Tag Archives: Food

台灣聖公會台南天恩堂60週年感恩禮拜 Grace Church, Tainan 60th Anniversary Celebrations ~ Thanks be to God!

Yes, we all gathered on Saturday May 11, 2019 to celebrate – and to give thanks to God for his many blessings to Grace Church, Tainan over the last 60 years!

(taken by Mr. Chuang Hsiao-Wu)

Tainan 台南 is Taiwan’s ancient capital and oldest city, located on Taiwan’s SW coast, and “initially established by the Dutch East India Company as a ruling and trading base called Fort Zeelandia during the period of Dutch rule on the island. After Dutch colonists were defeated by Koxinga in 1661, Tainan remained as the capital of the Tungning Kingdom until 1683 and afterwards the capital of Taiwan Prefecture under Qing Dynasty rule until 1887, when the new provincial capital was moved to Taipei”. The city is famous for having a huge number of temples (incl. the Confucius Temple, built in 1665), forts, museums, churches and Tainan Theological College, plus its food – it’s THE place to go for delicious everything!

Not surprisingly it’s also where quite a few of our retired clergy have settled, and when our current Bishop of Taiwan, David J. H. Lai, retires early next year, then they will also move back to Tainan. Bishop Lai studied at Tainan Theological College, his wife, Lily is from Tainan, her sister and family are there, and Bishop Lai was vicar of Grace Church, Tainan from 1986-2001, from where he was elected as bishop. So they know the city well, their friends are all there and they look forward to returning home!

Grace Church 天恩堂 was established in Tainan in 1959, initially in rented buildings, then in 1981, under the then-vicar, Rev. Michael T. H. Liu, a piece of land was bought, and they moved to the present site on the east side of the city. Much of the land in the area was owned and run by the Taiwan Sugar Corporation as sugar-cane plantations and with a processing plant. These days, Taiwan’s sugar is nearly all imported, and the land is now mostly used for housing, schools and parks.

At the beginning of the 1980’s, there was no mains water supply at Grace Church, and life was very basic. Grace Kindergarten was built on the site, with the plan being to build a church building on the same site at a later date. So far, that hasn’t happened, and the church congregation continues to worship in one of the kindergarten rooms. The plot of land for the church building is currently part of the kindergarten playground area, covered in grass. There is some money in a diocesan fund for building the church, but much more will be needed; and the promise from the diocesan standing committee is that the process can start once the church is full each Sunday for worship. A great challenge for everyone! Nothing daunted, the current vicar, Rev. Philip J. L. Ho has increased the congregation considerably in the almost-3 years he has been there, with large numbers of youth coming along. Average Sunday attendance in 2018 was 40 people ~ so the congregation are becoming hopeful that a new church building is on the horizon! This is Philip, and one of the young people…

On Saturday, we celebrated the 60th anniversary with a service at 10:00 am ~ I counted about 120 people in the main group photo and they came from all corners of the country, though of course mainly the centre and south. It’s quite a way from Taipei to Tainan, even by high-speed rail, and most had traveled there the night before to be ready on time. I traveled there with folks from St. James’ Church, Taichung in their minibus, and as it was we left at 7:30 am from Taichung. We arrived at Grace Church just in time for me to rush along the street, buy some coffee and get back again in time for the service to start! At the main gate on ‘welcome duty’ was Clark, son-in-law of retired priest, Rev. Samuel Liao….

Clark’s wife, Ms. Liao Sung-Jen was inside, playing the organ to a packed church…

And Clark’s mother-in-law (Ms. San Su, Rev. Samuel Liao’s wife), was in the choir, and they all sang so well and so joyfully, in their beautiful blue choir robes, and wonderfully led by churchwarden, Mr. J. L. Lin on his guitar… Hey, Grace Church Choir are really good!

Meanwhile back outside at the entrance, and we had special gift packs to take home and friendly people there to welcome us!

