TaiwanTara's Blog

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6 days March 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 9:12 pm

I’ll be in America in 6 days!  Weird!  I’m fairly certain I’m going to have a bit of culture shock.  I’m also afraid of being over-stimulated really easily.  Here, I am constantly surrounded by signs written in and people speaking Chinese.  Therefore I’ve mastered tuning things out.  I think when I first experience being in a place where I’m surrounded by a language  I comprehend, I’m going to struggle.  But, we’ll see.  I am super excited for Lanesha’s wedding (the reason I’m coming home) and I have a PACKED week of visits and plans.

I haven’t been posting much at all, but I honestly think of things to post at least once a day.  It’s just by the time I get home I forget, or I get sucked into something else.  1 new thing is that I joined a gym.  It’s big and really nice, and aside from the exercise equipment and pool, there are a ton of different classes to choose from that are included in my package.  Right now in my “girl funk” class we’re learning the Nobody dance (which will only mean something to you if you live in Asia) For the rest of you, youtube search Wondergirls, “Nobody”  It is a HUGE hit right now from Korea…actually it has been a huge hit for several months now.

I really want to do an entire post on “driving in Taiwan.”  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and just never get around to doing it.  Maybe now that I’ve said it here, I’ll do it very soon in my next post =)


Boats are not my friend February 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 8:30 pm

Today we began our journey around the southern portion of the island and it was just a bad start from the get go.  We missed our 6:10am train and had to take the next one, Jacque’s iPod touch was stolen, and then there was the boat ride.  I had read in lonely planet that this particular ride, specifically to Green Island, was the worst case of sea sickness the author had ever had.  Knowing I’m prone to motion sickness, I had on 2 sea bands and took a Dramamine.  Regardless, it was a 1 hour boat ride from hell and I’m not getting back on tomorrow!  I would say that definitely 50% of the passengers were puking, possibly as high as 75%.  There was no way to get away from it.  Luckily there were barf bags everywhere you looked.  Literally, everywhere….you know how you go to the grocery store and tear off a little plastic bag for your fruit and veggies?  They had those at the end of every aisle as well as a bag at every seat.  Not only did I have to listen to every kind of vomiting, gagging, and dry heaving imaginable, I was also a participant.  It took a whole 15 minutes before I had to grab for my bag, and it didn’t stop until we got there.  Awful, absolutely awful =(


Happy New Year! February 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 1:03 am

This past weekend was Chinese New Year.  It is definitely the biggest Chinese Holiday and totally different from our New Year.  Our New Year is all about 1 night of partying.  Chinese New Year is a week+ of family dinners and fireworks.  Saturday night was New Year’s Eve and I was invited to Jenny’s house, a 1st grade teacher at my school.  I went with Jenny, her husband and their 2 kids to his parents house and his brother and sister-in-law were there as well.  I learned that the eve of Chinese New Year is to be spent with the parents of the husband and the second day of Chinese New Year is to be spent with the parents of the wife.  They also give red envelopes with money to the children and the elders.  I also learned that the reason they shoot off fireworks is based on an old superstition.  They believed that after dark-fall a monster, similar to a dragon, would come and get people who were alone and sleeping.  So, they shoot off fireworks to scare off the monster and stay awake until midnight to watch over the family.

On Sunday evening I went to Doris’s house to have New Year’s dinner with her family.  I had a lot of great traditional Chinese food and it was nice to spend the holiday with Taiwanese families.

Yesterday Chris went to go visit his mom at his brother’s house.  He took his computer so that I could say hi to everyone on Skype and see Asher =)  Asher was soo cute on Skype.  He looked really confused about the person talking to him in the computer.  I suppose it was like watching a movie on TV but the character is just waving and saying your name repeatedly haha  I snapped a ton of pictures of Asher on Skype so I’ll post a few of the best ones.


