Tag Archives: Taipei

Just Married! Many Congratulations to Yi-Chia 鄒宜家 and Si-Han 陳思翰 on their Wedding Day ~ and it all started in Boston!

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Our beloved Teacher Tiger’s big day ~ YES!  And yes, we call her Teacher Tiger (well, after all she was born in the Year of the Tiger!), otherwise she’s known as Yi-Chia 宜家, and in fact that’s what our friends in Boston call her.  Yesterday was a very big day for her and her brand new husband Shawn ~ Si-Han 思翰, and what a lovely couple they are!

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IMG_0136Yi-Chia’s family are all members of ‘The Church in Taipei’, YongHe Branch 新北市召會永和區一會所, affiliated to the ‘Local Churches‘ Movement or ‘The Little Flock’, which was started in the 1930’s in Mainland China by Watchman Nee, and in Taiwan from 1949 onwards by Witness Lee. Interestingly Watchman Nee started his education in a CMS (Church Mission Society – that’s me!) school in China, and was quite influenced by CMS people throughout his life.  Ah, connections!

Yi-Chia teaches in our St. James’ Preschool, Taichung ~ where I was for 7 years from 1999-2006 – she arrived after I left, but she arrived at a key time.  We had just started linking up with Cambridge-Ellis School (CES), Boston, USA and over time that link has developed into a full sister-school partnership, of which I am part of the liaison team from St. James. In 2012, Yi-Chia went to CES for a year as part of our exchange programme, and one of the activities arranged for her was daily English classes at a local college in Boston.  Boom! Not only did she learn plenty of great English, but it was at that college that she met Si-Han.  Both are from Taipei.  But they met in Boston!

Yesterday was their wedding day, YES!  I had the honour of attending the wedding celebration at their church in Yonghe, Taipei at 9:00am, and speaking on behalf of St. James’ Preschool to share a little about their story and the Boston connection, and to offer congratulations and best wishes to them both.  So easy to do, as Yi-Chia and Si-Han are both such wonderful people!

It was my very first experience of a wedding celebration in a Local Church, and it was very moving.  Both Yi-Chia and Si-Han shared their joint testimony, kind of one sentence each at a time, and much of it centred around how Si-Han had come to faith in Christ since knowing Yi-Chia, and how he was baptized almost exactly a year ago, and has now become a member of the Local Church ~ and all this because he genuinely came to faith, not just because he fell in love with a lovely Christian girl!  God is good, and it’s quite a story!

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The 6 elders of the church all spoke from their hearts and shared verses from the Bible, words of wisdom, blessing and thanksgiving ~ also the father of the groom, and the father of the bride – who had everyone laughing away, and here he is, below!

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We also sang a special hymn, chosen by the couple. The most important part of the service was right near the end, when the 6 elders and the bride and groom knelt down in a close group, and the elders laid hands on the bride and groom and prayed for them and for God’s blessings on their marriage.  Both in their sharing and in their praying, the elders showed such passion, joy and eloquence, speaking from their hearts, moved by the Holy Spirit, and the congregation responded frequently with shouts of ‘Amen’.  It was humbling, joyful, worshipful and awe-inspiring!

The couple had been the day before to officially register their marriage, so the next step was lunch, and then they had a whole day of celebrations to follow, with the wedding banquet in the evening,  for which a coachload of teachers and friends from St. James were coming.  It being Easter Eve, I was to be back at Advent Church, but I was delighted to attend the wedding service, along with some of our St. James’ teachers, their boyfriends, and the groom’s friends too ~ here we all are, the ‘Friends’ group!

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A very big Thank You to all the church members and the families of the bride and groom for their very warm welcome and their friendly greetings, much appreciated!

And many congratulations, best wishes and God’s richest blessings to Yi-Chia and Si-Han on your marriage ~ yes, may God bless you both greatly and your new life together, Amen!

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.

Jian-guo Flower Market 建國花市, Taipei ~ THE place to go all this week!

Yes, it’s open all day every day all this week ~ the week leading up to Chinese New Year ~ and you just MUST go!

The Jian-guo Flower Market happens in the car park under the Jian-guo Overpass, not far from the Da-an Park in Taipei – normally it’s a car park during the week, and a flower market at the weekends (at the far end it stretches into the Jade Market), but this week, it’s open all day every day until 10pm.  Yesterday afternoon it was totally totally completely packed out full of people buying flowers of every kind for Chinese New Year. Plus a few other Chinese New Year decorations too.  Orchids and peonies, bonsai and pussy willow, cacti and hyacinths, narcissus and fuchsia, you name it, it’s all there!

I was there after the service at St. John’s Cathedral, along with Mrs. Aline Ma and her daughter Gabrielle, so that Mrs. Ma could buy some narcissus bulbs for the New Year. Mrs. Ma just has so much energy and enthusiasm, we were both trying hard to keep up with her ~ she is just AMAZING!