During the service, there was a gift presentation to former clergy in charge of Grace Church, 3 of them were there in person, and the other 3 were collected on their behalf …

taken by Mr. Chuang Hsiao-Wu

The children meanwhile had activities planned for them in the vicarage front room, led by Kathy, daughter of Rev. Philip Ho. Nancy, Philip’s wife was also in action organizing things and taking photos…

from ‘台灣聖公會天恩堂 The Episcopal Grace Church, Tainan, Taiwan Diocese’ Facebook Page

And so to the service….

After the service we had a buffet at Grace Church, and I tried to get photos of all the dishes before people started to eat. So much to eat and all so delicious. See, Tainan is truly Taiwan’s food capital!

And we had lots of photo-taking with lots of good friends. Firstly, the family of Rev. Charles C. T. Chen – he and his wife are currently in the USA, but their 2 sons, 2 wives, 3 of the children and one mother-in-law were there for the anniversary celebrations – and also to celebrate Mother’s Day, which was the following day, Sunday!

This is retired priest, Rev. Luke H. S. Chen (second left, in green) and his wife, brother and some of his family…

And a group from St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi…

Mr. Chuang Hsiao-Wu is an ardent photographer and also senior warden at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung. He kindly sent me some of his photos to use here, including the group photo of us all in the church, posted at the top. Here he is, with his wife (left) and church member, Lynn (right)!

And lots and lots of everyone else!

And check out these happy people enjoying their meal together, mostly from St. James…

A big thank you to Rev. Philip Ho and all at Grace Church, Tainan for a wonderful celebration event, and especially to Almighty God for His faithfulness these past 60 years. And in God’s grace, we pray for the next 60, for all the outreach, especially among young people, and for the building of a new church, all to the glory of God!

Delights of Sabah 沙巴 @ Kota Kinabalu 亞庇!

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Yes, five days in Sabah is nowhere near long enough, but hey, it’s way way better than no days at all!  And what a great place for five days ~ hot and sunny (and nowhere near as humid as Taiwan at this time of year), lots of tropical flowers, trees, birds, fruits, foods and scenery to enjoy, with much to see and do…

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And so it is that on my way to the UK from Taiwan, I have come to Kota Kinabalu (known as KK), the capital of Sabah, East Malaysia, to visit my good friends, Evelyn and her family.  My last visit to Sabah was in the summer of 2006, way too long ago. KK has changed a lot in that time. New buildings everywhere, new roads, hospitals, high court, university buildings, airport, new infrastructure projects.  All is new, new new!

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New traffic jams too, or maybe just more noticeable – just don’t go near a school when parents are collecting or delivering their children. That means from about 6:00 – 8:00 am, and 11:00 – 1:00 pm. And again about 3:00 pm. Plus the normal rush hour as people go to work and then home again. Long lines of cars and school buses ~ and some of the early-bird parents are delivering their children to school soon after 5:00 am! Traffic, traffic, traffic.  All very patient and very orderly.  Actually, as a place to visit, the fact that the traffic drives on the left is a great preparation for driving in the UK. Taiwan drives on the right, and UK on the left, plus Sabah has roundabouts, which Taiwan doesn’t – so, hey, welcome to KK!

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But not all is new, new, new. The old buildings in downtown KK are still well-preserved, and many recently restored. Some of the buildings are newly-painted in wonderful colours and wall murals. I love colour, and KK has Colour with a capital ‘C’.

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As we drive around, I’m like, “Hey, slow down, stop the car, I just gotta check out that building, that wall, that artwork, stopppp!”

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“Kota Kinabalu (Chinese: 亞庇 Yàbì), formerly known as Jesselton, the state capital of Sabah, Malaysia, is located on the northwest coast of Borneo facing the South China Sea, with a population of 452,058 (2010 census). In the 15th century, the area of Kota Kinabalu was under the influence of the Bruneian Empire. In the 19th century, the British North Borneo Company (BNBC) set up a settlement, and development in the area started soon after that; the place “Api-api” (the name still used by the Chinese today) was later renamed after the vice-chairman of BNBC as “Jesselton”, and officially founded in 1899.  This is the famous Jesselton Hotel, built in 1954….

