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Celebrate New Year With Tuvalu

The Tuvaluan students in Taiwan were playing games when I arrived at the venue of the New Year Gathering. It took place at the Embassy of Tuvalu in Taiwan located in the Daan district of Taipei city. The atmosphere was very fun and enjoyable. The delicious cakes and beverages were placed on the table, and chairs were placed at the side of the entrance. The cold weather quickly turned into a warm welcome. 

I felt lucky to get an invitation from a Tuvaluan friend to join this special event. The event agenda was written only in the Tuvaluan language but I somehow managed to find out the meaning. They had a whole day event starting from breakfast until dinner. I really wanted to join it since the morning, however, I could not attend it wholly. So, I arrived a little bit earlier than lunchtime and stayed until the afternoon. It took me around 2 hours to go there from Taoyuan city by using a motorcycle, metro, and taxi. 

When lunchtime was about to start, everyone arranged for themselves to sit wherever they wanted. I was given a seat next to a very special person. It was really an honor to have lunch beside the ambassador of Tuvalu in Taiwan, Bikenibeu Paeniu. Some students grouped themselves near the wall and sang Tuvaluan songs while one person was playing guitar, and another person was playing a ukulele. The ambassador told me that it is part of their customs to sing while people are eating.

After that, the Tuvaluan students cleared the place and prepared themselves to perform singing and dancing. They formed a circle in the middle of the room. A large wooden box resembling a small table was placed at the center. Some girls wearing a large piece of colorful cloth around their waist stood up outside of the circle adjusting their positions from one another. And the performance started. They banged the box while singing in the rhythm, and the girls danced accordingly. Their banging and movement gradually sped up and the singing became louder. Then, some guys stood up to take over the dance performance, and I was also invited to dance with them. I learned that there were different versions of girls' dance and guys' dance.

I didn't only see some Tuvaluan I had known before but I also met new Tuvaluan friends. It was not my first experience meeting the Tuvaluan people. I have had Tuvaluan classmates since I was a university student. It was a nice feeling being together with the Tuvaluan after not seeing them for a long time.

One person stood out because of his physical appearance. He looked much darker than the Tuvaluan. I immediately knew that he must be from another country. According to what I have learned about this world, I didn't see African physical characteristics in him, he looked like a Melanesian person. And I was right! He is from the Solomon Islands, an island country in the Pacific Ocean. I quickly took the opportunity to talk to him in a language he is familiar with. He was very surprised to learn that I spoke Melanesian English.


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