day 200 - a long awaited update!

so, I’ve been keeping a journal on my laptop for the past few weeks, and I guess the best way to upload them without flooding it would be to spread them out over the course of a few days… (or should I just archive them on the day each one corresponds to?… this is a dilemma, i need help!), hopefully you’ll find them interesting. but if anything, a word of caution: they are long. possibly informative, but most likely just rambling… and i hope to have some pictures up for each day/week, but that depends on how productive i am in sorting through pictures…

anyways, here’s today’s update! Shoot! It’s been 200 days already?! Well, my last day in Taiwan was great, and I couldn’t have asked for more…

In the morning, I went to the recording studio (at least I think it is), and had one of the worship leaders from the Bread of Life teach us (my mom, mrs. Chen, and me) piano! It was pretty interesting, though I knew most of the basic info because of music theory. But, I think what I took away was the fact that if I want to improve in piano playing, at least for worship, I need to practice… I have all the theory and knowledge in what and how to play, but I just haven’t spent the time in applying it and trying new stuff. It was so cool watching the teacher play because the fills and the different styles of playing could transform a song so easily! I gotta move my butt closer to the piano… haha. And, I need to move away from the key of C… it’s become too comfortable. Oh, and I’m not sure if the room was a recording studio because while it did have the acoustic foam lining the entire room, the gear itself wasn’t that great… but that’s probably because people bring in better equipment. Anyways, I probably shouldn’t criticize because their live performances and their CDs have had great musical quality :P, and I should focus more on improving my own skills and ears for listening. But, it was a really cool isolated room, and I remember seeing the worship team in their playing together, so it was definitely cool to be able to go in! One last thing, the pianos were very nice: Roland Fantom X8… there were so many buttons!

After the piano lesson, we were invited by pastor chou’s wife to a steamed dumpling place, but it was different from dintaifung because the meat also included dong gua (Winter Melon!), and it was pretty good. Though I couldn’t really taste the difference. We ate with some of the coworkers of the church and another pastor, and we managed to finish all of the plates =).

Heading back to the church, we waited for my mom to do some final planning, i.e. ordering books to bring back, getting photos from the church, booking a van for tomorrow, etc., and then we went to ximending again! This time, it was because Karen was meeting her friends from high school: Cynthia, Emmy, and Iris. So, we decided to go as well since Joseph and Deborah never went, and when we met up with Karen’s friends, we went our separate ways. We bought some stuffed animals, which were reasonably priced, but then we realized it was 20% off, so yeah! I got another mashimaro :D. Then, we found another name label maker because I realized I forgot some names the last time I made it and then we headed over to a small eatery that was famous for its geese meat. It was a delicious snack, as Joseph and I shared a noodle bowl while Tiffany, Deborah, and my mom shared another. We didn’t want to get full because the Chens had made plans to eat with their relatives and we wanted to eat at the Sushi Train with my aunt, Spencer, and Ashley! We did more walking around the area, got more snacks: bubble tea and mister donut (inexplicable joy!), and then we eventually met up with my sister and her friends because it was time for us to go back.

After getting back, Joseph and Deborah left to go eat with their relatives, while we waited for our aunt and cousins to arrive. When they got here, we drove to the Sushi Train in Gongguan, and it was a great meal, I must’ve eaten around 10 plates of sushi at least… I guess I could’ve eaten more if I had not eaten that geese, but it was satisfying and I didn’t overeat :P. After that, we did some shopping at the stationary store, and managed to buy a lot more than we expected… I just got a couple of pens and a donut tape dispenser… and as we went to go find my mom, who decided to shop on her own, we found that she had met up with Brittany and Benson, and their parents because they lived in the area and had some stuff to give my mom! So, it was great to see them, especially Brittany, because we didn’t meet them for lunch that time :P and Spencer quickly made friends with both of them, and started chasing Benson around everywhere… chaos!

