Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – V

Every once in a while, you come across those who love what they do. I met some people like that through this project. Allow me to introduce three of them today.

13. Meet Rock, a magician in Taipei

Rock is perhaps one of the few magicians still existing in Taiwan. He has been practicing magic for the last 10 years. He got into magic after watching videos of great magic performances.

Rock is perhaps one of the few magicians still existing in Taiwan. He has been practicing magic for the last 10 years. He got into magic after watching videos of great magic performances.

 

His favorite part of doing magic? It is the moment when the viewer experiences shock and surprise and expresses his wonderment at what just happened.

His favorite part of doing magic? It is the moment when the viewer experiences shock and surprise and expresses his wonderment at what just happened.

 

Rock does not perform magic for putting on a show. His goal is only to teach children this slowly dying art form. He can teach simple tricks in as less as three minutes.

Rock does not perform magic for putting on a show. His goal is only to teach children this slowly dying art form. He can teach simple tricks in as less as three minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Meet Jane, who works part time at the Taipei Public Library

Jane does a number of things at the Taipei Public Library – she maintains book records, she issues books, she takes care of returns, and generally makes sure everything is in order. She is also a student of Library and Information Science, which is why she started working at the library part time.  She loves her job. She got into this because she loves reading – detective novels and books on finance and economics are her favorite. Her favorite part about this job is when children come to reserve books. She enjoys seeing them interested in reading. However, there are also times when customers are rude to her, especially when she asks them to return overdue books. Jane is another example of exemplary Taiwanese kindness. She came all the way outside the library, just so I could photograph her, since photography is not allowed inside the library. She wants to become a reference librarian eventually. She will stock the best books in science, economics, fashion, and all subjects possible.

Jane does a number of things at the Taipei Public Library – she maintains book records, she issues books, she takes care of returns, and generally makes sure everything is in order.
She is also a student of Library and Information Science, which is why she started working at the library part time.
She loves her job. She got into this because she loves reading – detective novels and books on finance and economics are her favorite. Her favorite part about this job is when children come to reserve books. She enjoys seeing them interested in reading. 
She wants to become a reference librarian eventually. She will stock the best books in science, economics, fashion, and all subjects possible.

 

15. Meet Mr. Lai, who works as a Tailor in Taipei

Mr. Lai has been working as a tailor since he was 13 years old. Since he did not want to study, his father asked him to pick up a skill instead. Mr. Lai can fix anything – clothes, bags, belts, etc. He believes in the importance of finding the right man for every job. “Just like you need the right doctor when you’re sick, you need the right man when you need to fix something. I am that man”, he says. “He can even fix leather pants for Harley Davidson riders,” he laughs and tells me.

Mr. Lai has been working as a tailor since he was 13 years old. Since he did not want to study, his father asked him to pick up a skill instead.
Mr. Lai can fix anything – clothes, bags, belts, etc. He believes in the importance of finding the right man for every job. “Just like you need the right doctor when you’re sick, you need the right man when you need to fix something. I am that man”, he says. “He can even fix leather pants for Harley Davidson riders,” he laughs and tells me.

 

He is 73. Yet he works till 2:00am every day. In this age of technology, his customers post about him on FaceBook and Line, and that gets him enough word of mouth marketing. Mr. Lai ruminates how lesser and lesser people in Taiwan want to become tailors. It is cheaper to buy new clothes than to get them fixed, and youngsters don't have the patience to spend 4 years learning the skill, well.

He is 73. Yet he works till 2:00am every day.
In this age of technology, his customers post about him on FaceBook and Line, and that gets him enough word of mouth marketing.
Mr. Lai ruminates how lesser and lesser people in Taiwan want to become tailors. It is cheaper to buy new clothes than to get them fixed, and youngsters don’t have the patience to spend 4 years learning the skill, well.

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Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – IV

It is easy to forget what we have and take things for granted.

I started this project on a whim, based on a desire to “do something”. However, as I’m meeting more people, I am overcome by a tumult of so many emotions – an overwhelming realization of how much God has given me, a sense of wonder at the greatness of human spirit, and a new found appreciation for how there is so much to everyone around us.

Take Alex and her daughter Joy for example.

