Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Taiwan Journal, Part II, June 27-July 4, 2011

     I grew up in Tainan and have fond memories of this quaint, sweet place.  I'm glad Elwin loves going to Tainan as much as I do.  He has a sense of family history and is happy when I find more and more connections to my past.

   Rain helped cool Tainan to be a lot more bearable.  Taking a high speed rail from Taipei, we arrived in Tainan in 70 minutes; it used to take 5 hours as I remember from my youth.  The next 10 days were amazing.  We did amazing things and met amazing people.  We chose to stay with cousin Ah-Jean, instead of staying at a hotel.  It's not really to save money, as you end up paying for a lot of things while there, but it seems to be a lot more like a family when you stay with relatives.  In a way, I wish my parents were still alive for me to go home to stay with them.  It's not the same staying with relatives as it would have been staying with ones own parents.

    I'll organize this portion of the trip by date and also by people we met.

6/27/11:  Ah-Jean and her boyfriend, Gung, picked us up at the Tainan train station.  Ah-Jean lives in her mom's (my dad's #6 sister) apartment.  She just divorced her Japanese husband of 19 years.  He was a prominent doctor from Tokyo University, but had mental problems and was living in an institute in Sendai.  They decided to get a divorce, so she came back to Taiwan.  She was adopted by Aunt Ah-yu when she was born because Aunt Ah-yu couldn't have anymore children after she had Hong Zhi, her son.  Grandfather Sung told the family that whoever had the first girl after they found out Ah-yu couldn't have any more children, would give up the baby to Aunt Ah-yu.  Actually, #4 Aunt had a girl that was supposed to be adopted by Ah-yu, but this aunt cried and cried because she couldn't bear to give up her baby girl.  Finally, Grandpa Sung said to forget it.  Then, Dad's #4 Brother and his Japanese wife had their #5 daughter.  It was determined then that the baby girl would go to Ah-yu's house to be raised by her. 

After picking us up at the train station, Ah-Jean and her boyfriend, Gung, took us to a very nice Western restaurant for dinner.  It was a set dinner and served western style.  It was one of those very fancy dinners with appetizers, soups, salad, dinner entree and desserts.  She knew the restaurant owner and the pictures we took included the owner. 

Aunt Ah-yu's apartment on the main floor is large with modern facilities (it's 4X the size of our apartment in HK).  She has two large refrigerators in the kitchen.  There are 2 bathrooms and 4 bedrooms on the main floor.  Two bedrooms were used to store Ah-Jean's clothes and things.  Wow, she has tons of clothes and shoes.  She has 2 children from her previous marriage who are grown.  She looks more like her mom who is Japanese.  Since she lived in Japan for the past 19 years with her Japanese husband, she maintains mostly a Japanese lifestyle.  She is 59 years old, but looks like 40 and is a fun loving girl.  It's nice to get to know her.  She and Gung drove us around town making our visit to Tainan very easy, convenient and pleasant.  We actually were able to visit a lot more people and places because of them.  Thanks, Ah-Jean and Gung.    

6/28 (Tuesday):  Went to "Tao-Shan" 桃山  Japanese Restaurant for lunch.  It was one of the nicer restaurants in town.  We met with Waka, En-Jiang, and Gung at the restaurant.  Elwin was fast as he paid the bill before anyone noticed.  Good job, Honey!  Waka and An-Jiang are the two cousins I always call first when I go to Taiwan.  I love them so much.  Waka's dad is my dad's #5 elder brother.  En-Jiang's mom is Dad's #3 elder sister (who just passed away in January this year at the age of 96).  I love visiting with them.  Waka, in her 70's, lives alone in Kaoshiung and En-Jiang, in her early 80's, lives with her daughter and son-in-law.  He's a doctor and she's a vet and loves taking care of animals.  She also takes care of her grandson who goes to the University in Tainan.

After lunch, we all went to En-Jiang's house for a visit.  We decided to call our cousin, 秀雄 to come to join us as none of us had seen him for a while.  Ah-Jean says he was her picano teacher.  He and my dad were close in age (Dad being the youngest of 13 kids, and 秀雄's dad was the second oldest), they grew up together.  I remember him being at our house at lot.  He studied music and was always singing.  So, we called him the singing cousin.  He taught high school music for many years.  After he retired, he went to work for Chi Mei Industries, Richard Soong's company.  He said the job was very nice, but he quit to give young people a chance to take his place.  What a nice guy!  He gave me his children's information for genealogy purposes, but later asked me not to publish the information in the family history book that I was working on (2nd edition).  He lost his wife last year after taking care of her for many years during her illness.  I was so happy that he came.  Apparently, even though the cousins don't live very far apart, they seldom see each other.  We all had a wonderful visit.    

