Posts Tagged ‘school’

“Can you sing?”

Last time the read-a-thon rolled around, I was powering through The Return of the King, but as I read this conversation between Denethor and Pippin, I had to stop and ponder for a few minutes.

‘What would you do in my service?’
‘I thought, sir, that you would tell me my duties.’
‘I will, when I learn what you are fit for,’ said Denethor. ‘But that I shall learn soonest, maybe, if I keep you beside me. The esquire of my chamber has begged leave to go to the out-garrison, so you shall take his place for a while. You shall wait on me, bear errands, and talk to me, if war and council leave me any leisure. Can you sing?
‘Yes,’ said Pippin. ‘Well, yes, well enough for my own people. But we have no songs fit for great halls and evil times, lord. We seldom sing of anything more terrible than wind or rain. And most of my songs are about things that make us laugh; or about food and drink, of course.’
‘And why should such songs be unfit for my halls, or for such hours as these? We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it? Then we may feel that our vigil was not fruitless, though it may have been thankless.’

I perhaps didn’t think about it as much as I should have, and in July I was surprised by my Chinese teacher pulling a movie-Denethor!  We had no warning, but were told to sing a folk song for our classmates.  I foolishly chose “Little Sadie,” a gruesome and kind of hard to sing ballad, which was awkward to explain after I finished.  I feel I could defend it now, but off-the-cuff and in Chinese?  It was tough.

We don’t really have bards, troubadours, or song-of-greeting traditions any more, but I’m bringing it back for a day.  Here’s the challenge: represent yourself, your country, or your people (whoever they may be) with one song.  You don’t need to sing it yourself, but I’d still like to hear the tune, so provide a link or video and tiny explanation in the comments or on your own blog, and I will choose the winner after 3 hours.  That means time is up at 0700 UTC.

For prizes, see this post, but know that there will be a book for first place, and postcards for 2nd and 3rd.  It’s international, my friends!  Now, can you sing?

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Another Chinese essay

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why my teacher assigned this task, but I quite enjoyed the way it echoed a middle school writing assignment where I wrote as a pair of shoes.  I think?  Maybe it was high school.  Who can remember these things?

This post is a little different from the facebook one in that I’m including my intended translation, same as last time, for my Chinese-challenged friends.  I’ll also link up the Google machine translation because it’s frakking hilarious.





An Anthropomorphic Riddle

My friends and I stand waiting for people to come and choose us.  We live in a huge hall, and sleep on hard beds.  Who comes to see us?  Researchers, students, scientists; all humanity can freely search within our bodies for data, information, and stories.

Once you’ve found me, how do you find the information you need?  I can’t speak, so you must open me up and turn through my viscera.  Don’t get goosebumps; this kind of action doesn’t disturb me!  My only goal is to help you.

What am I?

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The moon rising beside Taipei 101.

Today was a joyous revelation and a crushing realization of limitations.  In class yesterday, our teacher introduced the topic of businesses taking midday rests along with some pros and cons.  Today, we had the debate (with basically no preparation).

I took the pro side because I truly agree and I thought I had the proper language to make my case.  My teammate was the weakest student in class, and although he’s really been improving in this level, I knew I would be doing most of the talking.  Zhang asked me to begin and the words just flowed!  I was thrilled.  When my turn came again, however, I fumbled everything and that’s where the crushing realization came in.  Immersion is not enough, and Chinese is going to be an eternal struggle.  It will not be a lovely, comfortable language like Spanish, but a secretive, twisty bitch that requires never-ending attention and devotion.  That’s my fear, anyway.

The debate continued, and I just reveled in exercising my argumentative muscles and catching my slips too late and seeing my opponents latch on and make the points I had accidentally yielded.  Clearly, I need a lot more exercise, but I had forgotten how fun a good debate can be.  To be sure, it helped that it wasn’t a terribly controversial point, but what else are we going to talk about at our level?  The coming elections and the merits of each party’s positions?  Actually, I bet we could!

Just very, very slowly.

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The forest park

I’ve missed the park since the weather changed.  When I first started classes at the end of April, I only knew one route to school and it required me to walk across the biggest park in Taipei: Da’an Forest Park.  It’s a wonderful oblong close to the center of the city, and passing through it made my commute just that much better.  There were many paths to choose through the trees and fields, and people were always doing something.

Of course there were the standard stretchers and muscle-pounders and tai-chi-ers, but the most amusing was an old man in a wheelchair.  His carer must have stepped away for a moment because he was sitting alone facing a bench.  However, slightly atypically for a wheelchair-bound person, his feet were propped up on the bench, and atypically for anyone, his pants were down around his ankles.  He was wearing boxers, 謝天謝地, but his spindly old legs were just basking in the breeze for all and sundry to gawk at.

Most of the sights are much more refreshing and pastoral: birds and squirrels, shaded and root-riddled spaces under groves of slender but wide-spreading trees.  There is a man-made hill that really adds to the texture of the park and some spreading grass that’s lovely to see.  There’s also a pond up in the north corner, but I don’t usually get over there unless I have a lot of time.  It’s fenced, and that takes away from the magic.  Anyway, my own little Lanzhou Park has a great pond with the loudest frogs I have ever encountered.

In addition to the weather, I discovered a bus stop right in front of school that saves me walking in the sun and humidity, but I’ll give up the convenience as soon as fall comes again just for the pleasure of spending time in the park.

