Sunday, December 17, 2006

President A-Bian's Doll

Thanks to Iris, Cindy, and Eva, the trip was a great success. I tried to make an entry into the blog in Taiwan, but everything came out in Chinese, and I can only read food (which is VERY useful in Taiwan, but doesn’t help me log in…). I am now back in the states, in (usually) sunny southern California, although it sprinkled a little bit this morning.

Others have already described our visit to the President, so I won’t repeat the details, but I’ll just tell you a little anecdote. My aunt who lives in Japan had mailed me an A-Bian doll several years ago, and I brought it to Taiwan hoping that I could get President Chen to autograph it for me. On the bus on the way to the Presidential Office, I showed everyone the doll, and Carolyn asked (I’m paraphrasing), “How come his pants are down?” I tried to pull the pants up but they kept coming down. It’s the way the doll is designed, I guess.

The President was surprising humble and seemed just like a normal (but important) guy chatting with us. After he was done talking and we took group pictures together, I rushed up and asked him to autograph my doll. He took the doll and looked at the front and back of the doll, presumably to decide where to sign it, when he said to me, “Nai4 Teng4 Koh3 ?” which roughly means “why are the pants down/ why did you pull the pants down?” in Taiwanese. (I romanized in my own way, using Mandarin’s four tone marks since I don’t know how to number the seven tone marks of Taiwanese). I was horrified, because I thought I had pulled the pants back up, and I was afraid I had just majorly insulted the president. However, he flashed me a grin, and started signing his name on the doll. I guess he didn’t take offense…

For those of you who wanted to go on this trip but couldn’t, I encourage you to go on a future tour. And thanks to all those people at FAPA who made this tour possible. Everytime I go to Taiwan, I learn more about my own background. I also learn about how the Taiwanese think of America and Taiwanese-Americans. And I ALWAYS go to Din Tai Fung as well as eat lots of tswa4 bing (shaved ice) and other delicious food and drinks.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Desultory memories from Taiwan, Part 1

A little disgraceful and disgusting story of Carolyn's misadventure pre-FAPA trip: (Please skip if easily disturbed.)

The voyage to Kaohsiung

My uncle was originally going to drive me to KH, but he was unable to due to a buddhist retreat. Instead, he decided to have a private "bus" (more like a Ghanaian 'trow trow' or a rickety old van) take me. What should have been a 1 hr ride ended up taking 3.5 hours, as I was the first person picked up and the second to last out of 6 to be dropped off. Right before I stepped on the bus, I had eaten a load of oysters and hot pot, a feast prepared by my aunt-in-law. It was delicious, but I started feeling uneasiness in my stomach as we picked up the 2nd passenger. The rickety van did not absorb any impact from the bumpy local roads we traveled. By the 3rd and 4th passengers, I began to sweat profusely and my throat was constricting uncomfortably, but I managed to subdue the discomfort. The driver did not know I was ill, so he continued to ride mercilessly over the potholes while my stomach lurched in dismay. When the last man to be picked up came and sat next to me, my heart sank. He was a garrulous old man who started probing all of the passengers with questions. I pulled out a plastic bag because I knew my "moment" would come soon, and it was divine comedy that he started asking me questions about myself right as I felt the sweat and lunchtime oysters rising. He asked me where in Kaohsiung I was going and I told him, "Sorry, I don't really speak Chinese", mistakenly hoping it would end the conversation. Of course not. Instead, it opened the pandora's box of questions regarding my American upbringing, and just as he was lecturing me on how I really should cultivate my language skills, I threw my face into the plastic bag. Oh, the glorious mixture of food... I hoped that, incognito style, I could bypass any attention, but I think the reaction of my neighbor passengers was immediate. The girl sitting next to me lunged to open the windows, and the man stopped talking. After that horrible moment was over, I tried to apologize and act as gracefully as I could to retrieve my dignity. No, my Audrey Hepburn efforts failed me when I soon had to ask, "Excuse me, does anyone have a plastic bag I can borrow?" The old man quickly asked the driver, adding, "She's going to throw up again!" and the girl next to me quickly handed me a bag that she had been previously using to carry a box of cookies. Yep, for the rest of the 2.5 hours, I held my bag of tossed cookies as low away from our seats as possible so no one would see the contents of my stomach. The old man would eventually tell me that I was brave for traveling by myself, but that it was unsafe for a non-native Taiwanese high schooler to be alone. To which I responded in surprise, "I'm 23!" When the ride finally ended, I was uncomfortable and drained. I ended up in Kaohsiung with just enough time to take my wretched self to the hotel. When I first met a few of the gang, we were sitting in a car with Henry driving. I felt bad for feeling antisocial and distant, so I explained this story. They wanted me to share it over the blog, and perhaps I have done too detailed a job describing it. Hopefully it's as amusing to you as it is now to me.

