Monday, August 20, 2007

Taiwan Pictures

So, I downloaded 500 pictures, but I should have been more careful, because there were many movies and that is what took so long to download. I will probably have to delete them after it is downloaded. :(

taiwan pictures

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rain and the Taroko Gorge

As soon as Missionary Son got together with us he directed us to a convenience store and made us purchase rain gear. We got umbrellas and some plastic poncho-like things. He already had his missionary umbrella and gear. He had looked at the sky and said that was the first order of business, and sure enough as soon as we got our umbrellas, we got rained on.
The rain continued for several days, on and off. But after all, we were there during Monsoon Season. So we expected rain the whole time we were in Taiwan.
We were blessed the rest of the trip with not too much rain for monsoon season, but the humidity was nearly 100%. I had to buy a towel for my forehead. I didn't know I could turn into a waterfall. I don't deal with humidity that high, apparently.

The neatest rain I experienced was at theTaroko Gorgebetween Puli and Hualian.quoting from this link
"Taroko Gorge straddles the first 20km. of the Central Cross Island Highway in the Taroko National Park as it chisels and tunnels its unpredictable snake-like yellow centerline through the marbled mountains from Taroko to Tiansiang. Carved by the relentless erosion of the Liwu River, the gorge is thought by most visitors to be the most spectacular natural feature of the park. The journey takes visitors through rough-faced, moss and vine covered tunnels, and along roads that seem to hang precariously off the near vertical rock face.

Other natural features include many high mountains, some peaks towering above 3,000 meters, and numerous crystal-clear waterfalls plunging into deep pools or rock filled ravines.

Construction of the highway was inaugurated in July 1956 by the late President of the Republic of China, Chiang Ching-kuo and completed almost four years later in May 1960.

It's not hard to imagine how difficult and heroic its construction, during which 212 lives were sacrificed, and more than 780 injured. Many of these courageous workers were retired servicemen equipped with little more than basic hand-held digging implements.

Today, some of the original construction workers spend their time in the Chinging Veterans Farm adjacent to the western edge of the park.

Maintenance and repair is an ongoing project for park staff responsible for keeping open the winding stone caves, the 38 tunnels, and road surface exposed to landslides. Frequent heavy rain in the summer typhoon season brings its own challenges.

One side of the road closely edges a dramatic precipice and the U-shaped gorge; the other half of the road is in most places overhung by the disturbingly unsupported vertical cliff face rising hundreds of meters above one's head."

According to DL (our chauffeur and guide), they built it all by hand. No machinery, just dynamite and man power. It goes for miles and miles There was a spot along the way where a rock slide had occurred, and they bypassed this part by building a tunnel through the mountain. Here you could park your car and walk along the abandoned road and get a closer view of the rushing water below and the canyon. I wasn't quick enough, so I missed making a movie of the two thunder claps that occurred during our stop.
I was researching this Gorge on Google, trying to find more about it's history, so I could be more accurate. I came across someone else's blog. They experienced an earth quake while in this area in 2002. They realized why the large rocks were sitting in the highway.
They would just leave these huge rocks there and dynamite another tunnel further into the mountain. It was one of the most amazing roads and canyons I have ever seen.
The following link leads you to a blog someone else wrote about the Gorge. While looking for further enlightenment online, I noticed that many quoted this blog without giving him credit. I quote from his blog:
"The major attraction in the region is Toroko Gorge, a spectacular unique marble canyon. The few human constructions actually add to the place. There are the red suspension bridges, temples set in mountains and, most famously, the Eternal Spring Shrine. The Shrine is built over a waterfall and dedicated to the 450 people who died making the Cross-Island Highway that runs along the gorge. The Highway certainly gives a feeling of how hard it was to build here. The amazing route is precariously cut right into the side of the gorge. Everywhere I went, there were the gorge’s light blue waters, soaring marble walls and the sound of rushing water. . . Thankfully, attempts to mine the gorge got nowhere."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Night Market

Market is held every morning, each day of the week. Mostly food is sold during Morning Market. People set up booths and sell their goods.
Night market is much more fun. We went to the Night Markets in Kaohsiung and Pingtung.
We went through the one in Pingtung before the sun set and there wasn't as much, but people were busy setting up. When we came back after dusk, there were many people and every booth for 5 or 6 blocks had huge varieties of things from fresh fish, to wallets, all kinds of cooked foods, drinks and jewelery. The fresh meat had some interesting fly deterring gadgets. They worked like a ceiling fan with little motor devices that spin above the meat with two rods sticking out and a piece of frayed rope or plastic on the ends.
It was a fun place to pick up souvenirs. We particularly enjoyed trying out different kinds of foods and drinks.
click here to read more
There are many famous night markets(ChungHwa night market, Feng-Chia university night market, Tung-Hai university night market, Chung-Shiao night market) in Taichung, which can provide you different night life experience. You can enjoy delicious foods, drinks and buy cheap and interesting stuff in these night markets.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Monk and the Monastery

