Thursday, July 31, 2008

happy birthday, martyn

martyn, an older english guy who lives in the dorm, turned an unknown age today. he's definitely more than 30 but who knows. who caaares really. but i don't know the number. we went out to this rib place for dinner, half for wednesday night dinner and half for martyn's birthday. it was soooo tasty. SOOO TASTY. steve and i split a chicken caesar salad and baby back ribs, beans and a baked potato. and i had a margarita and half a glass of red wine because we got a bottle free because of something-or-other i don't really know. anyway i was in heaven. a baked potato with sour cream, cheese and bacon was like to dieeee for. and the ribs were pretty good. being from texas, i think i have higher expectations. but not bad. josh and i are becoming scooter pals. i felt a lot less nervous with a little tequila in me, to be honest. although i do feel very safe with him.

other than that, today went well overall. my wednesday classes were pretty good. they really like to play this game i played with my kids from the leadership camp. if i could remember the games we played there, a lot of them would work well for these classes. all kids like to play cool games that make you think.

after class a girl from the front desk tracked me down and they assigned me a new class on saturday morning at 9. the kids are kindy beginners so they're like 4 years old and this is their very first english class. i've heard they're really fun and sweet. but they have no desks, only chairs. and no books. so it's literally up to you and only you to keep them entertained for an hour and a half. it should be interesting. it's soooo earlyyyy but keith said he'd take me although i feel a little bad for having both of us be up so early. but it would save me an HOUR on the bus. maybe i need to buy a scooter.

just for becca: watched enchanted tonight. rewound the part with How Does She Know so i could watch it twice. the cleaning lady was there and she made extra sure that she didn't cross in front of me watching the tv which i thought was very nice. anyway. best movie ever.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

that's how you know

jerry and i went to taipei this morning to apply for my resident visa and pick his up. he's a week ahead of me in the process. on the way back to the train station, we attempted to go to 'nice coffee' shop, but they didn't speak any english at all. so we started walking again in search of somewhere to eat. while walking, we were discussing The Secret which is a book about self actualization and how your thoughts create your reality. you've read enough of my blog by now to know that i'm a firm believer in it. jerry is completely opposed to it. the book talks about how the jews deserved the holocaust because of something they did in a past life and how starving african kids must have done something to get reborn into that environment, and jerry can't get past that part. i haven't read it and i don't know how i feel about people in extremely poor environments and whether or not they chose/deserve it for some reason, but it's making jerry completely discount the rest of the ideas and it makes me frustrated.
anyway as we were looking for somewhere to eat i was thinking about austin and how it has so many coffee shops all over the place and THEN what do we see but 'austin coffee' and i couldn't believe it. so take that for self actualization.

rode the bus to work with new guy steve today. the more i talk to him, the more i like him. stopped to buy some shoes on the way to the bus. they remind me of gladiators, i don't know why. anyway i love them and when i got to school today there was a memo about not wearing flipflops and i know it was directed at me, so i was really glad i had some closed-toed shoes in my bag.
my class was super fun tonight. i tried this weird game with a chopsticks relay that was way too hard for them. 2 kids were each supposed to hold a chopstick and then together, they hold on to it and run across to the other side of the room. it was impossible so we switched from a penny to a little piece of paper. still hard, but not impossible. they were joking with me because they kept trying to add a syllable to 'language' they wanted to call it 'language-e' and they kept doing it wrong just to spite me. and i tried to draw a grasshopper and they made fun of it for the rest of the class. so we're getting closer every week which is great.

on the way home i decided to go to this fruit lady's stand that i've been eying for a while. i asked for 2 bellfruits and she got them for me and she said 'you also want this' and was pointing to a giant peeled pear thing that i knowww are fancy because they come wrapped in tissue paper in carrefour, and i don't know why but i just said sure, whatever, i'll take the pear. so then she says ok it's $175 and i said honestly? and she asked if i wanted some salt and sugar stuff on them and then came back with, ok $135 and i rolled my eyes and said OK and then she ended with $130. it was delicious though it's very taiwanese how it comes in a plastic bag with these little pokers that you can skewer your food with and eat it as you walk. this is a piece of bell fruit. it tastes like.. the consistency of watermelon but with kind of a grassy, organic plant taste. it was really good with the salt/sugar stuff on it

then i came home and attempted to make spanish rice with the chicken/tomato bullion majjy sent. it was reaaally salty but still pretty good.

spent a couple of hours talking to keith. who knooows whats happening with that. he's like what you would picture if you think of a guy who does yoga. wears solid colored, loose cotton clothes. has kind of a relaxed, everything happens for a reason mentality. he loves where he's from and loves his family, is a vegetarian and thoughtful and good. he's the best match i've met so far and it freaks me out. i just don't know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

lucky.

i didn't realize that i didn't really mention it yesterday, but school was canceled today because of the typhoon. they called us at like 11pm which is why we had the whole scrabble tournament. anyway we had really heavy rain and wind all through the night but then today we barely had anything. we were afraid to answer the phone all day in case it was someone telling us that we had to go to work since it wasn't even raining :P

i kept going back to sleep this morning since it was dark out and i knew i didn't have to be anywhere. eventually i walked over to the coffee shop on the other side of the park and i had a wonderful vanilla latte. i was the only one in there so i settled into a low velvet chair at a cute little table and did lesson plans for an hour and a half or so, intermittently petting the funnily groomed golden retriever they have there. they left a little fluff ball at the end of its tail and left its head so it seems like a lion.

then i went back to the dorm and serena and i were hungry so the 2 of us walked to carrefour and had foodcourt food. i had pretty good chicken dumpling soup that i had with jerry like a month ago. my chopstick skills have improved considerably. afterwards, i went to starbucks to do some more lesson plans.

there was a man sitting next to me at starbucks who i noticed kept glancing over at me, and at one point he asked where i was from, so we started chatting. his name is paul and he's from canada. he's been living here for 8 years and he married a taiwanese woman. he just opened an english school a year ago and he saw my lesson plan books and asked all about my classes and what i think of taiwan. i told him that i've learned some lessons about teaching and about myself. he decided that i was a 'sweet' person and that i would be a good teacher with the right training so he offered me a part time job in september. he said he knew one person who teaches at my school and it turns out that it was keith. i thought that was a ridiculous coincidence because keith and i have been spending a lot of time together and i told paul that and he had a whole bunch of things to tell me about him. he said keith's a genuinely good person who enjoys teaching and is good at it. (as a side note, i can't deny that there are some sparkles there. i'm still waiting to see what happens, but as of right now, i can't find any major flaws. will keep you posted.)
it just seemed like it was all meant to happen. paul even mentioned that he believes that life works out the way it's meant to and that we were supposed to meet today and that he's sure i'll fit in well there.

tonighttt natalie, alan, leila, josh and i went to the mall to see batman. it wasnt starting for like an hour after we got there, so we went and had dinner at subway. it wasn't as disappointing as most "american food" here is, but it wasn't the same. pretty close. not quite.
the movie was awesome though. it was extra creepy since heath ledger died after filming it and he played a creepy villain. it had reaaally cool special effects. i would see it again. afterwards, josh decided he wanted to be like batman and drive really fast down back alleys on the scooter on the way home, so we start going down some random street and this vicious dog comes out of nowhere and starts barking at us and chasing us. i was terrified but we got away pretty quickly.

that was my night. taipei tomorrow to apply for my resident visa.

