Weekend Hanging Out with 妹妹

So, I was again able to hang out with my 妹妹, Misako, yesterday. My time in Taipei is drawing to a close. While I would categorize it as a failure for my plans, due to my illness here, I have to say that I enjoyed my friends in this city. Masako and I have been friends for around eleven years and we have some important similarities: the most important one is the love of books. On our meeting Saturday, we went to two bookstores and enjoyed ourselves immensely. She is currently employed by a cultural institution associated with the Japanese government. She works quite a bit, so it is a treat when I am able to see here. We are hoping to go out again in two weeks, after she returns from a trip to Tokyo.

We also went to Taiwan University. It is an unusual campus, with a mix of old and new. There was a semi protest going on there with yellow ribbons carrying protest slogans wrapped the central area. I admit to finding this a little unusual, as my entire Asian university experience has been on campuses in China. Protest is not exactly tolerated there if it goes against the government as this one did. It was very interesting. To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to local politics so Masako had to explain it to me. “-

I have no pictures because my phone’s battery has the life of a snowman in a volcano. I am going to have to replace the battery. I tried to have it done here in Taipei, but I can not find anyone to touch a Huawei phone.

Trip to Thailand

On April 25th, I had to again leave Taiwan because I did not procure a visa. This time I elected to go to Thailand and visit a friend of mine. When I told friends in Taipei about the visit, they were pretty jealous but they don’t understand how much I detest the beach. Nope, I went to play with my friend’s 5 children, ranging from 8 years old down. Unfortunately, my friend Mike (he works for the State Department) had to work most of the weekend, so it was me and the children. Sure, his wife Nora was there too but one can only divert their attention so much. :-)

That Friday, I worked on an article for the Livingston Parish Genealogical & Historical Society, of which I am a member. On Saturday, I went to a cub scout meeting where they made rockets (constructed with bottles and launched with compressed air & water) and I helped two of the children make rockets. It was a cool event. On Sunday, I went to church and had a great lesson on Numbers. I enjoyed going to a Sunday school where I was not the teacher, which allowed me a different perspective. Although out the weekend, I enjoyed home-cooked food and only ate out once with the family and one of Mike’s friends from Virginia. I did enjoy a tall fruity drink as well, since any visit to Thailand would not be complete with out it.

As stated, they have five children, the 4 oldest which are boys. I enjoyed all of them and was especially happy to be able to play with this cutie, Adela:

She looks so much like her momma!

Museum Tour with Masako

This week was Qingming Jie, or Tomb Sweeping Day, in Taiwan, which is a National Holiday. For this day (April 4th), Masako was able to get off work, so we decided to visit the Palace Museum. When the Guomindang retreated to Taiwan in 1949, they evacuated with them around 80% of the artifacts in the Forbidden City. This is one reason why when you visit the Forbidden City, there is not much left inside the buildings. Anyway, it was a beautiful day and I was happy to spend time with one of my favorite people (the last picture is of her in the park next to the museum).


Masako and I both love old stuff, so we really loved the Shang & Zhou dynasty bronzes. I love pots and she loves calligraphy, so there was something for everyone. They had several memorials to the Qing emperors there and their responses to their administrators were at times hilarious. One of our favorites was the response of a simple 不, or “no” to a really long memorial.

Two days later (April 6th), we visited the National Museum of Taiwan. This museum was really interesting as well. It had exhibits of the native flora and fauna of Taiwan. We skipped the insect exhibit because of my phobia. I liked the displays about Taiwan’s indigenous population. First referred to in Qing histories as Eastern Barbarians, they are a hardy people forced into the interior by successive attempts to ‘civilize’ them by first the Qing government, then the Japanese and finally the Guomindang. Taiwan aborigines are one of the Austronesian peoples, like Malaysia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. There are about ½ a million still around.

