"A (wo)man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of (her)his life in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of beautiful God has implanted in the human soul."- Goethe

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Lung Shan Temple

So, the best place of all in Taiwan has to be the Lung Shan Temple in Taipei. It is the largest and oldest Daoist temple in Taiwan, so I hear, and it is gorgeous! Prepare to have your mind blown:

This is an active temple that is frequented by thousands (only a guess) of worshipers each day, and they let people who aren't Daoist in, which was lucky for me. Although, if I'm being honest, it was a little uncomfortable to wander around someone else's holy place. However, I tried to be considerate, and I'm grateful for the experience. Well, I got a crash course in Daoism, and I'd love to share, because I found many similarities between Daoism and the Christianity (Mormonism) that I practice.

Daoism has many god(desse)s, focused on different aspects of life: health, education, the Mother of God, pregnancy/ childbirth, marriage, business, and 3 main gods that make up something along the lines of a trinity. If a worshiper has a specific area in her or his life that needs prayers, a prayer can be offered up to the god(dess) that has jurisdiction over that specific request. It reminded me of Christian saints, in a way.

Items, such as food or gifts, can be placed out on tables in the main courtyard to receive blessings, much like how we pray before meals, or how things (and people) receive blessings directed at them.

People can place their names inside the vestibule of a specific god(dess), and thereby also receive blessings each time a worshiper prays to that divine being. In our temples, we also write down names of specific people to receive blessings from the people worshiping.

A service includes a large group prayer/ chant/ song, which I was told increased the power of the prayers. We also believe that praying or fasting together as a group for the same purpose makes a prayer more powerful.

In gratitude for answered prayers, worshipers bring gifts (like gorgeous flower arrangements) and address them to the deity who answered those prayers. We don't give literal gifts for answered prayers, but we do give our hearts as a gift and many people worship with the purpose of thanksgiving instead of asking for something.

There are also some other interesting religious practices, but I'd like to stick with similarities. I totally got goosebumps while I was there, and I could feel such a strong spiritual presence that was made entirely of love. So good. I wish I could have sat there for hours.

I know that there are incredible differences among cultures, but I always love it when I find common ground with people. This was one of those moments for me. 

Have you ever had an experience like that? I'm sure we'd all love to hear, so please share!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial

When I travel, I really love to dig deep into the culture and learn as much as I can about it from the beautiful people who make that certain location tick. In Taiwan, I got the chance to take a brief stop at the Chaing Kai-shek Memorial, which is akin to America's Lincoln Memorial and National Mall:

The gorgeous and incredible spacious grounds were flanked by the Taiwanese National Music Hall on one side and the National Theater on the other. The victory arch and memorial itself are both massive, like awe-inspiring size. (I couldn't help but compare it with the USA's national memorials--so many similarities!) And, while I walked around with some smart and lovely companions, I got a lesson from them on Taiwanese independence (called Double Ten Day because of the day and month) as well as an explanation of the country's flag.

In case you were curious and according to my excellent Taiwanese friends, the red represents the red earth and blood spilled during the revolution, the blue represents the sky, liberty and democracy, and the white sun represents peace, with each of the 12 points of the sun symbolizing a revolutionary who died for the cause of liberty.

So. There you have it. I loved this place, and I was geeking out a little because of all the great stuff I was learning. What awesome geek-out-worthy things have you learned lately? Care to share?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

High Speed Trains and Caviar Chocolates

So, back to some Asiatic journeys, shall we? We also stopped in Taiwan on our business trip, and it was great! I've never been there before, and it was full of pleasant surprises, like a high-speed train, which travels from one end of the country island to the other in around 2 hours. How fast? Like over 200 mph fast, so please forgive the blurry photos of the delightful Taiwanese countryside:

 And then, there were some other surprises, like really educational placards:

And some shifty surprises, like chocolates stuffed with caviar. Fret not. They were surprisingly good. And, if you don't believe that just a treat is in existence, just check out the brochure that comes in the gift bags of such fancy delicacies, because every great gift comes with an explanation:



It's fish. Fish chocolates, guys. I've eaten some pretty interesting things in my life, but I didn't even know such a combination existed. So, this is near the top of my "interesting things I've eaten" list.

What about you? What is the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pumpkin Patch

One last fall family tradition that I'd like to share (before it isn't fall anymore!) is our trip to the pumpkin patch. There's a free pumpkin patch in Springville that hosts a hay ride, petting zoo, hay mazes, a cornbox (which is like a sandbox only with corn, you know), and, of course, pumpkins:

Yeah. That's totally a kangaroo. Awesome, right? And the cornbox drew in people of all ages. I've always wanted to swim in a big pool of corn, so now I can check that off my bucket list. Done and done.

