Tag Archives: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year 2018!

Ah yes, and as with every Chinese New Year, food featured highly!  Food, food and more delicious food.  YUMMY!  For most people, the New Year celebrations revolve around family reunions, gatherings with old friends, temple visits to pray for blessings for the new year, preparing food offerings and worship at the family ancestor shrine, and of course the enjoyment of meals and delicacies of every kind.  Many people also take the chance to travel, but just as many people say they can’t face the traffic jams and prefer to stay home.  Meanwhile those in the tourism and transport business work from morning to night, making the most of the opportunities ~ or just busy, busy, busy, after all it’s high season.  And red is the colour to be seen everywhere, whether in decorations in homes, hotels and businesses, or in the new clothes that everyone wears, or in the red envelopes that are given or received in every home.  Ah, red, a great colour!  In Chinese tradition it symbolizes blessing, good fortune, happiness.  Yes, I love red!

Of course, we were all too well aware of the tragedy of the recent earthquake disaster in Hualien, and of those who were killed, injured, bereaved, made homeless or with damaged homes and businesses.  Hualien is a major tourist destination for Taiwan people at Chinese New Year, and even though local government leaders and those involved in the tourism industry wanted people to continue with their travel plans where possible, in fact many cancelled.  This had a knock-on effect for the whole of the east coast, and Taitung too was relatively free of people, and therefore also cars, which meant less traffic jams.

The most important meal of Chinese New Year is that of Chinese New Year’s Eve, when the whole family gathers together, and sons and their families return to the family home.  I’d been at St. James’ Church, Taichung all the past week, and my good friends there, the very lovely and welcoming Wang family kindly invited me to their home for the New Year’s Eve meal, where mother, father and 2 daughters were busy preparing all kinds of goodies ~ home-made everything!  All very very delicious and very beautifully served.  Thank you!

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On Chinese New Year’s Day, last Friday, we set off from Taichung heading south.  ‘We’ is my good friend, Ah-Guan and her daughter, Yaling.  Ah-Guan had kindly organized everything, she is really great fun for traveling with!  We were heading for Tainan.  First stop was Chiayi County, Budai Township 布袋 to see the High-Heeled Wedding Church. This is quite some landmark.  ‘Church’ it is not.  Or maybe it is.  Cross, there isn’t.  And no services planned.  It is actually a photo-shoot location for couples taking their wedding photos, as is the tradition in Taiwan, a few weeks before their actual wedding.  Built to make your wedding photos look like you’re in a kind of dreamworld, Cinderella-style.  Actually I like it.  Not all the cute photo-op things around, but the actual glass monument itself.  It’s very bright blue and very shiny, made of glass.  Hey, every town needs something to draw people in, and well, Budai has a bright blue high-heeled church!

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But the story behind it is one of tragedy.  This coastal area of SW Taiwan lacks freshwater, and in the 1950’s, people dug deep wells to get drinking water, which unfortunately proved high in heavy metals, especially arsenic. Long-term consumption of arsenic causes poor circulation and eventually can cause the feet to turn purplish-black (from gangrene), thus known as ‘Blackfoot Disease’.  The only solution was amputation.  This caused a huge amount of suffering at its peak in the 1960’s. One local girl had to have her feet amputated just before her wedding, so the wedding was cancelled and she spent the rest of her life being taken care of by the church.  Blackfoot Disease therefore denied her the chance of following the traditional Taiwanese custom of stepping over the fire-pan on her wedding day, symbolizing leaving her old life and starting a new one.  As the bride would be beautifully dressed, she would also be wearing high-heeled shoes on her wedding day…..

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The church mentioned in this story is the Presbyterian Church in Beimen District 北門 (don’t confuse this Beimen with the Beimen in Taipei City), the next area to Budai, though actually in Tainan County.  We visited Beimen next.  The most famous local resident was Dr. Wang King-ho 王金河 (1916-2014), who dedicated much of his life to treating patients with Blackfoot Disease at his clinic there, now a museum.