Meeting the President

Although I don't believe this session was the most informative from the ones we attended, it was certainly one of the most memorable. We walked into a richly decorated room to await President Chen. The wall held a frame of artistic Chinese calligraphy, and each corner of the room contained a pot of perfectly arranged orchids. I glanced at the oriental carpet and was not disappointed by the wealth of colors - asynchronous to the rest of the room, but creating an overall elegance. Media cameramen passed through the double doors, and each time, my head would turn swiftly in that direction. I felt my heart counting down the moments before... he stepped in. We all rose, shook his hand, and sat down. President Chen gave an opening statement, praising FAPA's role and dedication to improving relations with the US Congress and Taiwan's state of current affairs. I believe Cindy posted the link to his statement. After his statement and tag-along English translation, the cameramen left. He joked, "Now that they are gone, we can really talk."

The question and answer session began slowly, as we were all recovering from shock and nervousness. I think he felt the initial silence, and filled it comfortably. We asked him rather light, open-ended questions. Some pertaining to his time as President, greatest/most memorable achievements, and globalization's future effects on Taiwan. I don't mean to be overly flattering, but I do believe he was very natural as a speaker. I felt at ease in his presence, and from his responses, I could sense the intelligent inner-workings of his mind. He was a graceful, well-spoken man, one who easily impressed you with warm-heartedness. Overall, the visit seemed to me like an informal chat with the President. While this environment was nice and safe, I felt slight disatisfaction that we had not asked more pointed, more difficult questions to our polemical president. But I'm sure this is just my opinion...

While I want to write more, especially about the Thinktanks and NGOs we met up with (I think they were a great contrast to the government divisions/politicans we met), I'll have to save my impressions for a later date. I'm still jet-lagged from the plane ride back.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Leaving Taiwan...

Well, I just got back from Taiwan last night and was back at work this morning. Needless to say, I'm definitely jetlagged and looking like a panda bear from the lack of sleep! But it's worth it when I think back on last week and all that I've done. I can't believe that just last week we were visiting President Chen, campaigning on the streets of Kaohsiung, making bubble tea runs and so much more. Every time I'm in Taiwan I seem to lose myself in everything that's happening around me, and I find myself hardly missing my life back in the States. Taiwan is so full of life, energy and promise! I'm sure others would agree with me.

As I was lugging my enormous suitcase to the bus stop in front of Taipei Main Station, I thought of how we wouldn't be meeting in front of the McDonald's on Guanchian Road this morning as we had done every morning before. Iris, Cindy and I were usually the first ones to arrive, and every member of the "herd" would join us, some slower than the others (You know who you are!). Then we would set off on our small bus to the first destination.

Saturday was the culmination of our entire trip as we held high hopes for our favored candidates. Although Frank Hsieh lost in Taipei, he did surprisingly well and garnered more votes than anyone had predicted he would. As one of the scholars at the post-election briefing sponsored by Taiwan Thinktank said, KMT didn't win but DPP didn't lose. The mood at Hsieh's campaign headquarters was somewhat somber, but everyone cheered when Hsieh appeared on stage. Before he could begin speaking, the crowd starting chanting, "Hsieh, run for President!" His relative success in this election make him a likely candidate presidential candidate, but it's too early to say. But at least DPP won in Kaohsiung...yay, go Chen Chu!

