Monday, December 31, 2007

Holiday Fun With My Students

One of the advantages of having classes with just 5 or 6 kids is it allows me to work with them on fun things outside of the curriculum. I usually have 10 or 15 minutes of class each day to have silly fun. I have used that time recently making fun holiday art. The kids love the Christmas season even though it's not an official holiday here.

Hope, the newly appointed school director, is awesome. She has done a terrific job of decorating the office and making it a warmer, more friendly atmosphere. She was happy to hear that I was getting my kids to help decorate. She came up with the idea of making a Christmas case with all of the kids creations. She is great. Her efforts are inspiring to everyone in the office, I really enjoy working for her.

I had a few of my classes color a variety of Christmas-related pictures and make some personalized reindeer. The reindeer were particularly fun because they had to trace their feet and hands to make the shapes.

This is the case. It's located in the main hall for everyone to see. The kids are proud of their work.

A close-up of some of the excellent work. It's fun to let them create stuff like this. The life of a student here in Taiwan is for too rigid. It leaves very little room for creativity. The reindeer head is a cut-out of their shoe, and the ears are the tracing of their hands...I think they are cute. Notice the picture on the left, "Merry Christamas"

My kindergarten class pointing out their artwork. Little Monica in the front is adorable. The two boys are brothers who recently returned from living in the U.S. for a few years. Their English is excellent. Not sure why they are in this class but I enjoy teaching them.

Some of the kids from my conversation-based class. These kids work really hard. I challenge them every class and they have done really well. Sophia, in the front, is pointing to her Thanksgiving picture. I decided to include the turkey pages because not all of them had completed the Christmas artwork.

The office tree. It's not extravagant, but Hope does really well with limited stuff to work with.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Dinner

Carrie and John's apartment was the scene for Christmas dinner last Saturday night. The dinner was awesome, we ate like kings. It was fun to hang with Carrie, John, Scott and a handful of other good friends. A big thank you to John and Carrie for hosting the shindig.

For more details on the evening, check out Jo's site at Joanna Rees Photography and Carrie's site at My Several Worlds.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Rootin' Tootin' Facelifts

A salon that offers cosmetic help and perhaps a shot of whiskey while you wait?

What exactly does "preventine" mean? "Saloon"...this one makes me

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sogo Christmas Decorations

I snapped a few shots of the main entrance of a Sogo department store on my way home from work the other day. Sogo is the biggest chain of department stores in Taiwan. The merchandise is way over-priced. It's difficult to justify buying stuff there when you can go down the street to a night market and buy a perfectly acceptable rip-off of the same stuff.

This is one of a few stores I have seen go all-out with their Christmas decorations. They chose a Disney Christmas theme.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Melbourne Velodrome Crash...Ouch!

This is tough to watch. Wear your helmet boys and girls!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Taiwan's Impotent Workforce (part 2)

Exhibit B:
Camaraderie is defined as goodwill or fellowship between friends, brotherhood, if you will.

Perhaps this word should be injected into the lexicon of Taiwanese workplaces. I know I know, it's an English word and this is a Chinese-speaking culture...I couldn't find the Chinese equivalent, just bear with me.

An essential part of a healthy workplace is open discourse amongst those who you work closest to. To be able to speak your mind to your coworkers and get their feedback without fear of recourse from the boss. Those closest to you are probably experiencing many of the same things and it's often a chance to allow someone to commiserate and/or help you solve a problem. Often times it's petty stuff and one just wants to vent a little, harmless crap.

I have always held that the issues you discuss with your coworkers are tacitly considered to be privy to you and your compatriots, not your superiors.

This is sadly not the case in my experiences here in Taiwan. Anything that is said amongst you and those that surround you will be mysteriously relayed to your boss. The prevailing justification I have heard for this is company loyalty. Folks here think it's more important to rat out a disgruntled employee than to foster a sense of brotherhood in the workplace. Rather than examine the situation, they score brownie points with the boss.

This amounts to an atmosphere is distrust and division.

