Monday, March 31, 2008

Afterthoughts (Part One)

Hey everyone,

Sorry it's taken so long for me to write -- truth is, after the trip I did a lot of thinking and wanted to compile my thoughts before I put anything in writing.

As most of you know, I went on the trip pretty much to absorb everything thrown at was interesting soaking everything in, and trying to digest it all has taken me a week. I wrote one of my final papers my senior year at GWU on Taiwan's Presidential election, so to participate in the events and watch everything unravel in person was quite the treat for me. I walked away not only with an amazing experience, but with a deep appreciation for everything Taiwan is and has --
its democracy, people, food, sights, sounds, and wonders all bundled into one big form of LOVE. It's amore, I guess.

I would have to say I was probably the most ignorant to Taiwan's history out of everyone even if I had toured Taiwan in 2006...and served as a Student Ambassador to Taiwan in 2001. It's quite embarrassing for me to admit especially since I had an academic focus on Taiwan. My parents never really talked about their homeland, and I'll admit I never really asked that they talk about Taiwan.

Anyhow, the trip was fabulous. Iris Ho, Iris Shaw, Julia, Allen, Enoch...THANK YOU GUYS.

Now as for the trip in pictures (PART ONE) --

Our first stop was the gorgeous Taiwan Foundation for Democracy
building. Maysing Yang, the Vice President of Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and Vice Minister of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission spoke to us candidly...and provided each of us with a bag full of interesting books as well as a delicious bento lunch box! We also got to hang out with TFD's staff (who all knew Kharis quite well since he was a fellow there) and enjoy free coffee and tea.
The first picture is of Iris & Maysing Yang. The second is of the group with Ms. Yang & TFD staff.

Okay, more's getting late and I still haven't adjusted back to PST!

...just for fun...

PS. I have over 1000 photos to share with you
all, but until Mike holds up to his end of the deal (he knows what the deal is), I won't divulge the link [HINT: you should all pressure Mike].

Sunday, March 30, 2008

228 Memorial

oh, here is info on the 228 Museum, which a few of us saw from the outside but didn't have time to go to, and the 228 Memorial at Peace Park, which a few of us did get to see (translation of the inscription seems to be here )

Saturday, March 29, 2008


This trip was as spectacular as I hoped it would be. I'm supposed to move on with my life, but I can't stop thinking about it. Two of the most powerful experiences for me were the "street sweep" and the Taiwan Human Rights Memorial. I am inspired by the determined & resilient democracy advocates we had the good fortune to meet, including Yao, who opened up his home to us, and VP Lu. I was trying to organize my thoughts, but I am still overwhelmed, so I'll just have to do soundbites: The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and the fact that Taiwan is a leader in democracy building make me proud. I'm glad to have had the chance to go to Tainan, Taichung, and Kaohsiung, the latter of which will make a fabulous impression on World Games visitors next year. Minister Jhy-Wey Shieh has gotta be one of the coolest peeps ever. Rubbling elbows with foreign dignitaries at the CEC reception was another of the trip's many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I loved the informative discussions with the Taiwan Thinktank, NCHU (we really should check into the violations of IP laws), and Freddy Lin, as well as the debates at the LSE/INPR post-election roundtable. I was totally surprised to find myself enjoying and learning from the briefings with government officials (felt like home!) at AIT, MOFA, and MAC. The candid conversations with Dr. Twu and Mr. Chen, two fascinating people, were insightful and fantastic opportunities to pick their brains. I had ooldes of fun taking pictures at the LY & Formosa TV (could everyone please upload their pictures? pretty please, with red beans on top?) I appreciated the yummy, generous meals from NCHU and Eva & Zoe's aunt/uncle, and I will have fond memories of meeting NCKU youngsters and a Taiwan-loving restauranteur. Watching the vote count at the polling station was definitely hands-on "democracy in action." And although I hadn't plan on it --to top off all that learning-- I had oh so much fun, fun, fun with my easy going, friendly, diverse, passionately Taiwanese-American tour mates.

