Elections

The 9-in-one election of Taiwan today proved the beginning of a new chapter in Taiwan’s political history.  I was eleven when the first DPP president was elected in, and now, a decade and a half later, I witness KMT strongholds falling down like dominoes once more.

Politics to me has always kind of been like a life cycle.  You go through peaks and troughs, just like the economy, and you tend to come back full circle.  Taiwanese people have always been a tough, conservative people that stick to the status quo.  That’s why the 2000 elections were such a milestone, and in 2008, after two terms in office, with the economic melt down and a truckload and a half of political smearing, unfortunately the KMT came back.  This time, they had the ‘hottie’ Ma Ying Jeou.  I actually know people that voted for him because he was good looking.  It made me sick.  Commence burgeoning relationships with China.  I preferred being scared of China attacking us with their 200 missiles pointed at us to Ma’s regime.  And today the DPP has smashed through KMT barricades- politically speaking, of course.

The KMT let the Chinese through like a dam waiting to burst- they’ve been looking for a foothold since our economic success in the 80s.  Last year, when I went home, I could not escape the Chinese, and night markets are now actually accepting Renminbi… what’s that about?  It’s not like it’s the dollar and holds more esteem than the NTD, or the RMB as a matter of fact…. When we went to Taroko Gorge, one of Taiwan’s main national parks, we counted twenty plus tour buses lining up to see the Eternal Spring Shrine.  It wasn’t just the air that was now toxic, the atmosphere was toxic too, with a certain sense of arrogance I’ve never even noticed in white people before.  As if they were somehow better than us, and therefore they could come over and shit on our monuments and smear boogers all over … well, everything.  The trade agreement with China (that is undoubtedly going to get pushed through our government systems at one point before Ma leaves office) is going to ruin Taiwan and suck out its soul, and I honestly don’t know how my country is going to survive the next five years, let alone decade and a half.

The Sunflower Movement in March was an awakening for young people and their political ideals, and it was Taiwanese people claiming their future back.  You can see that clearly with the Taiwanese fervor by the votes and the growing number of independents claiming seats on city councils, and that is so moving.  We want to have new generation of government that is not going to sell us to China.  I’m not saying I don’t want anything to do with China, and I’m not saying that they are evil.  I’m saying that as a country we have to protect our sovereignty and identity, which, despite what people say, is completely different to the Chinese identity.  Even when you ask Chinese people, they will say we are completely different to them.  Hell, they even came over to observe the election as if we were a bunch of zoo animals!

My point is, we have to exercise all political victories and losses with caution.  I wanted to write my post about how elections nowadays are all about winning by the tiniest margins (look at Obama…or even the British government now), and I wonder how that is democracy at all.  Countries, countries, districts, communities, are all split in half so how can we say that democracy is for the majority?  Well, democracy has spoken with the majority and several landslides in Taiwan today, so that post will have to wait till later.  As I was attempting to say, the important factor here is ‘what next’?  Ma will have to seriously reconsider his position.  The majority of his cabinet resigned in shame as a response to the major losses at the elections, and of course, to insulate him a bit.  He’s still the most unpopular president Taiwan has ever had, and he’s going to have to get his act together.  The impact on the elections in 2016 for president are astronomical- the KMT has lost so much ground, they will have to actually *gasp* make policies that safeguard the people rather than themselves to gain our trust again!  But we cannot stop here- we have to keep going.  We have to keep pushing the boundaries, keep questioning our authorities and hold them responsible for the welfare of the people.

Taiwan, Jia Yo!!!!!

Work Ethic

Everyone always lauds Asians for their amazing work ethic.  Westerners don’t get it, and are always surprised to hear I spent four/five hours a night on homework in high school, going, ‘oh my god how did you even put up with it?’

Err… it’s called working hard. Some colleagues of mine over the years spend at least an hour a day doing personal stuff on their work computer, be it looking at dream holidays or googling silly questions, there’s a sense of entitlement to relax, to take a break.  And hey, I love checking Facebook as much as the next person.  But company time is company time, not for me to stalk my celebrity crush.  How is it so different?

Mostly, I believe, it comes from the government.  I know, what a surprise, right?  Hah.  In most Asian countries, you either get little, or no pension at all.  You have to work ridiculous hours to make ends meet, and to save for retirement.  That’s also why families tend to stay living together: when sons marry, they stay living at home and bring money home, while his children are taken care of by his retired parents.  It saves on childcare, saves on having to buy a house, so that’s a lot of savings/pension for the parents already.  That’s why there’s such an emphasis on having boys- boys stay home to take care of you, girls marry off into their husband’s home to take care of her new parents.  And let’s not even restrict this to Asia.  Eastern Europe isn’t synonymous with pension, either.  Saving for the future is ingrained in these people because they have no other option but to look out for themselves.

