Sunday, February 26, 2006


I've posted a few pics from today's party. It was a lot of fun. The restaurant was great and everyone had a blast. Check them out below...lots of shots of my co-workers and even one with me in it...yikes!


This is (from left to right): Queenie, Brent, Carol (my boss), Chris, Josephine, Lydia and Sandy.

A great group photo. They have a silly custom here of giving the "peace" sign when they pose...I hate looks silly.

Me with a few of the girls. (L to R): Teresa (a secretary), Sonny and Sandy.

Scott & his girlfriend Jo. Scott is the wacky British guy that is going to have to shoulder the load with me once Chris & Brent leave. He is a terrific guy.

The Going-Away Party and Super Writers

Tomorrow is the going-away party for Chris & Brent. I am REALLY going to miss those guys. They are good people. I will never forget all the wacky times we've had at the office...friends for life. What they have done for me is immeasurable. I doubt I would've succeeded here without them. I can't imagine having a better indoctrination into work/life in Taiwan. I think I am a very capable teacher now as a result of their work. Their caring and compassion is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Life at work is going to be very strange without them...I guess I am going to have to spend the next few weeks preparing for their departure...what a bummer.

The writing class is pretty wacky. We are flying blind. Chris, Scott and I each have our own class and none of us are sure what direction to take them, it's pretty funny. The owner of the school, Mr. Su, is clueless. He wants us to teach the class in 32 weeks/classes...that's freaking impossible. In order to teach the class in a reasonable manner, we are going to need about a year. The pace at which he wants us to work is hysterical. We just finished the 3rd class and the kids are already freaking out. The amount of work I am giving them is pretty crazy. These kids are excellent students, but can I really expect a bunch of teenagers to spend 6 or 7 hours a week doing homework for this class on top of their huge load of work in their regular school? NO! I think that my boss had a discussion with Mr. Su this week and a change in the class structure is in the near future. The guy has to realize that maximizing profit doesn't always jive with the learning process.

Here is this week's homework for my Superwriters class:

Read 5 pages in the text. There are many words in it they don't know, so they have to look up the meaning in a dictionary and write it in the margins.

Write 4 pages in their workbook. Each page has 2 exercises, not easy ones. Primarily grammar practice.

Write second draft of "What It Means To Volunteer" composition.

Read the new story: "What's Money All About". It's about 20 pages.

Work on their New Words for the week. These are new words found in the above reading. This week they have about 70. All I give them is the words in English. They have to figure out what part of speech they are and translate them all into Chinese. I will quiz them on 10 of them next week.

Brainstorm ideas for new composition: "Things I Buy and Why".

Write first draft of "Things I Buy and Why".

So, as you can see, this is not a cake-walk. My hands are tied, I have to assign this much stuff or we won't make it through the book in the time allotted. I hope they hang in with's gonna get easier, I

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Land of Bathroom Tile

I'm in full apartment mode. I went out this weekend and bought a bunch of stuff in order to make this my home. Nothing fancy, cleaning supplies and mundane stuff like that.

One aspect of this country that is kinda nutty is the use of tile. EVERY apartment and business is floored with wall-to-wall tile. I understand that clean-up is much easier, but it's not very warm. Not to mention the rain factor...ya see, it rains here all the time and the sidewalks are all made of bathroom-type tile. Tile is not the easiest surface to walk on when it's wet. Walking down the sidewalk during or after it rains is like walking on ice...ugh, I hate it. I've had several moments when I thought I was going to take a dive on my way to work.

This week at work is going to be interesting. I have a meeting Tuesday with some folks to discuss the Superwriters class. There are some issues that need resolved. The primary issues are the direction of the class and the pace. Do we want to follow the order of the text book and how quickly can we effectively make it through? The duration of the class is important because the parents are paying for their kids to be there and expect an efficient and cohesive program.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


some shots of and from my new apartment.

this is the view from my apartment window. that is WenHua Rd., it's always busy.

my living area. just bought the laptop computer, it's great. got it for about half of what it would cost in the US.

the kitchen. not exactly the most expansive cooking's great for me, don't need lots of space. I love this little place.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My First Day With The Super Writers

Hello all, sorry for the delay in getting a post in, been very busy.

