Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Power of Mama, Moon's Reflection, a Most Beautiful Love Story, Clanging Pots & Pursuing a Different Path




Greetings Friends!

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.


Note: this woman with the CUTE dog is one of Peng Mama's relatives...she's 101 years young!!! And she is so happy and bright and still in great health -- also very few wrinkles - amazing :)!


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.

Much Love,
Kailun

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stewed Eggs, Inner Travel, Earthquakes, the Sweetest Couple, Our True Wealth & Twinkling Eyes




Greetings Friends!

Thank you so much to all of you and your wonderful notes/messages you’ve sent me. I love to hear from you!

Overflowing Teapot
I am so enjoying being in Taiwan! And I have so much to share about the people I’m with! While here I’m taking some good time of rest and inner travel. The last 5 months of amazing travel, trekking, teaching, receiving, new friends, amazing sharings, synchronicities and blessed encounters and experiences, plus all my studies with my Grandmaster and other teachers at Kundawell have filled me sooo full! I remember clearly one afternoon about 3 days before the end of our class, I sat back and told me friend…”Wow. I’m full. I feel like a full tea pot and the water is continuing to come and is now overflowing, it’s just overflowing.” I had also developed some intense foot pain and other symptoms. My body and spirit were strongly telling me to “stop,” to rest, to be quiet, integrate and …..to continue in my qigong practice. I know now that my qigong is one of my most powerful tools for all these things, plus my qigong helps me look in, and intimately get to know, and continue the wonderful discovery of knowing my own body, my spirit, my energy. In our Image Medicine course, we learned so many powerful tools for healing, and learned much foundational knowledge in Chinese medicine as well. Yet all our teachers reminded us that this was not a place for “normal study” – normal being to come to class, take notes, study ones notes and texts and take tests. While we definitely did some of this, our teachers all reminded us that how much we received in this precious month of class largely depended on our practice. The more we practice, the more we develop our energy, ourselves, and our abilities would naturally mature in each person’s perfect timing.



Our Heart ~ A Truly Amazing Organ
I remember clearly in one of our classes where our professor, Olga was teaching us all about our heart, a truly amazing organ. She started by talking about how with science and technology we know so very much about our outside world, but that we still don’t know that much about ourselves. We, for the most part, are born with strong bodies, yet live in conditions (pollution, emotions, unhealthy habits, etc) where they can become ruined. She said, “In a way we’re like small children” with a new toy, “seeing how fast we can break our bodies.” Gosh, I hadn’t ever thought of it in this way. But many, many of societies daily habits, ways of eating, living, thinking lead down paths that “ruin” one’s body. Yet our bodies are so magnificent! For example, our heart is no ordinary organ. Our hearts are extremely intelligent and our also connected to our intelligence. For one, in the fetus, the tongue grows directly out from the heart muscle…. showing physically and symbolically the literal and profound truth and life-supporting practice of speaking from our heart. Our heart is only ~300 grams, but it makes about 100,000 beats per day. Olga mentioned that if we put all our blood vessels in a line, it’s about 150,000km long! Our dear hearts are pumping our blood a phenomenal distance each moment of every day of our lives. Also, why is it that in many countries, heart disease is the number 1 killer?




Our Perfect “New Home” & Time for Inner Travel
So back to my time here in Taiwan….While I have many friends here and of course would love to travel all around the island, before I came, I wrote to my dear friend Rosey and told her about some of my symptoms and my desire to have a quiet, beautiful place to rest, practice qigong and integrate. Actually I was thinking of maybe going to a Buddhist monastery. Well, Rosey is so awesome! She did some research and told me of a few places I could go…and then said, “Or, you can come with me. I’m going to Hualien.” It’s a small city on the east coast of Taiwan, Hualien next to both the mountains and the ocean with wonderful clean fresh air, clean water, organic foods, farms, lots of birds, etc. Rosey explained that a good friend of hers, Li Juan offered for her (and me) to stay at her place as long as we wanted. Li Juan is a professor at a Buddhist University. She has a simple yet beautiful apartment on campus with a view of the mountains, and the ocean, and is right next to the Buddhist temple! It’s an easy bike ride to any stores, the beach, farming communities and even the mountains with wild monkeys! Oh my gosh! This is perfect!!! My little mind wouldn’t have even come up with such a perfect scenario :). So after a couple days in Taipei, Rosey and I hoped on a train and settled into our “new home” in Hualien.






