Week Two: Media Moments, Memorials, and Mangoes

Week Two at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (7/14 – 7/20)

On Friday of this week, I attended my first ever press conference. TFD sponsors an annual survey on Taiwanese people’s attitudes towards democracy, and on Friday they hosted two scholars to introduce this year’s survey results. In hindsight, the event wasn’t super extraordinary – and it was in Chinese, so I didn’t understand a lot of it. But in the moment, the big cameras and showy decorations were quite exciting.

TFD Press Conference

TFD Press Conference

One of the cool things about preparing for this AYLD conference (Asian Young Leaders for Democracy) is that we will host people from thirteen Asian countries. As I’m doing logistical prep and making materials for them, I’m learning more cultural competencies. For example, Muslim Malay names often a patronym not a surname, and their “middle name” is just a word that means “daughter/son of.” Myanma names may have multiple words, but they are really multiple syllables comprising one name. These factors made entering names into a spreadsheet slightly challenging, but was good to learn. 

About Friday, my preparation for the news-blog (the Taiwan Democracy Bulletin) got a course correction. My research on disinformation was much too broad, and my supervisor Ya-wei helped me understand that I should just look at Taiwanese civil society (not foriegn affairs or the government). So I shifted (for example) from reading articles about the US investigating Chinese fake news in Taiwan to preparing interviews with fact-checking NGOs.

228 Peace Memorial Park

228 Peace Memorial Park

The public transit in Taipei is so amazing. I love how the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit, the subway) is clean and plays nice music when a train approaches. I appreciate that it’s easy to visit places like the 228 Peace Memorial Park on my way home from work. Kiran (the other intern) and I went there on Wednesday. The 228 Incident was an uprising against the KMT Nationalist government in 1947 that was followed by a widespread massacre and the beginning of authoritarianism in Taiwan. The Memorial Park is indeed peaceful, with water elements and graceful structures inviting reflection on how to progress from a painful past.


228 Peace Memorial

Speaking of memorials, here’s a part of the Berlin Wall that TFD has. I was embarrassed to realize that I had been walking past it every morning without noticing. In my defense, it’s in a narrow courtyard off the main entry and Taiwan’s subtropical weather makes me hurry into the AC every morning. 

A piece of the Berlin Wall, donated to TFD. The figures in front are statues doing tai-chi.

A piece of the Berlin Wall (at back), donated to TFD. The figures in front are statues doing tai-chi.

I’m grateful to the family and friends I have in Taipei, because they took me around this weekend (mostly eating, cause that’s the best activity here). Here’s a few foods I ate this week.


IMG_20190715_184747246 IMG_20190716_173707742

Top: Mango snow ice (雪花冰) from a famous shop. Snow ice is between snow cone and ice cream – creamy, light, and not too sweet. The mangoes are plenty sweet by themselves.

Bottom: Scallion pancake (葱油饼), also from a famous food stand. Both are from Yong Kang Street


Top: Maybe not the prettiest, but that meal is entirely from 7-11, all for probably 3 or 4 USD. Delish.

Bottom: Pineapple cakes from a friend – arguably the best brand. (Buttery & crumbly outside, chewy and sweet inside – they got my vote)