Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Grass Is Always Greener...

Yesterday, I was preparing for my classes when I jokingly told Malinda, one of the Chinese teachers, that I wanted her to come with me to the U.S. on my visit home. Yes, she spells her name with an "a", not an "e". I told her she would have a blast, that's it's a pretty crazy place, especially Vegas. She just stared down at her work and said something to the effect that she wished she could because her life is so boring. She, like countless other Taiwanese people, see the U.S. as a place of unending excitement and possibility. I, unintentionally, brought about a very emotion response from her. Her eyes began to well up with tears...ugh, I felt like an idiot. She is a sweet girl. I was a bit taken back by her response. I told her that we have a saying in English that goes something like the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Nobody has a perfect life and other folks always seem to have it better, when they, in fact, are probably just as miserable as everyone else. She agreed and explained as much as she would love to travel and live somewhere else, she couldn't imagine living very far from her family. She thinks I am a crazy person for living so far away from my family. I told her that I love my family as much as anyone else, I just choose to live a life that is a bit disconnected from the comforts of a close, insular family unit. This is not to say it's the right way to live, just the way I have chosen. The vast majority of the world never move more than a few miles from the rest of their family and that's fine. I know that, if necessary, I can always return home and my family will support me 100%. As it stands, my family knows that I am pursuing my dreams and they all thinks it's pretty groovy. Malinda is at a point where I have been in the past. She is facing some tough issues in her life. A few years back, I wrestled with the same feelings...it's not easy. She wants what she thinks would be a more substantive life, but can't fathom making a drastic change. Family life here is much more valued. Extended families living under the same roof is the norm. I think she is the kind of person that could really kick some butt if she would take the chance and do something bold. However, I doubt she will, pressure from her family will probably keep her from doing anything too adventurous. She is a dynamic young woman that has great potential, let's hope she has a chance to utilize it.

Monday, October 30, 2006


The view from the train I take to work every day. Space is at a premium here. This type of apartment is common here. Folks don't put much time into making the exterior of their housing attractive, most of them are probably very nice inside. Being so close to the train is not a good location. This is Shulin, not one of the most sought after places to live in the Taipei area.

Same train ride, a minute or two later. Have to cross this river in order to get into the city. Taipei is in the background. I wouldn't drink this water if it was the last liquid on the planet...lol.

This is just bizarre. Taken at Taipei Main Train Station. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. It's OK to fart, pick your nose, and step over your grandma to get on a train, but god forbid you breastfeed in public.

Here is class 1093, the coolest group of kids you'll ever meet. This was taken shortly after our recent ice cream excursion. I'm the dorky looking white guy in the back...lol.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Getting "Lost"

On my recent trip to Bangkok, I managed to pick up the first two seasons of "Lost". I started watching them not too long ago and I can't stop! This is some freaking great TV. The storylines are compelling and the actors are well-suited for this type of adventure. I never had a chance to see it when it was on in the States. It's nice to have the DVD's because I've never been good at remembering to tune in on a certain night to catch a TV program.

Call me a freak, but I think it would be a blast to be part of a group that survives an actual plane crash on a deserted island...love the idea of testing my survival abilities. I think I am well-prepared for such an ordeal after the insanity I went through in Honduras. Perhaps I will have an opportunity on my upcoming trip home...lol.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ice Cream!

About 2 weeks ago, I told my class that, on October 28th (today), I needed them to stay an extra hour at school. I didn't tell them why. I made them think they had to do something that isn't fun, like a test.

I love this class. They are an incredible group. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, it came to my attention that Milton had broken his backpack. Milton is a great kid. He joined the class about 2 months ago, so he is new to the group. He had been carrying his books in a plastic grocery bag for a week or so. This is unacceptable. Students at our school earn prize cards when they do well. They can buy stuff from the prize case in the office with the cards, including a nifty new backpack. I knew that the kids in my class had amassed a decent amount of the cards. Milton has a habit of just barely making it in time for the start of class. Most of the kids are there 15 minutes prior to the start time. I brought the backpack problem up to the kids a few minutes before class started this past Wednesday, and they all agreed to chip in some of their prize cards in order to buy Milton a new backpack! It was truly remarkable to see such selflessness in these kids. The cards are something that's really coveted among the students. So, to see them band together and help out a member of the group was truly remarkable. They have become such a tight-knit group. It's cool to know they care enough to help out a nice kid and make him feel like an important part of this amazing environment. Milton was blown away. We managed to get him the really cool one that the older kids like to carry, so he is digging it, big time.

