Monday, June 29, 2009

Was that a mini-earthquake or am I having a seizure?

Saturday night was a lot of fun. We went to this club in Jeng Li, called Search, for Jeremy's birthday. You basically pay one big cover to get in (I paid $400 NT — $12 USD) and that gets you all you can drink all night.

The catch, you stand in line a lot.

There were a lot of scarcely dressed women and this DJ from Malaysia. I think everyone had fun though and that's the important part.

I got left behind though. That was certainly not fun. We had such a large group and everyone else was pretty drunk. I went to the bathroom and came back and realized everyone was gone.

Gave me a chance to fend for myself in Chinese though. I went to three different cabs before I found one that was willing to drive me back to Taoyuan and then I had to try to explain where I live in Chinese.

Me: Taoyuan. Do you know Jengjen Lu? Do you know Tong An Jie?
Cabbie: What????

I had hoped that if I could get him into Taoyuan and to at least ONE of the streets I actually knew then I could just give him directions back to my place.

We finally combined efforts and he got me back to the dorm at about the same time as everyone else. Cabbies here drive super fast.

I ended up staying up to watch the sun come up Sunday morning, so I, of course, took some pictures from the balcony.

That's the LDS church right down the street from us. That's also what the sunrise looks like at 5:30 in the morning.

Bright, I know.

Sunday, Megan, Allen and I went shopping in Taipei. It was a lot of fun, but SO tiring. We walked so much!

I found three dresses I liked though and a bag.

There's Allen modeling my bag for me.

Unfortunately, staying up really late (early?) and then going to Taipei and walking all day took all the energy out of me. I ended up not cleaning the refrigerator last night. We'll see how I feel after school tonight.

Probably not great. I think I have a cold. My head hurts and my throat is a little swollen. How do you get a cold in this weather?

Last night Megan messaged me on Skype at about 1 a.m. asking me if I felt that shaking?

I didn't feel anything, but then today I was sleeping off my sickness and suddenly my bed started shaking back and forth.

I jumped up out of bed and immediately got on my computer to see what the deal was.

Apparently there were about 15-18 earthquakes in Haulien county yesterday. People have been feeling aftershocks all over the northern part of the island ever since.

Being from Texas, I am running into a whole different set of mother nature's wonders. At home it was tornadoes and hail, sometimes a really large hurricane hitting the coast would make its way far enough inland.

Here, we have earthquakes, typhoons and I suppose the possibility of tsunamis?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How can you live like this?

Megan, Allen, Ray and I went to watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen today. We got to the mall at a little after 3 p.m. and there was the longest line EVER.

We waited for about an hour to get tickets and the soonest we could get the movie for was 5:50 p.m.

While we were walking around the mall, this little girl started yelling my name and pulled on my shirt. I subbed her class earlier this week. It was adorable. I definitely didn't expect any of the kids I subbed for — especially since it was only once — to remember me.

Anyway, I think the movie was totally worth the wait, but I limited myself to watching the movie solely for the stuff that blows up. I love the effects in the Transformers movies.

When we got back I decided I would begin my attack on the kitchen. This is what I had to work against:

I changed shirts and just went in there and started cleaning everything.

Ray helped me. I found a way to plug the sink and filled it up with soapy water and went crazy. I used so much dish soap. Those dishes have been sitting in the sink for more than a week now. It was starting to smell.

If you know me, you know that one of my hugest pet peeves is a dirty kitchen. I can only let it go for so long.

This is the transformation:

Above the sink is one of the dish drainers. That's only ONE of them and it's not even the fullest. The one over the other sink is going to burst.

Ray also cleaned off the table and the counters and I cleaned behind the stove a little. I also left a rather unpleasant note:

I think it was warranted though. That's disgusting.

Tomorrow, we're tackling the refrigerators (there are two).

I told everyone they have until tomorrow night to label all the stuff they have in the fridge. Anything not labeled is taking flight to the trash.

But, now that I've cleaned the kitchen, I'm going to get ready. It's this guy Jeremy's birthday so a bunch of us are going to Jhong Li to hang out.

Good times.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What color are your eyes?

My sleep schedule is all messed up.

I stayed up until 5 a.m. last night (this morning?). A bunch of us played Texas Hold 'em. I won (REPRESENT)! Then Ray and I watched movies and just talked a lot. Next thing I knew it was 4:45 and I already regretted staying up so late (early?).

So, of course, I didn't wake up until around one o' clock this afternoon. It sucks because sleeping that late means I don't really get much done before class. I have to rush just to take a shower, get ready, find some food and do all my lesson plans before heading off to class.

It's not like I even have anything I need to do, but I want to run around, get used to the neighborhood and go exploring. Also, I'm leaving myself zero time to read and one of my goals was to give myself more time for leisurely reading now that I'm out of college and don't have to read textbooks anymore.

