zaterdag 30 maart 2019

Lighthouse in Taiwan part 1

From “Lighthousekeeping” by Jeanette Winterson:

Pew, tell me a story.
What kind of story ?
This one.

From “The Aleph” by Paolo Coelho :

Once the seed has been put in the ground, there is, for about 5 years, nothing to see except a miniscule loot.
All growth happens underground, and a complex root structure is formed both vertically and horizontally.
At the end of the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo expands in high speed, until it reaches a height of 2 meters.

9th March 2018

Yaolo had targeted the Grand Palace in Taipei to sign his books for his Chinese readers.

This 530 rooms hotel was located on a hill crest in the north of the city and raised in Chinese-Imperial style, inspired by the architecture of Beijing’s Forbidden City.
The gigantic new wing, finished in 1973, holded the largest Chinese roof in the world.
In the ninety’s, it started to look outdated but after a fire of the original roof in 1995, the hotel was thoroughly renovated and restored to its original majestic state.

Yaolo was blacklisted in the People's Republic of China, because his books had strayed too far away from the Communist party doctrine.
In "Reflections of the Chinese Wall" he had extended the historical isolationism of the Chinese empire to the current internet blockades in the country.
In "Lost in Shanghai" the story described a failed contract negotiation between a European Business School and a Chinese university because of a "purging action" by the party.
“In Tao in Sichuan" the Tibetan minority raised its voice, at least it felt "not amused" within the Chinese Mega State.

"Anyway, I am in a Chinese province ", he had ironically replied when a journalist asked him why he had chosen Taiwan and not the Chinese mainland as a signage location.

The "sensitivity" related to Taiwan's position, could be brought back to the Chinese civil war, immediately after the Second World War, in which the nationalists, led by general Chiang Kai-shek, had lost from their previous ally Mao Zedong and his communist movement.
They had fled to Taiwan and, where initially the majority of Western countries led by America, had joined Chiang's camp, most countries had finally chosen communist eggs for their money.
Especially in Africa, the Chinese People's Republic linked infrastructure works and development aid to the non-recognition of Taiwan as an independent country.

Yaolo's preference for Taiwan was motivated not only by the inability to enter China but also because the country is one of the first East-Asian countries operating within a democratic system.

Tell me a story, Pew.
What story?
The story of how they met.

"Please write nicely?", an English-Chinese women voice liberated him from his political reflections.
She could have been 17 as well as 40, which for Asian women usually meant that their actual age fluctuated around the upper limit of your estimation spread.
She was not particularly small amid her fellow fans but within a European population average she would have been positioned at the bottom. In addition to her Asian epicanthus looks, she had a characteristic round face with green eyes and shiny black straight hair culminating in two frivolous earrings that enclosed her face with sparse make-up.
Her attitude and her voice were much more reserved than the somewhat compelling content of her tone.

"Why?" asked Yaolo.
"I'm a calligraphist", was the answer he received: “If such a wonderful book as Santiago is being signed with your stylized signature, then I have a masterpiece in my possession. "
Her eyes twinkled through his face as an expression of a force to which Yaolo could not resist.
His signature was not cold, when she had already disappeared in the fan-crew.

"She fits perfectly with the “grandeur” decor of this hotel ", he mused to himself while he was firing signatures to the Chinese, thoughtless and without any calligraphic ambitions.

During the press conference he unwittingly looked for the enchanting eyes of the Chinese girl but without any result.
For a while he thought he would undertake a quest in the mega hotel and the surrounding gardens offering a splendid view on the city, including Taipé Tower, dressed in a grey-white coat of clouds.

But at the same time he saw the nonsensicality of this attempt and it came to him that he attached more importance to this short encounter than it actually meant.

Perhaps his recent divorce had made him hypersensitive to every seeking female look in his direction, apart from the fact that of course every 59-year-old man goes on being attracted to the same type of girl as when he was 30.
Not to mention the fact that after several months of hermitship, immediately after his wife had left him, he had conceived a wild autographing tour around the world in order to try to find back his own legend, just as Coelo had explained to him in the Alchemist.

