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Archive for January, 2009

A lot lot lot.

So vacation has been nice so far. A definite change in pace, and I haven’t really been bored yet at all. Been hanging out a lot, sleeping late a lot, even went to KTV karaoke sans Tina and absorbed a lot a lot of Chinese. We played mahjong yesterday, all of us new learners except for Tina who spent all of the day before with her cousin Jim playing mahjong. Needless to say, she is now an expert. I have yet to win a game, but I’m getting closer and closer each time. It’s a bit complicated but not too much. I think we’ll be playing a lot more from now on. Tonight dinner with friends and maybe keeping it more sedate than past nights. I’m a little tired of chatting up new people only to be disappointed. Is there any one left in town that is smart, quirky, and shares a good taste in books, music, and sarcasm? I have met a lot more British people, a lot more Taiwanese people, and even a guy from Macedonia. I like to think I’m fairly knowledgeable about world geography, so I felt bad having to ask, “is that really a country? I thought it was a region.” And I’m still surprised I got even that far 3 beers in. Apparently yes it is a country, above Greece, near Yugoslavia. And amazingly “Fillip from Macedonia” (because with a home like that, you’re asking to have a silly name like this) is not a student nor a teacher but a biomedical engineer so apparently non-teachers do exist in this town. Either. A lot of a lot recently.

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Chatting up the cabbie

Grabbed a cab today and chuckled to myself as he flew across three lanes to steal me away from a closer one. Poor cab drivers, there are so so many of them, I really don’t see how they make any money. Them and the 50000000 clothing/shoe stores all selling the same things.

Anyways, I get in, say my address…have to reconfirm the Dongxing part…I must be saying it wrong I guess, I always have to repeat that part hmm.

And then the cab driver starts chattering away. Wow, I get maybe one cab driver who speaks english a month. This guy though, starts talking in English asks me my nationality and then replies about how he’s not Chinese, and I reply with a “you’re Taiwanese, of course” which I can tell pleases him immensely. Then he tries some French on me, and I reply back, which again amuses him…he’s got good French too whoa, not just a bonjour, but asks ca va and the less popular greeting/goodbye – salut. Then he asks me something in Spanish, then German, then we start talking about German politics and immigrants and how his grandmother was a Taiwanese aboriginal queen. What a driver.

We’ve reached my street by now, but wow, cab drivers, they surprise you every day.

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chinese_new_year_c

After eating a giant home cooked meal of sausages, noodles, veggies, bamboo shoots, rice, chicken, and oranges, I’m now at home, in bed, ready to sleep.

We also burnt “money” for the ancestors, everyone else piad respect with incense at the home altar, and Tina’s Uncle even got me a red envelope!

All businesses are closed and Taipei is pretty deserted, even Taipei Main station when we were on our way across town, was not very bustling and cram packed, just a couple dozen stragglers left.

Yesterday, taking advantage of giant giant New Years sales, I got the cutest little black dress, semi asian style, really nice and amazingly cheap. Now all I need is an occasion to wear it.

For now, I have a whole week to hang out with all the new friends I’ve made recently. I just have to make plans with all of them. Attempt to be less of a hermit, more social butterfly.

Gnight- I can hear crackling of fireworks outside, ringing in the new year.

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Gong xi fa cai

School is winding down, and it’s starting to officially feel like a break. I’ve only had one class for most of the week. Which has allowed me the quiet, free time to re-organize and clean the wreck that was my classroom. All new bulletin boards, sorting the mess of crumpled papers and books that the bins on my desk were full of. I feel a lot more prepared to start 2nd semester. I’m not a fresh teacher, stressing over what to do anymore. Resolutions for second semester: Figure out how to keep the second grade from kicking my ass every day, and make my Kindergarteners ALL great readers not just the motivated ones.

With school out for Chinese New Year the streets have a whole new bustle. Little kids are everywhere and stores and streets seem even more full with shoppers since everyone has their new governmental vouchers (free “money” to stimulate the slowing economy).

Skipping backwards as I am wont to do. Inauguration night was great and remedied the giant letdown the actual Election Day celebrations I witnessed. 1$NT beers at a pub (that’s 3cents US) more Americans in one place than I’ve seen in my entire time here (it was actually quite strange, I have a feeling going back to the US is going to be very weird and shocking). Met some new people, had some good times, a generally genial evening.

