Sunday, August 30, 2009

Would you rather I call you or teach these kids?

Apparently I've been uber stressed out.

I'm sure it was the demo I had on Saturday, which is finally over.

I think someone from head office spoke to me everyday this week about this demo and I even had the hiring manager leave a message for me to call her while I was in the class that I have right before the demo.

Um, would you rather I call you or teach these kids?

I got through it though.

Although it still went super fast (I ended up with the same number of kids as my other News Camp demo) we managed to drag it out a little bit. I had to do give comments about each student to the parents. Although, I didn't realize I was going to have to do that in front of everyone.

Naturally I thought I would speak to each student and his or her parents one-on-one.

I tried to do the usual give a compliment and an area to work on.

A couple of the parents were actually really nice. One mom even told me that her son called her and asked her not to come because he was so embarrassed so she was just happy I managed to get him to speak in front of everyone.

After the demo I played scattergories with the kids using different sections of a newspaper as the categories (i.e. national, international, entertainment, sports). After watching that the parents commented to Anita that they think the kids really did actually learn a lot.

After all my classes I came home starving. The only thing I had eaten all day was an apple at 8 a.m. By the time I had returned to my apartment it was almost 7 p.m. Of course, despite my hunger, I managed to eat the tiniest bit of pasta and then I just wasn't hungry anymore.

The exhaustion was setting in.

I watched The Hangover and passed out waking up about an hour later when one of my roommates came home.

I still didn't end up going to sleep for the night until about 1 a.m. I find that a bit disappointing.

I was supposed to go to Yangmingshan to go hiking today but I opted to stay home to rest and read. I realized how stressed out I had been when I woke up and realized my body was as stiff as can be from clinching my muscles all night in my sleep. Obviously I wasn't well rested and definitely not rested enough to climb a mountain in this heat and humidity.

I probably would have been awake enough once I got to the mountain since it would have taken a couple of hours to get there, but I was just not in the mood to travel.

Instead I slept and read on and off all day until I decided I was hungry enough to make myself finally eat something besides the bowl of cereal I ate this morning while I contemplated whether or not to take the hike.

I went to Debbie's (the little American-ish diner nearby) and then Starbucks for some coffee. I still only ate half of my tuna melt and a couple of french fries.

My appetite has been strangely small lately. I honestly have no idea why.

I'm going to force myself to resume yoga tomorrow. I bought a ribbon and a couple of other accessories to make it a better workout. Hopefully I can get into a routine.

I'm also debating a hike up Tiger Head mountain a couple of times a week. It's close and a relatively easy hike (according to everyone else at least). I think would be nice to do in the morning time.

Besides, if I'm going to be hiking in the Chocolate Hills in The Philippines in a month I had better get in shape!

Friday, August 28, 2009

What's your temperature?

So it seems that I spoke too soon when I thought the H1N1 hype was beginning to fall off.

Five people have died in Taiwan and 47 severe cases have been reported. Of course in the grand scheme of things these numbers are small. Australia has reported more than 130 deaths, Malaysia more than 60 and Singapore more than 10.

Can anyone tell me why this thing hasn't been officially upgraded to pandemic? Isn't the definition of pandemic an epidemic that has spread across large distances such as an entire country or continent?

Last I checked, North America, Asia and Australia are all different continents.

At the same time, I don't really understand why people are going so crazy over this thing. Yes, it's a disease. Yes, people have died. But no one goes this nuts over the regular old "human" flu. As far as I can tell it still kills more people than the swine flu. I feel like it's more a fear of the unknown and therefore being blown out of proportion.

According to the Taiwan Department of Health (DOH, heh) a computer simulation estimates the disease will last in Taiwan for about 200 weeks because it is like to infect 30 percent of the population at about 30,000 people per week.

This is one of those moments where I ask, why would it stop after the 200 weeks? Whose to say I won't get the swine flu tomorrow and then again in two years (provided I'm here that long)? Will that last week of 30,000 people not pass it on to more people?

I suppose they're probably assuming that at that point we will have figured out how to beat this thing. There will be vaccinations galore and if need be we'll just start putting our children in big plastic bubbles.

Speaking of children, a student at one of our schools came to school Tuesday night and then was in quarantine at the hospital by the next morning with a confirmed case of H1N1.

Since then, our schools have taken to forcing hand sanitizer on us as we walk through the door. Which, I might add, we can't walk through the door until they check our temperature. I'm sure they're checking into the prospect of plastic bubbles at this moment.

Oh H1N1, I'm still not nearly as afraid of catching you as I am the pneumonic plague.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How can I be an effective teacher while I know so little about teaching?

I know that sometimes I talk to fast or I explain things in a complicated way but just let me do it. I will learn from my own mistakes (usually by the dumb-founded looks on my students' faces).

The past few days have been moments of learning.

After my super terrible demo for that News Camp last week, head office has been all over me to make sure that the one I have this Saturday goes better. Unfortunately, it's a little too much too late. I wish that had just told me up front what they were expecting.

They have quickly realized they shouldn't have given a solo act to a brand new teacher. I'm going out of my mind with all of the "feedback" I've been getting. Some of it really is helpful, but sometimes it is just a swift kick in the pants.

Have you ever just gotten too much feedback to the point that it irritates you a little and then you sort of shut down?