I still read a lot of the news back home though. I've found it difficult to make myself read Taiwanese news though. I suppose I should start reading the Taipei Times or China Post. It would only make sense for me to know what's going on in my corner of the world. I love knowing what's going on halfway around the world too, but I should probably be aware of the local stories.

Today the Q and A in one of my classes was, "What color are your eyes."

It's hilarious because all of the kids have brown eyes. Most of them have REALLY dark brown eyes, though, and they all wanted to say they have black eyes. I had to explain to them that their eyes are "dark brown" not "black."

"The little spot in the middle of your eye is black. The rest of your eye is dark brown. Everyone say dark brown."

This job requires speech with a lot of emphasis.

It was adorable though. I got to this one kid and I asked him the question and he answered, "My eyes are blue!"

Me: "Your eyes aren't blue! My eyes are blue!"

It was good times though. We giggled a lot in that class. Actually, we giggled a lot in both of my classes today. The kids were fun and receptive to my games and we were all just generally in good moods.

We played Teacher Says in my first class. I definitely had them patting their heads and rubbing their tummies at the same time. Have 14 five-year-olds do that while hopping on one foot and you can't help but roll over laughing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Do you go to sleep when you go to bed?

Monday I had my first Chinese class. It's hard. I'm not sure how great I will be at it. But it will be a relief to actually know what is going on around me once I start to learn a little.

I'm already picking up a bit.

I've been doing a lot of subbing this week. Most of my classes have been great, but there was one that was really boring. The kids were just slow at everything not to mention there were a million of them. It made it really hard to get anything done, so we didn't have time to play many games.

I've decided that I really hate when the Taiwanese co-teacher starts speaking Chinese to the kids. We try to treat our classes as a whole-English environment, the idea being that these kids have no where else to go to practice their English for the most part.

Sometimes we'll ask them what something is in Chinese just to make sure that they actually understand what the word is in English, but most of the time, we look for English definitions. I had this co-teacher yesterday who just kept talking to the kids in Chinese.

At first it was to explain a concept, apparently the phrases for "go to bed" and "go to sleep" are the same in Chinese so the kids didn't understand the difference in English. Then she just kept talking in Chinese and made a few jokes, etc.

This ended up with me getting uncomfortable. It's hard to have control over a class if you don't know what's going on. It's not that I think she was talking about me. In general, the Taiwanese are fairly non-confrontational. It was more about the fact that I looked like an idiot up there in front of those kids. This does not help with the whole respect factor.

Things I've learned so far in Taiwan:

Maybe it's just the ones here, but I'm getting this impression that Canadians have a pretty negative perception of Americans. It's a number of things, and they won't necessarily come out and say it to your face — although I suppose some might — but there has been a lot of America-hating in the dorm. Of all the people in the dorm, I think about 5 or 6 of us are American; everyone else is Canadian. It's not like they have a problem with me in particular or something, just with the way they think most Americans act or our general (capitalist) attitude toward things.

On that note, it is pointless to try to change a Canadian's mind or to test them on what they think they know. They seem to have a very unwavering perception of us.

What do I think about Canadians? I can't decide yet, though I have come to realize that I don't know anything about Canada. Does anyone remember learning much about Canada in grade school? I think this may have something to do with their disdain for us.

Next, Taiwanese people's English will probably always be better than my Chinese if for no reason other than they would rather speak English to me than have to suffer through my Mandarin.

Also, foreign men here are not interested in the foreign women here. It's a little frustrating at first, but one I am already quickly hurdling over. It comes off more annoying than anything at this point. Also, it's not such a bad thing to not get a lot of attention. Fading into the background helps me just see things for what they are.

Lastly, I have more respect now than I ever did for all of my grade school teachers. While I am only in the beginning of all of this, I realize that this is a hard job. I'm sure it's harder by at least 10 back home where kids don't care and have zero respect for their teachers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why is that group of foreigners soaking wet?

My classes Saturday went really well. I didn't budget my time quite perfectly, but there were certainly no disasters.

My yellow book class was actually really fun and all the kids were really responsive. This is apparently unusual. I've heard many people say they dread yellow book classes, especially subbing them, because the kids can be really difficult.

It's not so much that they're obstinate. The kid are all just at that age.

Honestly, I had more trouble with the WOW class I subbed. These kids are all in late junior high or high school and they were SO not getting into it. I had no idea what to do.

My saving grace was this one girl, Ginger. Her English was GREAT and she was willing to answer questions and help me out with the Chinese. Luckily, the co-teacher for that class was also really cool. We ended up having a lot of fun even though it initially seemed like it was going to be the most boring hour and a half of my life.

