What’s my portfolio for?

It’s strange how a simple question can create such a huge stir in my heart. I met up with a junior of mine today and during the simple lunch conversation we had he popped a question. He asked me what my plans were for the future. And I didn’t really know what I was going to reply.

Sure I had plans, but what are my portfolios for? Do I really want to be a freelance designer for life? Would being a designer be a waste of my degree and education? I mean, he really got me thinking about life, and how I was going to spend it. Many things have been antiquated, even the paper portfolio. In this time and age, and more importantly, into the future, the future of communication, in the age of big data, cloud computing and mobile devices, what is a paper portfolio worth anymore?

I seems like I need to first be clear about what I want and then formulate what I need. Perhaps the era of a nicely printed, bound and pretty paper portfolio is really long gone, and I had not realised it. Maybe the world has changed long ago, and I am still living in mine.

Even for the upcoming semester, as I mull over what I ought to be doing, I felt that being in year 3 already, it’s time to stop maintaining that silly GPA anymore. That if I wanna get the most out of my education, the least I owe to myself is to learn something new. That means that when I do connexions, I shouldn’t gravitate to do the design anymore. I should take on the challenge of being an editor, to manage and handle different job responsibilities and the people under me. Who can’t do design these days? I will not be the best to justify my own price tag, I am too cheap to feed my self-ego.

The only question is that: what I am going to learn for the remaining two years of my university education?

And what am I going to do after university?

First and foremost I need to prioritize Christ as the cornerstone of my life again, as with all good things that He has given, I need to let Him be The Lord of my life once more. To consult him in every decision.

And the second thing to do is to redefine who I am and hence what I do. I realise that to design is good, but who can’t design these days? I need to become a communicator, that my eventual profession needs to keep trend with the avenues of communication, and good design is just the avenue to get to what I need to be doing. I need to work towards what I ought to be good at. I am an advert major, I need to know how to advertise myself to the kind of clients that I want for myself. I need to be learn skills, to develop my own niche. I need to stop seeing myself as a designer anymore, and to pick up the challenge that ultimately, I am here to communicate ideas in the most effective way possible. That means that I need to be open to different media: online media, technology, essentially everything that people use to communicate to one another; I need to be communication-savvy.

It to be that the jack of all trades is the master of none.
But for now, and the foreseeable future, the jack of all trades is the new master of all.

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Before, After.

Singapore has changed since I came back. Or more like leaving Singapore for 5 months really changed me. It’s only been a few days since I’m back, but so many things have happened since I’m back.

I came back on Wednesday night, and since then I’ve been prepping for Matt and Serene’s Wedding. I was to be their emcee, in Chinese. It was a nerve wrecking time to be doing it for the first time in my life, with no official rehearsal opportunity with my co-emcee Amanda at the G2 Sanctuary. But thank God it turned out well received, and for that I am grateful.

Coming back, many things have changed. I came back to a Singapore what I can’t help but see in a different light. I find myself not being as judgemental towards foreigners, having been one myself in Taiwan and Japan.

I have also just finished packing my room, and cleaning it up. It took my 3 days to get it done, but now at least my room is neat, tidy and clean. It’s really helpful for my nose so I don’t sneeze so much. This time around the cleaning was really deep and thorough.

Being overseas really made me more independent and also more aware and responsible towards my own things. Like I will want to clean my room because a clean dust-free room directly benefits my own health and comfort.

Being overseas made me unconsciously much more confident when I’m using Chinese. That environment really forced me to not only speak, but think in Chinese.

Being overseas really caused me to rethink my design, to start off with no preconceptions of what design should be or is like. It made me realise how equipped I can be in my skills and yet lack so much in the soul of it all. There is so much of soul in Taiwan that sometimes I felt like I was thief ransacking through every crook and cranny of what belongs safely in their treasure trove. And I can say that no exposure is as good as immersion.

After: I am finally back.

After 5 months of wandering to and fro, amongst two countries: Taiwan and Japan.

I guess being overseas made me appreciate home more. The standards to which I hold Singapore to still stays, but the attitude thru which they are held in have been more humane than ever.

If I am to let exchange change my life, the last thing I need to do is to revert to what I was before I left. So today when I alighted from the bus, I said 謝謝 to the bus aunty, who seemed slightly taken aback to hear that, but she looked at me and beamed me a smile. At that point I knew that this is the route I will take, I will continue to bring the best of Taiwan back to Singapore where I live. That way, my exchange will never end.

