Category Archives: St. John’s University, Taiwan

St. John’s University Coming of Age Ceremony 成年禮 2020!

After long weeks of hard work for the clergy, staff and students of our St. John’s University (SJU) Chaplaincy – today was THE day, our SJU Coming of Age Ceremony!

This annual event is highly praised by the Ministry of Education, and is a wonderful way to welcome our first-year university and fourth-year junior college students into the grown up world. All have turned 18 in the past year (some are several years older), but this ceremony is a way of acknowledging their new freedoms – and of course responsibilities – now that they’re adults. Some of the emphasis is on thanking parents and teachers for their role in reaching this milestone. All the students were dressed very smartly in their new blue SJU ties – though some did need a bit of help to fix them!

Temperature checks were made at the entrance and face-masks were worn by all, except those on stage using a microphone. Taiwan continues its long run of over 200 days with no domestic transmissions of Covid-19, but the winter flu season is coming, and precautions are being stepped up – especially with increasing numbers of imported cases coming from overseas. Actually this week we have an Indian summer with sunshine and temperatures in their top 20’s, it’s really warm!

During the course of the ceremony, the students toasted each other with a small cup of wine….

Each of the class tutors was also welcomed to the ceremony, served a small cup of tea and presented with a poinsettia plant…

Parents were invited too, and also presented with a plant. This year for the first time ever, some of the extra speeches and presentations were replaced with a foot-washing ceremony. Parents were invited to take part, and 8 of them accepted – and had their feet washed by their son or daughter. For Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, this is the first time he has attended as bishop and chair of the SJU Board of Trustees. His original idea was for foot washing with faculty too, but in the end, it was just the 8 parents and their children. It was really good and the atmosphere was great ~ the parents and students who took part were so happy!

As well as VIP speeches from distinguished alumni, SJU President Huang and Bishop Chang, one of the students always gives a speech, and we usually choose a Christian who then shares the story of their Christian faith. This year, it was a young man, Ricky from Malaysia, and he gave quite an amazing testimony. The prayers were given by Melissa, also from Malaysia – in fact both of these students are from Anglican Churches, and we’re so happy that they’ve joined our student fellowship.

The ceremony ended with musical performances from some of our student groups, including our student fellowship – and then finished with the singing of the SJU School Song, and the blessing from Bishop Chang.

Our student numbers continue to fall – at today’s event, we had somewhere over 200 students – but that includes both first-year university and the fourth-year junior college students. The last time I wrote a blog post about this ceremony was in November 2017, when I see we had 350 students attending the ceremony, the year before, in 2016, there were 800 students, and way back in 2012, there were 1,500 students in their first-year. We thank God for all those students who are here, please do pray for them. There are increasing numbers of students coming from Malaysia, and this coming winter vacation, they are facing the reality that they are not going to be able to go home for Chinese New Year, due to quarantine restrictions. Many of them will hope to stay here locally and find a job for those few weeks. Chinese New Year will be very different for those not able to go home. We are busy making plans, hoping to organize activities and meals for those who’ll be here.

Our student fellowship, led by Min-Wen, our chaplain Rev. H. H. Wu, and the chaplaincy staff, Shu-Jing and Tzi-Wei worked really hard to organize today’s big event, and it went so well. I just turned up 30 minutes beforehand to start taking a few photos (just in case you can’t spot me – I’m on the temperature check screen!) These are a selection….

And this is the group photo of all those who helped organize the event, along with Bishop Chang….. they’re all happy it went so well!

They all deserve a huge amount of praise. Thank you everyone, and thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings!

50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service for Bishop James C. L. Wong (1900-1970) 王長齡主教逝世 50 周年紀念感恩禮拜

This year, 2020, is the 50th anniversary of the death of Bishop James Chang-Ling Wong 王長齡主教 (1900–1970), first Chinese Bishop of Taiwan (1965-70) and founder of St. John’s and St. Mary’s Institute of Technology (SJSMIT) in 1967, predecessor of St. John’s University (SJU), Taiwan. Bishop Wong died on April 27, 1970 and he was buried on the highest point of the SJSMIT campus. Advent Church was eventually built around his grave, which is located under the altar….

Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, as Bishop of Taiwan and Chair of SJU Board of Trustees, chose today for the 50th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service, held at 10:30 am in Advent Church (rescheduled from April due to the pandemic). After weeks of heavy rain and strong winds, finally the weather improved and, although very overcast and cool, it stayed mostly dry. Autumn is here!

On this day 55 years ago, October 23, 1965, the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the new SJSMIT construction was held, and building work began. Money was very scarce and it was extremely hard work for Bishop Wong to raise the funds needed to construct all the buildings and pay the salaries, the stress of which is believed to have contributed to his early death. Bishop Wong’s famous motto and the driving force behind setting up SJSMIT was always, ‘以基督得勝的生命影響生命’, translated as “Transforming Lives through the Life of Christ’. This has also been a major influence on the life and witness of Bishop Chang himself, and of many students and alumni of SJU over the years. Today is also the day when the church commemorates St. James of Jerusalem (brother of Jesus, who died a martyr in AD 62 or 69) so the liturgical colour of the day was red.

Advent Church is celebrating its 50th anniversary too this year, and at Bishop Chang’s suggestion, the church is marking the occasion by raising NT$ 500,000 to give as a gift to St. John’s University on St. John’s Day, December 28, 2020. SJU is currently facing serious financial problems primarily due to low student enrollment, and although it will be a relatively small gift, it will be a sign of our concern and shared hope for the future. In Bishop Chang’s sermon today, he reminded the congregation of how, for the 40th anniversary of Advent Church, the church, university and community together raised NT$ 30 million to build the new Advent Church Centre (opened in June 2016), its Chinese name given in memory of Bishop Wong (長齡生命關懷中心), and fulfilling his legacy motto of transforming lives through the life of Christ. Just as Bishop Wong himself rose to the challenge to raise money for SJSMIT, and just as we raised the money to build Advent Church Centre, so Bishop Chang encouraged the congregation not to give up, but believing SJU has a future, so we must press on and do our best to help SJU rise again.

In the congregation at today’s service were many invited guests, including clergy, SJSMIT alumni, SJU trustees, faculty, staff, students, church members, local councilors and friends. We had also notified friends overseas, including Bishop Wong’s own family, who we were so pleased to welcome to visit SJU last December. Some of those at the service today were former SJSMIT chaplains and their families, and some were alumni from the first student class enrolled at SJSMIT in 1967 – a few knew Bishop Wong personally, others had seen him on the campus and had attended his funeral.

We are grateful to Shiao-Ping from Good Shepherd Church, who came especially to do the beautiful flower arrangements….

And Mrs. Amy Chee for playing the organ…

And to all for their participation, thank you. You will notice that face-masks were compulsory for the actual service (apart from Bishop Chang when preaching). They were taken off for the group photos at the end. It was a very special service…

After the service, there was a group photo for clergy and VIP guests in front of Bishop Wong’s picture, which stands in the main entrance to Advent Church….

And a group photo around the altar – notice the grave marker and flowers.

This was all followed by a delicious buffet meal in the Advent Church Centre…

We give thanks to Almighty God for Bishop Wong’s life, and for his vision and dedication in establishing SJSMIT / SJU. Please do continue to pray for SJU, for Bishop Chang and the trustees, SJU President Huang and all the faculty and staff, for the alumni, current students and enrollment, and for the future direction and strategy of the university.

We go forward in God’s strength and grace. To God be the glory!

‘COMMEMORATION OF BISHOP SCHERESCHEWSKY OF SHANGHAI’

Bishop Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky (施約瑟 6 May 1831 – 15 October 1906) was quite an amazing man (his surname is quite amazing too – extra points if you can pronounce and spell it correctly!) His testimony, ministry as Bishop of Shanghai and founder of what became St. John’s University, Shanghai, plus his work on Bible translation into Chinese, all these are well-known here at St. John’s University (SJU), Taiwan. Hence the front of our SJU campus has a road named in his honour (see above photo, taken this morning). And the Bible he translated is one that we give as gifts to VIP guests (eg SJU 52nd anniversary celebrations, April 2019).