Monday, July 28, 2008

quickaly


the kids add an extra syllable to a lot of words ...and-a, quick-a-ly, beth-u. there are millions of words they do it with, i don't know why i can't think of many right now.

after beth and i got back from carrefour this afternoon, i took a long, delightful nap. i hadn't slept well the night before so i needed some catching up. when i woke up, i went upstairs and everyone was playing monopoly and then someone looked on the school's website and found out that school was canceled tomorrow because of the typhoon, so we had a scrabble tournament. everyone in the dorm was in the living room except for emil and steve. it was so much fun. josh made yummy nachos and it's alan's birthday and serena found some silky pink jammies in a storage closet so we gave them to him as a joke. it was pretty funny. he put modeled them for us and it was pretty entertaining.

and we had our own 'nail spa' as they call it. i painted little hearts on my nails. and beth did hers too. josh painted one of dena's hands but no one got a picture of it. it was really rainy and windy the whole time and we were all cozy inside playing games. it seemed like what you should be doing when there's a typhoon outside. a few of them went walking in it to 'experience' it, and i don't think they're back yet.

anyway leila beat me by like 40 points the first game and then josh, leila, noe and i played another game and i lost to josh by 10 or something silly because i inadvertently pointed out what word i was going to play and he blocked me. otherwise i would have won. oh well. anyway all of us were out there together until like 230 or so. it was a lot of fun. then keith and i discussed a whole bunch of things for a few hours and now i'm headed to bed at almost 5 am. no schoooll! i'm going to use the day to do my lesson plans and hang out.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

typhoonin'

I took some random pictures yesterday. The first one is of the park where i catch the bus, aptly named 'olympic park'. it's right across from 'corner guy' who's a guy who has a little restaurant on the corner. i didn't take a picture of his restaurant, but i will some time. i've only been there once so it isn't that important to me, but he's big with the teachers here. mainly josh.

the next picture is the side of the school where i live. all of the schools have the lit up green sign, but ours is the only building with a giant emblem on it. i think because ours is the biggest one. we have 5 floors. i live on the 4th, but you can't see my room in that picture.

yesterday i hardly did a thing. i woke up late, went to latini's with dena, steve, jerry, noe and justin. it was delicious as usual. i had cheese pizza, which i've never ordered there, and it was fantastic. the crust was good, the sauce was good, it had real cheese on it. you really learn to appreciate good food here because there's so little of it. for example, beth and i went to lunch today at this place called Hawana (an attempt at Havana) and ordered vanilla lattes and "ham sandwich on rye" which was really a mystery meat sandwich with hot corn and tomato that was in a sweet orange mayonnaise, on a white roll with more orange sauce all over the top of it. you were supposed to eat it with your hands though. so basically it was a big corn-ham-and-orange sauce mess.

anyway yesterday beth and i walked in to the spa on the way out of latini's since it's right next door pretty much and they talked me into getting a treatment because it was on special this week. first i showered, then i got scrubbed with salt, then i showered, then i was covered in mud, wrapped in a giant sheet of plastic, covered in towels and left to marinate for half an hour. then i showered and was slathered with lotion. it was delightful. it was funny because the girl who did my treatment didn't speak english so she had nicky write down notes for her on a little piece of paper, and she tried to read off it for a while and then she finally gave up and just started handing me the cards and having me read the instructions myself; 'please take quick shower'.

the whole experience was very good. margaret painted my nails again. i asked what happened with her husband since last time we talked, i told her that american/canadian men cook and clean and she should tell her husband. so she said she told him and he didn't say anything for a day and then the next day, she got up and he had picked up his clothes a little bit. she was pleased. i love margaret. she says 'cool, cool' a lot and she listens very intently and she likes to compare america and taiwan. she's always saying 'in taiwan..'
as i was leaving, i asked them if they knew of any yoga studios so they called one of their clients who just started going to a place down the street and they looked up all sorts of things online for me and we found a studio that's very close. they also looked up a bunch of websites about what to do in taipei. i mentioned hot springs and museums and they showed me a lot of interesting places i could go. so that was nice. i spent 3 hours there total.

then i came home and dena wanted sushi in the worst way, so we trudged all around the block but couldn't find anything. we ended up going to carrefour and then we took my roof blanket and went to the park to lie in the grass for a while. we watched the clouds zip by and it sprinkled a little, and then an hour later it was sprinkling and then all of the sudden it just started POURING down rain.


those are pictures of the park. it's surrounded on all sides by major roads that have lots of places to eat. watami, tapenyaki, fridays, the aboriginal place and latini's are all on the outer edges of the park.

todayy i havent done much either. beth and i went to that Hawana place and we went to carrefour to buy water because we're supposed to get a major typhoon tonight and tomorrow. they think school will be cancelled. i've never seen so many people in carrefour. there must have been thousands. it was crazy. people were buying tons of water and fruit and random things. candy. but it had a sense of impending typhoon doom.

Friday, July 25, 2008

demo day

before i start talking about my day; aunt nancy died today. she was 92. she was super sweet and we'll all miss her. my memories of her are eating popsicles on her porch and playing with the kittens that lived in her backyard. so keep gram in your thoughts.

today i had two demo's. the first one was pretty good. gene brought his guitar and i played the tambourine for the songs which was hilarious as you can probably imagine. we sang do re mi like professionals though. i was so happy for them. a lot of parents came. i'm not sure if they were impressed or not. lots of them had blank looks on their faces. probably because they don't speak english and we were all speaking english. anyway the kids did great.

my second one also went very well. i took a picture of them doing the 'peanuuuut' move in the peanut butter and jelly song. aren't they so cute! the younger kids' parents seemed a little more interested in what we were doing. probably because they haven't been to that many demo's yet. anyway afterwards, the parents all went into this room and i went up and they were sitting around tables like it was a UN meeting or something. they all had name cards with their kids names on them, and i was in the very front in the middle like the honored guest. so i went around the room and read the paragraph i had written about each of their kids and then elaine, my coteacher, translated for me. afterwards, they all talked in very fast chinese about who knows what.
this is me looking all teachery for demo day. i felt like a teacher on open house night. i guess it was kind of the equivalent. normally i wear jeans and tank tops or t shirts or shorts, and tonight the kids were like 'ooh teacher you're wearing earrings and shoes that aren't flip flops!'

anywayy on my way home, the bus stopped for a long time and i looked out and saw a FIRE coming from the building in front of us. our bus was in between the fire and the fire truck, it was silly. there was a layer of ashes covering the street and the scooters next to us. we were perfectly safe, but we did get waylaid a good half hour. i was mad at myself because my intuition told me to take a taxi home. i was wearing those high heels and my feet were tired from standing for 4 hours, but nooo i haddd to take the bus. next time i want to take a taxi, i'm taking a taxi.

ok im going to eat something and go to bed. i have to wake up at 8 tomorrow which is going to be impossible since ive been getting up at noon or one.

11 or somethin'

today as i was getting on the second bus to da chu, i sit in my seat and begin to adjust the air conditioning when this woman in front of me says 'megan!' and it was julie huang, the grandma of a kid i teach on wednesdays. she's the one who gave me a ride home a few weeks ago. i got up and sat next to her and she talked to the bus driver and it turned out that the driver was planning on parking on some back road for like 20 minutes because he was about to switch off with someone else and he had to make up some time or something. so she offered me a ride to school. that isn't really true. she told me to get off the bus and come see her son's office and her "mansion" which really meant "apartment building".

anyway i saw klaus' office. he was happy to see me again it seemed. on the bus, julie called him and was like 'megan is sitting next to me. MEGAN. MEGAN. MEGAN. MAGGIE. MAGGIE. you're going to give her a ride to school.' aaand she introduced me to her security guard, and i met her husband who was wearing an undershirt, sitting in a wheelchair. she gave me a glass of what i think was prune juice and she insisted that i could leave once i had drunk all of it. anyway she is super nice. i like julie. while we were walking to her apartment, she said 'i don't have any daughters. you can be like my daughter' and i kind of smiled and laughed and she was like 'that's not crazy! you can be my daughter.'

school was good. i played a game dena told me about with some squeaky chew toys for dogs and even my impossible-to-please WOW class liked it. it's fun. you have 2 kids leave the room, give a toy to 2 kids, have everyone hide their hands under the desks, and then the kids come back in and i say "SQUEAK" and everyone pretends to squeak and then the kids who left the room have to guess who has a toy. if they guess right, the person who had it has to ask a QA, if they get it wrong, they have to ask a QA. it's fun.

