Sunday, January 28, 2007

A sneak peek!

My family arrived safe and sound, and just a little tired!

First stop: CKS Memorial and the National Theater.

Everyone likes to play with my crutches.

Mom with Taipei 101 in the background. We went there on Saturday.

First dinner in Taiwan... jet lag was setting in for Zak.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Here we go!

I'm heading to Taipei Thursday afternoon and will pick up my parents and brother on Friday morning! We've got some fun times ahead:
Fri-Sun in Taipei (CKS memorial, 101 all that fun stuff)
Sun-Tues around Yilan (meet my students and see my recently cleaned apartment)
Tues - Thurs in Hualian (Back to the scene of the accident!)
Fri - Wed Yuli (My "old home" (lao jia) in Taiwan) and Kenting/Pingdong, aquarium, beaches, and probably 25 degrees!
Wed - Back to Yilan for a day
Fri - Back to Taipei (National Palace Museum and Grand Hotel)
Sat - Back to Canada! (I'm going too!)

You might get an update with some pics when I'm in Yilan! Until then, enjoy your weekend!!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Some interesting flavors

I've had a chance to try a few interesting foods and beverages recently, and here's my review of the top 3:

Gui yuan hong zhao cha - Tea flavored with dried Longgan fruit (dragon eyes), which are similar to lychees. I'm not a huge fan of eating longgan by itself, but I really like the flavor it adds to the tea!

Banana quesadilla: well maybe this should really be the bottom three, but last night someone took me out to a restaurant, and ordered an appetizer which was quite similar to a cheese quesadilla, but with a couple of surprises. There were no vegetables or salsa, but I periodically sunk my teeth into chunks of banana melted in with the cheese. Drizzled with mango sauce, its appearance is a little nicer than its taste. My host graciously offered me the last piece....

Sugar cane: you can buy right from sticks that look similar (in my opinion) to bamboo, and watch the vendor shave it right in front of you. Then you chew on a piece until you get the juices and spit out the pulp. Tasty and quite sweet, but my jaw and teeth were sore after gnawing on the piece I was given!

**I didn't take these pictures, but posted them on here for greater comprehension and viewing pleasure.

Monday, January 22, 2007

hao tong! (it hurts)

Well it kinda felt like one step forward two steps back today. I managed to take a few steps without crutches, and even hobbled to the bathroom just holding onto the walls for support.
I was feelin' great when I went to PT. Until I got to the massage part, which is usually moderately painful... but today she found a swollen spot on the inside of my ankle that REALLY hurt. What's worse is when I went to stand up and go ride the bike there was a sharp, stabbing pain there. I iced it for awhile then decided to forgo the rest of the session. Next stop: the doctor's office, where I had my stitches removed! Good news, yes, but now BOTH sides of my ankle hurt! blah.

Brilliant doctor's advice from today:
  1. Don't fall (sure wasn't planning to)
  2. No skiing when I go back to Canada (darn!)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

back on the horse...

or more accurately, the bike...that's right, I rode a bike!
ok, so it was a stationary exercise bike at physio
but it was a bike nonetheless. the significance of this is that the range of motion in my ankle is improving. Actually riding a bike is much less painful than walking!
I'm moving a little faster these days, and have actually been going out quite a bit. I need to practice for next weekend when my family arrives in Taiwan! Let the good times roll! It's going to be a blast as long as it doesn't rain too much, and we can keep our stress levels down.

Any Taiwan friends out there have suggestions of a spectacular first day activity?
We're doing the Zoo and 101 on the second day, and the National Palace Museum close to the end.

So right now some of the options are - Danshui (the short tour - not too much walking for me), CKS Memorial, the Living Mall, Miramar (ferris wheel)
The biggest problem is that they're getting here freakin' 5:45 am...what's open and fun in Taipei on a Friday morning? Like after 9am once we get settled, back to the hotel and all that. Maybe we can just ride up and down the MRT line? haha

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Putting my worst foot forward.