“An outbreak of Blackfoot Disease began in Beimen in 1956, and Wang partnered with medical professionals at National Taiwan University to research the disease. Missionary Lillian Dickson moved to Beimen in 1960 and opened the Mercy’s Door Free Clinic, which was funded by her organization Mustard Seed International, with Wang as head physician.  Hsieh Wei, a doctor based in Puli, Nantou, would make weekly round trips to perform amputations on patients at Mercy’s Door.  After Mercy’s Door closed, Wang returned to his own clinic before retiring in 1996.”

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The museum is well worth visiting, but I will spare you any photos of the preserved amputated feet that are on display.  Gross is the word.  Sorry, but it’s horrible.  Not for the squeamish, like me.  Slightly more bearable are the old medical instruments that were used, but the tools like the saw, and the operating table and the old photos make it all very gruesomely horrific.

Beimen also has a new ‘church’ to add to its tourist attractions, this one a Crystal Church 水晶教堂.  We went there too.  And the old Beimen salt washing workshops, now converted into a visitor center.  And we loved the ‘Money Coming’ 錢來也 Grocery Shop (Qianlaiye), built in 1952 originally as the cafeteria for the salt workers ~ what a great name for a shop!

And then we went to Jingzaijiao Tile-paved Salt Fields 井仔腳瓦盤鹽田, the oldest salt-field in Taiwan, started in 1818.  This is quite an amazing scene!

The nearby houses are quite beautiful…

And so to Tainan 台南, where we stayed at Grace Church, with our good friends, Rev. Philip Ho and his wife, Nancy and daughter Kathy.  They were so so so good to us!  Yes, great home-cooked meals and kindness galore.  They also had planned our itinerary so well, Philip driving and Nancy really ace on where to go and how to get there.  And they love posing for crazy photos… we took many like this!

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And this….!

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The next day, we were up bright and early for a tour around the area, including the bird reserve famous for the black-faced spoonbills. Actually we didn’t see any of those, but we saw plenty of others of the species listed, including Avocets, Caspian Terns, Curlews, Sacred Ibis, Redshank and all kinds of herons and egrets. We also met some of the wardens who help to staff the reserve and they were so keen to let us look through their telescopes and tell us the birds we were looking at.   Philip used to be a biology teacher, so he knows all the plants, animals and birds too.  A great field-guide!  Actually, there’s less than 3,000 black-faced spoonbills in the whole world and about two-thirds of the world’s population spend the winter in the Tsengwen River estuary, Tainan. But the tide was out, and so were the birds!

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So off we went to see lots of other interesting places, ending with a visit to the site that was St. Michael’s House in Tainan (opposite the Tainan Theological College,) which since the house demolition some years ago, is now used as a large vegetable garden, for local people and church members.  It’s a little oasis in the midst of the big city!

On Sunday, we went to the service at Grace Church, where Philip is the vicar.  The church is on the site of the Grace Church Kindergarten, and they have a very wonderful and very friendly congregation!

Their flower arrangement, combining Lent and Chinese New Year was beautiful!

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I was especially pleased to meet Rev. Samuel Liao, one of our retired clergy and his wife and family.  He is always so encouraging and cheerful, and loves to hear updates of the Anglican Church in England.  Hey, all of us are in red, or shades of it!

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A great service, and a group photo.  Or two, since some of our friends came a bit late and missed the service.  We met lots of old friends.  Ching-Ping, former teacher at St. James’ Kindergarten and her son.  Also Christopher, my colleague here at St. John’s University, his wife Linda and family, along with Linda’s mother who lives in Tainan.  And here they all are.  As it was Chinese New Year, there was no lunch after the service, but we had coffee and plenty of chat!

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And then it was time to say goodbye to Tainan.  Philip and family kindly took us in their car over to the east coast, Taitung 台東 for the next 2 days.  Taitung has the most wonderful coastal scenery in the world!  Blue skies and high mountains too.  And home to many of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.  This journey took many hours to get there, so we stopped for the evening at the famous Chihben (Zhiben / Jhiben) Hot Springs 知本溫泉 area, and went to the Hotel Royal where we had a yummy dinner and the extra blessing of watching the traditional dancing of the Beinan (Puyuma) People, oh and fireworks to finish the evening. (Check out this link for my report of our previous visit to the area over New Year weekend 2016-17, when we followed some of the same route).

