Monday, December 31, 2007

They Don't Think they Won by 21 By Accident...

Put together:

* A 21 point Redskins victory (the late Sean Taylor's jersey #).

*  All three touchdowns scored by Taylor's fellow alumni.

* Loss of 5 starters besides Taylor.

* Right after Taylor's funeral, when they should have been most drained, reeling off four consecutive wins (the most they've had this year).

* A gale force wind that blew a punt 20 extra yards, missed field goals by opponents in which the wind blew the ball wildly, passes that hung in the air until Redskins could catch them -- some players say it's Sean Taylor (Na, I don't think so).

* The last 4 wins engineered by a quarterback who hadn't started in 10 years, and whose wife had a baby just a day before one of the games.

* Melt-down by a few play-off pretenders (Saints and Vikes)

* Joe Gibbs consistently manifesting a steady faith and giving thanks to God.

Regardless of who wins and loses, I'm looking forward to following the post-season!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Latest Bird Acquisitions




After the last two baby birds kicked the bucket a few months back, I broke down again. Here's a  pic of the 綠月輪 (what I thought in English might be called a Green Conure, but just found out 5/27/09 that it’s an Indian Ringneck) I bought about a month and a half ago (for about $40 US). It's still pretty scared of me but, after several hours of work on my part, it is finally willing to put a foot or two on my hand when I hand-feed it sunflower seeds, which it likes more than its usual fare (I read somewhere sunflower seeds are addictive-- I may be encouraging a drug habit!). Its personality so far seems to be sort of mean, but maybe I'm misreading it since they love to chew all sorts of things. Twice now I've forgotten to lock the cage and its opened the door to go over to another adult green lovebird I got at the same time, which, alas, made good on its escape last week and has not been seen or heard from again.


litlebird1littlebird2A few weeks after I got the Indian Ringneck I bought a baby peach-faced lovebird and have been hand-feeding it 3 times or more a day (here it costs about $11 US). It can't yet fly and is only beginning to feed itself, but I expect with a little more luck it will be able to go on its own in just another few days instead of dying like the last two.   Both birds seem like they'll do OK outside of the cage from time to time although the big one will need a lot more work.   Both birds are beautiful. God sure knows how to cook, doesn't He? Actually, I think the yellow bird's colors may be due to selective breeding. If I bring it up to my second floor, I may lose sight of it.

Sunset Boulevard

Last night I watched the 1950 classic "Sunset Boulevard" for the first time. Wonderful entertainment aside, this movie to me was all about 1) the illusions we cling to, 2) the idols which threaten to kill us when we think of leaving them, and 3) the lies about ourselves we fool ourselves into believing. Thanks be to Jesus Christ, whose birth, resurrection from the dead, and life in us today delivers us from all evil!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas at FeiSha "Flying Sands" Elementary School

fsxmas1 Christmas Day I kept my usual Tuesday schedule of volunteering at two different elementary schools teaching English.

fsxmas3 The first school had no special activities. "Flying Sands" Elementary, however, was quite the re4nao4 ("lively, buzzing with excitement") place to be! Though I didn't teach or share that day, I was invited to attend the festivities.

There was quite a feast at noontime, and then each class put on their performances. Numbers were drawn out of a box, and dozens of gifts were given away. For the grand prize, the principal arranged to give away two brand new bicycles, both of which went to 1st and 2nd graders whom I teach. It was especially cute because the size of the bikes was more suited to the older grades, not the younger kids. 

Here are a few other pics not just of the bikes, but of the performances done by fxxmas2the classes I help teach English to on regular Tuesdays. fsxmas5 fsxmas4 fsxmas7 fsxmas6

Reliving a bit of Taiwanese History



Yesterday longtime Taiwan coworker Teyet Moy and my neighbor Mr. Chen, a retired taxi driver, joined me for a half-day post-Christmas excursion to the city of Tainan in southern Taiwan. There we relived some ancient Taiwanese history.tainan1

First, we visited the ruins of Old Fort Zeelandia, built by the Dutch when they colonized Taiwan (1624-1662). This fort was renamed Anping when Zheng Cheng-Gong (Koxinga) recovered it from the Dutch. We then took a quick stroll along Provintia street, the first well-planned street in European style which became the center of Tainan City.

