Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How do you pronounce Antarctica?

I bought a memory foam pillow for $300NT today. Yep, that's only $10 and change in the US. I also had tuna and salmon sashimi and miso soup for a late lunch. Only $90NT — less than $3 — for lunch!

I love Asia.

I am on a huge pronunciation battle in my classes. I have several pet peeves, but there are a few that really stick out.

-When the kids here are spelling they say "un" instead of "in" for the letter N.

Me: Spell country
Kid: C-O-U-UN-T-R-Y

I've been fighting this particular battle for a couple of weeks in my big red book class at Dar-Nan. It's actually starting to stick. They have figured out that I won't count the word as correctly spelled unless they say "in."

-Oh "L!" These kids say "ello." I'll say "el" over and over again and they still hear it as "ello."

Me: Spell cold

I always think they're spelling cold "c-o-l-o-d."

I've gotten to the point where I make them watch my mouth when I say it. And I make them slow down, that seems to be a big part of it.

The last big thing has come up this week in two of my QAs.

Yesterday: "How many semesters are there in a school year? What are they?"
The answer is where we have issues: "There are two semesters in a school year. They're the Fall semester and the Spring semester."

Today: "How many continents are there in the world? What are they?"
The answer (again where the issue is): "There are seven continents in the world. They are Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Antarctica."

Honestly, today's QA is a world of trouble because the kid have difficulty with "continents" and the names of all the continents, especially "Asia," "Europe," and "Antarctica."

My problem — one that I really think most other teachers don't even notice, especially co-teachers — is the "there are" vs. "they are" problem. Kids go one way or the other, but they always want to pronounce them they same, either "there are" for both or "they are" for both.

Some say I'm waging a war on a lost cause — apparently they believe that it's pretty much impossible to get them to say "in," "el," "there" and "they."

I say you have to at least try. It's kind of why I'm here. My whole purpose, if absolutely nothing else, is to have these kids get the pronunciation.

The co-teachers teach the grammar most of the time they teach them spelling. I'll correct grammar and spelling when the kids are speaking, but I didn't teach it to them in the first place. I'm am here solely as a live body to pronounce a word and then listen to each child say it so I can make sure they're saying it right.

It gets a little redundant. It's also a little funny given that I'm from the South.

Luckily, I've spoken so fast my whole life that I haven't had much time for an accent. Now and then it will slip out — and it's hilarious when the kids repeat it. But the worst that ever happens is that I say "y'all."

Man, I love that word. Of course the kids just plain don't even recognize it as a word. They have no idea what "y'all" means and just look at me blankly as if I had Turrets or something.

I doubt that I will leave a bunch of Asian children saying "y'all" in my wake, though it would be kind of funny.

Monday, July 27, 2009

How do you spend your day off?

Sunday was a recovery day.

It's funny because all of the teachers always make these big plans for Sunday. It is, after all, our one and only day off. It's unfortunate though, because after a long day of teaching on Saturday, we end up drinking the night away to let off steam from the week.

We rarely go do the day trips we plan for Sundays.

Megan and I, however, were smart and merely made plans for Sunday night. That gave us each plenty of time to not feel like we had drank an ocean of booze. Actually, I don't think either of us really drank that much. I know I was just tired from the constant going and the general lack of sleep.

The party at the Romantic Paris Mansion was a lot of fun though. Ridiculous at times, but absolutely fun.

Sunday I watched the entire first season of The Tudors, only taking a break long enough to make some bacon and eggs for "breakfast" and then go to see Harry Potter 6.

I think I am the only person who has read the books that wasn't disappointed. It helps that it has been quite a while since I read book six (um, I read it in two days immediately after it showed up on my doorstep the day it came out because I pre-ordered it from Amazon). But, honestly, I feel like they did everything exactly how I had imagined it when I read it. I have a quite vivid imagination. Of course, the opening scene really threw me off.

But this is not a blog about Harry Potter...

Today I had this gigantic migraine and I'm sorry to tell you, dear readers, but I slept most of the day. When my head hurts like this I have to sleep it off or I'm pretty much incapacitated. I have these huge knots in my right shoulder and I think that bit of a problem is causing a rather large tension headache.

I need a masseuse.

I think I'm going to go for a run now. Maybe exercising will help with some of the tension.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Teacher, Do you speak Chinese?

So today started out really crappy and has slowly gotten better.

My alarm clock didn't go off and considering I've still been sleeping late every day, that sucked. I didn't wake up until almost 10 a.m. and I had to be at my school at 10:50. I just barely made it and I didn't get any breakfast. :(

My co-teacher kind of made me a little mad in that class because I was about to teach New Century and she straight up told me no and to do something else. Something I wasn't prepared to teach because I had prepared for New Century.

I do most things off the cuff anyway so it wasn't a disaster, but it really threw me off. Mostly, I think, because it's unusual for the co-teachers to do something like that.

After class she was saying something about how she had already taught New Century and that's why. She kind of apologized and then essentially told me I'm responsible for these other three books and that's it. She also basically told me how to teach the class. She's been with them a lot longer than I have, but none of them like to talk and I don't necessarily think that's my fault.

Then I had 20 minutes to get to another school to teach the second week of my second News Camp. I made it, but only barely. I tried to go in with a good attitude. I asked all the kids how they were doing and no one responded. Then I asked what they did this week, no one responded. Then I started talking about the brain because that's what our article for the day was.

Me: OK, what does you brain do?
Me: You use it to think right? You use it to make your body move. You use it for everything!
Me: OK, are you guys understanding me? Do you know what 'brain' is?
Me: Seriously guys, say something. At least say yes or no when I ask if you understand.

