‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ 2017!

It’s Dragon Boat Festival weekend, so we have 2 extra days off – yippee!  So far I’ve spent 2 days up on the Yang-Ming Shan Mountains above Taipei doing the East-West Traverse (Chinese version is here), a 25 km route, which I did in 2 halves – it takes in 10 peaks in total. Each of the 10 peaks has a marker post with a Chinese character on the top, and using a pencil, you make like a brass rubbing in a special book. Together the characters spell out the phrase ‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ meaning ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse Activity’.  So there you have it.

A new challenge. And I always like a new challenge. My good friend, Shiao Chien, who also volunteers at Yang-Ming Shan, gave me the book as a gift many months ago.  It’s taken until now to find some free time to do it!

The weather was wonderful.  Well, for ducks, that is.  And frogs.  Also wonderful for mountain walkers who want to keep cool.  Day one on Saturday started off clear and with a strong wind, but by lunchtime, the mist had rolled in and the drizzle had started.  Day Two was today. Down in Taipei, it was beautiful, all sunshine; but up in Yang-Ming Shan it was dense fog and drizzle virtually all day.  Ah, yes, quite fun!

So 2 days, each with 5 peaks, and each day about 5-6 hours of walking.  This is Saturday’s opening view from Mt Datun …. that’s Sanzhi down there in the distance, yes I could sort of see my house!

And the view from Mt Datun Main Peak… those green mountains are the next destination on the trail, south and west peaks, and Mt Miantian at the end.

Here I am with Taipei down below and my book ready for the first brass rubbing.  If only I knew what to do, and if only I had brought a pencil!  I had assumed it would be stamps with an ink-pad, that’s kinda normal in Taiwan.  But no sign of any stamps and ink-pads. The first man I met had no idea what to do, the second one said I needed to get a pencil. He offered me his chopstick as an alternative, but it didn’t work.  So here I am waiting for something to happen, otherwise I can’t fill in the Chinese character ha ha!  Wait and see….

Anyway, Mt Datun South Peak and West Peak climbs are short but very steep, and have ropes to help everyone get up and down over the mud and slippery rocks!

And so to Mt. Miantian where the large microwave reflector things are visible for miles around.  Just below it is Mt. Xiangtian…

On the way down, came across this stone…. erected in honour of the wedding of Crown Prince Hirohito in 1924…

And down through the bamboo forest….

To the trail head at Qingtian Temple….

This is the trail-head at the western end ~ yes, I’m half done!

Legs ached all weekend.  Arms too, from all those ropes.  Could hardly get down any stairs, it was agony on the old legs.  Serves me right for trying to do 5 peaks in one day.  But still, I was up bright and early to start today’s walk at Xiaoyoukeng where the fumaroles were very busy, spewing out sulphur.  Stinking the place out.  Even though it was 100% fog , we could all smell them!

This is the start of Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail, ah yes, all in the fog and drizzle!

The top is the highest point on the ridge… 1120m

And down to Lengshuikeng where the visitor centre is hidden in the mist.  Cue: coffee on sale here!

My destination was Fengguikou trail-head, still about 6 km away, with 3 more peaks en route.   The first time I’ve ever been along on that ridge.  It’s mostly grassland.  Cows too. Never saw any cows, but plenty of cowpats.  Really amazing ridge walk.  In the fog.  And y’know, it was so cool!   Usually grassland means no shade, and hot hot hot.  But today was great!  This is the Lengshuikeng Pond…

Passed through pines and cedars, remnants of forestry plantations planted by the Japanese in the 1920’s….

And so to my last peak, Mt Ding, yes I was so happy!

And so down to the trailhead…. more mud!

Lots of Nature with a capital ‘N’ – pink and purple thistles, the white-flowers of the ‘Narrow-Petaled Hydrangea’ 狹瓣八仙 (Hydrangea angustipetala) there in abundance, fungi growing on the cowpats and 2 pairs of Chinese Bamboo Partridge 竹雞 which seemed very tame – well, you can see how close I got!

So 10 peaks later, and in case you’re wondering how I got on without a pencil, well, guess what?  There I was waiting for something to happen at my first peak of the 10, and along came one of my colleagues from our university, with her family – these guys turned up completely unexpectedly on Saturday morning at Mt Datun Main Peak while I was there, and they showed me how to make the brass rubbing with their pencil – which they then donated to me to take on the trip. How’s that for a bit of divine intervention eh?!  🙂  🙂

From Fengguikou trail-head, I had to walk down another 2 km to the bus at ShengRen Bridge – the road above the National Palace Museum…. the descent got brighter and nicer and sunnier the lower I went ~ this was it!

