Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What to do? (Texas, not Taiwan)

I'm starting to think that if I had a real job here (as opposed to the bartending job and internships that I had before I left) then I could be really happy here.

Austin is a totally different city when you have time to spend in it. I missed out on a lot considering I was working or at school all the time.

At the same time, I have this nagging voice in my head telling me to "Travel, Travel, Travel!"

I'm torn.

But I guess I have six or seven months to decide what to do, and really I suppose the job market will decide for me.

It would be nice to come back to my friends (and family). Of course it would also be nice to one day say that I've lived on every continent except Antarctica.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's the difference?

My two days in Seattle are coming to an end.

I'm headed to Texas this afternoon and will arrive tonight.

I'm almost adjusted to the time here in the States... I say almost because I woke up at 6 a.m. today and couldn't go back to sleep. I think that's something like 11 p.m. in Taiwan.

Things that are "weird":
  • Not feeling like I'm near death every second of driving
  • Being in a car rather than a scooter
  • Seat belts
  • Throwing toilet paper in the toilet
  • Not having to separate out every single little bit of my garbage
  • The lack of a garbage truck song
Small list so far. I'm sure there's more.

I've been drinking a whole lot of chai and coffee to replace that fact that there are no tea shops that I can get a drink at for less than $1.

I can only imagine how many more differences I'm going to notice when I get to Texas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Are you ready for this?


Pancake Party. Pizza Party. Pizza Party. Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Banana Sandwich Party.

I <3 being a teacher at times like these.

I received lots of little trinkets as gifts from my kids.

And I have the best Christmas cards ever!


I'm going to spend some time getting the my day back that Asia stole from me about 6 months ago.

Tokyo in 5.5 hours.

Seattle in 18 (ish) hours. It will be 6:50 a.m. when I arrive (translation... 11 p.m. Taiwan time).

America, here I come.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What do you know about Christmas?

天氣很冷, 我不喜歡!!!!

(The weather is really cold, I don't like it!)

I seriously felt like I was wet down to my bones today.

Tess and I drove to Yingge today to do some last minute Christmas shopping. It takes about 30 minutes to get there, so that's an hour round trip.

And then you add to it the fact that shopping in Taiwan means you're outside a lot, and while it was just drizzling a little, it didn't really help us warm up once we got off of those scooters.

Add to the the fact that I'm lacking a visor on my helmet right now... Ugh, I'm a cold just waiting to happen.

After Yingge I ran a million errands. I went to the bank, then the baking store, then the stationery store, then to grab some food (where I also grabbed a hot cocoa) and then to school. So pretty much since noon today I was out and about. It's now 10:25 and I just barely got home 15 minutes ago.

My gloves are soaked all the way through from driving around in the rain all day. They hold up pretty well when you have to go from Point A to Point B... but I just don't think they can deal with Point C, Point D, Point E, etc...

That said, today wasn't all miserable.

I did, after all, buy Christmas presents for my girls. AND we spent the entire second half in both of my classes listening to Christmas music and making Christmas cards.

I have a lot of Christmas cards now. :)

Now I have to feed myself and make pancakes for my early morning class and at least START to get a handle on my packing so I'm not running around like a completely crazy person tomorrow after all my classes..

Oh, and the kicker, tomorrow is supposed to be even colder than today was! I'm definitely bringing back my winter coat.

What's on the to do list?

I hate to say it, but I am always so happy once Wednesday and Thursday are over with. My classes are just so stubborn and behave so badly.

Actually, that's not entirely true. My new class that I took over two weeks ago is actually really great. They answer questions and they read and repeat things when they're told to.

And they're SUPER smart. I think they might now English grammar better than I do.

But, my other classes are jerks and that's pretty much all I can say about them without being really mean.

I have so much to do before I leave Sunday morning.

My room is the biggest mess right now. There are clothes every where and a million bags stuffed full of everyone's Christmas presents.

I have to figure out what I want to take with me and pack.

Tess and I went to see New Moon tonight and tomorrow we're going to Yingge. I still have to buy the girls' presents tomorrow.

And I have to go to the bank.

And I have to finish grading compositions.

And I have to make a million pancakes for my class Saturday morning.

And I have a parent conference on Saturday morning.


It always gets so stressful right before it gets awesome, huh?

Well, at least I know it's going to get awesome.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teacher, May I go home?

Today was a pretty easy day. The only productive thing I did was work on comments for my last parent conference that I have this Saturday.

I spent most of last night looking for new music to add to my iTunes library, so I decided to start listening to it today.

There really isn't a whole lot to note. I need to so some serious cleaning. I need to do laundry so I can pack stuff. And clean my room because some of Tess' family and friends are coming in town and they'll be staying in my room while I'm gone.

I also have a million presents to wrap (or at least wrap Tess and Katie's and then shove the rest into my suitcase).

My classes were awesome tonight. My first class just went pretty well. The kids in that class have always been brilliant.

They're my babies and I'm the first foreign teacher they've had which provides us this unique bond.

So at the end of class we had this awesome emotional little exchange:

Kids: Teacher, may I go home?
Me: Yes. WAIT! No!
Kids: Why?
Me: Guys, just so you know, I won't be here for the next THREE weeks! I'm going to America to see my family.
Kids: Jimmieeeeeeee, nooooo!!!!
Me: Guys, I promise I'll be back. I'll see you next year!

Then there was this frenzy of small children trying to give me as many hugs as possible before they left. It was the most adorable thing ever!

Those are the kinds of things that make you want to stay here forever.

My next class wasn't quite as attached. They really like me and we have a lot of fun, but they have known for awhile now that I'm going to America for a couple of weeks so it wasn't so shocking.

They actually asked me if I was really coming back.

I understand that they're so skeptical though. I mean, their last teacher didn't even tell them she was leaving. She just up and moved to Kaosiung without giving them warning.

Alas, I am coming back and I know I'll give them plenty of warning before I leave for good, whenever that ends up being.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How do I get it all home?

I have spoken to no one but strangers today except for the 30 seconds I spent inviting a friend to join me in Taipei if he felt like it.

It's weird not talking, and honestly I feel like I could burst at any moment.

Most of my friends went to Wulai today. I wanted to go, but I had neither the desire to get up after being out until dawn nor the desire to possibly stay overnight somewhere other than my home. That and I still didn't have most of the Christmas presents that will most likely be expected of me come Christmas Day.

The first person I talked to today was the barista at Starbucks and my whole day's worth of conversations have continued as such. I think I'm actually having people withdrawal. Even days I've spent by myself I've at least called and talked on the phone to someone I actually know.

On the bright side, I spoke a lot of Chinese today and I feel like I'm getting a lot more confident.

One thing Meghan pointed out when she visited was that every time I went to speak Chinese I would get quieter. I think that's improving.

