Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Today is just another day, or is it?

Here in Taiwan it's the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, which falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. So that means it's a day off for me today and it also happens to be a beautiful day outside.

The sound of soaring crackling firecrackers started last night and continued into the wee hours of the morning. There is no concept of "disturbing the peace" here. Where public gatherings and celebrations are concerned, the louder, busier, noiser and more crowded it is the better. Taiwanese people seem to be impressed by this. Perhaps it's just the mode of living here since Taiwan is an island of just over 35,000 square kilometers and 23 million people. The measure of a successful event or opening is the attendance or participation. Everywhere you go, especially on weekends, holidays or after working hours there are crowds of people in the departments stores, night markets, theaters, everywhere, everywhere.

In Taiwan every major event (from weddings to political rallies, or any excuse for a celebration) is celebrated by the relentless unleashing of firecrackers. There are little or no regulations regarding the private use of fireworks. I wouldn't be surprised if Taiwan had the highest per capita usage of fireworks. Nor are there any safety regulations on how they are produced. There have been one too many unfortunate news stories of spontaneously combusting firework factories and the resulting casualties.

The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is a time for family and loved ones to gather together, eat barbeque under the open sky, and gaze at the moon.

There are also several legends of the moon festival which are described in brief in this Taipei Times article.

In the weeks leading up to the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival people give and receive boxes of mooncakes and pomelo fruit (seasonal only during the two to three month period before and after the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival).

Mooncakes have a thick pastry-like exterior and are traditionally filled with red beans, egg yolk, lotus seed or nuts. They now come in a myraid of new flavors. I personally don't care for them much and find them quite dense. My family and I have received so many thoughtful boxes of mooncakes, that we have more than what we know what to do with. And none of use seems to care much for them. The funny thing is when my parents have tried to "regift" them to others it seems like everyone else has had more than their share of them and are pretty tired of them too.

I think that mooncakes have become like the fruitcakes of the east. They are a traditional gift that we feel compelled to give, something that no one really wants or needs, and that most don't even like to eat. What a thoughtful gift, but I don't think I could manage another bite.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

In recent months Taiwan has been dealt a series of hits and misses in the international community. Here’s a brief summary:

A Taiwanese Boy's Painting for a Stamp Commemorating International Peace Day is Disqualified by the UN

Apparently, a fifteen-year-old boy is now on the list of people who pose a threat to China. In August, China protested the boy's painting, which had been selected by the UN for a stamp to commemorate International Peace Day. These objections led to the UN's disqualification of the Taiwanese student's painting. The painting was inspired by the 9-11 attacks in New York. It features children riding away to peace on a dove, and several national flags, including the Republic of China flag of Taiwan. China saw the inclusion of the ROC flag as a threat to its territory.

Although the UNPA (UN Postal Administration) firmly upheld its decision and issued conflicting statements on the incident, Chunghwa Post published the boy's stamp for local circulation in Taiwan on September 21, International Peace Day.

Taiwan's Failed Bid for UN Membership

On September 16, Taiwan's 12th bid for UN membership was
. One major hurdle to admission is Taiwan's bid under the name of the Republic of China, rather than simply as Taiwan.

Taiwan's Double Gold

Taiwan's participation at the Athens Olympic Games shed light on the quagmire of Taiwan's international image. Click was here to read more.

News coverage on Taiwan's participation in the Athens Olympics brought this issue center stage each time Taiwan was referred to by the media, each time the Chinese Taipei baseball team played, and each time Taiwan’s athletes won a medal- when there was no flag of Taiwan to salute, and they were called the athletes from Chinese Taipei.

After winning, some of Tae Kwon Do athletes proudly shouted, “Taiwan! Number 1! “I am from Taiwan!”

Click here to learn more about Taiwan's Olympic heros.

Then there were even reports that China tried to claim Taiwan's medals as their own in an attempt to claim that they had won the most medals of any country participating at the Athens Olympics.

Taiwan's First Lady Snubbed at the Athens Paralympics

Days before Taiwan's First Lady, Wu Shu-jen's was to take a trip to Athens , the International Paralympic Committee asked the first lady to revoke her position as head of Taiwan’s paralympic team, and downgraded the first lady’s pass to paralympic events. Click here to read more on that.

Instead of feeling hopeless and frustrated, I am encouraged to see that these incidents are contributing to a rising awareness and sense of national identity among the Taiwanese... as it enters people’s daily discussions and consciousness.

Friday, September 24, 2004

It's all in the attitude...

It's such a simple mantra, but one that is especially important for teachers... I've noticed that the wave of energy and enthusiasm that I feel for life in general has carried into my teaching and the classroom.

I must be doing something right, because it's only the second week of classes and one of my new students told me that he's already learned so much and that he was looking forward to learning more as the semester progresses. So I'm off to a running start. I think I say this every year, but teaching really does seem to get easier and more enjoyable for me every year.

As my recent blog entries have indicated, I've been feeling a strong sense of empowerment. Before coming to Taiwan, I had a lot of unanswered questions (about life: what I wanted to do, learn, experience, and accomplish); I was also in the process of healing psychologically, spiritually and physically.

I am still working on answering my questions about life but with a sense of purpose and focus. My mind body and soul are strong and healthy and I'm on a path of self-awareness. For me I will feel alive as long as I am learning and creating.

I feel a new acceptance myself inside and out.

Monday, September 20, 2004

With a renewed sense of purpose and sights set high, empowered by my committment to realize my hopes and dreams, I sometimes struggle, but this is the path that I must take to be true to myself and to nurture my soul.

After having reflected on life and death recently, I am even more assured of my choices and belief in what I am doing here. I am firm in my resolve to continue facing the challenges ahead in the pursuit my dreams and goals.

Life is to be lived, not spent wondering or waiting for the day we have time or money to pursue our passions.

Friday, September 17, 2004

I have been so grief striken for the past few days... I recently learned that a dear friend of mine just passed away after a five year long battle with cancer. I had only just seen her a few short months ago in July.

It is never easy to describe the uniqueness of each relationship you have. I learned so much from her example that I considered her a living role model for me. I am so saddened when I think of how short a time she had on this earth, but know that she always tried to live life to the fullest, and that she had come to terms with her condition. She was with loved ones and at peace at the time of her passing. The most difficult thing for me is knowing that I will never see her again. Here are some words that I've written in her memory:

Gratitude is what I feel for having known her. I will always remember her instant acceptance and friendship. Her generosity and celebratory attitude towards life were a heartening example of how to live. It is no overstatement to say that she is someone I have admired and looked up to, and that the gifts that she has bestowed on me are ones that I will carry with me all my life. For that I am eternally grateful.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Our past experiences- those that have hurt us, changed us, left lasting impressions... are carried with us throughout our lives. For better or worse they are a part of that "inner voice" which drives us, shapes us, sometimes they are our worst enemy, our biggest fear internalized- that we must constantly confront and work to overcome. We carry these "scars" with us for a lifetime. They are what makes us who we are.

They are the beauty and uniqueness of a person. They make up personal history, are part of the map of one's life... like a physically visible scar left on one's skin, which evokes memories when recalling its origin. It is the scratches on a once shiny new piece of jewelry, and things worn by the passage of time and use.

I am constantly learning about my fears and their origin and it still surprises me to realize their lingering effects.