Monday, May 29, 2006

I need to get out more!

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

This is completed to include my upcoming Korea trip. There's so much I haven't seen!! Look at all that grey!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cleaning out the Fridge

Thanks to Jack and Hope for your answers to the survey! Most interesting.
Mine are as follows:
1. Around the world, though I'm a bit ashamed of how little of Canada I've actually seen, I've never been to Victoria, Niagra falls, Ottawa (our country's capital), or Anne of Green Gables' house (in PEI).
2. Sometimes... if it doesn't smell terrible or look suspiciously like it was an important part of some living creature's digestive/circulatory/urinary system, I'll probably give it a try
3. No, though my next trip to Korea conveniently includes staying with two friends. I've been to Hong Kong by myself, and I don't know anyone there, but I think I would have been pretty intimidated the first time if I hadn't had Hope and Marcus with me.
4. In Taiwan I love the railway system which I take advantage of 1-4 times per week. In Canada, well besides the fact that I don't actually have my drivers' license... car is much more convenient.
5. No, and I've proven that more than once. Thankfully I pick up languages fairly quickly, though right now Korean seems MUCH MUCH more indecipherable than Mandarin. I'll try to learn a few phrases though.
6. Short flight - window, long flight- aisle

I understood about 75% of the sermon this morning in church. I don't know if it was because he was mostly speaking from a story (the life of Abraham) and I was following along in my English Bible, or if the pastor was just speaking particularly clearly and slowly today. Although I followed more or less what he was talking about, I still failed to connect the sermon point or topic and opening illustration with what he spoke about the rest of the time. I suppose that happens sometimes in English churches too lol. I remember my friends relating a story about how a preacher once started off talking about Jesus and his disciples, then the role of women in the church, and wandered through a variety of other topics before finishing with, "In conclusion, God should be the center of your marriage."
Speaking of sermon illustrations, our pastor opened his remarks this morning with an account of when we cleaned the refrigerator a few weeks ago. Another peril of living in the church... even your rotten food is publicized. Actually in this case the rotten food in question wasn't mine at all, though I suspect some of it belonged to the foreigner who was living here before me....
The story of the fridge: one day when I returned from class I met the pastor in the hallway where he was talking with another girl who lives here. On seeing me it was like a light came on in his head, and he suddenly decided that the three of us should immediately clean the fridge since he's noticed yi ge guai guai de wei dao - a very strange smell emanating from it. Yan Yi (the girl who lives across from me) protested that she'd just come home from night shift (she's a nurse at the nearby hospital) and wanted to take a nap, so the pastor let us go... for the time being. Actually that evening, we both took a look inside and cleaned out anything of ours that may have been in there a little too long. Sadly this barely put a dent into the junk that was in there. Another problem with living in a church as a semi-public place is that sometimes there will be dinners, small group meeting, events, or just random people hanging out here, people who leave various types of food in our fridge and never reclaim it, thus not taking responsibility for the inevitable mold and other terrible things that happen to food when it is forgotten. Finally a few days later, we were cornered again and spent maybe 45 minutes taking everything out of the fridge and washing down all the shelves. To my knowledge this was the first time it had been done since I'd moved in putting it at about 9 months. The most frustrating thing about it was knowing that none of the stuff I was now cleaning up was mine.
Most disgusting thing: bottles of goat's milk that you could not tip over to empty because the top had about 2 inches of solid... whatever it becomes after sitting for so long. We had to run hot water on it until it softened enough to pour the putrid stuff out of the bottles. Of the three of cleaning the fridge none of us could recall ever purchasing even one of the many bottles of goat's milk in the fridge.
Anyways, I won't gross you out anymore, but suffice it to say, I had to stifle some giggles as I listened to the pastor liken our fridge cleaning experience to our need to clean out our hearts.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The weather is getting hot and to celebrate, I watched The Polar Express. Well actually someone lent it to me, so I watched it.
The rallies on Monday and Tuesday went well, and were a lot of fun. I'm used to teaching, but being on stage in front of 20x my regular number of students is not quite the same. Fortunately I didn't have to say much. I did get to sing an old favorite: Rang Taiwan Ke Ai Qi Lai, which translates to Make Taiwan Love-able, a song which Hope and I sang on a number of occasions last year including repeatedly at Christmas and whenever we had to sing karaoke. As of today it's one of only 3 Chinese songs I can sing completely from memory.
Dragon boat festival is coming up next week, so on my bike rides I've been able to see teams practicing in the river. Also I was able to buy rice dumplings (pictured above) for lunch today. It's probably been about a year since I ate them last. The ones I had today were much tastier than the ones I recall from last year.
Since I talked about travel in my class tonight, here is a short survey for you:
  1. Would you rather travel all around your own country or all around the world?
  2. Do you like trying strange foods?
  3. Will you only visit a country if you know someone there?
  4. Do you prefer driving your own car or taking public transit?
  5. Will you only travel to a country where you can speak the language?
  6. When flying do you prefer the window, aisle or (heaven forbid) the middle seat?
Stay tuned for my answers in the next post.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Interesting People

