#MyAdventCalendar2021 #Day11: This is Hong-Chi 鴻琦 and his wife, Jin-Zhu 錦珠, much-loved members of Advent Church who run a Japanese Ramen Noodle Restaurant 味滿食堂 in the Carrefour Supermarket Complex in Tamsui. Their faith is very much part of their lives – see the cross on the back wall of the restaurant? And of course, the food is delicious and the service always first-class!
Like many restaurant owners locally, they’ve been badly hit this year by the pandemic, forced to close completely during Taiwan’s Level 3 Restrictions from May to August, then open for takeaway only, then fully open, but then closed again for a week with local restrictions. They’re now back to being fully open, and customers have returned, but it’s not easy running a business with so much uncertainty, and staff are proving hard to recruit. Weekends are particularly busy, and as a result, they have not yet been able to come back to attend Advent Church Sunday services. We miss them! Please pray for them, their family and the restaurant. And if you’re in the area, do go ~ their ramen noodles are so ‘oishii’ ~ very yummy!
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” (Henry James)
Yes, think glamourous Victorian ladies enjoying their delicate cucumber sandwiches and creamy fruit scones at Fortnum & Mason or the Ritz or wherever, drinking tea served in floral china tea-cups, talking about the weather – and just a bit of gossip – and there you have it, that’s Afternoon Tea, English-style. Well, that’s kind of the impression we all have, me too!
And that’s what I was doing at Xingren Elementary School (新北市淡水區興仁國小) last Friday, November 20. Starting at 8:30 am, all 6 classes, Grades 1-6, each came for 40 minutes each, all dressed up in their best outfits (me too!), and we drank tea together from dainty little tea cups and had chocolate biscuits. Fortunately Carrefour in Tamsui sells PG Tips and McVities chocolate digestives (labelled “Imported from the UK”), so it’s perfect. No cucumber sandwiches or cream scones, but hey, it was great! Such a simple thing to do, but such fun, and everyone was so happy – and the kids were so well-behaved! The principal came for one of the classes too. We learned how to sit and not slouch, to stir and not slop, to sip and not slurp ~ ladies and gentlemen in the making! And we learned a whole lot of English too, like, ‘Would you like some milk?’ ‘Is the tea good?’ ‘It’s delicious!’ ‘Would you like some more tea?’ ‘Yes, please’ and ‘No, thank you’.
Xingren Elementary School is our local school to St. John’s University, just 2 bus-stops down the road towards Tamsui. Many of the children who come to our summer camps here at Advent Church are pupils there, and Advent Church members go there each week to teach character education classes. The school has 91 pupils, ranging from 12 pupils in Grade 6 (although 7 of them had gone to a sports event at another school that day) to 19 in Grade 5, and all others in-between.
In May 2015, we went along to Xingren to help the children celebrate their Sports Day, and in October 2016, we went to help them celebrate their centenary, and we also went a few years ago for Christmas carol-singing. This is the first time I’ve been invited by the principal, academic supervisor and English teachers, and with the support of Bishop Chang, to give a little input as a real live foreigner. Rosa from Advent Church kindly came with me to help. Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and their appreciation!
It’s just so easy for children (and adults!) to be weighed down by spelling, grammar and vocabulary when learning English, sigh ~ it is such a nightmare! I mean who invented this crazy grammar whereby a word like ‘go’ changes to ‘went’ in the past tense? Why can’t verbs just stay the same, like they do in Chinese? And all those complicated tenses that we have in English, sigh and groan! English Tea-Time provides a little light relief, something to encourage the children to keep up with their English, and to use it in a fun way, and learn a little about international culture at the same time ~ plus the Taiwan government is pushing for more and more English in schools and this is one good way of achieving that aim.
Thanks to the English teachers, Ariel and Sophia for all the photos ~ they were posted on the school facebook page, linking to their photo album here. And special thanks to all the children for a great day!
Regarding Tea-Time at Xingren in a time of Covid-19, Taiwan continues its long run of no domestic cases since April, and is running normally as far as work and school is concerned. Temperatures are checked on arrival at school, and facemasks are required for entry at the school gate. Once inside, masks are not compulsory, but as from December 1, new winter regulations will come into force, so changes are coming.
