Sunday, April 29, 2007

5K and No Signs of Letting Up

Muchas Gracias people. This here blog surpassed the 5000 hit mark this week. I am shocked that so many people care to read this silly stuff. Regardless, I will continue to do my best to keep you updated on my life here and entertained at the same time.

I just had a wonderful day with Catherine. Check back in the next day or two for my posts about our day.

Thanks again.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I Can Only Do 12 Things at Once!

Lately I have been swamped at work. Since taking on a few more classes, I have had a hard time keeping up with all the administrative work. I know it can be done. I am just having a difficult time getting into a groove. I have a bunch of things coming up and have to manage them...

1106 has a PTA coming in May; 1093 just finished a level so I have to complete the final grading reports and send the parents an update letter; 1080 is a mess, they are not a very motivated group; my adult class keeps growing, I have added 3 new students in the past week and I haven't really been able to get the pacing right in that class. These are just a few of the things that have been gnawing at me lately.

All of the students recently took a standardized test and my kids didn't do very well. It's meant to be a practice test for the upcoming state issued test that kids take before they can enter high school. I was told my classes needed to take it in early April, so I had them do it a few weeks ago. After the test, I found out that I was supposed to spend a class or two with them reviewing the material that may be on the test...why wasn't I told this before?? As a result, my kids did, comparatively, poorly when you hold them up against other classes. They took it cold turkey, so the results are skewed. I am determined to see that they are extremely prepared for the real test. I am convinced that my groups are the best in the school...I'll show them!

The PTA for my 1106 class is coming up. It is gonna take some prep time that I really don't have. Thankfully the group is incredible. I am confident that they will shine. They are my most motivated group, so the stress is minimal. I plan on doing pretty much the same thing I did with my 1093 class. That PTA was a hit. The parents were impressed with my presentation and all of them were content with my plans for their kids. My goal is to attain the same level of satisfaction with this group of parents. Stay tuned for the gory details.

1093 is getting older and motivation is becoming a factor. Many of them are entering high school. This means that they have less and less time to devote to English class. I have to continually modify my approach so I don't lose them, it's a challenge. The material they are expected to learn at this level is rough. English is not as fun to learn as it was for them a few years ago. Trying to make participial adjectives and the passive voice fun for a 16 year old is about as easy as trying to figure out how George W. Bush thinks, virtually impossible!

I don't even want to think about the issues with my 1080 class...they are a mess. They are in the final book in our series. To say they are unmotivated would be the understatement of the century. Given the choice, I think these kids would choose a visit to the dentist over another two-hour English class.

The adult class is good but I am struggling with the format. It's completely different from all of the other classes. The book is geared toward daily life English usage which I like because it's fun to discuss the things they encounter every day. The students have given me some good feedback, but I don't think I have really mastered the lessons yet. Teaching adults is an adventure because they come up with many tough questions that require me to use every bit of my limited knowledge of the

Trying to negotiate all of this craziness and spend quality time with Catherine has made my life a three-ring circus. I will continue to trudge through and everything will be fine. I am sure that in a few weeks time I will have a handle on most of the issues.

p.s. I am coming to the end of my American chocolate supply! If anyone out there has the time, disposable income, and need to give, please send me a box of Reese's Cups and/or anything made by Hershey's.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Judy - A Profile in Silliness

This is the first installment in a series of in-depth (as in-depth as you can be with little kids) looks at some of the kids that always make me smile. All of the kids I teach are wonderful and unique, but these children seem to rise to the top...they are truly an inspiration. I hope you enjoy the little chat and pictures below.

Judy is my first subject. She is Teacher Queenie's student. I see her class once every few weeks. She sits in the front row, right in the middle. She has got a smile that's infectious and a daintiness that is adorable.

Below is a short interview that I conducted with Judy. She is a fidgety little thing, so getting her to sit still long enough to answer a few questions was a challenge.

Me: Hello Judy, how are you?
Judy: I'm fine, thank you. How are you?
Me: I'm great, thanks. How old are you?
Judy: I am 9 years old.
Me: How long have you been learning English?
Judy: Almost one year.
Me: Where do you live?
Judy: I live in Shulin.
Me: What's your favorite color?
Judy: My favorite color is pink.
Me: What's your favorite food?
Judy: My favorite food is fish.
Me: What's your favorite hobby?
Judy: I like to watch TV.
Me: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Judy: I have one brother. I don't have any sisters.