While in Puli, we went to see the largest Buddhist Monastery in all of South East Asia. It was the Chung Tai Chan Monastery.
We got there right at 5:00 pm, and the guard at the gates hurried us along so we could get inside. We ran up the hill and the huge doors were still open. The guard at the door kindly allowed us to go inside for just a minute. We hurried inside and our breath was taken away by the huge Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings. They stand 12 meters high, and there are four just alike, standing in the four corners. Each has four heads. It is really kind of scary. I hope God doesn't really look like this.
We hurried to all the rooms in this small part of this Monastery, then the guard came and waited while we reluctantly headed back outside into the harsh hot evening, and he closed the HUGE doors. The doors each weigh five tons, we learned later, and stand about 2 stories high. We stood by the stairs and wall overlooking a large valley and just took pictures outside the monastery. The view was amazing, and across the valley on another mountain was a HUGE Buddha

Pretty soon monks began to walk by. After a while, Missionary Son asked one of them what the difference was in their different colored clothing. This monk began to explain about the Monastery, the dress and their beliefs. DL and our Missionary son talked with him for about 5 minutes. Sailor and I watched in awe as they spoke a very foreign language that made no sense to us. Suddenly the two young men turned to us and in English explained we were going to the cafeteria, the Monk was going to feed us. This was a most unusual turn of events, something I never expected. By way of explanation, our son told us that the Chinese greeting was "Have you eaten?" rather than, "hello". Since their answer was "no", this monk took it upon himself to feed us.
We were ushered back behind walls and doors we never would have dared to explore, to a covered, but open to the outside air, cafeteria and sat us down at a table. There were two other monks sitting far across the room at another table. We were seated at a table, then the monk went inside.
Finally after about 10 minutes, the monk came back with what looked like five boxed lunches plus four bowls of soup, and utensils. We began to eat as the monk continued to talk to our two Chinese-speaking young men. The last box was fruit, for desert. We ate and talked to this monk for about an hour. We had rice, egg plant, deep fried sweet potato, bean sprouts and carrots, some green stuff that reminds me of asparagus, and a clear soup made with some kind of melon. It is not sweet, but spicy. It was delicious, but very different. Sailor didn't like it.
He told us the Monastery held 1000 monks and nuns. They each have their own room. They are given duties and rotate after several years. He told us of his daily routine. He arises at 3:30 in the morning and studies scripture and meditates until about 6:00. Then he eats breakfast. After breakfast, he does his assigned duty, which was cleaning the grounds. He does this until lunch. After lunch he takes classes until 5 pm. They then are fed supper, and are given 2 hours to do what they like. They then take classes until 9:30 at which time they go to bed.
So we happened to run into him during his rest time. When we had eaten every bite (they don't like anything to go to waste) he opened the 5th box and gave us fruit. We talked some more. He asked MS about his mission and told him that when he was looking for a religion, he had actually attended the Mormon church. He then told us how he loved the leader of this Monastery and his teachings. He said he admired the LDS Missionaries and hopes that some day the monks will be able to go out and proselyte. He would like to talk to people and hand out tracts like the Mormon missionaries do, and tell people about the Buddhist religion.
It was getting dark and he said it was time to walk around. He invited us along.

We got to this place on the grounds that had a huge bell. He explained that when the bell was rung, and resonated, the souls of the dammed would have a rest. He then read in Chinese the little explanation, or prayer, then rang the bell and waited for the resonating to stop. He did this two more times. Then he turned to each of us and told us we could ring the bell too. DL and MS both read the prayer in Chinese, but the Monk told us we didn't have to since he had just read it.
After we all rang the bell, it was time for him to go to classes, but first he walked us to our car. As we passed the gates, the guards and others looked on. The Sailor commented that he got the feeling that not everyone gets escorted to the car by the monks. DL said this was an opportunity for the Monk as well. The Monks name was Shi Jian Mai. I told him that this was a moment I would never forget. He said that he wouldn't forget it as well. He seemed to love being able to host the Americans. I felt very honored. It was amazing. Looking back, I think it is safe to say it was one of my most favorite moments in all of Taiwan.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Betel Nuts

While traveling across the island, we noticed an unusual amount of palm trees growing on mountain sides and other places where it looked like a more forest-type of a tree belonged. RM told us that these forests were actually farms and the palms were purposely planted there. They were Betel Nut farms. A Betel Nut is an addictive seed of the Betel Palm. To quote from Wikipedia: "The nut is either slivered or grated, often flavoured with spices according to local tradition, and usually wrapped in a betel leaf (note that betel leaf comes from the betel pepper plant Piper betle, which is not botanically related to the Betel Palm), along with some lime (calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide) to better extract the alkaloids. Some people also chew tobacco with betel nut. After about 20 minutes of chewing, the fibrous residue which remains of the nut is spat on the street, where it remains visible due to its characteristic bright red pigment." The red pigment also makes the inside of the chewer's mouth red as well. One person I met in Taiwan described it as a "nasty habit."