I had a smile on my face the whole time but none of them would speak. I would probably hate my parents for sending me to a freaking English camp on Saturday afternoon during the summer too, but I was trying SO HARD.

I essentially had a meltdown. I wanted to cry because the day was going to badly already and I felt defeated. Instead of crying I went and found a secretary to speak Chinese to the kids and ask them if they understood me and tell them that if they don't they need to at least tell me that.

She did, things were a little better. Then 20 minutes later the school director came in and talked to them. She actually sent me out of the room. I went upstairs to vent.

THEN Anita, the hiring administrator, called and told me that Asian children think it's rude to tell their teachers when they don't understand and that's why they didn't tell me. I think that was a load of crap though. They tell me when they don't understand me any other time. In fact, last week these kids would tell me.

I decided that maybe I started off on the wrong foot. These kids are used to playing games all through their English classes. That's the general environment around here: English is fun!

We played 20 questions for the next 45 minutes.

That actually helped quite a bit. After our regular break in the middle of class we slugged through the article. Even this article — which I found on an ESL Web site — was still difficult for them. We spent so long just going through vocabulary.

I have pretty much decided that I'm going to spend the rest of the camps playing word games to build up the kids vocabulary and just doing writing exercises. Reading the news is too hard and they all seemed to actually have fun when I gave them a bunch of funny details for them to write a fake story about.

I think that's as close to news as we're going to get.

In my last class today I had three more new students. That's six new students in two weeks! The class is up to 14 kids now, which is fine. I really don't want to have any more than that though. Wow classes are already pretty hard and our time is already limited. I only see them for an hour and a half each week.

Either way, we had a lot of fun in that class. The boys that sit in the back were asking Anna if I understood or speak any Chinese.

Anna: Well, why don't you ask her!
David: Um, Teacher Jimmie... Do you... speak Chinese?
Me: Ummm, a little? I only started learning a few weeks ago.
Tall Kevin: What can you say?
Me: Wo shi Meiguoren. Wo jiao Jimmie.
Anna: Can you order anything?
Me: Oh! I can order green tea!
David: Say it!
Me: Wo yao yiga da bei lu cha.

All the kids in my class oohed and aahed and laughed.

David: Say it again! That's so cool!

Apparently I was actually saying everything correctly. I think the kids think it's cool simply for the fact that they know more Chinese than me and I know more English than them. We are all in the learning process and that's a good thing. I think it makes them less self-conscious about not knowing everything.

But the BEST thing to happen today was that I got a care package in the mail! Flannery sent me a box full of Texas.

There is a book about Texas; Texas postcards; a Texas Longhorns pennant; Texas Longhorns confetti; Mac 'n' Cheese from HEB; a pen with the top shaped like Texas!

She also made me this great little bulletin board. The background has all of these cars piled on top of each other.

Can you tell that I love Texas? I really miss it sometimes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why would you buy a shirt that doesn't make sense?

Today was such a long day.

I had seven hours of classes with only a 30 minute break. I don't understand how these kids go to school all day like this. I'm exhausted!

My news camp went a little better today thanks to Breaking News English. They actually have full lesson plans for ESL classes that revolve around a news story.

We had a fairly thoughtful discussion and even one of the girls who never talks in class actually got in on the conversation. Her brother was still non-participative. Oh well, you can't win them all I guess.

I think next week we're going to have to start working on demo stuff though.

I had two yellow book classes tonight. The second one is the class that the administration has been freaking out about. Apparently, the kids and the parents didn't like the past teachers' styles. They wanted someone that was more fun? Warmer? I don't know. I actually got mixed information on what it is the parents want to change. That's unhelpful.

We had a lot of fun in that class today though. We played a lot of games but still got everything we needed to done. I feel like they probably liked me. It would be nice to have another regular class.

After class I walked from school to the night market. It's kind of a far walk — about 25 minutes — but it felt pretty nice out. Ya know, considering I'm in Taiwan.

On the way, I stopped at this street vendor to look at the shirts. Taiwanese fashion is so... hilarious. I bought this long shirt (almost like a dress). It has big silver letters that look like they belong on a sign at a record store and it says "Time 2 Make 2 Street Burn." It almost makes sense, but it falls just short.

I know it sounds ridiculous: "Why would you buy a shirt when you know the words on it don't make sense?"

Because of the Taiwan-fab party at the Romantic Paris Mansion tomorrow night!

The other awesome thing that happened today: Meghan bought her plane ticket to Taiwan today! Meghan is my roommate from college and she is one of my best friends. I convinced her to blow tons of money on coming to Taiwan in October and we're going to The Philippines together.

Vacation is now certain!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Have you ever eaten stinky tofu?

I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I still haven't tried stinky tofu yet. In one of my classes tonight we were talking about places we had been or things we had done.

The kids asked me if I had eaten stinky tofu yet. I turned up my nose and made a gagging noise. It was pretty funny. They tried to tell me that it tastes soooo good, but I just couldn't believe them.

Much of our conversation revolved around eating hamburgers and the fact that French fries are, in fact, American food not French. I sort of feel like I didn't teach those kids anything tonight, but at the same time, we had an actual conversation that wasn't formatted out. That's probably a first for all of us.

Last night there was a wine and cheese party at the Romantic Paris Mansion. It is not a love hotel, I promise. It's actually an apartment complex where a few of the other teachers just moved in. I love their apartment. It's just big enough and so adorable!

