Friday, June 17, 2016

"As You Like It" - A Day Trip to Taipei

Stephanie, who used to be a Concordia Middle School student and along with regularly attending Friday Night Bible Study, is now a college student at National Taiwan University studying theater. While back visiting, she shared with us that she was helping with costumes for a rendition of Shakespeare's "As You Like It." Being an avid Shakespeare fan and also wanting to support my friend, I asked the other American teachers if they'd be interested in taking a day trip up to Taipei to see the show, and I had several takers.

Stephanie and I at FNBS
The play was only running one weekend, and because the C.E.L.A. teachers had school on that Saturday, we decided to go up on Sunday to see it. There were five of us heading up total. The C.M.S. teachers ended up going up to Taipei on Saturday, and then Sunday around lunch time we all met at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. Those of us who took the bus Sunday morning ended up getting in a little early, which worked out nicely because it allowed the new people to explore the memorial. We were even there to catch the changing of the guard! Once Matt and Emily arrived, we wandered around looking for lunch. (The theater wasn't far from the memorial).

Changing of the guard
It took us awhile to find a place that was open, but we finally found lunch. Then it was off to the theater.

Outside of the theater

"As You Like It" was being performed in Chinese. The set and costumes were both really interesting too. The beginning of the play took place in a traditional Japan setting, whereas most of the rest of it happened in a more Bohemian compound. When the set changed, foam pads were tossed down for scaffolding in the back so as to create layers of squish on the stage. There were a variety of uses for the foam, from allowing actors to faint on the stage without bumps or bruises, to acting a means of hiding props, etc. during a scene. All in all, it was really well done and a very enjoyable show!

Before catching the H.S.R. back to Chiayi that night, we stopped at our favorite Macho Taco for dinner. :)

It was a full day, but a fun one!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Baking Cookies in O.S.F.

Baking cookies with 25 junior and senior high school students is always an adventure. To be sure, since this is my fourth year leading this activity, some adjustments have been made to make it less exciting - for example, I pre-measure out the vanilla now (no coffee cups of vanilla going into any cookies these days!). But since each year's students are different, so are the experiences. And even though it's loud, and the kitchen is hot because there's no air-conditioning, and everyone is sweaty (because there's no air-conditioning), I wouldn't stop baking with the kids.

The students broke themselves into four groups: two groups of boys and two groups of girls. We had enough ingredients for a fifth group, but everyone wanted to work with the people in their groups... so we only had four groups. I explained the recipe. This year, I even remembered how to explain "1/2 an egg." And as usual, the kids did a pretty good job sharing, taking turns, and helping clean up at the end. That was after we were able to actually get into the kitchen. Usually, on nights when O.S.F. is baking in the school kitchen, it's left open for us, and we lock it up when we're done. But tonight, when Rachel, Hannah and I arrived, it was locked tight. After a few phone calls, someone came and let us into the building. By that point all the students were waiting outside with us, but that's alright.

The girls tend to be quieter and more focused. Tonight, they were the first ones to be scooping out their dough onto the cookie sheets.

On the other hand, the boys take different approaches to getting their cookies done. Usually, a few boys will emerge as the leaders and they will rally the other boys to their cause. Tonight was no different. I had to remind the boys, as they were mercilessly pounding the butter and sugars together, that "the best cookies are made with love, not aggression." I received the standard response, "Okay. Okay" with some minor alteration of behavior. But their cookies turned out alright in the end.

I'm always amused because in spite of following the same recipes and using the same ingredients, every batch of cookies turns out looking different. :) '

They all enjoyed eating the fruits of their labors, along with taking some cookies back to the dorms (either to eat later or share with their friends). So, I'd say tonight was a success!

Something Old, Something New

For me, Taiwan will always be a combination of something different and new, along with (especially Chiayi) something comfortable and familiar. After living several different places, I find this quality of cities to be something both comforting and exciting. Although my life in Chiayi certainly has it's patterns and routines, and many of them have become commonplace to me, recently the city has also been reminding me of my wonder for her.

