Thursday, July 17, 2008

For Kids Who Don't Read Good

I need new flip-flops.

Ones that aren't intent on killing me, or think it's funny when I totally biff face-first on the ground. Just some good, simple, sturdy rubba-slippas would be nice.

I tried running in the rain last night (to get OUT of the rain) with my current flip-flops on (which, apparently they didn't like), and there was a bit of a power struggle. There was me, with my firm belief to stand upright, and my rubba slippas, with their intent to take me down by any means possible. This meant my arms flapping uselessly while I tried to regain my balance, and my slippas probably thinking it was the funniest thing they ever saw (if slippas could laugh, they would have).

Anyway. The rain was caused by a typhoon passing by. We got out of watching The Dark Knight last night (which was amazing, btw), and the rain had already started to fall. Most of us had already bought ponchos (because even without a typhoon, Taiwan never seems to stop raining), however, they didn't seem to help. I guess it's just a continual feeling of "wet" here. ^_^

Oh! They have awesome shirts here with "Chinglish," random English words or phrases (most of them spelled incorrectly) strung together. It's pretty cool, but I just realized that Chinglish is very similar to Pidgin (no articles such as "a" and "the," or English with Chinese words, etc). It's part English, and part Chinese, and since I spent a little time on Maui, and because mom and dad grew up on the islands, most of the time I totally don't realize my kids are speaking incorrect English because I just revert to understanding Pidgin, which seems totally natural to me. At least I catch it when they write. It's a little easier to recognize Pidgin when you see it (ie rubba slippas).

So sometimes I feel as if, instead of molding young minds for the future, I'm destroying their chances of sounding like a native. Well, they could always come to the islands and fit right in.

On a side note: School was cancelled today because of the storm. Hallelujah! I feel like I kid on a snow day...but this time I'm the teacher and it's a typhoon. Some things never change. ^_^

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Squid on a Stick

Surprisingly, the squid on a stick was quite filling. Halfway through, I almost couldn't eat anymore (but for those of you who know me, I have a problem where I just can't stop eating when any food is still in front of yes. I finished it). It was delicious.

I still haven't tried the stinky tofu yet (although I want to), I just have to get used to the smell first. I'm slowly starting to feel less shame when I go out in public and still can't speak the language. When I first got here, I felt like I let down the entire Asian race for not speaking the native tongue and being an Ugly American. But I'm coming to terms with it.

I'm still coming to terms with some other aspects of not living in the US. For instance, when we watched the movie Hancock, we contributed not to the US Box Office Tally, but to the Foreign Box Office tally. How weird is that? You always hear about how movies are doing overseas...and here we are. Weird.

Or how I used to be addicted to streaming videos of TV episodes online, but here, it always pops up with a message saying, "Our live video stream is for viewers in the US only." :P Darn hulu.

Another one is how they use Dora the Explorer to teach English to young Chinese speakers instead of Spanish to young English speakers. It's kind of cute.

They sell Lays Potato Chips with seaweed sprinkled on the chips. It reminded me of how in Hawaii, at McDonald's, they sold SPAM, eggs and rice for breakfast. I guess you gotta cater to what people want. ^_^

I also like how people on scooters can carry two or three kids at a time. Or will bring their dog along for the ride on a scooter. Or how scooters are not reserved for young people (like they are in the states) but for grandmas, moms (with kids standing in front of them, balancing), punk teens, grandpas, and everyone else in between.

It makes me happy to question what I think I know about life. Living here forces me to on a daily basis. Things I would always take for granted before (like trying to buy hydrogen peroxide at the drug store...that was fun...), or things I would always just assume about people are always challenged. It's a great feeling after being so apathetic about life.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rainy Daze

Ah, the smells of Taiwan.

I have finally smelled what everyone has been calling "stinky tofu." It can't be that stinky, I naively thought. I mean, I'm used to smelling weird things and tasting weird things like ox tail soup and pig's feet soup (staples in any traditional Okinawan family cookbook). Also, I remember in Alaska, when dad would make us eat fish heads, including the eyes. I thought those experiences would have prepared me.

But no. Not by a long shot.

