Thursday, September 29, 2005

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

The cast of characters that passes through this Hostel is mind-boggling. I've been here for 38 days, and it seems like I've met about 38,000 different types of people.

They range from a Canadian guy with less-than-honorable intentions to a group of Malaysian girls going to college in London on vacation. Perhaps the most intriguing actor has been the Italian guy with his Chinese wife. He is about 50 years old and she is about 30. He treats her like garbage. She rarely comes out of the room, as if she is being held prisoner. He seems to fit the stereotype of the overbearing, rude Euro with little regard for women. Most of the time he is so caustic that his appearance in the "living room" of the hostel is reason enough to go read a book in my room. He can clear a room faster than someone yelling fire in a crowded

I have managed to make some good friends while here. Graeme, a South African here to teach is a great guy. He got here the day before I did and has essentially followed the same route as me. I'm still not sure I want my child to learn English from a guy with such a crazy accent and tendency to drop the occasional Afrikaaner word in his daily speak? Scott, Steve and the other Scott are cool guys too. Three Americans here trying their luck on the island. The first Scott is here studying Chinese at the university. 6 hours a day of nothing but Chinese is killing him, and he just started last Steve & the other Scott are here to teach. Having them here has been a real stress reliever. It's nice to know that I can come home and vent my frustrations to these guys and they'll understand because they are dealing with this craziness too.

Lately I've been having the craziest dreams. I'm not sure if it's the diet, my work, or the insanely uncomfortable bed? The dreams range from deep-sea adventures to being part of a group of cannibals (don't ask about the cannibal thing, it's too bizarre to explain). Needless to say, I've awoke many a night babbling wildly.

Yesterday was "Teacher's Day". It's a day set aside to honor teachers. My boss gave each of the teachers a really cool insulated thermos with our names engraved on them. I had about 50 kids approach me with their good wishes. Several parents brought in flowers and candy for us, it was interesting.

I need to wish my sister Jill a belated Happy Birthday! I'm such a stiff, I forgot about her birthday. She is so important to me and I feel like such a jerk for forgetting to call her. I love you Jill.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Thoughts Early On

Teaching In Taiwan -- an attempt to sum up my thoughts thus far regarding my work.

Coming to a foreign country and being paid to speak your native language is pretty amazing. It's funny that I am a commodity simply because I speak English. I can't imagine having an easier time qualifying for a good job with pretty good pay.

This experience (I've been at it for about a month now) has forced me to utilize some skills that I wasn't sure I had.

I've discovered that I am much more assertive than I thought. My ability to grab and hold the attention of 20 eight year olds is astonishing...a little silliness can go a long way.

This job requires a fair amount of creativity. Last week, I had about 30 minutes to prepare for a class. I had to come up with enough material to fill an hour of class time. I nailed it. A big part of teaching Taiwanese children is game-playing. They spend all day in their regular schools, so we try to make learning English fun. In an hour we'll play a few games that involve the kids running around or competing for prizes. Thus far, I've managed to come up with some good stuff with the help of my co-workers.

The children are incredible. Their commitment is mind-boggling. Most of them come to English school directly from their regular school. I don't think I could've handled such a work-load at their age. They manage to have an awful lot of fun while excelling at such a difficult task. The pressure they are under from their parents and the schools is insane. They use their time at English school to blow some steam and it's great. I want them to want to come to see "Teacher David" because he can help them learn and have fun at the same time. It's a shame we only have them until they enter high school. The kids here, when they reach high school, attend classes from 8a.m. to 9p.m.!!!!!!!! Yes, thats 13 hours a day.

The respect I get from I get from my co-workers is invaluable. Rarely a day passes without a compliment from one of them. They all think I have a excellent delivery and they think my intonation/speaking skills are amazing...I can't stand to hear my own Last week I was asked by one of the senior Chinese teachers to record a series of taped readings so that she could use them in her class. She said that I should be on radio or TV because my voice is what non-English speakers want to sound like as their learning the language. All this praise is making me a bit

Finally, I think the best thing about this job is what I am accomplishing. Knowing that each day I am help people achieve a skill that is truly valuable. There is something incredibly empowering about teaching. It is such a rush. Whenever I feel a bit lost, I try to remember that what I am doing is important and the parents are placing a lot of trust in me. They are entrusting their children to me...scary thought, eh?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dropping The Kids Off At The Pool & Corporal Punishment

Unfortunately, I had to call off work today. I HATE doing it, but my stomach was in knots. Everytime I stood up for any amount of time, the nausea was intense. I went to the doctor yesterday. His theory was I had a bad reaction to something I ate and it caused my bowels to go haywire...ugh. He examined me and said my bowels were working too hard...I'm praying this doesn't lead into I.B.S.. He gave me some medication and I'm feeling better tonight. One visit to the doctor (who spoke English perfectly), a ton of pills, and the bill was only about $15 american. Once again showing how screwed up the US health care system is.