Been consuming some new books and music both of which I’ve been enjoying a lot. I haven’t known what to do with this new free time, and I have two more weeks of it staring me in the face. I’ve been spending a lot more time trying to study Chinese, since the 6th month anniversary here is about to stare me in the face and well, my Chinese still sucks and hasn’t progressed in months. I still can’t find a good system though. I’m picking up a new class next semester of more kindergarten so now I really really don’t have time to take an official class. The Pimsler is too formal and I’m getting so tired of trying to deduce what I can actually use, versus what is mainland Chinese and not said here. The pronunciation is fairly different and you will get a different reaction if you use Beijing Chinese here (anti-China sentiment still runs under the surface). With the mainland heavy R’s I referred to it as Pirate Chinese the other night, which got quite a reaction from Tina. Wo shuurrrrrrr/Zai Narrrr….instead of Wo seuh/Zai Naliii. (that being my descriptive spellings there). I tried some ChinesePod, which, while more helpful since its more conversational and explains the origins behind the words, it doesn’t give you enough, just very very cursory phrases each lesson. So, le sigh, I dunno, but I have to/want to get better somehow.

Prospective Chinese New Years plans? I dunno, maybe Kenting/Hualien we are chilling in Taiwan though, since travel during New Years is so expensive. CNN the other day called it the largest human migration in the world. Imaging lots of the most populous nations in the world and all of their residents have the week off and are traveling to be with family….Asia shuts down, literally…go get food now while the stores are open. Apparently Taipei is like a ghost town since most people go out to the country to visit the older family.

To amuse you more with what Chinese New Year IS exactly, here are some basic facts and lots of fun superstitions/requirements. It still amazes me just how superstitious every one is.

Good luck

  • Opening windows and/or doors is considered to bring in the good luck of the new year.
  • Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to ‘scare away’ ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the new year.
  • Sweets are eaten to ensure the consumer a “sweet” year.
  • It is important to have the house completely clean from top to bottom before New Year’s Day for good luck in the coming year. (however, as explained below, cleaning the house after New Year’s Day is frowned upon)
  • Some believe that what happens on the first day of the new year reflects the rest of the year to come. Chinese people will often gamble at the beginning of the year, hoping to get luck and prosperity.
  • Wearing a new pair of slippers that is bought before the new year, because it means to step on the people who gossip about you.

Bad luck

  • Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck amongst some Chinese. The character for “shoe” (鞋) is a homophone for the character 諧/谐, which means “rough” in Cantonese; in Mandarin it is also a homophone for the character for “evil” (邪).
  • Getting a hair-cut in the first lunar month puts a curse on maternal uncles. Therefore, people get a hair-cut before the New Year’s Eve.
  • Sweeping the floor is usually forbidden on the first day, as it will sweep away the good fortune and luck for the new year.
  • Saying words like “finished” and “gone” is inauspicious on the New Year, so sometimes people would avoid these words by saying “I have completed eating my meal” rather than say “I have finished my meal.”
  • Talking about death is inappropriate for the first few days of Chinese New Year, as it is considered inauspicious.
  • Buying books is bad luck because the character for “book” (書/书) is a homonym to the character for “lose” (輸/输).
  • Avoid clothes in black and white, as black is a symbol of bad luck, and white is a traditional Chinese funeral colour.
  • Offering anything in fours, as the number four (四), pronounced , can sound like “death” (死) in Chinese.

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As promised, the mild change to auburn. It was hard to take pictures of, you can’t majorly tell unless I’m outside.

redhead1

redcloseup

meredhair

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Inauguration

Watchin CNN. Holy crap thats alot of people. Its 5am there, and it looks crazy. Going out tonight to watch it at a bar, celebrate with some other people. No sitting in my apartment screaming by myself this time.

Midnight our time, a whole day ahead.

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Some eye candy

A little thing on Kitsune Noir that I have to pass along. Love it. Simple and so active, its fun to watch how the body works in simple outline. Music is pretty great as well. Now to search out the album to acquire. Nice.

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