It's reasons like the above that I decided to take them all out for ice cream after class today. For a total of about $6 American, I brought some smiles to their faces and hopefully managed to strengthen the bonds that already exist within the group. They make me so proud, it's the least I can do.

Friday, October 27, 2006

My O.C.D.

My trip to the U.S. is about two-and-a-half months away, and I am already starting to put stuff together for the trip. I suffer from a mild case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It's not something that keeps me from functioning normally. I just tend to organize things a bit too much. I like to try to work out all of the kinks in things well in advance.

The most obvious indication of my compulsion is when I am working with numbers. Here in Taiwan there is a store receipt lottery that works with an eight digit number. I have spent countless hours aligning the numbers and keeping them ordered. I think if I just threw them in a drawer without putting them in some sort of order, I would go crazy. Thankfully, I have had moderate success winning so the time spent isn't a total waste...lol.

Right now I am frantically trying to put together the flights for my trip home. Thus far I have completed the arrangements for the Taipei to L.A. leg of the trip. This leaves me with the L.A. to Vegas, Vegas to Cleveland roundtrip, and Vegas to L.A. legs. Yes, I am going to be taking 6 flights in total...ugh. I think I have the flights I want picked out, just have to arrange to get the money home so that I can pay for them.

As long as I am not causing undue to harm to others, allow me to feed this compulsion of mine. It's pretty silly, but I've been known to exhibit such behavior on a regular basis...lol.

Blogger Problems

The server has been pretty glitchy lately. For instance, I haven't been able to post my lesson plans on my other blog because the Blogger for Word application is not working. It just isn't there. I normally just open any thing I am working on in Word and the button to publish is there, it's gone. I think the problems are a result of Blogger's new Beta version. I've been resistant to changing because I think it will mess up a bunch of a the add-ons I have on the page. I don't feel like hunting them all down again and re-loading them onto the page.

C'mon Blogger, get this stuff worked out!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's Official, I'm Coming Home!

January 12th, I will be stateside. I just got done booking a flight to L.A., got a great deal. I got a round-trip, non-stop flight from Taipei to L.A. on Singapore Airlines for about $680 American. This is far less than I thought I'd be paying.

Next up, I have to figure how I am gonna get from L.A. to Cleveland. I'm hoping I can make a stop-over for a day or two in Las Vegas and visit Perry & Andrea. I haven't spoken with them yet, so that is not a sure thing. My tentative plan is to make the quick trip from L.A. to Vegas on Friday night and hang out with the Perry & Andrea until Sunday afternoon, when I will jump on a plane to Ohio. It's considerably cheaper to fly out of Vegas than L.A. when headed to CLE. The flight from L.A. to Vegas is well under $100, super cheap.

My return trip to Taipei is scheduled for January 25th, so I am gonna have a nice long stay at home. My agenda is unclear right now. I'm considering taking a few days and driving down to see the contingent of the family living in the Charlotte, NC area. Also, I wouldn't mind heading over to Pennsylvania, weather permitting. The weather will probably be a factor. January in Ohio is not the most pleasant time to be there. It's not unusual to see a foot or so of snow on the ground at that time.

Must-do's include getting all my stuff that's been stored in my mom's basement in order so that it doesn't cause problems when she moves and dealing with the cat situation...don't want to think about that right now, too depressing. I am hoping to catch a performance by The Black Keys while I am in town, doubtful they will be playing then, but who knows?

One thing is certain. I am bringing 3 empty bags with me to the U.S., and returning to Taipei with 3 very full bags...lol. I'm trying to figure out exactly how many packs of Reese's Cups I can fit into a carry-on...lol

Sunday, October 22, 2006


A few random shots. Be sure to click on the pics to get the full effect.

