Friday, August 29, 2008

it's black, it's white

dena took this picture of keith and i today :) i meant to photoshop out my bra strap, but i don't have time, sorry.

woooo for friday. we played beach volleyball in my all boys and 4 girls class, and we had a lot of fun in my little kid class. it was a good day.

i bought balsamic vinegar at carrefour this morning and ate it doused on tomatoes with fresh basil tonight and it was reaaallly good. a little salt and pepper.
and i made sauteed chicken with basil, oregano, salt, pepper, oil & butter. super good.
i decided i want to learn to cook at latini's instead of the indian place. it's close, the owner and i are like this (fingers crossed) and italian food is delicious.
and we opened gram and spanky's cheese. it was sooo good. after eating mild cheddar for however-long they've each been here, keith and martin seemed like they could have easily died from cheese-loving overdoses. the outside is kind of weird like it might have separated a little, but it seems fine. i guess we'll know tomorrow.

i went to the fancy mall today and bought a pair of shoes at nine west. can't find them online, and keith has my camera, but they're shiny tan peeptoes and i love them. my $6 taiwanese shoes are making my heels hurt every day and i think i deserve some real shoes for a change. i lucked out because the sizes were in american numbers and the sales girl spoke a little english.

time to watch obama's speech on and read about mccain's VP candidate.
babies tomorrow morning!

sixteen designers

keith reminded me tonight that the secret says that your thoughts create your reality and today, the grouch i've been to him all week and the negativity that has sprung from that kept coming at me all day today. i've been bummed that i'm losing my closest friend here soon and i've been kind of minchy and distant with him as a defense mechanism i guess. anyway, i learned my lesson today.

woke up early to go to a workshop about teaching outside classes, which are classes at local elementary/middle/high schools and some businesses. a bunch of us were leaving at 9, josh didn't come upstairs, we sent justin to knock on his door and justin accidentally knocked on the wrong door because he didn't know where josh's room was (which we didn't find out until later), so we assumed he overslept. so josh met up with us at the train station and was super mad that we left without him. that was negative thing #1.

i'm naturally gossipy and i spread some gossip that was kind of mean spirited and now i feel bad about it. negative thing #2.

steve and i got on the bus to daryuan and it was super crowded so we had to stand the whole way and it was really hot and sweat was dripping all down my back, my hair was plastered to my head, and i felt generally awful. #3.

as i was about to get off the bus, this old woman uses sign language, more or less, to tell me that steve and i have long noses, and asks if we're together. i say no. she gets off the bus with me, pulls on my shirt to get me to stop walking, whips out her change purse and sticks out her hand. she was doing this weird hand motion that looked to me like 55, so i just gave her 55NT, hoping that she would leave, but she just kept doing it. so i walked away. it sounds stupid, but on a day when i already felt bad, this moment of bizarreness just made me feel worse. #4.

i get up to the teacher's lounge in the school and as i'm opening my school bag and as josh and derek are telling me how ridiculous i am after i tell them the story about the old woman, i'm thinking 'the only way this day could get worse is if i somehow forgot to bring my lesson plans.. but that would be ridiculous because i've never forgotten them before' and sure enough, they weren't in my bag. i left them on my bed. #5.

the list goes on and on. it was just not a good day.

but it did remind me that if you think bad thoughts, bad things will happen, so i'm done feeling like this. tomorrow is going to be wonderful. i'm at a school that i like, with fun coteachers, and it will be good.

in other news... i learned how to say 'hot vanilla latte' today at latini's. it sounds to me like 'le chang chao na cheeay.'
and we had an air raid drill from 2:30-3 today and you couldn't leave your house. all cars had to stop. no one could walk around outside, and there were apparently sirens although i couldn't hear them over the Jack Johnson in latini's.
nicky, the owner of the spa i go to, came to latini's for lunch with some friends and she talked to me for a little bit. she wants to speak chinese next time i go so i can practice. she's really nice.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

1 week away

i go back and forth being excited about my birthday and being bummed that i'll be away from my family for the first time. i haven't said that to anyone here except keith because it's kind of insulting to insinuate that hanging out with friends here might not seem special enough, but i'm a family-oriented girl and that's just how it is. birthday cards came in the mail today from mutti, aunt margy and uncle john & aunt kathy, thanks guys :)

jerry and i went to chinese lesson #1 with bobo this morning. we learned the pinyin system which is the english spelling of chinese words. i learned it at work, so i was a little ahead. we also learned a few words/phrases. joyce sat in my lap for part of it which was cute.
learn chinese with megan:
zao is the pinyin (zow) - good morning
ni hao (nee how) - how are you?
xiexie (shay shay) - thank you
duibuqi (dway-bu-chee) - sorry, excuse me
meiguanxi (may-gwan-shee) - don't worry about it, not a problem
bi (bee) - pen
guo (gwo) - dog
wo xi huan (woe she hwan) - i like ...
...i don't know the others well enough yet to officially post them. flash cards this weekend. after that, we'll be in business.

went to lunch at latini's with serena, who had never been. she's been here 3 weeks longer than me. we split pizza, lemonade and an espresso with ice cream. danny noticed that i was using more chinese than usual so i told him what i learned today.

class was in a secret room that no one knew existed.
mr. kuo/huo/? and mrs. chan were happy to see me. also told them what i learned.
while i was waiting for the bus, some weirdo guy tried to give me a ride and told me the bus doesn't come this late, i told him that it did, and it came 20 seconds later.
saw a guy on the bus with 'ASS' written in pink and purple on his hat.
chatted with jeffy for a bit on skype.
watched project runway season 5, episode 4 (why didn't they send daniel home?)
andd now i'm going to bed because i have to leave the dorm at 9 to go to a workshop that you'll hear about tomorrow.

p.s. did you see hillary's speech at the DNCC? did you see michelle obama's dress? gooo obama!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

who is wearing a gray shirt

the highlight of the day was definitely going to Bobo's to play with joyce and julie for a couple of hours today. i had never met julie before and she was sooo smart. she's probably..6 or 7?this is julie being really cute while we played taiwanese twister, which is called 'uncle wang'
us laughing at keith's butt being in the air
joyce looking blank and the rest of us looking at something?

