Category Archives: St. John’s University, Taiwan

Professor Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌 takes over as new President of St. John’s University, Taiwan 臺大教授黃宏斌接掌聖約翰科大校長

The SJU student team arriving at Advent Church today to help with the Handover Ceremony

St. John’s University (SJU) held a formal Handover Ceremony on July 31, 2020, at which the SJU Chair of the Board of Trustees, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang and outgoing SJU President Herchang Ay handed over the SJU presidential seal to Professor Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌, who becomes the ninth president of SJU – and its predecessor, St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology SJSMIT.

Bishop Chang (centre) with outgoing President Ay (right) and incoming President Huang (left)

The Handover Ceremony took place in the context of a Thanksgiving Service, held at 10:00 am in Advent Church, led by SJU Chaplain, Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu, and assisted by clergy of the diocese, including Rev. Keith C. C. Lee and Rev. Lily L. L. Chang who read the prayers, also members of the SJU Student Fellowship and friends who sang in the choir, and Professor Yu-Wen Chang who played the piano…

In line with Covid-19 precautions, temperatures were checked at the entrance and face-masks were worn during the service. The event was organized by St. John’s University and SJU Chaplaincy and attended by a large number of SJU faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, students and church members….

One very special guest was President Ay’s predecessor, former SJU President Chen Jean-Lien. Here she is with Hannah, Bishop Chang’s wife…

Many of the visitors were friends and colleagues of Professor Huang, including a large group of alumni from the University of Iowa, his alma mater, many wearing university T-shirts, all pictured here with Prof. Huang in the middle….

University of Iowa Alumni

Distinguished guests, who all gave short speeches, included Prof. Huang Jong-Tsun 黃榮村, President Designate of the Examination Yuan (assuming office September 1, 2020) (below left) and Minister Li Hong-Yuan 李鴻源, former Minister of the Interior, attending as a dean of the University of Iowa (below right)….

Also former Taoyuan County Mayor John Zhi-Yang Wu 吳志揚 (below left) and Chen Chwen-Jing 陳純敬, Deputy Mayor of the New Taipei City Government (below right)…

Outgoing SJU President Herchang Ay, as the first SJSMIT / SJU alumnus to be appointed president, has completed his 4-year term as SJU president and returns to his post as Professor at National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences. We will miss him! Here he is with his wife and Bishop Chang…

Incoming SJU President, Professor Hung-Pin Huang is a professor in the National Taiwan University (NTU) Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, he has also served as Deputy Governor in the Taoyuan Government (2011-14) and as Director of the Ministry of Education (2003-4). His whole profile is listed here on the NTU website, as follows:

Dr. Ben Hung-Pin Huang 黃宏斌:
Education: Ph.D., The University of Iowa, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Iowa Institute for Hydraulic Research (IIHR) 01-08-1984 to 31-08-1988, Iowa City, USA (note that the NTU website incorrectly states that it was Iowa State University – his friends, wife and daughter all confirmed today that it was actually The University of Iowa).

Experience:

  1. Taoyuan City Government, Deputy Magistrate Room, Deputy governor 01-01-2011 to 25-12-2014
  2. National Taiwan University Experimental Farm, Associate Director 01-08-2009 to 31-12-2010
  3. National Taiwan University Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Chair/Head 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  4. National Taiwan University, Experimental Farm Division, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  5. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Director 01-08-2006 to 31-07-2009
  6. National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Director 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
  7. National Taiwan University, Office of Student Affairs, Vice President for Student Affairs 01-08-2004 to 31-07-2005
  8. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 20-05-2004 to 01-01-2011
  9. Ministry of Education, Director 15-01-2003 to 20-05-2004
  10. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Professor 01-08-1992 to 15-01-2003
  11. National Taiwan University, Department of Bioenvironmental Systems Engineering, Associate Professor 01-08-1988 to 01-08-1992

Research Fields: Forestry, Soil & Water Conservation, Ecological Engineering, Civil Engineering (Hydraulics), Environmental Protection, Disaster Prevention

Today’s distinguished guests ….

And the celebratory flower arrangements sent by friends and institutions…

Today’s service…

After the Thanksgiving Service, we all moved to the Advent Church Centre for entertainment provided by SJU students and graduates…

This was followed by presentations to outgoing President Ay, from Bishop Lennon Y.R. Chang as Chair of the SJU Board of Trustees (below left), and Tseng Hong-Lian 曾鴻鍊 as Chair of the SJU Alumni Association (below right)….