Next month, I hope to return there for a class about Christmas. Watch this space, and in the meantime, sit yourself down and have a nice cup of tea and chocolate digestive biscuit!
Just down the road from St. John’s University, in the northern part of Tamsui Town, there’s a new light rail, called the Danhai Light Rail Transit. It opened last December, kind of circuiting around Tamsui – it’s not very fast, but it’s comfortable and I use it often, for cutting off Tamsui when I’m coming back from Taipei City…
This month one of the trains has been decorated to commemorate the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Tamsui, part of the Sino-French War. This is the first train on this line to be themed in this way; let’s hope there’s many more to come – cos Tamsui has a whole lot of history worth commemorating!
“The war arose from a dispute between the Qing and the French over control of Tonkin (northern Vietnam). France launched an attack on Keelung and Hobe (Tamsui) in a bid to capture northern Taiwan and extract concessions from the Qing Imperial Court. Though Keelung was captured by the French, Qing defenders managed to hold the Tamsui River mouth and prevent French warships from sailing directly into Taipei. The war started in August 1884 and ran until the French withdrawal in June 1885.”
The train is decorated on the outside, and inside at each end too, to let you imagine you’re really on one of the ships going into battle….
Completely unrelated to the Battle of Tamsui, there’s plenty of beautiful art work on each station, and a few months ago, we spent 2 whole afternoons getting off at every stop, taking photos and getting back on again. The trains run every 15 minutes, currently between Hongshulin and Kanding. The views are good too – these photos were taken this afternoon…
For a full account of the Battle of Tamsui, check out the Wikipedia entry here, there’s lots to learn!
Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines ~ all countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and all countries that have sent some of their very lovely people to participate in the “2019 Latin American and Caribbean Countries Vocational Training Project: Electrical and Electronic Engineering 拉丁美洲及加勒比海地區友邦技職訓練計畫-電機工程實務技術英語班”, hosted by St. John’s University (SJU). Welcome! The official opening ceremony was on Friday August 16, when everyone was welcomed by SJU vice-president, Dr. Wang, on behalf of President Ay (see photo above) and the different groups posed with their flags….
The whole project is organized by the ‘TaiwanICDF‘ ( Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund) a government-funded organization: ‘In its pursuit of international cooperation, and to advance the Republic of China’s diplomatic interests, the founding principles of the TaiwanICDF require the organization to pursue a mission of “working for humanity, sustainable development, and economic progress.”’
Their visit lasts 11 weeks, and the 18 participants (16 men, 2 women) have signed up for the English-language program, while a further group are coming next month for the French-language program, mostly from Haiti. They are mature students, some are teachers of electrical and / or electronic engineering in vocational institutes, others are in private enterprise; all hope to upgrade their skills to better serve their people back home ~ and to make the most of the visit to broaden their horizons and expand their knowledge of Taiwan. They are very committed, seriously keen and very enthusiastic about making the most of their time in Taiwan. So far, they’ve had introductory language classes and calligraphy, and have already started on the formal (but very practical) engineering classes ~ hydro-power, indoor wiring, plumbing, industrial control power distribution, electronic technology and solar photo-voltaic systems, plus visiting companies and institutions related to their training. So far, so good, and they are all very positive about everything!
I offered to help on some of their outings ~ on their first full day it included health check-ups and a visit to the local supermarket, Carrefour for stocking up with supplies. On Saturday August 17, we all went on a sightseeing tour of the local town of Tamsui, visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort San Domingo, Aletheia Univeristy and Tamsui Old Street to discover the history, and get to know the area. It was very hot ~ but breezy, yeah!
Last Friday, I went with the group to visit the 2019 ‘Taipei International Industrial Automaton Exhibition’ at the Nangang Exhibition Centre on the other side of Taipei. It was really high-tech stuff, full of robots and machines that could do all sorts of amazing things, and in the afternoon, we met up with one of our alumni for a tour of the Siemens exhibition.