So we arrived very late at our destination, Chishang 池上, in the northern area of Taitung, close to Hualien County border, and famous for it’s rice ~ and it’s scenery!

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Up early to see the sunrise and a walk around Dapo Lake, with THE best views!  And what great weather!

Philip and his wife have a good friend, Yi-hua, living in Chishang. Actually, she became a Christian through their ministry when they were in St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, and she was baptized by Philip there a few years ago. In 2016, she moved to Chishang with her husband to start a business selling their newly-invented rice cakes, which are so wonderful!  All made using the 100% real and very famous Chishang rice. There’s savoury and sweet ones, and served with coffee, wow, so delicious.  We arrived on their doorstep (their shop is diagonally opposite the Chishang Presbyterian Church) while they were still asleep (having stayed up to the early hours baking!) and yet they warmly welcomed us in and shared about how God has led them in their business these recent months, ending with a prayer of blessing from Philip.  If you’re ever in Chishang, you just MUST go and visit!

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But now farewell to Chishang, and we were heading first north, then over the mountains to the coastal road and southwards along the coast to Yiwan Card Church 宜灣卡片教堂,  a Presbyterian Church built in 1951, used by the local Amis People 阿美族 (so called the ‘Card Church’ because the design was apparently copied from a card, collected in childhood by one of the church members!) Philip is here below holding an Amis Bible. The church is gorgeous ~ I just love the colours!

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We continued south, visiting famous landmarks and sea vistas, too many to mention, but all in the area around Chenggong Township 成功鎮, where they also have beautiful flowers. And to the Amis village of Pisirian (meaning the place where people raise sheep in Amis language)…

The most famous scenic spot in the whole area is Sanxiantai 三仙台 and its amazing eight-arch bridge.  I walked over the whole thing and up to the light beacon, built in 1915 during the Japanese Colonial Period, the first of its kind on the east coast. I loved it!  I had been to Sanxiantai once before, but many many years ago.  Apparently the best time to go is at sunrise, but we got there mid-afternoon and the clouds were already rolling in fast, so at least it was nice and cool!

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We stayed overnight at the Bunun Leisure Farm, 布農部落 where we had visited also on the same trip as the Beinan Hunting Festival, over New Year weekend 2016-17.

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Bunun Leisure Farm is an initiative set up by Bunun Presbyterian pastor, Rev. Pai Kwang-Sheng and his wife to help the local Bunun People in education and to revive their traditional culture, and to share these resources with visitors, providing a reliable and sustainable source of income for the people.  It was the first time that Philip and his wife had visited, and oh, how they loved it!  We had a wonderful dinner, watched the music performance that evening, and then the dancing performance the next morning, met Rev. Pai who kindly hosted us to lunch and coffee and, well, we were all so so happy!  It is such a great place.  We couldn’t bear to leave!

But leave we had to, in order to get back to Tainan.  And the next day to Taichung.  And after a wonderful dinner, hosted by Rev. Lily Chang for those who help lead and preach at the St. James’ English service, so I headed back to Taipei on Thursday early morning  and eventually home on Thursday night.

What a great Chinese New Year it was!  Special thanks to good friend Ah-Guan and her family, Rev. Philip Ho and his family, and all those who we met, those who welcomed us so warmly and generously, including the Rev. Lily Chang and the Wang family in Taichung, Ms. Xiao in Chishang, Rev. Samuel Liao and the church members of Grace Church, Tainan, Rev. Pai in Bunun Farm and so many more ~ and thanks to the good friends who kindly gave us their Bunun Farm coupons so we could stay there effectively as their guests.  Everyone was so hospitable, gracious and kind.  And not surprisingly, some were exhausted – especially Philip as he did magnificently with so many long hours of driving ~ I have more than one photo like this one!  Thank you Philip.  And I just love his hat!