HIs life story was published in a Facebook post of the Anglican Asia Magazine @ Anglican Communion, yesterday, October 14, 2020…

‘COMMEMORATION OF BISHOP SCHERESCHEWSKY OF SHANGHAI’

Former Anglican Church in China (中華聖公會) / Anglican Church in Japan (日本聖公会)

‘Today we commemorate the life and ministry of the Rt. Rev. Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, Third Missionary Bishop of Shanghai (1877-1883) for the Episcopal Church Mission in China, Bible translator, and founder of the former St. John’s University (聖約翰科技大學) in Shanghai (now located in Taiwan). He departed this life on 15 October 1906.

The story of Bishop Joseph Schereschewsky’s life and ministry is a uniquely inspiring one. He was born in 1831 of Jewish parents in the Baltic state of Lithuania in Eastern Europe, with his early education intended to prepare him to become a Jewish rabbi. However, while in Germany pursuing graduate studies he became interested in Christianity through missionaries of the Church of England affiliated Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ), and through his own reading of a Hebrew translation of the New Testament. In 1854 he migrated to the United States to study at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in preparation for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA), however during this time he was drawn to the Episcopal Church and completed his theological education at the General Theological Seminary in New York City.

After being ordained deacon in the Diocese of New York in 1859 by the Rt. Rev. William Boone, First Missionary Bishop of Shanghai with jurisdiction over China, Schereschewsky accepted the call to join him as a missionary. A talented linguist, he quickly began learning to write Chinese during the long sea voyage from the United States. From 1862 to 1875 he ministered in the capital Beijing, translating the Bible and parts of the Book of Common Prayer into the Mandarin language. After the Rt. Rev. Channing Moore Williams, Second Missionary Bishop of Shanghai, departed for Japan as the First Missionary Bishop of Edo (Tokyo) in 1874, Schereschewsky was elected to succeed him. As bishop, he established St. John’s University (聖約翰科技大學) in Shanghai (now located in Taiwan), and began his translation of the Bible and other works into formal Classical Chinese known by missionaries as Wenli.

By 1883 Bishop Schereschewsky was forced to resign as bishop and return to the United States because of his deteriorating health due to Parkinson’s disease and almost complete paralysis, but he was determined to continue his translation work. After many difficulties in finding support he was able to return to Shanghai in 1895. He later moved to Tokyo to begin translation work for the Anglican Church in Japan (日本聖公会) while continuing his devotion to the Chinese language assisted by Japanese and Chinese secretaries. After a decade in Japan, he would finally succumb to his illness on 15 October 1906 at the age of 75. With heroic perseverance Bishop Schereschewsky completed his Wenli translation of the Bible, managing to type 2000 pages with the middle finger of his partially crippled hand. Four years before his death, he said, “I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at first. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted.” He is buried in the foreign section of Aoyama Cemetery (青山霊園) in Tokyo next to his wife, Mrs. Susan Mary Schereschewsky (nee Waring), who supported him constantly during his labours and illness.

The legacy of Bishop Schereschewsky’s dedication to Bible translation in to the languages of the people he ministered to continues on in to the current generation through the Nanjing-based Amity Foundation, founded in 1985 by Bishop Kuang-hsun Ting, the last Anglican bishop in mainland China. Today its printing press, in partnership with the United Kingdom-based United Bible Societies, publishes bibles in 10 Chinese languages as well as in 90 other languages and exporting to 70 different countries.

The last meeting of the House of Bishops and General Synod of the Anglican Church in China (中華聖公會) was held in Shanghai in 1956 before being forcefully merged by the Chinese Communist Party with China’s other Protestant churches in to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of which Bishop Ting would become chairman. Later upon the establishment of the China Christian Council in 1980 as the only government-sanctioned organisation of Protestant Christians in addition to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, Bishop Ting would become its founding president. He departed this life in 2012 at the age of 98.’

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