I guess what astounded me the most was that it is legal. It is sold in the Night Markets and along road side stands.
Again to quote from Wikipedia:
"In Taiwan, betel nuts are known as binlang. Bags of 20 to 40 betel nuts are purchased fresh daily by a large number of consumers. To meet the steady year-round demand, there exist two kinds of betel nut shops, each of which sells cigarettes and drinks including beer in addition to their primary purpose of supplying betel nuts. On one hand, there are small mom and pop shops that are often poorly maintained and often do not stand out from other stores nearby. On the other hand, the second provides a sight unique to Taiwan. Such a shop often consists of nothing more than a single free-standing room, or booth, elevated one meter above the street that measures less than 3 meters by 2 meters. Large picture windows comprise two or more of the walls, allowing those who pass by a complete view of the interior. The interior is often painted brightly. Within such a shop, a provocatively dressed young woman can be seen preparing betel nuts (see betel nut beauty) . Shops are often identified by multicolored (commonly green) fluorescent tubes or neon lights that frame the windows or that are arranged radially above a store. Customers stop on the side of the road and wait for the girls to bring their betel nut to their vehicles."
Once they were pointed out to us, I realized I had seen many of these all over the place. They usually have bright blinking lights to attract attention. They were in the country side, and in the middle of the city.
It was a curious phenomenon.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pictures of Taiwan

The following link will take you to my Picasa Web album to view my first album. I will be adding more as I have time. Either copy and paste or just click on the title above.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The People

Probably the sweetest part of our whole trip was the people. To see the Latter-day Saint Church growing strong and functioning just as it does anywhere else in the world is so amazing. We got to meet two of Daniel’s converts, Freddy and Ray, which was the highlight of the whole trip. Meeting and mingling with the people in Taiwan was an incredible experience. We dealt with the people in all aspects of life for almost two weeks, and I cannot remember one bad experience.

There are 24 million people who live on this island, and they dwell in tiny houses that are packed side by side on every street. The dwellings are 3-5 story narrow houses that open to the street with a metal garage door. Many who live in the city hang a neon sign and make the sidewalk and garage into their business. They sell goods, or set up a sidewalk café. Then they live above their business. I asked someone if those houses in the middle of the city are more expensive than the country homes, and the answer was yes. The country ones are also several houses together like a condominium that house several families, surrounded by lots of fields.
While he served his mission, Daniel ate at these side walk cafes every day but Sunday and had a real talent to find the cheapest best tasting food. He was incensed if they charged more than 10 kuai for a drink. The proprietors of these restaurants usually were very gracious and eager to please. They seemed so thrilled if you complimented them on the food. The first word I learned in Chinese was Thank you, and once I learned that word, I heard it all over the island. Xie xie, pronounced “she shi” is how you say thank you.
The first person we met after we left the mission home was Ray. Most of the people we met have English names. Their Chinese names are hard to pronounce and remember. Most of the young people speak English and they pick out an English name that they use when they deal with English-speaking people.
Ray’s day off was Tuesday, so he took his whole day off and dedicated it to Daniel and his family. The mission home graciously allowed us to leave most of Daniel’s luggage in an upper room while we traveled around Taiwan. We rode a bus from the mission home to a train station where we met Ray. He picked us up in his car, and first took us to lunch and paid for it before we were aware of what had taken place. Then he took us to a Municipal Water Service building. There we got to see all his paintings that he had on display. Ray is a professional artist. He paints every day, and has since he was 5. He is now 35 years old. He is married with one baby. He also teaches painting 3 days a week and tunes piano. He has also taken painting lessons many times in his life.His paintings are very realistic. His predominant theme is water. He likes to paint lakes, streams, waterfalls, oceans and the like. But not just ordinary scenes, he likes to paint water when you look down into it, like a tidal pool. One of his most spectacular paintings is of a leaf with a huge droplet of water. When first observed, I thought it was a photograph. He also loves to paint clouds. Being an artist, I happen to know these are two of the most difficult subjects to paint.
Ray was found by Daniel and Elder Van Noy while knocking on doors. They knocked on their door, and the mother looked directly at them through the widow, and hid around the corner. The 18 month son, Tickle, called in English from the second floor. Hi, how are you? While Elder Van Noy knocked, Tickle and Daniel exchanged pleasantries, and from the third floor, Ray called down that “No one was home.” So the two elders moved on down the street. They were two houses down when Ray caught up with them and invited them to come back and talk to him. They still aren’t sure why Ray changed his mind, but they taught him during the last month of Daniel’s mission. We got word while still on the island that he passed his baptismal interview and would be baptized within the next two weeks.

