Friday, June 26, 2009


This is a first. I'm blogging from the Taipei International's terminal.

I had some time, short but enough of an excuse to get off the island, so I decided I wanted a rematch against Thailand.

I'll update when I can, and be back after the weekend.

In the meantime, you can catchup on my last trip here

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Look Back on The Drift: "Forgetting the Little Things, or 'And Here We Go'"

If you've been a reader of The Drift for any length of time, you know one thing I harp on every chance I get is community. It's something I've focused my attention on learning while I'm here in Taiwan, and it comes out in my blogging a lot. Besides my off-line, foreign (to me) community I've built here in Taiwan, I've also had the pleasure to be a part of some great online groups. There's an incredible bunch over on 20-Something Bloggers. If you're 20-something, and you blog, check them out.

From time-to-time, they organize a "Blog Carnival". I've vowed only to participate if it keeps with the themes of
The Drift , but Introspection through "Looking back" is certainly a recurring message here.

That said:
This post is a part of 20SB’s Looking Back Blog Carnival, and Ben & Jerry’s is awarding free ice cream to lucky bloggers and readers! And who could pass by the chance to win free ice cream?!?

About the Entry:
Originally Posted 9.11.08. This blog entry first made it to the pages of my journal as I flew across the Pacific from Orange County, California to my new home in Taiwan. It was birthed out of the fear and anticipation of my new adventure, and it set the themes of Journey, and the search for Community.

I've wanted to re-share this post for awhile, and figured the Blog Carnival was a great excuse! I hope you enjoy a bit of Drifter past :).

The Journey is the Destination.


The first day of my journey. My bags were packed, I'd made my lists (checked it twice). And I had everything I needed. Everything, but one little thing. A pen. It crossed my mind in the car, but I didn't think of it again until I was in line for the security checkpoint. That's a great way to start this voyage overseas.

Actually, it's an awful way.

Forgetting the Little Things.

Learning to tend to the "little things" in life is one discipline I hope to nourish while I'm on this trek. When you tend to those "little things" in life, the Big Problems don't seem so big. Or at least they might be more manageable.

So, "How did I get all this on paper," you ask? Well, obviously, in the security line, its too late to turn around and frisk your family for any such utensils. I was forced to wait it out and hope to find something in the terminal.

In the line, I witnessed someone be turned back and told to wait, and someone else, escorted to the screening room. As I put my belongings into those Tupperware containers, I checked in the recesses of my mind to ensure I didn't forget that pocketknife in the inner zipper.

Luckily, it was smooth sailing through the checkpoint, so I slipped on my shoes and headed for the first - and only - convenience store in sight. (and convenient it was.)

When I asked the expressionless cashier for the pens, she lifted a finger to a bucket on the other side of the counter. After rummaging for a bit, and realizing there were no more than three varieties, I selected a green pen with gel around the finger grip and a button that lights up said gel in 4 flashing varieties. The Carabiner Clip on the end, I thought, will help remind me to remember the little things.

And the "Beverly Hills" screen print, and $9 price tag will help me remember forgetting isn't cheap! Ouch!

In all my preparations so far, I've kept my emotions very even-keeled. Honestly, this has prevented me from feeling much at all. I'm certainly not considering it a virtue - more survival than anything.

But now I find myself 1000 miles from the California Coastline I know and love. Nothing but blue stretched above and below me as I chase the sunset to my new Horizon.

It's really starting to hit me, I think. I'm now half-way through this flight (I'm guessing; two movies, and the top score in Bejeweled... sounds about half way). And I'm realizing, as I look around and see no westerners, that being surrounded by Asians and a language I don't understand is a semi-permanent condition. It's not something I can easily walk away from...

There's a man in the Scriptures who is only mentioned once. He is known, by most, only for his prayer. Among other things, he asks that the Lord "expand his horizons." Though I don't agree with the financial-success-focused spin much of the American Church has linked with this passage (or the way the prayer was marketed as a self-help success formula to the profit of those with publishing rights), a piece of its message still resonates with me.

I pray that the Lord expands my horizons this year in my capacity to Love. I want to see him enlarge my ability to see outside myself. To see and love others as they are. To be able to walk in their shoes.

And I know he'll do this. I say that because I know Love is always his vision. The Ancient Israelites hold a name for God that speaks volumes of his faithfulness. "Jehovah Jireh" - meaning, "the Lord will Provide." Throughout my years on this journey-called-life this has been a name I've cleft. To me, it means God cares about the little things. And it teaches me that so should I.

As I finish this entry, the sun has almost won the race below the Horizon. The blue sky is broken by an orange glow, and the glistening pacific is masked by a sea of light, scattered clouds. The cabin is dark now, and my new friend and seatmate Michael is catching up on some sleep before he arrives home in Taipei.

I would not be able to finish my writing tonight if it were not for the soft green glow of my $9 pen. God has many lessons for me this year, and I am excited, anxious, scared, and determined to meet each in the fullest.

