The Last (for now) Days of Being a Student

29 Oct 2018

Honestly though, my last semester in uni wasn’t very studious. I had one course called Sixteenth Century English Literature in which the professor basically mocked all forms of religion and pointed out all the sexy details in Shakespeare’s sonnets. For the final exam, which was three essays long, I wrote one very indignant essay about why I needed more women in literature and how all of the supposedly feminist writers in the sixteenth century were full of *$#% (but in a literary chic way). I got an A.

To top off the not-student like behavior, I TA-ed for my advisor’s Freshmen English class. I survived a semester before and couldn’t be prouder of myself for the job I was doing. It was mostly writing emails to students, making photocopies now and then, and sending reminders to the professor. The most excruciating part probably was correcting their essays’ grammar and spelling. My friend said “Why bother? They probably won’t read them,” to which I retorted “CUZ I LIKE BEING RIGHT!” On the anonymous end-of-the-term survey, I’ve received many confessions of love to which I awww-ed and laughed. But most of them genuinely thanked me for the effort I put into emailing them, asking them questions, and drumroll correcting their grammar.

But why bother reading about my boring school life when you can read about what I have been doing not in school! Here is what went down in my life from April – June 2018.

  • The Diary of Anne Frank

The best way to cure jet lag is to go straight into tech week the following week. I have experienced many ailments from traveling and found jet lag from Europe to Asia is quite the worst. Fortunately, I signed myself up to run the lights for the Butterfly Effect Theatre’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank. This was our second run but this play just doesn’t get old. Fun fact about this play: this show’s original Broadway cast had young Natalie Portman playing Anne. The Diary has been adapted into many plays but this version doesn’t deify Anne into a hero figure but truthfully illustrates the inner drama of a teenage girl and the struggles of seven people living in a cramped up space. Honest to God, I cry almost every curtain call.

During the production, I read many young people don’t believe that the Holocaust happened—this information killed me a little. It’s absurd that someone wouldn’t believe in a historical event with monuments and memorial sites all over the world with many primary sources and survivors who are still alive to tell their stories. Don’t even get me started on how good some great works of fiction are based on WWII, like The Reader, Everything is Illuminated, and The Fiddler on the Roof… Also, there was a group of high school students in Taiwan that dressed up as Nazi soldiers and marched around the school for an event. Ignorance is not bliss, naïve is not cute—history is there for us to reflect and learn. I somehow took these news very personally, maybe because I grew up listening to the same Bible stories as the Jews, maybe because I cannot stand uneducated people, probably a combination of both.

A representative from Israeli cultural office was invited to open the show (we had free falafels, hummus, and pita during the last run of the show but not this time, insert whimpering). The weekend swooshed by. I was just thankful I could be a part of a show that spoke a story that some started to neglect.

That was the last time I worked with this theatre company because 1. they did have one last show August but I was helping another show the exact same time 2. rent issues with the theatre space 3. the artistic director got a new job in Vienna. He moved early September and he basically sold everything from costumes to lighting equipments. It was a hectic process to watch a theatre company that I truly felt at home turn into a goodbye yard sale. I learned a lot about running low budget shows, programming with too-old consoles, but most of all I made connections with people I know I will meet again in this tiny theatre world.

  • Fashion Revolution Taipei

April was a month where I went crazy juggling all about. I collaborated with Totes & Tees, a small social enterprise that focuses on ethical and zero-waste fashion. I have been following this small company for a while through a mutual friend and was really interested in what they did. The owner was also going to be one of the hosts for Fashion Revolution 2018 in Taipei. The idea was to have a runway showcasing up-cycled items handmade by many different designers. I was to crochet a beanie from a no-longer-used piece of fabric. Sadly, I couldn’t participate on the actual day because I went on a family trip to…

  • Rome & Paris

To say this was a family trip would be a misleading statement. My parents were there to lead the seminars they have been running for 10+ years. As I mentioned in Update 3.0, their heart is for the Chinese speaking people all over the world. The Asians basically took over a whole hotel on the outskirts of Rome to host Fathers’ School and Mothers’ School simultaneously. This meant, there needed to be a baby sitting club. Slowly raise your hands if you’re a pastor kid you basically did everything that was assumed of you! (Did I volunteer? Did I chose to be their child? We’ll never know) No, I’m not being bitter, I just simply love poking fun at my stereotype. Besides, I was asked nicely to participate in taking care of the children—a member from the Taiwan side of the team had activities prepared for them, I just had to support. I said “WHY NOT? I JUST DID THIS A MONTH AGO!”

But, this crowd was tough. It wasn’t like calming down super rowdy Hungarian-Romani children nor was it like being dragged around by crazy bubbly Filipino kids. These were well-educated, cellphone-hogging Chinese-looking kids who preferred classily sitting on chairs, not the floor, chattering away in Italian. Of course, they were all embedded in their Chinese-ness from their parents, so they still understood most of what we were trying to do. However, whenever the head teacher asked them to do something extremely “Asian”, my TCK heart ached, feeling all the “well, they are NOT going to relate to that at all….”

Because the seminar lasted three out of the five days we were at Rome, we only had enough time to look around the Vatican and trot around to sneak peek here and there. One of the free days was taken over by a tour set up by the local church. They took us around historical sites that were related to the early underground churches and Apostle Paul. We visited way too many cathedrals that all of them started to look the same. The most memorable place was the underground tunnels where the early Christians escaped to and hid from the Romans. Going to a Christian school, we would always play Underground Church when we had class sleepovers—even though it was just a game, the danger felt extremely real. But as I stood in the tunnel, I could actually really imagine how real their fear must have been. I was in awe of the way these early Christians kept their faith even in the dark, cold underground.