They actually have an extra room right now since Megan got the internship in Washington, D.C. and won't be moving in with them after all. I'm sort of hoping that I may be the lucky person to take over that room. It would mean not saving as much money, but given how cheap it is and that I would only be sharing with two people instead of twenty, it's totally worth it.

Not a lot else has happened in the past couple of days. There have been some disturbances in the dorm: People being loud in the middle of the night because they're really messed up; People being too messed up to know what is going on around them; People still not cleaning up their messes in the kitchen and then not realizing it was even their mess to begin with the next day because they were so messed up...

I'm beginning to see a trend.

Not to judge, but I feel like I'm still in my early college years. Apparently, it's fairly normal to drink way more than you can handle. The substance abuse around here rivals that backstage of a Jimi Hendrix concert.

I'm not a fan.

It's odd considering many people will joke about how they're probably alcoholics. Unfortunately, joking is not the same as admitting you have a problem.

I think I actually drink way less here. Not just in quantity but also in how often. The funny thing about that is I have more free time. Maybe I have just finally found something better to do with my time than to drink away the hours.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Which season do you like best?

Today was relatively uneventful. I had originally planned to wake up; make poached eggs, bacon and toast; and do some leisurely reading. Instead I had a really bad headache and ended up sleeping halfway through the afternoon trying to get rid of it in time for class.


I borrowed another teacher's scooter since she was teaching here today and I drove super fast to Dar-Nan. I subbed my first class. They're yellow book and still trying to feel my out. Most of them were super respectful and smart. They just need to dial up the fun factor. We'll see how next week goes when I see them again.

I was really pumped for my second class which was my regular red book class that is huge. We have 23 kids in that class and 3 were out on vacation today. We played a lot and I was being super goofy when I was explaining vocabulary words. I love being goofy with kids.

All my boys are starting to warm up to me more in that class too, so we're able to goof off just enough. This one kid, Kevin, is really smart and I think his English is probably at a higher level. Our QA today was, "What is your favorite season? Why?"

Kevin: "I don't like any seasons because there is not fun."
Me: "Kevin, I don't mind that you want to be obstinate, but you're going to do it using proper English. Write 'I don't like any of the seasons because they are not fun.'"

He seemed pretty shocked that I didn't make him change it to the standard, "I like ____ best because ______." (i.e. I like Spring best because there are lots of flowers.)

I honestly hate that we teach these kids so much formatted speech. The QAs are called "Free-talk Questions," but they're everything but "free."

After I got home I satisfied my craving for some amazing pasta. I found cheese ravioli at Carrefour and bought some pasta sauce and made up some quick pasta just as if I were at home. I miss that!

I can't wait 'til it starts to cool off a little. Then I'm going to be all over that kitchen cooking and baking in my free time. It's going to rock everyone else's world!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why is learning Chinese so hard!

Anyone have any suggestions for getting yourself on a good sleeping schedule? I was exhausted after swimming and hanging out with everyone yesterday and I still stayed up until almost 2:30 a.m.

My body refuses to be put to bed.

Today, BoBo was mad that I didn't bring my homework and Martin (my classmate) just plain didn't do his. So she retaliated with a whole lot more homework!

I have to write a lot of things in both pinyin and Chinese characters. It's a good thing though. We've gotten to the point where we have just enough vocabulary that it's easy to forget some things.

BoBo always says things in Chinese and then we have to tell her what it is in English. I honestly do better when I have to think about it in English and then translate it to Chinese. Of course, this probably isn't great for my conversation skills.

I like the setting with BoBo though. It's nice because it's really informal. She makes me want to learn, but she doesn't make me feel like an idiot when I say something wrong or I don't remember something.

I did a lot of reading today and I'm excited about that. I feel pretty productive — Chinese, reading and laundry all in one day!

I'm starting to feel relatively comfortable with what little Chinese I know too. I took a cab to school and I talked to the cab driver enough to explain where I wanted to go and then we talked about how I'm an English teacher. He asked me some pretty simple questions and switched back and forth from Chinese to English to help me out a little because my vocabulary it still limited and his English vocabulary is pretty limited too.

It was funny though. He said something to me that I didn't understand. I just smiled at him, shrugged my shoulders and said "Ting bu dong." He laughed and told me that I am pretty.

In my class I played a new QA game today. It's basically a drinking game but instead of drinking when you lose the student has to ask a question. It's actually amazing how many drinking games you see turned into QA games.

My co-teacher was REALLY bad at the game though and kept losing. It was pretty hilarious and made for a fun beginning of class.

This is what my hands always look like after class. We have dry-erase boards and even though I use the eraser, it is inevitable that I come out with my hands covered in residue. This is actually a pretty good day, hah.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Am I really lazy?

I was originally planning to go to Taipei to take tons of pictures like a true tourist. Instead, Im going swimming.

A few of the other teachers just moved out of the dorm into a really nice apartment that has a pool. They invited all of us over to soak up the sun. Unfortunately, the sun isn't really showing itself today. It's quite cloudy, but it's still hot and the pool works just the same.

I decided on the day of leisure instead mostly because I woke up so late.

After almost seven hours of teaching yesterday, I was so tired, but I just couldn't go to sleep last night until my usual time — around 2:30 a.m. I'm going to have to get some sleeping pills or something.

My Wow (11-15-year-olds) classes were great yesterday. We had a lot of fun. I've decided that my co-teachers are awesome. The class is a mix of us teaching and the kids working together in groups or something. During this little bit of downtime, the teachers and I are getting to know each other and they've been giving me suggestions of things to do, or eat, to really make the most out of my Taiwanese experience.

