This one, I’ll admit, was a grower. Not so much a grower as a complete transformation from an object of hatred to one of those parts of life which makes you unwittingly crack a smile and lets you know life’s okay and the world’s still turning.
On my arrival in Taichung I was disheveled to say the least. The previous few months had seen me sleeping in five countries across three continents and all I wanted was to find somewhere to rest my head and cal home for longer than a few weeks. Sleep was high on the agenda. It was then with great ire that I discovered the Taiwanese penchant for celebrating every remotely significant occasion with the discharge of a small army’s worth of firecrackers, usually at the crack of dawn and accompanied by pounding drums and clanging cymbals. For weeks these parades were my nemesis, invading my sleep and disrupting the few precious hours of relaxation between work and lesson planning.
Things have changed though. Work has settled down, I’ve settled in and minor annoyances have faded into the background as I alternate between the comfort of routine and the joy of discovery in a new country. Yesterday morning I heard the familiar clanging and screeching approach from a distance and felt, instead of irritation, something akin to a sense of belonging, a closeness with my new home. As the tumult reached a crescendo, signalling that it must be passing my way, I stepped onto the balcony with guitar in hand to watch the brightly costumed parade celebrating whichever of the multitudinous Taoist gods they were seeking favour from.
Cymbals crashed and rums were hammered. Piles of firecrackers were placed in the middle of the road and detonated every few seconds, deafening even at my safe height. Battalions of hidden bottle rockets erupted from these pigpiles, many cracking open at my eye level just metres away, miniature flak bursts right in front of me. I smiled and happily strummed the guitar.