新移民的台灣年

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2011 / 2月

文‧林欣靜 圖‧藍春曉


根據內政部入出國與移民署的最新統計,截至2010年10月底為止,我國新移民總數已達44萬1,314人,除比例超過6成4的大陸籍配偶外,其他新移民來源則以越南(約19%)、印尼(約6.1%)、泰國(約2%)、菲律賓(約1.5%)及柬埔寨(約1%)等東南亞國家為主。

新移民的婚姻狀況,如同一般人的婚姻生活般甘苦交雜,會因婚前交往基礎(自由戀愛或仲介媒合)、進入婚姻到與另一半及其他家人的相處磨合,以及家庭經濟等因素而出現差異。不同的是,每逢農曆春節這個象徵團圓的日子,對於隻身去國離家的她 ╱?他們而言,都是必須暗自咀嚼思念苦楚的酸澀時刻……。


總人口數逼近390萬人的新北市,不但是全國人口最多的直轄市,同時也是新移民人數居冠的聚集地(達81,357人),其中境內的板橋、中和及三重區,更因中小型工廠及服務業密集、就業機會較多,成為新移民在台落腳的不二首選。

2010年12月24日,由三重市公所(今已改名三重區公所)主辦的「新住民生活融入班」,正在舉行最後一堂課的結業典禮。由於聖誕節、跨年與農曆春節等假期在即,數周前大夥就說好這一天要帶著有「家鄉味」的菜色來一同歡度。這個下午,課堂的長桌上擺滿了越南椰汁滷肉、泰式炒飯、印尼娘惹糕、台式湯圓及蛤蜊雞湯等「小聯合國」般的綜合料理,這群平時在家務中汲汲營營的外籍姐妹,也難得度過了一個悠閒的午後。

其中,為大夥準備印尼過年必備料理「索多雞湯」(由黃薑、咖哩、香茅及多種不知名香料熬成的雞湯,食用時再自由搭配粉絲、芽菜及辣椒)的玟娜,原籍印尼峇里島,她是這群外籍姐妹中唯一完全沒有華裔血統的「純印尼人」,也是東南亞新移民中少數因「自由戀愛」來台結婚者。

倫理意涵深重的印尼年

37歲的玟娜指出,5年前,大她15歲的丈夫去峇里島旅遊時,對在姐夫飯店打工的她一見鍾情,經過3個月的追求熱戀後,就決定把她娶回家。由於夫家本身就有小規模的房地產投資,丈夫又經營計程車租賃生意,無須負擔家計的玟娜衣食無虞,對她疼愛有加的丈夫,甚至捨不得讓她料理三餐和生養子女,她也樂得過著連台灣媳婦都豔羨不已的「少奶奶」生活。

不過,婚姻幸福美滿的玟娜仍有小遺憾,那就是想家。「剛嫁來時,我很不快樂,語言不通、住在公寓就像住在鳥籠裡,食物又都不辣、沒有味道,吃起來讓人想吐……,」玟娜說,雖然疼她的老公幾乎每幾個月就帶她返鄉探親,但還是無法完全舒緩她的思鄉情緒。

每年三、四月是她最想家的時刻,因為彼時正逢印度教的過年時間(峇里島人主要信奉印度教)。玟娜解釋,印度教過年的傳統規矩極多,除了親人要回家外,最特別的是,過年當天所有人必須禁食24小時,晚上也不能開燈,又稱為安寧日或寧靜節;隔日大夥會到印度教的廟宇祈求神明保佑,其後家人間則會由長輩開始輪流至平輩、晚輩,互相向對方表示「對不起,我去年有什麼地方做不好(通常會舉出具體事實),原諒我」,取代互道「恭喜」做為新年新生活的象徵。

「晚輩向長輩道歉時必須跪著,再由長輩摸摸頭安撫、擁抱收場,最後大夥才一起享用豐盛的年菜,」玟娜說,在台灣過年時,她會和丈夫一起返回老家貢寮圍爐,但總覺得「台灣過節少了什麼」,好像只是一夥人吃吃喝喝、放鞭炮和打打麻將,不像峇里島過年仍固守傳統的家庭倫理。

「現在在台灣過年時,我也沿襲峇里島習俗,和老公互道『對不起』,感覺這樣的年過得比較有意思呢!」她笑說。

入鄉隨俗的夫家為重

像玟娜這種自主性高,丈夫又將其捧在掌心的新移民畢竟是少數,大部分外籍姐妹的異鄉過年,仍必須沿襲夫家的習俗與經驗,只能在菜色調味上略做改變。她們也如同多數的台灣媳婦般從早忙到晚,不同的是,沒有溫暖的娘家臂彎可供依靠。

