Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My First Day of Work

Work was totally different than I expected. I spent hours preparing for my first lesson only to realize that, once I got done to it, it wasn't very hard at all. My kids were pretty smart, and very cooperative for being around 6 years old. Overall, I really enjoyed work.

First of all, the kids were so cute I couldn't believe my senses. A few were so short that I had to kneel to talk to them when they were practicing their workbook drills with me individually. Some were very shy, and you could tell that for the most part the shy ones were the youngest ones in the group. Their height and inability to even speak Chinese on the same level as their peers made this obvious. I'm definitely going to keep my eyes on them, since it'll be hardest for them to learn in that kind of setting.

I had a lot of fun. To motivate the kids to behave and participate, we have these things called Super Bucks, which we give out to students when we feel they've earned them. We can afford to offer them liberally since they're not real money, but the kids can cash them in at certain places for candy, toys, and other little prizes.

I adore all of my kids and so far none stuck at as being troublemakers. A few kids talked a little out of turn but were easily brought back into line without me having to raise my voice. I have some amazing kids, actually. One girl, Lisa, is quite fascinated by me. She would often stare at me before class and while they were doing their workbook assignments. She eventually grew a bit possessive of my attention though, trying to flag me down when I was helping others with their workbook, even though she didn't have a real question.

Jack was probably my smartest boy. He was the first to ace the spoken part of the workbook assignment, and he participated a lot in class. He took home 6 super bucks today, just two behind Lisa, who took home 8. Most other students participated moderately, but there are a few students who are just too young to really feel comfortable participating. However, everybody shined during phonics practice today. The class was behind on phonics practice so I brought them up to speed, but the kids were so smart and I was genuinely impressed with their level of accuracy compared to what I was told to expect.

Emily is one of those students that struggles. She struggled a little bit with the concepts of "on", "in", and "under" today. Her handwriting is great, and she does pretty well, about average I guess, on her workbook homework, but she hasn't spoken a word to me for the most part. She is just heartbreakingly cute, too, standing at about the middle of my thigh.

I really loved work today and it shattered my expectations. I look forward to seeing this class again. I would be leaving something important out if I didn't mention how wonderfully helpful my assistant was, acting as a medium for me to get through to the kids, and a talking instruction booklet for both them and me at different times. She took care of me, but gave me just enough space to do my own thing.

Anyway, I'm interested in starting my other classes now. The American School program will be harder, for sure, because for the most part it'll be an immersion school with far less Chinese support (though I do have an assistant for that too). the other Step Ahead classes are with older kids. about 18 hours a week I will have kids around 6 years old, and the remaining 4 hours are with kids around 10. These kids should be even easier to teach because they will actually understand me more often.

So that's about it. That's my first day at work. I just wish April weren't in Japan so I could tell her about it, but other friends can listen. I'm sure she'll be excited to hear about it when she gets back.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Went to Miramar with April

Good to know Supernatural on DVD is so close to my home.
Just the exterior of one of the mall's buildings.
More exterior shots.
A dark picture but there's actually water running down the sides of the structure into a pond below, leading into a food court inside.

Inside is also one of the only Burger Kings I've ever seen in Asia.

Anyway, just a quick update. Enjoy the pics!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pics and Vid

My camera takes pictures for crap at night time. It's too bad, too, because there's some great night scenery in Taipei.

Anyway, I did take a video, and I'm inluding a picture of some xiaolongbao and another pic of my neighborhood just so you know the magnitude of crap I'm talking about. I'd better take another video on a weekday night so that you can see the lights on the all the buildings.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Today I went to a humongous mall that is about 10 minutes (or 1 MRT stop) from me on foot. The mall is called Miramar. The building I went into was mostly just clothing, and probably none of it fit me. I was quite bemused to notice, however, that even the mannequins had ABS (Asian Butt Syndrome) and lacked any booty to speak of.

There was also a little Merry-Go-Round, a magic show, and the second biggest Ferris Wheel in all of Asia, all on the top of the building. Near the MRT there was a street dance competition. Pretty cool, but not nearly as impressive as the one I witnessed at TKU a couple years ago.

I did all this with some friends, one of which went to the US last year. Regrettably, April couldn't come with us. I promised April I wouldn't go on that Ferris Wheel without her, and I'm going to keep that promise. It looks like a lot of fun but dang it moves slow.

The last few days prior have been relatively uneventful. I have been trying to spend less on food recently, and it's resulted in me losing about 5 KG (or 11 lbs) since coming here, so that's pretty cool. I don't feel particularly unenergetic or unhealthy, so long as I stick to fruit, toast, and a bacon, egg, veggie sandwich.