The next person we met was Daniel Liu. This young man is a graduate student. He is a convert to the Church, and since his own conversion, he met and has baptized a beautiful girl named Erica. Both are working on their oral defense for their Master’s degree. Daniel Liu was talking to Elder Hahn one day, and EH invited DL to come along with us on our trip around Taiwan. It turned out that Daniel Liu agreed to plan our trip and then drive our rented car. He reserved all the hotels and carried out an itinerary that Elder Hahn had planned. EH purchased two tourist books and put post-it notes in every page of what he was interested in. DL looked up hotels and bed and breakfast places, then emailed the costs to me. He reserved them and the car rental with his credit card.
When we first met Daniel, I had converted enough money into Taiwan dollars to pay for all his expenses, and handed him the whole bundle of money to him. He took care of the bills for the hotels, and the car rental for us, so we had no worries. I made sure I paid for the food, his hotel room and gas. When we met Erica at the end of the trip, she told us how much Daniel loves us and thanked us for the generosity, so I think he had a good time.

Right after Daniel Liu picked us up from the Hotel Landis, we drove to Shen Gang, which is north of Taichung. We drove to a box factory, a small business that makes boxes where Freddy works. Freddy is in his late 30's, early 40's. He is married and has two sons, ages 9 & 10. We walked through the factory past the different machines that were punching perforations and holes in the various cardboard pieces getting ready to convert them from flat to 3-dimensional boxes. Toward the back of the building, was Freddy. He turned around, jumped off his station and threw his arms around E H.’s neck and hugged him. After meeting us, he hugged Dan again and exclaimed in English “I love your son! I love your son!” We realized it was close to lunch time, and everyone else in the factory had shut their machines down, so Freddy and EH decided to go to lunch. We followed Freddy to a place, then Freddy ordered a bunch of food. We sat at a round table with a lazy Susan in the center. We all got sticky rice and lots of bowls of vegetables and meats. Again we missed out on paying the bill. We told EH to make sure we got the bill, but as soon as Freddy heard this, he jumped up, left his unfinished dinner and headed to the check out with his credit card. He made a deal with EH that next time we were in town we would treat him, and sure enough, when we got back to Taichung two weeks later, we met up with Freddy and several other friends of theirs. This time we paid for the meal, but it turned out the nearest place was a street vendor, rather than a sit-down meal, and even with more people, we most likely didn’t equal the cost of what Freddy had paid.It is hard to ever keep up with these people’s generosity.

Our next experience was in Puli. This is a mountain town, which is very picturesque and beautiful. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast for two nights. These wonderful proprieters greeted us at the door of their very beautiful house dubbed the water home. Their names are Hu Guai Huai, or Aunt Hu, and Chang Chung Lee, or Uncle Chang. Their relative had designed their house to stand alongside a rushing stream. The walls consist of screened in windows to allow the sounds of the rushing waterfalls to penetrate every part of that house. The house was built from a special wood. The floors, the bar, tables, bathroom, counter tops and stools were all made from this wood. Some pieces were large 2 inch thick slabs cut from the tree to make the various pieces. The floor was tongue and groove, made from the same wood.
Uncle Chang had made all the pottery in the place, and Aunt Hu did some amazing cooking. During the course of our two day stay, I was commenting on the tiny glasses made from pottery, and how hard they are to make, being an artist, I know this. The two Daniel’s relayed to Aunt Hu my appreciation for the fine art of the pottery, and the next thing I knew, she had presented me with two tiny cups. I was so surprised at this sweet gesture that I began to cry. She hurried to the other room and brought back a kleenex and was comforting me, and ended up giving me a tiny pitcher to go with them. They are such a perfect couple to host a bed and breakfast. Their house looks like it was made with this in mind, and it is such a perfect setting. Their yard is large, maybe an acre. They raise their own fruits and vegetables, and preserve them as well. She is a very fine cook, and the presentations of the food was beautiful enough to inspire a cookbook picture. Our breakfast the first day was not your typical cereal or eggs. We had Jaio by chu, which is a cat-tail like plant that is cooked. You peel the leaves off and eat the heart. Then we had mantau, which is a steamed roll. The next day, she served ruobao, which is also a soft steamed roll but with chopped meat and cabbage inside. The first night, the Uncle Chang was sitting on a tiny stool by a box of leaves. He was picking the leaves off the branch, then he was stripping the vein off the leaves. He was saving the leaves. The next morning, they served this leaf cooked as a topping on the tofu, It was called xiang chung. It had a caramel colored topping that tasted like soy sauce. We were served a warm soy milk in tiny glasses. The pitcher was a piece of pottery that I would have loved to buy and take home. Hanging all over the house from hooks were tiny bananas
about the size and length of a man’s fingers. Both days we were there, these bananas were brought after breakfast was over, like a desert. She would bring a whole bunch.
Above the table in the vaulted ceiling lived a tiny gecko. Once in a while I would hear him chatter. Finally before we left, I spotted him and got a picture.
By the time we checked out of this peaceful place, we had fallen in love with these sweet people. I wanted to leave something to remember me by, so I gave them a crocheted doily that I had made.

Freddy was the highlight of the whole trip. When asked by someone at that last dinner if Elder Hahn was given the chance to give up two more years of his life and come back to Taiwan, would he do it? His answer was, If he could find another person like Freddy, he would do it in a heart beat.

The Mission Home

We finally arrived at the Taichung bus station. My next advice for before you leave your home, is to find a way to have your destination printed in English and Chinese. This way, if you speak NO Chinese, you will be able to show the taxi driver.

