Archive for the 'ROC 2008' Category

To Taiwan and Back: Part 5

I apologise for the all the late postings. It seems like I don’t like writing whenever I don’t have the mood nor time.

This is the last installment of my chronicles in Taiwan. Sunday, being Dies Dominca, is the day we worship. Thanks to the girls from the Duns Scotus Center, I managed to get the Mass timing and location of some Catholic churches. I actually attempted to find one on Friday night. Unfortunately the doors of the nearest church were closed and there was no bulletin of any sort. The priest house seemed to be empty as well. Nonetheless on Sunday morning I took the public bus to Church of the Holy Family. This parish is located in Da-An (大安區).


Grotto


Sanctuary


Nave

I was expecting to hear the Hokkien Mass but then it turned out to be the Mandarin Mass instead. I had little problem with following the liturgy. The Mandarin hymnals in Singapore are all imported from Taiwan. They don’t practise tongue communion though; I was denied it.

St Joseph

Mary

Sacred Heart of Jesus

St Theresa of Avila

There was stained glass all over the church. This one depicts the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

The next place I went to was the Cathedral.

Modern architecture, obviously.


Mother and child


Sanctuary


Nave


Our Lady’s altar

Thus concluding the church visiting for the morning. I made my way back to Ximen for some last minute shopping as well as for lunch.

The Cathedral is closest to Shuanglian Station. I took a long walk in the underground street that connects it to Zhongshan Station and subsequently Taipei City Station. This street is known as Zhongshan Metro Shopping Mall. It is home to many bookshops.

There is an open space straight ahead where there are youths practicing Hip Hop dances.

The Rapid Transit Administration building is also located here.

I finally made my way to Taipei City Station where I changed trains towards Ximen. My room mate Jing Wei informed me the night before of the existence of a maid cafe there. It took me quite a while to find it but fortunately I made it in time for lunch.

This place called Moe Moe Centre sells manga, anime and other related goods. The main attraction is of course the Maid Cafe. I regret to inform you that I was not able to take any pictures as it was expressively forbidden by the management. Maybe next time.

In any case the experience was quite weird. The waitress was dressed in a French Maid’s costume and when welcoming you into the restaurant, would curtsey and say ‘お归りなさいませ、ご主人样’.

‘Welcome back Master.’ Oh dear, how embarrassing. The waitresses are quite pretty though. Food is decent, though you have to get the salad, soup and bread ala buffet style. They also refill your water regularly asking ‘主人要加水吗?’ When you wish to place the order for the main course she will ask ‘主人要点菜吗?’ I wasn’t really used to it. Still, I will pay a visit there again if I ever go back to Taipei.

All good things must come to an end. I made my way back to the hotel to catch the bus to the hotel.

Gundam on display at the airport duty free shop.

Home sweet home. On display are spoils from Taiwan.

Ah! I miss Taiwan! When can i go back? =(

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To Taiwan and Back: Part 4

Finally, we have come to the best part. The pictures I have taken are the fruit of two days of unrestricted exploration in Taipei.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel and were released for free and easy R&R. I took the bus to Ximending with the drivers staying in the hotel. From there on, I made my own way around the place. Ximending (西門町) is a large shopping street where the young people like to go to. The latest fashion can be found in this place. It also has a large collection of shops with Japanese goods such as music and anime.

I did a little bit of window shopping, and as I was wandering around the place, something caught my eye.

Maybe they were imitating modern fashion, where people like to wear the rosary around their neck, even though they have no idea what it is for, nor have they ever prayed with it. But most pleasantly, I had stumbled upon a Catholic bookshop.

From the looks of it, business did not seem very good. The shopkeeper was very happy to see someone take notice of the shop. So I entered.

The John Duns Scotus Bible Reading Promotion Centre (思高讀經推廣中心) is an apostolate that is run by the Franciscans in Taiwan. They print Mandarin Bibles for the whole of Taiwan and other Catholic literature. The shop also has sacramentals from the Holy Land.

The two ladies running the shop, 廬琳琳 and 林美利. I didn’t ask for their English names. Oops. They were nice people, and I spent almost an hour in their shop conversing with them. Thank God I joined the Chinese Legion, if not I would have nothing to build on. Before leaving I purchased some Holy Cards, paperweights and a rosary ring.

And they made me take a picture with their patron St Francis too! What nice people. I shall pray for the success of their apostolate.

I spent the rest of the afternoon sightseeing.

The famous Ah Zhong Mian Xian with ridiculously long queue.

The Red House Theater

Zhongshan Hall, similar to our Victoria Concert Hall. In the background they were preparing for the Taipei Poetry Festival.

I was due to meet my friend Yi Cheng at Gongguan in the evening. Remember the guy who made me disinfect my hands with alcohol after defecating in the forest during the Gunung Tahan expedition? He has since returned to Taiwan after ORD. He is now studying at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU).

