Well I’m getting another update out to you much sooner than I thought :). I wasn’t finished with my Taiwan stories in my last update so I have some more people for you to meet…and below I also share Peng Mama and Baba’s beautiful love story! :)
Navigating Life’s Big Questions ~ a Plethora of Paths
Another woman I’d like you to meet is Li Juan. She’s Rosey’s dear friend in Hualien who so warmly welcomed us into her home. She is an amazing woman with a beautiful peacefulness, strength, grounded-ness and contentment about her. In my conversations with the many women I’m meeting throughout my travels, I often ask them to tell me their stories…particularly around some of the big questions in life like marriage, kids and following their own life paths. Taiwan is unique in it’s a country with one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The women’s movement happened a bit later in Taiwan (in my generation) and as a result, many of my Taiwan women peers are one of the first generations to have a much more open and encouraged opportunity for higher education than ever before. Many of my peers have excelled and pursued masters and PhDs. In Taiwan currently more women are going for PhDs than men. Also, there are more and more women serving in the government, and a growing number of women choosing not to get married. While the majority of women still do marry, many women I’m talking with here don’t feel the same intensive pressure to marry and have children as do the women I’ve been talking with in mainland China. This opens up a plethora of other life options and paths.
When talking with my dear friend, Miao Yin who I mentioned in my Travel Update 10, the “modern Daoist sage” I also discussed these questions with her. She smiled and said with her bright, twinkling (somewhat mischievous) eyes, that she has chosen not to birth her own children. She is mothering in other ways. She told me, “Kailun, I have much to do here in my lifetime.” She will be giving to many, many people through her role as doctor and as a sage. She also choses to dedicate the next 10 years of her life to intensive study with her teacher. As for marriage, she loves her partner and is open to marrying, though it is not a requirement. She said if one day he asks her to marry him, she’ll most likely say yes. And if they continue their beautiful union outside the “marriage agreement,” she is happy with that too.
Power of Mama & Emerging Options
Because so many women in Taiwan are choosing not to marry and not to have kids, Taiwan is facing a demographic dilemma that other countries face to some extent (such as Japan, and even the U.S.). They have a significant portion of their population that is aging and will be elders, while a much smaller portion will be younger. This brings up a whole host of economic, social, financial questions to solve….yet, it also may be a very natural way that Mother Earth slows down the unsustainable growth of our human population. If more and more women choose on their own not to birth children and to be “Mama” in other ways in our world, that is one natural way to slowly change our human footprint on the planet. And of course the majority of women who do choose to birth their own children, they are continuing a powerful tradition, calling, natural birthright as women to give a most wonderful, precious and blessed gift of Life on Earth as well. We just now live in a time where some women on our planet, for one of the first times in history, have the option to choose.
Meet Li Juan ~ Forging a New Field in Medicine ~ Life Narratives
For example, back to Li Juan whom I briefly mentioned in my last update. She is the one who teaches at the Buddhist University in Hualien and who so generously and warmly welcomed Rosey and me to stay at her place. She is in her early forties, not married, but fully in love with her boyfriend, and is a professor pursuing a career in a field she’s virtually created through following her passions and purpose. When asking her to share her story with me, she first started with her great friendship with Rosey. They were classmates in college and have been dear friends ever since. When in college, although she was interested in getting married, it wasn’t the #1 thing she wanted to do. She was passionate about her studies and learning and as I mentioned she now finds herself forging a new field in medicine and loves it! For her PhD dissertation research she was working with hospice patients, would meet with them several times solely for the purpose of them telling their life story with her. It was both a way for them to reflect on their life and to share the richness of themselves as a human with another human being. The stories that have come are so full and healing, and paint a beautiful tapestry of their lives.
Lijuan would then take and compile these narratives in a way for these patients’ physicians to read. The result was that physicians started naturally seeing their patients as full people with the rich lives they’ve lead, versus someone with a stroke, pancreatic cancer, heart disease, etc. Quality of care, a richness and depth of connection with their patients ensued.