Literally, the new walk is moving crutches forward, then stepping on my weak leg and relying on the crutches, then lifting my strong leg and bringing it forward. I'm starting to get the hang of this walking thing again. I'm pretty sure I look like an 80 year old at this point though. I haven't really left my house a whole lot since last Friday. I had one doctor's visit on Monday and he said no physio yet, but I can practice stepping at home. I'm getting better, and as long as I concentrate hard, and I don't automatically lift my foot anymore. I can walk across the room with crutches now, and I even put a sandal on! It was really really hard to get used to the feeling of a shoe on my left leg at first.
I've been making fast progress every day, and am not freaking out every time my foot hits the ground anymore. I went out for a bit with a friend last night and managed to look around two stores (with lots of rests in between). And today, I went ALL BY MYSELF down to the corner to buy some vegetables for dinner. I was so proud!
Back to the doctor tomorrow and hopefully back to physio. My next goal is to learn how to walk using just one crutch. Imagine a world where you have at least one free hand to carry things with...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Food for Thought

Check it out: Doctors without borders each years reports on the Top 10 Underreported events. Serious things happening in the world that we're not aware of in part because we're busy carrying on about things like paris hilton's new hairstyle or who got kicked off survivor... and in part because the media knows they'll make more money off of those two things than tuberculosis or malnutrition... sigh it hurts my heart to read these.... take a look, be prepared to be disturbed.
Top 10 Underreported Events of 2006

Friday, January 12, 2007

A few screws loose...

I'm back from the hospital! Actually I got home on Friday afternoon, but I spent most of the time sleeping, so you've had to wait for your update. Wednesday was a busy day, which was a good thing, as it didn't leave me much time to worry about my surgery! I went to physio in the morning, class in the afternoon, and then out for dinner in the evening. Our Wednesday night class was finishing with a celebration dinner. We decided to go to a new restaurant in town called 3 Cats which I think has really nice atmosphere and decor. It was raining, so that made my crutching progress a little slow, and when I arrived I discovered my student had forgotten to make sure our reserved table would be on the first floor.... so I ended up having to climb up the stairs to the amusement of everyone dining on the first floor. Anyways, here's a picture of my Wednesday night students, though a couple were missing. After a lovely dinner (and a contraband latte... I figured I could drink one before having to go to the hospital and needing to be strict again for awhile), we headed straight to the hospital to check me into my room.
Things were a little confusing, but I signed and thumbprinted some papers before going to get an x-ray. When I got into the x-ray room, they asked if I could stand for the x-ray. This was strange I thought, but sure, it was possible... then they asked me to hold onto a large board in preparation for my chest x-ray. Chest x-ray? Isn't it my LEG that's broken? They explained that it's standard procedure prior to surgery.
Finally got up to my room and got settled, put some tissue in the bathroom and all those essential things. I may have mentioned before
that Taiwanese hospitals don't provide ANY extras, including towels, kleenex etc. Just bedsheets, blankets and one pillow. Actually the hospital in Hualian gave me as many pillows as I wanted, but this hospital was really adamant about their one pillow per patient policy. After my surgery I was able to get something to prop my leg up on, but I was a little bitter about not getting an extra pillow especially since the bed beside me was empty, so they obviously had at least one extra pillow in the entire hospital!! It worked out well though, I didn't spring for the single room, but I ended up being alone in my room without paying the extra cost.

