"The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis." -Wikipedia
Well it's been over two months since my arrival in destiny. I might be being a little dramatic.... but this is certainly the place I need to be right now. There is far too much evidence to ever doubt it. We have certainly had several more mini-ventures and a grand-venture or two if you will... In this blog entry I will cover three weekends: 1. Changhua: my Taiwanese home town, 2. Kaohsiung: the city of the future (and destiny,) and 3. Sun Moon Lake: a lovely little "home visit"
I have come to adore this little city of ours. It truly feels like home as we ride our bikes through the city and wave at the people we have come to know. There are certainly is a lot more to see here but we are slowly making the rounds to all the sites of our lovely little town. We started the day with a nice trip to the morning market. I LOVE MORNING MARKET. I'm not much of a mall or department store shopper but there is something about the market atmosphere that I adore. Below you see something we came across in the middle of the market:
Don't worry these buckets are definitely full of live animals. If you look closely you can see the snakes, eels, fish, and frogs. Mmmmm. My favorite!
After the market we made our way to Taiwan's oldest Confucius temple. And lo and behold: more circle doors! I love visiting these temples. They all have a different energy and atmosphere. This temple gave off the same sort of historic energy as the temple in Lukang, but it was a peaceful, abandoned feeling here that was new. It was lovely.
It's kind of funny the things that start to become mundane and ordinary when you live somewhere long enough. Sometimes we catch ourselves saying "oh, just another temple." Its then that I have to stop and say to myself "What are you thinking Karyn?? Just another temple??? You are in Taiwan for cuss sake!" The word 'just' is not an option here. It does kind of make me wonder what things I put in the 'just' category too often at home. Remind me to never become a 'just' person.
Inside most Confucius temples there is a place where you can hang your "prayers" for educational success. I decided that, since my coming to Taiwan was all in the name of education, it would be appropriate to dedicate one to my students. :)
Now, we have long treasured the lovely statue that stands proudly outside of an apartment building we pass daily. It wasn't until this day, however, that we finally got a picture of it. Oh, David, how your beauty radiates in this humble Taiwanese courtyard!
Who ever said you needed to go to Italy to see great works of art?
The day continued on to be one of the hottest yet, so we decided to cut our outdoor adventuring short and try our hand at indoor adventuring. Aka: time to try our hand at Taiwanese cooking. As you see Kailey and I headed the "dumpling project" which turned out to be a lovely success. I shall certainly be making these again...
The "egg drop soup project," however, was not so successful... we forgot, or rather, were too lazy to go and buy chicken broth. It turns out that chicken broth is a crucial ingredient in egg drop soup.
So then we faced the dilemma of how to dispose of the substance. We took a vote and it was unanimous:
And there is lovely Annalisa doing the honors.
We finished off the night with your typical glow-stick-dance-party-rave-extravaganza. And we got pretty creative with those glow sticks I tell you what.
It was the perfect end to a Changhua filled day. :)
....and what would a blog post be without a picture of my kids. These children seriously rule my life. I love these kids so much and so much of my time and energy is completely dedicated to them. It would be a false representation of my stay here if i didn't show them off occasionally. Here we have Kerry, Ray, and Sara from my Basic Reading class. Here is a link to a video of this same class: I Want it That Way.
If you haven't watched this video yet I strongly advise you to. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.....
Weekend 2: Kaohsiung City. So beautiful. So big. So clean. So futuristic. Seriously. I have never experienced anything more futuristic than riding the metro in this city. But I'm getting ahead of myself... The adventure really began much before that... back in Changhua Train Station.... Question: How many train tickets does is take to get to Kaohsiung??
