Sunday, 25 December 2005

Christmas 2005

Christmas this year was as cold as it could be. Taiwanese people don't really celebrate it, and it's really just an excuse to party. There's no real Christmasy/homey/lovely feeling; perhaps a tree here and there and people saying Merry Christmas for the sake of being fashionable. It's quite different from what we grew up with in the US.

My brothers and I served our parents and their 20+ guests at the house. The guests were my mother's classmates from the Lee Teng-hui school. My parents felt it was appropriate to play I-love-Taiwan songs, and left the Democratic Progressive Party's campaign soundtrack on repeat mode. In the back of the room was a picture of my father with Chen Shui-bian. I've never been to a political social gathering, but perhaps this might be something like it? I don't know what they were talking about. We were too busy serving.

In Taiwan, there are no fresh pine trees to chop down and tie to the roof of the family car to bring home, so Daniel bought a small and cool-looking tree made of stainless steel. So there was a tree, some Christmas cards and a fire crackling in the fire place. But somehow, it did not feel like Christmas at all. Maybe it's just me. Christmas used to be my favorite favorite FAVORITE holiday, but I wasn't even looking forward to this one to begin with. In fact, I didn't even want it to come. I didn't know what we were going to celebrate. It's difficult to feel festive when no one else does. Things now are quite different from the days when our parents would flip out if we weren't home for Christmas.

After all the guests left and the poor CD was given a rest, my brothers and I handed presents to our parents (one already went to bed and the other just about forgot). Then us kids, including Lydia, did our own present exchange/opening in our area of the house right around midnight. We made a huge mess of wrapping paper and ribbons, but it felt good, and like Daniel says, "that's how it's supposed to be." Thank goodness Lydia's presents had lots of wrapping paper.

Aigh, I just want this year to hurry up and finish. Hopefully next year will bring more happiness and luck for the family and everyone else. We could all use it.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Story: Flying Eye Hospital

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital was in Taiwan, and I got to do a story on it.

There are a billion good stories that we can make on this, but the footage was limited to just the plane and the press conference. I felt that I could have done an entire feature on the plane and the crew's stories, but my producer didn't want me to spend two days on a single story, feature or not.

There wasn't enough time on the day of the press conference to film the other things, so it had to be split up into two days if I wanted to film things other than the press conference and a snippet of the plane. Resources are so tight!

Slug: Flying Eye Hospital

Orbis is an international NGO dedicated to preventing and treating blindness in developing nations. Their Flying Eye Hospital is currently in Taiwan to raise funds for its worldwide operations. Michella Weng takes you in for a closer look at what they do inside and outside of the plane.##
奧比斯眼科飛機醫院來到台北了! 國際NGO奧比斯的任務包括, 在開發中國家做預防,治盲,還有教學的工作。民視記者翁郁容帶您一起進入奧比斯飛機醫院了解他們是如何奉獻他們的醫療愛心##

[NS: money pouring out of piggy banks, blind kids, celebs]
In addition to a charity auction, Orbis Taiwan has a new fundraising and educational campaign--the Flying Eye Hospital piggy bank. The idea is to teach kids to save money to help those in need, as demonstrated by these students from a local school for the visually impaired.

Piloted by volunteers from United Airlines and Federal Express, the Flying Eye Hospital jets around the world and stops in developing nations to serve as a hospital and teaching facility. While the volunteer doctors perform surgery in the operating room, local doctors can watch and learn from the audio visual room in another part of the plane.

Medical Directory Dr Gordon Douglas recalled one of his most rewarding moments with the organization.
Gordon Douglas醫師想起讓他忘不了的一個手術。

Sound bite:
Dr Gordon Douglas
Medical Director
I remember being in Paraguay where a little 10 month-old child was brought in. And we were able to illustrate by doing surgery on one eye for glaucoma, in a 10 month-old, such that when we left, the other eye was done.
我記得我在巴拉圭的時候 他們帶了一個十個月大的小孩進來
那我們離開那個地方之前 他們也學會怎麼把另外一顆眼睛做好

Through Orbis, generosity from donors make miracles like this happen.
民視新聞 林明煌 翁郁容 台北採訪報導

This is Michella Weng for Formosa TV from the Flying Eye Hospital in Taipei.
民視新聞 林明煌 翁郁容 台北採訪報導

People interested in donating money to Orbis or buying an Orbis piggy bank can get more information by visiting our discussion forum.