After the formal events, it was time for lunch – which was delicious, with entertainment provided throughout. Followed by lots of photos with our visiting clergy and church members!

Congratulations to St. John’s University, and to our new president, President Huang. Please do keep him and the university in your prayers as he starts in his new position, officially as from tomorrow, August 1. Thank you!

The Chinese-language report of the Handover Ceremony on the SJU website is here:

臺大教授黃宏斌接掌聖約翰科大校長 帶領團隊打拼光輝未來

Update from Taiwan: Masked Graduation in a Time of Coronavirus 😷

Congratulations to all our St. John’s University (SJU) graduates!

Face-masks on, temperatures checked, gowns a-swaying, mortar boards balanced in place, and we’re off!

Today, Saturday June 20, 2020, we celebrated the graduation of 722 students from the 4-year SJU Bachelor’s degree program, plus 78 students awarded SJU Master’s degrees and 75 students graduating from the Junior College section. Thanks be to God!

This year marks the first graduation for the junior college students since this program was reintroduced 5 years ago, aimed at those who want to do more specialized study after leaving junior-high school. They are now 20 years old and most are ready to move on to university – with a further 2 years to go. One such is Chang Fan, in the Dept of Applied English, whose family came along today too…

It was also the first graduation for Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang as the new Bishop of Taiwan – and also as new chair of the SJU board of trustees…

And it was the last graduation for SJU President Herchang Ay, who finishes his 4-year term next month…

We also welcomed many VIP guests, including some of our SJU trustees, members of the alumni association, plus 10 very distinguished alumni who were receiving awards…

Our SJU Student Fellowship said goodbye to 10 of our group who are graduating, including last year’s elected chair of the student fellowship, Yi-Ting. She’s brought several of her classmates along to the fellowship over the years, which partly explains why, of that group of 10, 6 are classmates from the Dept. of Creative Design. Yi-Ting and one of her best friends, Yumi are from Malaysia. Normally their parents would have come to attend the graduation and maybe travel around Taiwan for a few days as a family, but due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, that’s not possible this year. Then again they appreciate that at least they can have an actual graduation ceremony, unlike many other countries still in lockdown. Yi-Ting was also one of the recipients of a special prize presented by Bishop Chang today…

After the graduation ceremony, and after the students had said goodbye to their teachers in each dept, student fellowship members came with their parents to Advent Church. Former students had already gathered there to offer their own congratulations – and of course for photos. Check out the photos below where we had to lie down to get the right angle!

To rewind a little to last month, and the annual highlight of our fond farewells to the SJU Student Fellowship graduates is always a big fancy-dress party, held this year on Thursday June 4. The costume theme was ‘Movie Characters’, and we had a wide variety from Men in Black, James Bond, Tangled and Harry Potter, to name a few. Really spectacular! Lots of our former student fellowship members came back to visit, and we had a meal, worship, games, presentations – and finished with sparklers outside on the SJU labyrinth…

Check out the photos. It was all great fun!

It’s great to be able to celebrate graduation with our students. In particular, we are grateful that Taiwan continues to remain a safe and secure country to be in at this time of Covid-19. As a result, this year’s SJU graduation could go ahead as planned. We had to cancel our annual SJU foundation celebrations at the end of April, but the pandemic situation in Taiwan has stabilized considerably since then. A month ago, on May 22 the official Covid-19 figures for Taiwan were 441 confirmed cases, 408 recovered and 7 deaths, and there’s not been too much change since then. Today’s figures are 446 confirmed cases, 434 recovered and 7 deaths. All the new cases are imported, meaning they’re Taiwan people returning from overseas; there have been no domestic transmissions since April 12. The borders remain closed but there are plans to open them a little for closely-monitored business travelers from selected ‘safe’ countries, with reduced quarantine times, starting this coming week. After that, the next step may be to allow the return of more overseas students, also from selected countries – who weren’t able to return before travel restrictions hit. It’s expected that they’ll do their 14 days of quarantine during the summer vacation in their university dormitories. Otherwise, while temperature checks and face-masks continue, other restrictions are gradually easing, domestic tourism is being encouraged, large events are now allowed (with face-masks and temperature checks), and in our churches, worship and fellowship activities are more or less back to normal. And all swimming pools are open, including the 50m outdoor pool here at SJU – Yes! So, welcome to SJU! 🙂

One of the highlights of today’s graduation day was the opening ceremony beforehand to honour the donation from one of our alumni, Mr. Cheng, who has worked with students from the SJU Dept of Industrial Engineering on this wonderful robotic coffee-making machine. We were all invited to try out a coffee afterwards ~ the whole process is really interesting, and the coffee was great too!