Oh My Days In Taiwan

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So it has finally come down to this.

Around 5 months ago, I left Singapore with a heavy heart. But I KNEW, that I KNEW, that leaving Taiwan would for sure be a million times harder. I’d no idea what or who I would encounter here, but I trusted that the Lord will do good to me. And marvellous was what He did here in Taiwan, for the past 5 months

I knew what I wanted before I came, I knew what I had to do from the start when I came.

I went to get my own SIM card, applied for a Taiwan Bank account and ATM card. I kept myself busy in the frigid 17 degree weather of Taipei then. And I was fortunate to meet Jing-yi, the first person I met for lunch.

But returning to the hostel, that first night was the toughest. I remember asking myself, why am I even here? I am tired and I just wanna go back home to Bukit Batok in good old Singapore. I called Daddy and Mummy and spoke to them, while holding back a realm of emotions I never thought I would have.

The next few days were much better thanks to the awesomest Eileen and Yinkuan, whom we went out to epic adventures in Kaohsiung, Tainan, and even around Taipei in search for erm… food mostly I think. In night markets, in shopping centres, and streets and whatnots.

There I also got to know a lovely couple owning the hostel where we stayed in Bike Kaohsiung. They are Paul and Celine, and talking to Celine is always very inspiring and enlightening 🙂 It made me come back 2 times after that, whaddya think. If you’re gonna stay in Kaohsiung, stay at Bike Kaohsiung. Beyond the convenience and the price, what you get is awesome company.

After which while back in Taipei, I tried to contact the property agent, who later had me travel by HSR down to Hsinchu, a place I’ve heard of as Hebe’s hometown and nothing more. And I signed a contract (that I could hardly read in 3 hours) that will make this 3 room apartment my home for the next few months. The landlady Ms Cheng is so nice and sweet, she gave us biscuits to eat cos she’s just married. And she’s currently at the Hospital awaiting a wonderful child as I type this out 😀

I welcomed in two awesome and wonderful roommates from Germany. They are Markus and Swen. Meanwhile I got to see Ying-chia in person (He randomly added me on Facebook, but I believe that it was really a divine appointment) and I attended my first cell group, singing songs I never heard before, and everything in Chinese as well.

There I reveled at the opportunity to return to Kaohsiung once more. I’ve never loved Kaohsiung more than any city in Taiwan, and now I also had a friend to meet, Yu-wei. We met and the four of us screamed (okay mostly only Yu-wei and I) at the Eda Park.

Then was back from the initial holidaying and school began. But the travels continued and the adventures continued. I was blessed beyond measure to meet Wen-yao, someone  who really let me know Taiwan in such an intimate and honest way.

I also met Bo-hao, my NCTU exchange buddy who also helped me acclimatise to NCTU and all. But I am most grateful for being able to go to his home in Changhua and get to know the place and his family. Thank you buddy! See you soon in SG.

Also had the great opportunity to go out with my Weekid buddies and NCTU exchange mate to Taichung to see some Caonimas and do some cycling there 😀

Then Wen-yao and my two German buddies went altogether to Kenting, and I could only say while the concert wasn’t the best, it made something beautiful come out of that experience. And the scenery was epic as usual, Taiwanese style.

And while all these things happened I was also getting to know my church in Hsinchu better. And because the church is a small church, I quickly got to know the senior pastor, the lay leaders, and one of them, Joshua Lee, brought me along with his colleagues to Yilan, a beautiful preview of how Eastern Taiwan will look like (when I get the chance to explore in future).

I got to met Ching-kai (or CK), she is instrumental in helping me get a clear perspective of Christianity in Taiwan and she is always enlightening and encouraging and thru her I managed to really get into the mood of the cell and the church. (The Easter service at Chupei Stadium was an event I never imagined I would be involved in) Haha.

As the exams drew close the activities did die down a little but after that it was really about catching up once more and just spending time with the people I love.

And now, now, as I prepare to leave for Taoyuan Airport, to go to Japan (ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED), I am filled with gratitude beyond the words of my mouth or on these pages.

During my time here, there have been so many people who have become my microscopes and keys to this beautiful place called Taiwan. To them, I could say everything; but I’d say one thing. THANK YOU. And another, SEE YOU SOON! (And I actually do mean it.) And one more last thing: Welcome in advance to Singapore! My exchange isn’t complete until you guys come to where I belong.

Going to go… home.

I’m not going to talk about my past few months. I think I’ve said enough.