Story: A Cozy Cafe

Here's a story I did on a cafe called "Cozy Cafe" near Shi-da (師範大學).

Slug: A Cozy Cafe (1’15’’)

A café in the back alleys of Shida (師大) University that prides itself on their cappucinos is attracting local and foriegn intellectuals, ex government workers and students alike. FTV reporter Michella Weng takes you to see what’s so special about it.##

Opening stand-up:
Between the lively Yongkang and literary Shida areas is a cozy little cafe that some very cool students, artists and even retired government officials like to hang out. Let's have a look!
夾在永康街鬧區和師大文藝區有一間學生 文人 還有退休的政治家 常來的小cafe.

"Simple, but tasteful" are the first things that come to mind. It's sparsely decorated, but the dark-colored wooden panels and chairs really stand out against the white walls and ceiling; and gives the place a warm feel. Plenty of light comes in, even on cloudy days, and the lifted ceiling makes the place feel much more spacious than it really is.
第ㄧ個印象就是 簡單 有品味
佈置雖然單調 不過深色的木頭襯托著白色的牆壁 成為特色 給整個空間一個溫暖的感覺
充滿了自然的光線 陰天的時候也不覺得暗
挑高的天花板 也讓空間顯得更大

They specialize in espressos and pride themselves on their foam.
咖啡呢 以義式咖啡為主

Sound bite:
Weng Yu-jhen
奶香的甜味都會在裡面 所以我們都會建議客人不要加糖
The sweetness of the foam is all in there, said co-owner Weng Yu-jhen, so we really recommend people not to add sugar.

Weng and her two partners fulfilled their dream of opening a cafe three years ago when they left their office jobs and started this place. The attention to detail is an indication of their passion. They chose the height of the chairs and tables to be comfortable for people who come around to read, study or do work on their computers.
翁老闆和兩位合夥人在三年前把開咖啡廳的夢想成真 也都辭了公司的工作
這邊的桌子和訂做的椅子的高度 不論坐著看書或打電腦都很舒適

My favorite? Cafe latte with orange liqueur.
那記者最喜歡的呢? 就是橘酒拿鐵咖啡.

Michella Weng, Formosa TV, Taipei.
民視新聞 王泰棋 翁郁容 台北採訪報導

Saturday, 17 December 2005

Lunch with a genius

Annie, my good friend from university, was in town. We had a nice, Chinese lunch together at the Grand Hotel. The last time I saw her was at her wedding a year and half ago. She married her boyfriend from university.

Annie and I became friends during our freshman year. She always effortlessly obtained the best marks. Once, I asked her why she didn't choose to go to a more challenging school. She said that UC Irvine was quite good and that it was close to home. She lived ten minutes away with her older sisters and mother and drove to school in a comfortable German import every day. As UCLA, USC and some other good schools were within reasonable commuting distance, I was quite puzzled.

One day during our first or second year, on the long walk through Aldrich Park to Japanese class, I asked her what she had planned after graduation. Graduation seemed light years away and I had no idea what I wanted to do, but since she always seemed to have the answers, I thought I'd ask.

M: What do you think you're going to do after graduation?
A: Get married.
M: Get married? To whom?
A: Someone, maybe Daniel (her then boyfriend, now husband).
M: Oh. You seem awfully sure of it.
A: Yeah.
M: And then what?
A: Go shopping, watch Taiwanese and Japanese TV shows, trade stocks. Ho ho ho!

M: Where are you going to work?
A: At home.
M: You want to work out of your house?
A: Yeah.
M: WHAT are you going to do?
A: Housework.

M: I thought college was about teaching us how to work and helping us figure out what we want to do. Why did you come to college if you're just going to get married and not work?
A: I came to find a good husband.

While I was trying to figure out how to take over the world with less than an average head on my shoulders, this academic elite that I thought would become a professor or a Fortune 500 CEO was telling me that she wants to be a housewife.

Well, she is now a housewife; watching dramas, trading stock and shopping while happily waiting for Daniel to come home every day. She is an amazing girl, in every sense. She's so clever that she knows what will make her happiest using the least amount of effort. Absolute genius.

My mother treated us all to the lunch.

Reduction printing 1A

We've been working on rubber reduction printing at school. Since Christmas is near, I thought about making some cards to send friends and family. Well, the card idea escalated into a Christmas wall hanging and is spinning out of control. Too many colors and not enough time! I think it is going mush into one inky mess.

Here is of the first rough sketches, in coloring pencil. I didn't like it.

