We begin by acknowledging our absence from posting stories since the week before Christmas. Things got busy…. not Christmas so much as end-of-semester rigamarole. Then, having NOT posted stories, we began FORGETTING even to write them. So, with apologies, we move into the new years (both of them). 2017 began on January 1, but more importantly, the Year of the Chicken began on January 28, and marked the exact middle of Char’s Winter Vacation from Chang Jung Christian University.
Char’s Winter Vacation:
The first and most important thing she had to do was to compute and issue grades to her 230 or so students. In Taiwan, grades are not A,B,C,D, but are numbers from 1 to 100, so they have to be computed more exactly. That took a week, but she submitted everything online about 8 hours before the deadline of midnight on January 20th.
Being away from weekly teaching also afforded her some time for outings. The first was in the middle of that grading week when she took a day off to spend with her longtime friend, Peggy Owen. They first went down to the southern end of Taiwan, about a 2 hour trip, and walked on a beach before having lunch. Driving back homeward, they took a side trip to a Paiwan aboriginal village just into the mountains, for a cup of coffee in an open air cafe and a trip to a store which makes and sells jewelry using Paiwan traditional glass beads. It was a lot of time in a car, but Peggy did all the driving and Char did nothing having to do with students for an entire day. Bliss! Another day she took our neighbors Juan and Ruth to the National Museum of Taiwan History, one of our favorite places, to introduce them to this wonderful land. At about that same time we learned that Juan and Ruth will extend their presence in Taiwan a second year!
Though Char is on winter vacation, she is thinking ahead. So she offered, if people would come to her, to get some of next semester’s “free talk” hours behind them. She knew there wouldn’t be many who wanted to meet with a teacher during vacation time, but a group of 3 students made a date for coffee and an hour of chat at a nearby Starbucks one morning. She is also putting things in order for another semester of teaching, which will come upon her (not without warning, but still, as a shock) beginning February 13th.
Of course, one can’t look forward without looking back, and Char spent hours (upon hours) clearing out and putting in order a lot of “messy buildup” from last term.
Between our last story-fest and today, we’ve had several reunions. The week after Christmas we had a visit from one of Char’s first students at Chang Jung University, Li-Yun Young, who now lives in New Jersey. After graduating in the first translation department class at Chang Jung Christian University, Li-Yun went to the U.S. To study, became a Christian, and married an American. She, her husband Josh and their children were in Taiwan for a trip to see her family, and had a meal with us.
Another reunion came a few days later in the form of a wedding in the college chapel. Way back in 2008, when we returned to Taiwan after a year abroad, Char discovered that a change of department leadership at Chang Jung Christian University had resulted in her not being scheduled for fall classes. Tainan Theological College needed her, though, so she taught undergraduates in the departments of church music, social work and theology for one year. She got closely related to a lot of those young people, and saw a certain number of college romances get started. On December 31 two of her social work students, (the bride and groom both graduated in 2012, but he continued on for ministerial training for another 3 years, then went to work for a year after that) were married in the college chapel. Lots of their classmates came, many of whom Char hadn’t seen in many, many years. It was great catching up.
A week later the women who had lived in our house and cared for our cat while we were on our 6 month home assignment visited. They had left the house the morning of our return in August, and once the school year started we hadn’t had a chance to get together. There were still gifts from Michigan that we hadn’t given them! The invitation was for early afternoon, and Char had thought they’d be with us for about an hour, and planned her afternoon work accordingly. Surprise! They didn’t leave until 5.
But it was a pleasant visit. We learned of their lives. They have both finished their master’s degrees in translation, but work on the staff at an engineering factory where auto parts are made. Their jobs have nothing to do with translation, but they are gaining their first experiences in the work world. One of them, Sara, has fond memories of her freedom of movement and independence while living in our house. Now she’s back with parents who keep close watch over her.
Guests from Afar
When Char sat down in church on January 1st , she was introduced to a couple who were at Dongning Presbyterian for the first time. Gerrit van der Wees, a Dutchman, and his wife, Chen Mei-chin, a Taiwanese, have been active and very well known in the cause of Taiwan human rights since the late 70s, when they met at graduate school in Seattle. At that time and for several decades after, Taiwan was still under martial law and there were many abuses happening that were not well known about in the world. Gerrit’s career was in the Dutch foreign service. Until his retirement they lived in the Netherlands, but also published an regular newsletter about Taiwan political and social issues for distribution in Europe and America. After his first retirement they moved to Washington D.C. and went to work with the Formosa Association of Public Affairs, a Taiwan human rights lobbying group in America. Now they’ve doubly retired and have taken up residence in Tainan for a few months while Gerrit researches the 17th century Dutch colony here. We met them at church on New Year’s Day (they are members of a Taiwanese Presbyterian church in D.C. Where Gerrit sings in the choir although he doesn’t speak or understand Taiwanese). Gerrit spoke at our small group meeting and explained their work a few weeks later.
Back in the Pulpit Again
Last time we posted stories (December 18th if we can remember back that far) we mentioned that Dave had accepted an invitation to be the leader of the Tainan International Community Church, which worships in English on Sunday afternoons using the facilities of our Taiwanese church. So far he’s led worship there 6 times, and things are getting better with learning from each other “how we do church around here.” The congregation has a core of a few Taiwanese, several Indonesian and some Western members. As we learn about outreach, we’ll hope to expand both in numbers and in diversity.
One of the things we don’t do a lot of during the semester is entertaining. We found out why on January 24th. In addition to the fact that we’re each too busy with school work, and want our free time to unwind, entertaining is REALLY time consuming. We had two couples over for a meal on Tuesday. To set up for it, including the shopping and cleaning, took Char all day, and the food preparation took both of us the entire afternoon. After the guests left at about 10:00 PM, we were up for another hour doing dishes. Both of us are certain that it shouldn’t be so complicated, but we’re going to have to learn what that means or we’re going to have a very lonely retirement.
Writing (January 30 & 31)
One of the other things in our lives that seems to have been forgotten is answering mail. One time last October Dave sat down and churned through the cards that had come for Char’s and his birthdays (August and September), but nothing had been touched since, and Christmas cards had happened. So the last two days of January, when the entire nation was off work for the New Year holiday, Dave sat chained to a desk, scrawling out responses to good wishes and gifts. All the paper mail is caught up now, and hopefully the next few days will see responses to all the e-mail Christmas letters and other notes. It’s nice to look at where the pile of things used to be, and see nothing.