Today’s update is the first part of a double post that aims at filling you in with some details of my life here. This part is the more pictoral part. The second part about conferences is more academic. As always, comments are welcome on all kinds of platforms.
Where were we?
Where were we again since last time? Ah yes, I was visited by friends from Japan. Well, lots of things have happened in between then and now. I received my grades — yes, everything passed well!
I also started a new semester. This time I took three courses:
The seminar course of my supervisor Lu Chiarung, like I did last semester. This one is kind of mandatory but also very interesting, because it’s in this course that I can develop my research most profoundly.
A course on how language relates to culture. This I took because this is of course a very interesting relationship to further explore and I was also very curious to see what my wonderful classmates had to say about how they experienced the themes we touched on.
Fieldwork. In this class the teacher (Song Li-May) focuses on an aborigine language of Taiwan. The largest language family, in terms of different languages, on Earth is that of the Austronesian languages - spanning from Taiwan to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and even to Hawaii. It turns out that these originated mostly from Taiwan. So, the language we are focusing (pun intended for those linguists among you who have dealt with Austronesian languages) on is Bunun. But the news about that course will be for a future update, this was just a trailer.
The most fun that happened in March was a trip to Taizhong 台中, one of the major cities in Taiwan. It was kind of organised by my dear Spanish friend Guillermo, whose grandmother is Dothraki “because the Dothraki scenes in Game of Thrones are filmed in his region, Navarra in (e)Spain. Anyway, I come along really well with him and he is kind of my best foreign friend here. To get an idea of how crazy he can be, guess who is dancing in this costume:
So, he is a budding architect and was a finalist of a competition for the design of a small local temple. In the end he didn’t win, even though I think he had the best concept: since it was a very local temple, he wanted the people to come together and transform the temple into some sort of community centre. Central to his design was the concept of growing plants like bamboo that would grow and be cut with the rythm of the traditional celebrations in the lunar calendar. From a sinological point-of-view, my only question was about the intercalary months, those perky months that are sometimes thrown to align the lunar and the solar calendar every so often. I’ll show you a few pics of his concept and the design.
Now, if we’re talking about the look of the temple, I felt that the three finalists did deserve to win. As a tourist and a layman theirs was a grander design and I think I would want to visit those kind of temples. Here are three final designs; let me know which one you think should have won.
Continuing our architecturally inspired trip of Taizhong — this perspective of visiting a place was very fresh and intresting to me — we went to Tunghai University 東海大學, apparently the first private and second oldest university in Taiwan. It houses the Luce Memorial Chapel, a wonder of architecture designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei 貝聿銘. Now, before you scroll down to the pictures of the chapel with me in front of them “pics or it didn’t happen”, remember that this guy grew up in my dearest Suzhou, where I studied a year abroad (check, like, my whole blog in 2012-2013) and he thought the Lion Garden 獅子林 was an ideal playground. Why oh why didn’t I get to play around in that garden when I was younger?? Anyway, famous places designed by mr. Pei include lesser known (well, to me) American projects, the museum of Suzhou, the well known Bank of China tower in Hong Kong and and and, the great pyramid of the Louvre. Don’t call Pei 貝 a Mo 莫 (‘nobody’, haha, stupid joke, referring to Mo Yan the Nobel Prize Winner). Anyhow, here is the beautiful chapel:
And the most colourful thing we visited in Taizhong was this small Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村. Defying the authorities who were keen on relocating people for building projects, this old Papa Rainbow decided to just paint every land and building he owned, in order to attract visitors and hopefully keep the village the way it was — well, the colourful way it had become. I this case, pictures do say more than words, so let’s hear it for the pictures!
And the end of March my dear Belgian-Taiwanese friend Hsuan came, as he he used to do in Belgium, to visit me because he moved back to Taiwan. Here he is looking like a soldier.
Now comes a really nice part, and a very sad part at the end.
