從名字開始 – Tinsey Huang [CH]

Submitted Wednesday, May 7, 2014

「『Tinsey』?什麼?怎麼唸、怎麼拚?」

這是一個在字典索引裡翻不到的名字。

幾乎每個台灣人在面對外國人的時候都會使用英文名字。Cindy, Sunny, Patty, Peter, Lawrence, Sam…等,各式各樣的名字。這些名字大多是我們的國小、國中老師幫我們取的。我也不意外地,用了五年的Cindy。直到我上高中的第一堂英文課,老師希望我們用英文介紹自己,並且以後在課堂上都叫我們的英文名字。
現在想想,真該感謝當時第一堂課沒有輪到我,因為在第一堂課結束時,班上已經有兩位Cindy了!

「我想要一個只屬於我自己的名字!」不知道那天是哪裡來的衝動,回家翻了翻字典,就是沒有和我中文名字相近的英文名。

「那就自己創造一個吧!」

我很喜歡自己中文名字裡「婷」這個字和它的發音,於是當時的我只有一個要求:發音裡要有「Tin」。字典來來回回地翻,最後我在姓氏的地方找到了一個字「Ginsey」,於是就直接把第一個字母改成「T」。 Continue reading

Barrelled Thoughts #45 – Uncomfortable Change

Monday, April 28, 2014

“Change is a healthy thing. The most important thing that happened in this change (Arab Spring) is that there has been a place for the youth — the youth have been an important element of change — and that’s new.
“They are taking their own destiny and saying, ‘Yes. I can do something about it.’ Before they used to say, ‘This is none of my business. There’s too much corruption; there’s too much of this and I can’t help it. O.K., give me immigration. I want to leave.’ Now they are really going to the squares.”

“The flowering of the Spring was done by youth and women.”


“I think what the youth did in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen is that they played the historical role — they broke 60 years [of stagnation due to corruption].
“That was their role. It is not up to them to take it to the second stage. This is left to the politicians, to intellectuals, to other forces in society.
“When they took over, they made a mess of it, but the youth played that historical role. Good for them; we’re all happy about it.
“They are still there — they are watching. If things don’t fix themselves, they’re going to jump back again.


Above are excerpts from a conversation between Raghida Dergham of the Beirut Institute, former Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul Karim Al-Iryani and Abdulkhaleq Abdulla of UAE University.

Revolution is in the air. It truly is an unstoppable force. It spreads like wildfire.

Many comparisons can be drawn between the Arab Spring and other protests around the world — in Taiwan, Venezuela, etc. But what is it that Russia is missing in its quest for reform? Could it be youth?

What we see clearly from these protests and political upheavals is that true change only comes when the force is bottom-up — and not top-down. There’s been enough of that top-down nonsense it seems.

The youth might be directionless, audacious, messy and, sometimes, just plain rude, but one cannot help but applaud their efforts, for they are doing for others what others cannot do themselves: they are being change.

It’s scary, I know. I feel it just as strongly as the next person. I don’t want to see rioting on the television and in my morning newspaper, but isn’t this what we pray for in a democracy? — an impetus for change and an intolerance for mediocracy. JSF.

Barrelled Thoughts #43 – Dear John, About That Paradox of Yours

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I was sat there on Tuesday thinking about this paradox we humans have. You know the one of always wanting to grow up when we are kids and now as adults, we really wouldn’t mind being a kid again to enjoy the so-called “easy life”?

It’s only natural to say that, as children, we knew not what awaited us after “growing up,” and perhaps we took for granted the easiness and simplicity that came with student life. It’s no one’s fault, we simply didn’t know. But of course we wanted to be grown ups so we didn’t have to listen to all the rules and so we could finally sleep at whatever time we wanted, doing whatever we pleased. That’s what we wanted—right?

The paradox is that when we were “limited” by these rules and by the time we had to spend in school, we saw them as impediments that kept us from being free and happy, but now, maybe more than ever, we are living by these rules ourselves without complaint, just because the ones demanding this lifestyle is none other than…well, us.

The 21st-century generation loves reading about ways to improve health (we probably need to anyway), and most of the time, what’s recommended is not dissimilar to what we were being “forced” to do as children—sleep early, wake up early, spend less time in front of computers, eat a more balanced diet (i.e. more veggies; less fast food), get more exercise, read more books—the list goes on. Ironic, isn’t it, that we are contempt as long as we get to dictate what we do?

I was sitting in my university’s campus the other day. It was sunny and cool—one of the rare crossover days that we get between constant rain and perpetual, asphyxiating heat. These days are few and far between. My days as a student are now in double figures. From the thousands of days in my first year, I now only have around 60.

