Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Mom

My Mom is dying. The family has been called to Boise. I do not know if I can get there before she dies, but I was able to spend 2 days with her last month and, though there was no indication then of what was about to happen, I knew I might not see her again this side of heaven. I will go as soon as I can so that I can at least be there for the funeral.

Please pray for my Dad. He loves my Mom very much and has expressed that he wishes he could die too.

And please pray for Eric, Anna and Ethan. My leaving less than a week after arriving in Taiwan is going to be another big upheaval for the kids. And the whole reason we are in Taiwan is for Eric's job so it is no small matter to take time off - not that the company isn't accommodating - they are. But, well I don't think I can put this into words right now.

Friday, April 23, 2010

On Wednesday a realtor named Susan took us on an all day, whirlwind tour of Taipei.

We started at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. I think this was the least remarkable thing we saw.

Our next stop was the Confucius Temple. (I think! I am questioning whether that is what this is called. I may have to post a future correction.) The setting is beautiful and the buildings are spectacular. In some ways this place reminded me of Gettysburg. There were information boards lining the courtyard corridors which told about the battles during their Revolutionary War. The 2 large side buildings are memorials to soldiers who died fighting for their country; the smell of incense wafts out from the side memorials. The large central building also honors people who died for the country. Apparently those honored in the central building were very important people.

Hard to believe, but this is set in the midst of a city of 2.6 million people!

To give you an idea of the size of the buildings, here is Anna standing at a door to the courtyard:

I've never considered myself a fan of Asian architecture, but now that I'm here I find it to be extremely beautiful. I never caught what the connection is to Confucius. Maybe on a return visit...
A close-up of some of the detail:

This is the gate through which you enter the grounds of the Confucious Temple. There are guards posted inside the gate, and there is a formal changing of the guard every hour.

Here is one of the guards. They are so motionless that it is almost eery.

Beginning of the Changing of the Guard. I've witnessed the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetary and noticed a few differences. At Arlington the public sits in a designated area and is instructed to remain silent. Here the public crowds around and chatters away. The man in the white shirt and tie goes alongside the soldiers and shoos everyone out of the way.

The marching style is different. Our tour guide took us away before the ceremony was complete, so I guess I'll have to go another time to see the entire thing.

Next we went to the National Palace Museum. I'm sorry to say this, but I hate museums, absolutely hate them. I can look at architecture or flowers all day, maybe even art, but something about walking past cases full of artifacts drives me to tears. However, our guide graciously purchased tickets for us and took the kids to the childrens area so that we could tour the museum so we felt obligated to look at some of the stuff. I managed not to cry because there was some art, but I have no appreciation for the Dynastic periods and their various vases and artifacts.
When we returned to the children's area we found our kids and Susan practicing an old form of Chinese rubber stamping. (My term, not theirs!) These two ladies were watching not because they were interested in the stamping but because they were interested in our kids. The kids had their first taste of standing out in a foreign land. Everywhere we went people pointed, giggled and took pictures of the kids - especially Anna. We are not sure, but we THINK we heard one boy say "Hannah Montana!"

This is the outside of the National Palace Museum, which is a hundred trillion times more interesting to me than the inside:
The building itself is so beautiful and, again, can you believe the lushness around it?
A bit of a sidenote here. The next buildings are condominiums across from the National Palace Museum. Susan said they are just 6 years old and they look very nice, but they are having trouble keeping residents. Susan asked if we knew about Feng Shui. I know ABOUT it, but not much. Chinese people believe very much in Feng Shui. These buildings are facing the National Palace Museum which is full of very old artifacts and Feng Shui says that there is a lot of strong energy coming from the museum and so, to live in these condos, you must have very strong energy - stronger than that in the museum. No doubt I am not getting that story entirely correct, but it was something like that. Jesus came to break the chains of bondage! Here is a good example of some of the bondage people live under.

Next we went to hot springs. Once again, I have forgotten the name of this. I have a photo a bit further down that says Beitou Thermal Valley, but I cannot remember if that was a seperate location from this or the same - forgive my ignorance! Anyhow, this is a house that was built during the time of Japanese colonization. It was beautiful.

Ethan refused to go into the Japanese style house because you not only had to remove your shoes, you had to wear some slippers that were provided. He was okay with taking his shoes off, but he was not about to put those slippers on! So he and Eric waited outside, where they were entertained by this gentleman. He showed them newspaper clippings with his picture. He told us (through Susan) that the instrument he was playing is over 100 years old and he has owned it for 60 years. I believe in the newspaper he was playing for dignitaries in China. (Not sure about that.)