In the afternoon he visited Wulai, a town south of the great Taipei, where he went to a museum about the Atayal tribe, the dominant Aboriginal group in this area.

He was given a free guided tour by a local resident, especially covering the headhunting (literally / not “executive recruitment"...) and the specific tattoos.

The head chopping made him think of the disgusting practices of IS, but in the accompanying text, one tried to justify this by saying that it had originated from a animistic belief whereby  the opponent's head acted as a kind of medium for imploring for strength and protection.
The tattoos were made according to a particular ritual and could only be put to those who "deserved" it.
They were completely wiped out by modernization, except for one elderly woman who was still living in Wulai.

The first inhabitants of Taiwan -or “Island Formosa” (Beautiful Island) as The Portuguese called it in the 16th century- came 20 to 30,000 years ago, presumably from Malaysia and South China.

It is not clear whether they are linked to the current aboriginal population.

The oldest Chinese reference for the island "land of Yangzhou" dates from the 2nd century B.C.
In 239 A.D., the Kingdom of Wu sent 10,000 man to conquer Taiwan and in the early 15th century a eunuch of the Ming court discovered the island as an opportunity, but the Chinese Emperor slowed migration down.
Nevertheless, a substantial migration of people started from China, first the so-called Hakka, a persecuted group settling south of Taiwan, later immigrants from Fujian who called themselves "Benshengren" or "province people", thus wanting to distinguish themselves from the Hakka and the aboriginals, which they described as "strangers".

In the 16th century, the European colonials interfered, making the island a plaything of spheres of influence during centuries, rather than a well-organized autonomous state.

But apart from his prehistoric interests, it was mainly the warm water that had seduced him to this region. With its hundred hot springs, Taiwan had the largest concentration in the world and the healing mineral water was developed and cultivated especially during the Japanese occupation.

After the Second World War, once the Kuomintang had taken over the island, all things referring  to Japan were banned, and consequently many hot spring centers had fallen into decay or were given a vague destination ("brotheled").

At the end of the nineties, the hot springs were restored and became again fully part of the Taiwanese culture, to such extend that Yaolo gained no access at any resort because he had not pre-booked.

Finally and in a desperate effort, when he entered one of the last hot water hotels, his gaze was brutally interrupted by the eyes of the Chinese calligraphist who in the meantime had disappeared in his subconscious mind.
It turned out that also here, all public and private rooms were fully booked except one, which  presumably the girl had just confiscated.
But she was so much in awe of the Spanish writer that she immediately wanted to cede her conquest to him, a gesture he appreciated very much but something he could not accept from a handsome young Taiwanese with eyes like a shiny diamond.

Almost awfully synchronized, the man and the woman fell the hot intention growing within each other to rent the last hot spring room together.
"But we're going to do it neatly, aren’t we", anticipated Yaolo any possible orange flashing lights arising from the girl.
"I don't have a swimsuit with me", the girl replied, "but by using white towels I will keep the critical parts of my body covered and I’m asking you to do the same".

Moments later, this gave rise to a bizarre game of hide and seek, garments being exchanged for towels, and by inversions, twists and mumbling instructions, the vital sensitive parts remained invisible to each of them.
Fortunately, the water was warm enough to block his upcoming erection and while she initially contented herself with handling the warm water source with her lower legs, she gradually moved into the bath, while the towels on her body became wet but not translucent.

“What’s your name?", Yaolo wanted to know.
"柳曦月 Liou, Xi-Yue", sounded an unintelligible Chinese.
"What does your name mean?", the Spaniard tried, knowing that the Chinese could easily start philosophizing about it for an hour.
"Liou is my surname and stands for willow, let’s say weeping willow because it refers also to “departure”.
"I hope Xi-Yue sounds a little bit more optimistic."
"Yue stands for moon and Xi refers to the first sunlight after the night, while the Chinese word "hope" has about the same pronunciation."
"Hmm, a weeping willow, the moon in the night and then the first sunlight as a sign of hope... I'm impressed", muttered Yaolo.
"What do you think of the fact that Yao was a Chinese emperor, more than 2 millennia BC, and that in Spain all names end on" Olo", the writer anticipated smilingly her possible question in return.
She kept silent.
"Do you come here often?", Yaolo asked.
"It's good for my health", the Chinese replied.
"Would you be sick?", Yaolo tried jokingly.
"Yes, I'm a little sick", the girl replied seriously and for a moment it went icy silent.