I know I'm not the best teacher ever and I certainly don't expect myself to be after only two months at it. But in knowing that I push myself to learn.

I want to be a good teacher. It's in my nature to want to be good at the things that I do.

I always ask people (other foreign teachers, my co-teachers) what I can do to be better. Sometimes they have great answers. Most of the time they aren't sure.

But now all of a sudden, head office has plenty of suggestions.

They observed my kindie class last night. There were plennty of suggestions after that. I was really nervous, mostly because I knew it would be terrible. I haven't observed a kindie class and it's only my third or fourth week in there. I haven't really figured it all out just yet.

In fact, I asked to observe a kindie class so I could get ideas but head office told me there isn't anyone to watch.

I'm sure you can see how this would beat up one's self-esteem. At lot of it just comes from the fact that I've always been kind of a natural at my jobs. I mean, food and beverage service is kind of a no-brainer, but I was really good at it. I was the kind of person that people came back asking for.

As a reporter I always got compliments with flying colors from editors and readers. Not that I never had anything to learn. I certainly learned constantly while in reporting and editing positions.

But now, it's ALL learning with no time to learn it. Then you add the fact that while I'm learning, I'm teaching. I have trouble understanding how I can be an effective teacher when sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What year is it?

I am craving some dumplings but I don't want to go to the night market because of all the traffic and because it's super windy out.

Unfortunately, that's the only place that I know has dumplings. Funny how before now I saw them all the time when I wasn't looking for them. I can't remember where though other than Dar-Nan.

I did all of my lesson plans for the week today. Now all I have to do is remember to actually take everything I need each day.

I have to give one test this week and I have a demo on Saturday for my last News Camp. I'm also starting a new class in Guei Shan on Wednesday.

Clutch. Shift gears.

Did you know that it is the year 98 in the ROC? I didn't know until I got a water bill the other day and the date said 98. It later occurred to me that's why the registration sticker on my license plate says 98.

Apparently the ROC calendar is called the Minguo Jiyuan (Minguo means "country of the people") and started in what would have been 1912 for the rest of us. This was just after the Xinhai revolution of 1911 which eventually (after two attempts to restore the Qing Dynasty and a period of military rule) led to the formation of the ROC.

Mainland China stopped using the calendar in 1949 when the People's Republic of China was formed.

Other information: The dates coincide with North Korea's Juche calendar (Kim Il-Song was born in 1912) and Japan's Taisho calendar which the country stopped using in 1926.

See the smallest things (like a $155NT water bill) can cause you to learn all kinds of interesting things.

Where have you been all day?

I feel like I got so much done today but it was also relaxing and fun.

I slept super late.

Then I ate breakfast and watched the Addams Family Values on HBO. Yes, HBO as if it had come out recently and not when I was seven years old. I still love it.

Then I actually did my laundry and cleaned my room.

Then Katie and I decided we needed to get out of the apartment and actually do something with our Sunday.

So we drove to Yinge.

Yinge is known for its pottery.

We got a little lost on the way back and ended up in Dasi. It's a super tiny town just with lots of farms just below the mountains.

It was beautiful.

Then we headed to Tai Mall in Nan-Kan where we spent two hours wasting time until seeing Inglorious Basterds.

There are all of these random doors to nowhere.

I also found
English magazines. I bought Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. I really just wanted some girl magazines. Fashion. Sex. Health. More Fashion. Celebrities. It's all there... in English.

There is also this gigantic arcade. It was kind of sensory overload but I loved it.

Oh Taiwan.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How can I possibly make the demo longer?

Friday and today were the longest days ever.

I woke up and immediately started downloading music to use during my News Camp demo and then I went to Carrefour to buy some last minute props and decorations.

The demo was supposed to last an hour and ended up taking about 25-30 minutes. The head office wasn't happy, but honestly, I was glad it took that long.

I had my kids introduce themselves while I played the BBC World News theme song.

Then I used the Fox News theme song and the NBC theme song in between them reading the "news" stories they wrote and acting out the commercials they wrote.

All in all, it went quite smoothly. There weren't even any parents there until about halfway through.

Today I had to wake up so early. I was pretty dead for the first 15 minutes of my class and then my coffee kicked in.

Today wasn't bad. It was just long.

During my second news camp one of the ladies from head office came in to tell me my demo wasn't long enough so I need to find a way to make the one for this class longer. It's automatically going to be longer because there are more kids which means more self introductions and more stories to read.

I think I made her a little angry though because I essentially told her that I don't think the News Camp was very well thought out and that they didn't give us very much information about what they wanted the teachers to do or how we were going to do it.

I told her the truth, but I think it caught her by surprise. I probably shouldn't expect my Thanksgiving vacation time to get approved, huh?

When I got home tonight I was so exhausted but super hungry because all I had eaten all day was some bread and crackers and an apple. That's so not enough.

I grabbed something to eat and then sat down on the couch to watch TV and finally relax. I ended up falling asleep on the couch.

I've decided I'm definitely staying in tonight. I'm off to bed so I can wake up early to hopefully go do something fun and new tomorrow.

Some of the others were talking about going to Keelung. We'll see how that pans out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Goodbye, Megan.

I just inherited a cell phone, scooter, heater, planner and a Texas coloring book among other items that won't be making the day-and-a-half trip to Texas.

Megan, I want to say thank you.