While we enjoyed the animals, the best part of all was the hay ride, hands down. Who would have thought? (I mean, come on, there was a kangaroo there, and the beastliest pig I've ever seen in my life!) I guess it's just something about bumping and jolting around and through rows of produce that tickles a girl's fancy, because, I'm telling you, our little lady could not ever get enough of it. Thank goodness it was free, or we might have blown our life's savings on all the repeat rides we had to take.

Thank you, free pumpkin patch friends, for giving us the gift of a delightful family evening.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Scary Claws and Atta-Tweeting

Our best-loved Halloween tradition is one we started on our own. On Halloween Eve (not All-Hallow's Eve Eve...so, like the 30th), if we've been really really bad all month long, Scary Claws will stop by our house and leave us frightful gifts to help foster the greatness of the Halloween spirit:

So, not only do we get to look forward to trick-or-treating (or "atta-tweeting," if you're a 2-year-old titty tat), we also get to enjoy our scary new presents all day long. Yay for presents!

I feel like it's important to carry on traditions from our foremothers, but it's more important to start our own family traditions. What traditions have started with your generation? (It doesn't just have to be a Halloween one, either.) I'd love to hear!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Nightmare Express

A fun Halloween tradition our family has is to take a ride on the Nightmare Express, a miniature train run by some spooky-loving neighbors:

We enjoyed walking and riding through many a neighborhood spook alley, and of course, the train was a huge hit. We went when it was still light outside before all the scary spooks started coming out. Thank goodness.

Halloween is pretty dang awesome. It's pretty much the second-most awesome holiday ever.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


To break up the monotony of a very long series of Asian travel posts, chew on this. We recently read Journey by Max Zimmer for our monthly literary discussion:

It's a semi-autobiographical novel about a young boy growing up with his immigrant parents in the Salt Lake City area. Reading this kind of book goes against everything in my book of literature rules, so I wasn't expecting much. However, I was pleasantly surprised, and by the end realized that I was actually interested in the book. It was a painful beginning, but I managed to get over it.

Plus, I'm a sucker for musical analogies, and I couldn't help but think of my amazing trumpet-playing brother, who is currently residing in the arctic tundra, or Canada. Sometimes they are the same. (Heyyy, little bro! Keep warm!)

So. I hear this is the first of three books and that the second book is better. (Reading books in series also usually goes against my book beliefs.) And the third book is supposed to come out next spring, and I'm trying really hard not to judge. I guess you could say this book sent me on my own difficult journey.

So, dish. What are your most ridiculously snobby reading rules you have, if any?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Shenzhen Rooftop Garden

After making our way through the flood waters, we went to Shenzhen, for more business. While the business side of things meant 36 hours of hiking up and down 4 flights of stairs scores of times and staying overnight in a conference room, there was some respite in the form of a rooftop garden at sunrise. Trying to look at the good, here, folks:

And then, true to itself, China reminds you of the reality some people face every day. From the rooftop garden, you can see beautiful hills and nice buildings, and also a rubble heap that someone (s?) calls home. China is an interesting mix of striving for modernization and basic survival, and it seems to show up in the most unexpected places.

Also, you might be interested to know that China has some of the most subtle and unimpressive sunrises I've ever seen. I've seen dozens of them, and they're nothing compared to the glorious rays and silhouette-studded sunrises we get in the mountain west. However, the sun sets in blaring red and orange (due to the pollution), which are some of the most spectacular colors I've seen.

It's all about finding the beauty through the haze.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Typhoon Aftermath

So, I went to China. It was for work, but that didn't mean I didn't have adventures. The whole trip was one debacle of an adventure, starting with a typhoon:

Yeah, that's right. A typhoon! Luckily we missed the actual storm, but we flew into the aftermath unawares. The lakes are actually the airport tarmac and main roads in Ningbo. What a mess! Houses and businesses were hopelessly flooded, and the ground just couldn't swallow the water fast enough. There were abandoned vehicles in the middles of intersections and debris everywhere. The flooding was awful, but to make matters worse, it persistently drizzled pretty much the whole time we were there. Driving around was a little crazy, but with some creative driving (and raised sidewalks) we managed to get around enough to get business done.

I've seen a few incredible natural disasters along the lines of flash floods and blizzards, but nothing of this magnitude regarding destruction. It's a little humbling, a little thought-provoking and a big reminder about how small people can be in the big scheme of things. Yikes. It also made me appreciate my circumstances a lot more. Those poor people (who are probably still dealing with the aftermath)!

Have you experienced a disaster first-hand? What thoughts did it bring to your mind?