And this was the scene at Tamsui MRT Station.  Just look at that blue sky!

Met loads and loads of people over these 2 days.  Most interesting of all, was the 2 men on Saturday who had parked at Fengguikou trail-head at 6:00 am and were doing the whole traverse, all 25 km and all 10 peaks down to Qingtian Temple, and then back again along exactly the same route.  All in one day!  When I met them, they had done the first 25 km in about 6 hours, so hopefully they got back in one piece!

An amazing route, great fun, beautiful scenery, good exercise, lots of nature and yes, now plenty of aching muscles – but hey, worth every penny and every ache!

PS Thought you may like to see a sign that I saw on Yang-Ming Shan on Saturday….

It’s good news for all Climbing Violators ~ none of them will be reported to the police, ha ha!

Ah yes, punctuation is everything!

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A Splash of Sunshine….

Reflections on the water bamboo field in Sanzhi early this morning….

‘Each day I seek a sunbeam,
a luminous moment of grace,
be it a poetic passage,
a compassionate glance,
an affirmative word.
Just a single sunbeam,
nothing more.
This morning while walking,
a splash of sunshine
fell upon a maple tree.
It was too much,
like the Mount Tabor epiphany,
and I turned away, overwhelmed.
I walked on
asking God to turn down His glory
lest I, like Milton,
too soon would lose my sight.’

(‘A Splash of Sunshine’ by Robert F. Morneau)

And late this afternoon, a rainbow over the building that, when finished, will be the new Sanzhi Presbyterian Church….

So, two splashes of sunshine in a single day ~ God is good!

PS: Updated today, Monday May 22, with this baby owl found today at St. John’s University – minus its parents….  it is a Collared Scops Owl (Otus lettia) 領角鴞

Isn’t it gorgeous?  Yes, another day, another splash of sunshine!

Thanks be to God again, and again!

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Lily Season @ President Lee Teng-Hui’s Old Home

Former President Lee Teng-Hui‘s childhood home is located right here in Sanzhi.  Always attracts many visitors.  But last September, half the roof fell in after several days of very heavy rains.  Well, a third of the roof to be more exact.  The left third.  Still not repaired. Multiple owners, all relatives, and as someone told me, everybody’s business has become nobody’s business.  But every spring, the front is filled with pots of lilies.  In flower now. Looking very beautiful!

“If thou of fortune be bereft, and in thy store there be but left two loaves, sell one, and with the dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.” Wise words from John Greenleaf Whittier.  If not hyacinths, then lilies will be a fine alternative.

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Laomei Elementary School 老梅國小 celebrates 117 years!

Every school in Taiwan has an annual school celebration, with a mixture of performances, bazaar, fiesta, fayre and reunion for old school friends all rolled into one.  Lots of VIP visitors from the local community, and principals from other local schools come and bring their congratulations too.  On Saturday, LaoMei Elementary School, in Shimen Township on Taiwan’s northern tip, had their 117th birthday celebration, and invited me to go!

This is LaoMei Village, nestling down there by the seashore….

I’ve been going there about once a month to help the children a little with their English. A few weeks ago our classes were on the theme of ‘Family Tree’, and at the end of March, we celebrated Children’s Day (see that blog post here).

Usually it rains.  Yes, sadly, it’s wet wet wet!  So we were a bit worried about what would happen on Saturday.  Specially seeing as the plum rains have started, and it’s been raining in bursts all week.  Actually at 5:00 am on Saturday morning it was raining, and looked as if it would be terrible weather.  But hey presto, the rain cleared up, the sun came out, blue skies appeared and by mid-morning, it looked like this!

Beautiful!

We started the celebration with 3 performances from the children, all the kindergarten, the African Drumming Band and the Percussion Group.  Amazing talent!

And check out the view at the back!

There’s 88 children in the school, plus another 27 in the kindergarten.  That’s 115 in total. Add in the principal and head of parents committee and you have 117!  Yes, that’s the age of the school, founded in 1900.

After the performances and speeches we went to the library for an introduction to an amazing storybook project that the school has been doing in cooperation with one of the education colleges.  They’ve produced 3 huge huge story books, filled with pictures and words telling stories about LaoMei.  Really great.  And all published as real books no less. One of the books contains an illustrated map of LaoMei, done by one of the children. It is so true to life!  I love it!

