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.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Wedding Dress

At long last, after searching high and low, having tried on more than one on for size, she had found THE ONE, the ONE for her at long last.

She had found the perfect dress- elegant, strapless, A-line, delicately embroidered, and beaded. It was perfect. It complemented her figure and highlighted her delicate shoulders and bone structure.

THE dress hung in the wedding store waiting for its first fitting and alterations before doing its duty on the glorious day.

Days and months passed and it seemed to have been forgotten.

A year later it remained unclaimed.

There had been heartache and pain, then revelations, forgiveness and growth.

Years later she imagines it- pure, pristine, and untouched, frozen in time. Though she never claimed it or wore it, she remembers loving it. She still does. It is a timeless memory etched in her mind that now makes her smile.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The anachronistic Assembly and Parade Law

When I heard that Su Beng had been charged with serving 50 days in prison, I knew that I had to get to the bottom of it. I wasn't exactly sure what he'd been charged with.

This all dates back to last year- April 26, 2005, the day Lien Chan was to leave on a trip to China to meet with Chinese Communist leaders.

On that day, en route to the airport, Su Beng had Lien Chan’s car followed. Several taxi drivers made coordinated efforts to surround Lien’s motorcade while on the expressway so that a taxi carrying Su Beng could drive up along side Lien’s car, close enough so that Lien could read a message that Su Beng held out the window of the taxi; it read, “Don’t sellout Taiwan.”

Su Beng and his supporters also showed up at the Taiwan Taoyuan airport (formerly known as the Chiang Kai-shek airport then) that day, to protest Lien Chan's trip. Su Beng's group had fireworks which were brought into and released inside the airport.

Su Beng's taxi driver was arrested on April 26 and held without bail for over 24 hours. After 24 hours had passed, on April 27, Su Beng and his supporters (which included other drivers of taxis and vehicles from the "Taiwan Independence Action" motorcade) went to the jail where Su Beng's taxi driver was being held. They assembled there in a show of support for the driver. Su Beng's taxi driver remained in jail for a month before he was finally released.

From April 2005 until June 2006, Su Beng has appeared in court no less than ten times for questioning regarding possession of fireworks in the Taiwan Taoyuan airport. He was not questioned regarding the incident on the expressway; the incident which presumably his taxi driver has been imprisoned for.

Finally, on September 7, Su Beng was notified that he would be charged with serving 50 days in a jail, or fined over NT$50,000. The reason for the charge? When Su Beng and his supporters, including all the drivers for the "Taiwan Independence Action" motorcade assembled at the jail on April 27, they had not applied for a permit to assemble publicly.

Although protests, and marches are now commonplace in Taiwan, there are still laws on the books that make such demonstrations illegal. According to the Taiwan Journal, "[The Assembly and Parade Law] stipulates that people must first obtain a permit from the police precinct where the assembly is to take place. The police at the precinct level therefore have the power to permit or deny all applications for assembly and protest activities, and they are charged with maintaining order during the marches and driving away protesters if things get too rowdy." Click here to read more about the selective enforcement of the "assembly law."

Some of us suspect that authorities are using this loop hole to charge Su Beng. If they charged him for setting off fireworks in the airport on April 26, then they'd have to go after the other protestors who caused disturbances in the airport, namely the instigators of violent attacks, many of whom are actually gangsters.

Su Beng has the right to appeal the ruling, but he probably won't appeal. What difference would a further appeal make? He is currently awaiting notification on when the 50 day charge must be served.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Su Beng has been charged for his involvement in protesting Lien Chan's April 26, 2005 trip to China

Su Beng lecturing about Taiwan's history

I can't believe things have gotten this far. I just heard that Su Beng, 88 year old lifelong independence activist and author of "Taiwan's 400 Years of History" has been charged with serving 50 days in jail for his involvement in last April's protest in the Taiwan Taoyuan airport (then known as the Chiang Kai Shek airport). Perhaps Su Beng has been charged for conspiring and organizing the taxis that followed Lien Chan's motorcade on the expressway, enroute to the airport that day. On April 26, 2005 Lien's trip to China to meet with Communist China's leaders sparked violence among protestors in the airport.