Right now I kinda just wanna go home. Not because I cannot tank life here anymore, but because as a matter or fact, I AM going home in like 3 days’ time. So when the time comes, you naturally wanna go back. Like when you see a toilet bowl you feel like shitting. Okay weird analogy. But the time has come. It’s time to go home.

…Except that it’s only for a few days. And then I’m coming back to Taiwan again.

That makes the whole range of emotion even more interesting. And strange. Because I KNOW I’m coming back, so there isn’t a mixture of emotion, or can’t bear to leave-ness. I just purely wanna head back, see my folks, see my rabbits, to say hello to my cell mates, school friends, everyone back in Singapore.

And of course been packing, getting ready stuff to bring back to Singapore, and also stuff to bring TO Taiwan for my friends here. It’s quite an interesting experience, being able to make something, cut it out, and hand it personally to the people I wanna give here. Haha that thing will be a little surprise, but it really represents what I feel Singapore is to me.

The past weeks have been full of ups and downs, some squabbles with someone who really made me feel hurt but all in all the entire experience here has taught me so much. Much of what I learn is intangible, is invisible to say the least. I wanted to learn design here, to pick up design here. And so I taught I had to visit mueseums, go for classes and worksops and all. But I didn’t get a chance to go for any classes or what (though I visited a few art expos and stuff). And I can say that just by BEING here, I’m learning. And the subconscious learning happens from day 1 until now.

And I can see that reflected in my design and art. It’s really awesome to grow like this.

The weather has also changed. Suddenly it’s very very humid and warm, like Singapore, but I feel it’s a little worse at night. Because there is almost no rain, the air is very dry and that makes my nose really uncomfortable. And the heat in the day isn’t to be joked around with. It’s real heat, like being in a microwave and that’s not fun at all.

Anyway.

Yup, few days left to going back and taking a good break from this break. It’s weird, but exchange can also sometimes wear you out. Even if it is only a pinch compared to a semester at WKW.

the joy of pretending: mayday muses.

Okay, time is officially flown and now I’m in May. That means it’s about 1 month till I return (briefly) to Singapore, and 2 months before I am (more permanently) back in Singapore.

I believe this is the time where we exchange students start to look a little closer at our savings and utter some silent gasps of ‘wahhh so little money left ah’, and ‘die liao need to borrow money’. 

Okay, kinda. For me I think bring around $6.5k is enough for a comfortable living (staying in a condo, touring, eating out pretty often though food is generally cheaper than in SG), BUT the money I bring to Japan may render me a beggar on the street, and I do wish to come back alive without having to beg. 

At least, for the one week in Japan, I wanna be a typical, standard tourist, visiting all the ‘touristy’ places, doing all the obligatory Mt Fuji and what not kinds of visits, and try some different accommodation (ryokans, capsules etc) that I cannot find elsewhere. So it all boils down to MORE MONEY, and I probably have to get some from my daddy when I go back briefly in early June. Hope it would be not more than a 1k. Have to do some planning in the next few days, especially the accommodation and all. Yup.

But apart from that, I have also been doing my usual brain churning activity, and I do have some random, but pertinent points to make. They may not have any link to each other, but who knows. Lezzgo.

 

After 3 months in Taiwan, the novelty of being known as a foreigner has probably long worn off, and sometimes it’s more like I’m sick and tired of going thru the routine questions that locals will ask me once they know I am not Taiwanese. So in fact since a while ago, I have stopped declaring my foreign-ness in those adhoc and random convos I have everyday, and guess what: they couldn’t tell!

Being known as a foreigner is not exactly a bad thing; but that knowledge almost always degenerates every convo into some Q&As about where you are from, are you comfortable with the weather here and so on. It’s quite hard for truly organic encounters to happen if they know you are not local. Of course I cannot deny that when they know you are not local, they will instinctively ask a certain form / set of questions as some impression or reaction instantly forms in their minds.

And I got to know that they felt the one week CNY break was too short, that Chunghwa Telecom’s system is ages old (from the counter staff herself, mind you), how the police won’t patrol during rainy days, that a handicapped lady will tell you about her life in NCTU. Basically you hear mostly grouses and complaints, but some moments are pretty poignant. It’s like they talk to you like you understand them; sometimes they suddenly break out in hokkien, or mention some people, and you really feel very humbled to be able to hear them.

I find the most memorable exchanges tend to take place in lifts. I recall when I was heading back up to my apartment, a cleaner who I frequently saw, picked up a convo with me:-

“So you just came back from running?”

