Friday, December 31, 2010

Another Exciting Relationship!?

At the end of our freshmen year, in early July of 1958, the Lutheran Student Center had a retreat at Sun Moon Lake, one of the famous scenic spots on the island. I do not remember how many people went in the group. The important part was that both Taotze and I were included in the group, and we were very excited to be able to visit this place together for the first time. In high school, we did not have any chance to be able to visit any place over-night. The group was co-ed. Taotze and I did not know any other person in the group, so we two stayed together most of time.

In a retreat like this, there were some Bible studies in the morning, followed by free activities in the afternoon. A group of us hired a boat together to cruise the lake. It turned out that we had a group of about ten, and our boat stopped on the island called Kuan-Hua Island (光华岛), which is a tiny island in the middle of the lake. Some of the group took a picture together. There were two girls from Hong Kong in the group. They both were quite friendly, when compared to local girls who had grown up in Taiwan. Both Taotze and I were dazzled by their easy manner when they talked with us. The excitement was definitely there with us! In the next few days, Taotze and I tried to ask the two girls to spend their free time just with us, and we were quite successful. The two were students from Taiwan Normal University. One was called Liu Kwai-sen ( 刘桂堔), she gave us the best impression. Later, when we came back, we visited them again at their University.

Later Liu even introduced us to the western habit of decorating a Christmas tree during the Christmas season. She made quite a number of Christmas tree ornaments out of paper for our home's first Christmas tree. Once when she went back to Hong Kong, she sent me a picture in front of Hong Kong Botanic Garden. She had definitely become part of our lives during that period.

New Experience?

Our first year in college was the first time we tried to study in co-ed classes. There were really very few interactions of any kind. Sure there was curiosity, but none was shown. The choir at Truth Lutheran Church was a very good one with four part harmony and provided an opportunity for some limited interaction. The chorus I directed at Friendship Corner was also a mixed voices choir. We got along very well, but we only focused on our music as we spent quite a bit time just to learn the music.

One day I was approached by a girl from our church. Her name was Hu Jen-Hua (胡建华). She was then in her last year in First Girls School in Taipei, which was known as the best high school in Taiwan. Hu was well known as the best student in the high school. She asked me to walk her home. I was very excited and pushed my bicycle to follow her to her home. She was a school basketball player as well. We chatted quite a lot about our b-ball games, and about her good friends at school. Every time when her school had a game at Three Military Court near her high school, I would ride my bicycle to watch the game and then walk or ride back home with her. She came home to visit with my mother a few times, too. We enjoyed each other quite a bit but, as she was still in high school and did not want anyone to see us, we only met after dark. Of course, since we were in China, there was never any physical contact! She told me quite a bit about her family friend Wang Shan Yi (王尚义) ,the famous young writer in Taiwan. The story she told was quite interesting, but not quite the same as she told in her book later, of course, that is another story.

This strange relationship lasted for almost a year, until after she entered Taida in the Foreign Language Department - directly, without taking the entrance exam. She had talked earlier with my father, as she regretted her choice of the Foreign Language Department. She wanted to change to Medicine, but it was too late. She could not change until after she started the Foreign Language Department! So she met and talked to both of my parents at different times, a situation which was very unusual in China.

She represented Taiwan in her second year to an international student conference. I heard that she married there. And so our brief period of unusual encounters ended at that point. The following picture was given to me by her in March of 1958, her senior year in high school.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Father’s Extra Work

My father started a second job when I was in junior high school. He continued until after I left Taiwan for the U.S. It was to teach a very useful subject, "accounting", in a very special school. I believe that the institution had a particular name "生产教育所". It was actually a school or a prison, depending on your point of view. My father called this place by its abbreviated name "生教所", the live –to-learn place. From my father's point of view it was a school, period. But it was a prison for young and misguided political prisoners, who might said some words against Chiang's government or disrupted some function of the government action. They were arrested and could not be released without causing the government to lose face. So they were kept in prison to warn others not to get out of control. Many students became my father's good friends and kept coming to visit him at home after they were released. We knew of the existence of this place for a long time. There were quite a number of young people there who suffered, but others benefited from this place, like many places in the world. Organizations like this can and do exist in all parts of the world. They represented the dark side of society, yes of course. But they could also have a good side too, at least some of them!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Missionaries in My Life

I met Miss Clara Jones when I was sixteen. She was operating a Lutheran Student Center near Taida. Since my home was not far from the Student Center, it was convenient for me to stop by her place to use the ping-pong table at the Center. At first she did not want me to use the table, as it was specifically for college students. I told her that I would be a college student someday so she should let me use it. She relented and I started to use the facility at the Center when I was in Junior High school. This relationship continued for the rest of her life. She was intertwined one way or the other with my life until she was over one hundred years old. I certainly will talk about her more later.