We headed back to the church, and found that Katherine and Elizabeth had come over to visit one last time, and so there were three toddlers running around in our rooms: Ashley, Sharon, and Elizabeth. They were a funny and entertaining trio… while Spencer was busy playing DS. And, we just talked with one another until it was getting late for the kids. I also decided to make another 7-11 run, buying TONS of hi-chew because it’s SO much cheaper to buy it here than in the US. I just wish I could’ve found a wholesale place, but it’s alright, a 30cent pack is still much cheaper than any price found back at home. Then, my family spent the rest of the night packing and reorganizing, and we should be pretty much ready to go at 7am! We have packed to our limit of 8 check-in bags, and like 6 carry-ons, including my guitar… crazy. They must think we’re trying to export stuff, haha. And… I guess I’m gonna pull another all nighter because I just finished my green tea at 330AM, and I realized I should probably start organizing the photos for a church slideshow and whatnot.

A great day indeed, but it’s sad that the trip has gone by so quick… I guess that’s what happens when you’re busy making memories, and for the most part, they’ve been great! But, I know when I get back, I still got lots of stuff to do: applications, Shaw, other summer stuff… part of me just wants to reflect on the past few weeks because I don’t want to deal with what’s up ahead, but it’s coming whether I like it or not, so I better get ready!

day 199

Woke up a bit late, as everyone was already dressed for church… so I had to rush and make my way down to breakfast at Dante’s coffee. I just ate a bagel that my sisters didn’t eat because I wasn’t too hungry. Then, we went to the Bread of Life San Zhoung again, and we got there around 10:40 for the 11am service. The worship was pretty interesting, though the only song I could sing along to was Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble… I recognized some other songs that I had playe before, but that was probably it. The flag wavers were amusing too :P. For the message, the pastor shared about reaching the lost, so evangelism. And she talked about the Great Commission, and Luke 4, which is about the part where Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah about being anointed and setting the captives free and such. I guess I was a bit more tired than I thought I’d be because I kept zoning out… but it was alarming to hear that they had 1000 baptisms last year but next year they’re hoping for 10,000! And, she talked about how after the 921 earthquake, people were bringing up the topic of hope, and how now, people believe that there is hope for Taiwan to change and such… sorry these are kind of random tidbits because all of this was in Chinese…Oh, and I was intriguied at their initiatives, as they have many churches and cell groups but are constantly looking to expand because they notice that just in Taipei, there are certain places that need to be reached, so it was great to see the grandmother church having a missional viewpoint!

         After service, we went to go eat at a restaurant in Gonguan with Regina and her brother Rich (they had come to the service with us!), and my aunt and cousin were supposed to come as well, but things came up so they couldn’t last minute… and I guess we ordered too much on the menu (my mom chose the banquet thing, expecting for 16 people), and there were like 2 or 3 dishes left untouched…We decided to give the leftoverse to Rich and Regina… but I kind of feel bad that we forced it on them, but we also didn’t have any way of eating it because we don’t have any cooking supplies. Also, since my great uncle, who we visited yesterday, lived just down the street, a couple other relatives came to see us while we ate, namely my mom’s cousin, the one who’s getting married soon, and another uncle (second brother?…I call him Er Guh Jo Jo). After lunch, I decided to head back early with Rose, Sharon, Joseph because I dind’t want to shop in my Sunday clothes under such hot weather…

         Then, when 5 came around, my aunt brought Ashley over, and we headed to DanShuei by the MRT with Deborah and Joseph. We didn’t take Rose or Sharon because we knew they couldn’t handle all the walking in the nightmarket… man, my feet are exhausted, so I know they wouldn’t be able to make it. Anyways, we headed to the nightmarket in Danshuei, and we got there when the sun started setting so the weather was great! We played a lot of balloon-popping games, and got lots of prizes. Ashley got a HUGE prize even though she didn’t get enough points because of her cuteness :P. We got lots of snacks and drinks as we went through the place, and we managed to find a couple stores that had stuff worth buying! At one place, I decided to get all my name labels done because this place wasn’t too crowded and it woldn’t take too long… well, I decided to get 11 of them, so they were able to finish it in just an hour! We went up and down one long street, and I also managed to find some night masks that were funny to wear. The shopping was pretty fun because it wasn’t as crowded as other places I’ve been to, and the games were good too! Well, except for the ringtoss, that was way too hard… and the prizes for the balloon-popping with airsoft guns were ridiculously hard to obtain. Bah.  And, we ended this part of our shopping with Mister Donut! Woot!

