A pre breakfast walk through the Da an district, noodles and then we headed to the train station to catch the train to Hualien. Since arriving yesterday afternoon we have been immersed in a sea of kindness, generosity, beauty, strangeness and love. I am not sure that any description I attempt can do it justice.
My mother and I are staying in a guest house down the road from the Abode.
It is tropical here, with magnolia trees, orchids, palms, and a plethora of snowy white egrets. We were exhausted from the ride, still feeling the jetlag, but when we came into dinner we were ambushed with loving welcomes and curiosity about Alex’s Mama and Amah.
We crashed early on the “sturdy” –read rock hard–beds in the guesthouse and I was asleep by 8pm, in preparation for waking predawn for the chanting and darma talk. The plan was to meet Alex at 4:10 am, but we crossed wires and were each waiting for each other in different places. I was freaked out among strangers and didn’t want to “waste ” the fact that I had virtuously gotten myself up, so I followed the line of women into the hall inadvertently sitting in the section reserved for the nuns and lay boddhisattvas.
The chanting was amazing, rich deep resonant, but for me impenetrable since they were chanting a sutra in Chinese. I was enveloped in the sound, punctuated by drums and gongs and bells and bows. The darma talk that followed was in Taiwanese, so I was left with my own thoughts and feelings–always compelling.
Finding Alex and my mother, I tried to let go my frustration at not being able to understand–I was thinking alot about Julie, my exchange student from Denmark, who spoke excellent English, but still it must have been exhausting, working so hard to understand what was going on around her.
We were late to breakfast, and then were honored to be swiftly invited to join Cheng Yen, the darma master’s table to eat breakfast with her.Breakfast was manto–an airy bun like thing, peanuts, a delicious nut/sesame paste spread and porridge.
After breakfast Alex translated the Master’s message in which she stressed the unrelenting passage of time, and urged us to waste not a moment.
We were then taken on a whirlwind tour of the Toroko Gorge, guided by Alex’s roomate Ming Chun. The gorge has been cut through the marble and granite mountain, and abundant “pu bu”–waterfall–grace the cliff faces.
Tomorrow after the morning chanting and darma talk, we are slated to help out in the factory where they make soap, candles and essential oils. It is the least we can do to repay the extraordinary warmth and care with which we have been received.