Today was a big day ~ many congratulations to all our students on their graduation! As they leave for pastures new and places yet unknown, we hope and pray that they’ll take many happy memories with them of their time at SJU. One of the graduating students gave a speech today and recalled her time at SJU, some of the more memorable events included the annual fun run in the year when everyone ran through a torrential rainstorm – I remember that! And then of course, no-one will ever forget that this was the year of graduating in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Quite something to remember – and to appreciate, given that education has been so badly affected in so many countries.

The graduation ceremony ended with Bishop Chang giving the blessing. Yes, indeed. May God bless one and all, today and always!

Congratulations and Farewell to our Friends from Latin America and the Caribbean!

Many congratulations to our 18 trainees from Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as they complete their 11-week course and prepare to leave Taiwan at the end of this week! Saying farewell is never easy, but we’re doing it the right way, which means making the most of their last week, with many farewell events. The photo above was taken at the party at my house last Wednesday ~ and this afternoon, the Latin American guys kindly invited me to a Ceviche lunch party… ah it’s all fun!

The group have been here since mid-August participating in the “2019 Latin American and Caribbean Countries Vocational Training Project: Electrical and Electronic Engineering 拉丁美洲及加勒比海地區友邦技職訓練計畫-電機工程實務技術英語班”, in association with ‘Taiwan ICDF‘, and hosted by St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei. Last Friday, October 25, we had our closing ceremony at Fullon Hotel, Tamsui where all participants received their certificates and awards. It was a Very Grand Occasion!

The event was held along with Hungkuang University (弘光科技大學) in Taichung, who are also hosting a group of trainees from Latin America and the Caribbean, also through Taiwan ICDF; their course is in Tourism and Hospitality, and they all came up to Taipei for the occasion on Friday. Our group is 16 men and 2 women, while their group is 21 women and 4 men – their group also has trainees from 2 additional countries, Honduras and St. Kitts & Nevis. We were honoured to welcome the very lovely Ambassador of Nicaragua (and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps), William Tapia, who gave a really inspiring speech, in which he said that he too had started out as a scholarship student in Taiwan 55 years ago and it had changed his life. We only have 2 women trainees in our engineering group, Lyanne from St. Lucia and Svetlana from Nicaragua; Ambassador Tapia told me that the word for earth in Spanish is “la tierra”, a feminine word – so he said that the earth belongs to women, and the future is in our hands! Yes, we really do need some more women engineers in this world, and Nicaragua and St. Lucia seem to be the place to find them! We had a large group from St. Lucia at the closing ceremony, in fact, as a whole, the Caribbean participants vastly outnumbered those from Latin America. The largest group of trainees in total were from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and we were honoured to welcome their ambassador, Andrea Bowman to the closing ceremony. We also welcomed Bishop Lai to give the opening prayer. There were displays around the room of some of the projects, with our professors on hand to explain as necessary. Three or our group were also interviewed by the university reporter…

The whole project is run by Taiwan ICDF (International Cooperation and Development Fund), part of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under a scheme known as ‘Vocational Training Courses for Allied Countries’. A number of VIP guests from ICDF also came to the ceremony, including Mr. Yi-Fang Chen, Counselor. Each trainee received a certificate of completion, presented by SJU President Herchang Ay, and there were also individual awards for excellence (to Herberth from Guatemala) and for Public Spiritness (to Ian from Belize). Speeches were given by trainees, and videos shown of the courses. Trainees from both universities then joined together for group photos taken country by country along with their ambassador or representative, they also received gifts to take home as souvenirs. Group photo of everyone…

Photos below show each country – plus the individual presentations….

Belize…

Guatemala…

Nicaragua…

St. Lucia…

St. Vincent and the Grenadines… (with Ambassador Tapia taking a photo in the foreground!)

