Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hualian Day


On Thursday morning I boarded the train for Hualian. I go there once a month to teach some classes. I was really really impressed with the first school I went to. The teachers were really helpful and enthusiastic, and the students were lively and involved in the lesson. I wish all my classes were like that... sigh... the thing is you can take the exact same lesson and with one class it will totally bomb, while with another class it will be extremely successful. I'll be continuing to teach at this school once a month.

Speaking of totally bombing, that's kind of how I felt at the second school, though it wasn't my fault. About 10 minutes into the lesson, right around when I was saying something like "Please turn to page 65" I discovered that none of the students had brought the magazine we were supposed to be using in class. So I fielded some questions while someone went to photocopy the article we were supposed to be using. Apart from that, I just didn't really enjoy teaching in that class. I'm glad I won't be going back to that school. Actually, next month I'm scheduled for a random conversation class at one of the universities... talk about nervous!!

Anyways, after classes were finished, I went to visit my friend A-Hsiang who showed me around the international stone festival being held in Hualian. One of Hualian's big productions is marble and different kinds of rock. Actually, on a previous visit to Hualian I bought some stone necklaces. The stone looks like it could be a painting, but it all occurs naturally. Here's a picture:


There are various sculptures all over the city. I got to see some fun art and some of these huge sculptures in progress.





I even chatted with an artist from Europe.



Here's A-Hsiang and I.

After that we went to the Indian restaurant for dinner, one of my favorite restaurants in Hualian. When we entered the restaurant the owner said "Long time no see" and remembered I was moving to Yilan! So fun.


I spent yesterday getting a hairwash and attending an interesting Chinese class with one of the exchange students at the high school. The teacher was really fascinated with comparing our cultural values, but this was a little difficult for both of us to do (the other student has only been here for 2 months!). My evening class went pretty well, I had 12 students again. We were talking about fear and they had to profile some common fears, stating the worst-case scenario and advice they would give someone for overcoming that fear. One group chose "death" their report went something like this:
Fear: death
Worst-Case Scenario: death
Advice: Prayer and meditation, live a good life, buy life insurance

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday musings

  • For breakfast today I had "dan bing" and warm soy milk. They brought me my milk in a bowl with a spoon (2 NT cheaper than the paper cup!), and I had this strange feeling that I should be adding cereal to it...
  • My classes went quite well today. I was really impressed with my students this morning, they are so creative! They were making up self-introductions with the goal of getting a job as an actor/actress. I had one student who has previously starred in such films as Lord of the Necklace, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Water, and Legally Brown.
  • Every Monday the teacher at the girl's school gives me a box of different breads/pastries for my "dinner" and it's usually interesting to see what sort of things are inside. There's always at least one that's completely unidentifiable, but consists of a sweet bread with some sort of meat inside and processed cheese and garlic salt baked on top. I've learned to break it in half before biting in, just in case. Today I had a little difficulty breaking it in half which I quickly discovered was because of the hot dog baked into the middle. EW.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

packages and weekend fun

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Let me introduce you to Joe. He was part of a "miracle" package from my former roommate, Johanna. You see, said package was mailed in August, and as September and most of October passed us by, we'd both pretty much given up on it, until it magically appeared outside my door (as all my mail does) directly from... Yuli. I'm not sure if I was more suprised by its arrival, or by the fact that the two-month-old fudge inside was still soft. Last week I received three more packages, I feel loved! :D
I got a letter and some chocolate from Kaia, and was suprised by a "house warming" gift from Ariel (in Yuli) - some dishes, and even more suprised by a box from Rose that contained a camel ornament.

I was quite social this weekend, more social that I usually am in a week if you don't count classes! My lunch on Friday was wonderful! Cindy studied in the states for 8 years and her English is almost like a native speaker's. We had some really good conversations. I also asked her about a few things I've been looking for in Yilan and she was able to help me find them! We went to the big grocery store (there's just a very small and not that great one by my house) and the library. Since Yilan library's English section is pretty small (not too suprised) she asked her brother-in-law if we could go to the university library, since he's a teacher at Yilan University. So on Saturday they took me there and it does indeed have a decent English section, but alas, I'm not a student so I can't get a library card there... I guess this means I need to make friends with some university students so they can take books out for me (preferably cute English majors...heh). Actually the teacher offered to let me borrow some books under his name. I spent the afternoon at their house (Cindy's sister and brother-in-law), playing with their 3 kids, answering random English questions, and trying to explain how it's possible to live in Western Canada but NOT Vancouver. In all, it was pretty enjoyable.

