Sunday, January 29, 2006

Fire in the year of the dog; emergency 119; balding rain

The new year, the year of the dog, has officially begun. The year of the chicken is over. If you bear a child in this new lunar year, you can expect him/her to act like a dog. . . well, ok, I exaggerate, perhaps. The book I looked at mentioned honest and loyal, and keeps secrets well. Loyal - that's what I think of as a dog characteristic. And most dogs I know keep secrets very well, at least none have told me any. . . If you were born after Chinese new year in the years 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, or 1994, you're a dog. . . This is because, as many of you know, the Chinese zodiac system is a 12 year system.

(For the curious, after dog comes pig, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, and then chicken.)

Sometime around 10:30pm or so, someone rang my door, and, upon seeing me switched from Chinese to English and warned me that there was smoke coming out of the apartment across from me, and that they'd already called "911." Sure enough, I don't know if a minute had even passed by the time a (small) emergency vehicle, with siren howling showed up in front of the door, and some guys came in. I don't really know what they did. They seemed to have a conference in the hallway, and later, another. I'm not sure if they tried various ways of getting into the apartment or what, but I decided to get dressed into running clothes, in case I had to make a quick exit - might as well go for a run. . . Before I headed out, the door across the hall was open, and things seemed to be settled. I didn't see any big plumes of smoke or flames of fire, so I supposed that the quick exit would not be necessary. The "911" phrase kept running in my head, though. I thought that it was quite interesting. 911 is NOT the emergency number, here. 119 is. All that I can think is that the woman who told me this wanted to convey that emergency number had been called, so she translated it to 911 for me. .

I finally ventured out at 11:30pm for a run. The 3 temples that I passed before midnight were all open for business, although only one of them had people in it. One of them was very well stocked with the paper money ready to be bought to be burned in hopes of good fortune. I ran along the river during the midnight hour and was treated to a rather continuous display of fireworks. One place in particular seemed quite well stocked. Not only are they rather nice to look at, but they're also supposed to have the practical purpose of scaring away the evil spirits. One store I ran by had someone firing off an amazing sparkling, noisy firework candle thingie - right on the sidewalk, so about 2 feet max from the front of the building, and a foot away from the scooters parked in front. I started imagining scooters exploding, and backed farther away. Since the houses all are made of cement with metal doors, I guess that fires aren't such a fear, but it still freaks me out. Another store had someone throwing in the paper bought from the temple into the little burning container in front of his house or store, which resulted in a roaring fire, again, just about a foot or two in front of the door. The container looks like:

This particular one was just inside the front door of my apartment building. There is another one near the door on the roof of the apartment building. These containers are used very often - at least twice a month.

I did pass a couple of apartments where it was clear that there was a big gathering, but not so many - possibly due to the great exodus from Taipei, although I couldn't tell much other evidence of that. I'll see what the traffic looks like on Monday.

I returned soaking wet, due to the rain. Which reminds me, did you know that rain on your head can make you bald? Well, that is the theory, here. I don't know if it is a new idea, due to acid rain, or a long held belief, but I was reminded of it when I saw a man with a tiny square handkerchief covering his head on my run. I was thinking that that makes a poor umbrella, but then I remembered the warning I'd been given by others when I've gone hatless in the rain. . .

Keep dry, be safe (wear round jade things to be protected), and may you have a healthy and prosperous year of the dog!!!


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