A little better. Running out of time, so this will have to do. Not very artistic...

Big mess, but loving it.

Once I figured out what colors I can have and in what order to cut, I redrew the pattern onto the board with pencil and then over the pencil with a brush pen for a livelier feel and started cutting for the first color.

The previous week, I printed the first color: red. So what I cut out this time and print will remain red, and what I cut out the next time will be the color I printed last time (and the red will still be red, since there is a hole there already).

First color: brown.


Second color: yellow. I should have started with the lighter colors first... I wish there was more time so I can wait until the following week to print the next color. Now there are two layers of fresh paint on top of each other, paving the way to an even gooier mess.

Well, if it doesn't work out I suppose I can always cut it up and make a mosaic of some sort...

A classmate hard at work, etching.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Other family reunion

My godmom had a job in Tainan, so I went down south to meet her. I picked a flight so that I would land at around the same time as Grandma and Oneesan. I didn't know exactly what time everyone was landing, but guestimated and everything ended up fine! There were some communications problems and Grandma didn't know I was coming, so she was completely (and I hope pleasantly) surprised to see me.

We stopped by a fruit store before heading back to Grandma's flat overlooking Chengqing Reservoir (澄清湖) in Kaohsiung. Taiwan's fruits are indeed delicious!

After some chatting with Grandma and her sister, Oneesan and I went back to the room that we were sharing and continued to talk. My Japanese has gotten pretty bad, but somehow, we managed to talk until my head just hurt too much to stay awake any longer. It was only 2h00. I usually have a hard time sleeping, but underneath about five futons and with her in the next bed, I konked out right away.

The next morning, we packed up, and headed out. Mama wasn't arriving until afternoon, so we had some time to ourselves. I forgot my powder at home, so we went to a department store, where I found some nice stoles and neckerchiefs on sale as well.

Afterwards, we went across the street to a duck place that Lydia recommended. It was one of places where tables were on the side walk but the kitchen was inside, so there was plenty of dust swirling around and people walking through. It sure was popular, though. Oneesan seemed to like it.

Lydia recommended duck noodles and pig's blood, and that's what we got (and veggies, of course). I only ate a little, which was probably good, because as we went back across the street, we found GELATO. Neither of us are supposed to be having that stuff, but it felt good doing bad things together. And it feels good to have a big sister.

When Grandma and her sister picked us up, we were still eating our ice creams. She started talking about work (I think she was managing this job) and then started lecturing and somehow I became involved in some of it (I was just there to see my godmother...) and our ice creams first didn't taste the same anymore, then melted. Well, such is life. We weren't supposed to be eating it anyway...

The car ride felt so long and I thought we'd never arrive at the airport. Eventually, we did, and so did Mama. She always makes me nervous because I have to stay on my toes, but at the same time, it was such a comfort to see her. It was as if all of a sudden, I felt that everything I had been worrying about would turn out OK.

We had dinner with the sponsor. It seemed like a 20-course meal and I thought my stomach was literally going to burst. I think my stomach has shrunk considerably--good news. My favorite dish out of the whole meal, though, was a plate of greens with ginko nuts and lotus roots. Perhaps I'm just meant to be an herbivore. My favorite dessert was the almond tea with fried breadstick (油條杏仁茶).

While Oneesan was taking the picture, someone was peeking from behind...

The next day was work, and they put me to work too. Mostly, they just had me take pictures for them during the event. While the scene wasn't new to me, the experience served to remind me that I've grown a little. I felt like I was kind of working between the media and the subject. While the media can be a big pain the butt sometimes, sometimes they don't have a choice but to be that way. Most sensible celebrities know it and try to make everyone's job easier. I used to be very annoyed at how rude the media is, but now I know (and experience) how they feel, and how great it is when the subject tries their best to accommodate.

We ended up returning to Taipei that night, instead of Kaohsiung as planned. Everyone was either too tired or still had other work to do, so dinner was all done in the hotel. I went with my godmom and the sponsor to the Taiwanese restaurant in B1 of the Howard Plaza Hotel, and it was great, but everyone was falling asleep and didn't know what to say anymore, except for "oishii, oishii, oishii."

After dinner, they had more meetings and I stayed in the other room, blogging and watching a bad movie on HBO. Afterwards, I talked with my godmom until neither of us could keep our eyes open, which was about ten minutes, and crawled back to my room with Oneesan.

