Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thrust into Deep Waters

I'm currently reading a book called, "Leaving Deep Waters: The Lives of Asian American Women at the Crossroads of Two Cultures". At first, I was a little put off by it because although I know I'm "Asian American," even getting that label is strange to me.

But while reading it, I'm actually finding many similarities between these women's experiences and my own, and I guess I never really understood the particulars of a culture within a culture (the book details women from several Asian backgrounds).

It's refreshing to read about these other experiences because they validate my own, and bring to light other instances my counterparts may never really encounter.

For instance, I had never noticed this before, but many times when I've met or talked with another Japanese American, the issue of what sei you're from comes up. For one of my last articles for the Salt Lake Tribune, I wrote on the Nihon Matsuri (The Japan Festival), and the director of the festival wanted to know which generation I was, and I told her, yonsei (ish), without giving it another thought.

Just knowing that bit of information can tell you a lot about the person. How infiltrated his or her life is with the "true" Nihon culture, or how Americanized they probably are.

I just bought tickets to go to mainland Japan in two weeks; we're (I'm going with the head teacher here, Lish) only going to be staying about three days, but I'm very, very excited. Living in this part of the world just reminds me how long I've gone living in shallow waters. I need to search for something deeper.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spiders, Monsters & Children

This is why I love Morning Kindergarten. The adorable darlings trying to be "monsters." ^_^ You could just eat them.

This is Candace. A gravelly-voiced little angel. Her voice is a mixture of squeaks and rocks. She's adorable. And here is her monster face....Then she usually does a little dance...

...Then goes back to attacking the camera...Next is Stanley. He is smart, brilliant, and loves to goof around. Wonderful monster-face-maker too.
Now, while Stanley's monster is impressive, none can compare to the incomparableness of Jemmy. Ah, yes, Jemmy. He is in a category all by himself. And that category is Total Awesomeness of Everything Pseudo-Martial-Arts/Monster....and more Jemmy...
He is probably the lightest, skinnest kid I know, but that won't stop him from throwing fake kicks at everyone. I think he only weights maybe 20 pounds...

Y'know, looking at these pictures, I feel sorry for Felena, who had to stand behind Jemmy and Candace. All she did that day was stand next to the bandaged-up body. Especially, when I mentioned that she was the exact same height as the body...
For Afternoon Kindergarten (and MK, but I forgot my camera) we made Spider Hats in preparation for Halloween. This is how it turned out...Tom and Rex always seem to be running away from me in the photos. But they're really not. They just have super amounts of energy and always have glowing smiles on their faces. I really love these two, they are both brilliant.

This is Betty. Absolutely beautiful and always wanting to impress.This is Sharlene. She's a funny duck of a child, but is always so amusing to watch.This is Jeff, who I adore. Only, I'm trying to get him to stop hugging me so much. Who knew that would be my biggest problem with this kid. ^_^Simon was not in a good mood when we did spider hats...But I tickled him...and all was better.There are so many more kids in my class, but my internet is being really slow, so I'll have to highlight them on another day. ^_^

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Socialized Medicine

I have never had much luck with hospitals in the States. My last visit ended up costing $600 to have the doctor say, "well, you're sick." Yep. Which is why I'm here, I said silently in my head. He gave me about 4 pain pills for my sore throat and his assurance that I would get better on my own.

My credit score had taken a big hit when I had to first deal with a $16,000 hospital stay, then after taking care of that, I had to deal with an additional $1,000 because of the emergency room visits. Who knew hospitals charged separately for the ER and the hospital stay?

Now on to Taiwan, and my first experience with socialized medicine.

There are many clinics spread out around the city. If you aren't looking for it, you'll probably miss most of them because they're so small, not like our sprawling hospital buildings in the US.

I finally went in yesterday because I've been getting sicker, and Parent-Teacher Days are this week. Not having good experiences in the states with hospitals and doctors, and being poor, I avoided it until someone convinced me to just go.

The entire visit, which included the medicine, cost me $150 NT, which roughly equals $5 US dollars. It was amazing. The health insurance cost around $13 US dollars PER MONTH. It's just comforting to know I have that option to prevent my sicknesses from getting worse, instead of waiting until I have no option other than to spend large amounts of money on getting better.

The doctor spoke English very well and knew what he was doing. He asked me why it took me so long to come into see him, and I didn't really want to go into how my credit score was devastated because of simply going into see a doctor at the hospital.

Anyways, just thought I'd share that experience. I only made it through one Parent-Teacher Day, today, Gloria made me get a substitute for my Afternoon Kindergarten class. I'll write more when I'm feeling better. The End. ^_^

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Of Cars and Teddy Bears

In Morning Kindergarten, the children are separated into four different groups according to age and their ability. The Dinosaurs are the oldest group, they've been in the program for up to 4 semesters. The Dolphins are a mixture of younger and older kids.

The Cars and the Teddy Bears are the youngest group. And the cutest.