6/29/11 (Wednesday):  Ah-Jean and Gung took Waka, En-Jiang and us to our old homestead and met with a distant cousin, Wen Yan Sung (宋文炎).   Cousin 文炎 still lives at the old Sung homestead. His grandfather and my grandfather are brothers.  His health has suffered and he couldn't remember very much, yet he seemed to have memory of the old times.  It was so good to see the altar with our Sung ancestrial names still there.  But Cousin 文炎 said that that place is not going to be there very much longer as someone had bought the land and will tear it down.  What to do?

That night, we met Ah-Jean's brother, Hong Zhi Shih for dinner at "Tao-Shan" Japanese Restaurant.  One can see that the Taiwanese people love Japanese food.  It's an honor that they'd take us to such a nice restaurant as this each time we visit.

6/30/11 (Thursday):  Met with the Frandsen's in Tainan and attended the AIT Independence Day Celebration

Phil Frandsen was Elwin's missionary companion when they served in the Southern Far East Mission.  He and his wife are serving a mission a Taiwan.  We thought we'd see them in Taipei where they were serving.  As it turned out, they were coming down to Kaoshiung to attend a gala event to celebrate July 4th by the American Institute in Taiwan (a replacement of the American Consulate Services since Carter recognized the People's Republic of China in 1978).  We met for lunch at Sister Frandsen's favorite restaurant, the Tainan Hotel Jade Restaurant.  It must have been a favorite place as there were people lining up before it opened at noon.  The cost was NT $680 (US $24) per person, a little on the expensive side, but was excellent.  They had fancy prawn tempura, a roast beef station, and also Hagan Daz ice-cream.  It was so fun to catch up with what we all have been doing.  This is their 2nd mission in Taiwan and they encouraged us to come back to Taiwan for a mission after our services in Hong Kong.  Very interesting indeed since we've been thinking about that. 

I arranged for everyone to tour the "Chi Mei Museum" after lunch.  Posted on their webpage, the Chi Mei Museum is described as follows:

"Thinking Globally – The ChiMeiMuseum
Chi Mei Culture Foundation was established in 1977 under the instructions of Mr. Wen-Long Shi, the founder of Chi Mei Industrial Corporation. In February 1989, the Chi Mei Museum Preparatory Office was established, and the museum was opened to the public on April 1, 1992 with free admission.

In 2001, a Branch Museum was established in the Tainan Science Park, with displays that focused on the development of technology from primitive hand tools to modern machinery.
The Chi Mei Museum, which occupies the fifth to eighth floors of the Chi Mei headquarters building, covers a total area of approximately 6,600 square meters. The Museum's rich and diverse collections include ancient artifacts, violins crafted by world-famous instrument makers, centuries-old Japanese samurai swords, and classic paintings from the Renaissance and from later artistic movements; the museum also holds a large number of bird and animal specimens. At the Chi Mei Museum, visitors can experience the finest masterpieces from different civilizations and cultures without leaving Taiwan, thus offering a broader view of the world..."

See more information on http://www.chimeimuseum.com/english/

The guide at the front door of the Museum greeted us politely.  I noticed his surname was Sung.  So I inquired if he knew or was related to the CEO of Chi Mei, my cousin, Richard Soong.  It turned out that he was the grandson of my cousin, Sung Cao Yuan.  Cao Yuan, 秀雄, and my dad studied in Japan together.  I was very excited.  Before we even reached the front entrance of the Museum, the word already came out that "#6 Uncle, Sung Han-chiu's (my dad) daughter is here".  Wow, what a welcome!  We went up to the third floor, the Headquarters Office to take care of some questions and was met by the manager of the Museum, Mr. Hsu Fuchi.  I mentioned that the founder of the Museum is my cousin's uncle, and I just bought his second book, "From Zero to Infinity".  He asked if I'd like to see him as he was in the Museum at the time.  Within minutes, he was right there in front of me.  He autographed my book (I had it in my bag), and we talked.  He didn't have the air of a very wealthy businessman.  He was kind and gentle.  I could not believe that I was at his presence.  His first book was "The Perspectives" and I wish it were translated into English as I'd have loved for our children to all read it.  I sent one to each of my sisters.  They loved it. 
As it turned out, Mr. Hsu and my dad were good friends growing up.  How wonderful to meet an old friend of my dad.  It was a special day indeed.  Well, more fun things were yet to happen.