The next morning, we left together--they for the airport and me for work. Whirlwind family reunion. Then I realized that I forgot to get a picture with them. When you're behind the camera long enough, you tend to stay there... Must get in front!

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Dinner with Jenny and friends

As the vote counting wound down, I started to panic--not because other stations were showing that the KMT (國民黨 Kuomintang or Nationalist Part) candidate in Taipei County was leading the DPP candidate by 200,000 votes and our station was miles behind and still saying that the DPP (民進黨 Democratic Progressive Party) candidate was winning by a few thousand votes. Our station has very close ties to the DPP, so it raised quite a few eyebrows, both inside and outside the station. The next day, the news director bought the entire department fried chicken (of course, our team was forgotten about because we're on a different floor) to congratulate us on doing such a great job and staying impartial during the process.

Anyway, I was panicking about what I would do after it was over. It was still early, 19h00 or so, and I didn't want to just go home to freezing Danshui. My parents were out partying with their classmates (both are back in school) and I didn't really know who else to ask to go to dinner with, so I text messaged Jenny asking to recommend me a place. I thought she'd be with her husband or other family, since it was a Saturday.

M: hi. can you recommend me a hip but quite place for dinner?
J: Forchetta (western)- good food. Fifi (eastern)
M: thanks. what's better for eating alone?
J: Alone? Do u wanna meet up?

Ring ring came her call, and supergirl saved my night.

I met up with her, her husband, her brother John and their friend Jeff at Salt & Bread, a Russian restaurant. They were practically done by the time I got there, so I quickly ordered and ate. The food was alright, but the ambiance was pretty nice and the presentation was interesting. When John and Jeff went into the -20C snow bar, Jenny and I got a little bit of time to chat. I think we were both pretty tired. Two hard working girls.

Here's a picture after the dinner, when we walked by Far Eastern Shangri-La. You can find some very cool pictures of the flaming dessert on John's blog:

Love you guys!

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Professional review

After coming home after my midnight rendezvous with Mr Handsome, I checked my email while the bath water was running. There was something from my friend Larry, who is a classmate from Waseda. He is now working for NHK's Spanish radio program. Earlier this year, I asked him if he knew of any English-language newscaster/reporter jobs in Japan, and he said no but he'll keep an eye out, and he really did! NHK World is looking for an English-speaking business/economics newscaster for their international TV news show. So far, I've only seen Japanese newscasters (who all speak with thick Japanese accents), so I'm not very optimistic about my chances. I am excited at the prospect, though, and I will apply. The deadline is in less than two weeks.

Lately, I've been reviewing my goals and career path. It's been almost one year since I started working. The goal I set for myself last year was to get a foot into a news organization and make my way in front of a camera as a journalist, even if it meant starting at the bottom and putting aside all of the investments that my parents had pumped into me. Amazingly, I think I have done quite well. There were some very tough times and I've killed many brain cells doing work the company can train any turkey to do.

The past year has been just learning any and all skills that I felt were within my reach. I'm no master at any of them, but I'm quite good at some, and good enough at all of them to make myself a valuable member our production team. I think I'm good value for the company, but I don't want to do this forever. I now know better what I want to do and what I don't want to do.

The general direction has been towards becoming a reporter and anchor. The anchor part, I passed within two months of entering the station. My producer liked my style and asked the head program director what he thought. Apparently, he liked my style and presentation, so he screen-tested me several times and gave the thumbs up to the news director. No word for two months.

Then one day, our female anchor had to be somewhere else for a PR event, and my producer asked the news director if I can substitute for her that night. She said yes. A week later, the news director still hadn't said anything to me or my producer about my performance that night or letting me continue with anchoring or not. My producer really wanted another female anchor, especially for weekends, when we only had guys. My producer gets very timid in front of supreriors, so she had me ask the news director myself. I walked into her office, and our conversation went something like this:
me: Hi chief. Thanks for giving me the chance to do the newscast that night. I really enjoyed it. How do you think I did?
News director (ND): Hm. How old are you?
me: I am 26 this year.
ND: Twenty-six? Let me think, I can almost be your mother!

ND: Doing news takes time. Getting that news flavor takes time. You have to let it soak and ferment, like in making wine, to get that flavor.

ND: Don't worry, you're still young. You're only 25. I can be your mother. You've got time. Don't worry. There's no need to rush.
me: OK
ND: You've already broken the record at this station. No one's gotten screen tested that quickly and anchored in your record time. No rush. You really need to let everything soak in to have that flavor.

