Friday, December 22, 2017

Country Roads

Rural Taiwan is usually drive-through country, but we made a pilgrimage to my wife's ancestral home town in the middle of nowhere to hang out for a few days.  The winter is the only time that I care to do this.  The town where we went is losing population, so there is some considerable small town blight.  The local elementary school used to have 300 children, but now is down to only 24.  Jobs are better and easier elsewhere for the young, while the new generation neither marries nor has children.  

Something surprising is that all the country field access roads are paved, whereas they would be gravel or dirt farm tracks in the US or Europe.  Irrigation is all flowing through concrete systems, the countryside is electrified, wi-fi and mobile telephone are everywhere, the toilets are all western style sit-down ones and the water from the faucets is potable.  Country living at its finest. 

Only California would worry about snakes being endangered.

You must first stop, pick up the snake, and ask it whether or not it is endangered.  

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Picking up the Trash

My church I go to is an ethnic Chinese one with about 750 people attending on a typical Sunday.  There are many ways to help, and I have chosen to show up early on Sunday mornings and go around picking up trash from the parking lots, which includes the area around two adjacent businesses in this light industrial area.  Some would say that this is more honorable than helping in other ways, but I feel it is more cowardly to simply pick up trash and arrange things rather than attempt to engage in activities that might involve church politics.  No one disputes with me or challenges my right to pick up trash, even though I was not assigned this task.  I get a little criticism for not doing my duty when I am gone on travel.  No one is perfect.  Otherwise, I walk away unscathed, except for the occasional scratch, which is certainly not the case when some emotional church issues pops up for a church leader.

So what do I find in a church parking lot?  For one thing there are a large number of cats, and I get to pick up the food containers that the cat woman leaves.  Wondering when we are going to have a "Catman" movie.  Then there is the squatter.  This is a young Indian man who has decided that life is better living out of his broken down truck which he pushed onto our parking lot rather than getting a job.  He won't come to church or communicate with us much, but otherwise seems to enjoy our presence.  I get to pick up a lot of trash around his area, which does leave me wondering what is trash and what might be a personal possession.  Some distance is kept to avoid making an error.  It might seem a bit cold that we don't donate to him from our Agape Fund.  The pretext given is that the word of any monetary help would immediately spread and we would have a few hundred homeless squatters on our property.

The trash on the adjacent properties is a little confusing at times.  Was it done by our church attendees or their daily visitors?  If it is a Chinese church bulletin, then I don't have much trouble distinguishing.  A few empty oil cans from someone who decided that their car's oil needed replacement is a little harder for me to judge.  For the most part, I just pick up everything with the thought of being a good neighbor.  The trash picker I use makes it fairly easy to grab lots of small items, so better to do more than necessary.  There was a large stereo system in the bushes this morning which I passed over since it wouldn't fit in my waste basket and the picker wasn't strong enough to move it anyway.

The more curious part of this is the things that I find on the church property.  There are a lot of cups, plates, napkins and plastic forks from our weekly meals, but then there are lots of alcoholic drink bottles and cans which I am fairly certain were not provided by the church.  We don't tell members not to drink, but we never have alcohol as part of our events, even for communion.  Twice I have come across used condoms.  Presumably someone came here at a strange hour.