Friday, September 25, 2009

California (Cell Phone Camera) Photo Reel

After a year without a cell phone (a beautiful, unleashing experience, might I add), the first thing I did when I arrived home was head to my local Sprint store and activate the phone that's been in a closet this year.

It's been strange carrying it around, but one benefit (besides being able to tweet anywhere) is having a camera-on-demand again.

Here's a couple shots I've snagged over the last couple weeks (With Commentary!)

Photo #1: Chili Cheese FriesI'm fairly certain Ben, one of my life-long best friends, tried to kill me the first day we hung out. After an incredible welcome home meal at In'n'Out (which nearly did the deed in itself), Ben took me to a place called "The Hat" where we ordered something that could have been called "Death by Chili Cheese" and in fact, probably was.
This is only a taste of the American Food my American Friends are feeding me. What they don't realize... I don't think my stomach is American anymore...

Photo #2: Proof I exercise...some.
Living in the city was fun in its own right. But nothing beats a taste of nature. This is the less-than-natural trail behind our suburban track homes. I'm trying to keep up my walking, eventually graduating to running. My friend Yazz has been dragging me around the city lake every now and then. That helps.

Photo #4: Surf City, USA
What good is a trip home to California if you don't make it to the Beach? In theme with staying healthy, my dad, brother and I did a good 6 mile walk/run before enjoying the waves some. (Note to self: Going once does not equate to a healthy habit)

Photo #5: Front Seat Driver
Another activity I didn't do much of (at all) in Taiwan: Driving. But, I'm home now, and I've been doing the big-brotherly carpooling lately, picking up from school and dance and other activities. This time, I had company. (But she tends to bark out orders, so I made her sit in the back) (That's a lie)

Photo #6: California Sunset
And finally: I took this on a drive with Colin Biggers. Everything halted when we saw this sunset; conversation, car, time itself. Then I think we may have been honked at. Note the green light. Green means go, but that sunset meant stop and take in the moment.


Other news:

I'm sure you know, but I've launched The Drift (1.5) over at

come visit!

This week, I'll be featuring fellow bloggers in what I consider to be the Drifter Community. We're made up of a unique bunch, many of whom are doing some pretty cool stuff. If you're interested in displaying some art of yours (whatever the form may be) email me: thedrift(at)chaseandre(dot)com

Also, and of course, you can follow me on Twitter!

PS Drifter Community Member Kelvin over at Daretothinkdreamdo asked me to guest post! Check it out.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Drift (1.5)

I know it's Earthquake Day in Taiwan, today. So, in reverence for the event, I'm trying to avoid cheesy and inappropriate cliches like "earth shattering news" or "groundbreaking new blog" or the like.

But, I don't want to undermine my excitement for this next evolution in my blogging.

Will I continue to post here at the Taiwan Drift? Occasionally, and for a short period of time during this transition. Since the beginning, I knew that "The Taiwan Drift" will stay about my journey to Taiwan. It will follow me home only to the extent of transitioning from foreign to familiar.

But, I continue drifting. So I continue writing. And I hope you'll drift with me.

Tonight, I'm leaving on my next drifting adventure, and the only place you'll hear about it is on the new site. Because the real is not finished, I've released a wordpress blog as a holding place until The (true) Drift is complete, thus the "1.5" bit.
So bear with me during the construction and transition phase.

Life is a Journey, and it's not always neat and organized and running as smoothly as can be. :)

But, without further ado, I nonetheless invite you to join me on
The Drift (1.5):

Subscribe to The Drift 1.5

"This Day in History..."

Though the effects remain, Typhoon Morakot passed through Taiwan over a month ago. The storm brought the worst flooding in over 50 years, and more than 500 lives were lost.

But ten years ago, today, Taiwan was rocked by an Earthquake registering 7.6 on the Richter Scale. Thousands were killed, and an estimated 100,000 left homeless. Throughout my year in Taiwan, this was brought up dozens of times. The tragedy, and the National heartache carried from the 9/21 earthquake is on scale with our 9/11 or Katrina.