Thank you, FAPA, for my most meaningful and memorable (in a good way) trip ever.

oh, and to facilitate everyone visiting the Taiwan Human Rights Memorial, here's the link for more information:

Friday, March 28, 2008

2 + 1

Looking back on our tour, there are two most memorable moments and one afterthought:

1. Kaohsiung: Okay, since I spend most of my time in Taiwan in Kaohsiung City, I have become biased in its favor. But, I think everyone enjoyed it immensely, as well, if only for a day. Wasn't Tuesday morning and afternoon the most fun part of the trip? I think we all felt the warmth of its citizens over and over, from those welcoming our arrivals with fireworks to the truck driver who shared betel nuts with us (okay, me), to the friendliest restauranteur, to the most amazing tour guide... So, it is no wonder that Abian wants to move to Kaohsiung! Don't you?

2. Freddy Lim: The founder and lead singer of ChthoniC ( has a very successful career, which also includes being a club owner and music festival promoter. Nonetheless, he took up the challenge to lead the "Reverse Taiwan" headquarters and activities. When we met with him on Wednesday, we could all see the fatigue of his body but not his spirit. He is a shining example of the power of youth; one report put the youth vote at 56% for Frank Hsieh. Also at the headquarters was his wife and bass guitar player, Doris Yeh, just as involved and fatigued. So, aren't these two good role models for us to follow?

*. Personally, my scariest nightmare is having my own country, the USA, become so coddling to China that it foresakes Taiwan. In the future, if the USA's support ebbs, leaving the Taiwanese little choice but to unify with communist China, then I couldn't imagine walking the streets of Taiwan without hiding my face in shame. Unfortunately, President George W. Bush chastised Abian in front of Chinese leaders, and Secretary of State Condolleza Rice called Taiwan's referendum "provocative". Meanwhile, there is an undefined status quo for Taiwan to adhere to. This leaves little room for exploration of just what Taiwanese want for their final status. The USA should never believe that independence is not an option. Fortunately, Congress, in passing the Taiwan Relations Act, has assumed some oversight role with respect to US-Taiwan relations. So, this is where FAPA comes in, fostering a Taiwan-friendly Congress. This is where you and I come in!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thoughts and Reflections

Now that I'm sitting at my desk back in Maryland, it is hard to imagine all that we have went through just this past week. I would first like to say to everyone on this trip how much I have enjoyed getting knowing every single one of you. Never have I ever met a group of people who cared so much about Taiwan. I had so much fun with all of you and I was able to learn so much from you too.

I would like to share some of my favorite events for me on this trip.
Tuesday, March 18th was an exciting day because we got to do a lot of sightseeing in Kaohsiung. This was the first time that I've been there since Frank Hsiesh had made it so great. We 'swept the street' in the morning, we were screaming waving flags, etc. It was comforting to see so many people give us the thumbs up on the street. And of course there were those who rolled their eyes at us. Kaohsiung is a city with great potential and many things to offer, no wonder the citizens there are so proud of their city.

At night we went to Tainan to chat with students of NCKU. It was so interesting to be able to talk to people our age and compare our ideas and experiences. I remember at first we were all a little shy at our table but once the conversation got going, it was hard to stop.
Visiting the Legislative Yuan was another one of my favorite events. To actually be inside where all the action happens was so exciting. Dr. Twu was a very personable and knowledgeable person, it's nice to know that at least we have someone like him in the LY.

For me, Friday was probably the highlight of this trip. Visiting the Human Rights Park was emotional for many of us. For me it really hit home deep down because these were my people who were tortured, jailed, and killed for what they believed in. I believe in the phrase, "Forgive but not forget." But it is hard to forgive when the KMT still doesn't recognize many of the events that happen. It is hard to forgive when students aren't taught the true history of Taiwan. Every citizen of Taiwan should visit this memorial Park, because without those people who had suffered so much, we would not be where we are right now. It also made me realize how important this Presidential Election was because we have to keep moving forward.