There’s even the R.C. Church in the bottom left corner – it no longer serves as a church since all the church members who were in the military dependents village nearby have moved away ~ but the building is let to Ms. Cheng who runs after-school classes for the children, and that’s how we came to be connected with LaoMei.

After eating my fill of goodies made and sold by the children, off I went to find the LaoMei Maze.   Ah yes, the LaoMei Maze.  It even has its own Google Maps Location, and is a famous landmark, although it is nearer to the army camp at Fugui Cape Lighthouse and Fuji Village than to LaoMei.  And not easy to find!

Not quite sure why it’s there, and it’s falling down bit by bit.  Until last year, the lighthouse wasn’t even open to the public, so nobody came here anyway.  Even now, there’s no signs to it, and it’s hard to take a picture of it without taking the whole army camp too.  But it’s fun all the same!

And so down to Fuji Fishing Village, with it’s fish markets and restaurant area – with its colourful roof…

The boats unload their catch directly for the restaurants in the village to make the most of it all, and people come by the coachload for fresh seafood….

At midday, the boats are resting….

This is the view looking back, on my way to the main road….

Ah, yes the northern tip of Taiwan, and LaoMei Elementary School ~ a great place!

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Taipei 4 Teens!

Always accept a challenge!  And one of my challenges this week was to take 2 very lovely American teens around Taipei for the afternoon.  They were very interested and very keen to see everything!  Their parents were busy at a conference, so I offered to show them a few sights…

First stop was the Changing of the Guard at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, whose days may be numbered, so it’s worth going to see now.  Not for the memorial itself but to see the guards. It’s hot work and they stand there totally not moving for a whole hour while the sweat drips off them.  Only one fan each blowing a bit of air around.  And they’re wearing tons of clothes.  Then they perform a wonderful choreographed display with their bayonets, every move coordinated with their fellow guards, as 2 of them change places. The place to stand to watch this is right in the centre in front of the statue.  Looks like this guard almost punched me in the face, he was that close!

Then walk down to the Presidential Office ….

And by MRT from Taipei Main Station to Taipei 101, which on a fine day is worth going up, or worth looking at from below.  It’s NT$ 600 for adults – which is not cheap so don’t bother if the weather isn’t good! I took my visitors up, and it was very empty up there – it used to be always full of Chinese tourists, but no more.  Fastest elevators in the world and all that.  Engineering heaven with that big ball up there that sways to steady the building in a typhoon or earthquake.  Video recordings on display of the ball swaying.  Check it out.

Taipei 101 is surrounded by construction sites, and some of the new buildings are amazingly high.  Pretty good views though!

But by far the most interesting new building in view from Taipei 101 is the construction of ‘Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut’s DNA double helix-shaped Agora Garden Tower’. Check out the Taiwan News article here for pictures of what it’s gonna look like when it’s finished.  Must go and visit it from ground level next time there’s a sunny day. Here it is below….

Finished at Taipei 101, and it’s time to eat – the food court on Taipei 101 Level B1 is good, and in the early evening midweek there’s not many people so you’ll easily get a seat.  By then it’s dark, and the only place left to go is of course a night market.  Shilin is the one to go to, and the must-see for teenagers is the live snakes – and the bottles of bits of dead snakes waiting to be made into soup.  No photos allowed though.

My visitors were staying in Nangang 南港 at the far eastern end of Taipei.  Full of businesses and office buildings. Not like the rest of Taipei at all.  I’d never been there before at night, in fact I’d hardly ever been there during the day come to that.  Full of colored lights, changing color all the time – this is the red look!

These Nangang photos were taken at 8:30 pm.  Still tons of lights on, people still at their desks!  From there it took me 2 hours to get home.  But hey, it’s so easy, just sit on a train and bus.  Taipei is just so convenient and easy and safe and worth seeing.  Morning, afternoon or night.  Tons of stuff to see and do.

So do come and check it out!

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Yes, we love you all in the Diocese of Osaka! Welcome to Taiwan!

The Dioceses of Taiwan and Osaka, Japan have been linked as companion dioceses for the last 12 years ~ and we’ve signed the official agreements to renew the partnership every 3 years.  So this week Bishop David J. H. Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan welcomed a group of 26 from the Diocese of Osaka, led by Bishop Andrew Haruhisa Iso, here to sign the agreement for the 5th time – for another 3 years. YES!  See the smiling faces of Bishop Lai and Bishop Iso just after the grand signing!