Bobo's apartment is beauuutiful. it's inside this egyptian themed apartment complex that's super fancy and beautiful. gold everywhere and palatial looking decorations. the security guard must be used to letting foreigners up to her apartment because she teaches english to all of us every day and people are always coming and going, so he didn't even ask what floor we were going to.
anyway it's on the 11th floor (11!) and its decorated really neatly. lots of interesting things everywhere. the girls have a playroom that has a little window that lets you look into the living room. it's full of everything 2 little girls could want to play with. we colored and played twister and this cool computer game and uno.
the most fun was this ghost game which is like musical chairs kind of but you have to say 'who is a girl' and the girls have to switch chairs. funny ones: 'who is fat/who is megan's boyfriend/who has a long nose/who is missing teeth.' joyce didn't want to play because she didn't feel like she knew enough english to be the ghost, so she insisted that i hold her like a baby and let her play with me. standing up and sitting down 100 times while holding a 40lb little girl made my legs feel like jello, but we had a lot of fun.

my food people at da chu were armed with questions when i got there today. they wanted to know what my name was and how old i am. the owner's name is david kuo (i think.. i forget. kuo or huo or kho), the woman doesn't have an english name so i'm supposed to call her mrs. chan, and mr. kuo's daughter's name is amanda. i had never met her before but she was there today. mrs. chan insisted that i try this pork stuff that was in a crock pot. it's like little bits of pork and bamboo shoots that you eat on top of rice. too fatty for me.

i'm downloading michael jackson's greatest hits on my torrent tonight.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

build me up, buttercup

does anyone remember the crackers/cookies that are kind of glossy and have raisins baked into them? one of my kids gave me a little package of them the other day and then i bought a big thing of them today. i know i had them a few times when i was little. they're delicious.

class was good tonight. i was wearing this pink dress and at one point i forgot to suck my stomach in and one of my kids said 'teacher, are you having a baby?' and i said excuuuse me! so then the whole class starts chanting "TEACHER, BABY, TEACHER, BABY.." i was sooo embarrassed. they were completely out of control tonight and i was ignoring my 2 kids who sit in the front and scream out answers all the time and they weren't too happy. but it did have the desired effect. they sat quietly and raised their hands after 10 minutes or so.

bought a bunch of cut up pineapple, guava and mango for $100 ($3 US) and it was really good. i'm going to try to eat less rice and more fruit. although i guess fruit doesn't keep you going for very long. ideally, the weather would cool off and we could use the kitchen more and actually cook things. i think i eat so badly because i'm always eating out.

steve and i played spades with justin and noe again tonight and beat them twice. now we're 3-0. i think steve and i are on the same card wavelength.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

never saw blue like that

sunday is so lazy.
i spent a good chunk of time this morning on my computer trying to figure out what to do about watching american TV. i don't think i can go without watching grey's anatomy. so i downloaded a bit torrent and i've been downloading torrents of project runway season 5 all morning. other than that, i did some laundry, went with keith to run errands around town and ate deliciousss ice cream at this place called Yannick. who knoooows where that name came from. i had one scoop of banana, cinnamon-y vanilla and one cookies and cream.

this afternoon keith and i went swimming with jerry at his apartment complex. it would remind you of swimming at embassy suites, the hotel chain. the pinkish orange apartments are towering above you and the pool has tons of palm trees and a fake rock thing, so we call it the grotto. jerry is hilarious and it was good to be in the water for a few hours.

afterward, keith and i went to this indian restaurant called Ali Baba's. we sat on couches at a table that was pretty low and cozy and we were right next to the window and it felt like we were in a bird's nest because it was up on the 2nd floor. there was a tv with indian music videos playing.
i wish i could describe how tasty the food was. we ordered buttered naan (kind of like pita bread but softer), regular naan, some white sauce to dip it in, this crispy thin bread, and he had soup and i had chicken biryani which is basmati rice with chunks of chicken and lots of spices. i could have died, i was in food heaven. everything was perfect and cooked with obvious skill and love. i'm thinking about going back to ask if i could just come help out in the kitchen on sundays and learn how to cook delicious indian food from them. we'll see. i need a scooter if i want to do that.

stand beside her, and guide her

multiple bits of good news to share today.
- kindy #1 was alrightttt. i'm teaching them (and all of my classes) the hand slap game at breaks. it's fun and it's not often that they get to whack me, so they seem to enjoy it. now i continually have tiny people tugging at my shirt and holding out their hands, ready to play.

- kindy #2, the new one, is adorable. names: vivian who wears glasses and has an eye patch, her sister sophia, sandy who seems intelligent, ian who doesn't have a clue, cindy who's missing her 2 front teeth, ... i know there are a couple more girls that i can't remember right now.
i knew that it was do or die with this class, so i did my best to be the silliest version of myself i could be and just have fun with them. i loosely followed my lesson plan, but mostly sang the coolest songs i know (there's one that involves 'rocking the boat' and then you all fall out of your chairs onto the ground) and played all of my most fun games, including of course, duck duck goose.
at break, i held their hands and we danced around and i twirled them and they were coming up to me to try to talk and it was a lot of fun. it's interesting to talk to 7, 8 and 9 year olds who have very limited vocabulary to work with. your conversations are short but to the point. they can only ask me questions they've learned, which limits it to "what's your name, how old are you, where do you go to school, what's your favorite color?"

- i came to terms with bubble drinks!

the fact that you can see/feel that a marble-sized ball of gelatinous goo is coming up your straw always used to freak me out. today though, dena and i went to this place called Coco on our break at Guei Shan school and i pointed to one of two pictures of drinks on the menu. it was mainly passionfruit, but it had passionfruit seeds floating around on the top 3/4, with coconut jelly (read: tiny, clearish rectangles of Jell-O jiggleresque stuff) and black bubbles floating around on the bottom 1/4 of it. it was really odd with the crunchy seeds and the jelly other stuff, but it was sour and refreshing on such a hot, humid day.

i also taught dena 2 helpful phrases.
yi bei zi- one cup
bu yao dai zi- i don't want a bag

- the newest addition to the dorm, dawn from england, is cool. we chatted a bit tonight while i watched CNN's documentary on Obama and she's really an interesting person. she just spent 2 years being a master-diver in south america, teaching people to scuba. she's traveled all around the world and decided to try teaching here for a while because she likes asia. and she was drinking hot, black tea in our hot, hot living room. truly english.

gram & spanky and aunt carol's boxes both got here today! i took out the food products and asked keith to hide the actual presents until my birthday so i wouldn't be tempted.
and that was my day!

Friday, August 22, 2008

walkin' on sunshine

saw this in the shower tonight and haddd to take a picture. that's engrish at it's finest. that's keith's socrates in the background.

2 things and then time for bed
1. dawn, the new girl, arrived. she's a redhead, she's from england, she seems nice. i didn't talk to her, i just met her for 5 seconds

2. the fruit lady saga continues:
me: liang ge bell fruit (two bell fruit)
she cuts it up, i hand her 20NT (66 cents.. which is what my WOW class told me was the going rate)
her: (hands me back my $20 and snatches the bag of fruit), $50.
me: $25.
her: $50.
me: $30.
her: $50.
me: bu yao. (don't want) .. and i walked away.

i need to learn how to say 'greedy, awful woman!'

marisa: i'm coming back to austin when i get back next year but you're not even going to be here! anddd it's free class day at ballet austin Sept. 7, when are you leaving again?

editor's note: the IT guy at my old job told me this and i wanted to share.
scrappergus: you might think this is funny
12:41 AM dunno if you know but some of the girls took to getting offended by sarcasm, which has sucked, but kristen is sorta coming around
after we had a little talk
so she said something really snarky to me the other day
so I said "Kristen, good job, that was some really artful snark!"
and she replied "I know! It's like I was channelling Megan!"

emergency update

mom and dad are moving to san diego! dad's leaving sept. 2 and who knows when mom is.
they're going to finish the round rock house and keep it and keep the lake. hopefully i can live in round rock when i get back.
anyway when i go home for christmas they're going to fly back because my flight is to austin, and we'll have christmas at the lake with matt and jeff.
good thing i'm in the right spirit for major life changes. whew!

wish they all could be california girls

the updates from the other side of the world are... (whenever i sub a class i tell them that i live in the US, in texas, and the other day i told a class that if they dug a hole through the middle of the earth, they'd eventually hit the US, and it blew their minds.)

