Archive for March, 2010

The penis game

On Wednesday nights, I have two older classes, instead of a younger class and an older class.  The second class is middle schoolers and almost middle schoolers, so they are generally awkward and don’t talk as much as I’d like.  They are also, apparently, obsessed with sex.  I’m being honest here: I don’t recall being this way in middle school at all.

Perhaps I’m blowing everything out of proportion, because it was actually pretty funny.  At the break, two kids were loitering by the board, so I told them to go ahead and draw.  The first thing the boy writes is a character, which, judging by the giggles, was rude.  I told him he was writing and I said to draw, so he erased it.  I look away and do something else, and when I look back, there’s the beginnings of a pretty ugly sexual encounter going down.  I don’t mean it was shocking or horrifying; I mean this kid is an awful artist.  Those people were ugly and the poor man looked like he had a tumor.  What could I really do but say it’s inappropriate and erase?  I told him to sit down and read his textbook for the rest of the break, and he at least listened then.  Now I know who can’t be trusted at the board!

The best part: next week, we’ll be reading news stories about AIDS.  That’ll be awesome.

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Reading Chinese

Anna, this is mainly for you, but everyone should find it pretty cool.  If you want to get more familiar with the characters I throw out in the course of this blog, try this add-on for Firefox.  It’s really cool and extremely helpful.  If you use other browsers, you’ll have to do your own research, but please share any good finds in the comments!


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Musical endeavors

Earlier today, in the small break I had between Tree House and Kids Club, I went for a short walk around the block to get some air and clear my head.  I passed a music store I’ve probably passed 100 times, but this time, I went in, since I’ve been feeling a severe need for some non-internet hobby time.  I wanted to see if they had any clarinets, and when I saw they didn’t, we ran into problems.  I didn’t know how to say it, and it’s hard to describe with limited vocabulary (“It’s like this, it’s black!”), especially since I think the man I spoke with was the money guy, not the knowledge guy.  With 2 minutes to go before class, I told him I’d come back with the Chinese, and rushed off.

Around 9:00, I finished grading homework and headed back.  My phone has a built in dictionary, and I showed him what it popped up.  He was still clueless, solidifying my perception of him as the business owner, but he told me to wait while he got “the teacher.”  She was able to help me get the right word, but they still didn’t have a clarinet.  The owner called up his dealer/son and got some prices, but I wanted to know brands, especially since the lowest price he quoted me was $200 US.

The longer I hung around, the more people accumulated.  First, it was the man.  Then it was the man and the teacher and a little boy.  Then it was the man, the teacher, the little boy, and the son on the phone.  Then it was the man, the teacher, the boy, the son, and a customer and her two kids.  The customer helped us out a little bit, but the kids just kept knocking into my knees with their cases and trying to break their heads open or something.

I’m going back tomorrow, and hopefully he’ll have more info.

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Beautiful Beitou

I woke up disgustingly early this morning and walked out with my friend to grab something to drink, since there was nothing in the house and we were parched from a good party the night before.  We parted ways at the 7-11 and I went on to the MRT station.  It was only 7:30, so nothing was open and I couldn’t find a way to charge my phone and thus get in touch with my friends who I was hoping to go to some hot springs with.  Because of the hour and the hopeless phone situation, I decided to go with my default plan and head to Beitou, company or no.

I arrived in Beitou (北投) and walked up the main road of the hot springs area.  This road goes past a beautiful little park that includes the library, the hot springs museum, and the public hot springs.  I didn’t want to go straight to the hot springs, so I headed over to the library and stood in line for ten minutes before it opened.  Once inside, the librarian helped me get a list of libraries in Xinzhuang and I settled in to read for a comfortable hour or so.

At ten, I decided I couldn’t waste my Sunday reading when there was hot spring-ing to do, so I headed up the road to the public hot springs.  The public bath runs in 3 hour cycles: open for 2.5 hours and half an hour off to clean, and 10am is the start of the cleaning time, so I detoured onto the creek trail that runs along the other side of the park and hot springs to waste some time.  Beitou is a very green and beautiful district and everything looked and felt even better because of the cold and overcast weather.  When enough time had passed, I spent my last 40元 in change to get in, and hurriedly changed into my bathing suit.  Short sleeves in that kind of weather is great, but only for so long, and I really needed to jump in and enjoy the warmth!