Tropical Storm Bailu was due to cross Taiwan on Saturday, and on Friday afternoon, it was typical pre-typhoon weather, alternating rain and sun ~ and it so happened that after the Expo at Nangang we went with the group to visit Taiwan’s highest building, Taipei 101. What views ~ and what rainbows! It was incredible.
Actually, we were standing right in the centre of the rainbow, which went round in almost a whole circle – but my camera couldn’t get it all in one photo. This photo below was taken at the same time and posted on the official Taipei 101 facebook page, so you can see what we were really looking at – a real wow moment!
Yesterday, Monday, we had a sightseeing trip to Taiwan’s NE coast, up above Keelung, to the old mining towns of Jinguashi, Jiufen, Shifen and Jingtong. A real luxury to go everywhere by coach for the day rather than on and off public transport, as it was hot, hot hot! We had a wonderful day with a very professional guide, and we saw and did everything. The trip was originally planned for a Saturday, but due to the crowds, it was changed to a Monday, and still there were lots of people around ~ with a really good atmosphere… fun!
So a very big ‘Welcome to Taiwan’ to all our visitors. We’re all really looking forward to more trips out and about, and discovering all the wonderful delights that Taiwan has to offer – YES!
Cherry Blossoms (sakura 櫻花 ying-hua) are out big-time. Spring is finally here! Currently flowering all over everywhere, but possibly the most famous place and most accessible for Taipei people is at Tianyuan Temple, just outside Tamsui. Just happens to be not far from here, and there are huge traffic jams – ah, yes, we all love to see cherry blossom!
Tianyuan Temple Cherry Blossom is all Yoshino Cherry (吉野櫻) and, hey, they are looking spectacular. You must go – and soon!
Tianyuan Temple is a Taoist Temple worshiping the Jade Emperor (Yu Huang Dadi 玉皇大帝), and the main attraction is the 5-story pagoda, with deities on each floor, and all surrounded by cherry blossom.
I’ve been waiting for a sunny day, and today was it! So I went there late this afternoon, about 4:30 pm, and this was the scene….
And having the most fun taking photos were a group of very athletic students, who managed to perfect their pose after a few tries!
Getting to Tianyuan Temple is easy if you come by shuttle bus from Tamsui MRT Station, they’re currently running all day, but there’s also a long wait at weekends – I saw hundreds waiting in line last Saturday! Traffic is very slow, and parking is not free, so come by shuttle bus. For me it’s easy, just hop on the regular #876 bus that runs from Sanzhi to Tamsui over the mountain road, and it stops at the temple – only takes about 20 minutes. And I caught the same bus back again about an hour later. Yes, so easy! Ah, the endless weekend traffic jams are well compensated for by having beautiful cherry blossoms within easy reach!
Do make the most of the cherry blossom season, it’ll be over before long ~ so get here quick ~ YES!
Discovered some wonderful new (to me, that is) street art on the walls of Tamsui Old Street area 淡水老街 today ~ including this one of Dr. George Mackay, first Presbyterian missionary to northern Taiwan (1844-1901), who arrived in Tamsui in 1872 and stayed here more or less until he died. Early photos show him going off on trips armed with dentist equipment for pulling out teeth, and Bibles to share the Gospel… wonder what he’s think of this painting done in his honour?
Then up behind the famous Matzu Temple are some steps and walls painted with famous local scenes…..
I like ’em! Brightens up the place considerably ~ so do come ‘n visit Tamsui, it’s THE place to be!
Bright orange U-bikes have arrived in Tamsui, and not just down by the river, but up in northern Tamsui, by the sports centre and Carrefour ~ yippee! So a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon is riding around on a u-bike, exploring some of the places in Tamsui that are more difficult to get to – and the sports center is a good place to start. Well, it is for me, cos it’s the nearest to Sanzhi!
First stop is the Cheng’s Old Residence, which is a traditional old Taiwanese house, around 3 sides of a courtyard, probably built around 1875 – and now fully restored and used for educational purposes. It happens to be right in the middle of the new high-rise buildings that are going up all over Tamsui New Town area, this is it!
In fact, the only way to really appreciate its location is to take a diagonal photo!
The next stop is Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf which is right at the mouth of the river – nearby are some more new high-rises ~ check these out!