josh and i went to get thai food after for everyone in the whole dorm. it took us about an hour but it was good. aaand now i'm going to go mingle.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

i do not drawl

gram's box got here today! look how much chicken noodle soup i have now:














it's funny how you become a mini-ambassador for whatever you represent since you're the only one of whatever a lot of people have met. like america. i've talked to a lot of taiwanese kids and people who have never met an american other than me. and texas. sometimes i say things with a weird accent that isn't texan, it's just megan, and everyone thinks it's texas and it's not.

today was pretty funny. this morning keith took me to school on his scooter because he was going to go to the gym so it was semi-convenient. anyway, we got off the scooter and went to 7-11 to get drinks and then i hugged him when we said goodbye and i said thank you and when i walked inside the school, a million little girls in my classes who had been watching us from inside the windows were like 'TEACHER WHO IS THATTTT? IS THAT YOUR BOYFRIENDD?' and the girls at the front office were telling them what to say and it was just so funny. they were SO loud when i walked through the doors that keith heard them from 15 feet away and turned around to see what the commotion was about. it was hilarious.

oh man speaking of hilarious. so i was teaching this book called 'side by side' and the page we were on was about questions you ask to check for understanding like 'the hotel by the park?' and i read them and then they read after me and they were making fun of my inflection and making the last word go up really high in pitch and i just started laughing and couldn't stop. it was like we finally hit this point where they felt comfortable enough to make fun of me and i was just so happy and thought it was so cute that i got the giggles and i couldn't stop. my coteacher had to teach for the next few minutes while i tried to stop laughing.

other than that, we went to tapenyaki for wednesday night dinner. i had crab and it comes with like.. sauteed cabbage and bean sprouts and rice. it was good. i was hungry. the new people didn't eat very much, i think due to lack of chopstick skills and general uncomfort. it reminded me of myself. we went there my first week here and i barely ate any of my food because i just felt so weird and i hadn't gotten used to taiwanese food yet. that's been the main thing with the new people being here. i feel like i've come suuuch a long way just with knowing how things work and liking it here in general.

hope you read some of the sweet potato times. at least read the section on teaching. it's so accurate.

oh! and serena bought me these tacky taiwanese leggings. i wore them today and my classes were impressed with how tacky-taiwan-fabulous i was. i love them. people were giving me the funniest looks. the picture is of one of my legs from the side. it's kind of a weird angle i guess? anyway they have rhinestone bows AND lace AND a drawstring thing AND a polka dotted bow. i wore them today with a short babydoll dress and then the leggings. it was so taiwan.

sweet potato times, issue 1

jerry wrote this awesome newsletter for his friends and family that covers a lot of things about taiwan in great detail. i thought you might want to read or skim it.

The Sweet Potato Times: A Primer

Hello friends and family! Welcome to the Sweet Potato Times. I have decided to start this newsletter to keep everyone informed on my life here in Taiwan. I need to give a shout out to my friend and do-gooder Ross Jensen for the inspiration and the format of this Newsletter. As they say, good artists borrow – great artists steal.


A more enlightening version - with photos - is attached as a PDF.

I hope to share some of the idiosyncrasies and beauty of the culture here and let you all know I'm still alive. Please, if I have in my hastiness over-sighted anyone from receiving this mail, let me know their e-mail addresses. Should you wish to be removed, that is insane. Moreover, It's my understanding that Taiwan means "Sweet Potato," as the island is shaped like a sweet potato. It really does look like a sweet potato. And so this is "The Sweet Potato Times."


(This is where a picture would be) (And here)

Sweet Potatoes Taiwan


Arrival

After twenty-four hours in airplanes and airports, I arrived safely at Taoyuan City Airport, exactly twelve hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone. Hello from the future. It is hot, humid, and rich with smells. Immediately I imagine that this is what a rainforest sloth must feel like. I'm beginning to regret bringing twenty long-sleeve dress shirts and only two polo shirts. The airport, however, has a bit air-conditioning and marble bathrooms. My trip through customs is uneventful, though confusing. There is no English here, save a few misspelled, broken phrases. This will become a point of annoyance and comfort over the course of the next weeks: though I'm consistently confused, I can come to expect that confusion.

My contact at the airport, I believe his name is Tom, is about thirty minutes behind schedule. Later I will learn that this is almost a ritual with Tom, but now I'm stealing free Wi-Fi from something called CAFE SANDWICH! and sending SOS e-mails to my coordinator here. A futile attempt to use a pay phone reveals Tom at the doorway, with broken English and a bit of a harried look on his face, but a smile that immediately endeared him to me.

As I'm sitting in his car on the way to get a first glimpse of my apartment, Tom speaks rapidly about the sites in Taiwan and the set-up with Gloria English Schools. My first impression of the city is of a grey morning and industry shooting up from fields of trash and tall grass, everything running together. The streets are like that too: cars, bicycles, scooters, old men with fruit carts, people crossing, everyone one big massive organism of life and bustle. Tom says that this will take some getting used to. We are in Taoyuan City, Taoyuan County: "peach garden," though I've yet to see a peach. If Taipei is New York, Taoyuan is like an industrialized Chicago. The disordered, natural feel of the place puts me oddly at home.

As we get closer I have a brief conversation with my roommate, partner-in-crime, and siren-call for Taiwan, Alex Guppy. It's hard to imagine that, as two twenty-some-things running into each-other at a leadership conference in Washington, D.C., we would two years later be hanging out drinking beers in Taiwan. Of course, today, Alex saunters out as if someone is delivering a pizza, shakes my hand, and we travel through security guarded gates up to the elevator which will take us to our 12th story apartment, affectionately called "The Palace."


The Sites and The Excitement

As if my arrival was not intense enough, Alex decided that I ought to immerse myself in an entirely different kind of culture: namely a strip of dance clubs known affectionately as "Thai Disco." There doesn't seem to be a great deal of information about these places online, but with an influx of foreigners from Thailand and other poorer nations coming to work in Taiwan, there are a plethora of clubs immersed in these foreign cultures which strictly forbid Chinese from coming in on the fun... still leaving doors open for Westerners. My trip to Thai Disco began with delicious Thai food –unidentifiable—and ended with spice in my eye, four beers, a sweat-drenched shirt, and four hours of dancing in a club with two-hundred Thai people, many eager to shake my hand. So. It. Goes.

My friend Megan and I also made the trip up to Taipei 101, currently the worlds tallest building open to the public, which also holds the record for the fastest elevator (soon to be over-shadowed by construction in Dubai... like all things.) The base of this awe-inspiring building is filled with six stories of the most expensive stores the mind can imagine: an Italian fiesta from Gucci to Dolce. Above this sits, one assumes, rows and rows of offices and other such commercial excitement, though we skipped all this, straight to the 83rd floor up the super-fast elevator. We also saw the super-big wind damper which keeps the building standing in wind and earth-quakes, which is a giant yellow ball, though I prefer the sign leading up to the thing.

The view from the 83rd Floor Super Big

I also made my visit to Fulong Beach in the North of Taipei, a scenic vista known for its beautiful beaches, abundant sun, and awesome surfing. Well, we had all the intention in the world of surfing, but found ourselves waiting around for the Winter tides to come rolling in: a period of time long enough to char my back into one sheet of dead, burnt skin. On the plus side, the green, rolling mountains encircling the crystal-clear ocean around the beach were breath-taking, and the famous Lunch Boxes of Fulong were filled with a delicious medley of foods. After we're certified, Fulong also offers some of the best scuba-diving around: look for Jerry-with-puffer-fish in the near future.

After a long Saturday night of hanging out in the Jingho clubs and eating at the ever-greasy Moss Burger, I embarked with about ten other foreigners on an effort clean a local beach here. We spent about four hours cleaning up the beach, sharing laughs and drinks, and, by the end, had made a surprising dent in the area. Though at times we questioned why we were there, while finding the syringe parts of needles and Monopoly houses and about thirty-seven shoes (none with it's rightful match), the beach clean effort was met with support by many on the beach, who chipped in and bagged with an amazing strength. The guard at the front of the beach saluted us while we took the trash to the grass to be picked up by the government. In that moment, to know that we had given a little back to this country which has given me so much... this was the best moment here so far.