I met Robert on Sunday when I visited the church one of my students attends. He goes to Yilan High School (where I teach once a week) but he isn't one of my students. He was really eager to practice his conversation with me. He told me right away that he has a speech impediment and then proceeded to show me an English composition he'd written for school. It was really well-written. He's really interested in English grammar and he can speak English though it was difficult to understand him at times. He was really earnest though and proceeded to share many things with me, often opening topics with what seemed to be his favorite phrase "I'm going to tell you the truth:" He shared with me his views on the importance of English and told me about the girl he likes. He was really sweet, and it was fun to see that he hasn't given up on English despite a major obstacle.

Jessica is a teacher at the girls' high school and I'd have to say one of the most fluent English speakers I've met in Taiwan. She must truly have a gift for languages. She never studied overseas, but she talks at a speed that could rival a native speaker any day. I'm so impressed by how natural her speech is. It gives me hope that some day I can have a really good grasp of Chinese, though undoubtedly she started studying English long before age 22. She's always been really friendly and positive and it's obvious that her students adore her. In fact, her class is by far my best class at that school both in terms of level and attitude. I always leave that class with a smile on my face. I really do think that the attitude of a teacher has a huge influence on the attitude of the students.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Picture Perfect.

As I was on the way to Chinese class on Thursday, my teacher called to inform me that they had to go to Taipei, so our class would be cancelled. Since the day was bright and clear, I decided to go for a nice long bike ride, for once remembering to bring my camera with me. My normal path is along Yilan river, which eventually ends up at a small park. Actually yesterday was the first time I'd gone all the way to the park. I snapped this picture looking out the church window on my way downstairs. I love how our building has one tall, solitary palm tree in its otherwise artificial "yard" where the ground is covered by black rubber tiles, probably to prevent serious injury among the many kindergarten students running around.

This picture is taken close to the entrance of the park, the buildings in the background are downtown Yilan. I really like the way the shadows of the trees turned out in this picture, and also how green everything is, I guess that's one benefit of all that rain I complain about so much!

Gorgeous clouds brought to you by nearby typhoon and the letters A and C.

I've said it before and I'll said it again - Hello Kitty is everywhere! Just thought I'd look at the scenery from a slightly different perspective.

At the end of the bike trail, the terrain transforms into a secluded path which leads to a park and a couple of schools in a small town just outside of Yilan. Walking on the path you can seriously imagine you're in the middle of nowhere.

And finally, my reward for making it all the way to the park was getting to feast my eyes on this somewhat eerie sculpture.

I did end up with sunburn by the end of the morning, but only on the spots I missed while applying sunscreen.

Next week Studio Classroom will have rallies at some of my schools, so it will be a busier week than usual.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

ER: Taiwanese Edition

11:30 Saturday night found me in the hospital.

It's always good to start a blog entry dramatically, but don't worry, I'm perfectly fine. About 11:00pm I received a call from my friend Lily saying she had been driving home when she saw someone lying on the road. She stopped to see if she was ok, and through conversation, discovered she is one of my students at Lan Yang Girls' High School. She was with her in the hospital, and would I be able to come see her? I didn't fully understand everything my friend said on the phone, but I gathered that the girl had been on her way home from a concert, and that she was really scared. With this incomplete information I headed to the hospital (fortunately only 2 blocks away), thinking maybe the girl was drunk or had been using drugs.

When I arrived I saw my student lying in a bed, bruised, scraped and in a neck brace. Her younger sister was holding an ice pack to her head and trying to contain her tears. Eventually I discovered that her mom had picked her up from the concert and they'd been in a car accident on the way home. A car had come out of nowhere and hit their scooter at an intersection. They'd both been wearing helmets (thank God! I can't tell you how many people I see without helmets, or how often i see the parents wearing a helmet, but not the kids).

