chinglish" so I can catch snippets of things. I always tell Michael he is on duty to tell me if anything important that I should know is being discussed-like departure times or what we should pack-or if a question is being addressed to me... but if we are in the car, he is sleeping and I have to be on duty for HIM! I love that kid. He is yery sweet and really tolerant of my childishness like when I stuck the watermelon seeds under my upper lip for 2 black teeth, or punch him in the tummy (lightly) every time he yawns, or when I put ice cubes down his shirt.
I do hear Matthew say that his mother "upcycles" pieces of clothing to make his underwear and other useful things and I tell him about Hannah being an environmentalist and about her vintage clothing business. I think Hannah would like to work with Matthew. Check out Han's website at thebraidedbandit.etsy.com !!
Three hours later we walk into cousin Vicki's house. She has the dinner table set for a huge meal as it is our last night together! We are leaving for Hong Kong at 5 am tomorrow and they will leave for Holland before we return. Oi vay! The endurance Chuni and Michael have for food (and custom) is amazing to me as I sit down with them and grandma Lilly fills a steamed bun for me...No is not an option.
If you haven't read Chia's poem from the comment section yesterday, you must. I feel a bit like that kite myself. Someone who leaves their country to settle somewhere else must really feel that way. Beautiful, Chia...