Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ignorance or Arrogance

The rude behavior I experience here on a daily basis is mind-boggling.

The main areas of contention:

*people refusing to walk on one side or another of the sidewalk and slamming into me.
*getting whacked in the head by umbrellas.
*being stampeded when trying to exit a train.
*folks passing gas in a crowded train.
*the every-man-for-himself attitude when getting on a train, an elevator, etc....constant cutting in lines.
*walking incredibly slow three-wide on a sidewalk.
*talking with a mouthful of food.
*talking so loud it's almost deafening.
*having to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit my a motorcycle on the SIDEWALK.
*sheer madness when in elevators...much the same as the train insanity, just in a much smaller space. Taiwanese people are obsessed with the "close door" button. They all dive at the button once they get in the elevator. I don't even want to discuss how many times I have had to push people away that were rushing to get in when exiting.

I don't know whether folks here are just plain rude, or if they have never been taught proper manners in public? I find it hard to believe they think the above behavior is acceptable. As skeptical as I am, I pray that it's ignorance.

This post may seem like I am taking on a "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" attitude, but you actually get used to dealing with this stuff. I have to admit that I have, on more than one occasion, exacted revenge on a person guilty of one of the above

Earthquakes part 2

The quakes the other day have wreaked some serious havoc in Asia.

Apparently, the quakes damaged some underwater communication lines that have crippled much of Asia's cell phone and internet access. According to the news, several countries have limited or no internet and cell phone functions are choppy. It could take weeks to fix the lines. This is crazy stuff.

It's incredible how much damage these things can do.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


WOW! That was crazy. Two earthquakes within 10 minutes of each other. 6.7 & 7.2 on the Richter scale...not minor quakes.

One person died in the southern part of the island. Lots of fires and down power lines. No damage in Taipei, the northern tip of the country.

I was teaching my Superwriters class when they hit. I knew the first one was big because the kids were a bit skittish. We get quakes here all the time, just not of this magnitude. When the second one came, the kids were all laughing nervously. These were not your run-of-the-mill tremors.

Fun, fun, fun.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

18 Days To Big Trip

Just 18 days until I head back to the US of A for a visit. I can't wait to see everyone. It seems like eons since I've been home. Just got an email from Perry saying they found a great Italian restaurant in Vegas. All of you back in Ohio know that Cleveland has some seriously good Italian joints...Perry said this place reminds him of Little Italy, Cleveland style...yummy! As great as that sounds, I am more excited about just hanging out with him and his boss, errr wife.

Also, I think Shelley and her brood are going to be visiting when I am at my mom's place. It'll be cool to see her and the kids. Perhaps Davette will come too? It would be awesome to have all of the sisters together.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Definition of Cool

I'm addicted to

I stumbled on a few extraordinary videos recently. I think they are worthy of a spot in my video link section.

The first needs no intro, it's J.B. doing his thing. I would give my right arm to have a tenth of the groove he's got.

Next up is none other than The Ohio Players. WOW! How freaking cool were these cats??? Check out the threads! This is the stuff I remember from my childhood. I can see my dad with his freaky afro and my sisters clad in pastel colors groovin to this one.

The last one is Big Joe Turner. So cool. Ya can't help but dig this song. The early black artists set the standard for modern music, great stuff.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

16 for 16

As I mentioned a few posts ago, my PTA was successful. I managed to convince all the parents of my students in that particular class to re-up for another session, pay for the another year of classes.

I was pleased to hear that. Apparently, this is a much bigger feat than I thought. I mentioned to my boss tonight that all 16 kids are continuing and she beamed at me and explained that this was the first time in nearly 10 years that a foreign teacher has achieved this mark.

Foreign teachers take over classes from the Chinese teachers when the students get to the higher levels. Most of the students are nearing or are in junior high. When they get to this age, their schedules get very hectic. Many of them find taking English classes too big of a time-killer and drop out. The parents, mistakenly, think their kid's English skills are sufficient. It takes a good teacher and effective classroom techniques to keep the kids in the seats.

I guess I have been doing something right. I sense a renegotiation of my contract/pay in my near


It wasn't computer crashed!

Woke up Sunday morning. Nothing out of the ordinary, did the usual stuff. Put on a pot of coffee, turned on the computer, headed to the shower while the computer fired up. I came out of the bathroom to discover an ugly sight..."no operating system found".

I spent the next few hours trying to get the computer to function, no response. I feared this day was coming. When I bought this notebook the guy at the store loaded an unregistered copy of Windows XP in English in it for me. Remember, I am in a Chinese speaking country and computers are sold here with Chinese as the primary language. As part of the sale, he agreed to load up an English operating system for me. The problem is the copy he had was illegal. This means that I wasn't able to update my system and it made me very vulnerable to all kinds of bugs and glitches. After running this bootleg version for about a year, it went kaput.

