On the HSR we kill time with weird games from Kevan Davis’s Freeze-Dried Games Pack, mostly Thirty-One. Then we’re there!
On the bus we kill time with karaoke, until people complain. Sorry.
Lunch at Chinese restaurant. Beach resort.
I spend the first one and a half hours holed up in my hotel room watching television, first a quiz show where the host asks foreigners living in Taiwan questions about the country’s culture and society, then Disney and Cartoon Network cartoons. During the commercial breaks I do cryptic crosswords I had brought along. This is something I self-deprecatingly talk about for the rest of the trip, but I have no regrets because the three cartoons I watch are literally my top three guilty pleasure cartoons, Ben 10, Teen Titans Go!, and Jake Long: American Dragon.
Then I wander around and join some guys playing pool. I do better than I expect, once pocketing three balls in sequential moves. There is also a Kinect with a dancing game, which I also score surprisingly well at and have lots of fun playing.
Dinner, in which I eat 小卷 (“pencil squids”?) with way way way too much wasabi. I stuff myself and walk around chatting and eventually learn there are freshly-made 手卷 (“temaki” / “hand roll”) downstairs. Since there’s lots of time I wait until I’m less full and eat two.
Group activity outside corresponds eerily to the one three years ago: shouting, dancing, waving glowsticks, arbitrary dance moves, punishment games, cooperation games, a competition where the guide gives out points that don’t matter like on Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Empty promises… but okay. Class songs. (This is the explicit version. This song is well above the normal offensiveness rating of this blog and I usually prefer official videos, instead of shady lyric videos probably made from Windows Movie Maker that might get taken down, but honestly I find the pathetic execution of censorship in the VEVO version more offensive.)
After it we have a sentimental moment listening to “See You Again”.
At night our room flips through television and watches the second half of Iron Man 2.
Breakfast in which I eat lots of congee. We hear from classmates that, as we had feared, the weather had resulted in the original water and paintball activities being canceled.
Anyway. It’s raining. We take the bus to Eluanbi, go up, take a picture, and come back pretty much instantly. Lunch is at McDonald’s; the wind destroys my umbrella on the way there. I also notice at the McDonald’s that somebody in my grade has the board game Bang! and they are playing at a round table with evenly spaced seats fixed to the floor around it, which seems like it was designed for the game. But they are playing without the roles (sheriff/deputy/etc.) because it’s too complicated and there are too many people, so it’s basically a free-for-all last-man-standing and I lose interest.
Later we go to the marine life museum, our backup plan for this afternoon in the case of bad weather, and look at fish, once getting to touch them. My group finds some half-broken interactives including a submarine-piloting game where you navigate 3D space with a steering wheel that can also be pulled straight up, tracking down marine life to take pictures and samples. I fail pretty miserably. After more wandering around, my group ends up finding a rest area playing Big Two.
Room. The bathroom is blocked off from the rest of the room by sliding doors that have no locks whatsoever and are also short enough that one could easily peek over the top through a clear part by jumping on the bed or just standing on one’s tiptoes. Dinner, during which there is lots of sashimi and freshly made sushi yes!!! I eat them with more wasabi.
We are supposed to visit the night market but it is raining so hard and we are so full from the buffet that after wandering briefly with Daniel, we eventually decide just to buy an umbrella and go back to our rooms. We watch the ending of Click, which he says is Adam Sandler’s only good movie, while chatting about summer and life plans.
After this we go to the gathering point and I play Wrestle Jump on Allen’s iPad.
We go back. Our room watch Ip Man 2. Then I hear people screaming outside. They are watching The Conjuring, a horror movie, on an adjacent channel; I had noticed this while flipping through channels earlier but my friends all preferred not to watch horror movies. I join another room for the ending and surprise myself by how I’m not that scared.
At night Matthew makes prank calls to people asking them if they want extra pillows or blankets. One of three rooms recognize his voice.
Breakfast includes hash browns, blueberry pastries, and pancakes with whipped cream.
E-Da. Still raining. We take the cable-car. While waiting we play a game where we name animals that live in the ocean without repeating. Allen goes on the carousel while Matthew and Alvin play a rip off game where you toss balls into a bucket, which seems easy because the bucket is really close, except the balls are bouncy and the buckets are fixed at a tilted angle and the balls bounce out really easily. So they don’t get any of six balls into the bucket, and end up with the consolation prize, a lollipop. All this for 50 NT.
We ride an indoors roller coaster. While waiting for this we name mythical creatures and argue over lots of things. Allen, who sits next to me, repeatedly screams GAAAAHHHHH!. We eat averagely crappy amusement park meals, ride the bumper cars, which seem dangerous because the woman in charge keeps saying that we can’t ride if our clothes or shoes are wet because the floor has electricity and we can get electrocuted, but we’re not sure how strictly or loosely “wet” is defined here.
Then, back on the bus. We watch a movie for the first part, about a guy who wants to fly in Taiwan’s Air Force. Then after a bathroom break we are surprised with a highlight reel with photos of our grad trip.