From there, we paid a visit to the Eternal Golden Fort, built in 1874 to shore up Taiwan's defense against the Japanese threat.  

Afterward, we visited ChiKan Tower and the ruins of Fort Provintia, the site where Koxinga accepted Dutch surrender some 350 years ago. Koxinga revamped Fort Provintia under the Eastern Imperial Court Tian-Fu adminstration and lived there. Today, it is known by Taiwanese not for being a former center of Dutch colonization but for the traditional Chinese architecture and gardens which were erected and restored over top and around the old fort.     

IMG_0005 tainan4tainan8 IMG_0008  We drove by tainan9the Merchant House of Tait tainan10& Company, the Confucius temple and historic train station built under Japanese occupation, and walked the perimeter  of the Koxinga Shrine, but that was about all we wanted to squeeze in before nightfall. Actually, if but for an hour or two, a half a day trip was nearly adequate to take in the major sites. Two days, as we originally discussed, would have been too long.

No Ouching Allowed

Some more classic English signage, spotted yesterday marking a display at the Chikan Tower in Tainan...

no ouching

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

My neighborhood just experienced a countryside Taiwanese version of the murder mystery novel (narrated from the perspective of an autistic child) by Mark Haddon. If you have read this blog previously, you've heard about the loud dogs, chicken, and geese which make it hard to sleep at night.  Even my neighbors have located their bedrooms to the inner rooms of their homes. However, being the new kid on the block, I'm a little buhaoyisi  (embarrassed)  to make a fuss about it. At least outwardly...

On a cultural note, Dogs in the Taiwanese countryside are usually not seen as pets, just possessions which guard other possessions at night. They are expected to bark in order to do their jobs,  but one particular dog is too extreme. My neighbor tells me in Taiwanese it is "a bad dog".

To combat this particular dog, roped up just across the street from where I live, I recently bought a high power water rifle which was advertised to shoot a narrow stream of water up to 40 feet. I can do this very discretely from my second or third floor in the middle of the night with no one but me and the dog knowing (and now you the readers of this blog) since the other side of the street is nothing but junk and vacant fields. However, except for one stream which I sent out about 5 feet in front of the dog a month ago, I haven't had a need to deploy my new weapon of deterrence.

Why all the sudden quiet? Did the  warning volley I fired out a few weeks ago over the stern of the dog house (couldn't quite reach the dog itself from only my 2nd floor) jolt the dog until submission?  Or am I finally so accustomed to the noise that I can just sleep through it? 

I was shocked to learn day before yesterday from a neighbor that the dog has simply DISAPPEARED. No one knows what happened. It was last seen or heard from around the time of my last encounter three weeks ago.

Did my warning shot cause the dog to bolt witlessly in sheer terror from its rope and bound off forever into the unknown wilderness, never to be seen or heard from humankind again? (By the way, that's what happened to my green lovebird three days ago when it opened its door on its own and flew away to freedom. Sadly, as winter approaches, it will realize the harshness of life outside of the gilded cage.) Will I be pointed out to be a chief suspect in the dog's disappearance? gun

But what of the mystery man who suddenly appeared and whom I observed for three days in a row thanks to the barking of the dog walking past at 5:00 am in the morning with his large walking stick? After the third day, the day after I fired the shot, I never noticed hearing the dog again. Did the mystery man secretly nab the dog for some tasty warm dog meat, still popular in some quarters of Taiwan when the cold of winter rolls around? Or was it simply released from its rope or kidnapped by another angry neighbor who wanted to get a better night's sleep?  The plot thickens... BUT NOW I CAN FINALLY SLEEP! Thank you, God, for hearing my prayers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mr. Li's Funeral

Tomorrow bright and early I'll participate in the funeral of a man who I baptized a few years ago who came to know Christ through our old church. He was in a lot of pain the last several years of his life. Here are two pictures from happier days I stumbled upon just now in my computer  that I"ll pass alongmrli1 to his family tomorrow. The surviving children's mother preceded their father in death by only two months.  mrli2May these pictures speak to them of the joy which comes into the world and the hope of eternal life which can come into their lives through our Deliverer, Jesus Christ. Mr. Li is the only Christian in his family.