Not just for the stuff, though, without your help I wouldn't even have made it to Taiwan. I'm positive I would have chickened out half-way through the application process or maybe I would have changed my mind at the last minute by convincing myself it is ridiculous to move to Asia.

Now I say: Why not move to Asia?

You helped me get here, get settled in and get excited about teaching all these kids. I never saw myself as an ESL teacher, especially not in a foreign country, but you were encouraging and nudged me little by little.

Thanks for helping me sort through the details. Thanks for being my little piece of Texas and reminiscing with me about home (Oh, tacos, barbecue and Barton Springs). Thanks for showing me the tea shop, taking me to the Carrefour, telling me what's good to eat around here and showing me a few shortcuts.

Thanks for being patient during my mild freaks outs and my moments of clinginess. I appreciate that you took me under your wing even though there was nothing forcing you to do so.

I can tell you that you were a great teacher. Your kids loved you and, of the ones I met, they're pretty smart. I'm sure at least some of that was your doing.

I can also tell you that people in general loved having you around. You only left this morning and people are already talking about how glum the dorm is going to be without your smiling face (OK, maybe they didn't say glum, but you get the idea).

Anyway, this is my first goodbye in Taiwan — look there's another first you've helped me get through — and somehow, even though I'm highly likely to see you again, I feel like it's probably the most important one I'll have.

I'm sure you've realized this now, but I think you underestimated yourself when you first came to this tiny country. You're a very strong-willed person. When you put your mind to something, you can get it done and make the most out of it while you do.

Good luck at the White House. You'll do great. You'll have tons of fun. And then you'll be on to yet another adventure after that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is that a hippo?

I drove so much today my hand turned black from the exhaust on the throttle.

To Dar-Chu. To the ARC office in Taoyuan. To the dorm. To the scooter shop. To the apartment. To some government office out by Dar-Nan. To the apartment again. Back to Dar-Chu. Back home again.


I'm so exhausted, but I got so much done today.

I subbed one of Tess' classes for the last time. During the second-half of class my supervisor watched us. It's kind of weird to have them watch a sub.

She said it was because some of those kids will be in a class with me and David on Mondays after their summer class is over. They're last week of summer class is next week. That means I'll finally have a full Monday schedule.

Now if I could just get my own Wednesday classes I would be happy. I'm still pulling for one of Megan's little kid classes. They still don't have a new teacher yet.

Cross your fingers 'cause I love those kids.

After my morning class I went straight to pick up my ARC. I am officially a legal immigrant. That sounds so weird. But now I can enter and exit Taiwan as I please — for the next year at least.

Then I went to the dorm to find Megan and she and I went on a mission to put her scooter in my name. First we stopped by the scooter shop to see if they could do it instead of us going all the way to some government office.

The guy started to do some stuff but eventually he decided that he can't change the title for us and he sent some other guy to show us how to get to the government office.

It's funny to me how people here are just so willing to help you all the time.

This guy drove us all the way out to Dar-Nan and stayed with us at this office telling us when to do what (well, telling Megan in Chinese) and he didn't ask for anything in return. He spent at good hour or so with us.

It was really chaotic too. We got to this office and they took our ARCs. They started putting in information and then asked this guy to drive the scooter (I guess it was an "inspection"). Then after some other lady went over to another building and back, they realized there was a ticket that had never been paid and started talking about that.

Then they had another guy drive the scooter and had us walk over to the other building (which turned out to be a real government building with "take a number" and signs with directions all over them). I was told to sign a piece of paper so I did.

Note: I could have been told to sign away my first-born child and I wouldn't have known the difference.

After standing there for another five minutes and nothing happening, they took us back to the first building where we sat for another 10 minutes before they finally asked us for cash and handed me my new title.

Hooray I'm officially a scooter owner!

So many government offices in one day is a bad idea though.

After all that driving around in the blazing sun and not eating from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. I was exhausted.

But, alas, my day was no where near finished.

Luckily, although I had a headache, I was able to ignore it and have fun in my classes tonight. I played a gesture game in one of my classes tonight and somehow ended up getting all my kids to dance around like monkeys and hippos.

Moments like those are why I love this job.

I'm only half-way through the week and so much has happened already!

Now for a fun night hanging out with Megan. She leaves tomorrow for Meiguo. :(

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What's your favorite animal?

Today took a lot of effort and I imagine tomorrow will as well.

These summer classes are kind of exhausting. I look up to Tess for being able to handle days like these every day of the week.

I managed to not take a nap today, so I'm close to falling asleep here on the couch. That said, I'll make this a quick one.

My kids were awesome today. I think I love my Tuesday classes. Something about the kids at Dar-Nan. They're just so super sweet but also really enthusiastic. I think the coffee before class helped me get through it though.

In my babies class, i taught them a new fun question.

Me: What's your favorite animal?
Glenn, Jim, Alvine, and Barry: My favorite animal is a dragon!

We use the Chinese Zodiac to teach them animals in the beginning so they just consider a dragon a real animal. Hilarious and adorable all at once!

I just realized all my kids have the names of men in their 50s. The rest of the boys in that class are Terry, Wilson, Tim and Keith (they like horses and dogs). I guess Tim and Keith are still carrying into our generation.

Really nothing else all that interesting to report though.

During my break I made some cantaloupe salsa. It's pretty good. Who would have thought? I'll post the recipe tomorrow when my eyes aren't drooping.