Work has been pretty crazy this past week. As I said before, my responsibilities are getting more and more intense. I started teaching my own class last night, what a rush. The official title of the class is Superwriters 003.

It was pretty nerve-wracking last night. I have 13 kids...Eileen, Kenny, Tina, Eric, Terry, Jenny, Andrew, Browning, Edward, Matthew, Jennifer, Sean, and Amy. Most of them seem pretty sharp, particularly Amy, Browning & Jennifer. Eileen, Kenny, & Terry are going to struggle, which means I'm going to struggle with them.

I went into the class feeling insanely unprepared. I attribute this to the fact that there was no blueprint for this class. Up until last night, I have been able to ask Chris or Brent how to teach something when I was stumped because they've taught every lesson in our regular's all been done before. This writing thing is brand-spanking new, I was on my own...pretty darn intimidating.

After introductions, I let go with the whole this class is NOT going to be easy thing. I told them they were going to probably have to spend about 5 to 7 hours a week doing homework and that attendance is essential. If they miss a class, it will be virtually impossible for them to catch up. This class meets once a week for 16 weeks and we have to cram a TON of stuff into that time-frame. I am not looking forward to dealing with a kid who misses a'll be a mess. Their homework for week one included about 30 pages of tough reading, 75 new vocabulary words from that reading, and 10 workbook pages. So, needless to say, they were a bit shell-shocked. I wouldn't be surprised if 1 or 2 of them don't return next week.

The stuff were going to be learning is really important, I hope I can make it fun and interesting for them. The text books are great, which should make it much easier and get the kids more involved...we'll see.

The apartment is great. Life is much simpler when you have a tranquil place to come home to. Ya can't beat the location and it's pretty quiet considering I'm smack in the middle of a crazy area of town.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

**WARNING** Political Rant Ahead **WARNING**

I've worked hard at minimizing my ranting on this blog regarding the mindless twit currently residing in the White House, but I can't hold it in anymore.

This past week we have seen news stories with the following:

-In the White House budget for the fiscal year ending in October 2007, Pentagon funding would increase by nearly 7 percent and, for the first time in Bush's presidency, claim more than half the government's expenditure on discretionary programs, those that get set each year. The $439.3 billion that the plan devotes to the military is 45 percent greater than the Pentagon budget when Bush took office five years ago. (from another article..."the budget includes a $3.5 billion cut in spending for education")


-Shortcomings in aid from the U.S. government are making New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin look to other nations for help in rebuilding his hurricane-damaged city.

What the heck is going on here???? We have massive amounts of people without homes, food and jobs within our borders and this president has the audacity to pump up the pentagon! How embarrassing, the "greatest superpower on Earth" has to look elsewhere for money to lift up those most in need.

Being an American abroad gives one a unique perspective on world events. Folks outside of the US all too often shake their heads in wonderment when discussing American policies. At times I feel like I have to apologize for the actions of the current administration...what a shame.

How rotten is this administration? Check out the news stories about Coretta Scott-King's funeral. The folks eulogizing the great woman couldn't help but chastise Bush as part of their presentation. Also, when Jimmy Carter is out there trashing you with such language, you know you're way off track. Carter may not have been the greatest president we've ever had, but you gotta know he is a great man making a big difference and I have the utmost respect for him.

Here is a quote I found that seems oh so fitting at this time:

"In politics, stupidity is not a handicap." - Napolean Bonaparte

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A By-Product of "Why My Mom's the Greatest"

The first day back at work proved to be an eventful one. I found out that starting a week from today I am going to be teaching a composition class all by myself!! Yikes. I have been looking forward to this opportunity, but now that I know, I'm a bit freaked out. I am going to have 15 students looking to me to guide them through the process of writing, what a task. I have to relax and let my instincts take over. I know I can kick butt, I'm just a little intimidated.