I certainly hope that this trip was a learning experience for all participants as it was for me. My initial purpose behind organizing this trip was simply to give people the opportunity to learn more about Taiwan through firsthand experience. There is so much that we cannot experience sitting behind the computer reading news articles about Taiwan. This was YPG's first group trip to Taiwan and certainly not that last. Perhaps we'll work on one for the next election--Legislative Yuan next fall--not too far away. That means we gotta get cracking! Yikes, maybe some sleep would be better first.

Dinner with Formosa Foundation Ambassdors

Monday, December 11, 2006

Last Night In Taipei

Last night I said farewell to my new friends here in Taiwan: Kyle, Eva, and their son Nathan. I met them when I first arrived in Taipei, sleep-deprived, disoriented, and somewhat overwhelmed. Kyle and Eva were full of helpful advice for me. They run a convenience store near my hotel. Their store is way cheaper than Seven-Eleven, with superior customer service. When I broke the alarm clock I bought from them, Kyle took it apart and fixed it himself. Plus, I don't think Seven-Eleven sells bb gun ammo or high-end whiskey. Kyle does.

Little Nathan (eighteen months old) must be the happiest kid in Taiwan, if not the planet. I've never seen him without a smile on his face. Last night I saw him trip and fall on the sidewalk. It wasn't pretty. Most kids would have burst into tears. Nathan thought it was funny.

After Nathan went to bed, Kyle and I headed across the street for some Taiwan Beers (and this was after multiple shots of whiskey at his store). Notwithstanding the language barrier (we had always relied on his wife for translation), we had a lot of fun. It was a perfect cap to a fantastic stay in Taiwan.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Musical Send Off...

For our last night together in TPE, we partied it up Taiwanese style... @ the KTV, and BOY, did we have fun!!

In addition to 1 small pitcher of draft beer & 2 six-packs of Taiwan Beer (drink of champions), we devoured a plate of munchies & burnt through the english song selections @ Cash Box.

Here are a few memorable photos:

Carolyn & Megan, the dynamic duet duo for the night....

Nathan, the reluctant japanese music KTVer...

I'm sad that it's our last day on the trip. I just said "bye" to everyone :(
The last week has been so wonderful & I hope to see everyone again soon!!!!

Thanks for the great memories, gang!!
And for the record, I still think Angelina's WAY better than Jennifer!!! :D

The votes are in...

Well, it looks like I'm the first to post after the now most of you have probably heard the results, but I'll post them just in case: Frank Hsieh lost Taipei by more than 170,000 votes, and Chen Chu won Kaohsiung by a mere 1000 votes to become the first elected female mayor in Taiwan (her predecessor, Chu Lan-yeh, is also a woman, but was not elected). I'll save the election analysis for someone more qualified than myself, but wanted to make sure we got a post-election post up here on the blog. I don't know what the turnout was here in Taipei, but the experts we met with earlier in the week projected that it would be around 65%, down from 70% in the last elections.

We were able to observe the entire election process yesterday, and were very impressed by the transparency and accuracy of the system. When people arrived at their polling places (most are in schools, temples, churches, and storefronts), they presented their identification cards, stamped their seals/signed their names on the registry, and were handed two separate ballots: a yellow one for the mayoral election and a white one for the city council elections. Each ballot included the names, pictures, parties, and ballot numbers of the candidates. The voters took the two ballots into their voting booths, put a red stamp above their candidate of choice on each of the two ballots, then dropped the yellow ballot in the mayoral box and the white ballot in the city council box.

When the polls closed at 4:00, the poll workers took over. One person removed the ballots one at a time, clearly announcing the name and number of the candidate selected on each ballot. Another poll worker kept a tally on a large poster on the wall, while several other workers checked the announcer's accuracy and put the ballots in piles according to the candidate marked on the ballot. Once all of the votes were counted, the candidates' piles were counted and double checked with the tallies on the wall. The ballots were bound, put back in the ballot box, and taken to a central election headquarters (I'm not sure exactly where) with the rest of the city's ballots. All of the results were tabulated and announced by 8:00 p.m.