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The weather was amazing, the scenery was spectacular, the dancing was great, there were virtually no traffic problems, and everything worked out so well.  Thanks be to Almighty God!

And when I got home, Bishop Roger and his wife, Alice and sister-in-law Anne (who’d all been staying at my house over the New Year while visiting Anne and Alice’s lovely parents in the nearby Shuang-Lien Elderly Home) had just left for their respective homes in Mauritius and USA. But I know from their photos that the weather in Sanzhi over the New Year was also warm and sunny,  thanks be to God.  Big thanks to Bishop Roger and family for house-sitting!  This is us on the only day we overlapped, their arrival day on Friday February 9!

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Chinese New Year officially lasts until the 15th day of the first lunar month, so we still have another week to go until the official start of Lantern Festival ~ but as the Chinese New Year festival was so late this year, all work in Taiwan officially resumed on Wednesday, as did all schools, except universities ~ our new semester starts on Monday.  Ah yes, it’s all go to get ready!

So with the New Year well and truly here, wishing you all a very Happy Year of the Dog!

Happy Chinese New Year’s Eve 2018!

What a beautiful dawn and sunrise this morning, viewed from the 8th floor of St. James’ Church, Taichung!  The start of a day of gorgeous weather!

One of the great traditions of Chinese New Year is catching up with old friends, often those not seen for a whole year or even longer.  I’ve been riding around Taichung on a u-bike all week doing this – and today was special, because I visited Fr. Toon Maes, CICM, at St. Paul’s RC Church, Taichung, where he is enjoying the sun after all those cold, wet and windy years up near us on the northern coast in Jinshan!  He’s 86, and in charge of a church which has about 120 people in the mass on Sunday.  His church is beautifully decorated for Chinese New Year…

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On Tuesday I visited another RC priest friend, Fr. Joy, MM, based at Tanzi Migrant Church, just north of Taichung and working with the Filipino migrant workers, who are mostly employed in the nearby export processing zone.   He has a huge church of thousands, and lots of outreach and social programmes….

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In case you’re wondering, both Fr. Joy and Fr. Maes did actually hold small Ash Wednesday services yesterday.   But in fact, Joy told me that Lent has been postponed in the local RC Churches, due to Chinese New Year coming this week.  After all, it’s really quite extraordinary to have Ash Wednesday – all that fasting and ashes – one day, followed the next day (tonight, Chinese New Year’s Eve) by the biggest family feast of the whole year!  So I think it really makes good sense to delay Lent for a week.  Not just delay Ash Wednesday, but actually Lent itself.   I know it’s supposed to be 40 days, but hey, a few less really won’t make much difference.  Otherwise people won’t know whether they’re supposed to be piously fasting, thus annoying all their family or friends by not participating in the New Year celebrations, or the alternative – eat, drink and be merry and then feel guilty afterwards! And we really don’t need any more guilt in this world and in the church, in my humble view at least.  In the Taiwan Episcopal Church, it’s been left to individual churches to decide, and in St. James, the church council decided not to hold a service – as everyone was so busy getting ready and travelling.

And of course, having no Ash Wednesday left us all free to focus on Valentine’s Day instead ~ and in connection with Valentine’s Day, you must read this BBC News report about how some of Taiwan’s little green traffic light men down in Pingtung have got girlfriends in time for February 14….

Taiwan’s pedestrian crossing men get girlfriends – BBC News

Isn’t that wonderful?!

Red is the colour of Chinese New Year ~ and isn’t this doorway beautiful?  Saw it in Taichung yesterday.  And so, wishing you all a very Happy Chinese New Year!

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Have good celebrations, wherever you are – we’re off on a little trip ourselves tomorrow.  See you in a few days ~ but for now I’m off for Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner ~ yippee!

CMS LINK LETTER # 74!

