Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top 10 things to do during a typhoon

After being hit by the second super typhoon in 2 weeks, I asked my students to make a list of their Top 10 things to do during a typhoon:

10. play cards
9. call old friends and chat
8. watch TV
7. wash your car
6. eat instant noodles
5. listen to the radio
4. sleep
3. have a romantic candlelight dinner
2. study
1. go to the supermarket

Alternatively, I also had them create a list of the top 10 things NOT to do during a typhoon:

10. fly a kite
9. go surfing
8. have a BBQ
7. go to school
6. sleep beside the window
5. ride a bike
4. go to look at the waves
3. wear a skirt
2. study
1. walk your dog

*Almost every group had "Go to the supermarket" on their to do list. I suggested that they should do that before the typhoon, not during!
*There were varying opinions on whether studying was taboo or not as a typhoon activity.
*Wash your car was in order to save on water! Some students also thought you should not shower during a typhoon for the same reason. I've learned that you should take a shower shortly before the typhoon makes landfall in case you don't have any water for a couple of days. Speaking of which, I had running water yesterday (during the typhoon) but not this morning (after the typhoon), which was really strange. Fortunately I had some bottled water to brush my teeth and wash up with, and it was back when I got home from class at noon... so hopefully it stays!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The China Milk Crisis Comes to Taiwan

If you watch the news, maybe you've heard the stir recently about tainted milk products (especially milk powder) from China, and how a number of babies got sick and even died from drinking milk with toxic materials in it. Well since China is one of Taiwan's biggest trading partners (if not the biggest), it follows that some of those products may have made their way over here. There's been quite a stir about it recently, with some of my friends warning me not to drink milk tea or buy any bread or cake. I know some 3-in-1 coffees have recalled their products. Other stores have posted signs outside saying that none of their ingredients came from China. Today at lunch, the restaurant owner even brought the jug of milk over to our table to "prove" that he was using fresh milk, and not milk powder (though we hadn't actually asked... it came after he offered us all free soft-serve ice cream - made with FRESH milk). As for me, I doubt I've consumed any tainted products. I seem to be all right, so far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Overpreparation: cultural differences

This semester in my English Bible study, I'm teaching about the life of Jesus. For the first class, I wanted to give some background and introduction, including "Why Study Jesus?" and "How do we know Jesus really lived?"
I actually did quite a bit of research in preparation, thinking about with things like the DaVinci Code etc, many people have questioned whether or not the Bible is even real. I looked up information about Josephus and Tacitus, two non-Christian sources who indicated the existence of Jesus in history. I explained who each of the gospel writers were, and how they were connected to Jesus, emphasizing the fact that all the gospels were written within 70 years of Jesus' death.
The interesting thing was that the response I got from the students wasn't even a little bit skeptical. Maybe it's because in this culture, people are taught not to question their teachers. I often have to encourage my students to question and search out information on their own.
I know if I were in North America, I would have been answering a lot of questions, and probably would have been challenged on many things. But in Taiwan, the only questions I got were:
What do B.C. and A.D. mean?
Why is Yeshua's English name Jesus? Where did it come from?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Things Taiwanese People Like

I was reading stuffwhitepeoplelike.com for amusement as I was thinking about blogging an observation I made yesterday. There are a LOT of things I could list, but here are 5 things off the top of my head. I can also reflect on how local I've become through this exercise...

5. Scooters: they're everywhere, fast, easy to park, and get their own lane on many highways. Though I waited quite a while before I got one, I also like scooters. In fact, I'm going to go for a little cruise when I'm done writing this post.

4. Red bean: Not salty but sweet, these beans find themselves in the traditional cold soup, desserts, ice cream, and now in Costco muffins instead of chocolate chips, much to my dismay (I DON'T like red bean in case you didn't gather that, though I HAVE started to enjoy Taro in some circumstances, which is another Taiwanese favorite)

3. Pearl Milk Tea: Zhen Zhu Nai Cha, is a must-try here in Taiwan, with a number different shops claiming to have invented it. It gives you chewy tapioca balls to munch on as you drink. I do like it, but only about once every month or two, since the "pearls" just get to be too much for me.

2. Hello Kitty and other cartoon characters: See my earlier posts on my Hello Kitty bike and pictures of the "Hello Kitty" lounge at Taoyuan International Airport. While I did love that bike, I could take or leave Hello Kitty, and certainly won't be buying any of her paraphenalia with my own hard-earned money, though I know many people who do, including a 31 year old doctoral grad.

1. Getting naked with coworkers or neighbors: This is what I originally wanted to blog about. I spent the night at my friend's condo on Friday and it's got all kinds of ameneties, including a residents-only health club and spa. It was REALLY nice except for a rigorous enforcement of certain rules, including the need to remove swimwear if you wanted to use the hot tub, massage pools, or steam room in the women's changing room. My friend was showing me the facilities when the cleaning lady came over and reminded us that no swimsuits were allowed inside. My friend said they think it's cleaner that way.... but personally I find nothing clean about sitting on something that someone else's bare bum has been touching before me. I opted out and my friend said "I didn't know you were so conservative." Yes, yes I am. This got me thinking about our annusal staff retreat where they also offer such facilities. Something about hanging around naked with people you will see the next day, such as your next-door neighbor or supervisor doesn't really appeal to me. I guess i'm not "Taiwanese" enough yet.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Damage in Yilan

