Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, when the moon is believed to be at its biggest and brightest for the whole year, has just been and gone, and it was quite some festival! As it fell on Thursday, October 1, so Taiwan had a 4-day holiday weekend ~ traditionally a time for family reunions, moon-gazing, barbecues, eating mooncakes and pomelo fruits. Even Teddy was celebrating, as children do – with the pomelo peel on his head!
Family reunions mean travel – as everyone heads home – which means traffic jams and long queues to get anywhere, but hey, it’s all worth it! It also means family outings to resorts, the beach, countryside, mountains, restaurants, shopping, coffee shops or wherever. Our area here on the NW Coast is always full of traffic on weekends and holidays – including the Harley Davidsons who roar up to the beach each weekend. This was the scene early on Thursday, while the guys were having breakfast…
Near the beach is the Shuang-Lien Care Home, and I started the Moon Festival by visiting my good friend, Mrs. Hsu – she’s always pleased to see me, and in case you’re wondering about Covid-19 precautions, we took off our facemasks only for coffee and this photo below. Visitors are welcomed in the communal areas, with temperature checks, facemasks on – especially when moving around, and booking is required in advance with limited numbers at one time. Thankfully, Covid-19 continues to be under control in Taiwan, and work and schools continue more or less as normal, but the closure of the borders and mandatory, closely-monitored 14-day quarantine for citizens and residents returning to Taiwan means that family members overseas are largely grounded – overseas. Many with elderly parents here are therefore unable to come back and visit, so Mrs. Hsu has not seen any of her 3 children or grandchildren since just after Chinese New Year. Fortunately, they are all very good at keeping in touch with her, and she’s always very cheerful and so appreciative of all their love and support. In the photo, taken with her helper, Linda, we’re in the middle of saying hello to her family, hence the expression!
On Thursday afternoon off I set for Taichung. Of course every seat on every bus, train and high-speed rail was sold out weeks ago, but hey, I still gotta go! So, don’t be put off by lack of a ticket, the answer is to head across Taipei to Nangang, the High-Speed Rail terminus, buy a non-reserved ticket and line up for a train leaving about 30 minutes later. I was No. 8 in my line, so a seat was waiting for me, but behind me were many people wishing they’d got in line earlier. By the time the train left Nangang every seat was taken – and all those queueing up at Taipei had to stand.
I spent the weekend at my old home of St. James’ Church, Taichung ~ lured by the fact that the first Sunday of each month is my Sunday for doing the sermon at St. James’ English Service, so I had to go anyway – but went 3 days early, invited by all the wonderful people there. It’s actually the 4th time so far this year that a long holiday weekend has coincided with the first Sunday of the month, so my visits are many and often!
The kindergarten display boards outside St. James were showing the children’s art work for the Moon Festival, they’ve clearly been learning some of the history and myths around the festival, including the moon rabbit – just love ‘em!
St. James always knows how to organize events and celebrate, so I was invited to join in too. Thank you, all you lovely people of St. James! Rev. Charles C. T. Chen invited me to dinner on his wife’s 85th birthday – then all the family came along too – their second celebration meal of the day, having also had a special birthday lunch only a few hours earlier!
I was also welcomed to join the youth group and young adults’ barbecue at St. James, always a great event!
My good friend, Ah-Guan invited me to join their St. James fellowship group on a trip to Xinshe, up in the hills above Taichung, and yes Charles and MaryJo came too…
Plus we had a visit to a mushroom farm where you can pick your own mushrooms – we even had mushroom ice-lollies! Not bad, not bad!
And we finished that day at a very special coffee place, run by some friends of one of our group in the front yard of their home, located down some very narrow streets in a very rural village, surrounded by vineyards and coffee bushes. Mr. Hsu runs the coffee business with his very lovely Cambodian wife, Ms. Gao, who made up lots of their home-grown coffee for us to enjoy, and shared about her life these last 20+ years in Taiwan. Oh yes, and we sang some karaoke, including the most famous Moon Festival song (more or less the only one I can sing in Chinese!) originally sung by Teresa Teng, 月亮代表我的心 “The Moon Represents My Heart.” And my forever favourite for these occasions, ‘You are my sunshine!’ Ah yes, the atmosphere was really wonderful, it was really the highlight of the day!
Where else did we go over the weekend? Well, we saw the big wheel at Lihpao 麗寶樂園 when we visited the outlet mall for lunch … don’t ask about the bus getting there in all that traffic and how long it took. No photos of traffic jams, but hours and hours is the answer! But hey, buses in Taichung are virtually free of charge – so just sit back and relax!
The most beautiful place we visited was definitely Gaomei Wetlands 高美溼地, where we went on Sunday afternoon, by bus again – to the west coast. The boardwalk leads out to the mudflats, and everyone loves watching the fiddler crabs – see the crowds!…
And finally, on Monday afternoon, off I went about an hour south of Taichung to Yuanlin, Changhua. First stop was to try some tasty Ba-Wan 肉圓 Meatballs, famous local Yuanlin produce – and to check out the local scene…
Then I met up with Rev. Philip Ho and his wife Nancy, who had driven 90 minutes NNE-ish from Grace Church, Tainan, and we went to Chung Chou University of Science and Technology 中州科技大學, Yuanlin, to lead a service in English for a group of overseas students there. Philip led the service, including Holy Communion, I did the sermon, same as the day before at St. James ~ The Kingdom of Fruit (that’s Taiwan!) vs The Fruits of the Kingdom (Matt. 21:28-46). 🤔
There are about 60 students studying at Chung Chou University who are from Eswatini (Swaziland) and Uganda, and the service was timed for after their classes finished, about 5:00 pm. This is a new monthly venture that started last semester at the request of one of the people working in the university international office who knew Philip from her previous work at St. James. Philip is extremely energetic and really good at relating to young people – and overseas people too, so he’s the ideal person! The students run their own Bible Study fellowship groups and some travel far on Sundays to find a church service in English. They were great – and really appreciated us coming! Two young men, both named Solomon, one from Eswatini, one from Uganda, along with Everest from Uganda are celebrating their birthdays about now, and Philip and Nancy had brought along a cake. Thanks be to God for this new ministry!
Ah yes, I have so many happy memories of the Mid-Autumn Festival 2020! Thanks again to all at St. James for making it so special!