The Dragon Boat Festival was one of the most anticipated festivals for us this year.  It was not that we knew what the festival was about, it was due to the fact that we would be participating in the Dragon Boat Races. 

 

The second year students at NTHU had been telling us stories of how exciting the races were last year, but were disappointed in how poorly they had performed.  They were serious about performing better this year.

 

The second year students, with the help of the foreign student office, assisted with procuring all the equipment needed for the races.  We were to practice twice a week for one month.  First the practices involved general fitness exercise, then moved on to synchronized paddling on dry land and finally to a practice in the harbor.

 

NTHU actually had three foreign teams participating, the foreign born Chines team, an Indian team, and our team that was open to all foreign students.  The other two teams were all male teams and were expecting to do much better than us.  We were insistent that we would give equal opportunities to both males and females.

 

The day of the races finally came and we were all excited, our goal was at least to win a trophy and beat the other NTHU teams.  The first race started with our team taking a big lead over NCTU but at the last minute our local steers-person veered our boat to the left.  By the time we had straighted up NCTU had taken the lead.  The race officials decided it was not fair and called for the race to start over.  On the second try NTCU beat us.

 

The day continued at an exciting pace with NTHU winning two races and losing two races.  The last race of the day was for 3rd place and we competed against a Japanese team.  It was a close race but the Japanese team won by a hair.

 

We finished 4th and collected a trophy.  We were more excited about having finished ahead of the other all male NTHU teams!  Both goals were achieved!  Still we will continue the tradition and try to do better next year, we hope to place in the top 3 foreign teams.

 

The week following the holiday one of our professors asked us how we spent the holiday.  We gave him all the detail of our exciting races, after which he asked us if we knew what the holiday was about.  We all looked at him and answered that it was about Boat Racing.  He had a good laugh as did the local students.  They then went on to explain the meaning of the festival to us.

 

They told us how the Dragon Boat Festivals are traditional customs to attempts to rescue the patriotic poet Chu Yuan who drowned in 277 B.C. They explained how citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked stinky rice into the water. The idea is that fish will eat the rice rather than the poet Chu Yuan .  This turned into the custom of eating tzungtzi and rice dumplings.

The students and teacher also explained how the celebration is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. People hang health herbs on the front door, drink nutritious concoctions, and display portraits of the evil spirits nemesis, Chung Kuei. They also explained that if one manages to stand an egg on it's end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one.

The students story finally explained why so many people had offered me rice dumplings during the holidays.  To bad I did not know that the dumplings were supposed to be heated in steamed water before eating.  Next year I will make sure I participate in the races, heat the dumplings, and explain the festival to the new ICDF students.

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