Things have been pretty good here overall. This coming week MAY be the week I start work, but more likely it'll be early next week. We shall see.

Anyway, that's all for now!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Earthquake

Maybe some of you have heard about the earthquake that occurred here a couple nights ago. Let me assure you, I'm fine.
The earthquake was a big one, at a 6.3 on the Richter Scale. That's the equivalent of about two nuclear bombs, so we're told. But there was very little damage (quite unlike the situation if two nukes went off).
Anyway, I was woken up by the earthquake a few nights ago. I'm on the 7th floor but I could feel it very very plainly. It shook everything, but nothing fell over or anything, except a plastic glass half-full with boiled tap water.

Anyway, don't worry about that. Earthquakes generally aren't very serious here. There have been only a couple cases where there have been causalities, and it's basically never in the Taipei area.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Just checking in

Just wanted to show off the graphics running on my little Eee! Not bad for a netbook!

Been a few days since I posted...
Since my last post...

April cooked some amazing curry noodles for me. Thanks Ape! In a couple days we're going to go see Harry Potter.

I installed Hellgate: London on this computer... Ran shockingly well. This is an Eee PC 1000HE yet it played Hellgate very smoothly with a high framerate. I'm boggled by how this is possible. Is there anything the Eee can't do?

Today I had another demo lesson. It was a subject lesson... Science. It went well. My proposed class experiments (Attempting to color bubbles, which won't work, and growing white flowers with food coloring mixed in their water) were appreciated.
More on work: I should have my license and be teaching in 1-2 weeks!

Had some Pizza Hut the other day. It was delicious. It'd been too long since I had a pizza.

I'm still doing OK with money but before long there'll be another month's rent to pay...

My thoughts were with the Towns side of the family at the loss of our dear Grandma Schmidt. I was sorry I couldn't be there for the funeral, but I'm glad the service was nice.

That's about it for now. It's almost midnight here so I'll probably be hitting the hay before long. Until next time! Bwahahahahaa!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Little to report

Today I had KFC, met a friend named Sally, and then hung out with April. From time to time I went for walks and read.

I've included a couple pictures April and I took.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I'll try to be brief.

Yesterday I spent the grand majority of my day at April's place being treated to food by her parents, and later on, her aunt. April's mom told April she can tell that I'm very mature and responsible, and her father definitely likes me for whatever reason as well. Her aunt also likes me, but mostly because she enjoys practicing her English, which is adorable.

Speaking of practicing English, I originally went over there to teach Mandy, April's sister, and have a little homemade crab rangoon. April did a lovely job making it but it took her two tries to get it quite right.

After a lot of Sake with April's dad, I headed back to organize things in my room and just relax, because it was a long day indeed and they fed me sooo much food I felt like I would pop.

On another note, I did get that job with Duban. It's pretty easy, it takes only 20-40 minutes a day, 5 days a week, and the pay is 3000 NTD per month (about 100 USD). April's mom is also paying me 3000 NTD per month to teach Mandy. With these two oddjobs combined I can totally pay for my food and electricity each month in the future.

It's worth mentioning that the main reason I took the job with Duban isn't the money or the hours, but in fact it may lead to other opportunities with them that pay more and are more suited to my busy schedule. I'll let you know if and when that happens.

Tonight I will meet April and finally get her to myself for the first time this week, but today I will continue to clean and go out for a walk if it isn't too hot. I know I owe everybody some pictures, I'll have April bring her camera over tonight.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Drinking: Briefly Revisited

I told myself I wouldn't drink this year except on perhaps special occasions, and I wouldn't ever get drunk. This decision wasn't made because I did anything particularly stupid while drunk, or because I don't like drinking. Frankly, it's just an expensive, not particularly healthy habit to have, so I've kicked it. Yet, I was faced with a difficult reality today which turned this decision (temporarily) on its backside.

Taiwan Beer (aptly named) is a fantastic pale ale, and is ridiculously cheap to boot. So, and this goes out to gents such as Josh, Carl, Erik, and Austin, what if I were to tell you that there are now TWO MORE FLAVORS?

That's right, Taiwan beer is selling its same enormous size of bottles of beer in two brand new flavors; Taiwan Black and Taiwan Red. I don't plan on getting drunk, but, to quote Boromir, "One does not simply walk into Mordor". I'm going to have to proceed with caution, because, as those of you who are familiar with Taiwan beer will remember, the bottles are gigantic (maybe more than 40 oz.) and there are two new beers to sample. 80+ oz is a lot of peeing for someone who hasn't had a drink in months.