I've had an interesting couple of run-ins with the administration the past few days.

Friday morning I went downstairs to print out stuff for my news camp and the head co-teacher came up and introduced herself to me. Once I told her my name she said "Oh I've heard about you, Anita told me you're really good with the older kids."

Apparently at some point she was told that I'm good at getting the kids to talk in English instead of Chinese and then I basically connect well with them. I talked to some other teachers about this and they said that means my co-teachers when I was subbing were probably telling the head office this.

I guess that's a good thing?

Then I saw Anita yesterday before my new News Camp (yep, I have a second one now). She said she's giving me a class to sub on Friday and she really wants me to focus on it. Apparently if things go well, they're going to make it a permanent class for me.

Hoorat for permanent classes, but suck for the situation. Anita said that the parents in the class don't like their current teacher, something about him not being warm enough? She insinuated that the parents basically don't like that it's a guy. She certainly didn't come out and say it, but I thought that was a weird thing.

Anyway, I'm torn. Do I really want a class that already has a history of parents who complain a lot? No offense to parents out there, but some of them just complain too much about things we can't always control.

The other big detail about this class is that it's a late-yellow book class. Remember those obstinate-aged children I talked about before? The ones who don't talk and hate the world?

Hmmm, we'll see how that goes. Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll really like my games.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What would you do?

I know I'm pretty young, but I've had quite a few different types of jobs in the eight years that I've been working to earn my own stuff. Teaching is by far one of the hardest.

There are a million things that go into it. It seems so easy when you watch but the moment you step up in the front of that classroom you are instantly praying for the forgiveness of all your former teachers.

Don't get me wrong, it's a ton of fun. It is just so draining. It takes everything out of you to get through these classes, but it's the little things that make it completely worth it.

I had a particularly chatty class yesterday. They were a lot of fun. I love when my classes will actually talk to me. It makes my life a little easier. I mean, the point is that they learn to speak English right?

Two of the boys made up this classroom version of basketball. This does not mean it is safer to play in the classroom, just that they incorporate the chairs and such things.

The rest of us just sat around and watched them as they wiggled across the classroom on the chairs and tried to throw the "dice" into the "baskets" behind each other.

Since they were so chatty, I decided it would be a good idea to test their ability to construct sentences. The idea in this game is that each side picks letters for the other team. Then the kids have to make up sentences that have at least one word that begins with each letter.

The kids are evil (just like we all were at their age) so of course they picked "ZNQW" and "BCSX." I told them they could use words that had "Z" or "X" in them instead of beginning with them because even I can only think of a few words off hand.

Their sentences don't always make the most sense, but you can see they're at least trying and they get the concept.

I kind of love this game.

As far today, I had my News Camp for the second time. It was equally as boring and I'm considering turning it into an entirely games class. We did have a little fun. I gave them a headline: "Earthquake shakes Taiwan" and they had to tell me what questions they would ask if it were a story they were covering.

I just happened to have answers (some were real details from an earthquake earlier this week and some were made up just to get the idea) and then I made them each write a quick little news brief.

I'm thinking this might be the way to go for the demonstration we have to do in four weeks for their parents.

I think the big problem with this class is that one of the kids doesn't want to be there and his sister flat out doesn't understand me. She didn't even understand when I told the class to bring a news article.

I tried to tell the school director, but it seems he doesn't understand either.

This is ultimately the problem of working at a for-profit school. It's not about what is in the kids' best interests. If it were, this girl wouldn't be in a higher level class when she doesn't belong there.

Any suggestions for what I should do: A) to have more fun with middle school kids and the news and B) to incorporate a girl who hardly speaks any English compared to the other kids?

I am almost to the point that I have to just ignore them and work with the other kids. Unfortunately, I am not afforded the time to work solely with these two kids.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Who's that girl?

You know that alone-in-a-crowd feeling?

Well, I've decided that I kind of like it, which is good because it's pretty easy to find here. Or so I thought.

I went to the Taoyuan Night Market last night after work. There are a million booths set up nightly all down a couple of streets. The booths are filled with clothes, watches, cheap jewelry, bootleg DVDs, food and games.

I went with the intent of exploring, taking pictures, checking out some of the Chinglish shirts and grabbing a late dinner.

I didn't really get to do much of that.

It turns out half of the people in the dorm had a similar plan. I can't say I blame them. There is a ton of great food to be found. It's kind of hard not to see the other teachers in the dorm. Although there are a ton of teachers from America, Canada and England in this city, we're still incredibly outnumbered and therefore stick out in a crowd. I saw at least six other people last night.

So much for my night exploring alone.

I have absolute nothing against any of them. On the contrary, I actually like them very much. They're good people and a lot of fun to hang out with.
I just wasn't in the mood to hang out with anyone.

I am honestly better at being a tourist when I'm alone. I know that sounds unsafe or at the very least antisocial, but I like to just go and take pictures and ask questions.

I guess it's the journalist in me. If I'm with someone else, I feel like we're kind of trying to make sure the other gets to do what they wanted to do.
Inevitably I don't because I wanted to be alone.

I know I should have just said so, but I know they mean well. The past few days have been a little nervewracking and I made the mistake of letting a few people know that. In other people's worlds, this means you have to be surrounded at all times. In mine, it means I need time to think and just let things happen.

It's funny because I went to bed last night thinking about two things: the idea that I needed to get lost in a crowd and the realization that that's nearly impossible here.

It's a perplexing situation.

