Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thoughts on Ferguson

Today, the verdict for the Ferguson shooting was released where they acquitted the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown. Now before I move on to my own personal commentary about this situation, I would first like to formally state that I hold no judgment or opinion as to the verdict. I have not spent the appropriate amount of time reading up on this case and cannot definitively make a judgement as to what occurred. The only statement I can make, is that regardless of the fact that it was cold-blooded murder or self-defense, someone died. Someone's son was taken from them violently and that is a tragedy in itself. My prayers go out to the family, and to those who have been personally affected by this tragedy.

I would like to address this issue in a variety of ways.  First off, a comment about how this issue is not something that is to be taken singularly and that it should be addressed as part of a narrative that has plagued the development of the United States.  I also want to comment on the larger picture of racial profiling. Finally, I want to provide with a tangible albeit dissatisfying solution.  

Racism, racial profiling, xenophobia, oppression.  These terms describe the colorful and violent history of the United States.  From the blatant inhumane treatment during the time of slavery, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Despite a melting pot of various racial identities and ethnic groups, the US has not been fair and has most certainly not treated the people of color on the same level as the Anglo population.  Now this can be observed through violence against the colored, or it can be seen in the various diasporas that form in cities.  Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Little Italy, Filipinotown...so on and so forth.  The self segregation and blatant segregation from both parties contributes to the violent outbreaks that occur when they clash.  As a result, we have cyclical events that occur.  Blatant police brutality leads to riots, which leads to an increase in police force, armaments and aggressive tactics, which leads to blatant police brutality.  Alternatively the cycle could also work in a different yet similar way.  Misunderstood actions leads to riots, which leads to an increase in etc...which leads to potential more misunderstood actions.  Where is the solution?  I'll relay that at the final section.  

However, I have one last point that will make sense in this section.  Why is it that there is national uproar when an African-American teenager is shot by a police officer, when Chinese students are mugged and left to die and get a small headline?  Why is it that civil liberties of the Muslim population or just those with dark skin and voluptuous beards get violated so easily and no one cares?  Is it because of the inane guilt that Americans have because the African-American population was so heavily mistreated that they feel the need to report any and all violence that is perpetrated against them?  In other words, why is a nation, that was built on the idea of immigrants, has such a culture of racial profiling and xenophobia?  It's a question that will most likely never be answered, but it is a question that needs to be asked.  Because when such questions are asked, that's when people pause and reflect.

So what is a solution to prevent if not break the cycle?  For one, the disarming of police forces.  The tactics and armaments they use are not befitting for typical law enforcement.  Historically, when things have gone out of hand, the National Guard was called in to deal with such violence, not a civilian police force.  Practices must be made for disarming the police, as well as the aggressors.  It is not beneficial for both sides when it breaks into violent conflict.  The level of distrust among the colored population and the police force breeds the potentiality of violence, a disarming may help ease the tensions.  In most other nations, police officers don't carry firearms.  

I know people are going to disagree with what I'm saying, and I know much of this post is idealistic and does not reflect the point of view of someone who has been actively been oppressed.  This problem is systemic, which means solutions must also come from within the system. It saddens me that a nation, like the US, which is seen as an international leader if not role model, is dealing with this issue as a singular event without references the core problem that creates these events. I'm just a voice among many.   If anything, I want it to be known that I am praying for the families, for peace, for justice, for a day in which race, creed, ethnicity, does not matter.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Letter to the Editor on International Students at Oxy

Dear Editor,

I hate to be blunt, and hostile, but what I’m about to write will seem that way.  It’s just a problem and it’s frustrating.

