Saturday, December 31, 2016
On cold winter mornings, I will warm up by reading before heading for work. This week, I encountered a haiku translated into French, which perfectly summarizes my end of the year.
the affection of a father
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Chubby Auntie had been handing out free newspapers in the Wanfang Hospital MRT station for several years. Every day her bright smile would light up my day. However, a while ago, Chubby Auntie vanished without a trace. I wondered if she fell ill or if she went on a long journey.
I happened to attend a talk given by the illustrator Maniniwe then. I long to spend some time in her "Sea Hotel," where I will have all the time and space to myself.
Maybe Chubby Auntie went to the Sea Hotel.
One day I encountered Chubby Auntie coincidentally in the MRT station near home. She explained to me that she is no longer employed by the newspaper.
Strangely, I miss such a stranger so much that my heart aches...
Monday, December 26, 2016
I went on a picture-book shopping spree when traveling to Korea three and half years ago. Though I hardly understood the text, I did take much delight in merely looking at the images. Lately, the super hit drama "Ghostly monster" has reminded me that maybe one of the books I own is about the folklore character, the ghostly monster. I was finally motivated to ask a Korean teacher to roughly translate the story for me. As I had guessed, the book is about a bunch of starving ghostly monsters. Though they could conjure up gold nuggets, they couldn't get the deuk bog gi (rice cake) they crave for. Well, what a contrast with the handsome lead role in the drama.
I admire Koreans for their talent and marketing strategies from the bottom of my heart. It's amazing to see folklore used in picture books and pop culture. Some day I am doing to write a story based on Nien, a fierce beast in Chinese folk stories.
Coincidentally, I read the summary of another book I had bought back then in dpi illustration magazine yesterday. The book is titled The Elixir Spring Fairy. The books of the author, Bae Hee Na are all my favorites. The story takes place in a public bathhouse. A little girl meets a granny-like fairy as she is playing in the pool. Their short but sweet friendship becomes a wonderful memory for the little girl.
I hadn't expected to learn anything about the books I purchased a long time ago, but right because of that, this surprise turned out to be the best Christmas gift!
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Since this past fall, I've been catching up with some girls that graduated a few years ago. Through sharing the past few years together, I feel greatly soothed. This enables me to jump outside my small box and swim in many possibilities of life.
As we walk out of the Greek restaurant on a Saturday evening, the cool and fresh winter air greets us. Zi-rong points at the fat and yellow moon, under which hang some twinkling stars. On our way to the bus station, I go on with my murmur of unimportant worries. When it's time to say goodbye, Zi-rong reminds me with a smile, "You should live in the present."
Though I have not got to witness the Greek moon in person, I can imagine that it's blue and yellow, cool and warm like what the girls tell me!
Saturday, December 24, 2016
"Headache" is my word of the year. Though the doctor confirmed that it should be attributed to the hereditary factor, I sometimes can't help wondering if I have imposed too much pressure on myself.
Before seeing 2016 off, I suffered from another headache. The beats of the drummer intensified with time passing. The thunderous music screamed, "Forget all about your obsessions with the insignificant trifles. Focus on us!"
The next day after the drummers left, I softened from head to toe, feeling acutely the joy of living without physical pain. I couldn't afford to give thought to what had been bothering me anymore. And surprisingly, the first thing I did when arriving at the office was doodling.
How nice that I have finally figured out the meaning of a headache before the year ends.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
We love to chat with the eight-year-old Kai. Often we will discover his big secrets as we ramble. One day he mentions his little girlfriend. He tells us with such confidence that the girl loves her too. Mom and I just can't help asking, "How do you know?" He replies with self-important pleasure, "She wrote on the first page of her two notebooks, 'I love Kai!'"
Far different from the play-hard-to-get love games, the ways children say I love you are so straightforward and brave. Thus, I have the same words written down in my journal to remember the beauty of loving people and being loved.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
I miss sketching badly, and the sun today beckons me to go outside for fresh air. I travel to the forest inside the city--Fuyang Park. The hidden corner is quiet even on weekends. I sit on the narrow path, having the green garden all to myself.
People in Taipei certainly how to make full use of the park. The hills are their outdoor study with the bamboos leaves swaying in the background and sunshine streaming in from the four sides...
"I hope in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing the world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever."
