Erenlai - Anna Tesauro
Anna Tesauro

Anna Tesauro

Originally from the very windy city of Chicago, Anna left her reporting job last October to spend the year exploring and teaching in Taiwan.\nIn addition to a very welcomed snow-less winter, Taiwan has given her many spunky and entertaining students to write home about, as well as breathtaking sights to capture in pictures. From day trips to Danshui or weekend stays in Kenting, Taiwan has opened her eyes to the beauty of this island and its people. \nWith a passion for writing and meeting new people, she hopes to merge the two and hopefully share stories about life that go beyond Eastern and Western culture.

Tuesday, 06 October 2009 20:58

The Eye of the Storm

Testimonies from Typhoon Morakot and Hurricane Katrina

It has been four years since the city of New Orleans, in Louisiana, was struck by a very deadly Atlantic Ocean storm. Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in late August 2005, affecting the states of Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana. The natural disaster took nearly two thousands lives, and left many more homeless, with no other option but to relocate. New Orleans suffered the most damage due to a levee break that caused eighty percent of the city to be flooded. However, the entire Gulf Coast of America felt the effects of such an unpredictable and powerful storm.

Fast forward to early August 2009. The city of New Orleans was quiet and calm, free from any impending storm. However, for those living in the far Eastern part of the world, a storm was about to touch down in Asia. Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan on August seventh, bringing 92-mile per hour winds and dumping 80-inches of rain, primarily to the Central and Southern counties of Taiwan. Such powerful rain resulted in dangerous mudslides and flooding. Within two days, the entire country felt the effects of this storm, watching as villages had to be evacuated, and entire buildings gave way to the mudslides. Despite government rescue efforts, over 600 people died, with 70 others missing.

Two very different places in the world - separated by continents, oceans and time zones - and yet, both so helpless and powerless in the eye of the storm. Certainly language and cultural barriers make for different eyes to witness such disaster, yet the tears shed are the same. The loss and heartache need no translation. The urgency for help and support can be seen and felt worldwide.

For those in Taiwan and the States, the affect of such big storms can help bridge the distance and cultural gaps that would otherwise keep the two countries apart.

In Taipei, watching as their fellow Taiwanese in the South succumbed to the island’s worst rainstorm in 50 years, the emotions were high.

Sandra Chao, from Taipei, noted that the typhoon didn’t cause much damage in her city, but news brought the storm’s damage closer. “What I watched on the TV was horrible. The damage done in southern Taiwan made me really sad while I was watching it.” Chao added that she was stuck in a Los Angeles airport during Hurricane Katrina, so she is very familiar with the storm that hit the Gulf Coast.

Ya-Ting Yang has lived in Taiwan her whole life and was living in Puzih City, Chiayi County when the storm came.

“We didn’t feel the typhoon until the 9th August, in the morning, when the water outside our house just kept rising every minute,” she said. Even with a flat gat to protect the main entrance of her family’s home, through the course of the day, the water continued to rise, breaking a double layer glass door, and flooding the Yang’s basement.

“We managed to move the sofa up to the second floor, but we lost a TV and the whole stereo set. Mainly property loss. We were really lucky.”

However, the waters continued to rise, almost to the second floor of the Yang home’s .

“We couldn’t bare standing there seeing our house being flooded, so we went to bed and hoped that everything would be find the next morning. Luckily, the water started to fade away afterward, and it didn’t get to the second floor,” she said.

Prior to the typhoon, Yang shared that she did feel sympathy for other countries when affected by natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in America, which she said was big news in Taiwan.

“It’s hard not feel sympathy when you see people’s lives are being threatened by misfortune,” she said. “But I’d have to say that they never seemed close and real to me. They were mostly just something you see on TV, you frown and sympathize a bit and you move on.”

For Yang, knowing that 10,000 houses were flooded in her city, her sensitivity to those affected by natural disasters has changed. “Even without too much loss, I was greatly shocked. Afterward, I couldn’t stop crying when I saw the news. In Kaohsiung, people’s houses were just buried all of a sudden. There wasn’t even any prevention, everything happened too fast.”

She added that experiencing the typhoon has “made it hard to distance myself from disasters from now on. All these disasters seem so far yet are all so closely connected.”

While news of the typhoon did not receive major airtime in the States, most news outlets did report on the storm and its damage.