Sharing the Christmas Story in Taiwanese Elementary Schools

Yesterday I had three opportunities to share the Christmas Story in 1st and 2nd grade classes at two different elementary schools. Adding to this once-a-year opportunity was the pleasure of having an intern who is working with us for one month joining the class. My experience is that students always love having a different "guest teacher" foreigner around and yesterday was no different. Two classes were able to do Q&A with her.

As far as the Christmas Story and sharing the Christian faith goes, when I go to the classroom I go with the intention of teaching English, not to "win converts". That's how Christ is most glorified as a Christian English teacher teaches English. However, Thanksgiving and Christmas offer unique opportunities to share what is not just part of the Christian faith, but also a central part of Western culture.

We were able to do just that in the second school. I've been told repeatedly not to duplicate what the regular English teachers teach, but offer insights into foreign life and culture. When errors surfaced in the Chinese text of the 10 minute powerpoint, the teacher even corrected them so the students would get the proper picture.

We didn't dwell on the story of the birth of Jesus Christ in either location. After simply stating at the end that Jesus grew up and died on a cross for all the people of the world, and that He came back again to life and lives and loves us and wants us to give new life, we moved quickly back to games and other Christmas/Santa stuff we talked about last week. Then we gave away candy canes to complement the pumpkin pie that was served last week. 

Unfortunately, in the first school, even this was too much. The teacher utterly changed the meaning of what was said. She said: "the foreigners believe Jesus rose from the dead. But do people rise from the dead? No..." And she didn't totally ignored the last slide. It was the same thing at Thanksgiving when the 10 minute Thanksgiving Story got corrupted as well. 

Do I want to keep going back? A part of me out of spite for the teacher says no. But another part realizes that continuing to humbly serving these first and second graders out of love for Christ may allow the Holy Spirit to work in this teacher's life. The personal feeling of insult gives way to the realization that this is all about God and not about me.

Next year though, before Easter rolls around, I'm going to insist on doing my own translation,  or at least make sure the principal gets the heads-up first.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Buying Leaning Supplies

leaning A few months ago when I was moving in, I stocked up on household cleaning supplies at the largest department/grocery store within a forty minute radius or so from here. Today was the first time I was unselfconscious enough to smuggle my camera in to sneak a pic since my cell phone here doesn't have a camera. Our team leader suggests we should get a group picture of us all leaning in front of it.

In-Between Meal Snakes

snaking Are you in the habit of having a snake between meals? Or eating a snake before bed-time? Over the years of teaching adults English here, one of the more common (and humorous) pronunciation errors I hear a lot is mistaking "snake" for "snack" since that particular "a" sound doesn't occur in Mandarin or Taiwanese. But this afternoon was the first time I found it in writing!  Hmmm... it's almost bedtime. What will I eat tonight first?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Taiwanese Gecko Trivia

This past week in language school I learned the Taiwanesgecko2e word for the house geckos which are so prevalant here (In the highly unlikely event any of you are interested, copy the chinese name 壁虎  here).

These guys are helpful in that they eat mosquitos. However, when I lived for four years in Taipei and especially when I lived the same amount of time in Taichung, these critters could be especially annoying when they'd start chirping in the middle of the night from some hidden location inside the apartment. A few times I got up to hunt them down. Strangely though, in the time since I've been in Yunlin, I've not heard a single gecko chirp in spite of the fact that there have been many more in my house here than ever before.

My teacher passed along to me an interesting tidbit of Taiwanese trivia. He said that north of the Zhuo-shui river ( 濁水溪) which passes through the towns of  Xiluo and Mailiao in Yunlin County, the geckos chirp but south of the river they don't chirp. Anyone here in Taiwan have a conflicting experience?

Alas, the geckos here have seemingly removed themselves from view in recent weeks, so I can't test this theory until the spring perhaps.

Rest in Peace

This morning we find ourselves grieving yet again over another celebrity death. Alas, yesterday marked the passing of Asok the Intern. May he rest in peace.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Eastern Versus Western Cultural Values

I just got an interesting chain letter forwarded to me from a coworker which relates strongly to the cultural context of this blog. Rather than uploading her e-mail here, I'll  just include a link to another page online that already contains the pictures. Thanks Fungyee!