Oma has a very healthy pension.  She can afford a nice apartment in an assisted-living facility, she buys what she fancies, and always has presents for everyone.  She could even afford living away from home half a year while she visited us in Taiwan, all the while paying for dinners, shopping sprees, etc.  We don’t have to worry about her.  And yes, there are a lot of older people worse off than her even in her assisted living facility, but let me give you this one:  average state pension is £80 a month in Taiwan.  That’s … well, nothing, even taking standard of living into account.

Western Europe, on the other hand, can/could (depends on a lot of factors, I’m generalising) depend on a liveable pension, with a bit of topping up from family as well, perhaps.  There are benefits for single parents, for people with disabilities, all these things that I’m sure sometimes get taken for granted, but are actually vital to the working culture of a nation.

And look at America.  Most companies don’t give them paid holidays, and they work on average something like a third longer than we do in Europe (I don’t actually have facts to back it up but I’m sure you can find it somewhere, I’m going off hearsay, so probably best to refer yourself to this).  Their social security isn’t very secure, which is why so many of them are working ridiculously hard, and buying into private pension schemes that blew up in the 08 crash.

I’m not trying to tell anyone what is better, but I think it’s worth stepping outside the box and appreciating what we have, be it a dependable pension or a near-super-human will to survive by working long hours to save for your own pension.

A-mah part 2

One of my earlier memories as a child is quite distressing.  Although, having discussed earliest memories with my little sister a few days ago, the more distressing, the more easily you remember.  Losing my parents in a Southeast Asian airport and trying to find a man in a uniform (because you can trust policemen), trying to speak to Oma with Tanya crying her eyes out… it all involves a lot of negative emotions, which it’s easy to laugh about now.

I don’t remember a lot, but I remember it was raining, and the floods had come so fast that my grandparents moved us, on our nightly visit, upstairs, and they tried to save as much of their stuff as possible by bringing everything up the narrow cement stairs.  With my parents filling in gaps for us, we were told we lived upstairs in that house for one or two nights.  We got provisions like instant noodles and bottled water from people in boats passing by.  And then, my cousin who was serving in the army at the time, came one night in a boat, with my parents and some other soldiers.  I remember my grandpa talking to them on the balcony in a loud, raised voice.  The rain had stopped but the water wasn’t receding.  So after a while, we were prodded onto the balcony.  My grandpa lifted me up, and I had to jump.  I HAD TO JUMP.  I don’t remember jumping, I think I blocked it out.  I remember a lot of shouting and people telling me it would be okay.  I don’t even remember someone catching me.  The next thing I remember is the boat pulling up somewhere, and we got out and got in a car to go home.  The only thing was, A-kong and A-mah weren’t with us.  It was such a distressing sense of loss and fear.  I didn’t want them to stay living upstairs.  I wanted them home with us, because our house on the other side of town wasn’t flooded… at least, I don’t remember it being flooded.

A lot of the time, leaving A-kong and A-mah felt like leaving them behind in another time.  They lived such a simple life.  The furthest A-mah ever traveled was to Taipei when I was born.  She couldn’t read or speak Mandarin, so she had to stare out the window for five hours to look for the water tower my mom told her about, so she wouldn’t miss her stop.  A-kong apparently once went to Japan on one of those group tours, and we have photos of him in Hong Kong with us, but A-mah hated straying far.  After moving back from two years in Holland, we’d forgotten our Taiwanese, because we’d learned Dutch while we were there, and no one spoke Taiwanese with us.  And when we came back, we were sent to American school, so we were busy learning English.  If anything, that is my greatest regret, not being able to speak to my grandparents well enough in their last years.  When they were living with us for a while in that time, I found a snake in the bathtub.  I hate snakes.  It makes me uncomfortable just typing the word out.  I flipped out, and moving the fastest I ever had, found myself standing on the dining table calling the secretary at the English school, that’s how freaked out I was.  I didn’t know how to say ‘snake’ in Taiwanese, so I said in in Mandarin.  I mean, how sad is that?  A-mah went in the bathroom, saw it, and ran to grab a badminton racket.  By the time she’d gone back in the bathroom it’d slithered off down into the drain.  It’s safe to say, I did not walk around downstairs much after that episode, until a few days later when our dog found it in the garden.  My parents actually had to have the whole bathroom remodeled before I even dared step foot in there (oh my god that makes me sound so diva.  They were going to do it anyway, by the way, and also the snake was highly poisonous so they had to just for safety)