Hot off the press comes my CMS Link Letter, No. 74.  Just in time for Chinese New Year – YES!  And just in time for this coming weekend, mentioned in the letter.  Just click on this link below, it’s in pdf format:

Catherine Lee 74

The letter was actually written on January 24, 2018, and published by CMS (Church Mission Society) today.   Thanks to CMS for getting it out in time.

And thank you all for your ongoing support!

St. John’s University Chinese New Year Banquet 尾牙 2018!

Yes, Chinese New Year’s coming soon!  The semester is already over at St. John’s University, it finished at the end of last week.  Local schools still have another week or so to go.  Offices stay open for a few more weeks after that.  Then yes, it’s holiday time!

The St. John’s University 2018 Wei-Ya  尾牙 Chinese New Year Banquet was held last night at Regalees Hotel, Tamsui – with lots of VIPs and speeches and entertainment and prizes in the lucky draw.  But of course the main attraction was the food.  All ten courses. Plus fruit. Here they are!

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Yes, all was mouth-watering deliciousness!

Taiwan Lantern Festival 2016 @ Taoyuan!

It’s the Year of the Monkey and monkeys lanterns are everywhere!

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The 15th day of the first lunar month is the Lantern Festival, and this year the 2016 Lantern Festival is at Taoyuan, on a site covering 20 hectares right at the High-Speed Rail Station ~ just so convenient for us all!  It lasts from February 22 – March 6.  Yesterday was a national holiday in Taiwan and the weather was great, so what better day to go?! YES!

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Taoyuan is 20 minutes by high-speed rail from Taipei, and costs NT$ 155 one way on a non-reserved ticket – a bargain!  So near and so convenient to Taipei, but Taoyuan is significantly cheaper as a place to live, and it’s also home to the Taoyuan International Airport and on the HSR link, so it’s booming!  Taoyuan County stretches from the coast right up to the high central mountains, and includes large numbers of Hakka people and indigenous people. All these different groups are well-represented at the lantern festival. In fact it seems like every school, community group, company, temple, town and district of Taoyuan County have their own lantern displays, plus the outlying islands of Matsu (the blue tears are there in a cave!), Kinmen, Hong Kong and Macau too.  The ‘Lamigo Monkeys‘ are Taoyuan’s baseball team, hence the baseball lanterns everywhere.  Each section has a different theme, and all are linked by miles of walkways lined with lanterns – there’s displays, shows, performances, food, craft activities and things to see and photograph going on all over the place.  There’s 1000 or so lanterns, and some even move, all are stunning!

In fact, there’s so much to see and it stretches for so far that it’s worth going in the mid-afternoon to check it all out.  Then as the sun sets and it gets dark, so the lights and lanterns come on and the main monkey lantern (holding his baseball and bat!) lights up, changes colour and does one complete turn every 30 minutes in the evening, to the accompaniment of specially-composed music.  All very spectacular!

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And then there’s a whole section devoted to ‘Religious Blessings’.  Really quite amazing. Every temple in Taoyuan has their own display, and many have brought in their actual deities for worship and for offering blessings.  One temple even had transformers.  So there’s wishing ponds – you throw coins to hit a notice with the blessing of your choice, there’s lucky charms and gongs and bells to ring, and all sorts of actions to do to help you gain blessings.  There’s huge temples full of incense and people lining up all over to ask for blessings of the different gods.  And just across from from the noisiest and busiest temple, there’s a section for the Christians – the Roman Catholics have a large lantern of Jesus in a boat, and the Protestant churches have come together with a cross, and Jesus as the Good Shepherd with some sheep, they’re offering free Bibles in different languages, plus a DVD on a big screen.

Millions of people have visited the Lantern Festival so far.  In fact almost 3.7 million on Sunday alone. That caused some major traffic jams and crowd control problems, and a lot of criticism in the press.  But yesterday was fine.  A credit to the organizers, who had everything covered. Really quite incredible. Anywhere else in the world, an evening event in the darkness, attracting huge crowds, would be a logistical nightmare ~ imagine the worries about personal safety, drugs and alcohol, anti-social behavior, crowd rage.  Yet it was fantastic!  No worries!

