On the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which was on September 22 this year, we got to learn about one of the biggest festivals of the year here in Taiwan (a long-time Chinese one actually) which was on a weekday, so Kelly and Christopher had the day off from work and school. We attended a family potluck event at our church at noon and enjoyed our first Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival. An essential part of this holiday is moon cakes, not to be confused with Moon Pies from the United States. Apparently, people give this delicacy as a treat to others to celebrate. I never did try any, because I'm kind of a chicken at tasting new things since I got here. I know, I know, I'll eventually broaden my horizons, and soak in the culture, and all that. I'm taking baby steps, so please cut me some slack.The problem is I don't ever know what I'm going to bite into and have been surprised by some textures and fillings. For example, moon cakes are often filled with egg yolks to look like the moon, but the cake part is sweet, so the mixture of those two flavors kind of throws my taste buds off somehow. Anyway, let's get back to the ward activity at our church that we attended. First, here's an image of the center of a fancy moon cake.
Since the shipping container of my kitchen tools is somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between Los Angeles and Taipei, I had to be resourceful as to what to take to the potluck. Activities where I'm supposed to bring food are my favorite, and I would never want to show up with a bag of chips or something boring. How could I come up with an entrée or appetizer that I thought might be edible to my new Taiwanese friends? Would they look reluctantly at my concoction the way I look at moon cakes, with skepticism and uncertainty? It was challenging to come up with an idea, especially considering I had practically nothing to prepare it with. Luckily when I went back to Texas, I realized that I had not shipped my Easy Accent Decorator when the movers came, so I brought a spare one back with me. It was kind of a gamble, but I decided to make the kid-friendly recipe of Ants on a Log, or celery sticks with peanut butter, and instead of raisins as the ants, I used grapes. Since eggs seem to be popular, I whipped up a classic American egg salad, then spread some on toasted bread, which I had cut into small square pieces. I got plenty of compliments on the celery sticks, but only got positive reviews from my American friend, Rachel, on the sandwich bites. Everything I brought got eaten quickly, so perhaps people liked it, but I don't really know. Communicating here is often a barrier for me.
The lunch at the potluck was really good, mainly Chinese food, and there was plenty of it. I should have gotten a picture of everything, but I didn't remember soon enough. We played a few games and did an activity where one person had to stand in the middle of a circle of others, with arms folded and eyes closed and feet planted firmly on the ground, then lean backwards or forwards or sideways as the group would toss the person in the middle in another direction. Obviously this was an exercise where we had to place our trust in others. Christopher was the first person to go, then we formed small groups to continue.
There was a chance for people to sing or to tell a joke, and one guy played the harmonica. He played the longest version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star I've ever heard, but was having a lot of fun doing it. Later his wife and daughter sang as he accompanied them.
Kelly was brave enough to tell a joke, the one joke in Chinese that he knows. Everyone laughed, so he must have done a good job. Either that or they were laughing at his accent. As you can see, members of our church have really embraced us and have gone out of their way to really make us feel welcome, and I'm so thankful to be among them.
The following week after the Moon Festival, I had my first visitors at our apartment. My two sweet visiting teachers, Demi and Charlotte, and three other women came to see me and it was wonderful to have some company.
Demi brought us some fruit that she said is traditional to have during the Moon Festival. It's similar to grapefruit and apparently only grows in this region. In English, it's called a pomelo and in Mandarin, it's called yodzeh. It's almost pear-shaped and has a really thick skin with big seeds and tastes sweet and citrus-like. It was really good. Demi also taught me how to cut it and said that they often make a little hat for the kids to wear with it, so I saved the organic hat for when Christopher got home from school.