“Yeah… Ran around the neighborhood…” I replied.

“Running… used to be doing that, but not anymore.”

“Ohh… Perhaps you could jog? Do a slow jog…”

“Not really…”

“Hmm, how about brisk walking, or just a nice stroll around…”

“Yeah, that sounds do-able. My legs were broken before, so I could only do cleaning.”

The atmosphere will really awkward for a moment. I just nodded in some tune of respect and he headed out thank God his level where he was to clean arrived just in time. I just stood there and thought for a while, then I realised, that was his story. That was a story of a local Taiwanese.

I love randomly picking up conversations with people. It’s amazing how they open up to you and tell you the simplest of things that happen in their lives. They are the common-folk, the layman, the worker, the counter staff, the security guard, the classmate behind you. These are stuff that I could never have heard on the onset if they knew I wasn’t from here. 

It seemed so small to recall this, but I knew that was exactly what I came here for. To hear them, in their own voice, to listen as if I were one of them. Participant as observer, observer as participant.

網路與社會。

網路的歷史起源於1960年代,自從那時它經歷了無數的蛻變和進化,現今的網路不止提供訊息,它也成為了我們社交、創作、發洩、研究的平台。它雖然無形,但已經成為我們無可或缺的媒介。這份報告想通過「網路與社會」之課程討論網路,和它未來的發展與運用將如何影響人們的生活。

這份論文將首先以科技程序敘述網路的發展與運用。它得發展可以從「自動化」、「互動化」、「資料庫化」三點來探討。

現在,許多網站都設置了搜尋功能,來幫助瀏覽者們從海量般的資料中尋找資訊。無論是政府網路、銷售網頁、社交網站如「Facebook」,都會有搜尋的功能。網路未來的導向會傾向於節省使用者的input,來讓更多的資訊能夠無需後續的輸入,呈現出來。這跟「互動化」的性質是息息相關的。

即便網路再自動化,它也必須要考量使用者們的心態與需求。很多網路企業看準了這一點,將「互動化」運用在他們的網路銷售平台上。譬如誠品書店,每當消費者點擊一本書籍時,幕後也自動地蒐集了所謂「其他消費者已購的書籍」,供消費者作參考。這樣一來,消費者有了更多的相關的選擇,誠品也可以更有效的推薦新產品,增加他們的效率和業績。這種趨勢也讓使用者們覺得自己更有主權。

網路的資料庫一直在擴大,它蒐羅的資訊比任何一個實體的圖書館來的豐富,因為網路裡的資料的編排可以依照使用者的需求編排,再編排。一位學生只要上「Google」,在欄目裡打幾個「關鍵字」,再按「搜尋」,谷歌就能以半秒間把幾十萬頁的資訊搜集和呈現出來。使用者也可以同時開啟三個不同的網站來做對比,及時決定他需要的東西。這經過只需數秒,而它的效率與靈活性遠遠的超乎實體的資料庫所能提供。

網路發展和運用,可以「科技程序」所導致社會的「文化遷移」與日常生活中的「沈浸性」來探討。

多對多的平台所帶來的挑戰

網路曾經是個支配性的平台,我們的參與只限於吸收當前已有的資訊。但在近幾年,使用者也在網路裡上傳創作,開創出屬於他們的社群。網路已經不是大企業或媒體所能霸權的世界。使用者的權利日益加重,消費者已不在純屬「消費」,他們也在網路上創造東西給他人使用。接著社交平台的活躍,就連傳統的「一對多」形式網站,如新聞網頁、政府官方網頁、也設置了「討論區」讓網民們參與留言與評論。

未來的網路勢必更為善變。它會從「大眾傳播」的背景朝向「小眾傳播」的性質,以使用者的需求為中心,不斷的按秒更新來反應最現實的社會狀態。傳統「一對多」的媒體雖然有著「利用人們」之嫌疑,但在自由,「多對多」的網路世界中,當網民的權利看似無限量的情況低下,很諷刺的,我們也開始意識到控管的重要性。就好比無政府管轄的國家,一旦人群都享有沒限制的自由,一些人的行為也許會無形中主張起來,成為對他人的無形施壓。