今年36歲、從柬埔寨嫁來台灣已12年的李鑾坦言,當初是因為在母國生活實在太窮太苦,她才萌生嫁到海外的念頭,即使丈夫大她30歲,她也不以為意,因為即使死守在困厄的家鄉,也絕對等不到有什麼好男人來娶自己。「我本來以為嫁來台灣之後就可以每天大魚大肉過好日子,結果沒想到遇到一個要吃素的(李鑾丈夫因信奉一貫道長年茹素),這也是命啦!」她自我嘲諷地說。

年紀輕輕的李鑾,一來台灣就得適應當「後媽」的角色,先生與前妻所生的兩個女兒,都和她年齡相仿,「一嫁來還沒生小孩就當阿嬤囉!」有時難免會發生口角,語言不通又沒有娘家可供傾訴的她,形容自己剛來台的前半年,簡直就是「自我封閉」,每天就只能關在房裡暗自垂淚。

「半年後我才敢獨自踏出家門,開始參與課程拓展視野,中文變好,人際關係也轉佳,現在只要跟老公有口角,我會去找他女兒傾訴;和她女兒有不愉快,也會直接向老公抱怨,情緒有出口後,人也比較快樂,」她說。

每年農曆春節,信奉一貫道的夫家則有繁複的拜拜儀式需要準備。李鑾說,剛開始老公怕她搞錯,一切都自己來,但結婚一年多後,某天心情不好突然對她大吼:「嫁來這麼久,都不好好學!」既委曲又不甘願的她,只好自己咬牙觀察各種「一跪、二叩、三拜」的儀式與供奉祭品(至少得準備25道素果,拜拜時也必須默念特別的祝詞),從此拜拜的重頭戲也落在她頭上。

除此之外,除夕當晚,她更得準備一整桌素食年菜,「以台式口味為主啦,但我常常會『偷渡』柬埔寨式的酸辣涼拌木瓜或高麗菜,也會在圍爐的什錦火鍋添加東南亞香料,還好大夥都吃得蠻開心的。」

初二當天,李鑾雖然沒辦法回娘家,但還是會盡力為「女兒」、「女婿」及「外孫」準備豐盛的菜色,讓他們也能感受娘家的溫暖,「初二時我還是特別想家,不過現在在這裡,我有老公、3個女兒和1個兒子,大女兒和二女兒雖非我所生,但也都把我當『媽』看待,還會特別包紅包給我,年,也變得沒有那麼難過了!」她說。

一家平安健康就是幸福

今年32歲、來自越南的林氏沁亦然,她也是經人介紹才與大自己10歲的丈夫相識,然而兩人婚後感情甚篤,婆媳之間的相處也極佳。

林氏沁指出,越南也過農曆年,而當地必備的年菜,則是包豬肉或綠豆等鹹甜兩味的棕子,以及一鍋香甜醇美的椰汁滷肉。

「台灣人可能覺得過年吃滷肉沒什麼特別,但對於平時不常吃肉的越南人來說,卻是最肥美的佳餚!」

在林氏沁夫家,多數年菜仍由婆婆料理,但婆婆會特別要求她下廚炸排骨,因為「沒有人能做的比她更好吃!」生性樂觀的林氏沁,也不像多數外籍配偶般「每逢佳節必思親」,「我每天都有和媽媽通電話呀,而且這麼遠,想也沒有用啊!」

對她來說,最重要的新年希望,就是目前正在進行鼻咽癌治療的丈夫早日康復,然後一家人可以如同往年一樣,在春節時到郊外走走,或者逛逛夜市。

「我的過年很平常嘛,沒什麼好提的,」正在忙著家庭手工貼補家計的她頭也不抬地說。

其實,平淡度日也是一種幸福,對於這群背景互異的新移民來說,在台生活的際遇縱使各自不同,但「日久他鄉變故鄉」,想家情懷或許難以割捨,但新故鄉也有暖烘烘醞釀的新希望,正待自己去開拓實現。

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EN

Chinese New Year for Immigrant Brides in Taiwan

Lin Hsin-ching /photos courtesy of Lan Chun-hsiao /tr. by Geoff Hegarty and Sophia Chen

According to the latest statistics from Taiwan's National Immigration Agency, by the end of October 2010 the total number of new immigrants to Taiwan had reached 441,314, of whom more than 64% were immigrant brides from China. Others were from mainly Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam (about 19%), Indonesia (6.1%), Thailand (2%), the Philippines (1.5%) and Cambodia (1%).