Today I had church and I knew all the songs but one! I gotta tell you though, 8:20 services are not condusive to staying away when you can understand less than 50% of the sermon! In the afternoon I went and played basketball with some of the high school and college students from the church. It was pretty fun! We played 3 on 3, until 5 points and then the loser had to switch off. There were about 5 teams. We actually won quite a few of our games, which was suprising since my basketball skills aren't exactly something to brag about...

Anyways, I have a virus on my computer. This makes me cranky.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

disclaimer: boring entry

I'm pretty much just writing for the sake of posting a new entry...
  • I read The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks. Creepy, but well-written. (One shouldn't read stalker books when one lives alone.) I read The Notebook on my way to Hong Kong. Guess I've been in a fiction mood lately.
  • Met some more people, I might be joining another Chinese class (one that some exchange students at the high school are taking), and I'm looking for a badminton partner. I sort of joined a small group here, but meetings aren't that great when I can't really understand the content. Thinking about starting an English group, but haven't mentioned it to anyone yet.
  • Met a lady who just returned from 8 years in America. Have a lunch date with her this week.
  • Apparently there's a rumor going around that my Chinese is good... at least until they try to talk to me! haha
  • Classes are going ok... I'm kind of in a teacher lull right now... i'm feeling like i'm not always teaching as well as I could be. It's been a big challenge getting used to having 40+ students in a class, which also makes them quite inhibited as far as any sort of class discussion. Sometimes I feel like I'm just having a conversation with myself. I need some strategies to get them talking more.
  • I miss Hope.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

One year ago!

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October 16, 2004, I stepped off the plane at Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport. I have officially been in Taiwan for one year! Happy Taiwan birthday to me :D

Thursday, October 13, 2005

it always pays...

... to make conversation with people at the stores you frequent (well except when they ask you to tutor their children). But anyways, the girl who works at the bakery close to my house was an English major in university, so I've chatted with her a little. Now their bakery has these chicken pitas that aren't that appetizing (chicken, some veggies, mayo and ketchup, good maybe when it hasn't been sitting out all day). But anyways, today I asked her if it was possible to just get the outside (the pita) and she said she'd try to get some for me in the futre. I'm quite excited about this prospect!

I started my Chinese class today, which I'm really happy about. The funny thing is I was showing my book to another lady from the church yesterday, and when I read one of the dialogues for her, she went on and on about how good my Chinese is. My actual teacher today, upon hearing me read the same thing said, oh you really need to work on your tones! Anyways, I hope I can improve my level of fluency and pronunciation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

There and back again (in one day)

My Hong Kong day started, as any good day should, with a Chai latte.

Actually the day started at 5:30am with my driver to the airport telling me that it was his first day as he called his supervisor for directions on how to get out of the district I was staying in. But the Chai was the first thing I got after I got off the airport shuttle in Hong Kong (also to make change for the buses). Buses and airplanes and taxis are becoming routine for me.

I can't say the day was really exciting, but it was quite relaxing. I wandered, I reflected, I drank diet coke with lime (which hasn't yet found its way to Taiwan). I walked out the "G" exit while intentionally heading for "D". I wasn't really in a shopping mood, and I didn't have a ton of time, so I spent most of my day at Victoria Peak , one of Hong Kong's big tourist attractions. I was fortunate to be there on a Friday, and actually there weren't too many people around. I took the bus up a very winding road to the top of the mountain and wandered around the shopping mall they've installed up there. Had lunch in one of the "trendy" restaurants and reflected on the fact that my world became noisier for the day, as I could understand the array of conversations surrounding me without a concentrated effort.

I spent much of the afternoon walking on some of the paths around the top of the peak and snapping pictures, as you can see below.

I took the tram back to the city. The first part of the way down it seems like you're going backwards at a 45 degree angle!
Back in the city, I looked around for a bit until it was time to catch the airport shuttle back. Next time I'll definitely try to swing the extra days.
So that was my day, a third of it spent in transit...

