2014年1月31日 星期五

Happy Lunar New Year!

Hello world! This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan :)

First off, fun fact for you: I used to call this celebration Chinese New Year, but recently corrected my self to refer to it as Lunar New Year, because it is not only celebrated by Chinese, but Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and lots of other people too!

Yesterday was the last day of the lunar year, and we celebrated by having reunion dinner (年夜飯/團圓飯) together with my grandparents and my uncle's family. We don't have a lot of traditions in the family, only preserving the essence of New Year celebrations- to be with family and loved ones. 

A typical New Year's Eve would begin with a feast (like I posted on Instagram) , traditionally everything on the table should have symbolize different meanings such as longevity, prosperity,  luck, or other good stuff you wish for, but in our household, the only rule is to bring out the good stuff. Highlight of this (last?) year's dinner was the HUMONGOUS shrimps!! I have never had shrimp that comes with roe inside, it's just so good! Definitely a luxury food item fit for special occasions like New Year's Eve. 

After dinner, we watch TV and play board games or cards. Most families play Mahjong, but somehow no one in my family does. Maybe we are just not gamblers? Our game of choice was Big 2, I was on a losing streak for a dozen rounds and I was losing my pants (輸到脫褲) and my temper, then I completely turned the table around and won! A good omen for this year? Of course, constant snacking is a must, whether you like to munch on nuts, fruits, or have another helping of that delicious but huge fish.

After some food and fun, the most/least important part comes- getting hongbao(紅包) ! I am very lucky to have a small family with few kids, so that the "resources" are not spread out haha. Unfortunately, there will be not exciting shopping activity for me, because I'm still in debt to my dad for a trip I had and going crazy during sales season in 2013 and I plan to repay the debt first. I did but some clothing yesterday though, it was on sale, how could I not? 

I find it conflicting that I want to pay for the trip and vanity items myself, even though I'm still on allowance and gets hongbao from my parents. College kid problems. For now, I would just have to enjoy my hongbao, because next year, I might be giving instead of getting them!

2014年1月30日 星期四

Hashtags overload - Love, hate or meh? Need help

Hello world! This is Lenny, Reporting from Taiwan :)

Hashtags are a new thing to me. Before I joined the wonderful world of Instagram, I didn't know what it is good for. Honestly, I used to roll my eyes when people import Instagram to Facebook and have like 40+ hashtags under it. Why would you put so many repetitive and meaningless words to your photo? 

Since I joined Instagram a few weeks ago, I now know that hashtags are a great way to connect with like-minded people, but I'm still struggling with the usage. Should I use them moderately, only two or three per photo? Or should I use them generously, even if the hashtag is slightly off topic? One thing I do know is that I don't appreciate it when I search #Taiwan and see random photo of (non-Taiwanese) guys and girls! You may be hot, but I feel cheated by your excessive tagging and I am NOT going to like your photo.

Please help me out, seasoned Instagram users! How do you like to see them used? Is there any hashtags I have to know about? 

2014年1月28日 星期二

Change of direction- to be a life blogger

Hello world! This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan :)
If you have read my first post, you would know that I started this blog as a way to showcase Taiwan to the world, to introduce my country. But somewhere along the way, I lost my true self. I was so fixated on the idea that I should present Taiwan in its best light and be as informational as possible, that I lose my personality, my humour, my sarcasm, and the occasional cuss words (oops). Blogging is really about the blogger, not writing glossed over pieces one'd see on the Travel Bureau, so I've decided to make a change in direction.
What inspired me to start blogging in the first place was the many wonderful beauty blogs I read daily, especially my good friend Daphne's blog subgenre of a dream. But I didn't start out as a beauty blog because I thought I can't. I'm a makeup newbie! I don't own a massive collection of makeup! I don't know how to take good photos! Well, now I realize these are all excuses, and I can do whatever I want with my blog. While I like order in my personal life, I honour randomness when it comes to writing, so I hereby announce I will become a life blogger- a blogger who blogs about their life, but is too indecisive to choose a specific topic and stick to it. I don't think I'll ever become a lifestyle blogger, become I'd have to have style to do that, hell I will probably even struggle to be a life blogger, since I don't really have a life besides stalking pretty bloggers from across the pond (helloooooo ladies!). I will try to live a little more, be a little more adventurous,  and hopefully this little blog will be filled with bits of beauty, fashion, travel and whatever else I came to love. Who knows, I might just give people a peek into Taiwan along the way!

