Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What to do? (Texas, not Taiwan)

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

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

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

I'm torn.

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

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's the difference?

My two days in Seattle are coming to an end.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Are you ready for this?

Saturday:

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

I <3 being a teacher at times like these.

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

And I have the best Christmas cards ever!

Sunday:

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

Tokyo in 5.5 hours.

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

America, here I come.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What do you know about Christmas?

天氣很冷, 我不喜歡!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That said, today wasn't all miserable.

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

I have a lot of Christmas cards now. :)

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

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

What's on the to do list?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I have to go to the bank.

And I have to finish grading compositions.

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

And I have a parent conference on Saturday morning.

Augh!

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teacher, May I go home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

They actually asked me if I was really coming back.

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

How do I get it all home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next challenge: How do I get it all home?

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

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

美國, 七天! (America in Seven Days!)


Friday, December 11, 2009

What's the weather like in Winter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What is an environmental message from children like?

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

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


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

video


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

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

video

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

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

They were just too adorable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Especially not after going to the bathroom.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Does it have any meat in it?

I ate pigs blood last night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess that was technically true.

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

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

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

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

She seemed to take it pretty well.

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

Welcome to McDonalds. May I help you?

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

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

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

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

Other things to note:

My roommate makes awesome stir-fry.

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

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ni zai zuo shenme?

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

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

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

Enjoy.

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

Of course the vegetarian took care of roasting the turkey.

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

One cherry pie.

One pecan pie. (My favorite!)

One blueberry pie.

And two pumpkin pies.

We also peeled and mashed 54 pounds of potatoes.

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

Brace yourself.

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

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

This was a Yahoo advertisement best described as a flashmob.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Is it really December?

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

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

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

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

But now, it is Dec. 1!

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

I'm so excited about seeing everyone.