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Jesselton became a major trading port in the area, and was connected to the North Borneo Railway, but was largely destroyed during World War II. The Japanese occupation of Jesselton provoked several local uprisings, notably the Jesselton Revolt, but they were eventually defeated by the Japanese. After the war, BNBC was unable to finance the high cost of reconstruction and the place was ceded to the British Crown Colony. The British Crown declared Jesselton as the new capital of North Borneo in 1946 and started to rebuild the town. After the formation of Malaysia, North Borneo was renamed as Sabah. In 1967, Jesselton was renamed as Kota Kinabalu, Kota being the Malay word for Fort and Kinabalu after the nearby Mount Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu was granted city status in 2000”…. (adapted from Wikipedia).

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So there you have it, the history of KK in 2 paragraphs. What it doesn’t say is that KK is a multilingual, multicultural city, with Chinese, English and Malay (known here as ‘Bahasa Malaysia’ meaning ‘national language’) all spoken widely and often all mixed together in one conversation, plus lots of other local languages spoken too. My friend Evelyn speaks Hakka language with most of her family, Mandarin Chinese with her grandson, English and Chinese at work and church, and Malay for everyday use in the town. Amazing! The churches are similar. Lots of services in all different languages, Hakka, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Malay, English and Filipino. There’s churches of every denomination. Very noticeable, cos many are big.  And big means spacious, with beautiful grounds. And there’s lots of mosques too. In Sabah as a whole, Muslims are 65%, Christians 26% and Buddhists 6% of the population. These are the 2 most famous mosques….

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And a temple with a very prominent pagoda….

The Anglican Church of Sabah (part of the Province of SE Asia) was originally very much connected with the British colonial government, with English services run for the colonial government officials, and large numbers of clergy from overseas, also many schools. High Church style. By 1905, Europeans and Chinese communicants were reported as being ‘in considerable numbers.’ In 1959, the new All Saints Church was consecrated on reclaimed land in the centre of town, and in 1962, All Saints Church became a cathedral, when the Diocese of Borneo was separated into two dioceses, Kuching and Jesselton. This is the cathedral today….

In 1962, the assistant bishop of the Diocese of Borneo, Bishop James C. L. Wong (1900-1970) became the first bishop of the Diocese of Jesselton (renamed in 1963 as the Diocese of Sabah). This is significant for us in Taiwan because Bishop James C. L. Wong left Sabah in 1965 to become Bishop of Taiwan, Taiwan’s first bishop of Chinese descent. Between 1965 and his death in 1970, Bishop Wong devoted himself to establishing St. John’s University, Taipei – and after his death, he was buried under the altar in Advent Church. OUR Advent Church!  From the All Saints Cathedral book, ‘Moving Forward’….

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Evelyn’s daughter, Audrey and her husband, Rev. Paul Lau and their son have recently moved to Christ Church, Likas, KK and it turns out that they are now living in the very house where Bishop Wong lived during the time he was Bishop of Sabah. The building has had nobody living in it for the past 12 years and has recently been renovated. Next door is a derelict building that served as the diocesan offices from Bishop Wong’s time, awaiting a fresh vision and renovation.

The current diocesan office building is right by the cathedral, with this sign….

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Back in the old days, Sabah was a high church diocese, then moved ‘downwards’ and ‘outwards’, and in recent decades, Sabah has been strongly influenced by charismatic renewal. Worship is mostly lively and contemporary, and most churches have a strong focus on outreach and evangelism.  Paul and Audrey invited me to worship at Christ Church, Likas earlier today….

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We went to the Mandarin Chinese service at 7:30 am ~ it has to be early as it’s followed by an English service and then Malay.  Paul was preaching, and I was warmly welcomed by everyone – including the rector, Archdeacon Moses Chin (next to me in the photos below).  In the late afternoon, they were expecting the bishop for a ground-breaking service and blessing ~ to build a pavilion for outside activities, hence the balloons!