1. had escargot at latini's today for lunch. it was reaaallly good. covered in butter and pesto sauce, on top of a bed of garlic and onions sauteed in red wine and served with homemade toast. and keith came and sat with me and drank a latte. it was the first time he's ever come and the owner and everyone in the kitchen (the kitchen is open to the restaurant) were giving me knowing looks.

2. bonded some more with my WOW class of highschoolers. i told them the story of how i was being 7x overcharged by the fruit lady and i had them ask me questions that weren't the questions they memorize. they asked how old i was, why i came to taiwan. it was kind of interesting. i think if they get to know me better as a person, they wont be as apt to be jerks to me in class.

3. discovered that my corner people in da chu have been adding MSG to my pea pods and carrots =\ i'm going to ask them to stop doing that

4. augusta and i were both wearing yellow dresses today totally randomly. and i met her boyfriend. he's a trainer at the gym and he looks really intimidating and my kids were giving me the funniest looks over it.

that's it for today. keith still has my camera, but i have a list of things i'm going to show you once i get it back.
this is chelsea. she's the one i went to the night market with and to dinner the other night

look, mom is famous: you can click here

p.s. we're getting a new girl in the dorm tomorrow! dawn from england. her flight gets in at 9pm.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

secret card shark

welllll. usually wednesday is an early day because i used to have class from 1:30-3:30 and 4-6, but those classes combined and now i have one class from 7-9 so i have a whole afternoon of free time that i'm not sure what to do with yet. today i spent it hanging out with keith, who just found out that they have work for him in alberta, so he's leaving after he takes his test which gives us like 3 weeks. not so good.
as i was holding the elevator today, i asked him what he would do if it crushed me to death and he couldn't open it, he said he would bite out my jugular. i thought that was entertaining.

class was fun today. i know everyone's name which only took me 2 months. its such a big class and all of the girls in the back are like the same age, more or less the same height. i don't know why it was so hard. they never talked so i couldn't differentiate between any of them. but we're getting somewhere lately.

played spades with noe, justin and steve tonight. i was on steve's team and we won. i had never played before and they didn't think i would be any good so i was happy to prove them wrong.

gram and spanky's birthday card came in the mail today :) it's been fun checking to see if anything's come. a lot of people are expecting mail soon so we're all like little watch dogs. it's fun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the light, the heat

nothing really interesting happened today so you aren't missing anything. fruit lady charged me $50 without putting up any kind of fight and i bought a german-fabulous yellow dress that you'll see part of in a picture below.

quickly, the story of maj and faj: we were watching Austin Powers, Goldmember several years ago.. probably in 2003 or 4 and the 'faja' part came on where the little person starts calling dr. evil faja. then we started calling dad faj and eventually mom maj. nicknames that have sprung from those: fajjy, majjy, fajtown, majtown

i let keith borrow my camera because he doesn't have one and these are some highlights of what he took pictures of:

keith and some of his kindy boy babies
us tonight. that's my new german-tastic dress. $10
mickey. keith gets to teach a regular class with him, i just get to sub. he's awesome though
the alley that's the shortcut to carrefour
this is what you see as youre walking through the alley
the weird animal-machine-ride you can ride outside of carrefour
i think this is a bunch of stomachs
random parts in juice

tea lady in carrefour. they always have those big bowls and try to pass you a sample. i tried one once and it was reaaaally gross so i haven't tried any since but i guess i should. they taste really medicinal best ice cream in the whole wide world comes from deli manjoo
me in my mexico-fabulous shirt/dress on saturday, standing in front of keiths (soon to be mine) scooter
me, computing
katie, derek and gill at their apartment. katie and gill are two of keith's friends from home. they work with us

and that is the end :)
time for bed!

Monday, August 18, 2008

sweet potato times, issue 2

Not Soap. Sopp.

The Sweet Potato Times: Welcome back friends and family for the second installment of The Sweet Potato Times. To answer the most pressing question of the past month: expect The Sweet Potato Times to grace your mailboxes around the fifteenth of every month. Without a camera at this time, I’ve consulted the internet for various shots. And as I’ve actually been teaching this month, I’m sad to say that there hasn’t been too much adventure. Instead, look on the people-centric nature of this issue to see that the true adventure is the adventure of the heart... which is in us all. Or just wait until next month.

There are also some new features this month: “Spotlight on Taiwan” and “NI Hao!”. As the Sweet Potato Times is meant to encapsulate the Taiwan experience, the island is always best seen through fresh eyes. To this end, the “Spotlight on Taiwan” section will feature a new author each month, writing on a myriad of subjects ranging from geo-political relations, to dog fashion, to the pros and cons of stinky tofu. This week, I’m proud to welcome Megan Klein and her insights on the Taiwanese cultural fascination with English and the inherent failure which lies there-in.

Our next new section is entitled “NI Hao!,” or “hello!” in Chinese. Mandarin is the language spoken most frequently here, Taiwanese and Japanese having slowly been left to the older generation. While there is a complex series of stresses which indicate intonation, and therefore meaning, of Chinese words, it is more likely that I will abandon any attempt to express those stresses with advanced characters and simply CAPitalIZE the stressed parts of the words, not unlike the 1950’s edition of So you’re going to China? phrase-book which I picked up in a used book-store bathroom in D.C.. This was the same book, same edition, that Nixon used to travel here. Phrases such as “Get my wife,” and “I would like an American cigar,” have proven invaluable. Let’s learn together.
And, before we go any further, I must own up to the catalyst for this new language-centric section: that I’ve been ousted by some of my more fluent friends here. Taiwan does not, in fact, mean “Sweet Potato.”

My exhaustive research (read: Google) has failed to come up with the true translation of Taiwan, or even an intended meaning. The Portuguese called the island “Formosa,” or “beautiful island,” in 1517. Apparently Taiwanese people are sometimes called “Sweet Potato children,” according to an inside source at the dorm, the original tree of the rotted fruit of the title of our beloved publication. Let us none-the-less embrace the “Sweet Potato” moniker. I mean, come on:
They are the same.