Following Simple Wisdom, Not Always the Easiest Path
Also, in all her time with these patients, Lijuan has developed and honed some very specific and effective communication skills. In addition, Lijuan is a student of Buddhism and has a wonderful, humble, yet wise and powerful teacher. She told me much about him and I could see her deep love, respect and regard for him in her eyes as she spoke. This teacher is one who can look at someone and knows much about their life instantly and will give some wise words of guidance. Many people seek him for certain questions they have in their heart and others go with an open heart to receive what wisdom/insight he has to share. Lijuan takes what he says to heart and deeply applies it to her life. While sometimes the advice or guidance may seem simple, Lijuan mentioned that when asking people if they really followed up on his words, few people actually follow through…
For example, when reading a passage from a book given to her by her teacher, one phrase said something like, “If you’re able to help someone, do your best to give in every opportunity.” Well Lijuan told me how she earnestly took this to heart. She was in the middle of writing up her PhD dissertation and really just wanted to be left alone to write. Yet, someone who heard about her work approached her and asked if she’d share about it, and give a presentation at a meeting. Well at first thought, Lijuan didn’t want to do it, as it was about 5 hours to get there, and 5 hours back, plus the preparation time and her presentation time and no pay. But, she remembered having just read that passage in her book, realized that this was a way to give to this community asking for her insight, and said yes. Well, it was through this presentation and the people who were there listening to her and the connections she made…that eventually led her to now be teaching and leading a new field in communications in medicine! She now teaches both practicing physicians and medical students special communication skills to effectively communicate with patients and their families.
The Difference One Young Nun with a Huge Heart Made
Another example of doing one’s best to give is of a young woman in Taiwan responsible for starting the now worldwide organization, Tzu Chi Foundation. From what I’ve been told, this woman, Cheng Yen, was a young nun from a rich family and she had a HUGE heart, with such a strong passion and desire to be of service, ease suffering she saw around her and bring happiness, ease and joy to many. Originally this organization started with a group of 30 housewives who put aside a little bit of grocery money each day to help care for families in need. Cheng Yen then also sold the land her parent gave her as part of her family inheritance for money to build what is now one of the most successful and influential international humanitarian organizations and is one of Asia’s largest NGOs (non-governmental organizations). From such humble beginnings, this organization now has over 10 million members in 47 countries. The Tzu Chi Foundation provides volunteer services to communities in need all over the globe regardless of race, religion or nationality. Cheng Yen also saw that many of Taiwan’s native peoples, the various Aborigine groups, had little to no access to medical care where she was (in Hualien). So she raised money to start the now established and quite successful Buddhist hospital, and it’s affiliated medical school (where Lijuan teaches). They also have one of the most organized community composting and recycling systems I’ve ever seen, and the foundation operates 4,500 recycling stations throughout Taiwan! They even make some simple household goods out of some of the recyclable materials and resell them cheaply to families in the community or distribute them to people in need. For example, as of September 2008, over 11.8 million plastic bottles were used to make 152,000 polyester blankets used and distributed in their disaster relief. Other items they make from recycled fibers include thermal underwear, hospital sheets, t-shirts for volunteers, and medical aprons. Gosh, this is so inspiring!!!
Ambassador for Taiwan! :)
Oh my time in Taiwan has been so amazingly rich, healing and full of love. I love this island and so love my friends and family here. In my last update, I introduced Peng Mama and Baba. I had Peng Mama read the update since I shared so much about her and her sweet husband. After she read it she said, “Karen, you should be our Taiwan ambassador! :)” She also took off her glasses, looked me in the eyes and said in Chinese, “Kailun, you know you always have a home here. Our home is your home. Anytime you are in Taiwan, this is your home. You can come and go as you please. You have a sister and a brother here. (Rosey and her younger brother, Peng Yi) You are always welcome. Remember that.” Oh I was about moved to tears. I so love Peng Mama and Baba!!
Organic Chinese Food & Life Stories ~ A Most Delightful Combination
I love all our rich conversations. As I mentioned in my last update, much of my Taiwan time has been time of inner travel, rest, meditation practice, good conversation and LOTS of good Chinese food. :) When with Peng Mama and Baba, we would often eat all our 3 wonderfully, delicious organic meals together (of which they all prepared so joyously – despite my protestations to have the chance to cook for them!). Our meal times were full of wonderful sharing – about our travels (as I mentioned they’ve both traveled to 38 countries already and are going to India this spring and Spain this fall!!), our love stories, culture, history, childhood stories, health, and so much more.