The Anglican churches in both Taiwan and Sabah run many kindergartens, and have worked together in past years to help support each other, and give training to teachers. Over the years, my good friend, Mrs. Grace Liu (wife of Rev. Michael T. H. Liu) from Taiwan has been on 6 visits to Sabah to help lead training seminars for Sabah teachers. On one memorable trip, she was the only passenger on the flight! While I was at St. James’ Church, Taichung, Evelyn and another teacher from Sabah came to St. James for 6 weeks to learn and experience St. James’ Kindergarten. That’s how we know each other. And that’s how I came to visit Sabah twice while I was at St. James. On those visits, we went to Sandakan, Ranau, Kudat, Beaufort, and with a friend from Taichung, the 2 of us climbed Mt. Kinabalu, (4,095 m /13,435 ft), Malaysia’s highest mountain – and just higher than Taiwan’s highest mountain, Yushan (3,952 m /12,966 ft). That was quite amazing, a never-to-be-forgotten adventure.  But that’s a whole other story, sorry!

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Evelyn is principal of Good Samaritan Kindergarten, KK, known as “Tadika Anglikan Penampang”, after that area of the city, and their priest-in-charge is Rev. Chin Pit Vun – whose brother-in-law, Rev. Joshua Ng, is ministering in the Episcopal Church in California and is known to us from his visits to Taiwan. Ah, it’s a small world! Here’s Rev. Chin and me – welcoming me to his church!

Under the previous bishop of Sabah, Bishop Albert Vun, a prayer station, ‘Kokol Prayer Summit’, was established up in the mountains outside KK, and Paul and Audrey took us up there to visit. It is built in the shape of the cross that Jesus carried on the Via Dolorosa. What a place.  Stunning location!

That area has retreat centres and churches of different denominations, as well as hotels and resorts. We visited one of them to see the sunset…

And while in Sabah, never forget the food. Tropical fruits like durians are one of the highlights – a whole durian market exists for people to enjoy the delights of durian ~ if you can stand that smell!

Then there’s tons of small restaurants and supermarkets offering everything imaginable. This was a small selection of what we enjoyed….

So, a big thank you to Evelyn and her family for their warm welcome and hospitality, plus all the meals – and trips out here and there.  It was fun!  This is Evelyn’s son in his truck…

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And I mustn’t forget the dogs.  Actually they belong to Evelyn’s grandson, but they are just such a bundle of high energy!

Sabah is a great place, with very lovely kind-hearted people, and so many things to see!  These are the street scenes and some of the sights…

So, as I prepare to leave KK tomorrow for London, thanks be to God for a wonderful 5 days in this beautiful country ~ let me end with these 2 photos taken last night on the beach, with all the people playing with bubbles, while they waited for the sunset!

So goodbye to Kota Kinabalu ~ and especially to Evelyn and her family. Here we all are having dinner this evening.  A big THANK YOU to you all!

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Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 and Paiwan 排灣族 Harvest Festival 豐年祭 @ Nantian Village, Daren Township, Taitung 台東縣達仁鄉南田村, Taiwan

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Yes, the Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 is THE trail to hike!  And especially when the sea and the sky are blue, blue, blue ~ like they were on Saturday ~ YES YES YES!

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The Alangyi Trail runs maybe 8-10 km along the S.E. coast of Taiwan, and walking it takes about 4-5 hours ~ from the very southern tip of Taitung County across into Mudan Township 牡丹鄉, Pingtung County, finishing at Xuhai 旭海 Village, famous for its hot springs and grassland.  The trail is significant in that it is the only section of the whole Taiwan coastline where there is no road. No road means no cars, no lorries, no coaches, no random tourists, no 7-elevens (always a sign of economic development!) ~ and to preserve the natural environment, the area is established as a nature reserve, and strictly managed.  But this only happened after years of protests and disputes about whether to build a road or not.  Fortunately wisdom prevailed, and the Alangyi Trail is just fantastic!