I've been learning a lot about how things work here. For instance, I was speaking with one of the Chinese teachers at my school yesterday, she was explaining how the teachers in the state schools still use corporal punishment. She has a friend who teachers 4th graders, this friend whacks children on a regular basis, on their hands. The bench-mark for test grades is 85%. For every percentage point the child is below that mark, they get 10 whacks on the back of the hands...kid gets an 80%, he/she gets 50 lashes. What a crime!

I had another ride on a scooter yesterday (to the doctor's office). It was a blast. I am seriously considering getting one. Riding one here is like being in a crazy video

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Worlds Largest Bamboo Shoot

I finally made it over to Taipei 101. It's the tallest building in the world. Wow, it's mind-boggling!! The first 5 floors are a mall, the rest are offices. It has 101 functioning floors with office space. One of the most intimidating things I've ever encountered. It's so high they have a counter-balancing giant ball at the top to safe-guard it against earthquakes. When the Earth shakes, the ball keeps the building from leaning, I guess. I live about 4 miles from it, yet when you look at it from my balcony, it looks like it's down the street.

Anyhow, they have a wonderful store there that imports foods from all over. I picked up some peanut butter, jelly, townhouse crackers, kiwi fruit, and some other's great to know I can get things I need there. It's not cheap, but worth it for the comfort food.

Work is rolling along nicely. It is getting easier to stand up in front of the kids. I've got a great group of folks there that support me. At first, I was pretty nervous. Now it feels like I've been doing it for years. There are a couple of little girls that have latched on to me. They are Cindy (2nd grade), and Christine (4th grade), they are in the same class because Cindy is exceptionally bright. In fact, they are in a class with children much older than them because they are great students. They make my days so much brighter. They hang around my desk and giggle all the time. They couldn't be any cuter.

Still not feeling 100%. I'm beginning to believe I may just have to live here with constant stomach discomfort. I took some Immodium the other day, that was a mistake. That drug is way too harsh. I'm going to make some adjustments to my diet this week, we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Battle With My Bladder

These last few days I have been fighting some stomach issues. I'm afraid I may have drank some less-than-clean water. We'll see how I feel in the next few days. I think I may see if I can find some Pepto today at the local drugstore.

I taught a great class yesterday. 23 six year olds. It was a bit intimidating at first, but once I got started it went well. They were really excited to learn and play the games that I had planned. I hope that every class is that receptive...fat

This weekend Kelly & I are going to Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world. It's about 10 minutes from my place. They have a HUGE mall on the 2nd floor with lots of western food...yippee! I'm hoping to pick up some groceries such as peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate, etc..

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hospitals and Cold Sweats

I finally made my way over to the hospital yesterday. In order to get a work visa you have to get a physical. It wasn't as traumatic as I had anticipated. They checked my eyes, weight, blood pressure, took some blood, and did a chest x-ray. Other than a bit of nausua after the blood test, it went smoothly. The place was packed. While waiting in line, I met a young woman from Canada. Her name is Allison. We exchanged phone numbers and are going to go out sometime in the near future. She and I had a lot of fun at the hospital. Neither one of us was crazy about the blood test. It was nice to have someone to freak out with while waiting in line...the blood test area was like an assembly line, not the most comfy set-up. Allison is cool, I hope we can see each other again soon. What is the deal with Canadian women??? Every one that I've met here has been incredible...

I taught my first class yesterday. It was my first time going solo. 18 kids hanging on my every word...yikes. Up until yesterday I had only monitored classes or taken part in class as a co-teacher. Being in charge was much more intense. I don't think it went as well as I had hoped. I was a bit nervous and don't think I was as centered as I should've been. I only had about an hour to prepare, so I'm chalking up my lackluster performance to anxiety...they changed my schedule that day. I think if I had known a day in advance, I would've done much better. I'm probably being too hard on myself, I'll have plenty of opportunities to hone my skills.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Mecca of Night Markets

Another typhoon has come and gone. It's remarkable how well this city functions in spite of the crazy storms. The rain does a wonderful job of clearing the air, making everything fresh again.