Fisherman’s Wharf was cloudy, and full of fishing boats, and the famous ‘Lover’s Bridge’ is covered in scaffolding…
Next stop is the Martyrs Shrine, up a steep hill, which is described as “Sitting on one of the battlefields of the Sino-French War, New Taipei City Martyrs’ Shrine tells the colonial and wartime history of Taiwan. During the Japanese Colonial Era, it was a Shinto shrine venerating Emperor Meiji. After the war, the shrine was sadly destroyed and later converted into a martyrs shrine that honors the fallen soldiers. The foundation and the size of the Shinto shrine has been retained, and the main body was rebuilt into a Chinese palace”…..
The Martyrs Shrine is up by the Hobe Fort, next to the golf club, but I was really heading to the Cloud Gate Theater, also in the same area, which has been open for over 2 years, but this was my first visit – it’s beautiful! And it’s got sculptures by Taiwan’s most famous sculptor, Ju-Ming 朱銘, from his Living World series (for photos of my visit to his sculpture park, in Jinshan, see my blog post here) which really brighten the place up!
There’s plenty more to see, like the fort and museum and parks in the same area, but it was 31°C, so I’d had enough for one afternoon – it was hot!
A great place to visit – if you get a chance, do go – and by u-bike too!
Our beloved church member, Mrs. Cheng Chen Ai-Mei 鄭陳愛美姊妹 (known to us as Cheng Mama 鄭媽媽) died on March 14, and this past Saturday was her Memorial Service in Advent Church.
Her cremation and burial of ashes took place a week after her death and this Memorial Service was for the church community and her wide circle of friends and colleagues to say goodbye. It was also a Holy Communion Service, as is fitting for a family where all are Christians. And what a service it was! Advent Church was so full of people that we had to bring in extra chairs. So many people had come to pay their last respects, to grieve, to bring comfort to the family, and to thank God for her wonderful life. And what a life it was. Cheng Mama was much-loved by everyone – and is much missed.
Cheng Mama came from a very big and very well-known Tamsui family. Her father Mr. Chen Ching-Chung 陳清忠校長 (1895-1960) was principal of TamKang High School, Tamsui and was responsible for introducing the sport of rugby into the school – and into the whole country. The TamKang schools and colleges were founded by the first Presbyterian missionary to Taiwan, George L. Mackay. Cheng Mama’s paternal grandfather, 陳火 Rev. Chen Huo (after he became a Christian he changed his name to Chen Rong-Hui 陳榮輝) was one of Mackay’s first students and converts, and became the first pastor of Xindian Presbyterian Church, Taipei. Her great uncle, Chen Rong-Hui’s elder brother married Mackay’s elder daughter, Mary Ellen.
Cheng Mama spent most of her life worshiping in Tamsui Presbyterian Church, but her son, Paul and his family have been members of Advent Church for many many years, serving on the Vestry and in many leadership roles. In recent years, his sister, Carol has joined us too. We love them all so much!
Cheng Mama’s testimony is amazing. She prayed faithfully for her husband for 49 years that he could become a Christian. 49 years! Suddenly in 2009 at the grand old age of 86, through the ministry of our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, Mr. Cheng made THE decision – yes, he was going to be baptized! The Cheng parents then both started to attend Advent Church every week as long as they were able. Mr. Cheng died on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013 and his funeral was held in Advent Church a few weeks later (see that blog post here). Cheng Mama continued to come to Advent Church along with her family, until she became sick a few months ago.
Cheng Mama is lovingly remembered for the way she showed such great care and concern for all those in her family, and her friends, colleagues, classmates, church members and so many more. Even when she couldn’t go out and meet them all, she would call up and keep in touch by phone. Always smiling and giving thanks to God for his many blessings, she was a gift to us all. One of her great friends was Tan Mama – this is the best photo I took of them both in Advent 2015, Cheng Mama on the right, Tan Mama on the left.
So we give thanks to Almighty God for Cheng Mama’s wonderful life and witness. We pray for her family and friends, and for us all, that the faith of those like Cheng Mama, who have gone before us, will continue to inspire and challenge us afresh.