Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Women’s club members wear holiday season smiles at Xmas celebration with Mexican theme
By Nancy T. Lu
Poinsettia red matching the shade of the potted flowers on the tables turned out to be the cheerful color to wear to the big and exciting year-end happening of the Taipei International Women’s Club. This seemed very much in keeping with the joy of the season.
Christmas cheer was in the air on December 8 when the club members led by Connie Pong, TIWC president, as well as their friends showed up at the Grand Formosa Regent’s Ballroom for a celebration with a Mexican theme.
Everyone at this party got busy and excited exchanging words about plans for the coming holidays. The year-end period has usually been a time for the expatriate community to fly back to their homelands for warm family reunions. This year is not going to be different. But first they must gather with friends in Taipei for a bit of party fun.
Lito Gonzales, the Argentine trumpeter and a familiar face in the Taipei Latin entertainment scene, dressed up as Santa Claus for the occasion. He played a Christmas tune described as most identified with a traditional Mexican Christmas for his upbeat opening number.
He later joined harmonica player Ching Yung in performing “Ali Mountain High” for Jasmine Elise Huggins, charge d’affaires of St. Kitts and Nevis, and Mayumi Hu, TIWC 2nd vice president and the multi-lingual program emcee of the day, to sing in Mandarin. The latter revealed that Huggins practiced the Chinese song in her Chinese class for a month, even memorizing the lyrics by heart.
A Christmas party would not be complete without dancing. Ballroom dancers Cassia Huang and Harrison Lee swept into the stage limelight to do a sultry cha cha number. This was followed by a jive performance. Afterwards, Huang called on everyone to rise to their feet for instant cha cha lessons. Tips included specific hand gestures for the men and the women.
The party buffet, which introduced a bit of the mestizo mixture of pre-Hispanic and Spanish cooking in Mexico, featured interesting dishes, marked out with tiny Mexican flags. Mexican-style seafood “ceviche,” “taquitos,” spicy “camarones a la tequila,” as well as turkey and beef with variations of the Mexican sauce specialty called “mole” truly essential during such a festive event invited tasting.
Martin Munoz Ledo, head of the Mexican Trade Services Documentation and Cultural Office, arranged to project colorful video films to highlight Mexico as a land extremely rich in cultural heritage. The singing and the dancing of the traditionally costumed men and women helped transport viewers to the faraway country where people live mostly on the high central plateau.
The TIWC event culminated with the breaking of the traditional Mexican “pinata,” originally made of clay but nowadays of papier-mache. The Mexican woman behind this particular traditional target for hitting created a star with seven points. These points represented the seven capital sins, which must be smashed by the crowd in largely Catholic Mexico, explained Cecilia Munoz.
The TIWC members demonstrated different amusing styles of taking aim at the slightly lowered “pinata.” Some were too feminine and fragile to strike with a destructive impact. But others went for it like they were hitting powerfully with a baseball bat.
Swaziland Ambassador Njabuliso B. Gwebu, attired in auspicious Chinese red for the TIWC Christmas event, gave it a try. So did Maria Rybicki, the former TIWC president who was revisiting Taiwan after a long absence.
Rybicki, now based near Geneva in Switzerland not too far from her native Poland, is still painting for her hobby. She, in fact, donated a nice Chinese brushwork as raffle prize and it was won by Mayumi Hu. Another lucky winner of a raffle prize was Honduras Ambassador Marlene Villela de Talbott.
After taking so many strikes, the “piñata” broke and out came the “lucky candies.” This entertaining Mexican merrymaking tradition resembled the hitting of the loaded “palayok” or clay pot during fiestas in the Philippines.
Friendships found through membership in the TIWC have always been cherished. The December meeting saw the club members bidding farewell to good friends from the diplomatic corps Gambia Ambassador Mawdo C. Juwara and his wife, Mariame Kande. Heartwarming memories which the Gambian diplomat would soon bring back with him would include an unforgettable journey to the heartland of Puyuma culture in Taitung one New Year’s Eve, linking arms and dancing with the indigenous people during a ceremonial ritual and later visiting the Puyuma men’s house where adolescents on their way to full manhood traditionally undergo tribal education.
The well-attended TIWC December party had an impressive guest list. The embassies and the trade offices sent representatives. Gambian Ambassador Mawdo C. Juwara and wife Mariame Kande, Abdullah Mohd Salleh of the Malaysian Friendship and Trade Center and wife Zawiah Ahmad as well as Rihanata Sawadogo of Burkina Faso sat with Connie Pong, TIWC president.
Christiane Bonneville from France, Mariann Hergovitz from Hungary, Lale Lorena Eroktem from Turkey, and Carol Ann Fraser from Canada shared another table. Ellen Jino from the Solomon Islands, Isaura Novelo from Belize, Ann Keke from Nauru, and Grace Valbuena from the Dominican Republic also made it to the celebration.
Terence Swampillai, general manager of Malaysian Airilines, joined his wife, Audrey Swampillai, at the event. Alice Liou, president of the Kaohsiung International Women’s Club, likewise attended the party.
Connie Pong, the untiring club president, welcomed them all in her characteristic style of hospitality with a big smile and open arms.