When I entered Taida, I began another important activity in my life, which was to conduct church music singing. It came as I met another missionary, Miss Margaret Sells, who was teaching Freshmen English at Taida just like Miss Clara Jones did. They both used teaching students as their means of contacting students in order to propagate their purpose of spreading the gospel on the side. Miss Sells somehow found out I had some experience in conducting singing, so she asked me to start a choir at her student center, which she called "Friendship Corner". That was just what I wanted to do, so I was very happy to accept that challenge. That was the start of my four year involvement with the Friendship Corner Choir. I was also singing with the Lutheran Church Choir, which was located at the same site as Miss Jones' Lutheran Student Center. Fortunately, the Friendship Corner group met on Sunday evenings, therefore there was no conflict. But it was very busy for me every Sunday!

Both missionaries played important roles in my life. Who could imagine that the lives of two foreign ladies from the USA, one from Minnesota and the other from Tennessee, were intermingled with one "Ordinary Chinese" who by sheer luck survived the Japanese bombing and the communists' attacking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Year at Taida

National Taiwan University is generally called Taida for short, in every day conversation. The Chemistry Department had only 34 new entering students in 1957. Of these, 33 graduated in 1961. I am not sure how we lost one in the middle. Four were over-seas students; they came from abroad through a different process (not through the college entrance exam system) as the Government was trying very hard to get connected with Chinese over-seas. Close to 50% of the local group also entered without taking the entrance exam as they had graduated from good high schools with top grades which qualified them for this distinction. Six of these came from First Girls High School in Taipei, by far the most dominant high school in that period. (You may remember I mentioned earlier that I was offered admittance to Cheng-Kung University in the southern city of Tainan without taking the entrance exam, but I declined.) Clearly, the Taida group of young people was the cream of the crop, bringing together the best students from all over the island and beyond.

During the first few months, in addition to studying some difficult subjects, such as calculus, chemistry, physics, and labs, we also had to spend time adjusting to the different social situation. We were learning to sit in a classroom together with students of the opposite sex for the first time since primary school. For the girls it was even more difficult as they no longer wore uniforms and had to choose what to wear and whether to use makeup, etc. Other subjects we took in the first year included Chinese, English, Three People's Principles (politics), Military Training (we were at war with communists officially), and Physical Education. Really, there were just too many subjects for anyone to learn well, but we were quite used to handling the "Stuff the Ducks" education technique. No one sank that first year. In fact almost no one sank during all our college years. All universities were hard to get into but easy to graduate from.

In the middle of our first semester, our Chinese teacher invited the whole class to go to visit the Fu-Shi-Lain University Garden (named after the first president of the University after the end of the Japanese occupation) for an informal get-together. We called the place "Fu-Yuan". That was our first CO-ED party!

Later in the year, the whole class went to Bitang for an outing. We were gradually getting used to co-ed life by then!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Who is a Taiwanese?

The problem concerning how to treat illegal immigrants is now a very "hot" topic in the United States and in Europe. The definition of a word depends on your point of view. The words legal and illegal depend even more on your definition. And, furthermore, the definition itself is very "time" dependent and certainly limited by space or location. Who is authorized to define a word then? The answer is simple: whoever has the power at the time and the location! During our high school era, the words (1) "Taiwanese" and (2) "Mainlander" were defined loosely as (1) the people who had been in Taiwan two or more generations and spoke with Taiwan accents, and (2) those who had just escaped from Mainland China and moved because of the communist war. I said" loosely' because no one tried or was able to specify the terms properly. There was an artificial "gap" between these two groups of people. They rarely got together as friends; they generally did not like their children to get married etc.

