Friday, December 7, 2018

Guess Who?

This is the third broken bone in our family in just over a year. Any guesses who?

Julia was taking Asher out sledding in the yard. After the first run down, she was dragging him in the sled back up, but she slipped on the sidewalk and broke her arm in the fall. We took her in to Urgent Care that night to get it looked at and braced. They did the x-rays and pushed on it a little to get it back in the general correct direction.

Then the next day she went in to see an orthopedic specialist. He indicated that it was going to need special attention so he said he was going to have us talk to the orthopedic surgeon in his clinic - he happens to live just over a couple streets from us. He looked at the x-rays and came by our place that evening to discuss the possibilities.

Anyway, she had a surgery today. They put the bone back in place and put in a pin to hold it steady while it heals. Then, in six months or so they will go back in and take the pin out.

She has been doing pretty well with all of this. There was initially a lot of screaming when it first happened and she has been worried about all the things she can't do for a while (it is her right hand, so pretty much everything). Well, I guess she has not been worried about not being able to do her dishes job! Overall she has been trying to stay positive though. She will go in next week to have the permanent cast put on.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Fun Activities from my Second Taiwan Trip

Things went really well with my trip back to Taiwan. Both of the conference presentations that I did went well and I had a fun time eating lots of yummy food and doing some activities in between them. A lot of what I did overlaps with things we did during the summer, so I didn't take many new pictures of those things. But I did get to try a couple new things.

Fo Guang Shan Monastery
When I was down in Tainan I spent a day and traveled to the Fo Guang Shan Monastery. This is a huge Buddhist complex up in the mountains that is about an hour and a half bus ride from Tainan. There were three different sections to the Monastery and each one was definitely worth seeing. The first one is the Buddhist school/college that they have there for the monks in training. The buildings (maybe about 20 or so very large buildings) and grounds were all really beautiful. In one section they had a ton of statues with a very large standing Buddha statue. My favorite was the main hall. It was a very large room with thousands of small Buddha statues all over the walls. And then there were three really large statues in the sitting position at the back wall of the room. Unfortunately pictures were not allowed in the main hall, but I was able to find a picture of it online.

Image result for fo guang shan monastery main hall

The second area is the newest section of the monastery. It is a library with a huge main hall. In the library I guess they have an extensive collection of all of the Buddhist scripture in several different languages. I sat for a while in the main hall and a very nice Buddhist nun came and talked to me and shared about the main leader who started the monastery as well as some of his core teachings. This section was way up on a hill, so I was the only one that I saw while I was there besides the Buddhist nuns and monks.

The third section is the most famous of the sections. It has the largest sitting Buddha statue in Taiwan. It is really massive when you look at it. I just looked up and saw that it is taller than the Statue of Liberty. Besides looking at the statue and walking around the grounds of the complex, one of the highlights of this section is that they have an ancient Buddhist relic. It is one of the teeth of the Buddha. Nine different places in the world claim to have teeth like this that came from when the Buddha was cremated back in 543 BC.  While I was wondering around this section I stepped into one of the several pagodas in the complex. Inside were some Buddha statues, some Buddhist chanting music playing, and a Buddhist nun. She invited me to sit down and we had a conversation for maybe about an hour. If you know me I am usually not one for having long conversations, but she seemed to really want to talk to me about Buddhist philosophy and the purpose of life. She was really open to listening to what I had to say about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so I didn't mind having the conversation with her. It made me think of the stereotypical picture of having a deep philosophical conversation with a wise sage at the top of the mountain.

Underneath the Buddha they also had an art museum. One of my favorite sections was the hand stitched pieces. Here is one that I thought was so amazing.