Two police officers observed the entire process at each polling place, and everything was public--we were nine of about 30-40 people who stayed to watch the results being tabulated.

I know that many of you have a much better understanding of Taiwan's election process than I do, and I know we'd all love to hear your insights (and corrections to my purely observational analysis).

Today is the last official day of our trip, and we're meeting for our last lunch in about an hour. I'll be sorry to say goodbye to the rest of the group--they've been a pleasure to get to know over the past week, and I look forward to (hopefully!) seeing them again soon in the U.S. I'm very fortunate in that I will get to stay an additional nine days here in Taipei, visiting my husband's relatives and getting to know the city better. During that time, I'll try to continue posting about our experiences on the FAPA-YPG trip.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Complete web addresses

Sorry, didn't realize the text that scrolls to the right on the compose screen gets cut off.
Here are the complete addresses for the Presidential Webpages on the YPG visit.

I'll just recreating the links here:

English posting of the YPG visit on President Chen's Website
Chinese posting of the YPG visit on President Chen's Website

Enjoy :)

Hot off the presses...

As Megan casually mentioned yesterday, we were lucky to make it into President Chen's schedule :) And to the group's surprise & delight this morning, we made it to the Liberty Times in Taiwan!!

Here's the official photo, published on the President's website.
You can read the details of his speech to the group there (see links below)...



We're in the newspaper!

Wow, it's been an incredible trip. Today is Day 4 of the trip and it's beginning to wind down. To tell you the truth, it's kind of sad for me because this trip has been the culmination of 3 months of crazy hard work and planning! I honestly can't believe how this trip has come together and really happened!! We have a great group of people--dynamic, loud, funny and altogether just FUN :) We're lucky!

Well, today we found out that we managed to appear in the Liberty Times newspaper because of our visit with President Chen yesterday. It's exciting news for all of us! We were joking that Liberty Times must have had a spike in newspaper circulation today since we all went to the nearest convenience store to buy up many copies of the newspaper.

This morning we visited DPP HQ--my home last year when I was interning in Taiwan. We heard a presentation from the Survey Center about polling results. It's interesting to hear that DPP candidates are considered capable in more areas than KMT candidates . Unfortunately, because of party politics, elections end up being all about the party rather than the candidates. The funny thing is we heard about the NCCU polling results again. Everyone, including President Chen, has been quoting the study to show how more people believe they're Taiwanese and support independence...It's kinda funny. Following our visit to DPP, we had some free time and got to walk around the Hsinyi area where Taipei 101 is.

In the afternoon, we went to Daan Park where Frank Hsieh was holding a press conference promoting Taiwan's bid for the 2020 Olympics. They got a bunch of young Taiwanese to rollerblade along with the Premier himself! We all shook hands with the Premier and told him that we were rooting for him. We also got to take a group picture with him while the media was looking on. Hopefully, we won't end up on the news or newspaper again...We're not supposed to endorse anyone...ooops, oh well :P

Tomorrow is our last day of official visits and we're gonna check out Frank Hsieh's campaign rally tomorrow night. It should be exiting. Hope we don't lose anyone amidst all the chaos! Go Chen Chu and Frank Hsieh. Don suan!! Ga-yu!!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

the Awesome Eight!!!

It's about half way through the tour, and i just have to say how absolutely AWESOME the group on the trip is!!!
Iris, Eva & i were worried about how people would get along, whether everyone would be participative & articulate in sessions with these high profile members of the Taiwanese political community. After having met & hung out w/ them for the past 3 days, i am thoroughly impressed :)

Our awesome eight consists of:
1) The deceptively young looking Ching who works for a DC think tank
2) Our blonde Taiwanes e"shen-boo" Megan
3) The always impeccably dressed & smiley Christine from Congresswoman Linda Sanchez's office
4) Our sole Canadian rep & the soon to be married Joyce
5) The energetic, extroverted Dr. Thomas
6) Our Nicolas Cage look alike, Tim
7) Our cute Caroline whose 1st story about her Chiayi to Koahsiung trip i'll forever remember
8) Of course, our long standing friend & YPG supporter, Nathan :)

Iris & i were just saying, despite the high level of effort & energy that's been required of us, we are SO HAPPY we decided to do this tour. We've now had the privilege to meet/get to better know 8 wonderful new friends!!


