Archive for June, 2009

Today was the last day for my 2nd graders to do real work. Basically all they had to do was finish their Spectrum Writing book. (They should have finished it by Friday but apparently no one believes me when I set deadlines anymore).

Eva and Connie work quietly for about 30 minutes on their last story while I’m sitting with Steven trying to eek a 8 line story from him, word by painful word and simultaneously having philosophical arguments with Robban about why all of his stories end in gruesome sword fights where everyone dies. Give peace a chance man…put him in jail, do something less extreme(he ended up blinding the character…wtf).

I started to read Connie’s story to edit it …the prompt was that they had to continue a fairy tale beyond the Happy Ever After…what happens after?

Connie picked Sleeping Beauty. Here is a paraphrase of what she wrote:

In Sleeping Beauty: Beauty and the prince get married. But the prince is not nice like before. Now he hits Beauty and smacks her. This is not good and Beauty is very sad. Then she gets angry and hits him back. All the people are glad.

…..um Connie…why are people glad that the wife and husband are hitting each other? No…no..teacher they are glad that Beauty hit him back.

Oh….ok…womens lib?So not a great idea, but I guess this works and is logical.

Then I get to Eva’s. Eva has done Cinderella:

Cinderella and the prince get married. They have a baby. Cinderella thinks she will be a good mommy. The baby cries all the time and taking care of it is very very difficult. The prince is very good with the baby and can do anything for it. Cinderella gets mad and throws the baby away. Then the prince is upset and they get a divorce. The End.

what….what….Eva…you cannot just throw babies away. After the initial horror of this story I started laughing….and couldn’t stop.

These were so horrifying and ridiculous. I laughed until I cried.

“Teacher why are you crying? My story isn’t funny is it?”

…..oh thank god its the end of the year.

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Been away for a while. Life has been pretty even keel. Get up, go to work, come home, be tired, check the internets, read some books, do some work, sleep, wake up, do it again.

Went to Ikea for a muffin pan. Muffin pan was way way way too big for our toaster oven. Got a bread pan. Made some muffins or rather muffin loaf. They were amazing.


Brian’s roommate Charlie was in town. Walked around XimenDing. Got some asian slippers. Took some photos. Mocked all the painfully awkward teenagers. Oh for the days when the highlight of the week was to trawl the mall on a Friday night with a giant pack of girls, all dressed exactly the same. When owning the right American Eagle shirt and having your hair cut in the latest layers was pivotal to your entire existence.


On Saturday I got up early. Ate breakfast and then  trudged down to City Hall in the sweltering heat. 10am and the pavement is already shimmering. Was jealous of the obasans in their giant straw hats, and finally broke down and put up my umbrella Taiwanese style. It is seriously cooler.



The main reason I was strolling down to City Hall? The city hall headquarters of course. From the opposite side it is quite an interesting building, cubes upon cubes of pink and mauve tile like some Q*bert game gone mad. However the 101 side entrance looks…I kid you not….just like a giant robot face: a face that nomnomnom’s all day long on people coming and going. I have definitely got to go back at night and capture the eyes glowing.

It’s magical.

Got a call to go to the pool. Woohoo. Grabbed a coffee at Starbucks which is now offering coffee with jelly (grass jelly)…so asian and delicious. Ran home, grabbed my suit and we were off to the Grand Hotel. Last time I was so annoyed I forgot my camera, so this time I was sure to remember it. Despite a cloudy sky (which had been completely empty an hour earlier) and thunder all afternoon, I captured a bit of the tropical bliss that I sometimes forget I live amidst.


Well that, and Tina and Mike being creepers. (I give her 2 days before I have to pull down this extremely unflattering photo).


Swimming caps are required in all pools here. So we looked lovely with our silly blue caps. Mine would pop off every time I cannon balled into the pool, which I’m sure was a bit unusual to begin with amongst all the elderly men swimming laps.


It finally began to rain so we headed home, but not before I snapped these street cleaner old ladies in full “sun-regalia”. Note the long canvas thing beneath the hat, the long sleeves, with additional elastic sleeves over that, which cover the hands. While the vest and hat are part of their work get-up I assure you many people wear this much, all the time in the summer for fear of “becoming black” there is no word for tan.


And folks don’t forget to follow the pool “yegulations”


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The intro was even more ridiculous before this. However it still makes me smile.