SUPERBOWL! February 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 6:47 pm

Superbowl Sunday snuck up on me.  I’m not constantly bombarded with media of American sports and therefore didn’t realize the day was approaching.  On Sunday I went to Taroko Gorge to meet up with Karin and her family who are here visiting from Chicago.  Her brother asked if there was any place in Hualien to watch the game and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t even realize it was happening!  As far as I know there is no such thing as a “sports bar” in Hualien, so when I got back home I did some internet research.  Turns out there are a few well-known sports bars in Taipei that open at 6am with a breakfast buffet and broadcast the game live.  CRAZY what we Americans will do for some football haha.  Well it was too late for me to be in Taipei that early, but I did find out that a couple bars were re-showing the game in the evening for those who couldn’t make it that morning.  So, around 1pm on Monday I decided to hop on a train with Karin and her family who were headed back to Taipei.  I got in at 6pm, walked around in the area near the train station looking for some hostels, found one on the 22nd floor of some building and got a room for the night, then hopped on the MRT and met the Wissman’s at Brass Monkey for the 8:00 Superbowl party.  We had so much fun (despite the loss for me)!  Karin’s dad and I were the ONLY people in the bar rooting for Indy and it was sooo weird.  I’ve always watched the games surrounded by fellow Colt’s fans with the occasional outsider rooting for the other team (eh hem, Megan…).  So I felt like I had to cheer extra loud to make up for the lack of fans in the room =)

The next morning I woke up, got some breakfast and got a train ticket back to Hualien.  It felt really great to be able to just go somewhere, do something fun for a night and then go home, all on my own.  Of course I had Karin, her brother, and the rents who were great company at the bar, but other than that I did the whole experience on my own and I love that about being here.  If I want to take the 3 hour train ride to the capital city, no big deal.  All and all I’d say the 24hrs cost me…(I’m converting to the US dollar)…. $60 for train, room, and food.  It was definitely worth it and I’m going to miss being able to do things like this for so cheap when I go back home.


Highway 11 February 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 1:52 am

Highway 11 runs along the Eastern Coast of Taiwan and is sandwiched between the mountains and the ocean.  It’s incredible.  You can’t imagine how scenic the drive is.  Jacque, Brandi, Linda and I took our scooters out on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and cruised south through Hualien County.  Oh and Jewel, Linda’s dog, she went too =)  We took the hour and a half route to the Tropic of Cancer marker, stopping at a few beaches along the way.  The drive was fantastic, but also a little scary.  We all know how accident prone I am so I’m not always 100% comfortable while driving my scooter.  So driving along curvy mountain roads at 80-90km/h made me a little nervous.  BUT it was beautiful and worth the slight scariness (and the sore tushy after 5 hours on the scooter).  The pictures don’t do it justice, I want to make the drive again in the spring on the back of someone’s scooter or in a car so that I can videotape the drive =)


2 at once! January 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 3:11 pm

These are completely unrelated so I’m just making two separate entries.  If you just want to hear about the scooter crash, skip this one.  This is a pedagogical reflection and may only interest my fellow educators (and maybe some family members)

It’s the end of the semester, almost, so I figured I’d share some thoughts.  For one,  I made a new friend today =)  One of my 5th graders had been very difficult for a couple of weeks (I only see that class once a week) so I talked to his homeroom teacher.  I told her that he had a very bad attitude towards me and maybe I had said or done something that he didn’t like and we needed to get it sorted out.  I’ve had him twice since then and he’s been just fine.  He still gets in trouble for talking from my co-teacher  but he does his work, which is completely new.  I realized last week that once he actually starts working on something he really likes affirmation that he’s doing a good job.  So I kept walking by his desk to say “oh, very good!”  even if it was one of the more simple things.  Today he even gave answers in class.  It was amazing.  After class I went to his teacher to let her know that he had improved ( I don’t want to only complain about them, they need to know I’ll give compliments too).  He was terrified when I walked up to his teacher and called him over but then was beaming from ear to ear after she translated what I had told her.  When I was walking away I turned back around and he was peeking out the door at me smiling and waving, lol.  It was really cute and I’m glad the situation was resolved.