Marriage for these newcomers is the same as for everyone else: a mixture of the sweet and the not-so-sweet. The success of a marriage is influenced by many factors including how the couple met (whether by chance or through an agency), the strength of the couple's relationship and their relationship with other family members, and family economic conditions. However, one critical difference for these new -immigrants is that they have to suffer alone the emotions of missing their natal families during Chinese New Year, a symbolic time celebrating family reunion.


New Taipei City (formerly Taipei County) with a population of nearly 3,900,000, is not only the most populous municipality in Taiwan, but also has the largest community of new immigrants (at 81,357). Districts such as Ban-qiao, -Zhonghe and San-chong are prime choices for newcomers as there are many intensive small and medium-size manufacturing and service industries providing employment opportunities.

Sanchong District Administration organized a welcoming program called "Integrating New Residents." As the all-female group was graduating on December 24, 2010, they agreed a few weeks beforehand to bring some "hometown specialty" dishes to the class and celebrate Christmas, New Year and Chinese Lunar New Year, which were all approaching. A long table was filled with a rich variety of dishes from different countries including Vietnamese braised pork with coconut juice, Thai fried rice, Indonesian nyonya cakes, and Taiwanese rice balls and chicken soup with clams. The relaxing afternoon was a rare moment for this group of "foreign brides" because they are normally so busy at home.

Wenna Ari, a "pure" Indonesian from Bali, was the only one of the group without a Chinese heritage, and one of the few from Southeast Asia who married a Taiwanese man without the help of an introduction agency. She cooked soto ajam (chicken soup), a key dish for Indonesian New Year celebrations. The soup was made with turmeric, curry, lemongrass and a variety of other spices, with rice-flour noodles, bean sprouts and chili added only as it was served.

Balinese New Year

Thirty-seven-year-old Wenna says that she met her husband, who is 15 years older, during his trip to Bali five years ago in a hotel that belonged to her brother-in-law, where she was working part-time. He fell in love with her at first sight, and three months later they decided to marry. As her husband's family owns some real estate and runs a taxi leasing business, Wenna has no eco-nomic concerns. And her loving husband treats her very well: she doesn't have to bear children or cook, so she has a leisurely lifestyle that many of Taiwan's local daughters-in-law would envy.

However, although she enjoys her happy marriage, she has one small regret: occasional homesickness. "When we were first married, I was very un-happy because of the language barrier, and I disliked living in an apartment because it was like being in a cage. Also the food wasn't spicy enough; it had no flavor, and it often made me feel sick," says Wenna. Although her husband takes her back to Indonesia to see her family every few months, she still cannot fully expunge her feelings of sadness missing her hometown and family.

March to April is the time of the most intense homesickness, because it's the time of the Hindu New Year. Wenna says that there are many traditional rules for the celebrations: apart from returning home to be with family, the most special custom is that everyone must fast for 24 hours on New Year's Day (a day of rest), and at night the lights cannot be turned on. Next day, people visit Hindu temples to pray. Then, at home, family members in turn from the older generation to the younger apologize to each other: "I am sorry if I did something inappropriate last year [often giving specific facts]. Please forgive me." This is said instead of traditional New Year greetings, and is symbolic of a fresh start for the New Year.

"When young people apologize to their elders, they have to kneel to be touched on their heads by the older person. Then they embrace each other and together enjoy the New Year's feast," says Wenna. During Chinese New Year in Taiwan, she and her husband return to Gongliao, his birthplace, to enjoy a feast with his family. But she always feels that there's something missing. Unlike New Year in Bali, where there is still a strong emphasis on traditional ethics, for Taiwanese it seems to be more about eating, drinking, setting off firecrackers and playing mahjong.

"I still follow the Balinese custom of apologizing to my husband at Chinese New Year in Taiwan. Somehow I feel that it's more meaningful for a proper New Year celebration!" she says.

Following Taiwanese customs

Wenna's situation at New Year, enjoying relative autonomy and being treasured by her husband, is rare among these women. Most of the overseas daughters-in-law have to follow family customs. All they can do is quietly add their own flavors to the celebrations. Like the majority of local daughters-in-law, they are always very busy with preparations for the festival, but there are no warm arms of their families to comfort them after their labors.

