Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Every Christmas I spend here just seems to become more and more un-Christmas-like.

No matter where I go, Christmas is just not the same without snow. One year I spent Christmas in Tampa and everything outdoors seemed to be strewn with Christmas lights- the buildings, trees, artificial Christmas themed scenes and objects- but it all just seemed so garish, as if the impressive display of wattage was compensating for the lack of snow.

I'm not quite sure what it is, but perhaps the grandiose displays of Christmas lights in front of suburban homes, on the street, in the storefronts are softened by snow covered lawns and sidewalks, billowy rooftops, and whiteness that transforms the shape and form of all that is around us.

The first year I moved to Taiwan, I managed to fly back to Ottawa just in time for Christmas.

The second year, I organized a blind gift exchange with friends here in Kaohsiung.

The third year, last year- I made a last minute attempt to organize a blind gift exchange. That failed miserably. It was a regular work day, so being too exhausted to bother cooking, I ended up eating takeout with my dear old Dad- which isn't such a bad thing, but clearly it wasn't very festive! My Mom was off on the east coast of Taiwan with my sister and her husband who had come for a visit during the holidays.

This year I had nothing planned, then I had tentative plans for dinner- which ended up falling through at the last minute because restaurants were fully booked. Text messages that I sent to a few friends in Taiwan wishing them a "Merry Christmas" were delayed by 12 hours, others lost- probably due to high traffic on the cellular network. Amazing- for a place where I thought people didn't really celebrate Christmas!

In true Taiwanese style, any reason to celebrate is marked by fireworks. This month, Kaohsiung is celebrating its 80th year of establishment as a city, so the mayor of Kaohsiung cleverly arranged for a fireworks/live music performance along the banks of the Love River on the night of Christmas day. This evening we had a prime view of it all from our balcony.

I'm not usually impressed by fireworks since there only seems to be a finite number of shapes, sizes and types, but this half hour fireworks show was unlike anything I've ever seen. Fireworks were set off simultaneously from opposite sides of the river. Shooting stars, sparklers and multi-colored flecks of light arched up, above, and over, towards each other, landing in the center of the river.

In the center of the river was a floating platform that set off more fireworks simultaneously and created some other interesting visual effects- like spinning fireworks that looked like a long spiraling orange hot coil, and then a series of sparklers like those on a birthday cake. At the end of the show, the platform created a scene of white lights streaming down continuously- giving the visual effect of falling snow.


  • At 12/31/2004 2:04 AM, Blogger Matt said…


    I found your blog via a google search for "learn mandarin" on the blogspot domain. Very interesting - I started my own for fun and to push myself to Learn Mandarin under "semipublic" scrutiny.

    I've only read a few posts, but I intend to read through it (and perhaps link to it) because I think it'll be very educational. I'm married to a Taiwanese woman from Kaohsiung - we met in college and we've been together for 14 years now, but Kaohsiung and Taiwan remain a cultural mystery to me.

    I look forward to learning more about it from your blog. Your perspective on it seems very unique. You don't happen to know a guy by the name of Newley do you? An American, also blogging, in Taiwan and teaching English?


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