The Ghost Who Tried to Love Me(7)
Author:Adam Tervort

    No matter how "intouch" I get with my "roots," I still act like anAmerican. Want me to believe in your silly traditions? Fat chanceJohn Chinaman, show me the evidence and I'll show you my belief. I'ma realist, like most Americans are when it comes to folk traditionsand strange customs. Taiwanese people think they see ghostseverywhere, and maybe my doubt is what got me a meeting with thecreepy one in the first place. Every year during the seventh month ofthe lunar calendar (sometime in late August) Taiwanese celebrateghost month. To them it is a chance to offer sacrifices to ghosts sothat the ghosts will leave them alone for another year. To me italways seemed like a great chance to sell lots of "gold paper"for burning as offerings. It's just a racket set up by thetraditional vendors to pick up their profits during a slow time ofthe year, right? Ask your normal Taiwanese on the street and they'lltell you they burn the gold papers and offer food because they thinkthey probably should, not because they think it really does anything.Some really believe the customs work but not most. But even thoughmost people tell you the money and the sacrifices don't do anythingthey still believe in ghosts.

    I'd been teachingEnglish for a few years when I first talked to a student about this.We were having a conversation class and I asked who believed inghosts. Everyone raised their hand. I laughed and asked if they wereserious. They laughed and seemed embarrassed, but the ones who wouldtalk about it said they believed in ghosts, they had a distantrelative who had seen one once, and then they would tell an urbanlegend. (At least that's what it seemed like to me.) It made for afun conversation class, but I knew they couldn't be serious.

    The next class I askedif anyone had actually seen a ghost before. One girl in the back ofthe class raised her hand, looking pretty timid. She told us thatwhen she was in university she lived in a small house with threeother students. They were classmates but came from different areas inTaiwan. Not long after they started living together she would wake inthe night and hear the sound of running water. (She was a lightsleeper.) Every time it was the tap by the washing machine. She justassumed one of her roommates had been washing clothes and forgot toturn the faucet off. The next day she would mention it but none ofthe girls admitted to washing clothes the night before. No big deal,she’d say, just make sure you turn off the water next time. A fewmonths later she woke up in the night when the TV turned on. They hada really old TV set with a dial to change channels and a button thathad to be pushed in hard to turn it on. When she went out to see whowas watching TV no one would be in the room. Once or twice when thishappened one of her roommates would come out to see why the TV was onas well, but they never saw who had turned it on.

Most Read
Top Books