The Election rally that night was a great follow-up to what we saw that morning. It gave me hope to see so many people rally around a candidate who can best serve the interest of all Taiwanese people. I can't explain in words the excitement, the mood that was there. Even after Frank Hsiesh gave his speech, many young people went up to the stage and started shouting 逆轉勝逆轉勝 Needless to say my hope and spirit was at an all time high, I seriously thought that we would win this. I even went to bed that night with the chant in my head.

Reality quickly hit the next day when we visited a polling station. I don't think I can ever get the phrase "2 號馬英九一票" out of my head. Every time it got shouted, it was like a knife stabbing my heart. After that many people went to the CEC, while 4 of us went over to Frank's headquarters. I didn't even had to look at the TV to see the vote count, all I had to do was see the faces of the people that were there to know that we had lost... badly. Hearing Frank's speech that night was absolutely disheartening. Everyone was crying, young, old, male, female, everyone had tears in their eyes. After that we sat inside the HQ, faces and minds blank, hardly believing and accepting the results.

That night we were fortunate enough to go to the Residence of a first generation DPP member 姚嘉文 to chat. To hear him speak rubbed off some of my pessimism. It was probably the best possible way to end such a horrendous night.
So that about sums up the highlights for me.

Thanks to everyone who helped plan this trip, you guys are great. And to everyone who were on the trip, this past week wouldn't have been the same without any one of you!
Even this guy supports Frank!

I miss everyone!!! And Taiwan :(

Hey guys!!

I got back to LA late Sunday night, and I really miss everyone so so much. Unfortunately I am completely bogged down with a ton of work this week so I probably won't be able to upload pictures or write more in depth blog entries until next week--but just wanted to give a shoutout to all those who came on the trip, and an EXTRA BIG thanks to those who helped plan it. I never imagined a trip could be this informative and fun at the same time; Iris was right: This is the highlight of my life.

Back to doing work...

Hugs and Kisses,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My thoughts on the elections

for those of you who have been following our trip via our blog, apologies for not keeping it updated regularly. we have been very busy with meetings set up one after the next and though we have heard many interesting things, it has been difficult to find time to compile our thoughts.

i'd like to share what i have learned from observing the elections and hopefully my comments can help with your understanding of the big upset.

frank hsieh was able to make a tremendous comeback since the DPP lost many seats in the legislative yuan elections in january. with freddy's help, DPP was able to galvanize the youth vote on issues such as one China market (which would take away jobs from youngsters) and promising to help young people with housing. however, his efforts in the last 2 months were not enough to overcome the deep disappointment that many Taiwanese (including pro-DPP) felt over the economy and how President Chen behaved in office. Talking to my aunt, a blue supporter from Taipei, on the morning of the elections, we tried to convince her to vote green. But she argued that recently she feels unsafe where she lives and she admits that she cares more for the future of her kids (i.e. economics trumps all) than the ideals that Taiwan should stand for.

we also went to polling stations in Taipei to observe people voting and watched the votes get counted. it is really a unique example of transparency of the government in that any citizen can watch the ballots be publicly counted at every polling station. what is interesting though is that some people mentioned that the referendum vote was discouraged by the way the ballot boxes were placed (off to the side) or the officials at the polling site didn't explain how to vote for the referendum-- i don't know how true these comments were but i imagine that there is some truth to them. at the first polling station we observed, which apparently serves many old KMT people, was pretty depressing to watch. vote after vote was given to Ma and only every 50 votes was there one for Hsieh. the final results from this station was 75 Hsieh and 1010 Ma....pretty miserable to watch. there were plenty of KMT supporters from the neighborhood watching carefully, eager to make sure Ma is put back into power. but the other polling stations in the area showed the 2 candidates to be closer in votes (apparently these stations served districts that are more diverse with immigrants etc).

vote counting was completed pretty quickly and we soon found out that Ma had a big lead over Hsieh. at DPP headquarters, according to other members who our group who went there, many people were crying. Hsieh gave a concession speech in front of a large crowd of supporters, asking people not to cry for him and he declared that he took all the blame for the election defeat. it was a very noble gesture. on the KMT side, supporters were celebrating the KMT win with firecrackers.