"North Harbor" Prayer Rally

Last Saturday I rode over to to attend a prayer rally in BeiGang ("North Port" or "North Harbor'). beigang3. I didn't stay very long because things were a little crazy for my taste during the time I was there. However,I heard great things about the morning session and had hoped to go back for the evening but for a prior commitment. May God answer the prayers that were offered up that day!  beigang1

The organizers chose to hold the rally there because this area is arguably the least-reached and least-penetrated by the gospel in all of Taiwan. That's why we're here and not in some more convenient locality further north. As we sometimes need to be reminded, our mandate is  to "establish wholistic communities of Christ among the least reached where all the odds are stacked against us." For us, that's here.

Coworkers' Innovative Son

David Iverson, Taiwan MK now going to school in Minnesota, hagrocerybike_1s a new bike to help out with his grocery shopping. His folks here tell me he's looking to upgrade the wheels on the cart so that it steers a little better! 

My Neighbor is Getting Some Good Press Coverage

My neighbor two doors to the right mentioned in my post below on October 9 got some press coverage earlier this week. I sure would like to send some more business his way!

Here's a second article (in Chinese) and here's his blog which shows a lot of his work pictorally.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Land Acquisition and Loss in the "Forbidden Nation"

As is often the case in Taiwan, history isn't too far removed from the present day. For example, I still bump occasionally into old men who came as soldiers from China to Taiwan with the KMT retreat in 1949, and the island's economy has really only been developed for a couple generations. Another example of this is a family herethat lives right across the street from the big temple (Temples are not just the center for religious affairs in Taiwanese society but also the community center and economic center). In the past the heads of this family built many schools and other construction projects for the community. They were real big whigs. The grandparents on both sides were both part of a disinherited ruling landowner class. How was their property stripped away from them? And how did their ancestors come across it in the first place? These were questions  Jonathan Manthorpe's  Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan helped answer for me.

Chiang Kai-Shek is commonly viewed as the Founding Father of Modern Taiwan, but perhaps a more representative candidate for founding father for Taiwan as it has evolved over the years would be Koxinga, as he is known by his western name. Koxinga was born to a Japanese mother and a Chinese merchant/pirate father in Japan.  Koxinga wasn't the first in his family to come to Taiwan. When his family first came over, it can be said they came as pirates, and in fact Koxinga's military fleet directly evolved from the former pirate fleet.  Later the Cheng  came as legitimate rulers representing the dying embers of the Ming Dynasty. In fact, Koxinga's father was executed by the Manchu for failing to persuade his son to hand over his fleet  (p. 57).

Koxinga lived in Tainan, a little over an hour from where I am living now. In many cultural and historical respects, Tainan is more truly the "capital" of Taiwan than its present capital city of Taipei, which developed only in more recent history. BeiGang, a larger town not to far from where I am living, was the main Chinese coastal village north of Tainan, but it is now well inland due to silting. Koxinga came here at least on one occasion to hold audience with the leaders of the Chinese community, many of whom were guardians of his family's interests.

In order to encourage agricultural development, Koxinga offered free grants of undeveloped land to Chinese who had already come to Taiwan before his army arrived, and to new emigrants as well. Pioneer farmers were exempt from land tax during the 3 years it took to bring plots into production (p. 90). There were other aspects to Koxinga's land development plan as well, but the bottom line was to encourage more Chinese to come over from the mainland. Koxinga's policy of giving land to small farmers came more than 300 years before Sun Yat-sen instituted a similar policy in 1911 (p. 91).

Over time, the society that evolved was, in the rural areas, a patchwork of large landholdings controlled by extended families under the rule of warlords and their household militias. Clashes between these clans over landholdings or crucial water rights were frequent and sometimes developed into feuds that carried on for generations... Throughout society ran the influence of triads, hovering on the cusp between political, Ming dynasty loyalist secret societies and simple criminal gangs (p. 145). They needed to protect family interests. That's why the general area where I am living now is so well-known all over Taiwan for the prevalence of its gangs or "black society".