I'm definitely going to pick a couple up tomorrow, however, and take some pictures for the guys to drool at. I'm really quite excited about this, and I sure hope it isn't a disappointment.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Demo Lesson and extra part-time jobs


Yesterday I gave my demo lesson. On that:
It was very nerveracking, and it struck me as being a rather poor way to evaluate my teaching style because I wasn't nearly as in-the-zone teaching only my boss as I would have been teaching kids. However, a few minutes into my demo lesson I realized that this wasn't about me, it was about the kids, and that restored my faith in this system. The boss offered me great criticism and never took a harsh tone. My biggest problem was that I did what Hess corporate wanted me to do, but not Hess Donghu.

Hess Donghu (my branch) is a semi-independent franchise. We use the same materials and methods (for the most part) but we have a lot more freedom in how we teach. I didn't realize I had so much freedom, but even if I did it probably would've confused me more. Most of the corrections she made to my teaching style were reminding me to do big pantomimes whenever possible (I tried to do this anyway, but it was a bit stiff since I was new and too often holding my teacher's book) and changing the order of things in the book, for example in the book it says workbook and homework come last. My boss said Storybook Time comes last because it is the least important and most customizable with time since you have a whole week to read the book multiple times if you choose.

I have to admit, although my boss seemed totally accepting of my unwillingness to work before my work license came, lest I be deported, I still suspected this Demo Lesson as a way to sabotage me and threaten me with being fired because they have one month to fire me during my trial period (which hasn't technically started yet). I'm just paranoid, it seems, becauase after the lesson I was given only polite, friendly criticism and a short, funny conversation about how ridiculous the students can be. Then she proceeded to place on my shoulders the responsibility of preparing for next week's demo lesson. The topic? Science. Of course, not really difficult science. More like "This is a flower. It has petals, leaves, a stem, etc." and I was asked to prepare some fun ideas for experiments to do.

Overall, I really like my boss so far (although she was significantly late for our demo lesson yesterday, but I do know that she is under a ridiculous amount of pressure now because she is temporarily the boss for two branches while they work to replace the last boss near Taipei Main Station). So things are well.

Part time work:
I've been looking into finding some jobs for money on the side, or work to do before I start teaching and a friend got me an interview with a corporation called Duban, a Corporate Communications firm. I think my job would be writing documents, memos, etc., as well as training people from big business how to speak English and write English documents, like resumes and cover letters, etc. http://www.duban-taiwan.com/

I've also been looking into tutoring gigs but I'm nervous because so far many of the gigs are trying to meet me on Sunday (my ONLY day off!!!!!).

Other news:
I've accepted a tutoring job though. I'm teaching April's little sister "Mandy" or Lin Ping-Yu (whereas April is Lin Ping-Ting. Apparently her parents have a naming theme.) free of charge. My only requirement is that April cook for me, which she loves to do, but the beauty of this system is not only does she cook for me multiple times a week, but I can request one or two (depending on the hours I teach Mandy) special meals per week. This week I'm asking for Crab Rangoon, which is IMPOSSIBLE to find here.

My friend KJ bought me for my birthday a monopoly game. I know what you're thinking. "What? Why Monopoly?" The reasons are twofold; KJ loves monopoly, and it is a special Taiwan Edition. All the names of places have been replaced with Taiwanese places. On top of that, it comes with monopoly credit cards and an electronic card swiper thingy. So you don't have to count out money, you can just use the swiper and it keeps track for you. It is in English and Chinese. I'll be sure to take pictures of it when he comes over and post them here later.

So today is another busy day. Take out trash, meet KJ at 12, chill for a while, meet April briefly, then head to Duban's office at 7 pm. Get the tour, do the brief interview, come back around 9 or 10 pm. It's nice to be busy, though. It can also be nice not to be busy, and that may be the case tomorrow, so expect me to edit this post with more pictures then.

To my family:
I'm still waiting on that video from the wedding!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

World Games 2009

Kaoshiung, Taiwan (the second largest city in TW) has finished construction of its massive new stadium, the World Games Stadium, which will hold the 2009 World Games. This is the first olympic-related event Taiwan has ever hosted since its inclusion as Chinese Taipei in the 1984 Summer Olympics.

What is especially remarkable is that it is the first stadium in the world to be 100% solar-powered. That's right. Powering the lights and the big screens at the stadium took only 6 minutes of charging, given the stadium 14,000+ square feet of solar panels.

