Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Taiwan Valentine

"My Taiwan Valentine" being different from "My Taiwanese Valentine", of course. If I had a Taiwanese valentine I think Brendan might be a leeeeeeettle upset.

First, enjoy this. Watch the video, too.

And enjoy this. I think next year Brendan is getting Easter candy and a bag of hammers.

So generally we're not big V-day celebrators. Not because I'm anti-Valentine's day, but rather that I'm anti-crappy chocolate (and most of what's sold on V-day is crap). I'm also, while not the sort who says "I don't want to feel pressured to express my feelings by marketing behemoths for their profit" (although there's some truth to that), I am the sort who has come to realize how unimportant the day really is when you're in a good relationship. I have found that stuff like this takes on outsized proportion when things are bad - like you need that planned expression of affection on the corporate-mandated day to prove to yourself that things really are OK. When things are good, you don't care as much about meeting these expectations.

For me anyway. Some folks are in great relationships and still place importance on days like this, and that's fine too.

But, Brendan and I still like to spend time together, and figure there's no harm in having some of that time be around Valentine's Day. This year, however, we're both working in the evening. In a few short hours I'll be back on the HSR to Hsinchu to teach in the Science Park. Since the day itself is not that important, we had our Valentine's Day Love Fest on Sunday - and took advantage of the gorgeous weather.

We took the Maokong Gondola   - I know a lot of people worry about its safety but I personally think it's fine. I've been on it many times and do not fear that something will go wrong. They should change the name, though. "Gondola" is a dumb name for a cable car, and it's doubly annoying to have to teach students what a "gondola" is and then shrug my shoulders when they ask why that was the name chosen for the cable car.

As you can see, we shared a car with a group of women from SE Asia. At first I thought they were Filipina (I thought they were speaking Tagalog) but now I'm not sure - they didn't say much. They could have been Thai. I know they weren't Vietnamese by the language spoken. They spent most of the time taking glamour shots of themselves, though, not chatting - so it's hard to say.

This is a tough time of year to take the Gondola - with the cherry blossoms on Maokong in bloom, if the weather is even remotely decent and it's a weekend, the thing is packed. We were blessed with a lovely, clear day on Sunday, so we had to wait about an hour to board. They were handing out required "reservation" tickets with boarding times. We arrived at 1:37pm and were handed a ticket for 2:30-2:45. We expected this, though.

There aren't as many cherry blossoms on Maokong as on Yangming Mountain, but enough that the easier task of taking the gondola - vs. driving or taking a bus up Yangmingshan - is a good alternative. They also bloom much earlier in Taiwan than elsewhere (esp. Japan) due to the warmer weather.

It's fairly common in every country where Valentine's Day has made some inroads - it's certainly known in Taiwan - for people to celebrate it when they're young and in love and forget about it when they're old fuddy-duddy marrieds (like me!). I kind of understand that: as I said, if your relationship is good, then Valentine's Day, birthdays, other holidays etc. stop becoming a barometer of your relationship status or "goodness", because you don't need them.

What I've noticed in Taiwan, though, is a different sort of not celebrating Valentine's - in the US you'll get the V-day haters, and the ones who are romantic but not on that day, or the ones who are fine without romance but don't really announce that. You get those who say "oh, we don't bother" but they rarely explain it with "because we've been married for so long". Usually there's an implication that there's romance elsewhere or at other times.

I think this couple had a similar idea
for how to spend the day
In Taiwan, you get the older married folks who not only admit to not celebrating Valentine's, but  say that it really is because they're older and married, and, you know, everyone knows that old married folks don't have romance (that last part isn't actually spoken, but it's implied heavily in the tone), that's for crazy young kids. Not that I ask, but I get the strong sense that there is an acceptance of less romance in these relationships overall. Not so much that they don't bother with Valentine's Day, but that they don't bother with that kind of romantic expression at all.

I can't be sure of this, of course - many American couples wouldn't necessarily cop to having a romance-free marriage, and I could be reading the tone wrong in Taiwan, and be adding an implication that wasn't intended: perhaps the tone used merely conveys a deeper sense of privacy about such  things.

But, you know, while divorce - at least in Taipei - is reaching numbers that rival the US's divorce rate, the whole concept of divorce being acceptable, or no-fault divorce, or even "wow, it's not the woman's fault, we can't automatically blame the wife for not being pliant or dutiful enough" divorce, is fairly new in Taiwan. The idea of remaining single by choice or because you  have high standards is new, too - especially for women. It's a more recent change, which means that old feelings of "you marry because it's socially expected, you have kids because you should and you stay in that marriage even if you're not happy, and even if that can't be fixed, even if your husband as a mistress" still linger. I could see how that would bring about a feeling of "eh, people who have been married for awhile don't have, don't need and shouldn't expect romance or love" which might be echoed in the comments I hear.

But enough dreariness. The weather was so balmy and rejuvenating that, between soft pink sakura and bright blue sky, who can help but feel that love is a beautiful thing?

After walking around - and dodging traffic - we settled in at Mountain Tea House, a short walk from the gondola station but beyond most of the crowds. We go there often, because the view is good and the food is tasty. I especially recommend the Lemon Diced Chicken (檸檬雞丁).

As per my blog's namesake, I brewed lao ren cha and we talked, chatted, ate snacks, and quietly read or studied Chinese. I don't consider retreating behind a book to be unromantic (retreating behind a computer or iPod is more unromantic to me, not sure why) - part of what makes our relationship so great is that we can both be quiet and doing our own thing, and still feel a vibrant connection. That's important - because who can talk all day and all night to one person? Even if you have that early chemistry that makes you want to just spill your guts and talk for hours, it eventually fades (not completely, but it does) and something needs to be there to replace it. A connection that transcends conversation.

We also spent a little time taking glamour shots of ourselves.  Here's my frank admission: while I'm fine with being curvy and average looking in real life, there are two things I know are true about my looks:

1.) I am really not photogenic. At all. Even if I look fine in real life, I look terrible in most photos. I'm OK with that, too, until I actually see the photos, which I quickly delete or de-tag.

2.) I have one really great feature. One thing that, when I look in the mirror, I think "wow, that's just great. That looks good". One thing that helps me be totally OK with being otherwise completely average-looking. I won't tell you what it is. I think I've mentioned it before, and anyway it should be pretty clear. 

So, when good photos of me come along - which happens about once a year, if that - I milk those babies for all they're worth, because it'll be awhile before more good ones are taken.

But first, some glamour shots of my super handsome, I mean really handsome, I mean "da-yum how did I land me such a hottie" husband.

I *heart* the green eyes
I mean I love him regardless, I'd love him even if his face got all messed up or he gained 200 pounds. I'd love him if he was not so good-looking...but you gotta admit, I lucked out in the Hot Husband department.

Then, Brendan took some shots of me, when the sun was providing good light:

We stuck around past sunset, because I love the night view from Maokong. I also have a camera now that has a timer, so I can set it on a flat rail and take decently focused night shots, as though I had a tripod.

Then we ventured down to Nanjing E. Road for dinner at Ali Baba's Indian Kitchen, but that's not terribly exciting - just tasty!

No comments: