Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sorry for dropping the ball

The last few days have been... interesting.

To start with, a few days ago I locked myself out of my room when I went to use my bathroom. I happened to be wearing my boxers and a T-shirt at the time, so this caused a little panic inside of me. As soon as I walked out the door I heard that click and realized what had happened... I thought to myself "Well, I'll just enjoy this poop, and then I'll deal with the consequences." About 20 minutes later, I grabbed a metal desk from the kitchen and a mop and tried to hoist myself far enough through the window so that I might be able to use said mop to lift up my pants and bring them close enough to my face to snag my jeans. Because of the width of the window, I was only able to use one arm and it was nearly impossible.
I called April and she came over, annoyed but amused, with her camera to capture the memorable event on digital film forever. She got the idea to take out the window entirely to give myself more room, and then she grabbed a hanger that fit snuggly in the little loop of the mop. In only one effort, then, I was able to pick up my jean shorts and get the keys.

Until today I have been waking up at about 6 am every morning, but I have been going to bed at normal times (12ish). Life here has been nice and comfortable. I went to the hospital a few days ago (did I already post about that?) and the last few days I've been catching up on some American TV and going for lots of short walks. I hung out with my friend KJ a few days ago but he left his laptop charger and hat here. April and I mailed it to him this morning. He's away on his military service now, but I'll probably see him in a week or so.

Well, I start training in a few days. I thought it might be today but another new teacher is arriving tomorrow so it messed up my boss's schedule for the next few days because, unfortunately, this fellow does NOT have a Taiwanese girlfriend to take him around.

I've gotten used to this bed. These beds look comfortable enough but when you lay on one you will realize it actually feels more like a plank of wood than a bed of any kind you've ever encountered before. Oh, I'm kidding, that' unfair. It's quite comfy once you get used to it, but it'll never replace my soft, all-American, patriotic, red, white, and blue bed. Incidentally, red, white, and blue are the flag colors here as well.

Well I could go on about more stuff but I am not remembering too much right now. So that's all for now!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Hospital

This is a delicious rice ball with meat and vegetable filling.

This is minute maid orange juice in Taiwan. Really what it is is tang with pulp. I kid you not. They put tang in there, and then had the audacity to make it less delicious by including pulp as well.

Today I went to the hospital for my health check up. I'm too lazy now to go into all the details. It wasn't exciting and I don't feel particularly motivated to share the experience with anyone for that reason. It was a short process framed by a rather long trip there and back.

I then got home with a sort of sore throat and decided to take a nap after getting some food. I got up, played some video games, and had to cancel plans with friends due to the storm which turned out to be rather brief. Not a very amazing day.

Hopefully April will stop by later but I doubt it, she seemed like she was going to be pretty busy. Anyway, above are some pictures taken in the last few days.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Meeting my boss and seeing my school

Please note that the pictures are a bit out of sequence and I am too lazy to fix it.
This is the reading and media area of the school. Pretty nice, eh? There's two walls full of books and computers for students to use.
A desk in the lobby.
A cool little poster. I don't know why some of those countries are on their. we don't teach French or Egyptian Colloquial Arabic at Hess.
What you see when you walk in. Actually, it's a lot more impressive than the picture suggests. There are also a few very beautiful women working there.
This is a freakishly large bird that kind of doesn't look as big as it is. I guarantee, mom and dad, this thing is 2x the size of your bird feeder.
I took a picture of the KFC bilingual menu so you can get an idea of what they've got here. I really plan to use this and other menus to learn Chinese for the next few months. I think while living here the most important thing is being able to do the day to day stuff best. Sadly I can talk about textbook stuff like mailing flowers at the post office better than I can order food after my one year absence from the Chinese food ordering scene.
This is a blackboard an NST (Native Speaking Teacher, like me) made at my school. I may be called upon for similar designs in the future.
Daring to dream, indeed. What's that white kid doing there anyway? This is a school for Taiwanese learning English. I'm a bit baffled by that.
One of the classrooms for the Step Up program where I'll be teaching a few times a week.
The Jump! program's room. I was told it was called the Jump! program because the little "monsters" jump around so much. The Jump! program is a kindergarten.
Another classroom for the Step Up program. Exciting?
Just another random classroom. As I'm seeing this I'm realizing I forgot to take a picture of the American School classroom where I'll be teaching most often. Shame! Well, I'm sure you'll see it in the future if you keep checking back.
The stairs. I don't know how else to elaborate on that.

And now to the body of my blog entry:

Greetings and Salutations, puny mortals!

So I met my boss today. She's a friendly, hardworking lady, and she doesn't seem to be too strict. She explained to me my job pretty much in full, which is great to know.

Basically, it's this:
4 days a week I will be teaching the American School class which consists of a curriculum I get to design myself. This is a brand new program and I am the first teacher to do it. This is going to be about half my schedule, possibly more in the future. The other half is teaching the Step Up program, which has slightly older kids and preset curriculum I just have to follow. Totally I shall be expecting to work 6 days a week, but only about 20 hours a week. The pay is 600 NTD per hour, so I'll be earning aroud 50,000 NTD. This translates to about $1500 US and there are opportunities for bonus hours or tutoring. To give you an idea of how comfortable that would leave me, I spend about 7000 on rent, maybe 2000 tops on electric, 10000 on food and transportation, leaving me more than half of my paycheck. Of course there's tax, but I'll be getting that back eventually, and I still am able to live comfortably and save money since my expenses are low.

Back to the work situation:
Many of my American School students are going to be first-timers to English, and I am immersing them in the language. I have a specific schedule for teaching certain subjects, but what I teach is up to me for the most part. Which is awesome. I'm looking forward to teaching the children all about government and political theory.

They've asked me to research a little bit about what would actually be taught in an American school. This should be fun but challenging, yet I find myself undaunted. I am told there will be tears from time to time (usually the children's).

As for the Step Up program, that's for 3rd grade and up. It looks like most of my kids will be on the younger side, with the American School designed specifically for fresh Kindergarten graduates. My oldest student could possibly be 12 but I think it'll be about 9 or 10. I am looking forward to the cuteness.

My boss did her best to warn me of the challenges, doing everything short of a "get out while you still can" speech. But she also seems to be impressed with my attitude (but not my handwriting, having noticed that it, like the other Canadian and American male teachers at the school, was quite poor), and seems to have good expectations of me. She also said that she's glad I considered myself patient and good with the littler "monsters" as she (somewhat) affectionately referred to the students. At the end she said not to worry too much, because she was just trying to make my expectations as low as humanly possible so that when kids weren't pooping and puking all over everything in sight that I'd be pleasantly surprised.

She gave me her number and some wonderful bus directions which I comfortably followed back home. When I arrived to my stop I grabbed a Zinger from KFC. This was actually my first item of food today. I think I'm going to enjoy a nice banana and some toast later (April's parents gave me a toaster, among many other gifts).

Regrettably this morning I missed out on Mandy (April's sister) graduating from Junior High. I plan to make her a nice card and maybe give her some kind of present.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Starbucks and a phone conversation with my school

Well things are finally taking off today in terms of work. I think tomorrow I will go to Yang-Ming hospital for my health check which is required for me to get my visa.

For the rest of today, I am going to Starbucks with April to do some studying and relaxing. We just wanted to get out of our rooms for a while but still keep it cheap and quiet.

--Hours Later--
Well April just went home for the night and I'm left here by my lonesome. It was a pretty good day. We went to Starbucks, which was fun. The second story has lots of couches and nice chairs and coffee tables, so it was a nice spot to wind down and relax.

Afterward we went out to Subway where I got a veggie sub and she got a tuna sub. When we finished we explored the neighborhood a bit more to give me an idea of where the best restaurants are. Turns out Mos Burger is very close to me too, which is amazingly fantastic. For those of you who don't know, Mos Burger is a Japanese fast food burger joint which is nothing short of crazy delicious.

