Above the Sea of Clouds: Taiwan’s Elections from afar…

Yesterday was THE day!  The weather forecast was sunny, warm and dry, it was a very rare free Saturday and the beautiful Yang-ming Shan Mountains above Taipei were calling.   At 7:00 am, it was just light as I set off on the trail upwards into the clouds, complete with gloves for the roped sections ahead, and plenty of coffee to keep me going.  Ever hopeful that the forecast would be right, I ventured forth – and so it turned out to be, at the top of Mt. Miantian 面天山 (977 m) where there are 2 huge microwave reflectors, I could look down onto a massive and beautiful sea of white clouds covering the whole of the northern coast, including St. John’s University and most of Taipei City.  Misty memories came back of the last time I was on Yang-ming Shan at the end of October 2019 to do the ‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-mIng Shan East-West Traverse’ ~ a killer hike and yes, mostly done in the mist. Yesterday turned out to be beautiful weather all day – cloud down below, blue sky above. And so the good weather continued – onto the summits of Mt. Datun 大屯山, Datun west, south and main peaks. The skies were blue, the clouds were white and the views were incredible.

And there were hardly any people.  Usually on a sunny Saturday all through the year there will be thousands of people on Yang-ming Shan hiking, walking, enjoying the hot springs, relaxing with family and friends.  After all, it is just so easy to get there from Taipei City by car or public transport, so there is really no excuse for NOT going!  But not yesterday.  It’s true that one of the roads was closed for repair after recent heavy rains, but even so, there were hardly any people anywhere to be seen.  Even Erziping with its famous lake and picnic site in the swirling mists had only a few people there…

Later, I did find out that one of my friends was following the same route as me, but a bit later in the morning – and by the time she got there at lunchtime, the sea of clouds had dispersed a bit.  And it was a bit of a surprise to bump into one of my adult students on the top of Mt. Datun, although Yang-ming Shan is that kind of place – anyway, it’s her who kindly took this photo ha ha! 

And the reason for there not being many people up in the mountains?  Election Day!  Down in Taipei and all over the country, people were lining up since 7:00 am to get in and vote in Taiwan’s 2020 Presidential and Legislative Elections.  Campaigning has been going for months, and it couldn’t be livelier.  Billboards, loudspeakers, TV appearances, campaign rallies, it’s been pretty non-stop all day long, and they cover every aspect – so it is impossible not to be involved.  Held once every 4 years, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was standing for a second term. 

Taiwan has no postal voting or voting by proxy, so the 14 million citizens who were qualified to vote had to travel home to the place of their household registration, which meant a mass exodus out of Taipei for the weekend.  St. John’s University and all other universities finished their term on Friday, allowing students to return home to vote.  Thousands more came home from overseas, combining the election with a pre-Chinese New Year visit to family and friends.  Democracy and the right to vote are cherished, and the level of enthusiasm was clear.  Yes, it was a very BIG day for Taiwan!

Thankfully voting went peacefully, and by early evening, it was clear that President Tsai had won a second term.  She received 8.2 million votes, 57% of the ballot, which is over a million more votes than she got first-time round in 2016. Her main rival, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won 5.5 million votes, 38 % of the ballot.  The DPP also won a majority of seats in the Legislature with 61 seats, the KMT took 38, and smaller parties took the remaining 14. 

We give thanks to God for safe and smooth elections yesterday, and please do keep President Tsai and her government in your prayers as she starts a second term. For more information, see the following news reports:

Taipei Times: 2020 Elections: Tsai wins by a landslide and 2020 Elections: DPP maintains its legislative majority

The Guardian Int’l Edition: Taiwan election: Tsai Ing-Wen wins landslide in rebuke to China

BBC: Taiwan election: Tsai Ing-wen wins second presidential term

And Taiwan’s next big event, coming up soon: Chinese New Year! Spring is coming too. The cherry blossom was coming out yesterday, and there are ponkan trees everywhere covered in fruits…

Ponkan 椪柑 ‘Chinese Honey Orange’ – a citrus hybrid (mandarin × pomelo), and just so delicious!

Advent Word 2019, Day 24 'Beloved'

#AdventWord #Beloved

You are loved. Three simple words. And yet words that can transform…everything! The New Testament asserts that “love is from God, because God is love.” This love is nothing less than the saving lifeblood for a global family that often feels and acts in very unloving ways. All too often, we are hemorrhaging fear and hurt because we allow selfishness—the opposite of love—to fill our veins and kill our souls. And the world can be transformed. Yet in this quest, a key thing to remember is that God is the initiator of reconciliation, not we human beings.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry is the primate and presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church.

The opened door of one of the octagon angels high up in Ely Cathedral, marking the final post of Advent Word 2019… and so wishing you all a very

Merry Christmas 聖誕節快樂!

Advent Word 2019, Day 23 'Message'

#AdventWord #Message

When Joseph obeyed the angel’s message, “go, take Mary who is with child as your wife,” the Holy Family came into being–Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Too often we overlook Joseph who was given a vocation and accepted it. Who else do we overlook, seeing them as “minor players?” The message of Advent is clear, there are no people who should be overlooked or marginalized. Our vocation as Christians calls us to see the Babe of Bethlehem in each and every person. That is the message of Advent.

The Rev. James Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D., Co-Director, Bicentennial Campaign and Arthur Carl Lichtenberger Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Theology.

The Copper Nativity at Chester Cathedral

Advent Word 2019, Day 22 'Restore'

#AdventWord #Restore

“Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;” the Psalmist cries out three times, “show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.” There are many sources of pain and suffering, but only one source of life and peace. Advent’s clarion call is to turn back and find oneself anew in the light of the face of God, restored to wholeness by the one whose return we await.

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue (VTS ’00) is the bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

The Gethsemane Chapel at Coventry Cathedral

Advent Word 2019, Day 21 'Rest'

#AdventWord #Rest

Rest is where the magic happens. True rest changes us at the cellular level. It is the space in which the body is strengthened and the soul restored. Catch your breath, let down your guard, rest and let God come especially close. Relieve yourself of the adrenaline rush and the accolades wrought of busyness so that Jesus can be born anew in you.

The Right Rev. Jennifer Baskerville Burrows is the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

Coventry Cathedral

Advent Word 2019, Day 20 'Go'

#AdventWord #Go

Go see. Go hear. Go tell. Following Jesus involves movement, witnessing to his ministry, using our agency for positive change through word and deed. As we go, we must keep our eyes and ears open to what the world is telling us, so that in our going, we are prepared to authentically address the needs of others and of creation.

Alan Yarborough is the Communications Coordinator and Office Manager for The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations.

A Thames Clipper sails past St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Advent Word 2019, Day 19 'Bless'

#AdventWord #Bless

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us of the power we all have to BLESS others when we are following the way of love. “…the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” Every day and every encounter is an opportunity for blessing.

Jenny Grant is the Officer for Global Relations and Networking in the Global Partnerships office of The Episcopal Church.

Looking down from among the octagon angels at Ely Cathedral

Yes to God, Yes to Mission, Yes to Taiwan!