Our high school class fought together for the first prize in the sports competition fiercely and without any problems. But, after the college entrance exam, all the people in the class were comparing the numbers of Taiwanese and Mainlanders who had been accepted at the various universities – especially the numbers accepted at National Taiwan University (Taida). I did not realize that we had this" gap" until I saw the pictures of the five "Mainlanders" who entered Taida, in various combinations, all of which were taken without a single Taiwanese from our class. One final question was my sister, who was born in Taiwan of mainlander parents, a Taiwanese of a Mainlander?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Forever Friends

At the end of our high school days, everyone seemed alarmed by the pending separation of our classmates. We were in a hurry to exchange pictures during the last few weeks of May, 1957. In the physical science section of my class we had a total of 34 students. In my possession now, I have a total of 34 pictures. Below are six pictures from the collection. On the backs of the pictures, most have some short messages and signatures, and some have a date. Most messages are related to "forever friends", to remembering our friendship. The six I chose to post here are the ones I still remember. Many of the faces in my collection I can no longer remember completely, even with the help of their signatures. So much for our friendship! Using their last names below, let me say a few words about these six who were close to me in those three years:
Chu: A strong fellow who liked to play basketball. We played together quite a bit.

Gin: He was the only person I knew with polio damage of his leg. His hands were very strong. We lost all connections after graduation.

Guo: His home was right across from Normal University, near my home. His parents operated a restaurant there. We were invited to eat at his home very often. He was married right after graduation to a girl who was a graduate of Banqiao Junoir High School.

Liu: A straight shooter, as a person and as a basketball player. He was scared of singing in the music class - I always wondered "why".

Ho: A scholar in behavior and in looks. With flat feet, he never participated in sports or military marches.

Shu: Smart but moody. He was very close to me. I was told that he died in his fifties in the US.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Some Reflections on my High School Experience

It is very difficult to compare my high school experience with anyone else's experience. Even when events occur at the same time and the same place, since individuals each have a unique personality, they will have totally different feelings and responses to the events. I was once watching an American TV program which described what a group of 14 year old boys were thinking. The conclusion was that "they are all thinking about being 15". I said to Janice that that would be the last thing I was thinking about when I was fourteen. I was thinking about basketball and swimming! A friend in the US once asked me if I was thinking about girls when I was in high school. I told him, no, we did not think about girls until after we got to college (after all, college was co-educational). For sure, the "social" development in Chinese youth was generally much slower than that of youths of the same age in the western world. In school, I did what I was told most of the time. I was not trying to be the best at anything because I did not know what I really wanted. One thing, though, I did not like to lose! I liked music, but everyone told me that you could not use it as a profession to support yourself. Since I was pretty good in mathematics, I thought about trying science and engineering – which were thought at the time to give one the best possibility of finding a job. You do want a job, don't you? I am sure that young people in the US also struggle to try to decide what they want to do. They have some trends to guide them and to give them some hints. But everything changes so fast, no one can predict if there will be job for them when they graduate from college, sometimes with a huge debt. It is definitely much harder to grow up in a poor family, now or fifty years ago! Of course, we were very poor fifty years ago, but everybody was poor then.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Yes, we did have uniforms - all six years - when we were in high school and in junior high. In Junior High they could be said to be Boy Scout uniforms. When we grew older, the uniforms certainly looked like military uniforms. Actually, they were quite the same. The only difference we could tell was that the military uniforms had an extra strip of cloth on both sides of the shoulders for pinning on some rank decorations. School uniforms had no such place for rank. The uniforms generally were quite expensive. We (Dean and I) used quite a lot of hand-me-downs. Since I was the oldest in the family, mine came from my police relatives' used police uniforms. Once the ranking stripes were moved, they were the best uniforms for me. I wore them proudly! You have seen many pictures of me in these uniforms. No one seemed to be fussing about clothing when I was growing up. This was also true of most of the girls in school, which made our growing-up process slightly simpler.

Monday, November 29, 2010

College Entrance Examinations

Since there was a shortage of space in the universities in Taiwan during 1953 and the following years, the Ministry of Education in Taiwan started a new system which required all universities on the island to give one unified exam. Students with high grades got the choice of their Department in a particular university. Students with lower grades would be assigned to their second or third choices, etc. In this way all positions would be filled at the end. All high school students usually graduated in June, then they could all take one exam in July. By August the grades would be published and the distribution of students to positions would follow immediately until every position was filled. In September, all new college students would start their classes in the Universities of their choice, according to the order of their choice on their application forms. Generally good University Departments were filled first with the higher grade students.

