A few hours later, the plane landed in the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. I was picked up by a representative and brought straight to the set where Vanness and the rest of the crew were already getting ready to film the program.
“Skye, right?” Vanness looked up from his script to acknowledge me as I walked in.
I’d met Vanness on a few occasions but most of the time we’ve only exchanged nods and smiles.
“One and only,” I smiled back.
“Vanness Wu,” he introduced himself as he stood up to shake my hand. “We’re gonna have a great time, partner.”
I went straight to hair and makeup and met up with Vanness on the set after being given time to scan through the script. The program was to be hosted in 3 languages; English, Korean and Mandarin. Vanness already spoke some Korean. In fact, he knew more Korean than I knew Mandarin.
Today, we were filming the promotional clip that would be advertising our show, and then we were going to head straight into the first episode. The director positioned us in front of a green backdrop; special effects and graphics would be added later on. After giving us brief instructions on the direction of the shoot, in Mandarin, he went to sit in his director’s chair and yelled ‘Action!’. Thankfully, Vanness gave me a brief translation before we began, or I’d have spaced out the moment the cameras started rolling.
Vanness: Da jia hao! Wo shi Vanness Wu Jian Hao.
Skye: Annyeonghaseyo. Skye-imnida
Vanness: Wanna know what’s going on in the South Korean music industry?
Skye: Wanna know what’s going on in the Chinese music industry and also the music industries around Asia?
Vanness: Then tune in to Skye & Vanness’ Now Music!
Skye: Every Thursday, at 8:30pm.
Vanness: We’ll update you on the latest news and tunes.
Skye: And we’ll entertain you with our fresh approach of entertainment news reporting.
Skye & Vanness: On Channel V!
“Cut!” the director yelled. “Good job!” he said.
We actually managed to get it right in one try.
“That was sweet,” Vanness said as we high-fived each other.
“Thanks,” I replied.
“I thought we were gonna have to do it like 10 times before we hit the jackpot.”
“I would say we’re a great team, but that was only the first shot, and I don’t wanna jinx the rest of the shoots,” I laughed.
“Gotcha,” he replied.
The shot for our first episode was thankfully over in a few takes. Vanness was great to work with. He wasn’t too serious, but he was also professional, and he tried his best to help me during the shoot since I was pretty much a newbie when it came to hosting, especially in English. I’ve never been more thankful that my father had sent me to study in America during my teens.
Even before I went to America, I studied in a school in Korea that taught with English as their medium of instruction. My few years in America helped me perfect my accent. It was really a wonder my English hadn’t rusted in the past 6 years. The only people I could practice my English with were nuna and Shoei, and both spoke with a British accent. Nuna’s British accent came from the fact that the English taught in Malaysia was based on the syllabus from the UK, and Shoei’s was from spending 4 years studying in a boarding school in London, before he became a SM trainee. I usually get teased by the both of them for my American accent.
It was dinner time, and Vanness was taking me to the Shilin Night Market; a huge night market that was filled with rows of stalls hawking all sorts of snacks and goodies.
“You’re gonna love it, Skye,” Vanness said as we hopped out of his car. “It’s a little reminiscent of Jong-no.”
“I’m gonna trust you on this one,” I laughed, “since if I get sick or something, you’re gonna be missing a partner.”
“Ah… kwaench’ana,” he said. “I can always call SM to send over another guy,” he laughed.
“Boy… do I feel valued,” I said with a sad expression, and clutching my hand to my chest.
“Just playin’ with ya, man,” Vanness laughed as he slapped me on my back. “Let’s eat,” he said as we strolled towards the entrance of the night market.
The first thing we ate was the ‘small sausage in large sausage’, which was basically a pork sausage wrapped in glutinous rice and char grilled. It’s really like a hot dog, but without a bun.
“Masshisoyo,” I told Vanness.
“You think,” he laughed. “This is only the beginning.”
By the end of our walk, I’ve also eaten oyster omelet, peanut candy, lemon aiyu jelly, and washed them down with pearl tea. The market was really crowded, and people were almost oblivious to Vanness and my presence, which was a good thing, since we could eat in peace.
“You like the omelet?” Vanness asked me as we weaved through the crowd, sipping our pearl tea.
“Nuna tried to make it once,” I said.
“Really? They have it in Malaysia?”
“Apparently they do. But this is definitely nicer than nuna’s,” I laughed.
“How’s the pearl tea?”
“Filling,” I said as I chewed on a ‘pearl’.
Pearl tea was actually a flavoured milky drink with ‘pearls’ made of tapioca flour that gave it a chewy, gelatinous texture. I had a chocolate one, to be on the safe side, while Vanness had lychee.
“So how many years did you spend in the states?” Vanness asked me.
“Just 3 years, then I came back and auditioned with SM, and I got in.”
“Lucky you,” Vanness said. “You must’ve been really young when you were in the USA. What were you studying there?”