Perhaps this is an American-centric view of what it means to be an employee in a work environment? I have always felt that the employees of a company are sort of a team. Your workmates are there to support you and act as a buffer between you and management. The bosses are not your enemy per se, but they certainly are not your friends when it comes down to the bottom line. Your coworkers are supposed to be the folks backing you up, an extension of each individual.

As I am sure you can tell by the above blathering, I have been victimized more than once by a teammate. It's horribly deflating when it does occur. Thriving in an atmosphere when I have to worry about those closest to me stabbing me in the back is disheartening, to say the least.

The great Mother Jones once said, "We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Shining Example

On Saturday mornings, I teach a class of 7 kids. (It's not fun teaching on Saturday mornings after teaching all week in the afternoon/evening, but that's a can of worms I am not anxious to open right now.) The kids are about 9 years old and wonderfully receptive considering it's frighteningly early on a Saturday morning to be learning. I always have fun with this group.

One aspect of this class that always warms my heart is the parents that sit in the back of the room and, essentially, get free English lessons.

My school's policy is parents are welcome to sit in on their child's class free of charge. Virtually all of them use the time to shore up their English skills and I am happy to oblige. I always make extra copies of my handouts to give to the parents. I have found that parents that come to class usually spend more time with their kids ensuring they succeed in their English lessons, good stuff.

It's not the participating in class that impresses me with this particular group, it's the fact that they are there! It's Saturday morning and these folks are actively taking part in their child's education. 7 kids in the class and never less than 5 parents in attendance. They work hard all week and, admirably, drag themselves out of bed early on Saturday morning to set an example for their kids. This just would NOT happen in the U.S. Sadly, American culture has abandoned education. I can honestly say I am not sure that I could do what these folks are doing. It's a remarkable show of dedication to education...wake up and smell the cat food America!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Taiwan's Impotent Workforce (part 1)

Fear. Over the past few years, I have had a chance to witness what life in the American workplace must have been like prior to the birth of organized labor.

Employees in Taiwan, in my humble opinion, are far too often motivated by fear. Fear of being ostracized. Fear of standing out from the pack. These collective fears have allowed employers to play the role of the fear monger. The frightened worker and control-freak bosses create a passive-aggressive atmosphere. Not exactly an inspirational ambiance.

As you can see, I am a bit perturbed right now. I am prepared to state some anecdotal evidence to support my above claims. I will not use specific names and places in order to protect the innocent.

This is the first in a series of posts examining the dysfunctional relationship that permeates office-spaces here on the island.

Exhibit A:
When an employer calls for a company meeting, one would assume that this is an opportunity for an exchange of ideas and concerns. A chance for the leadership to introduce new policies or upcoming changes in existing policies. An opportunity for the employees to air concerns and deal with them as a team. A place where the group can discuss the success or failure of current practices within the organization. An exchange of ideas from both sides.

If this meeting takes place in Taiwan, only half of these things are appropriate. The employee is expected to sit quietly and digest all the directives from above with a smile of their face. It's imperative that the minion suppress even so much as a burp. Raising one's hand is akin to blowing your nose at the dinner table, shockingly rude. God forbid one questions the logic of a particular move being made by leadership in this setting. By doing so, you are attempting to humiliate your boss according to the prevailing beliefs of this culture. The accepted practice here is to quietly address your question one-on-one with your superior.

That is just not kosher from my point of view. I have always believed and will continue to believe that the group setting is unquestionably the best time to examine and hash-out issues. The one-on-one theory is nice, but not realistic. All too often the employer uses his or her status to intimidate the plaintiff and render their concern hopeless. The everyone else seems OK with the policy, it's just your silly problem approach is commonplace here. If one is able to sound off in the presence of others that may share in their concern, they are much more likely to see results. Strength through numbers is a very real thing. One voice can be silenced with little effort. Ten voices are a bit more problematic.

I have a difficult time laying blame for the above problem. I think leadership knowingly exploits the worker. At the same time, the employees allow this system to go unchecked.

Where is the Cesar Chavez of Taiwan? It's high time that the balance of power shift a little more to the side of the working stiffs.