And in the middle of all those zillions of people, I came across a family of friends who I’ve known for years, and who I never expected to meet selling sausages in the Lantern Festival!  After all, there must have been many hundreds of food stalls all grouped into about 6 main food areas, and yet there they were – the whole family, 4 gorgeous children and their parents. They’re members of the indigenous people of Taiwan, A-Mei and Bei-Nan tribes, living in Taoyuan County ~ how great to see them again, even if the youngest boy hid behind his mother the whole time! And their sausages were delicious!

Discovery Channel reckons that Taiwan’s Lantern Festival is one of the best festivals in the whole world, one of those things you just must see!  There’s only a few days left until it closes this coming weekend, so if you have a chance, do go!  It’s GREAT!

The Year of the Monkey @ The Wall Street Journal!

The Wall Street Journal must have liked my Instagram photo for the Year of the Monkey at Chinese New Year ~ they’ve included it here:

 

Mine’s is the bottom right photo, taken at the Jian-Guo Flower Market in Taipei just before Chinese New Year – such a happy monkey – he kinda looks like he’s taking off down a ski slope lol!

It’s also No. 26 of 33 photos published on their website – check out the link here

Chinese New Year 2016

A sombre, sober and subdued Lunar New Year for all of Taiwan. It started with the deadly 6.4 earthquake early on Saturday February 6 in southern Taiwan, which led to the collapse of a number of high-rise buildings in Tainan, including the 17-storey Weiguan Jinlong apartment complex, where over 100 were killed. Electricity and water outages made the New Year even worse for many, and as High-Speed Rail services were cancelled in southern Taiwan, many people were forced to change their travel plans.

TV and Newspaper reports kept us all focused on the emerging nightmare….

IMG_4934Tragedy after tragedy – as bodies were pulled from the rubble, despair after despair – for those who had survived but with their loved ones missing.  Many moving stories – of those trapped, and those who had survived against the odds. The search and rescue crews were heroes, sacrificing their New Year celebrations to work around the clock to get everyone out. The Red Cross and other relief organizations, including churches, provided support and help.  The damage was intense in those areas where the fallen buildings lay, but thankfully there was not widespread devastation over the whole city and the relief effort was well-managed and organized.  By last night, the final day of the holiday, everyone in the 17-storey complex had been accounted for, and the collapsed buildings had been leveled.

The earthquake was a constant conversation topic throughout the whole week.  The tragedy was foremost on people’s minds.  TV New Year programs were toned down, social media posts more sombre than usual, the atmosphere everywhere subdued and respectful.

In complete contrast – and complete surprise – was the Chinese New Year weather.  After months and months of seemingly non-stop rain and freezing cold, with temperatures in Taipei the lowest for over 40 years, suddenly the weather cleared up, and we had a whole week of hot sunny weather, with temperatures in Taipei up to 28ºC on Saturday.  Chinese New Year in northern Taiwan is usually marked by cold, wet, totally miserable weather. But this year it was absolutely wonderful!

Chinese New Year is all about family reunions, and the main gathering is always on the evening of New Year’s Eve, which was Sunday February 7.  My good friends, Rev. and Mrs. Hsu, just down the road in Shuang-Lien Elderly Care Centre, kindly invited me to join the celebration meal at the centre, with over 100 tables spread for the residents and their families.  The 3 Hsu children, Victor, Anne and Alice had all come back from overseas, and Alice had come from Mauritius with her husband, Bishop Roger and their son, Alexander. Mrs. Hsu’s sister also joined us.  Yes, all my good friends ~ it was so great to see them all again!  Then on the second day of the New Year, which was Tuesday, the tradition is to go to visit the girl’s side of the family, so Mrs. Hsu invited me again, this time for lunch with the family and some friends, also at the care centre.

Yummy yummy yummy!

And then a whole week off!  With such glorious weather, everyone took to the roads and trains in big numbers, for days of sightseeing, eating, and visiting family and friends. Mahjong is a big Chinese New Year pastime, but with such wonderful weather this year, who could resist a day at the beach or up in the mountains, looking at the newly-opened cherry blossom?

