TaiwanTara's Blog

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It’s been a little while… August 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 2:00 am

Now that I’m getting into the groove of my daily living, I’m finding it harder to remember to update.  However, I started out frantically writing a blog the first time I experienced an earthquake and since that apparently happens weekly here, I’ve decided that will be a good reminder for me =)

We had earthquake number 3 tonight, it was tiny and I only felt it because I was sitting down.

OK, continuing on from my last update.  I did indeed stay in and relax all of that Sunday as I predicted I would do.  I spent Monday through Wednesday at school getting started on my lessons and such, meeting and talking to the other  teachers.  On Thursday, Cassandra and I got to go to this really sweet Japanese Teahouse in Hualien City.  Cassandra randomly met a woman on the train who spoke really good English and lived it Taipei, but she had a friend who lived in Hualien and was also a school teacher so gave Cassandra her number.  I’m sure that would be extremely strange in rare in America, haha, but that’s just how things are here.  We wouldn’t have experienced half the things we have if we didn’t get in cars with random people and let them drive us somewhere lol.  Anyway, Sharon and her friend Amy took us to the teahouse and got us some bubbletea, yum!

On Friday one of the orientation leaders, Doris, who lives in Hualien also, took us to her husband’s Japanese restaurant which was delicious, and then we took a bus to Liyu Lake for the Water Show put on by the Aboriginal’s there.  The Water Show is famous in Hualien and it was absolutely packed!  We even spotted some other “hey, it’s white people!” as we called them, haha (We certainly can’t assume they’re American, but I guess it would be more appropriate to say Caucasian)  I took some videos that don’t at all do it justice and put them on youtube (taiwantara there as well).

On Saturday we were picked up bright and early to go to this all day Aboriginal Harvest Festival for the tribe near my school.  I got to see many of my students who are Aboriginals (meaning their family is Native to Taiwan, not descendants of Chinese orJapanese who came to Taiwan).  Their costumes and dances are incredible!  We just don’t have culture that compares to that in the states.  We met many important people there like the chief of the tribe, the leader of the village, the leader of Ji-an Township, and a candidate for the leader of Hualien County.  My introduction to the leader of the township (kind of like the mayor of a big city) went something like this: speaking to him and pointing at me “This is Tara…some other stuff in Chinese about me being an English teacher,” speaking to me and pointing at him “He is single!”  LMAO!  They are very funny about that here, that is also how the introduction went with my principal.  We got to watch some dancing, participate in some dancing, drink some Taiwan beer and something they called wine that tasted more like straight vodka and tequila mixed together, then eat lunch which included many many foods that scared the bejesus out of me =)


Saturday Night, a kindergarten teacher from my school and her friend took Cassandra and I dancing at this ballroom place.  I learned how to Tango!  I love it!  The couples there were soo straight faced and serious about their dancing, it was interesting to watch. (video also on youtube)

Sunday was once again the day of rest after all of that fantastic activity over the weekend!  Cassandra and I did ride our bikes to pizza hut Sunday night for dinner to have some good ol’ American food… well that’s what I thought until I saw the various pizza’s on the buffet!  What’s wrong with just pepperoni??  No, corn, no pineapple, no shrimp, no weird green stuff….just cheese-pepperoni!


Exploratory weekend August 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 9:05 pm

My first weekend in Hualien (well, sans typhoon) was really fun! It’s only Saturday night, but tomorrow will be the day of rest for me after this weekend.  Cassandra and I both have bicycles now so we’re able to ride around and explore.  Jackie, another English teacher nearby came to visit yesterday.  We met her at the McDonald’s near our place (it’s a great landmark to give people because of the tall sign) and then rode around to find a new place to eat.  We came across this little outdoor restaurant with beer!  haha, we pretty much just pointed to 3 dishes on the menu and took our chances.  The food was delicious!!  Definitely a place Cassandra and I will frequent since it’s right around the corner.  That was my first time having Taiwan beer and it’s really good!  I don’t even like beer and I like it.  We started off sharing a beer since they were HUGE bottles… then ended up with 4 empty ones hahaha

After that we were riding back home and there is this little outdoor area with grass and benches and there were ladies there having an evening aerobics class!  We rode up right as they were doing the macarena so naturally we hopped of our bikes and jumped in.  That was soo much fun trying to follow along so I wonder if they do it every night, or every friday or what.