Communicating with Life in a Different Way
Being here has been a humbling yet nourishing experience for me to slow way down. I’ve had situations in the past where my body told me to “STOP!” too, often by manifesting some odd symptoms/conditions. But I know it is good to listen to my body. It is also a new experience for me to practice qigong deeply on my own. In the past, I didn’t like to meditate, do a long practice on my own. I’d much rather practice with a group. Here on this trip, though something has shifted. During my Image Medicine course in Beijing, as I mentioned in my last update, I started to do more intensive practices on my own at night and we had group meditations during the day. And here in Taiwan, I’m on my own to practice, yet in going more deep, I feel even more connected to the vast, unknown, mystery of our lineage of Qigong, the Zhong Yuan Qigong system. My daily practices are an opportunity to communicate within, and with the Life around me in a different, yet so intimate way.  



For example, the other day, Peng Mama and Peng Baba took me to beautiful Yang Ming Mt. to see some of the cherry blossoms. On our short stroll, we also saw many, many large beautiful trees that are 100s of years old. One tree (it’s the one I’m hugging in the pics below :)) particularly caught my attention – so strong, so beautiful, so graceful. How did she day after day, year after year, century after century hold out her long outstretched limbs? (they extend powerfully and gracefully over a pond)? That day when we returned, I went up onto my host family’s roof (where I can see the surrounding mountains and breathe the fresh, wind blown air) to do my afternoon/evening practice. In the middle of Big Tree practice, I felt this beautiful tree. In my mind, I asked, “How do you so effortlessly hold your branches so strong?”…Almost instantly I felt such strong energy pour into my arms and move them out far and wide. The energy supported me so fully; my arms were lifted and full, strong yet a feeling of effortlessness….and then the love, a strong, strong Love came pouring into my Heart. Oh even writing now, I’m moved to tears. Almost everyday in this intensive time of practice, I am feeling Trees all over our planet. And I feel their connection with one another, an amazing underground intelligent connection. In meditation, I have traveled from the mountains and trees in Taiwan, to the giant Red Woods on the Coast of California, back to my homelands of the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic Mountains. These Trees are so Precious!





In another example, on my 2nd day in Taipei, I went out to lunch with Peng Mama with her and many of her dance students (Peng Mama is an AMAZING woman – I will tell more about her below. She’s brilliant, loves to travel and has been to 38 countries with her lovely husband, taught elementary school for 9 years and high school for 21 years and now teaches all different kinds of martial arts dancing in the local park from 6-8 a.m. everyday – my last time I lived with them 14 years ago, I would also go dance with Peng Mama everyday :) - this time I haven’t b/c of my foot pain, but next time I come, I’ve already told her I want to keep studying dance with her! :)). When we came home, we were both sleepy. Peng Mama took a nap and I decided to practice. I went into the cute cozy room they’ve given me to stay in (actually it’s my friend Rosey’s room! She’s given it to me to use while I’m here :)), and went into a deep meditation for 2 hours (‘awoken’ at the end by an earthquake!). Again this was new for me,.. to slow down so much, be quiet and to go so easily into meditation. Each practice is a transformation; it’s challenging to put into words. I am very grateful. I know my body is healing/cleansing from some ingested toxins, and now I get to partner with my body and use my tools. It’s an organic unfolding, a trusting of the movement of qi, the odd sensations that arise, the light, colors and darkness, and it’s a surrendering to and trusting the power of Qi and the innate healing wisdom within.