Two of my days in the week are taken up by my classes and the rest by my internship, so I now appreciate the chance to relax at university when I can. I didn’t ever think of stopping before. But why? Why was I always going somewhere and doing something as a student? Was I really that busy? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is, the past me did what the past me wanted to do—and that’s completely OK.

At work, there is no time to chill under the sun with a soda, neither is there time to wander around aimlessly. Work brings its own rhythm, and that means there’s no time for spontaneity and adventure. And it quite literally eats away my days.

In the past, I might have expressed a longing to return to former times—to be back in school once more. But the truth is that I would never swap anything I have now for anything in the past.

Yes, there were some magical times in the past that I often think back on with reminiscence, or heartache. But the way I am now is a culmination of 24 years of my life. Every scar, every imperfection and every click in my joints is me like I never was before.

Yes, being in school was great, but every phase teaches us something different, forcing us to grow up, and we do what is required of us during every stage. My time came and went. I’m now in my final term and I’m setting myself up for the next stage of my life.

So scholars, workers, fighters: do what you’re suppose to do. Don’t overlook the potentially beautiful things around you. Stop looking backwards, and remember that there’s no rush to immediately look forward. Look at the “now” and enjoy the little things in your life that are afforded to you because of your current position in society.

All these words are first and foremost for myself. I am first, second and third person, but I’m just as happy to share them with the world.

Study, work and live as you’re meant to be. Don’t let the “now” slip through your fingers. JSF.

Photo of the Week – April 8, 2014

Empty cans of Taiwan Beer lie in the sand on a mild day in Taiwan’s fluctuating spring weather. These days are rare, but when you take advantage of them, they’re worth every single second.

I took a day out of the long weekend to take a stroll on Baishawan, a beach in northern Taiwan. It’s a 40-minute bus ride away from Taiwan’s most northerly metro station—Tamsui. The rain continued the very next day, so I’m pleased to have been there. Until next time and on to pastures new.

Barrelled Thoughts #41 – Back to the Future

Tuesday, April 2, 2014

I’d like to share with you all a seed of inspiration I received from a professor in our university the other day. But before I do that, I need to tell you a little bit about who this professor is.

Well, I say professor, but he’s actually more of a traveller; or a writer; or a researcher, anthropologist, volunteer, director, scriptwriter, hipster or hippie. He’s an American, and we know him as all of the above.

I am, of course, speaking of Mr. David Scott Blundell, who, as it so happens, trends on Twitter under #BlundellQuotes due to the simply out-of-this-world stuff that exits his mouth. Unfortunately, he does not Tweet — a real loss to society, as I believe he would give His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Twitter account a run for its money.

Mr. Blundell, who learnt how to drive in Soviet Russia, and who had visited 16 of India’s 27 provinces by the time he was just 22, was adopted as a god son by a Sri Lankan family, the result of which sees him travel to the land of tea and fast bowlers at least once a year.

His family is from Santa Monica, CA, and Mr. Blundell told us that the reason he left the ever-sunny suburbs of Los Angeles was because life was too comfortable and that he was tired of persistent conversations about swimming or tennis.

Yes, a true hipster in every sense of the word, Mr. Blundell left The Golden State to explore the four corners of the known world. He eventually settled on the eastern coast of Taiwan in Hualien, and now takes a two-hour train through the marble cliffs of Taroko National Park every morning to reach Taipei. “It’s the most beautiful train ride in the world,” he once said. Few would argue.

As a scriptwriter and director, Mr. Blundell’s inspiration often comes from travelling. He asked us which topic we would be most interested in if we were to write a story. It could be fact or it could be fiction, but there was only one thing on my mind.

I decided that the story I would like to explore would involve my parents. More specifically, their decision to immigrate to South Africa 30 years ago.

The Chinese are everywhere in the world, and in great numbers, but why did my parents decided to traverse an ocean as vast as the giant Indian in order to reach South Africa? And during the time of apartheid no less.

My understanding is that toward the end of apartheid, there was a group of people who saw the potential of opening businesses in the freshly opened South African market, and my parents were just two out of millions who would travel to what is now known as the “Rainbow Nation.”

This term “Rainbow Nation” is used to characterise the diversity, in South Africa, of the people, flora and fauna. I was intrigued to find out that South Africa is home to one of the world’s five fauna kingdoms, and the plants and trees found there are not seen anywhere else in the world.

My neighbours in the quiet suburb of Edenvale in Gauteng, Johannesburg, were Portuguese on the right and Afrikaans on the left. My Portuguese neighbours’ kids used to throw rocks into our swimming pool, and our dogs — mine a German Shepherd named Doobie; theirs a Boxer called Champ — would challenge each other’s masculinity by growling and jumping at each other from either side of the wall.

I was raised with English as my first language because of school, while speaking my parents’ native language at home — Chinese.

I’m proud to say that my parents, my sister and I contribute to the diversity of South Africa. This diversity, which was made stronger by my attending of a Greek high school, is truly what defines me and indeed my entire generation.