I thought I figured out what to do Sunday afternoon. I headed out to Guangwha market, the greatest electronics market on Earth, and bought a legal version of Windows XP. Came home and loaded it response. I just spent about $120 for nothing!...dern it.

Monday morning I went back to the place I bought the computer and explained my predicament. The tech guy was very cool. He gave me taxi fare and pointed me in the direction of the repair shop. I got to the repair shop and waited for about 20 minutes to talk to a technician. The were very accommodating and told me it would be fixed that afternoon and I could pick it up the next day free of charge. They were going to give me a new, legal version of XP and a new hard drive. This is great except I lost everything I had saved...about 20 gigs worth of stuff! I had saved most of my work files and pictures to CD, thank god. Still, this is a serious bummer.

The repair shop was true to their word. I picked up the computer early Tuesday afternoon. It's running like a well-oiled machine, minus all my files.

One issue I am less-than-thrilled about is the fact that my virus software and my copy of Microsoft Office are no longer valid because they were exclusive to that hard drive/operating system. Two expensive pieces of software rendered useless by the crash.

I guess I should be glad to have this machine back in working order. I can resume wasting countless hours on the

Sunday, December 17, 2006


This morning was great. The PTA went very well. The kids and parents were exceptional.

We started a little late because it was a Saturday morning, raining cats & dogs, and it's not easy getting 35 people all in the same place. The kids were great. For the past few weeks I've been asking many of the other teachers how they put together their PTA's. Most of them said they give the best 3 or 4 students a bunch of things to perform and have the slower ones contribute just a line or two. That method doesn't jive with me. I knew the parents of the slower kids would be more critical of me. Therefore, I decided to give all the students an equal share of the load. This would give them all an opportunity to shine. All of them did a great job. The silliest moment came when Milton, perhaps the hardest working student in the class, forgot his lines. I gave him the line and he finished fine. The performances by the kids lasted for about 45 minutes and they seemed to have a good time.

I sent the kids to another classroom so I could spend some time selling myself and my methods to the parents. I was kinda nervous. In the middle of the group was a couple mothers that I have met before. They have previously thanked me and seemed satisfied with my work. I just kept thinking about them and it alleviated a lot of the butterflies. After a few minutes, I got into a nice groove. I hadn't really laid out a talking plan, planned to let the parents dictate the direction. It went pretty smoothly. Much of the time was spent discussing methods in the classroom and future plans. I started to feel very comfortable and made a classic American-style comment...I told the parents that I was the best teacher at Gram and I intend to continue to work to mold their kids into great English speakers. This is not something you'd ever hear from a Taiwanese person. I don't care. I have never been shy about the way I feel and I think confidence is important if you want to succeed. Much to my surprise, the parents started clapping after I said it...good stuff!

Other than a few minor issues, the parents seemed satisfied. One mother thought I should get an MSN account so the kids could contact me via chat. Not sure about that idea. I did tell her I was considering using email to help those who miss classes. One mom would like her kid to sit in the front row, not a problem.

Perhaps the best moment came when Johnny's mom told me that before I became his teacher Johnny rarely used English at he uses it a ton and has been buying English-only CD's. That's a nice endorsement.

The truest sign that I am succeeding came after the PTA. My boss told me that all 16 students have paid for the next term. Many of these kids have hectic schedules and the drop-out rate at this level is pretty high. Not for my class!

Mission accomplished.

Friday, December 15, 2006

PTA Tomorrow

The big day for my 1093 class is tomorrow. My chance to show off my skills in front of the student's parents. Needless to say, I'm nervous. I am confident that the kids will do fine. They are an incredible group. The bond that develops between a teacher and his/her students is very special. I regard these kids as an extension of myself in many ways. They are going to excel as long as I stay sharp. Their success is a matter of pride for me.

This group is awesome. All sixteen of them are unique and an important part of the group. Each one of them brings something special to the classroom. Sandra's intensity, Milton's desire to learn, and Sherry's silliness are priceless. Tomorrow's session is a milestone for the class and it's gonna be fun, I hope. The competitiveness within the group is intense. We just finished the 9th level. There was a total of 4800 total possible points. The top 4 students in the class were separated by just 13 points. It's great to see them comparing their test grades and trying to one-up each other, the excitement is cool.

Many thanks again to Shelley for the Reese's Cups. They have provided me with the extra boost I needed to get through the mountains of paperwork for the PTA.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Hallinans Rule!