Last night, Kelly and I went to the "Shilin" night market. We had a lot of fun. The markets are amazing here. There are about 500 stands selling everything from fresh squid to fake Gucci hand bags. We were there for about 3 hours and still aren't sure we saw everything. Kelly was freaking out at the prices for women's clothing. She vows to return once she gets her first

Kelly is a great girl. She and I enjoy spending time together. We didn't think we were going to be able to do anything today because of the storm. The storm died off last night, she called me today and invited up to her place. We hung around her neighborhood and had some fun. She works days and I work nights throughout the week so weekends are the only time we have to spend together. I'm not sure where this is going, but it's going to be tough to remain simply friends...i'm very attracted to her...

I have to go to the hospital tomorrow. In order to get a resident visa you have to pass several medical tests, shouldn't be a problem. It can't be any tougher than the Peace Corps medical insanity. Speaking of Peace Corps, I recently found out that my buddy Nelson had to end his PC service early. It's a shame because he is a great guy who, i'm sure, was doing lots of good stuff. Good luck Nelson and keep in touch.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The House Was A-Rockin

Last Thursday I survived a typhoon with 120 mph winds. Yesterday we had an earthquake! The news said it registered at 6.1 on the Richter Scale. What the heck is going on here??? What's next, a plague of locusts??? I think I've stepped into natural disaster central. The quake was intense. I was sitting at this computer and it felt like I was on a raft in the ocean. As if a wave passed under the floor. It's a really freaky feeling because I'm on the 10th floor of this building.

Aunt Janet recently emailed me with some good questions. Let's see if I can address them.

*The typhoon has passed. I think there were 3 fatalities in all of Taiwan. These folks are well prepared for disasters.
*My job is going great. I work with some excellent people. They are allowing me to ease my way into the job. This past week I've been observing a lot of classes. This week my thing is oral testing. All the teachers are allowing me to take charge on test days. I won't have a set class to teach. In this school the Chinese teacher is the primary teacher. My job is to come into each of the various classes once a week and teach a particular lesson. It's a different approach, and I like it. It should prove to be a challenge.
*Overall life here is good. There are many things that dumbfound me, but that's to be expected. With each day I become more comfortable. I don't anticipate having a problem getting into a good groove.

This Saturday Kelly & I are going to one of the night-markets. Probably "snake alley". They call it that because there are several stands set up where one can drink snake blood and/or eat snake. It's supposed to be a pretty crazy place. I'll let you know.

Monday, September 05, 2005


I had my first bout with shall we say "bathroom issues" today. It's probably because of all the mysterious food that I've been eating. Eating has been a constant struggle. I've managed to find a few great places. Looks like I may have to be a bit more careful in the future.

Yesterday I finally met up with Kelly. We first made contact via email while we were both still living in North America (she is Canadian). She just arrived in Taiwan after spending a few weeks in Europe. She is here to teach too. We had fun. She has a bubbly personality and is a cutie. Looks like I may have found a good partner for some adventures here.

I resume my teaching tomorrow. It's going great. The school is run very efficiently. I wasn't sure what was in store when I got here, it's exceeded my expectations. It looks like a good portion of my work is going to be with the newer/lower level kids. That's okay because the lesson plans for the lower levels are much simpler. It'll allow me to ease into the job.

I, as with most of you, am shocked at the situation down south. What a catastrophe. I hope they can get things back to some state of normalcy soon.

Of course the Indians (major league baseball team in Cleveland) are now playing better. I think my absence inspires Thankfully I can track them from here.

Still working on uploading pics...this computer is having issues.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Typhoon Days Part 1

I survived my first typhoon. Last night was insane. The winds were about 120mph and the rain was coming down sideways. I am living on the top floor of a 10 story building and I thought by this morning there might be only 9 The swirling winds made it feel like it must've felt being adrift on the ocean in the midst of a storm. When I went out to get breakfast this morning I felt like the guy in the movie "28 Days". I survived.

Today was supposed to be my first day on the job. The storm was so bad last night the government shut down all schools today. Oddly, by the time I was scheduled to work the weather had cleared up.

I've managed to find a great place to eat. It's in the shopping mall inside the subway tunnel. A group of ladies bake various types of breads with all kinds of good stuff inside. The breads are like homemade. Little by little the food situation is improving.

Yesterday morning I went out to get some bagels and coffee. While waiting for my order the young lady behind the counter looked at me and said: "you a very handsome man". Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback by this. I proceeded to play along until she told me she was 17 years old...ugh. I can't believe I am more than twice her age. Perhaps she could introduce me to her mother???? lol