It was an unseasonably chilly September day for the TAF Chicago 2010 Kickoff, but that didn’t stop 18 campers and a host of TAF staff from showing up for fun, games, and life lessons in Lombard, Ill. And puppies.

Suitably, the “Big Wind Blew” at the beginning of the day, with the group embarking on a host of old school TAF games. Luckily, 2010 hospitality coordinator Bing Wang was there to lead us in the icebreakers. After everyone introduced themselves and settled into the TAF spirit again, we sat down and recapped key information that JH speaker John D. Lin and Youth speaker Tom Lin shared with us in July. Remember languages of love? Using your shrewdness to benefit others? Cross-cultural communication? We did!

Then some lucky volunteers were chosen to demonstrate how nonverbal communication can allow others to help you achieve your goals. In a spirited (and hilarious) re-enactment of “trying to catch a chicken,” Jocelyn Liang showed off her chicken-chasing skills to the group.

Afterwards, the group broke into three smaller groups to get to know each other better. We talked about post-TAF life, including the ways we “Loved Out Loud” since July. All sorts of great ideas came up during these meetings- if all goes well, TAF Chicago could be invading all sorts of Chicagoland establishments soon: Laser Tag, pumpkin patches, haunted houses, ski lodges, bowling alleys, you name it. (No, seriously, give us more ideas!) We also can’t wait for participants to start leading some great workshops for us every month.

Speaker session was led by Hiro Kawashima, executive director of the nonprofit organization Supplies for Dreams, which provides school supplies and mentoring to Chicago Public School students. Hiro showed everyone how people (especially young people) could find a passion in helping others and put plans into motion. During the session, everyone was challenged to think of a cause that they care about and think of a small way to help it. After all, it is the small endeavors that are most likely to succeed and touch people personally. Then, each small group sat down and came up with a plan to advertise and fundraise for a cause of their choice. Two groups made plans to assist a local animal shelter, while another set up a mentorship program at their school. It was a great way to think about how communications skills can be used to help others.

The formal part of TAF Chicago was over and some of the group headed out to eat dinner at Cici’s. Then we all journeyed to Holes and Knolls to play a round of mini-golf. But that wasn’t until after we discovered the best playground contraptions ever. Check out our photos and videos to see how it all went down!

All in all, it was a great TC Kickoff meeting. Can’t wait to see you guys next month for our leadership-themed meeting, with a special HALLOWEEN EXTRAVAGANZA!

PS: If you are in the Chicago area and haven’t checked out a TAF Chicago weekend yet, why not? YOU COULD PLAY WITH PUPPIES.

RECAP: INTERPRETATIONS – a Communication Workshop

During Wednesday of this year’s TAF, the tafLabs program was asked to run a workshop for the JH and Youth programs. Obviously, with tafLabs’ collective interest in the arts and media, we wanted to incorporate those topics into our session. However, we’ve already spoken at length about the importance of media along with other subtopics like Asian American representation, etc. We wanted to do something a little more unique and interactive, and thankfully, the yomyomf.com-hosted film contest Interpretations was the perfect workshop content!

The premise of the contest is this — each filmmaker uses the exact same script, in the exact same order. There are only four lines, and they are:

– It’s not something I’d do.
– Well?
– It’s not what I expected.
– You sure?

Each of the Family Groups at TAF came up with their own ideas, some funny, some serious, all incredibly creative. They showed a wide range of interpretation, which is an important part of Communication (ding ding ding!). We sometimes overlook or forget that just expressing ourselves is not enough for good communication. You have to try to do it in a way so that others can receive your message, and vice versa. The point is, good communication is a two-way street and the sending of the message is just as important as the decoding or interpretation of a message.

In the end, tafLabs chose one story idea to film at TAF. Based on the storyline as well as the feasibility of filming it within the time constraints of TAF’s programming (we’re fast because we have to be, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it easier on ourselves!), we chose the Bacon Family Group’s entry. We filmed the story immediately after our session as a follow-up workshop, which gave the campers a chance to be actors IN media, and to see a side of communication from a different perspective than they might be used to.

And now, we happily present to you the finished piece!


Now, we also mentioned that we had to choose which story to film partly based on our abilities to film within the constraints of TAF and Manchester College facilities, which means we could not have shot all the stories at TAF even if we had the time. Thankfully, Youth camper Ryan Yang was encouraged to take his story idea and film it in Chicago after TAF ended — and boy, are we sure glad we did. Ryan’s Interpretations submission is a moving piece dedicated to his friend Will Kelley, and others like him, who have battled cancer.


Eternal Piece, A Dedication from Kinema Group on Vimeo.

If you have a moment, you can check out other film entries with the Interpretations Film Viewer, and please sign up and leave some love for Out of Order and for Eternal Piece!

Two other notable pieces to check out:
Karen Lin’s “Little Blue Angel” and Jason Lee’s “Strangers in a Park,” which may have content unsuitable for those under the age of 13 — Parental Discretion advised.