We tried to get the taxi driver to drive us to the Landis Hotel, but the taxi driver couldn’t read the English. We happened to read someone else’s experience with taxi drivers, and they recommended you have something in Chinese for them to read and hang on to it for future cab rides. I had a letterhead from the mission office, that was in Chinese and English, so I handed it to him. He called the number on the card, and got directions from one of the missionaries working in the office. We were home safe, in the arms of the mission office. Now we could get help. So that first little bit, getting from the airport to the Mission office was a bit of a challenge, but we did it. I was telling someone that I was terrified because I didn’t know how to do that, didn’t have a clue where we were staying, etc, and his reply: “No problem, get reservations at the good restaurants, because later when you talk to people, they will say, ‘you went to Taiwan? How was the food?’”

Elder Hahn was in an interview, and we waited in the office. It was a bit busy, because there were 18 missionaries going home. We met some members, Mark Wu, Maggie Wu, both who are ward missionaries, and are not related. Maggie is about 20 years old and very sweet. She speaks very good English. Mark is a bit older, a convert and very helpful as well.
When our son came out, we got to hug him, and look, drink in his face and countenance. Then we got to walk around the streets for awhile, we looked for souvenirs on our list from home. There is a huge shopping mall right near the Mission Office, and the sidewalks are filled with scooters parked three rows deep. We got juain bing at one of the street restaurants. It was a fried egg with meat, sprouts, other vegetables rolled up on a tortilla type of a thing. Of course it is not a tortilla, and was probably made of rice, not corn meal. The girl who made the food said proudly that she is famous in Utah, because she is a member of the Church, and all the missionaries ate there. They talked about her place back in Utah. Elder Hahn took us to a convenience store and made us purchase rain gear. An umbrella and a rain slicker. And it wasn’t long before we got our umbrellas out.
We had to get back to the Mission home in time for Dan’s exit interview, and then President Watterson invited us into his office as well. We got to hear that our son was a wonderful missionary, and the Taichung mission was better for his service in it. All the things that parents want to hear about their son. Yeah. President Watterson is an amazing man, leader and Mission President. We hold a great deal of respect for him and his wife and family. He has done much good for this mission.
On the day of Daniel’s official release 12 June 2007, the Watterson's hosted a breakfast for all the departing missionaries and their parents. The office Elders helped serve the breakfast. Afterwards, President Watterson showed us an amazing video that he prepared for the departing missionaries. It is one that he can alter and add the personal touch for each set of departing missionaries. Each missionary received a copy of this tear jerker. He had just told us that as a result of the work of these 18 departing missionaries, 500 souls were brought to the waters of baptism this last year, which is about the equivalent of 2 wards. Twelve new branches were formed. Lots of families have been baptized, which is the foundation of Church service. But lately, the 77% of baptisms have been male and of those males, 70% have a college degree or higher. He explained that the Lord is preparing for the future when China will be opened to the Gospel. These people in Taiwan will be the launching pad for China. There are 1.4 billion people in China. The blood if Israel is rich in China.
He admonished the departing Missionaries to keep their language skills current. He told them to seek out the Chinese back in their homeland and fellowship them. He explained that the rich people in China are going out into the world. They are being taught the gospel by missionaries and being baptized, then coming back to China. The law says that you are not allowed to proselyte in China but if someone is baptized elsewhere, they are allowed to baptize their family back in China.
He then gave the speech that all departing missionaries dread. He told them to go home, unlock their hearts and get married. Then he told them that they are NO good in the Church until they are married and have established a house. His words were that direct and blunt, and the poor soon-to-be released missionaries all sat there with slack jaws and wide eyes.
I remember my first son, an RM attending BYU told of a time when Boyd K Packer spoke. After his talk, he opened it to questions. My son, in the front row quoted D&C 119 where they talk about establishing a house, then he asked how one might go about doing that? Elder Packer answered with a question: “Have you gone on a mission?” “Yes.” “Are you married?” “No.” “Next question?”
After his talk, President Watterson invited all the missionaries with parents to bear their testimonies, followed by their parents. Since we had such a large group of departing missionaries, and so many parents there, we didn’t get to attend the Sunday evening meeting where the converts are invited to attend. Also the Monday night dinner was only for the missionaries, and we were invited to this breakfast.
As the sweet spirit was manifest by these humble missionaries, and their faithful parents, I felt so privileged to be in attendance. One father spoke of how he was here in Taiwan 31 years ago, and how he had what he felt was a total unsuccessful mission. He spoke of the disappointment he felt as he returned home with no baptisms to his name. He prayed that maybe one of his son’s would be called to this mission and enjoy the success that had eluded his grasp. Rather than a son, his daughter was called on a mission to Taiwan and enjoyed great success. It helped him resolve the hurt he had felt for never baptizing.
My own son baptized 23 souls, and we heard just before we left the island that his latest find, the last month he served had just passed his baptismal interview and was being baptized just after we flew home. In fact baptisms were so plentiful, that he was invited to perform a baptism the first day on the island. I know Daniel’s own RM siblings were looking on with envy.

