A few of the students at Dada School are in first and second grade; as such, most days they are out of school at 12:30, so they come on over, do homework and spend the rest of the day at the school. Since they're there for a long time daily, we know them best: Lucy, Peter, Kevin and Steven.
Peter's father, Michael invited us for a Saturday trip to their favorite Buddhist temple, which is north of Taipei.
So far, our exposure to temples has been the ones with incense, food offerings, and heavy ornamentation with dragons, etc like this one near our apartment. But, those temples are a mix of Buddhism, Taoism and other traditions that are very unlike the Chan (Zen in Japanese) Buddhism exemplified at Dharma Drum Mountain. http://www.dharmadrum.org/ It is a retreat center where monks and nuns live and is one of 4 different Buddhist organizations in Taiwan. Much study was made of architecture around the world before building this complex and it has calming and beautiful grounds and buildings.
There is a complex of buildings, lovely grounds with various Buddha statues.
Tom was moved by the simple lunch that was served, free of charge, men on one side and women on the other. We explored the grounds and buildings for most of the day; it was drizzling and relatively cool and so beautiful and calming. I can see why, with the busyness and buildings pressing in on people during the week that Michael visits this area twice a month.
On the way home, we stopped at Baishawan, a beach in northern Taiwan, where we enjoyed lo chong and the brave Tom, Sam and Peter swam on a cooler than normal day while the rest of us watched.
I had been concerned about our ability to communicate with one another (us-no chinese, Michael-limited English, his wife-no English), but it was a wonderful day. Learning about Buddhism and being the recipients of such sharing and generosity of time and caring was so heartwarming. Would I take complete strangers for the day? It's just the kind of experience that we hoped to have, getting to know others on their turf. The kids all slept the whole way home...another measure of success!