Family Feuds

For the first time in my life, I tasted what it felt like to have my words twisted in a family political wrestling match in order for one side to win an argument. The worst part was, what was said didn’t even come out of my mouth! It infuriated me, but at the same time, it saddened me that they had to resort to lying to make a stance in light of my father’s passing.

Ever since my father died, the secondary issue that everybody gossips about now is how the overall combined “Chu” family wealth was to be redistributed. You see, my father had many siblings; and when it comes to money, of course, for many people the idea of “integrity” is just a recommended trait to have whilist fighting for what they think is their “fair share”… I am sure all this is making the ancestorial spirits groovy about the whole ordeal.

Family politics is fun when watching from afar. Now that I got dragged into it for a lie someone (whose name shall remane anonymous) made up, the real “fun” is yet to come.

Oh, why must “lies” and “politics” always go hand-in-hand?

China Is Driving Taiwan Towards Independence

Normally I don’t really give a rat’s ass about news in China, but recent arrests and crack downs of human rights activists have made me think twice about Taiwan’s standing with this so-called “motherland”…

See, Taiwan enjoys its freedom, though messy, but the damn “country” is free from being f*cked over by China like Hong Kong is. People of Hong Kong live in a superficial freedom and democracy. If there’s anything they do that upsets Beijing, they can thank the Red Army for shedding blood on the streets. And China can openly and “justly” claim they are merely suppressing domestic matters — spanking the kids, if you will.

Reading news like that makes me want to tell Taiwan’s leaders to run the other way… taking Taiwan’s future with them! Reunification can only take place if there’s democracy in China!

Of Politics and Taiwan

It’s been a while since I wrote about Taiwan. And suddenly I am feeling like writing an entry.

The KMT won an overwhelming victory in securing parliamentary seats in Taiwan this week. And for the first time in eight years, I glance a ray of hope again for Taiwan’s future. But it’s not all rosy for an island that’s been deserted by the world of international politics for almost 50 years.

Just to get it out there, I am pro-KMT in many ways. I like their economic policies as well as their philosophies on how Taiwan should be governed, particularly in relations to China. But I am also skeptical of KMT’s stance on the question of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

There’s no question that Taiwan (or if you really want to be picky, The Republic of China) is a sovereign “nation” with its own everything — constitution, president, parliament, currency… etc. And there’s no question in my mind that if put to a vote (without threats from China, obviously), a good majority of Taiwanese would prefer to go independence rather than become part of China’s smallest province no matter how China guarantees the island its self-autonomy.

And to the best of my understanding, one main reason that Taiwan is still a political orphan of the world (in that very few dares to recognize it as a country) is because most of the leaders of all other “freedom” and “democracy” loving countries are just a bunch of hypocrites. For example, why the U.S. sells outdated arms to Taiwan at exceptionally high prices to Taiwan if it thinks Taiwan is part of China (well, actually I know why; but just to get the point across)? If the rest of the world recognizes that Taiwan is only a renegade province of China, why do they allow Taiwanese passports through their customs? But then, if Taiwan IS a country, why is almost every single nation in the world so against Taiwan in joining the United Nations? And why doesn’t every country recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation and allow Taiwan to have its own embassies with proper diplomatic relations?

I suppose Taiwan can declare independence. And in doing so starting a revolution that’d probably end in massive massacres of its people by the Red Army, only to find out that nobody cared if it was independent in the first place. In a world of high expectations in justice and democracy, I find it ironic and cynical that the same expectations aren’t extended to Taiwan and its people — a people that, despite all odds of being orphaned and rejected, achieved one of the most successful economic miracles of modern history — and did it all by itself with no political assistance or any kind of natural resources to speak of.

I still don’t really know what my position is in terms of independence. But even without declaring independence, I mean, honestly, isn’t Taiwan already independent? Just because China wants the rest of the world to look the other way doesn’t dislodge that fact — or does it?

Welcome to Canada, But…

Ahhh, exciting times.

We woke up at 7:30AM to get ready for our interview at the Canadian Consulate yesterday. The traffic in L.A. is so bad that people advised us to expect a one-hour drive for a distance that’d normally take less than 20 minutes. Luckily the traffic wasn’t terrible, and we managed to get there before 9AM…

We waited two hours as other people went through their interviews in two of the three individual interview rooms separated by clear, sealed glasses. I noticed that other than us and and another Thai couple, the rest of the interviewees were from the Indian Subcontinent. Some people were interviewed for 40+ minutes while it only took others an easy 20 minutes. Ours was somewhere around 25-30 minutes, mostly questions about what I did at my previous jobs. Bryan was fussy being in a fairly small and confined room; so the immigration officer, Joe Francisco, excused him along with Grace from the interview only having asked her two or three questions.

