Sunday, February 26, 2006

Reading for understanding

I need to update my reading list on the right; my parents brought over some books I'd ordered and I've been dipping into them when I have the time. I'm still on a Eugene Peterson kick, just finishing his book on Jeremiah, Run with the Horses, where he writes:
Any part of our lives that is turned over to the crowd makes it and us worse. The larger the crowd, the smaller our lives.... On the other hand, every time that we retrieve a part of our life from the crowd and respond to God's call to us, we are that much more ourselves, more human. Every time we reject the habits of the crowd and practice the disciplines of faith, we become a little more alive.
This is how I felt about our two years of homeschooling, as well as our time here. I prefer living out of the mainstream, although not to an extreme – we're not to isolate ourselves from the world, only live differently in it. And you can't help but do so here.

A friend lent me G.K. Chesterton's Complete Father Brown, which I've just started. I used to read mysteries more often; in fact, Lord Peter Wimsey led me to Dorothy L. Sayers' other works on classical education and apologetics, which I love. (I have to admit, though, that I first discovered Wimsey on Mystery! rebroadcasts before I picked up the books. Thanks, Mobil.)

I bought my dad a copy of Taiwan: A Political History by Denny Roy, and he very kindly left it for us to read after they flew home. I have picked it up and read some random passages, but really ought to read it all the way through. I'm sure I'd understand the current events much better if I had a grasp on the historical ones.

My other reading is mostly along the lines of Where's Spot? and Peekaboo Bunny, which I enjoy for the company that my reading aloud brings me. Books are good companions, but even better when shared.

Friday, February 24, 2006

All there is to see

Hey, I just wanted to mention that in the post below I've hyper-linked some words to their related photos in Formosa Fix (my photo gallery). In the process of setting all that up I discovered that you can click on any photo to enlarge it -- you'll get much more detail that way. The whale shark is a bit more impressive viewed full-size.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

The grand tour

My parents left last Friday, after a two-week, too-short visit. We managed to see quite a bit of southern Taiwan while they were here, but I wish we'd had a bit more time together. That's my perspective, though, as one who knows all the places I'd wanted to take them and how many we didn't get to. I hope that in their opinion we did enough... but not too much. I know they were most eager to spend time with the grandkids; traveling was secondary. We were blessed with warm and mostly clear days while they were here. One of our first outings was to the 85-story Tuntex tower. On the right, here, is Nora taking her turn on the coin-op binoculars. She got a really good view of everyone on the observation deck – that's Kaohsiung harbor in the background – and everyone got a good look at her (and more than a few pictures).

After our trip up the tallest building in the city (in one of the fastest elevators in the world), we headed to Costco. This is more of a cultural experience than you might imagine: Chinese Costco is recognizably Costco, but the roasted chickens with their heads and feet intact, the nearly empty carts at the check-out line (for whatever gets bought has to get home, and many shoppers come on scooters), and gray-robed Buddhist nuns poring over their receipts all give you the sense that you're not in Kirkland anymore.

Shopping falls somewhere between sport and chore in Taiwan. My mom and I found a few treasures at Dollars and Walason's, but the outings took a lot of effort. Much more relaxing was our weekend in Kenting (pronounced "kun-ding"). The weather was warm and dry, traffic was light, and the drive was pleasant: we passed betel nut plantations, old women selling wax apples and yellow onions at roadside stands, men standing over barbecues of skewered squid. (On the way home we bought some fruit and a bag of onions, but skipped the squid – the eyes turn me off.)

One of the highlights of the trip was the National Aquarium. This is a world-class facility, with walk-through tanks of tropical fish and coral, a pool of beluga whales, and a giant wall of glass holding back schools of tuna, gliding skates, and a pack of menacing whale sharks. We spent a morning at the fortified lighthouse on the very southern point of the island, Oluan Pi ("o-lun be"). Vendors lined the park paths, selling shells, toys, and coral jewelry. We drank sweet cold coconut juice right out of the shell, and got the soft white meat scooped out for us when we were done. We ended our day at White Sand beach, where it was still warm enough for Cole to chase some waves. Kenting is close enough to be a day-trip; we should go more often.

The second week of my parents' visit went quickly: we shopped, visited Cheng Ching Lake, and went up into the hills to an aboriginal culture village. Mom and I helped Cole's class celebrate Valentine's Day, and my dad spoke to some students about drumming: the history, the discipline, and the joy of playing well. He is a born teacher. We were so happy to have them here. Kaohsiung is no paradise, but there's more here than just the city. I hope they enjoyed themselves, and I really hope they'll come again.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Taking a break

My parents arrived safely last Friday, whereupon we all got sick to varying degrees. Not the best start to a vacation, but with mom and dad sleeping off jet lag anyway maybe it's not so bad, timing-wise. It's great to have family here – it feels more like home now – and hopefully it helps them understand our life here a little better.

We're off to Kenting for the weekend, so I'll be incommunicado for another few days. I'll get some pix of the sun and sand for you next week. Till then....

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Happy New Year (please pass me a tissue)

Well, it's official: the Year of the Dog has commenced. Cole and Nora both have a fever and cough, and my nose is driving me nuts, but hey, we're on vacation, the weather's been great – it could be worse.

We only had a smattering of fireworks in our village this year, but an unbelievable amount of traffic. The holiday follows a strict heirarchy of family visits – driving on New Year's eve to spend New Year's day with the husband's family, then driving, sometimes across the country, to spend the next couple days with the in-laws (the husband's in-laws, that is – the Chinese always lose a daughter, never gain a son). The flow of people has been uneven, with one side of the freeway crawling along while the other direction is wide open; when we've had to go out, we use surface streets and avoid the worst intersections. I don't think people here are big on shortcuts. Everyone seems to stay on the main roads, even when everyone, literally, is on the road. Most foreigners stay home over the holiday; it's not a good time to go sight-seeing.

Last Saturday we did venture out with our friends, the Pinkertons, to the New Year's market. (I took tons of photos, but have had difficulty loading them – check the photos link in a day or two.) The market is open all year as the dry market – dried mushrooms, beans, fish, tea, assorted grasses and grains, powdered who-knows-what – but I haven't gone before, so I don't know what distinguishes it as the New Year's market right now. There were stalls selling red banners, tassles, envelopes, and so on, and a man creating large calligraphy banners, but otherwise it seemed to be a pretty normal dry market. Just very, very crowded.

My parents will be here in two (two!) days, so I'm going to keep this short and get back to my to-do list. Our study is slowly being transformed into a guest room, thanks to Tim. The rest of the house needs a little attention, though, so off I go. My dirty windows beckon.