Shaking Hands w/ the President!

It's hard to imagine I'm already in Taiwan and participating in the FAPA-YPG Democracy in Action observation tour! I'm still reeling from the hour and a half long meeting we just had with President Chen this morning. The entire experience thus far has surpassed anything I could have imagined. Everyone on the tour brings to the table such differing experiences, that I'm learning not just from the observation tour, but from the members of the tour as well.

Working for a U.S. Member of Congress and being involved with the democratic process in the States, it's really exciting to see how the Taiwanese people participate in the relatively young democracy here in Taiwan. The President spoke of the need for a Free Trade Agreement between the US and Taiwan and the implications of Taiwan's increasing role in the global economy. And just being here in Taiwan to witness the improvements being made everyday to the infrastructure, to the local economy and to the general well-fare of the Taiwanese people, it inspires me even more to go back to the States and really impress upon my boss, and other Members of Congress the need for a US-Taiwan FTA.

Okay, so aside from the political jargon - having not been to Taiwan since I was in 6th grade, I must say Taiwan has changed and developed exponentially. I arrived in Kaohsiung on Sunday morning and spent the day touring the southern port city and enjoying the incredibly friendly people. It just so happened that the President and the DPP Mayoral candidate for Kaohsiung were holding a rally by the Love River and it was amazing to see the thousands of Taiwanese people lined up holding hands and participating in an event that just some odd years ago could not have been possible. Standing on the side just watching the crowd, I was excited when the Vice President of Taiwan happened to walk by and I got to shake her hand!

We arrived in Taipei on Monday evening and started meetings bright and early on Tuesday. I'd say the most notable for me was the meeting with a legislator representing a district of Taipei, Hsiao Bi-Khim. I was already a huge fan of hers before the meeting, but after the meeting, I think it's safe to say all of us were "starry-eyed" and incredibly hopeful for Taiwan's future because of her vision and drive. Her understanding of the economic realities of the Cross-Strait relationship and the future possibility of Taiwan independence is probably in the minority of her own party, and yet, she still holds strongly by it and seeks to implement it in the future.

It's only day 3 of the Democracy in Action tour and already we've done and experienced so much. Can't wait to see what's up next and update later!

Greetings from Taipei!!

Our FAPA group is having a wonderful time in Taiwan so far! I am incredibly grateful to be part of such an exciting trip, and am thankful to all of you who helped to make this experience possible for us.

We started our journey in Kaohsiung, where we had the privilege of meeting both Kaohsiung mayor Chu-lan Yeh and mayoral candidate Chen Chu. We even had the chance to observe a campaign rally for Chen Chu, and it was very exciting to see so many people out to support her. There were female candidates, politicians, and leaders from all over southern Taiwan at the rally--I am extremely impressed by the number of women involved in Taiwanese politics. After the rally, our bus followed the campaign trucks through the city--people stopped to watch, wave, and wave green flags at our little parade. It's so much fun to see Taiwanese democracy in action.

Campaigns are out in full force here--street corners are filled with banners and signs for the various candidates, and trucks drive through the city with banners and loudspeakers advertising for candidates. Being able to meet with people at National Chengchi University's Election Study Center, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, and the Mainland Affairs Council has helped me to better understand the election system and the central issues in this election cycle. We were also fortunate enough to have an appointment with Bi-khim Hsiao, a member of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan. I feel so lucky to be learning about Taiwanese politics from such influential and knowledgeable people.