I still love the shocked look on people's faces when the wai guo ren — foreigner — starts speaking Chinese.

But after talking to tons of shop owners and food vendors and exchanging tons of cash, I have Christmas presents. I just need to make a quick trip to Yingge this weekend for gifts for my nieces and I'll be all set.

Next challenge: How do I get it all home?

I've actually decided I'm going to pack a gigantic suitcase. It'll make getting presents home a little easier and getting my ski clothes back to Seattle a breeze considering I'll have essentially emptied my suitcase post-Christmas.

Should I wrap my presents before I leave or wait until I get home? I'm afraid if I wait then the girls will see them all. Not to mention I bought some really Taiwan-fabulous wrapping paper. I couldn't pass up that opportunity.

美國, 七天! (America in Seven Days!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

What's the weather like in Winter?

I'm secretly terrified to go back to America (in 9 days!) because I've acclimated to Taiwan's "weather."

Last week, I thought it was cold. It was around 15C which is like 50F, which is so not cold, especially compared to the numbers I've been seeing all over the States lately. My mom mentioned that I could go without packing much considering all of my winter clothes are in Austin.

I'm fairly certain that I will step off of that plane in Seattle and immediately become hypothermic.

I just hate wearing tons of clothes on planes because then you get hot and then cold and then hot and the cold... It's this ridiculous cycle of icy-hot.

This means I'm probably going to have to run to the airport bathroom to put on some clothes that are more suitable for the weather in Washington (which has been in the 20s and they're expecting snow this weekend!).

Hopefully my sister's car will be nice and warm for me.

The other thing I've been wondering about is getting in touch with people while I'm back home. Obviously I can use the land line at my parents' house, but I was considering getting a prepaid cellphone for the week that I'm in Austin so that we can get in touch with each other. I know my dad doesn't like phone calls after 9 p.m. at the house and my friends are almost exclusively night owls.

We'll see. Maybe I'll just have to do a lot of pre-planning or just show up places.

Until then, I have one parent conference down and two to go.

And I get to spend my last two days teaching having Christmas parties with my students!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What is an environmental message from children like?

Sunday and Monday could not have been more opposite of each other.

Sunday there was a birthday party at Bobo's house for herself and Joyce (her six-year-old daughter). My roomies and I arrived really late. It was fun though. We had a couple of drinks and sang karaoke.

Jamie, Joyce and a couple of their friends kept putting on these adorable shows.

It reminded me of how you were never really all that scared to perform when you were little — especially for your parents and even their friends.

This one was probably my favorite. Tess, Katie and I bought those flowers as Joyce's birthday present. They became props for all of their performances of the evening. In this case, they were crucial for the environmental message the girls were trying to send us.

If you weren't sure what Jamie was saying there at the end it was:

"Please don't take the flowers out or the Earth will be bad. Thank you."

They were just too adorable.

After the party, the roomies and I headed to Taipei for some shopping. It turned into shopping, drinking and eating.

Have a beer here, eat some street food there, buy something over there.

This place is called China Pizza. It's like tsong you bing with basil and amazing sauce.

Everything here is really different. Apparently it's perfectly OK to walk down the street with a beer in your hand. And so we did. Tess calls this phenomenon "drunk shopping."

Honestly, it was a lot of fun. We just kept buying food and beer and Christmas presents.

This is jianbao. It's a really big dumpling that's pan fried and steamed at the same time.

Luckily, I have great taste when I'm tipsy, so my Christmas shopping is much closer to done.

In the end, Katie, Graham (her friend who is visiting from America) and I ended up at this total dive bar close to the CKS Memorial.

I have to tell you, I love dive bars and I miss them so much.

Maybe they is one of the strangest things anyone has ever said, but I felt like I was back in America sitting in this little pub. Of course, I wasn't able to totally sink in and pretend we weren't in Taiwan.

Especially not after going to the bathroom.

Yes, my friends, there was no roof above the toilet in the bathroom. What do you do when there is no roof? You put an umbrella over the camode, naturally.

Now after that ridiculously long, productive and enjoyable Sunday, what was so bad about Monday?

Well, for starters, I slept forever. Then I forgot that I left my scooter at Bobo's. So I had to borrow one of my roommate's. Then I get to work just in time, as in the bell was ringing just in time.

Then I tried to go to 7-11 on break to get some tea and some chips, but I left my money in my purse which I don't take with me to school.

Luckily, it got a little better. I went to Carrefour after class and picked up my brand new contacts. Hopefully I'll be able to see again. I haven't even tried them on yet.

Also, I realized that I'm going home in TWELVE DAYS! (Ok, it was thirteen days yesterday, but yay!)

Now to just get everything in order before I head out. So much to do!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Does it have any meat in it?

I ate pigs blood last night.

I know that sounds disgusting and impossible all at the same time.

We went out in Taipei for another teacher's birthday last night and ended up at this club called Pasoul. (Pasoul sucks by the way. Stay far away.)

Afterward we're sitting out in front of the venue on some steps waiting around to make sure we didn't forget anyone. We're getting a lot better at this whole going out in groups and not leaving people behind thing.

There were two street food stands outside: one had the best smelling sausage in the world (maybe it was the slightly buzzed appetite) and one had other stuff... including pigs blood, but we didn't know that yet.

Essentially this is a Taiwanese delicacy (as I understand it at least). Ours was congealed and then mixed with rice. It was in a little block on a stick like you would see stinky tofu or pretty much anything else you buy at a street vendor.

The funny part is that my roommate, who is a vegetarian, was the one who ordered it. She went up to the stand and asked if there was any meat in it. The woman said no.

I guess that was technically true.

People here don't seem to understand the point of being a vegetarian. You just don't eat things that generally require you to kill the animal first. Somehow, I think blood falls into this category.

My roommate bought one and was talking about how it was so good and asked if I wanted a bite.

Me: Katie, does it have meat?
Katie: I don't think so. I asked the lady.
Me: Screw it. Why not?
Katie: It's really good.
Me: It's OK except for that weird gooey texture at the end. The rice really makes it edible.
Graham: Can I have some.

Katie and Graham ran off to buy another one and were halfway through it when Carson informed them that is was, in fact, congealed pigs blood on a stick. I kind of knew it was right after I ate it, but I didn't want to say anything that would freak her out.

She seemed to take it pretty well.

Today, we're going to Bobo's for her birthday (SO MANY DECEMBER BIRTHDAYS, OMG!) and then I think we're going to Taipei. I think the idea is to eat, drink and shop our way through the city. Pictures to come!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Welcome to McDonalds. May I help you?

I took 15 children between the ages of 8 and 11 to McDonalds tonight.