Congrats to all the filmmakers and storytellers out there, and we’re proud to see all the creativity connected to TAF and our Taiwanese American community 🙂

RECAP: Fast & Furious Workshop on Racism

Editor’s note: On this blog we’re going to sometimes recap various workshops held at TAF. They’ll include write-ups by the staff members that helped facilitate the workshops, along with any slides or videos that were used. We hope that both campers AND parents will be able to gain something from these entries, as either a reminder of lessons learned, or as a way to experience and understand a very important part of TAF, the workshops, which are unfortunately under-represented in what the Parents usually see at TAF Night, in the Slideshow, or on the TAF DVD’s. So TAF Parents, please enjoy!

Our first RECAP is for the “Fast and Furious” workshop from the Junior High Program, written by JH Counselor Kevin Lee.

You always have to be careful when you talk about race because you don’t want to understate it to a point where it becomes seemingly insignificant. But you also don’t want to overstate it to the point where you radicalize, dichotomize, or otherize your audience. Therefore, to maintain that balance in this year’s Junior High program, Ann Wu, Justin Yang, and myself focused on three major goals in our Fast and Furious workshop about race: understanding stereotypes, breaking down social barriers, and reaffirming the campers’ self-identity.

With stereotypes, we wanted the campers to discuss moments in their lives where they’ve been stereotyped, but we also wanted them to understand that they consciously or subconsciously use stereotype themselves. We began by having the campers list Asian American or Taiwanese American stereotypes in their small group, and then compiling it into a big list for everyone to see. By having a tangible list, it allowed small groups to confront stereotyping and personal experiences with stereotypes more easily. Bringing it full circle, we also wanted the Junior High campers to acknowledge that while they were victims of stereotyping, they also stereotyped as well.

To do that, we showed pictures of people like Josef Mengele, Nelson Mandela, MIA, and others and let each camper shout out what their first impression of each person was. After we showed all the pictures, we would reveal who each person is and what they had done. Each person would have a list of accomplishments opposite of what their stereotype was. For example, one picture we used was that of General John L. Dewitt. Imagine a stoic general in full uniform and the adjectives associated with that picture. The campers responded to that picture with words like “honorable”, “patriotic”, “proud”, and “general” only to find out later that General Dewitt was a huge proponent and organizer of Japanese Internment in World War II, his famous quote being, “A Jap is a Jap, whether or not he is an American Citizen or not.” Not very patriotic or honorable at all.

To break down social barriers, we showed a video of famous Asian/Taiwanese Americans in the entertainment industry. We compiled a list of questions about stereotyping and social barriers for musician Dawen Wang, hip-hop group Far*East Movement, film producer Karen Lin, Formosa Betrayed actor Adam Wang, and the writers of Asian American focused comic book Secret Identities.

In a “Post-Obama” world, many people think that all the social barriers for women or racial minorities have been torn down. Even the campers have the same impression as many of the Junior High students in my small group thought that social progress for many Taiwanese Americans was “good” or at least “getting better.” However, while these speakers in the video are Asian American pioneers and leaders in the entertainment, many of the campers admitted that they didn’t know any of these entertainers. Asian American representation in the media is still heavily based on stereotypes and that shows that, if anything, America has a misconception about race relations in our modern world. The recent arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates and the backlash that followed reveals that perfectly. We wanted to make sure that our campers realized some of these barriers still exist, and that there is still much room for progress and growth.

Finally there is identity reaffirmation. We wanted to make sure that the campers saw themselves as Asian or Taiwanese American, but only in a smaller scope of their greater identity. Many times I’ve seen people radicalize or otherize their experience as Asian Americans and ostracize themselves from the greater community. It was important that they understand that they are more than an Asian American boy or girl. While we all share cultural backgrounds, each individual has a different path and a different identity that is beyond race, gender, socioeconomics, and so on. It is critical for us to embrace our culture or heritage, but only in terms of our greater autonomous identity.

All of the counselors came away with the experience feeling confident about the JH campers ability to comprehend some of the issues. Other issues, we realized, would be better resolved by time than by discourse. Overall, we were amazed by the maturity of the JH campers in discussing such issues; I know for a fact that I was not thinking or talking about such issues at such a level at their age.

However, the discussion doesn’t stop there. The pursuit for great social equality is an ever-evolving process that melds with a greater society. To keep up with that, I recommend TAFers read and educate themselves as much as possible. Blogs are a great medium for people of all ages to do just that. A few recommendations:
* Angryasianman is a blog that updates its readers on the most recent news in the greater Asian American community.
* Slant Eye for the Round Eye is a blog focused on but not specific to Asian America and its role in the media.
* 8asians is a community blog where a handful of Asian Americans (including myself) from all different backgrounds and places that post about anything and everything pertaining to Asia America.

– Kevin Lee TAF’09 JH Staff