The video is a typical day with them. This week's theme is health, so I decided to do a "pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey" except more like, "pin-the-bandaid-on-the-kid." They also got to pin "wounds" on the "kid" too, so they thought that was fun. ^_^ The little kid singing is Shayla, who speaks very little English. It's her first semester here, but she can repeat very well.

This is The Cars. (Left to Right, Yvonne, Sharlene, Jerry, Cindy). Yvonne is the oldest and speaks very well. Sharlene is a second semester kid, but she's very bright and, for some reason, is currently obsessed with drawing spiders. It must be the Halloween theme. Jerry is in his second semester, I believe, and is adorable...even though he's a bit of a sensitive soul...Cindy is the newest. She's only been here about three weeks, but she is super smart, and I think she'll be a volleyball player when she grows up. We were playing balloon volleyball in Gym, and she totally got the hang of "HIT IT!!!!!" She's catching on very quick. And is a total china doll.

This is the Teddy Bears. I'll probably write more on them when I don't have to go to class in 15 minutes. But they're adorable, and, obviously, my favorite kid in the group is the one posing in the background. His name is Oscar. The one with a mohawk is Sky, and if you look closely, he also has lightning bolts shaved into the sides of his head. Shayla and Jimmy are in the front and are both very quiet, but adorable. You can't really see Sharon, but she's in the middle. Julia is in the back, she's a firecracker and has the prettiest smile.

This is Oscar's le tigre stance. Or blue steel. Can't tell which. ^_^

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Boxes, Babies, and Marriage

My mom and dad have been sending me wonderful care packages every month I've been here so far. Inside, there are always necessities, from lotion, vitamin pills, to the ever-so-important chocolate macadamia nuts. I absolutely love chocolate and will sometimes forget to share with other people, so it's gotten to the point where my mom has to label one bag for me, and the rest for other people. ^_^ I always appreciate the packages (and so does everyone else who gets to eat the chocolate!) and get so excited every time I get one. It always gives me a sense of home here in another country.

It seems since I've been here, so many things are happening in my family! This is Vickie's baby boy, going to be born on Valentine's Day!!! He's so cute already, and he has already learned how to smile! Just like his mom. ^_^ I'm so excited, and a little bit sad because I'm not going to be there for the birth, but I can't wait to meet him. Vickie is in her 5th month and doing great (Vickie's Blog).

The other huge happening is Liz's engagement!!!!!! Gah! Why couldn't all these things happen while I was in Utah, so I wouldn't have missed them all!!?! Just kidding, but I am sad that I can't share in the joy and excitement with either of my sisters having the 14 hour time difference. I would have loved to share in the excitement of hearing the news of Liz's engagement, or to go shopping for maternity clothes with Vickie. Every time I see little babies I just get reminded that she's carrying inside her a baby! I never really got the chance to be a part of the baby process with Jackie's beautiful, hawaiian babies, who are growing up so fast!!!!

Sometimes I feel a little left out that I can't be there, but we're all so spread out over the country that the only way I really can keep up with my family is through blogs. (Jackie's blog)

All I can say is that I hope I don't miss out on anything more than Liz's wedding and Vickie's baby's birth. So I guess this is a warning to everyone else out there not to go out and have some life changing event for the next nine months while I'm out here! j/k (but really, no more, for my sake ^_^) I guess all I'm really saying is that I miss my family and wish I could be there to share the joy.

Other than that, life here in Taiwan is going pretty smoothly. We spent the weekend in Taipei again, figuring out the metro system, getting used to the city, and of course, shopping. We had fun playing with the tokens for the metro...went up to the top of Taipei 101 (the tallest building in the world, until 2009), watched the street performers, which were pretty fun (some live statue guys, some acrobatic guys that should seriously try out for Cirque du Soleil, a street rapper, musicians (including an accordion player)).

Oh! We also got massages...where they used was awesome. They covered each of us with a blanket, then two people simultaneously worked on each of our bodies using butcher knives (probably dulled) to massage the muscles and to increase circulation throughout the body. They used the knives everywhere, including the soles of the feet, which felt amazing.

This will be about the third week that I've been doing Tai Chi with a few other teachers here. I really love it. I always try to think of a turtle when I do it...just try to make my movements very slow...The teacher speaks English very well, and we basically get a private teaching session on Wednesdays, since it seems we're the only students in that class. On Fridays, it's for the advanced students, but he said we're welcome to just join in and follow along (even though we don't know the kata yet). He did say it would take about a year to learn the entire kata, which makes me excited to stay here in Taiwan for a year. (the video isn't of our class, it's just a video I took of another Tai Chi class going on at night.)

We actually don't have a dojo. Most of the Tai Chi classes it seems, are outside usually in a park or plaza. For us, it's a large plaza, which, is also shared by hip hop dancers. So while we're in one corner, doing our very slow movements, there's a group of young people in the other corner, their music blaring, and dancers in a circle. Some days I feel like we're actually doing our Tai Chi to music...and it adds a different flavor. ^_^ Across the street from our plaza "dojo," there's always a group of fan dancers practicing. It's really nice to see different elements of the community in one place on a Friday night.

I'm getting more and more excited about staying for a year. ^_^