As recent as 1949, Taiwan still had a largely feudal landholding system under which tracts were owned by wealthy families, with most farmers paying rents as tenants worth from 50 to 70 percent of their crop value. But when the Kuomintang came from China in 1949, they did not own agricultural land and the native Taiwanese landowning class was without influence. So they started a program in 1949 in order to get land for themselves, to distribute it to the have-not's, and most significantly to wipe out the power and authority of their biggest opponents (e.g. the landowners).  To forestall grabs by the rich, the land was sold off in lots of a size suitable to support a family of six. Later, in 1953, the Kuomintang passed a law to require landlords to sell to the government all holdings beyond what they could farm themselves. As a result, at least two million Taiwanese became landowners, farmers' income doubled, and productivity increased by 50% by 1963. The land reform program removed at a stroke the traditional privileges of the gentry class and created a far more equal society. Not everyone was happy, as one former landowner commented in 1960: "The regime will never give its real reason for stealing our land... they wanted to eliminate the power of the landowners because were were the social elite in every community, looked up to by the peasants, and were known" to be politically active. Thus, many of the disinherited offspring of the former landowning class became in later years radical Taiwanese nationalists (p. 202).

The grandparents on both sides of the family mentioned at the beginning of this post were both part of the disinherited ruling landowner class. However, in the years that have passed, my source in the family tells me that what happened way back then has pretty much been accepted with no ill feeling by all parties.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Memento More: The Death of 24-year old All-Pro Redskins Safety Sean Taylor

A sad tragedy that goes far beyond football--I didn't follow him during his time at the U (Miami) but certainly enjoyed watching him exhibit the skills God gave him during his four years as a Redskin. Taylor made lots of mistakes in the past but seemed to have been cleaning up his act. A random act of senseless violence? Burglary gone wrong? Doesn't exactly sound like it. Sordid past rising up in some sort of revenge attack? Maybe.

This morning in my devotional I read from Eph 5:22: "You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

In his article linked below, Close to Home: Taylor's death will have deep impact on many players, Peter King writes: "Each summer, the NFL gathers all its draft picks in a symposium and alerts them to the potential trouble that comes with being young, rich and famous.... One of the messages at the symposium: If you have to cut ties to events and people in your past, cut them, and cut them before it's too late. It's a message that played out prominently in the Michael Vick story. Vick never became a contributing member of the Atlanta society, preferring to stay tethered to his Virginia home and Virginia friends. He started a new life, but only halfheartedly; his real life other than in football was all with his friends from the past.... The danger there is that if you need to cut them off and move on, sometimes you can't. Either because of a sense of loyalty, or some vow you made a long time ago that if one of us makes it big, he'll bring the others with him. And the others, many times, are the ones who bring trouble with them."

No one knows if this was the case with Sean Taylor or not. But it's still a good reminder that the old self needs to be totally killed off.. because what isn't crucified can come back to haunt you.

Close to Home: Taylor's death will have deep impact on many players

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hillsong God Of Ages

This morning as I was listening to one of's music streams (I made a small contribution a few months ago to qualify for the premium stream, which proved to be a good decision), when God blessed me through a fairly new song by Hillsong Australia I hadn't heard before. As I listened, I looked up the lyrics for "God of Ages" and accidentally bumped into this video clip. For the past 10 or 12 years, I've been frequently blessed by Hillsong Music Australia out of Hillsong Church, today just being the most recent time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Confessions of a First/Second Grader

This morning in one of the elementary schools I volunteer in as an English teacher, a little girl in the combined first and second grade class approached me before class. "Teacher, I have a secret to tell you. But you can't tell anyone else," she said in Chinese. She then drew me over to a corner of the room in which there were no other students, had me stoop over, and happily whispered in my ear that her mother had come to visit her earlier that morning at the school.

"But you can't tell my father I told you," she added. "Why not?" I asked not fully-clued in (and not yet fully awake having not yet finished my first cup of coffee). "Because he will scold me."

In Taiwanese society, after divorces kids are awarded to the fathers. Perhaps they don't like the mothers coming around to visit the kids. I was reminded later than more than half of the students in this particular school come from single-parent homes or homes in which the kids are passed on to grandparents while the parents worked in the city.

Playing Games with the Roosters

In previous posts, I've mentioned the roosters, geese, dogs, and chickens just across the street that awaken me all hours of the night. Well, there's been a funny development here. The last two Monday mornings I've gotten up around 2:00 am in order to listen to NFL broadcasts over the internet before heading up to Taipei or Taichung for work/class. The first week, I had the ceiling light in my bedroom on. But the light emanating out the windows, even though they're glazed windows and even though I had the screens drawn, was enough to cause the birds across the street to commence with their morning wake-up calls. During radio commercial breaks, I turned down the sound on my computer and also turned off the light. The animals quieted down almost immediately. I played this game several times over the course of an hour or two just to see how consistent the birds were... very consistent!