Overall the interview went very well. I was able to provide all the documents Joe asked for (though he didn’t really ask for many). At the end of the interview, he simply passed me a piece of paper for the remaining required documents I still need to submit — medical check up forms and the FBI reports (en route). Not sure if we’d passed the interview, I had to ask Joe, “So this means we are approved?” Joe replied, “yes, pending your medical forms and the FBI report.”
That wasn’t too bad after all. Now we just need to find a way to LAND in Canada to pick up that sweet Green Card…

At the suggestion of Jan when we met up for dinner last night, we stopped by the Taiwanese Economic and Culture Office today, hoping to fetch a different and more favorable solution for the possibility of getting my passport renewed. But basically we got mostly the same answers from them as we did from TECO of San Francisco except that they “could” give me a special passport valid for six months especially designed for people like me to return Taiwan (and only for that purpose). Whether or not other countries would accept such passport, the lady at TECO told me, is up to them.

That’s a pretty exciting possibility we may explore once we are done with our medical exams.

But for now, we pray and wait.

Dethroning Taiwanese President

It seems like recent protests in Taiwan have garnered some international attention. Taiwan woke up one day to a corrupted president whose presidential campaign, ironically, promised to eradicate corruption from an corrupted era*.

It’s been estimated that as many as 750,000 people showed up in a demonstration, forming a human wall circling, and enclosing, the Presidential Palace and his residence. The images from the news were quite impressive as the demonstrators each wore red clothing and red flashlights that represent anger. Surprisingly (to me anyway), the entire demonstration was peaceful.

Depose President Chen

* KMT ruled Taiwan was often cited as a corrupted government; but then again, KMT took Taiwan from being one of the poorest nations, having been a colony of Japan for quite a while, to among the most prosperous in the world; KMT has also been “credited” as a reason China turned communist due to excessive corruption at the top levels of the party and government branches.


To stop my mom from nagging about one less thing about the immigration issue, we went to San Francisco yesterday to visit the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO). She was counting on the fact that she’s friends with an official in charge of issuing passports of TECO office might put my case in a “special circumstances” pile and get special privileges. But of course, no such luck. First the “connection” whom her friend is good friends with is no longer on the post (perhaps she granted one too many favors?). The new head person is tough as a nut.

After the TECO official and my mom had a small chat about the background of my situation, here’s an over-simplification of how the rest of the conversation went:

Mom: Isn’t there anyway around renewing my son’s passport?
TECO Official: No.
Mom: But our situation is really very special.
TECO Official: So is everyone else’s.
Mom: Then this puts my son in a really bad position…
TECO Official: Yes.
Mom: Can’t you turn one eye blind on just this case? (While she’s saying this, there are OTHER people in the room as well.)
TECO Official: No. I can’t do any favors outside of the law.
Mom: But…
TECO Official: No. (Proceeded to walk away slowly… )
Mom: But there must…
TECO Official: No. (Proceeded to open the door as she inched her way to the door… )

So much for a promissory note pending a Canadian Green Card.

But we did learn something “new” in the short 5-minute conversation with the official — they’d still be willing to grant me a three-year passport if I am enrolled in a PhD program before I turn 33.

Holy Christ… More schooling?
On the way back to San Jose, Bryan was exhausted. So he cried a lot in the car until he cried himself to sleep.

A new strategy will have to be examined if we were to get that Green Card for Canada now that all hope on Taiwan is lost.

Taiwanese Charisma

The Chinese media has been heavily covering Mayor of Taipei, Ma Ying-Jeou and his visit to the United States for the past few days. The sheer volume on the coverage of his speeches, people he met, his schedules, and… practically anything and everything about this man, has been unprecedented. If foreshadowing reveals anything of the future, this could signal the newly elected Chairman of KMT will be a serious contender for the 2008 presidential election in Taiwan.

Ever since DPP’s double blow in the past two presidential elections on KMT, Taiwan has been at its most polarizing point between different “ethnic groups” in recent memory. The political atmosphere in Taiwan has reached a point where the Pro-Blue (KMT) population of Taiwan simply can’t communicate with the Pro-Greens (DPP) and vice versa. Whenever Pro-Blue and Pro-Green issues arise among friends and family, you can literally feel the tension in the air.

While George Bush and the Republican Party in the United States are busy covering their lies about the war in Iraq, President Chen and his DPP simply live their lies out in the open with no one daring to prosecute him or members of his party — lies about scandals, money lundarying from public projects, purposely pitting one Chinese ethnic group against another, driving the Taiwanese economy to the ground… etc. I thought I’d never say this, but THANK GOODNESS China has been acting like a true world power in the matter of DPP’s thoughtless push for “formal” Taiwanese independence (yeah, like it will EVER happen). Like an adult irritated with a child’s annoying pranks, China simply yells at the little one to shut him up. The day when it stands up and takes Taiwan for a good spanking, there’s really not much anybody can or will do anything about*.

Now that I have painted a gloomy picture of Taiwan, let’s look at the silverlining… Chairman Ma (not MAO) has a pretty good grasp of world affairs and what they pertain to Taiwan as a whole (I am sure having a Ph.D from Harvar didn’t hurt). He’s not just another frog in a well who sees world affairs narrowly and carelessly. The Pro-Greens don’t like Ma because they think he’s pretentious** and has a track record of doing the “politically right” things. But hey, at least he’s not going to rock the boat and put the lives of the Taiwanese people on jeopardy against an enemy Taiwan simply can’t win fighting.