Honestly, the article [Building Relationships Across the Pond;Embracing Diversity in the Classroom] is pretty true.  I have friends on both sides, and I know when my international student friends just hangout, eat and talk with other international students, and rarely interact with others.  On the flip side, my, for all intents and purposes, “domestic friends” also hardly interact with international students.  It’s hard.  For one, there is a huge communication barrier, and not just language or accents.  In Asia, when people talk, a “How are you” is not a greeting but an actual conversation starter that leads to a short if not important dialogue.  Here, “how are you” is shouted across the quad and is used very casually.  People in the US don’t talk unless it’s important.  There’s also the cultural barrier.  A key example is last weekend: Homecoming.  Besides the fact that we know our parents won’t pay X amount of money to fly 10+ hours to come visit us, we also have no idea or comprehension as to the importance of Homecoming.  Most of our universities in our home countries are massive and it doesn’t really matter when alumnis go back, let alone watch a sports game.  If you were at the game, I can guarantee that most of the international kids weren’t there.  We just have no interest and no understanding as to the importance.  Yet, in the US, homecoming is not a college thing but a high school phenomenon as well. Dances, kings & queens, parades, the whole idea is just foreign. 

In larger schools, a lack of interaction between these two bodies is fine, because they’re so large that each group has its own culture.  Here, the overwhelming culture is Western liberalism and it’s starkly different from what most international students grew up with.  This culture can be hostile, and is one of the reasons why international students band together.  There is a level of lack of understanding if not ignorance that also contributes to the lack of interaction.  A couple weeks back, I posted on Facebook a status asking students to wear yellow in support of the protests that were happening in Hong Kong.  Protests for democracy.  I thought, Oxy is such a social justice school, there’s bound to be some people who are interested.  Sadly, nothing happened.  I’m sad to say, but as much as Oxy prides itself on international students and diversity, the huge lack of understanding and ignorance is so pervasive that I’m not surprised that international students just stick together.  Because at least, when we’re in our respective groups, we understand each other.


Nicholas Yeh

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts on Technology

I have a friend who quit Facebook. She says it’s a distraction for her and I respect that, but when she did quit, my first thought was: “How am I going to communicate to her or post pictures for her?” Luckily there are other forms of technology like Dropbox and texting to solve those issues, but at the time I just didn’t understand. 

For some inexplicable reason I do now. Technology has killed some of my friendships. Let me say that again, technology has killed some of my friendships. Now, once again, for those who know me, I like talking to people. Not just offline, but online as well. I am a big proponent for Video Chats. Now it may be weird for some, but I just feel that you can say more things and be sincere about it when you are talking to someone “face-to-face”. Sarcasm, or other inflections in tone just doesn’t go very well through chat. As a result, I sometimes feel like I’m losing connections with people as time goes on, and it’s just heart-breaking. For me, it feels like I’m standing in front of a crowd and just watching people slowly fade away. On the other hand, it shows me which people I can talk to and not worry about drifting away, whether it be offline or online. The fact that they care to talk to me through both mediums means everything to me.

This all came to me when I had an epiphany about the lost art of phone calls. When was the last time you called someone to have a conversation out of the blue. Not a conversation about a question of where is everyone or where is everyone going to eat, but actually calling someone to talk. TO have a dialogue where something important is shared. When I made a phone call to a friend the other day, it just felt so foreign. Yet, I had a great conversation where we talked for quite a while and it felt real and true. I wasn't waiting for some awkward emoticon to understand what she was going through.

It’s sad. That people don’t talk to each other meaningfully through technology. Rather just using it as a medium to get what we want. Now I’m not saying that we should all end our Facebook and Snapchat accounts right now, because I’m not. I will continue to try and start conversations on chat hoping for a meaningful exchange, and maybe, just maybe. Move a conversation from the keyboard, to the phone.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Releasing the weight from my shoulders.

For those of you who have known me for quite a long time, you know that I don't give a crap about the way I look.  I mean, for the longest time my outfit everyday was: T-Shirt, Cargo Pants, and Flip Flops.  Any day, any season.  If I felt different, maybe I would wear a Polo, but otherwise, same style everyday.  I also never really cared about what people thought about me, however, like everyone else I would be grateful and appreciate praise when I received it.  But for the most part, I didn't care.  Now this may be due to the fact that I used to be bullied in elementary school, and I stopped caring as a defense mechanism, or I am so confident that I don't really have self-esteem issues.  Whatever the case, I will say that in all honesty, I may have just been lying or deceiving myself.

