Monday, August 18, 2008

The Universal Language For Kids

The video is one of Simon who is in my Afternoon Kindergarten class. He's adorable. He has trouble sitting still, is usually all over the place, but is so stinkin' cute and funny. I mean, just look at that smile.

Kids are pretty amazing. They can have complete conversations without saying a word. And when they do decide to use their vocal chords, it's usually in the form of screaming. At the top of their lungs. One of the kids in my Morning Kindergarten class isn't just a screamer, he's a screecher. He sounds like a pterodactyl. I've found that most boys that age find it funny to be able to scream higher than the girls can.

Morning Kindergarten has gotten a little harder, since I'm now teaching Gym for 35 minutes 4 times a day, 5 days a week. Then on 3 days a week, I teach it 6 times a day. It's kind of funny; I'm teaching the kids how to do push ups and sit ups so I get in a little bit of exercise too.

But I am teaching Kitchen now, so I do get to eat with the kids random snacks that we make. I didn't think I'd actually like doing Kitchen since I don't usually cook too much anyways, but it's a lot of fun, since the kids are actually interested in food.

It's been a little less than 2 months since I've been here, and I've lost about 8 kg. I've been trying to exercise a bit more, I go on the circle road on my bike almost every night (which is great for me, since I don't get lost on the circle road...) And I've been trying to get in a little hike about three times a week. My favorite hike is the stair hike, which consists of a lot of...stairs. It's the same one which I died on when I first got here, but it's not so bad now.

I'm attempting to eat a little better, but not by much, just oatmeal in the morning and whatever I can get during the day. I really need to start thinking about what I put in my body.

I also really need to start learning Chinese. Just basic, conversational Chinese would be perfect for me. That'll be my goal for the next few months, practicing it everyday. A couple of the other teachers here are doing language exchanges, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

Also, while biking around at night, I always see a group of people doing Tai Chi, so I asked one of the secretaries if she could hook me up with maybe some classes or lessons. We'll see if that pans out. ^_^

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Under The August Moon

The August Moon carries with it mythical proportions. The moon is supposedly at its biggest and brightest than at any other time of the year. Basically, the August Moon is the perfection of yin.

One of my favorite movies as a kid was "Teahouse of the August Moon," and it still is today. Mid-August is when my family participates in the Obon festival back on Maui. I never realized how big of an event it was until last year when we came back to Maui for my uncle's funeral. I remember being able to get out of it as a child, but last year we all participated (or tried too ^_^).

That's my dad playing the sanshin, and that's my mom dancing ALL the dances (which there were like 15..?). She was teaching the dances to the two haoles following her. ^_^

Here in Taiwan, the celebration of the August Moon is the Mid-August festival, or the Moon Festival. People burn fake paper money all around town and the smell of incense lingers everywhere.

It's hard figuring out which culture I come from. I always used to just say I was American, but of course, it wasn't until I was 10 when I realized curry wasn't a "traditional" American food. I thought everyone ate curry for dinner at home. And it wasn't until I got to college when I realized that yes, there are actually a LOT of people who don't eat rice at every meal. It's crazy, I know, but true!

But then again, I usually have no clue about any Asian culture either; it's like this mixture where I never truly understand either culture, and so, I never truly experience any culture. Well, except for those in the TCK, as noted in my Dad's blog.

But being an observer/outsider has its perks. You become more aware of things other people take for granted because that's just the way they do it. And sometimes, you appreciate what the culture has to offer even more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cultural Music and Creepy Kids' Songs

Last week, one of my kids in my fifth grade class handed me a flier for a free concert at the Cultural Center. So on Saturday, Erin and I checked it out. It seemed as if the entire community of Feng Yuan showed up. It actually reminded me of the Dillingham concerts in Alaska where the entire community comes to watch their beautiful kids become budding musicians (the symphony consisted of kids, probably ages 8-18).

The MC would call up little kids (and even adults) to sing songs for prizes and it was at times like these that I wished I could speak Chinese so I could tell what they were saying...

I know I should be doing all the touristy stuff, visiting landmarks, hiking and seeing the beautiful countryside, but right now I don't feel like I have enough money. So once I get paid, I am definitely planning on visiting the tourist areas, buying tons of souvenirs, and buying cute clothes etc. ^_^ But until that happens, I'm enjoying just being in the community, getting used to the culture, and not dying while riding my bike in traffic.

And so far, so good. I haven't been hit by a car nor a scooter in traffic. Last night, I spent an hour just biking around the city by myself. The quiet that comes over the city with the darkness is so peaceful and invigorating. I love the smell of fake paper money burning; I love the smell of the cooking meats, the sweet fermented smell of rotting fruits at the fruit stands, and the stench of stinky tofu.

I got my hair cut today. ^_^ I love it, it makes me feel more asian. lol. I'm trying to not be so much of a twinkie!

A little side note: Kids songs are evil. If you listen to the words, it's actually quite frightening what we teach our children. Listening to London Bridge is Falling Down, reminded me of an overly obsessive, controlling boyfriend ("take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up!"). In Silly Willy, I swear they're making fun of a kid with Cerebral Palsy (making fun of how he walks, etc), and there's a song that talks about putting your mom in a box...not to mention the whole meaning behind the Ring-a-round-the Rosy song...creepy. ^_^

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kids are funny.

One minute they can be completely depressed and will act like all hope has fled their short lives, when in the next, they're psychotic with happiness.

I just started to teach gym, and we're learning a "duck, duck, goose!" type game (it's called, "shirt, shirt, pants" -- how original, I know). Even the kid with the gloomiest expression, when picked as a goose (or in the current case, a "pants!"), will experience a strange transformation that takes over his or her face.

