TAF Real World – Week #30 of 51

Hello! It’s already WEEK 30 (or 21 weeks ’til TAF!) Here’s Tiffany with a lovely essay on what makes TAF unique, yet translatable to all mankind:

I have a friend whose dad is a priest, and she’s super into everything church-related. For the past few years, I’ve heard about the summer camps, the random weekend events during the year, and the close friends she’s made from all of these things. One of the most recent events that she attended was an out-of-state basketball tournament she’s been going to for a few years. She was super excited for it and talked about non-stop the week leading up to it, but I’d heard it all before so I didn’t really think all that much about it. When I saw her the following Monday in class, I asked how it was. She said it was good, but then got a nostalgic look in her eyes, and started talking about how she missed it so much and felt like she just didn’t want to do anything when she got back home.

This really kind of hit me because it reminded me of post-TAF depression, or TAF blues. I remember getting a handout my first year during small group, and I remember exchanging raised-eyebrow looks with a fellow newbie in the group. All the “symptoms” and everything just sounded so silly. But in all honesty, once I experienced post-TAF that first year, I realized how much truth was in that little half-sheet of paper. There are just moments where you pause whatever you’re doing and zone out for a little while, just reminiscing on those great memories, and you don’t really feel like doing anything else. It sounded just like what my friend had mentioned, and it got me thinking. The more I thought, the more parallels I found between my friend’s experiences and my own TAF experiences. We’ve both made incredible interstate friendships, learned enlightening things, and gained valuable experiences. I suppose this would hopefully apply to any camp, but it’s like, the level of the impact. I went to a music camp the same summer I started going to TAF, and believe me, there was definitely a difference. I think a lot of where you can see the impact is with post-event communication; how close you get to the people you meet. I’ll admit, I have a habit of predominantly texting TAFers over school friends. My friend’s inbox also tends to be mostly camp/church friends. She’s more prone to tell her camp friends confidential things, and as am I. It’s not that kids at our school are undependable cold jerks, it’s just that friends we’ve made at camp just tend to be easier to talk to, even if we barely ever get to see them.

A lot the topics TAF related all relate to one thing- TAFlove. How singularly unique it is, how touching, how amazing it is. But I’ll admit, all these parallels with my friend’s experiences made me start to wonder if TAFlove really is unique. Yes, TAFlove is undeniably incredible, but is it one-of-a-kind? Are we the only ones that experience, absorb, and eventually try to spread this kind of love?

A few weeks ago, my school celebrated diversity week. We had culture-themed lunches, special “facts of the day” over the PA system, and most importantly, a diversity assembly. It was a motley assortment of performances, from Native American chants to poems in different languages, but one of the things that stood out most to me was a little speech one guy made. He pointed out things like being one of the school’s two National Award winners, one of two African Americans on the school leadership board; things that he was part of, but others were too. He was never the only one that did the things he did, and wasn’t “unique” because of the individual things he did. But rather, he was diverse because he had the combination of all the things he did. He pointed out that although there are other people doing what he was doing, there was no one else in the world that had his exact grouping of activities and accomplishments. And he was therefore, unique.

I think that’s the same concept with TAF and TAFlove. There are other people, places, things, that set out to do things the way TAF does, that strive to make the world a better place like TAF does, and that love like TAF does. But what makes TAF and TAFlove unique are all the little things that it’s made up of, what defines it. It’s the people, the campus, the program itself, the love, the things TAF has accomplished, the things TAFers have accomplished, the people TAF has influenced, the people those people went on to influence, the lives impacted, and just everything TAF is made of up. On their own, these things may not be that unique, but when everything is combined together, TAF and TAFlove are undeniably special and one-of-a-kind.

So in the end, I realized TAF is just an incredible thing. There may be other programs and camps that are incredibly similar to TAF, that reach for the same goals, create the same kind of relationships, and are just as wonderful, but that doesn’t make TAF any less unique or special. It is still amazing, inspirational, impactful, unconditional, unforgettable. It’s just TAF.
<3 Love you guys, Tiffany(:


Seasons greetings to all, and may your holidays be spent with your family and the friends that have become like family. The tafBlog happily gifts this most excellent minute-long video clip of WOOSHA from TAF2010, aka the amaZOMG family group game. For the TAF alum who don’t know what WOOSHA is, think of it as Big Booty multiplied by 20 with a square root of awesome.


TAF Real World – Week #19 of 51

Can you believe it’s WEEK 19 (only 32 weeks ’til TAF!)???!!! It’s been amazing seeing how TAFers are making a difference in life beyond Manchester by LOVING OUT LOUD this year. We would love to collect more stories. Sign up HERE for a week to post.

