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.


Jenny said...

Wow, this is so amazing. What an experience you guys had! My mom joined Missionary Moms on your recommendation and loves it, by the way. She says many thanks!

Mike said...

Wow! What a story teller! I feel like I was there. Thanks for the details!

RisibleGirl said...

How lucky for you that you got to meet people whose lives were changed by your son!

That must have been so gratifying!

Great log!

AnnieOfBlueGables said...

Yes, It was a chance in a lifetime. I am so glad we went. . .