I was grateful to be invited to do visual storytelling for a recent trip that a delegation from Westmont took to visit their sister city in Hsinchu County, Taiwan.
Our family hosted an exchange student last November so I was eager to visit Taiwan and meet her family! They met me first thing off our 15 hour flight with flowers and an invitation to their home that night. We sampled food together and spoke through the students translating for us (when they could stop giggling long enough). They insisted I leave their home with a huge bag of gifts and we made promises to visit each other again. Friendships formed over miles and languages by choosing welcome and showing hospitality are one of the great joys in my life.
During our delegation’s time we were welcomed warmly and showed tremendous hospitality from so many in Taiwan. Members of our delegation were sharing at an International Health & Smart City Summit and I traveled with folks in fields of local government, architects who presented on standards of green buildings, health experts with innovative techniques saving people's lives. We spent the week sharing friendship, speaking, and listening to Taiwanese leaders and touring various locations around Hsinchu County. Our visits included the County Council office, a local school Liou-Jia Senior High School, the Industrial Technology Research Center, an innovative “Green Skin” building, a local tea manufacturing plant, and were even welcomed to a dinner at the Magistrate’s home. We exchanged ideas, successes, accomplishments, technology opportunities, and more than anything it was an opportunity to continue to build relationships between our 2 communities. Hsinchu County is well known for their Science Park and for being hom to Hakka culture, Hokkien and indigenous people as well as post war Chinese immigrants. The many folks we met were extremely proud of this culture and reminded us often if a tea, clothing, or food was traditionally Hakka. Hsinchu County currently attracts more new immigrants to the area than any other county in Taiwan each year.
Over 70 % of this building is covered in a "Green Skin." It was one of my favorite stops and we heard a presentation from the architect that designed it.
Ching-Shih Lou is the president of the Formosa Tea Company and graciously gave us a tour and shared the history of his family cultivating and manufacturing tea for generations. Tracing the world history by when ad where tea was being shipped was fascinating and Mr. Lou was so kind in sharing his story with us. The Tea manufactured here is enjoyed around the world (and now in my dining room). I was observing in a temple right outside the main marketplace when I noticed this little girl praying and after asking her father's permission I made this image. It speaks to me about faith amidst chaos and how we are meant to learn from the faith of children.
Peter Wu shared the story of some older building and homes in Hsinchu County. The history of Taiwan is one marred with struggle and innovation, where many different colonial powers ruled and the roofs in this area told the story of Japanese and Chinese control of Taiwan.
Stinky Tofu- trust me it is aptly named- you can smell it a block away!
Before we headed home we were able to tour a bit of Taipei as well and visit Tapei 101 (acclaimed for it’s anti-earthquake structural features), take public transit everywhere (never have I seen a more clean or quiet public transit system), visit local temples (my favorite as I love seeing faith expressed in different cultures) , shop at a local market (sample street food- and YES I did try the stinky tofu so well known in this part of Taiwan). We ate, toasted together each night, danced (yes a video exists 😊 ), and even performed karaoke together! I left with a suitcase full of gifts and many memories and hopes to continue to grow this relationship in the future.
Taipei 101 was awesome to visit with 2 Taiwanese-America architects from Chicago sharing everything about the structure!
In Taipei you emerge from public transit and spill out onto a modern street and this massive temple called the Lungshan Temple. People travel from all over Taiwan to visit and I was grateful to be among the pilgrims this day. Although our faith systems may differ I always love learning and being among those seeking to live out their faith. Many there were visitors as well and were praying to the many gods represented at the temple, reading Buddhist scriptures, seeking guidance and blessing, and making offerings.
Our last meal together before heading home was at the famous Din Tai Feng known for it's amazing home made dumplings, narrow staircases, and kind employees.
I asked a lot of question about life and culture to our new friends and awoke early each day to wander into temples and meet people on the street. I drank A LOT of tea and ate WAY too much (almost every dinner was at least 12 courses), and I captured lot of our time in images. These are just a few of the moments that made our trip to Taiwan so memorable.