Honduras and St. Kitts and Nevis – all their trainees were from Hungkuang University…

The first prize for the most amazing outfit from our group has got to be Ashton from Belize who came in a black suit and hat, with red shirt and red shoes. Sunglasses added to the style, so cool!

After the ceremony, we had photos and more photos, followed by the buffet lunch at the hotel. A great day indeed!

This is the 5-minute video shown by our group at the closing ceremony, showing what they’ve been up for the last few months….

Lots of congratulations to everyone, with many thanks to our SJU team for all their hard work – and especially to our 18 trainees as they prepare to say goodbye to Taiwan at the end of this week and return home to their families and their jobs – sharing with others what they’ve learned while they’ve been here. Wishing them all a safe journey ~ and many blessings on their future lives!

PS. Updated, Friday November 1: our trainees have all left! 😢😢Country by country, the first group departed for the airport last night, 3 more this morning, and I accompanied the final group, Nicaragua to the airport at lunchtime today (that’s us in the above photo) along with Jun-Hong, standing on the far left – he’s been the airport 4 times in the last 24 hours! They all have long journeys ahead, via Europe or USA, but they all reach home sometime on Saturday, their time, and the 3 Nicaraguans, Moises, Svetlana and Carlos all start back at work at 7:00 am on Monday morning!

Goodbye everyone, we will miss you, but we’ll never forget you. It’s been great welcoming you all to Taiwan. God bless you all!

South to North up Taiwan’s West Coast with our 18 Friends from Latin America & the Caribbean!

Smiles all round in honour of Taiwan’s Double-Tenth National Day last Thursday, October 10 ~ and the start of a 4-day weekend for us all! And what a good opportunity it was to show our 18 international friends some of the great cultural sights of Taiwan. 😊 The group are now on the final stretch of their 3-month “2019 Latin American and Caribbean Countries Vocational Training Project: Electrical and Electronic Engineering 拉丁美洲及加勒比海地區友邦技職訓練計畫-電機工程實務技術英語班”, in association with ‘Taiwan ICDF‘, and hosted by St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei. In a few weeks time, they’ll all return to their home countries of Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and we’ll miss them! Here they are celebrating Taiwan’s National Day …

Last week, the group were in south Taiwan for a 3-day Solar Energy Course at the National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, where Dr. Herchang Ay, SJU President, is in charge of the Apollo Solar Car Team. The group traveled there on Monday morning by High-Speed Rail (see photo below), and the plan was that we would join them on Thursday morning to make the most of the 4-day weekend, traveling back to Taipei by coach, via all sorts of interesting places en route along the west coast.

Thus it was that we spent Thursday in Kaohsiung, Thursday night and Friday in Tainan, Friday night and Saturday morning in Chiayi, and from Saturday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime in Taichung, returning to St. John’s University along the west coast road on Sunday evening – trying to avoid the traffic on the final day of the long weekend. We saw a huge lot of really great places, so many in fact that there was hardly any time to rest on the coach in-between stops! Here’s the group posing at the first stop of the day…

There were 4 of us from SJU, A-Tu, me, Xiang-Yann from Malaysia and Jun-Hong. We also had a very good tour guide, Thomas, and a very patient driver, Mr. Chien. A-Tu and I went to Kaohsiung on Wednesday afternoon, stayed the night at St. Paul’s Church (thanks to Rev. C. C. Cheng and his wife!) and met up with our lovely group on Thursday morning at Weiwuying – my most favourite place in all of Kaohsiung – I just love all that wall art! It was good to hear our group’s reflections on their few days in south Taiwan – all positive, and they enthused about how friendly all the people were down south. It’s a fact – the further south you go in Taiwan the friendlier the people – and this was the experience of our group too. As we traveled around these past few days, many people would come over to meet us, some to enquire about the guys’ long hair or where they’re all from or to take a photo together, ah it was fun! Anyway, after the wall murals, we walked across the road to visit the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, which is a stunning building, but it was very hot and muggy, and the sky was hazy. It is ‘air-pollution season’ in Taiwan, and while the weather forecast may have shown days of yellow sunshine, in reality, it was mostly hazy and dull. And very very hot! 🥵🥵