After the excitement of the 5-24 incident, students quickly returned to a serious mood - especially graduates who were worrying about their preparation for the entrance exams and their decision about the order of choices. There were three major exams, one for physical sciences (which included engineering, sciences, and medicine), a second one for literature (languages, arts and music, history, philosophy, library science, and social sciences) and a third category which included agricultural fields (such as anything related to plants, animals etc). Each category had a set of six subjects for testing. A maximum of 600 points could be achieved. In 1957, if your total was above 300, you could enter National Taiwan University, which was what the majority of students wanted during that time. When the exam time came, it took two days to complete the six subjects. There were two hours allocated for each subject with some rest time in between. It was a two-whole day affair. Janice went to see the battlefield in 1969 when we visited Taiwan. She identified that as the main reason she did not want to consider the jobs offered to us in Taiwan, since she did not want our children to suffer through the examination process! While I was trying to prepare for the exam in 1957, just before the end of June, I was called by the FBI equivalent organization in Taiwan for an "interview". Everyone in the family was scared. It turned out that they were interested in having me identify all the people I knew who appeared in the parade during the 5-24 incident. There were pictures and movie films of all the events. I went there twice to see all the records and identified everyone I could recognize. That took my precious time, needed for study!

My entrance exams came and went like dreams, in July 1957. No details could be recalled today! Somehow in August, there was a co-worker of Father who worked in the distribution center for making sure the details of assigning students to the right department with proper grades was done properly. He came to tell us that I was assigned to the Chemistry Department of National Taiwan University. That was how my destiny was sealed!

Friday, November 26, 2010


The 5-24 incident involving the American GI changed everything. It made our High School graduation one month later seem "unimportant". Other events also crept into our busy schedule during that last month of high school, making the graduation ceremony seem even more unimportant. Our attention was not at all focused on the formality of leaving High School. It is one event I do not remember at all. There were just too many other things to worry about, such as who would be able to enter college without taking the entrance examination. A very small number of students were allowed to enter certain colleges when a particular high school had a certain number of students who passed the entrance examination the year before. This was done to reward the high school who had more students passing the entrance exams. I was awarded to enter Cheng-Kung University, which was in Tainan, without taking the entrance exam. I was told that I had to make the decision right away so that the position could be given to someone else if I chose not to take it. Since Cheng-Kung University was a second rate university during that time, and it was not in Taipei so the expense would be higher, I made a quick decision to give up the "direct entrance" position and take the chance on passing the entrance exam so that I could enter National Taiwan University. Incidentally, there was a graduation exam too, but we all assumed that we were going to pass, no one paid much attention to it!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

When US GIs Are Stationed in a Foreign Land

US GIs are everywhere in the world. It sounds romantic and adventurous for the GIs. Maybe that is true, but it actually makes for a very complicated relationship between the countries involved. Here today I am going to take a second look from another angle at the case of American Corporal Robert Reynolds, who killed the Chinese Colonel Liu. The story floated out during the time of the incident was that they knew each other, that they were actually business partners. Their business was to use Reynolds' privilege to buy expensive goods from the PX, tax free, and then use Liu's connection to sell them outside on the Chinese black market. The problem was that the profits division was not to the liking of all sides involved. Neither government wanted the truth to come out; the case was then easily bungled. This is just one simple example of the kind of conflict which can occur when US GIs are stationed in a foreign land. These conflicts erupt all over the world where ever the US military is involved in situations besides their main purpose of engagement. The US should have learned by now!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Robert G. Reynolds Incident

The Sgt Robert G Reynolds Incident occurred on March 20th, 1957. It was called in Chinese the Liu Zi-Run Incident (刘自然事件). The official story was quite simple. Sgt Reynolds killed Mr. Liu in the front of his yard sometime after 11pm. Reynolds said that Liu was watching his wife taking a bath, so he went out to check. Liu had an iron stick in his hand, so Reynolds fired his pistol and killed Liu. On the 23rd, in May, 1957, the US military court announced that Reynolds was innocent because of the lack of evidence. The US military flew Sgt. Reynolds home immediately. On the 24th, crowds gathered in front of the US Embassy. Liu's wife, who had come to the US Embassy compound to complain and who had been kept outside the door for three days, was crying and complaining about the injustice of the whole affair. By 2pm the general mob outside the door was so agitated that they started to throw rocks and glass and they finally broke the outside door and ransacked the building. The US Embassy US Information Office Building was destroyed in no time. It turned out that Liu was a colonel in the Chinese Army. Reynolds and Liu knew each other; they might even have had some business together. Neither government would admit any fact about their relationship. Chiang's government was forced to apologize in the end for the breakage of the Embassy Compound US Information Building, a situation which made him a laughing stock in the world as a US "running dog"!