The Palace: Farewell Erin, Welcome Dorm Storm Before we go any further, it is close approaching the time to bid farewell to friend, roommate, and colleague Erin Kilburn. She must return to spread the word of Asia and finish one more year at Kalamazoo College. Despite the violent implications of her last name, “kill-burn,” Erin has been neither killing nor burning, instead, a constant source of childhood hi-jinx, a sardonic jive-turkey, and, simultaneously, a wise and weathered sage. I must thank her for her guidance on my trip into Taipei, for without her I would still be wandering around eighteen different forms of Jungshan road. Her cooking of family dinners has filled my heart and soul with nutritious chicken and pineapple. She fashions a fine oatmeal cookie and cleans a mean maggot-covered organic trash bin. For these and all the intangibles, I will miss her dearly, but I find comfort in knowing she’ll be partying heavily in the glory of America, Washington, D.C., and the glory of the Mid-West, Michigan. The other big news in the house this month was the presence of a fierce and tremendous foe, Saber Tooth the Kitten. On loan from Big-Man Brian during his sojourn in Japan, we branded him Saber Tooth for his penchant for biting feet as they come down the stairs, sending his naive concerned-about-crushing-a-kitten human foes tumbling down the stairs. While his whiney roar was a bit of a stretch from the deep-throated chortle of a full-sided ancient saber tooth tiger, our beloved Saber Tooth never-the-less made up for this short-coming by picking apart wood chips from every corner of our apartment and dumping the maggot-covered organic trash into his litter box. Obviously, he will be sorely missed as well.

I’d also like to announce that I’ve solved The Mystery of Unnecessary Wildlife. Perhaps you will remember that my all-glassed-in room, affectionately called “The Aquarium,” has a plethora of windows. These windows have roughly three panes and a complex system of sliding screens and latches. Now you can imagine my incredulity when eight cock-roaches, a thousand mosquitoes, and a hand-sized wasp were present in my room each morning. Finally, in anger at battling my last wasp, I decided that it was time to tape. After covering every crevice, nook, and cranny in my room with a bit of packing tape, I looked at the windows a bit closer. There is an inch of opening on each side of my windows. This was obvious when I moved in, but, in my naivety, I assumed that shutting the left side of this window, then shutting the right side, would keep out nature at bay. Foolish men who slide their windows in vain! The windows were connected! Suffice to say that I had been shutting the left side and opening the ride side, and vice-versa, back and forth, every night for two months. Plungers, roach-traps, and shoe-slamming are nothing without a bit of common-sense.

And as two doors close and two windows are taped up, so must three doors open and new people walk in through those doors. I’m pleased to announce the arrival of new roommates: Beth M., Allen, and Natalie. Dormitory expatriates, these champions now hope to experience the joys of afternoon swimming, trips to the water repository and private bathrooms. Their promised delivery of an IKEA wok and Allen’s penchant for Nintendo Wii have endeared them to the house immediately. I believe a long and prosperous journey is ahead for this motley crew of five.

WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING... THE SITES AND SOUNDS If ever there was a unifying force between nations, it would have to be Bowling Alley culture. Our late-night trip to the bowling alley was marked most by its patrons’ surprising similarity to American bowlers: slightly over-weight, chain smoking groups of league bowlers, hipster teens, and awkward couples. I felt a bit of déjà vu from my championship days of bumper bowling. I was jarred from this quite quickly at the presence of gourmet ramen noodles at every table. The scent of noodles has been burnt into my conscience.

So as I teach different levels of students here, my most advanced classes tend to be late middle-school and high school students. According to these students, if you ask anyone in Taiwan what their favorite place to visit is, you will inevitably be told some Night Market. Night Markets are big in most sizable cities here, and consist of streets and streets of food vendors, black markets, white markets, shrimp fishing, Japanese pinball, stinky tofu, and scooters swerving in and out of a thousand people. My first trip was marked with a rather slimy Dan Bing, a somewhat delicious egg dish, if made correctly. The deep-fried octopus balls of unknown consistency did not add to my enjoyment. All of these were saved by the delicious, and somewhat mysterious, turkey sandwich vendor. Night market: Success.

This weekend also opened my eyes to the wonders of Jhong Li, a little pub town about twenty minutes away next to a rather large university. Coming from the illustrious University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, some may know of my love for pub scene activities: darts, obnoxious singing, poor dance moves, and the occasional cocktail. Taoyuan is a fine place to live, but a poor place to enjoy these things. Anyone who has stepped foot in a college party in the last five years has known the blissful joy of off-key singing to Journey’s classic “Don’t Stop Believin’.” And you must now, too, know the pain of no longer believing. From failing to hear the song. Well, if one can’t have the music, one must live in its inspired mindset: clubs are open until four A.M. here in Taiwan and my experience at Jhong Li’s Search night-club has made me believe again. After a handful of Heineken, an argument about elevators which escalated into a diplomatic crisis, an in-depth analysis of the origins of the moniker “kiwi,” with a kiwi, and numerous compliments on growing so tall, I slipped into my apartment at 6am to catch the morning and share the depths of humanity with those unfortunate few who happened to be on Facebook. I believe.

But life is pretty simple here to be honest. I’d be remiss if I did not mentioning one of my first big adventures here in Taiwan, the simpler pleasures of scenery: my trip up Tiger Head Mountain. A five-minute scooter ride down Dayou road and up winding trails brings one to an breath-taking vista over-looking all of Taoyuan.
(view from tiger head mountain)
Many of my students claimed this spot was great hiking, though they also claimed that there was a dinosaur on the mountain. They tend to make these sorts of claims. I travelled at night with friend and Canadian Ashley -- now departed -- bought mouth-watering food from local vendors who set-up shop there each night, and sat taking in the city. We watched the remaining light trace off the city while I fed two hungry dogs the remnants of my squid and sausage, which wouldn’t agreeing with man or mutt. While there was no dinosaur, but it was a trip I’ll never forget.

NI HAO!: LET’S COUNT TO TEN! To start off what I consider the most painful section to write, I think it’s best if we learn our numbers to ten. It’s interesting that students, when they count on their fingers here up to ten, have different gestures after five than those in use in America. Some of these symbols are somewhat intuitive: the seven is formed by a downward pointing of the index finger and sticking out ones thumb, which looks just like the English symbol for seven. Ten is formed by crossing the index fingers like a cross: evidently a symbol from the Chinese sign for ten. While there are a number of different systems for the phonetic and alphabetic spelling of Chinese words, Pinyin is the most accessible and most widely disseminated. The meaning of Chinese words depends on the stress or emphasis which you place on certain parts of the word. Pinyin has complicated symbols on top to describe these tones. I will be placing a (number) in parenthesis to explain the tone. Tones are hard for us but they are important: the word for the numbers four and ten is basically the same, but one falls and one rises in intonation to give separate meanings.
Wikipedia will help us: Relative pitch changes of the four tones
1. First tone, or high-level tone (陰平/阴平 yīnpíng, literal meaning: yin-level): a steady high sound, as if it were being sung instead of spoken.
2. Second tone, or rising tone (陽平/阳平 yángpíng, literal meaning: yang-level), or linguistically, high-rising: is a sound that rises from mid-level tone to high (e.g., What?!)
3. Third tone (low or dipping tone, 上聲/上声 shǎngshēng or shàngshēng, literal meaning: "up tone"): has a mid-low to low descent; if at the end of a sentence or before a pause, it is then followed by a rising pitch.