After walking around, grabbing some bao zi (a fried bun of some sort with meat or veggies inside. I got one of each kind) we rented a couple movies. one, which April chose, looks ridiculously lame and the other is called Pride and Glory. Unfortunately I need to get some speakers for this TV to make the DVD player audible so we weren't able to get far in the movie. April went home just a bit ago to exercise and shower.

So now it's just me in my room watching some movie about the Zodiac killer on HBO and glancing back occasionally to my chinese texts and making lists of things I need to do tomorrow and the rest of this week.

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, or: The Double Big Mac

Yesterday was a solid day. I met with my friend KJ. We went for a walk around the neighborhood and familiarized ourselves with some local cuisine. By cuisine I mean street vendor fried rice and 7-11 brand dumplings.
When we came back to my room we basked in the AC and lack of humidity, watched a cheezy romantic comedy called Music and Lyrics which turned out to be pretty funny, and then we played some Wii to top things off. There was some Mario Super Sluggers but there was also some House of the Dead 2+3 Returns and some Mortal Kombat Armageddon.
I haven't been sleeping so good because of the jet lag and I kind of feel a bit like a zombie, but I think yesterday showed some promise. I actually went to bed at a normal time (11 pm), but I still only slept for about 4 hours. Eventually my body is going to figure out that this is not OK and I'll be back into tip top shape before you know it.

Today has been... uneventful... However, in a way it is a day of days because I went out and bought every meal by myself at different restaurants in the neighborhood and made it back to the room without any trouble. April and I will meet later but given how exhausted both of us are (she slept at a friend's house last night) I doubt we'll do anything besides watch a movie. I believe the vomit-in-poop-form-passing-as-a-movie entitled 10,000 B.C. is on HBO tonight, so we might put that on for a laugh.

OK, so let's not kid ourselves, you're intrigued by the title, and if you're not, you're just plain silly. So without further ado, the pictures:
This picture I only included because it has some amusing English graffiti. "The way you make me feel" and "To be or not to be". Such rebels.
This is just outside my building.
Just a gate outside a neighboring building.
What is this vehicle??? It's hideous. I suspect it is European due to the pocket-sized nature of it.

The street directly below the new MRT station next to my house.
This is the KFC about 30 seconds from my house. The KFC here is more like another McDonald's that focuses heavily on chicken and pork than the KFC we know of in the US.
A little garden area in front of an apartment building.
The view from my room! Breathtaking.
And here it is, folks. The double big mac, or the mega mac. I was so shocked to see this. I wonder who at corporate McDonald's thought "Can't we just make the Big Mac bigger? Isn't that a great idea?" Apparently it's available in a slew of countries now, including Canada, but because of Mc'D's bad rep in the USA it has been ruled out there.
I tried to post a video commercial too, we'll see if that works out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Room!

I'm going to make a post including pictures of my room as-is. It's a bit messy still but it's not too bad. Tomorrow I'll try to make a post with more pictures of the neighborhood, it's quite lovely!

Long Overdue!

Greetings!!! Bwahahahaa!!

Here I am in Taiwan once again! This time in Neihu District (as opposed to Danshui, which if you recall is along the ocean and less connected to Metro Taipei), I am preparing for many an adventure. I'll give you the summary of my tales thus far!!! Bwahahaha!!!!!!

I'm going to try to do this by date, however this is somewhat impossible and contrived because of the enormous time zone gap that magically switches. Why don't we all just have one uniform Time Zone??? Instead of going to bed at 12 am, it would be the same time, but just called 1 pm, for instance. It wouldn't be that hard to adapt to. Daylight would be the same... Anyway, I digress.

June 14th
I got to the airport in Minneapolis, young and naive, believing full well that NWA (That's Northwest Airlines, not the rap band N***** With Attidude) meant me no ill will and was responsibly checking over the plane and making final preparations. Oh how wrong and foolish I was...