After eating one too many cones of gelato and faking one too many Italian conversations in Spanish, we arrived in Paris. They were only going to host Fathers’ School so umma and I had plenty of free time. However, being the only linguistically competent person in the group (but honestly, my French is basically nonexistent), I had to take everyone around the city. I was annoyed at having no time to myself and just my parents but thankfully, appa had three days free and the crowd let us be for two of those days.

Paris’ reputation really proceeds itself, it’s a bit dirty, there are more rude strangers than nice people, and they really hate you if you ask “parlez-vous anglais?”. Despite all the negative stereotypes, I took my little tour group all around the places I’ve researched in advance. I was also allowed to go off on my own when I wore them all out by 5 p.m. I’m proud to say I’ve actually hit all the touristy places I wanted to visit with and without the group. We even visited Versailles kudos to the fact umma is so internet-savvy that she actually researched. She was very intent on visiting a few places like Château de Versailles, the top of the Eiffel, and the Louvre—her excuse always being “I’m never coming here ever again!”

silliness @ The Louvre

After two-ish weeks of venturing around Western Europe, we emptied out the 99 cents cheese blocks at the local Carrefour market, squished it into our luggage, and sat on a long plane ride. Umma commented that I seem to be the “vacation type”, she couldn’t understand how I could still be so chipper being gone from home so long. Although her observations were accurate, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay longer unless I started taking French classes or something—the language barrier was devastating.

  • Sharon McGill Memorial Service

My dorm mother passed away from cancer last fall. Her favorite drink at Starbucks, toffee nut latte, just came round again. I received the news via McGill dormie Facebook group while I scrolled through my phone during class, bad idea. My commute back home that day seemed five times longer than usual. Halfway through my walk home from the bus stop, I ran into umma. She asked if I wanted to go to Costco with them, then asked why I don’t look so well. I honestly had no clue how to break the news. Appa’s car rolled around to pick us up for Costco, I said Sharon died, we cried a little and had a moment of silence. I always thought about how umma and Sharon, appa and Terry are the same age. My mums and dads. They are some of the most important people of my life and one of them was gone.

I’d like to think I had enough time to process through this situation. Then I’d realize that not all valleys in life are empty holes. You don’t just get over it. You live with their memories. Some days will pain you more than others but they’re there to remind you that you are that much alive. You can still feel. As cheesy as I’m starting to sound, this is something I have been needing to remind myself lately.

After what seemed like too long, the day of Sharon’s memorial service came. I hopped on the familiar bus from Taipei to Taichung. Visiting high school wasn’t a big deal but I’ve never thought I’d visit because my dorm mum passed away. The auditorium was filled. Dorm kids had priority seats. Terry gave a bear hug to everyone who made it. The whole thing began with Terry mumbling to the mic “Alright, let’s get this over with,” to which I definitely chuckled. I didn’t even bother holding back my laughter or tears or both as they came and went throughout the service. At the end, I could just feel this was a closure that everyone who knew Sharon deserved. I cannot describe what kid of feeling that was. The feeling of home? Feeling of clear certainty. Maybe everyone’s love for Sharon somehow became a tangible atmosphere. I must say it almost felt like a wedding.

During the reception, there was a photo time where Terry was huddled around 30-something out of 120-something of his dorm children. Later on he said that was the highlight of his day. He also said no one was allowed to leave the dorms before midnight, to which most of us complied to. Most of the dorm kids that showed up all graduated around ’02 or ’03 so I was just a little bit very intimidated, mostly because I forgot the fact that we were all bound by the similar experiences of studying in Morrison while living in a dorm with the same dorm parents. It was a good evening to be a McGill Dormie.

  • Bye Hair Day

I have been notorious for the way I treat my hair. If you know the song “Grace Kelly” by Mika, well, in the chorus, he is singing about my hair circa 2013-2015. Then I stopped. I hated the way my hair felt dry and crinkly, I wanted my normal long hair back. I also remembered I’ve always wanted to donate my hair to a cancer foundation. It was just something I wanted to cross off my bucket list. So I’ve been growing my hair out ever since—it took way longer than I thought. Throughout my hair growth, two significant people in my life died from cancer. It felt like I had way more reason to donate now.

June 16th was the date. My friend also wanted to join in. We found Little Princess Trust, an organization that gives out free wigs to young girls who have lost their hair due to illnesses. Their guidelines said they love receiving longer hair because they’re more popular. After some measuring I decided to get a buzz cut so that I could maximize the length of hair I could donate. Besides, I’ve been wanting to have crazy buzzed hair after a couple of years of freakishly long hair. Fickle me, I know.

My hair stylist washed my hair way thoroughly, dried it for what seemed like an hour, tied it up into sections, and snip, it was in a plastic bag. My buzz cut buddy and I couldn’t stop rubbing our heads the following few days.

But my oh my, I did not know that a head of hair was keeping me warm all this time. I was constantly dealing with extremely cold overhead AC on buses and I eventually caught a really bad cough for three plus weeks. I now never leave my house without a hat of some sort.

My hair has become so short that I have been tracking my days with hair length. My best friend, Fanny keeps saying it’s like watching a little infant grow every week. I told her to stop being so overly dramatic.

  • oh dear, this is getting real long

Instead of asking how someone’s day was, Sharon would ask us three things: 1. what was the low point of your day? 2. high point? 3. what have you learned today? or what do you think Jesus is teaching you today?

So to boil down my April to June into a few pointers, it sucked that I got really sick for almost a month, but I loved getting to travel and do a lot lot lot of things. I’m learning that well-done goodbyes are possible. Currently, I’m learning to do just that—slowly closing up gaps responsibly, honestly, and kindly. God is also teaching me that I’m allowed to chose and do what I love (but more on that next update).

Thank you for catching up on my life, I promise the next post will be just as long.