Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

Red and gold decorations are going up all over the city. My students have been working hard on finishing their traditional dragon faces at their Chinese elementary schools.

This holiday will be our first break from work since we started the school year. Today we leave for the Philippines for an eagerly anticipated week-long vacation! We will post pictures and an update when we return.

Here's note I received from one of my first-graders this week:

Dear, T. Kayt

Happy lunar New Year! If you had fun seeing the dragons dancing, you can write it on a note or card to tell me. I'll give you a choclete that has hellokitty on it. The hellokitty is very cute so I give you that. If I finish my dragon face, I would bring it to let you see. The dragon face is hard to make, and when I was making it, I'm so angry but then it get better.

Love, Sara

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Program

This past week I started teaching our Winter Program. The Chinese elementary schools are closed for two weeks for Chinese New Year, so my school holds special classes for the students. This week I taught Social Studies, Science, PE, Art, and (my favorite)...Cooking!

ART: Learning about shapes and making animal collages...

COOKING: Sweet Red Bean and Rice Ball Soup...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our KTV Debut

Most companies in Taiwan host an annual banquet for their employees. So when Kalan's boss invited us to a company "lunch," we accepted.

When we found the address he gave us, we were shocked to find not only a restaurant, but a gigantic KTV center. KTV is Asian karaoke. It is extremely popular with everyone, young or old.

Kalan and I had been secretly avoiding KTV. But we knew the day would come when we had to face our karaoke-phobia. What we didn't know was that our KTV debut would be in front of Kalan's boss and co-workers!

We decided to jump right in the fun with a rousing rendition of "Summer Nights" from Grease. After that, we were addicted! Kalan belted out some Beatles tunes and I sang some Taylor Swift in honor of my sisters.

It was a blast.

Hot Pot

Last Saturday marked our six-month anniversary of living in Taiwan.

To celebrate, we went out for hot pot with friends.

Hot pot is a traditional Taiwanese meal, and it's my new favorite after a cold and rainy bike ride home from work.

Everyone sits around a pot of boiling broth (adding pig blood is optional).

Next, the servers bring you platters of raw vegetables and assorted meats. Then everyone uses their chopsticks to cook whatever they want in the pot.

Finally, you fish out your cooked veggies and meat and eat them over rice or noodles. Everyone creates their own "sauce" to put on top (soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, onions, radish, sesame oil, etc.)

This time we tried cow stomach in our hot pot. Delicious!

Maybe by our twelve-month anniversary we will be able to handle the pig blood...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Trip to the Zoo

Go Pack Go!

Saturday Morning

For Christmas my aunt and uncle sent us an awesome care package full of gluten-free goodies.

One of my favorite items was this gluten-free pancake mix:

This morning we enjoyed hot pancakes for breakfast. Kalan even put bananas and chocolate chips in mine. :) What a treat!

Thank you Uncle Rick and Aunt Char! We miss you both!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Roller Coasters, Oh My!

Today was my first field trip with my students. We went to "Liufu Village"-- an amusement park about an hour and a half outside Taipei City. Imagine Asian Disneyland + African Safari...

Getting on one of our favorite rides...a "boat" that swung back and forth...

It rained all day, but that meant no waiting in line. And we were well-equipped for the water rafting rides!

Attached the the amusement park is a sort of zoo. We got in a safari-style bus and drove right up to all these animals!

One of the Chinese teachers told me that last year a child was eaten by the tigers when he fell out the window. I'm not sure if she was joking or not...

Needless to say, the ride home was quite peaceful...

Sometimes I really love my job. And my students!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Raised in an orthodox Presbyterian church, I have always held the sacraments in high esteem. However, my Taiwanese brothers and sisters have been growing my reverence for the sacraments--not in the sense of their theological meaning, but in the sense of their personal, experiential significance.


Last Sunday as I took my seat at church, cup and rice cracker in hand, I noticed a young Taiwanese woman across the aisle who was beaming from ear to ear. Her look of absolute joy was so striking that I looked around to see if something funny was happening...had one of the ushers dropped a plate of bread?

A friend next to me leaned over and whispered, "She was just baptized this past week. This is her first communion."

The young woman excitedly held her cup and bread near her face and beamed as her friend took a picture with her iPhone. Then, she excitedly waited with anticipation for the pastor to invite us all to eat and drink.

Her unashamed eagerness to participate in the Lord's Supper really resonated with me. If I believe communion is an special opportunity to meet with God, why don't I always feel all that excited about it?


When an American asks me to share my testimony, I usually share about the shaping influence of my parents, my upbringing in church, and God's constant drawing of my heart towards him.

It never occurs to me to share about my baptism.

But in Taiwan, not many Christians will ask for your testimony, or even how you became a Christian. Instead they ask,"When were you baptized?"

When a Taiwanese person becomes interested in Christianity, they may start attending church, studying the Bible, meeting with other Christians, and even praying to Jesus. His or her parents will usually say, "All those things are fine, as long as you don't get baptized."