One of the valuable lessons I learned while being submerged in another culture is to uncover the experiences that create common ground. As members of the human race, one experience that unites us all is heartbreak and tragedy. Though my students were young when this national disaster took place, we were able to share our experiences in the classroom and doing so brought us closer together as a class.

Learning that we're all human, and we're all in this thing-called-life together was a big lesson for me this past year. People are People. Burn away the cultural quirks and the difference in language, appearance or religion, and what you will have in front of you is a person. Really. A person just like you. In fact, so much like you they could be a member of your family.

And to me, many of them did become part of my family. Aligning myself with the troubles and hardships of the people around me - really understanding what the hurt they've been through, and sharing in that burden with them - has taught me what it is to be a member of this race called human-kind.

As my journey moves me from foreign to familiarity, I hope, and even pray, I never grow deaf to those with needs that I can meet. I hope I never grow so comfortable that I forget what it is to be displaced.

Though I'm far from my friends, and my family, in Taiwan, I know the lessons they've taught me have not left my side.

Photo Credit: here

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Future Driftings...

One year ago I drifted to Taiwan. Over the course of this year, I've intentionally sought ways to expand my view of the world. Some of it came by the default of living in another country and culture; and some of it because I continued to look outside myself and learn of life beyond my scope of vision.

This lead me to an organization called Faceless International. Though I've known about - and loved - their work for over a year now, I have never found a way to get involved. That is, until they announced their social justice campaign to India this winter. Faceless is teaming up with The Emancipation Network for an educational, hands-on trip to learn about the horrors of Modern Day Slavery. As I informed myself more of the reality of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, a weight settled over my heart to act. Signing up for the Faceless trip, I found a timely start.

What I love about Faceless and The Emancipation Network is that they enter the schools and communities where girls are at risk of being sold or bartered into the slave-trade, and teach the children how to support themselves so that slavery never becomes a viable option for the family to sustain itself. Both organizations are seeking change in a tangible matter. I look forward to joining Faceless in their self-declared mantra, by the words of Ghandi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

The cost for the trip is $3000, and I will only reach that goal with the help of those who feel able to support me. I have paid the $500 deposit, and $1250 is due at the end of this month, with another $1250 due at the beginning of December. I will be blogging of this new leg of my journey here at The Drift, and am thrilled to have your support as a reader. If you feel you could also support me financially - in any amount - please click on the paypal "donate" button below.

For those of you inside the US, Faceless International is a 501c3 and all donations are tax deductible. If you are looking for a tax deduction, or wish to keep your donation anonymous from me, click here.

Though my time in India will be much shorter than my time in Taiwan, I expect this trip to be another milestone in my Life Journey. Taiwan, I feel, laid the ground work for how I live the rest of my life. I desire to always be sensitive to the plight of others - in and out of my immediate scope of vision, and I hope to always realize I can do something about the injustice of this world.

Above all, I hope that my journey continues to inspire those who hear it. My heart's desire is to see humanity, as a whole, restored to something better, but I realize that must start with me: I realize I must be the Change I wish to see in the World.

And that's what I'm hoping to do. Life is a Journey, friends.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Like riding a bike...

My first week in the States has rode on by. It's a strange feeling being back. Nothing's changed. Really. It's almost as if Taiwan was just a creepy forgotten episode of the Twilight Zone. And I'm back in Suburbia where the neat little boxes are lined up in rows, hedges clipped clean and SUVs parked on the driveways, hubcaps aglow. Reverse Culture Shock? Maybe.

I'm still readjusting to the sights and sounds. Yesterday, I met a friend at the mall for dinner (we had the Korean BBQ, I used my pocket chopstick set). Before arriving on Taiwan, a mere 53 weeks ago, I lived another life; 90% of it, in that mall. Not all of you, dear readers, know this about me, but allow me to air some dirty laundry: I used to be in management at a dual-gender fashion retail store.

I spent a lot of time in that mall. A lot of time. Most of my meals were spent in that same food court, breaks spent walking the halls. It was strange being back.