The program is brand new, Gram (my school) has never had strictly composition classes before. Looks like they feel that I am able to give it a books and zero history in this area...what a challenge. Classes are held every Tuesday night from 7-9:30. I can't wait to find out what students I am going to have.

I talked to mom on the phone last night. She is putting together another care package for me. The primary needs are some more Aleve for my shoulder and Reese's Sleeping on these wacky hard beds has been rough on my shoulder and the Reese's are to help maintain my sanity...

Talking to mom last night about my upcoming classes reminded me of my first serious attempt at writing. About a million years ago, I wrote a powerful piece known simply as "Why My Mom is the Greatest" was a labor of love. I was richly rewarded for my efforts. The composition was submitted to the local newspaper as part of a city-wide contest and I took first place! It was published prominently on the 3rd page of the paper and mom and I enjoyed a nice dinner at one of the local swanky restaurants compliments of the newspaper...undoubtedly one of my finer moments.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Back On The Chain Gang

Back to work today. The big break is over. The holiday was pretty cool, lots of traditional Chinese stuff going on. The Chinese love their fireworks. For the past week I've had the pleasure of waking up to WWIII outside my window. Shop owners signify the opening of their stores/restaurants with a string of firecrackers each morning during the first week of the year...not the most relaxing sounds to wake up to.

I feel like I'm ready to embark on the second phase of my time here in Taipei. The new apartment/surroundings and additional responsibilities at work. Chris & Brent are leaving in about 6 weeks. I should find out in the next week or two what classes I am going to be teaching on my own...this means I will be the only teacher the students will have. Once students have reached a certain level, there is little need for them to have a Chinese teacher. The class then becomes the responsibility of folks like me. I will have to develop all of the lesson plans, tests, and arrange PTA meetings...yikes! The classes meet twice a week for two hours at a time, doesn't sound like a lot, but it's tough. I think I am up to the challenge.

I just watched the Super Bowl, congrats to all you Pittsburgh Steeler fans out there...ugh. The Browns day will come, patience is a virtue.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Day One in Banchiao

My first morning at my new place. So far, so good. This little apartment is perfect. The bed is a bit hard, but I think a visit to Ikea can solve that problem. I've been told they have mattress pads there. The apartment has a nice bathroom and an excellent wooden wardrobe. The place is just big enough to hold a bed, wardrobe, desk, frig, some kitchen counters and a sink. It's what you'd expect in Asia, considering the population density here...a big apartment is a waste of space.

The building itself is quite nice. The security is great. There is a door man at the entrance and you have to have an electronic key thingy to get the elevator to move...very secure.

I went out to get some breakfast this morning and discovered that there is an Overseas Dragon just a couple blocks from here!!! This just happens to be my favorite Chinese restaurant, they make the most incredible fried dumplings on Earth. In the US, they call them "pot stickers". They are yummy.

Back to work on Monday...I've had a nice break. Accomplished some things I needed to do. I found this place, bought a computer, and did some exploring around the city. Had a fun time, but now I'm broke!! Back to work to start rebuilding my savings.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Adios Taiwanmex

Thursday, February 2nd, the end of my time at the hostel. This place has been great. What an excellent way of integrating into a strange sure makes the transition into another culture easier.

The folks who run the place (Margos & Raul) are incredible. I can't imagine what I would've done without them. They have helped me in countless ways. I like to think of them as extended family. This place is remarkable, runs like a well-oiled machine. They told me that room "D" will always be remembered as David's Margos is an especially remarkable person, she has endless energy and she is probably the most selfless person I've ever met. I've been here for about 5 months and I can't think of a single moment when she wasn't smiling/laughing!
I'm going to have to develop a whole new groove. I've really settled in to this neighborhood, it's gonna be tough to start over. I've got a good feeling about this new place and the area around it, it looks like fun.