Her gaze, which he had initially assessed as scanning and seducing, was now transformed into an uncertain, panicky search for respect for her somewhat too quick and delicate revelation.

"And why are you here?" she broke the uncomfortable emotional intensity that had stirred up the heat of the bubbling water a little more.
"I am a pilgrim looking for the right road after Monica, my wife, left our common path last year," replied Yaolo, thus exposing himself a little bit also.
"I can’t show you my breasts”, she suddenly sounded massively tempting: "but I really want to give you a tour of Taipei if you’d appreciate."
Yaolo rushed out of the pool to hide his erection, while chuckling annoyingly that he found it quite a nice idea.

The same evening, he was dropped by her at the favorite weekend spot for Taipé'ers : the port of Tamsui, terminus of the "MRT" (subway) and Tamsui River, and the Pacific Ocean starting-point.

From the 16th century onwards, this city had been the main point of contact between Chinese and foreign traders and was the most important port of Taiwan until the late 19th century.

The romantic seaside had lost its spell in the jet-black sky, barely lit by helpless dangling Christmas lights above wet poured empty benches.

Xi-Yue then tried to warm him up with a hot Chinese soup at one of the many stalls of the Shilin Yeshi Night Market, glued to one of the MRT stops on the way back to downtown Taipé.

And even the night market, which 100 years ago originated around a local temple, had to give up part of its charm in the drizzling rain, something that the Chinese tried to compensate for by letting the man's love go through the stomach.

10th March 2018

The next day she had decided to kill the persistent rain by visiting the Palace Museum in Taipé, with its 6000 works of art, a culmination of 5000 years of Chinese culture and creativity.

The museum opened in 1965 but the origin of its works of art goes back to the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279) whose founder had established the Hanlin Academy to promote art and literature.
During the Ming Dynasty, the art collection was transferred from Beijing to Nanjing and then back.
The collection was considerably expanded during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

In November 1924, warlord Feng Yu-Xiang gave the last Emperor Puyi 2 hours to leave the Forbidden City in Beijing, together with his entourage of 2000 eunuchs and women.
The government appointed 30 art experts in order to make an inventory of the abundant art treasures preserved in the palace for more than 500 years.
In 1931, their work was completed, but meanwhile the national Beijing Palace Museum had been established where a part of the art collection was already being exhibited.

When shortly thereafter, the Japanese had invaded North-West China, all the works of art were packed in 2000 boxes and transported in 5 trains to Nanjing, the beginning of a 16 year long odyssey during which the pieces were transported in all possible ways, in order not to fall into the hands of the Japanese initially, and later of the communists.
In 1936, a selection of the most prestigious works of art was transferred to London for an exclusive exhibition, and was neatly returned to China.
After the Japanese surrender, the nationalist government transferred the pieces back to Nanjing but, when in 1948 the communists conquered mainland China, the 4800 most precious of the 20,000 pieces were transported to Taiwan.
There they were kept hidden in a sugar warehouse in Taichung until the Sun Yat-sen Museum building in the Shilin's Waishuangxi area was opened in 1965, later flanked by Zhishan Garden, a perfectly stylized recreation of a Song Dynasty ornamental garden.

As well-educated tourists, they first went looking for the "Jade-Cabbage" which was depicted on all of the museum’s brochures and postcards.

"The Jadeite Cabbage with insects, carved during the Qing dynasty, was transferred elsewhere for an exposition", Xi-Yue translated the Chinese sound of the saleswoman in the souvenir shop.

As an alternative, she referred them to a black cauldron that Ji had received as a present from his grandchild during the late Shang Dynasty (13th to 11th century BC). 