Between other tones it may simply be low.
4. Fourth tone, falling tone (去聲/去声 qùshēng, literal meaning: "away tone"), or high-falling: features a sharp fall from high to low, and is a shorter tone, similar to curt commands. (e.g., Stop!)
Let’s Count!
Number Pinyin Sounds Like 0 ling(2) Ling 1 Yi(1) E 2 Er(4) R 3 San(1) San 4 Si(4) Suh 5 wu(3) Wooo-uh 6 liu(4) Lee-O 7 qi (1) Tschi 8 ba(1) Bah 9 jio(3) G-O 10 Shi(2) Suh Chinese Symbols
Taken from:

By: Megan Klein
As a native English speaker, Engrish/Chinglish is the most hilarious aspect of living in Taiwan. Constantly seeing people walk down the street with things like 'I used to be fed but now I car see' and 'if you want to keep succeeding, you should not reaax your vilace' printed on their shirts is an endless source of enjoyment. I've chased people for blocks just to get a better look. There are two kinds of Engrish: Words that more or less make sense together but are misspelled or somehow taken out of context, and things that aren't words but really just a combination of random letters. The majority of the humor comes from the obvious lack of understanding of whoever made the shirt/named the store/wrote the billboard/translated the signs. One of my favorite examples is a shirt with a skull and cross bones on it and the word 'banana' written underneath.

Store names are funny as well but it's sad that the owner is permanently stuck with the error. My favorites in downtown Taoyuan: for gorgeous hunks, comebuy, familymart, cash city (restaurant), muggle restaurant, elegent chairs, beauty lady. You would think that major venues like airports and international stores would be immune, but they aren't. 'Caramel' is misspelled on the Starbucks menu, and even McDonalds had mistakes on their English menu. I offered to translate the spa menu for the spa I’ve been going to, and the owner seemed offended because she speaks some English herself, which must mean that the people writing the Engrish think the job they do is perfectly fine. And maybe they're right. When the majority of people in the country don't speak English, why should they care if the translated name of their company makes no sense? But I still want to walk around with a giant red marker and correct it.

Megan Klein is a proudly native Texan with an adoring family and a winning smile. She has been in Taiwan roughly two months and studying English absurdities her entire adult life. This is her first appearance as a contributor for the Sweet Potato Times. Send her some well-constructed, well-spelled words of encouragement at

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Q: The Olympics are on. I didn’t see you at the Olympics. Does Taiwan compete? I mean... compete? A: While the Gordinier family has never been one for keeping up on sports, I’ve caught a bit of the action on public televisions. From what I can gather, Taiwan is well-placed in the badminton, ping-pong, archery, and pool divisions. Of course I gather this knowledge just from turning on the television and observing children in the street and may perhaps be figmentary and/or racist. I’m hoping that pool is actually an event of the Olympics. Q: Can you drink the water? A: While the locals drink the water, it’s best to buy big gallon jugs. We have a convenient water-refill station across the street which you can buy about a jug and a half for ten NT, or 33cents US. The best part of this is, in true Asia style, the over-blown and unnecessary but truly charming melodies which play while the water refills. Everything from childhood memories to simple pop songs to 8-bit Nintendo game songs pipe out of the man-height machine below the dance studio on Dayou. Alex is convinced that he heard the old theme-song to the not-oft-played L’Emperor.

Q: Can I write a “Spotlight on Taiwan”? A: Of course! The only requirement is that you be in Taiwan. I know this eliminates a number of you, but perhaps this is more motivation to take a quick trip over to Asian shores. There are a number of topics to be written on that I’ve come up with over the past couple of weeks, but I’d love to entertain everyone’s own vision for this newsletter. Suggestions are always welcome as it should be with everything one does in life.

Q: Aren’t you working? A: Yes, teaching has been coming along at a steady pace. I’ve been reluctant to jump in on any serious discussions on work as I have to continue doing it everyday. It’s often as an after-thought that I have to teach, sometimes to my own detriment but rarely to the students. It’s more often that it’s an after-thought that I would get paid, which means I might be doing something right in this decision to be here in Taiwan. I plan on giving you a full run-down when I can acquire a camera and get some pictures of my wonderful, adoring fans/students. Until then, just imagine me as a young Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society.

A FINAL THOUGHT I hope you will continue to swift through that e-mail drudgery for the sweetness of The Sweet Potato. for The Sweet Potato Times in your e-mail drudgery. Look forward to spotlight on Dogs next issue. I’ll leave you with this, a hint of things to come.

Best, Gerald A. Gordinier

love you, love

happy 24th anniversary, mom & dad! i told my class about that when i asked what today was and they were amazed. other news: the sweet potato times, issue 2 is out. i'll post it after this. you can read my spotlight article :) i think it's written kind of poorly but i wrote it in like 2 minutes sooo..

i was just telling maj (my mom.. it's kind of a long story of how we started calling mom and dad maj and faj but i guess if you're reading this, odds are you already know it anyway) about all of the chinese i used today. i was reading a chinese/english book and i remembered a lot of words i had forgotten so i tried to use them today.
how much is it? - duo shao jian?
what is that called? - na shir shenme?
i want one fried rice without meat - wo yao yi ge chao fan bu rou
tai guei - too expensive

those phrases get you pretty far on the street. now i need to know how to say 'you've been charging me over $100 for 3 pieces of fruit and i know that's way too much, i'm not paying more than $50 from now on, jerk.' i didn't go to the fruit lady today but i did get a jasmine tea. i don't have to tell the tea people what i want now. it's kind of cool.

wound update: it's only oozing a little bit of nastiness throughout the day and it's pretty well scabbed over. the parts that had remnants of blister covering them are healing much better than the middle is where it's just raw. anyway the outlook is pretty good.

something odd about taiwan: there are stray dogs roaming the streets. apparently people put poison out sometimes to kill them. but they seem pretty nice in general. i've only ever run into one mean one and that's when josh was trying to be batman in the back alley. it's interesting though because they travel in big packs of like 8 or 10. they're pretty mangy though. patches of fur are missing and they look like they have infestations of all kinds.

something good about taiwan: there's a deep sense of right and wrong. when i accidentally give the kids stickers when they aren't supposed to get any because they haven't done their homework, they say 'teacher, no stickers' and give them back to me. or when an elderly person or a mom with a little kid gets on the bus, like 4 young people hop out of their seats to let them sit down. other than sneaky fruit ladies, everyone i've encountered has been really nice, helpful and honest.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


so saturday started early as always with my 9am kindy. i made it through that without any big problems and i was scheduled to have another one after that, but the teacher came in and asked me politely to leave and it turns out that i dont start until next week. it was a miracle because i was really tired.

so thennn i was waiting at the bus stop and this person rides up on a scooter and just stops there for a bit and i was getting out my water and she said 'hey where are you going?' and i look up, and it's the coteacher i have problems with. i tell her guei shan and she says hop on i'll give you a ride. :O. i was so surprised. so she gave me a ride into town and she complimented my outfit. maybe we've made some kind of breakthrough. i guess the true test will be when we get to class again on thursday night.