Last year, you may have heard about the Youth Conference they held in San Yi. It was put on by the Taichung Mission, I believe, and our son told us that the purpose and theme was to inspire the youth to go on missions. He said it worked, because this year, so far, 55 young men and women have left for missions from the Taichung Mission area.

Most of the homeward bound missionaries had been asked to extend, except one. She had a mother who was ill with cancer and the President asked her to leave 3 weeks early. He felt she was needed at home She had found out about this early release only 2 weeks before. It was hard on her, and she said she cried, but when she bore her testimony, she said she wanted to do the Lord’s will.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


If you should decide to exchange your money for Taiwan Dollars at home, you can do that at most banks. If you bring cash and want to exchange it in Taiwan, you have to go to a bank. The bank finds out what you are doing, and gives you a slip. You go upstairs and wait until your number is called, in Chinese. I didn't understand what was happening and would not have known if my son hadn't been there. They are very picky on the bills you bring. They examine every bill on both sides. If it is an old issue of $100 or $50 bills, they don't accept them. Even the $50's that aren't colored aren't accepted. The $50's that had a small rubber stamp on them was rejected. So even though I brought $2000 in $100's and $50's, I walked away with $300 in American dollars still unused.
My husband in the mean time used the Visa card, and got money really easy.
If I were to do it again would just put the money into a savings account and don't worry then pay the Visa when you get home. There was one ATM that didn't let us withdraw, but later we paid for a dinner with the Visa and it worked. Then down the street at a McDonald's ATM, we were able to with draw money.
Fairly easy.

The Airports, Flights and What to Pack

The first encounter on this adventure was the airports. We flew from Salt Lake to Los Angeles. The flight didn't leave until around 10:00 p.m. So we were ready to sleep before we even got off the ground. The 757 was very comfortable going to LA, and that gave us a false sense of how nice it would be for the rest of the trip. But LAX brought us down to earth really fast. We had to disembark, and walk to a whole different building. As we asked various airport workers where our connecting flight was most didn't know, and directed us vaguely in “that” direction. We had some carry-on luggage (WITH WHEELS), because I have heard too many stories of people losing their luggage. It was a good thing too, because they did lose my luggage, and it went to Malaysia for a while.

What I did pack was helpful, but if I had an opportunity to re-pack, I would have done it differently. More on that later.

We finally were directed to a terminal five buildings to the south. It turned into a very long walk. When we got there, you would never believe it is midnight, because the airport terminal was filled with hundreds of tired families, most of which were going on to India and Saudi Arabia with huge piles of luggage, and prepared to stay at their destination quite a while (one told me 5 years). We were not given any direction anywhere on which line to stand in. I tried to ask, and was sent several places. We finally were told to stand in the huge line with only three people working at the service counter. Why don't they hire more people to take care of the rush? We stood there for about 45 minutes when finally a Malaysia Airline worker approached us and asked if we had luggage to check. When answered to the negative, we were ushered to one lone clerk who had nothing to do. We got our boarding pass, and then headed through security. The flight didn't depart until 2 in the morning so we had quite a while to find the gate and sit there with masses of humanity, crying babies, and poor exhausted elderly people all trying to make it back to the homeland.

We were finally allowed to board. It didn't matter that we had purchased our tickets way back in February, and had asked for seats that would accommodate a 6'2" man. His knees bumped against the seat in front of us, and when the person in front of him would push his seat back, it got worse. Malaysia Airlines is built for small people. I don't think I will ever use this airline again. All the people who looked like they would live in those parts had at least 4" knee space in front of them. We packed a blow-up neck pillow and acquired a blanket from the stewardess.

I had heard to take Melatonin (check with your doctor first before taking) if you are traveling overseas, and try to get as much sleep as possible so you are refreshed when you land. We had brought earphones and music on an I-pod and CD player. We brought the eye covers to block out light and if the music got tiring, ear plugs. So we took our meds and tried to settle in.

It is next to impossible to get comfortable, but the native India girl next to me seemed to not have a problem, drifted off in no time and slept the whole way. The flight over was 15 hours, and only 11 hours coming home because of a tail wind.

I fell asleep, but my poor husband sat up all night, and suffered from jet lag the whole time we were in Taiwan.

When we landed, it was 6:30 in the morning. I felt sorry for all those who were heading further on their flights to India and Saudi Arabia. They were facing at least 5 more hours of flight time. Everyone had to disembark and retrieve their luggage go through customs, recheck their luggage and get on their next plane.