I got a delivery yesterday. A nice box from the US of A. Didn't see it coming, a pleasant surprise. It is from my sister Shelley and her clan, the Hallinans. She heard my rather pathetic pleas for Reese's Cups, and came through strong! Sorry Shell, you know me, there was no way I was gonna wait until X-mas to open up the box. Without you, Mom, or one of the other sisters here to stop me, the box had little chance of survival!

Along with the chocolate goodness, she included a cool little movie book. She knows me all too well. That book is right up my alley. Yet another way to feed my compulsion to list/order

The pic of the kids blew me away. Can't believe how quickly they are growing up. Next time I visit, I expect Rachel to be a licensed driver...crazy. Good looking kids. The thought of Shelley having two teenagers running around her house is mind-boggling. I think back to your graduation from Queens College. Doesn't seem like it was that long ago...

Thanks Shelley. You know nothing I do can equal your efforts. Taking the time to send this great stuff is way cool and I am forever in your debt.

I'll be home in about a month. Can't wait to see you and the rest of the fam!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Chinese New Year

I just found out that we are getting nine days off for Chinese New Years this year. The dates are February 17th through the 25th. A nice long break from work.

There are two issues that might make doing something fun a little difficult. One, I return from my trip the States at the end of January, my cash flow is liable to be pretty low. Also, most of Asia travels over the holiday and airfare is sky-high.

I am considering a trip to Bali or a return to Thailand.

Bali is a little island in Indonesia. The resorts are amazing, you can climb a volcano or spend the day in a park inhabited by thousands of monkeys. It's a very relaxing place. Brent, who used to work with me here, went there a few times and said it was amazing. The food and activities are second to none. Deals for very nice hotels are easy to get because of the bombing there a few years back. Some guys decided it would be a good idea to blow up a nightclub there...nasty stuff, but good for the price of a stay at one of the resorts. Since the incident, vacations to Bali have been quite a bit cheaper. I don't let that kind of thing deter me from doing what I want, life's too short.

If not Bali, then perhaps a return to Thailand is an option? If I go back there, I will venture outside of the city. Maybe head north where I can do the elephant safari thing. One thing is for sure, I will be hitting up the markets in Bangkok.

Not sure which direction I am going to go, but I have to decide soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Jerry & The Toilet

My porcelain throne sprang a leak. Had to call Jerry, the landlord, to come a take care of it. Part of the doohickey in the back went bad. As usual, Jerry was out in a flash. He is a great guy, very kind and goes beyond the call of duty for a landlord. He fixed the problem in about 10 minutes. You know, I am not totally clueless about this stuff, but I was afraid if I started messing with it, it might get messy.

Bathrooms here are different from back home. Due to space issues, most bathrooms don't have a shower stall. When you shower, the entire bathroom gets wet. It's not a big problem because everything is tiled and dries pretty quickly. Jerry, being insanely polite and afraid to dirty anything up in the apartment, took of his shoes before entering the bathroom. This would've been Okay except I had just finished taking a shower and the floor was wet. Poor guy had sopping wet socks by the time he was I told him he could keep his shoes on, he wouldn't do it.

After he finished fixing the commode, we came to an agreement about English lessons. He has been bugging me for months about wanting to learn English, I finally capitulated. I'm gonna teach him for an hour a week. Every Thursday morning we will have a go at it. We haven't discussed how much it's gonna cost him, but I think about NT$600/hour sounds good. That's about $20 American an hour.

If I could find 5 or 6 more tutoring students like Jerry, I'd be sound as a pound.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Ever have a song that just seems to haunt you? I do. It's No Surprises by Radiohead. It came out about 10 years ago on their OK Computer album. One of many incredible songs on, what I believe to be, one of the greatest albums ever made. I have been listening to this song for years and it still gets me every time I hear's gut-wrenching.

I've added it to the collection of great videos on the right-hand side of this page, check it out. The emotion that Thom Yorke puts into his performance is chilling. Love how they incorporate the glockenspiel into their music.

Click play on the top video. Make sure you have the sound turned up on your speakers, it's good stuff.

Friday, December 01, 2006

High Speed Rail

The long-awaited bullet train is scheduled to begin service this month. State-of-the-art stuff. It connects the northern cities to the far south. Train travel is huge in Taiwan. According to what I've read, it will take you from Taipei to Kaohsiung, the biggest city in the south, in about 90 minutes. The trip on a traditional train takes about 5 hours. The new train tops out at about 200 miles/hour. It's not the cheapest form of travel. A ride on the fast train is about 60% of the cost of a plane ticket.