GATEWAY PROJECT: A FULBRIGHT BLOG





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This blog is an archive for my research, interviews with designers and museum staff, and travel experiences as I explore multilingual design practices in Taiwan and the US.
Fulbright research abroad in Taipei, Taiwan began in March 2021.   

这个博客是关于我个人在旅行交流经验中用中英文做研究访问博物馆陈列设计师和员工的记录。

2021年三月到輔仁大學开始我富布赖特的国外研究。




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REFLECTION: DESCRIBING MY FULBRIGHT EXPERIENCE

“October is a fine and dangerous season”




Language: English
Date: Sept 26, 2021
Listening to: The Lake Jordan Sessions by the Mountain Goats

Translation by Pleco
As September slips quietly away, I have started to give the calendar suspicious looks because, by the numbers, I have only 9 weeks left in Taiwan. That can’t possibly be right, right? I’ve been lying low in Taipei for the last half of September, tackling end-of-grant challenges like starting to shoot off job applications into the HR abyss and budgeting my stipend to stretch until November 29. But October, the best month for new beginnings as Thomas Merton would point out, is spread out in front of me with thirty one days full of promise (and hopefully cooler weather). So in honor of my last months in Taiwan and the yearly poetic justice that is the month of October, I have gone through my list of new Chinese vocabulary and picked out my favorite words and phrases that describe this past year.


物換星移
wùhuànxīngyí
idiom, “change comes and the stars move” change of the seasons, passing of time

This 10-month grant is the longest time I’ve spent outside of the U.S., and the first time I’ve undertaken a long-term independent research project. I’ve been reflecting on 物換星移, even though the phrase is meant to describe the change of centuries. But ever since the pandemic interrupted my senior year of college, the extraordinary challenges and sucesses that I have experienced make these past two years seem like half a lifetime.

I look back on the Colleen who submitted her application for the Fulbright Program to China in October 2019, and I see a completely different person than the one finishing her grant in Taiwan today. I am very proud of how I have matured and grown in confidence. Stil, somedays I just wish I could go back and prepare her better for the changes that are about to happen in her life and the movements of the stars that she cannot stop.



眼前歡
yânqiánhuān
pleasure of the moment

Living abroad, as opposed to vacationing abroad, gives you the chance to experience small things in your daily life that are both familiar and new. For example, since I did not grow up in Taiwan, the smell of the street stalls (especially stinky tofu) always stands out to me. But after walking down the same streets everyday for 6 months, the smell is no longer a shock to the system but smells like coming home after a long day. But there is always a heightened sense of “this may be the last time I see this flower bloom/giggle at this bad translation/eat this soup” because this grant experience has a set end date. And I think that’s beautiful. In fact, I hope I can hold onto this same sense of importance for small every day experiences for the rest of my life, no matter where I am.



蚵仔煎,便當,牛肉麵,滷肉飯,芒果冰沙
oyster omelette, bento box, beef noodles, braised pork rice, mango ice slush

This list of words doesn’t have any deeper meaning, it’s just my favorite foods here! Taiwanese food and snacks are absolutely legendary and extremely cheap. I know for even though some days I might crave my mom’s cooking, I am so lucky to be living in Asian food heaven.


Image: Taiwan famous beef noodle soup 

熟門熟路
shúmén shúlù
idiom, “Familiar road and familiar door” things that one knows well 

While I enjoy adventuring around Taiwan, there is no place like home. I was very lucky that a fellow Fulbrighter invited me to rent out an apartment in the Minsheng Community, Songshan District with him and two other scholars. Although I didn’t fall in love with the apartment at first sight (it needed some deep cleaning), during the lockdown this summer I realized what a blessing it was to live with friends in a walkable neighborhood during a pandemic.

The Minsheng Community is well-known in Taipei as a creative old-Taipei neighborhood with lots of planned parks. It was originally a planned American-model community in the 1970s, with modern amenities and wide, tree-lined streets. The street I live on today is full of Taiwanese food stalls, mom and pop pharmacies, and cafes. It’s always full of people, and thankfully during the lockdown many of the stalls remained open for takeaway food. Since I was stuck at home for three months, I got to know my neighborhood really well by going on evening walks. I made a real effort in August to go to a different restaurant every day and try something new. My favorite place is the riverside park which has a massive biking path along the river banks. I taught myself to skateboard on that path (and had some nasty spills, too).  Today, even though I’m thrilled to go out to movies and museums again, I am always happy to come home to 熟門熟路.



歧義
qíyì
being capable of various interpretations

If I have learned one thing about studying museums, it’s that when an institution claims to stand for the culture, the people, the history of a certain region there is always going to be heated discussions over how that institution is succeeding or failing at this goal. Because it’s simply an impossible task to represent the entirety of these abstract ideas in a way that anyone can experience in a few hours visit. That said, in my opinion, the 歧義 quality of museums is what makes them fascinating. In Taiwan I have met people who are very proud of their museums, some who are offended by the lack of indigenous representation in the national museums, and some who are just confused why an American would want to study Taiwan’s museums when everyone knows America’s museums are the best in the world.  Museums are natural springboards for these kinds of conversations about national pride, history, and personal opinions about what should or should not be represented.



歸屬感
guīshûgân
sense of belonging

As a person living abroad, 歸屬感 is a tangible feeling. It can be there one minute, but gone the next. Culture shock is basically the lack of a sense of belonging, coupled with a romanticization of the community you belong to back home. The things that have helped me gain a sense of belonging is keeping a schedule, physically interacting with the environment (going on walks, going places for pleasure, unplugging from headphones) and making friends with as many people on my block as I could. There’s less opportunity to make local friends in a pandemic, but naturally that’s important, too.



借鑒
jièjiàn
use for reference, draw on the experience of

I wanted to include the word 借鑒 to talk about the impact that my fellow Fulbright scholars have had on my grant and future ambitions. First off, this is the very first time that I have had close friends from a different generation, some with a 10+ year age gap. And while that does lead to a few miscommunications, it has been very influential on my understanding of academia and raising my standards for my own levels of language fluency. Secondly, I would have had a much harder time settling into Taiwan without other Fulbrighters, people I had just met, offering to help me set up phone plans, explain social norms, and double check my Chinese. I hope that when I am 36 and I see a confused 23 year old that I can reach out with as much generosity as my friends did. And lastly, I would be in a much different place emotionally if we all didn’t hang together during the lockdown. A group of us set up a mahjong night at our house every Friday, and we still play. Actually, as I’m writing this I’m checking to make sure I have enough time to grab food from the store before everyone descends on my house tonight!



盡心盡力
jìnxīnjìnlì
idiom “making an all out effort”

For my last phrase, I chose an idiom that hopefully describes how I can live through these next 9 weeks. I have many plans on the horizon: my birthday celebrations, starting Chinese classes again, visiting friends, attending a Fulbright dinner, and finally giving a presentation at Fu Jen University with two other visiting scholars. I’m going to put my all into these plans and end my grant with no regrets.






   

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