This week, I'm fixing up the car I left behind, and will soon be driving - for the first time in a year. Also, I went out and signed up for a cell phone plan. I cringed at the one more added expense, and the first time it vibrated in my pocket I clung to the ceiling fan like a cat in a Looney Tunes cartoon. But I guess now I can blog while driving up the 5-North.

It's weird for me to think I survived without these modern "necessities" for a year's time...but I did.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of my week was coming home to the Welcome-Home Party (that I planned...). After a full night's rest Saturday night, I woke up and spent my day with over 50 of my favorite friends and family. It was an incredible experience to see and be with the faces and people I've spent a year without. Our time was spent recapping our year and recounting our journeys.

From time to time, I would tell a story and someone would say "I remember reading about that," (all my best stories are on the Drift), and each time it warmed me all the same. It was encouraging to know these key strokes I'm sending into the abyss of cyberspace have been read and noted and remembered.

I've said it before, but the Drift has been crucial to the process of this Journey. I love that a community has formed here on this site, and I hope it continues.

That Sunday, I was able to extend the Drift's virtual-community to the "real world". Early on in my driftings, I came across a blog filled with pictures of an old stomping ground of mine. Being a lonely solitary expat in Taiwan, seeing familiar sights was comforting. A comment an email, and a year later, Don and I have still kept in touch.

I'm no stranger to meeting "online" friends "offline", but there's always that air of apprehension wondering if your perception of them will vary in 3D. This wasn't the case with Don. I felt as though I didn't so much hear him speak as I did read the words leaving his mouth. Talking to him was like reading the latest entry he's posted.

As we were bidding our farewells, he reached behind the front door for his shoes. Glancing at the unintelligible heap on the other side of the entry way, he said "I'm a man who lives off the beaten path," just as I was thinking, that's so like him. It was a great experience being able to make that connection and solidify what the Drift has been for me this year.

I'm looking forward to further reunions with my friends and loved ones - and on a deeper level than a 50-person-thick get-together.

Slowly, I'm starting to find my barrings again in my hometown. My equilibrium has settled as I've fought from leaning too far in any one direction. Balance is essential. It's as essential in re-entering a country as it is to riding a bike. But, as they say, old habits die hard. And though it's been awhile since I've rode around the streets of suburbia, I'm pretty sure it's all coming back to me now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Drifting Home

So, it's been a year. Likely, one of the most distinct, important and influential years I'll ever live. Through the Drift, I've been able to chronicle my journey, and create space to openly and honestly reflect in and through my time.

My appointed mantra "The Journey is the Destination" is one that could - and should - be continued even after one "Destination" is reached. And so, I keep writing. And reflecting. And, if anyone will join me, creating an open space - a community where people are safe to probe and question and examine life in a way that, I fear, far too few do.

So, while I won't be writing on an expat's trials and travails in a foreign land, I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the themes I found in my life in Taiwan. Just, you know, not so much the Taiwanese stuff...

The last week went by in a haze. Saying Goodbyes stretched out through Saturday, and I didn't finish packing until the moment it was time to leave. Friday night was a melancholy goodbye from the Neighborhood. After we all hung out one last time, I said my farewells, gave my hugs, and walked away from the others. It hit me how fast the goodbyes were. Like peeling off a band-aid, maybe? Honestly, it felt much more like a see you later than a goodbye. I hope that it was. When I made it to my house, I sat outside on a bench to absorb the night and reflect over the people and places I would miss.

Ten minutes in the brisk, post-midnight air slip passed me before I stirred from my spot. It seemed surreal that I would be leaving soon. That these places and routines that became so familiar - the same ones that were once so foreign - would soon dim to forgotten. I reflected on what I sought to learn. Goals I set for myself that I didn't achieve moved in and out of my mind as I pushed them away realizing their unimportance in the grand scheme of things. And the only goal I had left once again became burden enough to move me from my seat. In 16 hours, I would leave for the airport. I needed to pack.