Then we visited the Glory Pier and the Pier 2 area, plus Xiziwan. More hot, hot, hot! In fact, we had to cut short our afternoon sightseeing to save us all from getting heatstroke, and off we went to spend an hour enjoying the air-conditioned Dream Mall instead! As it was Taiwan’s National Day, so there were flags everywhere …

Day One over, and in the evening, we drove an hour north to Tainan, where we stayed overnight in the Sendale Tainan Science Park Hotel, in Sinshih (Xinshi), Tainan. The best thing about Sinshih is that when we got up early for exercise the next morning, we discovered the very delightful nearby Sinshih Elementary School, where everyone was busy doing exercise, the school open-air pool was full of people swimming, and best of all, the school walls were covered in mosaics and murals, all done by the children to show the history of the town – including the arrival of the early missionaries. I loved it!

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, and the first capital city, so the first must-visit place was the National Museum of Taiwan History. This museum was a big surprise to me – not only had I never been there before, actually I had never even heard of it either! It was opened in 2011, and is located in what seems to be the middle of absolutely nowhere, somewhere on the coast ~ but the museum is a beautiful building and the displays are excellent. Thomas took this photo of us at the main entrance…

Y’know, it’s not easy for a government to construct a good museum telling its own history from an objective viewpoint – and as far as it goes, they’ve done a good job, and especially in presenting the history of Taiwanese customs and also the big section about the Japanese colonial era. There’s lots of interesting displays and everything is in English and Chinese. One day hopefully the museum will also extend the displays to include more about the indigenous people, Christian missionaries and churches, and what really happened during the White Terror era. Anyway it’s a highly recommended museum, and our group spent a long time looking at all the exhibits – and taking part, as appropriate!

Next stop, and we were off to Tainan City to see the Blueprint Cultural and Creative Park ~ this is an old ‘dormitory village’ of houses originally built to provide accommodation for government workers and their families in days gone by, but now reinvented for visitors to come and see, and of course, to come and shop…

We also visited Snail Alley ~ I liked the old buildings – and, well, also the snails!

The best place of the whole afternoon was the Hayashi Department Store, which I loved, it has a really fascinating history, dating from the Japanese colonial era, and it was new to me. Their website says, “On December 5th, 1932, Hayashi Department Store opened and thus a modern age of Taiwanese culture began. The decade of 1930s was the start point of modern civilization in Taiwan. As the electric lamps, telephone, and water supply lines popularized, symbols of civilization such like the airplane and motor vehicles flooded into Taiwan. The cafés were becoming the fad of the day, as well as pop culture, movies, phonographs and jazz music. People´s mentality was opening up, and freewill dating was taking over arranged marriages, while dresses were replacing kimonos and Westernized education was popularizing. This was Taiwan in the 1930s”. On the top floor, there’s a very unusual Shinto shrine, there are also great views down to the road below, plus glass-covered walls that show where the building was damaged by air-raids during World War II. After the war, the building became mostly offices, but these days, it’s transformed once again into a shopping experience, though it has retained its original charm and elegance. I really liked it!

We didn’t visit the Confucius Temple, which is usually No. 1 on a historic tour of Tainan, but we did go to Anping Fort (aka Fort Zeelandia), built between 1624 to 1634 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). After wandering around the fort, we stopped at the Old Street and also watched a folk tale performance in front of the temple. Our group had a go at the games, and Jun-Hong got himself a temporary tattoo of a tiger!

So that was Day Two, and after dinner, we set off for the hour-or-so drive north to Chiayi, where we stayed in the very stylish Kuan Hotel, on the outskirts of the city…

Day Three was Saturday, and we were all up bright and early for the world’s biggest breakfast in the hotel restaurant. All of our lunches and evening meals were in Chinese restaurants so this was a chance to have something a bit different – plus lots of coffee ready for the day ahead! Our first destination of the day was the very famous Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum; this was my second visit. My first visit was when Chiayi hosted the Lantern Festival in 2018 – with lots of people and a really festive atmosphere. This time it was far more relaxed and a chance to enjoy the lake and the architecture, there was also a special exhibit on Thailand – and large elephant inflatables in the main entrance! I really like this place, it’s spacious, well-designed and full of interesting things – but not too many – just the right size for a visit!

The most famous object in the museum is the stewed pork / meat-shaped stone: “The 5.73 cm tall Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) piece is made from banded jasper in the shape of braised pork belly”….