Taiwan also used to have the world's largest building, Taipei 101, and still technically does as Dubai's project hasn't been 100% completed as of yet.

I'm including some pictures of Taipei 101 and the World Games Stadium so you can see what I'm talking about it. I guess the stadium will be used for Rugby and Soccer once the games are done, so don't worry, it isn't a huge waste of money.

Quick Update

The daddy of this baby made me NOT the first foreigner ever on the new MRT line. Kind of ruined my day. On the plus side, his kids were cute little half-asian babies. You can't see the other one in this picture, but she's adorable.
Me and Ape up to our shenanigans as usual.
The chart for the new MRT line!
Xihu MRT Station! This is right in my backyard, basically.

I went to the hospital yesterday, got my health check back. No diseases! And I'm overall pretty healthy, so that's good.

Today I went into work to conclude training. They hoped I could start on Tuesday, but I won't have my work license, and they won't force me to work given the risk of deportation. However, I will come into work again on Tuesday to give a demo lesson to my boss to make sure I'm on the right track.

Today April and I took the new MRT, which was fun. There were some delays, but it is day one so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. The MRT Station is really beautiful and cozy. It cuts my trip to work into half and is about the same price as taking the bus. Instead of 25 minutes it takes 15 minutes to get to Donghu now from my neighborhood in Xihu.

April is cooking something she calls "egg rolls" for me right now but it is not quite what you're used to imagining when you hear those words. Nonetheless it looks good! http://www.flickr.com/photos/73615236@N00/161009678/ You can see a pic there.
Her mom also gave me some meat and veggies which I am gulping up. Free food is great!

Anyway, that's about it. I watched Alvin and the Chipmunks the live action movie. It wasn't as excruciating as I thought it'd be, actually, which is about the highest praise I could ever give it. The music was catchy. The story was... well it wasn't Alien Apocalypse bad by any means.

Take care everyone, I'll update again soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Training Day

Today was a good day!

I can tell I have a lot of potential to do well at my new job after going through training today. The hours are at a convenient time, and although I work 20 hours a week, i literally get a 10 minute break every hour.

I watched a training video today and went through a lot of demonstrations and was told basically how the curriculum would be for my classes. My kids are also in the "cute" age, ranging mostly from 1st-3rd grade. I watched a few classes for a while today and, man, they are more adorable than I imagined, and they don't seem nearly as evil as I was made to believe they would be, except when the Taiwanese teacher took over for a minute.

I'm really looking forward to starting now. I've been offered the chance to start my third graders off next week, but it technically woulding be "legal" because we're still waiting on my work license. So, I'm not sure if I'm going to take them up on that.

The MRT opens on Saturday, the next day I need to swing by my school to drop off the last of the paperwork. Anyway, that's it. April's on the train to come back from Green Island right now, and it's apparently a 7 hour train ride. I assumed it was much shorter because they left for this vacation at 10 pm a few days ago. Arriving at 5 am would be a pain, I'd think, but then again she's always up about that late anyway.

That's about all I have to report for now. I'll keep you posted as things occur.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cleaning up my room and meeting up with friends

Hello there! Bwahahaha!

Today I did a lot of cleaning. I also received my first bill for paying rent, which I will pay tomorrow. I didn't do much else today, except meet with a couple friends for a couple hours.

These two lovely ladies are one of the most entertaining couples I know. I was good friends with one of them the first time I went to Taiwan early on because she was an assistant in my Chinese class. We also ended up in a class together the next semester, and Kelly helped me out a lot because the class was entirely in Chinese. I met her ladyfriend much later on but we all forged a good friendship.

We met at Starbucks today and just talked and caught up. I gave them a quick tour of the neighborhood, showed them my room, and then Erica had to go to a job interview. They are probably still on their way there. I hope she gets the job. She's also applying at that same Starbucks that we just met at. Apparently she's applying at a lot of Starbucks.

After the tour, the girls are actually considering moving into this community because it is so convenient a place to live and close to a lot of their favorite places, as well as where their new jobs may be. I'll be curious to see what happens with that.

I guess the rest of my night will consist of messing around with homebrew stuff on my Wii... I just checked out this AMAZING game called Super Mario War which has a homebrew port to the Wii, and it's definitely going to entertain Apey Ape.

Unfortunately Apple couldn't hang with me tonight because she is on vacation with her family in Green Island. I would've gone, and they would've invited me, except that I begin training tomorrow while they're still gone.

That's a very quick update, take care everyone!