Friday, October 30

Out to lunch.

No post yesterday! GASP! Things is fine, but I've been super tired lately, because of how early I've been getting up for work...the first week back to teaching is ALWAYS exhausting, as some of us know. Anyway, I'm working in the bookstore, and things are going just fine. This weekend, I find an apartment! And a TV! And an X-Box! And a cat (maybe).


Mandarin characters of the friggin' day:

-- ming (second tone, so raise your eyebrows while saying it). It means "tomorrow".

BUT, there's more: As you can see, there are two distinct figures in this character. On the left is the symbol for the sun, and on the right there is the symbol for the moon. So, in the time it takes for the moon and the sun together in a day, it will be tomorrow.

BUT, there's more:

亮 -- mingliang (second tone, then the fourth done, which goes down.) Means "bright". Liang and ming both mean bright, it seems.

BUT, there's more more thing: The symbol for sun also stands for the word "day", as one new sun comes up every day. And the symbol for moon also stands for "month", as one new moon comes up every month.
So, the date today, in Chinese, would read: 月10日30.

Got all that? Good.

Tuesday, October 27

Tea on the moon, anyone?

Here are some new photos from the new school, as well. The photos here are from the drive to Cishan (pronounced Chi-san, strangely), and the school there, where I thought I was working. But my agent gave me the option of working in what I thought was a much nicer place, so I decided to work in a different school in a town called Lhuju, instead. So there are also pictures of the drive to the town of Lhuju (Literally, Bamboo Boulevard), where the Tsai-Wen elementary school is. We got there via a drive through a place called "Moon World," which is named as such because it looks like the surface of the moon. I didn't get to see much of it...but it looks amazing, yeah? It's all this extremely strangely angled terrain formed after volcanic eruption. The soil is so metallic and ashy that nothing grows there...well, due to soil blowing over, some things have started to grow on the fringes. Unfortunately, those were the only parts that I saw. But apparently, there's a good lot which is completely barren. Great views from the tea houses there, I hear.

And there are two photos there from the Tsai-Wen school which is where I started working today. More on that in the post I've already made, though. As far as aesthetics, all I can say is that these schools make New York City Public School facilities look like dirty dive bars located in prisons. You'll have to wait to see more.


PS: Could someone comment and tell me whether you can read the descriptions of these pictures? They should just have basic names, describing what they are.

Heavens to Betsy!

There are three things of which you must be made aware!

1: I had my first day of work today! It was awesome. I work with about 6 other people, and we all take turns teaching in various location-themed classrooms. So, today, I taught (on my first day, no less...eeeww) the bookstore, and it was pretty a weird way. I'll have to expound upon my feelings about teaching in a future post. I also have tons of pictures, which I'll gladly share later. Actually, the picture to the left was on the first worksheet I handed out (it was made my someone else, don't worry)--the kids were supposed to find the title and the author of said book...anyway, really the funny thing was that I had a hard time explaining why it wasn't a real Dr. Seuss book. Rosie (an awesome new co-worker of mine, who helped me find my way home on the train) didn't believe me at first--because it's a pretty good photoshop job. Anyway, in the end, we decided by the end that it wasn't 1st grade appropriate, even if no one really knew what it said. ULTIMATE IRONY: They already have about 2,000 of these copied. Other people will probably keep using them.

2: I had my first day of substitute work yesterday! It, too, was awesome. Cash in hand. Take that, two-month long waiting period for a paycheck in New York City. KA-POW.

3: I had an enormously expsensive meal yesterday for dinner...took Andrew, the other guy who's just started, with me. We paid $NT 500 ( 500 / 33 = $US 15) each for all we could eat veggie soup, seafood, poultry, and Kobe-beef steak right off the barbecue in the middle of our table...and most of it was prepared by the waiter. Freakin' delicious. AND, lest I forget, they gave me a complimentary pack of Wrigley's chewing gum on the way out. Score. Yes, it was more expensive than the $NT 50 lunches, the $NT 100 dinners, and the $NT 30 beers. But I'm willing to suffer.