Scott Farmer, a student in Taipei, originally from Iowa, noted that he did receive concerned e-mails from friends back home. “I was definitely surprised to find that some of my family was really aware of the Morakot situation a few days after it occurred. I think people know Taiwan is small, but perhaps they don’t really understand the scale.”

Scott was living in the States during Hurricane Katrina, and could draw a small comparison between the two storms. “It just seemed that in both situations, the populace was very unhappy with how the government handled the situation. I don’t understand the ins and outs of either catastrophe, but the people’s reactions were similar in some ways. I felt like people in the states were distrusting of the U.S. government, and they called into question the motives for how things were executed. In Taiwan, I don’t think I felt the same thing.”

For Illinois resident, Jeannie Hayes, her job in broadcast media during Hurricane Katrina has helped her to better understand Typhoon Morakot.

“Hurricane Katrina made me realize that Mother Nature doesn’t play favorites. This kind of thing can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Americans went through so much pain and suffering. It made me realize that people in other countries feel the exact same amount of devastation when it happens to them,” she said. “The world is a small place, and we all need to support each other. Now, when I hear about a disaster on the other side of the world, I stop to think about what those people must be going through.”

 

(Photo by C. Phiv - Penghu Islands, June 2009)

 

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 17:21

“Where sin abounded, Grace abounded all the more”

Growing up in a South Suburb of Chicago in the late 1980s, I first learned about the death penalty when the American serial killer, Ted Bundy, was put to death by the electric chair. Despite being young, his name and his awful crimes were something that I have always remembered.

Hours before his execution, a Christian Evangelist named Dr. James Dobson spoke with Bundy in a taped interview. Since the content was adult and dealt a lot with Bundy’s addiction to pornography, I never heard or saw anything from this interview, I just knew that a very sick and bad person was no longer around.

From this, my very impressionable mind was made up and I do believe my opinion on the death penalty was established. Since Dr. Dobson was a Christian and was not, from my memory, speaking out against Bundy’s execution, I took the event to mean that those who truly commit heinous crimes have to be put to death to ensure the safety of others. My young mind could wrap itself around the notion of eradicating evil, in the name of death. And it did so for the next twenty years.

It seemed logical that you end the life of one who showed no respect for others and who graphically and brutally could take the lives of innocent, young and defenseless people. It made sense to use death – in certain cases – to amend for death.

I felt this way until only this year.

When you think about it, the public rarely hears about criminals who are executed – unless terrible stories accompany their killing spree. Since the start of 2010, fifteen men and women have been put to death across the United States, mostly through lethal injection. These criminals face their due while the rest of the country is none the wiser let alone made to feel safer, except for - maybe - the victim’s family.

In March, one news headline caused me to take notice when I learned that a man in Virginia was executed by the electric chair. I had no idea the electric chair was still an option. The man had brutally killed two women, and I felt a sense of relief and safety knowing he was no longer a threat. His crimes made me sick to my stomach.

I shared this bit of news with a friend, not realizing he took an entirely different stance when it came to the death penalty. He explained how he felt killing for killing was wrong, no matter how heinous, evil and despicable the crime was.

I was flabbergasted.

Didn’t justice have to be done?

My friend agreed, but contended that locking someone away for life seemed like a good way to punish and to ensure that society would be safe from someone so dangerous and immoral.

For me, a lifetime in prison just didn’t seem enough.

Prison means you still get food and shelter. Your life goes on, albeit behind bars.

In contrast, how does that rectify the innocent ones who lost their lives and should still be alive?

Our discussion shook me to the core, because I realized how much I wanted to fight for what I considered justice. For what I thought was fair.

But in talking about justice and the dignity of life, I thought of how Christ came to love and die for all. Yes, we’re all sinners, but we’re not all killers. And yet, God sent Jesus to die for the good and the bad - those who would try to live uprightly, and those who would willfully choose the path of evil. It’s a radical love that makes no sense, and is anything but fair.

It stopped me in my thoughts, because I suddenly felt a release. By demanding a life for a life, I was trying to create justice on my terms. By releasing the need to see fairness this way, I found that God gave me peace to leave punishments to Him. In place of anger, I had remorse over our fallen human existence that tries and fails at every turn. Without Christ’s goodness, we are all capable of allowing ourselves to fall so deeply into sin that we lash out in the most brutal of ways.

Without true light, we are all in darkness. While we won’t all act out to the degree of killing another human - our depravity leads us down other roads of lust, anger, malice, etc.

Two examples that further clarified this realization, deal with responses of love brought about after incredible pain and loss.