The previously discussed boy was just one of many problem children I have at this school.  The 3rd grade as a whole is ridiculous.  It is just a bad combination of an age level I’m not familiar with, and a language they’re not familiar with, making it almost impossible to keep them stimulated through the whole 40 mins.  Actually, forget that,  I cannot keep their attention for 3 minutes.  There are so many “naughty” boys, as we call them here, that I don’t get to spend any time teaching.  I don’t get much help from my co-teacher until I get really irritated and have to get her attention to come help me.  I discussed with her several times that I don’t have experience with this age group and they obviously don’t work well with the same activities that the 6th graders do and if she has any advice to let me know.  I also told her that I need her presence in the room the entire class period just during that class.  I want her walking around the desks and speaking to the children who are acting out.  I don’t ever get to teach because I have to put so much energy into disciplining and then making  them understand that they’re being disciplined.  I get that at home, it would be rare to have a co-teacher and you would have to be able to discipline and teach at the same time, but the key point is the language barrier.  That’s what makes a second body a necessity.  They’re 3rd graders so they understand about 4% of the things I’m saying.  They (when I use “they” I’m talking about the majority of the class but there are 4-5 who aren’t included in that group) don’t seem to have any interest in committing anything to memory or attempting to learn.  They just want to repeat words back to me like parrots and then laugh and play and throw spit balls…oh, and write the f word in the desk in white-out!  Seriously, that was a 3rd grader, ridiculous =/

So, I thought about it, and I decided I’m going to lose my mind or physically harm a child if I have to spend a whole 2nd semester with these kids without a change, and so far I’ve been trying to make changes that just aren’t working.  I talked to my director (at my other school, because I tell her everything and the director at this school I’m talking about doesn’t speak English) and told her that if possible, I would like to drop 3rd grade next semester and pick up 2 more classes of 6th grade instead.  There is an A and B class for each grade level, so with 3rd-6th, I have 8 classes total.  They all have English with me once a week and with my co-teacher twice a week.  With this new plan, the 3rd grade will not have me at all, and the 6th grade I will become their primary English teacher.  I cannot lie and say that I’m not doing this for selfish reasons, I am, I’m stressed to the max with this class and I always dread Fridays.  BUT, I wouldn’t have actually gone through with voicing my idea if that were the only reason.  I don’t think the 3rd graders benefit any more from having an American English teacher than they do from their Taiwanese English teacher.  It hasn’t occurred to them that they could be learning a lot from hearing me speak, even if they don’t understand it all, and instead they treat it as really funny gibberish that I’m speaking.  It’s a waste of my time and theirs.  Plus, the 6th grade could really grow I think if I could get some more time with them.  They have a strong enough English base to stay in tune with what I’m saying and a desire to learn that prompts them to ask about what they don’t understand.

Well, I asked, and Doris called, and it’s set.  They actually okayed it which surprised me because I thought that it would require difficult rescheduling.  I was happy at first, but now the guilt has started to set in.  I feel like a quitter.  I feel like I should have tried different methods instead of just pushing off the problem on someone else.  What’s done is done though, and I really do think it will be better and not just for me.


another notch in the scooter crash belt =O

Filed under: Uncategorized — taiwantara @ 2:07 pm

GEEZ!  What is the deal?  This time it wasn’t my fault, really.  There was actually someone else involved besides me and the pavement.  So here’s the story (and for once I’m going to try to shorten it instead of over-detail it=) )

I was turning left at this intersection behind a truck.  Well after turning, the truck stopped, abruptly, which I then had to do the same.  I ended up stopped right, right behind it.  Then I saw its little white reverse lights go on and went into a full-fledged panic.  I don’t know if you’re familiar with scooters, but there’s no such thing as throwing it into reverse and hitting the gas.  Reversing consisted of putting my feet down and pushing back as fast as I could.  I was also trying to get my brain to focus on honking the horn while back pedaling but I found it very difficult to concentrate on the 2.  I managed a honk right as the truck was backing over the front of my scooter.  It got knocked to the side and I tried to hop off but my leg was caught under it.  I didn’t get hurt really (maybe I should have mentioned that from the beginning haha)  my foot and ankle are just a little scratched and bruised.  Nothing like last time.  But this one felt worse because I didn’t know if the truck would stop and I was just watching myself getting squished under it.  awful.  It turned into a big ordeal because they tried to leave?!?!  and I had to stop them and call Doris and have her talk to them and then have her drive over and by the time she got there he had called his insurance company (it was some sort of business truck) and a cop had arrived.  He tried to tell everyone that I had run into the back of him.  When Doris told me that I turned around and just stared at him with my mouth wide open.  I then retold the story using big gestures so everyone could understand that I saw brake lights come on and I was trying to move backwards, not forward.

End result, I’m okay and my scooter runs, lots of new cracks and scratches, but runs.  If I discover I’m more injured than I realize or my scooter doesn’t work I can call his insurance company and they’re going to take care of it.

I will say I should have put a bit more distance between us because  I know better with the unpredictable way people drive here.