It's amazing that of all the people who would come across my students' car accident, it would be my friend, who would happen to ask what school she went to, and if she was in my class. I'm thankful that I could be there with her for a little while, during what I'm sure was one of the most frightening experiences of her life, especially as she worried about her mom's condition.

I held her hand and talked with her while she waited to go in for x-rays. I was there for over an hour, and she still hadn't seen a doctor when I left. Luckily for her, I don't think anything was broken, but unfortunately, her mom was in worse shape (two broken legs and a shattered chin). Friends and family trickled in, going back and forth between mother and daughter. I later heard that my student was allowed to go home the next day. I haven't heard anything new on her mother yet.

Now, this was only the second time I've been in a hospital in Taiwan, and being in the emergency room on a Saturday night was quite an intense experience. Everything was out in the open, no curtains pulled to divide patients from one another, but instead as many beds as could fit nudged in beside each other. The room was full of people waiting to see a doctor, friends and family accompanying their hurt loved one, small children crying, and people with all sorts of injuries.

Two beds over from us was a boy who we learned had been in a fight. He looked about 14. There were red welts all over his back as if he'd been beaten with a stick, and his head was bleeding. Blood dripped onto the floor as he waited for the doctor to stitch him up. His friends waited nervously for him in the next room, perhaps wondering what their parents would say when they found out. A police officer made the rounds, trying to fill in reports on the various accidents and incidents. It was all a little overwhelming. I hope it's a long time before I see the inside of a hospital again.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

People to See

If you have time I'd recommend you visit some of the people I think are fantastic. I've linked to them on my sidebar:
Hope: This is her blog from when she was in Taiwan with me. You can still read about her current adventures as a nanny in Baltimore here.
JoJo: My 4th year roomate
Faith's Taiwan: Another Canadian teaching English down in Taidong
Dezzie: A cool class- and dorm-mate who doesn't update her blog that often
Rosalee in Korea: She's only there until August, but has lots of great information about her teaching experiences and Korean culture. I'll be going to visit her and Amanda at the end of June.
Tara and Family: Tara was in my TESOL program at Briercrest and also went on the trip to Brazil we took in April 2004. She has a beautiful baby daughter who is the focus of this blog.
Amanda A teacher and missionary in Kaohsiung (southern Taiwan) who sometimes leaves kind comments on my blog
A-Hsiang's Photoblog: My friend in Hualian who has recently gotten sucked into the world of blogging, he also has a Chinese blog and an English blog
Drake: Friend from Briercrest and Husband of my roommate from 2nd and 3rd year, Carmen
Sarah B.: A university student from my hometown and faithful reader of Always and Adventure...
Shantelle: My wonderful college prof and mentor who is currently battling cancer
Rebekah: Another friend from BBC (i guess just BC now but that's confusing) who is planning to go into missions
Brad: Castlegarian and world traveller
Michelle: Creator of the Hometown Six challenge (for which sadly I've only done 1 out of 5) and college classmate or as they would say in Chinese "xue-jie" or 'school older sister' in Taiwanese schools there's a big distinction between Tong-Xue (same class or grade), and what is sometimes translated as "Juniors" and "Seniors"
Dawn: yet another Briercrest pal

Today's Chatter

  • I have a new student in my Wednesday night class, his name is Kongeearthur. He explained that "Arthur" is too common and Americanized, so he added a Taiwanese (?) aspect to it.
  • There's a typhoon coming (in MAY? what the crap?)
  • My kitchen (our perhaps i should say the church kitchen which I share) is filled with buckets of flowers in preparation for Mother's Day
  • I got a compliment on my Hello Kitty bike yesterday
  • I need to do laundry, but I'm holding off since with the promise of rainy weather for the next few days (see point 2 above) my clothes will take FOREVER to dry
  • I found a really cool book called Poems for 2 Voices that I'm going to experiment with in my classes. It's basically a poem with two parts meant to be spoken aloud. Some lines are different, sometimes only one person is reading, and some lines are read in unison. It reminded me of an activity we did every now and then in my Tesol classes with Shantelle.
  • Those really irritating little ants are back making a full exploration of my desk
  • You get free coffee refills at McDonald's during breakfast time, some days I really appreciate that...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Mouse Love The Rice

