Saturday, March 18, 2006

No goodbyes

They say I touch people. With my presence, my words, my touch, my smile, they say I touch people. And partings with friends and relatives in the past few weeks have shown how deep that touch really is. But I’d like to think that people touch me, and that it is because of their reaching out, they in turn feel touched.

They say I come into their lives, perhaps for the ‘N’th time, or perhaps for the first time, but something I do or say seems to have an effect on their lives. I don’t know what it is, because I only do what I’ve always done, wherever I am, whoever I am with. And that is enough.

With each passing day, I say farewell to more and more people. Now, there’s only two more people, last but in no way the least, I’ll need to bid farewell to. It’s like each parting I’m closing a separate door, at least for now. Behind each door, different stories, a different kind of relationship…but each as meaningful and genuine as the other. With each passing moment, I draw closer to the moment of departure, and walk farther and farther away from the people and places I have come across in the past year of my life.

There’s this neutral feeling inside of me that is neither sad nor happy. It’s difficult to put this feeling into words, as in the past I would certainly have been able to use tears and feelings of loss to describe each parting. But now, those are the ones that seem to be lost.

I went to mum’s new office today (can you believe, on a Saturday!). It’s in Danshui, located at the mouth of the river which flows through Taipei and out into the great big sea. I stood by the shore, while waiting for mum to finish off some work. The water was surprising blue and clean, and at the same time the tide seemed so dangerously high and full. At times I needed to step away to avoid being splashed and drenched by water. The slight sea breeze was soothing, and the movement of fishing boats reminded me the passage of time.

The waves too moved up and down, up and down, but all the while in one direction: towards the great open sea. Where did all this water come from, I found myself asking. I tried to imagine the river throughout its flow to the sea. It must have started somewhere. And now it must end somewhere. This river must have cut through lush forests and open plains, flowed down perilous mountains and rough waterfalls. This river must have slid past congested cities, busy towns and quiet villages. At some point, the river must have been pristine and clear, full of life and activity, full of beings and meaning. And at some moments, it must have been soiled and polluted, by the excesses of life, rubbish and waste. I could imagine that someone may have dipped his feet in it, and felt the cold, or warmth, of the water beneath him. And every moment the river keeps flowing. Every moment the river keeps on changing. Never the same as the moment before, and definitely not the same as when it started, or when it meets the great open sea.

I stood, watching the mouth of the river. Wherever this river once passed, whatever this river experienced and felt, whoever this river came into contact with, it ultimately becomes one part of a big whole.

So it is the same with me, I guess, throughout this past year of wandering around like a vagrant in search of himself. There were ups and downs, scenes of beauty and ugliness, moments of pleasure and sorrow, feelings of pollution and clarification. Ultimately, they have flowed into my life and experiences, just as the river flows into the great big sea.

At the end of a long journey, it seems to be the time for reflection. I’ve really traveled far and wide this year. And now to go even further.

Feeling good? (abridged)

Went to the hairdressers today. It’s been a long time since I had a ‘decent’ haircut, one with a stylist who doesn’t just cut, but who really styles. So this one offered the whole package, from washing to massaging, from styling to cutting, from washing again to blow drying. Almost two hours later, I came out a different person, from the outside, and perhaps from the inside too.

To be honest, I was really tense and nervous when I had my hair washed and head massaged. I felt quite intimidated by the touch at first. I guess I’ve always had trouble being touched by people intimately, and the way he was massaging my head and hair, washing my earlobes and neck didn’t help. I was so tense and stiff that he had to tell me to relax a couple of times. At one point I was shaking and fidgeting with my fingers, not knowing where to put my hands… How awkward!

When the hairwashing was done, I was relieved. So I sat in front of the mirror and waited for the stylist to arrive. Don’t really like looking at myself, but when you’re in front of a mirror, I guess you have to. I found myself sometimes looking down or sideways, but then I couldn’t avoid the reflection in the mirror. I looked more and more, and found it easier to look. So this is who I am!