Today we sat around the house for awhile watching our cable, enjoying the air conditioning.  Then we decided to ride into downtown Hualien.  It really wasn’t too bad of a bike ride, but of course a scooter would be much better.  I loved downtown!!!!  There are so many little outdoor markets and cheap cheap cheap stuff.  I found shoes for $5.  I really wanted another pair, some purple converse ones, but it’s very hard to find my monster of a shoe size here (40= 8 1/2) haha  We went to the KFC downtown lol, because we had coupons.  I’m so excited to have a “big city” area near us even though it’s not anywhere near the size of Taipei.

Here are some shots of the city (and the pizza hut delivery scooters haha) 


first lesson August 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 2:13 pm

Quick update because I’m still borrowing my roommates internet USB thing.  Hopefully I’ll get mine on Monday after I get my ARC card.

On Thursday I got to teach a lesson to the kids who were in summer camp this week at my school.  There were only 13 of them so it was a great way to ease my way into this.  I taught a small lesson on transportation.  I found some incredible vocabulary cards at a local bookstore with a picture of the item on one side and then the English and Chinese word on the other.  There were all different forms of transportation so I picked out 13, one for each kid, showed them the picture, had them read the Chinese word, and then told them the English word.  We went through them all, reviewing as a group the English words, and then played two games.  For the first one I had written all of the words on huge index cards so they had to pick an index card and match the word to the correct picture (bicycle, car, garbage truck, airplane, etc).  Then I used my bananagrams (Thanks Smola family!).  I dumped out all the letters and each kid had to take a turn finding the right letters to match the picture and spell out the word.  They absolutely loved doing it!  Their favorites were jet and school bus, and the difficult ones for them were fire engine and ambulance.  It was a little difficult to keep them all calmed down becuase they were so excited they kept creeping up on me and the cards.  I had to keep saying “back, back, back” and motioning with my hands.  For some reason they LOVED that and kept singing the rest of the time “back,back, back, back…” except they didn’t pronounce the ck very hard so they were just saying “ba..ba…ba” hahaha  it was cute.  The lesson went very well except for this one troublesome class clown who said “F*** you.”  LOL, i honestly don’t think he had any clue what he was saying, but did know it was something not good becuase when I looked at him his face was all guilty.  I motioned for him to come over to me and made him sit right by me the rest of the time.  I told him he could not say that it was very bad, but who knows if he understood me.  I think he knew he was in trouble so that’s good enough.  After he sat quietly for awhile he said “teacher?”  When I turned around he said “face is beautiful”  hahahaha

I got to see my classroom on Thursday too.  It’s kind of dirty and a mess right now but I’m gonna work on it all next week.  I have a SmartBoard!!!  It’s all in Chinese but whatever, it’s a SmartBoard, I’ll figure it out =)  And I have endless manipulatives.  There are drawers and drawers and boxes of flashcards and posters with English vocabulary words.  The computer has a ton of files with songs, videos, and interactive games.  AND, I have a co-teacher in every class with me.  This school is already providing me with so many more materials than I’m used to.  It’s amazing.

That’s about it for now.  I borrowed a bike from one of Cassandra’s teachers and her school bought her one.  Our friend Jackie is in the same county and just got a scooter so she’s going to ride over here toward us and meet us at McDonalds, haha, it’s the easiest place to find around here.  Then we’ll ride around and explore the city.  Hopefully we don’t get lost because these streets are insane.  It’s not a nice grid of north and south, east and west like at home.  They go every which way.


retraction: earthquake! August 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 10:22 am

I love how I called what we felt “an earthquake!” and then mother nature was like, “ha, THIS is an earthquake!”