But even after I climbed the four staircases to my room, my mind hadn't wandered from reflection. I wondered about my change in lifestyle, thinking, and habits. Would they stick? As I loaded up my carry-on, I allowed myself to dwell on my biggest fear: returning home the same person I was when I left.

Too much time had past, I told myself, I've learned too much to go back. But it wasn't until I reached out, instinctively, and grabbed a pen that my fears calmed. As I slipped the pen into my carry-on, I knew that this year could never be a waste. I had learned what I come to learn, and I would carry it with me wherever I drift to next.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eat the Feet?

With only two days left, I'm attempting to absorb my favorite part of Taiwan's culture - The People. Every day for the last couple weeks I've been out and about spending time with as many friends as I can. It's turned into the family joke, every day they ask "So where you going to night?" (Roughly translated..)

On Saturday, my friend Ring brought me to a part of town I'd yet to visit. Before we ventured down "Art Street" - much reminiscent of Laguna Beach... minus the beach... and the blonde hair - she told me "Every time I come here, I always get three things to eat."

The first was a Taiwanese Hamburger of sorts. No problems there.
The last was an iced desert. Delish.

But between those two tasty treats, she said, "Now we're going to have Ji-Jiao"

"What's Ji-Jiao?" I asked hesitant, as I translated it in my mind.

"Chicken Feet~!"

51 weeks in Taiwan, and I'd avoided this "delicacy" until then. Ring wouldn't take no for an answer, I knew, so I buckled down and tried to enjoy...

But she loves it! As do many Taiwanese...

(that's a toenail in her mouth, by the way)

I'm thankful I tried. But it's not going to become a dietary habit, by any means. If you must know, well, it tasted like chicken. Pun only slightly intended.

Here's my beef. Let's forget the mental image of what this chicken was stepping in when it was alive and cluckin', I'm not crazy about savagely eating meat off the bone (boneless buffalo wings, please), and I've been known to peel even my grapes of their skin. So, the idea of gnawing on some sagging loose ankle flesh is just less than appealing to me.

But I did it.

Frankly, I prefer the Stinky (fermented) Tofu.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Saying Goodbyes

"He said We all will miss you," translated the Medicine Man's Wife.
"And I will really miss you all," I reciprocated back to them in Mandarin.

"I will not miss you." The Medicine Man stated flatly. His wife laughed.

"I miss no one. I visit them in my mind. If I miss them, it only causes trouble."

...and that was my goodbye from the Medicine Man. He asked me to write, and promised to learn how to use Skype, and said we could talk about life and writing and more of Buddha's Method. And I told him I was looking forward to it all.

I'm down to about 5 days until I leave this great island of Taiwan. My last week, as well as the next few days will be filled with goodbyes like this one.

The "20-Somethings" group at the church I attend here in Taichung threw me a surprise KTV party. I knew about the KTV, but I didn't know they planned for it to be a going-away party for me. If you know me well, you know I hate surprises. At the moment where everyone jumps out and yells "SURPRISE!" (this time, Poppers were also involved), my mind races and all at once I make sense of the clues that they were planning this. Simultaneously feeling frustrated about not picking up on the clues, I'm agitated by the fact anyone would put that much effort into something for me. I eventually get over it, though, and appreciate the gesture.

The group went a bit over the top with their gifts and a card that everyone signed. The front was illustrated by my translator, Ring:

That was a week ago, and tonight is the last time I will likely see many of them. The fact of the matter is, I will miss them, whether I tell my mind to do so or not. We say things like "I'll come back to Taiwan" or "You should come visit me in America" but we really don't know for sure. As is normally the case, the wisdom in the Medicine Man's words slowly sets in and I think I'm beginning to understand what he meant. Looking forward to the States, and not knowing when I'll visit the Island again, I'm focusing on the friendships I've formed here and the good times we've shared over the past year. I will miss this place, but I won't let that feeling of loss hinder me in moving forward in what's next.

What's next, you ask? There are a few projects brewing, and I'm excited to release them. For now, I need to pack, and get myself off this Island. 9.05.09...