I don’t think it really hits people just how much the world has changed in the last quarter century. The world’s borders have literally been redrawn. Those who are my age or slightly older have been raised through the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union and the disintegration of apartheid. And this generation grew up in an age where travelling suddenly became very accessible to the everyday citizen.

When my parents decided to travel to South Africa in the beginning of the ’80s, apartheid was still in full flow, but so was the air of democracy and freedom. My parents took the risk, along with a whole generation of others, for a shot at a better life.

They started a newspaper company in 1994, the same year South Africa held its first democratic elections. Nelson Mandela (bless his soul) was elected president, and well, the rest is history.

My question to them would simply be “how did you do it?” What was the motivation behind choosing South Africa? And how difficult was it to leave everything behind for a land, which, at the time, was widely considered uncharted?

These questions storm my mind as I try to figure out my own destiny. Come summer, I will have to make a decision that will decide the next 5 to 10 years of my life.

How, exactly, does one immigrate? How does one take such a huge leap forward into the unknown? More to the point: how does one truly — in every sense of the phrase — start anew?

These are all questions I would love to ask them, but at the same time, these are questions I hope I can answer myself in the not so distant future, as I take timid but firm steps toward a new life.

If you could ask a question, any question in the world, how would your story start? JSF.

Barrelled Thoughts #40 – Pro-Transparency Rallies

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I’ve titled the protests “Pro-Transpency” because, of all the criticism in the past few days in connection with the Taiwan-China service trade pact, this is one aspect that I truly support. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a “black box” operation, that is to say, the government has acted “under the table”, making decisions, the details of which were not formally disclosed to the people. I wouldn’t say that. I believe the government possesses, at the very least, some right and authority to make decisions on behalf of the people who elected it, without having to explain in detail every such decision. That said, having called for transparency (albeit amongst many other things), the people of Taiwan (or at least those opposing the agreement) deserve a chance to know what the government is doing in their name.

The accusations.

The accusations—anti-black box; anti-trade pact.

I went to the streets of Taipei today to see why thousands of students led by opposition politicians and spokespersons had decided to rally at the Legislative Yuan. And why, for the first time in Taiwan’s history, protestors stormed the parliamentary legislature, blockading themselves inside, occupying a building signifying the sovereignty of Taiwan. I’m home now, and I still do not have full, detailed answers to my own questions.

The Taiwanese love a protest. The spirit of protesting is generally very healthy and peaceful, giving many an opportunity to understand and experience first-hand the rights of a citizen living in a democracy. Protestors are orderly (except those now occupying the legislature), peaceful and helpful. There are lawyers, doctors, teachers and volunteers all contributing to the rallies, providing whatever services they can offer. Today I also came across a few young people handing out free lunch boxes, raincoats and water bottles—a truly united spirit in the name of protesting. So I can proudly say that the actual procedure and formalities relating to the protests are highly commendable. However, other aspects should take just as much precedence, such as a clearly defined goal. One that doesn’t include strong, extreme (and sometimes radical) political ambitions, but rather one which is formed with the nation’s best interests in mind. Unfortunately, there always seems to be an oblique allusion to China—or more specifically, independence from China.

There’s nothing like a protest between our forever competing two parties (KMT & DPP) to bring out the worst of half a century’s pain and bad blood. On the streets where the protests are taking place, DPP nationalist banners calling for Taiwanese independence and a stronger national consciousness discomfort me; pictures of an upside down Taiwanese flag flapping in the wind also make my stomach churn. What happened to the transparency we were fighting for? What happened to the trade pact?

(At this point I should probably add that I think the trade pact deserves a chance. But that’s just my two cents.)

People attend rallies and protests for different reasons. Some are there to fight a non-transparent government, while others fight for what they believe will be a damaging economic agreement with China (although similar agreements are already in place between Taiwan and other nations, such as South Korea). And then there are those who see this as an opportunity to bring up old arguments. Yes, these issues are forever related, and they may never truly fade away in the hearts and minds of opposition supporters. But when is it time to properly look forward? If, like many claim, the international community is truly watching, then why are flags being turned upside down? Why are radical secessionist ideals being subliminally transmitted to the masses? I wonder, for those rallying for greater transparency, did you see the banners calling for the independence of Taiwan on the side of the road? Because I did, and I immediately felt out-of-place. Surely this is not the time nor the place. On the other hand, if that’s why you went to protest, then perhaps it is.

I am happy to see Taiwan in the form of a healthy democracy where voices are aired tirelessly and endlessly. This is always commendable, so long as you know what you’re shouting for.

I hear this is a students’ protest. But there are always people behind the scenes pulling strings, so I hope this innocent crowd isn’t being led astray by those with malign intent. 台灣,加油!JSF.