10. Meet Alex, a home maker and her daughter Joy, who works at a popular cafe in Taipei

I met Joy at a cafe I frequent everyday while at work here in Taipei. In traditional Taiwanese kindness, Joy and her mother offered to take me around Taipei as my departure date came closer. As we went around the National Palace Museum, I learnt how Alex is a homemaker, even though she does want to have a job. She recently modeled for students of a painting class. She used to work as a nanny but then the owner left for Shanghai.  It is hard for the older generation to get jobs in this economy. Joy hopes to study in Germany one day. She wants to live and travel abroad, and Germany offers free education which makes it an attractive destination for her. Joy works multiple jobs to save money – at the cafe and teaching students.

I met Joy at a cafe I frequent everyday while at work here in Taipei. In traditional Taiwanese kindness, Joy and her mother offered to take me around Taipei as my departure date came closer.
As we went around the National Palace Museum, I learnt how Alex is a homemaker, even though she does want to have a job. She recently modeled for students of a painting class. She used to work as a nanny but then the owner left for Shanghai.
It is hard for the older generation to get jobs in this economy.
Joy hopes to study in Germany one day. She wants to live and travel abroad, and Germany offers free education which makes it an attractive destination for her. Joy works multiple jobs to save money – at the cafe and teaching students.

 

Despite their seeming hardships, Alex and Joy are some of the happiest people I have met. They share a deep bond with eachother, and generally have a happy outlook towards life. As I went around the museum with them, I could not help but feel that no matter what the issues I had at work, I was still very very privileged and I should be thankful about what God had given me every single day. I called my mom as she was the only perhaps who could understand what I was  feeling.

Despite their seeming hardships, Alex and Joy are some of the happiest people I have met. They share a deep bond with eachother, and generally have a happy outlook towards life.
As I went around the museum with them, I could not help but feel that no matter how I felt about my life, I was still very very privileged and I should be thankful about what God had given me every single day.
I called my mom as she was the only perhaps who could understand what I was feeling.

11. Meet Almond, who works as a hairdresser in Taipei

Almond has been working as a hairdresser for a little over 10 years. She got into this occupation as way to change looks for herself and for her friends. She ended up liking the job so much that she has lasted for so long in her very first job.

Almond has been working as a hairdresser for a little over 10 years. She got into this occupation as way to change looks for herself and for her friends. She ended up liking the job so much that she has lasted for so long in her very first job.

She loves her job because customers feel happy when she gives them a new look that they like. The ride hasn’t always been smooth though – like right in the beginning when she accidentally nipped one of her customer’s ears a bit!

She loves her job because customers feel happy when she gives them a new look that they like. The ride hasn’t always been smooth though – like right in the beginning when she accidentally nipped one of her customer’s ears a bit!

For now, Almond likes where she works and would like to stay. But she does dream of opening her own hair salon one day. If she does, it will be “chic, trendy and very upscale” she says.

For now, Almond likes where she works and would like to stay. But she does dream of opening her own hair salon one day. If she does, it will be “chic, trendy and very upscale” she says.

12. Meet Romanca, who sells a unique Taiwanese dish made of rice and pig blood

Romanca started selling this unique Taiwanese dish in the famous Taipei Night Market just a week back. Before this, she was working as a teacher. However, she switched to this to be able to spend more time with her children and have greater flexibility with time. She buys pig blood from slaughterhouses. It seems it is very good for health. She has been coming to Night Market every day.

Romanca started selling this unique Taiwanese dish in the famous Taipei Night Market just a week back. Before this, she was working as a teacher. However, she switched to this to be able to spend more time with her children and have greater flexibility with time.
She buys pig blood from slaughterhouses. It seems it is very good for health. She has been coming to Night Market every day.

Her dream job is to become an actor. Any kind of actor would do – but she would love to get the chance to play different characters.   Somehow she never got the chance to try her hand at acting. Now she thinks she is too old for anyone to be interested. Unspoken, unrealized dreams.

Her dream job is to become an actor. Any kind of actor would do – but she would love to get the chance to play different characters.
Somehow she never got the chance to try her hand at acting. Now she thinks she is too old for anyone to be interested.
Unspoken, unrealized dreams.

 

 

Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – III

My third post in this exciting project on “Profiling the Unseen in Taipei”.