although DPP lost the elections, they now have time to retreat and reorganize the party. clearly people are not happy with the party and even the DPP founding members believe that DPP was catapulted into power prematurely. we heard from a couple of older Taiwanese Americans who came back for the election that going south and into the towns, they found that DPP really has not reached the local level so that people don't really care which party they vote for and will be influenced by vote-buying. they vow to come back every summer with a bus tour to really reach out to the local level and educate people about DPP.

today we went to a roundtable discussion regarding the presidential elections, sponsored jointly by the Institute for National Policy Research and the Asia Research Centre, at the London School of Economics. a bunch of academics presented their impressions of the results of the elections. here are some of their thoughts:
-there was a power struggle in the DPP when trying to choose the presidential candidate; perhaps Hsieh as a candidate failed to integrate the various DPP factions and maybe one faction wanted to be in power so didn't let Hsieh win his own city of Kaohsiung.
-voters have matured and not as influenced by identity politics as previously; KMT's legacy of terror is retreating and DPP needs reorganization.
-Taiwan's democracy is maturing: there was a popular demand for clean government, spirit of compromoise, etc
-both KMT and DPP platforms were similar except for the fundamental ideals of independence or unification and both sides realized that neither is achievable in the near future
-Japan will continue to have a lock of a coherent plan regarding Taiwan because they are internally split by a conservative Right wing (favoring Ma) and a revisionist Right wing (who likes Hsieh because he speaks Japanese and they accept TW indep).
-the fact that only 35% of people voted for the referendum is really a bad sign to the world that TW doesn't care about UN representation, though it is clear that KMT worked hard to encourage ppl to boycott DPP's referendum.
-if the parties had made a joint platform regarding UN for Taiwan, then the referendum most likely have passed (as 97% of DPP's ref was approved).
-it is worrisome that the referendum's value in Taiwan is being degraded and being misused as an election tool
-it is important to keep in mind that the election votes DON'T represent voters' endorsement of one China and unification; it was domestic politics that voters were basing their decisions on
-Ma will have a long, uphill battle from here on because KMT has majority in Legislative Yuan as well so it may be tricky to balance all the various KMT faction interests as well as deliver on the promises Ma made during his campaign
-there is an exaggerated optimism in the KMT; it will be hard for Ma to move as fast as he wants on quotas, charter flights, etc.
-Ma will not rely on secret envoys to China, he will keep communication open and he is under scrutiny.
-both campaigns focused on President Chen as the common enemy; Ma will face many expectations as well as need to perform a balancing act within the KMT and with the DPP
-DPP needs to develop a more plausible economic strategy, and not just be obsessed with identity politics; even better if they can figure out a way for TW to be prosperous without reliance on China
- China doesn't like any Taiwanese leader and its own government is pretty fractionalized.
-the 100 EU parliamentarians that came out in support of TW in the UN is a small portion of the ~700 member parliament that really does not represent the governments of the EU countries
-shifting identity of Taiwanese people: there are 1 million business people and families living in China and this will greatly change self-identification of culture and nationality.
-Ma will be seen as a troublemaker too if he doesn't play along with Chinese interests

i hope some of these notes from what i have observed help you to understand a bit more what's going on in Taiwan with the elections. though it was an upset defeat, DPP will come back stronger (though it may take some time) and FAPA will have to work harder to help Taiwan now that DPP is out of power. just my immediate thoughts, hopefully the rest of the people on the observation tour can update the blog when they have a chance and share with you their impressions of the elections.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

3am... tick.. tock.. tick.. tock..

okay, it's 3am & i still can't sleep from the adrenaline high from the rally tonight...
so overwhelmed by the power of free and democratic people. it's hard to imagine that just <15 years ago, we would have all been arrested & thrown in jail for voicing our opinions!!

Instead, today, Taiwan's youths can show their views w/o fear of persecution...

And even better that we get to join them :)

Isn't she a cutie?!?!?!!? China's threats & 1300+ missiles impact her future!!! 台灣加油!!!!!