Look for "Exhibit B" soon.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sok Ry's Progress

A few months back, I opened an account on My first loan went to a 50 year old woman selling medicines in Cambodia. The beneficiary, Sok Ry, has recently made her first scheduled payment on the loan. She will make 18 payments of $67.00 in order to repay the $1200.00 loan.
It's exciting to see the system working. I hope that the $1200.00 will open up more ways for Sok Ry and her family to flourish.

I am currently searching for another entrepreneur to lend to.

This is good stuff people. It's a wonderful way for individuals to team up and make a difference in the lives of people trying to better their world. Do yourself a favor and check it out at

Friday, December 07, 2007

Donut Hysteria

This photo was taken while standing on the sidewalk in front of my apartment. It's opening day for the latest franchise of Mister Donut here in Taipei. Taiwanese people are donut crazy! Mister Donut is a Japanese company that is making a killing in Taiwan. The donuts are good, not Krispy Kreme good, but tasty nonetheless.

Check out the line to buy the sugar-coated bundles of fat. The line went on well beyond my cameras angle. How am I supposed to resist eating the little nasties when they are frying them up across the street???

Once again, defying every law of food consumption known to man, Taiwanese folks generally don't consider donuts a breakfast food...huh? The shops don't open until 9am making it impossible to for nine-to-fivers to pick up a baker's dozen before heading to work. Most locals I have spoken with about this think of a donut as a snack or dessert, not something that compliments a cup of coffee in the morning, go figure.

Taipei Main Christmas Tree

Last weekend, Catherine & I made a return trip to Yingge. We wanted to pick up the pottery that we made a few weeks back, and do a little shopping while we were there. It's a nice little town with fun shops. I will take some photos of our pottery creations and will post them soon, I promise.
We took the train to Yingge. Near the ticketing area in Taipei Main Station they put up a lovely tree for the holidays. I think they did a reasonably good job of decorating it, save the advertising placards. The square white pieces on the tree are ads for various local businesses.

Friday, November 30, 2007

YouTube on Shaky Ground

YouTube, unquestionably one of the world-wide web's most popular web sites, is in the news for the wrong reason. The web site recently disabled the account of an Egyptian man who has used the video portal to expose police brutality in his country. The man, Wael Abbas, has been successfully shedding light on a growing problem in his home country.

You can read about this situation here:
YouTube stops account of Egypt anti-torture activist.

Executives at YouTube claim that his videos cross the line as far as "graphic or gratuitous violence" is concerned.

After reading the article I couldn't help but think that YouTube is making a huge mistake. Sometimes it takes graphic images to wake people up and make a change. This guy is not out to make a quick buck on the backs of others, he is a crusader trying to better his country.

If you surf the video website, it doesn't take long to find tons of worthless garbage with little or no redeeming value. The content in the Egyptian videos is rough, but necessary.

The video that started the controversy shows a man being sodomized with a plunger by the police while in custody. Not nice stuff, but the sad reality of a corrupt system.

If YouTube had existed in Europe during World War II, would they have censored videos taken of the Nazi death camps because they were graphic? What if a YouTube member had been responsible for exposing the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq...would he or she have had her account shut down?

The leadership at YouTube, which is owned by Google, needs to reconsider their actions. This is not going to win them any popularity contests.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Catherine's Groovy New Pad

Today was moving day for Catherine. I will give you three guesses as to who did all the heavy lifting? It was not fun. Her old apartment was on the fifth floor of a building sorely lacking an elevator, and her new apartment is on the third floor of another building without a lift (that's British for a push-up bra or something). Yes, my legs are on fire!

I was glad to see her move because her new apartment is a lot closer to her work and much easier for me to get to from my apartment. Also, she is the sole tenant in this one. She is a bit freaked out about it now, but I think she will learn to love living by herself. This is her first time on her own in a place...I am so happy for her. At about $180 U.S./month, it's a steal. The apartment is about 2 minutes from Taipei Main Station, the hub for the subway and train systems in the city.