Saturday evening Megan and I went to this great little coffee shop and I had milk tea for the first time. I really like milk tea. We just sat there at chatted about a little bit of everything. Classes, the people in the dorm — I'm still getting to know everyone — learning Chinese, etc.

After we got back I left almost immediately when some other people who live in the dorm to go bowling.

Bowling is the thing to do here. I'm going to see if I can eventually get some people to start playing pool with me. I'm hoping I can locate a dart board as well. But, for now, bowling will have to do. My game could use some work anyway.

I ended up staying up pretty late that night. We didn't get home from the bowling alley until 3 a.m. (it stays open 24/7, so glad Main Event wasn't like that). A few of the others apparently never went to sleep.

This is the problem with "dorm" life.

I never lived in a dorm in college so it's something to get used to. I did my share of running around and staying up all night, but it's different when you live with 15 other people.

Because I stayed up half the night, I slept most of the day, but that's OK. It was Sunday, I'm allowed to do that.

I ate McDonalds on Sunday. I know, I know, everyone is so disappointed. I just really wanted a cheeseburger. Something to note, the Taiwanese really like eggs. They put eggs on everything. This includes a fried egg on a cheeseburger. McD's doesn't do that though so I felt safe going there.

I have since decided that I may never go to McDonalds again. It wasn't terrible, but I felt so sick afterward because I've been eating nothing but rice, noodles, vegetables and very little grease.

Maybe I'll have some french fries now and then.

When I got home from McD's the living room was soaked. Yes, I said soaked.

Megan planned this big water gun fight to go down in the park at 6 p.m. She went and bought a ton of water guns (becuase they're like $3) and they filled them up and were all sitting in the living room waiting for everyone to get going. Next thing you know, they're all shooting each other in the living.

It was hilarious to walk in to.

When we finally got to the park and started playing, we ended up drawing a huge crowd. People just started standing around us and watching. Some were taking pictures of us.

Crazy foreigners.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What are five words that describe famine?

So Thursday was a relatively boring day. Almost all the teachers had to go to this big workshop about how to teach summer classes and that was pretty much the only thing on my schedule for the day.

The workshop was actually pretty helpful for me though. This guy Bill was teaching it. I'm not sure if I've talked about Bill before, but he has been in Taiwan for more than 15 years. He speaks Chinese now, gets along great with all the co-teachers and has a serious arsenal of games to play.

Summer classes are essentially for children who know no, or very little, English. It's a fast-paced beginners' course basically, so we squeeze a 16-week program into an 8-week program. Going over this was great though because now I have a little packet, suggestions for games and some ideas for how to teach the kindie kids. Bill makes it look easy though.

After the workshop everyone else was hurriedly putting together their lesson plans and heading off to class. I, however, had no class yesterday, no observations or anything, so I sat around and did nothing.

Actually, I did research on the trip I plan to eventually take to The Philippines. I also looked up different places to go in Taiwan and started searching for a scooter so I could get an idea of how much that will cost me.

I've decided I want to go to Kaohsiung (Gow-shung) in July for the World Games. I just think it would be a lot of fun. Only problem is there have been a lot of earthquakes in the southern region of the island and that's where typhoons tend to make landfall. That's not to say that will happen then, but it's something to be mindful of.

I went to the market and got myself some cong dra bing and bought some stuff for games in my classes and a watergun (just cause). While I was waiting for my food, the guy that runs the stand next to it kept trying to talk to me.

Problem: he was speaking Chinese.

The lady at the stand I was at translated a little for me. He was asking where my friend (Megan) was. I went there with her right after I got here and I guess this was misleading. She can speak lots of Chinese and she did all the talking that time so they probably thought I could speak Chinese too... Whoops.

Anyway, he told me I was very pretty — something I keep getting from people here, I think they just don't know what else to say in English. Then as I was leaving he said, "See you tomorrow!"

I think that's adorable.

People here have incredible memories though. The guy at the breakfast place at the corner already remembers me. The other day I went by myself and ordered my dan bing with no sauce. Today he was like, "No sauce, yes?"

I had a workshop about teaching Yellow Book classes today. This is like the third level of classes and usually for kids in late-elementary school to junior high. It was fun and Josh gave me and Ray a million games to play with Yellow Book kids. Sometimes they can be the most difficult, apparently, because they're all almost teenagers or they are teenagers and so they're trying to preserve their cool.

We all know preserving your cool equals lack of participation. I'm too cool to answer my teacher's questions and play games in my English class. This is apparently also a problem with Wow (junior high to high school) classes.

I subbed my first class today. A teacher here had to go to Hong Kong for a visa run because she only came in with a 30-day visitor's visa and she didn't get her resident permit paperwork quickly enough. The class was a Wow class.

It wasn't the worst experience of my life. I could definitely use some work, but I managed to keep the kids relatively engaged.