At the night market, while walking through clouds of various smells -- the cooking meats, the fresh fruits, the fish -- I walked into a new cloud of smell, the smell of stinky tofu. My sensory perceptions were overloaded; all I could think was, Bad! Something is wrong! Not good! Bad! My brain couldn't even form a complete sentence! It was strange. Normally I can pick out different smells, even bad smells, to find its base (such as "a fishy smell"). But for this, I couldn't.

Maybe it's just something like bittermelon, where you just have to try it, suffer through it, and eventually grow to love it. ^o^ lol. Sounds like me.

One week of teaching, done! Now it seems like the soundtrack in my head has become solely kindergarten songs. I like to sing the monkey songs with the kids, because they ARE monkeys. I thought being a CNA would prepare me for children, since they say the mind reverts back to a childlike state as you age, however, I had forgotten about the energy level of children being insanely compact inside each tiny body, which then explodes in my class.

Monsoon season is here, apparently. It's usually beautiful in the morning, but by 4pm, it's already pouring. I'm amazed that a place could actually hold so much water without drowning in it. I love the rain. I love rainy days here in Taiwan. Luckily, the rain had stopped in time for the night market. They have carnival rides in addition to all the vendors crammed into an empty parking lot. The mood is quite festive, really.

Every time I see a 7eleven glowing at night, while I'm lost riding my bike in the city with Megan, I feel a sense of comfort, even though I have no idea where I am, and despite the fact I know that on every other street corner there is another 7eleven. Maybe it's a false sense of normalcy, to what I'm accustomed to. Which makes no sense, but it still comforts me. ^_^

Monday, July 7, 2008

Coke & Mentos, Kids & barf

The rainstorm knocked out our internet for a day or so, and we kind of all freaked out being disconnected with the world. I know in my last blog I said I enjoyed being free of all electronics...but the internet is still something I can't live without. ^_^

In my first class I had a kid force himself to throw up. He had already thrown up in another class, so I figured he wouldn't in mine. But he did. He's a new kid and totally scared of being in this immersion program, with strange people who speak a weird language.

My kindergarten class is so stinking cute though. It's just so hard to keep them all entertained at all the same time with different songs, and for more than 5 minutes at a time. My level 5 class is great, today we did the coke and mentos experiment, and I totally forgot how much kids love to see things explode. ^_^ They figured if things exploded so well with just mentos and coke, what if we added vinegar and baking soda to the mix? lesson plan is now planned!

I love getting caught in the rain here, it's so refreshing because it's so warm. We have a pretty good library here so I've been trying to read more books.

There's also some really good places to eat here. I really need to start rationing my money though, so I'll have enough to go to Hong Kong later this month. We really need to get our work permits done already. I want to go shopping!!! j/k and set up my bank account here... ^_^

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dancing in the Rain

A brief rainstorm, and we ran to the rooftop and danced.

I haven't danced in the rain in a long time. I can't remember the last time I did. It felt so good. I have decided dancing in the rain, on a rooftop, in the middle of the night is good for the soul. Lately, I have felt like my soul has been shoved into a box that was too was very liberating.

We decided to celebrate the fourth and watch an American movie (Hancock) and eat at KFC for some good ol' fried chicken. Later on, after dancing in the rain, we roasted marshmallows over the stove to give us some sense of the states. Ironically, while living in America, I don't remember eating at KFC in the past five years maybe? It's funny what you consider to be "American" when in the states you don't really eat it...

It's also funny to see the western influence, the KFC, the Pizza Huts', the Domino's pizzas, the 7elevens on almost EVERY street corner. However, it still maintains its culture, the small family run businesses, the street lights that mean nothing to drivers, the many, many people on scooters, and the sidewalks that are filled with parked cars (you pretty much walk on the street, as the sidewalks are designated for parking ^_^).

It's so strange; in the states, my cell phone was like my safety blanket, I felt lost without it, and seriously, I'd hold it in my hand while just walking, or even trying to do my job as a CNA. I'm also a compulsive email checker, bank account checker, facebook/myspace checker...but here, it seems like time has stopped and those things are less important.

I don't have a cell phone here, and while before I thought I couldn't live without it, here I don't feel like I need it. I don't HAVE to text someone if I'm bored in a crowd. I don't have to have that reassurance. The moment is more real than what will happen, what has happened...I can just live in the moment. I've forgotten what it feels like to do's almost like I'm coming back from the dead. ^_^ And it's a good feeling.