Teaching

I can only assume that some of you have been wondering if and when I've been doing any actual WORK here in Taiwan. I'm looking at you mom and dad. Well, rest assured, I've been doing some things. My first week at Gloria English Schools was extremely stressful, as I came at just the right time to pick up a ton of classes. Good, right? Well, after seeing two-hundred new students, ranging from the ages of 3-17, and thirteen new co-teachers, at two different schools, things can become quite confusing. Now imagine you have no idea what you're doing.

I came at just the right time to pick up thirteen different classes, but not at the right time for training. Slowly, I remembered that I was, in fact, a native speaker of English, and things started to fall into place. There are now clearly three types of classes: classes without desks which run around me for an hour and a half, classes with desks that yell at me for an hour and a half, and classes which I can actually talk to but are frequently asleep. My typical day is consumed by a mere four hours of work, an hour of lesson plans/commute/getting sticky-balls and large dice to play more games. I work Mondays-Saturdays, mostly nights when the students are off of their regular schooling. Right now is summer vacation, so we try to play three games instead of two.

I've recently finished my training and will have my Alien Resident Certificate (read: health insurance) through the school, so fret not about my scootering family and friends (Read Below.) The health-care system here is remarkably cheap in co-pays, is filled with English-speaking doctors, and on the top of lists world-wide. Money is good. I suppose I could tell you more about my classes and responsibilities and demos, but I'd like the brevity of this discussion to reflect the brevity of my time actually spent working.

In some respects, I have been looking towards the future as well: I've spent my free-time in the mornings and afternoons reading frequently and writing a great deal, this newsletter for instance. I've got a number of screenplays in the works, including Galoshes, and hope to be finished on at least two before my year is out. A lofty goal, but one worth shooting for, and one definitely attainable with this level of work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are you eating? What's with the food? Can you get American food?

A: Perhaps the most surprising thing about Taiwan is something all-America: the abundance of 7-11s which are open on every corner. These are not your ordinary 7-11's, however, carrying an amazing amount of different instant foods which 7-11 will nuke for you. And, yes, Slurpees. Aside from this easy access which all foreigners flock to when they arrive, the American food here is often lost in translation. Enjoy burritos now, for you will never taste one quite the same upon arriving. There are "American" dishes here which will redefine the very soul of American food for you, often negatively an irreparably. Avoid Italian food like the plague.

Slowly, however, you begin to appreciate the fact you can get three containers of delicious, freshly-cut fruit for 100NT, or roughly three dollars USD. The fruit here is amazing in diversity and unbelievably juicy. Octopus on a stick and real Bi-Bim-Bop are unbeatable here. Slowly, you begin to appreciate the local buffets and the attempts to make American food, and, if all else fails, you can go into Taipei and order any dish from any culture, anywhere, and have it made exactly to your specifications. Even a burrito, so I am told.

This seems like an awesome time to mention my third partner-in-crime here for the last twenty days, and the next twenty, my friend and colleague Erin Kilburn, as she is also the inspiration of family dinner night. She made us all a delicious chicken and pineapple salad. Erin is a queen and a terror, and you never know what you're going to get. Erin is the best.

Q: ...And the bathrooms?

A: You do not have to poop into a hole, though I have, and did not fall in. Nay, I lived. There are usually toilets in every restaurant. Tissue paper, oddly, does not come on a roll, but in a little bag. Sometimes this is inconvenient, as you must buy tissue paper in bags at malls and other public places, in machines like condom machines. You shouldn't flush that stuff down, apparently, though I've yet to encounter a clog if the necessity strikes or I forget.

Q: Can you get me a Macintosh Computer?

A: Sadly, no. While food and rent here are extraordinarily cheap, and taxes are minimal, electronics and common house-hold items retain their value quite well. Thank you, Globalization.

Q: When are you coming home?

A: I'm set-in here for at least a year, barring some sort of amazing offer from back-home or a calamity. I may be making a surprise trip back in January or sometime in this vicinity, so don't make any plans for a month before and after January.

Q: You're driving now!?!?!

A: The rumors are true. I am a driver. I own a 125cc scooter which, save for the grace of God, should be in shambles by now. But, after my first week in anything-goes traffic, I've developed a sharp eye and a steady, steely gaze. I can see an old man with a fruit cart through two buses, five scooters, and eight cars. The amazing thing about this traffic is that horn-honking is not offensive, but a friendly signal. The first impression I received upon arriving is true: in the absence of any real heavy police force, in the presence of a unified driving culture, I am a phenomenal driver and right at home. In other words, it's hard to screw up.

Q: Earthquakes? Typhoons?

A: Sort of. I experienced an earth-quake here about a week ago, which was little more than a slight dizzy spell and noticing that the chandelier had taken an unexpected slant, slowly waving back and forth. Erin confirmed this terror-quake.

Typhoons are a different beast: while they usually sweep in from the south, hit the mountains and dissipate, sometimes they swing in from the left side, around the sweet potato. These are the ones that hit us hard.

During these types of storms, water can be backed up for up to a week, so we always have a few jugs on hand, and a refill station across the street. Buildings here are built to withstand nuclear bombs, so what a typhoon really means is cancelled school and a chance to go bowling.

As of yet, the only thing we've experienced is soggy socks and pants. These have, during my teaching, been more disastrous than any natural disaster. I've discovered the true value of raincoats and water-proof shoes, the latter of which I don't own. A fan, a drier, and a gust of wind have all become invaluable friends during these times.

Q: Can I come? Someone I know wants to come!

A: Anyone is welcome to come and visit, provided you bring me some tomato soup. I love working for Gloria, so anyone wishing to come work needs only drop me a line at this e-mail, I can provide you with a ton of information.

Q: Has the Ox Cart arrived with your mail?

A: No, but here's my address. You do not need the Chinese, but best to print this out and paste it on the envelope for speedy delivery.

台灣

桃園市

民有東路3211

Jerry

Jerry
MinYouDongLu #32, Building 11
Taoyuan City, Taiwan


we do it every day

i need to go to bed immediately so this will be the quick version.

went to carrefour, bought a whole ton of ready meals. curry stuff, pasta stuff, leek dumplings, popsicles, guava juice.

went to class. tuesday is still a good day. can't remember at least half the names in there which makes me feel bad.

i think i've formed a lasting bond with the corner lady who cooks me rice and pea pods, carrots and mystery vegetable that i think is japanese eggplant cut into long strips? but i have no idea. she kept saying 'no meat!' so i know it isn't meat, i just don't know what it is.

came home and went upstairs in my towel to take a shower and there were a whole ton of people in the living room who were going bowling so i ditched the shower and went bowling with kat, gill, the new guy Noe (in a minute), and jen. keith came and met us there after a game. we had fun. i love bowling in any country and i got 2nd place the 3rd game because keith was antagonizing me.

Noe got here this morning. he's from McAllen, TX. he went with me to carrfour "to buy clips" and i asked what for and he said to hang up his texas flag in his window. i told him i taped mine up :P oh, texans. i guess you can take us away from texas but we all have a bit of it in us.

time for bed! class at 1:30 tomorrow. keith's going to give me a ride so i can save 45 min that i would have spent on the bus. i think i'm ready for a scooter. we'll see.