We rushed into the station after finishing another day of work. We had bought our tickets the day before so that we we would be sure to get seats. Unfortunately there was a little bit of an oversight.... When we bought our tickets we didn't clarify that they were for the next day so when we tried to get past the gate we quickly learned of our mistake.... Panicked, we rushed to the counter to see if we could exchange the tickets. Luckily there were a few people nearby that spoke English and could see our distress so they came to our aid. Another shining example of Taiwanese Chivalry. They told us that the only thing we could do was buy more tickets and then try and exchange them in Kaohsiung. So we quickly made our purchase and got on our train that miraculously had a few spots open. Skip ahead two hours to our arrival in Kaohsiung. Now this station was A LOT bigger than our little local station in Changhua and we could tell it was going to be difficult to navigate. Luckily Annalisa's old roomate Tricia, who lives in Kaohsiung came to pick us up so we went and told her about our little mix up. We went back into the station and learned that in order to get our refund we should have kept the tickets we used to get there as well as the wrong tickets. So we went to the ticket collectors and Tricia explained our situation. They were kind enough to let us sift through a garbage can full of tickets until we finally found them all. We then ventured to a few more desks before we found the correct people to give us our discount. It was really the perfect movie moment. I can see a nice musical montage now....
Answer: It takes hundreds of tickets. First the wrong tickets. Then the right tickets. Then the lost tickets. Then the tickets to sift through. And, last of all, the tickets to get to the other side of the station.
Needless to say we did finally make it to our first ever hostel: International Friendship House.
The beds there were actually a lot softer than our beds at home.... not that its hard to be softer than the concrete slabs we call beds...
On Saturday we made our way to the oh so beautiful FoGuang Shan Buddha Land. Situated atop a lovely mountain, this magical place holds claim to not only the tallest standing Buddha in Southeast Asia, but also 480 identical Buddhas surrounding it. These strategically placed, golden Buddhas were quite a sight to see.
The Buddha was not the only thing to see on this mountain. Beyond the Buddha was the biggest temple I have seen yet. It was amazing. this picture features the five of us standing in front of the courtyard... notice the Buddha rising up in the background...
This temple was breathtaking. It was definitely different from the many we have come across in our stay here. Before you could enter we had to remove your shoes... a beautiful tradition that I think any modern dancer would appreciate... and then as your eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room this is what was before you....
The familiar scent of incense filled the open space and the marble floor reflected the countless prayer lights shining in the walls. It was very still and quiet and conducive to contemplation. I don't blame the monks for wanting to live up here. It was definitely one of the most beautiful man made places I have ever encountered.
And of course the statues up on the mountain were not enough... there had to be a few more in the parking lot. This one is quite possibly my favorite. After much deliberation it became quite clear what is going on. Obviously the one Buddha fell into a content sleep and the other Buddha, feeling rather mischievous decided to go in for a wet willy... caught in the act. If any one can give me a better explanation I would be more than glad to hear it.
After our visit to the mountain top we made our way to the coast where we enjoyed the delightful warm subtropical waves of the Taiwan Strait. This was my first time experiencing a warm ocean and it was marvelous. All I wanted to do was hug the ocean. In fact Kailey and I did just that. I must say, the ocean is a pretty good hugger... and then came the sunset...
After our little dip in the ocean we wandered around the little beach town. It was definitely more touristy than other places but seeing as most of the tourists are still from Taiwan, we still got to enjoy the delights of being foreigners. One of my favorite parts was when we stopped to get waffles on the street and the women who was selling them turned out to be from France. Who would have thought that I'd get to practice my french while living in Taiwan... Also while wandering around the coastal town we came across this man...
Thanks to Kailey's donation to who knows what, we were fortunate enough to get a picture with him. We then returned to the main land and wandered around a massive night market for awhile. It was definitely a Saturday well spent. Who knew that the best was still to come...
Sunday. Day of Destiny. First of all I should begin by saying that when we planned our trip to Kaohsiung it was a random choice out of several places we wanted to visit. When Annalisa contacted her old roomate Tricia to tell her we were heading her way we had no idea what would come from it. Tricia, who happens to be in her Stake YW presidency, let Anna know that someone else "just happened" to be coming to Kaohsiung that same weekend. And who might that someone else be but my greatest hero on this here planet earth. No, not JK Rowling. Better. Sister Elaine S. Dalton. Mom knows just how much this means to me. She was there the first time I shook her hand and felt the unexplainable tears that come to anyone who so much as shakes this woman's hand. I can't even describe the love and reverence I feel for this woman. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to be in her presence. Her words have changed my life before so why not again right? Well, I wasn't disappointed, I'll tell you that much... Yes, I did get to meet her. Yes. I did get to have a real conversation with her. And yes, it was destiny. Even she mentioned that our meeting was not by chance. Further evidence of my being in the right place right now. The Lord is definitely aware of me and of all of his children. I'm so grateful to be able to see it. And I will never forget it.