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Nowadays, only 300 people are allowed on the trail per day, permits are required, a guide is needed per 20 people and there are police on duty at either end of the trail.  During the summer, the temperatures are boiling hot, and there are few people hiking on the trail.  In fact, we only met one other group, 30+ youngsters from Changhua – going in the other direction.  Fortunately we had a nice breeze to blow us along!  A typhoon was slowly heading towards Taiwan, but still far off, and as often happens a day or two before a typhoon, the weather was really great (as I write this on Wednesday morning, 3 days later, the typhoon is roaring around outside as it passes northern Taiwan)!

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It is truly an amazing walk, with incredible views!  Is it easy?  Yes.  Is it difficult?  Yes. Both / and!  Much of the walk is right down near sea-level, along the upper part of the stony beach, but at the rocky promontory that is called Guanyin’s Nose 觀音鼻, everyone has to ascend 150m to go up and over the top and down the other side.  It is very steep, so ropes are supplied to grab onto, and there’s steps in some places.  But hey, the views are spectacular – and see the turtle-shaped rock down below!

For centuries, the Alangyi Trail was used by the local indigenous peoples to get from place to place along the coast.  The local indigenous people in that area are mostly the Paiwan People 排灣族 (pause here while you open that link to the Wikipedia site to read about the Paiwan People – it’s fascinating)…. Wonder if in years gone by, they enjoyed this stream as much as we did at the end of the trail?  Yes, we got soaked, but it was oh so refreshing!

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My good friends from Advent Church, 選櫻 (Hsuen-Ying, Grace) and her husband 生豐 (Sheng-Feng, Simon), invited me to join a group of their friends (mostly Grace’s former high school / college classmates and their families – all very lovely!) who they had invited to spend the weekend visiting Grace’s home village of Nantian, in Daren Township, Taitung (台東縣達仁鄉南田村).  This is Grace and Simon… as romantic as always!

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Grace is Paiwan, Taiwan’s second largest indigenous group, and Simon is Amis, Taiwan’s largest indigenous group – who mostly live further north in the Hualien area.  These days there is a certain friendly rivalry between the different tribes / groups ~ although in the past, things were not always so friendly!  Both Grace and Simon work at TamKang High School, Tamsui (as did 2 others in our group), and the school has a teddy bear mascot that travels around with them all over, including on the Alangyi Trail!

Nantian Village is the southernmost village in Taitung County, and runs along a single road between the mountains and the sea. Most people coming to Taitung from the west coast do so over the mountain road from Pingtung, this is the first area they reach on the east coast.  For cyclists on the round-Taiwan circuit, it’s a welcome relief to get over the mountains and down to the coast. But the only people passing through Nantian itself are on their way to the northern entrance of the Alangyi Historic Trail.  Within a few minutes of starting the trail, there’s a river, and that is the border between Taitung and Pingtung – and it is just over that river that the police have a checkpoint to check permits.

And what else is going on in Nantian?  Well, there’s fish farming, mainly for shrimp, there’s a camp site, small guest houses, a cement factory out on the main road, 2 Presbyterian churches, and a beautiful stony beach.  In the past, the stones were big and well-rounded, so people collected them up and carved them for sale.  These days, apparently the coast has changed, the sea level is rising, the stones are much smaller, and well, it’s not easy to make a good living.  Many of the local people have moved away to the cities looking for work – and return for festivals, and some in their retirement.

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Some scenes of Nantian and the local area, starting with the chief’s stone…

There’s an interesting bamboo art work installed there too, ‘The Vector of the South‘ 南方以南 ~ the bamboo looks like waves coming up from the shore, over the seawall and across the fields….

