Sunday, February 3, 2013 – Day 5
Today my dad has fulfilled one of two main reasons for his trip to Taiwan. The first one is in progress – spending time with my grandmother. The second reason was to visit my grandfather’s resting place.
We headed out to visit my grandfather’s resting place in a Buddhist columbarium about an hour away from Kaohsiung City in Guanyin Shan. A columbarium is a building that holds cinerary urns in this these locker slots, called niches. This is a beautiful building lined with rows upon rows of bronze niches. Hundreds of these gold colored niches rest inside an air-conditioned building with full-time staff, meditative melodies playing over the building speakers, lit by bright lighting, and lit incense from visitors throughout. At first I wasn’t sure if taking photos would be appropriate but as soon as we got there my dad suggested I take photos of the outside of the establishment. Everyone seemed happy to be in the picture so I took that as a “OK.”
I’ve never been to this type of “cemetery.” I prefer this type of resting place for a loved one, it seems a lot more inviting and comfortable than a cemetery. Outside the columbarium were multiple canopies connected with tables laid out where you could grab offerings for your loved one.
There was also a huge incense burner at the foot of the stairs to the columbarium’s entrance. Each visitor burns three incense sticks and bows three times before entering the building to pay your respects to your loved one. I would imagine you are also paying your respects to Buddha and anyone whose cinerary remains are stored in the columbarium. Apparently you are supposed to start at the stairs with your right foot first and exit with your left foot last.
Once inside the columbarium, you suck on a piece of candy. My dad said that the candy is sort of a cleanser – so you are sweet when you are visiting those that have passed on. I also read online that it is to wash away any bitterness. Funny thing is that my piece of candy lasted exactly to the point of me setting my foot on the last step of the building as we were exiting. What a strange coincidence.
After we all had one piece of candy in our mouths, we headed to the third floor. My grandfather’s assigned number at this building is 3AD1333, good numbers according to my dad. An attendant was called and he opened the locker. Inside the locker there was a black urn with my grandfather’s photo leaning in front of it. We all bowed to my grandfather and silently talked to him.
To the left of my grandfather, there is an empty niche with red paper engraved with gold letters with my grandma’s name. That is my grandma’s future resting spot – back with her husband to be reunited.
It is such a sad and complex emotion that starts from the pit of my stomach to my throat to think that my grandma has already prepared for this. It is amazing how it is my first time ever meeting my dad’s side of the family, but I have a special place for them in my heart already, regardless of how little we know each other. Especially my grandmother, because she is the most important to my dad and after sharing a few days with her, I really enjoy her vitality, stubbornness, sense of humor, and her cautious and caring personality. She is a special person indeed.
The past five days have been amazing and I’ve felt cared for. I feel like my dad’s side of the family has received me with open arms. But I can’t help but wonder if I would have been treated the same if my dad wasn’t here – obviously it would be different. But what I mean is, would they still show acceptance towards me? Or would I be completely ignored and treated like a total stranger?
Anyway, enough about my never-ending self doubt. The day took a 180 degree turn after visiting my grandfather.
First, we stopped by this ghetto street restaurant to eat and they had bombdiggity steamed chicken, buttery rice noodles, and cabbage and spinach sauteed with TONS of garlic. It was so good. The restaurant provides these plastic gloves so that you don’t get your hands dirty and all the plates are covered in plastic bags for food to be placed on top. Very ingenious. The chicken is cooked in this huge metal vase, at least three fit high. Made me appreciate the food even more because it really is that fresh.
Then after resting back at home, my grandma, youngest aunt, her husband, and Manny headed to Xiziwan Seaside Park! After finally finding a parking spot, we got this rental bike that fit all of us and was powered by a small engine. It was so much fun! We went around and around and made stops here and there. Fun place to visit with many photo ops.
Here is a video clip of the beginning of our little self-guided tour in the bike and a video of Manny riding on the narrow foot of the bike. Poor Manny, he was so uncomfortable lol
At Xiziwan, we had a Taiwanese version of the hot dog – sticky rice as bun and a Taiwanese sausage instead of a hot dog topped with sauteed ginger and garlic instead of ketchup and mustard. Then, as soon as my dad saw the squid vendor, he pretty much ran to get us all roasted squid with spices. Not my favorite but my dad loves it. Then we made a few other stops here and there and it was just such a wholesome and relaxing outing.
It is nice to see my dad spend time with my aunts, uncle, and grandma. It’s nice to see him happy and relaxed, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like this. I asked him if he would ever retire in Taiwan and without hesitating, he said no. He is too used to El Salvador and he likes it over there. That, and he has my two little brothers and his wife of course. But I thought if he had once considered it, then he would have reacted with a little hesitation. Now I know that it is not something he has even considered.
PS: I am behind a day – busy day yesterday. Will post about Hot Springs in Zheibi tomorrow!!
PPS: The sweetest cousin I’ve met, Pon Pon (don’t know how to spell his name) came by to say hello at night. He’s super tall and I’m so short lol so he bent his knees for the picture. Say hello!