借個最近的案例,當波士頓馬拉松爆炸案的許多錄像影片被上傳網路後,網民開始進行「人肉搜索」,誓言要找出放置炸彈的凶手,繩之以法。他們在Reddit社群討論平台中將他的照片大肆散布,以「suspect」等字眼來形容照片中的人,警告讀者提高警惕,若看到及時舉報他。但很不幸的是,網民這次找錯了人。美方的警官也強調他們鎖定的嫌疑犯不是網民所指的,且勸告網民們除了正確官方的尋人照外,不得上傳其他的照片。這次事件讓Salah Barhoun,一名年僅17歲,來自摩洛哥的美籍學生,連日活在可能被誤認為是凶手的煎熬之中。

網路與網真

網路搭上了我們生活中的節拍,它的沈浸性使它成為日常生活中最具影響力的媒體之一。它不僅讓我們沈溺在網路的數位境界中,它也跳脫虛擬,進攻了真實世界。網路發展所延伸出的是「網真」(telepresence),「擬真」(virtuality)和「模擬」(simulation)。

網路的溝通軟體不限於文字,它包括了影像、音響、共同參與的遊戲等等,讓使用者不再侷限於地理或時間的限制,在廣大的線上建立人脈,促進交流。有了無線寬頻,超高畫質(Ultra-HD,4K)等未來的研發技術,未來的網路將更加逼真。未來網路也很可能傳遞嗅覺、觸覺等感觀上的體驗。

但無論網路如何再延伸進現實,線上跟真實鐵定會保留一些差異。網民熱愛的聯誼方式有平台代勞,但真實的對話只能靠自己臨場表現。少了理所當然的掌控力和互相溝通的網路界面,真實的相處會不會反而生硬起來了呢?

這年頭,尤其是年輕一代的人,都被稱為「低頭族」、「御宅族」等名號,顯露出人們在線上的世界或許真的比外界來的真實,線上的「鄉民」乃是真正的朋友,網路集體喊出來的正義才是對的,局外人都沒資格介入。這都是我們應該正視的問題,因為群體的力量不容忽視。

網路開發至今不到60年,但它已經深深的改變人們的作息,他們如何看待社會還有自己。網路運用的效應只會越來越強烈。未來的60年後,網路也許不會存在,也許它的形態也會跟現今的完全不一樣,但人們對於歸屬、共鳴、溝通之基本需要必定存在。

Is God Real?

During my NS days, I wrestled with God almost on a daily basis. I questioned Him, I took Him to my court, and I asked him why. Why I felt so powerless to do what I thought good christians could and should have done in the army — to be the salt and light for him, and at the same time, see my fellow brothers falling left right and centre, failing to meet that mark I thought I could look up to. I was also mentoring one of my precious cell kids then. “Who was I to him?” I often asked myself. Who am I to lead him when I was fallen myself? At the end of the day, I asked the Lord, are you real?

Many non Christians think that only they question the existence of the Jehovah God. In fact as a Christian for over 23 years, I can safely say that most of the questions come from Christians ourselves. And our God welcomes our questioning and doubts. It is through doubt that we seek, and the Lord will show Himself to those who earnestly seek Him.

Because if He was, then everything I did had immense meaning; if He wasn’t real, then I everything to be meaningless.

Then I heard something, and it was something I shared with my cell kid, and I believe he will remember it to this day. I told him, “Faith isn’t based on feeling”. Faith isn’t based on what you feel like. That is, just because you don’t feel God here, doesn’t diminish his existence in your life. Humans are material creatures; we have to feel the material sense of God to believe, but God is spirit, and to love and worship God is to do so in spirit and in truth.

Feelings are fleeing and can fluctuate from day to day. You can feel that you love that person to bits on one day, and the other you feel like smashing him apart. But that does not take away one bit your love for that person. When you love someone, you love the entirety of that person. When you trust in the Lord, that faith is independent whatever feeling you experience that very day, week, moment.

Faith in God is based on your knowledge of Him, your past experiences with Him, your relationship with Him. That way, even in the valley of the shadow of death, we can say we fear no evil, for He is with us. Anything less than faith will make us the most foolish of people; I believe that He is real because he brought me to Wee Kim Wee, brought me through 2 IPPT passes, brought me through arduous exams, brought me through all the seasons of life.

All of my life, in every season, you are still God. I have a reason to sing; I have a reason to worship.

A Key and Microscope.

To the visitors to come to Taiwan year after year, in the batches.

To the Jeremiah who came to Taiwan a year and a half ago.

To the I, Me and Myself:-

We were first oblivious. We didn’t know what Taiwan is. We knew what it WAS. But the real Taiwan, the real deal. What does it mean to know Taiwan? We could not have foretold the stories we heard, the places we never knew existed.