It usually takes a second or two for them to realize they ARE the "pants," but once they do, their eyes become wide and crazed, their mouths begin to contort into a giddy smile, and they start running as if their lives depended on it.

It's so amusing to watch kids run. They run as if they might fall over at any second, but gosh darn it, they'll keep a-running as fast as they can! And when they run, they either look totally psychotic, or completely determined because running is, obviously, the most important thing in the entire world. At least for that moment. ^o^

Today, we had two kids pee in their pants during morning kindergarten. One kid peed two separate times, and I swear, he told the other one just to pee if he didn't know what else to do. But it was the saddest thing I've seen so far, that kid -- with no pants on -- his forehead to the wall and crying (that's how they punish kids here, I guess. Forehead to the wall, with hands on either side of their head).

Oh, I just saw the coolest cart/scooter/thing loaded with a ton of stuff. So I thought I'd put the picture on here. ^_^

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Thank You and Have a Magical Day!

Dustin and I made the trek to Hong Kong to get our resident’s visas worked out. We took a few days off from work, left on a Wednesday night, and returned to Taiwan on the following Sunday night. It’s funny. Whenever I had thought about Hong Kong before, I never factored in the idea that it's still a tropical island, I always thought of it as only a huge fashion-central, metropolitan city.

That was only half of it. It’s also super hot and super humid.

Maybe it’s because in Taiwan we always come back to our air conditioned rooms after teaching. Or maybe it’s because we spent all day almost everyday outside in Hong Kong. For whatever reason, I had never felt so sticky and hot all the time. And I thought things were bad in Taiwan. ^_^

We had probably the smallest hostel room I have ever seen. It was about 11’X9’, with two beds and a shower/bathroom, in which, if you sat on the toilet and looked up, there was the shower head. Yay! Also, the room lacked windows…not exactly a good room for a claustrophobic person. But there was A/C. And as soon as you stepped out of the building, there were tons of street vendors pushing their goods on us.

On Thursday, we went to the Lippo Building (also known as the Koala Hugging Building because it looks like koalas are hugging the building…) to turn in our visa applications. We accidentally slept in, so we barely got there in time, only 10 minutes before they closed the office. Thank goodness we made it.

Then after we got all that important stuff done, we decided to visit the beaches. We swam in Deep Water Bay and walked around Repulse Bay for a bit. It was really nice to have sand inbetween my toes again and the salt water in my eyes. I missed it.

After the beaches, we decided to make it up to Victoria’s Peak. Oh! One thing I forgot to mention; In Hong Kong, they have these awesome credit card-type things called octopus cards which you can use on anything. You just tap it to whatever you want (you can use it on buses, vending machines, 7elevens, etc) and it automatically takes out the money and you’re good to go. You don’t even need to take it out of your wallet, just tap your wallet to the sensor. It was a lifesaver on the buses, trains and ferries we took while traveling around the city.

The view from Victoria’s Peak was beautiful. We got there right before the sun was going down, so we got a good view of the city at Twilight, with the light hitting the smog so beautifully. Seriously, sometimes smog makes things look so much more beautiful. Then we stayed up at the peak long enough so we could see Hong Kong at night. The lights on the buildings were just amazing.

On Friday, we picked up our newly approved, wonderful, and (most importantly) legal resident’s working visas. We visited Hong Kong Park (where they had a lot of displays for the upcoming Olympic games, although only the Equestrian sports will be played in HK) and went shopping at the stores for the rest of the day. It was hard, because I took only $5,000 New Taiwanese Dollars, which exchange rate is 30 to 1 US dollar. But in Hong Kong, the exchange rate is only 7 HK dollars to 1 US dollar. So I couldn’t buy as much stuff as I would have liked (yes, yes, I tried to get you all gifts. ^_^).

Before going to Hong Kong, I never knew it was spread out on about three or four different islands. The airport was on a different island than our Hostel, which was on a completely different island than the building we had to get our visas at (the Lippo Building was on the actual “Hong Kong” island). Then HK Disneyland was on a different one too. ^_^

Anyways, from Kawloon, we were able to view the light show that the buildings on Hong Kong island put on every night at 8pm. It was beautiful.

On Saturday, we spent all day at Hong Kong Disneyland. It was much cheaper than the ones in the states (only about $50 US dollars). It was interesting to see the culture differences, for instance, there was basically only one rollercoaster ride (Space Mountain), and the attractions that seemed most popular were the ones that told stories or provided lots of photo opportunities. The shows were a lot of fun because they were partly in Chinese with the songs in English.

On Sunday, we went up to see the Big Buddha. It’s the largest sitting Buddha in the world, or so they claim. And yes, it’s a LARGE Buddha. We took the lifts up there and were able to view more of the countryside. It truly is a beautiful place.

Random item of note: At the gift shops near the monastery of the big Buddha site, they were playing a Simon and Garfunkle song. The influence of the Western World is everywhere. Mostly in music, I’ve noticed. ^_^

Another random side note: We ate at a Pizza Hut in Hong Kong, and it was the most high-class restaurant I’ve been in in a while. Lol. It was the type of place with classical music where you had to eat the gourmet pizzas with a fork and knife…it was so different than the Pizza Huts in the states.

Our plane was delayed an hour in HK because of a typhoon coming in to Taiwan. But luckily, we made it to Taipei before it hit. That was Sunday night. Then on Monday, the typhoon hit and classes were canceled, once again. ^_^