7 hours left

The most important day of our trip

In the morning, we walked through Taiwan Human Rights Memorial Park. For me, this is a very educational 2 hours. Through the tour, I re-learned part of the history of Taiwan. So many people has suffered or murdered for Taiwanese democracy, I really hope that the result of the election will bring Taiwanese democracy movement to a new level.

Taiwan jia-yo!

So happy to see so many young people come out to show their love!

Friday, March 21, 2008

catching up

We're not meeting until 9:10am tomorrow, so I'm keeping Tiffany up and typing a little:

Taiwan Foundation for Democracy's Maysing Yang was a great way to start off the tour.  She had been living in the US and came back, leaving her family behind, to help Taiwan's democracy.  She's proud of the participation of women in politics in Taiwan, due in part to the requirement of DPP requires that 1/2 of candidates are women.

We learned that the American Chamber of Commerce believes that most companies that would move to China likely already has.  They think the most important issues are increasing flights, decreasing regulations, and something else I can't remember this moment...

It was interesting to see at the NCCU Election Study Center colored maps of the past elections.  Exit polls don't seem very predictive, so they don't use it much.

Afterward, we hung out at Starbucks, slept on the high speed rail after the bento, went to a 2-block night market, got a My Heart Will Go On sernade on a Love River cruise, heard some jokes I didn't understand cuz of my bad Mandarin skills, and switched hotel rooms.

I remember as a kid being at home not understanding the stuff people were yelling out on the streets.  Now, I've been a part of the yelling, cruising the streets, being looked at by the people in their homes.  It's always touching to see people wave and give support to what they believe in, whatever country or cause.

Deputy Mayor sold me on Kaohsiung.

KRT was impressive.  I could ask questions cuz of my subway experience.  The war section of the glass dome was a little scary, as it was meant to be.

We bonded on the bus on the way to Tainan.

I didn't quite realize we would be talking to undergrads at NCKU...they were earnest and I got to practice my Mandarin...

The Taichung teacher conference hotel had a switch for the light, but I didn't realize that.  

off to bed...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Some interesting photos

Central Park stop on the Kaohsiung MRT has the largest covering in all of Asia. It is designed by a European architect. It is an awesome stop with the theme of spring in KH so there are many yellow flowers in a field of grass on each side of the stop. In the first 8 days open, the KRT has received more than 2 million passengers, granted the rides are free for the first month. KH is encouraging its people to use public transportation as there are 1.5 million inhabitants with 1.1 million scooters!

Dome of Light at one of the stops on the Kaohsiung MRT, has not yet opened. An enormous glass painting (with more than 400 panels) by an Italian artist serves to bring international attention to Taiwan and also enriches the lives of Taiwanese people.

We got a tour of the Legislative Yuan where Meng-Yu and Kharis re-enact a typical occurrence--fighting between the legislators.

Dr. Shieh, GIO minister and rapper

Dr. Jhy-Wey Shieh, minister of the Government Information Office (GIO), is known to be partial to the DPP's cause. We were fortunate enough to talk to him briefly and he fulfilled our request to do a rap. Shieh is well-known for his rapping abilities and more importantly, he raps about Taiwan!! See for yourself how cool he is. YouTube link here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

China's stealing Taiwan's fruits of labor...literally

Today we visited National Chung Hsing University where we talked with a panel of professors. NCHU is one of Taiwan's top universities that focuses on agriculture and biotechnology among other disciplines. We learned from deputy head of agriculture and fishery Mr. Wu that when Taiwan began to collaborate with China in sharing agricultural technology, China ended up taking the information to make their own produce and now competes in Taiwan and in the world market. You can find Taiwan's seeds for plants and fruits in factories all across the major Chinese cities. They even put Taiwanese brand logos on their packaging as well as pretend to be Taiwanese grown fruit. Some of this fruit is even making its way back to Taiwan. China's cheap prices are competing internationally with Taiwan's goods. For example, organic corn from China will sell for $9 in Hong Kong whereas Taiwan's corn sells for $45, even though both corn was originally cultivated by Taiwanese people. The idea of a common market proposed by Ma Ying-jeou will be troubling to Taiwan's farming and fishery that is already suffering from major competition from the Chinese. Opening the doors to further Chinese influence and competition is something that Taiwan cannot afford to do.