I’ve made a local friend who has also become my local guide and been kind enough to show me around Taipei 🙂 Phoebe Cho, one of the people I met right in the beginning of this project, is one of the most inspiring people I have met here in Taipei – at barely 20 and working as an intern, she has already taken time off to bike all around Taiwan in 11 days by herself, taken a solo trip to the US using all the money she had, taught herself three different languages and is full of zest for life. She wants to travel the whole world before she turns 28.

That sounds a little bit like the girl I wanted to be, and yet somehow I’ve managed to make my life very complicated.

Phoebe Cho - my local guide and friend here in Taipei. This project has also helped me realize how much better it is to travel with locals, than with just family and friends.  Traveling in Taipei with Phoebe and other locals has allowed me to visit places I wouldn't have been able to otherwise, and experience the city from their lens. It has changed my perspective on traveling forever.

Phoebe Cho – my local guide and friend here in Taipei. This project has also helped me realize how much better it is to travel with locals, than with just family and friends. Traveling in Taipei with Phoebe and other locals has allowed me to visit places I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and experience the city from their lens. It has changed my perspective on traveling forever – traveling alone and immersing myself in the local culture would be the next step.

So, continuing with three more people I’ve met here in Taipei.

7. Meet Ms. Lijeng Lai and Mr. Cheng-Hai Hsieh, owners of a small organic tea farm in Taiwan

I met them on a weekend, in the farmer's market in Taipei. They own a team farm - it is now their third generation business. They sell all kinds of teas - Oolong tea, Black tea, Green tea, etc. They've recently added organic tea to their portfolio.

I met them on a weekend, in the farmer’s market in Taipei. They own a tea farm – it is now their third generation business. They sell all kinds of teas – Oolong tea, Black tea, Green tea, etc. They’ve recently added organic tea to their portfolio. They had to travel all the way from their farm in the middle of Taiwan the previous day, to come to farmer’s market in Taipei on Saturday.

 

Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai have discovered the wonders of the internet - through their online shop, they sell their tea even in London and China. Their business is doing reasonably well - enough to lead a decent life. Their goal is not to make a lot of money, but to sell good tea that makes customers happy.

Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai have discovered the wonders of the internet – through their online shop, they sell their tea even in London and China. Their business is doing reasonably well – enough to lead a decent life. Their goal is not to make a lot of money, but to sell good tea that makes customers happy.

 

Right now, it is just their family doing everything - so just 3 people taking care of the farm, selling online and offline, marketing, everything. That's a lot of work! Their children are in university and they're not sure right now if they'll carry on the business. But Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai are ok with whatever decision they take - whatever makes them happy :)

Right now, it is just their family doing everything – so just 3 people taking care of the farm, selling online and offline, marketing, everything. That’s a lot of work! Their children are in university and they’re not sure right now if they’ll carry on the business. But Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai are ok with whatever decision they take – whatever makes them happy 🙂

8. Meet Licar, who works at a local Electronics store in Taipei

Taipei is full of electronics stores selling all kinds of interesting little things for such cheap prices!

Licar works at one of these electronics stores - he takes care of the store, processes orders, runs the shop and makes sure the customers gets what they want. He has another job  - he works for a sports marketing company too, where he helps them write proposals, create campaigns, etc. But hang on, that's not the end of it! He has a third job - he teaches swimming! Yes, that's right, he has three jobs. He has taken no vacation for as long as he can remember. Once in a while he likes to go for surfing with his friends but that's it.  What does he dream of doing? He wants to own and run his own hostel for travelers in Taiwan - be his own boss :) A dream that many in Taiwan seem to have - be their own boss.

Licar works at one of these electronics stores – he takes care of the store, processes orders, runs the shop and makes sure the customers gets what they want. He has another job – he works for a sports marketing company too, where he helps them write proposals, create campaigns, etc. But hang on, that’s not the end of it! He has a third job – he teaches swimming! Yes, that’s right, he has three jobs. He has taken no vacation for as long as he can remember. Once in a while he likes to go for surfing with his friends but that’s it. What does he dream of doing? He wants to own and run his own hostel for travelers in Taiwan – be his own boss 🙂 A dream that many in Taiwan seem to have – be their own boss.

9. Meet Ms. Tsai (or Yu-Jie in Chinese), who volunteers to help mentally less gifted people

On the streets of Taipei, it is common to see a volunteer helping a “mentally less gifted” person sell various things and help them interact with other people.