The Mouse Love The Rice Xiang-Xiang

When that day I hear your voice
I have some special feeling
Let me always think I don't want forget you
I remember at the day
You are always on my mind
Even though I just can think about you

If the day in the future
This love will becoming true
I've never change my mind that I will love you forever
I don't care how fool it is
I will let my dream come true
I will tell you something I want let you know
I let you know

I love you, loving you,
as the mouse love the rice
Even every day has storm,
I will always by your side
I miss you, missing you
I don't care how hard it is
I just want you be happy
Everything, I do it for you

As I began listening to this song from one of my friends, my first thought was that it was a really pretty song. My second thought was "wait a minute, isn't that supposed to be 'I don't want to forget you'?" I rewound to the beginning to listen again, and soon discovered that this song is wrought with English mistakes, another victim of poor translation, perhaps as a result of using a tool such as Babelfish.

With that said, my latest amusing Chinese mistake (that was pointed out to me anyway) took place when I asked someone if they wanted to get something to drink after dinner.
I said something like this, "Ni yao qu he yin liao ma?" the word for drink is "yin liao," but unfortunately for me, my first language interfered as I unconsciously did something we often do in spoken English - I blended the two words together by moving the final consonant of the first word to the beginning of the next word, thus making what I said sound less like "yin liao" and more like "yi niao" for those of you who don't know what "niao" means (90% of my readers I guess), I had just asked my friend if they wanted to go drink some pee after dinner.

Bu hao yi se! (How embarrassing!)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

May snuck up on me when I wasn't looking

It is the 6th of May. How did that happen? I've been here more than a year and a half, and have just over a year of (kinda sorta for certainish) time to go on this current assignment/contract/whatever you want to call it.
I spent 3 days with all of our employees across the island and we went to a place called Jin Shan (translated golden mountain) which was really beautiful. It's situated on Taiwan's northeast coast and is only about 45 minutes out of Taipei. It was fun to meet so many people and hang out with so many English speakers at one time.. it was almost like being at home again! The three days were filled with great music, great messages and great food (especially lots of seafood). It was nice to get away, and to be encouraged. On the first day we had a few hours of free time in the afternoon, so we decided to explore, and ended up walking out to a place called Ye-liu where there are some really cool rock formations. Actually I'm pretty sure I visited another section of this place last year on my Chinese New Year trip. The view was spectacular, so I'll share a few of the many pictures I took that afternoon.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It's getting late...

I'm off to Taipei tomorrow for three days. I'll be joining a whole-staff spiritual retreat at, well actually I'm not sure. I think it's somewhere near Keelung, some famous/fancy hotel I've heard. I guess I'll find out. The theme is "It's getting late." I'm not really sure what that will entail, but I'm looking forward both to the time to refocus, and to hanging out with the other foreign staff (as well as meeting TONS of new people I'm sure, since I barely even know half of the Taipei office...) . I'll be back Friday. Actually I won't have class again until next Wednesday, since my students have exams next week, giving me a 4 day weekend. I don't have anything interesting planned yet though, I was thinking about a trip to Yuli, but the concept seems kind of exhausting to me right now (another 3 hours on the train after coming back from Taipei and then running around like crazy trying to fit in all the people I want to see). So anyhow, until Friday!
BTW, the cutie in the picture is a kid from the church.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pick up line?

As I stepped out of the elevator this morning to get breakfast, I was greeted with a line I certainly wasn't expecting: "Hello, baby"
I was suprised and amused, but mostly by the fact that it was a 5 year-old who said it! Where do they learn these things???

Maybe it's like in that movie with Adam Sandler (Big Daddy?) where he's training the little boy to help him pick up girls. Perhaps this kid has a father/uncle who wants to meet some foreign girls?

Actually this reminds me of a story from last year when Hope was riding her bike and this "creepy guy" came up behind her and said "Hello baby, where are you going?" which freaked her out until it turned out to be our friend Dan playing a joke on her.

An interesting place for a movie theatre

Another aspect of the Green Festival, which I have blogged about already, is that this weekend, they began showing a number of nature-related movies in both Yilan and its neighbouring city, Luodong (10 minutes away by train). They will keep showing movies at these venues for about 2 more weeks. This movie was being shown outdoors at Luodong sports park, where they somehow mounted the huge screen in the water, creating a really cool effect!