Monday, July 21, 2008

it's how they've always been and they intend to stay

presotea and i went to war today. there's this little tea stand where i've been getting jasmine green tea, and today natalie and i took the bus together and we went to presotea before we parted ways and i ordered my tea, unzipped my purse and realized i had forgotten to take my wallet out of my tiny Lohas bag when i went to carrefour the other day, so i had no money. thank goodness natalie was with me so she bought it for me.
then tonight i went back on my way back from school to get another tea because now i had money because they pay us in cash every day after we teach. anyway earlier i had bought these weird 'beef noodles' and i thought i had 20 dollars in change, so i ordered a $20 tea but when i went to take the money out of my pocket, i only had $15 (the $10 and $5 are both silver and i hadn't paid that much attention to the change i got back from the beef noodles, obviously), so i had to pay for a $20 tea with a $1000 bill. the girl was laughing at me.

i gave a test today in my first class and it went pretty well. the kids are all excited because the class after next, we get to go to mc donalds. next class we're practicing how to order something off the menu. my coteacher, jasmine, and i get to pretend to be the cashiers and have them order from us. apparently you get cool points if you buy all of the kids ice cream at the end. i think they cost 15 cents each so i think i can handle it :P i'm excited. i really like that group of kids. they're kind of hyper but they're good. memorable names in there: boldwin, kitty, eason (which was probably supposed to be ethan?), andd i guess that's it in there. one kid named jeff. nothing like the jeff i know and love though :P

my other monday class continues to be adorable. i really like my coteacher in there, carol. she calls them 'babies' all the time and its fun. she picks up whenever i'm lagging and she's fun and loud and i like her a lot. today before class i was talking to a bunch of the coteachers. my favorite group is there. christine, carol, elaine, jasmine, and chelsey who's new. i gave her my email address tonight. i hope we end up being friends.

we got another new person in the dorm today, justin. he seems nice. it's hard to tell about anyone so soon. he seems pretty quiet. he taught in south korea before coming to taiwan and he taught in southern taiwan for the last 2 months but he wanted to be closer to taipei. he's from chicago.
there's also a new nametag on another door that says 'Noe' which we don't know how to pronounce/can't figure out what gender the person will be. i guess we'll find out soon enough though.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

12 shoes, a llama, and a boquet of roses

i just painted my nails so this will be slow going.
today i woke up laaaate! like 1130. i cant even imagine sleeping that late at home. but you really don't miss anything here. i guess theoretically i could be doing something productive in that time, but for now i'm enjoying sleeping late.

what did i do this morning. now i can't remember. i think i just sat in the living room and talked to beth for a while. she's the only other girl here who's into makeup and girly things. i guess natalie kind of is but she doesn't really talk about it. beth goes to the spa and we can talk about girly things which is fun.

eventually i woke josh up and we went to jon's apartment to meet with people who were going to a beach to pick up trash. the deal is that it's the closest beach to us that you can just drive to. there are a lot you could take a train to i guess. but this beach is full of trash. so jon organized a beach clean up and about 8 of us started off and then we eventually got up to like 15 i think. we made a noticeable difference. there were about a million plastic cups and plastic bags, diapers, glow sticks, bottles and juice boxes. notably.. 15 shoes (none that matched), a boquet of dried roses, this giant woolly thing that can only be described as a llama, a monopoly house, and a broom. it was a hilarious/good spirited crowd. they were singing random songs and we had lots of funny conversations and lots of random taiwanese people started picking up trash with us. it was a good day. i kept reapplying sunscreen even though i was covered in sand. we were wearing rubber gloves and when you took one off, there was a good like half cup of sweat that you could pour out of it. it was pretty disgusting. anyway we did that for like 4 hours and then came home and showered.

tonight a bunch of us from the dorm went to dinner. we headed for tapenyaki, this japanese place we went my first week here, but it's sunday night and everything was packed, so we ended up at TGIFridays. i had a jack daniels cheeseburger and a cherry coke and i could have died i was so happy. i didn't eat much before the beach thing and my body was aching from yoga and bending down at the beach all day and food and air conditioning was so good. when i got home, keith and i played scrabble and i beat him by 4 points. he's never lost before apparently, but he's only been playing for 3 months.

one random thing:
beetle nut girls: there are these magenta, lit up boxes all along the side of the road with plexiglass on the front and these girls sitting on stools rolling up beetle nut which is some kind of tobaccoish thing that stains your teeth really red and gives you mouth cancer apparently. there are big patches of ground everywhere that are dyed red from the beetle nut being spit out.
the girls wear these ridiculous outfits, high high heels and will commonly walk out to a car and lean inside the window to talk to the guy. it's odd. they're everywhere.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Betel_Nut_Beauty_Stand.jpg

stars shinin' bright above me

no work today! it was a proper weekend. or first half of one. this morning i slept late, went to latini's for lunch and did my lesson plans. had a panini and an espresso ice cream. this time they gave me two scoops of ice cream. on my way out, the owner? asked if i was from canada since most of the foreigners are, i told him no i'm from texas. i don't know why but i didn't stick around to chat any more than that. latini's is another place that it's easy to be in 'the now'. the music is relaxing, it smells like baking bread and pasta sauce, and they have mint water. i could live there. i kind of do. i've been there 4 times this week.

then dena and i went into town to try to find shirts for jeff and matt. we found one that was very funny, almost as funny as reaax your vilace, but it had a girly v-neck so i didn't buy it. i did buy a delicious jasmine tea from this tea place, and i introduced dena to those pancake things i love. i didn't buy myself anything all day which was a miracle since they have a ton of sparkley things i thought i might need.

i got a ride home with keith because he was teaching downtown. he mentioned that he was going to yoga so i asked if i could tag along. everyone here goes to this gym in a mall called thai mall that's way far away. 20 minutes on the scooter. we park in a parking garage full of thousands of scooters and then go in the doors and i look inside and it's like.. a night club full of mirrors and neon lights and rope lights, but it was the gym. you walk into a room full of all sorts of exercise machines and it has glass on the far wall so you can look downtstairs where there was a whole skating rink, basketball courts, what looked like skating ramps, and a whole bunch of other things. the "yoga studio" was elevated like 2 feet from the first room, enclosed in glass so everyone could look in, and decked out in neon. it was the most bizarre place i've ever done yoga. and it was taught in chinese. my previous yoga knowledge kept me afloat, but i'm so out of shape after not having done anything in a month that my body is really feeling tired tonight. anyway i'm going to try to find a real yoga studio that's closer to home to go to before i sign up for the pricey night club/gym membership.

then we went home and he was going to carrefour and i had nothing to do so i went too. he showed me a secret passage way to get there that i'm going to use from now on. it's basically a 2 foot wide alley that runs between apartment buildings. it probably saves you 5 minutes of walking. anyway i bought a million things that i think jeff and matt neeeeed, and a few things for myself. cous cous, andes mints, and a cute teeny tiny new khaki Lohas bag. it was jam packed full of people in there on saturday night. i've never seen so many people. it was crazy. we shopped quickly and got mint chocolate chip ice cream in waffle cones to eat on the way home and i think i'm going to get one every time i go to carrefour from now on. it was so good.

i just made some cous cous, which i didn't like at home but i get cravings for it here, and now i'm headed to bed.

news from home:
-matt got hired at this burger place called mighty fine
-pierre, my friend marisa's dad, who went to ballet with us on saturdays, got hit by a van when he was on his bike and has neck and spine injuries but is mentally fine. if you could send positive his thoughts his way, that would be lovely.
-stacy schwab got married last weekend

Saturday, July 19, 2008

could it happen in a movie?

i forgot to tell you the best part about yesterday!
you know how i stayed up until 5am the other day to watch the episode of bizarre foods taiwan that didn't end up coming on? i was sitting watching tv yesterday afternoon and it magically came on! i was so thrilled. bizarre foods is this show where a former chef/foodie, andrew zimmern, travels around the world and eats the weirdest crap he can find in various countries. in taiwan, he ate stinky tofu, BLACK CHICKENNN! (which i had my first week here), and durien, among other things. he spit out the tofu and the durien. and he eats all kinds of things. bugs. organs of all kinds. keith was watching it with me and he was nearly in tears laughing. though it doesn't take a lot to make him giggle like a school girl. keith is probably my favorite person here but he is definitely weird. he does a lot of yoga, grew up on some canadian island, is studying to take the MCAT, and has the most mischievous smile of anyone i've ever met.

so todayy i woke up because it was raining hard outside my window, pinging my air conditioning unit, because we had a TYPHOON for crying out loud. it was hovering over the bottom of the island pretty much all day long, dumping lots of water on us. apparently they cancel school if it gets really bad, but it wasn't that bad today. it was good rain though. usually it just kind of sprinkles for 20 minutes on and off all day, but today we got hard rain that you could hear and see and it lasted for 5 hours or so. i curled up on the couch upstairs under the quilt gram made me and read my book for most of the morning, listening to the rain. it was lovely.