Li Luan, a 36-year-old from Cambodia, married into a Taiwan family 12 years ago. She explains frankly that she had the idea of marrying overseas because life in her home country was so extremely hard. Even though her -husband is 30 years older, she doesn't care because even if she had stayed at home, she would probably have never met her ideal man. "I thought that after I married a Taiwanese man, I would have a good life eating fish and meat every day. But my husband is a vegetarian (a follower of Yi-guan-dao, the Way of Pervading Unity). Alas, this is my fate!" says she self-mockingly.

Though Li was young when she married, she had to adapt to the unusual role of stepmother. Her husband had two daughters from a previous marriage, both of them at a similar age to Li. "I became a grandmother before I was the mother of my own child!" Arguments in such marriages are sometimes difficult to avoid. Due to the language barrier and the inability to communicate easily with her natal family with whom she could pour out her complaints, she describes herself as a very inhibited person for her first six months in Taiwan. She could only weep secretly in her room every day.

"I dared step outside alone only after being here for six months, and began to take courses to broaden my horizons. My Chinese improved and my relationship with the family has become friendlier. If I have arguments with my husband now, I can pour out my complaints to his daughters; or if I'm unhappy with his daughters, I can complain directly to him. I'm much happier because I've developed channels to express my emotions," says Li.

Because of her husband's religious beliefs, a complex series of ceremonies is required during Chinese New Year. Li says that during the early stages of her marriage, her husband was afraid that she might make mistakes in the ceremony, so he did everything himself. But after a year, one day he was in a bad mood and suddenly shouted at her: "You have been married to me for so long, but you still can't remember the ritual!" She felt hurt and wanted to prove her ability, so she decided to learn by heart the complex rituals and worship offerings (at least 25 dishes of vegetarian food or fruit are offered at the New Year ceremony, and a special ritual needs to be recited during the worship). Since then, she has taken complete responsibility for conducting worship.

In addition, she had to prepare vegetarian dishes for New Year Eve. "Certainly I cooked mainly Taiwanese dishes, but I always added something different such as Cambodian-style sour and spicy salad mixed with papaya or cabbage, or added Southeast Asian spices to the hotpot. Luckily, everyone enjoyed the variations."

On the second day of Chinese New Year, it is the tradition for married women to return to their natal families. Though Li was unable to return to her family, she tried her best to welcome her daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren home, and prepared a rich feast for them so they could experience the warmth of their family. "I was feeling particularly homesick on that day. But luckily I had my husband, three daughters and a son with me. Although the first two are stepdaughters, they treat me like their own mother, and they also give me a gift of pocket money. So I didn't feel too sad on New Year's Day in Taiwan!" says Li.

Happiness

Lin Thi Tham, a 32-year-old woman from Vietnam, was also a foreign bride. She met her husband, who is 10 years older, through an introduction service, but they have developed a close relationship since they were married. Lin is also lucky enough to enjoy a good relationship with her mother-in-law.

She points out that Vietnamese also celebrate the Lunar New Year. Essential local dishes for the New Year's feast are zongzi, which is steamed dumplings of glutinous rice with pork or mung beans wrapped in bamboo leaves, and braised pork cooked with coconut juice.

"Taiwanese may think that eating stewed pork at New Year is nothing special, but for Vietnamese who rarely eat meat in daily life, it is the most delicious dish!"

Her mother-in-law is in charge of cooking most of the dishes for the feast, but she would especially ask Lin to cook fried pork ribs because nobody could cook it better! Lin is optimistic by nature, and is not like the majority of "foreign brides" who often experience serious homesickness during festivals. "I talk to my mother on the phone every day, and I'm so far away from my original home, it's no use wasting time being homesick!"

For Lin, the most important New Year's wish is for the health of her husband, who is undergoing treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma. She prays that he will recover soon so the family can once again visit the countryside or stroll through the night markets just as they did in previous years.

"My experience of Chinese New Year is very ordinary, and nothing is particularly worthy of mention," says Lin without looking up from her craft-making, used to supplement their family income.

In fact, having an ordinary life is another type of happiness. For these women from such a rich variety of backgrounds, even though their fates in Taiwan are all different, one day in the future Taiwan will finally become their home. Feelings of homesickness may be difficult to erase, but their new home also provides new hopes for them to pursue.

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