This past Monday, our friend took Lizzy and I to visit her home town, Tianwei. It was a very special day for us. We felt like we experienced the heart of Taiwan; what makes Taiwan Taiwan. Click here if you are a visual person and would rather see our outing than read about it.
We had to get up very early in the morning and take the bus to the train station to meet our friend. While we were waiting for her we ate breakfast and talked with an older gentleman who was passing by.
We took the train to Yuanlin and then a bus to Beitou, where our friend attended elementary school and often went to the market with her mother. It been raining earlier that day so we worried that our visit would be cut short. However, as soon as we arrived in Beitou, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Our friend brought us to several different places to try traditional Taiwanese foods like mianxian, mua ji, rou yuan, and doufu gongyuan tang. We also visited her friends’ brother’s coffee shop. Although we tried to pay several times for our food, our friend refused to let us do so. In Taiwan, they feel that it is their responsibility to take care of the foreigner. Likewise, the expect the same when they visit you in your home country. Everywhere we went people were very kind and hospitable. When we asked for directions, if they did not know how to get there, they would even go find someone who did know to help us.
Her friend then drove us to Tianwei. We rented bicycles and biked out to her childhood home. On the way, we stopped by one of the many flower farms Tianwei is known for. That’s where I saw my first ever papaya tree! As we continued biking we became surrounded by fields of flowers and houses scattered here and there.
When we arrived at her home, her neighbors warmly greeted us. It was a traditional Chinese home: a u-shaped layout with two homes on the left and two homes on the right and a temple in the middle, creating a sort of courtyard in the middle. We pushed our way through the old door and stepped back 20 years into the past. No one had been living there since the children had grown up and the parents moved to Taichung. The home still had furniture, books, household appliances, and toys covered in a layer of dust, suspended in time. We spent some time looking around and then went to visit the neighbor ladies who were preparing flowers to be sold.
We were welcomed with smiles, questions, and, of course, tea. The most common questions are always: “Are you married yet?” “Do you have any children?” “What is your job?”. We took pictures and listened to their stories. An elderly lady allowed us into her home to use the bathroom and then we were off again. When we got back to our bicycles we found that they had placed water bottles there for us to drink on our hot trek back home.
On our way back, our friend pointed out a temple along the side of the road. It had previously been a church, however the townspeople did not like having a Christian pastor in their community and drove him out. It was then converted into a Taoist temple. We saw how tradition is deeply engrained, especially in rural communities. It also reminded us that this is not a physical battle, but a spiritual battle that we are engage in (Ephesians 6:12).
We arrived back at the bicycle rental shop. Because it was a slow day for business, they had us jump into a four person bike and a gentleman on a scooter pulled us to the bus station. No, really! How many people can say they rode a four person bicycle, pulled by a scooter, down the streets of rural Taiwan? It was a blast! As soon as we arrived, the bus came. And as soon as we made it to the train station, we stepped onto our train and the doors closed for departure.
When we arrived back in Taichung we said our goodbyes and grabbed a bite to eat before our next meeting. We then went back to the train station to wait for another friend to pick us up for our meeting and the same gentleman we saw earlier that morning came over to us. He and Lizzy exchanged phone numbers with the intention of meeting up to practice Mandarin from time to time.
Words cannot adequately express how blessed we felt this day. It was an intimate encounter with Taiwan. We were honored by the generosity and kindness of our Taiwanese friends and blessed by the timing and provision of God. This day will always be a reminder of why we are here as well as our love and God’s love for the Taiwanese.