Now, dishes and bed time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Where's my spelling list!

Back to another super busy week.

My day started early today when an earthquake woke me up. It wasn't bad, in fact, my roommate described it feeling as if she were swinging in a hammock. Sounds relaxing and quiet right? Everything an earthquake is
not supposed to be.

This is the first earthquake I've experienced since I moved into the Romantic Paris Mansion. Here I live on the fifteenth floor instead of the fifth. I thought maybe that just made the effects seem bigger.

Nope, the earthquake was just much larger. According to the Central Weather Bureau it was a 6.5 making it the largest earthquake to hit Taiwan so far this year.

Oh, did I mention it was only one out of four today? There was one more that hit a 6.1 on the Richter scale and then two more after that. I only felt the first one, but I find it interesting that there were so many — especially two large ones — in one day.

Otherwise, I had my first demo today. My tiny red book class had their last demo ever. It's all tests from here.

I only had one moment during the demo where I screwed up. I couldn't find my word list for the spelling game I had for us to play. Whoops.

We got through it OK though.

This is my class. One of the kids wasn't there today though. Aren't all the boys super goofy though?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We have to write how many stories?

Saturday wasn't the worst day ever.

In fact, it was a pretty good day. I got up with plenty of time to get ready and go to Starbucks.

I order my Venti non-fat iced vanilla latte in Chinese.

I got to school with plenty of time to finish my coffee and my scone before class started.

I really don't mind mornings so much as long as they go smoothly. I usually feel rushed in the morning, though, which is why I'm usually pretty cranky (take last Wednesday for example).

I was working downtown again and I managed to find a parking spot that I knew would be OK, so I didn't get towed again.

I was absolutely goofy in all of my classes though. I think it was the extreme amounts of caffeine. I had that Venti coffee from Starbucks and then one of the mom's in my brand new, first-thing-Saturday-morning class brought me another small iced coffee.

I couldn't say no.

By the time I got to my second class at 11 a.m. (I had already been awake for four hours at this point) I was bouncing off the walls. I was being goofy, dancing around the room and singing, "Take out your Woooowwww booookkkkksssss."

All the kids could do was laugh at me. It was good.

My news camp even went really well! I'm actually really proud of my kids. We wrote four "stories."

I made a compromise with them so that helped with productivity.

Kids: Teacher, we don't want to write anything.
Me: Well, you each have to read two stories in the demo in a couple of weeks and we've only written four so far so we have a lot of work to do.
Me: OK, guys, I'll make a deal with you. We will write a story, then play a game, write a story, then play a game. But we have to write four stories today and four stories next week.

They were OK with this plan. They tried to put one over on me by making a game take a really long time. Luckily, these kids are actually super smart and write pretty quickly once you give them some direction.

I didn't feel too bad about letting the game take an hour. Of course, they thought that meant we would only have time for one more story (making three) instead of two more stories. I finally convinced them a one-hour game is the equivalent of two games and so we had to write two stories back-to-back.

My last class is probably becoming my favorite class out of all of them. They're smart. They participate. They're old enough that we can joke around — this is the class where we were talking about all the boys being "yellow" a couple weeks ago.

It's funny because we only have an hour-and-a-half to do just as much as we do in my class earlier in the day when I have two hours.

Otherwise, I feel like I talked a lot yesterday.

I mean, I have to talk a lot for school, but after classes I talked Megan's ear off at Tina Coffee while we were waiting for Allen. Then I talked both of their ears off while we were eating dinner at TGI Fridays. (I know... Don't hate me for eating American food; I felt gross afterward.)

Even after that, I came home to talk Katie's ear off.

Since Justin (Katie's boyfriend) went home yesterday we had a girls' night last night. We grabbed a bottle of wine from the Family Mart across the street (high class wine, I assure you) and killed that while I talked incessantly, first about things I was reading on the BBC news Website and then about anything that popped into my head every 12 seconds.

I'm not sure if that helped or not. But at least my brain has calmed down a little since.

I'm so glad it's Sunday though. I have another long week ahead with more split shifts and two demos.

Tonight, we're going to Taipei for Megan's farewell dinner. She doesn't actually leave until Thursday, but this will be the last time we can really get everyone together for her. So sad!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Um, where's my scooter?

Yes, my friends, my (er, Tess' that I'm borrowing) scooter got towed today.

I had to teach at a school that's downtown today and it can be really difficult to park there. I usually park around the corner next to the library, but all those spots were taken. So, of course, I parked on the sidewalk in front of the bank.

Apparently you can't do that.

I went out three hours later to get some food and happened to walk in the direction of my scooter. I noticed it wasn't there and I was just like, "Well that sucks."

Luckily, it didn't take too much to get it back. Since I knew Tess' name and I figured she had probably registered the scooter address at the dorm, I was able to give them enough information to get it back since I told them she's in Canada right now.

Of course, someone helped me. I never would have been able to take care of that by myself. That's so much Chinese and finding the place.

Otherwise, we prepared for our News Camp demo today. It's going to be next Friday. One of the kids is in Malaysia and won't be here and the two kids that never do anything might not come either. I don't know.

So I'm essentially making my demo schedule as if I'm only going to have four kids. This is going to be ridiculous.

Oh well, it's my second demo ever (my first demo is on Monday in my red book class) and they didn't exactly give us any information about what the heck they wanted us to do.

My kids are doing self introductions, reading two stories each and acting in three commercials. It's going to be insane, but at least the kids I have left are really super smart kids.

After my towing crisis I had my new yellow book class, which is actually a class I've been subbing for a couple of weeks now. Apparently we have a test in there in two weeks. The mom that always sits in the back was asking a bunch of questions about what will be on the test.

I went to the Night Market on my way home.

I was totally paranoid that I was going to get the scooter towed again (because that's my sort of luck).

I bought these super cute car-croc shoes for my nephew's first birthday that's coming up.

And I finally decided to branch out and get some actual Taiwanese (Chinese?) food.

These dumplings were only $50NT (about $1.50 USD) and they're SO good and filling. You can't beat meals this good and this cheap.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How do you solve a Rubik's cube?

I have the most hilarious tan lines.

I probably haven't actually been outside (while the sun is shining) for more than 30 minutes, but the sun is suddenly very harsh.

The tops of my forearms are sunburned. I have a farmers line from my shirt sleeves. My chest is dark from my V-neck t-shirts. I have a white line where my watch sits while I'm holding onto the scooter handles. I even have tan lines on my feet.

I'm lucky though.

I wear these flats all of the time, so at least I don't have random dots all over my feet. That would be truly spectacular though.

I didn't sleep very well today and that led to today being the longest day ever. I wouldn't let myself take a nap though. So instead, I studied Chinese for something like three hours today. It was slightly ridiculous — not to mention exhausting.

I bought a bunch of puzzles yesterday. I'm really excited about turning them into QA games for my classes. All the kids here solve Rubik's cubes super fast and I really thought they must be the best problem solvers ever.

Turns out that's not always true.
I saw this kid today playing with a Rubik's cube and he was just going around and around and around and suddenly it was perfect again. I asked him if I could see it and if he could show me what he did. Then I started to mix it all up so that he could show me.

I quickly learned that they can solve it if they're the ones that mixed it up. They know how to back track basically. It took him about five minutes to fix what I had messed up (which is still insanely faster than any other kid I've ever seen).

They're still better at puzzles than most American kids I've seen though.

The only other thing today that I thought is worth mentioning is how cute and competitive kids here are.

We play Paper, Scissor, Stone (ahem, Rock, Paper, Scissors) something like 100 times a day. I taught the kids in one of my classes today how to sing "Sailor Went to Sea." At the end everyone Paper, Scissor, Stones.

I beat this little girl five times in a row (I tried not to I swear).

At first I was changing every time, but then I felt bad so I kept throwing the same thing (scissors) but she kept throwing paper! At the end of classes she was laughing and whining at the same time.

Winnie: "Teacheeerrrrrrr! Five times!"

Me: "It's OK. I'll be here next week. You will beat me then."

Hopefully she does.

Is this for me?

Today was cute.

I know, strange word to describe a day, but I just saw tons of really little kids today.

I subbed one of Tess' summer classes which is all little kids. Then I had my second week of my brand-new-kiddos class.

Right when I walked into my class this little girl, Erica, walked up to me with something in her hands screaming "Teacher! Teacher!"

She had these bracelets that snap on and they have little rhinestones all around them. I was wearing brown today so she snapped a brown one around my wrist and I got to keep it.

I know it looks like a mini dog collar but it's so Taiwan fashion.

It's great to know that the kids aren't totally freaked out by me even though they just met me last week.

Although one little boy, Wilson, did cry. But that's because his mom usually stays for class — they have been coming for six weeks with just the my co-teacher before — but his mom couldn't stay today. About half way through class he glanced around, realized she wasn't there and burst into tears just as we started singing "The Babies on the Bus."

If you don't remember, the babies on the bus go "wah, wah wah."

I felt like we were making fun of him, but we couldn't just stop and bring attention to it.

Other than that, I've got nothing, so I'll leave you with this little questionnaire e-mail that Flannery forwarded me a couple of weeks ago.

I've been meaning to send it back to her, but I keep forgetting. So here you go:

A) Four places that I go to over and over:
Taoyuan Night Market, Ching Shin tea stand, Tepanyaki, Carrefour

B) Four people who e-mail me regularly:
Flannery, my mom, the New York Times online, the Washington Post online

C) Four favorite smells:
Lilies, cheese, newsprint, vanilla (probably in that order)

D) Other places I would rather be right now:
Washington D.C., Thailand, home

E ) Four people I think will respond:
If I had sent this to my mother, she most certainly would have. All of her friends probably would have too. :)

F) Four TV shows I watch:
Grey's Anatomy (can't wait for this season to start), Weeds, Dexter, The Tudors (What can I say, I love Showtime.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why won't it stop raining?

So I really love rain, honestly. Rain smells good, the sound of it hitting the windows is relaxing and the moisture in the air is great for my skin (I have inherently dry skin).

But wow, lay off already.

There was so much rain in three days that — for fear of it over flowing — they had to release some of the water from the Shihmen Reservoir, which as of Thursday night was less than half full.

There is so much moisture in the air that the laundry I hung up to dry 24 hours ago is still wet. Seriously! I wanted to wear those jeans today.

Note to self: give two days to do laundry just in case.