I got a needle in my hand in preparation for the next day's I.V. and discovered something: it really sucks trying to use crutches with a needle in your hand!! I kind of hobbled to the bathroom mostly relying on one crutch and felt like an old woman. After a restless sleep a nurse came in and checked my blood pressure, thus waking me up. The time was 5:17. She left all the lights on when she left, I guess she wanted me to be ready in time for my 8:30 surgery.... so I was up. She came in a few times with nail polish remover (apparently you can't have nail polish on your toes during surgery) and a tiny hospital gown. Then she came in every half an hour for the next two hours reminding me to take off my pants and glasses. I was getting a little annoyed... like I KNOW I can't wear them in the operating room but it's a little chilly in here so I'd rather not be in just this hospital gown for the next hour thank you very much! Alice and Christine (my Chinese teacher) showed up respectively at 7 and 7:30 and around 8 I was wondering where the doctor was.... then a man came with a bed to wheel me down to the operating room.... something was wrong here..... I refused to go down until the anesthesiologist came up to talk with me. Isn't this STANDARD procedure? I was a little worried at this, but he did come up and talk me through it in pretty good english though a lot of it was medical terms that i didn't understand. It went something like this: "We'll put a needle in your spine and remove a tiny amount of spinal fluid and replace it with anesthetic which will freeze you from that point down." Sounds simple right??? This procedure is known in North America as an epidural and in Chinese as "ban shen ma zui" or half-body anesthetic. This is the stuff I had a not so hot experience with last time before they gave up and went to general anesthesia last time.... well this time was no better. He tried a number of times while I was on my side, and the needle DID go deeper than last time....meaning I could feel something digging around deep in my spine. It was really awful. After 3 or 4 failures he decided to try the sitting position. By this time I was almost hysterical and after one more excruciating failed attempt, I told him I didn't want anymore! I have decided that I never EVER again want to even try to get an epidural. The next option (which honestly would have been much easier to do in the first place) was to just freeze the part of my leg they were cutting and give me a sedative to put me to sleep. I readily agreed. I was aware of the doctor swabbing my leg and then nothing for awhile. When I woke up it seemed like that's what he was still doing. The doctor said "You had a little nap" and I told him I hadn't fallen asleep, then he told me I'd already slept more than 45 minutes! But it was done, in about an hour I was out of there and down to x-rays (of my leg this time). Back up to my room I quickly remembered that with such a local anesthetic, the freezing wears off VERY quickly. Fortunately, I was given some pain meds as soon as I asked for them. Actually today is the third day since surgery and the pain is already minimal. Though there is some... the incision did go all the way to the bone. So then there was just recovery. They let me keep the screws they took out of my leg, and I'm quite fascinated by them! They're my new conversation piece lol. I spent the rest of the day and the next morning sleeping in between receiving tons of visitors. I'm really touched by how many people came to see me while I was in the hospital. I also received 3 huge boxes of fruit. In Taiwan it's customary to give fruit to people who are ill or in the hospital instead of flowers. More practical, but maybe not so in the sheer amount I received. I have at least 10 Asian pears, 3 bunches of grapes, some wax apples, cherries and strawberries. It's craziness! I slept really well the second night and the next day was just waiting for the doctor to come and change the bandages and check on the incision site. He said everything was looking good, and I could go home that day if I wanted! I wasn't expecting to be out so fast, but the surgery was pretty simple (once the anesthetic ordeal was over) and the cut is actually really small, less than a third of the original scar. He cut open on the same spot, so I'll only have one scar in the future. That's nice. So here I am at home doing more of the same... resting and receiving visitors, and trying to take the next step, which is literally that: taking a step!! After three months of neurotically protecting my leg I seem to have developed a mental block when it comes to putting weight on my foot (the doctor told me to start). Maybe my friends at PT can help me with that next week!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Got some pics from New Years Day. It was really hot and sunny that day as you can see from the fact that I'm squinting in EVERY picture! The weather has taken a turn for the cool (11 degrees) and my hands felt like ice all day.

Had my last classes at one school today, and instated a new lateness policy which I think may just get results - 5 push-ups for every minute late. It works in my 2 hour, smaller classes where i can afford the short diversion, (I don't think I'd use it in my 50 minute classes, which end up being 45-40 minutes once everyone shows...another 5 minutes for punishment just isn't worth it).