The stylist came and did her magic. She gave me a short cut, but in a month or two I would be able to have a protruding ‘ridge’ along the middle of my head. Not sure what that style is called (I’d call it a ‘very slight mohican’), being not too fashion conscious, but the picture looked convincing enough. All the while she complimented me on my looks, my body and ‘aura’, and said I’d look even better after the cut. She said, to my surprise, that my hair has a very slight natural curl, and could be very smooth and fine, if only I took the effort to take care of it and condition it everyday.

I’m not sure whether the compliments about my looks were genuine, or whether she simply tried to make conversation. She said a lot of girls must fall for me, and asked whether I have a girlfriend. I politely said no, and smiled (and blushed?).

The point is, she made me feel good about myself, and my appearance, and it’s been a while. Was she sincere, or simply flattering me? I could never tell the difference. I looked at myself in the mirror after her magic, and actually liked what I saw. Hm, perhaps she was right…I could be good looking, I could be attractive if only I would allow myself to be so.

A little self-pampering, inflated self-ego wouldn’t hurt once in a while, right?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The sky of Taipei

Old times

Went out with a cousin tonight, to Raohe night market (饒河夜市). The many food stalls, vendors hawking clothes, jewelries and imitation goods were definitely a feast for the eyes and taste buds.

Somehow, without knowing it, we walked into an area which seemed strangely familiar. The YMCA neon lights, which pointed to where I went to kindergarden...the barber shop where I used to get my hair cut, and laughed whenever hairdresseres trimmed the hairlets on my neck...the police station where I once spend the night for having wandered away from my parents...the train station where I enjoyed watching the trains pull in and out, and passengers come and go, and where I once wandered to alone and worried my parents sick for hours... and the wide tree-lined street, on which dingees and cockroaches once floated during a period torrential rain and flooding.

Yes, this is where I used to live. Where I lived since my birth, to the age of five or six. I couldn't remember the exact number I lived at, just that it was one of the many-storey appartments at nr 300-something.

Have those trees on the traffic islands and pavements grown? I never realised we used to live so close to the Xinyi district, where the new financial and shopping area is located. I remember in those days it was just vast tracks of fields and, in the night sky, blocks of strucutres of steel and glass radiating in everchanging and mesmorising rainbow colours stand in their place.

Being there again sure brought back memories.


台北的天空 The Sky of Taipei
陳克華 Ke-Hua Chen



(The wind seems to be weary,
The clouds seem to be tired
This world no longer has
Dreams that belong to me
I walked through youthhood
I lost young ages
But today I again return
To the place I yearn for)



(The sky of Taipei
Bears the smile of our youth
And also the corner
Where we rested and shared

The sky of Taipei
Is often in the hearts of you and I
However long the times of rain and wind
I only wish to spend it with you.)

WHO wants the flu?

Again, the supposedly 'World' Health Organisation is unable to overcome political pressures in its recent response to the spread of the avian flu.
Even though Taiwan has NOT EXPERIENCED A SINGLE case of the H5N1 avian flu in either animals or humans, the WHO marked Taiwan as an infected area. Why? Because according to the WHO, Taiwan is a part of China, which has reported dozens of flu cases in both birds and humans.

Please let's get the facts straight: Taiwan and China are separate territories, governed by separate governments and health and disease control authorities. When the WHO continues to cower under China's bullyinh and ignores such blatant facts, and continues to deny Taiwan and its people the right to information about avian flu prevention, its credibility and promise to provide 'universal' benefits to all irrespective of boundaries is at best questionable.

During the height of SARS, the WHO delayed assistance to Taiwan due to, again, pressure and politicking by China. Let's hope that the WHO and international community has since learnt the lesson that epidemics and viruses could care less for what political divisions and boundaries have erected.
I think I was "Made in Taipei" too...
Memories of Taipei

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A letter to the doctor

Dear DrTan,
You have seen me once for a short time. Then, my mum and I went together to see you at the hospital, and you even took time out of practice hours to discuss with us my dad's health circumstances. I understand that at the time we compromised your professinal duties toward my dad, but I am very grateful you were able to reveal to me my dad's physical conditions. The care of you and other doctors in recent years have given I also cannot express fully how grateful my heart feels.

