Since 2010 is near the end, I would like to wish all the friends and loved ones a happy and prosperous new year! May the greater power protect us all. Enjoy BOBEE (a Taiwanese adapted Korean song) which reflects the spiritual aspects of the Taiwanese life.
Has it been 30 years since Princess Diana's wedding?! I remember waking up hours before school to watch Princess Diana's wedding. Of course, Princess Diana did not live to see her sons grow up. When Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton this morning, I can't help but feeling happiness for him and his future bride. I will be up and early the day of their wedding so I can watch it on TV like billions of people around the world, wishing them the best to come.
I grew up with the values expressed in this short docu-drama--selflessness, frugality, and unspoken love. Even though most of my female relatives never had to work like the women depicted in the film, they were discriminated nevertheless because they are women and/or because they only gave birth to daughters. My own grandmother's name is 罔市 which in Taiwanese sounds to mean "might as well feed her". She was the 4th daughter of a wealthy Taipei merchant. She grew up with servants, but my great-grandfather's obviously wanted a male heir very badly. I am sure that plagued my grandmother and her mother all their lives.
My own mother had 2 daughters and, to this day, she feels insecure about her position in the family (or that my father would have a legitimate excuse to have an affair) because she did not have a son. My mother is in her mid-70s and went to Taiwan University. Being a truly educated and modern working woman in the 1960s and 1970s did not change the way she thinks about the pre-defined roles of men and women in Taiwan. Just to set the record straight, my father remained a faithful husband without a son.
Even after we immigrated to Canada, my mother expected my sister and I to behave a certain way. Things didn't let up after we got married. When my mother found out I was expecting a baby girl, she told me I would need to have another baby, preferably a son, so my husband (and his family) would not have an excuse to divorce me. I told her if my marriage is based on me producing a son, then I would be the one divorcing my husband.
So getting back to this docu-drama, Director Wu's short docu-drama touched me in a different way. I think he was trying to examine the value system behind the role of a woman (or a mother) in a traditional (or even modern) Taiwanese family.
I would consider my own family fairly modern. We also live in the United States, thousands of miles away from Taiwan. But our value system remains the same. Children's needs always get priority. Of course, we no longer have to share a fish, but inevitably, the best part of the fish will be given to the children and the husband. Eating the tail part of a fish becomes second nature to me.
When I was single, I would not hesitate to spend NT$50,000 on a purse or an outfit. But now, I would think twice before buying a pair of US$50 shoes. No, my financial circumstance did not change, but I changed. The frugal aspect of my upbringing kicked in when I got married and became a mom.
Sure, many would criticize that Director Wu's docu-drama only represented a small segment of the Taiwanese population, but I believe the Taiwanese mentality have permeated all aspects of Taiwanese lives across the social-economic strata for over 400 years. Even those of us who have moved away from the island for over 35 years cannot get away from that so easily.
The hottest toy this year is Silly Bandz. If you ask any kids between the ages of 5 to 16 what their favorite play thing this year, they will all tell you "Silly Bandz" (http://www.sillybandz.com/). Silly Bandz are a brand of silicone rubber bands formed into shapes including animals, objects, and letters. They are normally worn as bracelets. Essentially, they are colorful rubber bands in various shapes. The company that markets this product is laughing all the way to the bank. They are usually sold in a pack of 24 Bandz (6 shapes, 4 per shape) that will allow the kids to collect and trade. I looked up the internet and they are being sold from $5.99 to $2.50 for a pack of 24. As in any popular items, there are now hundreds of imitations in the marketplace. Most are just colorful rubber bands that will likely melt together in heat or pressure. As Silly Bandz are made of silicone, these bands can withstand heat and maintain the shapes really well.
I was resisting buying these Silly Bandz for my kids because I was not going to pay over $5 for 24 rubber bands, but reality hit last Friday when my 8 year-old son came home with many of these Bands around his wrist. He said a classmate gave them to him--he went through a long story of why this girl would give him so many Bandz. But now I have a dilemma. My 10 year-old daughter has been asking to buy these Bandz for weeks. I kept telling her no because it's a waste of money. But now that her brother has them, she felt life is a bit "unfair" to her. I did my research on-line and found out that there are so many different kinds of colorful rubber bands out there, but the quality of these bands vary. I decided that if I were to buy any for my kids, I might as well stick with the silicone kind.
Anyways, to make a long story short, I went to Toys R Us yesterday and bought 3 packs of Silly Bandz. They only have two kinds of Silly Bandz available at the store--the Princess pack and the Dinosaur pack. It's not like we have a lot of choices, but they were on sale for $4.99 per pack and the promotion was buy 2 get 1 free. I'll probably go to another Toys R Us and see if I can exchange the extra dinosaur pack for a different theme pack. Both kids now think they have the best parents in the world!!!
