Fresh Jam and Lao Jia: A New Home

Today officially marks the halfway point of our trip!

It’s hard to believe it’s been two weeks already since we last set foot in the states, but here we are. By now life has taken on a new sense of normal here at the farm, though the relentless heat and endless days of weeding are definitely starting to wear us down. Only a week left until we get some real time off!

One week from today, we plan to hop onto the train down south into Kaohsiung for some relaxation and more exploring. One of Erin’s best friends lives there, so we will be making it our home base for our last week in the country.

But for now, life has taken on a quiet rhythm here. Another TV crew came by to film the farm today, leaving Shu-Huei without much time to instruct us, but when they finally left, she got us started on something we’ve been waiting all week to learn: making jam!

In addition to dried jujubes, the farm sells all kinds of juices, jams, and jellies made from their many crops. Today, Shu-Huei and her brother showed us how to make jam out of roselle, a type of hibiscus flower commonly used to make sweet teas. The process was surprisingly simple and the ingredients unexpectedly pure. All it took was some dried roselle, some water to help it blend, a few heaping cups of sugar, and some time to simmer on the stove. After we finished it off with a squeeze of lime, we bottled our freshly made jams, and were given two to bring home to our families. If we can resist eating it all that is!

But our favorite part of the day came at the very end, after returning home. Last weekend, Jeff invited us to come to a weekly meeting he attends with his friends on Buddhism and spirituality. We agreed wholeheartedly at the time, then forgot entirely until this evening, when we were whisked away into Miaoli City as soon as work was over.

Jeff’s friend, Paul, owns a coffee shop there called Lao Jia, which means Everyone’s Home. He hosts weekly meetings at the shop for discussion, meditation, and group teaching on living well and with kindness and respect for all living things. We had no idea what to expect, but the moment we stepped through that door, we felt more at home than we ever have in our lives.

They enthusiastically welcomed us newcomers and made sure everything was communicated in English as well as Chinese, so we could follow along. After a few minutes of silent meditation, they served tea and fresh fruit and told stories about caring and unity with all living things. We were given the chance to design post cards as well, to send through the website Postcrossing, where you can send messages of love and encouragement to strangers all over the world.

After a long meeting that felt like it whizzed by in minutes, Jeff’s friends immediately gathered around us to ask us about our lives. What did we study? Why did we choose to visit Taiwan? What were our hopes and plans? It was amazing to meet such a kind, friendly group of people, and to be accepted so quickly as friends and even family.

We were invited to visit their village on Sunday, where they do farm work and community education, and host international artists from around the world to focus on their craft and experience Taiwanese culture. They promised to give us a full tour, and we couldn’t be more excited!

We both agreed that we’ve never met people more friendly and welcoming than those we’ve met these past two weeks. The longer we spend in this country, the more certain we are that it’s becoming a part of us we can’t leave behind, and that this is just the first of many future trips to Taiwan. 

With all the wonderful people we’re meeting and close friends we are making, it’ll be hard to leave Miaoli and even harder to go back home. But we’ve promised our new friends that in a few years, once we’ve both finished school and saved up some money, we will make a return trip to visit everyone. Who knows, when that day comes, we might have to make up for lost time and stay a year or two! 

But before that happens, we still have one last week of hard work to get through, and a lot more Chinese language skills to develop!

2 thoughts on “Fresh Jam and Lao Jia: A New Home

    1. erinstrubbe

      Do you have any in particular you would recommend? We’ll probably have one last afternoon in Taipei before we leave, and we’re still trying to decide how to spend it!


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