Once upon a time, there was a valley. The valley was very, very, very deep. If you saw it you would say, “ahhhhh”. People were very scared. There was a town. The town was named Tiny Town. The town was big in area, but the buildings were just 15 cm tall, and the houses were just 2 cm tall.” -Steven


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“My” students.

Sitting, drinking coffee, writing my students end of year notes. Its really surprising how much some of them have learned. Looking back I can barely believe it.

My Baby Pre-K class started, with zero English. Zero. We’d sit in a circle with them and their mommies and I’d be really really over acting everything and high fives every 3 seconds. Ivy would explain half the things in Chinese again and there was lots of crying. Now? We chatter away in English and Thomas asks why to every 3rd thing I say. “Teacher, do you like rain? I like rain, I like to jump in it. I like to wear my orange boots. Can be have snack now? I don’t like this. I want to play baseball. Can I get the baseball bat?”…..chatter, chatter, chatter. Oh man. They even write their names on their work and can write all their numbers and recognize the alphabet. Sometimes I wonder how they learned it all. I certainly wasn’t specifically teaching any of this. I started with about 4 words a day and am up to about 6, with explanations and phrases in between. But I guess immersion really does work. Now if they could only learn sharing and how to cover their nose when they sneeze in my face.


The kindergarten class was definitely a more structured teaching environment. At first it seemed to go so so slowly. Alphabet review, trying to beat the concept of nouns into their heads, phonics and the “apples and bananas” vowel song over and over and over. Then…..all of a sudden. They could read whole books! And write sentences! They could find verbs and nouns and adjectives. They would have detailed discussions about swine flu and about visiting their grandparents.  Their spelling words went overnight from dog and cat, to daughter and delicious and beautiful and castle (this weeks words, there’s 20 a week). I am really amazed at how they know so much. We must have gone so much slower when I was in elementary school and it was my native language too. They’re doing things at 1st and 2nd grade level from nothing, and I only see them 2 hours a day 4 days a week. Its funny, while I was struggling along, first trying to get them to learn anything, then trying to keep up, since they jumped way ahead of anything my teachers planning book had in it, I never stopped to see them from start to finish.

They’ve grown so much. I sit in class sometimes while they’re coloring and chatting during breaktimes and wonder what they’ll be like when they grow up. What parts of their personalities will stay the same, what parts will change? Will Alex always be brilliant but a bit weird and dreamy? Will Justin finally mature beyond laughing uncontrollably at me “fake falling” to teach the word “embarrassed”? Will Zona, Athena, and Michelle grow up and be quiet, beautiful girls…and will Cindy be just as success driven as she is now? I can picture Eric developing a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor, and Annie always being a little on the outside, the chubby tomboy. I can see Charlie having parent issues in his teens and Thomas always being a bit slow but well-intentioned.

I wonder if they’ll keep up with their English or let it fade away eventually, like all the foreign languages everyone took in high school. Still, in talking with a lot of the people I know here, who did not get the (very expensive) childhood buxiban experience, they are already years ahead of the English instruction they’ll receive in public school. I’ve actually dated people who had English at the level of my students and who are in their mid 20s. Those never worked out though because I felt like I was constantly at school, slowing my speech, thinking about which word was best understood and a way to explain strange abstract things.

In the end, I’m so proud of my students, and I’m proud of myself. I learned from scratch just like them. I started with nothing too, and now I feel as if I know so so so much about children, about my very own language, and about hard work and continual learning. I’ve learned that I had a really rich childhood with my apparently extensive and amazing (according to Elisa) knowledge of arts and crafts and games from years and years of summer camp and girl scouts and family friends who were teachers. Though I never really wanted to be a teacher when I grew up (even made yucky faces at the thought of it) I was successful at it I think. I think I did a good job and am a teeny bit sad, I couldn’t do one more year of better teaching with no extreme learning curve. Imagine how bad ass THOSE kindergarteners would be.

So I’ve been writing them letters since I’ll be leaving in August and won’t follow them to first grade. I’m proud they can read them. I’m proud they can write me back. And I’m pretty amazed at the entire year in general, for not just them, but me as well.

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Riding the bus the other day. Looked out to see some landscape workers taking lunchtime naps peacefully in a median in the middle of an 8 lane road. Each one had picked a tree to plop down, exactly in the shade of. It looked so relaxing, even if in reality it was 102. I want to go sleep in some grass.