We don't have a dryer, so it's not even an option. At the dorm we had a dryer that you had to pay $40NT for. I was happy to spend the little extra cash simply to be able to get my laundry done in a reasonable amount of time.

The next two weeks are going to be super long.

I was supposed to start three new classes last week — one Tuesday, one Friday, one Saturday — but because of the typhoon I only ended up starting the Tuesday class.

Now they're adding another class to my schedule on Thursday so I'm starting three new classes this week. I'm also subbing both of Tess' summer classes which meet with the foreign teacher twice per week instead of once. That's an extra six hours on top of the usual two-to-four hours per night.

I'm clocking 33 hours this week and next. Of course, I suppose next week I could get even more if they decide to add even more classes to my schedule.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to be getting new classes. The sooner I get a full schedule the better. I'm considering the option of teaching outside classes. Gloria sent out a flier to each teacher today asking if we want to teach outside classes.

I need to look at the details more closely. I don't know if these are at local public schools or other bushibans (cram schools) or what (and I'm not sure about the legality of it). I just really like the idea of paying down my debt and saving a lot of money.

I would be so happy if I could get my sister completely paid back by the end of September. Then I need to save for my vacation in October and my vacation to go home (whenever that happens). I also want to try to pay down at least one-third of my student loans while I'm here and hopefully go home with some cash.

I was also considering a month-long trip to Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand, but now that's starting to sound like I'm pushing it.

We will see.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What is this the "Iron Chef"?

We pretty much holed up in our apartment for two days. Well I did anyway.

Good ol' Typhoon Morakot ended up hitting the south a lot harder than everyone had anticipated. It was supposed to come right over Taoyuan, but the worst we got we a little rain and some winds that didn't seem very bad.

Up in our fifteenth floor apartment, we opted for throwing paper airplanes out the window to see which way they went. (Straight up until they were destroyed by the wind, rain or both, by the way.)

A long exposure on Friday night. The sky looked so awesome.

Apparently the storm actually killed 10 people and caused several landslides, etc. Not to be insensitive, there is no way you would believe that if you were here in Taoyuan.

Taiwan is also no longer nearing a drought after getting over a meter of rain in two days.

Meanwhile, school was cancelled both Friday and Saturday. Thursday night Katie and I went ot Carrefour (and so did the entire population of Taoyuan City) to grab the essentials: water, flashlight, food, booze.

I think our tiny little refrigerator had more green and brown glass bottles in it than it did food.

This is 7 a.m. Saturday. Strange considering the storm hadn't even passed us yet. It looked incredible.

Saturday night we had Megan over for dinner since it would be the last time she got to see Tess (insert sad face here). Tess is going on vacation and won't be back until after Megan leaves to go home (and then the White House, eek).

We had decided earlier in the day that we would each make one thing. Justin and Katie made black bean burger patties and a mango curry sauce to go on top.
I made (an awesome) mango salsa. And Tess made a salad with cabbage, carrots, cucumber, broccocoli and mango.

Notice a theme?

It actually happened sort of by accident but I swear it seemed like an Iron Chef dinner. You know, they have one main ingredient that has to appear in every dish.

Merely a couple of weeks ago I decided I didn't really like mangos. I think I should alter than slightly. I don't like mangos by themselves, but mixed with the proper ingredients, they can be incredible. You can find the recipe for the salsa on my food blog Cathartic Kitchen.

And, yes, I know that blog is in dire need of some work. I started putting it together before I realized I would be moving to Taiwan instead of D.C.

Now that's it's Sunday, all of my roommates have left for vacations. Tess is back in Canada for two weeks and Katie and her boyfriend, Justin, are in Peng Hu.

What should I do with an apartment to myself for five days?

Probably clean. Our pile of shoes next to the door is nothing compared to our kitchen after a million people showed up last night. Impromptu parties are the best.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What does Morakot mean?

Taiwan is about to be engulfed in a typhoon.

I have been obsessively watching the radar of Typhoon Morakot. The storm is actually quite large and it appears the eye will be almost directly over Taoyuan by Friday night.

It's funny to see this tiny little island covered by the storm on a satellite picture. I can't even imagine a storm that covers Texas, much less the entire USA. The size of this country is still a little bizarre to me.

I read that the high-wind portion of the storm (technical term) is estimated to be about 250km (about 150 miles) wide. That's less than the distance between Austin and Dallas.

I know it's supposed to be scary, but I'm actually kind of excited to finally get through my very first typhoon. I've never been in one before. I've seen my fair share of tornados though.

Morakot — which is apparently Thai for emerald — is currently rated a Category 1 storm on both the Western and Taiwanese scales, though it is quickly picking up speed. Apparently, in Taiwan they only have Tropical Depression, Category 1, Category 2 and Category 3, as opposed to the Western version with a Tropical Depression, a Tropical Storm and then Categories 1-5.

Wunderground shows that the storm will be a Category 3 (on both scales) by the time it hits us directly. The eye should make landfall tonight on the East coast. Winds are can get high upward of 130 mph. (Yes, I used Google to convert that from kilometers. The metric system means nothing to me.)

I was told to be careful of flooding, but living on the 15th floor, I somehow don't believe that will be an issue.

I guess I need to head over to the Carrefour to buy some water (the water mains will probably shut off if it gets as bad as they say) and food to get us through the next two days.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's your favorite color?

I went to apply for my ARC today and then I raided IKEA afterward.