“My father just sent me over there to live with some relatives for the exposure. He’d planned for me to finish college there, but I’d told him I wanted to come home.”
“You were planning to audition all along?”
“Yea. I kinda got into music while I was there. Funny… but it was my cousins in America who introduced me to music, playing instruments and going to gigs, so I was thinking… it’s gotta be easier to make it in Korea than in America, so I went back to Kwangju, took a trip to Seoul one Saturday, and auditioned.”
“What about your band mates? I’ve only met them briefly, like I did with you the last time I was in Seoul. I hardly know about them.
“Nuna auditioned in Malaysia, when SM held their first auditions there. Shoei auditioned in the same year I did, but it was with a Japanese agency that referred him to SM.”
“I guess SM had your futures planned out the moment they took you in.”
“Kinda… Shoei and I trained together for 3 years, but nuna arrived during our 3rd year, and we spent almost another year training and recording with her before out debut.”
“You mean she was recruited and debut within a year?”
“Must be tough on her,” Vanness said.
“We knew there was one more person to complete the band, but we never expected nuna to be the one,” I laughed.
“Why is that?”
“We weren’t told if the last member would be a guy or a girl, or where he or she would come from.”
“Until they recruited her.”
“She must have worked her butt off.”
“Yea, she did. Sometimes I feel bad for her, that she didn’t get to train for as long as we did. In some ways, people are harder on her and expect more from her because she’s older and there are people who look down on her because of her lack of training, even when she performs consistently.”
“Same happened for F4.”
“That was your band?”
“Yea… we’re unknown to you eh?”
“Nuna told us that you guys started the tall, pretty boy revolution in Asia,” I laughed.
“She did?” he smiled. “I never thought anyone would remember us, since it’s been so many years.”
“She does… I’ve even heard your songs… Ask For More, Liu Xing Yu…”
“Gawd… don’t remind me.”
“It was cheese alright,” I laughed.
“That’s not the kind of music I make these days.”
“I know. You’re tougher now,” I said.
“But F4 had a hard time, because it all started when we were acting in the series Meteor Garden, then the producers decided to have us sing that Liu Xing Yu song for the series… then somehow it became a whole album.”
“And you were heavily criticized?”
“Let’s just say not every one of us could sing,” he winked.
“Ah… hyung… you shouldn’t badmouth your band mates. You’re setting a bad example for me.”
“From the looks of it, you’re bad enough already, and no thanks to me,” he laughed.
“That’s nuna’s doing. She keeps me on my toes and on guard.”
“I’d love to meet her. Anyone who scares you should be fun,” he said.
“You can always pop by Seoul when our filming is done.”
“Good idea. But I’ll have to check my schedule.”
“I’m sure you can make room. You’re a super star,” I laughed.
“You know it…” he drawled.
After dinner, Vanness dropped me off at the apartments the company had arranged for me.
“Here are the keys,” he said as he tossed them to me. “I heard you got a nice view,” he smiled.
“Hope so,” I replied.
“I’ll see ya in the morning,” he said. “Later,” he added, and he drove off.
I looked at the tag attached to the key; 20-C. 20 floors up… the lift had better not break down. I opened the door and was pleasantly surprised. This was definitely a nice apartment. It was a studio apartment, where you basically have a double bed in the middle of the apartment, a little kitchenette, a bathroom, and a little living area with a couch and television.
I tossed my bag onto the couch and went to lie on the bed. I was pretty wiped out from all the traveling and work I’d done today. To top that off, I’d left home at 7am this morning, and haven’t stopped moving since. I dug out my phone from my pocket and dialed Hae Rin’s number as I admired the night view of Taiwan, looking through the tall windows from my bed. She answered after 2 rings.
“About time,” she complained as soon as she picked up.
“Mianhae,” I said. “I was working all day and I just got to the apartment.”
“They gave you an apartment?”
“It’s cheaper than putting me at a hotel for 1 month. I have a huge bed… you should come over,” I joked.
“Yea… sure. In your dreams,” she laughed.
“So what did you do today,” I asked her.
“The usual… still preparing for my album, releasing another single next week, pining for my boyfriend.”
“Yea… tragic, isn't it?” she giggled.
“You’re such a drama queen,” I laughed.
“Me? Anieyo… I’m a very rational and sensible girl,” she giggled again.
“Michoso,” I laughed. “I went for dinner with Vanness.”
“Vanness Wu? Ya!!! Get me his autograph!!!” she squealed.
“Araso… calm down. I will, before I leave Taiwan,” I said.
“You had better not forget,” she said, and I could imagine her pouting like she always does. It made me miss her even more.
“Araso…” I said. “I’ve got to go get ready for bed now. I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
“Nae,” she said. “Pogoshipo…”
“Na tto…” I said. “Good night. Saranghae,” I added.
“Saranghae,” she said, and she hung up.