To be honest, I was happy it was Wow because that meant they already knew English pretty well and so I wasn't going to have a complete communication meltdown. I had a lesson plan all worked out before class but when I got there the co-teacher (Taiwanese teacher) told me that the regular teacher was getting ahead of herself and I needed to focus on review because the kids had a test coming up in the next class.


I had to completely rework everything and find a way to make the reviews I had planned already take even longer. Essentially, I turned all the games I had into review games. It was crazy!

I got really frustrated at one point because we were reviewing active and passive voice. Apparently, on their test they're going to have to take a sentence that is written in active voice and change it to passive voice. I personally think this is bad form. I know I use passive voice sometimes, but I think it's terrible to teach kids to do that. Going from passive to active would be better.

Later we were playing one game though and I was doing it completely off-the-cuff and I was so happy it didn't completely blow up in my face.

Basically, I think of a word and I give the kids five clues, one by one. If they guess the word with only one clue then their team gets 50 points, with two clues they get 40 points, until if gets down to 5 clues and only 10 points.

It sucked because I had NEVER seen their vocabulary list before so I was having to think up things right on the spot. I have found since I've been here that I may know English pretty well, but remembering what past participle is or defining certain words in the simplest possible terms sometimes seems like an impossible feat.

I had no idea how to describe famine in five words without completely giving it away or not using words the kids don't know.

I used disease as one of the words and I'm so proud of myself.

50 Points: cure
40 Points: sickness
30 Points: doctor (Before I wrote this I asked the co-teacher is the kids would know bacteria... No.)
20 Points: H1N1

The kids finally got it when I put up H1N1. It took a little coaxing still.

Kids: "Flu!"
Me: "OK, yes, H1N1 is a flu, but the flu is a kind of what?"
Kids: "Ummmmmmmmmm."
Me: "Dih, dih, dih..."
Tiny kid in the front row: "Disease????"
Me: "Yes!!!!"
All the other kids: "Oh my godddd!!!" *lots of garbled Chinese*

If anyone has suggestions for different fun games to play with kids let me know. They don't just have to be word games, they can just be killing-time-having-some-fun-taking-a-break games. I like those.

Tomorrow, I have two more subs at Nan-Kan school, which isn't TOO far away and another girl in the dorm is going to take me there so I don't have to worry about finding the bus there. One is another Wow class like I had today and one is a Yellow Book class.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Didn't your mother ever tell you it's impolite to stare?

Last night a bunch of us went bowling after school. I bowled a 134 which I'm pretty sure is my highest score ever. It was ridiculous; I got so many spares!

I stayed up pretty late last night though, so I woke up really late today! I looked at my clock and saw it was 11:30 and almost freaked out. I had two hours to get ready and get to school and I had no idea when the bus would come or how long it would take!

I'm so proud of myself though. I knew exactly when to get off the bus. I didn't get lost at all and I had plenty of time to get some dumplings before class.

I observed three classes today. I realized that I hadn't watched any female foreign teachers until my first class today. The kids were pretty good at English and it was a pretty low-key class. There was one little boy in particular who was going crazy! He wanted to answer every question. It was really funny.

Then I watched a kindy class and there were TONS of parents watching the class too so Josh didn't make me teach the last 10 minutes because that would have been SO stressful. I did teach a little bit in the last kindy class though.

I had a two-hour break between Josh's kindy classes though, so I went and familiarized myself with the area. I was at Chen-Kung School which is kind of downtown and a nicer area as far as I can tell. There are tons of shops and markets around there

I had a supreme pizza for dinner and it was really weird because it had PEAS on it. Who puts PEAS on pizza?!?!

I bought a new wallet for $100NT (~$3 USD) and then I walked down to this park that's right down the street from the school.

It's right
next to Taoyuan Elementary School. There were a lot of older people there and they all stared at me as I walked around. A few said "Hello" and waved.

There is a temple at or near every park it seems and I think they are so pretty although I'm not sure exactly what they're supposed to represent or if they belong to a particular religion. There are quite a few major religions in the area.

I sat down and watched some construction workers building an addition to a temple that's at the park and this guy walking by stopped and starting talking to me. He asked if I was a high school teacher and I explained that I teach English mostly to little kids. Then he asked me a couple of other questions. After that he said he wanted to be my boyfriend and that he wanted to kiss me good-bye. Luckily he didn't actually try so I just laughed it off and went back to trying to learn Chinese.

Another guy saw me reading my little Chinese language map that Flannery gave me and he asked if I could speak Chinese. I told him not really and then he didn't really say anything else. He just sort of sat near me for awhile until I left. As I left, I saw him get up and start to walk around again.