We found the carousel where our luggage was supposed to be. The first thing we saw was a sign warning us of bringing fruit into the country, and that there were "quarantine beagles" on duty that would sniff us out if we did. The carry on luggage had apples, so as we stood there, waiting for our luggage, we ate the evidence and waited until the carousel turned off. Eventually some man found us standing there and asked us if our name was on a list he had in his hand. He was Taiwanese, and spoke broken English. We confirmed that one matched my name and the other matched our number, and he told us our luggage was not here. We weren't too sure what had happened, so he directed us to a very friendly lady who spoke English very well. She explained that Delta Airlines didn't get our luggage transferred to the departing plane, 5 terminals down in LA, even though we managed to get ourselves down there in time with a couple of hours to spare.
I was a bit worried, because one person had pointed to the number and said "that one not come." One had my name on it, the other was just a number.

As it turned out, a couple of days later, Dave's luggage arrived, and mine had gone on to Malaysia. Sheesh. The next order of business advice: find an ATM right away if you haven't already converted some money to Taiwan Dollars. You need money (around $7.00 for 2 to ride the bus from Taipei to Taichung. We were told to find the bus that takes us to the bullet train, but no one understood that terminology, (My son says the word for High Speed Bullet Train is Gaotie (gahow-tee-eh) is the pinyin pronunciation). We were directed to the U-bus, a green bus that took us on the long route to our destination. We thought we had been directed to the bus that takes us to the train, instead we just kept driving, and we realized this was the slow bus, not the fast train. It was okay, we got to see some fun countryside instead. It took about 2½ hours to get to Taichung. It is much more expensive to ride the HSBT anyway ($700 TD per ticket or at the exchange rate we got, it was around $21 a person).

Since I am on the subject of airport, the lady who helped us try to locate our luggage told us that we should have called the airlines 3 days before we flew and made sure our seats are reserved. This is something you can do from home, and then again from your hotel before going home. But this does not guarantee seats.
We got to the Taipei airport much earlier than required, because of a mix up. Malaysia Airlines didn't even open until 6:30 pm, since our flight left at 9:30 pm. And even though we were there very early, when we asked, they told us it was a continuing flight, and all those nice seats were already taken. I remembered the horrible trip over, and paid the extra $250 a piece and upgraded to business class, and we had a great flight home. They really pamper you in that area of the plane. It was great. But I will probably regret it when I see our Visa bill.

We tried again to make sure of our seat assignment in LAX coming home. We got there 3 hours early because our son didn't have a seat assignment. He ended up using his e ticket and getting a seat assignment and a boarding pass right away. We brought actual paper tickets, and our seat assignment was negated for some reason and we did not receive boarding passes but were told to go to the gate and ask the attendant there. She told us to cool our heels and she would call our names in 30 minutes. We were actually the last two people to board the airline and were separated, but coincidentally I was assigned to the same row as our son, and actually got to trade with a girl sitting next to him.

Luggage: In my carry-on luggage, I packed a library book, my personal journal, a palm pilot and keyboard, an I-pod with music and books on tape, a tape recorder, (supposedly to listen to my choir practice so I can perform in two concerts a week after we arrive home), and a CD player, along with library books on CD.

Advice: Forget the "new year's resolutions" as to what you intend to accomplish on these long flights. Instead, organize yourselves before you leave, get a good palm pilot or whatever you use, with a keyboard, and import some good music and possibly books on tape also pack a personal journal*. Then take the rest of the space in your carry-on luggage with several changes of clothing and under ware for you and your spouse in both of your carry-on luggages, just in case one of you forgets your carry on. You are not allowed to bring any shampoo, but that is okay because most hotels provide that stuff, and you can go to the nearest convenience store (they have 7-11 there) and get what you need. If you are one who needs Bert's Bees for your lips, and lotion, make sure you have that in a 1 quart zip lock, weighing under 3 oz. I missed my hair spray. I brought a sample one of a different brand that didn't really work with my hair.
*I used my personal journal more than the palm and keyboard because I didn't have access to an internet where I could post my journal somewhere. I don't know how much I would rely on electronics, in case the palm crashes. You don't want to lose all your writings, and a paper journal is safer, in my eyes. I have a friend who put her experiences in a blog right away. This seems really smarter, but again I didn't have that technology. She had a Nokia N800 which she loves.

I also had a very light-weight back pack of sorts. Actually it was a cloth bag with long draw strings that were attached to the bottom of the bag as well, which when pulled tight would close the bag and double as shoulder straps. It was a freebie from a hairdresser and said "sexy hair" on the back. I made sure to wear it so the advertisement was turned inward. I didn't want to be accused of false advertising because my very droopy hair from the humidity was not sexy.