Apparently after lesson 65 in the red book, we get to switch things up a bit and take the kids off the McDs so they can have the experience of speaking English to someone outside of a school. It's all well and good if the people at McDs actually speak English.

The girl behind the counter did a fairly decent job. She kept saying "big" instead of "large" when she was asking the kids what size french fries they wanted. And I didn't realize that McDs here has spicy chicken (think KFC style chicken) and you can tell them if you want a chicken wing or a drumstick...

I didn't teach the kids about that before we went so there was a momentary panic where we ended up switching to Chinese for all of 30 seconds. Luckily there wasn't anyone there to yell at me for it.

Other things to note:

My roommate makes awesome stir-fry.

I'm in full Xmas swing. We have this tiny and adorable little Christmas tree. I also want to go and buy tons of Christmas presents but I have no idea what to buy for most people.

I know what to get my nieces. What should I get the adults in my family?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ni zai zuo shenme?

So I'm sure it may have crossed some of your minds that I haven't posted any pictures in a really long time.

I stopped being a little shutter bug when I lost the USB cable to my camera and realized that no matter how many pictures I took, I couldn't get them off of my camera. That's really just an excuse though considering my memory card can hold something like 1000 photos.

Anyway, I thought that since nothing all that interesting has happened, I would just put up photos from Thanksgiving, plus a few extra random things.


Be looking forward to a lot more of these. The rest of this month (and by month I mean the next 17 days!!!) is going to be extremely busy as I get ready to go home for Christmas. We have three birthdays and tons of fun things to look forward to, including a week of Christmas parties in our classes!

Of course the vegetarian took care of roasting the turkey.

I made 7 pies. I made all of the crusts from scratch and all but two
of the fillings from my own recipes. Goodness, I love pie.
Two apple pies.

One cherry pie.

One pecan pie. (My favorite!)

One blueberry pie.

And two pumpkin pies.

We also peeled and mashed 54 pounds of potatoes.

OK, now for a couple of random photos. I've talked about the events leading up to one of them already. I bought a rotisserie chicken from Costco a couple of weeks ago when and when I was trying to cut the wing off, I realized the head was tucked underneath it.

Brace yourself.

I am so not a fan of my food looking back at me.

Then there was the day I went shopping in Taipei with Tess. When we got to Ximending there were all these people dressed in what can only the described as purple body condoms... and they danced.

This was a Yahoo advertisement best described as a flashmob.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Is it really December?

Just a real quick post since I've been procrastinating.

We had Thanksgiving on Sunday. It was a lot of work, but it was so good. It made me feel a little better too. I just love Thanksigiving so much and it was really weird not being home for it.

I made seven pies from scratch. We had two turkeys, an amazing amount of homemade mac 'n' cheese (with over two pounds of sharp cheddar and parmesan cheeses in it), 5 cups of homemade cranberry sauce and 54 pounds of mashed potatoes. Joslyn and David made green bean casserole and cornbread. Katie made sweet potatoes.

I really don't think I could have thought of anything else we needed. It was a great dinner.

But now, it is Dec. 1!

I cannot believe it is already December. Twelve more days and it will be my 6-month anniversary of getting here. Twenty more days and I hop on a plane to head home for the Christmas and New Years holidays.

I'm so excited about seeing everyone.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Right foot on what color?

I had a really crappy day yesterday. I haven't really pinned it down, but I think I'm just in a funk about not being home for Thanksgiving.

I know I have to grow up and do my own thing on holidays at some point, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday out of all that holidays in the world. I usually spend a good month planning Thanksgiving dinner, so this year has been quite a change.

I think I'm going to go over to the dorm soon to start making pie crusts. I guess I will actually make fillings and bake pies on Friday. Then I suppose we're going to do all the side dishes on Saturday night? I'm not really sure. All I know is the only things going into the oven on Sunday are going to be two turkeys — one at a time.

It sucks having: A) one oven and B) a tiny oven at that.

It also sucks not having all of the kitchen supplies I've spent the past few years collecting for occasions such as this. Like my pastry blender. And a food processor.

Thanksgiving aside, my crappy day continued when the visor on my helmet broke off. The bolts holding it on rusted so it just snapped off. Looks like I will actually go buy a new helmet now. I've been talking about doing it and I just haven't because the way I saw it, I had a perfectly good helmet.

Problem solved.

I was at IKEA when I finally just completely tore the visor off because it was hanging by the bolt in the middle of the helmet. That allowed it to move around any time there was a gust of wind, which there were a lot of yesterday.

I cheered up a little at IKEA. I just like going through everything. I always just take my time there. I also ate some salmon with green beans at their little cafeteria. I haven't had salmon or green beans in a million years.

I bought a new pillow and a bunch of other random stuff while I was at IKEA. I ended up spending the equivalent of $30USD and just barely had enough room to get it all home on my scooter.

Then when I got home, I was locked out of the house.

OK, locked out isn't really the right phrase. Our door handle broke a couple of days ago and we all kept saying we would go talk to the realtor about it so they could get someone to come fix it, but we all kept putting it off.

Until then, we decided we would leave that door open. (It was the outside of our two front doors. Think screen door, only it's glass and wood.)

So here I was standing outside my apartment with $1000NT worth of crap from IKEA and I couldn't get into my apartment. I had to leave for school in an hour and I was freaking out.

It turned into an incredibly stressful situation where we ended up paying for the door to get fixed instead of out landlord because our landlord lives in Canada or something so it would take time to get ahold of them to ask them to pay for it.

I'm used to being in America where when something like that breaks it's not your fault and the property manager gets it fixed immediately no worries.

This is just the most immediate of things we needed fixed, so of course I was super angry that our apartment seems to be falling apart (and because I got locked out, and because I was already mad about Thanksgiving). I ended up yelling at a Taiwanese man, our realtor, about all of the things that are broken in our apartment.

Not my classiest moment, but I honestly haven't truly vented or yelled about anything since I've lived here. I suppose everything was bottled up.

On top of all of that, when I got to work my cell phone said it was 6:50 p.m. which is 10 minutes before class starts which is when I'm supposed to get there. Unfortunately, their clocks said 6:54, so I lost my attendance bonus. I just don't know if it was the last day of the November attendance bonus or the first day of the December attendance bonus.

If it was the last day, that sucks. If it was the first day of December, it doesn't matter because of my Christmas vacation.

Here's hoping for the latter.

My night got a little better with the help of some red wine. I ended up going over to the dorm fairly late in the evening and we played Twister. It was actually a lot of fun, but I recall the mat being much larger when I was a child.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is that a head?

I bought a rotisserie-style chicken the other day at Costco. It's pretty tasty.

Of course I didn't realize until tonight that the head was still attached — beak and all. I was carving all the meat off thinking that's easier to store than the whole thing. I pulled off the twine and started trying to cut off the wing when I began thinking that it was especially difficult.