Next door and after lunch, we visited the Museum of Banking and Dinosaurs, which was next to the National Museum and administered by them. The Banking Museum was really interesting, seeing the development of banking in Taiwan. Walking around a wall and seeing the dinosaurs was really a wow moment for both of us. While the majority of the bones are replicas, the atmosphere with the displays and the kids running around excited helped us capture a little bit of that old fashioned feelings of awe. Sometimes I feel too cynical and old. Not then.

Dinner with the Funks

Last night for Institute (college age religious classes), we met at the home of temple missionaries, Elder & Sis. Funk. Temple Missionaries are older, retired couples who work in the temple and are set apart like younger, proselytizing missionaries. They only work in the temple, however. Anyway, after a great class on the early chapters of the Book of Helaman, we had dinner with the Funks. As Elder Funk and I expressed to each other, it is the small things you miss when you live abroad. We had chili and I have to say my first taste was so divine I had a physical reaction. Everyone thought I burned my mouth. I had not had chili, especially good chili, in over six months.

After dinner, we had a long discussion, particularly of their family. I love listening to people talk about their family histories. The hardships of the depression and war generations are especially touching to me, as I remember the strength that was in my own grandparents. I noticed it was nearing 11 pm at last and we (the students) left. My talking contributed to the lateness, no doubt. Still, it was a great experience.

As a side note, Elder Funk is descended from Isaac Melton, a son of Isham Melton that emigrated from North Carolina to Indiana. Isham is a potential candidate as the father of my maternal 4th great-grandfather, Michael Milton. So, he could be my 4th or 5th cousin. He is not the only relative in my ward here in Taipei. More distantly related, there is a Sevey and a Frost here, two names that permeate my paternal family tree.

Dinner with Steve Gardner

Last night, I had dinner with another old friend, Steve Gardner, and his family. His wife, Alina, is originally from China and they have two boys, Stockton and J.J. They are teaching at a school down in Changsha, Hunan Province and were in Taipei for a short vacation. Luckily I caught them just as I came back from Oahu. We had some great discussions about travel and people that we know. I am thinking of taking a trip to Egypt, to peruse the antiquities on display there, so when I found out they had been there I was excited to hear about it.

Steve also told me of his brother, who is attending Harvard at the moment. His brother came to China and gave a paid lecture on how Harvard’s students handle stress and the academic workload. Steve thought Beijing would be fertile for a workshop like this and if I would be interesting in starting the ball rolling when I returned that city. I told him I would think about it, not because I think it is unimportant, but because I really do not know what my situation will be like when I go back.

Dinner Dates

My year ended with some cheer with dinner dates with some friends. On December 28th, my 妹妹 (little sister), Masako, visited from Tokyo. She was visiting with a friend and squeezed some time in for me. We had some traditional Taiwanese dishes at a restaurant near Dongmen station. She shared with me the delightful news that she is moving to Taipei in February and I shared with her the horrible news that I am moving back to Beijing for work in August. I was happy and disappointed at the same time. Here are some pictures:


Since the Church and Temple are near to Dongmen, we walked over and looked at it. It is quite beautiful in the afternoon and at dusk.

On December 30th, two friends from church, Jean-Francois and Vivian Morin, treated me to dinner. I enjoyed it immensely, although they had to put up with my poor social graces. I am trying to work on them, and did warn the Morins that I am practicing. I thank them for their tolerance with someone who is a bit of a bore.

Visit up a Mountain

On December 2, my friends from church, Rachel and Cassie, invited me on an outing. I tend to spend way too much time by myself so I decided to go. We were going up a mountain to a visiting area known for its local food stalls and great views.

One thing they said was that we would ride in a gondola. For some reason, I was thinking Venetian boat, rather than the one that takes you up in the air. I was extremely worried about it, because I am deathly afraid of heights. It actually turned out to be okay. Here is us on the gondola:

We also walked around and saw the mountain. Here is the a couple of shots of it and some local sausages I discovered. Taiwan has great sausages.