I've saved the most exciting news for last: we got to meet President Chen this morning!!! We were able to spend more than an hour conversing with him, hearing his opinions on both domestic and international issues. I was especially impressed by how down-to-earth and personable he was, and by how much time he took out of his busy schedule to meet with FAPA-YPG. Iris presented President Chen with an American flag that once flew over the U.S. Capitol Building and a U.S. Capitol Building snow globe. Rumor has it that pictures of our group with President Chen have been airing on Taipei television stations, but we haven't had a chance to see the news yet.

Thanks again to all of you who are supporting our trip--it's been an incredible learning experience so far, and I'm looking forward to observing the election on Saturday!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Being a Taiwanese American, living in Taiwan for over five years now, has been an invaluable learning experience. I am always happy to share my experiences with others through the sharing and exchange of ideas, thoughts and connections.

So I was very excited to hear about FAPA-YPG's Democracy Action visit to Taiwan, and to later realize that I could contribute to the planning of trip. Through this trip FAPA-YPG wanted its members to not only learn more about Taiwan's political landscape, but to also get different perspectives on life in Taiwan. One such unique perspective that they sought was that of English language bloggers in Taiwan. This active community of bloggers in Taiwan, who blog about Taiwan in English also happen to meet every first Saturday of the month in Taipei. FAPA-YPG had hoped to meet with them but Eva told me that unfortunately, there were some scheduling conflicts in arranging a meeting with the bloggers.

After hearing this and realizing that FAPA-YPG was coming down to Kaohsiung at the beginning of their trip, I told Eva that I could try to organize something in a similar vein for FAPA-YPG in Kaohsiung. One thing for sure, is that between Taipei and Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung always seems to get the short end of the stick. Everyone always focuses on what's going on up in Taipei. I saw this as a unique opportunity to shed some light on Kaohsiung. The other thing is, you just can't compare Kaohsiung and Taipei; they can seem like entirely different worlds, not only in terms of political leanings.

I have lived in both Taipei and Kaohsiung. Living in Taipei was so easy. I had an instant network of like-minded friends and endless socializing options, but ultimately I ended up living in Kaohsiung which is where I have lived for these past few years. Networking and acclimating to Kaohsiung was no easy feat for me. In the past few years, I have been fortunate to have met quite a few amazing long time residents of Kaohsiung- my "big-nosed" foreigner friends- as they are referred to in Taiwanese. What's impressive is not just that they have been living in Taiwan for about the same time I have (some even longer), but it's how they have and are making incredible contributions to Kaohsiung's English speaking community. I am Taiwanese American, being here is about understanding my roots, but I'm humbled to have learned things about Kaohsiung and myself from these individuals.

The photograph above is of FAPA-YPG members and speakers of panel discussion which was held in the morning of Monday, December 4, 2006. The speakers are sitting in the front row from left to right they are : Eric Chang, Pieter Vorster, Sebastian Thomas, Melissa Wriston.

Eric is a Taiwanese American who has been living in Tainan for about 5 years. He has been involved with the Taiwanese American Foundation for several years as a participant and counselor. Currently he teaches at the American Language Center and is obtaining an MBA from Cheng Kung University in Tainan. He has plans to run a youth leadership camp in Taiwan working with both Taiwanese and Taiwanese American kids in a kind of cultural exchange.

Pieter hails from South Africa and has been living in Kaohsiung for over 3 years. He is the editor of FYI South, a bilingual (Chinese and English) magazine that serves as a guide to things to do around town in the south (Kaohsiung, Ping Tung and Tainan).

Sebastian came to Taiwan in 2000 from Australia with the intention of studying martial arts under a master. Ironically, he has ended up teaching martial arts to others in Kaohsiung. Three years later, he, another foreigner and other inspired souls established Mindful Phoenix Performing Arts. MPA offers classes in kung fu, tai qi, yoga, belly dance, salsa and tap dance. Members study drama and also perform in improvised and short performance pieces, as well as full scale dramatic productions.