This is Olivia (in front) and Sandra. They are truly a joy to teach. Such wonderful kids. They work really hard and enjoy themselves at the same time. Sandra is the girl I have written about many times, she is amazing. Olivia is my pal, she hangs with me at my desk and practices her English.

A fine example of the butchery of English here. Click on this picture and check out the funny wording on this sign. I see it every day, it's at the train station. I love the "For railway crossing passing, no resting on tracks is most intelligent."

Sherry. What can I say about her? She is why I love my job so much. She shines. As I said before, she is not my best student but it is a priviledge to be in a position to teach her. Words fail me when I try to explain what a joy it is to be surrounded by such greatness.

Taiwan is not so removed from the U.S.. Starbucks and Blockbuster on the same corner. I was on my way to pick up my Domino's pizza when I snapped this one...lol. Thank god for the westernization of this city.

A temple smack in the middle of the busiest market in Taipei. It's currently getting a facelift. The poles and wires aren't normally part of the temple. I love how ornate the roofing is.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can't Help Myself!

Had to do it. I added another Black Keys video to the sidebar. This is a brand new one from their latest album. The song is Your Touch. These guys are incredible. The video was shot throughout my hometown, not the sexiest place on the planet...lol. What a freaking jam! Even if you don't care for the silly video, listen to the music, it's intense. Two guys making music that just flat out rocks! The new video is the one on the top. The other one is an old performance on David Letterman.

Holiday in the US & Cat Issues

I talked to my mom last night. We discussed the possibility of a visit home. Mom has been prepping the house for sale. We both agreed that it would be a good idea for me to come home before she sells the house. I need to get the stuff I have there organized and ready to be stored. Seeing the family would be great, too.

One reason I need to go home is a very somber one, I have to figure out what to do with T-Bone & Bubba, my cats. Mom can't take the cats with her. I have had T-Bone for about 14 years...he is an old guy. T has been a wonderful little buddy and I think he is just too old to make a major life change. I'm afraid it's time to consider putting him down. He has lived a long, good life. Mom says that he has slowed down considerably these past few months, and the winter is coming. He spends the majority of his time outside. As much as it pains me to do it, it's probably the most compassionate thing to do. He has been a big part of my life for a long time... Bubba is a different story. He is only a few years old and is far too silly to let go. Bubba is one of the most unique animals I've ever seen. I'm gonna have to come up with a way to get someone to tend to him until I can return home for good. So, as you can see, dealing with this issue won't be easy.

Paying for the airfare home is not fun. I've been shopping prices...about $1300 is the norm...yuck. That's a big chunk of cash. I am going to spend the next few weeks doing some serious fare searching. I hope to get home sometime in January or February. Keep thinking it might be better to wait until March or April because the weather will be a bit less harsh. Who knows? Stay tuned for further details.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Headed For Competition

A few days ago my boss asked me if I would coach one of the students in our school for a big speech competition coming up next month. She said I could pick one of my students to represent the school in the city-wide contest. I, of course, chose Sandra. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know all about Sandra. She is a wonderful kid who excels at everything she does. My boss called her mom the other day to ask her if Sandra was able to do it, she is very busy. I am waiting on the return phone call...keeping my fingers crossed.

What makes this situation extra special is my boss told me that she has never asked a foreign teacher to be the coach for this competition before. She was really excited when I accepted. This should be a cool experience. I hope Sandra has the time.

It's a 3 minute speech. The folks that put it together gave us a list of 5 or 6 topics to choose from. As much as I'd like to pick the topic, I'm gonna let Sandra do that...lol. I am confident that she will do well. As many of you know, during my college years I considered pursuing a career in speech writing...this competition should be fun

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Such Hypocrisy

Once again, we see the republican leadership falling on their own swords.

The Foley page scandal is another feather in the cap of this despicable group. The nerve of these guys running around professing to be the moral compass of America. These idiots had this guy as the chairman of a committee aimed at aiding missing & exploited children!! They knew he had issues years ago, yet allowed him to remain in such a position. Morality? These guys wouldn't know how to take the moral high ground if they were given a map from god.