A beautiful young lady Julie came to introduce herself to us that she was also a Sung.  It turned out she is the sister of the guide that we met at the front station.  The Frandsen's, Julie and we had a good visit.  The Frandsen's mentioned that they were attending the gala event at the AIT.  Julie said that she was also attending too and asked if Elwin and I were going.  I told her we've tried many ways to get an invitation to no avail.  She said:  Auntie, please come with us as Chi Mei guests.  Wow, just like that, we were invited.  I had resigned myself to not going as I wasn't able to find anyone who could get more invitations.  The Lord blesses those who are willing!  We took a cab to the train station and went to Tso Yin where the event took place.  It was a grand event attended by over 1000 guests, including mayors, the CEOs of companies, including my cousin Richard, who I didn't think I was going to see on this trip.  To my surprise too, many LDS mission presidents, stake presidents, and leaders were all invited too.  The 7th Fleet Band from Okinawa played and other groups also performed.  The place was as big as a football field, and the food table ran all the way across the hall with fabulous dishes.  Glad we didn't have dinner before coming.  It was such a fun night to be remembered.

7/1/11 (Friday):  Meeting my cousin, Lai Ya Zhi 賴雅枝
賴雅枝 and I were classmates throughout my primary school years.  She's the daughter of my father's #4 elder sister.  Her father was a doctor and they lived next to the Land Bank of Taiwan.  His practice was downstairs and they lived on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors of the building.  It was a beautiful, grand 4-story building and I remember walking by to get her so we could go to school together.  Her sister Jean used to live in Pittsburgh, but has moved to Seattle to be close to her son.  She was the one that helped me make the connection back to 雅枝.  Again, Ah-Jean and Gung, drove us to Hsin Yin to visit with them.  Ah-Jean has been perfect.  She said:  they are all my cousins too and I haven't seen her since I grew up.  Wow, what a good attitude.  Julie Sung's dad, 世英 also came to meet us to make the trip.  This was my first time meeting him.  He looks like his dad.  I am so happy to meet him. 
Shirley (文惠) and 雅枝
  雅枝 married a guy who worked for Ah-Jean's dad, the president of Taiwan Sugar Inc.  So, there are many relationships in this large Sung family.  雅枝 and her husband took us on a tour of Taiwan Sugar.  Since Taiwan imports most of their sugar now-a-days, the company has diversified into other fields.  One of them was an orchid growing industry.  We were treated to a delicious luncheon at the company's restaurant.  It has become a resort with various buildings to house tourists.  The fun thing was to go to the little company ice-cream shop and sit by the banyan tree to eat popsicles as we did when we were kids.  Mom and Dad used to take us on a train ride around the perimeter of the Sugar Company which is still in operation.  It takes 45 minutes to go around.
雅枝 and us at the Orchid House

The passenger cars that go around the Sugar Company

7/2/11 (Saturday):  Our day with the Shih Cousins

    I love my mom's two sisters, and, of course, I love those cousins.  We don't see #2 Aunt, Mei Duan's children very much.  It's especially special when we get to see each other.  The oldest of Mei Duan's daughter lives in Kaoshiung, so we decided that we would meet at around 2 pm.  I thought we'd have time to go visit my favorite cousin, Maylin (or Miyoko)'s brother and sister-in-law.  It was a good visit.  They are aging beautifully as they are active people who played tennis.  I stayed with them for a few months when my family moved up to Taipei during my senior year in high school.  I actually stayed with Miyoko's mom, but her brother and sister-in-law lived there too.  I love that family.  They were good to me.  While we were there visiting, Miyoko called from New York (where she lives).  We had a good 3-way conversation.  The picture even showed her on the phone.  :-)  It was a great visit and I was happy to find them happy and healthy.
阿花, Miyoko on the phone talking from NYC, Hong-yin, 文惠
My Aunt, Ah-Duan's girls are:  瑪琍, 麗琍,莎琍, 伊琍 和 曼琍。 Except for 麗琍 living in Taipei, we were able to see all of them.  曼琍 and her husband came early to pick us up to tour the country side.  We met a couple of years ago and loved the opportunity to visit the mango city, 玉井.  So 曼琍 and her husband came early to take us there, plus many other places.  It was so much fun to get to know them, and they sure took good care of us.  We had the famous mangoes in shaved ice, frozen banana boats and also visited a Hakka village.  The slideshow below will tell a lot of stories.  We even visited 曼琍's mango orchard in Tainan.  We also purchased a whole basket of mangoes to share with everyone.

