To Be Righteous

Another year. Another trip to the Confucius Temple in Tainan.

In one section of the temple, there are four large character plaques on the walls. The meanings of the characters are righteousness, filial piety, integrity and loyalty. I was told to sit under the character that resonated most with me. I chose to sit under righteousness. Which would you choose and why?


Filial piety



Moving On

The future is blank.

Bali Nostalgia

There are some places in the world that you go to once and check off a list. And then there are some places in the world that you find yourself coming back to again and again. With its terraced rice paddies under star-studded skies, diverse beachscapes, haunting gamelan rhythms, creamy coconut and spice-infused cuisine, surviving traditional rituals, Hindu flair, vibrant art and design scene, and eclectic mix of international people, Bali is definitely one of Southeast Asia’s most precious gems.

“This gamelan had a percussive attack, an electric virtuosity, a sort of appalling precision which, as it echoed and rebounded off that long wall, almost pulsated us out of our seats, bringing tears of astonished emotion to our eyes. Where was the melody? I had no idea! But an incessant cascade of sound rushed through us and around us and deep down inside us. The two drums thwacked and throbbed, the deep gongs boomed, the cymbals chattered and clacked; but it was the metallophones and a battery of twelve gongs of descending size on a long, low stand, played by four men, which swept us away. The metallophones hammered out patterns of such intricacy, such crisscross elusiveness, and with such a dazzling, brilliant zeal, as was most assuredly outside my comprehension; and from that long battery of gongs came a baffling, staccato syncopation which nothing out of Africa could hope to rival. This music broke its way into us, possessed us.” – John Coast, Dancing Out of Bali, 1954


ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช, ผัดไทย, ชาเย็น.

King Adulyadej’s land: 50 curries, 40 pad thais, 30 coconuts, 20 thai teas, and 10 massages later.

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Temples, tropical fruits, and Ding Tai Fung’s delectable xiao long bao in Taiwan.

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About a month ago, I spent some time up in the northeast of Japan helping out in the tsunami clean-up effort along the coast of Iwate Prefecture. As expected, there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done up there. Entire cities were wiped out and other than a superficial combing over in the search for survivors, in some places, little has been done to dig through the rubble and sort things into their respective waste sites.

As I learned, any previously held notions you might’ve had regarding freedom to roam about the area and autonomously explore while volunteering are quickly dismissed upon arriving. The sites and volunteer rotations are closely monitored by various local groups and leaders, meticulous about how the work is carried out, with good reason. Of particular concern for them is ensuring everyone’s safety, especially at the time I went, at the height of the summer heat wave.

I felt somewhat daunted by the idea of going up to Tohoku what with the continuing aftershocks, tsunami warnings, and all. But I convinced myself to go in order to see the tsunami damage first-hand and to do whatever I could, however little, to support the disaster victims. During the experience, while shoveling away in my full-body suit, I came to the realization that our team was extremely limited in how large of an area we could actually clean up in the course of a day. Despite all of our best efforts, with the oppressive heat and enforced rest periods and meals (which could hardly be called “meals;” I’m more inclined to call them “calorie-replenishing sessions” as we mostly consumed Calorie Mate Bars, Powerbars, nutrients in jelly form and onigiri), we were only able to cover a small patch of land.

Our first day there, while rearranging toppled over tombstones and digging up rubble-filled soil at a graveyard, I started to wonder how futile our efforts were. Though there were some objects quite obviously in need of disposal: shards of glass, jagged pottery edges and so forth; sifting through the soil, you realize that fragments of tsunami damage are everywhere and largely unremovable. They’re so much a part of the dirt, it’s hard to know what to pick out and what’s small and harmless enough to just throw back in. I suppose clean-up has taken on just as much symbolic significance as practical importance to the people of the region. So, in spite of my initial feelings, as cliche as it may sound, every bit that we can help in Tohoku is appreciated.

If you’re interested in volunteering in the north of Japan, there are a number of organizations through which you can go.

Some friends have gone through All Hands, an American organization focused on supporting survivors of natural disasters.

Others have gone through Peace Boat, a Japanese organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment. The last I checked, this group required that volunteers be able to go to the region for at least a week.

And the group I went with was the Nikkei Youth Network, supported by the Nippon Foundation. They are very much oriented towards university-aged students.

Of course, there are many other organizations doing good work in Tohoku. If you happen to know of any I failed to mention, please leave a comment.

Speed Salsa

In the original audio of this video at 400% speed, even though the salsa song sounds like it’s played by a xylophone at such high frequency, you can still hear the distinctive “dun-dun-pah” conga beat around the 2 and 6 counts. I had so many “on 2” conversations in Taipei, I thought that was rather interesting. There’s no hiding the tumbao. Thanks (and sorry for poking you in the face as noted in this video, but really, what salsa with me would be complete without some dancefloor gaffe?) to Calvin, Maggie, and all of my other Taipei salsa friends for beautiful times.