Qigong ~ a Way of Integration & Transformation
Also I find each practice is connected to the Earth and Sky energies, the animals I see during the day, the blue and turquoise ocean waters around me, the meaningful conversations I have, the connections with the local people, the learnings from my friends’ stories, the towering mountains surrounding us, the blue herons I encounter so silently standing - offering a palpable stillness fused with dignity and grace, the new green growing grasses, the health returning to this environment, my own rising heat, qi and vibrations through my body, the cold and hot energy coming out of my eyes and the light!….Each practice is different and leaves me in awe. So many tools that I’ve learned with my Grandmaster, I now feel ready to actually use. It sounds silly…but before I had many thoughts that I believed, such as, “I don’t know how” or “I can’t” or “It (meaning qigong) works for others but not for me.” Now, just as Mingtang told me 7 years ago, “Just do it.” I am trusting and just doing it.

And I am very much a novice in my training. I am understanding that my training is not about the phenomena that arise…but more about the openness, purity of heart and consciousness I bring to my practice and a willingness, a learning how and a discipline to be present and be quiet.


Gosh, so I also have much I desire to share with you about the people I’m with here, the conversations and sharings we’ve had/are having and the transformations I’m seeing within Taiwan – both in the land and the people! :)

First, for some background, I first came to Taiwan when studying abroad in my junior year in college. I then came back with a research grant the following summer to do my anthropology thesis fieldwork on a traditional month-long postpartum practice of “Zue Yue Zi 坐月子” (literally meaning ‘sit for a month’ – a practice steeped in both culture and Chinese medicine). It was during that summer of fieldwork when I had the wonderful opportunity to live with Rosey and her delightful parents, Peng Mama and Peng Baba! :) Besides my rich experiences with many people and new dear friends, I also remember having some strong concerns for the environment. Many of the rivers, streams I encountered 14 years ago were very polluted, filled with trash and gave off a bad smell. The trash, as I’ve found in my travels on mainland China (and in the U.S. too), can be overwhelming, as well as the horrible air pollution that is currently threatening human and all forms of life in Beijing and other major cities.



Gift of Clean Air
This time in coming to Taiwan, I flew here directly from Beijing. My last 3 days in Beijing, the air quality situation had changed dramatically and has continued to be on the news for the dangerously high amounts of toxins in the air. We went from having somewhat clear, sunny skies (still a bit hazy)…to a thick, depressing and eerie fog that obscured the tops and even outlines of buildings, let alone the sky, surrounding mountains and the sun.  I, as I mentioned was also starting to feel the effects of some ingested toxins that were overwhelming my liver. When I left China and flew into Taiwan, in addition to the wonderfully warm greetings I had from both Peng Mama and Peng Baba awaiting me to come out of customs with big smiles, waving arms, and even Peng Mama (in her 60s) running up to give me a BIG hug :), I also immediately noticed I could breathe! The air was moist and clean.



Learning from Taiwan...Returned Grasses, Blue Herons, Cows & Clean Water
In the following days, weeks I’ve been here, I am moved in all the positive changes I’ve seen the people of Taiwan make to restore, protect, preserve and love their environment, their Land, Mountains, and Waters. One of the benefits of living on a small island, is there is nowhere “out of site, out of mind” to dump trash, pollute, destroy, etc…without the effects soon being very visible both in the ecosystem and in the people. In the last 20 years, Taiwan has done much to shut down toxic factories, clean their air, begin recycling and composting programs, clean up their own food system (you can easily buy organic food here), have restrictions on cars (for example during the Chinese New Year, on certain roads cars with fewer than 3 or 5 people are not allowed), restore some lands and much respect to Taiwan’s diverse aboriginal peoples, clean up their water ways and rivers, and protect their old trees. I was astonished in my first bike ride through Hualien’s city…I came upon one of the rivers that flows through and out of town to the ocean. What before was a smelly, cement duct with cloudy colored dirty water and trash, was now green with many plants growing, clean water flowing, blue herons and other birds feeding and singing, cows grazing and people enjoying with walking and biking on nearby pathways and fishing in the flowing waters!! Oh I was sooo soooo happy to see this! (I’ve included some pics of this stream below). What a transformation! What a testament to the fact that we CAN change as a society!