before i got on the second bus to go to school, i went in to starbucks in the fancy mall and got a vanilla latte and a panini. the panini was groooosss. it was dark meat chicken with radioactively yellow cheese on a microwaved, sesame bun. with mustard. but the latte was perfect. i don't drink coffee at home but on a rainy day there's something comforting about it. i started reading the power of now last night and so today i was trying to focus on the moment. it's much harder than it seems like it would be. there's always something to look forward to.

at school we practiced our demo's in both classes. in my first one, gene had written out the whole thing which was fantastic since i have no idea what i'm doing. the kids really like him. they have the boy bond. that class is all boys and 4 girls. i want to get them on video singing 'do re mi'. picture 20 taiwanese kids singing a song from the sound of music, pronouncing all of the M's as N's and not really knowing what they're saying. it is so funny. he even taught them the 'do mi mi, mi so so, re fa fa, la ti ti' part.

this girl and her brother always come up to me when they see me outside of class and i feel bad because i can't remember her name. it's sally, but i always think it's ruby. i have a ruby, sally, annie, candy or cindy in every class and i don't know why but all of those names mesh together in my head. her brother's name is fred. he's in my monday night class. he's adorable but he doesn't know much english at all.

anyway so tonight between classes, alex and i went to get mango smoothies that were pretty good and i bought some hair clips. here's the thing with the fashion here. it's trashy and cheap and ugly, but i've seen so much of it that at this point i actually am starting to like it. bright colors, glittery or bedazzled things, really tacky stripper high heels, headbands and suspenders are all very popular here. and the weirdest hair baubles and clips you can find. today i bought a polka dotted heart, a big yellow bow, and a weird pink barrette with flowers on it.
one of my coteachers had a buzz lightyear hair thingy one day, an american flag patterned ball the next day, and what was the last one.. oh, stitch from lilo and stitch yesterday. in her hair.

after class, alex took me to his apartment and we met up with jerry and the 3 of us went to this aborigine-themed restaurant. i ordered lamb that was pretty good. and we had tofu that they couldn't stop raving about. it was alright. not my favorite at all. tofu is like.. egg custard in a square. i dont know why people like it. it doesn't taste like anything and it feels like jelly in my mouth. anyway we drank 6, 1-liter taiwan beer's between us and had lots of hilarious conversations. they have a policy that they only want to do things that could be made into a movie. boys!

so it was a good day. tomorrow i'm on a mission to buy the weirdest stuff i can find to send home to jeff and matt and i want to take some pictures of stuff so you can see what it's like here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

heaven knows it's high time

http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=9P8e1EkZ1ug&feature=related
that is the prettiest song. i love it. i'm not sure if the link will work for you since it's the taiwanese youtube? but just search this years love by david gray

i dont know how i feel about thursdays. my first class is really good and my second class is horrible. they speak chinese the whole time and i don't know how to stop it. so far i've been the good cop, i'm going to try changing tactics next week. we'll see.

i don't really have a lot to say about today. another box from maj and faj came. it was stocked with gravy mix, which i didn't ask for but i thought about once the box was already in the mail so i'm glad it was in there, and the best spaghetti sauce in the woooorld, tank tops, shorts, flip flops, twizzlers, and random other things. the power of now. i'm pretty excited about all of it. i'm going to wear one of the tank tops tomorrow. thanks fam :)

we're supposed to get a typhoon tonight and tomorrow. look at how crazy the satellite is: http://www.wunderground.com/tropical/tracking/wp200808_sat.html#a_topad
it's died down a lot. it used to be headed straight toward us. in any case, we're supposed to get buckets of rain tonight and tomorrow. time for bed!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

dreit cards accepted

i saw a shirt on this girl today that said 'dredit cards accepted' and i was thinking about it on the way home on the bus and i looked out the window and there was a girl wearing the same shirt right as i was wondering what exactly it said. how's that for cosmos in action.

today is the first day i've felt a twinge of unease about being here since my major freakout at the beginning. we were on the roof tonight talking about our friends from home and how people are settling themselves. one of my friends from middle school just got married this weekend and my best friend will be engaged soon and part of me feels like i'm behind sometimes.

the other part of me wakes up in the morning to see that i've moved myself to taiwan, i'm surrounded by interesting, adventurous people, i get to experience a culture that not many north americans get so up-close-and-personal with, i'm teaching kids who i've started to adore and if not, who i can tell i'll eventually bond with, people look at me like i'm a movie star every day, and i'm stretching my comfort zone and what i thought was possible for myself by leaps and bounds. aside from not being crazy about all of the food or the general smell of the country, every night i feel more secure with myself and my abilities, and i feel like coming here was an important step for me. so that is that.

today i found out my second class was being evaluated 2 minutes before it was supposed to start. the kids were very well behaved, but it just felt weird. no one was talking. she had a miiiillion criticisms but some of them were helpful to me. we played some really fun relay games and the kids got more into it than they've been with anything else i've tried, so i was happy.
derek and i went for sushi right after on his giant motorcycle from the '70s. that was interesting. i think a million people on the street saw what color my underwear were before i had properly secured by dress :P

tonight a bunch of people from the dorm went to wednesday night dinner as has become the tradition. we went to this japanese place called Watami. they have a giant menu with pictures of everything which is golden. i had cream cheese rangoons and rice, miso soup and pickled vegetables. all for $6 US. then we came home and hung out on the roof (on my new roof blanket) because it's about 20 degrees cooler up there than our un-airconditioned living room. it was nice.


this is that thing i keep eating that i took a blurry picture of. it's a weird pancake with egg and bacon.

these are some kids playing the shrinking circle game in my first class today. they had the same genius idea to go piggyback. it was extra funny though because the kid on his back weighs like 70 lbs. he's super tiny.

sunset as i was waiting for the bus to take me home tonight around 645

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

this years love

i woke up to the sound of 2 soft knocks on my door but i didn't want to get up yet so i ignored them and then i heard paper being slipped under my door and it was a note that said 'WAKE UP! the new guy is here :)' from dena so i rolled out of bed and went upstairs. his name is steve, he's from near seattle. he seems nice. i don't think the first week anyone is here is a good time to form an opinion about them. he just got done teaching 2 years in china though so he isn't going through culture shock or anything.

tonight i had this guy on the bus who kept tapping my shoulder and speaking to me in chinese, even though i kept giving him the shoulder shrug, deer in the headlights 'i dont have a clue what you're saying' look. i thought he was being creepy at first, but he was just trying to help me. i finally told him i was going to da chu and he tapped me again when we were at the first of 2 da chu stops and i tried to tell him i was getting off at the second one. i guess it stands out because no one has ever touched me before here. they actually go out of their way not to make contact if possible. i went to the grocery store tonight and had about 10 instances of one person seeing me and then turning to point me out to their friend. sometimes it's flattering and sometimes it's annoying.

my tuesday class is so good. there are 21 of them which is a whole lot, but they're fun. we played a bunch of games today and they were being nice and it was fun. they get a kick out of it when i make them scoot over so i can share their chair with them as we read the new vocab individually. i can't remember 3/4 of their names, but we're bonding anyway. when i left tonight i felt like a rock star :P they were all coming up to me and saying goodbye and kids were screaming goodbye from scooters as they went down the street with their parents.

i bought cookie mix a week ago and i've been putting off making it but i promised that i'd make it when steve got here, so i made it tonight. they didn't taste like real cookies and our oven can only broil, but they were ok. next time i might try to make them from scratch although i doubt that they have chocolate chips here.

early(ish) class tomorrow, time for bed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

but still, like the dust, i'll rise

today was very plain.
woke up late, hung around the dorm, read a bit. i got one of those tofu pancake things again today for lunch. i tried to take a picture but it didn't turn out and i was too embarrassed to keep trying. people were looking at me as i was taking the pictures and i felt like a super-tourist.

