From a Village in the Middle of Taiwan, A Young Woman Awaits Winter’s Golden Rapeseed Fields
Talking to the World Project
How I Met Hui-Lin
There are places that serve you what is on the menu. Others, that serve so much more. When you find that place you feel more than welcomed. You feel you belong.
My place is a small coffee and tea shop in Batavia called Limestone. It is run by Mo and Dennis, a charming couple who run their cafe with heart. Most of the people who frequent this shop are local writers, artists, and business owners. Mo and Dennis treat them all like family.
It is not surprising that this is where I met Amjool, a philosophy professor with relatives in Nepal (I interviewed one of them for this blog). Amjool and his wife, a physics professor, dip in and out of my life, depending on where their teaching assignments take them. They were here this summer and I had the pleasure of their company several times. Before he left, Amjool connected me to Hui-Lin. She and Amjool both attended the University of Hawaii.
Thank you, Amjool. I miss seeing your face at Limestone but I know we’ll meet again.
Hui-Lin is a graduate student majoring in archaeology. She is currently living in her hometown of Changhua, located in the middle of Taiwan.
My Conversation with Hui-Lin Please look out a window in your home and tell me what you see.
Sky, the trees in my garden. Houses, built in both the traditional ethnic Han style and the boring modern styles.
What are the first sounds you hear each day?
It varies. This morning, I was awakened by my brother’s cellphone rings. Other times, I wake up with the sounds of raindrops, my parents’ talks, my dogs footsteps, and the sounds of the iron gates that connect to my garden being pulled down.
What is unusual about where you live?
I live around the suburb of the Changhua city, Taiwan. It is a lovely neighborhood nearby one of the island’s clearest and best urban-greening landscape. The village is ordinary but awarded for efforts of greening by the local communities.
What is something Americans don’t understand about Taiwan?
Interesting question. I guess most Americans do not even know where Taiwan is and few know about its culture, history, and society. Maybe one thing Americans do not understand the most is that Taiwanese are not that different from Americans. That is, Taiwanese have been exposed to American styles of education, its political system, as well as American pop culture. Taiwanese and Americans do share many attitudes and preferences in common, even across an ocean.
What is the best thing about being Taiwanese?
Its civil society.
Taiwan has terrible news media, horrible politicians, but the citizens do share an ever-growing consciousness about social justice, political supervision, and cultural persistence.
What is your favorite time of year in Taiwan? Why? Please describe.
I prefer winter, although it can be humid in the Northern Taiwan and quite uncomfortable. I personally like to see things come to an end, as the rice paddies are reaped, the fields are filled with rapeseed blossoms, and the people are busy to prepare the lunar New Year.
What brings you personal joy?
I am an all time film-fan. After years in Hawaii, I also learn the joys of swimming and hiking. Due to the nice landscape of my neighborhood, I also enjoy biking.
First I worry about my parents’ health. They are in their 60s and getting aged. The second biggest worry is that myself and my brothers are not mature and independent enough, socially, economically, and mentally to face the world and the world that may go without them.
If I came to your house for dinner what would you serve me?
Seafood Japanese style. Rice steamed with salmon and salmon roe. Side dish of seasonal vegetables, hopefully from the gourds that my parents grow in their garden. And a home cooked soup. Dessert of homemade milk tea.
What does your country do well? What do you wish it did better?
As I mentioned, the Taiwanese do well for forming a civil society.
Nonetheless, I wish Taiwanese media could do better for its audiences. Taiwanese news media, especially television and newspapers, sucks.
The news reports not only lacks neutral viewpoints in dealing with cross-Strait interactions, but also 95% of the reports are incapable of in-depth analysis about the macro-perspective behind most political and social news. Moreover, the scope of news are narrow.
For example, television reports rarely pay attention to the political turbulence internationally, but, instead, usually spend most of their paragraphs showing fun videos from YouTube or tracing local scandals or gossip with their journalists collecting information by scrolling Facebook Timeline or asking directly to the suspects (and his/her family, neighbors…, etc ) questions like “how do you feel and what
do you think?”
Due to personal health reasons, I have stopped myself from watching news in Taiwanese outlets for years, I will apologize if anyone can point out that my impressions go wrong.
What, in your opinion, caused this situation in Taiwan’s media?
The Taiwanese news media suffered from low budget, vicious competition, vulgar taste, and unbelievable ignorance to journalism ethnics as well as expertise. I do hope that Taiwanese journalists can be more aware of their great social responsibility and influences that spread beyond their expectations, and then create reports that are able to display their expertise and work value. I also hope the audience can learn different perspectives from various news outlets, not only from the ossified television and newspapers, but also through the internet and know perspectives from international societies and even the mainland of China.
What is your opinion of Chicago and the United States?
I have never been to Chicago and only lived in Hawaii for several years, The latter, as many people agree, can hardly be called the USA.
From what I know, Chicago is an important academic center, especially in the 70s. The Chicago school scholars influenced the policy-making about American and international market, and the colleges there are famous for the theoretical achievement in the anthropology field of study.
I also heard from friends that the urban landscape in Chicago, where a metro divides the city into two contradictory zones.
I imagine Chicago as a ‘serious’ city. This is also my impression to the East coast, where life and atmosphere is far less easy from Hawaii. I am looking forward to visit a city with history and distinct
architectural as well as landscape style from the small islands that I have lived in.
As for the United States, I have mixed feelings. I have been through the process of like it (through Hollywood movies and McDonald’s), dislike it (George W. Bush and what he represents: the
extreme wealth gap), and now I start to admire again the cultural values of the States, e.g., the teamwork, be scientific, professionalism, systematic works, and the belief of human right and freedom.
Who is a famous or not so famous Taiwanese whom you admire?
A famous one is Taiwanese film director Ang Lee. However, he is basically a genius in the field and can hardly represent Taiwanese.
I have admired the late Mr. Sun, Yun-suan since I was a child reading his biography. He was an engineer and later became the premier of Taiwan during the Cold War time. He is one of the very few who is able
to be credited by both people and scholars for his contribution to Taiwan modern developments.He was a technocrats and the architect of Taiwan’s “Economic Miracle.” He spent his life and expertise doing his best to help the country and people for a better living. He was also a conscious man, who used to confess that his ecocnomic policy dismissed cultural and environmental impacts.
He is a very respected statesman, not a politician. I admire and am grateful to him a lot.
Originally published at http://www.chicagonow.com.