         But, we had another place to go: Shi-Lin Night Market. This is the place where it’s a lot more crowded and lively. You can see a lot of the illegal vendors that bring carts and just sell in the middle of the street while being wary of potential police coming to shoo them away and possibly arrest them! My aunt and Ashely couldn’t come along because it was getting late, so it was just my mom, Karen, Tiffany, Deborah, Joseph, and I. We had to make sure we didn’t lose one another in the hustle and bustle, and I wasn’t too keen on buying stuff because the atmosphere wasn’t conducive to buying for me with smokers everywhere, narrow and crowded streets, pungent smells… but I was convinced to buy a couple dress shirts there as they were less than $10 each! And, for the most part we just walked around with my sisters stopping to look at bags or shoes, but then we managed to find the store where we bought a lot of stuff last year, and we headed in to check it out! It didn’t seem to carry as much stuff as last year, so I just bought a couple folders and towels for gifts… but I was satisfied because finally the long day of shopping was over! We took the taxi back because the cost was only $6 more expensive than taking the subway back (which still included a shorter taxi ride back to the church). We realized that we didn’t get dinner, so we stopped by Family mart, realized that it didn’t have the stuff we wanted, and awkwardly went down the street to 7-11! Haha, I felt kinda bad, especially when we walked by Family Mart again to get to our room… but hey, I guess that’s competition! Oh, and my sister managed to trade in her 7-11 stickers for prizes, but they were so lame! The figurines that she got weren’t even shown on the box, and they were a tape dispenser and a pencil sharpener… lame! Well, my feet are tired, but tomorrow, I’m interested in going to a piano or audio training lesson held by the church. And then we’re eating with the pastor and possibly at night: sushi train! I hope it’s gonna be a great last day in Taiwan!

day 198

Woke up to the sounds of camp, with lots of singing and a loud voice making announcements… I guess the walls in the room are really bad at keeping noise out because the camp was held down the hall, and from then on, I couldn’t go back to sleep (which was around 10am), so it was a good time to get up anyways… oh and I heard them sing Nobody, haha. Skipped breakfast because I knew I’d be hungry for lunch, and we’d be eating hotpot with the Lins. So, when it was noontime, we crossed a street and we ate at the sugar cane hotpot, which meant that the broth was white sugar cane. I couldn’t really taste it though… Anyways, there were also other people too! Another family, who had come to the US and to our church for just 6 months, was back in Taiwan and had time to meet us, and since we all knew each other, it would be easier to just get lunch together! They only came for 6 months because their dad is a surgeon and he interned at Brigham Woman’s Hospital. I didn’t know that… oops. I actually forgot who they were for a minute because I only recognize their dad and daughter… but today only the mom and son were there, so it took me a few minutes to realize who they were. Haha. Oh, and the pastor of their church came to eat as well.

         Well, when Esther and Debbie arrived, we were a bit surprised! They got really dark in just a day… and Esther got a haircut like Rose… which isn’t a very flattering comment (perhaps it was a diss :P) But the hot pot was really good, and their parents paid for us! It was a good thing this one wasn’t a buffet because it was easier for me to pick and choose what to eat. Though there were some weird things that came with the vegetables… Oh, and their dad was very helpful in translating some of the stuff we were eating because they couldn’t be found in the US!

