Thursday, February 14, 2008
The sand dance is an Eastern Taiwanese Tribal rite dating back to 5 billion B.C. when man discovered political persuasion. It was found that human beings, once assimilated into societal groups, could be driven as a single entity when moved upon by the power of one orator. One could manipulate the movements of a whole society by mere suggestion. The only difference between the one and the mass was instigation, the voice of opinion, the sound of reason. You could move mountains by saying something to a herd, regardless of merit. "Someone said food, and I come running." "Someone said fun, and I come running." "Someone said dance on the beach like an idiot, I come running." Billions of years later, a group of Taiwanese aborigine wannabes, in which I find myself included, decide to revive the dance on the basis of the same timeless motivation: someone suggested it. Someone said, "Hey Joseph and Tammy, we're on the beach! How about you do some neat frolicking moves for the camera?" Don't ask me why the fact we're at the beach has any power to force Tammy and I into karate-kick formation, it just does. They didn't know 5 billion years ago and they don't know now. They also don't know why once the idea has been voiced and carried out by a second and maybe third party, every establishment inside the unique human being that defames lemming-like behavior, crumbles and makes way for the stampede. And there's no way of stopping it once it starts. Every member of the group wants to dance like an idiot because, "hey, we're on the beach!" Go ahead, check the blogs of the other group members. I'm sure they have pictures of their totally wicked awesome sand dance routine as well. We all did it. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
More names and dates, they say. Less philosophy. So here's what you want: The other Berhan teachers and I spent Chinese New year in Hualian, a nice beach town on the east coast of Taiwan. The first day we rode five hours standing up on a packed passenger train until liberated in Hualian. We checked into our hostel, checked the local cuisine and checked the activities that would seek our involvement over the next four days. Toroko Gorge would require the first full day, riding scooters down the coast would take the next, and hot springs would be the main course for the third. The last day would more or less be a repeat of the first--5 hours standing on a train headed back to Feng Yuan. My favorite part of the trip was the scooters. I will die riding into the sunset on one of those things. A few others had the same idea, only they tried the dying part earlier than I plan to. Turns out, sparks fly when the metal of a motor bike meets asphalt at high speeds. My other favorite part was soaking in hot water, the origins of which apparently reside deep in the earth along with unique minerals useful to fertile women hoping to birth a man child. My other favorite part was coming home each night to the hostel where the ten of us all bunked together and talked 'till the wee hours of the morning debating the rightful name-sake for the initials MJ. The first night Mary Jackson wouldn't admit that MJ was universally recognized to mean Michael Jackson before she was even born. Steve argued it a slight to Michael Jordan and to the entire empire of sports not to attribute the initials solely to him. And the second night Mary pretended she never really went by MJ in grade school like she so vehemently declared the night before, but that she'd always thought of Peter Parker's girl friend whenever she heard a reference to MJ. Emily Joy took the torch from Mary, though, in campaigning her own rights to the initials, claiming that MJ stands for the first syllable of her first name and first letter of her middle name. It seems people will go to great lengths to ride the coat tails of the true MJ. MJ always did, ever does, and ever will stand for Michael Jackson. My other favorite part of the trip was kiwi bingshaws and coconut pudding. Then we came home and I was happy.