2014年1月27日 星期一

People, show a little confidence will ya?

Part of my prep work for blogging includes searching Taiwan related stuff on the internet, and I came across this video today. The video was made by stopkiddinstudio, who essentially has the same purpose as I- to showcase Taiwan to the English-speaking world. The videos are mostly interesting, but the one I linked above was a real tear jerker for me. It's a short video with several foreigners saying what they like about Taiwan, and it's not even meant to be emotional, but seeing my (internationally unrecognized)  country getting recognized by foreigners is just......oh god Imma cry again so I'll leave you to finish that sentence yourself. 

Brought to the edge of tears by the video, I moved on to the comments section, expecting to see more heartwarming comments, instead, I saw people bashing Taiwan and Taipei, and surprise surprise, those negative comments are from Taiwanese netizens.
Can we all pause for a second and let me rant a bit:
I totally understand why they do this, but I simply can not accept. In Taiwanese/Chinese culture, humility is a great virtue, but humility gone wrong can lead to low self-esteem and no confidence. So when someone compliments you, for example: "Wow you are really good at dancing!" you will respond with "No that's not true, I suck at dancing," or bring up another personal flaw "But I'm really bad at singing," I know this scenario all too well because I am guilty of this. I can't take compliments. It's my weakness. While I'm still working on that, I would NEVER, EVER, BADMOUTH ABOUT MY OWN COUNTRY IN FRONT OF A FOREIGN AUDIENCE.

It may not seem like such a big deal if you go and read the  comments, but fact is, I see it happening on every single piece of Taiwan-related articles. I do recognize it is crucial to reflect on the flaws if we want the country to improve, but laying out the dirt for other people to see certainly does not help the cause. 

So all my fellow Taiwanese netizens, show a little confidence, add a smiley face and say thank you the next time somebody compliments your country.

2014年1月22日 星期三

[Word of the Day] 是洋蔥! onion ninjas

The other day I was procrastinating as usual, visiting random webpages containing no valuable content, when I stumbled upon this post. judging from the title, I anticipated some "Awwww" moments, but did not expect any tear-jerking moments, like when I saw item #31. I am not homosexual, but I have some homosexual friends, and the article just reminds me of all the people who cannot embrace their true selves just because of their sexuality. 

With watery eyes and a stuffy nose, I read the comments section, and found something really interesting. Apparently others shared the same emotion toward the post, and some comments read "onion ninjas!" Apparently "onion ninjas", or "onion-cutting ninjas", refers to when a post or situation is not expected to be touching or tear-jerking, but ends up having the effect of making people cry, because ninjas are invisible, and onions can water up your eyes, self-explanatory and genius!

What intrigues me most is that we have a similar expression in Taiwan. When faced with a unexpected tearjerker, people might exclaim "是洋蔥! " or "是誰偷偷加了洋蔥!". This is a catchphrase from a Stephen Chow movie 食神 (God of Cookery) , in one of the most important scenes, Stephen Chow makes Sorrowful Rice in a cooking competition, which makes the judge cry and ask why she feels overwhelmed by sorrow, to which Chow answers, "It's onions. I added onions." Stephen Chow movies are wildly popular in Taiwan amongst the young generation , so this catchphrase is used widely in the online community and sometimes in real life, much like the phrase onion ninjas.

Maybe next time you are navigating through forums and find unexpected tearjerkers, you can comment by using the phrases "onion ninja" or "是洋蔥".

Did you know the two phrases before this blog post? 
Is there any other interesting internet expressions you would like to share?

2014年1月15日 星期三

Naming my blog

Hello world! This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan :)
There is a Chinese saying, "萬事起頭難", which basically means the first step is always the hardest, and I find it to be especially true when it comes to blogging. To start a blog, you first have to come up with a blog name before you can do anything else, and boy is it hard to come up with names! Although my blog is somewhat random, I was sure I wanted it to be Taiwan-related, so my ideal blog name would be something fun, catchy, and incorporates Taiwan. I came up with some options, as shown in the above picture, but none of them felt right. I was so close to using "Tidbits, Travel and Trivia", but for some reason decided to drop it. I was so frustrated that I thought about using my plain old name as the blog name, but sadly it's already taken. (Another girl with the same boyish name as me? I sure want to meet her in person someday!) That's when Reporting From Taiwan came to mind. Some of my posts might be informative, and some are very random, but what they all have in common is that I am writing them in Taiwan, so the name fits my blog perfectly! It also fulfills my criteria of having "Taiwan" in it, how neat is that? 