A New Movement ~ Sowing Seeds in the Country & Recognizing Our True Wealth
I am learning so much in my conversations with my dear friend, Rosey too. She told me that much transformation is coming from the younger generations in Taiwan. For example many young people who have gone into the cities to get their Masters and PhDs. Some go into high level, high stress, high paying jobs and then quit. Others skip that detour and have studied agriculture science, technology, ecology, sustainability, economics and are now going back to their hometown villages in the countryside to grow healthy foods and are setting up organic farms, B&Bs with organic restaurants, organic markets, and creating a growing network of sustainable food systems to offer safe, organic food for the public. Many people in Taiwan have realized something that our whole world will come to realize out of necessity.  --- That a country’s, a people’s true wealth lies in the cleanliness of our waters, our air, our environment and the pristineness and protection of our most magnificent Wild Lands! These are our true assets. Without these, our foundation for true health, wealth and wisdom, we have nothing.



In my travels throughout China, I find the minds of the young are changing too. They are questioning the drive to make more money, make more money while the environment around them is ruined, the water spoiled and the air becoming un-breathable…for what? In the last 20-30 years, many more Chinese are able to enjoy the luxuries that many in the West have taken for granted in the last 50 years, yet this (just like it is worldwide) is taking a huge toll on the environment.

I find now more and more when I meet people and tell them I’m from Seattle, Washington, people’s eye brighten, they smile with a big thumbs up and say what a beautiful place that is, clean air, beautiful mountains, fresh waters! Again, people are starting to see a country’s clean environment as its true wealth and beauty. (Below are some pics from my backpacking trip last summer in the Mt Rainer Goat Rocks Wildnerness, WA - 2 weeks before I left on this epic journey in China/Taiwan)








Last night when I went to say good night to Peng Mama, she and Peng Baba were watching a show (an American documentary on the history channel) called the Prophets of Doom. I watched a short segment and was impressed and alarmed at the state of America’s water systems. While we have many, many pressing issues facing the wellbeing of humanity and our planet, the scientists in this documentary come to the conclusion that addressing our water crisis is of top primary importance. This is a resource we have damaged if not destroyed greatly through polluting our rivers, burying our wetlands for factories or malls, damming rivers, and using up underground glacial water reserves from millions of years. Without water we have no life, no economy or healthcare to worry about fixing, etc. Some countries such as Singapore and parts of Australia are actually looking at how to convert sewer waters back into drinking water, as water is getting scarce.







What a powerful time we are living in now! As humans we have the capacity of great intelligence, creativity, compassion, love and wisdom. I believe we can as a global society change our ways and instead of ignoring, dominating, destroying our environment, we can restore, protect, preserve and deeply Love and Respect it. These are all things I’m learning/observing in Taiwan.



Meet Peng Mama and Baba!
In addition, I’m learning so much from all the people I’m with here in Taiwan, and have so many people I desire you to meet! :)

First is to meet and formally introduce Peng Mama and Peng Baba. :) They are my Taiwanese parents, parents of my dear friend, Rosey Peng who I’ve known over 14 years. As I mentioned earlier, the day I arrived in Taiwan, they were both there at the airport and greeted me with such warmth, huge smiles and enthusiasm! Just as I remembered them! They are truly delightful; their whole family is. And they are all extremely brilliant, loving, happy, curious, and amazingly generous people who are all world travelers (this fall when I emailed Rosey about coming to see them this January, she immediately wrote back and mentioned she was traveling in Nepal, her parent were in Africa, and her and her brother were also going to go to Turkey! Ha!).




