Saturday, October 29, 2005


My job. It's pretty hard to sum up. I think it's probably the most rewarding and hysterical thing I've ever done. Don't get me wrong, my time in Honduras changed my life and made me a better person. This experience has allowed me to utilize my skills in a much more stable environment. I know I made an impact in Honduras, it was just a lot less tangible than the work I am doing here. Everyday I feel like I've done something positive and uplifting in my current job.

Every class I teach is the result of one of the Chinese teachers requesting assistance with a particular lesson. They find an opening in my schedule and write in a description of what they want me to teach. For example, today I taught a level 9 class their key words for unit 4 in their text. The Chinese teacher (Queenie) sat in the back of the class and observed. One thing I do like is after every class I get immediate feedback from the Chinese teacher in the form of a review sheet. They grade me on my preparation, class management and a few other things. I think it's great because it keeps me on track and keeps me in the know as far as my progress is concerned. Sometimes it's a bit frustrating, but most of the time it's empowering. After todays class Queenie (the Chinese teacher, one of the most attractive women I've ever seen), told me I did really well and was impressed with my progress. I've had a few really bad performances in her classes, so today was a big victory.

I went out to dinner with Kelly tonight. We went to "Ruby Tuesday's" and had some Americanized food. It was tasty and a nice break from the standard vittles here in the Republic of China. We had fun. Both of us have been fighting sicknesses so it was nice to get out. She has had a head cold/cough for about a month...very frustrating. She looked as cute as ever, head cold and all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Train Wreck

Sorry for the delay in posting...long, busy week.

Work has been very time consuming. My workload is much heavier now that I seem to be getting the hang of this thing. My prep time is substantial. It's a lot tougher to prepare for a one-hour session that thought it would be. Lately I've been doing 2 or 3 a night.

Tonight is our Halloween party. Since I am the "low man on the totem pole", I have to wear a costume and act like an idiot in front of the kids for about 3 hours tonight. It should be fun and a nice break from my classes.

I thought I found the perfect apartment the other day. Before I had a chance to tell the guy that I wanted it, someone else snatched it out from under me...ugh. The demand for apartments here is incredible. Ads for nice apartments rarely last for more than a day or two.

There was a train wreck yeaterday. A train derailed about an hour south of the city. It really screwed up the schedule. As a result, I was late for work. No worries, about half of the staff takes the same train so it screwed everyone up. The trains here are notoriously unstable. According to the local newspaper, there have been 8 accidents since June. About 2 hours after this latest incident the head of the agency that regulates the trains resigned. He took the blame for the atrocious record.

It's been raining virtually every day. The hot season is over. It's been remarkably cool here this month. It would be perfect except for the constant rain. I regret not bringing a fleece with me. Clothes here are pretty expensive.

I have to pick up my resident visa and work permit on Friday. Once I do that, I am official, legal resident of The Republic of China!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dubya is an Idiot

On a completely unrelated topic, I'm sad I'm not in the U.S. to witness the unraveling of the Bush Administration. Thankfully I've been able to keep up via BBC News and the local English language newspaper. The recent poll numbers are remarkably low. I like to think of myself as pretty knowledgable about politics, I've never seen such a lack of respect for the man in the Oval Office. I read today that only 2% of African Americans approve of the job Dubya has is insane.

Perhaps this is a wake up call for the U.S.? It's time for a major shift in our approach to governing. We need to stop this preoccupation with warfare, paranoia, and religious postering. Someone much smarter than me once said "a society is only as strong as it's weakest members"...paraphrasing. Let's get off of our lazy butts and work on strengthening education, job-training, and making sure all Americans are earning living-wages. These past 5 years have been cold. Regardless of how you feel about Bill Clinton (I'm not his biggest fan), it always felt like there was some compassion coming from the White House during his years.

I don't apologize for being a bleeding-heart liberal. I can't imagine believing otherwise. Let's see, we've spent about $100 billion on the war in Iraq. I'm thinking that money could've been put to better use rebuilding the crumbling inner-city schools across the country, or spent on an initiative to retrain the millions of Americans losing their jobs every day.

Call me crazy, but I think the U.S. needs a change of direction.


The next few pics are of the hostel I am staying at. This is a portion of the living room/common area.
A look inside a multi-person room. I have a smaller room with just one regular bed. I can't imagine sleeping on a bunk-bed for more than one night.
More of the living room. Many a night is spent watching movies. It's fun, usually about 5 of us glued to the tube.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Searching for Residency

I am going to get my residents visa tomorrow. It's kinda crazy to think that I am going to be an official resident of The Republic of China. Unfortunately, it costs about $5000 Taiwan Dollars (about $150 American), to be a resident. I guess that's life in the big city.