Anyway, leaving them behind was always painful.  And not being able to communicate to them how much I missed them, or loved them, was difficult.  When we came back from Holland, our A-mah literally just sat us down and stroked us, for like, half an hour.  She ran her rough fingers through our hair, patted us on the back, checked that we had enough meat on our bones, and muttered soothingly.  I’ve never seen a more pure form of affection and love.

And then, the inevitable… A-Kong passed away.  A Taiwanese funeral for a patriarch takes a month.  There are a lot of traditions to go through, and ceremonies to perform.  About halfway through the month, A-kong’s coffin lying in the living room, the daughters of the daughters get to pay their respects.  We had to wear white hoods, to mark our position in the family (basically, not part of the family.  Family friends also wore white hoods.  Daughters of Daughters don’t count).  It starts with incense outside the house, a professional wailer, and a priest, for lack of better word… A Taoist priest.  We bowed with the incense, put the sticks in the incense burner, and then we crawl, on all fours, inside the house, and around the coffin, and then, we were told to cry.  You’d think it’d be hard, but the outpouring of emotion was incredibly easy.  I don’t know how long we were knelt on the cold marble floor (it was February, and there was a cold front), but A-mah was there, watching, crying.  After just a few minutes, she couldn’t help herself any longer and started coming round to us, patting us on the back and handing us tissues, all the time crying herself, telling us to stop crying.  It hurt her to see us cry, even at her husband’s funeral ceremonies.

She didn’t survive him by much longer.  They had lived their entire lives together, gone through everything, and seen their children succeed.  I will always be grateful to them both for just being there for us, and their amazing strength.  I’m going to stop here because I’m starting to get a bit emotional.  But I want everyone to take a lesson away from them.  I want the world to know beautiful people, and appreciate them.  People that haven’t had everything handed to them on a silver platter and still manage to give, those are the ones that you hang on to.  Those are the ones you learn from, because they will not only give, but also teach.

Send in the Clowns

Zwarte Piet.  Black Pete.  The fabled character that has caused a worldwide stir for the last year or so.

It’s as if Dutch people woke up from the haze of the weed and realised ‘Oh wait this is wrong’.  (by the way that was a rude generalisation.  A lot of Dutch people don’t smoke weed.  Because it’s legal it’s not as interesting.  Next time you find out someone is Dutch, please refrain from making weed references- it’s boring).  So, what has taken the most liberal country in the world 160 years to realise that it’s bad?

When my sister and I were first introduced to Zwarte Piet, I was seven. We’d moved to Holland six months before the Sinterklaas hoopla started in November, and we were told that they were Sinterklaas’ helpers, who entertained kids and climbed down chimneys to bring presents on 5th December for kids that had been good.  They worked for Sinterklaas all year to make sure all the presents are made/packed and helped bring presents on a ship from Madrid, where Sinterklaas lived during the year.  If you really thought about this, the story doesn’t make sense to begin with.  Which old man in his right mind comes visit Holland in winter?  It’s freaking freezing.  If he was smarter about this he would come in summer when the weather was more bearable for his old bones.  But anywho.

Never did I, or any of the kids in my class, equate Zwarte Piet to any of the black kids in school.  I never pointed at the black kids in my class and go, ‘hey, wait a minute, you look like Zwarte Piet.’  Because let’s face it, it’s not like Zwarte Piet looked like anyone we knew.  They are made to look like animated characters with their oversized jewellery and super red lips or busy eyebrows, much like presenters on kids programmes look out of place on the street.  Because the character comes from a book.  And everything that comes from a book is mostly exaggerated.  Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter ring immediate bells.  Or they’re jesters, really, if you consider their outfits and outgoing, happy personalities.  They are jesters who also climb down chimneys.

Over a year ago, the debate started gaining media attention.  There was talk of taking this to the ICJ, for crimes of racism.  People all over the world are rejoicing, because for once, the country of legal drugs and euthanasia had taken a step in the wrong direction (Again, why did it take so long? Makes me suspicious.  What are the powers that be hiding from us while they keep us entertained with this bullshit?).  Dutch courts are now debating whether or not Zwarte Piet should be black.  In an interview, a black Dutch man actually said that the ‘ideal Piet’ should be blonde with blue eyes.  I’m sorry, who is being racist here?  (Most) Dutch people are proud of their multicultural society and so why should Piet now ‘ideally’ be blonde?