Power of Forgiveness
With Rosey and Peng Mama and Baba we also talked much of Taiwan’s history. What beautiful, resilient, wise people in Taiwan. Taiwan knows and embraces the power of forgiveness. I don’t have a lot of the details BUT being an island with many natural resources, they have had both the blessing and curse of being occupied by various countries/governments. The Spanish and Dutch came. The Japanese came. The Chinese came. The Aborigines, many of whom were/are a peaceful people, often helped these foreigners and gave them land to live on. Yet once these outsiders got stronger, they often took over and in time, similar to the history of our American Native peoples, the Aborigines were left with nothing. Also, many older Taiwanese (including Peng Baba) still remember the Japanese and their occupation in Taiwan. Although there was much suffering, times of hunger, casualties of war and many of their own agricultural and natural resources that were shipped off to Japan, not to be used by the Taiwanese themselves, the Taiwanese still choose to see the good that came with Japanese occupation….their efficient mass transit system, train system connecting all parts of the island, their public health infrastructure, their educational system, public records…all these systems are strong and have built a good foundation for Taiwan’s subsequent growth and success as a country. I’ve been so impressed by the lack of bitterness, hostility for the suffering they’ve endured, and instead the mass amount of forgiveness and choosing to see the good that has come from such a colored history. Peng Mama said every country has a dark side of it’s history. She said, “while we may still remember the suffering in our hearts, we chose to spread the good. We forgive and move on.”
Don’t Think Too Much!
Peng Mama and Baba also spoke much of the importance of happiness. Peng Mama often said, “Xi bao yao kaixin. Bu yao xiang tai duo!” “Our cells need to be Happy. Don’t think too much!: :) And I love how truly happy Peng Mama and Baba are! The first time I asked Peng Mama about their love story, how they met and came to be together, Peng Baba over heard me in the kitchen, peered his head around the corner and said with a twinkle in his eyes, “Are you talking about our romance?” :) Oh he’s so sweet!!
A Beautiful Love Story ~ Peng Mama & Baba’s Romance
So because their love is just so great and wonderful and really, makes everyone around them feel good too, over one our last lunches together, I asked them to tell me all the details of their romance. Peng Baba is so in love with his lovely wife and is still so obviously very proud that he “won her over.” Apparently this was NOT an easy task, as many men were pursuing Ms. Wonderful Peng Mama. Peng Baba spoke of a doctor (Peng Mama’s mother was ill and this was the doctor treating her mom…who also was pursuing Peng Mama romantically) and even a college professor who were both in “front” of him in terms of pursuing Peng Mama’s hand. But, Peng Baba was persistent. He joked that he was like a pesky fly buzzing around! :) Ha! :) He said he was as a bit intimidated when he saw his competition…but he was persistent and dedicated to his heart’s desire to win over this beautiful young lady's heart. He thought of every excuse to make sure his life path and her life path had as many over laps as possible. When they met, they both taught at an elementary school, and then later both went to the same college taking night classes. In college, Peng Baba shared that he even changed his major (from Geography to Education) so he could be in the same building as Peng Mama! Haha!! Peng Mama was so surprised – she didn’t even know this after all these years :)! He then bought a house in Peng Mama’s neighborhood which meant they would also be riding the same bus to and from work and school and back home!! Peng Baba smiled and said, “Shangban, nianshu, hui jia, dou shi yiyang de lu. Suoyi women dou tiantian zai yiqi.” “Going to work, going to school, going back home were all the same route for us. Therefore we were together each and every day.”
The First to See the Moon’s Reflection
Peng Baba explained that he was following the wise saying regarding the romantic relations between a man and woman, between lovers….近水樓台先得月. “Jin shui loutai, xian de yue.” Literally meaning…“The one on the 2nd floor balcony will be the first to see the moon’s reflection.” Basically this means, the man who is closer to the woman is the one who will receive/win over the benefits, the beauty, the love of his lover. While Peng Baba’s competition was both a doctor and a professor, he made sure he had the most time with Ms. Wonderful Peng Mama….and in the end, he did indeed win her heart and they’ve been married over 40 years.