Melissa has been in Kaohsiung for nearly 5 years. She is from Canada. She runs Access Kaohsiung, a community resource center for the English speaking community. The center has been open for 2 years. Access Kaohsiung was initially started by Bread of Life Church and Melissa. They were asked to manage an information center in cooperation with the Kaohsiung City Government, Bureau of Human Resources. The International Friendship House is Melissa's newest venture; it provides short-term housing for those moving to Kaohsiung or in town just visiting.

One common theme that seemed to emerge from the speakers comments, was the leaps and bounds by which Kaohsiung and Tainan have changed and improved. In Kaohsiung garbage collection has been steadily improving, there's been beautification of the city through the creation of public spaces and parks, road signage has improved, and in Kaohsiung in particular, the Love River is now pretty much stench free and cleaned up, revitalized and reincarnated- couples and friends stroll along the banks of the river in the evening, imbibe and chat at the various cafes, take in various live performances, and on the weekends double decker tour buses teeming with visitors idle alongside the Love River.

And these comments and observations were extended to Taiwan as a whole, which has seen an explosion of growth and change- sometimes sadly at the expense of her environment. If Taiwan, or rather, the people of Taiwan have been able to accomplish so much thus far, we can't even imagine what is yet to come. That is the beauty and excitement of Taiwan.

There were a few "juicy" moments in the discussion, like when Pieter basically said that the Taiwan News was an English publication not worth reading in Taiwan. Eric countered by giving a summary on his thoughts on the three main English dailies published in Taiwan, stating that of the three English language dailies published in Taiwan, the China Post, by virtue of it's name alone, is the most questionable newspaper.

There was some criticism of the choice of speakers on the panel since none of them are actually able to vote, nor did they talk much about their awareness of politics in Taiwan. Or to some it might seem that presumably, these people don't have a very deep understanding of the political situation in Taiwan. Nonetheless I think that the speakers provided an alternative perspective to life in Taiwan. I invite all those who were present at the discussion to give me your honest feedback and comments.

We actually somehow steered clear of political opinions until towards the end when some hot buttons in the audience were pushed. After Eric got into the issue of media bias in Taiwan, Pieter said that he was shocked by all the reports of corruption and that he had once admired President Chen, but with everything that's being reported in the news lately, he's been disappointed. Leave it to Pieter, who always speaks his mind, and I love him for it; it often amuses me, but it also more than often than not leaves an indelible first impression on others.

I can't comment on the "main players" in the English speaking community in Taipei, but I think Kaohsiung is unique in that there are several self-starters focused on giving back to the English speaking community by enriching peoples lives, and committed to assisting others in their transition to life in Kaohsiung. Perhaps it is simply because there is such a need for this kind of support in Kaohsiung, but it's not always easy for newcomers to Kaohsiung to find these resources until they come across the right website or dig deeper into the community and find that one connection that opens it all up.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Excitement Countdown

Somehow the full weight of exactly what will happen within the upcoming weeks hasn't hit me yet. All of my friends, family, and coworkers ask me whether I'm ready to go, and I'm not. I have yet to pack, settle things at work and at my apartment - essentially, I still need to check in my "Boston baggage". With each inquiring face, though, I feel the day coming closer... I know that only then, on the plane, I will finally realize it --

I'm going back to Taiwan!!!!!

My brother and I discussed our itinerary. He's jealous, but I feel nervousness more than any other emotion. My Chinese skills have deteriorated; my knowledge of Taiwanese politics is lacking. I fear I will meet some of the most important people in Taiwan, but unable to ask the questions I want. I fear I will waste the rarest of opportunities.

I'm armed with a package of information, with my Chinese dictionary, with my Chinese textbooks. I can see that my plane ride will be spent rekindling/learning all these qualities I lost or never had...I'm on a mission: cultural-identity pursuit. It's this one thing I have meant to develop all my life, but for one reason or another, couldn't find the time or the strength to do it. I'm thankful for this trip. There are more opportunities to be found than just the ones printed on the itinerary.

(Apologies for a serious entry. I'll be light-hearted soon enough!)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Last minute packer!