It's so funny to me because as far as I'm concerned, I don't think foreigners are really that much of a novelty here. I see them EVERYWHERE! But all of the natives just stare every time they see a foreigner, especially people like me and Megan because we have blonde hair and blue eyes so we stick out from a mile away.

Oh well, apparently getting stared at is one of those things you get used to and just learn to accept.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How do you say four?

So much has happened since I posted last!

Sunday was a pretty relaxed day. I slept extra late and then took my time getting anything done.

I went with Megan and Allen (her boyfriend, I suppose?) to Taipei. It was just a really quick trip. 

We scootered over to the downtown station and took a train into the city and then the subway to Ximending. It's this big center in the city with lots of shops and stuff. It was CRAZY busy. 

This is right when you come out of the MRT (subway) station at Ximending. The screen had just gone to black, but they just play a bunch of music videos all day. I thought that was pretty funny. It reminded me of being in Times Square in New York, except take Times Square and put it in the middle of Chinatown.

We walked around and tried to find a bag for me because I don't have a purse right now. I almost bought this tote bag that had a huge apple on it and said "I like apples!" It was hilarious. In the end, I didn't buy anything 'cause I'm cheap. 

But we went to this place that has these "sundae" things. It's like a mix between a sno-cone and a sundae. 

Underneath the pile of mangos, kiwis and strawberries was a ton of shaved ice and then under that there were these little jelly pearls. Apparently Taiwanese people really like jelly things and put it in all kinds of things. I'm not a fan of the texture. The little jelly pearls are really resistant to chewing.

Everything is totally Americanized here it's hilarious. I mean, a Coca-Cola themed restaurant??

And this corner is just nothing but American. I have quickly learned that 7Eleven is not to be used as a landmark. There are an impossible number of them and there is no way to tell the difference. 

After we got back from Taipei, 10 of us went to this place called Mama's Kitchen. It was SO good. A few of us shared food family-style, so I had a ton to eat. Unfortunately, I didn't eat in time to make my headache go away, so I went to bed extra early.

As they say, early to bed, early to rise. I made myself sleep as late as I could and then I hopped to it. 

I went to grab breakfast with Megan this morning. There is a place on the corner mere feet away from the dorm. I tried to go there the other day, but everything is in Chinese and I couldn't order by myself. 

Now I know that I can order Dan Bing, which is basically this thin pancake-like bread with egg in it. I got mine with cheese and ham in it too. Megan has since taught me how to say each of those, but I have no idea how to spell them.

Then I had a workshop. It was supposed to be about lesson planning, but I don't feel like I learned too much about actually planning lessons. He went over basic class time structure, but I'm not sure that helped much. I learned quite a few games though. 

After the workshop I folded all of my clothes. They ordered a new closet for me — how hilarious does that sound? — because mine is messed up. It has no shelves and the bar is kind of broken so I can't hang clothes on it. Turns out my new closet won't be here until tomorrow though, so I'm going to just have to put the piles of clothes on the floor. 

I had to go do a physical check-up at the hospital today too. It was really simple; They took my blood, a chest X-ray and checked my eyes. I think I switched my contacts because I can't see ANYTHING out of my left eye. It was ridiculous how terrible it was. 

Their eye check is a little harder too, I think. Instead of a chart with letters they have this board that little circles pop up on. Each circle is missing a piece that is either on the top, bottom, left or right. Well, if it's the least bit blurry you can't tell if a piece is missing or not. 

At least I can make out that something is a B even if it's blurry! But I guess that's the point?

I had two observations at a school that was REALLY far away. They were pretty interesting. The kids seemed to really like both of the guys that taught them. I think the key is to joke around with the kids now and then. Almost like you're making fun of them, but not quite. And making fun of yourself is a real winner.

During break in my second class I got the girl sitting next to me to pronounce numbers in Chinese for me. I'm learning to count in Chinese. It's pretty simple once you know one through 10, but the pronunciation is kind of wonky on some of them.

After my last class, this totally random kid walked up to me while I was waiting to get paid and started asking me for help on his work. It was a subject/verb agreement question. I was happy to help but it was kind of strange. Danielle and Megan said it is rare for a kid that isn't in one of your classes to come up to you because they tend to be really shy. Even in your own classes it's hard to get the kids to speak loudly. 

Quite a few of us went to Tepanyaki for dinner and it was so yummy. I had this crab stir-fry. I'm really proud of myself for being enthusiastic about trying the food. I'm happy to try new things. 

Of course, I feel like I'm snacking throughout the day and then only eating one meal at night. We'll see how that works out for me. Hopefully I will lose weight instead of gaining it!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How many people can you fit on a scooter?

So yesterday was my first full day and I was able to take in a lot more. 

Oddest thing I've seen so far: practically anything on a scooter. Apparently my concept of right of way and what is safe or not safe on a scooter means nothing here. 