The morning of the 24th accidently, was a day to test the City-wide alarm system. At 8am, the sirens were loudly testing everywhere in Taipei City. All traffic was temporarily stopped; the first class at school was also postponed. My classmates were all talking about how unfair the decision was about letting the American go free and shipping him out immediately. As the student government president, I called the whole student body out to the field to report the recent news to them. We all decided that we must go out to do some demonstration. With the encouragement from teachers, especially one English teacher, see picture below, we decided that we would go out to make a statement that afternoon in front of American Embassy. While the students were making their preparations, such as making English signs and preparing the routes, I was called to the President's Office. The president wanted me to represent the School at a meeting of the "Saving the Country" group, which had been organized as a semi-official response. When I got to the meeting, I found out that the Embassy was already surrounded with plenty of demonstrators. Thus the meeting was cancelled. Clearly, they would not want to repeat the efforts which had already resulted in the desired result. When I got back to School, a group of Cheng-Kong students had already climbed the wall and gone out to demonstrate. I was locked in the president's office for the rest of that day.

More than one hundred people were arrested during this 5/24 Incident; three people were killed and 40 people put in jail.

  American Embassy Information Services in Taipei was totally ransacked.

 Some cars were turned over.

 Cheng-Kung students!?

 I know that our Cheng-Kung students did not make this sign.

 Mr. Lu Yue, the English teacher who translated all the signs into right English for students demonstrators!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Backyard Pictures

From 1955 to 1957, I had a modified camera, which was a used (and sort of broken) one. I cleaned it and fixed the mechanism. So we took quite a few pictures, some of them in our backyard. Our backyard was a run-down Japanese style garden! It was run-down because no one in our family knew how to care for a garden and we certainly had no time for such activities anyway. The pond, which had no fish but plenty of frogs, was surrounded by azaleas with many fruit trees in the background. My room was in the back, not far from the pond. It was often used as part of the background. I will show you a few of the pictures taken there in this post:




Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sun-Yat-Sen Hall Concert

During the Warring States period (Sha Dynasty), around 2,300 years ago, the people who lived along the banks of the Min River were plagued by annual flooding. Qin governor Li Bing (李冰) investigated the problem and discovered that the river was swelled by the fast flowing spring melt-water from the local mountains that burst the banks when it reached the slow moving and heavily silted stretch below. He proposed to construct an artificial levee to redirect a portion of the river's flow and then to cut a channel through Mount Yulei to discharge the excess water upon the dry Chengdu Plain and beyond he started the work and spent 9 years for the initial phase of the project. His son Yue(大禹) followed him to work on the project for a total of more than thirteen more years .During this long period, he passed his home three times, but he was so much devoted to his work, he did not enter his home even once. This story was written as a chorus. It was called "The Taming of Flood by Big Yue" (大禹治水) Unfortunately, I no longer could find any one on the web posted the song in some fashion. Since this chorus was written for four parts mixed voices, we had to negotiate to sing this chorus with a girls' school. Everyone was very excited. Girls! girls! Suddenly the chorale group became very popular!

With the help of our music teacher, we made the choice, and got an agreement with Taipei Girls Normal School. They had a chorale group just about the same size and the school was not very far and we needed to make arrangement to rehearse together before the concert. Because of the complicated logistic arrangement, we finally decided to have only two rehearsals together, one at girls school and one at our school. Chen I-Chun and I were the soloists from Cheng-Kong, Huang Ming-show (黄明秀) was the soloist fron Normal School. The conductor was the teacher from Normal School, Mr. Yang Ron-kuan (陽永光).

The concert was finally sung at Sun Yat-Sen Hall in Downtown, Taipei on Jan. 10th, 1957. The Hall has the largest capacity at that time and it was the most famous auditorium on the island. We had a crowd nearly filled the hall. It seems that everyone very happy. It was certainly one of my proudest moments in my life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sports Competitions

Beginning in Junior High, I played basketball whenever I had some free time. Yes, I competed whenever the opportunity arose. My class won some and lost some. I hated to lose, that was my strong point and my weak point too. Taking a sport too seriously was always a bad thing at that time in Taiwan, since no one considered sports important and certainly there were no professional sports of any kind. But for me, I never cared about what people thought. Sport, and basketball in particular, was just pure enjoyment personally.