ND: I'm afraid that people will talk.
me: OK, thanks.

She likes to repeat herself, but I'm confused about why she repeated those things, and I still don't know which issues were the most important. She is known to make decions people don't understand, perhaps becaus she doesn't explain them. Now, I sucked in that newscast at best, but people told me that the other anchors on our show were bigger messes than me when they started. We have a roster of anchors with interesting backgrounds. One was special assistant to the CEO of a hotel, one a network administrator who occassionally submits articles to a newspaper in Hong Kong and one is a TV English teacher who also translates documents for the environmental protection agency. There was only one anchor with a real news background--he is the news director for an English-language radio station. The anchor who was from the hotel was hired at the start of the show some three years ago, to be anchor. She became a full-time staff at the station, later reporting and then anchoring the Mandarin newscasts as well. The IT and teacher, however, are still part-time staff and only come in to do newscasts or to translate/edit.

Months later, I am still plugging away, trying to get the "right" flavor. All the while, with people up and down the chain asking me why I'm not anchoring yet. I wish I knew what to work on. What do I have to do to have that "flavor" that she wants?

During the year, I've gotten to know which flavors I like and don't like, however.

After I was hired as full-time staff (and taking a 40% pay cut...), I've gotten to know the intricacies of producing our show, what's going on in Taiwan, the news environment here and what's news to our target audience.

My producer gave me much freedom to report. She also had me file three reports for CNN's World Report, which ended up doing alright. Two of them were actually rerun two to three times. The results were encouraging. Being able to see my own work, being able to show it and also be praised for it was the best feeling in the world for me.

As I explored the different beats, I realized that while political and business stories were more challenging, I didn't enjoy them very much. I didn't like the people and I didn't like the picture. The human interest and lifestyle/leisure stories were quite different. I really enjoyed introducing things and showing people where they can go and what they can do. I had fun doing the occasional silly thing, like jumping into the freezing canal in a big orange wig, putting other reporters to shame and all the while making good entertainment. I loved talking to people passionate about their work, especially when it came to food, art and music. Much of this really isn't news, however, and I realized that I am not suitable for news in the long run.

There was a period of time when I was miserable day and night and had hit a new low.

Two weeks ago, I finally worked up the courage to talk to my producer (a different one from before September, and who is also our female anchor). I told her that I enjoy all the different things I do and being able to take any position that needs to be covered, but I'd like to do more reporting. I talked about the kind of reporting that I like (which she likes, too) and the first thing she said was, "I know, I can tell. You look so happy in front of the camera in those stories." During our talk, there was a show on a different channel in the background, introducing interesting places and people around the country, and I pointed to it, saying "I'd really like to be out there more, doing that kind thing." She said she knows, and in fact, I should move more towards entertainment. I was surprised that she even said "entertainment." Then I said that I would like to figure out how to get from where I am now to out there, working in front of the camera, in the field.

Unfortunately, reality shows do not belong in news. My producer said that while I'm in the news department, in this company, what I can do is file more restaurant stories, more fun stories, more energetic stories. That will build up a good resume and increase my exposure.

For a while, I was quite angry at my producer for not saying anything about what she saw in me, but now I'm grateful for her passiveness. Because she didn't say anything, I was forced to really THINK about what I want and what I need. It was terrifically agonizing, but like they say, the tighter the coil, the higher the spring.

Sometime in the mid term, I will leave news for something more creative and entertaining, but until I accomplish something and leave my mark in news, I will not go anywhere in the foreseeable future. I'm going to become a good reporter and an anchor at a reputable station, to begin with.

In the long term, I'm still not sure what I want to do, but I am developing a great appreciation for the arts, so that may also become a piece of the puzzle. I do know that business will be a part of it as well--it's what I studied and enjoyed, and I know I can make a lot of money, somehow, someday, somewhere.

2005 has really been a roller coaster to say the very least, but a very exhilarating one.

Look out, 2006!

Mr Handsome

It's nearly 6h15, and I am still wide, wide awake, probably because I had tea with a Mr Handsome after my coworker's wedding.

We met at 23h00, he was in town and I regretted falling ill the last time he was here and we were supposed to meet. He ordered wine and I, "Indian Milk Tea," which I will only describe as "really sweet." I really wanted wine, but had to drive home afterwards, so I had to resist. This makes me want to get an apartment in the city even more. We were at Fifi's (fifi 茶酒沙龍) on Renai Road (仁愛路四段15號). It wasn't the best place in the world, but close by, so therefore convenient. We were in the first floor lounge. I think they have a nice restaurant upstairs during non-pumpkin hours. My face is going to look like a porous vegetable tomorrow (today). But, Jenny and Anna: aren't you guys proud of me? I engaged in an entire night of voluntary social activity!