So that was Chiayi – and after lunch we drove north for 90 minutes to Taichung, our fourth destination of the trip. We visited Miyahara, “a red-brick architecture built by Miyahara Takeo, a Japanese ophthalmology doctor in 1927. It was the largest ophthalmology clinic in Taichung during the Japanese colonial period. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Miyahara became the Taichung Health Bureau”. After years of decay, it has now been reinvented as a restaurant and ice-cream shop, and designed like Hogwarts in Harry Potter. We also visited the Shenji New Village, but there were so many people, we didn’t stay long. Instead we decided to check into the hotel, then head to dinner and a quick visit to the Fengjia Night Market, most famous of all Taichung’s night markets – check out all those zillions of people!

Day Four arrived and there we were in the WeMeet Hotel in central Taichung. I lived in Taichung when I first arrived in Taiwan, from 1999-2006 and I kinda know my way around, so we were up very early to go and visit the nearby Taichung Park. The park is famous for the pavilion built in 1908 for the visit of the Japanese Emperor’s son to launch the railway – it’s the iconic symbol of Taichung, and looks good lit up in the darkness.

A-Tu and I wandered on and found Taichung’s oldest church, Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church 柳原長老教會, built in 1915, which has a notice saying it is the only church in the world with dragon-shaped waterspouts… well, you learn something new every day!

And then we walked to the nearby site of the famous Yi-Zhong Night Market, which in the very early morning was distinctly less lively than it would have been some hours earlier. This is where I used to come for my language classes, and every day I would pass a church on the corner opposite the night market – an old wooden building, surrounded by a parking area. That church was originally a Japanese Anglican (NSKK) Church, but when the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945, there being no Taiwan Anglican / Episcopal Church at that time, so it was handed over to another church group. The building was still there until about 15 years ago, when it was demolished and a large retail building put up, with the church relocated to the top floor. You can see it in this photo. The lower floors are obviously let to Adidas – aka the Adidas Church?

My favourite place in Taichung is the Rainbow Military Dependents Village, famously saved from demolition by 97-year-old Mr. Huang, who started to paint the walls in beautiful designs, and over some years succeeded in saving his village. It is now a major tourist attraction, which is why we were there, but Mr. Huang is still the main focus, and he was posing for photos and enjoying the well-deserved attention. The government has stepped in and restored some of the buildings, and it is looking even better than before, while still very much retaining its original character. There are huge construction projects going on nearby, so soon the village will be a little oasis in the middle of a high-rise community…

After Rainbow Village, we went to the new National Taichung Theater, designed by Japanese architect, Ito Toyo, with lots of curved walls, under-floor air-conditioning and all sorts of sound caves and air-holes. We had an excellent volunteer guide who was really passionate about showing us around and explaining the design; he also took us inside the actual grand theater. His enthusiasm was so wonderful, infectious even – a very highly recommended tour!

So that was Taichung. We had one more place to visit, and that was on the way home, when we took the coastal road north to escape the worst of the traffic and visited the Miaoli Wind Farm, which was just visible far off in the sea – Taiwan’s first offshore wind farm, and on track to begin commercial operations by the end of this year…

And so we arrived back at St. John’s University on Sunday evening soon after 7:00 pm, grateful that everything had gone smoothly, thankful for our guide and driver, for good food and drink, and for all the amazing places we’d visited. This was a tour focused on Taiwan’s cities and urban areas rather than scenic landscapes, but as one of the group said, “We have plenty of beautiful scenery back home, but we don’t have high-rise cities – so that’s what we want to see!” And we certainly did see many, also a lot of baroque architecture which was the architectural style chosen by the Japanese to build Taiwan’s cities during the colonial era, 1895-1945. Now it’s just nice to back in the big open space by the sea that is St. John’s University, with the mountains in the background, and where the air is relatively less-polluted and the temps are definitely cooler. Ah yes, being away on a bus for 4 days really helps you to appreciate being home!

Thanks to SJU for all the planning and organizing of the whole trip, thanks to everyone in the group for being so lovely, and thanks be to God that everything went so well! YES!

