Belgium and Back in Business (Summer in Europe 3)
After coming back home from ISACG 9 in Berlin and my cool experience over there, I did something long overdue — visit friends and family. So this post is mostly about that (and about Harry Potter). And in the end we’ll make the bridge to the present. So have fun reading this update.
Back in Belgium
After I took the plane back to Brussels (you will find that the letter B will appear often in keywords of this bpost [pun intended — Bpost is the national post service in Belgium]), I first went to my xuemei 學妹 (younger female student of the same study object) Lili and her boyfriend Ewoud’s farewell party. They are both studying in Beijing and you should be able to follow her adventures here — well, in the future. It was a nice experience because I got to see my old Eoos friends again. However, it was also a bit strange. Most of the generation that is going to China this year started out when I was president of that student organization, so in a way they are my little children — I’ve seen them develop their Chinese language skills and now they are set free in the Ever Evolving and rapidly Changing China. Spread your wings and leave the nest my little birds [is there a word in English that denotes a little/baby bird, like Dutch kuiken? If you know this, please comment here or on facebook]!
I don’t think there are a lot of pictures from that evening/night out there, but it was nice to stay up until three and experience the old early student life again. And I even got to experience being a teenager again too! In my hometown there is this yearly event — well there are several yearly events like the Flowerparade (Bloemencorso - check this out), the bike race (leave Loenhout as fast as possible to avoid hitting drunk people on the 2 main streets), the yearly shooting at the chapel (don’t know why they do this but it involves a marching band). Anyway, the event I’m talking about is the (in)famous Beachweekend. I need to explain this a little bit. Imagine, you live in a semi-rural area (in Chinese I could say I’m from nongcun 農村 ‘countryside’, but it’s not as far removed from civilization as that term would suggest; in Dutch I live in a boerengat ‘farmer’s ass’ [農夫屁股]). So, what teenagers growing up do for fun is hold ‘tent parties’, which are, as the name suggest, parties held in tents. The size is usually expressed by how many tentpoles there are; kind of like how Japanese people express the room size by referring how many tatami 畳 fit in it. If I remember correctly, three tentpoles is already a decent number. These tent parties are usually held weekly or biweekly in a different patch of meadow, and are visited by huge crowds of youngsters. Now, we come to the main point: Beachweekend. Beachweekend is special. It’s not like I visited this festival so many times, but it still holds a special place in my heart, so I feel I can talk about it. Imagine a large patch of meadow, usually somewhere in the middle of nowhere-ish. This is covered by sand. A lot of sand. In 2015 about 800 tons of sand. This makes the grass look like a beach. I see you get where the event got its name from, and I bet you can guess how long it lasts, too. Add a few tents with booze, a stage where you can see a computer at work and one or two humans who pretend to be musicians (see also the Belgian festival of Tomorrowland) and 15,000 people in total and you can build a party right?
Books, Base, Breaking Bad
As for my study progress, I read a lot of books. I discovered this series ‘ Iconicity in Language and Literature’ and I read almost all of the books. These are a treasure trove of information and especially in the more recent volumes they touch upon East Asian languages. Furthermore, I was also busy with my database thing as shortly mentioned in this blog update. I am still planning to do a dedicated update when the project has a bit more progress.
It was then that I discovered Breaking Bad. I don’t know if this tv series was that much of a hype in Belgium as it was in the English speaking world but I did watch 5 seasons (62 episodes) in two weeks. It was a perfect binge watch and I generally don’t miss watching/having a tv in Taiwan, but it was just nice to be home and do exactly that. By the way, I really liked the show. Of course, some episodes were a bit ‘more of the same old thing’ but I get why the actors and the show received all those awards and nominations.
Apart from the hype game Pokemon Go there was another disturbance in the Force: J.K. Rowling released the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play she supposedly wrote [people are having doubts]. I know there is better fan fiction out there. Here is my short review of the book on my Goodreads account:
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I understand this is a play, which is good because another book might not have worked.
That being said, I was extremely disappointed with the flat story line and especially flat characters like for example (view spoiler)[Ron (hide spoiler)].
Surely, if Rowling wants to go the fan-fiction direction, she should be able to find better story writers. It lacks the magic of Harry Potter and that is very unfortunate given that this is a HP styled ‘sequel’.
So, is there anything good left in our precious Potterverse? The answer is yes. In Autumn we can look forward to a new movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, set in America this time. However, there is even better news. There was a Harry Potter exhibition in Brussels and we went there of course. It was really close to Belgium’s Eiffel tower – the Atomium.
It was not an easy ride — seriously, how hard can it be to mark the way to your parking spots, or announce that one exit of the highway is closed off (I almost had a second car crash) — but we made it. And I got sorted. The animator who did the sorting ceremony thought I would choose the despicable Slytherin (Dutch: Zwadderich, Chinese: Shilaizhelin 史萊哲林) because I was wearing green, but how wrong that Hufflepuff (Dutch: Huffelpuf, Chinese: Hefupafu 赫夫帕夫) woman was. Instead of the popular choice of children, Gryffindor (Dutch: Griffoendor, Chinese: Gelaifenduo 葛來分多), I was chosen [secret: you get to choose yourself] to be in Ravenclaw (Dutch: Ravenklauw, Chinese: Leiwenkelao 雷文克勞), the best house of course. Testimonials to its greatness can be found here, here and here. By the way, I feel the translation of Dutch has been done really well, at least better than for instance the Chinese trans(liter)ation. The Dutch translator really went the extra mile to translate all names with a Dutch speaking target audience in mind while the Chinese just kind of took the easy road.