I am a pretty large guy.  Ever since I moved to Taiwan from Japan, in 2003, I kinda started getting fat. Now Taiwanese food is pretty amazing, but my school also had tons of sweet drinks, and in middle school, I used to eat french fries and tater tots everyday after school....and so on and so forth.  My parents were always worried that I would become like my dad and weigh 100kg by the time I got to senior year of highschool.  Sadly, I broke that record by the time I was either in sophomore or junior year.  At my highest, I weighed probably 120-125 kg (265-275lb).  I am a pretty large guy, and I knew that. I knew because I started wearing XXL by the time I was in sophomore year, or I had to get new suits for MUN.  I knew I was a big guy.  Yet I deluded myself, I shielded myself and lived a lifestyle where I purposefully wore clothes to not draw attention, to block any potential hurtful comments.

This all culminates to this summer.  After alot of talks and conversations, it was time for a significant lifestyle change.  After about 2-3 years of no consistent exercise, I began working out with my uncle, who is a personal trainer at the American Club in China (ACC).  I was also taken to a nutritionist by my mother and was put on a somewhat relatively stringent diet over the summer.  Keep in mind, when I was in lower and middle school, I used to swim regularly, till about 8-9th grade when I quit.  However, this lifestyle change was definitely different, and tough.  I began working out 4 times a week at ACC, doing exercises that my uncle would prescribe to me each week during our appointments.  All of my effort was going to that, while I put in somewhat, if bare minimum in my diet.  I'll tell you, it worked somewhat.  I dropped about 3-4 kg, and I felt better.  Then things changed.  School was starting again, so I went back to the US a month before school started.

No gym, no nutritionist, no workout. I lied to my parents whenever they would ask if I was doing my non-weight workouts over the summer.  I just had no motivation.  I still watched what I ate, but I didn't even really care about what my nutritionist said.  Fast-forward to school starting, and I began once again working out.  4 times a week.  I have missed 1 week and 2 sessions in the 7-8 weeks I've been in school, but I've been on track.  I've increased weights, worked harder, and I am feeling great.  Going to the gym is not so much of a chore but a habit.

Now you might be wondering, where is this leading to?   Well today, I had to go workout, and I haven't done laundry in a while so I was left with one option for workout clothes.  This relatively tight-fitting polyester (?) TAS Athletics shirt that my parents got me when they sent me a care-package a couple weeks back.  Now, when I first wore this shirt, I was like: "Nope. Too tight, it just makes me look big, this is going to the back of my drawer and never seeing the light of day."  Today, I think, I truly did not care, or felt confident enough to wear this shirt to workout. Granted, my belly looks kinda big in it, but it felt good.  I think I've come to a point where I recognize the necessity of what I am doing, and also recognize that people are there for me.  I shouldn't have to shield myself or protect myself from hurtful comments.  I should work towards bettering my body, becoming healthy and living a life where I am glorifying God by making sure that my body, my temple of worship, is good enough for him.  I will say I don't have self-esteem issues, but I know that I'm not ready for XL size clothes just yet. I guess writing this literally feels like a "weight" is off my shoulders, pun intended.

Now some of you may be asking, what do you weigh now?  Well at the time of this post I weight 117kg which is roughly 258lbs.  I currently workout 4 times a week, and have recently internally celebrated a milestone where I deadlift 4x12 100lbs.  I ask, if you can, to pray for continued strength and motivation as I continue to work to become healthy.
You can't see it, but my belly pops out. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Smelling the Roses