I arrived at the gate with my family about 1ish pm or somewhere thereabouts I suspect. I did my best to check in efficiently, and as international flight lines go, it went pretty quickly and smoothly. I always feel unprepared and awkward as i do the security check. Luckily I didn't hold up the line or anything like I once did in Singapore. I waved goodbye to Mom, Dad, and Tim once more as I crossed the threshold into boundless adventure and a growing sense of uncertainty.

I waited patiently, careful not to eat or drink too much lest I spoil my appetite for the airline food (LOL). Finally it was time to board! Surely I would soon be taking off on my brief 12 hour flight to Tokyo! Sadly, no, this was not the case. When I finally got on the plane, it became very clear after a few hours that we would simply not be taking off. The captain seemed to be looking for any excuse... The plane may be overweight... There was a volcano exploding in Alaska so we had to change our course and file new paperwork... The crew was going to be working too long if we took off more than 2 hours late... and of course, the REAL reason we were initially delayed was engine failure. But the engine was promptly repaired in about 30 minutes, so the rest of the excuses were mere "cake icing", as it were.

Well, we got off the plane after a while, disillusioned about NWA once and for all, and began to wait in a ridiculously unorganized... circle of some sort... for them to call our names and give us our meal vouchers. It didn't occur to them for about 2 and a half hours to use the microphone for this. They just tried to shout it out over the crowd of 300 people. They also printed off one letter at a time, and reread names from C, most memorably, for about an hour and a half before they were able to move on. The inefficiency blistered my soul.

Luckily it was during this time that these two Asian high school girls attached themselves to me when they noticed I was not afraid nor ashamed to ask questions and make demands. At least I had someone to talk to during this offensively long wait. When we all got our vouchers, we proceeded to use the meal money to buy sushi, McDonald's, and smoothies. We then waited another goshdarn freaking hour for the shuttle to pick us up and take us to our hotel.

Holiday Inn was nice. I watched a couple episodes of Family Guy with the girls and finished our cold chicken nuggets and then I headed to my room to go to bed. The flight for tomorrow was scheduled for 8 am, so i needed to be up at 5:30 and at the airport by 6:30.

June 15th
Well flash forward past the 40 minute security check line and we're in waiting for our flight (again). Well, we board the plane shortly thereafter and it becomes painfully clear after about 2 hours on the plane that we're not going to be leaving on time. The plane was scheduled to be in the air by 8 am. We boarded at 7:30 and we didn't take off until almost 10 am. This was because they were doing a last minute check of our weight and filing some paperwork (which I assumed they had finished the day before when the captain spent 10 minutes talking about it).

Finally in the air, I have to admit the flight went pretty smoothly, and the food was passable, despite being subjected to Hotel For Dogs and He's Just Not That Into You. And something else that was stupid. The flight attendants handed out what may have been the best apology I've ever received: A $250 travel voucher that will pay for a roundtrip ticket to multiple cities in Asia. So I may be able to go on a budget vacation after all, which is nice.

I also made some friends on the flight over. I sat next to a girl from Shanghai who was my age. She's an art school student (graduate school) and I also met a guy who lives in Taiwan and is teaching for the same school system I am (Hess). He told me lots of great things about his experience and prepared me for a lot of things. I know now more about how the loans work and what to expect from training and possible advancement. The three of us made the trip downright enjoyable for each other, actually. I had a great time talking with them. Ron and I joked quite a lot about the volcano.

June 16th?
Well, we landed and were only like an hour and a half late so I suppose we made good time. In Tokyo, things seemed at first to be going smoothly. The security check was a long long line but we whittled through it efficiently in only about 10 minutes, which was fantastic. However, then we got into another 2 hour line waiting for our connecting flights to be rerouted. They literally printed out everyone's boarding passes as we walked up to them. Unfortunately I was at the tail end of this line.

Once that was through Ron and I proceeded to our terminal and bid adieu to Lulu, our friend from Shanghai. Then we bought snacks from the airport with our voucher money and played the waiting game. I managed to connect to the internet to shoot an e-mail out to some people who were wondering where I was.

