A very good female Taiwanese friend, who is ethnically half Indigenous and half Chinese, over the years became like the younger sister that I never had.
She moved to a Nordic country more than a decade ago to pursue higher education, which in 2021 she successfully completed with a PhD. For the moment she will stay in Europe, where she fell in love with a local guy.
While she was still in Taiwan, we used to do a very fruitful and enjoyable Mandarin/Spanish language exchange. After she left, I missed her always positive attitude and great sense of humor.
So, I was surprised when at the beginning of this year I suddenly received a spontaneous invitation in quite acceptable Spanish to anindigenous wedding ceremony in Wulai.
The largest and most mountainous district in New Taipei City, it’s famous for its hot springs, gorgeous landscape and home to the Atayal people, also known as the Tayal and the Tayan, which number around 90,000.
The third-largest group makes up approximately 16% of Taiwan’s total indigenous population, which currently consists of 16 tribes officially recognized by the government.
Despite the rather abrupt notification, issued on the Signal app in the middle of the night roughly 48 hours before the event, I was extremely delighted.
Due to this sheer endless pandemic, we hadn’t seen each other for years. I also get along very well with her now husband and was looking forward to meeting them again in their natural environment, so to speak.
Therefore, although my girlfriend had to be in the office that Saturday to make up for a so-called “extra holiday” during Chinese New Year, and I would have to go alone, I didn’t hesitate long.
During the last two decades I have learned to hate the average wedding in Taiwan, usually a bad copy of its Western original, to the point that nowadays I refuse to attend any of those.
On the other hand, although it meant travelling out of town early in the morning, the perspective of participating in an unpretentious non-Chinese ceremony seemed very tempting.
On January 7th, 2023 I had to take two buses to get there, but as the trip went smoothly, I arrived in Wulai earlier than expected. Funnily enough, the more complicated leg turned out to be the route up the mountains, as despite a GPS the lady that picked me up and I got lost.
The bride even called us while we were still in the car, worried about our whereabouts and because the ceremonial was about to start. In the end we were a little late, though nobody seemed upset about that.
As due to diligent missionary work almost all indigenous people on the island are Christians, a female minister under what looked more like a canopy then a tent was the master of ceremony for the occasion.
The friend of the family asked for God’s blessing for the newly-wed, which had already gotten married before a justice of peace at their place of residence, and their future children.
She made it short and all the guests she invited to come forward and grab the microphone to say a few nice words about the couple also didn’t speak long, including myself.
Afterwards a lot of pictures were taken and of course there was some traditional dancing. The groom and I couldn’t be motivated to join as we both dance more like bears on a hot plate…
The cake and cookies were unexpectedly good! Then simple, tasty food was provided, to which everybody could help himself. I just would have inverted the order of serving…
Some visitors left even before lunch, because they had to go back to work. That’s why I got the impression that the chosen date wasn’t really thought through. Nevertheless, the parents might have had some special reasons.
As I stopped drinking in 2018, I kindly declined a glass of whiskey from a magnum bottle, which in the end was only one-third empty. This little party with approximately 30 attendees definitely wasn’t a binge!
After everybody who stayed for a bite had slowly filled up while enjoying a nice chat, in the early afternoon the same driver gave me a ride again, this time to the nearest MRT station.
There I somehow lost the person that was supposed to take the metro with me, for which I later apologized. Considering that I had to arrange my excursion at very short notice, I was very pleased with the outcome.