Then the damn head came untucked from under the wing. All I knew was there was this pitiful little chicken face and I made a really awkward yelping noise and threw the knife down.

I'm not really that squeamish and I certainly don't mind eating things that I know were once living, breathing creatures. I would just prefer not to attach a face to it (or rather I would prefer someone to detach the face from it before I actually see it).

The pig hooves and chickens feet and so on at the wet market don't really bother me so much. But seeing people pick out a live chicken and then hearing someone take it into the back and "prepare" it to be taken home, not my thing. I think my imagination is just a little too graphic (or maybe accurately graphic) for me to handle these types of situations.

Other exciting things today, this guy that was stalking Megan before she left called my cell phone during class today. In case you forgot, my cell phone used to be Megan's cell phone.

Long story short, a long time ago her scooter broke down and this mechanic helped her get it home and such — it was obvious from day one he had a super crush on her. Somehow he ended up with her cell phone number (ahem, Megan is way too nice) and started stalking her around the school. He called once after she left and I sent a message in English saying she's gone.

Apparently he forgot or something, so tonight I got my kids to help me text him in Chinese. Unfortunately they don't know past tense in English very well so they had me write "Megan will go to America" instead of "Megan already went back to America."

He messaged back asking when she would be leaving and saying he wants to see her first. Finally, my co-teacher just called him and told him that Megan left already and this phone now belongs to someone else, so please stop trying to contact us.

Oh it's nice to have someone that can stick up for you in Chinese.

Before school, Tess and I went to the stationery store and went Christmas galore. We bought a tiny little Christmas tree that's pre-decorated for only 300NT.

I also bought a ton of Taiwan-fabulous Christmas cards and wrapping paper.

I'm sure those of you whole expect mail and/or presents from me are thoroughly excited and intrigued now.

Let's just say that one of my 'Xmas' cards has a tiny Asian girl with a beer on it and that some of my wrapping paper is inappropriately '80s color schemed.


I am going to be doing a ridiculous amount of travel in about two weeks:

Taiwan ---> Tokyo ---> Seattle where I'll spend two days.

Then Seattle ---> Austin where I'll spend about nine days (maybe I'll try to run up to D/FW for a day or so?).

Then Austin ---> Seattle where I will immediately hope into a car and drive ---> Vancouver (well, Whistler).

We'll spend a couple of days in Whistler snowboarding and then Whistler ---> Seattle.

I'll spend the night in Seattle and the next morning, ---> Tokyo ---> Taiwan.

So much traveling but I'm so excited!

Monday, November 23, 2009

How many people does it take to stock a pantry?

Bobo took Kyrstie, Anisa and me to Costco yesterday to get things for Thanksgiving. Man, I though Carrefour was ridiculous on Sunday. I wanted to scream at Costco.

I know that I'm living in a very family-oriented society and that people here take every opportunity they can to hang out with their family, but why on Earth do people take their whole damn family to the grocery store? As if grocery shopping weren't a big enough pain, you add toting around three kids, your mother and your father?

I understand if there just isn't someone around to watch the kids for you, but why do you need seven people to go to the store? Make a list. Ask everyone ahead of time if they want anything from the store. The less people you have with you, the faster it goes (for you and for me!).

I know I'm ranting, but I have this problem at home as well.

Yesterday was like a maze, except I had an over-sized shopping cart making it even more difficult. I cannot tell you how many children I nearly ran over. Kyrstie and I started taking turns standing with the cart while the other went searching for whatever we needed.

We're lucky though. We just barely got our turkeys.

Right after we grabbed our two turkeys (which still may not be enough, by the way) a woman and her son came up and grabbed six more. I didn't see anymore in the freezer, of course that's not to say there weren't any in the back.

Now we get to spend all week prepping and baking and cooking.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How many times does she say love?

The wine and cheese party was a success. So much a success that almost everyone who came didn't get out of bed until the afternoon today.

Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that we eventually met up with the boys in Zhongli where it was 100NT all-you-can-drink.

I simply had a chill day today. I actually woke up before noon and although I was thirsty, I felt fine. But it was dreary and a bit chilly out so I opted for the stay-in-bed-and-watch-shows-on-my-computer-all-day method of coping with a late night out.

The only exciting thing I can say is that things with my middle of the week classes are getting better. My Wednesday night kids are starting to get used to me and we actually joke around now. That always helps the relationship.

My Thursday night kids are warming up to me, but they're still terrible when we're in lesson mode. When we're just talking or playing a game they're fun. But the moment it's time to crack open and book and talk about the lesson (or simple repeat after me) they clam up and hardly open their mouths.

I played Lady Gaga's new song for them tonight (don't worry, I didn't show the video). I made it into this activity where they had to listen for the word "love" and make a mark every time she said it and whoever got the right number was the winner.

After the second time of listening, I realized that some of them were also counting when the back-up singers said love. That made it complicated and I didn't really think about that ahead of time.

On the agenda, study Chinese, figure out what we're doing for this massive Thanksgiving feast and find presents to bring home to everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Would you like some cheese with that wine?

Monday and Tuesday were pretty uneventful. Just sleep and food and class and "TV". It's too damn cold for anything else.

I considered going to Tepanyaki last night, but by the time I got back on my side of town I couldn't feel my fingers and decided my body couldn't handle the tease of being all warm inside the restaurant only to return to the cold.

I know, I complain a lot, but it's cold and wet. I can handle cold. I can handle wet. But the two together suck and that's the end of it.

The funny part is, every Taiwanese person I know has told me that this is actually a warm winter so far. But boy did it come out of no where. I swear it was 75 (Fahrenheit) out last week. Monday came along with high 40s and low 50s... And the most rain I've ever seen.

It has literally been non-stop rain since Monday.

I generally rely on the sun to blaze into my bedroom for several hours before I actually get out of bed. That method is obviously not full-proof. Where there is rain, there are clouds, and zero sun. It's wickedly dark here though. I know it gets dreary and gray out when it rains, but it's almost as if the sun isn't even rising behind those clouds.

Can someone who isn't entering monsoon season please confirm for me that the sun didn't just give up on us?

I'm excited about tonight though. I just went to Carrefour to buy a bunch of fruit, two bottles of wine and some cheese. We're having a girls night. Just the ladies, some cheese, some wine, fruit and veggies.

The boys are kind of feeling left out though. Jerry sent a Facebook request to come to our party, to which we answered that without a uterus you're not invited. Now the boys are having an "Everyone's Invited Party-a-thon."

They're just green with envy.

I have to say though, this party was perfectly timed. Carrefour is having a "wine festival," (i.e. good wine for cheap sale!). I can't decide what I'm most excited about though: hanging with the girls, the wine or the cheese. I bought some Gouda and some Manchego and, let me tell you, there aren't nearly enough occasions that warrant splurging on good cheese around here.