Since we didn’t have a volunteer this week, we’re going to do a little flashback to August. Juniors remind us that it’s not just important how we LOL, but also, why we LOL. Here are some reasons why Juniors love their families.

TAF Real World – Week #18 of 51

Anna Wu is a photographer who’s been wedding-hopping TAFers weddings over the summer. Here she is with a post about the quiet side of LOL for WEEK 18 (or 33 more weeks ’til TAF!)

Imagine tafLove. It’s loud, right? Ride the Pony. Woosha woosha. Laughter. Jokes. Group cheers. Ridiculousness all around. But you can also imagine the quieter side of tafLove. Nighttime conversations. Small Group heart-to-hearts. Soul searching. The unspoken support we have for one another.

Oftentimes, we think that louder is better. We think that the louder we are, the more people will follow. And we spend a lot of energy on the obvious ways to LOL– loudly. But I challenge us to remember that love doesn’t need to be loud to be powerful.

I’ve always been kind of a quiet kid. When I first started going to TAF, my brother Albert and his friend Kevin were the showstopping cute kids. They were wacky and adorable, and this earned them plenty of love and attention. As for me, I was an observer. I learned to watch for the quiet moments through all the noise. Some of my most memorable TAF moments have been those quiet displays of Love: a personal conversation when I thought no one really cared; our “racism workshop” in JH; and countless small gestures of caring that have happened in between.

LOL is not about volume. It’s about open expression. TAF can help us develop our own ways of finding love and expressing love. TAF helped me grow from being the shy kid to being a program director and feeling like I could contribute something worthwhile. TAF also helped foster one of the most important means of silently LOLing in my “real world” life today– photography.

I photograph love for a living. As a wedding photographer, I’ve found the heart of my photographic style in the understated, the unspoken, the quiet. I look for those LOL moments in the silent moments that often go unnoticed.

You can see it in the way she looks at him and breaks out in her sly smile, a gesture of openness and surrender. It’s in the way he quietly grasps her hand, communicating his support without a single spoken word. These are some of the infinite ways ways people quietly Love out Loud every day.

Finally, I’ve been lucky enough to photograph three TAFers’ weddings this year, so I thought I’d show some of these quiet LOL moments with you. First, Jenny & Kevin’s Aliso Viejo wedding:

Margaret & Eric’s San Francisco wedding:

And finally, Erin & Nick’s Indianapolis wedding– for which we shot video, so these are the few photos we have from the night:

If you want to read more, I’d recommend:
Jenny & Kevin’s Aliso Viejo wedding
Margaret & Eric’s San Francisco wedding
How I Wanted to Live | Pursuing Passions A heartfelt post about “living the life”
Digging up Treasures | True Beginnings of Anna Wu Photography A tribute to my beginnings in photography as a kid with a camera at TAF

TAF Real World – Week #17 of 51

Gobble, gobble and Happy Thanksgiving TAFers! It’s Chikuan, your trusted PA from TAF!! We are in week 17 and that means, hopefully, a short 34 more weeks until TAF ’11! It’s Thanksgiving, so not only am I going to tell you what I’ve been up to but also what I am thankful for.

To be 100% honest, when I was asked to do this blog post, I was very nervous because I’ve never felt like I express myself the best through words but here we go :). So since TAF, my “real life” much like some of the other posts has been very TAF-oriented. Being a part of TAF Chicago has blessed me with being able to see TAFers pretty much all year round. Much love to group #2 DDSB(Deep Dish Silver Beans)!! Aside from my regular 40hr work week, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to plan for TAF Chicago events, share birthdays, share a wedding and everything else in between with TAFers.

Do I do anything in “real life” that doesn’t revolve around TAF? Of course I do! Didn’t I mention I work too? Jk 🙂 Aside from all that, I’ve been doing a little traveling to Columbus, Denver & Los Angeles. I’ve been playing some sports in kickball, softball & basketball. I’ve also been doing things anyone else would in hanging out with friends, playing video games and cat napping :). All in all what I do is probably not too different from probably a lot of you. Well, maybe you all don’t call it cat napping :).