This is my journey, and I am honored that you're the least bit interested in joining me. I thank you, maybe in advance, for reading. My humblest hope is that it in some way may encourage you in your journey.

Here's to feeling life is more than a Destination.

Here's to finding the most out of the Little.

Here's to knowing this journey is meant to be spent with Fellow Journeyers.

And Here We Go..

[Photo: Taken while writing this Journal: 09.03.08 // Flight from LAX to Taipei // California Coastline]

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thoughts On the American Dream - And a Father's Request for Commentary

"The American Dream is Alive..."

I once had a mentor who would use this as an opening line to his sales presentations. He continued by saying "and you can have it, if you just take the time to learn how to get it."

Realizing my time in Taiwan is coming to an end, I've been reflecting on what my life will be like when I return to the States. Having lived here a year, I am now somewhat of an "international citizen." So, that leaves me asking: What is the American Dream? Do I want part in it?

Recently, a Russian scholar predicted that there is "a high probability that the collapse of the United States will occur by 2010,” (, 03/04/09). Talk about a welcome home party...

The scholar went on to say, "What's happened is the collapse of the American dream."

What is this thing called the American Dream? Is it different for everyone?

Writing this, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a Taiwanese student, early in my trip. "America is a place where you can be anything you want to!" He stated emphatically, and slightly distressed.

Is that the American Dream?

Freedom to choose your own destiny in life - like those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books I read as a kid? (Confession: I often cheated at those.)

I always heard the American Dream was "Man, Wife, 2.5 Kids and a Picket Fence." But frankly, that's not necessarily all that desirable to me. If that's the American Dream, I might just pass.

Wikipedia (yes, I wiki'd "American Dream") defines it as such:
A national ethos unique to the United States of America in which democratic ideals are perceived as a hope-filled view of the prosperity of its people... citizens of every rank feel that they can achieve a "better, richer, and happier life." The idea of the American Dream is rooted in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence which states that "all men are created equal" and that they have "certain inalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Much more desirable, when worded that way, and much closer to the Taiwanese Student's notion of America.

Interestingly enough, however, the article goes on to say The American Dream has "been blamed for overinflated expectations of its people," and:
...has not historically helped the majority of minority race and lower class American citizens to gain a greater degree of social equality and influence. Instead, the American Dream has often been observed to sustain class differences in which well-positioned groups continue to be advantaged.

Well, if that's the truth behind the American Dream, I'm not sure I want it either.

Awhile back, my dad pointed me towards that quote by the Russian Scholar, and to a website which notes "A democracy is temporary in Nature."

The site went on to state that in the history of the world, the greatest Democracies have ran an average 200 year life-cycle:
  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.

My dad - a frequent reader of not just The Drift, but also its comments - shared these links with me in hopes of gleaning your opinions and input on all of this. He considers the community here to be globally diverse and well opinionated. (He also thinks you're all extremely bright and incredibly good looking...) So, in honor of Father's Day, I turn his request over to you:
  • Does this "cycle" ring true with you?
    • If so: Where in it do you feel America lies?

  • What is "The American Dream"? Is it something a Taiwanese National (or others) could(/should?) aspire to?

  • What will "the collapse" look like? What will have been its cause?
And (this one's completely for me) :
  • What should I do when I return home in September?
Thanks from both my dad and I in advance. Any other commentary welcomed gladly.

[Photo Credit: This Site, thanks to Google.]

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Mandarin Becoming a Little Less Chinese, or "The Art of Familiarity"

On Mandarin Becoming
A Little Less Chinese.

"It sounds Chinese to me..."

There was just three westerners in my Mandarin Class. Though we weren't the only English speakers, we were the only English natives. Often, our teacher (老师) would pose a question in Mandarin.

"I don't know, it sounds Chinese to me!" We would chuckle to each other under our breath.

Tongue-in-cheek, it may be, but there was truth to it. The sounds, tones, syllables: all completely foreign to our western ears.


There are moments still when I walk down the street. If the sun is just right; if a scent hits my nostrils; at the most unexpected moments, my mind transposes my body and eyes to when this place was new.

Only but a moment, these feelings disappear as I realize the familiarity of the ground beneath my feet.

What a change. Scents, sights, sounds... they're comfortable now. I'm less wide-eyed and wondrous as I walk around.


I noticed it first in the Bangkok airport.
Admittedly, it was strange being in a foreign land and not being able to use my new second language that is now impulsive. I can't make heads or tails of the Thai language. That goes for the writing, too. Thai and Thailand were different and new and foreign.

But the airport. When I found my terminal, I heard Mandarin for the first time in days. Immediately, my ears perked up and I began to listen for words I understood: "(S)He... is... but... good... really?.. really!.."

Sure, it's not enough to effectively eavesdrop, but what hit me then, was that I had missed hearing Mandarin. This foreign language became... familiar.

When did that happen?

The Art of Familiarity

Today I met a student who has spent the last two years studying in Midwest America. There's only about a hundred Asians at her school. She told me that she feels the Asian community isn't understood or respected there. She feels like people don't like her and her friends.