And so. Me too!

On Monday off I went to climb Elephant Mountain 象山, Four Beasts Mountain 四獸山, and the top one, 9-5 Peak Jiuwufeng  九五峯, all located at the far end of the MRT line from Tamsui, over beyond Taipei 101.  Amazing views, and being the first day of the New Year, there were not many people – at least until the afternoon, when the crowds came out, everyone in their new clothes and shoes, some even in high heels lol!

Also a quick visit to Taipei 101, looking very festive with all the red lanterns….

This was all but preparation, in fact, for the big climb of the week, on Wednesday, to Yang-Ming Shan 陽明山 Mountains.  11 hours of walking, from Sanzhi 三芝 up to Mian-Tian Shan 面天山, then Datun Shan 大屯山 and Qixing Shan 七星山, and down to Leng-Shui Keng 冷水坑 for the bus home.  The first time I’ve ever done the walk up and 3 mountains as well, but it was well worth it, the views were fantastic, and it was warm but not too hot. The next day I visited one of our beloved church members in hospital in Taipei, and the final photo is the view of Yang-Ming Shan Mountains from the hospital ward, and what a view!

And so to Friday, and a nice gentle amble, along with zillions of others, around Yehliu 野柳, an hour on the bus from here along the coast eastwards.  Yehliu in summer is boiling hot with no shade, and in winter it’s always cold and wet, so a rare sunny warm day, and Yehliu is the place to go for a bit of fresh sea air, stunning rock formations, a small hill to climb, and a few hours well spent!  Met families from Guang-Dong, Philippines, Canada and Taiwan also escaping the crowds….

And then on Friday afternoon, my good friend, A-guan and 2 of her children suddenly decided to come – from St. James’ Church, Taichung.  Always a fun and lively time!  First stop, the beach at Bai-sha-wan to paddle and see the sunset…

IMG_5569Next stop, on Saturday morning, the National Palace Museum. A-Guan’s daughter’s first ever visit, and she wanted to go.  There were about as many people as at Yehliu the day before, it was packed out!  Y’know, walking round that museum is totally exhausting.  Walking 11 hours up and around Yang-Ming Shan is fine.  But 1-2 hours in a museum, and we were shattered. Had to sit in the park and drink coffee to recover.  But we did see the Pope’s red shoes.  As well as all the usual things on display, there’s also a display of things from the Vatican.  Kinda bizarre to see such ornate vestments and altar frontals next to all the ancient Chinese artifacts. And those red shoes are something else!

And finally, one of the highlights of Chinese New Year is always the cherry blossom, which is coming out at lower altitudes ~ spotting the pink trees is always fun….

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And then on Sunday, yesterday, the fine weather finally broke.  The end.  A cold front came, the rain and wind returned, and winter came back with a vengeance.  Then A-guan’s car broke down, and instead of returning home yesterday, ready for work today, they are still here. Experiencing Sanzhi cold and rain, drinking tea to keep warm!

Today is the first day of school for Taiwan’s children after the holidays.  St. John’s University has an extra day off, we start work tomorrow, and the new semester starts on Thursday.

Looking back over this past week, and Chinese New Year 2016 will always be a New Year to remember.  Such unusually good weather, a time to celebrate and enjoy the arrival of spring and the beauty of the countryside, for many to relax in the company of family and friends. But also a week to remember, grieve and pray for the victims of the earthquake in Tainan. So many have lost so much. So many face an uncertain future.  So many worry in case their own homes are now at risk in future earthquakes.  The investigations into the construction companies behind the collapsed buildings are only just beginning.

Ash Wednesday came in the middle of Chinese New Year week.  Lent has started.  A time of reflection, fasting and prayer.  We pray in earnest, for those suffering, the injured, the orphaned children, those who have lost their entire families, those whose homes, livelihoods and loved ones are gone.  We thank God for his mercy, and ask for your continued prayers for all those affected by the tragedy in southern Taiwan.