After a brief pause we sing songs to the karaoke machine all the way to the school. At the very end after the karaoke is turned off we sing “Let It Go” loudly, replacing all of the high notes with arbitrary screeches. Ernie changes the lyrics to express his having to pee.
And then… it’s over.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand—
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep—while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
— Edgar Allan Poe
Triangular chocolate cake. Striped, with layers of chocolate and other stuff, and a generous finish of chocolate powder on the sides.
Orange juice in wine glasses.
The scent of peach with an alcoholic finish.
The walls of the bathroom are black.
Kim Lin standing on the stage, pink balloon and blue paper in hand, describing how she will be our endorphins to take away our pain when we need it.
I am on the left side of the stage, so I see her facing to the left, with a green exit sign glowing gently just behind her head.
Cups, or tape rolls, or “cups for the 21st century”, which doesn’t make sense but that’s alright. Oops I make a mistake in the rhythm and I think lots of the harmony I sang wasn’t particularly on-key either. I think I managed the harmony for the last few notes though.
The piano is right next to me. I can touch it if I reach out my hand.
Iris will play two songs on it later. One is Japanese and has terribly bittersweet lyrics; the other is “See You Again”.
Then Andrew will play a song, which was titled something like “Reflections on a Lake”, and felt like it, with grand swellings and pauses. I sit next to him, then kneel, and help slide to the next pages on the small tablet holding his score when he nods. Or at least, that’s the plan. He ends up nodding during dramatic bits as well. Luckily, while I can’t read the sheet music rapidly enough to know exactly where he is, I can usually recognize either the overall shape of the melody or the rhythm, so I know when to get ready. He usually nods and I flip two measures before a page break. Despite my best efforts, I am thoroughly lost near the end, and he stays on the page for so long that I get really worried I’ve missed a nod somewhere. Thankfully, it turns out it’s the last page and just really slow. I think.
Our grad song. Okay, my grad song, with excellent interludes and harmonies contributed by Iris.
People like it.
I make a mistake in my own lyrics that I can’t remember having done before, singing “stronger” instead of “special” in a line that already ends with “twice as strong”. Okay, maybe I’ve sang that once.
The harmony at the end works.
- Periodic trips to the cafeteria and Hi-Life to mooch off their air conditioning. And eat some yogurt. Particularly prevalent on Wednesdays where we still have to wear our uniforms, sometimes.
- Tortilla chips and salsa are a match made in heaven.
- “(censored)-spitting dragon”
- Once, after weekend decoration, we go eat at a hot pot restaurant. There is one big bag of food left over, which I carry home in order to not waste.
- Lanterns. So many lanterns. I’m talking about the little red ones strung out on the ceiling between a line of spotlights and a folded-up basketball hoop, mostly, but there are also tiny ones strung up on red wooden poles in front of the entrance walkways at the back, as well as big white sky lanterns.
- As a big scary senior I get to yell at the littluns and pound on my guitar for no reason to make sure they don’t mess with the red wooden poles. Seriously.
- Tape ALL the lanterns!
It is really hot and sweat-inducing.
Nobody ever told me the tassel would be so annoying. Every time you turn around it hits you in the eye or mouth. Okay, I’m exaggerating, it’s probably only like 20% of the time. But then, just as you get used to it, you go on the stage, the principal moves it to the other side, and it starts hitting you in the other eye and other side of your mouth.
I get a huge bouquet flowers right after getting my diploma and walking off the stage.
The invited official’s speech is wonderfully concise; he primarily shared three words, “three Ps” (Plaid Parliament of Pwning?). I forget the first one but the second and third are “passionate” and “perseverance”. (Alas, as you can see, they are not the same part of speech.)
The performances are kind of messy since I had been told many conflicting descriptions of which came after which, but there is actually lots of time. Ryan’s video is amazing. (Except one person’s name is typoed. (But this gets fixed before it is uploaded to YouTube so that’s good.))
(I’m sorry I still suck at switching to barre chords quickly)
And my speech. It works. People cry.
(“You brought your water bottle on-stage and I thought, wow, how long is it going to be? And in the middle you started naming students and I thought, wow, are you going to list every single person in our grade??”)
and somehow I find the energy to keep smiling
Do you ever wonder?
Look at a scene, and realize
that those moments are going to occur exactly once in your life, and never again. You will see that exact image, hear those exact sounds, feel that exact way you’re sitting, exactly once in your life. Once. Now.
Then it’s over, and a new scene has replaced it.
You try to capture it all
to make the moment a memory palace
but some part of you knows that most of it’ll be gone in the day.
And why shouldn’t it?
Because the minutes and hours of waking life and routine are when things really get done
so whence sentimentality?
You resolve to put your confusion away for another day.
The stage beckons.
Despite the futility, you imagine a mental camera and take a snapshot:
the people around you, the sounds — words, cheering, subtle inflections
the feeling of the suit on your body.
Perhaps the only way to be content
(to stay sane, honestly)
is to live in the present.