Note to future translators in Chinese should they be reading this: we want sound AND meaning based translations, not that “I can make you a tattoo in Chinese with this conversion chart” Chinese transliteration. Best practices include kekou kele 可口可樂 ‘Coca Cola < (lit.) tasty and fun’, naike 耐克 ‘Nike < enduring and persevering’, baoma 寶馬 ‘BMW < precious horse’. Bad practices are for instance: kendeji 肯德基 ‘KFC < agree to a virtuous base [or some gibberish like that]’ which could have been kendeji 啃得雞 ‘KFC < nibbling on the chicken that you got [like, literally having an eating verb and chicken its name] or xili 喜力 ‘Heineken < happiness and strength’ for which huang niao 黃尿 ‘Heineken < yellow pee’ would have been a better choice.
Okay, after that nice sorting ceremony you are led past the Hogwarts Express to the main exhibition hall. It is filled to the brim with costumes, artifacts and all other wondrous things of the Potterverse. Below (and above I guess) you can see some pictures of the exhibition. At the end, however, they did the mischievous ‘you have to go through the store to exit’ scam. I don’t want to sound cheap but 40 euros for a plastic wand of middlefinger size is a bit much no? Or 96 euros for a not-so-fitting black Hogwarts school uniform? Still, we felt like we couldn’t leave empty handed so we bought some candy (like 10 euros), a Dobby mug because “Dobby is a free elf” (15 euros) and I also bought a Ravenclaw scarf for, you know, when it gets cold on the tropical island of Taiwan.
The last two to three weeks were filled with goodbyes, first and foremost from my paternal grandfather; second and almost foremost from all my friends and family. It all went by so quickly and I want to thank everyone for the nice moments we had. I will miss you again, but then again, I’m only half a day away, so please come visit mee too. To use the words of Mr. Mayor, a major character in the children’s soap Samson and Gert — a show about a now middle-aged man who has a talking dog, a gay hairdresser, a 40-year old man living with his mother, a Belgian fries vendor and a mayor whose main job is putting miniature planes together while his meddling assistent messes up most tasks:
Aan allen die gekomen zijn, proficiat! Aan allen die niet gekomen zijn, ook proficiat! (Congratulations to those who came! Furthermore, also congratulations to those who didn’t.)
I’m sure that I will have a chance to meet the ones I didn’t get around to see this time again in the future. Anyway, here are two goodbye pictures.
After this it was time to take the plane back to Taiwan. I was ‘waved out’ by my dear friend Lai Man and then I just took the plane like it was a busride. Things went so much smoother this time ( instead of last time when I was travelling for 30 hours). My phone remembered the internet in Beijing, I managed not to go into China this time but stay inside the airport — should you be travelling through Beijing, they hide the transit gate very well, but know that it is there! And I even got to see this city from above. Bonus points for whoever can tell me which city it is [comment here or on facebook!].
Back in Taipei
So now I’ve been back in Taiwan for about a month. I didn’t really have a lot of super exciting adventures, but just, you know, got home to where I live. The first few weeks I had a lot of administrative shizzle to handle, so I didn’t really get the feeling of arriving somewhere new [ basic white girls, insert #wanderlust here] in the same way I did last year. In fact, even though I was here, I still kind of felt not here. It was a very strange feeling and it made me think of the Dutch author Harry Mulisch of all authors. We had to read two of his books in high school: De aanslag ‘The Assault’ and Het stenen bruidsbed ‘The Stone Bridal Bed’. I don’t remember a lot these books, except that (post-)war literature is not my cup of tea. However, two things will remain with me until my last breath, both from the second book.
Should anyone (I’m looking at you Mr. Markske, our Dutch language teacher) ever ask you what the colour the whisperings are, the answer is green. Don’t make the mistake of answering red, which I thought was a nice symbolic colour for war, but no, it was green, because of the marshlands near the German city of Dresden (apparently).
The second anecdote is a bit nicer and consists of a quote that really matched my feelings these first weeks here:
“De ziel gaat te paard”, denkt Corinth. (“The soul travels by horse”, Corinth muses.)
I think this is a really nice expression. Taking the flying machine back to Taiwan really felt like a series of actions devoid of emotions (very unlike last year when I had mixed feelings; I had been given a small book with nice things written by friends that really displays their friendship). My soul didn’t catch my plane. Either it got delayed, or it went by boat, horse, bike, maybe on foot. I don’t know. But as sad as this may seem, do not despair, ye reader, for it has arrived. I’m back in Taipei and back on track. As a concluding image I can show our ever expanding linguistics family picture (which doesn’t even feature all of the people affiliated to my department!). You can see that the amount of foreigners has increased dramatically — well, you can see an increase of 100%, but in fact we’re skyrocketing here with soaring figures of 600% or so (given a 95% confidence interval). So bring it on this semester! As the Koreans for some obscure reason would say, ‘Fighting!’.