Peng Mama said that for her, the turning point was when her mother died. As mentioned, one of her pursuers was the doctor who was caring for her mom. Yet the day her mother actually passed, this doctor was too busy and was not able to be with her. He did not come to show his respects to Peng Mama's mother either (it’s a custom to “baibai” –show one’s respects to elders who have passed on). Peng Baba, however, was the very first person to come. He came to be with Peng Mama and to pay his respects to her mother.
So, after 4 years of pursuit, Peng Mama said yes, and the two of them were married and they are truly one of the sweetest, happiest couples I know!!
Last Breakfast ~ Laughter and Clanging Pots
So, I’m going to say it again….I so love my Taiwan parents, Peng Mama and Baba! On my last day with them, I woke up in my cozy room with the sound of the two of them laughing and chatting while working away in the kitchen. They were especially making a super LARGE and YUMMY breakfast for my final morning there. Oh My Gosh!!! Peng Mama even skipped her daily dancing to help Peng Baba prepare all the many organic local veggies, greens and eggs. (see pic of all the dishes!) They are soooo amazing!!!
And then, after we thoroughly enjoyed our lovely breakfast, I went out to buy them some organic fruit for them as a small token for my HUGE gratitude. Yet when I presented it to them, they promptly washed all the fruit and put it into my already overflowing bags! Oh dear! They laughed saying thank you...and... they can get this fruit anytime and really, it will be good for me to eat..besides it's organic and they know how much I like to eat organic, etc! Haha! And then while I was packing, Peng Baba kept coming in to check on my progress of stuffing my bags and helped me repack a few things so neatly (as well as sneaking in a bag of YUMMY red bean new year's cake into my bag!) Oh being with them I feel so very loved and already miss them so much, along with my dear friend Rosey, and my many other Taiwan friends!! Below is also a pic of my gratitude note to my sweet Taiwanese parents. ♥
I also stopped by the beautiful island of Jinmen on my way back to Mainland China :) (Jinmen is still in Taiwan but you can see Mainland China from there.) It’s a beautiful place with many birds, beautiful beaches and fresh breezes blowing through the tall grasses. While I felt quite sad leaving my Taiwanese family, I also felt so cared for by the Universe as It promptly brought me to stay with another most generous sweet couple, Mr. and Mrs. Zheng. They picked me up at the little airport on Jinmen and showed me to my delightful room. I barely had my bags in the door when they, hearing that I loved to bike, set me up with a bike and a map and sent me on my way to explore! :) Oh so thoughtful!! I went right to the beach to do some qigong and watch the setting sun..., walked down a concrete ramp to the sand, and...well,.. I took one pic (below) and then promptly slipped on some hard concrete and fell on my bum! Ouch! Ah well! I broke my sunglasses (as you see they are no longer on my face in the 2nd pic), BUT I stood up amazingly feeling as if I had just landed on a soft couch! :) (thank you Angels!) And I've included a pic of my simple dinner Mr. and Mrs. Zheng made for me -- all organic veggies from their own garden. Yay!
I’ve recently enjoyed a few beautiful days in Xiamen visiting my dear friends, HaiDan, Lu An Kelly (professor at Xiamen University), and Rolph…well he left for the Philipines the night before I arrived…BUT we are in touch and he’s invited me to visit his country home in Sweden! I still desire to study his youthful ways! :)
Tomorrow I hop on a plane to be re-united with my Chinese family, Dr. Zhao, Ayi, Junling, LiZhun, Nicole and so many more amazing people. :-)!!!
Thank you Thank you THANK YOU again to all of you who made it through my yet-another-long update. Really, having this opportunity to share and knowing you receive it is a HUGE gift for me. Thank you! I feel so filled and full with all these experiences and immense love and sharing it helps me spread the Joy, spread this profound goodness. Thank you. And I love you.