Musings,  Taiwan

Spending my birthday in Taipei

The day started out pretty bleh.

I woke up having gotten just a few hours of troubled sleep. The cold weather had gotten to me while drawing outdoors the previous day, and I woke up on the day of my birthday with a clogged nose, a sore throat, a slight fever, and feeling as if all my mucus was in my throat (too much info?). I felt terrible and contemplated staying in my hotel the entire day to rest off what I felt was going to turn into the flu. Never mind that it was my birthday. I’ve never made a big deal out of my birthdays anyway and prefer to treat it as just a regular day.

But the weather forecast told me that that Saturday was the only day in my seven-day trip to Taiwan when the sun will be out. Indeed, it had been drizzling and overcast the past few days. I forced myself out of bed, deciding to take advantage of the current weather and thinking the sun will warm my bones and my sinuses and perhaps make me feel better.

My first meal of the day was a leisurely lunch at a street stall serving Malaysian food. I was so pleasantly surprised to have THE. SUPER. DUPER. B E S T. Hainanese Chicken Rice I’ve ever had. My clogged sinuses didn’t get in the way of my sense of taste haha. I love chicken and this chicken was juicy and tender; the rice was so flavorful. Mmmmm! I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Hainanese Chicken Rice from a street stall called Sarawak Malaysia

After that I went to take the train in search of a certain coffee place I found online. I got off at the station and spent a few minutes looking for the place on Google Maps… only to get lost and come up empty-handed. I dunno– I wasn’t able to find it. I went to another coffee shop instead, and had waffles and coffee. Their coffee was REALLY, really good, and the warmth really soothing for my sore throat.

Since I was already there, I thought I’d check out other places I could go to in the area (para di sayang ang punta ko). Checking Google Maps, I saw that an artsy creative hub I read about online was not too far away, so I decided to go. I walked towards that direction, but saw a sign for the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall instead. I knew nothing about it but the park grounds looked inviting so forgetting my original plan, I turned in that direction instead.

Entrance was free, the Memorial Hall impressive, and the park was spacious. Also seen from the park grounds was a pleasant surprise– Taipei 101, formerly the world’s tallest building. It’s a Taiwan landmark but I hadn’t planned on visiting it because to me, it was just a building. Still, it was nice to see it, even if unintentionally.

It was photography golden hour. I was feeling better already, and true to the weather forecast, the sun was out that day. It was pleasantly cool and everything was bathed in soft, golden light. I was surrounded by people taking leisurely strolls and little kids running around, blowing bubbles that were glistening in the sun. An old man was flying a kite nearby. Everything was so charming and idyllic. If it had been a scene in a movie, it would’ve had a soundtrack– light, happy music with children laughing in the background. I found myself in between two Taipei landmarks with the sun reflected behind me, and managed to get this shot.

“The Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.” Numbers 6:24-25

I recognized this moment as God’s personal birthday blessing for me. I hadn’t asked God for anything specific or grand for my birthday, but He knows I’ll find joy and delight in these “little” things (which, to me, are big things) anyway– the delicious chicken lunch, wonderful coffee, idyllic time at the park, unexpected landmarks, the sun shining. Before my trip, I had prayed for the Lord to direct me to where I need to be and that I “always find myself at the right place, at the right time.” I realized this was a manifestation of my prayer being answered. I may not have planned to be here (wanting to stay in in my hotel, getting lost and not finding the coffee shop I wanted, planned on going somewhere and took an unplanned turn instead) but here I was in the perfect spot, and at the perfect time as captured in the photo. I realized God was showing His favor upon me and that I was exactly where God intended me to be.

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 6:19 NKJV

I settled down on the sidewalk to draw in my travel journal. A Taiwanese lolo came up to me and started talking in Chinese, thinking I was a local. He complimented me on my drawing and showed off my sketchbook to his wife, who greeted me coolly and didn’t seem pleased about her husband talking to a single female half his age hahahahaha.

Then I went home because it was starting to get dark and my pocket wifi had run out of battery. It had been a wonderful day 🙂

My unfinished drawing in my travel journal

* * *

The next day was a Sunday. The English mass at the Catholic church I had found was at 9:45 AM. The night before, I prayed, “Lord, if You want me there, help me get there in time.” (Let’s be honest, minsan tamad tayo mag-simba.)

Holy Family Catholic Church in Da’an District, Taipei

I had misread the subway map and underestimated my time, so I lost a good 15 minutes of travel on the way to the church. I arrived during the second reading and settled in at the church pew. Some of the songs sung at mass were Filipino arrangements I was familiar with, and I marvelled at how mass is the same in other countries. I’ve been able to attend non-English Catholic masses in Macau and Italy, and one can still get a sense of what’s going on even if the mass is celebrated in a foreign language. How nice and comforting that the Catholic church is the same wherever you go, I thought, smiling to myself. And when communion started, the song sung was How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place. It touched me to my core and I wanted to cry. I felt the Lord acknowledging and affirming what I had in my thoughts. God wanted me to be here, in the comfort of His church 🙂

After the mass, they asked the first-time visitors to the church to stand up. I did, and I was given a Holy Family prayer card along with the other first-timers. Then they called all November birthday celebrants to the front where we were prayed over by the priest. The congregation sang happy birthday, then we were given an envelope with a birthday card and a prayer booklet. I realized– the day of my birthday might have been over, but the birthday blessings from the Lord were not. I went out of the church and went about the rest of my day with a happy heart, hihi.

This entire trip was a delight, and I felt the Lord’s blessings and favor upon me all through out. But these are the ones I especially wanted to really document and write about. It was a good way to start off a new chapter in my life. Thank You, Lord! I am eternally grateful 🙂