In the second year of our Cheng-Kong High School, we had a school wide Track and Field competition. We had quite a number of items on the competition list. In running, we had 100m to 1500m with everything in-between, plus some relays and a hindrance race. In field competition, we had all the jumps, except the pole jump (I did not know there was such a jump then) and all the throwing events, such as disk, spear, and lead ball. My class, believe it or not, received the over-all first place trophy, beating many classes older than us. (There were, of course, several classes in each year of the School.) I was the class leader and it was a proud moment when I represented the class to receive the top trophy. The High School even paid a professional photographer to come and take a picture of the whole class with our Physical Education class teacher and our coach.

It was one of the two big events (another one will be posted soon) in my High School experience!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Class Leader (班长)

This position in the class was an elected position. The job of class leader was first of all to make sure to alert every student in the class when a teacher arrived. He/she would shout "stand up" as soon as the teacher arrived at the door, then say "sit down" so that he or she could start the class right away without wasting any time. Every student was ready to show respect to every teacher in this fashion. Once in a while, the class leader would represent the class at a meeting for school-wide affairs. Most importantly, this position was a seal of honor. It meant that your classmates had decided that you deserved their respect. This is certainly very different from our children's classes; they elect people who they deem to be popular.

I was elected as the class leader the semester after I reached the top of the class in my grade point average. Later I was elected as the president of the High School student body by all the class leaders of the whole campus. Two pictures were taken during that time, one was at school and the other was in the front of our home, all in uniform without the hat.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Grades Improved

My first year at Cheng-Kong was a very happy experience. My parents bought me a new bicycle so I could peddle my way to school under my own control. A bicycle in Chinese is called a "Self-Free vehicle". I like the name. It was better than feet, since it provided me a fourfold extension in both speed and distance. It took me about twenty minutes from home to school when I peddled as fast as I could. We got to school before 8am and got back after 4pm. One usually brought his own lunch daily since you could not go off campus for lunch-break. The school provided a steam room, so your lunch would be piping hot when you ate it at lunch time. The students took turns so that each day two were assigned to deliver all the lunch boxes to the steam room, then take them back for lunch. At the end of day, we could stay for some basket ball playing. With singing and basketball, I was in seventh heaven!

At the end of my first year, on the day to get my final report, the teacher again as usual read the name of the student with highest grade first, then the second, etc. I was not bothered by the order, but when my classmate in the next seat was called (the 11th), he made a gesture to me that he was ahead of me. Even though he did not say a word, I still remember that gesture today. I swore that I would never get behind him again. That was the incentive for me! I improved enough to reach the top of the class for the next two years of high school. (remember that in China there are three years of high school, not four.)

A picture of all the model students was taken with the president of Cheng-Kong High School:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

High School Chorus

In the second part of our first year in our high school, my good friend Chen I-Chun(陈一川)  and I started to organize a high school chorus. With the strong support from our music teacher (see Oct 16, 2010 blog), we got that achieved quickly. Chen and I became even closer as a result of this joint project. To celebrate our achievement, we took a picture together. This was the first time that either of us used a professional photographer to take a picture together other than with family members. In the back of the picture, Chen wrote: "Dao-Shing classmate, Let us remember forever this glorious, happy moment in our High School time, and may all the moments worthwhile be treasured. And I hope that we will be good collaborators for all our lives' activities".
I was appointed as the conductor of our first concert. The first concert was given at the Taiwan University Law school auditorium. I have no memory of what we sang!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Extra Curricula Activities

When I take a look at the extra curricula activities of our children and our grand children, I am amazed at the amount of time involved! Piano, ballet, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, chorus, girl scouts, and basketball were/are included on a weekly basis. Many semesters, they have as many as three or more sessions a week in one activity or another! When one single activity must meet two times a week, it is the parent who has to worry about how to get them there, how to squeeze a meal in the schedule and how to pay for these activities. If these are important parts of growing-up education, they should be included in the education in school. Yes, when we were in school in China and in Taiwan, everything came as a package. There were no extra curricula activities. Our outside school activity was to sneak out to see a movie once in a while on our bicycle, but outside school activity to our parents was mainly home work assignments. Music, soccer (or other sports), and drawing were all taught in the classroom on a scheduled basis, therefore, they were all taught very superficially. In other words, primary and secondary education in China is the "basic" general education. The main purpose was to pass the college entrance examination so that you could finally learn something in a specific subject in college. I do not remember that we ever bothered our parents for school activities. As I told you before, I won the solo singing competition in both junior and senior high schools, but my parents did not participate in any of these activities. Clearly, both systems have their problems.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Music Started Here!