Actually, our link with Osaka really goes back much further than just 2005.  Way back in colonial times, 1895-1945, the Japanese Anglican Church (Nippon Sei Ko Kai) in Taiwan was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Osaka.  The Taiwan Episcopal Church was founded much later, in 1954, and when we celebrated our 60th anniversary in 2014, we were honored that Bishop Iso’s predecessor, Bishop Osamu Onishi brought a group from Osaka to attend.  Then last year, Bishop Iso visited Taiwan for the first time as bishop, bringing a group from Osaka to attend the opening service of our convention.

And now, we welcome this year’s group from Osaka, plus everyone who came to the service on Tuesday afternoon!

Yes, we love our friends from Osaka!  Over the years, some have come to Taiwan many times.  We were delighted that our good friend, Rev. Akira Iwaki, retired dean of the cathedral in Osaka, was able to join us, and it’s his birthday this week ~ cake and candles were all ready for him! Here he is enjoying a chat with Bishop Lai….

The Osaka group arrived on Tuesday and we held a service at Good Shepherd Church, Taipei to sign the agreement. Rev. Keith C. C. Lee visited Osaka for 3 months last summer, and when he returned to Taiwan, he became rector of Good Shepherd Church.  So he worked very hard and made many of the arrangements for this visit – and his wife Sindy played the piano for the service.  Also involved in organizing everything were Linda, principal of Good Shepherd Kindergarten, Mrs. Lily Lai, kindergarten supervisor, and Linda, wife of Rev. Philip Lin ~ she is also the drumming teacher ~ and so the children sang and drummed, as did some of the adults, to give a really enthusiastic welcome as the visitors arrived. Oh and the children had made lovely little gifts for the visitors.  I even got one too, thank you!

Many of our clergy came from all over Taiwan, plus church members and friends, all to welcome our lovely Osaka friends.  Here we all are!  And Mrs. Masako Kawamura from Osaka came in her kimono.  Here she is with Rev. Keith Lee – isn’t she beautiful?!

During the service, Bishop Lai presented Bishop Iso with a Kinmen Artillery Shell Cross, and Bishop Iso presented Bishop Lai with a beautiful and very special chalice and paten, made by one of the Osaka church members.  All mother-of-pearl ~ it’s gorgeous!

The service was also attended by a group of 9 lady visitors from St. Patrick’s Church, Tawau, Sabah, E. Malaysia.  They are visiting St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung for a week on a mission exchange trip, and Rev. Julia Lin has been taking them around visiting our churches for outreach.  Here they are with Rev. Julia Lin and Rev. Joseph Wu!

And so to the service, which was bilingual – Chinese and Japanese, with Bishop Iso preaching…..

After the photos, off we went for the formal welcome dinner, hosted by Bishop Lai and the Diocese of Taiwan, and very delicious ~ and followed by a birthday celebration for Rev. Iwaki!

The Osaka group left on Wednesday early morning for a visit to St. James’ Church, Taichung, then to Sun Moon Lake.  Today they are visiting Alishan, and tomorrow they go to St. Peter’s Church, Chiayi, before leaving tomorrow night.  A flying visit, but oh, so meaningful, and so wonderful to see them all!

For Jerry Liang’s report on the service, check out his blog post and photos here.

And finally a group photo of all the clergy who attended the service, including Bishop Iso, Rev. Akira Iwaki, Rev. Kiyomi Senmatsu and Rev. Warren Wilson from Osaka.  Most of our clergy from northern Taiwan attended too, plus…..

Plus…. what?  What else can you spot in the above photo?

Just check out Rev. Elizabeth Wei, on the front left, and what she is standing next to. Ha ha!  Yes, it’s a frog!  Presumably from the Good Shepherd Kindergarten.  That was a surprise ~ I love it!

So please do pray for the next 3 years of our partnership with Osaka, and especially for our plans for a 3-year mission training and outreach program involving young people from both dioceses, starting this summer.   It’s the vision of our Advent Church rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, supported by Shu-Jing from our chaplaincy, in partnership with our Osaka friends.  It’s still very much in the planning stages, and there’s lots to do!

And finally, a big welcome to all our Osaka friends ~ and thanks to Good Shepherd Church and the Diocese of Taiwan for all the arrangements.  And thanks be to God for such a great partnership between our 2 dioceses ~ YES!

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Swallows in action!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch here in Sanzhi, the swallows are very busy feeding multiple babies. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served all day long….

The neighbours are a bit further along….

It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.  Happy babies – exhausted parents!

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