Yesterday I didn't turn on the ceiling light at all, because the noises were still annoying enough to me even though I wasn't trying to sleep. But amazingly, just the light from my desk light and notebook screen were enough to start the birds crowing... I repeated the experiment off an on another 2 or three times. Maybe the noise will lead the neighbors to cover over the chicken coops a little better...

In a related development, I bought an air purifier for my bedroom yesteday. It will serve a double-purpose: in the on-line reviews I read, everyone was complaining how noisy it was! At least it can help drown out the neighborhood noise... :-)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

First Local Divine Appointment Realized

About a year ago when I still living in the big city an hour and a half away from here, after I moved out of my apartment I needed somewhere to stay temporarily for a few days. Thinking a place down the street from my apartment was a a hostel of some sort, I inquired about a room and the lady in charge told me they only rented by the month. I wound up staying someplace else.

This year upon my return to the same city to study Taiwanese intensively for a month before moving down to my present location, I inquired at the same place and the same woman rented me a furnished room with a fridge and TV. At the end of the month, I moved out, but had to go back a week or two later to pick up my deposit.

It was only then the lady asked where I was moving, and when I told her the name of this average-signed township of 30,000 people, she shared immediately that she was from the same town! To the Chinese mind, this kind of seeming coincidence is 緣分 yuan2fen4 (the lot or luck by which people are brought together) but to me it was apparent immediately as something most likely which God was behind.

A week or so after, I dropped by to visit her parents and brother, who tried to persuade me to rent an empty studio they were trying to fill, but I was already in the process of moving into my apartment. Also at this time I learned from my neighbors that for generations this family has historically been known as one of the leading/founding families of the community. They live directly across from the community's huge temple complex.

Today, already a couple of months after that contact, I had opportunity to speak with the woman on the phone again (her name is Joy) and was able to share Christ at length with her. She prayed to invite God to fill her life with her presence and renounced links she had with other gods due to her being entrusted to their care when she was little and sick all the time.

May this not turn out to be a blog entry that would turn out to be off-base or inaccurate in a few days. Please pray that the Good News would firmly take root in the soil of this woman's life as she connects with Christian ladies I have networked her with, and that over time she would be adequately discipled and assimilated into a local church up there. Pray also for positive ensuing life change to attract the rest of her family to the person of Jesus Christ down here. This is only the beginning, but it looks like God may be up to something special in this community which is presently without a viable church.

Money Moles

Last term in Taichung I already had quite an experience catching rats on sticky traps on my back patio (5 or so in 6 months time--- not to mention the time I forgot to take in the sticky trap before letting my love bird out on the enclosed back porch to play).

This term is off to a quicker start unfortunately. In Chinese and Taiwanese there's a kind of rat here called "Money Mouse" or "Money Rat" which the dictionary says is a common mole but which is different I believe. The tradition is sort of a Taiwanese version of the tooth fairy in that you're supposed to see money come your way when you catch one. Well, I've already caught my forth. Yesterday morning was the worst: just after I got up I was bent over emptying something into the kitchen trash when I looked over about 3 feet away and suddenly saw not one but two in the trap! Needless to say, I didn't need my coffee to wake up.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Unfolding Events out Back

The front side of the home I moved into recently looks out at fields and the chickens and geese and dogs (and their messes) my neighbors have left over there on the other side of the street. There are no homes. The back side is a different matter. There are two rows of 3-story units that are connected together separated only by a separate alley that is very dark at night and very much unobserved in the day time.

In the last two days two events have unfolded out back. First, yesterday I photographed a few of the hundreds of swallows hanging out along the lines and walls. They're here for the winter I guess. They are very pretty but also unfortunately very prolific in what they leave on the second floor cement patio/balcony. I got out there and hosed it down this morning.

The second event is a little more negative. This evening my neighbors told me a home behind us was robbed sometime this afternoon in the brief period of 2 -3 hours when no one was at home. I was home at the time, probably just 10 or 15 meters from where the crime took place on the other side of the alley. The robber apparently got in through a back door. Coming down to eat a late lunch a little past one, I vaguely recall seeing someone somewhat suspiciously ambling by out front. In retrospect, now I realize he was casing out the block-- probably not just for the present job but maybe also for future intelligence-gathering as he studies everyone's routine. My neighbor, who also saw him, tells me he was probably not the thief but someone else on the thief's team.