So it is Thanksgiving and much like the tradition, I am going to tell you what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my family first and foremost, because they have always been there for me whether I am up or I am down. They have been there to support me when I’ve needed someone the most and have been very forgiving of me for my many faults. They have also been very encouraging of me during my life’s journey and all ventures I’ve pursued. I am also thankful for my friends who I share many of my adventures with, whether it just be hanging out or traveling to things such as Ohio State games. They make everything more fun and accept me for me :). Last and definitely not least, I am thankful for TAFers which I consider a part of my family and my friends. I’ve always considered TAFers to be an extension of my family just because I feel loved and accepted no matter what. They support me in such things as what goes on at TAF and in TAF Chicago as well, and of course I can spend time with them without feeling like I have to put on a mask over who I am. In my eyes, TAFers are pretty much my family except we aren’t related. So, many thanks to you TAFers and people from TAF Chicago that keeps TAF going for me all year round. I am a part of DDSB at TAF Chicago, but here is my real small group :).

Happy Thanksgiving TAFers! LOL!


P.S. – To my Michigan TAFers… OSU – 31 UM – 10 😉

Does Chikuan know that half of TAFLabs are Wolverine fans? We got some serious sibling rivalry here. Get it? Siblings. Family. TAF. Yeah!
Anyway, we would love to hear about how loving out loud is making a difference in your life. There are still slots with no volunteers, especially the week of December 5th. Don’t break the chain! Sign up HERE, encourage your friends to sign up, or sign up together!

TAF Real World – Week #16 of 51


I can’t believe we’re on week #16- does that mean it’s been four months since TAF? YIKES.
I guess that means we are all pretty much back into the swing of our “regular” lives. I’m happy to say that my “regular” (well… as regular as it gets) life includes a good chunk of TAF. TAF Chicago has provided us TAFers with a way to meet on a monthly basis and keep all the love alive. This past month, we hosted a Taffoween extravaganza, complete with costumes and pumpkin carving. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to celebrate Halloween with other TAFers?

I’ve gotta say, I’m loving the new TAF Chicago format where we have small groups so we can chat about speaker sessions and plot to sabotage the other groups. Shout-out to CTA (Creepy TAFers Anonymous) – we’re gearing up for a fun volunteer activity next month, ringing the Salvation Army bell and singing holiday carols loudly and obnoxiously.

I’d also like to take the time to share with you guys how I LOL during my time away from TAF. I work at a student-run nonprofit organization called Supplies for Dreams (www.suppliesfordreams.org). I’ve always been really interested in helping to fix the inequality in our country’s public education system. I grew up in a nice suburb of Chicago with a great public school. I was so surprised to find out that only 10 miles away there are kids who go to public schools that haven’t purchased new textbooks in 10 years or don’t have enough money to sponsor after-school sports or tutoring programs. This is a huge problem for our country and I think it’s all of our responsibility to do something about it.

If you want to hear more about the education crisis, check out the new documentary “Waiting for Superman,” which got a lot of publicity this fall. It even got an animated news clip in the Taiwanese news!

Supplies for Dreams was founded by two high school students in Chicago suburbs, just like me, who were glad to get a great public education but knew that others are not so fortunate. They are now students at Northwestern with me, and we are doing our best to make an impact by donating school supplies and providing mentoring services for Chicago Public School students who are in need.

Here are some reasons I think Supplies for Dreams is a great inspiration to all of us:

1) It was created by two high school students- they were 17 and 18 years old at the time!
2) Three years after it was created, we are serving over 1000 students and we donated 1000 backpacks to students just this past year.
3) Because it is a small operation, we are able to connect our donors directly to the kids and make everyone feel better about the whole operation. We can also keep track of the kids to make sure they are getting the most benefit from our supplies and mentors.
4) It’s a lot of fun. Of course. I made them all play “bunny bunny” on orientation day.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you guys because I don’t want you to feel like you have to wait until you’re old and rich to make a difference. We all have a lot of skills and resources that we can use to help others, and it can all start with the smallest gesture – like donating a pencil or notebook!

Check out this video to find out how.

Or if you can’t see that link, check out the video on Youtube!

Don’t forget that when you LOL, it brings us all a little closer to TAF’s vision statement:
“For people of Taiwanese heritage to make a profound impact on mankind in unique and compassionate ways.”


We would love to hear about how loving out loud is making a difference in your life. Only 35 weeks until TAF 2011! There are still 12 slots with no volunteers. Don’t break the chain! Sign up HERE, encourage your friends to sign up, or sign up together!

TAF Real World – Week #13 of 51

In case you’re all wondering, TAFLabs is not paying anyone to write these beautiful testimonials. Here’s Steph for WEEK 13 (or 38 weeks ’til TAF!) with a JH flashback and how TAF impacts her real world.

It’s currently 4:37 AM. And maybe it’s not the best idea to be writing my blog post in my current state of caffeine-induced delirium, but here it goes.