So I'm sitting at the top of the stairs by the Hameetmen Science Building, where it leads down to Campus and Armadale. I'm originally sitting with a podcast playing waiting for a text message. So I'm sitting and sitting and the text message arrives. I read it, turn off my phone and sit. For the next 10-15 minutes (I think I lost track of time) I just sit and just stare. I don't remember the last time I just sat, did nothing, and thought stuff. Mind you the first thing I thought about was what I would do if someone came up behind me and slashed my throat (I think I would try to remove my shirt, tie it as tight as I could around my neck and call 911 and wait for them to arrive. Though a cut to the jugular is basically unstoppable, according to tv shows and movies.). But I just sat here and watched as the sky turned from a beautiful assortment of colors, to the darkness brightened by the majestic moon. I'll say it again, I can't remember the last time I just sat and did nothing. What kind of life am I living where I can become desensitized to God's creation?  He made this world that we live in and yet I wonder if the proper verb is living if I don't appreciate it. I'm trudging (throwback to A Knight's Tale), in life or I'm rushing in life, going from one thing to the next, or just being absorbed in the false reality that technology creates. It's sad that I forget when the last time I just stopped and appreciate God's glory, when I should really forget about the things that pull me away from His glory. God is good, all the time. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Last Week's Heat

Looking back to last week, I really had a spur of the moment post that I wanted to write.

For those who didn't know, last week (9/14-9/20/2014) there was a long heatwave from the previous week's Saturday, till about Wednesday or Thursday.  It hit over 100 F for many days, and in the nights, it stayed at about high 80s.  Here is a link to an article about it.  

Now for those who are connected with my on Social Media, whether it be Facebook or Snapchat, you may have noticed my status about said heat wave.  It was really bad.  On Tuesday, I decided to skip class because I felt sick that day due to the heat.  As I told friends, the heat really slowed things down.  It made me feel absolutely terrible, work was incredibly hard to accomplish; honestly, it felt a pain to even rest in my room because it was so hot.  I remember waking up, throat absolutely parched, but looking at my pillow, just a dark ring around my head. 

So, like anyone who was suffering, I prayed.  I prayed to God.  I thanked him for the many things that were going right in my life, and then I asked.  I pleaded.  I prayed for strength in myself to go through and survive, I prayed for his mercy and grace so that he may change the weather and make it cooler.  Then I remembered that by God's grace and mercy, I was in a liberal arts college studying and working towards my future, when millions of other people are in areas of strife and conflict who don't have the same opportunities as I do.  People who have to worry about whether or not they live that day, or where they will sleep.  How can I, complain about my living conditions, when I already have more than I deserve?

Towards the end of the week, I picked up a poster that had this: Psalm 37:7.
 "Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him."
Intrigued, I look at all of Psalm 37 and found this other verse that I liked: 
"Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4.

The need for cooling, the need for more, should be met with an understanding that I, a Child of God, already has so much.  I should be more thankful for what I have, than needing what I don't.  Last week was a wake-up call and I pray that God, and my friends, can keep me accountable to be more thankful for what He has done, than to ask for Him to do more.

Friday, June 13, 2014


*This incident happened in March or April of 2014, but I've only decided to write about this now.  I did write a poem about the incident and recorded myself reading it at the time though.

I remember during the first few weeks of school, I suffered severe culture shock.  This was surprising to me because I had always considered myself as someone who would have no problem assimilating into the US.  I spent 10 summers in SF and was quite up to date with US culture.  However, what shocked me was the people, how I realized that I was used to the homogeneous population of Taipei American School and was surprised that I was not used to people of different color, race, financial background.  It took me quite a long time before the reality finally set in.  Despite this, I became friends with a variety of people at Oxy and loved them because they were so different.  Oxy, just felt like a place where people were different, but you were never called out for it.  It was very inviting, at least that's what I felt like until something happened.

Occidental was going through Student Elections for Student Government and I was called on by one of the candidates to affirm my minority status and to support their diversity plans.  They feared that an article in our school paper portrayed the candidate unfairly and wanted support from minority students at Occidental.  My first thought, was like "What?! I need to be reminded that I'm a minority?  Oxy is like so white!!! What is this!!"  I thought their phrasing was very rude and the fact that they messaged me through Facebook was just as surprising.  The candidate lived in my resident hall, so they could have came to my room and talked to me about it, but the fact that the candidate messaged me through Facebook, a place where I am considered an equal and not different, really made me frustrated.  In the end, I didn't comment, but I did write a poem and recorded it which I will copy and link below.