This made me sad. When she told me she had plans to transfer to LA, I assured her she would be well-received there.

"Why?" I asked myself.

It's simple really: Familiarity.

In my life recently,
I'm discovering it is easy for us - as people - to keep at a distance what (or who) we don't understand. It takes little effort to ostracize ourselves from others who are different. It's much easier to demonize something or someone we are never in contact with.

But if you take that gap away, perspectives change.

Not long back, I read a study that cited the only way to effective racial reconciliation was to put the contrasting groups in a situation where they were forced to work together to achieve a common goal.

Common goals.

Sometimes I fear we forget we have more in common than we'll admit. When we place our motivations and agenda over that of another, we risk losing sight of the other's humanity. That humanity includes Culture, Beliefs, Lifestyles, Priorities, and Habits that are no less worthy of respect than our own.


Tonight, I came across a new blog. It's not often that a mega-blogger impresses me with their content the way Chris has done. Not only does he take an Unconventional look at travel, but that uncoventionalism crosses over to every aspect of his life into what he calls, "The Art of Non-Conformity."

In a piece titled "28 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Traveling", Chris echoes the point above when he reasons:
"Most important: don’t be a colonialist... Don’t assume that your culture is superior. People are not stupid just because they don’t speak English or think like you do."

Now, I am not trying to advocate a wishy-washy "Everything's A-OK in my book", blind-and-postmodern look at the world. This planet wouldn't function without the right to agree to disagree. This isn't a plea to say everything's fine and should be fine with everyone.

But, it is to say things look different after conversation and true community
. When that common ground is found, it is a lot harder to ostracize or demonize.


After 9 months of living my day-to-day in another culture, I've adapted. I'm conscious, now, of derogatory beliefs, jokes or broad-stroked and blind stereotypes made at this culture's expense, and even more subtle nuances like political climate.

I've experienced, first hand, reconciliation
- the establishing of common ground - through the Art of Familiarity.

But what have I really learned if I take this lesson here,
but ignore it in other aspects of my life?

So I find myself asking,
"Who have I chosen to ostracize or ignore?" "How did it happen?" and "What can I do to reestablish community with that person or group?"


My ears are forever acclimated to Mandarin Chinese.
No, I'm not fluent, but it's much less a foreign language now. The same goes for the culture and the people.

I hope I continue to grow in my understanding of this language and culture - both while I'm here in Taiwan, and after I return to my original familiarity.

Most of all, I hope this becomes a Habit. With all of me, I desire to practice this Art of Familiarity with all those I come to encounter on my journey.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Storms of Life

Tonight, I was reminded of both the beauty and fragility of life.

Facebook is currently feeding me two stories from my friends' lives: the first "is celebrating our one year anniversary;" the other, "is celebrating 55 years." Today, a brother lost a father, and a fellow expat rejoices in her first year of marriage.

Life and Death; Death and Life.

Do I rejoice because he is no longer in pain? I want to. But there is still a dull ache in my heart. I'm hurting for those he left behind. I was hardly close to that family for long, but nonetheless, Chuck never hesitated to take me in as a son. He never hesitated to take in anyone. A true mentor, he spent his life reaching out to others, I have no doubt his passing will show it.

And what is this life-creating thing called marriage? It will be ages until I know it. Two people denying their own rights completely to unite with another completely. So wholely counter-cultural, so entirely foreign to our society, it's truly no wonder why so many don't last. Still others try. They press forward, celebrating the landmarks and facing the storms. Together.

But that's just it. Life will always have storms -- whether faced alone or with others.

In my culture, I fear that some people live their entire lives surrounded by people, yet facing their storms completely alone.


It's the concept that founded the United States; I fear, though, that it may also bring America's downfall. I return to the notion: "No Man is an Island." We are simply not meant to face Life's Storms alone.

I applaud Jon and Steph in their decision to recognize this; their lifelong commitment to Community by default. I pray their decision does not return void, and they live out their years in constant support of each other's conflicts and storms.

Likewise, I celebrate the 55 years of Chuck's life, along with his wife, his sons, and scores of family and friends that surround them now. I have no doubt right now they are being comforted by the life of love and community Chuck built around his family.*

I can't imagine the weight of the loss they now feel. My sincere hope and prayer is that they follow in Chuck's example, and know that - in even this - they do not and will not bear the burden alone.

Life is unexpected and unpredictable. It is full of storms of sorrow, and landmarks of joy. In a word: Life is a Journey.

And the Journey is the Destination.

Wherever you are in your Journey - be it tribulation or celebration - I pray you reach out to someone near you. Remind them, and yourself, the importance of the role they play in your life. Strengthen the community around you, and know they will persist to be there throughout the storms of life.

(*It should be noted that my friend and brother, Jasen - Chuck's son - will be stepping into his own lifelong commitment to Community this Saturday, despite his current situation. Jasen, I love you, and wish I could be there to celebrate with you at the beginning of this new leg of your journey. I can't wait to return and meet Cari, and see your life together.)