Grace’s elder brother, who we call ‘Da-Ge’ 大哥 (literally ‘big brother’) returned to the family home 10+ years ago, after quite some time in northern Taiwan, to take up his responsibilities as one of the chiefs of the Paiwan Tribe.  He is just so lovely!  He kept us entertained with stories, songs and jokes, and he and his wife are such committed Christians, sharing their faith, testimonies, choruses and music with everyone!  They, together with relatives and members of the village, welcomed us into their lives for the weekend ~ they were just so hospitable and generous.  By inviting us to join their village for the weekend, we could learn so much about their culture and traditions, and they were able to get some income from taking care of us ~ such visits are officially known as (starting with their Paiwan name), ‘Jakisuvung Cultural and Educational Eco-Tourism’ 家給蘇豐文教生態旅遊.  We stayed in a local guest house (B&B), which was run by the lady who was our guide for the Alangyi Trail, and whose younger sister was Grace’s former classmate!

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The Paiwan Harvest Festival 豐年祭 is an annual event in many Paiwan communities, celebrating a successful millet / rice harvest, and copious amounts of millet / rice wine are on offer!  It involved a whole weekend of activities in Nantian Village, starting on Saturday morning with the official opening ceremony when VIPs from the local government, the elected official representative from Taitung County Council, tribal chiefs and many others came along. There was dancing and singing too….

The main event of the day was the archery competition ~ wow, they are so skilled!  Every village has a team and they were all there, competing all morning.  Women, men, old, young, everyone took part; apparently they practice for hours – and it shows!

We even had a go ourselves, though we only shot from half the distance – and still managed to miss, ha ha! But Grace, who said this was her first time to try, got a bull’s eye, first time.  Actually it’s not a bull, it’s a mountain pig!

And then we all went off up the river, through the river in fact, wading upstream until we came to a clearing where we had a really fun Paiwan-style barbecue.  In fact, 3 days later and I can still smell that smoke all over!

The following day, the community spent the morning killing and preparing the pig, and certain other ceremonies.  The main event of the festival for us was on Sunday evening. Just beforehand, the heavens opened, the rain came down, and they decided to relocate to the village community centre. Da-Ge’s wife and the ladies of the village had been cooking all afternoon, and there were huge amounts of delicious Paiwan-style food. “Must try everything”, they said. Just don’t ask in too much detail what everything is – and remember that nothing in that mountain pig goes to waste!  Ah, I had a great time!

Most of the people were there in traditional Paiwan costumes, and we had flower head rings….

And there was dancing.  There’s always dancing at festivals, and we joined in too.  I filmed the following video for 5 minutes before I got down and joined the end of the line!  Do watch – and keep an eye on the blue bucket of millet / rice wine 小米酒 in the middle of the table, and the ‘waiters’ who go around serving everyone!

And this was the final dance – just for the community themselves… watch to the end, but I had to stop filming at the final minute, I was laughing so much!

On Monday morning, our group had a chance to visit Da-Ge’s home and try on some of their traditional Paiwan costumes.  There is apparently no special significance to the colours, blue, red, black – it’s personal choice.  We also had a chance to wear the chief’s headdress, which is, oh, so heavy!  The rules are that at ceremonies and festivals, only the chief and his family can wear the headdresses, but in their home and for photos at other times, anyone can try them on.  So we did!

We also visited a massive huge tree, Bischofia javanica (considered sacred, hence the red ribbon).  That’s where we learned all about the local ecology and more.  Teddy came too!

What else?  Well, actually I had arrived a day earlier than most of our group, and together with Grace and Simon, the 3 of us went to visit the newly-opened social welfare center run by the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross 聖十字架慈愛修女會 (known as the Maria Theresia Social Welfare Foundation 財團法人台東縣私立天主教聖十字架瑪利德蘭社會福利基金會) in Shangwu Village 尚武村, Dawu Township 大武鄉, which is very near Nantian ~ in fact it was in Dawu that Grace went to junior high school.  And the first person we met when we arrived at the center there was one of her old classmates. Ah it’s a small world!  This is their church and fruit growing in the garden. The fruit is Morinda citrifolia, known as cheese fruit / vomit fruit / starvation fruit, and I can tell you it is totally 100% disgusting!