In attempts to bring more attention to how individuals in Tokyo can help out disaster survivors up north, I asked my dear friend, Tom, to write a guest post. Tom was located in Fukushima prefecture at the time of the earthquake and tsunami. In the week after the disaster, he cranked out loaves of bread alongside a family of bakers in Fukushima, providing sustenance to the devastated community. Now in Tokyo, Tom has been making regular trips down to the Iwaki City Donation Center located in the Minato-ku area. I asked him to share his knowledge on how we can help out the Tohoku region from Tokyo:

“For one week, after my world was turned upside-down, I supported the local community of Motomiya City in Fukushima Prefecture by making bread. People around us were looking for their families, seeking water, and evacuating their homes. In spite of all this, the calmness and sense of community of the Japanese people in the face of unimaginable trauma was inspiring.

This guest post, however, is not about how I survived the crisis in Fukushima. It’s about the situation people are facing as I write this. It’s about how we can help.

Fukushima Prefecture is in a horrific bind in that it is being greatly harmed by the nuclear power plant… but not because of the bodily dangers of radiation. Minami Soma City, Iwaki City, and all of the other towns along the coast of Fukushima were utterly devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. Namie Town was completely destroyed, and all search and rescue attempts were immediately cancelled due to its proximity to the plant.

In these areas, evacuees are in the tens of thousands. Yet, a few days ago, the evacuees in Iwaki City were told that they would receive no food. There simply was not enough.

Fear of the radiation has caused panic, enough that aid is not being brought into some of the hardest hit areas. A lack of gasoline makes it nearly impossible for the unharmed citizens of Fukushima to travel and find food in far away supermarkets. While food can be found in areas like Koriyama City and Fukushima City, both at least an hour drive away from the coast, transportation is all but broken and gasoline is a luxury hard to come by. That is, of course, if you have a car left.

People in Tokyo are worrying about where they can find milk and bottled water. In coastal Fukushima, there are no open stores. Evacuees are worrying about how can they stay warm, not catch diseases, and survive without food and running water.

They need our help.

All donations to the Japanese Red Cross are greatly helping the people of Tohoku get back on their feet. You can donate directly on their website or through the touch-panel displays at FamilyMart.

If you want to aid the people of Fukushima with goods, Iwaki City has set up a donation center within Tokyo in an effort to deliver food and goods directly to the evacuation centers. Here’s how you can help:

Iwaki City Donation Center (in Japanese)
Address: Minato-ku Sports Center Arena, 3-1-19 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Bringing goods by hand/car preferred.
-Canned goods (meat, fish), things that do not spoil and can be eaten as is.
-Rice (in small packs)
-Water, tea, juice, anything in PET bottles
-Diapers (adult and child)
-Powdered Milk (expires after three months from now)
Note: They have told people that because there is electricity available, they can microwave foods.

It will remain open every day, 9am to 6pm, until Thursday, March 31st.

Thank you very much for your help. It means so much to everyone affected by this disaster.”

As Tom said, the donation center will be running through the 31st, which isn’t for much longer. If you are able to do so before then, please bring any goods you can down to the donation box. After that date, I will be updating on where we can shift our donations to with the assurance that the goods will reach those in need.

In the aftermath of Japan’s 3/11 quake, some thought that the weekend Farmers’ Market at United Nations University would be called off, but with the exception of the weekend immediately following the disaster, it’s been running normally. Last weekend, in addition to regular market functions, there were charity singing performances for disaster victims. This weekend promises to bring more color, warmth, and quality agricultural produce into the UNU space in Aoyama. For those in Tokyo looking to get out a bit or perhaps talk to some farmers and crop dealers from all over the country, please stop by and pay them a visit. Let’s enhance the spirit of cooperation, support, and healthy living in Japan by continuing such community gatherings.

Market information For Saturday, March 26th and Sunday, March 27th

Hours: 10 AM – 4 PM

Location: United Nations University, Aoyama (across the street from Aoyama University)

日時:土日 10時から16時
住所:東京都渋谷区神宮前5–53–70 国際連合大学前広場

Accessible from these stations:

Omotesando Station (Tokyo Metro); closest

Shibuya Station (JR Yamanote Line); 2nd closest

Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line); 3rd closest

For more information and market updates, please see the following website:

United Nations Farmers’ Market

Estancia. Gaucho. Bandoneon. Piazzolla. I’m up for almost any activity that involves one of those four words. Lucky for us, we can have a taste of all the aforementioned four on the evening of April 9th at Taipei’s National Theater Concert Hall.

Acclaimed Argentine bandoneonist Juanjo Mosalini, along with conductor Gisele Ben-Dor will be performing Alberto Ginastera’s “Estancia” and Astor Piazzolla’s “Concerto for Bandoneon.” The show’s called “Latin Shimmer.” Tickets in the 600 NTD – 1500 NTD range are still left. Let’s move the show over to the milonga afterwards.

The Shimmery Latin  拉丁琴迷

National Theater Concert Hall 國家音樂廳 (台北市中山南路21-1號)

Taipei, Taiwan

Saturday, April 9th, 19:30

Program and Ticket Information