It's nice to have something to look forward after my class tonight. Oh did I mention my Wednesday night Guei-Shan kids are starting to warm up to me?

Wednesday might not be so bad for much longer.

Now, off to make my apartment presentable for guests!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is 'sciency' a word?

This weekend was relaxed and busy at the same time if you know what I mean. I got a lot done but I didn't feel like I had to hurry to do anything.

Saturday I only had three classes instead of four because all the kids in one of my classes are on the basketball team at their school and they had a game. This adds a little context to why that class is so rowdy. They're used to constantly playing a high-energy game together.

Of course, you sort of already knew that Saturday was pretty chill. I blogged twice and all.

After my classes, the new girl — Kyrstie — and I went to Latini's. Some times the best thing ever is Italian food. It so hits the spot. I swear if I couldn't get Italian or Mexican food, I would freak out. As it stands, I'm not going too crazy without Mexican food.

Then again I have also planned half my Christmas vacation around all the Tex-Mex places I will be visiting.

Saturday night we went out dancing (as usual). The dynamic is really funny when we go out in a big group to a club. I sometimes wonder what it is people are thinking when they see three taxis crammed full of foreigners roll up:

"Sorry honey, we're going to another bar. These foreigners are going to take over..."

Which we totally do. I think we're all attention hogs in a way. We end up dancing on the stage most of the night. It's fun though.

The night ended badly though. Some sort of almost-fight broke out. There were people yelling at people we don't know and people crying. It was drama-filled to say the least.

I love going out dancing and I have a lot of fun with my friends, but there are moments when, somehow or another, our group ends up perpetuating the stereotype of cocky North Americans (can't just say Americans given the proportion of Canadians).

But Saturday night is over and everything is back to normal. There doesn't seem to be any permanent damage and I would argue that a lot of people don't even seem to remember that anything happened anyway.

Sunday, despite the fact that I didn't go to bed until almost 6 a.m. I woke up at noon. We got off to kind of a sow start, but Tess and I were in Taipei by 2:45 p.m. (we wanted to be there by 2 p.m.). Rather than taking the MRT, she and I walked to Ximen and shopped.

Taipei is actually a very walkable city. It's nice to know that because I always feel so lost. It's hard to get your bearings again once you surface from the subway line.

We also went to Shilin Night Market again. Tess was on a mission to do some Christmas shopping. I was mostly along for the ride, but I bought quite a bit of stuff. Mostly just ridiculous little things to send home to people.

You know, things that make you want to "Touch Your Heart" and say "Taiwan!"

After we got back from Taipei, a group of 10 of us went to TaiMall to watch 2012. I wasn't disappointed, and really I suppose it was exactly what I expected. The effects were awesome. The concept is intriguing and I love all of the conspiracy theory/sciency stuff behind it. (I have determined 'sciency' is a word.)

I just could have done without John Cusack's character making the impossible possible and the whole relationship junk that they always put in movies like this so they'll still appeal to the girls who will only watch chick flicks. That stuff has no place in these movies, I feel like.

That said, it was overall a good movie and the effects alone make it worth seeing on the big screen.

Now on to Monday...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What are some things people have strong opinions about?

I know, I haven't been posting much lately and here I am six hours after my last post. I don't know what to tell you other than it's Saturday and I happen to have a decent amount of free time to myself.

That and my last class tonight got me thinking...

It's my favorite Wow class. Those kids are just awesome and it's encouraging because rather than simply sticking to the book, we have actual conversations. Sometimes it's about complete crap — let's just say you can tell I have a bunch of 13-15 year old boys in my class — but sometimes it's honestly inspiring.

I taught this QA twice this week. Once in my Thursday night Wow class and once in my final class of the week which is the same level.

"What are some things people have strong opinions about?"

Honestly, I went into it a little freaked out and kind of not knowing how it would go over because I don't know many hot button issues in Taiwan (Cross-Strait Relations... yeah that's it). Turns out a lot of them are similar to those of Americans (and anywhere else, duh): politics, sports teams, religion.

One thing that I anticipated having trouble explaining — abortion — ended up not being any trouble at all. The kids just knew.

Thursday when I taught the QA, though, it was like pulling teeth.

I went through each of the ten or so options and then, like I always do, I asked the kids to try to think up a couple of their own. They had nothing.

Of course, I can never get that class to talk Apparently it's not just on my day, they also don't talk on my co-teacher's day. But I thought I could get something out of someone. Eventually, I just added education and health care to the list so I felt like I taught them something.

Well today when I taught the same QA, my kids gave me so much feedback I could hardly keep up. We ended up with 15 extra answers including: sexuality, climate change and immigration.

Sometimes it's funny to think that even half-way around the world they're thinking about the same issues. Granted Taiwan sometimes seems like a little America and climate change certainly has a global effect. But — despite the fact that I sort of (really?) am an immigrant — I don't think of this tiny island as a country with major immigration issues.

That just goes to show how much I know — and how much I am just like all of those other self-important, self-absorbed Americans out there.

I think I learned just as much as my 15-year-olds did today.

How do you travel?

We're in that time of year when the weather changes multiple times a week (if not multiple times a day). You'd think being from Texas I would be used to this, but in Taiwan it's a whole different ball game.

I think the humidity is what did me in. I've been congested since at least mid-week and it's not getting any better. It's a funny sort of congestion though. I can feel it behind my eyes, like a sinus headache, and then it's in my chest. I feel like there is a small child standing on my chest making it difficult to breathe.

The funny thing is, I have absolutely no trouble breathing through my nose except when I've been laying down for awhile (i.e. the middle of the night when I've already been asleep for awhile).

I had a fever a few nights ago, but it didn't last long. Some ibuprofen and 13 hours of sleep later I was ready to go again (though not without complaint).

I apologize ahead of time to those of you who have had to listen to me gripe. It's what I do. I tend to complain a lot when I'm sick and/or tired. Unfortunately being sick makes me tired and so it's exponentially worse.

I think I'm going to assign myself at least two touristy things to do per month. And I'm going to start inviting some of my co-teachers. I was talking to Carol last night about how when you live somewhere (especially when you've lived there forever) you never do the touristy things. By touristy things I mean the things people go there specifically to do.

What do people come to Taiwan specifically to do... Taroko Gorge, Alishan, Jade Mountain, Taipei 101, etc.

She was impressed with all the places the foreign teachers go each weekend and I told her I would call her next time so she would have an excuse to go.

I completely understand the need for incentive. Here my incentive is that I have a year to do everything (the touristy stuff and the stuff normal everyday Taiwanese people do). I still think about all the things I didn't do in Austin because I lived there.