Checked Luggage: I brought a variety of Wonder Tee shirts in several colors, along with over blouses from WalMart. I also packed some light pants and skirts that are made from that already wrinkled fabric. It makes for great packing, I rolled them rather than folded. They fit nicely into a suit case and really don't look bad when unrolled. It is so humid, the wrinkles pretty much get lost in a few minutes of wear. I packed some sketcher sandals which I purchased from Penneys. Your feet swell, no matter what you do from all that flying and these had some elastic, so they always felt fine. I purchased two pair, in case they broke, which didn't happen. I packed Sunday shoes, which I didn't need. I could have, and should have worn the sandals and not taken up suit case space.
Most hotels have hair dryers, but no curling irons, so I brought my favorite curling iron. Not that it did any good. It was flattened in 30 minutes once you got into the hot sun and high humidity. But they do have regular outlets, so you don't have to bring a converter.
Bring empty zip bags in a variety of sizes. These come in handy all the time.
I also packed about a cup of powdered Tide doubled zip-lock bags, one bag inside another bag, in case one breaks. This is very handy for washing clothing that either gets spilled on, or your underwear. It dried fairly fast in the hotel room if you use a towel and wring it pretty thoroughly. And speaking of towels, you may want to plan on purchasing a towel, because most hotels, besides the expensive 5 star hotels don't provide a real towel like we are used to. It is a tiny paper towel the size of a dish towel, and really doesn't get you very dry. We were stunned by this. Landis Hotel had real towels, but that was the last place we saw them. I also needed a hand towel in my back pack just to wipe the waterfall of sweat that began pouring down as soon as I stepped outside the air conditioning of the hotel and the car. I also got a battery operated fan which was very nice. We were there during Typhoon season (June to November) and the humidity and heat is amazing. The southern part of Taiwan in Kaohsiung is hotter but not as much rain, that is where I needed the towel the most. Taichung had regular afternoon rain storms, and they say it rains all the time in Taipei area.
Bring travel kleenex, and keep the spares in your luggage, and bring one in your purse at all times. Take your purse to the rest rooms. Most rest rooms have holes in the floor that you squat over and don't provide any toilet paper. I found one had a roll outside of all the stalls, you had to plan ahead and grab some before you went in. They throw the paper in a waste basket near the "toilet". I am sorry to be so graphic, but it would have been nice for me to know this before I traveled. I was lucky enough to have packed some pocket Kleenex, and was glad I did.
I purchased an extra memory card for my camera, but it took me awhile to find a place that handled anything for Canon. I wish I'd had one of these from the beginning.
We purchased rain gear at the 7-11 once we got there, and they were cheap enough, that if you didn't care, you could donate to someone when you leave, if you don't have enough room. One person told me to bring an extra suit case for all the things you buy there. You would need a newspaper to wrap them in, if you don't have enough clothes to surround the breakables. I made sure the breakables had newspaper and hopefully a box as well, then surrounded everything with my clothes to make it not rattle.
Wear a money belt for the trip over, and don't take it off on the plane. I had a friend who put his fanny pack below his feet for the flight, and during the flight, it shifted into someone else's space. He checked under his seat and feet before he exited, and forgot to look for it. He disembarked and realized his passport and money was in this fanny pack and was back on the plane. They would NOT let him back onto the plane once he had gotten off in Atlanta where he was supposed to transfer to the overseas flight. They made him wait until they had cleaned the plane, and once he got back on, it was no longer there. He missed the choir trip to Austria, to sing for Mozart's 250th birthday, and we missed him. He had to replace his passport, lost his money, didn't have any flight insurance, so he lost the cost of the tickets too. A very sad lesson, so I thought I would pass this along to those of you who don't travel often. It is hard to learn these lessons first hand, and much easier to learn from other's mistakes.

This is just a start on this blog. Check this again later, and watch for more additions as I think of more. I hope this helps all of you who are planning on going to Taiwan.

What Luggage? It's evaporated!

So Delta Airlines forgot to transfer my luggage when we got to LA. Which by the way was such a terrible airport.
we had to leave the building, and come back into another, which meant we had to go through security again. but we never got seating assignments so we had to stand in this line with hundreds of other tired, mostly India natives, who were checking their luggage and it was taking forever. Finally one man spotted us and asked us if we had luggage, then when we said no, he sent us to this really short line.
We got through security fine, but when we landed our luggage hadn't made it.
Sailor's arrived last night, but after checking things out, they reported mine headed to Malaysia, and wouldn't be here until tonight.
I had to wear my other outfit, and wash the first, which did NOT dry, so it is damp.
But that is okay, because being typhoon season, it is really hot, and rainy, so who isn't damp. It is just cold in the air conditioned hotel. Which, by the way is amazing. It is a 5 star, it turns out. Wow Nothing like it.
We now have Daniel in our possession, which is pretty amazing. We spent the day yesterday with an investigator who is amazing. He took us out to eat, then off to see his paintings. He has been working 3 years to get this display in the public works department, and his work is beautiful. He is a realist, so his painting of a leaf with a water drop looks like a photograph. We got to see Taiwan from the top of the mountain, but couldn't because was raining so hard. We got to see the devastation the earthquake 10 years ago caused on the way down. We got to see a temple, not Buddhist, something else, and the little lady there wanted to show and explain everything to us. Sailor said that most temple ladies are the same. Very cute.
We got to meet his sweet wife and baby later.
Today we head to Puli. We rent a car, and are starting our adventure with Daniel Liu, who will be our personal tour guide.
I get only 1/2 hour free on the internet here at the Landis Hotel and my time is up. More about the beautiful Farewell meeting yesterday morning with the 18 returning missionaries and parents and President and his wife.
bye for now