Apparently the teeny little tremor we felt was just a prequel to the earthquake that woke me up at 5:30 this morning.  Holy geez Louise in Belize that was scary!  I’m sure it was nothing to people here, just their weekly tiny quakes, but on top of the rumbling, I had to endure the feeling of my building swaying back and forth from the 12th floor!  AAhhh!  I couldn’t get back to sleep for an hour.  Had to pop in a Friends DVD to calm me down.

Okay, just wanted to make that correction =)


earthquake! August 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 7:47 pm

First typhoon, then earthquake… I think

haha, my roommate and I are fairly certain we just felt a teeny tiny earthquake.  I just so happened to be standing in quite an unfortunate place for my first earthquake. 


 window in the lobby of our floor        the view

The thought of looking out the window from the 12th floor is scary, but I actually didn’t even realize that’s what it was until Cassandra said something.  I thought I was just feeling a little light-headed or something from being so high up LOL  If that’s all it is for their weekly earthquakes I can definitely handle that.  However, we’re on the 12th floor of our 15 floor building so “Please God” do not let them be any worse in my year here!

I went to my school yesterday and met a lot of other teachers and the principal.  They are all ecstatic to have me here and to practice their English on me (and laugh at my attempt at Chinese).  The women keep touching my cheeks and saying “so beautiful, so beautiful” hahaha, and everywhere Cassandra and I go people just wave and wave at us.  It’s weird to think that someone like Paris Hilton could be here and not be treated any more like a celebrity than we are (because they wouldn’t know who she is lol).  People are so kind and will bend over backwards for “guests” in their school/town/country.  Today I went back to school and was able to meet some of my kids =)  They all gave me their English names and what grade they are in.  Turns out most people here just make up an English name, and can change it if they feel like it.  A lot of times they will tell me their English name and it’s not actually a name that we use or I’ve heard of and when I tell them that, they change it haha  Either that or they’ve been pronouncing it wrong and I have to tell them it’s actually Michelle, not Mitcher  lol

So far I’ve been taken to experience “hot pot” or some other name that I forget right now.  They put a pot of water on the table in front of you that has a little heating stove thing underneath and then bring out a massive plate of vegetables and your choice of meat or fish, and you cook your own soup.  YUM!  I loved it!  Then, Cassandra and I ventured out on our own for the first time and walked into the city (about 10-15 mins) and around our own neighborhood a bit.  I didn’t realize we were going to be walking so far and had flip flops on.  I got some blisters on my feet so I really need to find some tennis shoes here.  But we had a good time checking out different shops and the night market.  And last (so far), today we got to experience the ever so famous, KTV.  Holy crap do these people take their karaoking seriously.  OMG, we went to this place where you have to make a reservation, it is soo nice inside, and you get put in a private room with a big wrap around leather couch, table, karaoke system, and huge TV.  There is a buffet outside the rooms where you go and pick out your food and take it back to your room.  LOL, they are so serious here about their KTV’s.  We introduced them to quite a few American songs and artist such as, Taylor Swift, TLC (they were impressed with my rapping skills in Waterfalls lmao), Brittney Spears, Mariah Carey, and Pussycat Dolls.  One woman wanted to know what “cha” means after we sang “Don’t cha”  hahaha… we explained to her that it was slang for “do not you”… I don’t know if she got it lol

That’s about it.  There are some other things we’re wanting to do but we have to wait until things get cleaned up from Typhoon Morakat which apparently was way worse then I realized.  I heard that it was the worst typhoon in over 50 years and that in the south their was a huge mudslide, entire towns under water, and buildings and bridges collapsed.  The death toll is up to 30 I believe but hundreds more are still missing!  There are actually people from my group who are supposed to be going to that area.

I was going to add some videos I took out the window during the typhoon, but I can’t get them uploaded onto wordpress.  I’ll have to wait until my super savy techie boyfriend wakes up to help me 😉


Typhoon Tara August 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 9:10 pm

I survive my first typhoon!  The house I was in was extremely sturdy.  It was crazy windy outside, but we were cool inside, until the power went out.  Ugh, several hours in a new place where no one spoke English without my computer??  I managed to pass the time but reorganizing the things in my bag, lol, playing some solitaire, and making beaded bracelets with the little girl even though we couldn’t really talk to each other.  A lot of trees and branches blew over but other than that  I didn’t notice a whole lot of damage.  However, I haven’t seen the news so other parts of the island might have been worse. 