         After lunch, we made plans to meet with the Lins at 4:30 to go to the speaker at the bread of life church, and the chens and my family went to go shopping at gonguan. Rose got a new pair of sandals because she managed to break them during lunch… (I have no idea…), and I decided to get some lacoste cologne because it was only $20. Now, I don’t have to shower and I can just spray that :P. I think I was enticed to buy it because I was wearing a lacoste polo… errrrrrrr. Actually, I was deciding between that and the calvin klein free, but that seemed more expensive than the price in the US and it was too big… Now that I think of it, I never use cologne, I just buy it because they come in interesting bottles… I remember buying the calvin klein Obsession for men cologne just for laughs…. Because it says Obssession for men. I can’t remember the last time I used it… greaaaaat. I also wanted to look at Polo Black, but they didn’t sell it. Anyways, after smelling a couple scents, I started getting bored… probably because I couldn’t distinguish them anymore and some of them were too strong. But I like the bottles! I’m just afraid of dropping them or knocking them over with my backpack…

         After shopping, we walked to my great uncle’s apartment (my mom’s dad’s older brother), and we visited for a couple minutes. My mom stopped by to drop off some gifts, and while I recognized him, I didn’t realize he was from my mom’s dad’s side because most of my relatives I’ve met were my mom’s mom’s side… (kinda confusing). And, it was kind of quiet because during the visit, the great uncle’s wife was getting therapy since she had just come out of the hospital a month ago and she has Alzheimers… so it was kind of depressing. Another strange thing was that one of their children, my mom’s cousin, is finally getting married… except she’s like 40. Weiiiiird. Oh well. And it was kind of sad when my sister pointed out that her mom wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding due to her illness =(…

         After that visit, we returned back to the room and then got a ride with the Lins to the meeting. We went to the Bread of Life San Zhuong (I have no idea how to spell it), and this is the much bigger building, as it could host like 1000+ people at a time in the sanctuary! There was such commotion as the speaker, Pastor Mulinde?, was from Uganda, and this was a combined meeting, as opposed to the usual youth one… so it seemed like everyone was there! The meeting itself was supposed to go on from 5:00 – 9:30 but it ended at 9:00, and it was definitely exciting to see and listen to everything that was going on. The worship lasted like 1.5 hours, which was so much longer than I expected though there was a short break in between for announcements. Pastor Mulinde spoke about fasting, and while it was simple in topic, he shared a lot of practical understanding about what’s truly important in seeing a revival! And, I guess the most nerve wracking part was asking myself whether I’d be willing to do a 3 day fast, then eventually stretch it out to a 40 day fast! Or even longer! And convincing the youth to to so too!… Too crazy? I don’t know… what I do know is that I need more self-control and discipline, and this would really teach me in controlling my willpower. And, I need to be able to balance the fasting and the feasting, but so far in Taiwan, all I’ve done is feast and overfeast :P. But… to do whatever it takes to see a revival on my campus? In my city? In my nation?… I’m willing to take that challenge! Oh, and he shared a lot about what happens as your fast stretches from 3 days to 10 to 15… and a lot of it is a battle of the mind, with lots of temptations and confusion, delirium, and questioning… all of that compounding upon the fact that my stomach is hungry though that would eventually give way to the body switching its source of energy to the lipids stored in body, except I don’t have much… =(. Anyways, when it was finally over, we realized that we forgot to eat dinner! So, we headed to ximending for dinner… I guess we’ll apply that fasting a bit later…. Oh boy. But, before leaving, we stayed in the lobby and purchased some One Thing t-shirts and the newest Joshua Band CD. It looks like they covered some songs: Beautiful One – Tim Hughes, My Soul Sings – Delirious?, and Healer – Hillsong/Planetshakers. Well, there were a couple more along with some originals but I didn’t recognize them. We sang a few of them in the worship session too! I was kind of distracted by their English phrases though… they seem so common nowadays in Asian songs, and one of the lyrics was: “I’m Army of God”… which is incorrect. Haha, both when you say it and when you try to understand its meaning… oh well.

         Ximending was pretty lively despite it being so late. We also passed by a protest on the way there, not sure for what though… but people were sitting in the streets! We walked to the rice noodle stand, and it was delicious! I did some window shopping, and decided upon some Puma El Reys, because the design could only be found in Taiwan (at least that’s what they told me…), and they were only $40, which isn’t too bad. Plus, I don’t have to tie my shoes when I wear them :D. Oh, and one of the Lins family friend came along with us, and we (me and Karen) made a couple jokes about Esther and the boy as a couple… they were trying to explain that he’s a friend who’s a boy, but all I could hear was boyfriend :D. Haha owned. Then, we walked around until the shops closed at 11, and then we headed back. I was kinda disappointed that Mister Donut closed before I got a chance to buy one… oh well, maybe next time! Tomorrow, we’re going back to the same church we went to this morning, and then it’s night market at Shilin! Sounds like another busy day… (and I REALLY need to be more concise)

