Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Gods' Money Soup

Last week I managed to fanagle 5 days off of work with the help of a floating holiday, an actual holiday, and a South African co-worker who wanted to play football on Sunday. I'm sure folks have noticed before that time off is often more exhausting than time on.

Maggie & I used a bit of that time to work on our new school, but there's very little we can do until the architecht finalizes his plans and sends them to the city government for approval. So, on Wednesday, the actual holiday, Tomb Sweeping Day, we piled in the car and went to Fengle Statue Park on South Wenshin Rd so Frankie could enjoy some grass. (The kid may well wind up a hippie someday, but it wasn't that kind of grass.)

It being a holiday, I expected the park to be slap full of people, but it was deserted with the exception of one family picnicking under the kite-eating trees and a group of kids operating token operated merry-go-rounds with kid power. Franklin rode on a Shinkansen while Maggie pushed and I snapped photos that didn't see the light of day the first time around and probably never will. Had some fried noodles that couldn't be beat with a honey-lemon smoothie from Chuan Shui Tang and declared the day to be a good one.

It was Tomb Sweeping Day. There are no holiday cards for Tomb Sweeping Day, nor are there for any other holidays, really. I've never heard the greeting "Happy Tomb Sweeping Day" in Chinese, and in English only from smart-ass English teachers. It's a Taoist Holiday around which folks pay homage to their ancestors, usually travelling to a family tomb pulling weeds, burning incense, and sweeping it. There are no Tomb Sweeping Day sales at Carrefour.

The next night, Franklin had some sleeping issues. After finishing his bottle, he slept for two hours, and then woke up and stayed up until the sun rose. This has repeated four nights in a row now. The second night, Maggie turned to me and said, "We shouldn't have taken Frankie to the park on Tomb Sweeping Day."
"Why not," I replied through half open eyelids as our toddler squirmed in my arms.
"It used to be a (!!)," she said using a facial expression familiar in our household where (!!) indicates eyes as large as tea cups, arched eyebrows, and a head nodding up then down and tilting to the left and stands for anything having to do with Ghosts and in this case meant a cemetary.
"Oh," I answered. "(!!)!"

In Taiwan, (!!) are everywhere, but I'm not seriously thinking about marketing tinfoil to the folks who are worried about possession. I just say it to piss people off.

Because my father in law is a fortune teller, our home is protected by several yellow pieces of paper, called Fu, taped to the front door, above the back door, and above the bedroom door. We also have Fu in the headboard of our bed, and taped to Franklin's crib. I think that there may be other Feng Shui protections in the house that I'm not aware of. Actually, there's also a water jug that I collect pocket change in. It stays in the corner of the house furthest from the front door and is meant to help us keep our money in the house. Exactly.

Every once in awhile, sometimes after something happens, sometimes completely without noticeable provocation, but always before 11:00 p.m., a bowl of water with the charred remains of two strips of God Money is handed to me with the instruction "Take three small sips." This happened again last night. Sometimes I'm asked to take the sips and then to flick the water into the four corners of each room in our house and then close each door behind me, finally dumping the remainder of the solution over the balcony. Last night, it was to be put in Franklin's bathwater. "No soap."

I do all of this without batting an eye. I do it for peace of mind, peace in the family, and because I can imagine my actions really getting under the skin of the Baptist Student Union.

I gave Franklin his bath, but he didn't like it too much. The water was the right temperature, but the black pieces of paper sticking to Frank's skin were disagreeable to him and he wasn't long for the bathtub.

It worked too. He was asleep about an hour before the sun came up this time.

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