Part 4:A neutral place Lennon and friends, 30s

Little Happiness @ Taiwan Part4

OIGEN creates ironware for people. We are interviewing regular people from different countries and cultures around the world. Today we visit Taiwan.
By Nanao Sonobe

INDEX:Little Happiness @ Taiwan

Part1:The fundamentals of what I like: Video games, craftwork, matchbox cars and language
Part2:Food for your soul
Part3:Finding quality time to relax with your partner University professors Frank Ying and Kay Ying
Part4:A neutral place Lennon and friends, 30s

A neutral place
Lennon and friends, 30s

Traveling overseas to a country where both the language and culture are different from your own can at times lead you to some unexpected realizations. Perhaps it’s more of a feeling than a realization, but you have a sudden and deep understanding that no matter where we are, we humans are all the same on the inside. I love that excitement I get when experiencing the lives of someone in a different country first-hand.

In this final installment of ‘Little Happiness @ Taipei’ We hang out with the friends of our Taiwanese acquaintance Hung Yu Cho, an OIGEN supporter who helps coordinate our trips. The group have been friends since high school and still get together on a regular basis. The plan was for one of the group Yang-Chung Chen ‘Lennon,’ a keen cook, to prepare something for the occasion. However, after watching four of the five friends (one was away on honeymoon) interact, we decided it would be better to let things take their natural course and watch their interactions organically.

Lennon (right) answering our questions calmly and politely.



“I’ll make an effort to cook something nice for my girlfriend, but not for these guys! Lol”

“Lennon wants to know what he should make,” our friend Yo tells us as we navigate the busy streets. We ask him to just cook whatever he usually makes, but Yo is not convinced. “We’re not up to anything special today. Usually we just play some games and hang out. When we get hungry, someone will cook something and we’ll all just snack away. Hot pot is just an easy option. Lennon is usually the one who calls the shots when it comes to shopping for ingredients, and he usually does the cooking too. You’ll get to see how we usually hang out, but are you sure it will be worth writing about?”

After meeting up with his buddies, we soon realized the source of his worries. The guys that do cook, Lennon, Hong-Li Lin ‘Kevin,’ and Tim (who was absent) only ever make an effort for their girlfriends, and never for their buddies. Now I understand!

Another episode they recounted confirmed my suspicion. One day Kevin called the boys over to have some dumplings. He had prepared skins and filling, and told everyone to wrap their own. “I didn’t want to waste the ginger, so I put the whole lot in. Oh, and I put in some coriander I had in the fridge too. I hope it’s Ok!” He said with a grin. A little ginger helps neutralize the smell of meat, but too much can make the dumplings spicy. And coriander is not something you’d usually put in your dumplings. “Kevin’s cooking is so free-style,” everyone agrees with a laugh. It’s obvious now that cooking for your girlfriend and cooking for your buddies are not the same.

A dish Lennon made for his girlfriend using the OIGEN Yaki Yaki Grill. The dish is a reflection of his calm, meticulous personality.



Doing it for a smile

Lennon first got into cooking when he was in elementary school. His parents were busy running a ladies’ clothing store, and he would often wake up early on Sunday mornings to cook breakfast for his family. He says that he loved seeing their smiles as they gathered around the dining table in the morning.

Now, if he comes across a nice dish while eating out, he checks the recipe and tries making it at home.

Lennon and Kevin cooked us some steaks. Lennon prepared and cooked his slowly and carefully, while freestyle Kevin cooked his on high heat with a huge dollop of butter.



‘Comfort Zone’ = A neutral place

Lennon is studying for his doctorate degree at one of the national top Public Administration Program in Taiwan from the National Chengchi University (NCCU). Kevin is a joint representative of a venture business having recently released an online game “Vigil: The Longest Night.” Chao-Kia Chuang ‘Kirk’ is a responsible for warehouse management at a moving company. The OIGEN coordinator in Taiwan, and our support man Yo is an entrepreneur who has just established a physical education facility “Vivkids” with various programs for preschool and elementary children.

Fifteen years have passed since their high school days, when they would crowd into a computer café after school and spend hours hanging out together. In their 30s now, two of them have married. They are all well into their respective careers, at a time in their lives where the responsibilities of family and jobs are starting to sink in.

“Do you feel your relationships changing through the different life stages?” I pry.

Kirk, the de-facto mascot of the group replies in a serious tone, “We only have 24 hours, so we can’t hang out for hours on end every day like we used to. It’s more like a few hours every few months. That’s where our relationship is at now.”

“How would you describe your relationship with each other?”
More silence…

There doesn’t seem to be an appropriate response, so I retract my lame question.

While driving back, Yu mentioned absent mindedly,
“Your question just before, about our relationship with each other… I’ve been thinking about it, and the best word in English is probably ‘comfort zone’,” he began.

“We all have different positions at work. We’re all gaining more responsibilities. We know where everyone is working, but never delve into the details of their work, nor does anyone divulge much of their own problems,” he continues. It’s obvious that their relationship is very neutral and natural, with no need for keeping face, judgement or expectations. Theirs is a neutral place where everyone feels safe.

When the lads got together, I heard they would often have hot-pot, so we brought along the OIGEN XX pot as a gift. “It’s great for hot-pots, but you can also cook blocks of meat in there too.” “What? Cook meat in a pot?”

One of the benefits of cast iron is that it heats food evenly from all sides, so even large blocks of meat can be cooked perfectly, sealing the flavor and juices in.

After listening to my pitch, the lads looked at each other with a nervous laugh as if to say, ‘So, who’s going to get the meat?’

The buddies we featured this time are coming into new stages in their lives, balancing priorities of work and private life as more and more start families. As is typical of men (or women) in their 30s, the focus is more on the next step than the past. But as we saw with Lennon, Kevin, Kirk and Yo, they have managed to create, or rather suitable to say “just have” a place to simply enjoy the present, as it is, with no pressure, where you can just relax and be you. A neutral place.


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