Mandarin character of the friggin' day (with clues to help you figure out what it is):

羊 -- Pronounced "Yang" -- and to get the tone right while saying it, you should raise your eyebrows while saying it! That's called the second tone (there are five that stops short, one that is steady, one that rises (like this one), one that dips and comes back up, and one that falls.)

Clue 1: This character is for an animal.
2: The animal looks like the symbol.
3. Pay particular attention to the two lines on top. They are the animal's distinguishing feature.
4. The animal can have a beard.

Okay, fine, it's a goat. It looks a little like a goat, yeah? It's funny, actually. I learn a lot every day, but choose to remember only the most random stuff. I don't know how to say "no" (perhaps this is meaningful), but I do know how to say the name of a fish whose English name I don't know, because I ate it for the school lunch today (which is $.75 a day, by the way).

Monday, October 26

Haven't had a poem in a while, have we?


We lounged late into the afternoon
strange tastes in our mouths
from free booze we downloaded off the internet
and dusty cans of tuna
left by previous tenants.
We were thinking of looking for a plan.

Time passed like a joke
that the world kept telling us.
The punchline might have been deadly,
but the telling took forever.
We played video games in the morning
or at night, or both. Either way we were wasting time
and not trying, though we could have been.
I told my father, "You're shitting all over me!" when he explained
it might not be a good idea
to move to Saudi Arabia,
though they were hiring teachers there.
I didn't want the job, but still.

Time passed. A week. Maybe a month.
Soon enough, even Arabia was looking good.
We didn't do much. We went to the public library.
I used small computers to set up online dates
with whom I hoped to drink water and climb trees--
things which didn't cost, and therefore had no choice
but to mean something.

Our profiles and our resumes
claimed we were qualified to be everything
which we were, but it still didn't mean anything.

Sunday, October 25

I put the neato incognito.

Hey! What's this? More photos? Yep. And no descriptions, as I haven't figured out how to do that efficiently, yet. But I will tell you that there are a few pictures here of the Love River area, of the Cheng-Cing Lake area (where my friend Ash lives), and of other things I've been to see or watch. The picture of me standing with other people has the following people in it: Ash, a friend and another teacher, his wife, Fong, his son, Marley, and my other friend who's come here at the same time as me, Andrew--he's come from Canada. Cheers.

OH! And you'll notice that there's an exit sign towards the end of the slideshow. That's the Mandarin phrase of the friggin' day. The four characters (in order) mean "tight", "rush", "exit", and "door". I bet you know what that means, all together...

The more you look, the more you see.

It's funny: when I go to countries where everyone is speaking a foreign language, certain emotions I have become louder. The emotions that become louder are linked to the emotions I know how to express. Invariably, I felt more apologetic in France, and I was well aware of how little French I knew (I was most comfortable apologizing and explaining that I knew little French). In Germany I really liked greeting people, because that was what I knew how to do (I liked saying hello). Even in England, where I spoke American, I felt abnormal, perhaps because there were so many new slang terms and idioms.

Here, in Taiwan, I think the food is delicious, and I'm very interested in knowing how people are doing, although I really don't know what their responses mean. I also feel like the layout of the city is pretty confusing, although I'm fascinated by it. I would posit this is because I find the language fascinating and confusing, but feel pretty good about asking people how they are. I also know how to say, "That's delicious!" It should be noted that I also understand all four characters in the phrase for "Emergency Exit," and so now, I am convinced that Taiwan is obsessed with evacuation. Are you with me?

I would politely request, as I often do in Chinese (Qing wen*... = May I please ask...) that you reflect about how your experience with any language has made you feel about living in the place where it is spoken. Are you bored with a language, dialect, or set of idioms/slang words? Does that make you feel bored with where you live? Have you ever been to a foreign country and felt the way I do? Or am I linguistically touched?

* Chinese characters have tones over them, normally, so you have to say this phrase in a certain way. I'll have to figure out how to type the tones.