I know very few people here and there are crowds galore. But given the cirumstances, I kind of stick out in a crowd. I even have kids whose classes I've subbed coming up to me because they recognize me after seeing me once.

"Teacher! Teacher!"

The other is that I would give anything not to be noticed right now. I think it's funny how most people go through their lives wanting to be noticed.

They want to feel special for something. Of course, I'm sure that starts with your parents telling you when you're little that you're special. Everyone is special.
We all want to be the best at something or even the worst at something if it will get us noticed.

And, now that I can't help but be noticed, I don't really care.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What is Obama's last name?

Yep, my co-teacher yesterday asked me what Obama's last name is. The class had learned a QA during her solo-class with them that asked "Who is the president of _________." We always fill in the ROC and the USA.

I informed her, and all of my kids, that he is President Barack Obama and that "Obama" is in fact his last name. That whole first name/last name thing really screws people up sometimes.

My classes went pretty well yesterday. I actually kind of like teaching at Dar-Nan. It's a simpler school, but that's OK. I like that, as far as my regular classes though, I have a pretty good spread. I'm at two schools that are in areas with less money than most and then I'm at two schools where most of the kids' parents are kind of loaded compared to the average.

Actually, I'm at either Dar-Nan or Dar-Chu four out of six days this week.

Also, it's fun to just walk around out there. There is a little market right down the street from both Dar-Nan and Dar-Chu. I love to just walk around and look at everything. I can't wait until the day when I can actually stop and talk to the people who have stands at the market. Then I can really learn more about what's going on there.

Maybe I'll take some pictures out at the market at Dar-Chu today.

I think I have a few more ideas for my news camp. Also Anita asked me if I would like to take another news camp that might be opening up on Saturdays. That will really fill up my Saturday schedule, but that's OK. I need the money, not to mention it sucks having that big four-hour gap in the middle of my day.

I think if they put it during that time then I'll say yes. I don't want it to be after my 6 p.m. class though. That would make for a super long and annoying day.

Plan for today: Yoga, lesson plans, Dar-Chu to sub two of Megan's classes since she's in Thailand (and I'm obviously super jealous), then making up some materials for that news camp so that hopefully this Friday goes better.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How do they get so adorable?

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty decent day. I have to admit that I've been taking a lot of time to myself, but not in an I'm-going-to-entirely-seclude-myself-from-everyone-around-me sort of way.

More like an I-need-time-to-digest-things sort of way. That's OK; We all need that kind of time and I certainly have never really been one to give that to myself.

I had so much fun in my first class yesterday. It was the play-dough class I was looking forward to.

We didn't play with clay again, but the co-teacher gave me the pictures from the last class.

Aren't they so adorable?

The peace sign is definitely these kids favorite thing to do in photos.

I think it's hilarious and takes me back to the '90s. You know, when I was their age and thought that the peace sign maneuver made me look cool in pictures.

We played a lot of games in that class again and had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, because these kids are so young, it takes a lot of energy to keep up with them, which left me no energy for my last class.

We got through it OK, though, and I think I'll be better prepared next week for my regular class. I'm still trying to feel those kids out. There is Ken, who can easily be considered the class clown and gets in trouble the most. He tends to set off all the other boys into doing what they do best — being boys.

The girls are all so quiet and it's so hard to get them to be loud when it comes time to participate. Hopefully I'll find something they really like and I can convince them that it really is OK to speak loudly enough for people to hear you.

After class I went to Carrefour to buy groceries. I decided that it would be a good idea to have food on hand in case a typhoon does actually come rolling through, though I'm not convinced it will. I've also been less inclined to go out and find something to eat, so having something in the kitchen is probably a good plan.

I bought milk and let me tell you that's not easy here. I have no idea which milk is full fat and which is non-fat, but then you have to add on that, here in Asia, they like apple milk and yogurt milk and soybean milk (sugar added or not) and apple-soy milk. I think there were at least 10 kinds of milk at that store. I may have ended up with yogurt milk, but I'm not sure. All I know is the milk tasted a little sweeter than what I remember it.

I think I'm starting to get into the routine though. After Carrefour I made myself some dinner (if you can call a cheese and bell pepper omelet dinner) and then I did some yoga.

I truly believe what they say about exercise getting endorphines flowing. After my yoga workout last night I felt way better than I have in the past couple of days and I kind of felt motivated to do things.

The unfortunate part was it was already 12:30 a.m. by the time I was feeling motivated. I ended up staying up and reading about the Sotomayor hearing and about Obama appointing a new surgeon general. I miss reading the news all of the time. That's something else I will have to work into my daily routine.

At about 2 a.m. I decided it was time just to turn out the lights and force myself into bed. As I was exiting out of all my screens on my computer, my bed starting shaking. Like I told my dad, I felt like I was dizzy, as if I had stood up too fast, except I was sitting on my bed.

There was a 6.3-magnitude earthquake off the east coast of Taiwan (NNE of Haulien City). We could feel it all the way over here on the NNW side of the country.

That's something else I'm trying to adjust to. In the States, when something happens on the East Coast in the middle of the night, the West Coast doesn't hear about it for several hours. We felt it though.

A few of the others in the dorm felt it and we came out of our rooms to see if we weren't all imagining it. Then I started doing my research. If any of you know me, you know I like to know what's going on as soon as I can.

I always have crazy tidbits of knowledge like this. It's in my nature.

Earthquake aside, everyone is fine. There was no reported damage. We're lucky it was out in the sea and not on the island. That could have been really devastating.