For instance, I never took a tour of the capitol building. Hell, I hadn't even been to Barton Springs until this spring. How do you live somewhere for five years and never visit the big attractions?

It's quite simple really: There are a lot of crowds and where there are crowds, there are obnoxious tourists.

You have to admit that being a tourist has its negative connotations.

I've been thinking a lot about traveling and how I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes down to it.

I'm a planner. I like to read books and surf the Internet to find out everything I can about where I'm going. What are the big attractions? Where will I get the best pictures? Where is the best lodging as far as getting your bang for your buck? How do I get around?

I have yet to go somewhere without at least planning out when I will get there, how I will get there and where I will stay.

The idea of packing a backpack (or a small suitcase), buying a plane ticket and then just finding a place to stay when I get there absolutely blows my mind. But at the same time, it seems that's what a lot of the other foreign teachers here do.

Honestly, I think I have the least travel experience out of anywhere here. Part of it is that what little traveling I have done has been mostly with my sister. She's also a planner. Of course, when you're planning ski vacations in the States it certainly helps to think (way) ahead so you can buy lift tickets on sale and get cheap rooms.

Apparently that's not how Asia works (and many other places for that matter).

I'm just wondering if I have to guts to let go, to just book a flight and then take care of the rest when I get there.

Where am I going you ask? I have no clue. First I'm going home (which I've already told you that I have almost every single day mapped out for that). But Chinese New Year isn't long after I get back and I should find something to do.

Maybe Vietnam? Maybe Malaysia? Maybe Borneo? Maybe Beijing?

I'm taking suggestions for Chinese New Year fun. Preferably somewhere that it's OK to travel alone, though I will try to find someone to go with me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What are you excited about?

Still sleeping a lot.

Even when I wake up I'm exhausted. I think I'm actually getting sick though. I'm sure it's just a cold and I'll get over it quickly enough. Until then, it's all about the juice.

I stayed up all night Saturday night "watching" the UCF-Texas game. I was listening to it on a completely random Christian radio station in Southern Florida that has a live Internet stream. I swear, I nearly started crying when I heard the crowd in the background screaming "Texas! Fight!"

There are just some college experiences that I will always love and Texas football games are definitely up there. It was always a rush and now the thought of it always brings up this really odd feeling.

Yeah, this has been me lately. Reminiscing about home and college and missing my friends. I'm excited to go home and visit people, but at the same time I'm scared.

I'm scared of a couple of things really. I've only been gone five months (by then six) but I know a lot has changed. A couple of my really good friends have moved to Dallas, for instance.

The other thing is I'm scared I'm going to be so happy to be home that I'm going to dread going back to Taiwan.

Don't get me wrong, I like it here, but sometimes I just want to be home with my friends and my family where I know what's going on all of the time (not occasionally).

On the other hand, I may be bored out of my mind (or pleasantly surprised I suppose) given that when I lived in Texas I spent every waking moment at school or one-of-two jobs. It will definitely be an entirely different experience having a whole 10 days to do anything I want to in Central Texas.

Oh, also in the future happy times, my sister is planning a trip for us to go skiing at Whistler (in British Columbia, Canada near Vancouver) on my second pass through the Northwest. Looks like I won't completely miss the ski season after all.

The December/ January plan:

Arrive on Dec. 20th for two chill days in Seattle just hanging out with my sister and her family.

Hop on a plane with the kiddo (my niece Madison) and get to Austin the night of the 22nd.

Spend Dec. 22nd through Dec. 31st with friends and family. I'll probably spend the first two full days cooking for Christmas since I will finally have access to an oven and all the ingredients I can imagine (in a beautiful, large, clean kitchen).

After a wonderful New Years Eve celebration at a yet undetermined location in Austin, the kiddo and I will hop back on a plane around noon to head back to the Pacific Northwest on Jan. 1.

Upon arrival at the Sea-Tac airport, we will make way to Canada where we sleep anxiously that night because on the 2nd and 3rd it's all about the snowboarding at one of the best ski resorts in North America. Did I mention the Winter Olympics are to be held there?

We're coming back (to Seattle) on Jan. 4th and I'll hop on a plane on the 4th or 5th... I haven't really ironed that part out yet.

Now can you see why I'm excited to go home?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Do people hibernate?

I've been sleeping a lot lately so my life has been pretty uneventful. I don't know if my body is going into default hibernation or what, but it makes for a whole lot of lameness.

The most I can say is that I'm pretty excited about Chinese. I've been slacking off a little (sleep takes precedent over studying). Despite my laziness though, I am starting to get pretty good at this whole reading thing.

Granted I only know like 100 characters, but there is something about reading a language that doesn't even resemble your own that makes you feel that much more accomplished.

The only other thing worth noting was the gigantic earthquake today. I don't know if it's being on the 15th floor of our building or what, but it seemed huge today. It actually was a 6.0 reported in the center of the island in Nantou County. As you know, Taiwan is small, so anything like that going on in the middle of the island is going to make it's way here pretty quickly.

I was sitting at the kitchen table and next thing I knew my door was swinging on the hinges and I felt like I was on a boat in the middle of the ocean. I thought I was going to get motion sick (which is unusual for me), but otherwise it's kind of a cool feeling.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How cold is it going to get?

Wo hen mang... lately. I've been really busy.

Also, it is suddenly very cold out. It got a little warmer Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My costume was almost too warm for me to wear but I dealt with it.

Then, all of a sudden it is Nov. 1st and it's so cold out. I can't believe it's November!

It's really not that bad, but it seems really cold because the weather changed so quickly. It just kept getting cooler and cooler on Sunday until it's somewhere between 13 and 15 degrees Celsius (around the 50s in Fahrenheit).

My Chinese is really coming along. I've been talking a lot more to people. I've noticed my big problem is that I speak really quietly when I'm talking to strangers. I'm like my students. When they speak Chinese they are so loud, but the moment you ask them to say something in English you can hardly hear them even when you are standing right in front of them.

I need to work on that.

Last night I went to Tepanyaki after work. I was there by myself so I pulled out my Chinese book and started studying. I imagine it was a pretty hilarious sight. The guys behind the counter just kept staring at me and kind of laughing.

Picture this: Me all bundled up in my green hoodie and blue scarf with a Chinese book in my left hand and chopsticks in my right hand.

I got to class really early today so I just kind of hung out with my babies. They're so funny. They just yammer at me in Chinese and I catch a little bit of it now and then. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don't.

Glenn had two apples with him and he kept running around with them screaming "Two apples!" and then he would say it in Chinese "Liangge pingguo!"

It was pretty funny. I have no idea why he had the apples or why he was so excited about it.

I also realized today that he can actually read English pretty well although we haven't gotten completely through the phonics yet.