Here’s more context: I’m going on what feels like the hundredth hour of working on a proposal for my thesis that is worth 100 percent of my grade for the next two quarters. There is a giant pile of dirty laundry in the corner with a plate with remains from dinner perched precariously on top. The only clean surface in my whole room is the one I am currently sitting on and I can’t remember the last time I actually left my room. Needless to say, I’ve become a bit of a hermit over the past few days.

I just got to the point where I couldn’t read another word about legal claims and wanted to watch something short that would make me feel better. So of course, I turned to my facebook minifeed. Oddly enough, the JH staff video popped up and as I watched it, I thought back to my first year at TAF and the first JH swing choir I was in.

Back in 2001, my mom would always call me the “caboose of a train” because I never spoke and I always did whatever anyone told me to do. I was terrified of getting up in front of people and speaking. In fact, right before TAF that year, my parents made me attend a theater camp to try to make me open up. I only had to say one word in the end-of-camp show, but even that made me so nervous I threw up beforehand. So you can imagine how terrified I was when I found out I would be front and center for JH swing choir. I dreaded going up on that stage and dancing in front of everyone.

But those first few days gave me an experience I had never felt at other summer camps I’d gone to. Between the hip shong scavenger hunt where we all had to pretend to pick each other’s noses and finally getting the experience of having the older siblings I had always wanted (shout-outs to Tim Kuo and Jessica Fu), I gained feelings of comfort and inclusion that I had never felt before. The night of the Tea House brought these feelings to a whole new level. But rather than talk about that as my current 21-year-old self, I’ll let my 11-year-old self take it from here:
(taken from my diary) “Today we had a dance at TAF. I don’t know how to dance so I stayed in my room. But Annie (my counselor) came because she realized I wasn’t at the dance.

She asked if I was ok and asked if I wanted go dance with her. Annie’s super cool so I wanted to go but I’d never gone to a dance before so it was scary. But she pulled me to the dance floor to dance to Britney Spears and it was so much fun! And after we danced she gave me a hug and said she’d always be there to talk if I needed to talk. I didn’t know what to say to that. My parents haven’t said anything like that to me before. I don’t think I’ve ever even hugged my parents. So why does Annie care? Why does everyone at TAF seem to care? Do I finally actually belong somewhere?”

As an 11 year-old, that night made me realize the effect TAF had on me. It’s the same effect that drew me back to be a counselor after a 5-year hiatus. That was the night I first felt the TAF connection that I feel up to this day when I randomly meet up with TAFers on random trips, from Illinois to New York to Taiwan. Being part of that community gave me confidence in who I was and confidence to be more open. After TAF was over, I started trying out for roles in school plays, started opening up to my friends more, and started being more involved in extracurricular activities because I finally felt like I could. Every year I went back to TAF, I gained more confidence and a greater sense of who I was and that drove me to come back year after year.

By the end of that first week at TAF, everything that week came together and made me feel like all my fears were completely unjustified. I ended up going on stage with my hair in full mullet glory (apparently I thought it was a good look for me) and performing on stage as I had never done before. For once before I went on stage, I was excited. I didn’t feel like I had to throw up, I just felt like I was about to have a lot of fun.

I’ll turn back to my 11-year-old self to conclude:
(taken from a diary entry from the last day of TAF) “All the counselors told us they loved us today. I thought love was gross until now. It’s always been about boys and girls kissing to me. But now I know there’s different love. TAF love isn’t gross. I like TAF love. Everyone keeps saying it lasts forever. I hope it really does last forever.”

What’s YOUR fave JH flashback?
We want to hear/see/read/experience your thoughts on LOVING OUT LOUD! Whether it’s how you showed love to someone, or how someone loved on you, or maybe even both!

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Almost music

After TAF week (some of us during TAF week), I’m not sure what hurts more – my throat from the shouting or my ears from the screaming. Or my abs from laughing so hard.

TAF Real World – Week #9 of 51

Hi! Steven ran all around the world (did you all know he likes running?) gathering some of the most moving LOL stories for WEEK 9 (or 43 WEEKS ’til TAF)! Here is his report:

Disclaimer: I realize the term “LOLing” suffers from grammatically incorrect “ing”
placement. Please understand that “LingOL” looks terrible.

Less than three months ago, TAF 2010 filled campers with so much love that Flavor Flav bought a summerhouse in Manchester, Indiana. Today, TAFers are working, schooling, and doing whatever they do in real life. Without our unlimited access to soft serve ice cream, some of us may be feeling less inclined to Love Out Loud.