Yesterday and the day before I've been looking around, seeing some wonderful new neighborhoods, an apartment, and getting my scootering legs beneath me--oh man, I thrive on that stuff. I know I said I thought scootering was dorky and ridiculous, but honestly, it's ridiculously fun, particularly in a place where everyone is doing it illegally. Let the record state that breaking the law while doing something makes it cool. So, yes, this means brushing your teeth while burning a flag is achingly hip. Get to it (not to say that brushing your teeth wasn't the bee's knees to begin with).

The central issue for me, right now, is deciding where and how I want to live. At the moment I don't really know anything about the location of the school I'm going to be teaching in, so it's hard to make these decisions. I don't know if I want to live as a minimalist, a maximalist, in the city, in the suburbs, in the country, near a lot of shops, near some natural features of the earth, near expats, far away from them, or all these things at once! I don't even know how much money I want to spend on an apartment, since for a super nice place I could pay something like 400 US dollars a month...but who needs two bedrooms, a bar, and four balconies? Okay, yes, I'll admit, that last part would be nice.


Poems are en route, should you be interested!

Friday, October 23

That feeling of not being watched.

It's been a while, but we're back.

Current exciting news: Taiwan!
Current drama: Details of work, and licensing issues with New York State!
Recent feat over biology: Staying up for over 40 hours (I tried to jetlag on the 26 hours of plane riding that I did, but unfortunately, when it was time for me to go to sleep based on the time in Taiwan, my body said, OH NO YOU DON'T. Hence, I've just slept for 12 hours.)
What I have been doing lately: I went to LA, then came back to RI, decided to sign a contract to work in Taiwan as a teacher, so I went to Florida to see my grandparents, then came back to Providence to get my visa, then went to New York to take a flight out of New York to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, via Anchorage (we flew over the top of the world). And that's just for starters.

Finally, the blogging part of the blog:

Yesterday I arrived at the airport at 8:25 AM, quite tired, and not knowing what to expect from the universe. Would I be put in the back of a van full of other teachers whose livers were now subject to sudden extraction? Would I be immediately arrested for the government on account of my long crime record as an unregistered ninja in Southeast Asia? Would I suddenly be consumed with the urge to restart my knitting! The answers to all of these questions is, thankfully, a giant NO WAYS JOSES. Rather, I was picked up (as planned) by one Mr. Lee Knight, my agent, who proceeded to take me out to breakfast and introduce me to an environmental activist named Tim, who is also working as a teacher. We sped around Kaohsiung on a scooter for the whole day, seeing the sights and basically informing me about everything I would need to be informed about. Worried about your lack of knowledge of cell phone plans, scooter contracts, and tipping in Taiwan? Don't worry, I've got you covered.

In any case, I spent the majority of the day with Lee at his school, which is down the street from his home, where I'm staying and blogging from now. I met teachers, observed them, and went out to dinner with them, before my dramatic collapse into a bed. All in all, I was very impressed with the hospitality and concern for my well-being that Lee has. The next few days look like they're going to be filled with good stuff. Friday is more orientation and scooter driving practice, Saturday is hanging out with Ash, a teacher who I observed yesterday, Sunday is heading for the beach at Kenting (possibly with Tim), Monday is getting a health check and visiting the school in Cishan (pronounced Chi-Shan).


The new system I'll use for photos is this: I'll be putting flash slideshows up from now on, and they'll do what you see below, if you have flash. As a one time only amazing incredible offer, I will also link to the same photo album today, in case you don't have flash, for some wacky reason. HERE DA LINK.

Some of these photos were taken while riding my bike in LA, some of them on the plane to Kaohsiung, and some of them at Ching-Cheung Lake (pronounced like the cash-register sound) right here in the city. I haven't taken any pictures of the really awesome temples yet, but we'll get to that.

Oh! And I don't know how often I'll be updating this blog...probably it will be once every few days. For those of you who haven't been reading this blog since its conception (which would be either my parents, or none of you), I originally started writing this to inform people about what was going on in my life in London, when I studied there about 4 years ago. That was how we did it then, and dang gone it, that's how we'll do it now.


Mandarin character of the friggin' day: STOP. Guess why it's important if you're riding around on a scooter?