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Perusing the blogosphere, stumbled upon this:

Jezebel’s Western/Asian fetishes

While it barely scratches the surface, I’ve seen evidence over and over of this exact scenario here. I would confidently say 85% of Western men here have/are interested in Asian girls.

Its interesting in bars to walk up to a guy with Tina and instantly see what happens. Their eyes snap to Tina and immediately start chatting…Asian fetish. Why bother. Back to square one, pick someone new.

I have met some guys here very interested in Asian culture, travel, or here to study mandarin, but frankly there are ALOT of men here who simply enjoy being worshipped by Asian women. These girls follow them around, are very quiet and submissive, and also see it as a status symbol, as if they are better than other asian women since they snagged a western man. I guess its a win/win situation, but I always wonder about the depth of the relationship. After dating my share of local Asian boys I do know that the culture boundary is often too high to surmount. For those who actually marry (and alot do) does this power division always remain? Do the men actually enjoy these silent, shadowy girls? Is that enough?

However, for example, a month or two ago I was having dinner with an American guy friend, and one of his close friends. I had met this guy with his Asian girlfriend several times before. She wasn’t there tonight, apparently they had broken up. As we were chatting and eating, he stopped and said “Wow, its so strange to have a girl join the conversation. You actually talk and have an opinion, haha that’s crazy”. I don’t think he meant it in a bad way about his ex-girlfriend but just that, that was how it was. She was very quiet, and the guys always chatted amongst themselves, be it because the English was too fast for her, or she just had nothing to relate to their arguments.

I hear alot here that I am very outgoing, loud, brash. But I don’t really believe so. Sure I am confident about myself, but I think that it is only in contrast to these Asian girlfriend stereotypes where you can see the difference. I ask my asian guy friends…do their girlfriends act quiet-like this  as well, or are they more forceful with same-culture-matches? Is it all a front? Perhaps I just haven’t been here long enough to understand fully, my viewpoints have changed again and again as I get more experience interacting with people here.

If you do see a western guy on the street he is very very often with his asian girlfriend. If you do manage to see a western girl (I feel that there are ALOT more foreign men here than girls, either that or they are ALL hiding from me) I have never, ever seen one with an asian boyfriend. Why? Why is this?

The only reasons I can come up with is that American/Western girls are more attracted to the western esthetic…sporty, strong, all-american. Needless to say, you will not find that very often in the men here. Murses are carried, hair product is carefully applied, and thin, lanky body types abound in the men here. Timidity is not really a thing one wants in a boyfriend, I guess with a girl that’s great but a guy? Not so hot.

I guess I’m unusual in that my “type” plays more closely to the kind of guys here than the sporty kind. Give me a guy with some dorky glasses, tight pants, and some shaggy hair any day over some guy fresh from the gym. When me and Tina people watch in Taipei, its funny to watch her go for the “western” style guys and me play straight into the most asian of asians…. I didn’t even know this about myself before I came here. Strange.

Those that I have dated, with some I get the sneaking suspicion that I’ve being dated purely for novelty, for show. Like, look I’m an Asian boy AND I got myself this white girl, Wooo I am awesome.

It’s not really a great feeling to have. It part of the several hurdles I’ve faced. Also the fact that since my Chinese skills are abysmal, and most people here are pretty insecure about their English speaking skills, I only attract men so cocky about themselves (and their english) that they are kind of assholes.

Not to say I haven’t met several charming boys, very sweet and polite. In the end though, its all too different and I feel alot of it has been interesting, and eye opening, but “interesting” shouldn’t really be an adjective you use for relationships, now should it?

I’m not sure if I have made too many over-arching generalizations, or been inadvertantly racist in my stereotyping, but I’m only voicing what I, myself, have thought about and observed in my months here. Please let me know what you think, anecdotes, etc. I’m really very interested. I feel like I could fill books and books with all the cultural nuances I notice and think about here.

(haha some very old, unflattering photos of the king of vain himself. I think this was failed asian dating attempt #4. Reasons? Secret other girlfriend….not cool mr. not cool at all)

will2 willandi

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Feel a case of the hermit coming on. Will be in my room all night surrounded by music and an inability to sleep.

Visitors to bust me out of this are welcome. Only come if you have something incredibly interesting to tempt me with.

DSC05443The giant machines that move the shipping crates in Keelung

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