Oddly enough, given that I didn't go to sleep until about 4 a.m., I still managed to wake up just after 11 a.m. I think that's pretty good given that I work nights. No need to wake up much earlier than that unless I have plans.

I think this may be the beginnings of a new routine. I did some more yoga this morning (I think I'm going to switch to day time yoga in order to avoid the night time restlessness) and now I'm ready to make things happen.

I think I'm going to go study some Chinese and to my lesson plans for the day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why did you go?

So I promise, dear readers, that eventually I will work out this crazy schedule of mine and then I will post more regularly.

I have officially been in Taiwan for one month. It doesn't feel like it at all. Everything is still so new and different. Time flies in this country.

I started two new classes on Saturday. They went pretty well, although they could have been more exciting. They're both really small and all the kids are in junior high.

Remember that age? You're pre-pubescent or maybe early in the game of raging hormones. You hate everything and everyone most of the time. You certainly don't want some crazy foreigner who calls herself a teacher forcing words down your throat.

Actually, I find that kids here aren't nearly as bad as the ones at home. One of my nieces is that age and these kids are cake compared to her. I mean that with the greatest amount of love, of course.

But, they still don't really just warm up to you all that quickly here. I find that acting absolutely insane and like you just don't care how much of an idiot you look like generally does the trick. The kids get to make fun of me. I finally get something out of them. We all win.

It turns out both of these classes are in almost the exact same place in the book and they're about the same size. This makes my lesson planning for the day super easy. Of course it also means I'm practically on auto-pilot for the second class because it's like deja vu and all I can think about is what I'm going to get for dinner after class.

That said, both of my co-teachers seemed to really like me. They were both impressed that I managed to get through all of the material. I've learned early in the game to appreciate my co-teachers as much as possible. It kind of sucks being them. They get paid way less than me and have basically double the work. They see these kids twice a week while I see them once. Any material I don't cover, they have to cover in addition to the stuff they already have to get through.

I'm still working out my class flow, but so far I've managed to get everything I need to crammed into my two hours. I'm glad that, as far as I can tell at this point, things are going to go pretty well with my co-teachers. I've heard that can make or break a class.

Saturday went pretty well though and I can't ask for much better. But I ended up a little homesick once I realized I had been gone for a month. I was a little like, "Oh wow it's only been a month," coupled with, "Oh wow, it's already been a month."

Complicated I know. This is my brain all of the time.

Since I was feeling a little down I decided to spend my entire day in my room. I think it doesn't help that my sleep schedule has been really disjointed. I just slept and watched movies all day. Actually, it was nice to just not think about anything.

Even when I was at home my mind would go a mile a minute thinking about the future or tomorrow or that conversation I had four days ago. Now, being overseas, it's impossible to get my brain to stop and it's exhausting sometimes.

Honestly, going to class is like a break because at least my brain is only thinking about the one thing: How am I going to teach this class?

But my recuperation time is over and it's back to the daily grind. Luckily, I have that super fun class with the play-dough tonight so it should be a fun day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What is news?

So I found out Thursday at 9 p.m. that I had a summer camp starting Friday at 2 p.m.

It's a News Camp and it lasts three hours. That's pretty much all the information I was given.

After freaking out for a little bit, I decided just to print out a bunch of my old news articles and then some from that day's paper.

The kids were ages 11-15. Three weren't even Gloria students. The 15-year-old obviously didn't even want to be there. The 13-year-old girl was either his sister or his girlfriend, I can't decide. She hardly spoke any English and looked at me like a dear caught in headlights every time I asked her a question.

The other kid who isn't a Gloria student was a 13-year-old boy and he's absolutely brilliant. He could comprehend questions independently and he tried really hard to find the exact word in his vocabulary that would be best to fit his sentence. I had an 11-year-old kid who was also pretty brilliant. He's a Gloria kid and he comes from one of the poorer schools.

He's actually really sweet and we talked a lot after class. He asked me a few questions and I got to know him better. I told him that his English is really good and he said, "I don't think so but thanks."

It was adorable.

Another one of the kids was pretty close behind those two in his level of English and he seemed like a pretty upbeat kid. It seems that the last kid has mediocre English, but I think if I give him time and guidance that it will be OK.

My major problems:

1) The fact that the school gave me practically zero guidance on what they're expecting out of this class. They did, however, tell me that they want the kids to "put on" a "live news" show for their demo. What the heck does that even mean?

2) The 15-year-old guy (whose name is Silver by the way) obviously doesn't want to be there and I don't know how to make him want to be there. The girl that is practically attached to him is somewhere in between. She wants to be a good student (you can tell because she'll tap him if she realizes I'm looking at them and he's not paying attention), but she also wants to be cool like him.

How do I salvage this class?

Also, how do you put the NEWS in a way that an 11-year-old can comprehend it. Even native-English 11-year-old children would have trouble reading a newspaper and really understanding what's going on. What do these kids care if Ma Ying-jeou didn't go to Honduras because of a coup. They don't know what a coup is; they don't care about Honduras; and they probably don't even care about Ma Ying-jeou.

Actually, we did this one exercise where I gave them a fake headline and then they had to tell me all the questions they would ask if they were writing a story to fit it:

Ma Ying-jeou found dead.

One of the kids looked at me and was like "Really?!" It was so funny.

I explained it was fake and then those three super smart kids with the fantastic English were just spouting off great questions. It felt really good. I think I just need to get the energy up. If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

After that class, these two high school boys came by Gloria to take a picture with me. Before class I went to 7/11 to pick up a couple of newspapers and something to drink. While I was there these boys stopped me and asked if I had time for them to ask me some questions.

