Although you might not be aware of this fact, in Taiwan it is not the year of 2018. It is the year of 107. Why 107 you might ask? Because Taiwan has been quasi recognized as an independent country for 107 years. If you subtract 107 from 2018, you arrive at the Revolution of 1911, a tumultuous time in Chinese and Taiwanese history. On October 10, 1911, the Wuchang uprising began the a string of battles that resulted in Taiwan’s independence. Today in Taiwan, people celebrate the National Independence day 雙十（double 10) on October 10th.
Taiwanese history is very long and complicated and I will stop now before I say something incorrect or something that upsets the delicate political balance that exists today in Taiwan (if I have not done so already that is) but it is safe to say that October 10th is an exciting day to be in Taiwan. Because of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit Hualien last February, Taiwan decided to host the national Taiwan fireworks show right here in Hualien in hopes of bringing more tourism revenue into the city. This was a huge deal and the city has been buzzing with excitement since this announcement.
Earlier this year, the president of Fulbright announced that a select few representatives of Fulbright would have the opportunity to go to the President’s personal 雙十 party. The ETAs had drawn straws to see who would be invited and I drew the lucky straw! Unfortunately Fulbright accidentally invited too many people and a few weeks later I found out I was disinvited. At least I can say for a short time I was invited to one of Taiwan’s biggest parties of the year! Overall I was happy to have the chance to stay in Hualien for the National fireworks show.
To make things even more exciting, I learned 雙十 was also going to be my school’s 運動會 or sports day! I envisioned my elementary and middle school field days and excitedly pictured running around the track racing my students and wearing funny shirts. Although my friends and roommate all had the day off from school, I was happy to hang out with my students and besides I got the next day off instead! On October 10th, I began my daily commute the same as always. I woke up, chowwed some cereal, walked to the train station, got on my train, walked to my bike, and began the two mile bike ride to school. However, As I approached my school I wondered if I had somehow taken a wrong turn. This couldn’t be it, there were cars parked for miles and giant inflatable arch, and food vendors, and people approaching from all directions. My student’s parents were all there! I panicked and took a second look. Nope, this was it. I was not mentally prepared for this and tried my best to sneak in. I arrived and found two hats and two shirts on my desk. One was bright yellow and said Fu Si on the outside which was awkwardly spelled incorrectly. I quickly put it on and went out to the track to see what all the commotion was.
I was fascinated by the amount of energy and resources my school put into sports day. My students had been preparing a song and dance routine for two months and each grade prepared a flag and and a small chant. I thought, wow how cute! Then apon closer examination I realized the signs they were carrying said things like “Don’t drink and drive!” and “Brush your teeth!” A personal favorite of mine was the fifth grade chant. One of my fifth graders stumbled along, struggling to drag something across the track. I quickly realized he was carrying a giant inflatable cigarette!
After they parade, the games and dancing began. All of the students lined up to compete in races. Competitions were organized by grade and gender. All of the events were centered around running with some added activities like jump rope or hackysack. The final student event was a massive relay race in which the students divided into two teams and created two stations on either side of the track. Every student participated by running the baton halfway around the track. I cheered on the students from the sidelines.
After student events, the adult games began. They had races divided by age group adults all the way up to 80+ years participated! There was a division designated for wheelchairs and even one for golf carts as well! It was hilarious. After they competed, both adults and students headed to the prize table. All of the prizes were household items like toilet paper, soap, soy sauce, cooking oil, and rice. As I headed back to the train at the end of the day, I gathered up my belongings. One of my staff members told me to hang on a second and took me to the auditorium. She proudly pointed at a box. “It’s for you!” I tried to give it away but in the end wound up teetering home on my bike trying to balance a gall of soy sauce in the teeny tiny basket on my bike.
Once I got home it was time to begin the 雙十 festivities. I rode my bike to Meilun where I met my friend Isabel. Together we met up with some of her coteachers and arranged a picnic on the roof of her elementary school that overlooks the harbor. The show was fantastic! It lasted 36 minutes and was the biggest fireworks event I’ve ever seen.
The next two days I had off from school so the fireworks were the start to a blissful and relaxing rainy weekend. Happy Birthday Taiwan, I sure am lucky to have the chance to celebrate with ya here in Hualien!
Your fireworks picture looks just like the poster!!!