Only those who decide to follow Jesus, no matter the cost, get baptized. It is a publicly visible, radical moment of change. Once baptized, many Taiwanese Christians face rejection from their families and discrimination at work.

In this context, baptism is almost synonymous with salvation.

After experiencing the meaning of baptism in Taiwan, verses like 1 Peter 3:21 are starting to make more sense. ("Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you...)

In many evangelical American churches, maybe baptism and communion have become such culturally-accepted rituals that we have forgotten their significance for each believer and importance for the community of faith.

I am thankful for diversity in the body of Christ, and for my brothers and sisters here in the East. I still have much to learn from them.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eco Art for Rainy Days

Day 13 of rain.

I like to think of myself as a rather cheerful person, but after a while--I have to admit--the rain gets me feeling a little down.

My feelings of gloom culminated rather humorously when I attempted to go shopping for rain boots, only to find that Taiwan stores do not carry footwear large enough for my size-9 feet.

It helps that I'm not alone. This past week I was especially thankful for Beth, my half-marathon training partner who motivated me to go running decked out in rain gear.

I was also thankful for my mom, who can relate to my weather-related blues, and sent me a list of inspiring rainy-day ideas.

And of course, I'm thankful for Kalan, who is always patient, understanding, and gently points me to Jesus.

We've bee reading 2 Corinthians this week, and at one point Paul talks about the troubles he experienced in Asia. He says "...But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:9).

Now, I feel a little silly comparing mild feelings of sadness to Paul's intense despair, but the main idea is the same: Tough times remind me to rely on God's grace and strength alone.

For that, I am ever thankful.

So, on a lighter note...for all my Wisconsin friends who might be feeling the same way I am this time of year, here's an easy art project I completed this week: Eco Art Vases!

Start with some old wine bottles. Soak them overnight to easily remove the labels. Then, use masking tape to create designs.

Next, paint the bottles with white or cream-colored acrylic or interior latex paint. Using plastic gloves, remove the tape before the paint dries.

Finally, insert cheerful flowers and enjoy. :-)

(This project was inspired by Eco Craft by Susan Wasinger.)

How we dry sheets in rainy Taipei...

I had been using my hair dryer until some leftover plastic shower curtain hooks inspired me...

Dry by bedtime!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Garden of Mercy

In my last post, I shared how I am feeling more and more "at home" here in Taiwan. As I've become more settled, I've been able to start pursuing more of the passions God has given me. One of these passions is to care for orphans.

About a month ago, I started volunteering each week at a Christian orphanage called the Garden of Mercy Infant Center. We provide care for newborns to infants up to six-months old who are suspected to have HIV infection. Currently we care for nine babies. When I go, I usually help a nurse with feeding, changing diapers, giving medicine, doing laundry, cleaning, and playtime. (And I thought twins were a handful--imagine 2-3 volunteers caring for nine infants at one time!) It's noisy, chaotic, and tiring, but God has given me such a love for these babies that I always look forward to my time with them.

FAQ: Infants and HIV

Do all mothers with HIV/AIDS pass it on to their children?
Mothers infected with HIV/AIDS do not necessarily give birth to infants with HIV/AIDS, but preventive drug treatment given during the month before the baby is born is crucial for lowering the possibility of HIV infection. In the past, many mothers with HIV/AIDS abandoned their babies after birth. As a result, many infants didn’t receive drug treatment or received it late which decreased the effectiveness of the prevention drugs.

How long does it take to find out if a baby is infected with HIV/AIDS?

Newborns carry their mother’s antibodies and it takes at least three months before it can be determined whether they are HIV infected or not.It is critical, therefore, to assist them with treatment to lower the rate of infection (It could be lowered to 1% or less.) Three months after infants are born, about 99% are confirmed uninfected and can be taken home.

Please pray for these babies...pray that they would know the love of their Heavenly Father through those that serve them. Please also pray that they would find foster and adoptive families.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011!

Last night we ventured to the heart of Taipei to ring in the New Year. Masses of revelers armed with glow sticks and hand warmers enjoyed a mega-concert by famous Asian pop stars while waiting for the big countdown.

We snaked our way through the crowds with Jess and Julianne until we found the perfect square-yard street space to view Taipei 101.

"Shi, jiu, ba, chi, liu, wu, si, san, er, yi!" We counted down with the crowd of 800,000 and gasped as 101 exploded in a spectacular, record-setting fireworks display. The 288-second show "included a 'Spiraling Dragon of Auspiciousness,' in which fireworks spiraled around the building to the top, creating an image of a golden dragon" (Taipei Times). I feel like I don't have good words to describe how amazing it looked. All I can say was, it was really cool!

We didn't make it home until the wee hours of the morning, and enjoyed a lazy morning of sleeping in before having a late brunch with friends.

Last night's celebratory fireworks mirrored the feelings of thankfulness and joy I have been experiencing recently. As culture shock subsides, I feel increasingly "at home" and free to be myself here, coupled with a renewed sense of purpose. Simply stated, I feel excited about life!

Whether you are experiencing the ups or downs of life as we start this new year, may God grant you a genuine sense of rest and joy in Him.

(Taipei Times: