Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's the Little Things...

In Taipei, we have two seasons. We have a very wet winter and two months of “I’ll bring my umbrella just in case.” The last several weeks have been quite soggy indeed. Anyone who has visited or lived in a city like Seattle or London can appreciate the quiet gloom that settles in after three weeks without a glimpse of the sun. This weekend, our despair was relieved as the sun burned through the clouds and dried up some of the long-standing puddles. In order to replenish our vitamin D stores, we decided to go with some friends to one of our favorite ice cream places after church.

Big Tom’s is famous for a few reasons. First of all, they make delicious ice cream. And they don’t just have boring vanilla, either. The menu boasts flavors like rum cherry, green tea, mango passion fruit, and (the newest addition after November of last year) Obama Chocolate Brownie. Believe me, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. And, yes, we’ve had it; and yes, it is delicious. The second thing that sets Big Tom apart, other than the racially and/or politically geared dairy products, are their spoons. Evidently, they have gone to some trouble to discover that if your taste buds are physically stimulated while you eat, you will enjoy your ice cream even more. Therefore, they have developed a patented massaging spoon designed to stimulate your tongue in order to achieve the optimal tasting experience. In addition to all this, Big Tom’s is ideally located with a patio overlooking a pretty little lake with a spectacular view of the 101. It is a great place to go to sit back, relax, and take in some sun.

(Unfortunately, I didn’t have our camera with me, so this is an “archives” photo)

On extra special days, Big Tom’s provides live entertainment. Usually, it is some local band or musician playing traditional or modern Chinese music. Sometimes, if we are lucky, the band will notice that there are foreigners in the audience so they will break out “I Will Always Love You” or some other cheesy American classic. We usually appreciate the effort and give them the approving smile and applause that they look for after their set.

This Sunday, however, we were in for a very special treat. As we staked out a table on the picturesque patio, we noticed that the band setting up was comprised of all foreigners. Encouraged that we might recognize some of their music, we decided to camp out a bit longer. When they did their sound check, we all perked up and looked at each other. Was that what I think it was? Was it really a Christian worship song? Sure enough, the band played their first song all about God’s love. We couldn’t believe it! With the help of a translator, they introduced themselves to the unsuspecting crowd as a group from all over the United States who was there simply to share God’s love with the people of Taiwan. We were thrilled. What better way to present the message of the Gospel than through music on a sunny afternoon at an ice cream shop? We stayed through a few songs but ultimately decided to give up our prime seats for some of the Taiwanese crowd that had begun to gather.

As we walked back to the car, we all commented on how pleasantly the day had turned out. We got some sun, we got some ice cream, we got our tongues massaged, and we got some worship music. What more can you ask for?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Double Ten

This weekend, we were able to take advantage of the Taiwanese national holiday and, since “Double Ten Day” (so called for being the tenth day of the tenth month) fell on a Saturday, we got a three day weekend. In an attempt to get to know our island home a little better, Chris planned a trip with some of our friends down to the southern tip of Taiwan to a beach town called Kenting. Having two typhoons swirling around in the Pacific last week made us a little nervous, but the worst seemed to be over by the time we hopped on the high speed train down south. Arriving late Thursday night, we found our hotel and crashed into bed. Friday morning, we got up and explored the area around our hotel and staked out the nearest beach. At this point, I would like to emphasize the difference between American beach culture and Taiwanese beach culture. In the U.S., we love our beaches. White sand, brown sand, black sand, warm water, cold water, murky water, it pretty much doesn’t matter. As long as there is salt water and sand, we are lining up around the block ready to overpay for airbrushed tee-shirts and tacky postcards. Taiwan, on the other hand, is a totally different story. First of all, most Asian women highly value their white skin. In fact, they often walk around with umbrellas on sunny days to avoid any stimulation of skin pigmentation. So, laying out is pretty much out of the question. Add to that the superstition that ghosts come from the water and you are left with an empty beach. And, that is what we had. Beautiful, empty beaches.

Sadly, the tail end of the second typhoon was still lingering on Friday afternoon so we were left to wander around the town ducking into tourist traps and restaurants when the skies opened up. Friday evening, our friends who were staying in cabins on the other side of the city invited us over for a barbecue. Not being ones to miss out on food cooked over open flame, we gladly accepted. Getting to their cabin was easier said than done, however. In Taipei, we are spoiled with the ease of public transportation. So, we were unpleasantly surprised when finding a taxi in Kenting turned out to be quite an odyssey. After finally flagging one down and explaining where we wanted to go, the driver quoted us what we thought was an astronomical price. Thinking that it was an attempt to bargain, we came back with a low-ball price. But, the disheveled driver refused to change his price. Just out of principle, we all decided that we would rather walk the 10 kilometers to their house rather than let this toothless scoundrel take advantage of us. So, we did. We grabbed our things and started walking. About two kilometers later, our principles started to weaken and we caved, though not completely. We had an overpriced van come and pick us up (which turned out to be more than the astronomically priced taxi). But, we got there. And we were very glad that we did. Our friends ventured to the fresh fish market that afternoon and picked up a veritable cornucopia of fresh fish, clams, and squid. For the rest of the evening, we cooked, ate, talked with our friends and the hotel owner, and generally participated in good ol’ fashioned merrymaking.

Saturday proved to be a much better day for the beach and so we laid out and swam all day. Saturday night we went into town and had dinner, wandered through the night market and caught a glimpse of a few fireworks. Sunday, we wished the sun goodbye and headed back to Taipei. In all, it was deemed a successful Double Ten Day.