Ah, Cindy is way ahead of me on packing. I always manage to be a last minute packer, scrambling around to stuff and pack everything into my suitcase. But somehow I manage to remember to bring everything I need. That's no easy feat! :)
Well, it's been a busy last couple of weeks with all the trip planning. I'm excited for all the meetings and visits we've got planned. And I'm also looking forward to meeting all the people coming on the trip...It's a small but good group of people! I also can't wait for some gooood food...yum, bubble tea and delicious Taiwanese food! Who's up for some??

If only i could go too

hi dear ypg members,

i'm one of those unlucky people who can't go on this trip although i really want to. just reading about the itinerary and all the events and places and people you will be meeting makes me turn green (no pun intended) with envy. if only i wasn't one of those taiwanese wannabe doctors going through med school i'd be there in a second.

i was at dinner with family friends today and all we talked about was taiwan. i realize that we all have some connection there, but i have to admit, even the daily quick takes of taipei times, listening to taiwanese radio, or reading the ypg listserv and talking to congressional aides about taiwan makes the whole issue seem kind of foreign to me. but it's times like these family dinners, arguing over why no one eats turkey in taiwan (besides me, apparently, there's a great place in tainan that you should all check out if you had the time to go :)), arguing about the best place to buy fish (my family is full of farmers), or wondering why almost half the taiwanese youth can't even speak taiwanese, that make me realize that what we're fighting for, what we lobby for, what we talk to our friends about a little each day, and what this trip is all about, is real. I know that there is so much division in taiwan now, and i try my best to maintain a neutral ground when i think about things, although i do have my personal biases. but this is democracy, no matter how much we hate one party or adore one. it's real, and it's working. we are the only successful democracy in east asia. we are for real yalls. This ugly, yam-shaped island we have a connection to is real. My little personal smile to myself when i hear Taiwan in the news is real. My horribly incomprehensible, taiwanese chinese is real.

anyway, i tried my best to set up a reasonably useful packet for you, although eva and zoe really did all the work. i supplied the ghetto taiwanese adobe software we worked with. i know you will all appreciate all the work various people have put into this trip, and i wish you all the best on your flight and observations in taiwan. i really really really wish i could go, but instead, i'll sit back here and wait to hear the word from you all. know that you really do make a difference. my relatives never believe the things i do in the US all for taiwan. no matter what people say, our job is important. haha, so enjoy the trip, learn a lot, and teach us!! jiaaaa yo :)

Prep & Pack...

Okay.. thanksgiving dinner's over, family gather's done & out of the way. So now, it's time to prep for the big trip coming up.

I had picked out a few outfits last week, hung them all up in the corner of the rack designated as "trip clothe." Don't know if one suit is going to be enough though. According to the schedule, looks like a few days requiring "formal business wear." Think i'll have to pick out another one just to be safe.

Think i'm covered in the shoe department. Got some super cute Cole Haan patent leather baby heels about 3 weeks ago. Have been wearing them to work regularly to get them fitted properly. Since there will be TONS of walking in Taiwan, i made sure to get comfortable low heels that are still cute (quite the impossible feat!!). So those will be my "official trip shoes." But my running shoes and flip flops will also be along for the action.

Damn.. i think it's going to rain almost the entire time we'll be in Taipei... That convinced me to take my stretchy fabric boots out of the suitcase. Instead, i replaced them w/ the leather boots. Nothing worse than treadging the streets of Taipei w/ your feet soaked.

So now that i've got the difficult stuff figured out, it's on to pack the regular traveling pack: toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution, etc.. Can't believe there's still that insane on-board restriction that keeps you from taking aboard regular sized lotions, contact solutions, etc!! How's anyone to survive a 14 hour flight w/o LARGE tubes of hand/face/body lotions?!?!? Now i gotta buy trial size versions < 3 oz, and cram them all into a quart size zip lock bag. Really!! We need to convince more women to diverse into various jobs/industries, starting w/ the TSA!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

November 22, 2006

We are leaving for Taiwan in a week. Exciting!
(This is a test.)