Peng Mama is in her 60s and Peng Baba is in his 70s, BUT you’d never know it as they are so healthy, vital, and did I already mention, happy? :) I love them and treasure my time with them. They have been married over 40 years and are the best of friends and are also still very much in love with one another. Rosey jokes that when she comes home, her Dad will smile and say hello, BUT when his lovely wife comes home, he jumps up to greet her with open arms. Haha! When they are together, they are wonderfully and constantly chatting, joking and working lovingly side-by-side. I remember even on the night they were driving me back to their place from the airport, Peng Baba who loves to sing, started singing so many songs for me. Peng Mama jumped in too and the 2 of them sang and laughed intermixed with our chatter all the way home. :)




Delicious Organic Veggies & Slippers
And did I mention their generosity? Rosey has given me her room to stay in while here as well as her bike to use; Peng Baba gave me my own set of keys; and Peng Mama introduces me as their goddaughter where ever we go! The night I took the train back to Taipei from my 2 weeks in Hualien, Peng Baba was there waiting for me at the station with a BIG smile, and Peng Mama was in the kitchen cooking up several dishes of my favorite organic veggies when we arrived home. They both sent me to shower to wash up, and when I came out of the bathroom, Peng Baba had even set out a pair of slippers for me to wear! OMGosh! I am continually amazed in their kindness and love and just how joyful and meaningful each day is with them. 







Humming Harmony & Beautifully Cut Fruit 
I’ve included many pictures of the most amazing organic meals they’ve prepared for us to enjoy together, including the 9 dishes Peng Mama made for Chinese New Year’s Eve :), and a yummy breakfast and sweet note Peng Mama and Baba left for me when they left early to take Rosey to the airport one morning :)  And Peng Baba, since he has retired, LOVES to take care of the home, keep it clean, shop for veggies, cook and prepare breakfast while his lovely wife teaches her dancing classes, do the laundry and in general keep a massive amount of harmony humming throughout the whole home. One day when I asked Peng Baba to show me how to use their washer, he smiled with bright, happy eyes and carefully explained how to use everything. Well after about an hour I remembered I should go hang up my clothes, but Peng Baba had already done it! Oh so sweet! And even this morning when I was writing away in Rosey’s cozy office, Peng Baba was in the kitchen and prepared 2 wonderful plates of delicious and beautifully cut fruits for both Peng Mama and me to eat! He came to me with this plate of fruit saying, “It’s good to eat fruit in the morning. This is for you to enjoy.” :)






With such a profound amount of grounded happiness and harmony in this family, it affects other life around them too. Rosey told me that many birds have chosen to nest and raise their young in the plants on their balcony window….and they also have some of the happiest plants growing here as well. :)

Meet Rosey! She is AMAZING 
And Rosey!!! She is so amazing!! All my time with her is extremely rich. I wish I had an audio tape of all the amazing stories of history, wisdom, culture, local plants, compassion, humor, knowledge, love and cooking and Chinese language lessons she has shared with me through our time together!! :) She is so great and is quite brilliant (like her parents :)). We lived together for 2 weeks in Hualien and were continuously having the most interesting conversations while cooking to most delicious organic Chinese foods (really I could fill up my blog on all my food pics! Ha! :)) Rosey is natural teacher and she has helped my Chinese a lot, correcting me or teaching me new words, phrases and the history or cultural stories behind certain expressions. She’d joke though, that sometimes when it was late and (I often turn into a ‘pumpkin’ around 10-11p.m.), she’d say something in Chinese and then ask me, “Do you know what that (a certain phrase) means?” But then upon seeing my glazed-over eyes as I was tired, we’d both laugh and she’d say oh dear, it’s her “zhiye bing – mei banfa” – oh it’s her professional sickness again – she can’t help it but continuously teach! :)