Besides from being an perfectionist, I took the naming process very seriously because it is the first thing that readers will see, and I'm the kind of person that will skip a blog if the name doesn't interest me- why read it when there are millions of other interesting blogs to check out? To be honest, I wasn't a fan of beauty blogs Vivianna Does Makeup or Lily Pebbles because the names were a bit bland for my taste, but after I ventured further into the beauty bloggers world, I found out they are the queens of bbloggers, and decided to give them a read, and now I am hooked! Goes to show how the name can really affect your audience, if they are anything like me!

So, do you like my blog name? What's yours and how did you come up with it?

2014年1月8日 星期三

Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese

Hello world! This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan J

For those of you who are interested in learning Chinese, or already know Chinese, sometimes you will see written Chinese that may not look the way you are familiar with. This is probably because of the difference between two types of written Chinese, and that’s what I am going to talk about today!

Taiwan’s official language is Mandarin Chinese, same as the official language of China. The major difference between the two countries is that for writing Taiwan uses Traditional Chinese, which is the set of Chinese characters that came to be through thousands of years of Chinese culture, while China uses Simplified Chinese, which is a simplified version of Traditional Chinese.
Both versions of written Chinese have their pros and cons. Traditionally Chinese characters are logograms, meaning each character was actually a drawing of the thing it represents, kind of like Egyptian hieroglyphs with all the lions, feathers and birds. People had different aesthetics and wrote/drew their characters differently in the beginning, but after hundreds of years, a more unified version of Chinese characters slowly emerged and became the Traditional Chinese as we know it today. The best feature of Traditional Chinese is that every character holds historical and artistic value, every character has its own story. The downside of Traditional Chinese is that it takes more time to learn to write as there are some quite difficult characters. (Imagine learning to write your name when you’re only 7, and your name is 龍嚴馨 or the like……)
Simplified Chinese was created in the 1950’s by the Communist Party in China. I don’t know about others, but I thought the reason for this is to improve literacy, after doing a bit of research, I found out surprisingly that this was actually a step taken to achieve the ultimate goal of completely abolishing written Chinese and replacing it with Latin alphabets. Apparently the Communists thought the very complicated written language was a tool used by Capitalists to suppress the lower uneducated classes. Huh. Glad they didn’t go through with that plan in the end!
They simplified the characters by taking out strokes and replacing certain parts of characters, for example, the character for “dream”=, became once simplified. The upside of Simplified Chinese is that it’s much easier to write. There is debate on whether it makes Chinese easier to learn- because the simplifying process was done rather hastily, there is inconsistency in some similar characters, meaning they can easily be misread or misinterpreted. Also, to greatly decrease the total number of words in use, many words that made the cut have to carry multiple meanings, which can be confusing sometimes. (There are a lot of jokes about Simplified->Traditional conversion errors, but somehow the ones I know are R-rated, go ask your Chinese friends if you are interested!) Another downside is that by simplifying the characters it also takes out the historical and artistic value infused into the Chinese characters.

I grew up learning, reading and writing Traditional Chinese, and I am proud to be a part of Chinese history every time I use it. I can’t read Simplified Chinese; it just hurts my eyes to look at so many similar-looking words squished together, and I dislike anything that doesn’t follow logic and pattern. Sometimes I do use Simplified Chinese characters, namely when I take notes, but I only use maybe two or three characters ever, I much prefer to increase my writing speed by using English conjunction words or symbols to up my write speed. Whether to use Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese is a matter of preference, and I respect that. But if you really want to study the cultural history of Chinese people, then I would advise you to try to learn Traditional Chinese, who knows, you might just fall in love with it!

Can you write Chinese? Do you prefer the simplified version or the traditional version?

2014年1月1日 星期三

[Makeup Trend Report] #1 The no-makeup look

[Makeup Trend Report] is a series of posts that focuses on the trends of makeup in Taiwan. They are all personal observations and do not represent the whole of Taiwan in any way.

Hello world! This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan J

To start off this series, I would definitely have to start with the most popular “makeup trend” for Taiwanese women, which is the no-makeup look. I am not talking about the “no-makeup, makeup look”, but literally NO-MAKEUP, BAREFACED looks.