day 197

Today was surprisingly exhausting. I was woken up by the doorbell because I had to get ready for my uncle and his family to come visit us. And, it was fun seeing them again this time because today was probably the only day I could see my uncle before he had to go back to work and travel to China for the next few days. Plus, I got to see one of my cousins, Ashley, but she was so shy since she hadn’t seen us for a year. My mom had brought LOTS of clothes for both my cousins, Spencer and Ashley, and we had some other gifts for them too. I swear an entire luggage was dedicated to them… and now we’ll be using that to bring more gifts home :P Oh, Spencer was at Chinese Chess class, so he didn’t come… but we would see him later!

For breakfast, we went down to the bakery next door and the breads were freshly baked and delicious! But, I think I ate too much or too late because I still felt full when we went to the famous pork bun place: Ding Tai Fong. Since it was just the Chens and my family (my uncle had left for work), there was a lot more food to go around compared to last year when we had the entire team together (especially with josh, the eating machine :P). but the food was great as usual and so were the bathrooms… but the tea pourers were trainees =(… their name tag even said so. Haha. After that, we went to Taipei 101 to look around… we didn’t really buy anything because we knew it was really expensive and probably sold American stuff that was more expensive than back at home. But it was fun walking through the place looking at toys and going to the bookstore. We also met my cousins and my aunt there, and from there, we headed to this hello kitty wholesale place. We took the taxi to the place, which took a good 15-20 minute drive, and when we got there, we heard that Joseph’s ipod had slipped out of his pocket during the ride and the taxi had driven off… And that was a huge bummer because later on, even though we got a report saying that an ipod was found, it was never returned… which really sucks because I know exactly how that feels! Some time ago (I don’t really remember when) when I was in Taiwan, I also rode a taxi to go visit some of my parents’ friends at a place, and as I got off, I realized that my gameboy color had slipped out, and by the time I tried running after it, it had driven off! And, I was so sad after that because I had pokemon crystal in there… (Ok so based on that, it was a pretty long ago time because I got it when it came out). Well, at least it can be replaced easily, and thankfully, nothing more valuable was lost, though I wish stuff like that never would happen… such a downer… but I think Joseph handled it well because he didn’t seem agitated by the loss.

Anyways, at the wholesale store, since Mrs. Chen’s sister was a friend with the owner, we got 50% off! I remember coming last year as well, but it was fun being able to look at the price and dividing it by 2. But… for some reason, I wasn’t very interested in buying the stuff… because I wasn’t sure who would want the stuff… oh the dilemma…

Then we went over to a keychain store, and the stuff there were so cheap and they looked pretty cool too! I got some mashimaro cell phone charms as well as some other ones too, I just hope they don’t break when I pack them away… Then, it was time for dinner with Katherine and Elizabeth! We went to the Howard Buffet, which we went to last year when a pastor invited the team there. It’s pretty high class in terms of food: sashimi, goose cooked in wine, a person who cuts beef, and other food that weren’t typically found in a buffet. And, Katherine and Elizabeth’s mom treated us! So, that was really nice of her, and so it was a large table with their family, the Chens, my uncle’s family, and my family. Ashley was very entertaining, and she’s really smart for her age (2)… she seems to know more English than the kids in Hengchun… and possibly Sharon, who’s 5… owned.

Finally, we returned back to our rooms, as it was only a 5 minute walk from the restaurant, and then we proceeded to figure out a way to get internet because both my sister and I needed to check our emails… The guy at the front of the Bread of Life Church lent us his USB wifi thing, but for some reason, I couldn’t get it to work, possibly because I was using a mac, though there was a setup process and everything for it. We gave up, and decided to head to the night market and possibly find a place with free wifi. We talked with my uncle before and he said that Mr. Black’s Coffee had free wifi while everywhere else needed us to pay… so we headed over to Dante’s coffee down the street, but they had some weird contract with companies and didn’t allow us to buy a wifi pass or anything. Oh, by the way, I got another stomachache, possibly from eating too much food (gosh, how does this happen?!) or from eating a lot of ice cream at the end… oops. So I had to take a quick “pause”, which wasn’t that quick, before finally leaving for the night market.

