Monday, March 27, 2006

I'm Building An Ark...

Rain, rain and more rain. This is getting silly. It has rained every day this month, no exaggeration. I know it's March and spring and everything, but enough is enough. My walk to and from work has been a real joy. I walk about 10 minutes each way for work. What makes it a challenge is the sidewalks here are all made with tile...have ya ever tried to walk on wet tile? It ain't fun.

Life here is going along quite nicely. Nothing too terribly exciting lately. The most exciting thing I've encountered lately is the Ikea store in Taipei. What a cool place. I've been able to find some of the little things that I have had a tough time finding elsewhere. The store is pretty cool, so aesthetically pleasing. The Ikea company have cornered the market on sensible stuff.

My birthday is coming up, ugh, can't believe I am gonna be 36. Some of my friends want to take me out for a big steak dinner for my big day. Sounds like a plan.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

New Blood

The new teachers arrived yesterday, they seem to be pretty cool. The school saw fit to hire a couple that have been together for about 3 years...not sure that's such a good idea. I can't imagine why anyone would want to work with their significant other?? I'm a firm believer of seperation of work-life and everything else. Let's hope they can manage to keep their relationship issues out of the office. As I said before, they seem pretty cool and I'm excited to see what life after Chris & Brent is going to be like.

Each week my writing class gets better. I am getting more comfortable with the class and the material. A feasible technique has emerged and I think it's going to really be a lot of fun down the road.

One of the aspects that I am trying to hammer home is the structure of a composition. I have pushed them hard to rely on a basic outline layout in order to get them thinking about their writing. It's essentially a 1. Thesis statement 2. Three main concepts and details supporting them 3. Conclusion. I am stressing the three main concepts because I want them to get in the habit of having several points to back up their arguments. To reinforce this, their assignment this week is to write a paper entitled "If I Had Three Wishes". I want them to work hard on this stuff, but also have fun at the same time, hence the potential silliness that could come from having three wishes. Thus far, the kids have been wonderfully responsive...knock on wood.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Confrontation

My co-worker Chris told me a few months back that you have to approach cultural issues here as if you are on another planet...

I now know what he was talking about.

A few weeks ago we had a meeting of all the teachers who are teaching or going to teach the writing course (just a few of us, thankfully). If you have read my previous posts, you know that there have been many issues regarding the pace/structure/approach of the class. Well, I thought that the meeting was the perfect place to bring up such issues. It lasted for a couple of hours and I thought it went well. Apparently James, the foreign teacher supervisor and leader of the meeting, didn't.

As all of you know, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I tend to speak my mind. I have never been one to quietly let things that are screwed up roll off my back and continue along like nothing was wrong. At the meeting, I had a slew of gripes and, at times, may have been a bit contentious. This class is super-duper important to me and want it to be a success. The way it is going now is not right and it's destined to fail if we don't address the problems.

James didn't appreciate my confrontational style and after the meeting called my boss wanting my head on a platter. He feels that I am far too negative and apt to voice the glaring problems that exist. He, in a round-about way, wanted my boss to fire me...not gonna happen. She told me herself that she trusts me and values my classroom approach. She knows that I love what I am doing and care as much as any human being can about doing a good job.

What James just doesn't seem to understand is that I am a "the glass is half empty" type of guy and the reason I am bringing up all these problems is because they have to be addressed.

After the dust settled, I had a long talk with Chris and he explained that the situation arose because Taiwanese people are insanely passive-aggressive. Airing your complaints in a public forum is a no-no. Instead, Taiwanese people just bottle-up their disappointment until they burst and go crazy! Well, that is not how I approach things.

A few days later, I decided to take the high road in this situation and apologize to James. I don't want this situation to taint what could be a good working relationship in the future.

The moral of the story? Being an American in Taiwan is tough. The "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore" attitude doesn't cut it here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Baby On The Way

I just got some wonderful cousin Tricia is pregnant. This is big not only for Tricia and her husband Steve, but also my Aunt Janet & Uncle Pat. Tricia is their only child so this is a momentus occassion...their first grandchild. Congrats all of you and prepare yourselves for lots of

The writing class is going swimmingly. The kids seem to be responding to me and want to become better writers. It's been so crazy because I am essentially making the class plan as I go, there isn't any blueprint for me to follow. Each week I am breaking new ground.

I am about to start reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've had about 2000 people tell me that this book changed their lives, so I'm taking the plunge this week. I'll keep you posted on my progress and thoughts.

Below are some pics from my neighborhood over here. Enjoy!


this is the street i live on. i walk along this road for about 8 minutes to and from work every day.
this is almost the same shot, during the day. the scooters/motorcycles rule the road here.
the Bancaio train station. i catch the train here every day. it's a beautiful building.
any doubt that Lebron James is a superstar? this billboard is across from the train's great to see a kid from home doing so well. Go Cavs!
this is inside the train station. if you look closely, you can see a fine example of asian style english...the sign says "wish you have a nice trip". we refer to this as "chinglish"...a fine meld of chinese and