Taiwan probably has the most efficient government offices I've ever seen. It only took 20 minutes to get through it all and if there were a line, you can just take a number and come back later. Probably took me longer to get to the immigration office than it did to actually file my paperwork. I get to pick up my ARC August 19.

I still find it so bizarre to be an immigrant going to the immigration office to get my immigration and residency settled.
I'm an alien.

My room is starting to look like a real bedroom.

At IKEA I bought a blanket that's green and white. It's one of those fleece blankets so it will be perfect for every season. I'll probably still need a little something else for the winter though.

I've decided to go with mostly green and white stuff in my room since I bought a green and white rug when I first got here. Of course, my '80s fab curtains are going to throw a small wrench in that...

This is my little yoga spot.

I thought I was buying one mirror but it turned out to be four mirrors that are a square foot each. So I put one next to my "closet" as I had intended.

This is what I ended up doing with the rest.

I also bought these
cute picture frames.

I plan on putting them up on the nearly blank wall that is opposite my bed.

As you can see right now the only thing occupying that wall at the moment is my UTexas pennant.

I love that I have already made sure that when people enter my room they know that a little piece of the Lone Star State is here.

My classes tonight were a little crazy. I got lost on the way to class because I forgot to turn on this one street. I got confused. And I was late by one minute. I didn't get yelled at though. I think I'm still new enough.

I had a new class tonight. It's a beginners class so they're
brand new at English. I'm the first foreign teacher they've ever had. (Presumably... I suppose they could have gone to one of those illegal kindies first). It was awkward and but I think now that I've gotten through the first class the rest will go more smoothly.

My second class was great. We blew through everything and talked a lot. My co-teacher brought me come grapefruit green tea and it was really good. They taught me how to say it in Chinese —
pu tao you lu cha — so now I can order it for myself.

Martin came into my red book class and all the kids kept asking me, "Is that your boyfriend?" I laughed and told them no that he has a girlfriend and it's not me.

He came in with this gigantic balloon and my kids went nuts. It was really funny. I told them if we worked quickly we could play with it at the end of class. Unfortunately, the class was too big so we didn't get to.

Tomorrow, subbing a class for Katie and then an early class at Dar Yuan (
way out by the airport). I'm off by 5:30. What will I do with an evening off?

Ji dian?

I swear I felt naked, not to mention oblivious, all day. I took off my watch at the waterfall yesterday and it's still in Megan's bag. I kept thinking, "Aw what time is it? I'm going to be late!" Only to find out that I had tons of time.

We went to this place called the Great White Shark tonight. More than half the people at the table were vegetarians so we went all vegetarian for dinner. Taiwan beer, two orders of Kung Pao Tofu, sauteed cabbage and sauteed watercress.

Tofu - not so bad. I think I could actually learn to be a vegetarian in this country and not miss meat so much. Of course I say that a week after I ate bacon five out of seven days.

Today was pretty tame. I had Chinese class and I feel like I learned so much! I learned lots of prepositions, a few more verbs, some much needed shopping vocabulary (i.e. too expensive, make it cheaper) and how to order my favorite coffee at Starbucks.

I actually ordered my latte in Chinese today, but I didn't know how to say vanilla or non-fat milk. The girl there told me how to say it and she also taught me to say "See you next time!"

It's so great to have people willing to teach me things.

I only had one class today and I finally got the paperwork to get my ARC. I have to go do that tomorrow.

I set up our wireless Internet today. It's nice that we can all be on the Internet at the same time now. Before we were having to take turns with the one ethernet cable. Annoying.

Tomorrow I start a beginners class. I will be the very first foreigner these kids have ever had as a teacher. It's so exciting but also a little nerve-wracking. I am entirely responsible for making sure these kids learn English. Eek!

I took all of these random pictures of the small details of my new apartment — the Romantic Paris Mansion. Check it out.

Yes, that's a mini-Louvre in our courtyard.

More lovely romantic statues.

This is one of our two front doors. It's like having a screen door... except it's not a screen.

We have something like 80,000 shelves,bookcases and closets. I love these by the front door because of the lighting inside them.

The bathroom I share with Katie has little giraffe tiles all around the room. Then in the shower there are these cute 101 Dalmation stamps.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Did that sign say Little People Country?

Today was an absolutely glorious day. We definitely made the best of our only day off.

I slept in but not too late. Then, after a quick trip to Carrefour and waiting to get everyone together, a huge group of us motor-packed to Xiao Wulai, which means "small beautiful place." There's a larger waterfall just called "Wulai".

It was such a beautiful drive. Hot though.

I had an exciting "Hey, I could read that," moment. As we were turning onto the road that goes up the mountain, I saw a sign in Chinese that said "Xiao Ren Guo," which means "Little People Country." I later found out there is a place up there that is basically a model diagram of Taoyuan, little people and all.

After getting there covered in sweat, we were met with this beautiful view.

We hiked down to the base of the waterfall and went swimming in the little water hole that's formed by all of the rocks.

It was a little cold at first but we adjusted very quickly. Next thing I knew, we had been in the water for almost an hour and a half.

We spent the next hour and a half just laying around on the rocks, listening to the water and chatting. It was so relaxing.

The only bad part about today was the fact that we were on scooters. A long drive on the back of a scooter (I was on Tess') is so exhausting. My legs hurt so much because I just kept clenching all the muscles in my abs and my legs.