He happened to be in Taipei for the weekend doing community service. I was happy to be able to meet an old friend in his country. Gongguan (公館) is where National Taiwan University is located. We decided to go visit the university. They were celebrating their hundredth anniversary of their founding.


Festivities and band performances


Bell tower


Library

Not having consumed dinner yet, we decided to eat at the nearby night market. We settled for some Oyster Mee Sua. We had mango ice desert after that. It was a really big plate with ice cream on top. Best shared with a few people.

I also managed to find a wet market selling cheap dried beef jerky. Excellent stuff. My decision not to purchase from the tourist shops we came across in the morning was correct. We went to Xinyi (信義) after that. Xinyi is a upmarket shopping district. Very expensive. Xinyi is where the Taipei 101 is located.

Business seemed to be quite bad, even though it was a Saturday night.

Being avid readers, I decided to take a visit to PageOne. PageOne incidentally is a Singaporean company, which has branches in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

The Taipei 101 from afar.

We also paid a visit to Eslite Bookshop (誠品書店). It is the biggest book retailer in Taiwan. Its size trumps PageOne’s anyday. Regretably we did not visit the 24-hour branch at Dunhua (敦化). Oh well maybe next time.

No-smoking spaces have the most attitude.

This is an interesting poster I first came across at the 802 Military Hospital in Kaoshiung. It seems like the Taiwanese Health Ministry is trying to ban smoking in public spaces, and they have enlisted Jolin Tsai to help them. It would be wonderful if I had one of these posters in KMC. Then I won’t have so many idiot smokers reporting sick for cough and flu.

Next stop: Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

National Theater

Chiang Kai Shek’s tomb.

This is the Freedom Square (自由廣場). If you read the news last year, this was the stage of student protests by the Wild Strawbery movement (野草莓運動).

Human garbage?

Yi Cheng with glee. ‘Come savour the rebellous spirit of the Taiwanese youth.’ Lol.

Press Freedom is a Human Right.

225 hours of sit-in protest.

Me standing near the gates.

So marks the end of Saturday Night in Taipei…

Coming next: Part 5

To Taiwan and Back: Part 3

Finally, we arrived at our long awaited destination. Taipei.

We were put up at various hotels. I was placed in a different hotel than from my unit guys. How disconcerting. The only people in my hotel are the medics, drivers and cooks. There were two of my clerks there too, and I shared a room with Jing Wei, one of the signallers from 41 SAR who incidentally followed our BCS team for ATEC.

On the first night, I did not venture far from the hotel, merely walking and exploring the neighbourhood. I was also trying to get some decent maps to navigate around with. The trip was quite long as well, and I was quite tired. I just bought some beef noodles from a shop around the corner and ate in my hotel room. On hindsight, I should have went out to see the nightlife. This was the only regret of my trip. Okay, enough lamenting.

The next day we got up pretty early and had breakfast at some restaurant. Most of the catered meals were at some local restaurants serving rice and various dishes such as vegetables and meat. Not very fantastic, but considering that everything is paid by for the army we cannot be choosy.

After breakfast we headed towards Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山國家公園). Basically there is nothing there but mountains and more mountains.

From right to left: Me, Jing Wei the signaller, Gan Kai Xian the ops clerk, Wee Liang the ops clerk, and two guys from SMI.

Road that leads deeper into the mountains.

Visitors’ Centre

Hands off the exhibits!

Flower Gardens

Some local Scouts having a day out

This so-called garden is actually quite big. It is a reputed hotspot for hiking and long walks. This road goes down..

and down..

and down all the way! So much so that we decided not to follow that path because was really steep and too far.

We headed back to the city for lunch, and had free and easy time for the rest of the day after 1 pm.

Okay, Yangmingshan bores me. Next stop, Ximenting!

To Taiwan and Back: Part 2

The best part of any overseas training is the R&R. We had our R&R in Taipei. On the last Friday we had reveille at 4 am. The buses left Hengchun camp at 4 am. It would be a long trip towards Taipei. There were numerous rest stops in between where we could purchase food. I bought some preserved quail eggs or iron/metal eggs (鐵蛋).I tried them before, so I was keen on purchasing a few packets home.

It was really a long ride. We entertained ourselves with the on-board movies. They screened Cape No. 7 (海角七號), which is supposed to be a best seller at the Taiwanese cinemas.

We stopped at LeoFu Village (六福村)which is supposed to be a Taiwanese Disneyland of some sorts. I had little interest in rides, and went off to the zoo to see the animals instead.

Leos of LeoFu

This is claimed to be the only white tiger in the whole of Taiwan. I wonder if it has mauled anyone yet. Ours has already beat this one!

Pink Flamingoes

Oh my God! Hippos! What could be better than hippos? Hippos are the best!

Rhinos at Rest

In the central area of LeoFu Village. Notice the marble hippos in the water.

We left LeoFu Village at 4 pm. We would only reach the hotel in Taipei at 7 pm.

Akan Datang: Part 3

To Taiwan and Back: Part 1

I was in Taiwan for three weeks of training. It was quite exciting to be deployed overseas for the first time. So yes, I will share what I have seen there.

