By Trista di Genova
The Wild East
So how did Nelly Furtado’s sister end up teaching in Kaohsiung, Taiwan?
I was tired of the routine of living in Victoria, BC and being in university. I finally graduated and was looking for a big change. The year before I graduated I met my husband, Charlie and he introduced me to the idea of living in Taiwan. He lived in Kaohsiung several years before I did. I intended on living in Taiwan for only 6 months for something new. And Taiwan hit me quickly, I fell in love with everything Taiwan and stayed for 8 years. They say you are a changed person when you make the move here. That was very true for me. Now I get reverse culture shock going home.
What do you think of life here?
I adore everything about this culture and country (on my good days). I especially love the warm weather, the friendly people and the convenience of living in a big city.
What do you think of Taiwan’s culture?
It is lovely, I love everything about it. And I’m hoping in my next life I can come back as a Taiwanese person living in Taiwan. To come back as a movie director like Ang Lee, a clothing designer like Jason Wu, or a best selling writer like Jiu Ba-dao… Wouldn’t that be something?!
Your favorite things to do here?
Riding around the city on my bike, discovering new places and things to do. Getting lost is great — you see so many cool things!
What projects are you working on these days?
Lately, I’m interested in getting my online store together. I love clothing and fashion and after 5 years of searching I finally found an extraordinary seamstress in Asia who has a medium-sized factory. This Christmas I had made a copy of a Louis Vuitton dress from the Fall/Winter 2010 collection and looking at the dress you can’t tell it’s not the original, it looks identical to the dress off the catwalk. More info: http://www.stars-rockets-unicorns.com
Also, I’m writing now I call it the “gem collecting” phase where I’m keeping a collection of insights, plots, characters for a book and once I’m ready I’ll put it all together for my 2nd book.
Can you tell us about your book?
My debut novel which I just released is based on a true story called, “Her Apparitions & Other Human Longings” (Available worldwide on Amazon.com and other book retailers such as Trafford’s). It takes place during the early 1980s and focuses on the psychological responses of a girl named Fatima, a teenager who is from Indiana, America and she falls for an older married man, Laurence. She is convinced he is her soulmate, but he leaves for Bangkok, Thailand for a photography contract with the war remnants museum, in Saigon, Vietnam. She ends up following him, backpacking across Southeast Asia, getting involved with heavy drugs, and in the meantime she becomes schizophrenic. So for part of the book, you are in her schizophrenic mind rediscovering Southeast Asia.
I think I came pretty close to what it would be like having a mental illness and being lost backpacking throughout Southeast Asia. I have had people with schizophrenia contact me who have read my book and they told me that the book freaked them out, because it reminded them of their schizophrenic episodes and how this illness can grossly distort reality.
I saw on Facebook you are into music and videos. Do you have any samples people can check out?
I love music, I spend far too much time listening to music and watching videos on Youtube. I have an endless stream of music which I listen to. And what I listen to always changes on a weekly basis. In the last couple of days I have listened to; No Means No, The Ghost is Dancing, Bat For Lashes, Day Glo Abortions, Arcade Fire, and Paramore. I’m also a fan of Lady Gaga’s videos and her artistic point of view.
What do you think of/what are your observations on Nelly’s rise as a singer and actress? And within today’s music industry?
Nelly came out when Barbie-looking singers were the norm. She brought a fresh perspective to the pop scene in year 2000. She’s sorta the girl next door…and at the beginning she attracted a lot of fans worldwide from all walks of life, from the young to grannies.
Do you have other artistic ambitions as well?
My big love is writing. In my life I want to write lots of meaningful, uplifting books that will hold the test of time. But – I have dabbled a lot in my life, I like trying different things… I have produced/promoted live shows, written/directed movies and written/directed some plays.
The tone of your blog is uplifting. What are your intentions, motivations with that?
I’m an optimistic and happy person. My intentions are to inspire and uplift people while promoting my artistic projects through my Blog: www.lisafurtado.pt.vu or www.lisafurtado.com
I came from humble beginnings, my parents immigrated to Canada with no education and little English. What my parents have accomplished as a whole, inspires me every day. My family had to jump many impossible, and endless hurdles in Canada to achieve their dreams. A lot of hard work, vision, and determination… Oh, did I say hard work? My family went through many heart-breaking and disappointing situations. So if my blog sounds uplifting, it is because I evolved into that kind of positive person through hardship.
What was it like growing up in the Furtado family?
It was fun but difficult. There were few Portuguese people around, and my parents struggled financially. We didn’t have babysitters or a nanny when my mother worked as a housekeeper at a motel six days a week. My dad was a self-taught mason, he worked very hard! Those concrete blocks are very heavy! My parents didn’t have much time to be with us, we were often alone. When we wanted to join swimming or gymnastics class my mother would tell us, ” Look it up in the phone book and call them yourself”. She wasn’t being mean or sarcastic, she just didn’t have the time to help us with these kinds of things, so we learned to be ambitious and independent at a very young age. We were taught to be independent at 6 or 7 years old! But it was fun because my brother, sister and I created stuff all the time and played a lot as kids…we had unsupervised WWF wrestling matches with sofa cushions and crazy food fights, too! But we stuck together, and dreamed a lot… A lot of imagination and strong personalities evolved through our crazy childhoods and the result was that we were often chosen by teachers for plays, musicals, dance troupes and band groups.
How did music affect your life?
Music was an escape at a very young age. My father loved American pop music. His record collection was ABBA, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond and Lionel Ritchie and all the big names at that time. When my parents were out working we were allowed to use their record player anytime. We just sang all the time and had music playing in our house always. Also Traditional Portuguese Fado music was playing and we sang it, too.
Did you write poetry, songs, sing together, with friends?
I only wrote poetry in later years. But singing, yes. My Portuguese teacher had my whole family take part in concerts at the community hall many years ago…
I noticed your blog is bilingual, English/Portuguese. Did you speak Portuguese at home?
Yes, and we went to Portuguese school. I call it the Portuguese-Canadian buxiban! But my parents encouraged us to focus on English.
Have you ever visited your ‘roots’?
Yes, I love the Azores, Sao Miguel (a little island off the mainland of Portugal). I’ve been going there every second year or so…
What has been the Furtado effect on the Latino community, in the world, from your point of view?
That is crazy….I don’t think there has been a noticeable effect. We are just a typical Portuguese/Canadian family.
Any chance of Nelly coming to regale Taiwan?
Yes, she has been here and loved it. She mentioned in a TV interview that Kaohsiung was one of her favorite places in the world. The host was stumped. I think he replied, ” And where is Kaohsiung exactly?”