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.