In all honesty, I really could care less, but the message the candidate wrote made me remember that despite the fact that I indeed was a minority, it shouldn't diminish the fact that I should be just as respected as any other person.  Slapping labels onto people indicates that there is a difference in position, in status, when in reality that shouldn't be the case.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

In the past month or so, there has been a noticeable spree of violent crimes all across the world, whether it be a stabbing attack in Taiwan, airport assault in Pakistan, or school shootings in the US. While I am deeply shocked by all these events, I've also realized that these events were already happening in the past. With the integration of trending news in social media and vice-versa, information is spread at a higher rate than before. Trees are now falling down and people are there to listen. More people are finding out about more things faster, which means more people are maybe beginning to think about solutions. As a result of this prospect, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because people are now everywhere, and have the means and the ability to help those who suffer, not only those who are victims of unspeakable attacks, but also those who are victims of unspoken acts. People believe that removing the means of committing violent crimes is a solution, whereas I believe that if one means is taken away, then more will be invented. The only solution, is to remain open-minded, to protect and treat those who are in pain. We must come up with ways to see signs, to read maps, but in a way that does not inhibit the way of life of everyday people. While this may seem to be an oxymoron, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Just because it’s easier doesn’t mean it’s the right way. Trees are now being heard when they fall. Now is the time to take the seedlings, and plant them so other trees can grow and survive.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Return to THIMUN

There is something poetic about returning to where it all began, at least where the last 12 months of our expansion began. I'm talking about THIMUN of course. Last year, I was lucky enough to be one of the select few to represent O-MUN at the conference, and honestly sometimes I wonder how the heck I did it. I was an O-MUN noob at the time, I only discovered the program in July, and had barely attended any debates. Yet, there I was, debating like there was no tomorrow, and out reaching like a clever salesman. I think back to all those meetings we had, crammed in Ms. Martin's room coming up with the ideas that have been implemented today. National programs, Assistant Directors, leadership trees, all came out of that one week in January.

I write this as we are about to start our descent into Schipol, the airport and to be honest, I am excited if not anxious as to what our team accomplishes this year. As so aptly stated by Ms. Martin, last year we were the outsiders, this year we are seated at the table with O-MUN members from all around the world. I look forward to watching the team debate in this amazing environment and I can't wait to spread O-MUN again. I have learned so much since last year and I can't wait to show off some of that knowledge.

This year, my team, the team, is comprised of 8 TAS students, all of which whom I have worked with over my many long years at TAS helping with the program, as well as 6 O-MUN delegates. In my opinion, this team may be stronger than the team last year, only because O-MUN has grown so much since last year and has provided so many opportunities for the delegates to better their craft.

O-MUN is something that I have come to love like a parent loving a child. It is something that I have put countless hours into working, caring, and improving, and while my time with O-MUN has not been as long as some of my colleagues, I am very happy with where I am today. I will say though, I have developed a whole new level of respect to my MUN directors: Ms. Sinclair, Ms. Rowe and Ms. Martin as I have come to see the travel teams in a new light. Organizing a team, this team, has been one of the most frustrating yet enlightening experiences I have ever faced. The level of work that is required was somewhat surprising, which led me to realize how much the directors put in each time a trip occurs. So I conclude with a word of thanks. Thank you for organizing travel teams, especially ones the I have been a part of, because I now understand what goes on behind the scenes.

Oh and we will have #rawherring awards for those who deserve them be cause like I said! Frustrating and enlightening.