Some Pics from Trip thus far...

For those who weren't able to join us... See what you're missing out on?!?!?!

Group picture @ NCCU Election Study Center after briefing:

The brand new high speed train!! TPE to KSH in 1hr 45min:

Tiffany, Angela & Julianna enjoying the bento box on the high speed train ride down to KSH:

The awesome UN for Taiwan display out front @ Hsieh's KSH Campaign HQ:

Meet our Pres & VP candidates:

Thanks to Eva & Zoe's Aunt and Uncle for lunch in KSH:

Exciting day!

Hey everyone...

So today was quite exciting. We started the day by going to Frank Hsieh's campaign HQ...and in a random turn of events we hopped onto his "street sweep" parade and got an impromptu tour of Kaohsiung!

I've never seen so many firecrackers being lit up in my life! It was kind of like a war zone with how it sounded...but it was SO exciting.

We also had dinner with some students from Cheng Kung University (sp?). That was definitely a highlight...they were SO interesting to talk to!

Anyhow, it's really late and I should sleep now...a couple of us went to the night market and bought food...ended up chatting in Juliana & my room until now. :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Hey everyone!

I haven't even finished half of my packing yet, but I'm taking this short break to say how nervous/excited I am.

I can't wait to meet you all, and I'm definitely looking forward to all of the things I'll be experiencing this week....

Back to packing!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I keep saying that I'm excited cuz well, I am!

All packed, including the overnight bag. I'm trusting that the hotels have irons.

When I explain the trip to people, they don't seem as excited as I am. Am I the only one that's this excited?

Through getting involved with FAPA and learning Taiwan's history, I realized how little I knew when I was in Taiwan when I was a kid. Obviously --how much do kids know about politics! Even as adults, people in DC may be odd for knowing so much about politics and government. Anyways, I more clearly see why my parents immigrated. I also understand better how much the oppressed culture is ingrained in me. This trip is perfect for me since I get to learn about Taiwan and talk with people -- and can pretty much understand only English.

I wonder how the DPP and the will of the people will proceed after the election...I feel like we're flying/swooping in and looking in the fish bowl with a magnifying glass, versus the people actually living in Taiwan who may not have the substantive conversations we will be having, but who may not need to cuz they're living the lives that we'll be talking about.

Oh, did I mention that I'm excited?

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Hey guys, I just thought for my entry I would introduce myself and blab a little about pre-election jitters.

I'm a sophomore at Duke majoring in Economics. This semester, I'm studying "abroad" in Los Angeles with a program offered by Duke. Basically it's for students who are interested in the entertainment industry and we get to take classes at USC and do an internship of our choice. I currently work at The Film Department, which is an independent film financing, production, and international sales company based in West Hollywood. We're fairly new--just got started in June 2007, but I love working there. (If anyone ever needs recommendations on where to eat in LA, I'd be more than happy to give you some suggestions on the best places to eat)

Anyway, I'm admitting to be kind of cranky, groggy, and just overall really tired because this past week was our midterm week, which for me meant I had to study for an exam worth 40% of our grade and write a 20 page research paper. It was not fun. I haven't slept for three days. I thought I'd be able to relax tonight, since I fly to Taiwan tomorrow, but I have so much packing to do and just a bunch of miscellaneous hoo-ha that is preventing me from ever getting my eyes closed. I swear I'm just going to get on the plane and pass out for 15 hours. There goes my plan for doing work on the plane...

But in the midst of my hectic life I have found a little bit of time to watch the news and keep up with some of the events in Taiwan. I watch a lot of those talk shows and I watched the second debate between Hsieh and Ma. I'm really worried that Ma is going to win. He says the most ridiculous things and his face is written all over with "Once I sell Taiwan to China I'm flying first class to the US." Needless to say, I have no respect for him whatsoever and it boggles my mind when I hear people proclaim their love for him. Barf.

I look forward to seeing all of you in Taiwan though! I'm so excited to be able to drink legally!! :)