Ms. Tsai is one such volunteer. She works with  a local organization that helps mentally different people have a job and get the chance to interact with other people. Ms. Tsai's child is Mr. Chen - she helps him make cookies, and then stands with him for the whole day, making sure he gets a chance at a normal life too as he sells his hand made cookies and talks to people.

Ms. Tsai is one such volunteer. She works with a local organization that helps mentally different people (called “children”) have a job and get the chance to interact with other people. Ms. Tsai’s child is Mr. Chen – she helps him make cookies, and then stands with him for the whole day, making sure he gets a chance at a normal life too as he sells his hand made cookies and talks to people.

Ms. Tsai does this as her full time job, for no salary. She is only 22, and yet understands that a good life should involve helping other people. She says that on an average, they sell to about 10 or so people every day. Yet, her goal is not to help the child make money, but to give him the chance to interact with other people. It is clear she feels responsible for Mr. Chen and is protective of him. She doesn’t know yet what she wants to do in life, but she is sure it will involve helping other people.

Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – II

Posting part II in my series on Profiling the Unseen.

This is turning out to be a very interesting project! I’m meeting new people, and it’s such a pleasure hearing their stories and aspirations.

I’m also amazed at how it seems as if everyone I talk to has an Email ID! The cab drivers, waitresses, shopkeepers, everyone has an email ID 🙂 Coming from India, this is a very pleasant surprise…I wonder how long it will take before technology becomes this ubiquitous in India too.

Anyway, so here goes three more people I’ve met:

4. Meet Elena – She works at a juice bar close to where I stay in Taipei

Elena is just 18 years old. She's studying hotel management and she works at the juice bar part time. She has two older sisters and one younger brother. She is yet to figure out what she wants to do in life.

Elena is just 18 years old. She’s studying hotel management and she works at the juice bar part time. She has two older sisters and one younger brother. She is yet to figure out what she wants to do in life.

 

One thing Elena is sure of is that she loves English. And she has taught herself English by watching movies! This seems to be another common thing in Taiwan - everyone wants to learn English, but since it isn't taught in schools, they learn on their own by watching movies. Truly amazing!  Her favorite movie is Fast and Furious because she loves sports cars. Her favorite sports car is Lamborghini! :) I'm amazed at how much she knows!!

One thing Elena is sure of is that she loves English. And she has taught herself English by watching movies! This seems to be another common thing in Taiwan – everyone wants to learn English, but since it isn’t taught in schools, they learn on their own by watching movies. Truly amazing!
Her favorite movie is Fast and Furious because she loves sports cars. Her favorite sports car is Lamborghini! 🙂
I’m amazed at how much she knows!!

 

5. Meet Sharon – she works at a Sushi place in Taipei

Sharon does a bunch of things at the sushi place - taking orders, payments, coordinating the staff. She worked at another restaurant before this but changed jobs because the earlier place had too many rules.

Sharon does a bunch of things at the sushi place – taking orders, payments, coordinating the staff. She worked at another restaurant before this but changed jobs because the earlier place had too many rules.

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon works from 10am-10pm! But she loves her job because she gets to interact with lots of people. This is another unique thing about Taipei - so many people I meet want to meet new people and experience new cultures. I wonder why that is the case?

Sharon works from 10am-10pm! But she loves her job because she gets to interact with lots of people. This is another unique thing about Taipei – so many people I meet want to meet new people and experience new cultures. I wonder why that is the case?

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, Sharon is so shy to get photographed!! :) She cannot stop smiling and blushing as I point my camera towards her :D And she becomes a local hero for a short while as other look on and smile at her getting photographed!

OMG, Sharon is so shy to get photographed!! 🙂 She cannot stop smiling and blushing as I point my camera towards her 😀 And she becomes a local hero for a short while as other look on and smile at her getting photographed!

Sharon wants to open her own breakfast restaurant one day. It would open from 8:00am - 2:00pm, and serve coffee and sandwiches. Maybe some other things too.  I hope she realizes her dream!

Sharon wants to open her own breakfast restaurant one day. It would open from 8:00am – 2:00pm, and serve coffee and sandwiches. Maybe some other things too. I hope she realizes her dream!

6. Meet Mr. Li (Aung-Nyung) – he drives a cab in Taipei

Mr. Li is from Myanmar. He moved to Taipei with his family 20 years ago because of the political conditions there. Now he's one of the few international cab drivers in Taipei, that too one who can speak English.

