Friday, 9 April 2010

We're still alive!

Sorry, long time no post. I guess the novelty wears off after a while and you just get wrapped up in stuff and, in my case, one viral illness after another. I had a nasty bout of tonsillitis in early March, but, as I’ve learned not to really trust much of the medical care around here, I dealt with it myself with OTC medications and steered clear of the doctor!! Even Martin had a day off school this week feeling unwell, which is very unlike him, but he went off his food on Tuesday evening and came out in a cold sweat and headache! Didn’t last long though and he’s back to normal again now.

I’ve also had to go back to the dentist’s twice recently as a part of the tooth the first charming chap filled for me fell off, but I refused to go back to that place! I asked a couple of people in local shops where they’d recommend and then, after finding the one that the local ex-pats recommend seemed to be closed for a couple of weeks but not wanting to risk shattering my tooth any further, I went to the local clinic that two ladies mentioned. The bloke there was a lot better and, although the white filling fell off again within a fortnight, he at least fixed it for me straight away yesterday and didn’t charge for it. I didn’t expect it to last in the first place as he didn’t have the suction on whilst doing the filling, so the environment was, I felt, too wet to ‘take’. I only hope that’s the last of it, but this chap reckons the tooth needs a crown, but I am NOT interested in having it done here. Costs about the same as at home, but at home I can get a bridge put over my gap and what have you done under the same payment and I still haven’t learned to trust local dentists not to try and make money out of patients. I also like to be sure I won’t be tortured without anaesthetic and to be able to communicate freely with the dentist.

Although it wasn’t reported on much in Britain (but was on the BBC website) there was another earthquake here recently, a fairly big one at 6.4, if I remember correctly. It was on the German news, so Mother-in-law called to check we were in the correct 2 pieces. It was only felt as a 2 here in the capital, but it was quite a long one. There was a little shake here this morning as well. I’ve been home from school the last two days and that made me extra grateful I was as our classroom is on the 10th floor (9th floor European), and that would have scared me rather….

Our Memorial went off well with 165 people there for our congregation of 70-ish. We hired a lecture theatre in a university in our territory (there are loads of unis in Taipei), so that it was easy to get to and so that we had good seating capacity.


Martin baked the bread, (which impressed his mum greatly!), and has since used up the rest of the flour and made some more crackers for us! He’s also had a go at dry roasting some peanuts he bought at the local fruit shop in this tiny little toaster oven. This man is game for almost anything, you have to hand it to him!=)




















This photo shows why people comment that Martin is rather tall! “包弟兄,你那麽高!”


Monday and Tuesday of this week were public holidays as it was Tomb Sweeping Day, where many locals went off to the graveyards to clean their ancestors’ and relatives’ tombs and offer incense and various other associated rituals. Interesting that the West celebrated Easter at about the same time!!! Anyway, we got a couple of days off school, and on the Tuesday, a sister and her husband and their niece (also a sis in our cong) took us out for the day in their car.

First we went to Shifen to see the famous waterfalls there


Then we had lunch in a local place called Pingxi where they have a local tradition of setting off small scale hot-air balloons. People buy a flat balloon in the colour that suits their petitions – each colour has a different meaning, then they write their requests on it and send it off, presumably to the heavens for the attention of whichever of the gods can best meet their requirements!! I didn’t get a shot of that taking place (there were a few sent off as we were there), but there are many small souvenir versions of the balloons on sale in the local shops. Needless to say, we didn’t get one! We’ve found a more eco-friendly version of making petitions to the Most High, without concerning ourselves with our balloon landing in someone’s garden later on that day! It doesn’t seem that much as if the people who send the balloons concern themselves overly with it either. Grrr….!

Next we went on to Jiufen where we had a look in the colourful markets there. I bought a hairslide with their unique handmade decorations. Here’s one of the goodie stalls.

This is the view over the Jiufen bay. Shame we didn’t have a nice, clear day for our visit, it was raining on and off, but you get the idea.

These are some more falls, called the Golden Falls, just down the hill from Jiufen

And finally, this mountain is called the Teapot as it looks rather like one of those squat, Oriental teapots. Can you make it out?


We’re already at the end of week 6 of our 3rd term at the Mandarin Training Center, almost half way through our time in Taiwan. It seems that the MTC has strict 57 teaching day terms each time, so if there are public holidays, then they must be added back on when one might have expected the term to be over. As the next term starts at the beginning of the every 3rd calendar month, then that can mean that we only have 3 days off between terms, which is what happened last time. During that time, we went off to Hualien, Taroko Gorge etc with the Stevensons, but I just took so many photos there that I haven’t had the courage to sort them through yet! That will be for my next update, which I hope to get done over the next week. I hope, but I dare not guarantee….

Anyway, back to school-ey stuff. We’re in different classes this term as we’ve picked courses that address our weakest points. For Martin, that means he’s in the intermediate-advanced listening practice class and, as I find it hard to discipline myself to read in any foreign language, but most especially in Chinese, I selected the first of three newspaper reading courses. Sadly, newspapers here are written in a highly formal style, so we all find it a bit hard to get used to and I won’t be going on to the higher level courses in the same vein. We’ve both decided that the workload and difficulty in Level 6 isn’t what we need at the mo and that most of the really useful stuff is in Level 5, so we’re both going ‘back’ next term and are going to cover some of the more general stuff again. Looking at the textbooks, there’s plenty in them we don’t know and I at least have come to the conclusion that, not only would Level 7 be too much work, but I would really only be doing to flatter my ego!!!

Thanks for all the lovely e-mails I got in response to my request for a Day’s Text booklet. Emma’s sent one, but it hasn’t come yet. Should it go astray, I have about 4 other offers I can take up, so thanks very much to all for their willing and for all the home and abroad news. Great to hear from you all and those who haven’t had a reply yet, will get one soon, bank on it!

One reply came from Japan from the Ostlers, who also said, ‘Come and see us’. Funny they should have said that as we were about to contact them about going to the English Convention over there! So, we’ve been in touch and are booked in at the hotel near the Assembly Hall with them etc. We’ll fly over there late July and stay for 12 days or so, taking in the DC, Bethel and a quick trip over to Korea as well, if all goes according to plan.

I loved that bit in Lucy’s e-mail from this morning about the lady who had held back from praying as she feared God couldn’t understand Chinese. Now, we get people thinking that we won’t be able to speak, read or write Chinese all the time, to the point that I’m beginning to think that, underneath, the Chinese think only Chinese people are clever enough to do it. Now I hear that some think even God couldn’t manage it, I feel better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!=)

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