Monday, October 20, 2008

Yuan Shan

I have been tragically unable to find a mask for Halloween.  This weighs on my thoughts unexpectedly, since I haven't cared at all about Halloween for quite some time.  Madison's festivities were not the sort I prefer, and I forgot that it can be about having fun in a good, old-fashioned, sans-tear-gas kind of way.  I know there are masks, but they don't seem to be in my area.  Ideally, I would find some basic masquerade eye-mask and add ears and whiskers and wear black, but perhaps this dearth is a blessing in disguise.  It's still routinely 80º here, and a black sweater and black pants would probably turn me into a cat passing out from heat stroke.  I'll content myself with giving my A3 class Halloween related fake tattoos (if they want them).

My editing job is going well.  Last week I spent three hours rewriting a version of Rapunzel that my employer had on file.  The Taiwanese get confused by Western fairy tales.  "I don't understand," said my boss.  "How could she live for so many years if she was tied to a tree?" and "But how can he see again if his eyes have been poked out?"  These are fair points.  In the finished version, she was merely banished to the desert, and his eyes were not so much poked out as occluded by the thorns.  When she cried on him, the thorns were washed away.  

On Sunday, Katy and I went to Yuan Shan (Round Mountain - everyone says it with a bit of a smirk, so I assume "mountain" is sort of a euphemism for "hill with big ideas") and walked around.  About 1/5 of the way up the stairs, we stopped to take pictures and were overtaken by a gentleman who said in clear, heavily accented English, "It is so beautiful," and nodded to us.  I asked him if he came every day, and he said, "Yes, for more than 15 years."  He climbed on, and we continued taking pictures, but when we got to the next little clearing, he was sitting on a bench waiting for us.  He beckoned us over, and offered to lead us around the mountain.  This turned out to be a very good thing.  The paths on the mountain were warrenous.  He took us to the very top and showed us the tiny marker that indicated the peak, then wandered with us for a while.  He told us his name was Huà Yèfǔ, or George.  He worked for the China Times until he retired twenty years ago.  He said we could call him Huà Sir, which is a charming combination of English and Chinese.  Eventually, he took us to a place where he said we could get food ("It's free!") and something to drink.  I assumed he meant some kind of cafe or temple tourist something, but he led us down into yet another little clearing and shouted to the still out of sight occupants, "Chuān yīfu! Chuān yīfu!"  ("Put on clothes! Put on clothes!") I choked a little trying not to laugh.  When we got to the clearing, there were four or five shirtless elderly gentlemen and their wives all gathered laughing and talking and cooking and eating.  They have a little semi-permanent tent set up where they go every Sunday to have a potluck and drink coffee and whiskey and tea.  After lunch (we were, of course, invited, stuffed, and encouraged to "make ourselves at home"), the men all went off to play cards around a rickety old card table, and the women sat down and discussed a number of things I didn't catch, although some of it was about the two waiguoren in their midst.

The mountain (or hill with delusions of grandeur) itself was lovely.  There were enormous butterflies in iridescent black and brown and blue, and flowers, and greenery.  Every turn had a surprising little plaza with a couple playing tennis or a group singing karaoke.  Some of the plazas were deserted, and I liked those best of all (Katy will say to this: "You would").  There were funny little fuzzy snails and dragonflies and birds.  I didn't notice when the traffic sounds faded because the birds were so loud.

Katy and I had to leave, but George gave us his phone number so that when we are next in the area we can call him up and have him take us around a museum thing.  He kept calling it the President's house, but it sounded like it was no longer inhabited.  

We went home, showered, and went to a farewell party for some of her co-workers, after which I headed south to enjoy some tea in what I was told was a traditional tea house.  It was quite peaceful, apart from the rowdy crowd with whom I sat.  

We have had more adventures since, but for the sake of getting this post up, I will relate them in the next.


TheRealVeon said...

I always liked Madison Halloweens. The trick is to go before they start firing the tear gas.

Anonymous said...

I love the fuzzy snail. Soft fuzz or prickly?

Hobbes said...

I'm actually skipping out on Madison Halloween this year and going to DC instead - though with the election next Tuesday there might actually be MORE tear gas there.

Rowan said...

Not really soft or prickly. More like stiff hair.

Kat G said...

Hill with delusions of grandeur... sounds like most Wisconsin skiing places (Cascade Mountain... *snickers*)

When I first skied on a REAL mountain, I quite literally froze with terror at the top. I got over it, with ten minutes of coaching from my French friend.

After some coaxing, I safely slalomed my way down the slope. :)

Your picnic sounded fantastic! I'm so glad you met up with them - they sound really nice!

pickett said...

well regardless they are still adorable snails