It’s 2017! Whoo! That’s also why this post is late, so I shouldn’t get too excited. (Note: photos will be added at a later time)
New Year’s Eve began with another day of rehearsal. We rearranged the chairs so that we were in the same formation we normally use back at Harvard, and that helped everyone settle into our normal rehearsal routine. We learned the pronunciation to the Japanese and Korean songs we’re performing with Gunsan and at Koriyama, and spent some more time on “Ave Maria.” When we broke for lunch, I went to a restaurant that made dishes such as “Dawn Intestinal Wang” and “Exploding Onion Beef,” but also bite-size versions of almost every Chinese dish my family eats. Ma po tofu, scrambled egg and stewed tomato, xiaolongbao, kung pao chicken, sugar pea greens, cha siu bao, and, of course, white rice. I also grabbed a matcha ice slush on my way back to rehearsal.
During the second half of rehearsal, we sang through our concert set list. As we went along, I was impressed with how good we sounded (thanks in part to the live acoustic of the rehearsal space), but also surprised by how much music we had learned by this point in the semester. In addition to our Princeton and Yale concert set list, we had three songs from our winter concert and four songs from previous years’ repertoire. I missed a few notes, cut off too late and came in too early, and tripped over a lyric or two, but on the whole, I felt pretty good about where we were two days before our first concert. On the walk back to our hotel, some of the guys broke out into song, which was a good sign of their enthusiasm, even though I felt a bit embarrassed.
For New Year’s Eve dinner, I went out with two other Glee Club singers to a Szechuan restaurant, where I discovered another Wu family favorite, Apple Cidra! I had never seen this much apple cidra in one container, so I drank the sparkling apple juice with the joy of a kid holding a double scoop ice cream cone. The dishes were completely tasty, but not much different than what I would get at a restaurant in the Bay Area. We had some pork with hot chile sauce, chicken with pepper sauce, fried green beans, and prawns and snap peas. However, when the last dish came out, chow mein with vegetables, I was immediately reminded of my grandmother’s cooking. It was the spitting image of the noodles she prepares for us whenever she visits, or whenever we visit her, and tasted just the same. Eating it in Taipei reminded me of how far she had traveled from home, and what it means to be able to prepare the food of one’s home country in a tiny town in New Jersey.
After dinner, we met up with some more Glee Club members at a nightmarket, and took the subway (that magnificent public work) to Taipei 101 to await the fireworks. After wandering about trying to find various friends, we ended up on the fringe of the concert area, packed into a street which was standing-room only. However, for the number of people there, the evening was incredibly quiet. I didn’t feel much of a sense of anticipation from any of the people around be besides my fellow singers, but everyone was looking at the skyscraper. On the building, laser lights welcomed the world to Taiwan and when the time came, counted down the 10 seconds to midnight. As I tried to chant along with them in my rudimentary Mandarin, I finally felt a surge of energy, and people cheered as the first fireworks shot from the tiers of Taipei 101. We sang “Auld Lang Syne” and enjoyed the orchestral soundtrack to the fireworks show, before slowly making our way back to the hotel.
Of course, it takes a long time for such a crowd to disperse, so by the time we got to a subway station and made it back to the hotel, it was 2:00 AM. Two hours into the new year, I finally fell asleep.