Ok so here’s the skinny on my living situation.  Doris, the director of my school, dropped me off at the house.  It was a very nice, westernized house, and the family is great.  BUT, they don’t speak any English.  I felt very lonely right away and realized how difficult it was going to be to ever feel “at home” therewith daily activities (showering, eating, watching TV, etc).  One of the two other girls who traveled down to Hualien with me is Cassandra.  She had already been apartment hunting and found one near her school, which is only about 10 minutes by car from my school.  It’s a two bedroom apartment and she said I could move in if I wanted to.  The apartment is 10,000NTD and we both get 5,000 from our schools so it would work out perfect.  SO, I had to decide.  Nice cushy living in a house with wireless internet, food always prepared for me, air conditioning, and within walking distance of my school, but no one to speak freely to in English, OR a nice apartment with an English speaking roommate but I’ll have to pay utilities, buy my own internet and food, and probably have to buy a scooter to get to my school.  I realize it was a lot to give up just to have someone to talk to, but I really really didn’t like that lonely feeling especially when I’m already so far from home, so I went with the apartment.  Cassandra signed the lease today, we moved in our stuff, and went shopping for bedding, food, cleaning products, etc.  We bought a DVD player since I brought along all my DVD’s =)  However, we found out that it wouldn’t play American DVD’s because of the country code or format or something like that.  Turns out Cassandra’s husband is a technology beast and talked her through some code you can put in to change the country of the DVD player.  Works now =) 

I hope we get some house guests soon, cuz our pad is pretty Saweet!


Taipei, Taiwan!! August 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 10:52 pm

I’m in Taipei!  I have a lot of details to add to this about orientation, all the super cool other teachers, and going to the night market!!  plus pics

but for now i have to catch up on my ZZZZ’s

Ok, I was exhausted and fell asleep with the computer in my lap while downloading pictures haha.  But now I’m up and have some free time before breakfast so I’ll finish this blog.

I got to the airport yesterday and found out that my luggage was still in San Francisco, that was fun =)  But it’s supposed to be being delivered to the hotel this afternoon so hopefully that will work out ok.  I had to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel because no one from here knew when I was getting in.  The ride was very long and expensive =/  but, I’m also giving that receipt to the travel agency because if I had been here on time someone would have been at the airport to pick me up.

I got to take a few cool pictures on the way in though and I’m going to make my picture albums on facebook, I think that will be easier than putting them all on here but I’ll put a few of the good ones here.

I got to the hotel at 8:30 and had to be downstairs for orientation at 9!  I ran up to the 9th floor (well took the elevator of course, haha) jumped in the shower, threw on some fresh clothes and ran back down.  Orientation was ALL day long but was a crap ton of good information.  I learned a lot!  Then last night we went in groups to the night market which is definitely the first thing everyone has to experience when they get to Taipei!  The smells coming from all the different booths are sooo overwhelming, especially the stinky tofu, it lives up to it’s name haha  Then we went to the shopping part of the night market and holy cow… I have never seen such a shopping paradise.  Turns out the Taiwanese… extremelyfashionable and trendy!   The night market is this one LONG street of booths and stores with clothes, shoes, toys, accessories, makeup, toiletries, purses and bags…. sooo much better than the mall!  And cheap!  I bought some lotion and an umbrella and the leaders said “you should have tried to talk them down”  and I was like well it’s already a heck of a lot cheaper than in the states.  I saw some puma’s for between $40 and $60.  My umbrella was about $6 and my lotion was about $8 (Victoria’s Secret).  I need to wait until I actually start getting paid here and then take a weekend trip back up to Taipei to do some serious shopping =D

Alright, it’s time for breakfast and then Mandarin Corner!  I’m excited to learn Chinese today because I missed yesterday’s lesson

Here’s some pictures of the city and the night markets.  In the first picture if look to the really tall building far away in the far left of the picture, that’s Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world (currently) and we’re going there tonight =)