then in the afternoon i had 3 sub classes. the first one was pretty good, we played all kinds of games. the second one was the last of 3 times i subbed for that class. the coteacher in there is craaaazy, her name is anita. we had a new kid trying out the class and i think she terrified him. she likes to yell for effect and it's funny if you know she's not serious but i think she kid didn't know what to think. at one point in that class, my friend derek just walked in and asked how it was going and i said i'm teachinggg! and he went outside and blew on the glass and wrote a little message in the steam on the door. my class was in shambles and i was blushing a lot. my third class was with a coteacher i've never met, jill. she was very flattering. she kept calling me 'the pretty coteacher' and it was fun. i told them all sorts of things about derek, who's usually their teacher.

and chelsea and i went to dinner at this japanese place right next door to the school and i didn't know they had pictures on their menu so i had never walked in, but i had pork with rice and it was really really good. definitely the best thing i've eaten in taiwan. no yucky bits.

at night, josh, steve, justin and i went to this club in jung li, a town like.. 25 minutes away by cab, and we went to a club called hen house. it was an interesting lesson in taiwanese club culture. a bunch of 'taiwanese gangsters' were there and they just make me laugh. taiwanese guys are so thin and weak looking. even though these ones had layers and layers of sweatshirts on and hats and whatever, they still looked like scrawny little guys. it was fun though. i was talking to this person i thought was a girl but who had short hair and was dressed like a guy and josh came over and referred to them as 'he' and then we spent the rest of the night trying to figure out if it was a guy or a girl. dressed like a guy, had a questionable adam's apple, and we asked his friend and he said it was a guy. but they had ladylike hands and went into the women's restroom so who knows.
but i think bonded with steve. we're both non-dancers so we sat on the side and chatted most of the night, and when he had to leave my side he came up with a signal i could do that would let him know i needed assistance. so that was nice.
but i got home and showered and today my whole body is still really smoky so i'm going to go shower again and hope i can get rid of it.

oh! i had a dream that mutti, aunt margy, gram and spanky, mom and dad and aunt carol were in austin and we went out to dinner for my birthday. so it was nice seeing the imaginary forms of all of you :P

Saturday, August 16, 2008

singin' ain't this life so sweet

mailed a box of taiwanese paraphernalia (ooh man i've been spelling that wrong my whole life. thank you, spellcheck), mainly odd foods and some engrish shirts. when i went to the post office, the woman at the counter told me it was $12,000 to mail and i gawked at her because the teachers have been telling me how cheap it is to mail stuff and $12000 is like $400ish which is obviously not cheap or reasonable. so then she said oh no on no, $1,200. WHEW.

my classes were pretty good. the first one is mostly boys and classes with tons of boys are just not my style. i'm girly. luckily, my coteacher, gene, is super fantastic. he's silly and he does boy things and i'm so glad i have him for that class. today the question was 'who are you afraid of?' and they came up with 'my father, my mother, my teacher, gangsters, robbers, police officers, and the mafia' it was pretty funny for me to correct kids pronunciation of gangsters and mafia.

one kid just got back from vacation in my second class and he brought me back south korean nail clippers with a little handmade clay lady bauble on them :) his mom comes to every class and she collects all of the homework at the beginning of class. i like them. i taught his brother in a sub class for 3 weeks. they both know a whole lot of english.

after class, chelsea, one of the coteachers, picked me up and we went to the night market. she's pretty quiet but she's really nice. she kept asking if i wanted to try various things. we bought fried chicken that appeared to be like chicken nugget things but i put one in my mouth and bit down and there was a giant bone in it! it freaked me out. i spit it out when she wasnt looking :X
youre supposed to put the whole thing in your mouth and eat all of the edible parts and then spit out the bone. i don't know. i don't know why that's necessary when there are so many bits of edible chicken without messing with bone. but they don't like to waste anything.
andd we had watermelon juice and we had chicken curry. it was fun. i hope we become better friends. she lives with her parents and she wants to move into the dorm but i'm not sure if that's allowed or not. she's never been outside of taiwan. i'm going to try to get her to come with us on our 10/10 trip. we have a 4 day weekend in october for 'double ten' holiday. they're big on double numbers here.

speaking of taiwanese traditions, today marked the middle of ghost month so everyone was back out with their tables of food and incense. the fancy mall, SKII (SK 2), had like tables and tables and tables of food out with all kinds of workers praying with incense. i wish i had my camera.

that's all for today. early to bed. i'm teaching fiiiive classes tomorrow. from 9am to 7pm. it's going to be such a long day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"air quotes"

i ate chow mein in my room and now it smells pretty gross in here.

you will not believeeee what happened today. well, hold on. i'll start at the beginning.
this morning keith took me to the immigration office to apply for my ARC (alien resident card) and i was #79 and when we got there they were on #55 so keith and i went down the street to this little coffee shop called Dante which was like a taiwan-fabulous version of starbucks. i ordered some kind of cranberry drink and it had bits of dried cranberry in it and it was so refreshing on such a humid day. today it was as hot as it is in texas, but with like 90% humidity. you can't imagine how swampy it feels. it's disgusting. but it was cool inside the cafe and the drinks were good and we killed a good 45 minutes in there instead of sitting in the government building which was nice.
he had to go to class, so i waited by myself for like 10 minutes before it was my turn. the woman helping me was very abrupt. she said my passport photos were unacceptable because they were on a "gray" background, so i had to go take new ones down the street. but that was the only hitch. i get my ARC on sept. 5th! woo!

went to latini's for a quick lunch. bobo, leila and steve were there finishing their lunch. i'm going to start taking chinese classes with bobo next week. she's this pretty taiwanese woman who teaches a lot of the foreign teachers. she's joyce's mom, the cute little girl i colored with at the party a week ago. i'm looking forward to it because i get to play with joyce

my first class was OK but my second class, my awful WOW class that only speaks chinese, was actually fun today! who would have thought. contributing factors: a) my coteacher was in a good mood and was speaking mostly english, b) i told this kid scott, whose favorite English word is 'shit' that every time he spoke chinese, i was going to eat one of his chips. i ended up only eating a couple but i think it made the class feel a little more like i was on their side or something. (side note: he commented on how i even eat chips gracefully which i thought was uncharacteristically nice) c) we were all just being silly and it was a lot of fun. i used air quotes at one point and the class came to a screeching halt and they all looked at me and did air quotes back and were like 'what is that?' and i tried to explain.. but it's just a hard thing to explain. you have to explain sarcasm.. or that it's what someone said before.. and you use them like quotes..

and we read all of the shirts with english words on them in the class. it amazes me that people who know english would still buy/wear shirts that don't make sense. we read one kids shirt that was really wrong and i asked him if he had read it and he said no and it's like helloooo! you can read english! why walk around with a shirt that doesn't make any sense.

picture of the day: chow mein from corner guy. chow-fried mein-noodle

the standard to go container is a white cardboard box that they secure with a rubber band and put inside a colored plastic bag.

girlfriend not-girlfriend

exciting news, friend and fam. i was asked to write a spotlight piece for the sweet potato times. i think i'm second in line, so i won't be in this issue, but we'll see. of course i'll keep you posted.