But immediately afterwards, the girl was sucked in towards the ancient calligraphic writings while Yaolo, after a courtesy viewing, quickly wandered to a wall-wide history bar with the milestones of the Chinese, Indian, Persian, Egyptian and Greco-Roman civilizations.

It lead him to Karen Armstrong who, in "The Great Transformation", sketched the beginning of our religious traditions.
At the Pivotal time (900-200 BC), the Indian, Chinese, Jewish and Greco-Roman traditions would have been developed, thus shifting the boundaries of human consciousness and uncovering a transcendent and ethical dimension in the very core of our being.
She believed that for our current dilemma, we could find inspiration in the period that the German philosopher Karl Jaspers, called the "Achse der Weltgeschichte" -The Pivotal time- because such time formed a turning point in the spiritual development of mankind.
High at the top the Taiwanese history was positioned, a bar at least as long as the other ancient civilizations.
He jumped in at the point when, at the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Japanese and later also the Dutch, came to trade on the island, with missionaries and opium in their trail.

When, in 1644, the Manchu’s overthrew the Ming Dynasty, the Ming loyalists regrouped in the south, led by Zhang.
His son Koxinga, born in 1624 out of a Japanese woman, went to war against the Manchu's in 1646 with 100,000 man and an armada of 3000 ships.
He lost the battle and fled to Taiwan where he expelled the Dutch.
He laid roads, improved education and agriculture and cherished the Chinese culture.
He was succeeded by his son and grandson who were finally, in 1683, defeated by the Manchu's.

During the first 150 years of the Qing dynasty, the population increased sevenfold. In The 19th century there was a growing interest of England and the United States.
When they called China for help to protect their troops against the local population, and the Chinese kept aloof, they took the right in their own hands to bring order in Taiwan.

In 1874, the Japanese organized an invasion in consequence of repeated massacres of Japanese seamen by Taiwanese tribes.
China was able, by paying a high compensation, to persuade the Japanese to withdraw, but in 1894, China suffered a heavy defeat against Japan, being forced by the Treaty of Shimonosheki to cede Taiwan and the Pescadores to Japan, a situation that remained unchanged until the end of the Second World War.
They build roads, developed health care, education and industry even further, but their “Japanization” of the island, especially with regard to language and naming, was received with horror.

Just when he was involved in the Chinese Civil War, Xi-Yue had finished her calligraphy session and took him to the Chiang Kai Check Memorial, founded in 1980 to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Chiang's death.

Around a huge square, the monument was flanked by the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall.

She told mysteriously that drizzling tears from heaven referred to the grief of the Taiwanese for their great leader.

Then she hurried to the Memorial Sun Yat-sen, which had lost a large part of its radiating appearance in the evening twilight.

"It was this doctor-philosopher-writer-calligrapher who has overthrown the empire and is regarded, both by the communists and the nationalists, as the father of the Republic of China," said Xi-Yue, "even though baptized in 1884 as a Christian in Hongkong."

Chiang Kai-Shek was born in 1887 in the Zhejiang Province of China as the son of a salt trader and a very faithful Buddhist mother.
During his military studies, he became acquainted with Dr Sun Yat-sen, who became the first President of the Chinese Republic in 1912, at the deposit of the last Qing emperor.
Chiang regarded himself as a convinced Confucian who cherished the Chinese identity through his values and cultural achievements but, in connection with his second marriage to the daughter of a Christian banker from Shanghai, he turned to Christianity.

After the Second World War, during which his nationalists had been fighting together with the communists against the Japanese, both allies became involved in a civil war that was finally won by Mao Zedong in 1948.
Chiang’s party, the Kuomintang, had to flee from the mainland and had withdrawn to the island of Taiwan where they had declared themselves in 1948 as the government of the Republic of China, the only real China that soon rather than late, would recapture the lost areas.

This was the beginning of a diplomatic war for the recognition of the "real" China, up to the present day.