If you want some flowers, go!  If you don’t – and just want to look – go!  GO GO GO!

Well worth braving the crowds and cold and going to see ~ honest, it’s beautiful!

Up into the clouds ~ on the Maokong Gondola 貓空纜車!

Fog, fog, fog and rain, rain, rain ~ but at least it wasn’t too cold – in fact, it was FUN!

Up yesterday into the clouds on the Maokong Gondola – and out of them to arrive in the tea-growing hills above Taipei… THE way to travel!

A ‘gondola’ will be forever associated in my mind with the boats and the singing boatmen of Venice (actually I haven’t been to Venice, but I have been to the Venetian Macao Hotel, where they also have real gondolas and singing boatmen!) ~ but a gondola lift is a type of cable car where the cables are up above – so Maokong Gondola is just that, and operates from near Taipei Zoo and up to Maokong.  It’s very reasonably priced and a good way to travel, as long as you worry too much about heights…..

Yesterday one of our dear church members, Na Mama and her husband, who’ve both recently moved to a care home in Taipei City, kindly invited some of their old friends from Advent Church to lunch – and lunch was to be up in Maokong.  So what better way than to travel up there than by cable car?!

To get there from here is very easy and very cheap, but oh, takes ages!  Almost an hour on the bus from Sanzhi to Tamsui, then another hour to almost the end of the MRT Metro line, then a bus as it was raining.  Then 30 minutes on the cable car – total over 3 hours!

It was fun to travel with our rector, Rev. Lennon Chang, his wife Hannah, and all our friends, and the food was completely delicious, and then followed by tea-drinking and fellowship time.  12 of us altogether, all smiling away!

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And after the tea-drinking, back down by cable car – just don’t look down!  You may just catch sight of an early blooming cherry blossom tree below, but also plenty of damage caused by the landslides during last year’s Typhoon Dujuan

Chinese New Year is coming, it’s the end of term, and there’s a festive atmosphere as people connect up with old friends and family and enjoy food, tea-drinking and time together.  Na Mama and her husband were in fine form.  Na Mama is 17 years younger than her husband ~ he turns 90 this year, but he has a whole new lease of life since they moved to the care home, and their days are full of classes, meals, family, friends, and for Mr. Na – lots of mahjong games with his new neighbours ha ha!  Na Mama now goes to St. John’s Cathedral for worship, and returns to Advent Church once a month to see all her old friends, and the rest of her time is taken up with lots of classes, learning all sorts of new things.  There’s also regular Bible Studies and fellowship groups and even Sunday afternoon services at the home or nearby, so Na Mama is busy, and her husband goes with her to the Sunday afternoon services too.  So it’s great to see them so well settled, and hear their stories of life in their new home and all their activities.  Non-stop action!

A wonderful day ~ turned out to be a 10-hour round trip, just for lunch ha ha!  But so good to spend time in a beautiful place, eating delicious food and drinking refreshing Taiwan tea with such lovely people ~ YES!

Snow?! YES!

Unbelievable.  Incredible.  Amazing.

There is snow on the Yang-Ming-Shan mountains!  Not just on the tops, but all over.  A light dusting. Very light.  But it’s snow all the same! And it’s visible from all over this area. And just visible in my photos, taken this morning.

We’re having the coldest temps in Taipei for over 40 years.  4ºC.  Currently my phone is telling me it’s 3ºC, so maybe it’ll get even lower overnight.

It’s cold cold cold, very very cold.  Most people, including me, have no heating in their houses.  This is a sub-tropical country, and summer heat is our main concern.  Not snow. But today it’s freezing.  We’re all wrapped up like we live in Antarctica.  But there’s a certain excitement in the air as tons of people head up to Yang-Ming-Shan to see the snow.

This morning I met a baby snowman.  On the bonnet of a car.  He was born in Yang-Ming-Shan this morning, and is now living down here in Sanzhi.  Proof that there is enough snow up there to make a snowman ~ and that it’s cold enough down here to keep him alive!

America is having a super snowfall as I write.  Falling by the metre and grounding all transportation and normal life.  Meanwhile, we’re having our own little snow event here in Taiwan.

This being Taiwan, some things never change, not even in near-freezing temps and with snow falling all over.  I’ve counted 10-20 people today dressed up for winter in big coats, hats and gloves, and yet walking around and driving their motorcycles in flip-flops, with no socks.

Yep, unbelievable, incredible, amazing ~ 4ºC and NO SOCKS!!

EDITORIAL: Emergency plans crucial to safety – Taipei Times

A nightmare of a week in Taiwan after the Colour Play Party disaster at the nearby water park last Saturday. Almost 500 injured, many critically – so far one has died, others may well follow.  Everybody knows somebody who was there or who has been affected in some way.  There are photos and messages all over social media asking for people’s prayers for the injured.

This article sums up well the tragedy of the situation….

EDITORIAL: Emergency plans crucial to safety – Taipei Times.