Thursday, November 26, 2009

Right foot on what color?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problem solved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's hoping for the latter.

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is that a head?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

So much traveling but I'm so excited!

Monday, November 23, 2009

How many people does it take to stock a pantry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

How many times does she say love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Would you like some cheese with that wine?

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

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

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

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

It has literally been non-stop rain since Monday.

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

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

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

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

They're just green with envy.

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

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

Wednesday might not be so bad for much longer.

Now, off to make my apartment presentable for guests!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is 'sciency' a word?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to Monday...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What are some things people have strong opinions about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you travel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What are you excited about?

Still sleeping a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The December/ January plan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Do people hibernate?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How cold is it going to get?

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

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

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

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

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

I need to work on that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm sure I was beaming with pride.

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

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