This weekend Ron and I visited Longshan Temple. I love the multi-denominational temples of Taipei, in large part because I think the carvings and ornamentations on their rooftops are gorgeous. They kind of remind me of marzipan candy, which I haven’t been able to find here:

Roof

We got to the temple in time to see worshipers chanting:

Worshippers at Longshan

I snuck a pic over someone’s shoulder:

Man chanting at Longshan

The back courtyard of the temple was filled with offerings for Matsu and other deities, and thick with incense smoke. Look, still no marzipan candy:

Offerings

Here’s another picture of the front courtyard by Ron:

Longshan courtyard

In other news, that Huayu proficiency test I mentioned in the last entry is going to kick my butt. It’s actually not as simple as I thought it was. I was looking at the sample test this weekend and there are a lot of characters and grammar structures I haven’t seen before. I’ve heard that very few people get a pass certificate on their first try. Instead of fretting about it, I’m just going to look at the test as a diagnostic tool to see what I need to work on with my Mandarin. I mean, I’m pretty pleased with my progress in Mandarin over the last eight months. When I landed here in late August, I couldn’t even write my own Chinese name correctly (stupid two versions of the water radical!) and could only say basic sentences in Mandarin. Now I can comprehend newspaper articles, write essays about subjects like George Balanchine and buying only second-hand clothing to help the environment, and discuss topics like the death penalty, genocide, adolescent depression and the impact of religion on the United States government. I sometimes feel like I could have done a better job of studying and practicing my spoken Mandarin, but I don’t take anything I’ve learned for granted at all.