Right of way goes to whoever is biggest or boldest; Pedestrians are not top dog. As for pedestrians, there is no J-walking. You cross wherever possible and hope you don't get hit. Generally drivers will try to swerve around you... if they can. 

But the craziest thing to me is the fact that, instead of having a car, people here try to fit their whole family on one little scooter. It reminds me of the Snakes on a Plane spoof "Hippos on a Big Wheel" at Alamo Drafthouse. For instance, yesterday I saw: A man (with a helmet), who I assume to be his wife (with a helmet) behind him, their 3-4 year old child (with a helmet) standing on the platform in front of him, and then the wife was holding on to their infant-sized baby all wrapped in blankets in one hand and holding on to her husband with the other. 

Four people, no matter their size, do not belong on one scooter!

Scooters can also cut lanes and drive on sidewalks. Oh and red lights are suggestions for just about anyone. 

In fact, two of the teachers were on a scooter last night and got T-boned in the middle of an intersection despite the fact that they had a green light. The guy hit the teacher on the back right in the leg. He picked up his scooter and then drove off. 

I'm kind of terrified to drive a scooter now. Originally, I thought that since I've driven a motorcycle on highways at home that I would be fine. This is a whole different gig with a million more obstacles. It's ridiculous.

Otherwise, yesterday was great. 

I observed two classes with this guy Bill at Chen-Kung school. Bill has been teaching with Gloria for nearly 20 years. See what I mean by people come here, fall in love with it and then never want to leave?

Either way, he's a great teacher and the fact that he actually knows Chinese now helps, I'm sure. His classes were a lot of fun though. They were WOW classes, which are Jr. High and some Sr. High kids and they're more advanced.  I got to correct the kids' diaries (writing journals) and then I played quite a few games and did some Q&As with them. 

I would love to have WOW classes. Not just for the fact that they already know quite a bit of English, but they seem to really have fun and like to joke around a lot.

After class, Megan took me to the market down the street. I bought a bunch of fruit and some vegetables. I seriously spent $4 on two bags full on fruit and less than $3 on veggies. 

I stuck to pretty regular stuff as far as veggies go (bell peppers, broccoli and green beans) but I branched out on the fruit. 

I bought kiwi, guava and some wax apples (sometimes called bell fruit). I had some with Megan on my first day and I really liked them. 

While we were at the market, Megan showed me some of the crazy food that you can buy from the vendors on the side of the street. Some of it was absolutely awesome. Some, made me want to gag, for instance, that fried chicken foot that I saw... Gross.

Megan also taught me about a million Chinese words, about half of which actually stuck. But now I can tell someone if I have or don't have something (or ask if they do) and if I want or don't want something (or ask if they do). Now I need to learn how to say all of the somethings, heh.

I need to learn numbers so I can pay for things at the market and then the names of teas so I can order those. I've decided green tea really isn't so bad. 

Today is Sunday and that's everyone's day off. Megan said we're going to go somewhere, we're just trying to decide if it's going to rain or not so we can decide which somewhere.

Off to another adventure!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pictures of the Day

I haven't really been going picture crazy just yet because I'm not sure if there are any instances in which taking a picture would get me in trouble. Either way, I took a few. Here is a glimpse of Taiwan.

This is a picture of the Tung-An school and our dorm. 

Coca-Cola. I was reading something earlier that said 98 percent of the world recognizes the Coca-Cola brand. That's ridiculous. This can of coke cost me $17NT though. I think that's funny.

This is just an open air temple at the park right next to the dorm.

Just a random view of the city. So many of the buildings are really tall.

This is the park right next to the dorm. Everyone calls it "Olympic Park." I have no idea what it is actually called.

I just thought this is one of those funny "Engrish" things. I have no clue what electric socks are nor do I understand what about them would be fun...

OK, I'm being lame and spending my Saturday night in. A lot of people are going to a bar, but after a day of classes and then crowded markets and streets, I'm tired. 

Waking up at 6:30 a.m. probably didn't help much.


My first day in Taiwan was a long one. 

Once I got to my dorm, Steve (my ride from the airport) showed me around the place. There is a shared kitchen and living area. The teachers live on the top two floors of the building. The rest of the building is actually a school — one of the main ones in fact. 

After he left I started trying to get in touch with everyone again. I think I talked to my parents more yesterday than I did in the entire week before then.

Anyway, when Megan woke up we ate fruit and talked for a really long time. Then she took me to Carrefour. This is essentially a French version of Wal-Mart. Except, take Wal-Mart and make it the center department store of a mall. 

It has three floors and everything you can imagine. Well, mostly.

I went into total sensory overload. I think the purpose for going there in the first place was to buy some sheets (which proved to be too difficult) and then to buy some groceries. By the time we got to the groceries, I was so overwhelmed by the Chinese — and French — that I had no idea what to buy. I opted for some Post-it notes thinking I needed to organize myself and that was it.

