April 2nd, 2011

Long lost weekends

A community center that appears to date from the Japanese period 台灣日治時期「日本統治時代」. Fēng​yuán​ 豐原 has a few such period-piece buildings scattered about town, some (like this one) in better condition than others.

It's the beginning of April, and a four-day weekend is looming for most people here, the result of the government having made Monday the 4th, The Combined Holidays of Women's Day and Children's Day 婦女節、兒童節合併假期, an official holiday to go along with the already-established Tomb Sweeping Day 清明 on Tuesday. There are several implications as a result of the government's action. First of all, it means that those Taiwanese who would spend the single holiday in the past sweating to clear away a year's worth of brush and overgrowth from ancestral burial plots (cemeteries being places to avoid for the rest of the year because, you know, they're full of ghosts) now have an extra day to recover from their exertions before returning to work or school on Wednesday. Many people have done the smart thing, and performed the ritual cleaning earlier, thus freeing up the entire four-day weekend for more enjoyable activities. Secondly, the long weekend will no doubt see all of the famous (and not so famous) tourist traps overrun with pleasure seekers. I wouldn't want to be on any of the freeways come the late afternoon/early evening of Tuesday, and I won't, because...finally, this extra day for us means more time spent at home, or in local parks. Not because we wish to avoid the hordes, but because we're still pinching pennies following our two-week trip to the States back in early February. At least we don't have any tombs to tend to.

The sign is supposed to be a come-on for the sweet snacks available from this food stand, but it would probably be more appealing if they had actually rendered the word for "delicious" in Japanese correctly - oishii おいしい instead of the meaningless oishi おいし (and, yes, that extra i does matter). Also, oden おでん doesn't consist of a cup of black coffee with a side order of nuts. For confirmation of what exactly Kuān​tūng​chǔ​ 關東煮 is, stop by your local 7-Eleven (or follow this link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oden)

In conjunction with the four-day weekend mentioned above, it's finally beginning to feel like spring has arrived. And just in time, too, after what has been described as one of the coldest winters in T'ái​wān 台灣​ in decades. Of course, what passes for "cold" here would feel downright balmy to my friends and family in the Pacific Northwest and northern California, where there has been snow as recently as just the past week (and I won't even mention what the Midwest went through this winter). The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies over the next few days, so my daughter can look forward to getting outside and having some (free of any charges) fun, like hitting some plastic balls with her plastic bat. And speaking of balls and bats, today was Opening Day for Major League Baseball, when teams like the Pirates and Royals can still dream they have a chance of competing for a postseason playoff spot, a dream which should last as long as the first week of the new season. The Mariners kick off their schedule tomorrow, and it'll be interesting to see how many games they will manage to lose this year with their anemic offense, despite having the reigning A.L. Cy Young Award winner on their pitching staff. Play ball!

A billboard for a laxative drink. The use of the hiragana 平仮名 no の is necessitated by the fact the product comes from Japan. Of course it is.