While I was blissfully ignorant in Taipei, the typhoon was busy tearing up trees, flattening road signs, knocking over scooters, and more. As I took the bus from Taipei to Yilan, I saw higher water levels in the rivers than I'd ever seen before. When we got closer, I saw water spouting up the manhole covers (yes, kinda like in The Day After Tomorrow) and almost every tree in the center divider was either bent or pulled out at its roots. This is definitely the worst typhoon damage I've seen in this city in my 4 short years. When I got to my apartment, I knew something was wrong when the street lights on the corner were dark. Our power was out. I climbed up to my 5th floor home and opened my door. The first thing I noticed was that the sliding screen door at the entrance to my apartment was at a 90 degree angle (NOT how it was supposed to be, flat against the glass door). I was too shocked to take a picture, but I should have. Fortunately it's fixed now. Next thing I noticed was the thin, damp layer of mud over EVERYTHING. I did leave a window open, but most of it came in UNDER the balcony door, where there's about a half-inch gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. My kitchen floor was coated with mud. I cleaned up the floors as best I could, then took a shower (in the dark). The power came back on a little later, though the elevators are still down. I haven't opened my fridge yet, but if the power was off for a couple of days like I think it was, it won't be a pretty sight (or smell). I'll save that for closer to when the garbage truck comes. Everywhere on the streets today there are people sweeping up debris and picking up fallen tree branches. I kinda wish I had the afternoon off to clean up my place better, but unfortunately, I have class in about half an hour. I am VERY thankful the power is back on though, and thankful I stayed in Taipei this weekend instead of living without power in the storm, and thankful my house wasn't damaged more, no windows broken, and hopefully everything can be repaired. I'm also thankful I waited until this morning to come home, as I don't think I would have handled it well last night. I'm thankful for God's protection.
And now, some pictures I snapped with my cell phone on my way home.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Typhoon Ramblings

Sinlaku is moving sluggishly over Taiwan. It was only moving at about 4km/hour at one point! This means that we are getting downpours and wind from it for much longer than usual, effectively ruining the Moon Festival weekend. I ended up riding this one out in Taipei, since I didn’t want to brave the trip back to Yilan, and I didn’t want to try driving my scooter through the wind and driving rain. It was fun to have company during this typhoon, and so far I’ve: made a salad, watched some episodes of the Office (not sure if I love it or hate it), braved the rain in search of a tea shop, went to Lisa and Peter’s for an indoor BBQ, and watched the Bucket List (fantastic movie). Tomorrow I’m hoping the typhoon will move on so I can go home! I might have left a window open……..

Other things I’ve been wanting to blog about:

I finally got my scooter license!! Being my first full license ever, I was very proud of it! So now I can drive legally in Taiwan. And I love it!

Things I LOVE about scooting as compared to biking:

  • It’s more efficient.
  • I can go FAST! (I haven't driven more than 40..ok 50ish)
  • I can go further now and don’t have to depend on train schedules or other people for rides.
  • I don’t get nearly as wet riding in the rain.
  • I can carry a lot more stuff.

The test was not too bad. I’d done some practice questions online awhile ago (remember when I was GOING to get my license about 2 years ago but they wouldn’t let me because my work visa was only 345 days (like 3 weeks short of a year!!!), so actually that part was pretty easy except for the weird translations at times, and the question where the written part said “Drivers CAN do X” but the audio voice reading the question clearly said “CANNOT”

The road test was slightly nerve-wracking, but I was glad I got to watch a bunch of other people doing it first, including some newbies. The first part is a really narrow straight line with sensors on either side that you have to drive down very slowly. Your driving time has to be more than 7 seconds, and you can’t put your feet down or swerve. If you mess up a really loud alarm sounds! You only get two tries, but I made it on the second try. The funny thing was, I went with Christine, my Chinese teacher (and her four girls!) since she actually only has a car license, not scooter, even though she’s been driving for 20+ years! The girls made friends with everyone, as they tend to do, and Christine actually didn’t pass the road test!! I felt bad! I doubt she’ll go back to get it though haha, that’s Taiwan for you. The craziest thing about the whole thing is they expect you to drive your own scooter to take the test TO GET YOUR LICENSE. And if you fail, they don’t even bat an eyelash as you drive away. Again, that’s Taiwan for you.

Update: One more thing I've done during this typhoon - put bowls under the water dripping from the ceiling in my room.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New Students

It's that fun, awkward time of the semester: time for warm-up games and icebreakers, time for learning names and self-introductions. A time to make the right impression - strict but friendly?
It's not unusual for the odd exchange student to get stuck in my class from time to time at the beginning of the semester. It can be strange for me and them, and fun for the students, who of course want to be partners with the native speaker. Most of the exchange students I meet are rotary, but today, I had a girl from France who was on an exchange through a different organization, and she's the only one here! She told me with a relieved look that I was the first other white person she'd seen since she arrived in Taiwan! Interesting situation, she just graduated from high school and has now joined a grade 10 class to learn Chinese. It's the international language of the future people! Start practicing your tones :P

Friday, September 05, 2008

Amazing things I didn't know about Taiwan after 4 years

I know the MRT (subway system) here is fast, reliable, clean etc.
I know which stops to get off for most of the places I want to go.
I know the station in Dazhi is complete but will NEVER actually be ready to ride.
But I had NO idea that you could put MRT money in your watch!
Apparently Swatch sells an "easy card" watch that you can recharge at local convenience stores.
So for about $50 dollars (an investment?), when going through the MRT gates, you just swipe your watch instead of fumbling for your card, or buying one of those easy-to-lose tokens.
It's freakin' amazing!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

travels over

dearest blog, i have sorely neglected you! fun times and a computer filled with many viruses have conspired to keep me away! i will try to get some pictures up soon though, but here are a few things I got to do:
  • got to hold babies, especially Emily and Parker, my two newest cousins
  • got to see dresses, make phone calls, and visit the location of my sister's wedding!
  • got to meet my sister's fiance
  • got to see the house my parents will be moving to this fall
  • got to visit the beautiful Rockies
  • got to go to my brother's baptism
  • got to eat Mexican, and BBQ, and blueberries