After church we made our way to Lotus Lake. Lotus lake is an interesting place. It was kind of like a Buddhist theme park without the rides or an entrance fee. And what would a Buddhist theme park be without a Confucius temple? This one was quite fun to visit in the rain :)
As we continued on our way along the lakeside we noticed a delightful old man talking to six strays. As you can see these dogs were captivated with whatever it was her was saying. I couldn't resist getting a picture of 'the old dog charmer.' I have already created a story for him in my head.
And then I slayed a dragon with my umbrella.
After destroying the beast I ventured into its belly to rescue my friends.
See what I mean by theme parky?
The month of August is known as "ghost month" in Taiwan. They have several religious gatherings and have countless money fires ("I love the money fires") throughout to ward off evil spirits. This day happened to be one of their bigger gathering days. Yes my friends, that is a sacrificial goat. With sticks of incense sticking out of it.
After wandering around Lotus Lake for a few lovely hours we returned to church for Sister Dalton's fireside. At the fireside I was lucky enough to run into an old high school friend serving her mission here: Sister Kelsey Anderson. :) For anyone who wants to know, she was as beautiful and happy as ever. It was so good to see her here. She's loving this Island as much as I am only she also speaks the language- which I strongly envy...
After the fireside and a quick goodbye to Sister Dalton (her parting words to us were "Change the world!") we rushed to the train station to catch our 3 hour fast train back to Changhua... unfortunately all the seats were sold out so.....
...we stood. It really wasn't too bad. After a couple hours a few seats opened up for us. And the trip was definitely worth it.
At Maryland Language School we have what we call "home visits." A home visit is when the parents of the students either bring the teachers to their homes or take them on a little outing so as to get to know the teacher better and to discuss the progress of their children. They sound kind of stressful and intimidating but they really are quite awesome. On Saturday I got to experience my first official home visit. It was with my 4A student Trevor (I also used to teach his older brother Edward but he had to drop the program when he went in to Junior High School.) They also have a little brother, Vincent, who is in one of Liz's classes so she got to come along as well. We didn't know what was in store for us until the night before when their father called to let us know that we were going to SUN MOON LAKE!!! We were so excited. Sun Moon Lake is one of the "must see" sights in Taiwan that we had heard so much about. It was really awesome hiking around the lake, enjoying a Taiwanese picnic (where I unknowingly consumed "the worlds most exotic food": rice soaked in pig's blood,) getting to know the parents, and of course playing with the kids. These boys are all extremely clever and fun to talk to. It was a lot of fun to get to know them in an informal setting.Here we have Trevor and Edward. They are only about a year apart in age and they are so so funny together. I have never met more sarcastic boys in my life. And they said the Taiwanese don't get sarcasm....
I let Trevor take my camera for awhile and I loved the pictures that I got from it. He has quite the artistic eye.
The lake itself was absolutely gorgeous. Trevor's dad told us all about how different the lake looks at different times of day. From the foggy, still mornings to the bright, sunshiny afternoons to the shimmering, golden evenings. He told us that this would be the ideal place for a honeymoon one day. I told him that if my husband were willing to pay for that, I certainly wouldn't object. :)
There were several little boardwalks that took you right over the lake. Apparently they can get dangerous:Sure enough, it did start to rain so we did need to watch our steps!
Here we have Vincent and his dad walking along one of the boardwalks down to the lake. I thought it was rather picturesque. These boardwalks were quite incredible. Allow me to expose my nerd for a second to say that if any of you have ever played the computer games Myst or Riven, then you have had a little virtual taste of the beauties of Taiwan. This was not the first time that I have thought to myself "I've been here before" and I'm pretty sure it's because of the striking images of those games. Its a lot better in reality.
And once we got down to the lake:
It was raining fairly hard at this point so it was nice to stop at this little deck and enjoy what was before us. The pictures definitely do not do it justice. The fog was so thick. The rain so warm and soothing. The lake jumping with the raindrops. And there was a man playing his violin as his friends sang along as well. It was perfect.
That was pretty much the extent of our journey. Here are Liz and I with the boys. They truly are an incredible little family. If Edward or Trevor don't rule the world some day Vincent probably will.