The following answer nearly made me fall out of my seat...

Me: Who is your favorite English teacher?
Judy: My favorite English teacher is Teacher David!!!!!
This is shocking because I don't teach her that often. When I have, it's been great.

Me: Thank you for your time Judy.
Judy: You are welcome Teacher David.
(I gave her a couple lollipops for participating.)

Here are some pictures of Judy and her friends that I took a few days ago. All the kids go crazy when I show up with my camera.

She is sitting on the right, wearing the red shirt and blue pants. Check out her feet, too cute.

This isn't the best pic of her, but as I said before, she is tough to get a steady picture of.

Judy and her classmates mugging for the camera with that funny looking foreign teacher.

Oh no! Not a camera!

This is too good. Running from the dreaded camera's view.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Additions to Casa de David

Catherine got me a couple of great plants for my apartment. A very thoughtful birthday present. She knew I needed some greenery in my place. The two she picked out for me are a perfect fit since my place is so small. Since I tend to be kind of absent-minded, she got me plants that don't need to be watered too often...I'm a guy, I forget that about those kinds of things all the time!


I woke up yesterday with a headache, a sure sign of a bad day to come. The pressure on my eyes was intense. I drank some juice, had a bowl of Cheerios and laid back down. I figured another hour or so of rest would help. It seemed to work.

I had a staff meeting yesterday at noon. I woke up, showered, and headed across town for the meeting, feeling good.

After the meeting, I made my way to work. Within about an hour the pressure on my eyes started to return. At about 5 0'clock, I went to the bathroom. As I was washing my hands I noticed a bump on my face just below my right eye. It wasn't too bad looking but was a little tender to the touch. I thought it was the beginning of a zit. I went back to my desk and took some Ibuprofen. My class was just a few minutes away, I had to hustle.

Over the next two hours the bump grew quickly. My kids thought it was pretty freaky and I began to get worried. By 7 o'clock, the bump was huge and dark red. I was getting a bit nervous about it because it's close to my eye and it was causing me some vision troubles. I kept thinking that perhaps a mosquito or a spider had bit me the night before, I was dumbfounded. After the class, I went to the office and told my boss I needed to go to see the doctor a.s.a.p.. She wasn't thrilled about this idea because I had a class starting in thirty minutes. I told her I guess I could teach the class and go to the doctor after...not thrilled about waiting, but I did.

Gavin, one of the bosses, took me to the doctor at 9 o'clock. He poked at it for about thirty seconds and told me that it was an allergic reaction to something. I have never had allergies before so I was skeptical. He told me to put an ice pack on it for fifteen minutes and then apply some ointment that he gave me. I agreed and set off home. I was still not sure that it was allergies but I did what he prescribed.

I woke up this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see that the bump is smaller and not as painful. Did I somehow develop allergies in the past few months? As I said before, I have never suffered from them before. I hope that this isn't the start of a long battle with the environment here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

7-11 Snoopy Madness

For the past few months, 7-11 has been giving away Snoopy credit card holder thingies if you spend NT$75. They are holograms of many of the significant places throughout Taiwan. Pretty neat, actually. Since 7-11 is pretty much where everyone gets their groceries in this country, many folks are heavy into collecting the Snoopy cards. The chain stores here are always giving away goofy little trinkets. It's a very competitive market and they have to find ways to draw you in, it works. Collecting the 7-11 give-aways is a religion in Taiwan. The promotion ended this week and I am 5 short of the complete set. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to trade with my students to complete the series. Next week I have several of my kids bringing them in and I am anticipating some serious wheeling and dealing.

All of this sounds silly, I know. But it's kinda fun and a welcomed distraction from the real world. Here is what they look like. Remember, they are holograms, so getting a good picture of them was tricky.

The one on the lower right is funky looking because the angle of the shot didn't jive with the hologram.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Lonely Weekend

Catherine has her mid-terms next week so I am on my own this weekend. She has her nose buried in textbooks. I spoke to her the other night and she let me know she would be incommunicado for the next week or so....her commitment is admirable.

We have been inseparable for the past few months, so I feel kind of lost. I guess I could catch up on work stuff or go buy some worthless crap at a night-market, not sure.