A Humble Opinion to What's Going on Back Home

When I first heard about the protests, one thing immediately popped into my head: "Look, another example in which nothing gets done".Of course I referencing the fact that there have been documented incidents in which fights have broken out among the legislators.Now you might say that's just democracy in its "rawest" form but it's also just plain brawling.Now before I begin on what I have to say is my opinion on this whole matter, I have to flatly state that I too have a limited knowledge of what is going on.Everything that I am commenting about is things that I have learned from the CNN iReports, posts on Facebook, and conversations with my dad.Other than that, it is merely speculation.One thing before I begin is that when my dad and I were talking, it came up that this protest may just be a political stunt by the DPP (if you don't know by now, if I could vote, I'd probably support the KMT).Now here are a few statements that summarize my feelings towards this event.

1. I support the students as they exercise their right to protest and to act as a checks and balances for the government.
2. I do not support the actions in which the protest has been carried out such as but not limited to, the occupation of both the Legislative Yuan and the Executive Yuan, as well as the accidental or intentional defacement of government property.
3. I support the need for a Free Trade Agreement with the PRC as well as any other country for it provides the basis of economic, social and political development.
4. I do not support the government in their lack of transparency, but I do acknowledge the fact that it is necessary at times.
5. I do not support the police in using excessive force to quell the protesters, but I do acknowledge the fact that there has been no precedent in this type of protest in the last few years and that a hard call probably had to be made in this circumstance.  Violence is should be used as a last resort, but if and only if that is the last resort.  Every action should be questioned beforehand.
The fact is that even if the FTA is passed, it can be revoked.  All it takes is a government whether it be this one or one with a DPP majority to say, "look, we don't like this, sorry, but no more." I mean we saw direct flights to and from the PRC established even after the terms of President Chen Shui-Bien.  In the terms that President Ma has been in power, there has been an increase in Cross-Strait relations.  Doesn't mean that the next President will want such, it is very possible that everything that the President has done will be all revoked the moment the next President is in office.  Nothing in politics is static.  What is interesting is that the protests have now drawn two types of people.  1. Those who are concerned about the lack of transparency from the government and 2. Those who fear an overreliance on the PRC with our economy due to the signing of the FTA.  I will now address both concerns to the best of my ability.
1.  Regardless of what happens, transparency from the government will most likely stay the same.  Yes, civilian watchdog groups can be formulated and installed but all this will do is increase the bureaucratic process in which the government is already flooded with. Even the US government has a buffer time in which they are allowed to release classified documents.
2. The fact is that the ROC is already heavily reliant on the PRC for its economy.  ROC's main export is computer chips and LCD panels, both of which are manufactured in factories in the PRC.  The PRC is the ROC's number one trading partner in which it accounts got 28.0% of the exports and 13.2% of its imports.  The ROC has already signed a trade agreement with the PRC in 2009 called ECFA, in which it could potentially expand the market for ROC exports (the benefits to ROC have yet to be determined though).  ROC also has seen an increase in the tourism industry.  500 thousand tourists from the PRC came to the ROC in 2013.  If the FTA is not signed, then there must be more FTAs with other countries to compensate because economic development should not be stunted as a result.
To be honest, I found it funny when I started seeing pictures of TAS students joining the protests because I began to question if those students really knew what was happening.  I remember a couple years back in middle school, my parents took me to the protests that called for the removal of President Chen Shui-Bien.  I had no idea what was happening, besides the fact that I had to stand, and yell and maybe get a free hat.  I did not know the controversies that surrounded the President and at the time nor did I care.  Now I'm not saying that TAS students are ignorant or oblivious because I know some are probably following the news intently and have a clear sense of what is happening.  I do find it funny though that the first news outlets that were being sourced by iReporters on CNN iReport came from Apple Daily, which in my opinion is nothing more than news being over hyped with cool pictographs.
In conclusion, what this article and what my comment and what everyone else's comments are is an exercise of our rights as well.  However, it does not call for bashing of other opinions, yes some may be unsubstantiated or come from people like me who know that they don't have the whole facts but nonetheless it doesn't mean that I should be mistreated or shamed on the Internet.  The freedom of speech and press does not entitle people to be attacked or mistreated due to their opinions