We had dinner together with all the Shih cousins after we came back from our trip to the country side.  We had a good time talking about my aunt or their mom and also their dad.  Aunt Ah-duan died of diabetes complications as my mom did.  I told the story of Aunt Ah-Duan when she was a young adult.  She was very beautiful.  After high school she went to Japan to live with my mom and dad for a while.  There, my dad's younger brother fell in love with her.  They dated and decided to get married.  When Ah-duan came to her sister (my mom) about the marriage.  Both Sung and Shih familes were wealthy, prominent members of Tainan, hence the arranged marriage of Mom and Dad.  My mom's answer was an emphatic "no".  She reason:  The Sung was not so almighty to deserve 2 Shih sisters.  Ouch...Mom!  Aunt Ah-Duan was sent back home to Tainan.  My uncle, in dismay, joined the Japanese Imperial Army, was sent to the Philippines, where he died of malaria.  What a sad love story.     


7/3/11 (Sunday):  We attended Church at Tainan II Ward at 8:30 AM, then switched to Tainan I Ward at 9 AM.  It was hard to decide which ward to go to since we didn't know anyone.  So we thought we'd try both to see if we meet anyone we might know.  People were so friendly.  We actually went to the Family History Center in another building Wednesday night in hopes of finding some genealogy information.  It was so far away that it cost us over NT $300 to get there.  One of the high councilmen, Brother Wei, offered us a ride to come home to Ah-Jean's house.  Brother Wei noticed I was coughing in his car and asked me about it.  Then he told me he was a Chinese Medicine doctor, and if I wanted to, I could stop by his office in the morning and he'd check me out.  He was so kind.  We stopped by his office the next morning and he gave me some medication for my cough and only charged me US$3 for it.  What a kind man.  We met him at the 9 AM Sacrament meeting and he told me that I needed more medication and should stop by his house to pick it up since we would be leaving the next morning.  He even called later to invite us over for dinner.  A lady at the Church also invited us over for dinner after church.  We are overwhelmed with all the kind deeds people have shown us.  We noticed people greeted us kindly even though they didn't know us.  Blessings of being missionaries are amazing.

Sunday afternoon, we decided to go to Kaoshiung to visit my dear cousin John's sister.  She and her husband are in their 80's now and they said to come over when I called.  Of course, Ah-Jean and Gung drove us again.  Dr. Zhen 曾 was a prominent doctor, and according to Ah-Jean, people lined up in front of his clinic each day like it was a market place.  At the end of the day, the bank would send someone to pick up the money for deposit.  His wife, 昭碧, my cousin, is the eldest daughter of my dad's elder's brother.  She was about 13 years older than me, and was always kind to us kids.  We visited and she insisted on taking us out to dinner at a Japanese Restaurant called Sea World, 海天下.  Waka, the other cousin was with us too.  We had a good time.  Dr. Zhen gave us some interesting advice on how to stay healthy.  Good man!  We stopped at Dr. Wei's home to get some medication.  So we didn't get home until after 11.  It was a full day!

Elwin took a picture of cousin 昭碧's wedding pictures and then zeroed in to enlarge parts of it to show some of our relatives.  Those dear relatives almost came alive to me.  Thanks, Dear!  
Dr. Zhen, 昭碧, Elwin (front row)
Shirley, Waka, Ah-Jean

Dr. Zhen, 昭碧's wedding picture

Uncle (eldest) and Aun (昭碧's parents)
#3 Uncle at the center, Cousin Cao Yuan in back to the left

#2 Aunt, bottom left; #3 Aunt (Richard's mom) in the center left

#1 Aunt (Miyoko's mom), center

Cousin 秀雄 (middle of middle row), John Sung (behind 秀雄)

Grandfather Sung in the middle with his eldest son on the left and 昭碧, the bride

7/4 (Monday):  Time to go home

Hong Kong Temple reopened on Tuesday, July 5.  It was time for us to go home.  It was a wonderful break.  We can't thank all the people enough who entreated us with kindness, food, friendship and love.  We are forever indebted to them.  May God bless them all.  


1 comment:

  1. How cool that you've gotten to visit with so many of your relatives. And people are so kind and generous there! Is that the way pretty much everyone is in general? Are strangers kind there too?

    It must be fun for you to have been able to visit Tainan again!