I'm may just set a daring goal for next year: find a real boyfriend. Mission: Impossible.

Mr Handsome is a friend of an acquaintance. We've met only once (almost a year ago), but kept in touch. He is Taiwanese and went to the US sometime during his childhood and graduated from Boston University. Now he lives in China, but flies all over the place--a workaholic. Qui se ressamble s'assemble. How terribly tragic.


Lately, I've been thinking quite a bit about moving into the city. I love living in Danshui with my parents and dogs (and living this princess life), but the commute is so long. Not only is it time consuming, it's also discouraging when I want to meet with friends, watch a movie or simply go to a bookstore after work. With the amount of money I pay for parking and petrol every month, I could probably rent a nice flat and even hire someone to come clean once a week. I'll still come back home to Danshui if I have a couple of days off. I will need to come back to regain sanity and energy and to be with family.

This is definitely an option which I will continue to explore.

Fashion struggle

I was in a meeting with the CEO of a local home appliances maker. He was looking for someone to host a product explanation video and one of our program directors (PD) who was going to make the video (as a side job) recommended me. The CEO happened to stop by the station on some other business, so the PD called me up to say hello to the guy. They auditioned some foreign models elsewhere as well, and I'll find out if I get the job Monday. Anyway, yesterday when I met him, I wore a nice, starched pinstriped shirt from Ralph Lauren that my mother bought for me about ten years ago. It was purple and black stripes on white, with square French cuffs and a Windsor collar. I rolled up the cuff one time so it would be casual and also out of my way. I turned the collar up, folded down the very ends so it kind of framed my face, and then draped a small, feminine tie that I inherited from my godmother around my neck. I wore grey slacks with a shiny, brown leather belt (from godmother) for elegance and warmth of tone. To finish it off, I put on brown, high heel cowgirl boots (from godmother). I wore my hair in my usual work, feminine style (so I look grown up and authoritative), and I accessorized with shiny, girly things, as always. I thought I looked quite sophisticated and cool. So here went the getting-to-know-you part of our conversation:

CEO: You're not married, right?
me: No, I'm not
CEO: You don't seem to be the type
me: Perhaps it's not time yet. I'd really like to concentrate on my career right now.
CEO: No, I don't think it's like that. I don't think you will get married.
me: Oh, really?
CEO: Nope.
me: Perhaps I just need to find the right person. But why do you say so?
CEO: No, I don't think you will get married. You don't like men.
me: Hm?
CEO: You don't, right? You're THAT type, right?

While restraining myself from falling out of the chair, I simply, politely but charmingly, smiled, as to let his imagination run wild.

It's one thing to be hit on by a gay person of the same sex (which I haven't been before), but to be asked if I were gay by a guy, a narcissistic fruitcake at that, is something else. There is a first for everything. But since I have great appreciation for the gay guys on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I will take that as a compliment.

If only I were around more artsy people so I can really find out if what I'm trying works or not. News people, at least at our station, aren't quite that type. Most of them don't even wear make-up, and very few of them seem to care about image and impression. It's a battle out there, but can't we fight in style?

Monkey business

Taiwan held regional elections last Saturday, and our production team was called in to work.

My group of three was in charge of Penghu County (澎湖) and Pingtung County (屏東). Two were on the phone and one was on the computer. I was on the computer.
Each of the phone people called our station reps who were standing by at the campaign headquarters of two of the candidates in each county every thirty seconds to get vote count updates. They then wrote the count on a piece of paper, passed it to me, an arm hair's distance away (actually, we were literally squeezed shoulder to shoulder in the international center), and I punched those numbers into the computer. Phone, paper, computer. Phone, paper, computer. I think the company might have saved some money if they brought in monkeys to do the same job. I bet they could have hired fewer monkeys than the number of us there. It was a fun experience for me, on the company's expense. Hee hee.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Birthday lunch with Maggie

It was Maggie's birthday, and I met her for lunch at NY Bagels near the Ren Ai roundabout (仁愛圓環). She's my last roommate from college, and one of my best friends during that time. It was really nice seeing an old friend, if only for one short hour. She's the one in the middle of the picture. Pei-shan is her friend who was visting from Taichung.