More than a year after the incident, on June 6, 2006, Su Beng appeared in court regarding the incidents related to that day.

Today the Chinese language Liberty Times newspaper reported that he received a charge of serving 50 days in prison. I don't have the complete details on Su Beng's case and current situation, but I will post more later when I get the whole story.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

War of the Rallies

Looks like it's going to be a war of the rallies in Taipei.

The major news around here lately is that, former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Shih Ming-teh has been leading an anti-President Chen Shui-bian/anti-corruption campaign to depose President Chen. This has been going on since Saturday, Sepember 9. Shih has said that he is speaking on the behalf of common people who want the president to step down from his post since he has lost the people's trust; President Chen's son-in-law was allegedly involved in a corruption scandal and there has been controversy over the Presidential Office's special allowances.

You can read what Shih Ming-teh had to say when he launched his anti-Chen Shui-bian campaign here. Of course there have been some other developments and changes in the campaign strategy since.

Reactions to Shih Ming-teh's announcement that he was launching an anti-Chen campaign varied. Read about it here.

Pre-premptive anti anti-Chen demonstrations started weeks before Shih's anti-Chen campaign even began. The earliest among these was a demonstration in the 2-28 Peace Park on August 26. There was even a demonstration on the day before the anti-Chen campaign was to officially begin.

This Saturday, the Taiwan Society is organizing a rally to counter Shih's campaign to oust President Chen. I just hope that the situation doesn't deteriorate into physical altercations between the two groups. Tension are running high. Let's hope we don't see displays of the violence and protest, like we did in March of 2004 when Lien and Soong protested the 2004 Presidential election results, or on April 26, 2005 when violence errupted between protestors in the Taiwan Taoyuan airport (then known as the Chiang Kai Shek airport) over Lien Chan's trip to China. The New Party was accused of enlisting gangsters to beat up pan-green supporters. Details were reported here.

Emotions were still running high when Lien Chan returned from his trip on May 3, 2005 after fraternizing with the Chinese Communists.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Tribute in Lights, September 11, 2006- Reuters/Gary Hershorn

I’m sure that most people around the world, especially Americans, remember where they were or what they were doing on this fateful day five years ago. September 11 will forever remain a hauntingly, shocking day in history. For many people out there, I’m sure that this day marks a place in your personal history, conjuring up certain memories, feelings, occupying a particular context.

As I reflected on September 11, and was transported back five years ago, I realized that it marks the over five years I that I have lived in Taiwan. I moved to Taiwan in June of 2001 and spent my first two months or so living up in Taipei. In late August, I relocated to Kaohsiung, so by September, I had only been living in Kaohsiung for a few weeks.

On the night of September 11, 2001, I was alone in my parents’ apartment in Kaohsiung; they were out of the country in Canada. Taiwan is on Greenwich Mean Time + 8 ; New York is on Greenwich Mean Time -4; therefore we are 12 hours ahead here. As I was winding down and watching TV that night, my Mom called from Ottawa and it was then that I heard that the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. I immediately switched to CNN in disbelief. I have never felt so alone and helpless as I did that night. I immediately started calling up all of my friends who lived in New York or worked in the financial district and of course I couldn’t get through. I had no where to turn. I can’t even remember… I vaguely recall calling a few of my friends up in Taipei. We were all in disbelief. There was nothing to say.

At that time I was teaching English in the airline management department of a local college that specializes in training students to enter the hospitality industry (hotel management, tourism, culinary arts, and airline management). The next day I was in a daze. It was fitting that I talk to my students about 9-11, my disbelief and grief and their views on the responsibilities and risks of working in the airline industry. I told my students to be thankful for their health and safety.

