TAF Real World – Week #27 of 51

G’day mates! Love Out Loud can often start chain reactions. Howard reports from down under on how LOL can trigger a new path in life for week #27 (or 24 weeks ’til TAF)!


Now this is a story, all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside-down,
And I’d like to take a minute,
So just sit right there,
I’ll tell you how taflove helped me move down to Australiayer

Love has over 20 different definitions, but for me taflove has only one definition. It can best be described as a profoundly tender and compassionate concern/enthusiasm for the well-being of others. With taflove, all are accepted as is and there is no room for judgment or exclusiveness. Taflove is not just exhibited by your actions, but by your state of mind.

The beginning of this story dates back to my first year at TAF in 1996. I was 12 years old and well, I had no desire to go to TAF. To me, TAF was a stupid camp just like every other camp my parents had signed me up for, with the only difference being the camp would be filled with Taiwanese kids. I remember packing my bags ever so slowly, hoping my lack of effort would be rewarded with not having to go anymore. Unfortunately, this was not the case…my mom dragged me kicking and screaming to my friends’ car (Tim and Joh Kuo) and off we went to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.

Upon arrival we were greeted by enthusiastic counselors whom I found scary and overly excited. I was a shy and awkward kid and I was in an entirely new environment. Going to potlucks, Sunday school, and other Taiwanese events with your parents is one thing, but going to a camp by yourself with all these strangers who look just like you is another altogether. Tim and I were shuttled off to our room, and the rest of the day was a blur. What I distinctly remember is the ice cream social in the basement that night, where four simple words struck up a friendship that’s lasted to this day, and a friendship that helped bring me to Australia (Butterfly Effect style).

Those words were: “Want to play Signal?” and they were spoken by Jonathan Ray Lee.

Jon was outgoing. I was not. Jon was a TAF veteran at 13. I was a noob. Jon knew how to smile. I knew how to brood.

Jon is the first friend I made at TAF, but will certainly not be the last. By being friendly and open, Jon exhibited what taflove meant at a young age. He didn’t judge me by my clothes or my demeanor, he just wanted to hang out and make a friend. This attitude is one that’s made a significant impact on me, and one I try to live out each day.

After playing Signal, our friendship and interests grew over the years. 1999 was our first year on TAF Slideshow with Charlene Chen and Roger Lin, and it was the last year of TAF at Calvin College. It was also the last year that Slideshow was on actual slides. (Since retro is in we should bring it back.) In 2000 we were on Slideshow again, this time with Jay Liang and armed with 1.3 megapixel digicams. (Top of the line, you know.) In 2001 Jon abandoned me to be a Youth advisor, and I did Slideshow with Carolyn Huang and Anna Wu. To make up for it, we began construction of a Slideshow manifesto… which Jon should have a copy of somewhere. In 2002 we were back on Slideshow, but also worked as JH advisors (Taiwanese Terror with Amy Liao) alongside Kevan Lin and Michelle Hsu. (JH PD’s represent!) 2002 was also the year of our infamous glamour shots. (Don’t ask, don’t tell.)

I missed TAF in 2003, but it was Jon’s first year as JH PD. From 2004-2005 Jon was PD and I was a JH advisor for the Magical Bah-Tzang’s with Ranee Wu and Super Powderpuff- I’M SO SORRY I FORGOT OUR GROUP NAMES with Gloria Chang! 2006 was Jon’s last year as a JH PD with Alex Chen, and I abandoned JH to become a TAF Consultant. Because of this abandonment, our friendship, as most do every once in a while, hit a rough patch. Just kidding. Maybe. In 2007 I was only able to attend for the weekend and I was immediately thrown into Slideshow with Jon Lee, Jon Chen, the College Program, and Kevan Lin. It turned out pretty awesome. Then in 2008 I was brought on as JH PD with Tiffany Sun (first swing choir partner ever) and Jon kicked off TAFLabs with Kev Yau. The rest is history… like Juliana Wu (2008 JH PD.)

Since I digressed a bit with my career at TAF, I’ll get back to my point. Through the years we’ve participated in ITASA (as attendants and speakers,) met parents and grandparents, roadtripped, started a fledgling company (!!!) and hopefully impacted mankind in unique and compassionate ways. Last year we released a Public Service Announcement for Taiwanese Census 2010 as Slideshow Pictures with Alex Yang, Kev Yau, and the very special help of HoChie Tsai. While we were filming this, I brought up a trip to Australia and New Zealand with Jon, and he stated that he had relatives there. The seed was planted.

Soon enough we (mainly Jon) brought Jeff Cheng and Alice Wang on board to go on the trip with us, and it was the trip of a lifetime. We went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, trekked through the rain forest, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, drove to the coast of New Zealand and more. It was during this trip that I decided I HAD to live in Sydney.

In Sydney, Jon and I decided to do laundry at his cousin Kevin’s house while Jeff and Alice went to watch a show at the Sydney Opera House. While we were waiting for the laundry to finish, we decided to go to the mall that was just about to close. As we were walking past the food court we decided to make a right turn instead of a left, and we ran into Kevin’s friends by pure coincidence. It was here that we made friends with local Aussies and where our experience in Sydney elevated. These friends were a blessing in helping me move and settle into Sydney; I’m not sure I would be where I am today if I didn’t meet them. Moving to Australia would never have happened if I was never friends with Jon and didn’t take him up on his offer to play Signal. Through our friendship, I ended up on the other side of the world but I’m as happy as ever.

The moral of this story is live and breathe taflove…because a little love never hurt anybody, you might make a friend that will last you a lifetime, and your dreams might be realized.

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