Anyhow, she managed to score an apartment that screams Brady Bunch. Folks, this place is trapped in the 70's. I gotta believe finding a place this dated is rare considering how quickly they dispose of the old buildings and build new ones in this city. Check out the photos below for evidence.

The apartment is HUGE! I am standing in the living room near the entrance. You can see her bedroom in the background and the kitchen is behind me. A shockingly big place for Taipei City.

Notice the fine wood-paneling on the left...we had wall-to-wall paneling in the basement of my childhood Another out-of-the-ordinary furnishing is the carpet. This the land of tiling. Haven't seen a carpeted apartment since I arrived on the island.

As I was lugging stuff up the stairs I stumbled upon this little gold mine...two large stacks of vinyl! The LP's appeared to be in great shape. I am planning on offering the landlord a few bucks for them. I knew it was a find as soon as I saw Purple Rain on the top of the first stack.

The place was littered with piles of interesting do-dads...more on that later.

Check out the wood-framed windows...I love it! They are very cool. Can do without the faux forest wallpaper...scroll down for more tragic use of wall space.

The requisite household Buddhist shrine. Do I need to mention the wallpaper?...ugh

On your way to the bathroom, you get a little help from the waterfall image. If you didn't have to pee on your way in, you will have to after witnessing the cascading water. Head-ache inducing wallpaper is not a decorating plus.

The disco-style lighting and the recessed ceiling made my jaw drop! This place is unique, to say the least.

I knew Catherine picked the right place when I saw this display. Godzilla attacking some old bowling trophies is beyond the pale. What living room would be complete without these things?

This photo was taken about 2 seconds before Catherine smacked me in the head. She said something about invasion of privacy...who could possibly resist these little goodies? There were about 7 books full of dated snapshots, a.k.a. GOLD!

A full-frontal view of what would be the centerpiece of my After further examination, I came to the conclusion that Godzilla was, in fact, protecting the coveted bowling statuettes.

The happy couple in days of yore. These folks are very kind to allow Cath to rent this place. It has been vacant for about 5 years, never rented...very odd.

I plan on returning soon and I hope to continue my search for goodies! It's gonna take Catherine a few weeks to make heads or tails of the place. Once she does, it's going to be very nice. In the meantime, I have to ransack this city for a turntable. "I only wanted to see you bathing in the purple rain..."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

With Friends Like These Guys...

Bush chumming it up with Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.Photo courtesy of

Saudi Arabia are allies in the War on Terror?

This week, it was revealed that a 19 year old victim of a gang rape in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 6 months in jail and 200 lashes. I should mention that she was initially sentenced to 90 lashes but she took her story to the media and the Saudi courts weren't pleased with her actions; so they tacked on the additional penalty.

She was found guilty of being in the company of an unrelated male in public...hmmm. Is the Saudi judicial system in some sort of time warp? This is barbaric, to say the least. This kind of misogyny has no place in the 21st century.

Apparently, the Bush administration is not so appalled. The Associated Press, via Yahoo reported the reaction of State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. He stated that the verdict "causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment."

Wow, what a harsh indictment...huh? What the hell do the Saudis have on the Bushies? They just can't do anything wrong, I guess. 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals. Makes me wonder how much of the Bush/Cheney mid-east policy is done at the behest of the Saudi ruling family?

Monday, November 19, 2007

I've Been Tagged...Here's My 7 Things

Carrie over at My Several Worlds targeted me for a tagging. Being tagged means you have to list 7 random and/or weird things about yourself. Here they are:

1. I have spent a good bit of my life blaming religion for the world's problems. My exposure to Buddhism while in Taiwan gives me hope.

2. Until a couple of years ago, I wore two pairs of socks every day. I told people it was because it was more comfortable...honestly, it was just a bizarre compulsion.