my classes on monday are really good. the first one is a bunch of like 8-10 year olds who have been taking class together for the last 4 years so they're really comfortable with each other. we're reviewing for a test next week. today they were different than they have been toward me. mainly, they're saying my name a lot more and getting into my personal space which i think is good.

my little kid class in the evening is cute as can be. today we played duck duck goose again because they were screaming for it, and it was hilarious. their new QA today was 'who are your english teachers?' and when we were answering, they said 'pretty carol and pretty megan are my english teachers' which carol had apparently taught them on her day ahead of time. they were beaming at me like 'we surprised you and we're being super sweet' and it was really cute. they had to draw us and it was pretty funny. i think that's my favorite class.

aunt carol was asking me earlier and i didn't realize i hadn't explained the process of classes yet. basically, kids enroll in the school and are given an assessment test to see what their level is. once they get enough kids on the same level, they start them in the appropriate class. i guess there are a couple of options but i'm confused about what they are. they have different names but they don't mean much to me because i don't have any of the very beginner classes.

other than that, i don't have any news except that dena taught her class the phrase 'super fantastic' which i apparently say often. i have a stamp that says 'excellent!' and i was trying to explain what it meant to the class and all i could think of was 'super good or super fantastic'.
i can't stop hiccuping. it's been 5 minutes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

chifferobe

todayy..
i didnt do much of anything, to be honest. hung around the dorm all morning. josh, beth and i went to latini's for lunch and i had the panini again because it was so tasty the first time. they were closed until 5 but they let us in early which was nice.
then josh and i went for a ride on the scooter around the surrounding 'townships' ..mainly the back roads of da chu and da hua which means big flower which i think is in reference to the sunflower fields all around. i took one picture of one that was in between these buildings, but there were lots of them that were actual big patches of field like they were being grown for a reason.

anyway it was a nice drive. 2 hours on the back of a scooter is a little rough, but it was good to get out and about. we drove past tons of lotus fields which are like 4 feet of water with these GIANT waterlily looking things growing up like 4 feet above it. and we saw dragon fruit plants. i dont have a picture but it looked liiike this
most of the drive was just little roads with odd buildings like:

we also found a pond with a funny sign.
i was amazed that with a 'turn down the smallest road possible' strategy, we never hit a dead end. we kept magically popping out on main roads and then finding our way to roads we recognized. it was good.

then tonight a bunch of us went to carrefour to buy a new dvd player because ours is dead/dying and then we watched the lion, the witch and the wardrobe. it was a nice night :) we'll end on this note..

keith: just another day in the life
the dorm seems more fun, anyway
me: than what?
keith: before you
me: ah
aww.
keith: of course, dont be silly

Sunday, July 13, 2008

no matter how long it takes

yesterday was so fantastic in so many ways.
i subbed a class in the morning that was pretty good. they didn't know they were having a sub, so when i walked in, no one knew what was happening. one kid actually walked into the class, looked at me, started to turn and walk out before his classmates were like 'noo, you're in the right class!' it was hilarious.
keith and i had the same break between classes so he took me to this delicious juice lady and i had a pineapple, banana and orange smoothie that was delicious. then he took me to this stand that sold these pancake things with egg and mine had bacon in it. it was easily the tastiest thing i've eaten in taiwan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scallion_pancakes

anyway once i got home, i went straight to this spa beth's been going to that's right on the other side of the park. they import all of their products from italy and the owner, nicky, and her sister, margaret, both speak english very well. http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/merveilles-11/article?mid=208&prev=214&next=201
there are some pictures of it. it's super chic. the room it shows in the second picture is the room i was in. so i got there at 330, they explained the menu to me, which took like 45 minutes. they brought me 2 kinds of tea while i was sitting there. they have you pick a tea and the kind of music you'd like every time. i decided to get a 'leg treatment' which was supposed to be good for teachers who stand all day, and a facial. so they have me shower, put on a robe, and soak my feet in steaming hot rose water while i sit in the room at the bottom of that website, overlooking a park in taoyuan. it was so pretty. nicky brings me 2 different kinds of cake to try, one pineapple in pastry and one white bean with coconut. both delicious. meanwhile, margaret is talking my ear off and painting my nails.

so i go into the room and they start the leg treatment. first they rub my legs with something that burns a lot because i had just shaved my legs, but it was ok. then i was scrubbed, then i was wrapped. basically, they wrap an ace-bandage made out of gauze looking thing around your whole leg from foot to upper thigh, and it's supposed to get really, really cold which is supposed to 'make your legs feel lighter'. they warned me that last week, a woman actually started screaming because it felt so cold on her. it started off feeling really hot for the first 10 minutes or so and then it started feeling really cold like my legs were wrapped in ice. it was weird. they give you a shoulder and neck massage while you're laying there to take your mind off of your numbed legs. so that was that.

then i got a facial and she put at least 12 different creams on my face and it was lovely. margaret re-did my nails because i got them all smudged when i got up to use the restroom.
anyway it was a really fun experience. they have you shower again to get the oil from the massage out of your hair and then you can dry it afterwards at this little counter. apparently margaret wanted to dry mine for me but she had to leave before i was done.
i ended up spending FIVE HOURSSS there. it was good.

in the evening, we all hung out around the dorm chatting until around 1 or so and dena and i stayed up until 5am because i wanted to watch this episode of Bizarre Foods set in Taiwan that was listed in the paper. but then, when we finally got to 5am, it wasn't even on! i was outraged.

so i obviously slept late because i was up late and now im trolling for things to do. i think the new person, steve (as we found out by his new nametag on the door) should be arriving any day now. they didn't even have my name tag up when i arrived.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

polka dots, checks and stripes


this is my new stamp :)

the titles of these blogs are completely random. it's usually song lyrics that are stuck in my head or that i'm listening to at the time. todays is from a song we did a ballet recital to when i was 8 though.

today was good. went to latini's this morning and had a panini and an 'espresso ice cream' which was a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a mug of espresso. it was so good. the panini was made on homemade bread and had tomato, mozzarella, basil and prosciutto and it was SO good. that's going to be a regular thing.

we're preparing for demo's in both of my friday classes. one class is made up of 21 kids and its just mayhem in there at all times. thankfully my co-teacher has it handled and it goes pretty smoothly. there are 2 adorable tiny boys in there. the picture is them playing this game that involves drawing circles with the dry erase markers on the floor. every time they lose 'paper scissor stone' which is rock paper scissor, their circle gets smaller and they have to ask a Q/A. when their circles got too tiny today, one group had the ingenious idea to go piggyback.


my other class is a beginners class but they range from first to fourth grade age. they're super sweet though. today they sang the peanut butter and jelly song and the motions they did were HILARIOUS. 'peanuuut' involves them cranking their arms around in a big circle and 'jelly!' is like jazz hands but they take a step out with one foot and put their arms out like they just finished a big stage show or something. it is sooo funny and cute.

tonight i made a lackluster version of this curry stuff i make at home. i forgot to buy chicken broth and it lacked some serious salt. it's coconut milk, potatoes, peanut butter, an onion, curry powder and beef. it's pretty tasty but it does need a can of chicken broth.
then dena and i played 4 rounds of speed but she couldnt beat me so she went to bed :P so i played keith and we must have played at least 20 games. i think he beat me a few more times, but we stopped keeping track. he kept getting all giggly though. it was pretty funny.

i wasn't working tomorrow but sandy called me at like 11 to ask if i would sub 2 classes, so i'm going to pick them up. keith has class at the same school at the same time so i dont even have to take the bus!

andd we're supposed to get a new person pretty soon. they put a set of bedding in a room and some guys came and fixed something in the room today. i've already thought of what i'm going to say to them. it goes.. 'we've been waiting to meet you all week and we're so excited you're here. all of the people who live in the dorm are really cool. i'll show you all of the places i know that have good food and someone will show you how to get to all of your schools and it's going to be awesome.' that's what i wish someone had told me when i got here.
time for bed!