They all ran off somewhere so I pulled out my Chinese book and then Jim came up and practically sat in my lap and wanted me to read my Chinese to him. He started reading the characters for me if I hesitated.

I am pretty excited about my progress as far as reading characters goes. My co-teacher Angela came over and listened to me read a couple of passages and she was really impressed.

I'm sure I was beaming with pride.

My goal is to hike Tiger Head at least three times this week. So far it's Tuesday and I haven't so I really need to get on that.

Tomorrow, Tiger Head, then stationery store to buy cards so I can make flashcards.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trick or Treat?

I wish we could wear costumes everyday. They definitely make kids even cuter than they already are!

You'll see what I mean:

My babies class! Aren't they so adorable!
Me with one of my favorite classes!

David with our class. He was being SO goofy!

Rosa, my little Korean princess.

Tina, the scary witch!

Harry Potter! I mean, Wudy.

Johnathan being dopey in my Domo mask.

Ruby, my dead Geisha.

Alice and Little Janice, my pretty girls!

Edison! His grandpa is the man sitting behind him. He made this whole costume!

Oh and of course, where there are children on a holiday, there are songs to be sung! Remember this classic?

Trick or Treat
Smell my feet

Give me something good to eat
If you don't
I don't care

I'll pull down your underwear!

I've always preferred this version, which is exactly what I taught to my kids.

The other classes apparently use
"Not too big, not too small, just the size of a basketball."

Obviously this one is more kid friendly I suppose, but I like that the one I learned when I was a kid really lets you know what you're in for if you decide to say trick instead of treat. Just sayin'.

More Halloween tomorrow and maybe Saturday depending on how my older kids are feeling. At the very least, I have one more little kid class and then lots of jack-o-lantern carving in another one tomorrow!

Can anyone think of any other songs? As much as I love it, I'm still getting a little tired of hearing it after 25 times.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What are you going to be for Halloween?

It's only Tuesday morning and I'm already exhausted this week.

The sad part is, I haven't really done anything. I'm just lazy.

On Sunday, Tess, Katie and I all slept in — for once I didn't sleep the latest though — and then we had a leisurely day of fun all planned out for ourselves.

We went to Debbie's where I finally had the eggs benedict that I've been craving for a week. It's nice to just have this nice little place where we can go to get Western food that we didn't have to cook ourselves.

Then we went to walk up Tiger Head Mountain. Yep, I finally actually went to Tiger Head. It only took me four months. Now I can start going on my own because I know how to get there. Let's see how long it takes me to get motivated for that.

After Tiger Head, Tess and I didn't a little shopping at the Baking Store. I really mostly browsed so I could get a feel for what I could buy for Thanksgiving dinner. Then we all hung out at the apartment for a couple of hours before heading out to the movies to see Taking Woodstock. It was a pretty funny movie.

I took a lot of pictures on Tiger Head but I haven't uploaded them yet. I'll post them tonight with my Halloween Party Pictures!

Yep, I have my babies class tonight meaning me and 13 adorable children playing tons of Halloween games in lots of crazy costumes. I know that you guys just can't wait to see the amazing photos that will come out of that.

Speaking of costumes, today is "Project Costume" day. I'm headed out to the fabric store so I can make mine now. Hopefully five hours is enough time. It's not like it has to be super high quality. It's just got to hold up for a week.

Yay! Candy, games and costumes all week!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

She understands Chinese?

Today is probably the most successful Saturday I have had since I've been in Taiwan.

Four months of crappy Saturdays... yuck.

I actually had zero trouble waking up this morning even though I didn't go to bed until 1 a.m. I just jumped right out of bed and had plenty of time to take a shower, make coffee at home and stop to get some dan bing on the way to class.

I know you're probably wondering when the heck I'm going to get tired of dan bing. My current answer to that is "never," but I know that is probably not true. For now, it's the only local breakfast cuisine that I know of meaning my only other option of breakfast on the go is McDonald's.

Well, I suppose I could cook... Ew, 7 a.m. cooking.

We had a movie day in my first class. I went to Blockbuster last night and my brain was swirling with ideas of what movie I should pick for the kids. Obviously it had to be age appropriate; it had to be in English with Chinese subtitles; and it had to be something that would win me points with these kids.

Since our class is so early in the morning, we generally don't have much fun and so I always get this feeling that they kind of hate me.

Turns out, that's not it. Or if it was it's not anymore because the second they figured out that I picked Night at the Museum 2 they were all clapping and super excited.

Cool points for Teacher Jimmie.

I got a little homesick watching the movie though. OK, less "homesick" and more "last summer" sick. The majority of the movie takes place in Washington D.C. at the Federal Archives and in the Smithsonian Museums.

Well, if you don't know already, I had an internship in D.C. last summer and although I never saw myself as a D.C. person, it turns out that I really am.

I fell in love with that city.

Also, I definitely spent the majority of my weekends last summer visiting the Smithsonian Museums — they're free so what else is an intern living on $1000/month supposed to do. I went to the Air and Space Museum on multiple occasions because I just kind of love planes and all things aerospace.

Point is: They would show these awesome panoramic shots of the city or these cool parts of the museums and I just kind of felt really sad all of a sudden.

It seems D.C. still holds a piece of my heart.

That said, this blog is supposed to be about Taiwan where it's still raining. That stupid typhoon — Typhoon Lupit — turned northeast and so we're just getting all of the rain that's on the outer edges of the storm. Granted at least we're not getting the actual typhoon, but I still hate driving in the rain.

I don't care where you are, people drive like idiots in the rain! It's universal and I simply don't understand it. It's like no one has ever seen a raindrop in their lives.

Add in a million scooters, flimsy helmets and worthless rain gear and you've got road rash up to your eyeballs. At least one of other teachers does after getting hit by a car a couple of days ago. I'm just glad she's OK. A few big scrapes be she made it out OK.

So many of the teachers at our school have gotten into accidents since I've been here. It's so scary!

Back to my successful Saturday, the rest of my classes went off without a hitch.

Lately I've been describing Saturdays as a pattern of coffee, crappy class, great class, food, crappy class, great class, food, sleep.

I think I'm finally getting to that point where things really aren't so crappy anymore. I still wouldn't describe them all as "great" but I think I'm starting to get somewhere. Maybe it's my new no-nonsense attitude.

In my third class, the kids generally misbehave. One of the kids kept going "Laoshrrrrrrrrr." (Chinese for teacher.)

Finally I just looked at him and said, "Sam! Say 'teacher' not 'laoshr' or you're gonna get double homework!"

Sam looked at my co-teacher and was like... "Uh, she understands Chinese?"

Then we talked about how I am learning Chinese but still know infinitely less Chinese than they know English. And they asked if I know Spanish and I told them I started learning when I was really young. They decided that it's my background speaking Spanish that makes me speak English so fast.