Mr. Li is from Myanmar. He moved to Taipei with his family 20 years ago because of the political conditions there. Now he’s one of the few international cab drivers in Taipei, that too one who can speak English.

Mr. Li has three children and he's very proud of them :) His son loves smartphones. One of his daughters is a purchaser for shoes. The other daughter is exploring lots of different things to figure out what she wants to do in life. I'm glad he's supportive of her trying to find her passion :)

Mr. Li has three children and he’s very proud of them 🙂 His son loves smartphones. One of his daughters is a purchaser for shoes. The other daughter is exploring lots of different things to figure out what she wants to do in life. I’m glad he’s supportive of her trying to find her passion .

Mr. Li misses his country. he has two homes back in Myanmar, his cousins live there now. I hope he's able to go back some day....

Mr. Li misses his country. He has two homes back in Myanmar, his cousins live there now. I hope he’s able to go back some day….

Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – I

It’s been more than a year since I last picked up my camera. Post graduation in May last year, I went back to India, dabbled in some projects, came back to San Francisco and joined the world of Management Consulting.

It’s been a rough ride…one that has led to a lot of introspection and thinking about what I want in life. These days I’m on an engagement in Taipei, Taiwan. Being international has given me even more time to think about life. Long story short, I picked up my camera after a very long time – perhaps I needed a channel for the confusion/angst/frustration/whatever? Whatever the reason, it felt good.

And thus I embarked on a new project – “Profiling the Unseen”. These are the people in the background. The ones who keep our systems running, keep what we see as we see it, keep the seemingly ordinary not fall into chaos, keep our lives chugging along effortlessly – and yet they remain unseen. They are the seemingly “unremarkable” around us – the cleaning lady, the coffee vendor, the gym instructor, the information desk keeper.

Yet, are they truly “unremarkable”? Perhaps they too have a story worth sharing.

Why am I doing this? I have tried to put a purpose to this. A goal. Some meaning that would make this exercise worthwhile. I have failed to do so – except for the fact that I experience joy when I talk to these people. I feel gratitude when these people open up to me and share their dreams, their journeys, their hopes. I feel wonderful when the mere act of getting photographed makes their day. I feel happy when these people cannot believe that someone wants to merely talk to them with no hidden agenda.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing short profiles of the people I meet. My job doesn’t allow me to wander during the week or I would talk to atleast a hundred people over the course of a few weeks. But, be that as it may, I carry on.

1. Meet Bolros – A self-made entrepreneur who sells coffee on the streets of Taipei

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I met Bolros in the Xinyi district of Taipei. His infectious laughter and the large crowd gathered around him was enough to pique my interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bolros brews coffee for you on the spot, using a machine that’s inbuilt into his scooter! Apparently this contraption is unique to Taiwan – and that’s his business. He makes a livelihood through selling coffee, and selling these machines that make coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bolros’s dream is to eventually sell these machines outside Taiwan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apparently keeping a scooter on that part of the street was illegal. However, even as the police came and asked him to leave, Bolros put on his riding hat but continued making his last cups of coffee for the crowd. That’s hustle right there 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phoebe is one of the happiest kids I’ve met. She’s just 20, and full of smiles every time I see her. She’s an intern at the gym, and  plans on going to the US next year after completing her internship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What are her dreams? She wants to travel the world, learn 3 different languages (Japanese, Spanish and English), and enjoy life in either Miami or New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Her goal in life is to have her own hotel!! 🙂 What kind of hotel would she like to have I ask? “Where customers feel at home. Everyone in the hotel will know the customer’s  name. Like family.” Wouldn’t you want to visit her hotel? 🙂

 

 

2. Meet Phoebe (or FeiFei in Chinese) – She mans the information desk at my gym

 

 

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A strong woman, Vivian wowed me with her courage. After spending her 20s as a sales rep for cosmetics, she decided to go in for a career change in her 30s into hospitality.

 

 

 

 

 

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I asked her – wasn’t she scared? She said, of course she was! But, she also knew she would be good at the job because she loves to  make her customers happy. She just knew she would be perfect for the job.

 

 

 

 

 

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The shy but confident Vivian wants to become Hotel Manager one day 🙂 I can already see her achieving her dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Meet Vivian – Team leader of housekeeping at Hotel W, Taipei