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A strange education

On Tuesdays, I am scheduled to teach a 2-hour advanced class with 7 registered students. However, every week I have fewer and fewer people, and I had only one woman to teach tonight. Fortunately, she was fine to just chat for most of the session and based on the material we covered in the book, I was able to get answers to some questions that have plagued me since I arrived.

In a recent post, I asked my sister for some answers about Buddhist ceremonies and services, but she didn’t have much information.  I asked Gan and she wasn’t entirely sure how to explain what I witnessed at the gym.  Her first guess was a funeral, but I saw no portraits.  Her second suggestion was a birthday celebration for the Buddha, or some specific incarnation’s celebration, but when I told her about the banner, she downgraded the likeliness.

These questions led to her describing the scheduled observances of traditional Taiwanese religion.  Now, coming from a Western religion that has a history of weekly, daily, and hourly observances in public groups, I am deeply confused by other religions that don’t have these kinds of frequent and formulaic ceremonies.  The only thing I’d seen in my time in Taiwan was tables of offerings and the burning of ritual money on seemingly random days (and the occasional parade, which is easier to understand).  After nearly a year and a half, I now know that these take place on the first and fifteenth of each lunar month!  The gods worshipped on these days can be any or all of the wide selection of gods, ancestors, and deities, including Buddha.  However, the following days (the 2nd and 16th) are for businesses to honor the god of fortune, 財神爺. I am so happy to have answers.

As for the title of the post, among our topics of discussion were American geography and the (un-)importance of state capitals, Taiwanese politics and history, two-party systems, and Taipei’s progress in the last ten years.  We also touched on language and language education, especially in Taiwan.  Gan called languages other than Mandarin 鄉土語, which is something I’d like to address later.  A strange education indeed!

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The man from Qi

I wrote this essay for my Chinese class.  We were assigned a story and told to write 300 – 500 characters about our feelings on the subject.  Those of you who know me know I don’t have that many feelings, so I spent a lot of time re-telling the story.

As it turns out, I got a story that that explains an idiom that’s related to paranoia.  My essay without corrections is below, and my translation is under that.  The translation is faithful to my word choice in Chinese, but it’s very possible I’ve been too generous in my grammatical clarity.  Consider it more of an intended meaning!





第 一位杞人把腦子的力量 用光了擔心不重要的事。我們可能笑他的膽小,說誰叫他想這麼笨的想法,可是有很多人像他這樣神經過敏。這個故事和這條成語告訴我們生活不該像這位一樣!對 我來說,各有各的隱憂可是我們由自己來想:這個事情重不重要?怎麼決定呢?先問聰明人的看法,等自己想一下以後,再決定要不要憂慮。這樣可以好好兒地集注 活的精華。

“The man from Qi is afraid of the sky”: Explaining an idiom

In Chinese, there is an idiom that drives students crazy.  Many chengyu are not clear, but “The man from Qi fears the sky” is especially hard to understand.  To make the meaning clear, it is necessary to begin with a story.

A long time ago in China there was a small country.  In this country there was a man who was both cowardly and nervous.  He was pitiable beyond words: he didn’t think about realistic issues; he worried that the sky would collapse and smash him to death!  His kindly friend, in order to comfort him, said “The world isn’t ordered this way!  The sky is made of gas; tell me, how could it fall down?”

“If it’s as you say,” responded the man, “The objects suspended in the sky might fall: the sun, the moon, the stars, even Mars!! We will be crushed to death!”

Hearing this wild babble, his friend gave up.

The man from Qi used all of his mental power to worry about unimportant things.  We might laugh at his cowardice, saying “Who told him to think about such stupid things?!”, but many people are nervous like he was.  This story and this idiom tell us that in living life, we must not be like this man!  In my opinion, everyone has their own concerns, but it is up to us to decide if a matter is important or not.  How can we decide this?  First, we can ask the opinion of intelligent people, wait and think on it a while, and then decide whether or not to worry.  In this way, we can better focus on the important things in life.

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Midterms have sprung upon me suddenly, so instead of going hashing today and whiling away a good 6 or 7 hours in travel, running, laughing, and drinking, I decided to stay home and focus on my speech, powerpoint presentation and essay.  I’m not super-pleased, but on the bright side, I let myself wake up naturally (which was a bad idea, as my body decided on 6:58) and had none of that leaden dread that can happen in the mornings.

In keeping with my goals of more activity and more air conditioning, I went to the gym after a healthy breakfast of bacon and fried onion-thing-bread.  I paid my 50元 for an hour using the long thin room on the third floor, but on the way up the stairs, I was distracted by chanting.  From the third floor, I could see a large Buddhist service on the basketball courts.  The music was pleasant, but even after reading the wikipedia page I found based on the 南無阿彌陀佛 banners, I’m still perplexed on the structure and significance.  I guess I’ll find out next week if it’s a recurring service in the community center, or just a one-time event.  There seemed to be sign up tables as I passed by the 2nd floor landing, but I was too cowardly to ask questions with my paltry religious vocabulary and I was worried distractions would sap my workout resolve.

The gym itself was nice enough: not too big and with a comfortable mix of genders, sizes, and dedication.  I tried a rowing machine just because there were some people I could watch to check myself (and for some dragon boat nostalgia, although the motion was utterly unrelated), and some free weights, just because they’re the same in every language.  Now that I think about it, though, they should have been in kilograms… I would feel so much buffer if my arm work was done with 4kg weights!

Now to write a presentation on the Chinese Chicken Little.

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