Tell me a secret, anonymously.
Then ask your friends to do the same for you, if you like.
I'll tell me a secret anonymously too, if enough people do.
I debated internally for a minute or two whether to jump the bandwaggon, and, well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, nesupasu?
The same pledge goes for me, though I'm not keeping count of how many people respond, just curious.
Here are a few semi-private tales of mine, to get us started...
Let's see, how about
First, a little background: all four of my grandparents moved from China to Taiwan between 1947 and 1949, as the Communist government took over from the Nationalists (KMT).
Story the first: My mother's father, 李天民 (Li Tien-Min), was an elected representative of the Legislative Yuan (roughly the analogue of the U.S. House of Representatives) from the province of Sichuan. In 1947 the Nationalist government, except for military and command staff, relocated to Taiwan. My grandmother and her five children (later to be augmented by two younger siblings), remained in Sichuan. The second youngest of these was my mother, who was 5 at the time. Her little sister, mother of my cousins Emily and Jon, was a babe in arms.
In 1949, my grandmother decided to take all the kids (aged 1 to 13) and make a run for it. She got a travel permit to visit her sister... but made a turn south. At various checkpoints, she had to tell people her destination. When I was a child, I was told by my aunt and mother that there were a few close calls. Later, as a young teen, I learned that one of these was the group taking a wrong turn and getting lost. My second aunt (aged 9) claims she had studied the map and gave them directions. All her sibs claim it was actually their driver. :-)
Well, they finally made it. The sad truth is that my grandmother's escape, harrowing as it was, is not very atypical. Some other time, I will tell you what happened to those of her siblings and in-laws who remained in mainland China.
Story the second: My father's father was a civil servant (executive secretary) who also relocated to Taiwan in 1947. Meanwhile, my grandmother, father, and uncle lived in Qingdao for a couple of years. When it came time for them to flee, some of my grandmother's friends took a barge laden with belongings. Tolkien's remark that the Noldorin exiles' treasures were "a solace and a burden on the road" turned out to be very apt in their case: the barge sank and several people drowned. One of my grandmother's young friends screamed and cried for so long that she permanently scarred her vocal cords.
With the communist army several miles behind (killing refugees), my uncle, dad, and grandmother reached the river, where people were being ferried across the river in three-seater pontoons. My father got in line and decided to stay with his brother and mother, giving his seat up to another family so they could also stay together. As it turns out, those two groups were among the last to make it across. Thank God for small miracles, eh?
Story the third: Another story that illustrates my dad a bit was one he recently told me about his stint in the Taiwanese army. I have only ever told this story to two TEUNCs before, but it gave me a new boost in respect for him, so I thought it would be worth sharing.
When they first reached Taiwan, my dad's family lived in relative poverty, like many mainland refugees. My grandfather actually let him sign up as an apprentice carpenter, but he only worked for a few years. Eventually my dad got into National Taiwan University and earned a degree in chemical engineering.
In 1958, my dad entered the Taiwanese army for two years of mandatory service. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant. One day, one of his fellow officers came into the mess and told them of an incident he had reported to his superiors. A private had been requesting penecillin frequently, and when questioned, he related to this lieutenant that his sergeant had repeatedly raped him. My dad was rather surprised and had not heard of this happening in the army before, but fortunately the private had the presence of mind and courage to tell his officer in detail what had happened. At this point the lieutenant went to the base commander, who initially refused to authorize an investigation. It would make the base look bad, he said; besides, it wasn't the same as the rape of a civilian. The lieutenant insisted on going to the judge advocate general despite the CO's resistance, and he had the backing of all the other officers, including my dad. The last the junior officers heard of the accused sergeant, he had been court-martialed and convicted, though my dad never learned what he was sentenced to, though.
Lately, I've found myself thinking about this story now and again. While I believe I would have done the same things as my father and his fellow officers, including the lieutenant filing the report, I'm quite sure it wasn't easy for the latter to take it to the JAG in despite of his CO.
Later that year, another private at my dad's post, a munitions depot, developed acute appendicitis. The depot had only about 200 soldiers and no surgeon on staff, but a civilian doctor had already been out to see the sick man and written a note that needed an appendectomy. When his symptoms got very bad on a Sunday morning, his bunkmate went to my dad, who went to the base medic, a captain. The medic was playing mah jongg, and asked whether the enlisted man could come in. My dad explained that the man was urgently ill and could not walk the half mile and got the medic to go and certify him. He then rushed to the adjoining depot to requisition a vehicle, so that the bunkmate could drive him to the civilian hospital, which in those days had no ambulances. As it turned out, the surgeon later said that the soldier's appendix was just an hour or two from rupturing.
The odd thing about this situation was that my dad could have been court-martialed if he had sent the private off-base without official leave, even to go to a civilian ER. By contrast, if they had delayed and the man had died, the medic, the private's bunkmate, and my dad would have gotten off with less severe discipline.
Moral: Sometimes, telling people what they aren't interested in hearing is not only the right thing to do, but the most important thing to do.
Edit, 12:50 CST Wed 28 Dec 2005 - I talked to my Dad and it seems I had some facts mixed up about the above story. I interviewed him carefully and corrected the story above.