I have always been fascinated with how the colors in Taiwan seem so different from the colors in the Midwest where I grew up. And lately, because of the combination of rain and sun, the colors of Taiwan have been at their finest: the vibrant greens and golds of the rice fields, the dazzling blue of the sky contrasted with the billowy white and grey clouds drifting across, and the various view of the mountains - sometimes purple and hazy, other times stark greens, browns, and blacks. And every time I see the mountains, I reminded of the verse in Pslams:

I lift my eyes up to the mountains. Where does my help come from?
Psalm 121:1

God put a rainbow in the sky to remind Noah of His promise to never flood the earth again. Every time I see the mountains, I am reminded of God's promise to be with me always. 
I can never quite capture this view the way I want to with a camera: the mountains framed by the gate.
The mountains are much clearer in this picture.
 But along with reminding me of her beauty, Chiayi has also reminded me that even after five years of living here, there is still much to be explored. Since my tutor-ee asked to reschedule tutoring this week, I took the opportunity to hop on my bike Tuesday night and ride up (and down) Daya Road looking for dinner. Daya Road is up in the LanTan area of Chiayi. It's a little pricey by Taiwan's standards, but it was fun, because the menus were all posted outside the restaurants, so I could peruse what each place had to offer without really committing to it. Because I wanted a place I could also sit and read for a bit, I settled on a coffee shop/restaurant called: Oasis. Come to find out, it was also dog friendly, as in there were dogs in the cafe. I ordered a gratin rice for dinner, and was surprised to discover that it also came with soup! And not some sort of Taiwanese soup... Western soup. And even though it was a really hot day and I'd just been out biking, I savored that thick, creamy soup. The gratin rice itself was really well executed too. It had a basil cream sauce (which was delicious!) and loads of seafood. There was also an ample amount of cheese (which is important to a Wisconsin girl) that was browned and crisp at the edges. Overall, I was delighted with my dinner and the overall feel of the place. 

Mmmmm. Soup!

God continues to remind not only how much I love about Taiwan and where I live, and how blessed I am to be here, but also all the things still out there for me to discover. :) What a wonderful world He has created!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunshine, Sand, Sea, and Butterflies: Spring Retreat 2016

Our first Bible study at Spring Retreat gave us three pairs of words:

capable vs. incapable
dependent vs. independent
sufficient vs. insufficient

We were then asked three questions. Which would you use to describe yourself? Which would you want others to use to describe you? Why?

The theme of this year's Spring Retreat was our Dependence on God (looking at John 15 -- Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches). Before looking at John 15: 1-17, we looked at Isaiah 5:1-7, where God uses the metaphor of a vineyard owner and his vines to talk about His relationship with Israel. One of the comments someone made as we were talking, that I thought was interesting was, "A good vineyard brings glory to its owner, not the grapes." The idea being that the fruit just shows that the vineyard owner is good, because he has done all the work. It doesn't really speak of the vines themselves.

After that first Bible study of the retreat on Saturday morning, we had a session where as a team we were asked to think about ways to achieve different goals that we'd talked about at the fall retreat. The goals relate to four of the main categories of the work we do here in Taiwan: the classroom, the community, at church, and encouraging/supporting/utilizing the members on our (every changing) team. This took us until about one o'clock, when we then split up and headed out for lunch.

Around 2:30pm, we met up again at the hostel for some team building. This was composed of two different activities. The first required us all to wear blindfolds, and, then, using some rope, make a square. Since none of us could see, we had to rely on our sense of hearing more. But we also had to listen to each other. Someone had to emerge as a leader, and the rest of us had to accept the role of followers. The second team building activity was an assigned partner activity, where one person was the "eyes" (they were able to see the picture) and the other person was the "hands" (they had to draw what was described to them). Again, we had to rely, or depend, on each other. In the debrief, then, we talked about how we depend on each other in the team, how we encourage each other, and how we communicate.

Activity One: Making a Square (photo courtesy of: Matt F)

Activity Two: Replicating a Picture
After team building everyone was free to do what they wished until we were meeting up again at 6pm to head out for the traditional dinner of Smokey Joe's. It was hot outside, but it was a truly lovely day! Some people hiked. Some people went swimming. Others opted to read at the beach or find a spot to do some writing.

Dinner at Smokey Joe's is a Kenting Spring Retreat tradition, followed by returning to the hostel and toasting the members of the team who will be leaving at the end of the school year. This year there are three people leaving, but only two of them were on retreat to actually toast. It's a bittersweet time to share stories and say thanks. After toasts, there were a couple rounds of Timeline, before people finally headed to bed.

Timeline: The second game came down to Matt W. and Emily.

This morning we had another short Bible study and prayer time, followed by checking out of the hostel and loading up the vans. Before leaving Kenting, people headed out for lunch. Matt, Matt, Andrew, Tim, and I ended up settling on Thai food. It was good food with good friends, so I have no complaints. :) After lunch, we started the drive back to Chiayi. We did have a short church service once we were back, before ending the retreat.

It was a full weekend, but it was a nice weekend. :) God is good.