I went back home in the beginning of April, because there were many celebrations to be done, as every year. First I had my birthday. This year I was in the air when that happened, but don’t worry, I had leg space and the good service of Emirates. Prior to that, I had a mini celebration in Taipei with my long time friend Snow, some of my classmates, and my friend Lucio.
So, back home I of course had a nice birthday dinner. First with my mom, and later that week I had cheese and wine night with my ex-classmates of Sinology, and later with my dad:
Then of course there were other reunions that had to be done. I was brought together again (those who didn’t notice, this is the title of this update) not only with my ex-classmates, but also with my super good friends from high school and beyond (it’s a shame that I don’t have a picture of this :( ) as well as my friends from my student organisation that had their annual election week and I got to participate in some activities.
Then there was of course my dad’s birthday (Happy birthday dad!) and my grandfathers’s birthday who became 80 years old this year (hurray!), so those were of course also very joyous occasions.
And that about concludes most of the time spent in Belgium. I was really happy to see everyone again and realized that I do kind of miss them in Taiwan, but thinking of them always makes me happy. I have good friends and good family. This high note is now followed by a sad part.
The saddest part about going home this year was I had to say good-bye to my dear dog Jack, who was by my side for 16.5 years and like a real family member. I have thought long and hard about writing whether I should write about him or not on this blog, but I wish to remember this moment and share it with you. I wil just write the eulogy I wrote on facebook — thanks for all the support by the way.
> > My dearest Jack, > > > > For over 16 years — 2 thirds of my life — you have been there for me. And there are no words good enough to express my sorrow. When I got that call that I didn’t want to get tonight, I wasn’t ready to let you go. Just four more days and I could have petted you one day more; watch your tail wag left and right for hours and just take comfort in knowing that you were sleeping comfortably, lying there on your red blanket enjoying those shallow Belgian sunbeams. > > > > After an episode tonight I got that call and with tears in my eyes I realized it was time to let you go, on to that eternal slumber. You were the smartest dog I could ever imagine and were like a sibling I never had. And whilst I type this eulogy, I can’t seem to choose ‘my best moment’ with you. All the moments I spent with you flash before my eyes as the words appear on my screen. I remember choosing a dog with that quaint dot on his back and taking him home a few weeks later, a pocket size dog that didn’t know what was happening to him. Getting out of the car, I discovered that you had wet yourself on my lap because of this traumatizing experience. > > > > But you recovered, you adapted and you became used to your life with us. I admire how quickly you learnt certain things and I remember fondly how you liked to play with footballs and kangaroo balls and trampolines. Or those times that you were flying around the room jumping on all the furniture because that was what you did when playing. When you dug a hole in the couch, when you learnt how to beg for food, when you found yourself in a new house for the first time and finally learnt how to climb stairs — your life would never be the same again. When you discussed presumably very intersting dog topics with neighbour dogs, when you only cared to bark at other dogs that were at least four times as big as you, when you were selective in whose cookies you accepted, when you attacked the biggest threat to your life – the vaccuum cleaner – when you greeted me for so long after I went away for longer periods of time, when you wouldn’t leave my side after I came from China; when... so many whens. > > > > It all happened and is happening again right at this moment. You made a lasting impression on my life by enriching it in too many ways. I remember you slowly going blind but not giving up, I remember you losing weight these last weeks; so much that it slowly sank in that it was time to let you go. I remember you being there for me whenever I needed it, except for that one time that I got that unfortunate call today and you weren’t. > > > > And as sung by Annie Lennox: “Lay down, your sweet and weary head; night is falling, you have come to journey’s end.” Sleep now, my dearest Jack, you have deserved your rest. I will remember you for the rest of my life and even longer. Solum requiescas in pacem. > > > > Your Thomas > > > > ~~Jack Van Hoey ~~ 9 November 1999 – 1 April 2016 ~~ > >
Anyway, let’s all hope he’s in a better place now. A sad song referenced to above to end this update. Thank you patient reader.