bought some trays today. here's a trick for the disorganized: if you put all of the little crap that collects everywhere on some kind of fancy tray, instead of looking like you lack organization, you appear stylish and fancy. maybe it's in my head. but i think it works. refer to exhibits a, b and c:

after i bought my trays, keith took me to class and hung out in the teachers' lounge for a bit which stirred up all kinds of gossip in my class. class itself was boring today. i think i'm tired of the memorization style of teaching. i want to do things to make them actually learn the words.

after class i met up with this man who has his own english school. he tried to talk me into leaving my current school to work for him, but his arguments weren't very compelling. i'm 2 weeks away from getting my ARC, i'm living here for $60/month, there are tons of teachers at this school and thus a readymade network of friends, and i get lots of hours. he was offering an ARC, fewer hours for slightly more pay, no housing, and i'd be one of 2 teachers so no network. his main argument was that i would be a really good teacher when i got out of there because he was a super awesome teacher and would teach me everything he knows. i don't know. i felt like i was being pressured so i just told him flat out that i like where i am now, i came here for the experience, having lots of people around me was important and i could work part time for him, but i'm not interested in leaving my current school.
he told his wife and this lady who works in the office (one of the 4 employees) that i was like a person from Yoyo which is their equivalent of sesame street and when i met them tonight and started talking, they cracked up. it was weird.

my birthday is 3 weeks from today!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

and i might not have said it, so i'll say it now

not much happened today but there are a few updates and a few cultural observations:
1. you know how on wednesdays i used to have 2 classes and the second one had the same kids from the first one, plus 12 other kids? they dissolved my first class and permanently combined it with the second one which is going to make my life easier. now i don't have to come up with an extra game every week and i can spend 2 less hours with my coteacher of doom.

2. they gave me another kindy class. dangit! but it's right after my first one and it's the same kind of class so i can do exactly what i did with my first one which will be nice. and i've been tolddd that kindys can be really wonderful once you bond with the kids. so we'll see.

3. today i decided that i wanted pork in addition to my pea pods and carrot thing at my corner lady in da chu. she thinks i'm a vegetarian because i usually get the veggie option, but one time, a long time ago, she gave me pork.. so today, i tried to say 'remember that time you gave me meat? i want that again please'. she speaks no english so she went to get her husband, who got someone who was sitting in the 'restaurant' and the 3 of us tried to communicate. we eventually got it right and they learned how to say 'rice' and 'just rice' in english and i learned how to say 'pork' (ju rou) in chinese. anyway i think we bonded in a new way.

4. fruit lady had been price gouging me and i think today, upon my 4th visit, she decided i was going to be a permanent fixture and so she lowered the price. she used to charge me anywhere from $150 to $120 for 2 bell fruit and a mango. todayy she charged me $50 for one bell fruit and one mango. there's no possible way one additional bell fruit makes it go up $100. so we're making progress.

1. every time they give you a drink, they put it in a plastic bag and you drink out of it while it's in the bag. i don't know what the reasoning is

2. stamp/key shops have little boxes of something (probably stamps or keys) all lined up on shelves and it makes me think of the wand shop in Harry Potter.

3. people drive like bats out of hell. today, the bus i was in made a righthand turn from the left-most lane. it was ridiculous. one of the teachers, steve, got t-boned on his motorcycle by a car and he has a big hole in his foot where part of his motorcycle gouged him.

time for bed!

Monday, August 11, 2008

the taiwanese patient

I took a bunch of pictures of my day today in lieu of writing about it. In my first class, we took a field trip to McDonalds. it's their treat for finishing a big test. this is us walking there..

This is them ordering. We taught them..
Mc donalds person: hello, may i help you?
kid: yes please, i'd like a happy meal
mc donalds person: OK, what kind of drink would you like?
kid: a coke, please
mc donalds person: anything else?
kid: no thank you
mc donalds person: that will be -----$
kid: ok, here you go.

it was pretty cute. the mc donalds lady screwed them up at the end by asking 'for here, or to go?' and the kids looked at us like that wasn't in the script!, what do i do?!
naturally, one kid ordered a coke and 3 things of fries. his name is Hank. We call him hank-uh.
Eason, the powerhouse (top left), Lin (bottom left), ken and jeff
from left to right.. Judy, Maggie, Jennifer and Kitty
Jasmine, my coteacher with Teddy, Isabelle and Betty
All of us in front of McDonalds :)
This is my almost-baby class. they're like 5 and 6 year olds and super sweet.
This is my wound on day 3 and the medical paraphenalia i bought today to try to play nurse with. i switched from non-breathable cotton pads to breathable gauze. i think that might help. i really have no idea what i'm doing. any legitimate burn advice would be appreciated.

oh! i almost forgot to show you stamp #3.

i made keith one too. i couldnt tell the lady 'id like mine in cursive and his in normal lettering' so he got cursive too. but i think it's hilarious with the pocket knife. and mine is hello kitty :) soo taiwan.

time to dry my hair and head to bed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

and i'll be alright, i'm just missin' you

well, the burn update is that i went to carrefour, bought some neosporin, jelly bandaids and anti-scar cream. i had the jelly bandaids on from noon until 7ish but i got on the mayo clinic website and they said to just cover it with gauze until it heals itself, so i did that instead. who knows.

today i made red curry with coconut milk, carrots, potatoes, eggplant and chicken. yumm. and i napped, watched tv, showered. i bought the same body wash i was using at home. Ivory brand lavendar body wash. it smells so good, i love it.

i was kind of in a crummy mood all day. we can't watch much of the olympics here. they televise weird sports like badminton and something that seems like soccer but you can use your hands.. it seems like NBC bought the rights to all of the cool sports and taiwan isn't in on the action. i tried watching live video online, but taiwan 'is not an accepted viewing region' so it wont let me. so that was annoying. and it's hard to be in a foreign country when youre sick or injured. and keith was studying for the MCAT all day and didn't want to be bothered, so i couldn't chat with him and no one in the dorm was really around for most of the day and i just didn't feel good.

but now i feel better. i caught up with gram and spanky on the phone. it had been like a week since i had talked to them and it seemed like forever. i think i really just needed a nap and some food. i went to latini's and had caprese salad that was really good and a frozen latte. came home and watched Gatica with people. noww it's time for bed!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

and a fairytale princess

well, my 9am kindy (short for kindergarten) still seems like it's at 5am. i was so tired this morning. waking up at 7 when you usually wake up at 10 or 11 is pretty rough. we had fun though. lots of flash cards. in my in-between time, from 1030 to 130, i got a hazelnut latte and toasted blueberry bagel with cream cheese at starbucks. it was so tasty. they don't really have cream cheese here and i was craving it. read some more of The Secret. more on that later.

