Notes and thoughts on investigation
House Launching Ceremony
The day before preparation, I went with my mom to invite people to harvest the taros.
On the first day, women were all dressed up. In the past, they walked in these clothes into the field and then prayed for blessing and harvest. There are several kilometers in between the field and the village, however. Modern women, because of the busy life style, no longer have the strength to devote in such activity, and they are adapted to riding motorbikes. Thus, they walked to the beach, then everyone got on the bike and left.
That day, most women worked smoothly in the mountain. Going up the mountain, standing in line, praying, then finding a corner to get changedIn my eyes, them changing cloths next to the field was a representation of the western painting. I found it beautiful, but I didn’t know how they felt about their own action and the situation they were in. I only felt like they were in a different world than I was.
After putting on the working uniform, women with more experience with field work started first. Before long, there were already two big bags of taros to be washed. Young or inexperienced women went to the water and started to wash the taros in fear that people would notice their inexperience. I first took many photos, and then I observed the details of their hand actions, the curve of their bodies when they bend, their concentrated faces, and constant chatters. These repeated actions were engraved in their bodies. There was a trace of life that I couldn’t describe. I also don’t know if I think it is beautiful, or I am simply curious about how they feel about these trivial things.
Through only a few days of collecting taros, I didn’t improve a lot on my farming skills. It seems that in people’s eyes, it was only a simple thing to complete, and they didn’t put much of their minds on education of traditional work. Right, after all, us young generation will probably go and farm after this. In fact, future Tao kids will have no purpose to farm taros, will they?
Heavy work from time to time for me has become an entertainment for modern life. However, as our bodies have adapted to modern life, nobody would want to go back to heavy work every day. I was thinking what those women who went up to the mountain everyday were thinking and what concepts they held.
Another activity after we were back from the mountain was to watch men in the family catching the goats. Before catching, male elders will count how many people will come and help, how to divide taros and meats as gifts, where to invite people and who, in order to decide how many goats are needed. I asked my older brother and knew that each elder had their own job. Each person has an important role that might seem unimportant in the work of the finishing celebration. For example, some are in charge of making the plan to catch the goats, others with more experience do the action, those with less experience help to chase the goats. My sister’s husband was in charge of throwing stone to make sure of the number of gifts on the day of dividing food. The process requires the skill and experience of catching goats, as well as being familiar with the relatives and friends, all are unfamiliar to me. Perhaps because it is the job of boys and so I never could join, or because I never need the knowledge in my world.
The day the ceremony started, piles of taros were outside. These were the result of our hard work, including the imported taros our relatives living on Taiwan island prepared. The first main action in the afternoon was “welcoming the guests”. The whole family dressed up and waited outside the house for all guests to come. They got in according to the closeness and their status. It was interesting because I have never seen everybody waiting in line. In the past where there were no standard time and public transportation, did people wait in line to get in like this? Men with iron helmets opened the helmet a bit and touched the helmet with the host to greet. This reminded me of the Maori people from New Zealand greeting by touching their foreheads and noses. My father said, “this way, I can make sure if the person under the helmet actually is who I invited.” I had no idea if he was joking or not. Like this, the iron helmet suddenly became interesting. Why was there the design in the past, what was the first person who designed it thinking?
After everyone sat down according to their status, an uncle started to sing, then my other uncle, then my father. They sang for about 30 minutes.
I didn’t know what they were singing about, so I looked at the guests. I realized a grandpa from Ivalino had a gift knife with him, which he wore not so often. It was rather thin and long, the hold was also thin, it looked very different from the regular gift knives. I have always thought that it was from the Japanese people when we were colonized by Japan. Later I knew it was made by himself, it was called: Ipacakakad. When I attended the finishing cerebration in Ivalino, I realized that this type of knife was suitable for cutting meat with skin when killing pigs.
Everyone went back home and rested after the greeting, guests from outside the village could go visit other relatives and friends at this point. When the night fell, men went into the house according to their social status, preparing for the night singing. Through this singing, everyone could have a better understanding of each other’s experience and status.
Around midnight, someone sang a song that wasn’t supposed to be sung at the finishing ceremony, everyone was discussing about it. It was clear that it was a violation of some taboo or rule of manner, but I didn’t really know what was going on. Not understanding mother tongue and the lyrics, these ten hours were actually a bit difficult for me. Most of the time I tried to spot some words that I understood, and I imagined some dance moves to go with the music. As long as I kept imagining the dance moves, these songs were quite interesting. I didn’t know why, but compared to other music, old songs for me were easier to imagine. The singing style where there were no decorations nor changes felt like a new life after a long time of suffering and training. It was an infinity that human created, which makes it seems like after the song is born, it lives on for a hundred years.
We had to sit through the whole night without sleeping nor lying down. It was really energy and spirit straining. Sometimes, I could only use a lot of questions to fill the time.
Were all elders there curious about each other’s stories?
Did those stories also have hundreds and thousands of years of wisdom?
How many songs were sung many times so that everyone can sing it nowadays?
As old songs are about to become extinct, how may Taos are willing and have the ability to create lyrics?
Was creating lyrics easy and a daily activity in the past?
Is it a brand-new beauty that I have never felt when I feel the words through the Tao language system?
Did someone think about composing new songs in the past?
Did the old melody come from waves, strong seasonal winds, streams, or birds and insects?
How was the action of singing first created?
Did the ancestors in Batan also sing like this?
Whenever I hear that another culture also has a similar melody, I feel like I’m traveling through time. I am really curious about the beginning and changes of our songs. I can’t stop but become curious, if I had never experienced any other types of music other than old songs, how would I feel about modern music? Would it be like how the elders feel when they hear young people’s songs? If I want to do an experiment, I will need to forget many sounds that I am used to and like. I would also have to listen to and sing the old songs year after year. Or even I would need to be reborn again to experience another type of song or sound.