In 1954, Chiang undertook a final attempt to recapture the Chinese mainland on the communists, when the Kuomintang installed troops on the island of Kinmen and the Matsu archipelago at about 9 kilometers from the coast.
At first, Chiang received both economic and military support from the Americans against the Chinese communists, but in return he had to take distance from Chen Yi who was governor of Taiwan when, on 28th February 1947, 18 to 28000 people were murdered during a rebellion of the local population.
Although it was common belief that Chiang had killed Chen Yi because of this incident, it was later revealed that he had even promoted him, and only eliminated when he was suspected of conspiring with the Communists.

In 1979, when the United States diplomatically recognized the People's Republic of China, the US support to Taiwan was reduced to a minimum and a "two China's" situation was created de facto.

Chiang ruled the country according to the principles of his teacher Sun Yat-sen : minzu (nationalism and taking distance from strangers), minsheng (economic security for the people) and minquan (democracy).
The latter, he fulfilled as a ruthless dictator, and democracy was only realized after his death, on 5th April 1975, when his son Chiang Ching-kuo succeeded him as president in 1978.
At his re-election in 1984, he appointed the native Taiwanese Lee Teng-hui as vice-president but with growing prosperity, people became more empowered, resulting in 1986 in the creation of an opposition party: the DPP or the Democratic-Progressive Party.

Meanwhile, China had been exerting increasing international pressure to stop recognizing Taiwan as an independent country, but to consider it a Chinese province instead. This led to the loss of membership of the United Nations and the suspension of the American-Taiwanese military treaty.

In the nineties, the Sino-Taiwanese relations cooled down below zero, under the leadership of Lee Teng-hui who became in 1996 the first Taiwanese born democratically elected president.
By speaking of 2 separate states, he broke with the consensus statement "that Taiwan and China are part of the same country with 2 governments", what also was supported by America.
The election of the DPP candidate Chen Sui-bian made an end to 54 years of Kuomintang governance and on his turn he provoked openly the People's Republic of China, earning from the Americans the label of a nuisance.
Between 2008 and 2016 it was again the Kuomintang governing, with paradoxically a milder and friendly attitude towards great neighbor China.
In 2016, Tsai Ing-wen became for the DPP the first female and unmarried president of the country with again a tougher attitude towards the Chinese People's Republic, which was punished in the mid-term elections of November 2018.

Taipé Tower 101 had to be, literally and figuratively, the culmination of her sightseeing tour in the capital.
With its 508 meters it was in 2004, at the time of his inauguration, the tallest tower in the world.

The Taipé Financial Center, as the building is called officially, was the exponent of Taiwan's economic success that had reached its peak at that moment.

In the early years of the Taiwanese Republic, the Kuomintang, as the Communists, had introduced a thorough land reform, but Chiang had reimbursed the owners for their capital.
With this, they had launched an enterprise engine that resulted in tremendous economic growth, especially in the IT sector, bicycles and chemicals.
Mainly due to low wage cost and high-quality products, Taiwan obtained excellent export results, but in recent decades this advantage was increasingly hijacked by China and other South East Asian countries.

On the other hand, from the years ’90 onwards, a strong liberal direction was chosen, with deregulation, reduced state support and increased competition, all contributing to a positive impact.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization and in 2010 the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China was signed to reduce trade tariffs and commercial barriers.

At present, the average income of the Taiwanese is half the American and Western European, but greater than in Thailand, Malaysia and China.
On the other hand, the People's Republic has grown now into a world power, politically and economically, and has surpassed by far his little brother in the ocean.

It was too late and too dark for a panoramic view from the "Taipe 101 Observatory", and this day kept its small climax in store for a short while.

Tell me a story, Pew.
What story?
about Tristan and Isolde.
About Love?
Yes, about far distances.
About adultery.
Yes, but not in this story.

After their quest in Taipé, he invited her to the Japanese restaurant at his hotel to thank her.

He told her that he had 2 children from a first marriage, aged 27 and 25, and that Monica, until recently his regular girlfriend, was often abroad where she worked on trade fairs for an international architectural firm.
He had not heard anything from her since 6 months.
Xi-Yue turned somewhat uncomfortable on her chair while he was telling this.

