Friday, 13 November 2009

Better late than never!!

Bit on the late side with this update but, as we’ve not been inundated with e-mails asking if we were OK, I daresay no-one’s really noticed!! Before getting a couple of e-mails from home over the last week, I was beginning to wonder if we’d been disfellowshipped and no-one told us!!?? 15 e-mails I’ve written recently, all to different people, and not one reply! Bah!

We’re still looking into getting Net access at home, but so far, the only reliable quote we’ve had would cost us more than all our utilities put together (leccy, water and gas) per month! OK, so we only pay just over £16 per month for those 3, but you kinda hope you can get the Internet for a similar bargain figure, no? Many things like that are so cheap here. Transport to and from school normally costs us either 45p or 70p, which wouldn’t even get you to the next stop in Leeds, never mind across the capital city and back again! Our rent is about a tenner less than we used to pay at home, but this is a private rental of a newly refurbished place complete with all kitchen & laundry appliances and most of the other furniture as well as opposed to a bare Council flat. And our current place is a bit bigger too. At home we spent around £500 on rent and bills, but here it’s under £300.

Food is harder to comment on as Chinese stuff is cheap enough, but western style things come at a higher premium. I find much of the local food either not very nice or just plain boring, so we do get in a few imports from the local Carrefour stores, bless ‘em! They’re also a reliable source of decent bread as all the local recipes have sugar in, and I don’t mean just to activate the yeast. They’re actually sweet. Fine for jam, but not so good for savoury things. Carrefour do a lot of varieties to real French recipes. They also sell tinned tomatoes, wholemeal pasta, cous-cous, tinned beans (even if one tin of red-kidney beans is about £1!) and all manner of other, what we would consider normal things. I’m a bit dismayed at the lack of variety here really. When you go into a big hypermarket like Carrefour or A-Mart, the food section seems rather small to me and there isn’t much to choose from. There’s the fresh section of course, (which also includes the meat etc and a few dairy foods, mostly milks, animal and plant), but I usually feel that there just isn’t the variety I’m used to at home. The packaged food section seems to have aisle upon aisle of instant noodles, oils and goodies – ie sweets etc, and a section for rice and a few tins and seasonings, but other than that, and many aisles of drinks, there doesn’t seem to me to be much available. I’m trying to get more variety out of what we can get though as we need some changes and even Martin’s finding a lot of stuff a bit dull and same-ish. Nice fruit, of course. Looking forward to mango season next spring. Here’s something a little different – a yellow watermelon! It didn’t taste too much different from the usual pinky-red ones, perhaps not quite as strong.

The weekend of 31 Oct and 1 Nov was the local Circuit Assembly and, as there are no official assembly halls here in Taiwan, a sports hall in Tucheng, Taipei County was hired both for the assembly and the pioneer meeting on Friday afternoon. Peak attendance was just 7 short of the 2000 mark at 1993 and 21 were baptised. I’m not sure exactly what the catchment area for the assembly was, but it seemed to at least be Taipei City plus the northern areas of Taipei County, ie Danshui and Keelung (Jilong in pinyin). These were taken just as everyone was settling back down for the Sunday afternoon programme. There was another set of upper level seats on the side I took the photo from where most of the obvious (ie white) foreigners seemed to be sitting – including Rosie!

Here’s the UK delegation! Me, Rosie and 2 sisters (fleshly as well as spiritual sisters) from Shrewsbury who go to Birmingham congregation and who went back home on 3rd, last Tuesday.

Apart from the Taiwanese, there are a great many Japanese here as well quite a number of Koreans. The non-Orientals are mostly North American and European and we met or know of bros from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and New Zealand amongst, no doubt, several others.

Our congregation, Taipei Wenshan, had 2 buses, the ‘southernmost’ one being shared with some of the Xindian congregation and our part of which Martin was in charge of. He enjoyed that – having a job to do and being of use again, although I think he was a bit startled when he saw the list of midweek meeting talks etc that he was given and found himself down for about 4 things, including taking the CBS, over the next 5 mid-week meetings! Given that the circuit overseer doesn’t come for another week and he’s not yet re-appointed, it gives some idea of how keen they are to put another capable bro to work! Actually, several meeting items have been handled by as yet un-appointed bros, so there’s a bit of a departure from the established procedure, but hopefully the forthcoming visit will solve that problem by giving us 2 or 3 new servants etc! Martin had a call from the PO the other evening – during their pre-CO visit elders’ meeting – to check that he had a legal visa!! (‘Free from accusation’ and all.) He was also asked the other day which public talk outlines he’d prepared and, I understand, is to be scheduled for early next year. Scary! It’s one thing giving talks in foreign language groups and congs in the West, when it’s all hands on deck and ‘do your best and have a go’, but facing a native congregation….. Not looking forward to my first school item either, but I’ve not had a slip as yet. Martin has his first reading on 26th.

Weather’s been up and down again as another typhoon was in the area (but didn’t directly hit this area at least) and I’m sure there must have been something else like that last week as I saw that the temperature had dropped to only 17oC when I looked at the display outside one of the churches we pass on the way to school. I was just plain cold! It got a good bit warmer for a few days and has now dropped back to low 20s again,, but I’m really wondering what’s going on with the weather. Our teacher said that autumnal typhoons are on the increase, whereas they used to be something that didn’t occur much outside high summer, and also that they are worse than the summer ones. Climate change I guess. The poor Philippines took a real beating from those two windstorms that were blowing around and around the area and giving us miserable rain for almost 3 weeks solid. When we were here 12 years ago, it was still in the mid 20soC in late December, but almost the whole of this October was lost to rotten weather and I’m wondering how long the winter season will be. We’ve already managed to get hold of one heater and we got a nice new quilt and bedding set last Tuesday, which means that we can now spare the single one we’d both been huddling under for when Emily comes in a few weeks’ time.

We seem to have seen the back of the ant problem to a greater degree. There are still one or two every so often – esp if crumbs get on the floor, but destroying the nests seems to have put paid to the bulk of the ant population at our place. Ants are better than cockroaches, of course, but we don’t really want either!! 3 out of the 4 people who’ve been to our place since we’ve lived here have remarked how clean it is. Well, I really dread to think what the state of the average Taiwanese home is if our place, which I consider passably well kept up to given that I’ve had a nasty bug lately, stands out so much!

Here’s a photo of our daring neighbour hanging out her washing:

Bear in mind this is taken 4 floors up, she has nothing to hold on to and that beyond that sloping roof you can just see at the bottom of the pic, below her, it’s another slope, then the quick way down 2 or 3 floors to the street!!! Anyone who cares for our necks will be glad to know that we hang our washing out on a nice, sane, safe balcony!

Well, a long posting this time. You can tell when I prepare the text at home and when I just do it on the spot at school! Will try to update again on Monday with some more info on the Taiwanese field and some photos of our latest touristy stuff. In the meantime, if I’ve written to you recently – REPLY! (Please, pretty please and pretty please with sugar on top…..) Also, Lauren, have you had a package??? I don’t know if it’s even come, but the other one I sent on the same day has, so I would like to know. I’d e-mail and ask, but as no-one replies…….. Grrrrrrr!!

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