Friday, July 6, 2012

Old Buddies and Bikes!

Today was a beautiful day in many ways. I got to sleep until 7. Chuni and Miriem went to church, shopped and got breakfast before I got up. Aaaahhh... Miriem made us a pineapple mint smoothie for breakfast and Chuni bought some gummy rice ball/cake things with mushrooms (?) on top.

We took the train to visit another college friend, Rong-Zhou Zhen. He has ALS (Lou Gherig's disease) and is confined to bed in a medical facility. Before he got sick, he was Dean of Humanities and was a professor of Philosophy. He went to high school with Chia. A group if college friends met at his room. When Chuni read him a poem that Chia had written for him, he lit up with one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. I have no idea what the poem said, but Chuni read it with such feeling, I had tears in my eyes. This group of college friends chipped in to get him a special computer he can control with just his eyes. He can blink and lift his eyebrows and smile, but cannot talk or use any other muscles. His mind is as sharp as ever. He has written a philosophical book on what it is like to have ALS. The group made a pledge to translate it into English. I would love to read it.

I met Rong-Zhou's wife and beautiful father, Grace, who just graduated from HS. She wants to study English, so we exchanged emails to help her practice. She reminded me of my daughter's beautiful friend, Grace, in NJ. This same group of friends has set up a fund to help both daughters go to college. They really care and have stayed close over the years. They are talking about helping him move to a better facility. He has a small private room in a ward full of bed ridden patients on feeding tubes. Seeing all those patients, I just wanted to stay and visit them all. I was also thankful that my Brother and Dad passed so peacefully and quickly. Museums, art and culture are great, but I live connecting with people and meeting Rong-Zhou and his family has been a real highlight.

All the college friends and Michael and me went to lunch at a Japanese restaurant afterward.

Then to a saxophone factory/museum, then we rented bikes to ride by the river. Chuni bought me a pair of shorts to wear that I swear were a pair of red plaid men's boxers. I wore them anyway and I was glad I did as it poured rain on us (hallelujah!!!!) and my white skirt would not have faired well. Chuni doesn't ride a bike, so their friend John rented a tandem one so she could get a free ride on the back. (John is cool and does Qi Jong and meditates). Getting soaking wet in the thunderstorm was the first time I have been cool outside since I've been here. The bike route included repeated trips over a big metal bridge as the lightning was striking near by, but we kept going. So fun!!

Chuni tells all of her friends that I tried betelnut and bought Aboriginal millet wine. They are dumbfounded. I proudly feel like a woman of ill repute. Chuni's friends are so GOOD. All Catholic churchgoers, no drinkers and certainly no betelnut chewers. They say that only low life people do that. Like smoking. I have no idea if this is the typical Taiwanese view or just Chuni's friends. Except for the millet wine sip, I haven't had any alcohol since I've been here, but tomorrow we are going to an Aboriginal wedding, so we shall see!!

Chuni and Michael went to visit more relatives and I rode to a hotel in Taichung with Matthew (another college friend) and Linda (a retired teacher who volunteers at his non-profit), who are taking us to the wedding tomorrow. The 3 of us had Indian food that was so good, I forgot to take a picture of it before it was gone. We sang with a street musician who was playing "Red River Valley". My Mom used to sing that to us all of the time.

No wifi in room so I'm sitting in the lobby and running out of batteries. More tomorrow!


  1. Sounds like you are meeting some great people! I want photo evidence of the male boxer shorts you were riding around in, I didnt see any! Sleeping in and some exercise sounds great!

    Its really cool that he can work a computer through eye movement and that the whole group has remained friends for so long!

  2. Hi Colleen,

    Rong-Zhou must be happy to see you, a new and different face, in his confined world. I cannot wait to see his new book on his experiences with ALS.

    The rest of stuff are mostly new to me. Bikes were for transportation when I grew up, not for sightseeing, or even exercise. And the food continued to look familiar but different. I think the major difference is in the presentation. Not sure if the taste has been improved too.

    Well, it appears that there is still some division among people in Taiwan. We, "native Taiwanese" would never think chewing betelnuts or drinking rice wine as "lower class." It is just being "native." I am saying this mostly to give Chuni and some of her friends hard time:) They were born in Taiwan but parents came to Taiwan when KMT (Chiang-Kai Shek's party) retreated from mainland China. From time to time, it shows that they have not been completely "Taiwanized." So, you should feel free to be yourself and be as native as possible :)

    I am glad to hear that Rong-Zhou likes my new poem, which I wrote a couple days ago while reading your blogs and thinking the coming visit to him. Here is a quick English translation in free form:

    I am a kite and you hold the eight-thousand-mile long string.
    For thirty years I have wavered between the east and the west.
    And I tried to stay up somewhere between the clouds and the earth.
    In whispers of wind, please roll in your string gently.
    And I shall lie peacefully on the green grass at where the sun sets.

    Hope you like it too.

    1. Chia,
      I love reading your version of growing up in Taiwan to see what is still the same and what has changed! Your poem is so beautiful, I am sure your friend loved it, thank you for sharing the English translation!
      Hannah (colleen's daughter)