The public hot springs at Beitou have 3 terraced hot pools and one cold pool off to the side.  I don’t recommend wearing glasses in because when you’re adapting to the heat in the bottom pool, you can see just how ineffective the cleaning process is.  I don’t know if it was this bad last time, but I freaked out a little bit.  I reassured myself that I could shower off when I was done and continued to soak.  A middle-aged gentleman made conversation for a while, and when I worked up my courage to try the hotter middle pool, he was very encouraging.  The hot springs are supposed to be a community event, and when you don’t speak the language, it’s easy to miss and skip that experience; this man provided some training wheels for me.

I lasted for about 10 minutes in the middle pool, and then I had to get out.  I eased my way into the cold pool and it was beautiful for about fifteen minutes… until the chill seeped all the way in!  It took a while to realize it, since my extremities weren’t cold, but within 15 seconds of starting to shiver, my core heat was gone and I ran for the dirty warm pool.  If I had gone with friends and had eaten some breakfast and gotten some sleep the night before, I would have repeated the cycle for another hour and three quarters, but I was in a pleasantly relaxed state and just wanted to be home, so I left.

I was distracted, though, by an aboriginal museum on the way back to the station, but talking about that can wait, since I’m sure I’ll go back.

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Here it comes…

The money/hell week!  I’m subbing two kindergarten classes and 3 Tree House classes in the next three work days, in addition to my normal 3 classes for that time period.  Basically, I’ll be teaching what I thought I wanted when I asked for a contract back in February: kindergarten, mid-level, and buxiban, as full-time as an hourly teacher can get.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be overjoyed that I’m on the smallest contract come Monday night!

In other news, I get to move in to my new apartment in a week!

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Today I signed a lease for a year. You guys, this is serious now.

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Laid-back weekend

so green and spacious!This weekend was very chill — I went down to Fu Jen Catholic University (天主教輔仁大學) on Friday and got the details on their Chinese classes.  The university is beautiful, especially coming in the middle of that part of Xinzhuang, and it was nice to be on a college campus again.

For Saturday, I taught my last Saturday class for a while (for a long time?!) and took some pictures of Xinzhuang on my way home.  I called up my friend to see if we were going to meet up and bake cookies, but she was still puking sick, and had actually gotten worse from the day before, so we put it off.  I decided to go to the art museum in Taipei (forgetting there were two), but then found I was too tired to bother, so I just walked around Xinzhuang a little bit and mostly lazed around the house.

This thing is going to reek come summer.
This tragic little river bisects my part of Xinzhuang and does little else.

On Sunday, however, I was up bright and early to do laundry before setting out to see art.  My mom and sister caught me online and we had a wonderful hour’s chat over skype before I left for the city.  I was surprised to find that the buses and MRT were cram-packed with people, but upon reflection, Sunday is most people’s only weekend day, so it makes sense that everyone would be going somewhere.  I was even more surprised to get off at Yuanshan Station (the closest one to Rebecca’s house when Michelle and I were in Taiwan for the wedding) for the art museum only to find the roads closed and construction happening everywhere.  True to form, though, there were clear signs directing me to the museum, and I had a confused but pleasant walk to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

The admission was 50¢ and got me out of the wind and into a very interesting and modern building.  I started off in the Richard Rogers architecture exhibit, and tried to see everything the museum offered, but the only exhibit that I truly loved was an exploration of Korean monochrome art.  It was magnificent and I was disappointed that, like most art, I couldn’t touch it.  Good art makes you want to touch it, and I wanted to feel all of these works, whether because of the color or the strokes, or the use of unusual materials like jute or half-inch thick charcoal.

It's hard to tell if it's a temple because I think people live on   the ground floor.
Right after you cross the river from where I’m currently staying to where I teach, you see this snazzy little building.

The whole basement was devoted to multimedia exhibits, and there was a really discomfiting one called Ventriloquists where a man fed tourists or other non-native speakers of Chinese lines from behind them and the video was captioned with what they were supposed to say, what they actually said, and the characters.  It did not bolster my confidence, to say the least!

On another note, I have so many bug bites on my hands that I woke up in the middle of the night and just scratched my hands for about five minutes before I woke up fully and realized that it was a bad idea.  If this keeps up, I’m going to the doctor for some creams or something.

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