Visit from Brian

My friend, Brian Hill, stopped in Taipei and we met up. I haven’t seen him in ten years, since we were both in Beijing. He is originally from Los Angeles and lives there now as well. He has always been a really cool individual. He works for Princess Cruises and came out to their offices in Taiwan to help work on an ad campaign. We walked and talked around the Shida night market (near my university), finally decided on a jiaozi restaurant. The food was great, especially their fried kimchi jiaozi. Very delicious.


In addition to my friend stopping in town, I also captured a picture of my local sausage street vendor, although these guys have a little shop. Called 黃家香腸, or Yellow House Sausages, these are extremely tasty. On google reviews, they have a 4.2 rating and are rather popular in the city. Every time I go there, I always have to wait in line. The workers are very friendly and ready for conversation (if the line is not too busy). As a bonus, they are really close to my apartment.

The Great Flood of 2016

During my trip home, two things rapidly became apparent to me – one personal and the other an observation of my people in the Florida parishes. My personal observation is that I lack stamina in doing any kind of physical work. I helped Jacob, my cousin, move from Myrtle Beach, S.C. to Hattiesburg, MS. He is a graphic design professor and just got a new job at Southern Miss. I was working with Jacob, his brother Mike and my brother Jason. All three of them outperformed me and I definitely felt all 380 lbs. of my weight that day. This became even more apparent in the cleanup after the Great Flood of 2016.

Speaking of the flood, it was an unusual period for me. Everywhere around me, the flood waters quickly rose, swamping people and forcing them out of their homes. Along my street, however, it was placid. I was staying at my brother John’s house, behind my dad’s. I was really proud of my father. My stepmother was a wreck of nerves, after having moving her parents, sister and brother-in-law from their flooded homes and having them staying with with Dad and Darlene. Dad was the voice of reason and calm, which still surprises me to this day. He only began to doubt himself, according to his words, when the water started to lap up against the back wall of the carport.

Rising waters as seen at my brother's house.     Same from my Dad's.
      *First picture is from my brother’s porch and the second is from my dad’s carport.

I spent the time at my brother’s house during the flood. I helped him move his equipment up higher and then watched as the flood water rose up coming from Dumpling Creek. His house was already elevated because it lies in a low lying area on the property. It got to about a foot from his house footings. Marianne (his wife) has noted that every time he tells the story, the water gets a little higher. Other than wading in slightly above the knee water going back and forth to dad’s house and the near constant coverage of local news, that was my only experience with the flooding. The aftermath, as it was for most people, was a little more involved.

On the Monday after the storm, Marianne was able to get to Carter’s Grocery in Walker and she bought cake mix because the bread was sold out. She made about 9-12 cakes and heard that they might be appreciated at North Park rec center off Lockhart and Eden Church Road. My cousin Randy Hooper was cooking and he asked us to stay and help out. John, Marianne, Tyler (their son), and myself worked about 5 hours. John and Randy cooked while Marianne and Tyler washed dishes. They also worked with me in distributing food to the refugees. It seems strange to think about people in your own hometown that way, but truly it was real refuge for most of them. After taking care of some business in Covington the next day, I returned to the shelter. Marianne seemed surprised about this. I worked for about 3.5-4 hours helping distribute food and materials, divided up food to be taken to other shelters and relay points, and generally aided the National Guardsmen in offloading donations. The generosity and sense of community from everyone was a joy to behold in such times. People were looking out for each other. We heard that the Red Cross would take over the shelter the next day, so I decided to go find work elsewhere. They bring their own volunteers and donations in, as everything up to then had been totally ad-hoc by people just pitching in and helping.

The next week and a half were spent helping other people. I helped my friend Nathan move a lot of damaged items to the road. He got over 5′ of water and his neighborhood in Denham was completely trashed. Jason came over one weekend and I went out to help him at his dad’s old house in Hammond. It was already in bad shape. His depression on seeing it in such a state depressed me. I also helped over at my step-mother’s parent’s house on two occasions. I helped move some refrigerators to the street and then helped shovel (with a snow shovel) blown cellulose insulation out of the house. Doing that in 95 degree heat (more indoors) with no fan just about killed me. I regret not helping more, but to be honest I repeatedly hit the bottom of my reserves. I was completely unprepared physically. Perhaps then that is the main regret I have, that I could not have done more.
My Dad working harder than I ever will.