My favorite memory of childhood in Taiwan was going on a school field trip. It was never about where we went but what snacks my mother would put in my backpack for our annual school field trip. Back then, snacks were not prevalent and were not sold individually packaged like they do today. Guai Guai were one of my favorites and I remembered they were NT$2. But what I wanted most in my snack bag wast those sweet and savory pork jerkies. I am sure many of us who grew up in Taiwan have fond memories of those square pieces of the pork jerkies.
Over the years, when I visited Taiwan, I would look for pork jerkies to buy. But rumors of bad sources (or unknown sources) of pork made buying pork jerky a "risky" business. One summer I discovered a specialty pork jerky store on Chung Hsiao East Road (near Taipei University), but the pork jerky sold there cost more than a piece of rib eye steak oz per oz. I did buy some to let my kids try, but it wasn't something I can buy in bulk.
Jump to September 2010. Last week while visiting a friend of mine, she excitedly showed me a bag of pork jerky. She said she bought it at Costco!!! She pulled out a piece and let me tried it. We let out a scream!!! It tasted the same as the flavor we had become accustomed to. My friend said another friend saw it at a Costco in Hawaii and bought 4 packages. So when she saw it at a Costco in Hacienda Heights, she had to buy some. She only bought 2 packages though because she wanted to make sure it has that Taiwanese taste before buying more. Well, it tasted exactly as we know it. So when my friend saw it at our local Costco, she had to let all her Taiwanese friends know about it. I had wanted to buy some all week. Today, I finally found the time to make the trip to our local Costco.
So if you have a Costco near you, make the trip to Costco and buy those pork jerkies and re-live your childhood memories. I looked at the package carefully. This product is made in USA. So we don't have to worry about the source of pork. It also does not contain MSG. I can't say it doesn't contain preservatives, but I think it's within FDA standard, so unless one over-indulges, one should not worry about that. At $9.79 (14.5 oz), it's not expensive at all. If your local Costco doesn't carry this product, request it. Happy eating!!!
My 10 year-old daughter will enter middle school this fall. She is so looking forward to going to her new school. She does not want to miss any part of what middle school has to offer. If you ask her what she is most looking forward to in middle school. She will say LOCKERS. Go figure. I guess having her own locker at school makes her feel grown up. I remembered the locker I had in high school--it was like my home away from home. It was filled with shoes, clothes, PE stuff, books, papers, etc... It took 2-3 shopping bags to empty out my locker on the last day of school.
One of those consistent nightmares I would have in my youth was to forget my locker combinations. Back then, I had to buy my own combination lock to put on my locker. The smart thing would be to write down my lock combinations somewhere. But the nightmare would go a step further--I would forget where I had written down the lock combinations. It had never occurred to me to just tell my mom what my locker combinations are and she could have helped me remember.
That was then, this is now. I don't think my daughter will have the same kind of nightmares I had when I was in middle school. The lock to her locker is built-in the locker. Her school keeps each locker's lock combinations in the office. If a student forgets his/her combinations, all he/she needs to do is to go to the office and ask about it.
Speaking of Middle School. In California, elementary schools begin in kindergarten and end in grade 5. Middle Schools include grade 6 through 8. High schools are grade 9 through Grade 12. My sister who still lives in Vancouver tells me that British Columbia no longer has Junior High Schools. My Canadian nieces will only have to attend Elementary School (kindergarten to Grade 7) and High School (Grade 8 to Grade 12). Junior High Schools (or Middle Schools) no longer exist in Vancouver.
Way back in June, before the 5th grade Culmination (a small-scale elementary school "graduation"), all 5th grade parents received information about what we would need to prepare and buy for our new 6th graders. One of the biggest item we need to purchase is a three-inch zipper binder which will contain all the notes from the 6 classes a 6th grader will need to take in Middle School. One day in July, I took my daughter to Target, Staples, and Office Depot to look for one. Some were too small (1" or 2" zipper binder) or too big. Most were flimsily made. I did not want to pay over $20 for a poorly-made zipper binder that may only last a month. We didn't end up buying anything from the stores. We decided to go home and look for a suitable binder on-line. To my surprise, most of the reviews of the zipper binders on Amazon talked about how these binders were not sturdy enough to last a whole semester.
Two weeks ago, at Costco, I found the exact zipper binder that my daughter and I have been looking for. Costco did not have this product in July. The greatest part about it was the price--$12.99!!! Not sure how sturdy this zipper binder is, so I bought 2 just in case one doesn't last a whole semester. Right next to the zipper binders were these Casio Scientific calculators. These scientific calculators were selling for $12.99 each. It was the last item on my daughter's 6th grade school supplies list that I have yet to buy for her. Initially, I was not sure how good a scientific calculator I need to get for her (at what price level?!) But $12.99, I wouldn't feel too bad if she lost it at school. Basically, she's all set for 6th grade.
I was born in Taiwan, but I did most of my growing up in Canada and the United States. Now that I'm married with 2 children and living in Los Angeles, I would like to share my experience of creating a Taiwanese heritage for my children as well as providing a fun and memorable childhood for them.