Cerise Phiv (張俐紫)

Cerise Phiv (張俐紫)

Former Managing Editor of eRenlai.com


Tweets @cerisefive

Monday, 20 August 2007 23:45

Taiwan Aborigines Sustainability Association

Aboriginal industry has been ignored for a long time. The Taiwan Aborigines Sustainability Association has seen the potentials of the Wang Hsiang tribe. They established the “Wang Hsiang Bunun Holiday Village”. They plan ecological trips to enable sightseers to realize the beauty of Yushan. They cooperate with experts and scholars to map out worthwhile tourist sites. They point out their characteristics to create more and more jobs for the local people. With the local industry improved, they believe the manpower will get back.
You see Yushan every time you open the door. There are maple and cherry blossoms everywhere. These are the best natural resources, and the “Wang Hsiang Bunun Holiday Village” is proud of them.

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Monday, 28 May 2007 10:04

My Teacher the Ostrich

My present teacher of Chinese is a fine woman, she’s smiling all the time and she likes to go off track during the class. But there is still something that annoys me with her… I have already mentioned the “tofu generation” phenomenon in one of my previous posts, that is to say the fact that Taiwanese youngsters don’t feel any concern about politics, neither about the environment they’re living in, and are mostly obsessed with a successful career which would give them an enviable position in the society and the salary that goes with it.

One of my previous teachers of Chinese once told me that foreign students were more active, more independent than Taiwanese students who encounter big problems of adaptation when they enter the university. I think this time of adaptation is normal and most of my friends studying at the university seem perfectly happy and autonomous, as a majority of them live away from their family. In fact when I attended some second year classes as an auditor, what struck me more was the way students are taught. It was a class of social work in Taida (the National Taiwan University) and the teacher seemed to me incredibly motherly for a college teacher: she would first ask the students if they had read the papers (I don’t remember any of my teachers asking me that, they would just assume I had read it and if not… too bad for me!), if it was not too hard, if they were tired… I may be wrong but it appears to me that her teaching method was leaning towards treating the students like children. My experience in Taida was not that bad and, in fact, it can be quite nice to have a professor who does not simply enter the classroom to give her speech and then leave but encourages interaction with the students. But the other side of the coin is that sometimes it can be really boring and annoying, most of all when you wonder if the teacher is not thinking you’re an idiot!

Like I said before, my actual teacher of Chinese likes to digress, her favorite subjects being her son when he was 4 years old – he is now 20 – and food or physiognomy. She believes for example that when your index is longer than your ring-finger, then you have an artistic nature, that if you have a mono-eyebrow, then you might be an obtuse person. When my classmate said these are superstitions, my teacher just very firmly replied that these come from a precise observation of nature and people… For having already heard these sayings I just accept them as part of the local folklore but it worsened when she started explaining us once that there are four seasons of three months each because the Earth is tilted etc… It is interesting indeed… for an 8 year old kid! Well, as we seemed to have definitively put aside the short story of Bai Xian-yong that we were reading, we started talking about the situation of Tibet which lead us to Taiwan . As our teacher just remained silent all the time, we asked her about her opinion which was: “you know, it is so complicated that we’d better leave it to future generations.” No comment.

Once, my teacher described herself as being an ostrich for joking: a door had just violently slammed in the hallway and her first reflex had been hiding her face in her hands. My teacher is also extremely conservative: she only eats Chinese food, and thinks that taking a shower in the morning after waking up can endanger one’s life. In a time when Taiwan is promoting its cultural diversity, I’d rather ride a tiger than an ostrich…
(Painting by Bendu)
Thursday, 19 April 2007 11:49

Egg or Banana?