The View from the Cheap Seats by by Neil Gaiman
Saturday, December 17, 2016
I have experienced some people's happiness of being in love this week, so I can't help flying like them ...
Physics of Love
by Kim Inwook
Her mass not in proportion to her physical volume
That nymph as delicate as violet
That nymph as airy as petals
Attracts me far more than the mass of the earth
In the blink of an eye
Like Newton's apple
I fall at her feet involuntarily
From the sky to the earth
My heart continues fluttering at a dazzling speed
That is first love
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Mucha Zoo has recently held a 30-Must-See sketch contest to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, which gives me a fantastic opportunity since I long to sketch so much! When I arrive at the zoo, I have less than two hours left. I choose the orangutans' enclosure, which is very close to the entrance. I am not in a very good condition for sketching, but I am determined to have the painting done by hook or by crook!
I always hurry from one enclosure to another when visiting the zoo. This time, I am lucky to have to spend a long period of time at the same spot. I observe not only the orangutans but also the visitors. The orangutans hardly stop moving, so it takes patience to draw their portraits. The visitors move as much as the orangutans. Usually they'll give curt greetings like, "Hey, orangutans!" and leave within one minute. I wonder if the orangutans also greet them, "Hey, people!" Or maybe they don't bother at all.
Sometimes there are just the orangutans and me. It's so quiet around us that I can be fooled by the illusion that we are in the woods.
I would say that the kids keep me company for a while instead of the other way round. Being with them is surprisingly healing. Unfortunately, I don't even know their names. On my next visit, we have to formally introduce ourselves!
Sunday, December 04, 2016
We went to Mu-xin market on a field trip the other day. The apple man invited every girl to take an apple for free. I was amused how everyone imitated him in rubbing the apple against their sleeve.
After the girls left, I bought a bag of apples. As I ate one, I couldn't help imagining the scenery of Lishan!
Sunday, November 06, 2016
I listened to a talk by Prof. Lee Ming-tsung two days ago on how every place should have its own particular sense, i.e. culture and atmosphere. What is the sense of Taipei? I found extremely intriguing answers on a hike to Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) yesterday.
Amazingly, Xiangshan is a rather international tourist spot now. There are much more foreign travelers than imagined. Every stop in the mountain is unique in its own way. For example, upon reaching the Giant Rock Park, we were stunned by the queue. What were people lining up for? It turns out that they would like to take a picture upon one of the rocks. It was amusing to eavesdrop people's talk about how to climb the rock or how to avoid the crowd by going up on another rock. I could feel their strong desire to conquer the rocks! Besides, most people would be mistaken as the shoppers in Xin-yi District since their wear was no different. In fact, it's important to look fashionable for the photo on the rock. In the beginning I was just watching people in the shade, but I couldn't help sketching the super interesting image later on.
As we moved ahead to one pavilion, in front of it were the locals doing exercise, and in the pavilion there were other stories going on. An old man played the accordion while a young man was lifting weight next to him. This is the mountain version of World Gym! Feeling amazed again, I took out my sketchbook immediately. The half-naked uncle in the lower right corner was eager to have me request a song. Since the previous one is a classic by the famous singer Teresa Teng, I had no choice but to request another song of hers. After the performance, the accordion musician came to teach me how to massage my hands. What a harmonious afternoon!
The sense of Taipei lies in a wide mix of all the cultural elements, whether local or foreign. Strangely, nothing feels out of place here and there are always surprises to look forward to!
Saturday, November 05, 2016
I am taking a course on "how to make paper" along with some students this year. The course covers biology, physics, chemistry and art. I have learned a lot in science, but what I didn't expect is that when I become the classmate of my fifteen-year-old students, I've got an opportunity to a bigger world.
For starters, the girls will help me since I have difficulty learning biology. Now that I experience the frustration of learning something I am not good at, it often hits on me that I should be more understanding toward the kids that struggle. Often, the girls will ask me, "Will you come to class next week?" When we are doing experiments or making handicrafts, they will chat with me like I am their peer without being reserved at all.
What's more important, when I suddenly lose confidence in myself, my good friends will share with me their progress in learning and how much they like me. For example, once they didn't hesitate to show me the photo of a handsome young teacher, but when I asked them, "Do you prefer him or an interesting granny?" I got a surprising answer, "It would be the granny!" This makes me start to look forward to having to teach until I am 60.
So what I get to see under the magnifying class is love and encouragement.