3. I enjoy eating peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches.

4. I think the greatest movie ever made is The Big Lebowski.

5. I am 37 years old and I still speak before I think far too often.

6. I once went a week, while in summer camp, without changing my underwear. That was about 25 years ago, not recently!

7. I am proud to say I have never stepped foot in a Wal-Mart.

There ya have it. I know the underpants thing is going to come back to haunt

My victims:

Anyesha at One Fleeting Moment
MJ at The NH Bushman
Todd at The Daily Bubble Tea

Sorry, it's not 7, but I don't have the energy or nerve to list any more.


  1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
  2. Post these rules on your blog.
  3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
  4. Tag seven random [?] people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
  5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting on comment on their blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Airfare Hunt

I am on a mission to find reasonable plane tickets to the US. Catherine and I are talking about taking a trip across the pond. It will be a great chance for Catherine to see America and meet my family and friends at the same time. I can't imagine a better traveling partner. Also, I am itching to visit so I can iron out some details about transitioning back to the States. The opportunity to teach in Vegas is enticing.

We are thinking about making the trip in mid to late February, right after the Chinese New Year.

So far, it looks like the best deal is with Singapore Air. They are currently offering 2 round-trip tickets from Taipei to L.A. for about $1300 American. I have flown with them before and was very happy with the flights. They aren't necessarily the cheapest but they offer daily non-stop service and their seats and service are top-notch. The cost difference in the fares I have found is negligible...not enough to sacrifice the comfort that Singapore Air offers. When you are flying to the other side of the planet, comfort is a BIG deal.

I will continue to search but I think it's gonna be tough to top the Singapore deal.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Two, Three, Four and Five Year Old

About 2 months ago, I started teaching a kindergarten class. I had never taught a K class before, so I was skeptical. The Dunhua Rd. branch, where I am currently working, is pretty small. We have about 200 students compared to about 1000 at the Shulin branch so I was wondering if we could get any kids to sign up. My question was answered when one little girl showed up for the first day of Monica, my only student, is great. She is a very receptive 4 year old.

Everything was hunky-dory until about 5 weeks into the class, that's when the boys showed up. Ethan and his brother Evan signed up for the class. They are 5 and 3 years old, respectively. So I had an interesting mix of levels. I was a bit freaked out, but thought I could manage because Evan, although being only 3 years old, seemed to have a pretty good level of knowledge.

The next few weeks were hectic, but I found a way to integrate the boys into the existing class plan. After just a few classes I came to the conclusion that boys are about a million times more difficult to handle at this level than girls. It was everything I could do to keep the boys from bouncing off the walls while Monica sat nicely in her seat and was the perfect little student. I love the silliness the boys possess, but man it's tiring trying to harness their energy.

While the class wasn't perfect, I did have them all marching to the same drum. We work at a brisk pace and the 3 of them seem to be able to grasp the material pretty well.

Last week, that all came to a screeching halt! Just before class started I was informed that I had a new student. Adding students mid-stream is never easy but it's part of my job. Not all kids are able to join the class from day-one. It frustrates me but I have done it a million times and after a few speed bumps, the kid is usually up to speed in no time. This particular situation is a wee bit different...

My new student is 2 years old...ugh. Two freaking years old! I understand that it's great to get your kid started early learning languages, but this is ridiculous. Sakura, the new student, is tiny. She spent the entire first class clinging to her mother's leg and crying whenever I tried to get her to participate.

Just to clarify the situation, that makes a 2, 3, 4 and 5 year old in the class. The comprehension levels of each one of them is profoundly ya get the idea that I am a bit frustrated by this scene?

I have decided to talk to Carol this week about this. I can't get any rhythm in the class if I have to on one hand, keep a 2 year from bursting into tears, and on the other, keep a 5 year old from burning the school down...arg!

I am going to ask Carol to suggest the 2 year olds mother find a more suitable class. The curriculum is not appropriate for a 2 year old. Also, I seriously doubt that she could keep up with the program.

This situation is one of the primary reasons I haven't had much time to blog in the past couple of weeks. Work has been very challenging lately and I look forward to getting this crap under control so I can go back to making myself look silly on this here blog...

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Lull in the Action

Hello all. I am still here, just been super busy at work. This past week has been filled with work-related stuff...not anything blog-worthy. I have been frantically trying to clean up some messes that I have created. Nothing terribly serious, just lots of paperwork.

