Sunday, October 05, 2008

death & ghosts

Taiwan walks a weird line of superstition.  They're really superstitious about some things- like the word for 4 and death are the same in Chinese (same sound, different character), so 4 is a really unlucky number, to the extent that some people pay so it doesn't show up in their license plates, some buildings don't have 4th floors, etc.  Likewise, "si" (death) and "xi" (east) sound kinda the same so many times the east part of the road is shorter than the west part so there's not so many death addresses.

Ghosts the same.  Of course ghosts are everywhere so you have to be careful- for example you can't leave chopstick standing up in a bowl of rice because it looks like the incense you stick in your bai-bai food and it will either attract angry ghosts or make the person across from you die, depending on who you ask.

On the other hand, they love to talk and joke about death and ghosts.  The hand signal for death is to put your index finger up and bend it at the knuckle, so it looks like a wilting flower, and people will use that to indicate their pen died, their friend died, whatever.  Kids will describe injuries thusly:   "I hurt, because the ball killed my head."  It's not just bad English; they'll say that in Chinese.

Then there are ghosts.  In tag, "It" is the "ghost".  If I draw a person on the board without eyes or a mouth, they're a ghost.  Sometimes I play spin the marker to see who answers a question and if it points at no one it's "the ghost's turn!"  If no one knows the answer- "Ask the ghost!"

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