P.S.: I can only remember the name of the first plant: Oyster Plant.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Today I take the girls to a TV station for recording a program. I'm so inspired by everything I see!
I didn't intend to sketch, but I can't miss out on so many interesting gadgets. Don't worry, while my hand is busy, my ears are paying attention as well to the host, the writer, and the student guests.
I really LOVE the contrast between the black boxes everywhere and the fluorescent orange lights. Only the photographer in the above picture notices that I am sketching.
I might not have the courage to try another job, but it's so nice to experience something totally different!
Saturday, October 29, 2016
How does it feel to do the same job for fifteen years? Undeniably, I still like the job and the kids that I have spent time with along the way. However, I have to deal with more and more contradictory feelings in myself. As with every profession, it is essential to strike a balance between ideals and the reality.
One day before Kai went to English class, Grandpa asked him, "Kai, do you have your head with you?"
He answered, "It's in the fridge."
This fall since Von was in fifth grade, he has much more homework than before. He didn't hit the sack until 11:45 p.m. two days ago. He used to greet me with a bright grin in the morning, saying, "It's fun to go to school." Now, he just squeezes a weary smile.
I say, "Then, let's go to school without our heads. We'll go with just our bodies and leave our heads home. Let's imagine lying on the sofa and chatting the whole morning."
Fortunately, he laughs.
Kai giggles, "The teacher will ask me where my head is, and I will say I need to go home to get it."
I reply, "Then the teacher explodes with anger!"
"Then, there won't be any teacher, thus, NO HOMEWORK! Hooray!"
We three go out in a pleasant mood in the end. Finally, I go to work and give my students more homework...
Sunday, October 23, 2016
On Saturday afternoon in the herbarium, a Chinese immigrant mom brings her daughters to the workshop, but she is more enthusiastic about the lesson. She also asks us many questions on the personal level.
Mom: Do you have your own children?
I: No, that's why I am here to play with others' kids.
Mom: When I first came, I had to take care of the girls on my own. I cried all the time.
When she says these words, it is raining hard outside. It feels like she can never cease discarding her soaking-wet loneliness...
Saturday, October 22, 2016
My new kids always surprise me with really cool ideas. Their words often trigger backlash in me. I might not feel the power in the moment, but whenever I think about their responses later, I never fail to smile or laugh out loud.
This week the girls racked their brains hard to figure out how to accommodate the exchange students. One of the most amazing solutions came from Shakira. She asked me very seriously, "When my exchange partner comes, could I hold her when we sleep?" I was of course amused, but it is not until today that I see through what lies behind her words. I mean, how un-reserved can one be to come up with such an idea?
I can't answer for her partner, but as a very reserved person all my life, I am willing to say, "Yes, you may." this time.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
One of the luxuries on rainy days is to eat hot pot, but I went for the beef for three days consecutively. Well, I feel very guilty about causing global warming to worsen...
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Is endless IMAGINATION!
Happy Big Bear
Big Bear loves rainy days,
when there are traffic jams,
when he can sleep on the trams.
Big Bear has honey in his bag;
not to hear his teachers nag,
Big Bear decides to skip school
because he wants to try the cool
picnic in the rain
with his honey mixed with the rain
And this super cool gift from London!
I feel my rainy days are extremely shiny when I wear it!
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Monday, October 10, 2016
I've been rather laid-back for a while. In fact, I don't go to the herbarium as often as before. However, every visit always empowers me no matter how reluctant I am before going. I am reminded of my everyday postcard project started three years ago in which I made it a habit to draw a kind of plant on a daily basis. Now I write only about my trivial daily life. Luckily, mother nature has been sending me the message, "Come back to us. This is where you belong!"
Saturday, October 08, 2016
Now when I open my eyes in the morning, I find I am no longer that bright person anymore. I am obsessed with many doubts about existentialism. It is then that I turn into a poet. I decide to conduct poetry therapy on myself.
What's wrong with boredom?
With all the boredom in the world collected,
we can replant
an endless stretch of
the Amazon Rainforest.
i walked as usual.
one moment, one day,
i started to wonder,
"Is it left or right foot first?"
it took me long
to figure out,
i have the amazing
To play on rhymes, the English version of the last poem is not translated from the Chinese one.
Are you my oasis
or the Isis?
Done. Time to go about my everyday life...