They did some fun role plays today on the topic of holidays and inviting someone to spend a holiday with you. The highlights were a group talking about ghost festival where one of the people ended up being a ghost (the other boy screamed and ran out the door at the reveal), and one 10th grade boy turning down an invitation because he had a date with Charlotte. Should I be worried? LOL

My surgery is on Thursday, and my Chinese teacher is going to come by the hospital in the morning, in case I need any English speaker support. Everyone else seems to think it isn't a big deal going into surgery where you potentially can't understand something the doctor or anesthesiologist tells you beforehand, but it's a big deal to ME. I'm the one being cut open. So while really thankful for my friend Alice accompanying me and all her help lately, I was really stressing about not having someone with strong English there. I didn't want to ask my Chinese teacher b/c she has 4 kids and homeschools, so I didn't think it would be very convenient for her. But she said it is, the older girls have to go to the school for exams that morning. So big sigh of relief (i almost cried when she said she could come). Please pray for me this week!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My foreign accent

Well after spending all #*&$@ day calling hotels in Taipei to book rooms for my family's upcoming visit I discovered that I do, indeed speak Chinese with a foreign accent...what kind? Well one person asked me for my Singapore number, and another started speaking what I can only guess was Japanese to me! Finally I said "English, English!" It feels good to be able to do things like reserve hotels in Chinese. Though it might have been A LOT easier to get someone (like a travel agent) to do it for me.

Other interesting updates include: I've started doing some proofreading in addition to my teaching duties, which is a nice change, and gives me a chance to do something productive on days like today when I have no classes. Sometimes really productive lol... they sent me 3 files today which fortunately I started working on even though the due date they gave me was Jan 10. At about 4:00 they called and asked if I could be done for tomorrow because of some kind of emergency. At that time I'd already finished 2 so it wasn't a problem. So there you go MOM... i DON'T leave everything to the last minute! :P Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were talking about the Parable of the faithful/unfaithful servant (Matt 24) and how we need to do our duties because we don't know when the master's coming back in my Bible class last night!

I won't be teaching at the school I don't like (though it did improve this year) next semester. Partially because of said proofreading duties, partially, i think because it just wasn't working for either side. Well good luck to my co-worker who is taking on that school!

One week until surgery!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Semester Lessons

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2007! I didn't do anything too awfully exciting, but went out for a bit in the evening, and watched the Taipei 101 fireworks on tv. On Monday it was a lovely sunny day and I went to the Traditional Center for the Arts with A-hsiang. It's definitely on the agenda for my parents' upcoming visit! Only 25 days til they come!!!

Next week is my last week of classes for this semester! I did some student evaluations today, and will do more next week. ESL nerd stuff to follow, if you're not interested, stop reading now! I taught some fun lessons this semester and I always try to include some sort of communicative activity at the end. So here's an overview of some of the lessons I taught.

Sept: Chien-Ming Wang (Taiwanese baseball player) - Read and re-order his story in groups
Musical styles - playing a cd with 6 music styles, having students identify them and discuss the characteristics of each.

Oct (I actually did teach a lesson that month!): Korean food, showed pics from my trip to Korea and had students talk about which food they wanted to try, as well as make a list of foods that have different colors and flavors (sweet, salty, spicy, sour, bitter)

November: Random Acts of Kindness - role-plays of stories we read

December: Winter movies - showed a bunch of movie trailers in class and had students write mock movie reviews (they hadn't seen the movies yet)
Symbols of Christmas - guessing, drawing competition on the board

January: Chocolate: the smart treat - Gave half the students chocolate and then did a memory test (don't worry, I gave the rest chocolate after the test!)

Question: I found out in my last class today that the chocolate lesson (which my students LOVED) is not actually part of the material they will be tested on in two weeks (it's in the second half of January's magazine). Should I teach it anyways or plan one that will help them prepare for their exam? It would save me buying chocolate for 200 students! But, sigh, it's a GREAT lesson.