I have been trying to figure out what our next trip will be. We are planning on doing something fun next weekend. After I confer with her, I will let you all know. I have been reading up on the bike trails throughout the city. They follow the two main rivers that cut through Taipei. A bike ride is high on my list. The city has several stands set up near the trails that rent bicycles for a day, a very cool idea. Here is a shot of the book that we are using as our guide:

It's a little dated, but it has lots of fun trips in it. We are going to do our best to accomplish all 30 trips.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Birthday Dinner at Thai Town

Catherine & I had a great dinner Sunday night at a killer restaurant named Thai Town. I was really craving Thai food. The food was outstanding, as was the company. We had a lot of fun. The restaurant is small, has a very intimate feeling inside. We both really enjoyed the meal. Catherine managed to find out that the owner of the restaurant is from her home country, Myanmar, how cool is that? Burmese and Thai food are very similar.

We decided to order several dishes and share them, a good way to sample a lot of the menu. It turned out to make the meal much more enjoyable. We had a beef dish in a spicy cashew sauce, a grilled chicken dish with some interesting spicy sauce, a papaya salad that Catherine really liked, and an incredible eggplant dish. My favorite was the beef dish, the sauce and cashews were perfect. The eggplant was exceptional, it was awesome on a bed of rice. The food is a bit pricey, but well worth the money.

Catherine was, as she always is, wonderful. She had a great time. I have never seen her eat so much...I know she really enjoyed the food.

Here are a few shots from our evening:

The plants on the table are birthday gifts from Catherine. She knew that I need some greenery in my apartment, good stuff.

Ahhh, notice the bottle of Thailand's own Singha beer. A fine beverage.

Duh, I forgot to include where the restaurant is located. It's on Wenhua Rd., across from the Banciao Train Station. There are two Thai restaurants over there, this one is the one further away from the station. You'll see a red sign that says "Thai Town" beneath the Chinese lettering. The front is all glass, they have one of their menus on display out front, ya cant miss it.

Good question Andres.

Birthday Fun

This past week I celebrated my 37th birthday...I'm getting old!

I had many pleasant surprises at work. Some of my students remembered my big day and gave me some fun gifts. Anne, a wonderful girl, gave me a cute little stuffed animal monkey; Tim, one of my students in my 1106 class, gave me a great little toy dog; Teacher Catherine got me a Starbucks Taipei Mug. Of course the bosses Carol & Gavin bought some pizza for the office and also surprised me with a couple of neat little gifts.

1093, the group that I have been with the longest, surprised me on Saturday. During our usual break time on the hour, I had to go up and take care of a few things in the office. When I returned I found the following:

What a nice surprise. These kids are so great. I have been teaching them for about 8 months now. There have been times when I wanted to scream, but for the most part it's been a wonderful experience. They have helped me become a much better teacher. They inspire me.

Here is a shot of them on Saturday. They either love or hate to have their picture taken. Tiger & Chris, in the front, love mugging for the camera. While Lucy & Alice (hiding their faces) think the camera is a tool of evil!

Thanks to everyone who helped make my birthday so much fun. I had a good week.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

At the Movies...

For the past 4 Saturdays, Catherine & I have gone to the movies. We are both movie junkies so this is good stuff. We have been going to the Warner Village Theater in the Xinyi district of Taipei because it's got the best selection in the city. The theater is huge! It's 3 floors on both sides of the street. They must have about 30 screens, not sure.

I have decided to post my thoughts the movies we have seen. I will try to remember to post after each trip. Perhaps my completely biased, often silly thoughts about the movies will help you decide if they are worth seeing...

So far we have seen a mixed bag of movies. Here is a quick look at the flicks we have seen together:

Hannibal Rising. Not a great start to our movie-going experience. I went into it with low expectations, so I wasn't terribly disgusted by it. I was interested in seeing how they played out Lecter's early life, what caused him to become such a freak. The acting wasn't stellar and the premise was pretty far-fetched. It was fun, but not worth paying to see...wait until the DVD comes out to watch this one.

300. Sensory overload. Very entertaining movie. At times, I felt like I wanted to push the "pause" button because the action and sound were furious. I really enjoyed this one...I think it's still playing in theaters, check it out.

Premonition. Luke-warm on this one. About what I expected from a Sandra Bullock movie. We went to this one because "Shooter" was sold out. It had its moments, but overall, mediocre.