Before arriving in Taiwan, I didn’t know I was “so Chinese”. Born in France to ethnic Chinese parents and raised in Paris, I am what one would call a “banana” (in between, I’ve discovered that the opposite – white outside and yellow inside – is called an “egg.”). As I look Chinese, it seems normal that Taiwanese people at first glance, would also consider me as a Taiwanese. When I first arrived in Taiwan, I was not used to specifying the fact that I am a “Huaqiao” or “Huayi” - that is to say “overseas Chinese” or “FBC” (French Born Chinese) - and would simply reply that I was French. An answer to which people usually responded with suspicion : “ You’re not Taiwanese, are you?” (I’m quite proud to say that I hear that sentence less often now, it must be a proof that my oral Chinese has greatly improved since then). People often gave me funny looks when I said with confidence that I am French, and they would also say, “I had no idea French and Asian people look alike so much…”. I also almost had an argument with a cashier once in a supermarket who kept insisting, “are you sure you are French? You must be Chinese, why do you speak Chinese with a funny accent?” to which I had to moderate my answer by explaining that my mother is Taiwanese but that I was born and raised in France etc… At the end she simply said, “Well, you are still Chinese, that’s all!”

Is being Chinese a fatality?

As soon as I arrived in Taiwan, I started having identity issues. Strangely, I almost never felt these itches while I was in France- particularly in Paris where people are of very mixed origins. Maybe some people would have mistaken me for a tourist, but everybody can potentially be a tourist over there, it all depends on the way you are dressed and your mannerisms rather than your physical appearance. It never occurred to me the need to say I am a French Born Chinese. Of course people would eventually ask me where my parents are from but my saying that I’m French had never been something strange or rare.

Here, in Taiwan, I’m actually experiencing a strange transformation: the “banana-becomes-an-egg” mutation. First, I gradually changed my answer, now I always mention the fact that my mother is Taiwanese, etc. “Nice to meet you, I’m Cerise. Don’t be surprised, I’m a French Born Chinese, my mother is Taiwanese but I was born in France and I have lived there almost all my life.” That became my name card. By means of saying again and again “I’m Chinese”, I really started to believe it - self-suggestion seems to work after all!

Is this what immigration and integration are about? Before coming to Taiwan, I didn’t know that I would acclimatize myself so well. Some of my Taiwanese friends say: no wonder, it must be in your genes. Then I, my mother and my brother must also have French genes because we are very well integrated in the French culture. For what I know, I am a “pure Han product”, I was born with two blue spots on my bottom (don’t worry, they disappear when the baby grows up) and I have a visible line on my forearm, both signs that are said to be the genetic marks of Han people. Both of my parents are Hakkas, a Chinese linguistic group and, when I was a child, my father used to say proudly that my brother and I were 100% Hakkas… with a “little something French”, he would add to make us laugh. Thus, from a genetic angle, I cannot claim to be the result of mixed heritage like many Americans, but on the culture front, I am the result of my parents’ past migration to France: a French girl with a little something of Chinese…

(Photo by B.V.)

Monday, 26 February 2007 14:32

"Tofu Generation"?

Not long ago, I ran into a friend of mine, an English teacher in Taipei with whom I studied Chinese at The Language Center of the NTU. We did the usual greetings and I asked him about his job, how he was doing. His comments about the kids he’s teaching startled me: I still don’t know if I should laugh or cry. He told me that what he deplores most is that the kids he’s teaching look like “tofu”! That is to say, not energetic, very passive. According to him, the main cause is probably the lack of sport and most of all the lack of motivation. Even if his remark is excessive, I agree with him, on a certain point.

The Taiwanese kids I know are very nice kids but excessively shy and don’t seem to have any demonstrative interest to things around. It is the same for some youngsters of my age: when I arrived in Taipei, I would often offer my cousin to go out, visit museums, go for a walk (maybe not the best idea on a hot day of August) or just go to a bar to have a drink with friends. She would always politely refuse, saying that she was not interested. Even going to a bar seemed to her very boring! And no speaking of political issues either. My cousin just showed disinterest in anything not closely or directed related to her such as her work or our family. I believe she’s not representative of all Taiwanese youth but she’s also one of many Taiwanese youth. On the other hand, there is the merging of a “We” generation, expression invented by Newsweek last year to describe a part of Asian youth getting involved in public actions, NPOs, etc. Even if that “We” generation tendency seems only a little twitching, there are already real demonstrations of its rise, among Chinese students also!

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