Today I see Bush spoke at a fund-raiser. He insinuated democrats, if given control of congress in the upcoming election, would raise taxes and spend recklessly...hmmm. All you have to do is look at the budgets of the past few years to see Bush is guilty of spending our money like no other president in modern history. I gotta believe there are zillions of people out there that would be happy to return to the days of Clinton in the Oval Office?? Democrats direct their attention to issues that effect the working-class folks in America. Sometimes it does mean modest increases in your tax bill, but paying for better schools is a far cry easier to digest than paying for an unwinnable war. These war-hawks are destroying all the good-will we have world-wide.

It's time to take back control of this country and get back on the right track. America needs to concentrate on improving education, health care and the environment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Running around before work. My school is just around the corner from this spot. This pic is a fine example of the liberal use of street signage here...it's mind-boggling. Notice the KFC sign perched high above the rest. America's gift to the world, fast food.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mid-Autumn Festival & 10/10 Day

Today is the beginning of a long weekend, thanks to a couple of holidays coming within a few days of each other. Here they celebrate Autumn, not sure why, but they do. As a result, everyone gets a few days off work. I think there is going to be a bunch of parades throughout the city. This Tuesday is Taiwan Independence Day. It is October 10th, hence the name, 10/10 day. Since these two holidays are so close together, the powers that be have decided to make it a five-day weekend...very cool.

I haven't made any real plans for this time off because I am trying to save money. I will probably do a couple of quickie day trips near the city. Jump on a train and see the countryside. My buddy Scott is moving in to a new apartment, I'll probably help him make the transition. I'm just looking forward to the break from the daily grind.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Teacher's Day was Lucrative

This past Thursday was Teacher's Day here in Taiwan. It's a holiday unique to this region, I think. It's great that they think enough of teachers here to give them a day in their honor.

My Teacher's Day was excellent. Traditionally, students give gifts to their favorite teachers. My kids came through with some seriously neat stuff for me, yes, I've got a few fans out there. I got a bunch of chocolate, some candies, a neat little thing that goes with my cell phone, and best of all, a serenade from my favorite class. Every classtime, we take a 10 minute break after the first hour. I usually spend this time getting a drink and prepping for the second hour. On this day, I came back from the break to find my class all standing at attention. When I came through the door, they began singing a really neat song to me about teachers. After the song, Sandra handed me a card that was signed by all of them. It was a great moment, very heart warming. These kids are priceless. I was speechless.

Is their any doubt that this job is a good gig? I am in hog-heaven. What a great day.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Still Legal...by the skin on my teeth!

Sorry, I've been derelict in my blogging duties. This past week has been pretty wacky. Today was a much more important day than I thought it would be when I woke up. About 10 minutes after I woke, my boss called me and told me that her husband (Gavin, my co-boss) was comng to my apartment to give me my newly signed contract. She then told me I had to go to the police station today to wrap up all of my residency details and get my work permit for next year. I wasn't too sure why she told me I had to go today, but I did. Thankfully, Gavin had driven his car to my apartment and offered to give me a ride to the police station, I was in no mood to make the long walk.

It's common knowledge here that government offices in Taipei are a nightmare and it's rare to have less than a two-hour wait. Knowing this, I was dreading my pending miserable afternoon. I got there and took a number, it was 207, and the board showed that they were currently helping number 153…not good. After mumbling some less-than lovely words, I noticed that the guy at the information desk wasn't doing anything. I took a chance and showed him what I had and asked him what I should do. He took my paperwork and started processing it. I was shocked! Rex, the information guy that I am considering putting on my Christmas card list, was super cool and spoke great English. Before I knew it, my residency was extended for a year, my address was officially changed, and I had my work permit…what a hoot! I have been putting off changing my address on my residency permit because I didn’t want to kill an afternoon stuck in line. After paying the requisite $1000 Taiwan dollars, I was on my way. I'm legal for another year here.

Here is the silly part of this whole situation. As I was filling out the paperwork, I mentioned to Rex that my boss had insisted that I do this today. I asked him if he knew why. He told me that today was the last day of my legal residency in Taiwan. If I had waited until tomorrow to do this I would have been told that I had to pay a $1000 fine, and make a trip to Hong Kong and get another visitors visa. A very big expense. Also, I would have had to start the residency process all over again…no freaking way! Phew, a disaster averted.