Aboriginal Blood & a Government Funded Grant 
Rosey is one of those people who everyone likes and gravitates too. People just feel good, happy and a deep sense of wellbeing around her. She is modest, yet makes a profound difference on our planet. She has worked in very high levels, planning and teaching the curriculum for corporate executives from around the world to learn about Chinese culture, history and language as part of their international business program. She has also worked at setting up important exhibits in Taiwan’s national museum, is an advocate for the island’s diverse Aboriginal peoples, and is one of the leaders in setting up a complex yet efficient emergency response plan for Taiwan for any type of natural disasters. This past year while doing some of her own research (she is always learning, reading and researching things :)), she discovered her own family’s ancestral roots to one of the Aboriginal tribes from the Song Mt. area in what is now Taipei city. She actually found her great, great grandmother was the daughter of the chief of this tribe! No one in her family knew of these roots until she started her own research and digging into the detailed genealogical records left from the time of the Japanese occupation in Taiwan. She also found out that right in the neighborhood where she grew up and the neighboring airport are exactly the place of her ancestral tribal lands! Wow! Well Rosey took her findings to the government, went through a competitive application process and was awarded a grant by the government to do her research, documenting the history and lineage of this tribe and lands and now is working on writing up her findings for a written report…or actually her father corrected me…a book! Oh Rosey is so amazing. She has told me numerous stories of the powerful women in her family line…the struggles and immense challenges they as Aborigines faced with the many outsiders coming,… all coming to claim some or all of the Aboriginals’ motherland as their own…









Twinkling Eyes 
On our many outings together, Rosey and I met several people of different Aboriginal descent. Rosey, in her wonderful, warm and engaging way, would open conversations with these people, showing genuine interest in them, their lives, their background, their culture. I love watching her and how she interacts with others. People just blossom in front of her as they talk with her. Their eyes begin to twinkle and shine and soon they are both laughing. When Rosey also shares her Aboriginal heritage, they are so happy and a most wonderful, special kindred connection is formed. Oh it has been so beautiful to witness, and I learn so much from my dear friend.

(Here are a few pics of Chinese foods Rosey's been teaching me to cook (the stewed eggs are my first attempt at making "lu dan" :) -- you can see from Rosey's expression that I was successful! :)), and eating and so thoroughly enjoying! - I also included of few of eating a most famous oyster dish called "e zai jian"! Yummy!)












Meet the Aunties ~ Stewards of a Once Beautiful Venice  
She also shared many stories with me from her 6 years living in Suzhou, China working with a big company. While her job was good and making a difference, she found it hard to see what was happening to the environment around her. In what has been a most beautiful city (the Venice of China), she saw many streams, ponds and wetlands filled in, covered over to build more big buildings, campuses, malls, etc, .. all in the name of improvement and modernization. She lived on the 13th floor of a huge high rise building, much like many of the buildings going up all over China, yet still had a little porch where she was of course growing her beloved plants (Rosey is an excellent gardener :)). Her building was one of many that was built on top of what was once a small village with farmland, ponds and waterways. While the government gave these “displaced” families money and a “brand new” apartment to live in, and said they would be better off, Rosey had befriended many of the “Aunties” that came to clean people’s apartments as well as her own. These women were descendants of generations of family members cultivating and living from this land. While yes they had a new place to live in, they could no longer grow their own food. They could no longer eat fish from the ponds that were buried, let alone drink their waters. These people saw their soils and water ruined and their air become dirty.

Behind Rosey’s work campus and close to her apartment was one pond that remained. Rosey would often go there during breaks at work, or after work to relax, listen to the birds and frogs, and investigate the remaining beautiful native plants. (Rosey actually has a hilarious story where one morning she went to the office early and saw a tiny plant growing in the sidewalk she hadn’t seen before. She was so excited that she sprawled down on the ground to get a closer look. Well she thought no one else was around but some of these Aunties and others saw her from above in the building and came running down thinking Rosey had fainted or something! :)) Sometimes by the pond, some of the Aunties would be gathering plants or growing a small patch of food, and Rosey would stop and talk with them. At first they were surprised that she would stop, as many people who worked on that campus didn’t pay attention to them. But Rosey, in her most warm, generous, beautiful way, became dear friends with many of these Aunties. They all came to adore Rosey, and would often bring her bundles of fresh veggies from their small gardens or clippings of some native plants that they knew she would love to start growing on her balcony. :) They also taught her some of their traditional native songs when they found out Rosey too loves to sing.