The worst part for me, sitting in cosy and happily multicultural England (sarcasm intended), is the global media attention.  Perhaps the worst, was a promo for a documentary.  In it, Dutch people go to Hyde Park dressed as Zwarte Piet and try to introduce our tradition.  They didn’t do a very good job in the edit we see, and  British people are clearly disturbed.  In fact, I am disturbed.  I didn’t realise that England got to OK all cultural and traditional customs for all of Europe (was that in the EU pact somewhere that we don’t know about?).  It’s like me selling chicken feet in Hyde Park.  Or maybe I should go and perform some ‘foreign’ temple ceremonies that includes beating the shit out of myself?  Ooh, even better, let’s open up a restaurant and sell dog meat like they do in China.  No one is trying to force Zwarte Piet outside Belgium/Netherlands/anywhere else in that corner of Europe, so don’t try and get Brits, or anyone else, to understand it.

What I want from this debate is a clear understanding of what we’re teaching the kids.  Zwarte Piet to me was more magical than Sinterklaas.  Yes, he could ride his horse on the rooftop but in my imagination, Zwarte Piet knocked on our window on 5th December, 1996.  My dad answered the door, a purple flash flew into the living room and dropped off a sack of presents, and before we could think they were out the backdoor.  I wanted to talk to them, so I ran after them, and watched them scamper up the roof.  They entertained kids, and every year when they arrived by boat they gave kids sweets and they would do some ‘house visits’ (for those that could afford to hire them, of course), and they would play and be the life of the party.  Is that what we’re teaching the kids, that Zwarte Piet is so positive and energetic, even though sometimes they have the tough job of unloading a nation’s worth of presents off the ships and squeeze through chimneys?

The big question is of course what the black community in Holland feel.  Obviously, many feel ostracized and that’s why this issue has come about.  But why has it taken so long for them to come out with something like this?  Is it something deeper, outside of the Sinterklaas celebrations they are really fighting?  Europe is plunging into a deep hole of anti-immigration and anti… well, everything outsiders.  It is felt through all different levels of society, and no doubt more so in the poorer communities.  The Holland that was once the tolerant beacon of the world is no more, and it’s so much easier to attack a tradition than it is to attack a feeling of being misplaced in your home country, as is the case I imagine for many people, especially those from Suriname, or even Morocco and Turkey that have settled in the Netherlands and face open racism on a daily basis.  There are stories of gangs, rivalries, and prominent teenage drug and alcohol abuse.  People don’t go to certain parts of town because that’s where the ‘Turks’ are and thus considered dangerous, or… this is starting to sound like every Western country.  You fill in the gaps, you probably know more than me anyway.

Instead of headlines about the very public display of ridicule this has become, can we focus on something else?  Maybe how we are ‘tackling’ the issue of inclusiveness in society and how we are going to support our youth in this uncertain economy.  Or our work on social projects for cultures to integrate and the struggles that we face there- because that’s probably the bigger, more prominent issue that might help eventually resolve this Sinterklaas debacle.

A-mah part 1

No post about Oma is complete without giving you the the post about A-mah, my Taiwanese grandmother.

Oma is easier to write about, I guess, because she’s still here.  Yes, she was here for my formative years, but who really raised me?  Who elegantly swished around the living room only to grab a running cockroach (first try), and tear it in half, only seconds later to matter-of-factly say, ‘oh, it’s dead’?  I’ve tried condensing this post down to just one, but with abundant stories and memories I don’t want to lose, I don’t want to limit myself.

My Taiwanese grandparents effectively raised us.  Again, with our parents working at night at their English cram school, we were taken to the lowest point of the village where my mother grew up to spend evenings with them.  My grandparents had, what to me was a mansion, but lived only downstairs.  Upstairs rooms were dusty with memories and smelled of wood furniture long forgotten.  Every once in a while we’d go upstairs and sift through the hordes of stuff A-mah rat-packed, and find random photos or old sweaters that were only used for a few weeks a year.  They didn’t have running water in the house, only a tap outside the kitchen on the wall.  When we came back to Taiwan to visit after a year of living in Holland I remember my sister and I going up to the tap and using our souvenir airline coffee cups to get a drink of water.  We had completely forgotten you’re not supposed to drink out the tap in Taiwan.