“And you?", he asked when they clinked a glass of French Chardonnay.
"I have 3 brothers who are all in the family business, and that was meant to be for me as well, but I went studying a Master's degree Science and International Marketing in Edinburgh -if not, you would never have understood my English- and when I came back, I started working for an International removal firm”.
"But how then did you get into calligraphy?"
"Because, after my accident, I lost my job and I had to find something else.”
For a while, her eyes seemed to drown in a gently descending water curtain.

“Do you feel it's ok to tell me something about it," he tried carefully.
Her face discolored from yellowish to light rose when she told the story of her car accident: "I spent weeks on intensive care and I had almost been given up, until I had overcome yet another infection and all devices could be disconnected.
The first thing I managed to do again by myself, was calligraphy, a childhood love in which I had been very skilled and had gained some awards.
I made it my profession."
"And do you still have consequences of your accident?”, the Spanish writer asked.
Xi-Yue's eyes rolled through the restaurant, looking for an escape, and then stayed involuntarily hanging in the middle of his field of view.
One kidney had to be removed and the other works at half capacity. Sometimes,
I am just some inches away from a dialysis, but because of a more healthy diet and my spiritual healing, I am staying outside the danger zone for the time being, and I feel fine. "

Yaolo took her shaking hand in his own and doing so, he made his tenderness flow into her body.
"You bring me out of control", she murmured almost inaudible.
"You have not only shown Taipé to me, but also something very valuable of yourself", Yaolo whispered gently in her ear: "It is time for me to allow you into my intimate space too."

He took her hand and escorted her to his hotel room, in order to discharge the accumulated intensity between them.
"I love you like a river", he had said to her that evening, but the blending of the 2 waters was only very short lived.
The following day he continued his trip flying to Bulgaria, Tunisia and Russia, before returning home in Granada.


It was the start of an LRD : "Long Distance Relationship".
Whatsapp had managed to keep loved ones available for each other during 24 hours a day, with letters, small icons and digital voice waves.
The international love traffic consisted of short chats with smiling, sad, evil, astonished or tough acting little guys or "youtube’ers", or a photograph, meant to bring some hic et nunc view within sight of the lover in the other part of the world.

The communication channel could be kept open on the way to work, during meetings, at the bakery, at a dinner or during some cyclocross on TV, when Vanderpoel was irresistibly escaping once again.
But when the time difference had not immobilized one in a nocturnal sleep, and if, on both sides, no immediate privacy barriers got in the way, then Whatsapp enabled them to switch seamlessly to a "good old telephone talk" at zero cost.

Doing so, Yaolo and Xi-Yue lived virtually together for months, while indeed extending the visual and auditory senses by the “”cloud, but not the olfactoric, the gustative or the tactile, all three so important at the merge of 2 rivers.

During the few occasions when they met in the following months, once in Malta and once in New Zealand, it were these senses to which, especially at night, a considerable catch-up exercise was awarded.

Yaolo's celibate emptiness was colored in an inspiring, sometimes funny and supporting manner whereby Xi-Yue led him into her daily life experience within the local Taiwanese politics and culture.

They exchanged newspaper articles, photographs, music fragments and local gossip, and they counted the days between the secret trips with a prospect that kept the wide gap between their bodies bearable.

Yet it was much more than a hedonistic desire and a pleasant being together, that tied their souls.

Perhaps partly due to her kidney problem and to her cravings for wise counsel she had already searched for in his books, he felt an irresistible urge to take care of her, something she returned to him as a boomerang in a way he had never experienced with a woman.
Was only this intense paternal affection, along with the sexual return to a young woman, the magic recipe of their relationship, or were their ways brought together in a kind of destiny, as Yaolo had often told in his books so beautifully.

"I am your rose and you are my little prince," she had quoted the French Saint Exupéry for him: 

And yet, in the course of time, the gap between their expectations increased : she dreamed of a permanent relationship along his side while he meant to understand that the success of their connection was linked precisely to distance-proximity, the yin and yang, being detached from family and social ties, the relative absence of engagement and the romantic desire of 2 lovers, each one on the other side of the world.