There's so many things to do around here and experience the local culture. There's a few parks around, and a few nights ago I went with Megan to a park to climb the steps. Yeah, I totally died...there were over 500 steps. And the funny thing was, it wasn't the steps that killed me (I wasn't sore the next day) it was just the exercising part...I'm so out of shape... ^_^

My kindergarten classes will probably be the challenge for me, just because of the need to over plan, and the kids just being immersed in English. It seems like they just ignore you if they don't understand what you're saying. BUT THEY'RE SO DANG CUTE!!! They're so small, and so happy to learn. SO dang cute.

My fifth grade class is so well behaved. I think it's going to be a little easier, maybe because it's only 6 hours a week, but the kids speak English very well, and only need a little refining on the grammar rules.

We'll see how it goes in the coming weeks, but so far, I love it here. Hopefully, my good kids will stay good kids and my little terrors in kindergarten (they're not really terrors) will not be so scared of me. ^_^

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Socially Retarded

Some days I feel as if my brain has died. Today was one of those days. And I believe it's probably even worse since I'm in a different country. I feel like whatever I do is wrong, and since I look like a warped version of a Taiwanese person, people here probably just think I'm retarded or just strangely off...

I know this is probably terrible to say, but I think over the course of dating Aaron for two years I have become complacent in being in a rut. While living together, we didn't really need to talk, and I sometimes think I've lost that ability to communicate with other human beings. But anyways, living in a dorm-like situation has forced me into the situation, and it's been good. I've missed being around people.

Ok, back to life in Taiwan; Some strange aspects, according to their calendar, it's 1997. So eleven years off from the western calendar. And I'm still the shortest person in the crowd, even here in Asia. The girls are so beautiful and cute, and the boys are so pretty, makes me want to be more fashionable. ^0^ Oh well.

Tomorrow is the start of work, I teach 24 hours/week of kindergarten, and 6 hours/week of kids in grade 5, ages 11-12. It should be fun...although, my lesson plans for tomorrow is pretty much just winging it. I can't wait to get into some sort of normal schedule.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ice Cream Garbage Trucks!!

(*I'm just putting up random photos we took on our bike tour of the city today.)

While we were getting our orientation for the classes we will teach, we heard an oddly familiar sound coming from the street corner. It's the ice cream truck! We thought. We asked Gerald what the noise was, and if we could see an Asian ice cream truck, only to find out we were sadly mistaken. No, it was not an ice cream truck, it was a garbage truck. Apparently, when you hear the music, you run out and give them your garbage! ^o^ They take garbage, especially recycling very seriously here. We have to separate our plastics, metals, food, paper, from other trash. And the plastic has to be washed or the garbage men will hand back your trash to you and literally reject it. It's pretty awesome.

It probably would have to be one of the most interesting aspects here so far. Another one would have to be those squat toilets. Not too bad, just weird to throw toilet paper in a trash can, not down the drain... At the hospital, while we were getting our physicals, I noticed the nurses didn't change their gloves after taking our blood and moving on to the next person, they just used hand sanitizer over the glove. It was interesting. But they were very efficient and fast.

One thing I have found that is difficult to come to terms with is that everyone in my group is the traditional "American," meaning mostly white and non-asian. It sometimes feels like they think that I'd fit in here because of how I look, while often, I feel as awkward as they do in most situations. I may not stick out as much, but I don't speak the language, and it's pretty evident through the clothes I wear, the way I act that I'm not Taiwanese.

lol. It is weird, being fairly at home in a place like Hawaii, where there is a large population of Asians, so it's not that it's weird seeing so many asians, it's just weird to me seeing so many asians that don't speak english, or even pidgen. ^_^ Anyways, I'm just going to have to get used to it. Learning a few words, and phrases, like "I don't speak Chinese" (Wo bu hui shou guoyu...or something...)

It is funny because I do recognize a lot of the food here, but usually by a different name than the local name. I'll say something I think I learned from living in Hawaii (like manapua), and people have no idea what I'm talking about.

I do miss a lot of things that I had back in the states, but mostly intangibles, like time to be alone, time to waste, time to just be lazy. I know I shouldn't miss him, but at nights I do.