I have a busy weekend planned with Catherine, so stay tuned.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Deadly Toxic Snowflakes

The hits just keep coming. Yesterday, The Washington Post obtained several internal memo's from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office. The memo's were known as "snowflakes". The memo's were directives to his staff. Many of them contained his thoughts on how to manipulate the media in order to scare the public into supporting the misguided war strategy.

A reminder...This guy was the main architect of the invasion of Iraq.

When things started falling apart a few years back, he made some comments that are pretty scary:

"Talk about Somalia, The Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists."

"Keep elevating the threat."

"Link Iraq to Iran."

There you have it! The administration has been planning to link Iraq to Iran for a loooooong time.

Don't believe the hype people. This was planned long ago. Rumsfeld, Cheney and crew are orchestrating an endless conflict that will make them VERY rich.

Here is a news clip covering the topic. Olbermann's show is the best source of news on TV.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Gnarley Genius

OK, these guys were hit the scene a year or two ago, but I am still into them. Their creativity is great. They seem to really have fun making music.

Check out the following videos:

I love how they inject themselves into music history. Kudos to Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell.

You all know this song, but have ya seen this fantastic live performance...The force is with

Had to include the official "Crazy" video. I dig the Rorschach test. What do you see in the inkspot?

Great music and fun videos.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Queenie & Jerry's Big Day

Saturday night my friends Queenie and Jerry got married. Catherine and I were so happy to get a chance to celebrate with them. The party was a lot of fun. It also gave me a chance to see some folks from my old school...I miss them terribly. Queenie looked incredible, she is a beautiful woman. It was my first wedding here, so it was an opportunity to experience a wedding Taiwanese-style.

Jerry is my bosses brother and Queenie is a teacher at the Shulin school. Queenie has been teaching for Carol for quite a few years.

Unlike in the west, weddings are not formal occasions. Some folks were dressed to the hilt, others not so much.

The reception is, essentially, a dinner party. There isn't a DJ, band or dancing, just dinner music playing in the background. It is not the raucous affair that many western wedding receptions tend to be. There was alcohol, but not consumed at the level that I have seen folks drink at weddings in the U.S.

One aspect I found curious is the parade of dresses. The bride changes into different gowns 3 or 4 times throughout the evening. I guess it's an opportunity to take more photos.

My boss Carol and her cute-as-a-button daughter. I believe her daughter's name is Jeannie, but I'm not sure...I'm a guy, I forget those kinds of things!

The food was top-notch. Sadly, most of it was seafood. I don't eat fish so I was left twiddling my chopsticks for a good portion of the dinner. I did really enjoy the Haagen Dazs ice cream for dessert!

I managed to spend some time with a bunch of the teachers from Shulin, they are a great group. It was awesome to see them. The women in the Shulin school helped me become the teacher I am, really boosted my self-confidence.

Carrie & Catherine after the big affair. These two ladies can light up a room. We were mulling around waiting for everyone to finish up so we could head over to the KTV joint (more on KTV in a future post).

Big John and Gavin. Gavin is one of the coolest guys on the planet. He is Carol's husband.

The bride and groom with their parents. This is the part of the celebration where they make the marriage official. The parents make the pact official and sign the relevant documents...I guess this description doesn't exactly reek of romance...sorry, I am

Here they are playing one of the silly games that's part of a typical wedding here. The groom is blindfolded and he must find his bride by only touching the hands of all the folks on the stage...Jerry didn't do so well, he thought my friend Sandy was Queenie...oops!

Another silly game. This one involved the groom slinging his "hammer" into the brides "tambourine". Pretty saucy!

Finally, I couldn't resist added this photo to the group. Check out the guy on the left dashing for the bouquet! I'm certain he is destined to make a lovely bride in the near future...