Also while they waited for us, Eric said several groups of school kids passed by and all of the girls were taking pictures of Ethan. He didn't like that too much. I guess he's not interested in being a super star! (Actually neither is Anna. She is already tired of people staring and taking her picture. I told her that is what it is like for Hannah Montana ALL the time. I think this trip will cure her of any desire to be famous!)

Another hot spring area. Susan said not too many people know about this area. It is somewhat similar to Yellowstone, with geysers bubbling out of the ground.

You probably have to click this picture to see the detail. I asked Susan about the terraced ground and she said that is farmland.

Final stop for the day: Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

One final picture: Eric and the kids with our hostess Susan. We had a great day, but we were all exhausted when it was done!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In and Around Our Neighborhood

Here are some more photos from my first foray out with Anna the day we arrived. (tip: many of these will be better if you click on the individual photo to blow it up.) We walked through some of the streets where Taiwanese people live. There seem to be temples or shrines everywhere. We had passed one in the park (see earlier post) and were already at another. (It's on the left in the photo below.)

Anna already wants a Chinese hat like the one on the bike.

Narrow streets in a residential area, and lots of scooters. Someday I'll do a post just about scooters.

The yellow thing in the center of the next picture caught my eye. It looks like something from Pokemon. I would love to know what it is, although I doubt it's anything exciting. I think it may have something to do with trash because it did kind of look like it was sitting on a pile of trash.

Taipei 101 juxtaposed with some rather poor looking housing.

Jasper Villas, where we live.

I think you get a sense of how close we are to Taipei 101 in this picture:

There are lots and lots of flowers in Taipei, including pots adorning the fences which surround construction areas.

And just for fun, this is inside one of the elevators at our apartment building. All of the elevators have TV's with BBC news playing all the time!

Anna wanted me to take this picture, looking up at Taipei 101. It IS pretty cool, although I think I prefer the old Chinese architecture to the modern.

I was going to write about today's adventure but I'm too tired. I thought I was over jet lag, but apparently not yet. (It's 7:30 and I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Park Near our Apartment

Just around the corner from our apartment is a very interesting neighborhood park. Anna gave me a tour yesterday -- she had already been there with Eric. There is an unsightly fence at one end, but it has been covered with artwork advertising the Taipei Expo. I don't know what that is, but apparently it is going on now so maybe I will find out.

It looked to me as if a lot of life is lived in this park. There were lots of old men sitting at tables talking, near what must be some type of religious shrine. There was a lovely smell of incense coming from the building.

There were old men exercising. We saw a very old man doing pull-ups on a monkey bar - type thing. The old man in the blue jacket below was doing squats.

This old man was tidying things up with a very interesting, natural broom.

There was this rose garden which didn't seem to belong to anyone. It did not appear very well tended, yet it was beautiful in its "naturalness".

Here and there at the perimeter of the park there are some housing units. They are sort of integrated into the park, not set back by any type of boulevard or anything. Some of the units looked like they were just one room. I tried to get a good look and wanted to take pictures, but there were people in front of most of the places and I felt like I would have been invading their privacy. I am guessing that their living accomodations are very minimal, and so the park is where they gather to socialize.

The ground behind most of the housing units rose sharply. There were gardens behind some houses. Just above the roof line in the next picture you can see a woman in red. She was tending her garden.

Just after passing the very modest housing area I came to this, which I believe is a private house. (it is very pretty.)

The park includes a basketball court where many young men were playing basketball, and a children's play area. It looked as if there were many grandparents taking care of the little children. The park was full of very old and very young but not too many people in between. It was a weekday so I suppose the "in between" people were all at work.

There are chickens roaming the park. Anna thought it was fun to chase them.

And there is this stone area which, according to Anna, is supposed to be a foot massage. She tried walking on it but it didn't feel too good.

It looks like torture to me!

I very much enjoyed the park because it seemed I was viewing a slice of real life, Taiwan style. It is so different from anything I've experienced in America. Our parks are clearly set apart from our homes both in location and purpose. But here it all seems to mesh into one. I cannot tell where the private home area ends and the park begins. Similarly, it doesn't appear that people take time to "go to the park" like we do in America. The park seems to just be an extension of their home and it is where they "live", with their neighbors.