The Reaping. Possibly the worst ending I have ever seen in a movie. If you take out the last 15 minutes, it's a decent movie. I am a little shocked that Hillary Swank chose this role. She has won two Academy Awards, this one will not get her a third. The premise is kinda cool but the way it played out was silly. They relied heavily on special effects at the expense of story-line and dialogue. If you want to see how NOT to effectively wrap up a story, check out this movie.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Adventures with Catherine, Yehliu

A few months back I picked up a book entitled Taipei Day Trips. It outlines 30 little excursions in and around Taipei. After my first few dates with Catherine I knew she would be the ideal travel partner. I brought the book with me on one of our dates and showed it to her. I told her that, once the weather breaks, we are going to knock out each and every one of them. She giggled and said she would love to. We are going to take turns picking which trips to take, I chose the first one. Our goal is to finish the book this summer.

Yesterday, we accomplished trip number 1. We made our way to Yehliu, a little beach community on the northern coast. The area is known for its ports. It has been a popular stopping point for the past three centuries for Japanese pirates, Spanish conquistadors, and American traders. It's pretty mystical because of the odd sandstone formations on the beaches. The weather and erosion has carved the sandstone into egg-like shapes. Legend has it, they are eggs laid by ancient sea serpents.

We started our little adventure at the Taipei Main train station. 45 minutes on the north-bound train got us to Keelung. From there we had to find a bus to take us to Yehliu. We followed the guide book and had very little trouble finding our way. The bus weaved its way through Keelung and we arrived in at our destination in about 30 minutes. The bus ride was a bit harrowing at times especially since we had to stand up throughout most of the ride. Bus drivers in Taiwan have a nasty habit of speeding up and slowing down far too much. The roads had some nasty little drop-offs on the sides and no guardrails. We found ourselves being tossed around more than once on the curvy roads that followed the coastline. This didn't bother me so much because of my time in Honduras, but Catherine had a tough time. At one point she lost her footing and landed in the lap of a woman...very funny, we had a good laugh.

I am going to let the pictures tell the story of our day.

At the train station in Keelung. Anxious to start our trek.

After the bus dropped us off we had to walk a few kilometers. The street scene in Yehliu.

A nice temple on the way up to the beach. The detail in the design is great.

Standing at the entrance to the park. Lots of people there. It's a popular weekend destination for city dwellers.

Yehliu Trip cont'd (more pictures)

Catherine insists on getting pictures of the two of us...ugh. I prefer to just have her in the pic, she is much more photogenic.

The mushroom rocks! It feels like you are on another planet. On the very top, right-hand side of the picture you can see the famous "Queen's Head".

A nice little spot to have a picnic, just off the water. To me it looks like a scene from Apocalypse

This statue commemorates the heroics of a local man. He jumped in the ocean and saved a boy. Sadly, he drowned in the process.

A little explanation of the crazy rock formations.

Yehliu Trip cont'd (yes, more pics!)

A good shot of the area. We went up to the top of the little mountain. It was great to just sit and listen to the waves hit the rocks. Getting out of the crazy city made for a perfect weekend.

I am such a dork!

My favorite shot of the day. Cath is a cutie.

Goodbye Yehliu. A wonderful start to our travels. Please stay tuned for our further adventures. I will let you know when Catherine decides on our next mission.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Saturday Night at Warner Village

Last night, Catherine & I went to the movies. We decided to go to the theater at Warner Village, an area of the city that closely resembles a shopping zone in the U.S. It's just a stones throw from Taipei 101. Lots of expensive shops and American-style restaurants.

We wanted to see "Shooter", but the only seats available were way down in front and neither one of us likes to sit that close to the screen. Instead, we ended up seeing "Premonition", a disappointing movie starring Sandra Bullock. In Taiwan, you have to reserve your seats when you buy your tickets, it's not first-come, first-served like in the States. I didn't like the movie, but I enjoyed spending the time with Catherine, as usual.

I managed to snap a few pics of some things we saw while waiting for the movie to start, enjoy!

Not sure what to call these folks...they sorta look like tree people. They are very good, had us mesmerized for a few moments.

More from the kinda scary tree people. Catherine & I debated on whether they were men or women. I think the one on the right is a man. She thought they were both women...

This is a giant version of one of those claw dropping, grab a worthless prize machines. It's impressive. This is on the main walkway through the shopping district. If you look closely, you can see Lebron James in the background. I would like to try it just to see what crap you can win.

I'm speechless. I took this picture earlier in the day outside my local subway station. This is a public service poster. It uses the word shit four times! Can you imagine the reaction such a sign would get in the U.S.? Too Funny!