When I look back on that time, I realize what a lonely time that was for me and how I struggled with that loss alone. I didn’t know anyone in Kaohsiung who could truly empathize with the complexity of emotions that I experienced. Not even my parents could understand. They had spent a few years living in the U.S. before immigrating to Canada where they have lived for more than twenty years. So they identify more as being Canadian than American. I was born in the U.S., and raised in Canada. But my adult life has been spent living in the U.S., beginning the day I went off to attend university in the Midwest, ending up in New York city where I joined the workforce, went back for a master degree, fell in and out of love, “reinvented” myself more than a few times along the way, where I was distracted beyond distraction, and yearned for a completely different experience outside of North America. That is (an exceedingly abridged explanation of) how I ended up moving to Taiwan.

In September of 2001, I was in Kaohsiung isolated and alone. In Taipei I had had an instant social network; networking was practically effortless, but it had been replaced by the desert, the desert of Kaohsiung. Kaohsiung is a difficult place to meet people. Call it a challenge. Kaohsiung is certainly not known for its dizzying array of nightlife options. There are pockets of communities which are spread out, hidden and self-contained.

Kaohsiung is an industrial city; it is not a center for science, finance or business. It is one of the four largest harbors in the world, but it is not really the center of any major commerce. Consequently, most people here have chosen to make Kaohsiung their home base because they have family here, have set up a business or are working for a family business here. And then there are the foreigners who are overwhelmingly employed here as English teachers.

My first year in Kaohsiung was a trying adjustment. Others who have moved to Kaohsiung from Canada or the U.S. have shared with me their stories of struggle and transition. It is a struggle that lasts only until one finds that link that opens it all up. If you’re not an English teacher working at one of the local cram schools or hooked into the English speaking community, it can be a lonely time of transition. But somehow you find your way, find like-minded friends, start building a circle of friends, finding a balance and living life again. That’s where I’m at now, more than five years later. It wasn’t easy, but along the way I’ve grown wiser, learned a few things about myself, and started in on a few challenging pursuits.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Wife and the Mistress

The doorbell rang and the wife answered the door.

“What can I do for you?”

The stranger at the door said, “I’m looking for ----. Is he home?”

The wife’s husband’s name hung in the air.

“He’s not home now. Who are you?”

“I’m his girlfriend. I drove all the way from ---- to see him,” said the other woman.

Completely stunned by the bare admission, the wife’s heart sank like a dead weight; her feet bolted to the floor. As she scrutinized the other woman, her business suit seemed a little too snug in all the right places and her long manicured nails, upon closer inspection, looked cheap and tawdry. The wife found herself flatly saying, “My husband is not home now, but you’ve come all this way. Why don’t I arrange a room for you in a nice, nearby hotel? Go there, settle in and I’ll let my husband know where you’re staying when he gets home. By the time you’re all settled in he’ll stop by to see you.”

The mistress couldn’t believe it; the husband had actually smoothed everything over with the wife. He must have told her everything about them, how he’d felt trapped and wanted to move on.

When the husband returned home, his wife greeted him as usual and calmly mentioned the stranger at the door. The husband immediately launched into a full confession of all the sordid details. His words were not chosen or considered. It was as if it was a relief to have it all out in the open. But the words deadened a part of his wife’s heart that day. After his catharsis, the wife simply asked, “Do you want to continue your relationship with her or do you want this marriage?”

The husband chose the marriage.

The wife calmly told the husband what he must do. He must offer the mistress some money to leave her in comfort. He must take full responsibility for starting the affair. He after all is the one who is married and betrayed his wife and family. He made that choice. He could not put the blame on the other woman. The mistress had only hoped for what he misled her to believe. He must make it crystal clear why the affair must end.

The wife had her husband back. The husband was more attentive than ever before.

The wife vowed to protect herself from disappointment. She knew that something had been lost and irreparably damaged but she stayed.

Was it attentiveness? Insecurity about his wife’s affections? Indebtedness? Or the projected suspicions of a guilty soul?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It seems that this article, which appeared in today's Taipei Times has upset quite a few people.

So I just have one question for AMCHAM to consider: What about the 800 or so missiles in China aimed at Taiwan?

Monday, September 04, 2006

The view from my window (in Kaohsiung, Taiwan) this early evening