Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Wonderfully made in Taiwan

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An old friend has died. Shine Leu’s family emailed me last week to say their 66 year-old much loved husband and father had lost his battle with cancer. Back in 1996 I was involved in helping to set up home for the Taiwanese family who had decided to immigrate to New Zealand and settle in Masterton. Shine Leu and his wife Lin Chen and their two sons Robin and David were encouraged here by the board of Masterton Business Enterprise to grow tea in our district for export.

Lin arrived with her two sons six weeks ahead of her husband and I had to find them somewhere to rent.

The family came with only clothing and personal effects and a smattering of English and so I needed to accompany Lin to help her purchase household items. I don’t know what the local shopkeepers thought. It must have looked like I was setting up house with an attractive Asian woman as we set about buying such items as a double bed (as well as two singles) and the pillows, pillowcases and linen to fit them. We also purchased crockery and cutlery, toaster, jug, iron, and every manner of household item you can think of; plus a car and a fax machine. I then enrolled the boys at Wairarapa College and took them to school on their first day!

When Shine arrived he was eternally grateful for the help I had given his family getting settled and they subsequently purchased a home with a few acres on the outskirts of town.

We became close friends and I recall going around to Shine and Lin’s for dinner on one occasion and as usual the fare was scrumptious. The family had become amazingly self-sufficient. Lin told us the only item she had purchased for the meal was a few chicken breasts and yet the table was laden with food. There was a lovely pink fleshed trout Shine had caught in the Ruamahunga River, and marinated goat meat from an animal David had shot at Kaituna. Fresh eggs from chooks they had roaming around the section and vegetables from Shines prolific garden. The delicious flavours and aromas accompanying all the courses were in the main from herbs also grown in their backyard. A lot of this meal was cooked on a simple wok, fueled by bottled gas.

Bob Francis, mayor at the time and also a firm friend of the Leu family, said their haven reminded him of the television show “The Good Life”. I agreed, though they were far more assertive than their television counterparts.

The tea growing was not successful; many of the plants had died while in quarantine in Auckland and our climate was not conducive. They eventually shifted to Taupiri where Shine grew tea and Lin opened a Taiwanese restaurant in nearby Hamilton.

Excelling at Wairarapa College, the two boys went on to graduate from Waikato University.

Shine was a brilliant photographer and before coming to New Zealand he was a fine arts teacher at a secondary school in Taiwan. I always considered he had the perfect name; his warm smile could light up a room.

Rest in peace.

“The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources – because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.” – Lyndon B Johnson


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