Friday, July 11, 2008

i can only think in spanish

i'm tired and i just watched like an hour of emil's travel videos so this will be the short version.
this morning.. went to carrefour, got a carrefour card which gives you back a certain amount every time you spend a certain amount. i obviously don't know what the deal is, but it was free and it makes me happy to whip out my card and let them know that i'm a semi-permanent resident. i also feel that way when i use my bus card. a lot of the local people pay with change so when i use my bus card i feel like i'm showing them that i'm not just some random foreigner who doesn't know what's happening.

then i went to a coffee shop to do my lesson plans. the guy didn't speak much english but 'caramel latte' is the easy enough. and i had pumpkin cheesecake that wasn't very sweet. they have an odd relationship with sugar here. bread is generally sweet but desserts are generally not as sweet as you would like. i got a doughnut the other day that was like.. air. i'm not sure how to describe it other than 'a complete lack of flavor of any kind'. anyway i loved the coffee shop in spite of the sub par dessert. they were playing relaxing jazzy music, there was a shaved golden retriever with red hair that i made friends with, and the guy went out of his way to explain things to me. i think i'm going to go there a few times a week. but it opens at 1.

i successfully made it to school tonight andd i ordered pork with snap peas and carrots and rice from this little tiny restaurant down the street from school and it was delicious. tonight i had one fantastic red book class and one horrific WOW class. they spoke chinese with the co-teacher the whole time and i just didn't know what to do. i can't make friends with them, they didn't like anything i tried to do, and they're just mean-spirited kids. we'll see.
after class, josh gave me a ride home and we stopped at a thai place to pick up dinner to go. he lived in thailand for a year so he could speak to them sort of and it was pretty good. i had pork pad thai that was as good as i've had anywhere.
chatted with keith, dena, josh, beth and emil tonight at various points throughout the night and now i'm headed to bed finally at 220am.

random things:
-i bought tide laundry soap. it smells like home and i think it's making me itchy. our washer doesn't rinse very well because everything smells reallly strong even after it's done cycling.
-got my stamp from the stamp guy. it just says Megan (sometimes you can get them to add a weird little picture of an animal or something) but it makes my life 1,000x better.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

hilarity

http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=EhCPEI9zwtY&feature=related
i live with that fool. he's actually a pretty cool guy. his name is Emil and he's been traveling around the world for the last 5 years and living out of a backpack. go to www.youtube.com/monkeetime to see his bio and various travel videos. i think it's pretty entertaining, but maybe it's only because i know him. anyway he's fun and i admire his ability to travel alone for so long.
tonight dena and i were talking about a dream i had last night in which i owned a little dog and it turned into a kid who i was putting into a car seat and how i don't want it right nowww, but when i do have a family, i'll be ready for it. i think my traveling right now is making me more comfortable with the idea of having roots somewhere later. it's making me realize exactly how much i love austin and going to central market every weekend and eating food that i looove and being able to drive 15 minutes to see my family. i'm happy i'm here, but i'll appreciate everything when i get back.

i had a fantastic day today. i found a stamp guy who can make me a stamp with my name in english. we have to sign all kinds of papers and books all day long so i had been using my new hello kitty stamp but i really wanted my name done. there are all of these little shops around town with big keys made out of poster board hanging from their awnings and some of them also make stamps. so i found a guy who is going to make me one. it's supposed to be ready tomorrow. i'm excited.
today i taught 2 classes that both went pretty well. i think my kids are starting to get a better handle on my personality and i'm remembering all of their names which is nice. we played some really fun relay games that they got excited about which is exciting for me.

there were 2 vehicle-related adventures:
1) the bus to dar chu takes you a different way every time, but eventually i get somewhere where i can see the school, so i just get off the bus. sometimes its on the right side of the street, sometimes not, but always close. todayyy, i see the school and then the bus turns down this road that i didn't know existed and starts off toward the middle of nowhere. i knew i should have pushed the button when i knew how to get back to the school, but for some reason i just waited and stayed on the bus. at that point i had 40 minutes until i had to be at the school so i wasn't worried. but it just kept going further and further (is it farther or further?) away from the main road and we were passing these big fields of sunflowers and orange flowers and little houses and fields. it was actually very pretty if i hadn't been completely lost. eventually i did get back to the school but i was within 10 minutes of the time i needed to be there which is cutting it a little close for my liking.

2) so i'm sitting in front of a bank, waiting for the bus after class when an SUV parks in front of the bank. an elderly woman gets out and says 'hi there' which set off the bells in my mind because it's so colloquial that no one who only knows a bit of english would ever say it. so i say 'hi!' and then she goes to use the ATM and when she comes back out, she starts to ask me the typical questions.. 'are you an english teacher? how long have you been here? where do you live? how long do you plan to stay? what do you think about taiwan?' so in the course of answering the questions, we figure out that i teach her grandson in one of my classes on wednesday nights. his name is harrison and he's a pretty good kid but he's in my 21-kid class so i don't know him very well. anyway they offer me a ride home which is AMAZING because the bus would have taken me at least an hour and a half. so on the way home we talk about the food and how it freaks me out and they invited me to their house to have dinner one night which i'm totally going to do. they also told me not to take random taxi's and corrected my pronunciation of 'tung an' (the street i live on). it's more like tong an than tung an. they said tung an is a street in taipei.
anyway they were obviously super nice and i can't wait to see them again. klaus and julie huang.
klaus is her son and he studied german so when i told them my last name was klein, he got all excited.

i know this is getting long so i'll gloss over the last part of my night.. we went to this bar/pub called Rodeo and there was a band playing american songs. the first one was Maria by Carlos Santana. i almost died laughing. the guy clearly 'learned' the words by listening to the song, so there were some words he sang that were not words at all but did sound like the words in the song. it was the funniest thing in the whole world. i ordered nachos that weren't too bad but i have super heartburn now.

ok time for bed! no class until 5 tomorrow woooo!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

sesame street elementary

today in my travels around town, i wrote down some of the funny store names:
amiable stylish outlook
the gorgeous hunks
comebuy
family mart
cash city
muggle restaurant (if you haven't read harry potter by now, please stop reading my blog.)
winner pharmacy

i don't really have anything to report today. this morning we had a workshop with brandon about lesson planning. apparently we're going to have a workshop about how to deal with our co-teachers, i'm looking forward to that one. then jerry and i went to lunch at this place called 83 degrees that's open 24 hours. i ordered a caramel macchiato (sp?), jerry didn't know what he ordered, and he totally stole mine because it was 100x tastier and claimed not to know which one he ordered. liar! and i had delicious cold noodles with peanut sauce from 7-11 for lunch. it's their specialty i'd say. i've also been buying the 7-11 brand tea. they have really good jasmine tea and pretty good lemon tea. the 'coffee green tea' was a disaster and their regular green tea tastes like burnt grass clippings.
tonight i had 2 classes. 1 sub and 1 of my own. there are 21 kids in my class and it's all i can do to just get through the material i need to cover. thank GOODNESS for my hello kitty stamp. it saves about 3 minutes that i used to spend signing my name by hand. anyway you have to read the new QA (today it was.. 'which is your favorite season? why?'), write down all of their answers (my favorite season is spring because i like flowers/ summer because i like to swim/ fall because i like 10/10 day, winter because i can build a snowman), and then translate everything to chinese and to the KK (phonetic spelling). THEN they each have to tell you their answer. you do the same thing when you cover a new lesson of any kind except that with the lessons, they have to read the new words to you individually and you mark in their book that they did it. listening to 21 kids takes like 7 minutes and we do that for like 3 activities.
tonight i ate the pasta salad i made this afternoon. josh bought me feta cheese at Carrefour. Keith attempted to buy me some but he spent like 20 minutes trying to find it and then realized he lost his scooter key again so he just got out of there as fast as he could. anyway it was delicious. the best thing i've eaten in the last 3 weeks. pasta, red & yellow bell peppers, green olives, feta and tomatoes with oil & vinegar dressing and some salad supreme. natalie thinks 'salad supreme' is the funniest thing she's ever heard of. i think it's delicious. thank you, majjy.

tomorrow is going to be a long day so i'm going to read and go to sleep. thank you for the comments and emails, aunt pam.