TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—As three sisters’ love for their grandma has turned a village in southern Taiwan into a tourist attraction, many elderly people who live alone in the village are out serving as tour guides, and the once lonely village is now full of excitement and energy.
Ninety-year-old Hu Su Ah-shih (胡蘇阿詩) has been living alone in the village of Hu Cuo Liao (胡厝寮), Shanhua District, Tainan for more than 20 years, but her house is located at the edge of the village and not many people came to the neighborhood. The elderly woman would rather live alone than move out to live with her children, so she always looks forward to her children’s and grandchildren’s homecomings.
Hu Su’s three granddaughters, Lee Fan-ting (李梵榳), Lee Ching-yen (李清晏) and Lee Wei-chen (李濰禎) came up with an idea that has proven to be brilliant. They reckoned that since Grandma didn’t want to move, and they could not stay in the countryside to accompany her because they had to work, why not paint her house so she wouldn’t feel lonely when she looked at the paintings?
Therefore, they painted several red round tumblers on their grandma’s house, hoping that their grandma would be forever standing like a tumbler, Lee Fan-ting told a reporter. When the painting was finished, Grandma liked it very much and the painting also attracted other villagers’ attention, she said, adding that more and more people came to the neighborhood of Grandma’s home when they took a walk in the evening, which gave Grandma more opportunities to interact with other people, Lee Fan-ting added.
Hu Cuo Liao was seriously flooded during Typhoon Morakot in 2009, and many old houses were affected. Some villagers had thought of giving up their old homes. But when they saw the colorful paintings on Grandma’s house, they saw hope, thinking that “if there is painting, the village could be different,” and therefore, they gradually asked the sisters to paint their houses, Lee Fan-ting said.
Again, the sisters embarked on a painting mission, and this time it took them one and a half years to finish painting 27 houses in Hu Cuo Liao, eight of which were homes of the elderly who lived alone. The sisters’ creations represent a variety of icons, including Japanese anime Totoro, colorful carp flags, cute dolls, and even the Asian game of mahjong.
The sisters spent eight months collecting 40,000 mahjong tiles via the internet and used them to make two magnificent mosaics.
Lee Fan-ting said that she paid out of her own pocket to paint many of the houses. However, the harder part of the mission was that the three sisters’ working times were not the same, so after they made an appointment to paint, they would have to finish the job at one time. They always started at 7 a.m. and wouldn’t stop until the painting was finished. One time they burnt the midnight oil and painted till 3 a.m. when the whole village was asleep.
Hu Su once scolded her granddaughters for wasting time in painting the houses for nothing, saying they were insane and “nobody would thank you.”
However, it was not “thanks” that Lee Fan-ting wanted, instead it was the magic of the paintings that has lit up the village again and brought colors and more interactions with others into the life of the elderly people in the village.
The last work of the sisters for the village is a wall that is decorated with spangled discs that shine brilliantly under sunlight. Lee Fan-ting said this work is dedicated to all the elderly people in Hu Cuo Liao. The sounds the spangled discs make when blown by winds are like telling the stories of their past, and the shiny reflections symbolize their past glory, she said.
Hu Su Ah-shih (胡蘇阿詩, first from right)