Moon Festival, 2009
The time when after we had scooter'd all day up into the banana-grove mountains and when we came down at night, we had passed people gathered in an empty lot, around a table piled with food, and a nearby hog on a spit, and we were invited into the festivities:
We got off our rental scooters and a bunch of well-bellied men and a few dotting women shuffled us up to their stools. We sat and shot-the-breeze and made the requisite ganbei toasts. Michael at random request was asked to meet some of the mens' bosses and/or brothers and/or "very good friend." They called Michael either "Michael Jackson", or alternatively, "Michael Jordan", with great amusement. They, as per requisite meeting of blond foreigners, told me I was beautiful and told Michael he was lucky because haha hoho we get to (sexual gesture) together.
Rounds of unfortunate ganbei's persisted, one immediately proceeding the other, one having been forgotten the instant it was consumed and before our glass could hit the table was being poured again.
Michael learned the expression for "half" yi ban, as he pleaded to be granted pardon from any more shots of brandy- shots of brandy! -and whiskey.
After ten minutes of constant shots, I did what I always do in these situations, I told the men forcing these drinks on us that I was (gesture for pregnant). Oh!!!! Hey! Michael Jackson is have baby! Ganbei-ah!
It went on and on and on, and just as I had stopped shooting Michael side-glances and stamping on his toes, I was tugged at from behind. She was a little chubby girl. She took my hand and led me away from the party toward the relative peace of the street.
In English, she told me her name (I've forgotten it!) and her age. And I gave her the whole English class Nice to meet you, too routine before she gave up and started a conversation in Chinese with me.
She took my hand and asked me to zou yi zou -"go on a little walk"- with her. She asked me if I liked those people (the drunks at the party). She told me that they are her neighbors; and she expressed a polite, but no-less obvious distaste for them.
She was oddly mature for a 9 year old. She asked about whether I was happy at the school I was working at and whether we liked living in Huwei. I gave her my really-true honest assessment and revealed that I think JiJi is the best town in Taiwan, which made her both happy and all the more insistent that I move to Jiji and be her English teacher right then.
She took me to her house where her mom, dad, and baby brother where crouched around a small barbecue. I shook their hands. They were a little reserved it seems out of lack of things say to me. I stood there smiling. She grabbed my hand again and we zou yi zou'd some more. She taught me how to say the words for various things we saw on the street. Street. Street lamp. Fireworks. Moon. (I already knew those words, but that was my secret.)
I told her she was a good teacher and somehow we parted.
I came back to the party to find Michael Jordan/Jackson being held up on either side and being pried with ever more celebratory rounds of shots. I remember whispering to Michael, "Say 'No' in English. It works better that way."
"No, no, no, no, no..." he drunkenly stammered to the group as he blocked chubby arms wielding whiskey bottles and shot glasses from being shoved into his face.
Finally, a firm English "No!" bought him a bit of reprieve between rounds. Getting away from those men was like fighting free from quicksand: the more you graciously resisted their hospitality the more they bore down.
Somehow- I'm fairly sure that it was stealthy and good-bye-less- we parted.
- ▼ August (8)