Great two-hour workout though.

And especially with a view like this.

After we got back and all cleaned up, Megan, Tess and I went for a foot massage. They actually spend liek 10-15 minutes on your neck and shoulders and then the rest of the time on your feet and legs. It was a shiatsu massage.

It hurt.

The guy doing my massage found this really bad knot in my left shoulder and harped on that for a good five minutes. I don't really think it did much for it. Then while we was massaging my feet he would dig in now and then to see how it felt.

Apparently foreigners have a lower tolerance for pain. After that massage, I believe that's true because all the other people in the massage place weren't even flinching when they dug into their feet with their boney knuckles.

It was also really funny because at the end of the massage they put a towel over your leg, pull up your leg, put it in their lap and then beat on it like a drum. It sounds like this crazy music because they actually do it with a lot of rhythm.

It was a really "That's so Asia" experience, but I feel so much better now.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Are you yellow?

I am pretty much settled into the Romantic Paris Mansion. Unfortunately, I think every time I move somewhere new in Taiwan I'm going to have crazy allergy problems.

When I first got here, my allergies went nuts after a couple of weeks and I actually had to call in sick for a day because I couldn't breath and had the worst headache. Well, now that I've moved into the RPM, my allergies are insane. I can't breath. I can actually FEEL the pressure on my sinuses. My eyes are itchy and red.

It sucks. Hopefully, I won't actually get sick this time though. I don't want to lose out on that money since I'm having to spend a lot of money to move into the apartment, buy a scooter and finally get my ARC this week.

So it seems that I am actually taking over that Friday night yellow book class. I haven't received confirmation from the head office on that, but the co-teacher, Carol, said she and the parents really like my teaching style. Hopefully that works out.

I also received schedules for two more regular classes this week.

One is a kindy beginner's class on Tuesdays before my gigantic red book class at Dar-Nan. These kids are literally brand new. I think I'm going to be their very first foreign teacher. How precious is that?

I think the other one is another Wow class. It's on Saturday, of course, which makes my Saturdays the longest days of my life. Today was already insanely long with two Wow classes and my News Camp. Next Saturday starts at 8:45 a.m. with one Wow class, another at 11 a.m., my News Camp at 1:30, and then my last Wow class at 5 p.m.

I'm really bad at mornings too, so good-bye Friday night!

It'll still be rough, but at least in three weeks I won't have the News Camp anymore. Then it's just five and a half hours of Wow classes and a really early morning.

In my last class today my kids were being super goofy. We were talking about what "allowed to" means and I had them writing sentences on the board in groups.

Me: Write a sentence about two things you are not allowed to wear to school and then a sentence about two things you are not allowed to do.
David: We're not allowed to wear swimsuits and bikinis to school.
Halfway through the exercise...
Kevin: I am not allowed to make love.
Me: Hm....
Sean: I am not allowed to read yellow comic books
Anna: I bet you have a whole stack of yellow books under your bed don't you?

In Taiwan "yellow" means horny and just basically alludes to sex and all the things that come with it. These boys are anywhere between 12 and 15 years old, so they're just at that age. We were all rolling over laughing and calling people yellow for the next five minutes or so.

Sometimes these kids are just so funny it makes my job so much fun. I would definitely say it's a worthwhile experience.

Did his shoes dirty?

*I haven't had Internet access at the new apartment, so this new blog post should actually be dated July 30. I will write a new one tonight after my classes as well.

I ran a red light tonight…. On purpose. I think that officially makes me a Taiwanese driver.

Although, I actually came to a complete stop and determined that no one was coming for a long time before I drove through.

Maybe my Taiwanese driving skills still need some work after all.

I also finally moved into the Romantic Paris Mansion!

I brought over a couple of bags yesterday, mostly just books and random stuff I don’t need every day. Today I brought over everything else except my fan and bookcase. I think I’m going to grab those tomorrow.

While I still need a few things (i.e. a mattress cushion because mine is hard as a rock, my own wine glass, queen-size sheets) I already feel really comfortable. I’m glad Tess and Katie decided to let me move in.

It’s nice to have something you can call yours. That and I think that once I have my own scooter, my own cell phone and my own apartment, I get to call myself a resident of Taiwan.

I’m still far from Taiwanese, but it’s the next best thing.

As far as school went today, my classes were complete opposites. They were both yellow book — all the kids are in middle school or early high school.

The first class was well behaved and talkative (i.e. they knew when to zip it so I could teach them something and feel productive). We played a lot of games and the kids were super smart so it was fun having to come up with ways to challenge them.

The second class was out of control. The co-teacher warned me before we went in that they were crazy but they always say that. I took it with a grain of salt.

In all honesty, I felt like I had no control over that class at all. It was as if it were my very first time teaching a class, except even worse than how my real first class went.

These kids were bouncing all over the place, out of their chairs and speaking Chinese 90 percent of the time (we try to provide a “whole English environment”). I felt like that mean substitute teacher that every kid hates, but now I understand why the teacher is that way.

It was extremely difficult and I found myself just thinking to myself, “Well, it’s not my class so if nothing gets done it doesn’t really make a difference to me.”

I hate having that mentality though. It makes me feel like a crappy, unprepared teacher. It was certainly two hours I could learn from.