When I got on the plane I immediately fell asleep and I woke up as we were landing. I had a whole row of seats to myself. I couldn't have asked for a better flight experience. That's really all I have to say about that.

It was so great to finally see April in Taiwan, and I was worried things might've changed after being a year apart but we picked up exactly where we left off. Before long I realized neither of us had changed one bit, so much so that it was actually an amusing realization for both of us. She then took me to my room and I unpacked while she went to her room and grabbed some stuff and some snacks to give me while I showered. Her mom cooked me dumplings and veggies! We then turned on the TV and I watched... SUPERNATURAL! Could it get any better? I submit that it cannot.

June 17th
Well after a night of not sleeping so well(jet lag, but the bed is great), I called April in the morning and she gave me a tour of the neighborhood. We have everything. A KFC, a McDonald's, a 7-11, a Family Mart, and a Carrefour is a very short trip from us as well. Not to mention the brand new MRT opens in two weeks, and is only a block from us! We even have a small night market from which April just bought me an amazing food called a Chinese Hamburger. I foolishly forgot to take a picture but I'm sure I'll be having it again.

We went to that Carrefour (HUGE grocery/department store) place I mentioned where I bought some supplies, such as fruit, bread, detergent, kleenex and toilet paper, a fan, etc. The fan is really quite nice, but it's difficult to function in here without the AC going every now and then. I turn it off whenever I go out or every once in a while just to let the fan circulate the cool air by itself, but when I sleep I need the AC. The humidity without it is remarkable.

Later on that day I took a brief nap, and then we tried to watch a movie only to realize we couldn't find my DVD player's remote and therefore couldn't switch the subtitles to English. We went for a short evening walk as well. Forgive me, I'm missing some details. Jetlag is kind of making the details run together.

June 18th
The highlight of the day was KFC for lunch, I suppose. April went to work so I wandered around myself and almost got lost. I contacted several of my other friends and made some plans for the weekend, did a little Wii Fit exercise and tried to straighten the room up a bit more. The hangers we bought at Carrefour turned out to be a wise investment for this closet, which only had one hanger.
At about 8 at night I thought I was tired enough to just go to bed. I slept until 12 am and realized how wrong I was only then. I was up another 4 hours talking to Tim and playing my DS, just waiting to get tired. I then slept from 4-8, so technically we're now into...

June 19th
Today was a good day. April and I went out, got some breakfast, delivered Mandy's fresh lunch to her school, went for a walk, and watched a movie (License To Wed). After a while April had to leave for work, and I fell asleep around 3:30 and woke up around 9. Yessir, jetlag isn't going away so far. I thought going outside during the day would help my body adjust but I haven't noticed any changes. I think when I'm comfortable enough to be out more on my own, I'll get over the jet lag pretty quickly. Until then I'll just do my best.

One thing kind of irking me is that my neighbor doesn't know the hallway bathroom is only my bathroom and has let himself and his girlfriend take showers there right when I need to poop. April was infuriated by this news and plans to let the landlord know so she can put a sign on the bathroom door. I suppose I could just lock the bathroom but I don't want them wondering why they can't get in, I want them to know they should just use their own private bathroom.

I suppose I should clarify. I also have a bathroom in my own room, but the toilet there is basically a urinal and isn't meant for Twosies (hence the amusing "Only Urinate, No Defecate" sign). This is fine, because I was told that the bathroom just outside my room in the locked off hallway is only mine.

Well, tomorrow I meet my friend KJ, which should be a lot of fun. I haven't seen him in a long time. He's home from his military service for the weekend and so we get a chance to hang out. On Sunday I will try to meet some other people, and on Monday I will go to Transformer 2 with Ape. I'd like to include a nickname key for April below in closing.

April/Lin Ping Ting AKA:
Apey Ape
Lin Ping Guo (Ping Guo means Apple in Chinese, conveniently)