my sub class was pretty good. not quite as fun as last time, but still fun. i can remember everyone's name except this girl who wore a garfield shirt last week and this week, so i continued to call her garfield. it didn't seem like she minded. they like nicknames. anyway as i was leaving, joanna at the front desk handed me a fax and i said oh noooo because faxes mean you have to go do something or you have to sub a class. they wanted me to sub a class that night from 6 to 730 so i said yes. it's my understanding that you aren't really allowed to say no, and i didn't have anything to do at night anyway. it wasn't so bad but i did have to kill time from 330 to 6. went back into town, ate a delicious leek pancake thing with bacon and read more of The Secret at cheng gung (the downtown branch) for an hour while i waited for keith to get out of class there at 5. the secret was talking about how all you need to do is know what you want and the universe will reorganize itself to bring it to you. i thought 'i have enough money right now, all i want is a scooter and ballet classes.' i met up with keith and he scootered me to guei shan on his way home and we had ice cream and chatted about what i had read. then i subbed the class at 6 and the first thing i did was play this word relay game and they had to come up with words with a certain number of letters, and they got to choose the first one and the only constraint was that it had to be a 6 letter word, and one team picked Secret. that could have been a coincidence. but..

keith picked me up after class and we went to the grocery store. when i got off his scooter, i backed into the exhaust pipe and burnt the heck out of my calf. i've been keeping ice on it since then and it looks like:
pretty gross. it's like the size of a golfball. that's my leg and the bag of mixed vegetables i've been keeping it cold with. it huuuurts. i can squish around the layer of skin on top. it's like a giant blister without any liquid in it.
anyway i beelined it for the ice cream section so i could ice it immediately, and keith got me a bag of ice from the lady butchering live fish across from the ice cream and we did a quick check for tortilla chips (which is what i was looking for in the first place), didn't find any, and were on our way out when i was thinking 'it's too bad that i'm in too much pain to think about what i actually need here so this wouldn't be a totally wasted trip' when i saw this girl in a gray sweat suit with a wrap front like dancers wear and i looked at her feet and like an inch of them was exposed and she was wearing pink ballet tights and i could see an inch of shiny purple leotard peeking out from her top and i looked up at her mom who was looking at me and i asked if she spoke english and she said a little, and i asked where the girl took ballet and it's right down the street from me! so i'm going to look into that next week. but it only took 3 hours for that to materialize. now i have to focus on a scooter. although i'm kind of angry at scooters today.

i'm all on a Secret, everything-happens-for-a-reason kick because my friend jerry is a total nonbeliever and he's driving me crazy arguing about it so i've been paying extra attention to all of the things in my life that aren't coincidence.

anyhow now i'm home and not going out dancing with josh and some others because i can't be away from something icy for more than a minute before my leg starts feeling like it's being branded with a red hot poker.


oooh man weren't the opening ceremonies of the olympics so cooool!! i missed them when they were on live because i was teaching, but we just watched a big montage of the coolest parts and it was so awesome. so chinese. they spent $100 million on it, it ought to be cool. my favorite part was the men in the lightup suits who did marching formations.

in my GL3 class tonight we had a mini-olympics of our own and i had them compete in all of the activities to see who would get the gold metal. i think the concept was completely lost on them, but it was fun for me. the moms seemed happy this time which makes me happy. and my coteacher was wearing these:
except hers were army green with light pink accents.

i have no stories today. i talked the fruit lady down $10 (30 cents) and i was forced to buy a disgusting pork, tea egg (a soft boiled egg, peeled and soaked in rancid..ok it isn't rancid but it isn't delicious.. tea for weeks at a time so that the whole thing becomes brown) and bamboo shoot dinner at beef noodle lady in guei shan even though all i wanted was rice. the lady didn't understand what i said and then when she understood that all i wanted was rice, she said that since she already packaged the meal for me, i HAD to buy it. i guess that's fair enough, but she was really not being nice about it and i didn't enjoy it at all =\ so on my way home i bought one of the leek pancake things and 2 bellfruit.
time for bed! i have early class tomorrow.

Friday, August 8, 2008

ghost month

I found this article which explains ghost month in a pretty entertaining way..

Eastern religions are a little more sanguine and pragamatic about the whole deal (and, on the whole, also don't make films with either Demi Moore or Patrick Swayze). Rather than banishing the spirits they try to appease them by inviting them temporarily into the world of the living. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Taiwan during Ghost Month. On the first day of the seventh lunar month, 'Open Day' in hell is held, the gates to the underworld are opened and the spirits are allowed to cross over into the living world.
Not only do the Taiwanese accept these hauntings with admirable equanimity, they actually give their ethereal guests the full VIP 5-star treatment. At the Chung Yuan Festival (about halfway through the month), huge banquet tables are set out in temple courtyards and mountains of fish, vegetables, meat and other delicacies are offered as sacrifice; hanging lanterns are erected to guide the ghosts to the table; non-stop operas entertain during dinner and fake money is burnt so that guests have a bit of pocket-money to spend when they return to hell.
This hospitality is not entirely altruistic - it's insurance against paranormal acts of retribution. Other do's and dont's to be observed during ghost month include the following: weddings, special plans, business deals and outings should be put on hold till the end of the month; no whistling, whistling is not a good idea, whistling will lead the ghost straight to your home; talking ill of the dead (even if it's true) will just bring tears and heartache; special care should be taken when walking along riverbanks where a water ghost can easily steal a living spirit; and adding to the numbers by burying the dead is, unfortunately, not a good idea. On the 30th day of the month, the gates of hell are closed again and the ghosts return to the other side.

I was told that during ghost month, you're not supposed to hang your laundry out to dry, swim, or whistle at night. The first day of the month, almost every store owner had set up a card table in front of their business with lots of food on it with incense stuck in the food. The second and third day, they burnt paper money in these big silver pots. Nothing has really happened since the 3rd. I was told that in the middle and end of the month, the tables of food come back out.

ding ding ding went the bell

this is me and serena a minute ago. she's from chicago

i can't think because the trolley song is stuck in my head and it's overwhelming the voice in my head. let's seeee...
oh, went to taipei this morning to pick up my resident visa! now i have to apply for my ARC (alien resident card) that'll give me some more privileges. i can get a scooter and i can go to health clinics and get reaaally cheap prescriptions. keith came with me because we were both feeling kind of weird about me going alone and my intuition has been really strong here so if something seems weird, i just don't do it. anyway i was happy to have company. we took a taxi from the train station, went straight there, and went straight home. this really nice spanish? guy helped us find the bus station when we were lost. people just pop out of nowhere when you need help.

bought a cuteee top on the street. (see below). it makes me feel like a german milkmaid or something. i love it. it's crocheted on top but you cant really see it in the tiny picture. click on it if you want to see it looks weird with my yellow skirt :P and serena found me some taiwan-tastic leggings. they're black with pink bottoms. (in the picture). i didnt wear that all day, by the way. i was just trying on my new shirt.

i don't really have a whole lot to say about today. my good class was good, my horrible class was horrible. oh! so in my good class, i have a mom who sits in the back. tonight at the end of the class, my coteacher told me that the mom said that she doesnt want me to wear tank tops like i wore today, andd i shouldn't whistle at night because its GHOST MONTH and you arent allowed to WHISTLE AT NIGHT. i called shenanigins on that. i understand cultural differences, but i mean.. i like to whistle. i didn't realize how much i did it until someone told me not to.

time to chat with jeffy and go to bed.