Maybe I should slow down for these kids, eh?

I also gave a girl double homework because she had her cell phone out in class after me telling her multiple times to put it away. She and the other kids in class kept calling each other so their phones would go off and interrupt class. I already told them last week no cell phones in class.

That's just a general respect thing, but it made me feel like a real teacher not necessarily in a good way though.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When it rains, it drizzles?

There are some classes that I honestly feel like you just can't win over and the WOW class I was teaching tonight is definitely one of them.

I can feel the 'tweens in that class judging my every move. I'm not nearly cool enough or thin enough for them and therefore anything I do in class hardly warrants participation.

Result: a very quiet classroom, a very irritated teacher, and some seriously bored kids.

I know I'm supposed to teach through games, but I just can't bring myself to reward them with games. They don't deserve it. Then again I may just be feeding the fire by only playing one game per class.

You win some, you lose some.

Outside the classroom, I slept most of the day (we stayed out too late for Danielle's birthday last night...) and then spent time looking ahead at what I might do after my year is up here in Taiwan. While it is always an option to stay here (and I am considering it) I am also looking at where (or how) else I can grow. Of course, my ultimate goal is to put that journalism degree to good use, so that's also on my brain.

Also, it started raining sometime this afternoon and it hasn't stopped since. That's the thing about rain in Taiwan versus rain in Texas.

Texas: When it rains, it pours. That's not simply a figure of speech. It literally pours whenever it rains in Texas and then next thing you know the evidence it gone except for some wet grass (and the aftermath of a flash-flood or two).

Taiwan: When it rains, it drizzles... OK, maybe it's a little more than a drizzle, but what I mean is that it pretty much rains softly all day.

While I miss being able to hear the rain (probably my favorite noise of all time), it's nice that it's not pouring down when I'm on the scooter driving to work.

Apparently it's supposed to rain through Saturday.

At least it will be gone in time to have a fun Sunday! I'm thinking I might go to the National Palace Museum. Suggestions?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's the weather like in Fall?

It's gotten to the point where we keep the balcony windows open all of the time now. Yep, it feels that good outside.

Though it's pretty chilly at night. In fact, I'm officially calling it soup season!

I finally tried Taiwanese beef noodle soup (niou ro mien) and it was really good. The broth wasn't exactly what I was expecting (I think I was thinking more beef stew) but after a few bites, I decided I liked it. The noodles were the best.

And it was so filling. I got a little bowl and it was even too much for me to eat.

Then last night I got some guo tie (fried dumplings, or what many of us call "potstickers") and some hot and sour soup (which I have no idea what they call hear, I just pointed).

One of my co-teachers told me about this place by Dar-Nan school that has the potstickers and so I've been going there for a few week now. But she told me they also have great hot and sour soup there.

Since she told me, she has been asking me every week if I've tried it yet. So I decided that, since it's finally cool enough, I would try them finally. I never really liked hot and sour soup at home, but I find that I'm far less picky about food here and so I thought I would just go with it.

It tasted great, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat it.

Think of what egg whites feel like when you first crack open an egg, that was the consistency of this soup. It was almost gelatinous. I am very much a texture person when it comes to food, and that is one texture that I just cannot handle. I tried though. I definitely had a good ten spoonfuls before I just had to give up.

In other exciting, non-food-related news, next week we get to have Halloween celebrations in our classes.

I'm so exciting to see my kindie class dressed up for Halloween and playing all these fun games. In fact, last night, I taught them to sing my favorite Halloween rhyme ever (i.e. the only one I can remember because it's been like 13 years since I've been Trick-or-Treating).

Trick or Treat
Smell my feet
Give me something good to eat
If you don't, I don't care
I'll pull down your underwear!

It was the cutest thing in the world.

But this means I have to come up with a costume and a ton of games. Games for little kids and for big kids. The big kids are always the hardest ones though. If you have any fun Halloween game suggestions I would appreciate the help.

In return for the help, I'll post the most adorable pictures ever. I'm going to go camera crazy in my classes next week.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Isn't Taipei 101 magnificent?

I am proud of myself for holding out all day Sunday before I found out what the final score of the UT/OU game was. That's not to say it wasn't on the back of my mind the entire day, but I had enough cool stuff to keep myself occupied.

We had our big party Saturday night. It is three different teachers' birthdays this week and one of them rented this swank hotel room. We gathered in Taipei at the hotel and then went to this
gigantic club called Luxy.

It was so much fun.

And since we already had the hotel room, most of us stayed in the city and just slept on the couch, floor, etc. I put two chairs opposite each other and used a bathrobe as a blanket.

It was kind of like being in college again.

As I was walking to the MRT from the hotel, I started to cross over Shin-Yi Road when I noticed that I could actually see the very top of Taipei 101. For those of you who don't know, 101 is currently the tallest building in the world.

I've been itching to go — I love heights and crazy cool engineering projects like this — but every Sunday I either already had plans to do something or it was cloudy/raining. Obviously it would be stupid to go to the top of a ridiculously tall building when it's cloudy.

The point is to see things.

I spent so much time just walking around the observatory. In general I feel like going to the top of a high building is pretty much always the same. I mean, I've been to the top of the Seattle Space Needle. My work building in Arlington, Virginia was pretty tall (I had a view straight down the National Mall).

It's not the fact that the building is tall that's all that interesting to me. Though Taipei 101 being the tallest is neat, I honestly believe there is a point at which you can't tell that you're much higher. Especially in Taipei because there aren't very many tall building to begin with. If it were towering over all the other sky scrapers, that would be cool.

But it is a
different view than all the others and my isn't is beautiful. I love that it's this super dense urban environment, then a big green mountain and then more city. Taipei is a pretty unique city.

The other cool thing about tall buildings is the cool engineering stuff that goes into it. If you've been following along with me then you know that earthquakes and typhoons happen are a pretty regular occurrence here. That has got to be the first thing that pops into the mind of someone who says, "I'm going to build the tallest building in the world in Taipei."

The damper ball — the world's largest passive tuned mass wind damper (according to the 101 Web site) —weighs 660 metric tons and is 5.5 meters in diameter. It's huge. And the way it works is awesome.

It's essentially a big pendulum that sways back and forth — it has a clearance of 1.5 meters to do so — in order to level out the building during earthquakes or high winds. It's just a massive amount of steel strung up by even more steel (24 steel cables each 9cm in diameter) that keeps the gigantic bamboo-shaped steel from falling over.

The best things about the damper are the hilarious Damper Babies. In fact, this month they are celebrating the Damper Babies' sixth birthday.

See! The damper is the body and then you throw on some legs and arms and make the eyes and nose using "101."

They have four different Damper Baby personalities. Find out which one matches you best here.