Friday, July 15, 2011

Taiwan Journal, Part 1, Taipei

    With permission, we were allowed to visit Taiwan during our 2 weeks of break while Hong Kong Temple was going through some maintenance work.  You see, as senior missionaries, during a break, we are allowed to go to anywhere in China, Mongolia, Thailand, Singapore, or even India, without special permissions because they are all within our mission boundaries.  But, we could not go to Taiwan, because it's out of the mission boundaries.  Anyhow, since I have two aging uncle and aunt in Taiwan who have been quite ill, we were granted special permission to go for a visit.

    Uncle Shih is losing strength in his legs, but in good spirit.  He tries to speak English to Elwin, as he did before.  Aunt Ah Yu pretty much forgot who I was until I reminded her that my mom, who went to high school with her, was "Mei-lien"san (her Japanese name).  She kept on repeating that name and then, suddenly, she remembered that was my mom.  She even asked if mom's leg was amputated.  Well, mom's leg was amputated 23 years ago from diabetes related problems.  So, she did remember us.  Wow, I was so glad to see them.  They made me miss my parents who have been gone for a long time now.
             Ah-Hui, Uncle Shih, Aunt Juan                  Uncle Shih and Elwin

                                                 Ah-Dean, Aunt Ah-Yu, Ah-Hui

     Visiting Aunt Mei-Juan was always a fun experience for me.  She's my mom's youngest sister.  Since mom's been gone for 20 years, she's become my closest relative.  Her daughter, Jean-yu (Nancy), is probably our closest cousin as we communicate by e-mail regularly.  We arrived in Taipei, Thursday, June 23.  After checking into the hotel, we went to see her.  I had Nancy reserved a table at a restaurant near where they lived in Da-An District, off Xin-Yi Road.  Except for Ming and her two girls, all of Aunt Mei-Juan's children, grandchildren (2), and great-grandchild were there.  Uncle Shih was sitting in a wheel chair because of the weakness in his legs.  It was sad.  He was a Taiwan Air Force Colonel when he retired and was always very kind to us.  Nancy spent the next day, Friday, June 24, helping me get some of my genealogy documents from the city offices.  It was fun, but tiring as we walked, taxied, to various places.  But, at last, we did as much as we could and were rewarded with a shopping trip to Xi Man Ding, 西門町 and 城中市場.  I love shopping in Taiwan.  They seem to have clothes I like, the sizes I need and also the styles that I'm more used to.  The rain didn't dampen our spirits.  Nancy and I ended up with a bowl of shaved-ice with 4 toppings, mangoes, pineapples, red beans, and condensed milk.  I'll repent and go on a diet tomorrow.  That was all I could do.  There is no such thing as willpower when it comes to shaved-ice in Taiwan.  It was delicious.  Since Elwin went back to the hotel to rest and didn't go with us, I'm going to have to bring him here tomorrow.  He loves shaved-ice.

    Nancy left at 4 PM as I told her I'd walk back to the hotel which would give me a chance to  browse through ton's of vendors on my way back.  As I was walking, there was a tap on my shoulder.  I couldn't believe my eyes, it was my dear friend, Clare Banks, from Dixie State.  We were going to meet at the hotel at 5 (I knew she was in Taiwan taking care of her mom).  Well, she was an hour early, so she wanted to do some browsing too.  Coincidence?  May be!  We walked back to get Elwin and went to the most popular part of 西門町 where we used to go to watch movies.  The place has changed a lot, but it is still 西門町.  We were treated with a big bowl of Korean BBQ, with rice, and a bowl of boiling soup (still boiling when it was served).  It was so good that we had no problems finishing up everything we ordered.  Thanks, Clare!
 Shirley and Clare in Taipei, 6/24