Unfortunately, whether it's the birds or the thieves, there's really nothing any of us can do in situations like that here. As an American, culturally I feel like wanting to take the law into my own hands and take care of this kind of person myself since I'm a taller and stronger person physically here, and since I'm told the police don't really do anything in this sort of situation. But my neighbors tell me that if you approach a guy like that and ask him why he's on the street he'll only say that it's a free world and you can't get him arrested without proof. Makes me a little more glad to have the dogs and other animals out front who react loudly to the presence of any stranger. But they're only out front... I'm thankful to God that none of my "stuff" is really very valuable.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's a Different World Up There

This past week, I attended the last few days of a meeting in TianMu north of Taipei city. It felt really different being back up there where all the foreign import shops and restaurants are located that cater to foreigners. Sadly, some foreigners who come to Taiwan don't get much beyond that.

Sunday evening, after filling in first at a meeting up in Keelung (I was even able to sprinkle in some Taiwanese this time!), I was back in Taipei visiting an American friend and his Taiwanese wife and their kids. He took us along with their domestic helper over to Taipei 101 which until earlier in the year was the tallest building in the world. We enjoyed dinner in the food court and some incredible ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery (the likes of which you'll never see where I'm living now!). Not only that, but we went up to enjoy the view from my friend's spacious office way up on the 53rd floor (sorry, the pics above are only daytime pics and not what I saw). Spectacular! Also on the 53rd floor, I had the pleasure of standing in front of the highest convenience store in the world.

As we rolled back into my friends' reserved parking spot in the basement of their high rise apartment building, I inquired into the cost of the space. His parking space costs 8,000 NT a month, only $1,000 (or about $30 US dollars) less than what I pay down here for an entire 3 story home in the least-developed part of Taiwan-- an amazing differential in cost-of-living. It sure is a different world back up there!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Great Medical Care

One practical way of making language-learning easier is to associate words and phrases with fresh daily life experiences. Therefore it's much easier this evening for my brain to register the Taiwanese word "tang3-kah " (and maybe also the less common Chinese word 嵌甲 qian4jia3 jiao3gou1yan2 腳溝炎) because of the minor surgical procedure I had done today. Maybe the fact that the doctor did not use quite enough anesthesia when pulling/cutting out the ingrown toe nail will make the vocabulary even easier to recall in the future. And to think I chose to have it done on my 44th birthday!

On a separate note, one of the many things I like about life here in Taiwan is the great medical insurance. For the minor surgical procedure above, which required anesthesia as well as the attention of several hospital staff not to mention 3 kinds of post-operation medicines, I paid a total of only $172 NT, about $5.25
US. What a deal!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Introducing Mr. Ding

Meet my neighbor Mr. Ding and his youngest child, Wendy. Three times in the last week or so Wendy and Mr. Ding have come over to practice English, and I've chatted with him outside his workshop and in his house 3 doors down on several occasions as well. I also enjoyed sitting with them for an hour or two during a Mid-Autumn Festival barbecue at their house they invited me over to attend.

Mr. Ding is a wood-carver. He carves idols to sell either to individuals or to temples. He is very skilled and also strikes me as a moral, conscientious husband and father.

Tonight after casually teaching English for a half hour or so in my living room, I turned to my laptop to show Mr. Ding and Wendy a few English-Chinese learning tools on the web. I also showed them a few other applications which I thought my interest them. Finally, when I closed the windows, my wallpaper, which shows Rembrandt's depiction of the Prodigal Son, provided a sharing (as well as language-learning) opportunity for me as I opened my computer bible up to Luke 15 and Mr. Ding, who had heard part of the story before, gave me his vernacular Taiwanese rendition line-by-line as he read the biblical story in Chinese silently. When we finished, I pointed out how the moral of the story applies to our Heavenly Father. May God grant that Mr. Ding and Wendy know more of God's love.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Lord is Good

I received this note from a friend who read an email update about the scooter accident posted below. Here's his reply:

“Thanks for the updates. I saw that video of the motorcycle accident on the news the day after it happened. That is really scary. A Chinese friend and co-worker had a similar accident late last year. She was given up for dead at first by the bystanders. When she came to, people said, "She must be a Christian." She suffered only minor injuries- bruised leg, bump on the head, and chipped tooth. A few days later she rode past that spot and saw her shoe on the roof of a nearby house. Only the Lord knows how far and high she "flew". The Lord is good!”

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mid-Autumn Festival

Tonight is the Mid-Autumn Festival, the night when Taiwanese (and Chinese all around the world) typically barbecue under the bright moonlight of the fullest moon of the year. Since tomorrow is a work/school day most people already did their celebrating the last two nights, but here are two rough pics I shot of the moon tonight.

Of course, for Christians, it's not the moon we ultimately celebrate: "O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your
glory above the heavens....When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them...O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

耶和華我們的主啊!你的名在全地是多麼威嚴,你把你的榮美彰顯在天上。。。我觀看你手所造的天,和你所安放的月亮和星星。 啊!人算甚麼,你竟記念他?世人算甚麼,你竟眷顧他? 。。。耶和華我們的主啊!你的名在全地是多麼威嚴。

Postscript to last post

The original YouTube post said the college student who was hit by the car in the video got away with only light flesh wounds... I thank God every day after long scooter trips for His watchful care. That's also another reason why I'm praying for a car!

Beware of Traffic accidents in Taiwan

No matter what color the light is, you have to drive defensively on a scooter here because you are so vulnerable to crazy drivers... In Chinese they say "flesh over metal" as opposed to the slightly safer "metal over flesh" of riding in a car...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lotus Plants

Here are a couple pics of the lotus plants which I had to move away from the front of my house. Maybe from the pics you can understand why someone kept secretly plucking them, as I mentioned in a previous entry.

The lotus, also known as sacred lotus, Indian Lotus, or Chinese water lily, is a water plant which normally grows in the mud of shallow ponds, lagoons, marshes or flooded fields.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Baby Birds

Three weeks ago shortly after having begun to settle in here, I purchased two baby birds. One was a sunbird, which would have been beautiful when it got bigger and which could have learned to talk. Unfortunately, it only lasted four days. :-(

The other is a love bird, which I raised a number of last term (they died like crazy too!) I like raising them from the chick stage because they're tamer that way if they survive, but the mortality rate is also much higher. I'm still feeding it by hand several times a day and it still can't fly.

Exotic birds are much cheaper in Taiwan than back in North America... only about 9 dollars for the lovebird as compared to $75 back home.

Update: in the 20 or 30 min since I posted this entry, the other bird died also... I think it broke its leg, which is also what did the first bird in. :-( Don't know if I have the heart to go buy more again or not.

New Place -- rest of house

The third floor is a junk room for now but will eventually hold a few bookcases (the books are moldy since coming out of storage and I haven't cleaned them yet). Our team has left a number of beds up there to eventually be able to house short-term teams who come over to Taiwan to help us.

My 2nd floor balcony in the back is currently empty but will eventually be nice for an occasional barbecue. I might also put some exercise equipment out there and keep them covered when not in use.

New Place Here

I'm still not totally settled in here in Yunlin county, but thankfully 90% there and I've moved on to other things. Here are a few pics of my new place.
As Taiwanese study is picking up again and I'm teaching in two elementary schools this semester in addition to picking up other responsibilities I've been less motivated to work around the house. Thankfully the weather is cooler as fall is here. The Mid-Autumn Festival is next Tuesday!
This kind of house is called "Tou4Tian" in Chinese, which means "penetrates the sky". It is a typical home for outside of big cities. The first floor is often used for businesses. Mine is 3 floors, though many are taller, as well as deeper and wider.

I had to arrange some plants on the driveway to keep my spot clear. After that, I had to remove the lotus plants I placed here because someone kept swiping the flowers!

This public room on the first floor will eventually be used to entertain, have a small group, or maybe use for English.

Yellow Fever Revisited

 Yellow Fever! The 2nd floor, my living area consisting of a small den, bedroom with study, and bathroom, is a decidedly brighter color! I didn't know it would look quite so loud when the paint was still in the can!

Read the earlier post:  "Yellow Fever" entry written by a coworker! There are also more pics with descriptions on my flickr set.