Elisabeth Elliot is a Christian writer who shares her grief experience in “Through Gates of Splendor.” In the book, she recounts how her husband and four other men felt a call to reach the "lost" people of Ecuador in the early 1950s. After months of earning the tribe’s trust, the men were attacked and speared to death. Elliot’s husband left her as a widow and her daughter fatherless. While her grief was severe, Elliot eventually went with her daughter to Ecuador and spent two years as a missionary with the tribe that killed her husband. She wrote “God is God. I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that He act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice.”

To go back a bit further to the turn of the twentieth century, we have the devoted Italian Catholic martyr, Maria Goretti. At the age of 11, she barely survived an attack and stabbing by an attempted rapist. While in the hospital, she expressed forgiveness for her attacker and the desire to see him in Heaven. She died hours later. Her attacker was caught and put in jail, and eventually had a dream where Maria gave him flowers. When he was released, he went to Maria’s home and begged her mother for forgiveness. She forgave him and he changed his life, later becoming a laybrother.

Both families could have turned their back on these killers. With God’s help, they did not. They chose to let the killers live. And going one incredible step further, they forgave.

Will everyone repent their crime while being locked away? Only God knows. But they have a choice. As long as they breathe, they have that choice to turn from sin.

Taking another’s life as a way to bring justice is playing God, and it strips those on death row of another chance to choose God. And it strips us of the powerful freedom that comes from choosing to forgive.

While it is difficult and painful, if we lack the ability to forgive, we lack the ability to obey the words of Jesus in His prayer - “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.”

Should evil be dealt with?

Absolutely.

Those who sin great should be greatly disciplined.

But our anger and emotion toward their actions should not result in more death.

As St. Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us: “Where sin abounded, Grace abounded all the more.”

(Photo: C.P.)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010 00:00

Chicago celebrates the Year of the Tiger

 

It is the sound of firecrackers bursting through a quiet night and the sight of vivid orange and red dragon or lion costumes coming to life at a street parade. It’s also the taste of fresh oranges and pomelos that help to fill the senses of those ready to take in the Lunar New Year celebration known as Chinese New Year. For centuries, the Chinese have viewed their New Year as a time of good luck and fortune in anticipation of a new beginning. While the actual day changes based on the Lunar calendar, the New Year is celebrated on the first day of the first moon in the calendar. This year it falls on February 14, and families celebrate for a total of fifteen days. 2010 also ushers in the year of the Tiger, a sign of bravery.

 
 

This two-week break means Chinese and Taiwanese families gather together, eating homemade meals and enjoying each other’s company. For the children, it’s also a time to revel in getting lucky red envelopes filled with money or“hong bao,”in Mandarin.

 

While a holiday steeped in tradition and centred in the Eastern part of the world, Chinese New Year celebrations take place beyond Asia.

 

Kim Ow, 76, has lived in Chicago for over 40 years, and says he and his family always celebrate Chinese New Year. Ow came from Hong Kong to the States as a young teen, and continues to keep the Chinese holiday alive for his first generation Chinese American family.

 

AnnaTesauro_Chinatown2_s“For the Chinese, it’s what you grow up in and believe in. When I was a kid, the most important day was Chinese New Year.

 

We eat good food, get red envelopes and light off firecrackers,” he said.

 
 
 

As a Chicagoan, Ow watches the annual Chinese New Year Parade held in Chinatown in Chicago. The parade includes a lion and dragon dance, something Ow used to participate in when he was in his thirties.

In addition to Ow’s wife and five grown children, his brother and two sisters come with their families for a big dinner, which he says includes mushroom with pork and most importantly, chicken. “My wife is Buddhist, so we pray, too,” he adds. For dessert, they enjoy homemade pastries. True to tradition, the children receive their lucky red envelopes. As first generation Chinese American children, Ow admits his children are more American than Chinese, but he notes, “they still believe in Chinese holidays.”

AnnaTesauro_Chinatown3_s

 
 

Andy Siharath, of the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce notes that Chinatown initially began developing in 1920 and has progressed ever since. Every year, the city holds the lunar New Year parade for the entire city to enjoy. This year’s parade will include marching bands, floats, lion teams, a hundred foot mystical dragon, and the Miss Friendship Ambassador for Illinois.

 

Today, Chinatown is home to an estimated 18,000 Chinese, with about 68,000 Chinese living in the entire city of Chicago.

 

 

 

 

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