Taiwan’s Culture and Stinky Tofu ~ with our friends from Latin America and the Caribbean!😊😊😊

Yes, 3 more busy days out in the last 2 weeks visiting some wonderful places around northern Taiwan with our 18 lovely friends from Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who are here at St. John’s University as part of the “2019 Latin American and Caribbean Countries Vocational Training Project: Electrical and Electronic Engineering 拉丁美洲及加勒比海地區友邦技職訓練計畫-電機工程實務技術英語班”, in association with ‘TaiwanICDF‘.

Last Saturday off we went through the Xueshan Tunnel, Taiwan’s longest at 12.9 km ~ it runs through the mountains from Taipei to the east coast at Yilan. Since opening in 2006, it’s really changed Taiwan’s east coast, with lots of development, tourism and business opportunities opening up. There’s lots of traffic too, especially on a Saturday when everyone is in that tunnel trying to get out of the big city, escaping for the day or weekend to breathe in some fresh sea air and relax….

And so we joined them, but it took us 3 hours (yes, 3 whole hours!) from St. John’s University to get to our first main stop at Lanyang Museum 蘭陽博物館. The museum has really good displays about the local area, and gave us distant views through the haze over towards Guishan Island. Guishan Island (Turtle Island) is actually the protruding top of Taiwan’s only active volcano. Our friends from Latin America and Caribbean have plenty of active volcanoes in their own countries, so it’s good that Taiwan has one to show to visitors too! This is us at the museum…

Lanyang Museum building was “designed by a team led by Kris Yao those design was inspired by the ‘cuestas’ commonly seen along Beiguan Coast. The museum adopts the geometric shapes of the cuestas where the roof protrudes from the ground at an angle of 20 degrees meeting a wall which rises from the ground at an angle of 70 degrees.” Really impressive. I liked it. Not sure about that big apartment building right behind it, but hey, at least the residents must have a good view!

We spent the day driving around Yilan, enjoying local foods and restaurants and seeing the countryside. At lunchtime, the rain started – and poured down for the next 3 hours, so we spent the afternoon visiting the famous Kavalan Whisky Distillery ~ which also houses Mr. Brown coffee. A little secret ~ the Kavalan Sweet Coffee Liqueur is really delicious, and there was plenty of it to sample ~ but shhh, don’t tell anyone. Ah, but it was a fun day!

Then last Monday, we went to the National Palace Museum, Taipei – it is Taipei’s ‘must-go, must-see’ museum on every visitor’s itinerary, but it’s impossible to see it all on one trip. We had 2 hours and saw but a fraction of the displays, though we did have a detailed tour in English about the bronzes in the museum…

In the afternoon we paid a quick visit to Xiaoyoukeng in Yangmingshan National Park to see the smoking – and very smelly – fumaroles in the mist. Not, apparently, as magnificent or as smelly (thank goodness!) as the ones in St. Lucia, but hey, these ones are smelly enough!

And today (part of the 3-day Mid-Autumn Moon Festival), we spent the day south-west of Taipei. Our first stop was the Yingge Ceramics Museum – which may look kind of grim and brutalist on the outside, but inside the museum, the displays are really creatively presented, reflecting its past as Taiwan’s ceramic town – due to its special clay.

We had a short guided tour in English and then I rushed around taking some photos. Even the luggage lockers are ceramic…

We also visited Sanxia Old Street, built in the Japanese era in baroque style and restored a few years ago. We tried all the local delicacies, including pig’s blood cake and stinky tofu – some of which, well, let’s put it this way, didn’t go down too well with some of us! The croissants and ice-cream though were delicious!

After lunch, we went to Daxi Old Tea Factory…..

And then to Cihu Mausoleum 慈湖陵寢 , “the temporary resting place of President Chiang Kai-shek. When Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, he was not buried in the traditional Chinese fashion but entombed in a black marble sarcophagus since he expressed the wish to be eventually buried in his native Fenghua in Zhejiang province once the Kuomintang (KMT) recovered mainland China from the Communists.” We went to see the changing of the guard ceremony that takes place every hour on the hour ~ we were there for the one at 3:00 pm. Wow, it was so hot, bees were buzzing around and we were directly facing into the afternoon sun. But then the honor guard must have been even hotter, after standing for an hour in their heavy uniforms without moving….

There’s also the Cihu Lake and the surrounding sculpture park where all the ‘removed’ statues of Chiang Kai-Shek are on display….