Apparently their summer vacation homework is to ask people a bunch of questions in English. They had to tape record it (by the way, this kid had an AWESOME recorder) and take a picture with the person. They forgot their camera though, so they asked if they could come back after my class. It was strange, but also really funny. They asked really great questions though:

"Where are you from?"
"What is it like there?"
What do you miss most?"
"How do you feel about living in Taiwan?"

I had one more class today and it was so much fun. It was actually a sub for the second time in this class. We just played tons of review games, but it was cooler because I already knew most of the kids names. I'm jealous and I kind of want that class.

During break one of the girls came up and just started talking to me (just a normal conversation, which is really out of the ordinary for these kids). I was like, "Oooh, want to see what I learned!"

I started writing different Chinese characters on the board and they helped me with them. We had little mini-races and they corrected my stroke patterns. It's a lot of fun to learn with them. They think it's so awesome that I'm learning Chinese but also it shows them that I'm kind of in the same place as them. I know ZERO Chinese compared to the amount of English they know.

Oh, but Chinese-language accomplishment of the day:

I order tea at the tea shop just the way I like it using ONLY Chinese. They know English, but I decided it's my turn to practice and, since I see these guys something like five times a week, I may as well practice on them.

Me: "Wo yao yiga xiao bai lu cha. Yi tian tian tong. Yi tian tian bing." (I want a small cup of green tea. A little sugar. A little ice.)

As I was saying "a little ice" one of the guys was mimicking me because he knew exactly what I was going to say. The difference was this time it was in Chinese.

As the guy behind the register was typing in the order I just kind of looked at him...

Me: "So, did I say it right?"
Everyone behind the counter: "Yes!"
Me: "Yay!!!!!" (As I threw my hands in the air and jumped up and down.)

That was definitely a great end to the day. Now I have to go write my lesson plans for tomorrow because I have a class at 11 a.m.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where can I find the fruit?

Today was actually a really productive day.

Since I arrived, I just don't feel like I've been doing that much with myself. I think because I'm used to going to school and having two jobs all at the same time. One job that I only work four hours per day at is weird.

I went to lunch with Olenka, bought a yoga mat, did my laundry, went to the stationary store and the wet market and went to school. Then,
after my classes, I even did yoga and I some of my Chinese homework. It was great to get so much done in one day again.

Here are some pictures from the day:

The wet market has veggies, fruit, fresh noodles, ready-made food and of course raw meat.

Don't you love when you see raw meat just hanging around at the stand right across from the fruit vendors?

It's OK though. This fruit makes walking passed all of that raw meat totally worth it.

Just a view from my walk back to the dorm from the market.

So much construction! Apparently Taoyuan is one of the fastest (THE fastest?) growing area in Taiwan. It's essentially a suburb of Taipei, so that honestly just makes sense to me.

After I got back form the market I decided to have a go at my very first dragonfruit. I had no clue what to expect. Actually, I didn't even know how to get into in the first place. I had to ask.

Me: Ummm, how do I eat this thing? Do I just cut it in half?
Danielle: I think you're supposed to peel it first.

This is what I ended up with. Ray insisted it tasted (and felt) like a kiwi. I can't really describe it. I kind of thought it would have a stronger flavor. Dragonfruit is kind of tame. It's good though.

Apparently there are something like five different species of mango in Taiwan?

Also, melons come in several crazy colors. From what I can tell, your regular pink watermelon only comes in gigantic sizes. But then there are regular-sized ones that I yellow like this.

It's still delicious.

As for my Chinese homework, Bobo said I have to write "I am American" in traditional Chinese over and over again. I'm also drilling myself on all of my new vocabulary (practice, homework, understand, don't understand, etc.)

"Wo shi meiguoren."

Monday, July 6, 2009

How do you spell your name?

I subbed one class today and I started my first regular class today.

It looks like my main school is out in Dar-Chu which seems to be a poorer area. It's not terrible, I don't think. The school is kind of small, but the kids are super sweet.

I subbed a class of really young kids. They were probably all about 5 or 6 years old.

For review, we went over how to spell each of their names. When I first got here, Megan gave me this tub that had 15 different colors of play-dough in it. I gave each kid a little thing of play-dough and told them each to spell their names with it.

It was so adorable!

I didn't have my camera with me (go figure) but my co-teacher let me take pictures with her camera. She's going to e-mail them to me later, so I will post them then.

I told the co-teacher, Stacy, that I just learned to write a couple of Chinese characters today and I have to do them for homework. She was really excited about it and encouraged me to work on it during break.

I started writing them on the board and this little girl, Jade, came over and started helping me.

I told her I was trying to write the word "Wo," which is "I" and she just started writing away and I copied her stroke pattern. I know what the character looks like, but it's sometimes hard to remember which order to do everything in. Sometimes it just makes sense, but sometimes it doesn't really seem like it should matter. It all looks like the same character in the end.

Anyway, Jade and I spent the whole break writing, "Wo shi Mei Guo ren." (I am American.)

I kind of hope I can pick up that class when Dawn leaves. I think she's supposed to leave in a month or so anyway.

My class wasn't as fun, but it was mostly logistics and getting to know each other.

We didn't have a ton of time for games, but I started off class with the name game. I love playing the name game. We came up with some funny things to help remember, too.

Ken Kangaroo, Big Janice Jellyfish, Jacky Jacket, Edison Elephant, Ruby Rabbit, Alice Apple, Little Janice Jump, Sandy Sun, Aaron Apple Pie, Jim Gem, Sophia Snake.