Pre-trip preparation

On 24 October I went down to attend the pre-exercise briefing. What a waste of time. I was half-asleep, until the medical briefing.

Officer: Okay, the MO is not coming. The Senior Medic is not coming either because his wife has gastric. Where is the medic? Raise your hands! Come out and give the talk!

Me: (Looking around for other medics, but no hands were raised)

Officer: Eh Medic, come out leh!

I had not choice but to come out to the stage and give the talk. I was shaking like hell. It wasn’t too bad since I knew most of the stuff. I’m just glad they didn’t ask me to teach them to use condoms.

The rest of the day were spent with duffel bag inspection and weighing.

Day One at Hengchun

Our flight departed from Terminal 3 at twelve thirty am. We arrived in Kaoshiung at six in the morning.
I was happy to see Zhanhe again. He was waiting outside the airport.

On arrival at Hengchun camp, we were allocated bunks and made to move the stores in the ops boxes. I met up with the other medics. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Since I didn’t see any of them on Friday, I thought I was the only medic for the whole frame, which was pretty scary. In any case, Zhanhe took us for hospital orientation at Hengchun, Kaoshiung and Fangliao. Along with me were some medics from Pasir Laba Camp and Bedok Camp. I was also introduced to Zhenhao, the other base medic; and Mark the Ambulance Driver. He was from Maris Stella Primary. He said I looked familiar, but I could not recognise him.

There are three hospitals in Hengchun. The 802 Military Hospital in Kaoshiung is where the complicated cases go to. On that day, we sent one fellow with persistent food poisoning. We spent the rest of the day at the hospital, and had dinner at the canteen.

Before we set off, we bought some bubble tea. I had this one called the Pudding Milk Tea (布丁奶茶). It was really good! And so began three weeks of drinking all kinds of bubble tea.

Day Two at Hengchun: Nights’ Out at Kenting

To our utter surprise, they gave us nights’ out on the second day. The nights’ out was at Kenting (墾丁), a tourist town by the sea. There were many stalls selling street food, and shops selling swimwear and other apparel.

A street in Kenting

Various shophouses

Sushi Restaurant and KFC

And who can forget the renowned smelly tofu of Taiwan?

I didn’t eat the smelly tofu because I could not stand the smell. I just had some pig’s blood cake (豬血糕﹐,米血) which is pig’s blood cooked with rice cake. It goes well with the soup and the prawn rolls.

We spent about 2 hours there, and they sent us back to camp by ten-tonner. Yes, you read correctly, a ten-tonner. We use five-tonners and rovers, but the ROC uses ten-tonner trucks with mechanized doors and Humvees.

We had another nights’ out in the second week. During the two nights’ out I took the opportunity to stock up on food, drinks and reading material.

Life in camp

I only went to cover for a total of three times. One was navex, one was bike navex and another one was live firing. Other than that, I spent most of my time in the medical centre on duty. Sure, business was all right. We even used the Body Cooling Unit twice. It’s the first time I ever seen the drill for heat exhaustion. I let Zhanhe do the job of placing the rectal thermometer into the patient’s… well it is obvious isn’t it? There were plenty of illnesses ranging from coughs to chicken pox to STDs even. Those were laughable. The doctor was quite amused. We had plenty of people warded in the sickbay too.

There is no Medical Informatics System in the camps there, so everything is updated manually. It was great not having to deal with computers. No computers, no downtime. There isn’t much patient volume everyday, anyway.

I spent most of my free time playing PSP. I managed to complete the main story of Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core. I still have half the side missions left.

I’m glad I had ample time to say the office and my usual prayers, though PSP was quite distracting. I will reconsider buying one.

The bunks were furnished with double-decker beds. We had foam mattresses to sleep on. It was quite stuffy. Fortunately the window was just behind me. The only thing I had to contend with was the sun shining on my face at six am. In Taiwan, the sun rises that early. It goes down as early at five pm too.

As for the showers, the shower stalls had no doors. At least there was hot water. My only gripe is that toilet paper has to be disposed in the bins instead of being flushed down. I countered that by using more water to flush it down. In any case the condition of the bunks and showers never bothered me too much, because I slept and showered in the medical centre most of the time.

Food in camp was all right. They use the local short-grained rice. The food isn’t always good, but it is still better than SFI. Sometimes I just gave up on the cookhouse and headed for the canteen or the ‘White shop’ outside. There is this white coloured shophouse outside the camp which sells food and drinks. I had the pork steak rice and chicken steak rice on more than one occasion. It wasn’t that bad.

So sorry that there are no pictures of camp life! I don’t want MSD coming to my house in the middle of the night or during my off day!

Akan Datang: Part 2


Pages

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us

Stella Matutina, ora pro nobis

Our Lady of Perpetual Succor, pray for us

St Michael the Archangel, pray for us

St Jude, pray for us

St Benedict, pray for us

St Dominic, pray for us

St Anthony, pray for us