They were amazing people.  My father tells me that when I was just one or two, my grandfather would sit with me for hours and hours just rolling a ball back and forth, no complaints, no copping out.  I remember his rusty, broken bicycle that he refused to get fixed or stop using.  From my faint memories, I think he still worked in the rice field when I was a kid.  Everyone’s favorite memory of me is eating me duck poo.  In front of my grandparent’s house, there was this massive concrete courtyard.  They kept a few chickens and ducks for eggs and I would practice walking and falling all over the courtyard, and apparently, I would pick up what I found.  Now, with the ducks and the chickens playing with me (ish), I of course wanted to know what they kept dropping.  Although I don’t have that memory specifically, I can literally see my A-mah, with her back hunched from years of toil, run towards me going ‘eh eh eh!’ and first slapping the poo out of my hands and then digging her fingers into my mouth to scoop whatever was left out.  I can also imagine her muttering lovingly at me while she did so.

My parents tell me that our ability to be compassionate and empathetic comes from them.  There have never been kinder people.  A-mah would fan us with an old newspaper or a paper fan from bedtime at 7pm until my parents came to pick us up at around midnight, because they didn’t have a fan.  They gave us everything they had.  Their patience and love knew no bounds, and they were always there for us.  The uneasy part comes where this traditional old world life starts clashing with the modern, and also our Western side.

My grandparents were rice farmers.  As far as I know, that’s what they’ve been for generations.  My mom’s generation is the first generation to ‘get out of it,’ and my grandparents worked damned hard to ensure that they did.  I often explain the poverty by saying my auntie was born in a rice field.  A-mah gave birth to her, and almost without skipping a beat swaddled her in cloths, put her on her back, and kept working.  I remember A-mah saying that my own mother had to stay home and cook, being the youngest child, so at age 12 she was already feeding her family.  My auntie never went to school, and A-mah would sometimes stand outside classroom windows piggy-backing her to make sure that she was listening and learned whatever she could.  My uncle was the first to finish high school, being the boy in the family.  My mother was the first to get a University education (funded by my uncle who got a good job with the national telecom service).

Giving back wasn’t even a question for my mother.  She did everything she could for them, from having us raised by them, to bringing things like food, clothes, and always reluctantly, money.  They even lived with us at different times of our childhood- when my uncle decided to have their house knocked down and rebuild an actual mansion (on top of like 3 metres of cement so the yearly floods wouldn’t come at them again), and also when my grandpa got too ill for them to be living alone.  And why not?  They provided her an opportunity at a better life and she did so with gusto.  I guess that’s why she’s such always been such a workaholic, because she wants to keep providing, for her family.  And that mentality definitely hasn’t been lost on me.  I am already thinking about my parents’ retirement, and as much as I know that they will be trying to be as self-sufficient as possible, I won’t buy a house with less than three bedrooms so they’ll have somewhere to visit.  I want to get a ridiculously good job and be successful just so that I can provide for my family the same way my mother (without question) took care of her parents.  And let’s face it, if I didn’t, A-mah would turn in her grave.  I am the granddaughter she raised me to be, and that’s something I’ll never ever forget.  We were taught to be/have 孝順 (Google Translate says it means filial piety… I call it respect for your elders), and that’s what we will always have.

So about this Western culture… we are taught to be self-sufficient and independent.  We don’t need to feel like we owe our family anything, because they did their best to raise us, and therefore we should strive to be successful for ourselves. I find that a really difficult to wrap my head around.  And I’m not saying this is true for all Western families, and that is totally devoid of emotion, but there is a sense of leaving the nest, and not having to come back.  You would think it would make for better social mobility, but let’s not get into that now.

I will leave you with these thoughts, anyway, about how you want to treat your family, and how you want them to be in old age.  How do you want to be in old age?  Do you want your children and grandchildren around you, taking care of you and loving you, regardless of your financial situation?  Or do you want them to just go, and leave you to yourself?  My argument is, living your life for your children isn’t quite going to be the difficulty it is, because they will be living their life for you, too, further down the line.

Oma

I’m so lucky.  I have Oma.

Growing up in Taiwan meant that we had a family we didn’t really know about, halfway across the world.  We would get presents sent through the post, and my dad had a few rather old photos of his family in his photo albums in the attic.  I would go look at them sometimes, just to familiarise myself with people that I would call ‘first aunt’ and ‘uncle-in-law’… well, I thought I would, anyway, because that’s what I was used to.