Vanishing Pond 
Over time Rosey noticed the air quality was getting worse and worse. She could no longer open her windows in her apartment to let the breeze in or get “fresh” air. Her one solace was the pond in back that she could still visit. Yet, one morning, Rosey looked out her window and was horrified! Over the course of one night, a construction crew came and this last little pond, home to many dear frogs, crickets, plants, birds as well as a haven for the local women…was buried and the foundation for a new campus building was about to be made. That was Rosey’s last straw. She knew it was time for her to leave and come back to her homeland in Taiwan where the air is clean, and the waters and lands are being restored. The Aunties however, don’t have the same option. These lands, even in seeing their destruction, are still these women's homelands and these women continue to provide a living history to what once was to those to will ask and will listen.

Always Learning! :) 
Rosey is also always learning! You know how Einstein is said to have used a greater percentage of his brain? (I think 20% or something? And I remember that on average we only use about 10%?) Well I think Rosey uses a higher than normal percent of her brain too. I just found it amusing and inspiring that some mornings when we were living together, while I was investing my time in deciding which of my 2 outfits to wear that day (as I actually packed light for our time in Hualien :)), she would be reading about the history of contagious diseases or teaching herself the methods of the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono practice, or checking the status on earthquakes around the world, or…something else amazing and meaningful! :)

Earthquakes & Skype
Speaking of earthquakes, one funny story is one day Rosey was helping me change one of my airline tickets as the customer service people always speak so fast, sometimes I have a bit of trouble understanding them in Chinese. So we were both leaning over my computer talking to this representative using skype when…all of a sudden the whole room and building started shaking. “Oh dear,” I thought, “We’re having an earthquake!” The woman respresentative on the other end of the phone line, however, of course just kept talking as she was in China and had no idea we were in the midst of a significant trembler! I started to get nervous as the building continued to sway and shake and I could hear the sound of the earth and the building moving together (haven’t heard this since I was in the big ’89 quake in CA!) Rosey, however just looked up at me, smiled and whispered, “We’re having an earthquake.” …and then kept talking with the representative. She calmly finished the conversation as the earthquake completed….and then we both burst into laughter! How bizarre was that?! While she had already explained it to me before, Rosey explained once again that earthquakes are very common in Hualien and that’s good as the pressure is released regularly. She said all the locals continue right on talking or eating or whatever they’re doing through these quakes….while all the tourists jump up and run outside in a panic!

Okay! So yet another LONG update!! I still have so much to say about many of the other women I’ve met, all I’m learning in our converstaions, the most generous Chinese doctor I’ve been seeing here, my day with two beautiful young Aboriginal leaders of the Amei tribe up in the mountains learning survival skills, and much more…BUT, It’s time for me to go to bed and probably for you to get on with your day :)

Thank you again for all of you who made it through my sharing. I love your notes and emails too!! Thank you for writing!!


Enjoy more pics below.There are more of some of the great foods I've been enjoying and learning to cook.  Some are also from a neat restaurant we went to where the couple makes all local Aboriginal foods with a very creative flare. The wife is Aboriginal and is the cook and her husband is Chinese and presents all the dishes, giving cultural and interesting information on the local veggies and plants used - all done with a great witty sense of humor. And I have a few more from our day with the young aboriginal couple and our outing in the mountains and the wonderful wilderness classes they teach!





















Happy Happy Chinese New Year from me and my beloved Taiwanese Family!!

Much LOVE to you all!!!
Love,
Kailun