Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Episode 5: Macanese Culture

I like culture in every aspect of the word- the experience, the interactions, mannerisms, traditions, language, history, food, and lifestyle. I base my passions on those aspects, but more importantly, my life choices and belief system, a few of which I'll share with you today.

One being tea. As many people drink coffee, I have never acquired an addiction for the coffee bean, only for espresso & crème brûlée, and americanos & scones. I love loose leaf teas. If I could choose another career path, I would be an herbologist and run a tea house.

In the midst of a melting pot of Chinese, Portuguese, Filipinos, and English (the minority here!) here, I've garnered some insight on culture. But first a crash course on the history of Macau for some perspective (bear with me, or skip to Art & Architecture):
  • History:
    • Macau, as printed by the official tourist map, is a total of 11.4 sq. mi., built up of the Macau Peninsula, Taipa, and Coloane. There's an artificial reclaimed area which I assume has basically been filled in with dirt that connects the islands of Taipa and Coloane, called Cotai. It's where the newest casinos have been built and more are moving in.
    • The locals tell me that in the Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of China, namely Hong Kong and Macau, money goes in to Macau and out of Hong Kong. And that's what this place is. It's a tourist mecca for people to spend their money. It's definitely noticeable with all the casinos and new residential high rises popping up. More on that later. If you have money, come to Macau, go shopping, go gambling, go get souvenirs and eat of the plethora of cuisines available.
    • Macau is in some ways like America, a melting pot of cultures. There's a ton of people, to the tune of 546,200. Cantonese, Chinese, Portugese, Filipino (there's about 11,000 of them!) and others all have a stake on this small island. 
  • Art & Architecture:
    • The most lavish of buildings are the casinos, and rightly so if one would want to spend money. It almost makes me sick at the sight of them- the artificial grandeur of neo-X architecture, the extra large everything. The doors are massive, the automated water fountain shows, the bubble of luxurious watches, designer this and that, when one can go right next door and see the living conditions of the lower class. The city is definitely a magnificent sight at night seeing the lit up casinos towering over the city. 
The Venetian
The Grand Lisboa
Chihuly Glasswork at the Galaxy
    • The churches have a humble stake in the city compared to the casinos, their architecture and the stories they tell I find much more intriguing than gambling a couple of dollars at a slot machine. There are services in Cantonese, Mandarin, Portugese, Filipino and English. It goes to show the melting pot of languages regularly used in this country. And I thought English and Spanish masses were more than enough! The main things to notice is of course the architecture, and the statues, usually having one of the church's patron saint, of the Virgin Mary (and many iterations of Her) and baby Jesus, and adult Jesus, and extra ones at each corner.
The Ruins of St. Paul, Macau Peninsula
Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, Coloane Village
St. Joseph's Chapel and Seminary
St. Francis Xavier's Humerus 
    • The Buddhist/Taoist temples are even smaller, full of incense and fresh fruit. All the ones I've been to are naturally lighted or not at all. The incense burnt are usually in three, symbolizing the three main elements that make up the world: wind, fire, and water. All businesses alike usually have a small altar/shrine next to their shop which I presume is for good fortune and a successful business. And the Banyan trees are everywhere! They're elegant and add much beauty to the city. It is said that the Buddha achieved enlightenment by meditating under a banyan tree.
A Banyan Tree
Sam Seng Temple, Coloane Village
    Na Tcha Temple
    I wish I could grow a mustache and beard like them.
    • High-rise apartments are a common sight, not enough to make one claustrophobic like I felt in Hong Kong, but the difference between commercial and residential is more pronounced than the States, maybe because they all look the same. The washers are tiny, and the dryers are non-existent so clothes are hung out to dry. I was told only five to ten years ago, that most of the residential buildings didn't exist on Taipa. They aren't that nice looking and are out of place. But they make the country look a lot bigger than it really is. 
This is in Taipa, the newest metropolitan area. The southern island, Coloane, is starting to be built upon. 
New one's being built. It's seems like the highest demand of the city.
  • Mannerisms:
    • Locals like to spit. Hacking and phlegm and all. It's an interesting observation that would seem highly offensive back at home.
    • Having my own cubicle, the office culture is a measure of work and play. I feel sometimes us Westerners have a much more fun than them, but I also do not understand Cantonese. They offer us food almost every day like dried mangoes, pastries, rice cakes filled with anything from custard to meat, and, my favorite, dumplings.
    • The students are well-behaved and are polite. Not a day goes by where I get a half a dozen "Good morning/afternoon, Mr. Gus" from these tiny tots.

As I've explored almost all of Macau in two weeks, Hong Kong is my next conquest. This guy biked around Hong Kong in 8 days with a mountain bike. I hope to do the same with Maia, my trusty bicycle. Maia, an earth goddess of Greek mythology, is the eldest daughter of  Atlas and Pleione. She symbolizes growth and is the mother of Hermes, the herald of the gods to mortals. He is the patron of boundaries and the travelers that cross them, and of commerce.

Until next time.

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