We decided to go to the starbucks near the nightmarket, and we bought a 24hr wifi pass for 100NT ($3), and after a couple messups in the beginning, we got the internet to work… so Joseph and I decided just to stay there while my mom, my sisters, and Deborah went to go shop. Mrs. Chen had taken Sharon and Rose to their relatives because she knew those two couldn’t handle the hustle and bustle of nightmarket shopping… it’s SO tiring. And that’s why I didn’t want to go. I had almost 300 emails unchecked, so it was tiresome digging through all of them…but I’m sort of caught up. The girls came back around 11pm, and we returned back to the church. Since I knew that the wifi company (WIFLY) was also hosted by 7-11s, which was just down the street, I was hoping that I could connect to it… but that didn’t work because it was way too far. But as I was trying to see if I could improve the signal, I found a random unprotected network, and it had a good signal!! But it only worked when I stood up with my laptop… so I found a desk and moved it so I could maintain the reception, and now I have free internet! Yay. But I kinda hate it too… because I’ve already wasted so much time on it… ugh. I need more self-control. Tomorrow, we’ll be meeting up with Esther and Debbie for lunch, and then hopefully meeting Angel, April and Regina at the Bread of Life Youth meeting. Sounds like a packed day again! Oh gosh…

day 175

what the. i just posted this and it got erased! lame…this hotel internet thing needs to get authenticated everyday and it messed up the posting. doh!

anyways, i slept in today. i realized that it’s really hard to wake up without the sun shining through. i had to fight to wake up in pitch black because the shades were over the window…

got lunch with my grandma, my aunt, and my uncle. we ate at a chinese restaurant. and even though it was supposedly rated top 100 chinese restaurants in the world, i was not impressed…like the soup was so sour! more sour than sweet and sour soup or sour patch kids… ew. and everything else was decent. i still like boston’s china town better :)

went back to the hotel to take a nap. when i woke up, i got some work done: shaw retreat, emailing fr. leahy, dr. bob…then we headed to the church at 5:30 for the retreat. but when we got there, we were told that we missed the bus! it came at 4:00, but thankfully, there was someone at the church who could send us to the Jubilee retreat center, which was only 10 minutes away. 

when we got there, we were impressed! the place was HUGE! and inside, there was a basketball court, tons of videogames/TVs, and a nice sound system and stage. and the entire place was very modern, with low hanging light fixtures, weirdly shaped walls, and interesting colors. i can’t believe this is for the youth. well, the youth of the jubilee church. i think the name is called urgency. their logo is kinda boring… :/

well, we got tacos for dinner, and headed inside for the evening service. it began with a video that had clips talking about DESTINY, the main topic of the conference. my favorite had to be zoolander :) but braveheart and lord of the rings were nice too. worship was led by the hendrickson family, and that was pretty cool. the drums, piano, and vocals were rocking! oh and i think they help out with IHOP in kansas city, though i never heard of them previously… for the message, pastor mark hendrickson spoke, and he talked about the destiny of Joseph. it was good, but at times, i would get confused about where he was going with certain ideas… and he kind of ended it at the part where joseph gets jailed… errrr. haha oh well. anyways, after the service, i kinda felt fake because i was being “interviewed” about how i liked the message, and i was like GREAT! even though i really felt more like… oh i see. actually, i tried to sidestep the message by giving the excuse that i was shy, but my sister didn’t realize what i was trying to do, and she was like OH SURE, we’ll do it. ohhhhh boy. i don’t really want to see myself on the screen tomorrow. gg owned.

well tonight was fun. i got to see some friends i hadn’t seen for some time, like dave and nate sun. and i got to meet up with johnny and jennifer from the winter retreat! i wonder what tomorrow’s gonna be like…