Pingxi Crags Hike
On another day I decided to head out and do a hike. In looking up possible hikes I found a description of the Pingxi Crags online. This hike includes lots of scaling up steep sides of rock cliffs with a rope and stairs that are chiseled right into the cliff side. The pictures I saw online were all amazing, but I was a little worried because it was supposed to be raining all of the days I was going to be in Taiwan. Scaling up the slippery rocks in the rain seemed a little too dangerous, but I really wanted to do the hike so I picked the day where there was supposed to be the least amount of rain. I loved the train ride out to Pingxi. I really enjoy the small train stations for these little towns/villages that are in the middle of the mountains and jungle forests. When I got off the train it was raining and continued to rain the whole time I walked up the road (about half a mile) to get to the start of the trail. But when I was about to start, I looked up at the cliffs that I was going to climb and saw two people at the top of one of them. So I figured if they were doing it, it must be safe.

The hike itself isn't very long. There was a short hike into the jungle and then I got to a place where there was a fork in the path with three different routes. Each route was a path up a different cliff. I started with the smallest, but steepest and most difficult one first. It was pretty amazing. My adrenaline was definitely rushing as much of the path was straight up with 50 to 100 foot drops on both sides of the path that was less than a foot wide. It was so beautiful at the top. It definitely looked like the Chinese paintings with the mists and clouds among the sheer mountains that go straight up from the valley or rivers. The next two were a little easier, but still kind of scary and a lot of fun. I also got to explore around in the jungle some.

As I was leaving and got back onto the road, I turned around to take one last look at the cliffs. I noticed again the two people that I had seen at the start standing on top of the same cliff where I had originally saw them. But I didn't see them at all the whole time I was hiking and it was strange that they went back after three hours. Then I realized that they were the two Buddhist statues that were at the top of that peak. I laughed to myself. I am so glad that I had thought that they were actual people though, because given the amount of rain and wetness on the rocks, I don't think I would have attempted the hikes if I had known that no one else was really out there. But I am so glad that I did. It felt safe to me the whole time I was doing it, I got to see some amazing views, and the steep drop offs were pretty exciting. I am not a thrill seeker or risk taker at all, but for some reason doing hikes like this doesn't ever seem very risky to me.

The village of Pingxi.

Road leading to the hike.

Start of the hike.

The pictures don't do it justice, but here is the fork with two of the trails going straight up their respective mountains.

At the last climb for the first one.

The view from part way up the last climb.

There was one section where they had a metal ladder with a pretty steep drop in between the two cliffs.

Looking back down from the top.

A good view of the first summit taken from the second hike. The first summit is the peak right in the middle that sticks up.

A view of the second two peaks from the top of the first one. If you look closely you can see the trails going straight up them. The first one starts at the open patch of rocks in the bottom left center and goes straight up from there. The next one you can see the top of in the upper right of the picture.

A fun rope bridge that I came across as I was exploring on the side of the mountains in the jungle.

The views from the top of all three were really breathtaking. I think they were even prettier given the mist and clouds that were all around the mountains.

There were a ton of religious statues located all throughout the hikes.

I would definitely recommend this hike to anyone who comes to Taiwan. Maybe not if you have six young kids (maybe I will have to take them when they are teenagers) or if you have a fear of heights (unless you want to face your fear). It was so unique and so beautiful, I think it is a must do.

Dinner with Sister Chen and Angel
That evening I got to have dinner with the Chen family. It was just Sister Chen and Angel as Steven is now in Vietnam working like his dad. They took me out to a hot pot restaurant and they ordered so much food for me to eat. It was all really delicious and I think my first time ever eating hot pot. It was so fun talking more with them. I wish my Chinese was a little better, but we made due. We also tried to skype with Brother Chen, but the connection wasn't very good so we had a hard time doing that. I am going to miss them when I leave, but luckily I now have current contact information so I will be able to do a better job keeping in touch. Also, I am guessing it won't be too long before we are able to come back for another visit.

Sister Chen with one of the meat trays. I think we had two of these, three vegetable plates, and three or four more smaller meat plates.

I went and got a banana split shaved ice later that evening.

Here is a picture of me at one of my presentations. I have noticed that at these conferences in Taiwan they are a little more formal than the conferences that I have been to in the past. They are all really well attended, they have tons of staff members to make sure everything goes smoothly, even if the room is not very large they typically have several microphones to pass around, they give certificates at the end of the presentations, and they take a ton of pictures.

Being apart from my family aside, it has been a really good trip.