In December 2016, St. John’s University and Advent Church raised NT$ 325,000 (US$ 10,000) as part of our annual fund-raising project and donated it to the sisters (see that blog post here) for their ministry.  They were planning to convert their kindergarten classrooms into a day care center for elderly local people.  Thanks be to God that the work is completed, and the official opening ceremony and mass was held on June 16, 2018.  We couldn’t go to the ceremony, but we were able to visit on Friday instead.  They are still waiting for the final permission from the local authorities to be able to use the new buildings, and we had a tour – they are so light, bright, well-equipped and fully furnished.  It was so good to meet Sr. Miljenka Schnetzer 宋玉潔修女 again, she arrived in Taiwan from Switzerland in 1979, and has been in Shangwu since 1992….

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We also visited the famous train station at Duoliang 多良, famous because if you stand there long enough a train will come out of the tunnel and pass by – such a pretty photo-op ha ha!

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And then there were the sunrises over the sea – 2 of them in fact.  On Friday we got up and left at 4:30 am to see the sunrise from the high viewpoint…

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And then again on Monday morning, when there was more cloud – the only sign that the typhoon was coming.  Great that we could still see Lanyu and Lyudao Islands from up there (but too far away to appear in the photo)….

One of the main highlights of the whole weekend was meeting Grace’s family, especially her big brother and his wife and family.  I had dinner at their home on Friday evening.  They are so friendly and welcoming!  This is Da-Ge and Simon…

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And yes, we spent a lot of time laughing!  Da-Ge’s wife told me that on the chief’s headdress there are some tufts of red hair, and yep, sure they’re there – and very red!

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She said that those tufts of red hair represent the hair of the foreigners who had had their heads chopped off by the Paiwan people in years gone by, when they arrived on the Taiwan coast to invade and attack the people here.  The Paiwan were a headhunting people, and always kept some of the hair as a mark of pride.  It’s true.  That was really what was happening along the Alangyi Historic Trail all those centuries ago.  It might all look very scenic and beautiful now, but in those days it was not a place where visitors were assured of a warm welcome!

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Wikipedia says, “In the past the Paiwan had a fearsome reputation as head-hunters. When Paiwan warriors returned home from a headhunting foray, the women would gather together in front of the courtyard to welcome their heroes and would sing songs of triumph. The heads of their enemies were then hung on stone pillars in front of which were displayed wine and offerings.” The Japanese, Americans, Dutch, Spanish all came to Taiwan – either to invade and attack, or they were trying to pass by the island on their way elsewhere but got shipwrecked in a typhoon, and many of them were attacked and killed.  Check out the Rover Incident of 1867 and the Mudan Incident of 1871, the latter took place in Mudan, which is at the Pingtung end of the Alangyi Trail.  It led to the Japanese invasion of Taiwan in 1874, and eventually Taiwan came under Japanese rule  from 1895-1945, during which the Japanese tried to control and subdue the indigenous peoples, leading to endless conflicts, armed uprisings, massacres – and resulting in even more oppression.  Many indigenous people, including Grace’s family (in the time of her great-grandparents and grandparents) were forced to relocate during the Japanese colonial era – they moved from Pingtung to Taitung, eventually settling in Nantian.

The Dutch are famously remembered in Taiwan as having red hair (here in Tamsui we have Fort San Domingo, known as 紅毛城, the ‘fort of the red-heads’, originally built by the Spanish and then seized by the Dutch, and rebuilt by them in 1644).  Hence the tufts of red hair in the headdress!  So we spent all weekend laughing together about whether I was gonna get my head chopped off before we left on Monday – and wondering whether I’d live to see another day!