Due to the fact that I live abroad permenantly I have little opportunities to be in Taiwan. This year I happen to have a little more time, and it is also the retirement of my dad, so I can spend more time with him. Some years ago my dad left home and practically cut off all links with family. We all know he is very ill, but however it is asked, dad is never willing to talk or discuss his health. Hence the reason I visited you at the hospital then.

Though now dad has returned home, his complexion and energy seemed to worsen more and more. He still isolates himself, and does not talk abut his condition. Even wanting to understand , to support, to take care of dad more is rejected. It can be seen he is very frail, has poor quality of sleeping, his temper is irritable, but he still does not pay attention to his diet-- often when there is something he likes he eats it non-stop, regardless of whether it is greasy (like that time when he continually had diahroea for ten odd days), or whether it is sweet, or whether or not his liver can handle-- and he also smokes endlessly. No matter how we persuade dad he does not listen at all and even blames us for interfering with his life. As his child, it pains the heart to see him continually deteriorate, as his mind and body seem to be in pain, but he still does not coopearate with the advice of the doctors and others.

In a few days I will leave Taiwan and go abroad again. I could say that many family members and I have done the best we could. With your care and periodical physicals, one could only hope dad's health can maintain its current stable condition. But many things depend on dad himself, and he himself needs to change his life style and the way he tends to his body. I hope the doctor will have the chance to remind dad to pay attention to his diet, sleep, and not to smoke. Hopefully with professional persuasions, dad can change himself. We can only hope.

Here I would again like to express to you and other doctors the gratitude that I cannot fully express. And I hope too that you can continue to bring other people health and happiness. How hard you all work!


KW Chen





現在雖然爸爸又回到家了但他氣色和體力幾乎越來越差。他還是把自己隔離起來,都不講他的狀況,連要去多寮解、多支持、多照顧爸爸都被拒絕。看的出他很虛弱、睡眠品質差、脾氣暴躁但他還是繼續沒好好注重飲食,時常愛吃的就不停吃,不管是油膩地 (像導致那次連續腹瀉幾十天)、很甜地或其他他肝無法負荷的食物,而又不停地抽煙。不管如何勸爸爸他都完全不聽或怪我們在干擾他生活。我身為孩子的看著他繼續惡化下去,每天心理和身體似乎很難過卻又不好好配合醫生或其他人的勸導,實在不忍心。



陳XX 敬上

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cold front

Another cold front, the wintry atmosphere is not yet over. Silent chilling winds, dense, dark clouds hanging low...sometimes I wonder whether the sun will shine again. It can be very cold here, despite the lures of warmth and cosiness this place seems to offer.

Been home almost three days, and I'm starting to wonder why I bothered to come back. Three weeks away from home, and each moment seemed so free, so carefree...I could be where I want, do what I want, be with who I want.

At home, the atmosphere is tense. As expected. Yet another 'iron curtain' has decended on this apartment, dividing the place effectively into two camps. No dialogue, just silence and attempts to ignore and dis-acknoledge the presence and actions of the other. Sure, dinners are shared at the table, but 'cold war' continues. Silently I eat, and am always the last to finish, and the one to tidy up the mess.

I sit and am in the middle of it all, and I wonder how people can treat one another like this; how a married couple, no less, can treat one another like this. Such ridiculous state of affairs and childish pouting and hatred! The only conversation that lasted longer than five minutes ended with heightened tensions...again, about money, about mortgage, about property.

I was half expecting to properly spend some quality time with my parents before I'm most likely scheduled to leave coming Saturday. But one worked almost the whole weekend, and the other hid and slept. I spent most of the time tidying up my room, sorting out things into "to take" and "not to take" with me back to Holland. Should probably have done it all a long time ago, so there'd be less junk to rumage through and filter. But then looking at the brochures, tickets, receipts and maps, and the detailed description and analysis of my life and happenings that is my diary, I've been able to 'relive' so precious moments.

I've come a long way, and travelled far this past few months (almost a year). Someone asked me what my 'afterthoughts' are...
I'm still not sure.