Grandmother's birthday

Of mothers and diamonds

It's my day off tomorrow, so I am going to blog blog blog to my heart's content! Whoopee! Well, maybe not that much. I still have a cold and I have an art class tomorrow.

I got into a fight with my mother today. Actually, she yelled at me for not picking up the house phone (while I was trying to eat and put on make-up at the same time). She was trying to get a hold of me, and I knew it, but just didn't want to pick up. On top of that, I was angry at her for some other things. So when I called her back after finally making it into the car (while continuing putting on make-up) she was understandably very upset and began yelling. I really couldn't stand it this morning, so after she said, "never mind, I don't want to talk to you any more," I simply hung up. I knew that she was going to hang up, but the thought of perhaps beating her to it was at least a little soothing to my ego. From the sounds of it, though, she wanted to share something with me, or had something good to tell me. I am a bad daughter. Recently, I haven't done much to be proud of. In fact, I have been quite selfish lately. Well, more than just lately, more like this entire year. I've been trying so hard to meet my career goals and oblivious to everything else around me. I've chosen to block out everything that takes a certain effort to manage. That's not good and should be changed, really.

My relationship with my parents, and especially my mother, is a bit complicated. Until this year, I've lived away from them. It's been six years, and even longer if you count my mother going back and forth between us kids and Father during my high school years, and my year away at boarding school when I was in the ninth grade.

I'm the oldest of three children, and was naturally expected to take much more responsibility than my brothers. Most of the time, I met those expectations, and they didn't worry about me. I've always felt like they were so confident that I would be OK that even less than worrying, they barely thought about me, what I wanted and how I felt. They bought me things, but what I really wanted was attention. They had two boys to deal with and raising three children in a foreign land was no easy task. To make things even more difficult, my father was, what felt like forever, constantly away on business. My mother was always stressed out. I only remember that I was always angry at my father for not being home to help with domestic matters and to be with us. I was always angry at my mother for being angry with us and I was always angry at my father for not being with us. Of course, I never fought with my parents, but neither did I smile through what I didn't like. I was just quiet, and angry. Every once in a while, I would blow up. Come to think of it, I thought of killing myself more than just a few times. I'm sure most kids go through this, right...? I suppose in adult terms, I was very bad with anger management. Of course, I never hated my parents, even for a split second. I was just very angry.

I was always angry, at everything and at everyone. I didn't know this. I thought it was normal. During graduate school, I went back to the US one time and visited one of my aunts. She had watched my brothers and I grow up. When I went to see her, she told me that I had changed a lot. She said she'd never seen me smile when I was little. One of my brothers said the same thing to me. I guess I really was an angry child. I feel sorry for my brothers in that not only did they have to take my mother's berating, they had to suffer what I took out on them too. I don't think I was an ungrateful child. I've never had to really worry about family finances and have had a very financially-comfortable life so far, of which I've always been appreciative, but I think I had a very high-pressure and emotional attention-deficient childhood. I wasn't smart or rambunctious enough to realize how to deal with the pressure and to get attention.

During university, I had a very different life. My parents provided me with a means to live comfortably, and a very nice car in which to get around. I had more, but not a ridiculous amount of, spending money than the average college student. And so with all of these, I was FREE FREE FREE!! I never knew such freedom. Perhaps I won't ever again! I went home quite often, and perhaps through the distance, I had space and time to grow up and become a little more tolerant of things. I have always been close to my brothers, but I think I became closer to my parents. Perhaps not being able to see each other all the time reminded us of each other's existence and our need for each other. Of course, there were times when I went home wishing that I hadn't, but most of the time, the trips were peaceful and pleasant.

My clock during college revolved around crew and karate practices. I put more time in those activities than in class. I did well in both those sports and managed to finish my credits in three years, with decent marks. But in the end, I stayed on for the full four-year program, kept up with a full load of classes and enrolled in courses which I just thought were interesting. During college, I learned many things about myself, about life and about death. I received my first kiss, I lost a good friend to death and I gained the confidence that I could achieve whatever I wanted if I were determined. My peers respected me, and my seniors too care of me like their little sister. If it weren't for the freedom my parents gave me, I wouldn't have been able to know all these things. If it weren't for the pressure they gave me before, I wouldn't have had the patience to get along so well with people, the explosiveness to excel in sports and the stamina to push through my studies.