Having laughed at the Americans for having elected a dumbass president twice, now I have to laugh at my own dumbass people for putting a clown in the presidential seat two times in a row as well. But at least when an ant is run into the ground, nobody will notice, whereas when America is run into the ground, the world might explode (literally)***.

* China is a permeant member of the UN, that rules UN intervention out; US forces are too tied up with N. Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, “war” on terror and other things; Japan and S. Korea just want to watch Taiwan burn; the rest of the world would be too afraid to lose their investments in China to do anything. Sure, they will issue “statements” on how disappointed they are on China’s actions. But what is boils down to is this: there are no true friends between nations, just buiness as usual. In other words, Taiwan will be f*ucked within a week when China spanks.

** He CAN’T be more pretentious than Bush or Chaney!

*** And it has been “exploding” daily in Iraq.

Farewell to Yi-Sheng

I said good-bye to Yi-sheng on Friday. He’s one of the last remaining Taiwanese ISB grads to return to Taiwan to face the reality of compulsory military service. A couple of them were able to get out of it with bullshit excuses (at least to me, they are). Yu-Yow seems to be the only one man enough to play the cards he was dealt. The rest of us just struggle to stay out of it for as long as we can.

Now that most of us are 30-somethings (or about to be). Joining the military is like a career suicide. For those of us with families, it’s especially tough to spend almost a year and a half slacking off. For my particular situation, the predicament is even worse. Some relatives who championed staying away from the service now think it’s a better idea to just get the service over with and get on with life. But is that really the choice they would have made if they really truly understand our circumstances? Highly unlikely.

It seems like there would be just as many hurdles to cross returning to Taiwan as they are if we stayed. Yi-Sheng’s return somehow puts everything in an even more surrealistic perspective. But then again, for him, it was long overdue. The problems he faced here were significantly more entangled than mine. And I can’t imagine what kind of complicated feelings he must have been going through having decided to go back. How did he feel when he finally purchased that one-way ticket to Chiang Kai-shek International Airport? All the combusting emotions and conflicting yearnings he must have felt boarding that plane… He fought so vigorously for so long to stay. But now everything was just a pipe dream.

If we were to go back, I imagine I’d be one of the most repelled figures among friends there because of my growing sarcasm, inability to bullshit diplomatically, impatience dealing with village idiots and relentless resistance to certain traditions (on the last point, I do it just to piss people off) — survival skills required to stay ahead (or to stay invisible, depending on your objectives in life). I enjoy being accepted as “the angry Asian” too much here. I mean, for someone who spreads rumors about himself (I once started a rumor about how I got my ex-girlfriend pregnant just to see how far it went; it went all the way to my mom [to her distress]), I don’t think I will fit in too well in a society where people like me are frowned upon (fine by me; but it probably brings shame to my parents).

Having Bryan makes us that much more reluctant going back. Maybe it will rain frogs tomorrow and the Catholic Church will declare the end of the World and non-Christians will all rejoice. Or maybe America will declare war on vegetables and being vegetarian would be banned. Whatever happens, I am sticking around at least until my stinking MFA thesis is done. But before that happens, everyday is just another “angry Asian” day. Yay.

New Year Hot Pot

The Malaysian gang had a gathering last night for hot pot to celebrate Chinese New Year. For the first 5 minutes of the food fest, I was still in the meat-eating mode since hot pot gatherings are rarely vegetarian. So I accidentally ate a piece of meat… [chiils]… After that, I started becoming more conscious about picking what to eat from the pots (there were two pots going… In fact, there were so many people at Michelle’s house that Widodo had to bring his table over to make room!).

At the hot pot gathering, Hanny also announced her pregnancy… Her baby is due in August. Just a couple of weeks back, Su-fei also announced her pregnancy at Jai’s birthday gathering. And interestingly, her baby is also due in August! I guess October/November must be a good baby-making season. Hah!

Bryan was being unusually fussy at Michelle’s house. I think it was because we changed his daily routine by skipping his bath because we were at Michelle’s place when Bryan usually would be taking his bath. We also noticed that Bryan has started to recognize people. He refused to let anyone else but Grace and I to hold him. Days are going to get longer as Bryan grows older…

After coming home, I called my grandma in Taiwan to wish her happy new year. But I got an earful about how my brother and I should go back to Taiwan and stop avoiding the compulsory military service… blah blah… She thinks we are doing the “immigration jail time” by trying desperately staying out of Taiwan. Maybe she’s got a point. This whole immigration thing sucks.

Meat-Eating Cultures

I have been writing so much about vegetarian stuff lately, maybe I oughta add a new section called “veggie treats” or something…

After having hunted for vegetarian stuff exclusively for the past few days, I realized something (something Jason and “A” probably knew all along) — some cultural and ethnic food are more vegetarian friendly than others. Take for example, Thai, Taiwanese and Japanese food are definitely veggie friendly. The same can not be said about Korean or American food (entries; excluding side salads or appetizers)… or more accurately, Korean food in America since I have never been to Korea. Maybe to some cultures, being vegetarian is a practical thing (a lot of Buddhists in Taiwan, Thailand and Japan), but not others (Christians are not known to be vegetarians per se).