It looks like Kelly & I are going to resume our adventures this weekend. She has been pretty sick for the past few weeks. She indicated she wants to get something to eat Saturday night and perhaps visit one of the crazy night markets. We'll see.

The weather is beginning to change here, it's getting colder at night. When I say colder, I mean around 50 degrees...not THAT cold. As a result, I've developed a bit of a sore throat/plugged ear/swollen gland thing. You don't want to be teacher with a any kind of virus because kids are like little germ's tough to get better in that environment.

No luck on the apartment search. I'm being very choosey so it's gonna take a while. No biggee, I'm comfortable where I am.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

My Mother, The Pilot

Had another earthquake last night. Since I arrived here there has been a quake about every 5 or 6 days...crazy, eh? Last night's was intense. It lasted for about 20 seconds, the whole building was swaying. I've gotta believe a big one is coming. I hope I'm here to experience it.

Life here has been interesting, to say the least. I went out to get some food today at a local market. It's remarkable how machine-like this city runs. While walking to the market I had to dodge countless crazy drivers and scooter-driving madmen. The traffic is outrageous, but at the same time I have yet to witness an accident.

I'm sad I can't be back home to cheer on mom in her adventures in the cockpit. In case any of you don't know, my mom is currently getting her pilot's license. I think it's a great idea, what a cool accomplishment. If any of you have an occasion to speak with my mom, be sure to wish her luck with the flying stuff.

Looks like I may be teaching a composition class soon. The school is considering starting a comp class for adults and I am in a good position to teach it...we'll see. I can picture Perry reading this and rolling his eyes. My abilities are pretty shoddy compared to his, EVERYONE'S skills are lacking when held up against Perry's writting savvy.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Turning Up The Silly Meter

All is better in David's land. The last few days at work have been kinda hairy. I've been terribly stressed out since I bombed in front of my boss. Quick recap, my boss popped into my class a few days ago and I was a bumbling mess. Today, she decided to watch me again and I kicked butt. The class was great and she was very impressed, as was the Chinese teacher. The Chinese teacher said she was confident the kids had a great time and learned a lot while doing it...what a great feeling. These last few days have forced me to re-examine my methods/style. Essentially, I loosened up a lot and decided to turn up the silly meter.

The time is flying here. It's hard to believe I've been here for about 2 months! It feels more like 2 weeks.

I was sitting at my desk tonight and Cindy (the adorable little girl in the picture I posted last week) came up to me smiling ear-to-ear. She said hello and handed me the most incredible picture that she made for me. I couldn't believe it. Brent, her regular foriegn teacher, moaned and complained because she has never made a picture for him...I've apparently made an impression on the little one. It was yet another warm and fuzzy moment at my job. I can't imagine a more uplifting experience. I told Cindy that I would take the picture home and put in on my refrigerator, she thought that was too funny.

Welp, off to bed. I've got an early day tomorrow.


these girls are my students. they are all excellent students. silly as can be, but very attentive in the classroom.
the train station at work. i took this after work while waiting for the train.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Paul Hackett is The Man

I am now an official resident of The Republic of China! I got my resident visa papers yesterday. All that's left for me to do is head down to the police station to get my employment card. What a relief, my visitors visa was about to run out.

My next mission is finding a place to live. Work has been pretty intense so I haven't had much time to look for a place to live. Also, the hostel is so convenient that I haven't felt any sense of urgency. We'll see.

Kelly has been sick for the past week so we haven't done a whole lot of touristy stuff. She emailed me yesterday about going out this weekend. Looks like we may be going to check out some neat places. A report and some pictures will follow.

I hope everyone out there is supporting Paul Hackett. He is a Iraq veteran running for a Congressional seat in Ohio. A good man looking to make a difference, an excellent alternative to the existing lunatics that are currently in control of our government.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Laying An Egg For The Boss

Not the best day at work...

I had to teach a class tonight for Caroline, the senior chinese teacher, they call her "the hammer". I was a bit nervous because she has been teaching there for about 8 years and knows EVERYTHING! I walked into the room and the director of the school was sitting in the back. So I had to teach in front of the hammer and my boss...zoinks! I blew it. I was horrible. I looked like a bumbling idiot. The director (my boss) was less than impressed. Her review of my performance was pretty disheartening. It's gonna take time for me to regain her respect...I'm gonna feel like a complete idiot around her. I know I'm better than my performance tonight...ugh.

Monday, October 10, 2005

10-10 Day & Ruby Tuesdays

It's 10-10 day! (as in 10th month, 10th day) Not sure what the heck it means...I get a paid day off, that's never a bad thing. I think it's an independence day type of thing. There is a big parade later, I'm gonna head down there if it stops raining.