Then, we became blind. We were blind because we finally saw that the light layered behind layers of thick flesh, but our mucosa forbid such clarity of vision. We knew that they was something going on, there was dilemma but we didn’t know the cause of it. There was the fear and apprehension of the past. There were oddities and un-understandabilities all around.

But we could make no sense of it.

Finally, finally, we grew helpless. Helpless because finally we saw. We saw that the fights in the parliament were staged to show that the parliamentarians themselves were doing work. We saw that the most educated in Taiwan were too expensive for hire; and the least were too untrained for hire. We saw the degree of manipulation from Mainland China.

But we could do nothing much.

We are only passersby. We are only here for a little while.

I space out my posts; around one month at a time. I find myself having lesser and lesser to say, not because I have nothing constructive or that nothing is happening, but rather because there are too many differing perspective and views about this island I’m on. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to people and get their opinions about things.

If you were asked to choose between a key and a microscope, which item will you choose?

I am given a key by Him above; doors that I noticed before were finally unlocked. I finally understand some things; the explanation behind the oddities. I am also given a microscope to see things I didn’t know were there. I saw the entire society as it was in front of me. The apartment where I stayed; the suburban Taiwanese staying in Hengchun, the struggling undergraduate, the people who could not see their future, the political scams of 800million dollars, the vileness of corporations, the stagnation of electricity prices and the subsequent rise that the people now have to bear.

Bertham said that people can choose to be foolishly happy; or knowingly sad. I prefer to know things. Even if I cannot do much or anything about it. A lot of things that I know now; I will never have known if I stuck to the norm. I sought to seek out the real Taiwan from the first day I set foot here.

Being the way I am, having seen and been thru the past many days, weeks and now more than two months, I am more sure than ever that this is the kind of Taiwan I want to see. It’s not all smiles, not everything is rosy, but at least now I know, and now, because He has given him to me, all the more I can see how Taiwan is really like. Because in many ways, he is my key and microscope.

Even speaking decent, accent-less Mandarin as I normally would speak, can only get me so far. Even not constantly being with a group of English-spewing exchange students people can only get me so far. That last step, that extra mile into the country I so desire to see for myself; I would need a key.

Why would I want every conversation to begin with “By the way where are you from?” and that I have to reply with “Oh, so you can tell it from my accent huh.”

By my own I rarely get questions like these, but when I’m with a local I finally get into the bedrock of this society. There’s no substitute for the real thing, and for the Taiwan I want to see, it means I can to clive myself away from the ‘happening’ group and go for what I want. Even if it means I have to go at it alone.

But God has been very gracious to drop Taiwanese of all backgrounds, from church, from attending a single event, from class; at times it’s as if I have no friends because I have deliberated divorced myself from the very start; at times it seems like its the most amazing experience an exchange student will ever get to see. I had the opportunity to do flag bearing for a easter service at the nearby stadium. I had to chance to eat and chat with the average family and how and what they think of their country and even of Singapore.

I saw for myself what it means to share a dinner conversation with them, to share about issues and problems that bug their hearts. And I finally grew quiet with them when I knew that there were no easy solutions to the injustice they face.

I used to have plenty to say; but the more I know about this country the less I can muster up to say. Singapore’s policy making contrasts strongly with Taiwan and in many accounts it forms a diametrical opposite, and I know it isn’t a perfect haven in Singapore either.

So many times I fall silent.

Sometimes I am slightly dissatisfied at the way things currently are, but I also know I am thoroughly blessed in all accounts. The way my exchange happened was entirely beyond my wildest expectations, and I can only say that The Lord is good, really good to me.

Having spent more than 2 months in Taiwan now, with my trip approaching its midpoint soon. I’m grateful I chose this path; I’m even more grateful that I’m able to fully immerse myself into the bedrock of Taiwanese society.

I look at the interactions I have, more than 90% of the time I’m with the Taiwanese people. To share a meal with them, to share a meal and to be as them. To be them. To listen to what two ordinary people will talk about over lunch; to see why the Southern and Northern Taiwanese see each other in such a unique light. To see why they feel Japan stole Senkaku from them. To see them talk about why they want to work in Hsinchu while their family is in Chiayi. To know the name of their dog. To eat Duck-blood-cake in every hotpot. To see how they view politics, China, Japan, themselves. Singapore.  To know what they hope, for this country, for its future, and ultimately themselves.

My exchange trip is proving to be a quite the experience I never thought I would be having. Perhaps the key and the microscope are one; I thank God for letting me gain access to places no ordinary tourist or foreigner could: into the heart of the Taiwanese people.