In Taiwan, there was once a fad where TV shows would invite pretty girls to remove all their makeup in front of everyone, and reveal their "true (and not as pretty)self ". For dramatic effects, the girls on the shows are usually ones that have drastic changes after makeup, and if you are a fan of Taiwanese entertainment but not familiar with average Taiwanese citizens like me, you probably thought that all Taiwanese girls are obsessed with makeup and can't leave the house without putting anything on their face. The reality is, most girls and women don’t wear much makeup, at least not on a daily basis. I am totally biased saying this, but I personally think Taiwanese females in general have fairly nice facial features and look good even without makeup :) Anyone back me up on this?

In middle school, some girls start to experiment with loose powders, lip glosses, mascara etc, but because most schools forbid wearing makeup to school, and most parents don’t approve either (aiyo you're only a kid why wear makeup ah? not fitting lah!), girls usually only wear makeup when they hangout on the weekends. I remember buying and trying out different products, but my makeup trials were confined to my dresser, because my parents were always taunting my attempts. (Way to build your kid's confidence!)

Moving on to high school, my school is very liberal and has no restrictions on makeup, but even so, there weren't a lot of people who wears makeup to school, I personally didn't know anyone who does. (though there was this guy who rocked heavy black eyeliner daily) For those who did wear makeup, a light base with some filled in brows and clear lip gloss was the best choice, while a full-coverage face with falsies and lipstick was definitely not going to sit well with other girls, even boys. Basically, before you get your butt into a nice college, you are supposed to study hard and be good in school. Since makeup is a vanity item and not a exam subject, it is certainly not on the encouraged extra-curriculum's list. Girls (and boys) who wear too much (or any) makeup in grade school or high school might be labeled as rebellious, vain, or even trashy. It's the same with uniforms, when everyone is wearing the hideous over-the -knee ill-fitted skirt, wearing a tailored mini skirt will not make you the homecoming queen, instead, people will just stare and go tsk tsk at you. 

 In college, because students have more freedom in regard to appearance, more girls start to wear makeup daily, and the ones who never wore makeup still can’t bother. To give you an better idea, in my class of 40 girls (and 20 boys), only about 5 girls wear makeup on a daily basis, maybe a dozen girls will wear makeup for special occasions, and the rest have never worn and no desire for makeup. I was in the "meh, can't bother" category for the major part of my college life, but my love for makeup have rekindled and I am experimenting with makeup lately. FOTD posts in the future perhaps?

What about women in the work force? You might ask. My theory is, because in the past Taiwan’s economy thrived on small home-owned companies all over the country, there weren't a need for makeup at work, why would you want/need to dress up and make up if you’re working alongside your aunt and grandpa in your living room? 

Nowadays, while some women have the mindset of "wearing makeup is showing courtesy to others"(footnote1), a mindset heavily influenced by Japan, and some women are required to wear makeup by their employers, most women wear makeup because it makes them feel good. 

In my opinion, the no-makeup trend is caused by several factors:
1. Girls aren't encouraged to explore makeup when they are most interested in their appearances.
2. There is no need for makeup. (ie for work or special occasions. A lot of people never go clubbing or partying.)
3. People value natural beauty over artificial beauty.
4. It’s high maintenance to wear makeup. Since it’s hot and humid in Taiwan, very often your foundation melts off or your eyeliner smudges into unattractive raccoon eyes ten minutes after you walk out your door.
5. No time for makeup. High school students have to get to school by 7 am. Working women have more time in the morning, but because overtime is common,the trouble of remove makeup when you’re exhausted can be discouraging.

The upside of this trend is that most people have great skin because they don’t suffer damage from chemicals in makeup products, but the downside is, it can be difficult sometimes to find a makeup chat buddy!

I was once part of the barefaced trend, even though I had interest in makeup, I was just too busy and lazy to wear makeup, and it did not help that my features are nothing like the pretty faces in makeup tutorials. Recently, I have decided to start practice makeup and go through the inevitable road of makeup disasters, so I can end up at the decent-looking phase and put on a satisfying face when I ever need to. After all, it does feel nice to look glam once in a while!

 (This is me at an party 18 months ago, you can see that I do dress up and try to style my hair, but I never bothered to wear makeup. Now I see the inconsistency! It's silly to put lots of effort into your clothes only to leave you face bare. I should have at least fill in my sparse brows.)

What is the biggest makeup trend in your country? Do you wear makeup on a daily basis?

footnote 1: I personally hate this saying, because I feel the under laying message is "you're not pretty and you hurt my eyes, can you at least try to look less ugly?" It is only polite to keep yourself clean and presentable in public, but I don't feel that makeup is necessary to achieve this. Besides, why the guys don't have the same rule applied?