    Saturday was a day for us as we had lunch at Cousin Nancy's daughter's Italian Restaurant.  It was excellent as usual.  It was delightful to be with Nancy, her boy friend, Huang Lu Shi, and Meri, Cousin Ah-kin's daughter, for a very good Italian food.  Elwin had his usual lasagna, I had my seafood pasta.  Afterwards, we went to see Meri's mom.  Meri's mom and my mom were the best friends when they were growing up.  Meri's grandfather is my mom's oldest brother.  But since the two of them were close in age, they did things together a lot.  May be because they lived in the big house with Grandpa Shih.  They were nicknamed soldier boys because they were adventurous.  It was too bad we didn't see my cousin as I was ready to ask her to share some of their growing up stories.  Meri took us to her mom's house even though she was away.  The apartment is located in Da-Zhi 大直.  It was a pent house apartment.  The living room overlooks Ji-Long River and had a projection TV that comes out when a button was pushed.  It was a very fancy apartment.  Two domestic helpers came out to greet us and had all sorts of snacks ready for us too.
Huang Lu Shih and Nancy Shih
Jia Jia, Meri, Shirley and Elwin

     Later that afternoon, we were able to visit our old friend, Grace Fisher.  Her mom passed away a few days earlier and we were able to visit with her and her siblings to give them our condolences.

     We couldn't go to Taipei without visitng Fang Mama.  She helped me raised the kids when we lived in Taiwan from 1977 - 82.  Elwin was the engineering manager working for Philco, Taiwan.  The Fang family still lives in Tien Mou in their old apartment.  They told us that people in their area were offered a large sum to rebuild their building into a skyscraper.  This would instantly make them very wealthy as land there was very valuable.  We were so happy to see her and her husband.  They are both in their mid-70's and in good health.  Fang Mama missed our children and continues to ask for their well-being.  Our children have fond memories of her too.   

    Sunday, June 26th - we attended church at Jin Hua Jie, 金華街。  Even though Elwin and I didn't meet in Taiwan, we had common places that we visited a lot.  Elwin was one of the early missionaries who picked up the shovels to build this first church building in Taiwan.  I, too, had worked there many times, but my paths never crossed there until we were both attending BYU.  The place now housed a beautiful Taipei Temple and the Church Office, Chapels and stake center.  We went early to see if we'd see someone we knew.  It was a long shot, and we didn't see anyone we knew, except for a missionary, Elder Xu 余 who was in our Branch in Hong Kong, but is serving the last part of his mission in Taiwan.  Coincident?  Not really.  We decided to attend the English Speaking Branch where our friends, the McGhee's attend.  The McGhee's are in Provo for the summer, so we knew we would miss them.  But we met many senior missionaries from Taiwan.  It was great.  At the Sunday School, we met a couple from Riverside, CA.  We mentioned to them that our son and his family would be at UCR to do research work for his Ph.D. and inquired about the housing situations there.  What happened next was unbelievable.  They offered an open invitation for the kids to go visit and they'd show them around and help them in anyway they could.  This was the first time we met them and how gracious they were to offer help to our kids.  In fact, Cami already went to visit last week and we knew this probably wouldn't have happened so fast if it wasn't for the help for the Samaritans.  We love the spirit we feel at the church.  People are truly Christians.
Taipei Temple
Taipei Church Headquarter

LDS Mission Home and Administrative Building
LDS Church Headquarter
     We went back to Uncle Shih's house one more time and wish him well.  We saw the tears of joy as we walked in to his house.  How grateful I am that the Temple President granted us permission to visit Taiwan and see my uncle again.  His health is deteriorating quickly.  May the Lord be with him and his family.

     This ends the portion of our trip to Taipei as we leave on a bullet train the next morning to go down to Tainan.  Many wonderful things await us and we are anxious to go.   (the Taiwan high speed rail travels almost 200 miles an hour which put us from Taipei to Tainan in an hour and 15 minutes)


  1. Thanks for taking the time to write that all out! It was good to see pictures of I-Po and Uncle Shih. In some ways it's hard to believe they are still around.

    I'm jealous that you ate that wonderful shaved ice. I think I'm going to go to your house and steal that bing machine!

  2. You should. May be you can put a motor on it while you are at it. It has so many possibilities. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I love shaved ice too! How fun that you've gotten to see so many people you know there.

    So glad you got to see your aunt and uncle too. They don't really look much older than I remember from before.