Back in the dorm I made more calls with the other side of the world and tried to do some unpacking. 

Then there was the adventure to IKEA. We took a taxi there and back and I swear, I thought we went in a circle, but I honestly couldn't tell; I was lost. 

The idea behind going to IKEA was that it would be easier to buy sheets at where. Well, my friends, Swedish isn't any easier to read and is just as overwhelming when mixed with Chinese. 

Eventually we managed to get some help and, after Megan spoke some awesome Chinese, the girl managed to help us find a twin-size flat sheet, fitted sheet and pillow case. Apparently they don't sell them in a neat little package of twin-size bedding. You have to buy each separately here. Not sure why you would just want a flat sheet, but OK. I also bought this adorable little rug and my room already feels cozier. 

I can't wait until I can get some stuff on my walls. 

We had lunch at Latini's later and then I set out trying to make my bed a little more comfortable. The rice mat by itself wasn't going to do it so I stole an extra comforter and made a mattress out of my rice mat and the two comforters. I'm using the flat sheet as my only blanket because, honestly, who needs a blanket in Taiwan during the summer?

Then there was my meeting with Anita, the director of administration. I essentially found out that she technically doesn't have an opening for me and that I'll be substituting classes for awhile. I saw this as a good thing because my two-week lag in pay doesn't start until I have my own regular classes. Now I just have to cross my fingers that I will actually make enough money subbing to keep myself alive. That didn't really occur to me at first...

I'm sure that will work out just fine. 

Then I took a trip by myself back to Carrefour. 

So I'm not sure why the hell I though going to Carrefour by myself was at all a good idea. I can't speak or read Chinese, I didn't have anyone with me who could speak or read Chinese, and I didn't bring anything for translation. Really, how was this an intelligent decision?

Luckily, I managed to mostly find what I wanted and $24 USD later I had: bread, sliced cheese, butter, a cheese wheel, crackers, juice, apple yogurt and 20 hangers. I don't know about you, but I think that's a pretty good deal. Side note: Brie and Camembert cheeses are RIDICULOUSLY cheap here. Seriously, $3 USD for a small wheel. 

Then I had my first class to observe. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I got off of a plane at 4:30 a.m., went to a million stores, attempted to unpack, sort of ate once and then started work in the same day.

Luckily, it was a kindergarten classes so it only lasted an hour and a half. 

The class was funny. The kids were pretty hyper and really talkative, which is apparently unusual. But the basic idea with such young kids is you say things — highly enunciated — in English and then they say it in English and then they say it in Chinese. 

They played two or three games and because the lesson took so long — because the kids were talking so much — I ended up not having to do the 10 minutes of teaching at the end. 

Honestly, I'm glad. I was so exhausted and overloaded by then that I don't think I could have spoken proper and enunciated English to those poor kids.

That said, I'm kind of excited now. The kids seemed really enthusiastic and they still like to joke around and play while learning and I think that will make things really fun for me. 

Now I'm just hoping that I can remember everything I took in yesterday so I can make my way today.

I have two classes and then Megan said we're going to try to add in a couple of more things for me today so I can start learning my way around.

Here's to new — and terrifying — adventures!

Friday, June 12, 2009

I have arrived.

My plane landed an hour early. 

I am through immigration (which was tough) and I am sitting in the airport lobby waiting on my ride because as far as he was concerned I wasn't supposed to land until one minute ago which means I don't really expect to see him for another hour or so.

It sucks not knowing who l I'm looking for.

My sister was asking me what I am least looking forward to: It is really different being the minority and not knowing the language. Everything is said in Chinese first and then English (and the Chinese version takes FOREVERRRRRR). I don't like not knowing what the heck is going on around me.

That said... I'm not crying. I'm OK. 

I got through immigration. I changed all my cash over to TWD (NT) and I got myself to where I'm supposed to be. 

Now, I will wait. And I will eat my box of Fig Newtons...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Countdown: 16 hours 'til I leave

It is amazing to me that by this time tomorrow I will be more than halfway to Taiwan already. Hopefully I will be asleep.

My flight leaves at 2:10 a.m. PDT. I know that sucks, but I think leaving before dawn and only having to deal with 12.5 hours of flight is way better than leaving at some "normal" time only to have a million layovers and 32 hours of airports and planes. 

That was seriously my other options.

This way, I'll hopefully sleep for the majority of the 12.5 hours and be relatively awake when I arrive in Taipei at about 6 a.m. I think adrenaline will probably carry me through the rest. 

I don't have a lot of experience with jet lag, but it seems to me that if I can stay awake most of the day Friday and just crash from exhaustion that night, then I might be able to adjust fairly easily.

Of course, nothing ever works this way, but I can hope.

I am full of hope and nerves in case you hadn’t noticed. I had this terrible dream this morning that did not help at all. It was just really sad. Honestly, it had nothing to do with Taiwan so much as my anxiety.

Again, that’s something I can get over. It will just take time.

I am also full of excitement. Megan said she would be at the dorm waiting for me with a cup of tea in hand. It’s really great to know someone on the other side. That little greeting is going to be a HUGE help.

She said she’s putting together a little packet of sorts that will help me through.

Also, one of her friends started this Web site called Taiwan English. It’s a helpful Web site for people teaching ESL in a foreign country. It is, of course, specifically geared toward working in Taiwan, given their experience.

I was looking over it and it seems to be turning into quite the helpful Web site.

I have a few last minute things I have to do before I leave. I need to get to the bank and to repack my bags.

At least it will keep my mind busy.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Goodbye Austin

I hate crying. Even when it’s reasonable, I hate crying.

Breathing is labored, you get all snotty and you can’t see anything clearly. Stupid tears.

Unfortunately, while I seldom cry, those tears have been welling up pretty often lately and today at the airport was certainly no exception.

I’ve already been kind of an emotional wreck for the past week or so. The closer my departure date got, the more I started stressing out. Stress always makes me crazy. Usually I just get irritated, but there is a distinct sadness involved with it this time around.

My mom did really well at the airport today; I expected her to be a complete wreck but she managed not to completely break down which really helped. Hell, just thinking about it makes me start welling up again.

Honestly, what did it was when my dad started crying. My dad doesn’t cry and I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve seen him cry before today was at his own father’s funeral.

It wasn’t like it was a full out balling and wailing, but tears in my dad’s eyes are just a little shocking and made it all seem like the big deal that it really is (and I’ve been attempting to pretend it’s not).

They stuck around and watched me get through security. I looked back once and instantly started crying again. I avoided looking back again through the rest of security because it’s really hard to take off your shoes and organize your things when you can’t see through your tears.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t freaking out and thinking that I don’t want to go anymore. I was just sad. I love my parents and I love Austin.

When I got to the gate I sat down and just cried for the next 10 minutes. I had to make myself pull it together though. There were small children around and they get kind of freaked out when people cry, even complete strangers.

But the plan was never to go somewhere that it would be incredibly difficult to see all of the important people in my life.

The plan was to go to D.C. where it’s a mere $400 round-trip plane ticket to come home (funny how that’s suddenly a small fee). I probably would have been able to make it back for Christmas and one other vacation at the very least. Maybe more if I saved up properly or found good deals online.

While I will be making a significantly larger salary in Taiwan and have virtually no bills, that plane ticket skyrockets to $1,500, which is obviously slightly more prohibitive.

Everyone makes conversation about coming to Taiwan to visit. While I would absolutely love that, I’m not holding my breath. I would like to think I’m enough of a reason to get someone to come to Asia. But, again, that’s an expensive trip. Though, even without the excuse of going to see me, I imagine it’s a trip that’s well worth it (I’ll let you know after I’ve been there for a week or so).

Hopefully I will be lucky enough to have at least one visitor (though I hope everyone who has made a comment about traveling out there makes it).

All I know is, I’m sad and being sad and stressed at the same time is never a good thing. I tend to blow stupid things out of proportion.

For instance, I don’t know why, but it really bothers me that my sister doesn’t intend to take me to the airport when I leave Seattle for Taiwan.

I guess when I was booking the tickets I had this romanticized version of how it would go down in my head:

I would leave Austin and the last people I would see there would be my parents. We would, of course, break down.

Then I would leave Seattle and my sister would be the last person I see there. I would inevitably begin to freak out and she would give me some sublime wisdom about how I am a capable and competent woman and this will be one of the best experiences of my life. (Side note: Obviously I know this already, but it’s nice to hear it out of someone else’s mouth, particularly someone who I know wouldn’t just tell me what I want to hear.)

Now, it seems as though some random shuttle express guy will be driving my sobbing soul to the airport at midnight next Tuesday so I can get on a 12.5-hour flight to Taipei at 2:40 a.m.

I have no idea why I assumed that my sister would drop everything to take me to the airport, which is an hour away, at midnight when she has work at 6 a.m. the following day. When I think about it logically (and by logically I mean without crying) it doesn’t really make sense. But being the emotional freak show that I am right now, I suppose I thought this for the same reason I figured my mom would not go to work today so that she could see me off.

Apparently, I only have the luxury of being correct about 50 percent of the time.

But, while it’s disappointing, I get it. And given that I do, I need to get over it so I can have a good time with my sister and her family for the last time for a year. I would hate to ruin that.

Hello Seattle.