Scott & I went to "Ruby Tuesdays" last night. We originally planned on going to the movies but it was too crowded. My meal, baked lasagna, was incredible. It was my first taste of cheese in about a month. Taiwanese people don't eat cheese. Needless to say, my stomach is in shock. It tasted great, but I'm paying dearly for

Tomorrow is pay day! My first paycheck. It's time for me to seriously start looking for an apartment. I'm not too anxious to spend the money. Most apartments cost about $1000 american to get into, that includes first & last months rent plus deposit. Doesn't sound like much, but it's a tough decision to make.

I'm working on uploading some more pics...hope everyone stays tuned in!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pictures! (Ohio)

A few pictures from home. Home is Ohio. About a million miles from

This, of course, is the one-and-only Baby. Taking a quick break from wreaking havoc on the neighborhood.

Gracie. What a cutie-pie. She is the daughter that Jill so desperately needed to have in her Far too much testosterone in the Conrad house.

My mom's house. Landscaping compliments of moi. Mom can usually be found just inside the top, right window working her magic.
T-Bone. The old man. He has been with me for about 12 years. A truly great animal. Still kicking at about 15 years old. The prettiest coat I've ever seen on a cat.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Wrastlin On The Train

It's true. Asian people are gentle & polite, except when it comes to trains/subways. I take the train to work every day. At about 2:35p.m., Taipei Main Train Station, Platform 3 turns into the Chinese version of the "running of the bulls". A Taiwanese person would run over their own mother if they thought it would get them a good seat on a train. Generally, train etiquette says that you let the folks departing from the train get safely out of the train before stepping into the car...not gonna happen here. Once those train doors open, it's every man for himself! It's hysterical. Little old ladies knocking over anyone who dares to impede their progress. It doesn't matter that the particular car they are getting on is virtually empty, they are hell-bent on getting a seat. You'd think that godzilla was chasing them and safety lies somewhere on that bench seat!

I was in one of the local McDonald's the other day and saw something pretty cool. Let me preface this by saying that Taiwanese businesses stress customer service, it's impressive. This particular McD's is always busy. In order to alleviate the perpetual lines at the counter, employees venture into the crowd and take orders using Palm Pilots that have a wireless hookup to the monitors in the kitchen. What a great idea. By the time you get to the front of the line, your order is bagged up and waiting for you. After you place your order from the employee they give you a tag with a number, show it when you reach the counter, and you get your food. That's ingenuity!

Work is gliding along nicely. I'm getting more & more comfortable. There have been a few rough spots, but nothing I can't remedy with time. One of the primary areas I struggle with is adjusting my teaching style to the particular level I am teaching that day. You can't teach 8 year olds in the same way you teach a bunch of 14 years olds. It's not a huge problem, but something I need to work on.

I'm still in mourning over my beloved Indians. What a wild ride. They were great this season and I think they have a bright future...GO TRIBE!

Monday, October 03, 2005

My Typical Day

A look at my typical day at work

2:20p.m. Leave the hostel
2:25 Arrive at the train station
2:27 Buy my ticket (19 NT Dollars, about 60 cents american) & a newspaper (15 NT Dollarsabout 45 cents american)
2:34 Catch a train going South
2:55 Arrive in Shulin (the suburb where I work)
2:56 Buy an iced tea at the 7-11 store
3:00 Get to office & clock in
3:00 - 5:00 Prepare for the evenings classes, chat with my co-workers, play with the kids, eat dinner.
5:00 - 9:00 Teach a few classes, give a test, or grade papers. I rarely will teach for more than 2 hours a night. Oral tests (seems like I am the official test administrator at the school) often take about 1.5 hours. On nights when I have a test to give, I may only teach for one hour, or not at all. It seems like about 2 or 3 nights a week I have to do the test thing.
9:11 My train departs for home
9:40 Usually arrive home at about this time.

It's a pretty good set-up. It allows me to get things done during the day. Eventually, I hope to find some private tutoring work in the daytime. I can make a lot of money tax-free tutoring. Also, in a few months, I am thinking about enrolling in some Chinese classes. It's a great skill.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


The Sun Yet-Sen Memorial (The Father of Taiwan), with Taipei 101 in the background (the tallest building in the world).
The crazy secretaries at the school. They are probably the hardest workers there. Nothing would get accomplished without them.
This is a view from the balcony of my place. Not exactly the prettiest city I've ever seen...


This is the entrance to my office. Notice the insane amount of bicycles and scooters.

A shot from my desk. This is the main entrance to the school.

Cindy, the silliest 2nd grader you'll ever meet. Her English is incredible. We have lots of fun.

A temple in the northern part of the city. This type of temple is very common all over the city, it's incredibly ornate. The architecture is impressive.