I can already tell that Ken is going to be a little frustrating to work with. He sits right up at the front of class, but he's not very engaged. He spent the entire class drawing, tapping his feet, rocking back in his chair or burping.

It was gross.

He's not stupid by all means. He knew the answers to questions when I made him answer, he just doesn't exactly volunteer himself and he doesn't do his homework.

The rest of the kids are kind of quiet. I think that might have something to do with their last foreign teacher leaving without saying, "Bye."

I let them all ask questions about me and I told them where I'm from. I think I'll probably encourage more later, of course. Hopefully, once they get use to me, they will volunteer more participation and be a little louder.

I start my next regular class tomorrow. Hopefully it's fun!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Fifth of July?

Fourth of July in Taiwan was a little crazy.

I did mostly nothing during the day. Then I had two classes last night. They weren't very fun.

Megan let me borrow her scooter and I got myself all the way to Dar-Nan and back without getting lost or anything. I even went to the Taoyuan Night Market after I got off work so I could get some food.

There are these Pakistani guys there that everyone is always talking about. I found them all by myself (they kind of stick out...) and I got this really awesome chicken curry wrap.

It was glorious.

After I got home we went to the wine store and I totally broke my "only tea and juice" rule.

There was wine and then we all went out. The bar we went to had tons of little American flags hanging from the ceiling and there were a bunch of people. Margaritas were only $100NT and I knocked back a few too many. Oh well.

This led to a not so exciting Fifth of July, though it wasn't the worst ever. I basically slept all day and then sat in the living room and watched movies for the whole afternoon.

Ray and I went to Carrefour and I finally made myself buy some food for the house. I haven't been keeping food here because things tend to disappear. Not to mention it's almost always cheaper just to go and get it at a restaurant or street vendor.

That said, sometimes I don't want to change out of my pajamas and leave the comfort of my lovely, air-conditioned room. And it's nearly impossible to find a grilled cheese sandwich anywhere.

I bought raspberry preserves (yay!), some Nutella and some bread, so now I have breakfast type foods. And I bought cheese, so I can make all the cheese sandwiches I want!

Tomorrow, I'm going to make myself wake up at a decent time (10 a.m. maybe?) and I'm going to do laundry. Then I have Chinese and then classes way out at Dar-Chu.

I finally have one of my very own classes tomorrow night! Yay!

Hopefully the kids like me. It's a red book class so we should get to play lots of games. I'm really looking forward to it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Was I dead?

No, I didn't die. I think that could have been a step up though.

I hate when I'm just sick enough to be miserable, but not sick enough to really want to go to the doctor or to feel like I'm getting any better.

I've had this terrible cold. Normally I would just stick it out, instead I've been doing a lot of sleeping. I haven't really been on the Internet much at all. My poor computer is probably feeling neglected.

Wednesday was Canada Day, though, and given that more than half the people who live in the dorm are Canadian, there was celebrating to be done. This, however, cut into my sleep-and-get-better time.

It was fun though.

After we all got home from class, a bunch of us went up on the roof. It was set with music, ambient lighting (read white Christmas lights) and a million Canadian flags.

There was an attempt to sing the English and French versions of the Canadian anthem. It was pretty hilarious actually. How many drunk people does it take to remember how to speak French and then put it to the tune of Oh, Canada?

The day after Canada Day was terrible for nearly everyone. I stayed out in the humid night air too late, so my cold finally took over my body. Others had some of the worst hangovers of their lives.

The dorm was nice and quiet until late afternoon though. Then there was a lot of hustle and bustle to get to work.

Carly teaches at the school downstairs and doesn't need her scooter on Thursdays and offered to let me borrow it.

I drove for the very first time internationally. Driving a scooter in Taiwan was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life. I was shaking the entire time.

But I got there. I didn't scratch or wreck the scooter. I didn't cause anyone else to get into an accident. I didn't get entirely lost.

Notice the modifier there.

I was scared to death to take a left turn. Let's just say they're complicated in Taiwan when you're on a scooter. It's terrifying. But eventually you have to take a left turn or you just don't get to where you want to go. I took the long way around we'll say. But I pretty much knew exactly where I was the entire time.

During my last class that evening, it starting pouring down rain. We were in a classroom on the first floor of the building and we could hear it pouring. It was ridiculous.

First thought in my head, of course, was, "Great, I finally get to drive a scooter by myself and now I have to drive it home in the rain."

I thought getting TO work was scary. Driving in the rain was terrible. But again, I made it. No bumps, scratches, accidents, etc.

I'm proud. Now I just need to learn my way around.

Unfortunately, driving home in the rain certainly did not help me any. I ate some left-over pizza when I got home and then went to bed. I ended up not going to work on Friday.

I called in to work and then went to 7-11 to buy noodles, ice cream, juice, tea and cough drops. I spent the entire day sleeping and watching movies. It was great.

I really think I just needed a relaxed day where I did absolutely nothing. I still sound like crap and I'm stuffed up, but I have more energy and I'm not as dizzy.

Now it's Independence Day. I sort of wish I had stayed home to have a red, white and blue Fourth of July complete with barbecue and fireworks. It's OK though, I'm sure there will be something going on here. I'm restricting myself to tea, juice and photography though.

Tonight I have two high school kid classes then the whole day off tomorrow. Hopefully I feel infinitely better by tomorrow and can go and do some traveling of sorts. It's a shame to be here and not go running around.

Monday and Tuesday, I finally start my own regular classes. Yay, something to look forward to!