10 second timer. Posted by Picasa

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Guardian. Posted by Picasa

Hong Kong Posted by Picasa

The view from the back of the mall. Posted by Picasa

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A secret stair... (Ok, not so secret) Posted by Picasa

Along the walkway. Posted by Picasa

a little further up the path and you could forget how close you are to one of the world's major cities. Posted by Picasa

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On my way back to the airport. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 07, 2005

coming soon...

There and back again (in one day) : A Hong Kong tale by.....

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Teaching nightmare #24

You arrive for a two hour class that is completely textbook-based. As the students open the box of fresh new books you notice something is amiss. You tell yourself you are mistaken, but on closer examination, you discover that the students have an entire class set of a book you don't have.
Do you:
A. Scrap the lesson and improvise something on the spot?

B. Borrow one of the student's books and do a quick read-through of the first chapter while attempting to improvise something on the spot?
C. Yell, scream, throw your book on the floor and stomp out of the room?

Turns out, if you chose "B" as I did, that would be the wrong choice. See the book the students have is book 3 of a series that gets progressively more difficult, (i'm not 100% sure the students are ready for book 1 of this series actually). Thinking maybe the students had somehow been through the previous books (and no Chinese teacher in sight), I decided to go with the flow and see what I could salvage out of the chapter. After a somewhat painful lesson where I discovered that the book indeed is much too difficult for them, I found out that someone had ordered and/or sent the wrong books. A call to the supplying office confirmed this fact.
J: "I heard the book is too hard for the students"
Me: "It's definitely too hard"
J: "So you can't use it with them"
Me: "No"
J: "Did they write in the books today"
(stupid, stupid, stupid) Me: "Yes, I'm afraid many of them did"
J: "Oh, we can't exchange them then"

Me: "I see, well I can create my own curriculum"
J: "AND they're kind of expensive, and the parents will be expecting their children to use the books. So can you use this book to teach the class?"
Me: "I guess I'll try" (doesn't seem to be much of a choice.... am i a pushover?)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

navigation

I was looking at a copy of a map of Yilan that Peggy gave me, and I wondered to myself, what's the name of that really straight road that runs through the middle of town?

...

yeah, that really straight "road" is the line between the two pages (the map was photocopied out of a book).

In somewhat related news, I was told today that my trip to Hong Kong will only be one day after all. Pity.

Monday, October 03, 2005

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Right now I am eating a very interesting dessert consisting of warm soft tofu in a hot syrup. It's called dou hua and is something I suppose grows on you. The first 2 times I had it, I didn't particularly like it. So far my favorite is a cold chocolate one.

I spent the weekend in Taipei. I'm getting a little more comfortable with being there, and not feeling so overwhelmed by its size and busyness. It was really great to see a number of friends, even though I see them so infrequently. I got to see Marcus before he returned to California, we gave our year end reports on Friday. I actually wasn't nervous. Although Doris rattled us a little when Marcus was giving his presentation and said "umm" gave a big speech about not using "um" (though he hadn't been using it excessively to that point) and then would kind of go "oh!" everytime he or I said it... of course this throws you off your train of thought, causing you to say "umm" more often while you try to find your place again!

I got to see my friend Esther from Yuli on Saturday (she moved from Yuli to Taipei in August). We went to the Taipei art museum. I appreciate cheap and interesting things to do. There's a big Vivienne Westwood display there now, which was the main attraction, but I'm not much of a fashion buff.
I also learned how to play Mah Jong! Unfortunately I had to go, so I only had time for a lesson and about 3 rounds. I hope I can play again sometime.

On Saturday night I went to see
Cinderella Man which I thought was an excellent movie. It was really intense, though probably made more so by the fact that I hadn't been to a theatre since February...

Oh yeah, there was a typhoon in there somewhere too... I'm happy to say that none of the typhoons I've experiences thus far have affected me badly... not even a power outage (in any of them). I was a little worried I'd be stranded in Taipei for an extra day, but the trains started running again right around the time I was boarding. When I arrived at the train station there were only two that weren't cancelled or delayed. Amazingly, mine was one of those two!

So now I'm back in Yilan for a few days and can you believe it - I've got a cold!
sigh... I know everyone, especially Hope will be shocked... from one a year to one a month, this is not good... actually, i seem to remember that i got the last one right after I returned from Taipei too. in that case things aren't looking good, since I'm going again next weekend. Speaking of next weekend, I'll be spending two fun-filled days in the exciting city of Hong Kong! On my own this time... I wonder how many times I'll get lost...