嗯嗯

玻璃牆。又是一座玻璃牆。

有些事情,說了新奇,自己遇到時又突然變成成年往事般的不足為奇。

我以天氣為例,說清了一些之前在新加坡看不到的人情世故。事嘛,不但要看正面,反面,側面,更要去注意它的「對面」。對面,是當我還一個角色,從使者到受者的角色大轉移,就發現跟戲劇一樣,會出現意想不到的大逆轉,效果很突然,影響之深刻得使人不得不去反省。

我從好奇,變懷疑,我從心有成竹,變的毫無自信了。

懊惱的,讓我極其費解的,不是噓寒問暖的熱情,也不是專業的冷漠,而是忽冷忽熱的感覺,它就跟台灣,跟新竹的天氣一樣,差很大,讓我頓時很confused。現在有點了解了,卻又不僅回想當初,對外來交換生的態度,會不會也造成了這樣的反差?

我是不是該繼續的「堅持」認識他們?這顯得很突兀,不是嗎?又要很刻意,又得自然而然的認識人,怎能成就得起?

或,心野放微小一點,不貪圖比較難得到的友誼,不去意識到它的高昂尊貴。只是,我早已離開了,沒辦法重來,且我也不認為這一切是我自己做出的錯誤選擇。我理智性的一面,我想再一次尋求一個答案。

The best view in Taiwan & The Indelible lock I can never open

I don’t know how other exchange kids feel about travelling around in their respective countries. For me, I am quite the experiential tripper; I don’t assess the awesomeness of a trip by the food, the place, or the people I go (or meet). For me, I see every trip as an experience. The experience of going there. The experience of being there. The experience of living there.

Being back in Kaohsiung made even surer of this fact of myself. I went to stay with a friend of mine, and his house is probably as local, as taiwanese, as unpretentious, as authentic, as a homestay can get. I didn’t get to be treated with foreigner-niceties, but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered with that, not anymore. I can be a tourist anytime I want, but this is the only time I can actually live in here.

He, like millions of local Taiwanese, own motorbikes. In Kaohsiung, where places are quite spaced out and far inbetween, a motorbike is more of a necessity than anything. A bike costs roughly between 2.5k~5kSGD. And by 5k you are really looking at the very atas, very high end of vehicle. Most use them because they are cheap, easy to park (parking is free for motorcycles in Taiwan), and very convenient.

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I guess its easy to see why I like Kaohsiung city so much. I rode pillion for the first time there, and so far all the times I’ve been on a motorbike, is in Taiwan. And beside Hsinchu (thanks to my buddy), the only time I’ve ridden on a bike, is in Kaohsiung. There’s the bus, there’s the MRT, but honestly, nothing feels as awesome and slightly frightening as being on a bike, zooming around the city. You smell the air, you look at all the buildings, people, fellow Taiwanese motorbikers (young college students, uncles and aunties, a mother with two kids, the younger one in front of the mummy). The salesman, the post office worker, the army serviceman, the expectant mother.

There you have it. At every traffic junction, Taiwan is waiting for that next change of light with you. That’s probably the best view in Taiwan, of Taiwan.

Going to my Kaohsiung friend’s house was another eye opener. He drove into a garage that’s probably an extension of his house. Loads of scrap metal bars and another van lay parked. He opened the door, and I went in to be greeted by his dad. I walked a little more inside (it’s a small but long 3 story apartment).

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It’s not like the bungalow or semi-Ds you see in Singapore. Even though there’s quite a lot of rooms and there’s a garage, it’s not the kind you will go, “whoa, so rich sia”. It’s more of a quiet acknowledgement that, honestly, it’s considered better off of countryside Taiwanese already. Walls looked a little old, doors creaked when opened and I was honestly afraid of breaking them if I opened them too harshly. Everything that stood out of the ordinary were distinctively Taiwanese.

The toilet had a pail of colored water that smelt funny next to it. It was the washing machine’s water that they planned to recycle to wash the toiletbowl.

The bathroom consisted of a bathtub with two separate handles that can turn out cold and warm water. Except that the handles EACH directly poured out the boiling hot and freaking cold water separately. My first reaction was, “Ehh, how to bathe?” My friend told me to use the water pan.