When I was in graduate school, I was away from my parents as well, but I came to know some people who eventually became my family--my uncle's friends, my godmother and her family. I gained a godmother and all the attention I never could have imagined. Pressure started to increase at that point, though. There was the pressure of living with other people, and even though it was with someone who became my godmother, she didn't have an obligation to me, so I needed to make an effort to show that I appreciated what I was being given. It wasn't hard, though, because she showed that she appreciated me. Perhaps she is better at expressing herself or perhaps she made an effort; most likely, both. There was also the pressure of perfection. I am a perfectionist, and so is she. Where stress and perfectionists meet, a pressure bubble will inevitably form. The bigger the bubble gets, the higher the tension. If it bursts, it's something like an atomic explosion.

My godmother and I got along well. There were bumps here and there, of course. I have certain bad habits and certain, different views. But most of the time, I was a happy girl. Actually, it was in Japan when I realized that I was actually a naturally happy person. I was in a completely new environment and knew no one there who would unconsciously remind me of how I used to behave. It felt like a test of how I would react in a totally different setting.

My godmother and I have a similar personality, and a mother with an uncannily similar personality. I could talk to her about almost everything, whereas I have always been so scared of my birth mother that I normally wouldn't dare try to speak to her, out of fear of lighting a fuse or becoming disappointed from her simply being uninterested. But as the anger I had during childhood came under control, fear started taking over.

Almost every time before I returned to Taiwan when I was in graduate school, I would be anxious for days. When I was in Taiwan during school holidays, there were so many days when I would wake up scared. Nearly every morning, I would become so anxious of what mood my mother would be in and if I would be the lucky one to get the beef she had with my father taken out on, that I would dread coming out of my room starting from the morning. My brothers were in the US, so they weren't around to cheer her up or to share some of the load, so I was given all the attention. She was also going through menopause, so things were surely difficult for her. While she was literally driving me insane, I imagine that what was going through her mind was surely at least a hundred times worse. I keep telling myself, and so does my father, that I must try to understand, because through understanding, I can then come to peace with matters. That's easily said than done. I can understand, but I just can't quite come to peace.

Now I still feel like I'm six years old in front of my mother, both because of my own behavior and also by the way I'm treated. I suppose that's just the mother-daughter relationship.

My godmother once told me that pressure makes a diamond, and that is what we need. I suppose mothers innately feel the responsibility to turn their daughter from carbon to diamond, and carry that on consciously and unconsciously. Mothers certainly are diamonds--beautiful but abrasive.

In any case, I suppose that no matter how angry (or scared) I am and will be in the future, I still have my mothers to thank for all the unpleasantness that will hopefully turn me into something of value.

You are what you eat

On TV: NHK's Project X, on the rebirth of the Takarazuka (宝塚) theater

On a rare occasion, I ate at home today. I forgot to set the alarm last night and woke up at 10h50, leaving the only time to have any kind of decent meal either right away or after 21h30. There just happened to be lots of vegetable leftovers, so I chose to have a quick brunch at home. After quickly digging up a tiny bit of everything I've wanted to eat for a long time, I ended up with this:
- stir-fried bean sprouts with bok choy (青梗菜) (there was very little bok choy left) with soy sauce
- stir-fried vegetarian chicken (素雞) with tiny shreds of chicken and pork (my mother's idea of "vegetarian" food) and shiitake mushroom
- stir-fried silver fish (しらす) with minced garlic
- steamed broccoli with sliced garlic
- soup from last night's hot pot (火鍋) with cabbage and tomato
- natto (納豆)
- cottage cheese
- plain yoghurt
- toast

I was in a big hurry, so all I was concerned with was making sure it would be enough to keep me going but not too much to give me a stomach ache. I put it all in a tray and took it to my room--I was running late and really had to be putting on make-up and eating at the same time. As I carried the tray back to my room, I realized how strange all of it looked together. They were all foods I love and nicely placed in pretty plates and bowls. I had pair of delicate-looking lacquer chopsticks and a shiny silver spoon to eat the food with, but the combination was so strange that I wasn't quite sure whether to think "yummy!" or "hmmm..." Thirteen hours later, I still don't know. I've always had problems with eating spaghetti with chopsticks, or eating rice with a fork but this was a completely new type of confusion.

There was Chinese, Western and Japanese food all in the same meal. It's not the fashionable fusion food that I usually love to try at restaurants and write about, it's homemade CONfusion!

Given that I chose all of these things without thinking, it says something about me--one foncused, cultural mess. Sometimes you truly are what you eat.