I knew that the big brown teddy bear I had was made by this grandmother, or Oma, as my dad kept calling her.  And once or twice my grandparents visited, but I was too young.  My earliest memory is also a story Oma tells often while chuckling.  My sister and I were home alone with our grandparents while my parents went to teach English at their school.  We couldn’t really speak because, well, we spoke Taiwanese and Mandarin and they spoke Dutch.  All I knew was a few English words, maybe, like, four?  I remember uttering the phrase ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’ over and over as my younger sister screamed down the house and shouted at the grandparents in Taiwanese.  I don’t even remember what she was screaming about or why she was crying.  But I knew that they had come a long way in their big suitcases smelling like perfume and brought us presents and she was really angry.

We moved to Holland for two years and that’s when my memories start kicking in.  We didn’t see them often, but they were lovely.  We got to watch kids TV shows and sang songs.  My sister and I each got plastic kiddie chairs for their massive garden.  Mine was yellow, Tanya’s was red.  We once went to stay with them for the weekend, and she called us her little ‘dungs’…. I know it sounds horrible, but we call rabbit dung ‘keutel’ and it sounds a lot cuter than ‘dung’.  So I was ‘big dung’ and Tanya was ‘little dung’, and she would waddle around their two bed flat exclaiming, ‘where’s the little dung?’  It’s safe to say that Tanya and Oma’s relationship improved significantly when we got to know them better, except maybe for the dung.  And Opa was so set on showing us the amazingness that is Dutch pancakes that we drove around the forested area they lived in for hours trying to follow signs to this pancake house.  We fell asleep in the back of the car, and we ended up going to the pancake house next to their house.

When Opa passed away, we were already back in Taiwan.  My dad convinced my grandmother to come visit us later that year, and that’s when it began- In ten years, she came every year bar one, to ‘fly south for the winter’.  The longest she stayed with us was five months in one go, and I think the shortest was 3, because she had planned to stay 6 weeks and extended her stay.  We had a lot of fun.  She taught us what indulgence was, and even made us dresses for our Christmas concert at school.  My parents worked four nights a week, and she would keep us company, tell us to do our homework and let her do the dishes so we could play board games when we were finished.  Then when we were finished, she would send us with some money to the corner shop and buy some snacks, and we would play cards or Yatzee.

We would also go on holiday with her.  One winter we went to Australia to visit our family friends, the next we met up in Bali.  We drove up to Taipei to celebrate new year in a fancy hotel, and go up somewhere in the mountains for the weekend.  She was there for a lot of our formative years.  She listened to us talk about our friends and boyfriend (… just the one that I was stupid enough to fall for), and we helped her type emails to family and friends back home.  She also got involved with our school- I don’t remember there reason but she came to our Psychology class and told us about her experience of the second world war.  I was the coolest kid in school that week.

Now, she’s a bit older, going on 87, and she’s still going strong.  I phone her once a week because I don’t get to see her anymore, and now I listen to her gossip about the people in her old people’s home and I try not to cry when I tell her when I’m having a bad day, and the reason I called her was because I knew she would make me feel better.  She’s always so proud of me and when I’m struggling, she reminds me of where we came from.  She reminds me of the time my Mom got someone to lend me a dress for a party I was going to and I looked like Queen Beatrice, because that’s how old the dress was.  She tells me of all the times we lied to my parents about what time our youngest sister went to bed, and pretended that everything had gone smoothly when in actual fact it was a battle to try and get her to write her homework or shower.  And oh, don’t get me wrong- Tara was in on it, too.  She got to spend whole days with Oma when we were at school, I wonder sometimes what memories she has of Oma from way back when.

I love her so much.  Her unwavering support and her wonderful stories, and the pure cheek of her!  What a wonderful lady.

Add Oil

What is this, and why do the East Asians love saying it?  Why ‘add oil’??

Well, think about it.  If you add oil to the car, what does it do?  It gives the car the ‘energy’ to go further.  It’s usually used when you’re cheering people on, but it’s a major part of culture so even if you’re going into an exam, your friend could say ‘add oil’, or any situation where you would use ‘come on’, as well.

If I’m having struggling to write an essay, and I text a friend, I moan a bit, and they do their best to cheer me up, a conversation might end like this, “chin up, jia-yo!”

How do you pronounce this properly?  Jia- yo.  Obviously, add as much gusto as possible.  Here’s a 10-second youtube clip on how to do it properly!