The wedding proved to be another great cultural experience for me. It's really fun to get a chance to witness this stuff. I am a lucky guy...I love my work, have wonderful friends, live in a fascinating part of the world and have an extraordinary woman in my life. I am thankful every day for these things.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 - Baby Steps Towards Making a Difference

I recently started giving to a micro-finance/micro-loan organization known as Essentially what it is is a non-profit group that facilitates small loans to entrepreneurs in the 3rd World. The loans are to folks that don't have any collateral to ensure a traditional bank loan. Also, the loan amounts are too small to attract legitimate financiers. Kiva makes it possible for people all over the world to provide some leverage to small business owners in struggling regions.

The default amount that sponsors give is $25 American. You have the choice of giving more but the system is setup to bring together several lenders in order to minimize the risk to the individual. As far as risk is concerned, Kiva has an impeccable record of repayment. The latest figures show a default rate of just 0.3% for $1,700,00 in loans...thats impressive!

Please visit the site at for more info and see how you can get involved.

My first loan went to Sok Ry, in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia. Sok Ry sells traditional medicines and her husband is a farmer. Below is a picture of her and her husband along with the loan use description from the website.

Mrs. Sok Ry, aged 50, sells traditional Cambodian medicine to earn about $12 per day in revenue. Profits vary according to the type of medicines her clients request. Her husband grows vegetables to feed the family. They have one child who is a high school student. Mrs. Sok is requesting this loan of $1200 in order to increase her inventory of medicines to meet growing client demands. Part of the loan will also be used to purchase an electric water pump to irrigate the family’s farm and increase crop yield.

Sok Ry's loan was fully funded on October 23rd. She will be making monthly repayments for the next 18 months. I will monitor her progress and keep you all informed.

I am really excited about this and hope some of you out there will be too.

There is a widget on the sidebar of this blog to track the progress of various loans waiting to be fully funded.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Taiwan Blogger's Shindig in Hukou

On Saturday night, a bunch of the prominent Taiwan bloggers got together at MJ's place in Hukou. It was an excellent opportunity to get to know some the folks that have a knack for capturing life here on the island. MJ, (check out his blog here) was gracious enough to host this get-together of characters. His home is just a stones throw from an excellent Thai restaurant, where most of the action took place. The party was a lot of fun and went off without a hitch. The conversation and food were top-notch. Despite coming from all parts of the planet, it's remarkable how much the group has in common.

I will attempt to tell the story of the evening through the following photos:

Early in the evening the drinks were going fast. It was great to get a chance to pick the brains of my fellow bloggers.

Carrie (check out her blog: My Several Worlds) and MJ. I believe MJ was espousing the virtues of the Taiwanese rum that was the preferred drink of the evening.

The much anticipated barbecue. It didn't disappoint.

My cutie pie enjoyed the Thai-style barbecue. Shao-hui's cooking nearly brought tears to my eyes...great stuff.

A close-up of the various dishes that were served. The food didn't stand a chance in this group...we did some serious eating.

Carrie and Micheal (Michael's blog can be found here: The Taiwan Chronicles). Michael & I spent a good bit of time comparing war stories. He is also a former Peace Corps Volunteer and was born in Cleveland...small world. He gave me some excellent advice regarding higher education here in Taiwan. Essentially, he said I would be crazy not to get my Master's degree from one of the universities in Taipei...more on that in future posts.

That's Andres, of the one-and-only Andres in Taiwan blog, on the left. In the foreground, with his back to the camera, is David. David has a great blog, check it out at David on Formosa.

John, Carrie's future husband and good buddy of mine. He is damn near 7 feet tall so you can imagine what kinda of looks he gets here in the land of short people.

Later in the evening we made our way inside to take part in some karaoke.

Todd, sitting to the left of Catherine, also has an excellent blog...his photos are killer. Check his blog out at The Daily Bubble Tea.

Michael was making the moves on my girl! I had to step in and put an end to that! After we got home, Catherine told me that Michael was a very interesting guy and his Chinese was impeccable...what a lady killer!

What a great time. Again, thank you MJ. I certainly hope we can do this again in the near future. I know that Catherine and I will be heading back that way to visit MJ. It would be worth the trip just to dine at Shao-hui's.