I quickly reverted to my army days (Ex Wallaby) instincts, where I was in Australia outfield, and I used a pail of mixed water (so it’s finally warm to my liking), and poured it all over myself. The next morning I got a little smarter, so I put a stopper in the tub and filled it with water first, and then scooped the water onto myself. I took around 20minutes. My friend’s sister thought I fainted in the bathroom cos I was taking so damn long.

Later on I found out that Taiwanese, the older generation of Taiwanese, only know how to bath in that style. A shower head will do no good for them since he won’t know how to use it.

Many Taiwanese lifestyles are steeped in tradition. Many of them seem weird and unnecessary by today’s standards, but their culture is so enduring. That’s why toilet paper is still thrown into bins, decades after government’s attempt to ‘educate’ the people not to, since the waterways have long been improved allow for disposal of waste paper directly via flushing.

I cannot call that place rural, because there are what we will consider amenties everwhere. Just imagine Toa Payoh town, exploded widely such that every thing is a 5min walk or drive away. But even as villages go, they still have a 7-eleven, sufficent eateries (I believe most if not all will cook at home), every house has a washing machine, an aircon even. They have things. The only discernible difference between the surburbs and the cities is that the things are much older in the suburbs. But they are not in need. We think they may need some retiling, some reroofing works, a new cabinet, but they don’t see a need for it themselves.

They are sufficient, not because of they have money; they are sufficient because they desire less.

After spending a day in suburb Taiwan, I was surprised to find myself greeted by a spanking new condo called Sunny Espana (陽光西班牙). It’s so modern, I guess it was completed like last year. The main doors all have a pin number lock and a card key; they have a lobby with 3 counter staff, you’ll think it’s a hotel but it’s not. The toilets come retrofitted with a Japanese-style toilet (you know, 128381290830 buttons to press for seat warming, bidet, auto-opening seat etc).

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My friend’s auntie was heading to (gasp) Singapore for holiday, and so we could spend the 2nd night at his aunty’s place. It’s a little rekindle of Wallaby, from the outback to like mega high-class of house.

I had to opportunity to chat even with his aunty and her friend (both were heading to Singapore for holiday). His aunty is a beautician. She took a loan from the bank to pay for the apartment, which I believe is around 200k SGD. I know, know, but it is not a small sum by Taiwanese standards though.

Taiwanese language is the indelible lock of their culture.

His aunty and her friend, and my friend talked in almost entirely Taiwanese. Why I say it’s not Hokkien, is because it’s really not, to be specific. Words are different, the mannerisms are also different. There’s no language like it. In a way, its like Singlish as well. You can say it’s broken English, it’s bad Chinese, but hey, it has its own grammar and style.

That is the tricky part. I think that will be the horizon of understanding as far as a foreigner can go. After which the only way is to UNDERSTAND and SPEAK the language. Because all the Taiwanese jokes are there. The minds of the people are spilled out in (to me), indiscernible vocabulary and expressions). And even more is in the stratosphere of the language, the feel and the ㄍㄧㄣ (Gin (feeling+++)), not to be mistaken as ㄍㄧㄥ, meaning tense). ㄍㄧㄣ is the tone, the style, the feel. And more. That word is technically untranslatable. I don’t claim to fully understand that word.

There we have it, the language. The language WILL be the extent, the limit, the horizon to which I can understand the Taiwanese people, because that is a lock, a pin number, a secret code that encrypts the innermost cultures of the people. Even a construction worker, a janitor will have an entire wealth of cultural fortune on their backs; yet we can never steal it from them without the keys of the Taiwanese languages.

This brings me to even more appreciate Singlish. Do people not understand Singlish? Let’s be happy they didn’t! Because if they did, we will have lost our culture. I believe cultures are exclusive, the most distinctive they are, the most exclusive. They will better the ties between people who understand and ostracize those who don’t.

Of course, that fact is universal. But what I’m saying here is that I am conceding that there will be a VAST universe of things Taiwanese, that I will NEVER be able to understand. Knowing this is tremendously helpful in setting my sights right. It means I don’t have to beat myself over my inability to see why they laugh at unlaughable things, why they help a train warden clean the spilled floor under another stranger’s seat with their own tissue papers, why they fight over intangible ideologies and yet remain the most peaceful populace in the world.

So many whys. Knowing that you will probably not get all the answers is a very satisfying one already. As I look back, indeed, time flew. More than a month have passed since I arrived here. It’s still too early to look back, but I felt like I’ve understood all I sought to understand already.

There’s still 4 months left. What shall I see? How shall I feel? What adventures await next? (LOL machiam pokemon sia. AHHAHAHAHA)

這就是我 me

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