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But Da-Ge assured me that now that Paiwan people are Christians, love has conquered all.  No longer do we need to kill each other, but we can live and work together in peace.  We’re all one family, of whatever tribe – and even whatever colour hair!  That’s the main theme of the song sung at the festival, where everyone joined hands to dance. These days even the shaman’s traditional rituals associated with the harvest festival are replaced by prayers to Almighty God, giving thanks and asking for God’s blessing, and all in Jesus’ name.  And here we all are, one family!

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So, Grace is from a Paiwan family and Simon is from an Amis family.  Nowadays, such marriages are very common.  In Advent Church, I like to tease Grace and Simon as being the most romantic couple in the church ~ they are members of the church choir, and they have quite some competition from other choir couples for that title!  But these two still win the prize ~ every day they are like they just got married.  And they just really like each other so much…. so adorable!

Thank God for a wonderful weekend of gracious people, deep culture, rich traditions, beautiful scenery, amazing weather, delicious foods, safe journeys and lots of laughter.

Thanks to Grace and Simon for all their leadership and organization, to all our group for their willingness to learn and to fit in with everyone and everything, and to Da-Ge and his wife and family for their warm welcome and kindness to us.  It was truly inspiring to see how God is working in one family, in one community, in one people, in one small corner of Taiwan, to His honour and glory!

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!

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!

Happy Chinese New Year from Beautiful Bangalore, South India!

Rarely, possibly once in a lifetime, does such a wonderful opportunity come along ~ a chance to take 2 of my very good friends from Taiwan along with me to visit my many very good friends in South India ~ YES!   The opportunity came at Chinese New Year, and with the blessing of the bishop of Taiwan, Bishop David J. H. Lai and the rector of Advent Church, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang and all our friends and church members, off we went!

God has blessed me with many good friends in Taiwan, and my 2 traveling companions were 2 of the very best!  Shu-Jing 薛淑靖 is my colleague here at St. John’s University Chaplain’s Office, and Hui-Ling 許惠苓 is Bishop Lai’s secretary and my colleague in the diocesan office in Taipei. Both are the first, and so far only Christians in their families, both are devoted long-time members of Advent Church, and very importantly, both very good friends with each other. So there was certainly never a dull moment on our whole trip ~ and rarely even a quiet one!

We set off together on Saturday January 21 for Bangalore, at the invitation of my very good friend from Tanzania days, Jyothi.  Jyothi welcomed us all so warmly and graciously, willingly giving up 2 weeks of her valuable time to take such good care of us all.  I first visited Jyothi in Bangalore in February 2013, also for the Chinese New Year holiday, along with New Zealand friend Ruth.  This was my second visit, but the first ever for Shu-Jing and Hui-Ling.  And what a great welcome we had from Jyothi and all her friends!

We arrived in Bangalore in the middle of the night and got to bed at 3:30 am, but a few hours later we were upright and wide-awake, all ready for the main 8:30 am service at St. John’s Church, Bangalore, part of the Church of South India (C.S.I.)  We were there along with 600 others – and 300 in the Sunday School.  The latecomers have to sit on chairs outside, there’s so many people.  Amazing.

Amazingly also, the new pastor of the church, Rev. G. Wilson, studied for a year in 2004 at Tainan Theological College in Taiwan, and was delighted to tell us how much he loved Taiwan, and what wonderful people the Taiwan people are!  One of his many gifts is preaching, and everyone enthused about his sermon after the service.  Here we all are, posing for photos!

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We met so many of Jyothi’s good friends at the church, including Asha and her family who took us all out for breakfast straight after church.  Oh yes, and Nancy (and her daughter – both looking stunning in the above right photo) who was to accompany us on our 2 big trips! Then to lunch with Rhena and her family ~ ah, Bangalore people are so welcoming!

The next day, we were up bright and very early, along with Jyothi and Nancy, in time to watch the sunrise from Bangalore Station as we set off for the 10-hour train journey to Kerala.  There’s nothing boring about spending 10+ hours on a train in S. India, we met and talked to everyone, smiled and played and laughed with the babies, took photos of and with everyone, ate, drank and even shopped onboard.  Ah, it was such fun!