*This picture is of my old man
working harder than I ever will.

In memory of this event, I have included two videos taken off Facebook to demonstrate its scope in my hometown, Walker, and its neighbor, Denham Springs.


August Vacation Home, Part II

This is a continuation of my August Vacation. The first part is in the prior post.

Thursday the 26th, I went to the Edward Livingston History Society meeting for the first time in years. This time, I paid dues for the year for both myself and for Jason. They meeting was a little interesting as the speaker was researching the Jones family [no relation to me]. I met a man there, Jeff Boyd, who is a newly found cousin of mine. He told me that he believed that Stephen Stafford was the father of Wright and Ethelred Stafford. I had always believed that they were brothers. He also mentioned that Stephen may have married a Betsy Peters in Craven Co., N.C in 1794. Later that night, I looked for Peters in that County and found an Elizabeth Peters in the 1790 Census living with one son and five daughters. Also, I found the probate of Ethelred Peters in 1788 that mentions wife Elizabeth and his sons, but not his daughters. Perhaps they were too young? The name, however, clenched it for me.

On August 27th, I went to the Baton Rouge Clerk of Court offices for the first time. I found a couple of interesting things. I found a land sale by Michael Milton (the younger) in 1834, a law suit against Andrew Milton in 1827, and a lawsuit by John Kinchen in 1821. I also saw a couple of land deals by John and Mary Davis Raby Kinchen but I was not able to secure them. After I left the office, I went to eat at Sullivan’s, the great place extolled earlier by John and Marianne. It was as they said, perhaps the best steak to ever pass between my lips. Definitely, it was the best steak in Baton Rouge and well worth the high price they charge.

On the 28th, I had to go out to Slidell to give Jason his camera back. Megan needed it for a wedding. Not really funny, but we both waited for like 40 minutes because we were on different sides of the McDonald’s. Afterwards, I went out to the St. Tammany courthouse to find some material on the Stafford, Bourne, Pendarvis and Hartman families. I found out that Joseph Hartman was definitely related to John Hartman, as I thought. There is a land deal that I was not able to acquire because I was late getting there. Also, I talked for a long time with Ms. Marguerite Scully. She was doing research on the line of Ethelred Stafford for someone in Missouri. I shared some information that I got from Jeff Boyd and some I found myself. She talked about Ethelred being a ship captain on the Pearl River, which flies with Wright working on ships. She also talked about the connections between the Stafford and Peters families in Washington Parish. I saw some of that in the courthouse, where Stephen and Nathaniel Peters were engaged in lawsuits with and against each other. She had not been able to connect them, so my information may aid in that. There was still no proof that Ethelred and Wright were brothers or that Stephen was the father of both. It was a fortuitous meeting, though.

I have to say that the ladies at the St. Tammany Courthouse were some of the most kind and helpful that I have found. I think the ladies in Baldwin Co. Alabama and Mobile are up there as well. I have been to a couple of others in Louisiana and Mississippi, and they could learn from those ladies.

Saturday, I went out to New Orleans to be a tourist for the first time. I went to the Mint, Madame John’s House, the Cabildo, the Presbytere, St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. I also bought a hat like Jacob’s because I liked it so much. For lunch, I ate at the Courtyard of the Two Sisters on Royal Street. They have a lunch buffet that is a little pricey but was delicious. I probably will not go again for a long time as I have never liked New Orleans. I cannot exactly explain why but for some reason the city has always rubbed me the wrong way.

On Sunday, the 30th, I went back to Jason’s in preparation for my trip home. We went to Mobile on Monday to see about finding a copy of Michael Milton’s (the older) Spanish land grant from 1798. He supposedly had an earlier one but neither he nor the Alcade of Mobile could find it, so they reissued one. The lady who rules the archives was not in, so we had to settle on email to her for her help.

I flew back to Beijing on the 2nd of September, on another 31 hour trip.