He imagined how they would live and work together in Spain, how quickly she would learn the language and, when in company of others, for how long in time they should have to ask to speak English, whether she would find work in Europe, how his family and children would react, whether she would miss her family, whether they wanted another child...

He let other women passing by his door, and when almost 1 year later he was on his way to Taipé in December 2018, to celebrate Christmas together with her, he wondered if this was the last time they would see each other.

Christmas Eve 2018

No turkey on Christmas Eve in Taipé, but a food safari along the local market where she presented him to the local fowl, langoustines, calamari and other eel- likes.

A dark grey ripped up chicken buttock reminded him of a documentary about child soldiers, where a boy had to find a black chicken before he could ask his girlfriend to marry.

Xi-Yue had already positioned herself near the pasta and the seeds, where he still could find a connecting point to her explanation.

But a little bit further he could only yawn in astonishment at a potpourri of unknown edibles,  of which neither the Chinese label nor her attempt of an English translation threw some light into his culinary library.

She lived in a small apartment in a suburb of Taipé.

The dining room, the lounge and the kitchen were seamlessly interwoven with 3 bedrooms and a bathroom on watch.

Yaolo understood that a fresh Christmas tree would not have survived the trail along the small stairway, but the little anorectic plastic Christmas tree was compensated by a homemade green wreath and a procession of lights adorning the cozy living.

Not a trace of Jesus and Mary, nor of Joseph, the ox or the donkey.
Or was there …

He deposited 2 chocolate boxes at the foot of the skinny tree, as a gift for the 2 girlfriends of which only 1 showed up.

"You will have to do it without me tonight, unless you agree that I'll come an hour later", the second one tweeted while they were still drowning in the little market amidst the food.
 “Don’t wait for me for eating" was being whatsapped half an hour later.
"I have to go home first and don't know for sure if I'm still going to make it" was the third arrow that she fired over the internet to Xi-Yue.
"Ok", his Chinese girlfriend took the blow in full control.

"This is the Chinese way of saying no”, she laughed a bit greenish to Yaolo.

Via Spotify, Yaolo succeeded in getting 2000 years of Christianity with Christmas music into the room where the Xi-Yue's menu card made the European filled turkey turn pale.

He waited until they were alone to open his Christmas gift from her.
Out of the paper crept a stained glassy figure, shaped like 2 Chinese characters :
祝福 : Zhu Fu.

"Colored azure stone”, she said proudly: "It refers to Liuli, a unique form of Chinese art, developed and evolved over thousands of years.
The term Liuli, meaning as much as "stained glass", dates back to the Tang dynasty (618-907).
Originally, the word comes from the Buddhistic Sutra where the "L
ight of Liuli" refers to the elimination of greed and desire and, on the other hand, to the enlightenment of the spirit of Buddha.

The translucency and unique colour palette of the artwork radiates a purity, so that it acts as a mirror that makes us reflecting on our own inner emotions.

"The second letter" Fu "means prosperity or blessing, the first" Zhu "indicates that you wish this to the recipient, but the sound and the shape of the letter also refer to" = bamboo ", she said.
She reminded him of his Chinese Zodiac sign: -somehow to his displeasure- the pig whose pronunciation also resembled the Zhu.

"Do you know how Chinese bamboo develops", she asked, while he remembered how Coelho in "The Aleph"
was waiting to go down to eat with his Russian publishers. He was browsing in one of those magazines that were on the tables of hotel rooms and had, without much interest, read an article about Chinese bamboo.

He felt how one of its stalks was irresistibly piercing his inside.

Acknowledgements to :
-Insight Guides Cyprus
-Jeanette Winterson, "Lighthouskeeping"
-Paolo Coelho, "Aleph"
-Karen Armstrong, "The Great Transformation"
-Sheng Ting Tsao for organising the trip, the inspiration and the pictures
-Caroline Geerts for the visit to the castle of Heers
-Lut for redaction from voice