On any given day, TAFers will have to do things they don’t want to do. Whether it’s struggling through homework, working late, or waking up before the sun—life’s chores tend to pile up and make us grumpy. I know this because it happens to me all the time. Sometimes when things aren’t going my way, I’ll push back LOLing to sleep, watch TV, or whine about how unfair the world is. After all, why should I feel motivated to show love when the world doesn’t reciprocate? But then sometimes my flawed logic occurs to me: The world is full of people LOLing at any given moment, on any given day.

And I think about that for a second.

If you ever catch “the world isn’t fair-itis,” I highly suggest trying this. You’ll remember your teachers dedicate their lives to your future. And that at one point your parents changed your diapers. And TAFers with real-life jobs are taking time out of their busy schedules to update this totally LOLing blog.

Even total strangers are exerting effort for the well-being of other strangers—just because they can. Beside all the wars, crime, and suffering, there’s a whole lot of love. Maybe you have to turn your head or check the 20th page of the newspaper to see it, but it’s there. I’ll even provide you a shortcut. Here are 5 examples of regular people doing some serious LOLing (with links to original stories that are way better than my summaries):

Dick Hoyt has pushed his disabled son, Rick, 85 times through 1032 races, including 238 triathlons and 68 marathons. Father and son teamed up more than 30 years for a five-mile race. Rick mentioned to his dad that while running, he didn’t feel disabled anymore. The rest is history.

Dick shows that sometimes, LOLing takes some effort. But usually it pays off. Besides fostering an incredible bond (Rick referred to Dick as “dad of the century”), the father’s love also ultimately saved his life. When doctors treated Dick for a mild heart attack, they noted he probably would have died 15 years ago—if he hadn’t been in such great shape.

And Dick’s fatherly LOLing hasn’t wavered through all these years. He plans to keep pushing his son until he’s 70 years old.

What would you do with a billion dollars? For most of us, this hypothetical will never become a reality. But a few hardworking/lucky/all of the above people actually deal with this question every day. So what do you do when you have too much money to spend? Fly everywhere? Hire a personal chef? Eat sushi off of steak? Well, yeah. But why not also donate half your fortune to charity?

That’s what 40 American billionaires pledged to do. Michael Bloomberg, George Lucas, and Bill Gates, who have all worked their butts off all their lives, are handing the majority of their wealth to people and organizations who need it more. This movement is an example of LOLing to the max. Even rich people, who are set for life, still take the time to love.

Recently, you might have heard about some people burning Qurans on 9/11, which is one of the most extreme examples of HOLing I can remember. When things like this happen, I get very discouraged and watch way more Food Network than I should. My thought process looks something like this: In a world full of hate, why would I put forth the effort to LOL?

I can learn a thing or two from the women pictured above. Susan Retick and Patti Quigly are widows. Their husbands were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But rather than spitting fire at the second largest religious group in the world, these LOLful women spearheaded an effort to help Afghan widows back on their feet. Retick and Quigly prove that often times LOLing is aided by empathy.

Oh yeah! And their story was made into a documentary.

Attention Juniors!

Mr. Dompierre’s sixth grade class won a TV station contest. The prize: a pizza party. But hold on! Mrs. Dompierre offered her hungry students an option to donate their pizza to the Salvation Army. And the class voted to be charitable!

Mrs. D’s sixth graders remind me of some other kids I know. All through TAF ’10, I witnessed Juniors selflessly loving others—with LOL acts ranging from carrying trays to hugging sibs. As long our world’s youngins keep this up, the future looks pretty bright.

LOLing doesn’t always have to be from people to people. Just visit Taiwan in late March. Officials close down a major highway so millions of purple milkweed butterflies can cross as part of their seasonal migration. The National Freeway Bureau (NFB) even installs ultra-violet lights and protective nets to guide the Milkweed in its journey—all adding up to about $30,000.

All right, so that butterfly looks really cool. What if it was hideous? What if its wingspan equaled your handspan? Imagine if the purple milkweed smelled like garbage. Would the Taiwanese government still put forth the resources to aid its flight? Would motor-scooter drivers still patiently deal with increased traffic congestion? I believe they would. According to Lee Thay-Ming, of the NFB: “Human beings need to coexist with the other species, even if they are tiny butterflies.”

So, there you have it. Regular people. Serious LOLing. I hope these stories inspire you all as much to love as they did me. See you at TAF ’11!

We want to hear/see/read/experience your thoughts on LOVING OUT LOUD! Whether it’s how you showed love to someone, or how someone loved on you, or maybe even both!

Sign up to post here!