Music in my life started during my high school years. There were no singing stars, no records, no CDs, no popular songs, not even radio when I started junior high school. Music was a subject in school which would not be on any entrance exams. Therefore you just had to pass it when you were taking it. However, I enjoyed the classes in junior high, and I liked the music teacher, Mrs. Bi (畢华雯), who I introduced on this blog earlier (see August 9, 2010). Recently, a classmate of mine, Jerome Sung, and I were chatting on the phone. He asked me if I remember that I received the first prize when I represented our class in the school singing competition. I told him that I do remember that competition. Then he asked me if I remember that he was supposed to be in the competition, too. However, just before his turn, he was so nervous that he shouted to make his throat hoarse so that he could excuse himself from the competition. He later went on to major in music at Normal University and became a famous choral director in Taiwan. You never know how life will turn out! It was nice to hear his story.

At Cheng-Kong High School, I had another music teacher, who not only helped me to form a high school chorus but also gave me special instructions on basic singing techniques. I spent a lot of time with music in my high school years. I will report on this in more detail later. The teacher's name was Ou-yang Ru-ping (欧阳如萍). His surname had two words, which is unusual but not uncommon. He was a very big fellow, with a thundering voice. I tried to imitate the way he sang. Since that time, music became part of my life. Later, I directed many choruses and choirs. And I certainly sang many different songs. I was also the first price winner again in the senior high school singing competition.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Facets of My Life

Up to junior high school years, I more or less followed the path my parents laid down in front of me, with little variation. While I sometimes thought that I was deviating from my parent's direction, I was really more or less on the line they drew. Study, study and study were the directives. Besides some sports and singing, I did not do much of anything else. And the study we did was not for fun; it was for the entrance examinations one after another. When looking back, this path might have saved me. Because of it, I had the drive and preparation to finish a doctorate degree in Chemistry. Had I grown up in the USA, I am not sure at all that I had the discipline and the character to achieve as much. Of course, I could not predict what kind of person I would become, who could have foretold anything!

Two facets in my life started to develop during this period of time. One was religion, the other was music. I am going to talk about how religion started to become part of my life now.

Sometime in the first year after I entered Cheng-Kong High School, I went to play ping-pong with my friends at a Lutheran Student Center, which was located about three blocks from my home near National Taiwan University. It was a place for the college students to study, make friends, and play ping-pong. An old foreign lady came to stop me from playing there; she said that this place was for "college" students only. I argued with her, told her that I would be a college student later. She relented, and as this result of this incident, we became friends. Gradually, we become closer. Her name was Clara Jones.

After I entered the University I spent almost as much time at her place as at my home. I ate there regularly. She became my second mother. Certainly, her place was a wonderful place for learning English. You probably wonder why I said that she was almost like my second mother. We did a lot of things together, and she cared about me as much as a mother. For example, when Janice and I decided to get married in 1965, she flew from Taiwan to Urbana, Illinois, to give her advice to me, since Janice was a Catholic at the time! She was afraid that I would have a "long lonely road" ahead of me. Because of her and some others in my life (I will talk about them later), I tried hard to be a Christian for a long time. She graduated from St. Olaf College in nursing and did quite a number of further studies in theology. She taught part-time at National Taiwan University, offering both English classes and Speech and Debate in the English Department.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Other Teachers

Another subject that was taught every semester in High School was mathematics. But since every semester we had different subjects in math, we had different teachers to teach them. The math courses included were Trigonometry, Geometry, Advanced Algebra and Analytical Geometry; the last two were one year courses. I had quite a number of math teachers. As a result, I have very shadowy impressions of them. I do not remember much about them individually. As a whole, they were quite competent; they provided challenging problems for us to work on. I certainly remember some of the geometry problems which caused us to work for days. The Advanced Algebra course included all aspects of algebra and was the most challenging course in High School. The Analytical Geometry course really covered the fundamentals of college calculus course in the USA.                      靳吉炑(math and chemistry)


The Chemistry and Physics teachers were my favorite teachers. They were younger and more dynamic. While I knew very little at the beginning, they provided me quite a good foundation for the subjects. This was one of the reasons I listed quite a number of these departments as the choices on my college entrance examination. I will talk about these exams later. These teachers were definitely very close to me also. We had pictures taken with them outside classroom settings, which was quite unusual.
With important teachers at High School: