Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dad's in town and learning Chinese

Been pretty busy the last few weeks, but busy in a good/ productive way. First off I started Chinese classes about 2 weeks ago. I go from 12 till 2 everyday then continue my regular routine of teaching from 4 until 10. The place where my classes are is called the Mandarin Training Center and if you can imagine what a factory of language learning looks like..that's the best way to describe it. There are about 4 floors all overlooking a central rotunda and so looking up from the bottom you can see all the windows of the classes and all the hard-working Chinese langauge students. It's like a bee hive...kind of. Anyway it's great because there are tons of "foreigners" there from all over the place. I was so shocked to hear someone speaking in Spanish next to me (I was excited also so I started a conversation with myreally awful Spanish)
The learning itself is difficult but I'm getting better. Today for instance I was able to read and translate an entire sentence from just the character. Not only that but I was able to switch the characters and put them in the correct grammactical order. Satisfying feeling.
But it's a lot of work, between memorizing character, I have to memorize about ten new ones everyday, and writing and working on my pronounciation I spend about 2.5 hours a day working on it. BUT I can now recognize some basic characters, and instead of ignoring every Chinese sign that I see (as I've done for the past 6 months.....yes it's true I've been here for a full 6 months! I actually look at every sign to try and decipher some of the words.
Usually though, when you study a language you just see the word, then know what the word means in English and that's all. But with Chinese I see the character, then I have to remember the sound the charcter makes, then I have to translate that into the sound, then remember what that sound means.........so it's an extra step in the process. The key as I see it is memorizing as many characters as I can...easier said then done though.

Writing is fun though and it's easy to gauge progress. I like a good challenge (obviously ) and wether it's a marathon, living abroad or anything else I want to challenge myself at every oppurtunity. Learning Chinese from srcatch is right up my alley. It' s rewarding when you can see an entirely new alphabet and be able to even read a simple sentence. So I'm really excited, even though I'm crazy busy...

There's no way to smoothly segway, but my Dad is coming here tomorrow. He'll be here until the 26th and we're gonna hit up Haulien this weekend and tour around Taipei doing touristy stuff. I think saying it'll be good to see him is a tremendous understatment. It's bee so long since I've seen any familly and especially around Christmas when I'm already feeling a bit homesick, having him here will be great. PLus it'll be cool to show him all the things I experienced and also interesting to see his perspective on Taipei (I've gotten so used to it here that listening to things he sees as weird or different will make me remember how strange it was for me when I first gt here...
It's safe to say I'm very lucky...always have been in pretty much every aspect of my life...family especially. I just hope I can keep my Dad from getting lost or in any kind of trouble...

Then it's time to get ready for my brotehr and sister's visit in January. I'm sure it'll be just like my Dad's but with more parties and clubs...

Brian

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cambodia calling!

Well I've booked my flight for Chinese New Year....I'm gonna go to ...drumroll please....CAMBODIA!

That's right! I booked my flight direct from Taipei to Phonm Phen. I'll be there from January 25th until January 31st. I decided on Cambodia because it was a cheap flight, it'd be a cool place to visit and I can maybe swing by Bangkok for a few days in the middle. I'm really excited. I think it'll be worth it just to visit Ankor watt. I heard that is a beautiful place. Plus seeing as how I plan on going into the human rights field, seeing a place where such travesties took place, although harrowing and really terrifying as it might be, will give me some insight into how to prevent such future events like that (I've decided that human rights work in some capacity will be my ultimate career goal)

Anyway I plan on spending a day or two in Phonm Phen (sp?) then traveling up to Ankor Watt, and maybe if I have time heading into Bangkok from there...then back to Phonm Phen to fly back to Taipei. Obviously Cambodia isn't the Bahammas and I really have to be on guard at all times. I just assume that all the cab drivers and shopkeepers will try and rip me off. But I am blessed with a better than average New York City Street sense (growing up in the mean streets of Glendale Queens toughed me up after all) and I do have experience traveling by myself. And hell, if I can make it all by my self in Taiwan for about 5 months; I think I can handle Cambodia for a week! I'm really excited! It should be an enlightening, challenging and hopefully eye opening trip....

Anyone gonna be in that area around that time? Or know anyone who will be there? Let me know....or if you feel like taking a little trip to Bangkok, flights are only about 1,000 US :)

I do want to wish everyone back home a happy Thanksgiving! I miss all my friends and family very much, especially around the holidays. I'll be working until 10pm teaching English on Thanksgiving Day so it won;t be quite the same. I am Thankful to my family for all their support on this crazy adventure of mine. And I'll be thinking of them as I search Taipei for some kind of traditional Thanksgiving grub (no luck so far). I do have Adam Sandler's Thanksgiving song on my Ipod so I'll be rocking out to that all Thanksgiving Day on the buses and streets of Taipei....

gobble gobble,
Brian

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trip planning

I'm trying to plan where I want to go for Chinese New Year. It's from January 24th to February 1st this year. My three feasible and realistic options are as follows:

1. Snowboarding in Japan
The only reason I want to go to Japan is so I can snowboard there. This will be the first season I won't go snowboarding in a loooong time so I really want to head up to Sapporo and do some serious riding. I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to to snowboard in Asia again so I really want to try it.
The Cons: Expensive. The flight is like 600 US and plus I'd have to get all my gear, rent a board and boots, lift ticket, train to the resort. It'd cost a lot ! But....it may be worth it. It'd be a ridiculously fun trip and I'm a very simple man.....just give me a snowboard, some fresh powder and I'm happy just riding down the mountain for days and days...

2. Trip to Laos
I've heard great things about Laos from lots of different people and I feel like if I'm there for a week I can spend a day or two in Bankok and really get to explore the country. The other good thing is that its really cheap, which I am always a big fan of.
The Problem:
Logistics of actually getting around. Lao has very little infrastructure so things like buses and trains are a little bit unreliable. Plus I heard in the North, and outside of the major cities it's not too safe.

3. Island hopping in the Philippines.
Again the best thing about this option is it fits in my budget. It's really cheap there (some places cheaper than Laos) and I heard some of the islands are really pristine, and great for surfing. Plus it's kind of off the beaten path and not many people go there. It's not a "hotspot" yet and therefore could be a much more unique experience than other places.
Downside:
I heard that some part of the country (especially Manila), are to use the British phrase "a bit dodgy" SO that would be my main concern. But I have traveled in some shady places before (sometimes on my own) and I do have my good old reliable New York City Street Smarts (assuming all the nice and polite people in Taiwan haven't dismantled my street smart abilities)

These are my choices. Any tips or suggestions? Any feedback would be appreciated.....
-Brian

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't mess with Teacher Brian ...



So my biggest problem in my kid's class is my lack of discipline. I'm too nice and according to my Chinese co-teacher "smile too much". It's a serious problem. My students think they can walk all over me because I'm fresh of the boat. But I've had enough...
There's a kid in my class who is always being rude....As an aside, little kids really are creative in coming up with mean, hurtful nicknames...

So ******* didn't do his homework yesterday. Ok fair enough. So I told him (not asked) him to do it during break time. He looked at me and said NO!....little bastard! So I told him one more time....again NO! Well then I got pissed. I opened the door and said
"Ok ******** you can either do your homework in playtime OR you can go to the office and sit there during playtime...it's your choice"
I could see his little brain thinking over his options. He apparently decided that he was going to draw a line in the sand and call my bluff.

SO after giving him one minute to decide....I said "Ok you made your choice, I closed the door and wrote a note to his parents in his book (they have a book that I must sign everyday and their parents must sign too. Normally I just sign and don't write anything about their behavior, but this time he pushed me too far)....I wrote a nice little note to his parents saying he wouldn't do his homework when I asked him. The rest of the class everyone was real quiet. Probably shocked because I've never written to any of their parents about their bad behavior before....

But seriously I can't let him blatantly disobey me in front of the entire class....there'd be complete anarchy. I feel bad about being mean, but I have to sometimes.

Don't mess with the bull young man.......you'll get the horns.

-Brian

Monday, November 17, 2008

5 months!!

Happy anniversary to me! It's offically been 5 months since I've been in Taiwan. It's really crazy to think about how long its been. I feel like its been a few phases. The first month just straight panic and terrifying feelings of not finding a job, not knowing anyone, not knowing how to eat. Then the next two months were a lot of parties with some good friends, a lot of going to clubs and spending way too much money. Now I've got a rountine with my jobs, and with my teaching. I've made a few good friends and have gotten more serious about volunteering for human rights groups, and studying Chinese. Last night I went to a night market where I went when I first got here, except the first time I went all by myself, was scared, got lost ate some terrible food. This time things were much different. I like going to places where I went when I was fresh off the boat and seeing them in a whole new way.

Friday, teaching my kid's class and Saturday teaching my adults....both were completely glitch free. I joked with the adults and (this was amazing) got them to feel so comfortable that they were able to talk without feeling nervous! And my 11 year old students and I played a variation on Battleship that was a huge hit! All of them were into it and for the first time I could remember not complaining at all!
That being said teaching English is sometimes mind-numbing and really annoying. My vocabulary is going down, I speak too slow now. If I do this for more than a year or two I feel I'd go crazy....
Anyway..
I feel comfortable here. I think back to arriving here, knowing no one, having no job prospects and literally speaking no Chinese.....now things are different. I feel a great sense of success and achievement. I know it's cliche, but I can take on any other challenge now...I just gotta find one that is more stimulating and rewarding than this one.....any ideas?

Here are two interesting news articles...the first about an increase in study abroad programs, (If I was smart I would have gone abroad in College, guess I'm kind of doing that now) and the second about the current situation with the former president of Taiwan:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/education/17exchange.html?ref=education

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/world/asia/17taiwan.html?ref=world


Brian

Friday, November 14, 2008

And you thought Bush was bad...

Former President of Taiwan Chen Shui-Bian after he was arrested on corruption charges a fe days ago. He was the president from 2000 to 2008...seems like a bad guy. Apparently his wife and son and son-in-law are also in trouble for money laundering and short-selling stocks to turn a quick profit. Allegedly he took tons of money from tax payers. There are two main parties here in Taiwan, Chen's favors complete independence, while the current president, President Ma (or Mr. Ma depending on what side of the Taiwan strait you're from) favors more cooperation with China....it's all very complicated yet really interesting stuff. The newspapers have detailed drawings about what his cell looks like, and how he is being handled. He seems like a pretty despicable guy from what I gather....
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/world/asia/12taiwan.html?scp=5&sq=taiwan&st=cse

but then again at least he didn't bring his country into a quagmire of a war like our good friend Bush.

But apparently Chen is not too happy about being locked up, handcuffed and humiliated......I like how the BBC says 'hunger strike' and uses quotations...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7726239.stm


Anyway there are protests about his detention by supporters. There are a lot of protests and demonstrations here. My Taiwanese friend said no one really takes them seriously and it's just an excuse to meet up with people and everyone goes out afterwards and has some drinks. That's my kind of activism

Speaking of the war, the Iraq War is ....well ....its over! (well sort of)
too bad this was just a hoax and not a real news story:
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2008/11/14/2003428593

There was also a story about two bloggers who posed as a McCain adviser, and put out all these quotes about Palin. The sad thing is that some reputable news agencies (like the LA Times) actually believed the story. Who knows what's true or not anymore with all these bloggers writing about whatever they want. I promise all of my blog entries are all true. Or maybe my whole trip is just an elaborate hoax to prove how ridiculous blogging is.....I guess you'll never really know.

Brian

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm old

One of my students was playing with this little toy all class. Keep in mind they are about 11 years old. I told him to put it away and do his work about 3 times. Then, and God help me for this one, after he continued to disobey me I said....and even though I'm 24 years old, I have never felt like more of a "grown-up" until I uttered this disdainful phrase....

"Put it away or I'll take it away"

ugh! I'm such a square. I hated teachers who said that. I was always the one who just wanted to play with a toy or doodle in the back of the class...I hate myself for becoming a responsible adult...
I find myself saying things to my students that I hated when other teachers said it to me ...things like "Oh, are you a teacher?" OR "I guess he wants to do more homework"

argh I hate being mature and responsible...
I'm old.


Now spit out your gum before you come to class and NO running,
-Teacher Brian

Monday, November 10, 2008

OBAMA!!


(Taiwanese Newspaper about a little election we had back in the states)


Well I feel like a pretty shitty Political Science major. Here it's been almost a week and I haven't mentioned the election or Obama yet. I guess lately I've been more focused on my English degree. But the election was all over the news here, some of my adult students wanted to talk about it. Obviously I'm really happy with the outcome. I'm very proud of America, proud that my countrymen saw through the rhetoric, through the viciousness and condescending Republican campaign. It's a good indicator of where the country wants to go after 8 years of repeated failed policies that made us a laughing stock amongst most nations. Americans, especially younger people have made it clear that the Bush doctrine is not the direction we want this country to go in. I give the American voters credit for showing some genuine intellegence and sound judgment after 8 years of poor political decisions. It truly is inspiring stuff. I read an article in the Times where they interviewed junior High schoolers in Bed Stuy and some of their responses brought tears to my eyes. It's truly remarkable that an entire generation of young people will grow up knowing that anyone, can grow up to do great things and inspire those around them. They interviewed one kid and he said he hoped to be the first Latino president now. Remarkable. When I found out Obama won I was actually teary-eyed. I wish I was back in the states to really share that historic day with all my family and friends.
On a personal level, I felt that this restored my hope in the political process. Bush I; the first president I was cognizant of... had his Persian Gulf war, Clinton, wasn't inspiring but more of a sideshow. And then Bush trampled on whatever hope I had for the country by routinely destroying Americans' rights, reputation abroad and dismantling any credibility we may have built up after the end of the Cold War. Obama gives me hope (Iknow that word is used ad nauseaum but still) in the future of this country, and hope that my children won't be embroiled in a long war, or maybe just maybe they can have some semblance of adequate health care like the rest of the industrialized world. It's fantastic reading reactions from other people abroad. Most see this as a new step. Hopefully (there's that word again) this will reduce the animosity of other governments, and especially reduce it among non-government actors. It really has inspired me...I've been struggling as of late in terms of a career, and I know I need to do something that has a positive impact on some segment of society, if I do a job that doesn't help the less fortunate, I fell like I'd be wasting my talents. Seeing Obama inspire so many people makes me believe that I can make a difference, somehow and someway in the lives of people who are not as privileged as I am. And trying to figure out the best way to use my skills to achieve this is what I'm currently grappling with. The world needs hope, it needs inspiration and last week we found it. Let's just hope that unlike most other politicians, Obama follows through on his promises of hope and change because to be frank, I can't stomach another letdown in the political sphere. I think he will keep those campaign promises...at least I hope so....

The reaction in Taiwan has been mostly positive. My students and other Taiwanese friends have all spoken fondly of Obama. There were a few who believed that McCain would be a better choice simply because he would be more assertive and stand up to China in regards to Taiwan; but most saw Obama as everything Bush was not. I was really taken aback when I heard one of my students and another Taiwanese friend of mine suggest that McCain's campaign may try to "take out" Obama...there was the assumption here, I guess because the former president of Taiwan was so corrupt, that something like that would happen. I really was angry at the idea of it....it was insulting. Anyway the reaction in Taiwan has been great. I was able to buy a Taiwanese newspaper with Obama on the cover. I think I will hold on to that; to show my grandkids one day about this historic, inspiring and hopeful day.

In other big news, last night was the first night since I got to Taiwan that I didn't need to use my A/C!!! YES! It's only mid November and it's already snowing in NY, but it's still been hot here until today. It's funny how all the Taiwanese people have on there like winter coats, scarves, and NorthFace down jackets now. It's probably 65 degrees. I was walking around in a long sleeve button up shirt, and was still sweating. But I saw this girl wearing a down jacket, scarf and UGG boots and she still looked cold......... To each his own I guess...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taroko Marathon

Taroko Gorge marathon...was in a word...INTENSE! I'll write a proper synopsis of it tomorrow, but for now I'm too tired and too lazy to fully describe all the feelings, emotions, challenges and craziness of the marathon. But long story short, the first 13 miles went from sea level to 550 meters, they were the most intense 13 miles I've run....plus the gorge was incredible; giant cliffs, waterfalls, gigantic pieces of granite rock strewn about in the river bed. Plus it was 80 degrees when I hit my wall around mile 18. Anyway as I said a proper post is forthcoming. Even though my time was terrible (to get a feeling of how slow I was going, a man ran the race with his huskie tied to a leash, and both of them still kicked my ass in the race. When I finished the race, to just rub salt in my wound, the dog had the marathoner's finishing medal around his neck. Arrogant Huskie!) BUT that being said it was a challenging , crazy surreal experience. Every marathoner can tell you tales about their race, when they hit their wall, what challenges they faced, and at times it can be a little boring , even redundant but there's a reason why so many people have done these kinds of things.....it feels good to overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge. What's an even better feeling is having some cool photos to show it....

As I said I'll write more about the details of the race but here are a few pics...check out for all the pictures:
http://picasaweb.google.com/brian.viani

Pre Dawn Line up for the buses..


Getting ready to run




Start line


There was a lot of running through caves/ tunnels and other pitch black crevasses:



Mile 8 or so...winding in and out of caves, with a sheer drop of 200 or so feet below and insane cliffs above. After a few meters the caves opened up to this spectacular sight:



I didn't take any pictures on the course after mile 10 because I was focused on not dying. But the rest of the course was just, if not more spectacular than the first 10 miles....

FINISHED! (Abysmal time though)



Post race exhaustion, coupled with disappointment at losing to a guy running with his huskie, and uber-disappointment at the food they gave me after the race. Instead of a bagel and maybe some apples, I got fried rice, a boiled egg and some mysterious Taiwanese meat....not a good combo after running 26.2 miles in 80 degree weather.





Was a great experience will write more about it after I get some much needed rest tonight....
The bigger the challenge the bigger the reward...and this was a pretty big challenge!

Keep on truckin'
Brian

Friday, October 31, 2008

haulein Halloween (I'm a sucker for some fun alliteration)

Happy Halloween! This year unfortunately I won't be able to go out and celebrate / get rowdy like I normally do. There are tons of cool parties here tomorrow night, but I will spending the night on a 2 hour train ride to Haulien. Haulien is about 3 hours from Taipei on the Eastern part of the island. Supposedly it's beautiful, majestic, awe-inspiring etc. It'll be my first serious trip outside of Taipei since I've gotten here which to be perfectly honest is pretty disappointing. My schools here have a very strict mindset when it comes to work...I had given notice literally the day I got the job that on November 1st I would not be able to work. They seemed understanding at the time. But then last week, even though they knew why I needed the day off, and with all the advanced notice, my boss asked me: "do you think you can make it back in time to teach your class on Saturday? (my class starts at 12) because we can't find a replacement teacher for you. If you can't make it back to teach your 12 o'clock class, can you make the one that starts at three?"

Really? Sure yea, I'm just running a marathon, three hours away at 7am. BUT I'm sure I can make it back in time and would be willing to show up, sweaty, exhausted, probably delirious, to teach a class. How does that make any sense? Just the audacity to ask me to come back after running a marathon to teach is indicative of the work environment at my adult school. Lately I've felt less and less respected (if I even was to begin with). What they do is tell students that I will teach a class at so-and so time. Then students sign up, and when the class is all filled up, then and only then do they tell me I have a class to teach. The conversation goes something like this:
Boss "ummm hi Brian, How are you? (feigned interest in my life)...um are you free to teach a class on Wednesday from 830 to 10?"
Me "well I'm not sure, because I work till ten every other night of the week, and I'm already working 14 or so hours here. Between this and my kid's school I'm a little busy. Plus I'm only supposed to work 30 hours anyway. And I really need that time to study Chinese."
Boss: "ohhhh well actually we already have students signed up for the class. It's filled up.... and welll......they would be disappointed if you didn't teach it. Is there any possible way you can do it? Because like I said the class is already filled up, and they think you're going to be their teacher."
Me "well I wish you would've told me earlier. I mean like I said I had no idea about the class. I just don't know. Can I think about it and let you know?
Boss: "sure but it would really help us out if you could do it....I know you're a good teacher (lies) so I wouldn't want to be disappointed...so I'll pray that you will do it"

etc etc and so forth...just a little disrespectful I guess. It's very passive aggressive. Like instead of telling me in person if something is wrong, I'll get a little note on my time card saying : your new class starts Friday. Can you prepare for it. Thanks. Meanwhile my boss sits right in front of the time card machine and could easily jsut tell me....Also because they couldn't find a replacement for my Saturday class, they wanted ME to tell the class that I had to cancel the class. So instead of the school looking bad, I am the one "losing face"...I played it off good though I told my class "I made a commitment months ago, but the school couldn't find a replacement so THEY decided to cancel the class. I'm sorry but if there's any problem you can ask THEM why the class is canceled."
I mean I've got my pride too....I'm no chump.

Before I came here I heard that a big thing here was the idea of "saving Face"...I've mentioned it before, that one of the worst things to do is to lose face; hence the passive aggressiveness of my bosses. I'm the one who ends up looking bad, not the school. I'm the one at fault. I've found that in my other interactions here as well. But a big part of being a responsible adult is admitting mistakes, I think it takes a certain amount of pride to concede that you're at fault....and if something is bothering you, you gotta confront someone about it. I mean what kind of NYer would I be (or what kind of a man for that matter) if I backed down from confrontations or failed to confront someone straight forwardly?.
..just wish I'd get treated more like an intelligent employee, rather than a "foreigner" Anyway more on the issue of constantly being called a "foreigner" at another time...

Point is ...I'm headed to Haulien for Halloween. Running a marathon in Taroko Gorge there at 7am tomorrow morning...and hopefully getting back to Taipei Saturday night. Seeing as how this is one of the only saturdays I'll be off, I plan on making the best of it for sure...but the weather is supposed to be T-storms and 80 something degrees...sweet

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wow I've been here a long time...almost 5 months...pretty crazy

Everything's been good, had a little fiesta at my apartment the other day, between me and my roommate we were able to get about 35 people to show up, it was pretty fun. Surprised by how many people showed up, a lot of Expats, random foreigners, a bunch of Taiwanese friends....it was quite the montley crue. Planning another one around Thanksgiving or Christmas time...

Found out my Dad and sister and brother are gonna come to visit. I'm excited it'll be awesome to see people I'm so close to...I really want to show them a good time.

In other news, I've got the marathon coming up on November 1st, in Taroko Gorge. The one I ran last year was painful, brutal, absolutely challenging; but that was also after intense training. This one I'm not feeling too confident. I've been lazy in my training and to be honest Taipei's weather and unfriendly (to pedestrians) sidewalks make training and those long runs really tough to deal with. I'm skeptical about how well I'll do in the race, plus it's in a gorge so the course will be much more hilly than Philly....anyway I'll see how it goes, but I'm not feeling too optimistic about finishing in a respectable time.

Gonna sign up for Chinese classes next week. Enough is enough, knowing how to say "eat shit" and "f--- you mother" in Chinese can only get a person so far here...

Monday, September 29, 2008

typhoon ho!

So there's been a serious Typhoon here the past few days, for some reason the last typhoons to come were all on the weekends. It sucks. This one apparently was the strongest of the year, they said in the newspaper that it was equal to a class 5 hurricane. It felt like it too! All day today and Sunday, we were just stuck inside. I ventured out a few times to pick up food and go to Blockbuster, but almost got blown away in the process. Good news though was that all of my classes for today got canceled! It's great...so far there's been about 4 days when I've gotten off from work because of Typhoons. The problem is that I can't really do much (me and my roommate were planning a nice long hike yesterday but that got canceled quick), except sit inside and watch DVDs. ....its a little boring. But it beats roughing it in the streets of Taipei, my roommate showed me this video from the BBC....here's the storm in all it's glory. Enjoy!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7640809.stm

Friday, September 26, 2008

No news is good news

My posts have been sporadic, for that I apologize...been pretty busy lately. Work is going great...I've got a good report with all my classes. There's this one Adult English class that has great energy and is a lot of fun. There are twenty students in the class and maybe 17 of them are girls between the ages of 20-25, but these girls are sooo painfully shy. I've noticed in Taiwan that people don't like to talk in front of a big group. Only the most outgoing students will begin to talk. I try breaking the ice by telling embarrassing stories about myself. For example last week we were talking about relationships, and parents and stuff...so I brought in an embarassing picture of me as a 3 year old wearing a red bow tie and black and white shoes, and blue shorts. I brought questions for tehm to answer and one was "Would you raise your children like your parents raised you?" So I said I would NEVER dress my kid like that. They all laughed and enjoyed it but still wouldn't talk by themselves in the large class.
I try to infuse all of my lessons with humor, I think teaching is great because you have the freedom to bring your own personality into your workplace everyday, and for me using humor just comes naturally, I find in my adult conversation classes a bit of self deprication helps the students feel more comfortable..........sometimes though its still hard to get them to speak. But when we have a good funny class going on it's great. I don't follow the book the school gives me but I think they still learn and as long as they have a good time....that's all that really matters..

I'm always happy, and hope my students can be as well!

As I said went stream racing last weekend so much fun. That's what life should be about...nature, challenges, the company of good friends; I plan on doing things like that more often here.
I'm getting close to the Marathon, November 1st, my training hasn't been as intense as it should be. I'm actually a little nervous about finishing it. I gotta up my mileage before the big race. I know once I get out on the course, no matter how tough it is I'll finish it....but still gotta put in some solid 15 milers before then...this next week will be training training training....

Watching the economic downturn is a bit unnerving, I think I left just in time.
Gonna go hiking this weekend with my roommate and maybe some other friends.....probably all day Sunday, it sucks that I really only have one day of free time to chill and hang out on Sunday. I talk to other teachers who have been here a few years and their weekends are so boring. I can't imagine not making the most of every minute of free time...cliche as it is life is too short, I've learned it can be gone in an instant.....that's why I always think I have a great out look and tons of energy.....I plan on taking what I've learned here and translating it to my life whenever I get back to NYC.
My parents and sister and brother were talking about coming here over Christmas, I hope they can make it out, it'll be my first Christmas away from family so it'd be good to have some semblance of my old life here!

brian

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

stream racing

Been a while since the last post...just been super busy as of late. But everything's goign well, getting into a groove teaching wise, meeting and hanging out with some new and cool people....

Sunday I went on this crazy stream racing trip in Wu Lai, not too far from Taipei, we basically climbed UP the rapids in this river and then did some crazy jumps off 4 story bridges into the river...anyway will write more about it later but for those interested or very bored at work I updated my picasaweb photos:

http://picasaweb.google.com/brian.viani

Enjoy!

Friday, September 5, 2008

A wee bit Nostalgic...

I don't care how old you are, getting a letter from you're grandfather when you are halfway around world, will always make you feel warm. Plus I also got a care package from my parents....
it included A new Pair of Asics running shoes, Some running socks, a letter from Stuyvesant Alumni association and some newspapers from NY
Even though it wasn't much it still made me think a little about home...
I miss my family and friends a bit. They say that when you move abroad the third month is usually the toughest, things aren't new anymore, the first two months maybe u get to try all these new things, explore a whole new city, meet tons of new people, there's an excitment, an electricity to it....it's enthralling, and thrilling....
BUT after about that time, you do all the touristy things, you've tried all the food, maybe u have been to all the cool places...the things that were once exciting and fresh slowly begin to morph into normal, even mundane events. For instance I thought that getting milk tea at the local stand on my corner every morning was great. Now it's just what I do in the morning- I get some milk tea. I have a rhythm, I take the same bus to class everyday...teach the same lessons to the kids and adults.... maybe the lack of food or language is starting to get under my skin....

I agree with this assessment about the third month being a bit more slow and not as exciting. And it just so happens that the third month also corresponds with September, it's a tough time for my family and pretty much all of my friends back in NY; so this only compounds the situation..
There's no need to get into details on this blog, but sufficient to say, this time of the year is always very difficult for most of the people I'm close with....for varying reasons, but it's especially tough for my family...
I have been thinking more about people back home recently. Being so far away from them all makes me feel as though I've been terribly selfish, coming here like this; on a whim almost. Especially because we're all so close. Luckily I've been busy with work as of late so my mind has been kept occupied. Anyway it's not all karoke bars, crazy adventures, and night markets...moving abroad all by myself, with no language abilities and no family near by is a daunting task for sure. The good has been outweighing the bad as of late, but there are occasional bouts of homesickness....and interestingly enough I usually find that they follow really incredible, fun, adventurous, or exciting times.... Not sure if that's a normal reaction or if it says something about my psychological make-up, but I do find that I feel little bouts of homesickness after usually having an awesome night/day or whatever....not sure why. I'll look into the research about it. Try to figure that out...

I know I paint a pretty rosy picture of this adventure, but sometimes its soooo challenging I really don't know how to deal with it..... Just have to tough it out. There are worse things than homesickness.
I do enjoy getting letters so if anyone is bored and wants to spend 70 cents...write me a letter:
Brian Viani
South Fuxing Road, Section 2, Lane 148,
Apartment # 37 4th Floor,
Taipei Taiwan (Republic of China)


Also... since I've been here a while I think I use less contractions...is that strange? I think just talking people who don't speak English pretty much 24/7, I have to slow down how I speak so that people will understand me...one way I do this is by not using contractions...but then I sound ridiculous...
I love contractions...gotta get them back in my life...I'm gonna get eaten alive back in NY without contractions. I'll never get anything done.

-Brian

Friday, August 29, 2008

eh....

So it has been a while yet again since I've posted. It's tough keeping track of who knows what I'm doing from back home at any given time...so many mediums to talk to people (facebook, AIM, gchat, email, skype blah blah blah) But anyway I have been really busy lately. First off I do want to say that I got my ARC card and my health insurance!!!!
It's great. I'm legal and the best part is even as a FOREIGN teacher, I get full health insurance from the Taiwanese government! It's unbelievable considering my own country does not even give me any health insurance. And here I am just three months in Taiwan and I get full coverage. Basically if I am sick, all I have to do is bring my health insurance card to the Hospital, pay a fee of about 100 NT or like 3 dollars and I am fully covered. It really is pathetic how primitive our health system is in the US. It's pathetic. really pathetic. If I were in the states, I'd have no insurance at all...in fact as a anecdote....
Right after I graduated from Bing, I got my job at the law firm in January...but before my insurance from that job kicked in, there was a month when I didn't have insurance. My insurance when I was a student expired when I graduated (December of 2006) and my new insurance wasn't to kick in until a month into my job at the law firm (February 2007)....so low and behold due to all the running I do, my knee starts hurting a lot! I'm not one to complain about pain so I put it off as long as I could, but it becomes unbearable....
I go to the ER because I don't have insurance, and the doctor literally moves my knee around, no xrays, nothing else .......... and tells me I have to wear a brace to fix my tendons that I hurt due to over use fine, that seems simple enough...

the fee.....a mere $1,400. Thanks assholes. So I have to pay that off .......because the US government doesn't believe in universal health care. ........fast forward to the summer of 2008....and I am fully covered, fully insured, have to only pay 3 dollars for a doctor's consultation (which by the way, will get reimbursed by the school where I work ) for whatever is wrong with me, in a country where I'm not a citizen, and have only lived for 3 months......whereas my native country won't pay for ANY health problems I may have......the US health care system is disgraceful....I mean any country in the world has a better health care system then America does (I've stopped using 'we' to discuss the US for obvious reasons)...........anyway I hope Obama can help change it, but I remain skeptical. Despite my hope for universal health care I don't think we'll see it in our lifetime...maybe my grand kids will be lucky enough to get it......

ANYWAY in other news....
So I've been subbing for this class at my kids' school with 4 8 year olds in it...the problem with the class is that there are only 4 kids in it, and the amount of work our director assigns is not enough to fill up the entire 2.5 hours. To be honest 2.5 hours with 4 eight year olds is a tough thing to do. I basically have to follow the curriculum but after that...it's all up to me and I have freedom to do what I want. The problem is that the assigned work is literally like 2 or 3 pages per 3 hour session so with 4 kids I finish that in a heartbeat. I needed to do something else to keep them busy yesterday and we were doing this reading and they had a part where the kids had to put the right endings on each word............so the question would be TEN __________ with NT or TA as a choice(the answer is NT)....
One question had the word Chimney .......so the questions was CHIMN____ with EY or AR as choices

So one kid said "I know, the answer is Chimnar." The rest of the class said "NOOOOOOO it's CHIMNEY" ................And I thought "I know how to kil some time"

so without any planning I asked them to imagine what a chimnar was. I said I think a Chimnar is some kind of monster...tehy caught right on..."Yea it sounds like one" I think It's hairy" "No it's a fish"
I asked them to each come up to the board and try and draw what they thought a chimnar looked like on the board. They all drew some kind of crazy monster. One kid drew it with three heads, and octopus legs. Another (which I thought was what a real chimnar would look like) drew a hairy Bigfoot like animal with one eye and wings and fangs....then I asked them to write a story about their chimnar,
where he lived,
what he ate,
who his friends were,
what made him angry
.....and before I knew it these kids were all quiet, calm and actually thinking (shocking ) about what to write. And the stories were great !!! I made sure they used proper grammar and what have you....but some had their Chimnars fighting demons and living in the ocean. It was fantastic...they were learning, having fun, and best of all it was completely unplanned! I really felt like an actual teacher...

But today, I had more time to kill, so I decided to play a game with them. This game was a favorite of other classes....I write the vocab words,with the letters all mixed up and there are two teams. One person from each team has to run to the board and try and unscramble the letters to make the vocab word.
Innocent fun right?
Well it turned into a bloody mess. There were two teams, I put the two smartest kids on separate teams to make it fair. But this poor kid Klee (Pronounced Clay and the one who drew the scary looking, one eyed chimnar) isn't a very strong student.

So he could never unscramble the word fast enough. After two times he sat down in the corner and sulked....then he started to cry! I felt terrible. He then packed up his bag and tried to leave and go home....saying between sobs, "I wa wa wa want to go home"
I felt awful...
SO I walked with him outside and tried to convince him to come back...but he wanted to go home (he had his book bag on and everything!) So I told him if "you go home I'll cry because you're my best student" He then laughed and said "But teacher's don't cry" I said "I know it would be the first time I did" He laughed, came back in the classroom and was happy to go on with the lesson....

I have no idea how to handle a situation like that....It may have been all wrong but I felt so bad for the kid, and didn't know what else I should have done...anyway I guess the main point is that this is sooooo hard sometimes, living here, teaching 8 year olds without ANY training. I just hope I can make it through a year. But that's what I came here for right?

OHHHH also signed up for my absentee ballot it should arrive in Taipei in September!! We can't afford not to vote,
Brian

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I miss poppy seed bagels with cream cheese (not toasted); and when I say cream cheese I mean CREAM CHEESE; where the kind workers are very liberal with their cream cheese dispersement......to the point where the hole in the bagel is completely filled-up with cream cheese, the more cream cheese the better!
I miss bagels from the following places in order of tastiest bagels (They have bagels here in 7-11 but they are cheese flavored! Not quite the same)
Anyway this list is open to debate, but these are my personal favs:

Brooklyn Bagel Factory (Astoria, Queens, NY)
Myrtle Bagels, Inc. (Glendale, Queens, NY)
H & H Bagels (various locations in New York, NY)
Emmons Bagels (Sheapshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY)

As an aside, I would give my left foot for some Roll 'n' Roaster (Sheepshead Bay)- google it if you must. and Carrotcake from LLoyds Carrot Cake (located in the Bronx, across the street from Van Cortland Park, North of the Burger King.......... again google it if you must, but if you haven't eaten there before, I'm sorry)

that is all,
Brian
that is all...
Brian

Sunday, August 10, 2008

teaching karoke, etc.

Ok so it's been over two weeks since my last post. I apologize, been really busy mostly with teaching but also with going out and having fun. Just to let you all know I survived the typhoon (obviously) it wasn't too bad, just really rainy and windy. It's crazy rain though...it'll be sunny as can be and pouring. So strange. School was canceled which was great and I started teaching the little 6 year olds.
So because it's been so long, a lot's been going on, mostly fun stuff. Cause it's boring to write about all of it, I'm gonna break it down into a few posts.
I'll talk about teaching in this one,
Homesickness in the next one
and a crazy night at this great Karoke place called KTV (with pictures :)) in the post after that, but that time it'll be the weekend and since I'm planning on heading down to the east cost the weekend of the 16th, to try my hand at surfing, these three posts should segway nicely into whatever I do down there...

TEACHING
Even though I've only been here two or so months now (man is time really flying), I feel I've grown a lot in many ways, but I think I've learned more from teaching and how to be a better teacher in that time. I've taught all ranges and ages and I can honestly say each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
(I'll go in reverse age order to make it interesting)
TOEFL: The advantages of TOEFL are that these kids or adults have a very specific purpose for why they want to learn English. Also you really feel like you are helping them achieve an important goal, studying in the US, for most of them, has been a dream since they were very young. It does feel good to help them accomplish something like that. Also they are obviously well behaved because the course costs a ton of money.
The disadvantage: They are very serious, I can't joke or laugh with them. Also many of them do know the rules of grammar better than me. There is also a serious gap in the language abilities. Some have near perfect English and only really need to learn more vocabulary, while others can barely understand me. It's tough finding the middle ground.

Adult Conversation Class: Advantage: It's actually a lot of fun. I can just talk to them about anything, and really let my personality come through. I can joke or tell stories, or better yet listen to them tell stories. Plus I think they enjoy learning from each other, most of them are my age....... give or take a year or two, and I really have a good time getting them to talk with each other or about themselves.
Disadvantage: It's sometimes difficult to illicit responses from them. Many are shy. One class I went around the room asking them to explain something about themselves and this girl said I am Wendy, I'm 23 and very nervous. That's terrible she should be relaxed. So I try my best to make it less formal and have them talk together.

11 Year Olds: Advantage: They are not teenagers. And do I do not have to deal with all that being a teenager brings with it. Also when they ACTUALLY want to do work, I feel they are learning the most out of all my classes. And they still have fun and enjoy games. Also there is no real discipline issue, I just add more homework and they shut up, or sit down, or whatever.
Disadvantage: They hate English. And resist at every point. But that's ok they are kids.

Now my biggest challenge: 6 to 7 year olds.
I'm gonna talk about them a lot because even though I've only been subbing for them for about 2 weeks (tomorrow is my last day with them :( ) I think they are the most challenging but also most rewarding class.
Advantages: They are really cute, and fun. And most surprising of all have really strong English skills. And if I give them work, even if it's just coloring or writing their name, they do it very quietly until it's finished. They still respect teachers and adults so when there is work to do they do it.
Disadvantages: Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. Like I said everything is fine when they are doing their work but as soon as one is finished, or two, there is complete chaos. They run around, scream, yell, hit each other. I have to deal with fights, stolen pencils, biting, scratching, hair pulling, fighting over sharing a desk, jumping up and down for no reason (one kid loves to crawl backwards on the floor when I call on him to come to the front to read his homework), crying, standing on chairs, everything......even peeing, and pooping.
(I had one girl raising her hand like she really had something very important to tell me. I thought she was going to give me an amazing sentence with the spelling word NET. She had her hand raised shouting "teacher teachaaaa! Teacher!" So I went over there and said "yes Joanne waht is it?" " Teacher I have to poop" haha "well you may go to the bathroom")

There is always someone who takes someone's eraser. I swear I hear "Teacher before Tommy took my eraser" or "before Tommy was speaking Chinese" at least 50 times a day (and to be fair most of the time it is this trouble-maker Tommy starting the 6 year-old proletarian revolt in my class). People talk a lot about fear, and being nervous but for walking into a room full of 13 six-year olds, after they have been on a field trip, and had "cookies and ice cream" is almost enough to make me want to hop on the next plane and go back in a cubicle. It's scary stuff.

BUT and this is a big BUT....it really is a great experience teaching little kids like that, even though it is really really tough. There are a few stories that make it fun and really make me feel good despite the anarchy.

First of all I do have a Chinese teaching assistant, and she has the discipline thing down....just stares at the kids and they sit down and behave. I mean even I shut up when she does it. She said that's all I need to be a good disciplinarian; an evil eye stare
....I try working on my evil eye stare, but I'm not mean enough, and it never works....I practice and I think it is gettign better. All the Chinese assistants say "you're too nice you're too nice" (haha the story of my life). But I did need to do something about the discipline because it was a zoo in there, like a zoo where all the animals escaped and had access to whatever they wanted. Really was disrupting the class...
So what I did was I divided the class into two teams. One team has two boys who cause trouble and the other team had the other trouble-making boy (the three of them cause 90% of the anarchy in the class, once they were all outside and it was eerily quiet in the classroom). I put 100 points on the board for each team, and told them I'd take away points from the team that misbehaves. That got them quiet for sure. By the end of the first day I'd taken away at least ten points from each. All the other kids started self policing the trouble makers so they don't lose points. "Shhhhh be quiet Tommy Teacher will take away points" It works pretty well. They hate getting points taken away.

The only serious problem I had was somehow this girl brought in this little pocket knife to class. I saw her and another boy playing with it. I ran over to take it away and got cut on the finger as I went to grab it..... a little cut but still the class got really quiet. Because I was bleeding, and they were probably worried I would maybe flip out or get really mad..... I took the two outside and let the Chinese assistants deal with them, they came back and said sorry, and I can tell they really were...I said it's ok just an accident BUT, I said ....."you see what happens when we don't do what we're supposed to?"And they've been better since then.....all I know is it's better I got cut than they did.

But there are good parts too........For instance, this one girl is so cute. Everyday I have to sign their notebooks and she always says "teacher... oh... your name it is soooo ugly" Or one time "teacher you are so slow.... you are a turtle" or when I told her I was 24 she said " That's older than my grandpa"
A girl was writing very small one time and her partner who shares the desk said "you write so small...you are an ant" (at least her grammar was good).

Probably the funniest was a kid sneezed, and his nose started bleeding, so I ran over with a tissue and as I'm helping out the door to the bathroom he says " My mom says this happens when I put my finger in my nose too much" (ala Ralph Wiggum). haha.

But I think the thing that made it all worth it was on Friday, we played a game. I drew a bullseye on the board, a giant one. In the middle I put 10 points, then 5, then 1, then MINUS 1....then; and this got the whole class excited; minus 10. Then (and at this point I'm all the way across the board) -20. And the whole class went nuts....

I had a sucktion cup ball that sticks, and there were two teams (the Ninjas against team Lion King, they're idea for names). So each student would stand about 5 feet from the board, one at a time and if they spell a spelling word correctly, they get to throw the ball at the bullseye. They loved it. Of course I stood right near them and helped them spell the word right if they were stuck, so they didn't feel bad. And I gave the shyer kids more throws and more encouragement. It was a lot of fun, one poor girl couldn't throw strong enough to make the ball stick on the target, but she finally did and hit the bullseye (actually it was on the line but I gave her the points). And one kid threw the ball straight up and it stuck about 15 ft. in the air...haha they loved that. To be fair though the Chinese teacher and I were also laughing pretty hard. The kid was 5 feet from the bullseye and threw it 15 feet in the air haha.....

For anyone interested, it was neck and neck the whole way, but the shyest kid in the class, Alan....pulled off a bullseye with the last throw to carry team Lion King to an improbable victory! There was chaos and crazy celebrations in the snack room..

Anyway the best part was all the kids, shy, smart, outgoing, got a chance to play and spell the words. And I was surprised how even the slower students got the words right. It was very fulfilling knowing they were learning and having some fun.
Next blog: homesickness or insane Karoke night....not sure yet
(sorry for the length of this post)

Oh also want to say Congrats to Jared and Jenny on getting married and all the best! Their wedding was Saturday and it sucks that I couldn't make it. But Mazeltough! (sp?).

Cheers,
Brian

Sunday, July 27, 2008

high chance of typhoon...

So there's a typhoon going on now. It's hitting Taipei pretty hard today and supposed to be worse tomorrow. It's just a lot of wind and intense rain. But people don't seem to be phased by it at all. The good thing too is that when the typhoon's get too bad here, the government shuts down all the businesses and stuff. So no work for me at either school tomorrow! But to be honest, the weather today, before it hit, was actually really nice....I went out for a loooong run and because it was so windy it was actually pretty cool. Apparently a lot of hardcore surfers go out surfing right before the typhoon hits and the waves are sick! Not gonna try that any time soon, don't worry everyone...I will go out on a board though, maybe next week when and if I head to the beach...

But it's good I have the day off. I teach my first TOEFL class on Tuesday and I still need to prepare a lot. This class is no joke I mean these people's grad school hopes are pinned on this test so I really want to put all the time in. Once again though my hours keep changing. It's really good, and so strange....I mean I came here June 14th....with nothing except 3 bulky suitcases, a BA in English, and the contact info for literally one person living in Taipei....

....now a little more than a month I am working for two schools, have a sick apartment, met some cool people and and having a really good time! It's so surreal...I hope I can look back on this as a great accomplishment to add to the proverbial mantle.

The teaching is really tough, but I did teach my first adult class on Thursday. I was a lot of fun. There were such a wide range of people, 30 something cocky business guy, 50 something house wife, high school kids...all with a wide range of English ability. I had them talking and jkoking with each other the whole time...it was very informal and frankly I think that's a better way to go...the less I talk the better. Also some guy in my class named hockey as his interest!! He told me a bout a league and stuff...think I might check it out next weekend...at least to get some old routines in my life again....

my new schedule for the adult school is:
Monday 730 - 930 One on one lessons,
Tuesday 7-10 TOEFL class ( the toughest one I think)
Thursday 7-10 TWO adult conversation classes back to back
Saturday ( like a month from now) TOEFL B (more advanced and ridiculously more challenging class to teach)....class from 12-3

in addition to my kid's class 430-620 M-F
It's a busy schedule but honestly, I'll be getting a lot of money for it and still be working only about 20 hours a week.
The saddest or greatest thing about this(I guess depending your perspective, personally I think it's a mixed blessing); is that with all these new hours I'll basically be making as much as I was as a paralegal! Only I'm paying a 1/3 in rent, 1/3 in food and most importantly 1/3 in beer and clubs. As an aside though the clubs and bars here play such OLD music. Seriously if I have to hear:
"Engine, engine Number 9
On the New York Transit Line
If my train goes off the track
Pick it up!
Pick it up!
Pick it up!"
....one more time....I think I may fly back to NY right then. And everyone gets so excited for it when it comes on...like it's brand new. Annoying...

Aside from that I'm just amazed that I've pulled this off...I'm still waiting for someone to call me out on my lack of experience or qualifications...


can I get a wha wha,
Brian

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

pictures pictures

Ok so while I procrastinate making up a test for my 11 year olds, and put -off my lesson plans for all my classes, I figured I'd post some more pics. My blog has been a bit too wordy as of late, plus I'm more of a visual learner anyway...so here are some pictures of my weekend trip to Hsin Chu. These are all at this very traditional market outside of the city itself...

Enjoy!!

This is by far one of my favorite pictures in all of Taiwan....
Poor writer of the hat didn't have a very good English teacher...see what happens when you don't want to learn grammar!!

If you can't read it, it says : "99%, The sunbonnet which can resist Ultraviolet Ray. This product can resist 99% ultraviolet irradation efficiently. It can trotect skins of face very much. It is a good idea to have it when you go out for a grip."
great...

Fan hat:



Guy playing some good tunes outside a 200 year old temple:


200 Hundred Year-old temple in Beipu:



I finally learned the proper things to do when I go into a temple:



Traditional Market, 1. Assorted meats and bugs 2. Spicy fish and anchovy dishes, which actually were really good 3. some random veggies I don't know and 3. old man with insane eyebrows...




Dinner at a night market type place back in Hsin-Chu...



Felicia sat down with a random family while we waited:


Our Beipu/Hsin-Chu tour guide, Micheal


Trying to eat/cut up these famous and delicious meatballs:


The aftermath of a great meal:


These giant beetles were on sale for 100 NT in the market (like 3 $ US)...almost bought one, but would be worried it would eat me while I slept...





They only come out 3 months during the year to mate....These two are trying to make the most of their time...felt bad for interrupting this private moment:


Eh when in Rome:


Joy, Felicia and Sophia (my boss) gave the beetles a try:



So did Andrew, 60 something years old, still teaching English, God bless him:


The whole Hsin-Chu weekend crew:



Alright that killed some time....time to make up a test for 11 year olds. I think I'm going to bring in a picture of that hat, to show what happens to people who don't pay attention during Grammar lessons.....

Peace
Brian

Monday, July 21, 2008

teach

Update time. This update will be a bit boring ...all about my teaching time so I'll just start it out by saying this weekend I ended FINALLY going to the beach here in Taiwan, ended up having a blast, just drinking beer and hanging out on this beautiful beach all the way in the North of Taiwan...at the end we had some awesome food at this little surfer restaurant on the beach, filled with Bob Marley kitch and surfing videos on the tv...the food was amazing too. The highlight was a Taiwanese girl we were with, who offered me sun TANNING spray saying "no you don't need it ....you're too white" haha it's sadly true...It was a great day, and looking forward to taking more little day trips like that in the future......but got me some color this weekend, despite my SPF 50 I am a little red....

Anyway teaching. As most of my family members are teachers. (my mom, uncle, 3 aunts, 3 cousins? ) I feel it's in my genes to teach. Surely I've spent enough Christmas dinners listening to teachers to know how to do it right; and also learning not to mess with the UFT
So my teaching breaks down like this:
M-F 450 to 620 I teach 11 year olds
Tuesday 830 - 10 I teach adult language conversation classes
Thursdays 7-10 I will be teaching TOEFL classes to prospective grad students
and Mondays from 730 -930 I'll be teaching a one-on-one conversation class...just me and the adult student ( I just found out about this today)

However so far I've only taught the kids. There are only 4 kids in my class, all 11 year olds...one of them is really smart, actually they all are really smart....but I guess this kid just tries a lot more and has really good pronunciation and reading abilities. Then there is another kid, quiest but does well on tests and activities, the third boy is not as strong a reader or writing as the other two and he is the one always nodding off, drawing on the desk, looking out the window....I think it's just because he doesn't understand what is going on. And then there is the only girl in the class who is really smart, but so painfully shy. I try to encourage her as much as I can and whenever we do an activity I always let her run it, like be the timer or score keeper....she loses her shyness then and I think likes bossing the boys around....I think they listen to her more than me haha

They are tough though, they're all eleven years old and it's the summer, at 5 o'clock and you know their parents are forcing them to go to school. Every class is a struggle to get them to read, to write to talk anything....I say ok time for writing "NOOOOOOOOOO Teacha, we don't want to" or "Ok today we're gonna learn about ...." "Noooooo teacha I don't wanna"
"can you make five sentences using the spelling word ?"
-"Yes (from the smart one)
-" OK go ahead let's hear them"
-"Ok Teacha: I don't know, I don't know I don't know I don't know I don't know"

Damn it, I fell for it again!

And forget anything related even remotely to grammar. They refuse to even pretend to be interested. The bad thing is though I have to stick to this curriculum the school gives me so I have to spend 2 hours a week on the dreaded grammar. poor kids. It's up to me to make it fun. I mean their job is to resist as much as possible.......and I don't or can't blame them for that.

But there are one or two (sad that it's only been that few ) moments of fun where you can tell that they are really enjoying and learning at the same time...I think if I can make it more than 50 % of the fun and learning.....less than 50% of NOOOOOOOOOO teachaaaaa!!!!
I will have succeeded (quick the last sentence....what verb form ? Don't know? well 11 year old Taiwanese kids have better grammar than you do)

ALSO another frustrating thing is that thanks to the NYC public school system, I have no idea about proper grammar and its usage. They honestly are so smart about that grammar stuff, they can tell me why to say use the Past perfect as opposed to the past perfect continuous (I challenge some of you college grads to take a look at their grammar book and see if you can get the answers right!)
Anyway its really challenging, by far the most difficult thing I'm doing here....I just hope I can reach them before the inspiration for learning is completely burnt out. I'd hate to be the teacher who made them hate English. I do believe a good teacher has to inspire, and that a truly great teacher will inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning... the old teach a man to fish addage..... BUt; then I think back to my teachers and there are only a handful out of the dozens I can say did that that is inspired rather than deflated
.....I hope I'm the former for these kids. I have to adjust and figure out ways to be inspiring to 11 year olds....
...Any helpful suggestions?

I start teaching the adults on Thursday, in conversation classes, then the one-on -one monday...then the big TOEFL class next Tuesday. The convo class I'm excited about, I can be myself, laugh and joke with them. And their paying for it so I want to make sure they get their money's worth. I think it will be fun...there's less pressure I just have to make sure they have fun and learn some new words.............. The TOEFL class isn't as bad as I thought. The book has all test tips so I think I should be ok. I have to put in a lot of effort though for sure...after all these guys are paying a lot of money ( we can all relate to the exorbitant costs of SAT prep, GRE prep, LSAT prep, MCAT prep, etc. ) and I want them to succeed, so I can't half-ass it and gotta really put in the effort.

Oh also I'm going to be subbing for another teacher at my kids school. He teaches a 6 year old class 2 hours a day. I'll sub for him, but only a week. I think I've got it all covered here. 6 year olds, 11 year olds, adults, high school kids (I taught them at the day camp), one-on-one tutoring, and test prep....am I missing anyone ?
A friend of mine said I'm like those guys in the old school movies, who balance all these spinning plates on each arm, a toe, another toe, their head. I think it's true I like to take on as many varying (vocab word for my kids today) and challenging opportunities as I can. I think that's why it took me 4.5 years to graduate....and why I keep prolonging grad school.....and why I'm restless in anyone place...after I've been there for a while.....I mean why focus on one area, when you can learn so much more by exploring all other fields? It's a big world full of knowledge why waste it learning only one thing?

Let's just hope I'm strong enough to keep all my plates spinning. I like metaphors.

ciao,
Brian

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Worst ....Blogger ....ever...

Alright I feel like a jerk. I haven't updated this in such a long time and it's probably been the most substantial time since I've been here. A lot has happened since the last post....started teaching for one, met some cool people, took a nice little weekend trip to Hsin Chu, have gotten settled into my apartment.....had my A/C break last sunday...got it fixed on Tuesday after two painfully hot days....A lot has been happening I've been sooooo busy preparing lessons and trying to prepare to teach these TOEFL and adults classes...
...oh also I got my ARC !!! or Alien Resident Card (Work Permit) It's good for a year and makes it official that I will be staying here for at least a year (unless I want to break my contract and pay the school 600 US, which being as cheap as I am, probably won't happen....

So there's a lot to write about and my fans have been clamoring for updates. Instead of writing about all that though (I swear more serious updates about each of those soon) I think I'll talk about another little oddity here in Taipei .............THE GARBAGE

So the garbage pick-up here is such an odd thing. When I first got to Taipei I would hear this song all the time Beethoven's "Fur Elise" faintly and all over the place. I mean liek I'd hear it waiting for the train, the bus all the time! Once I was going out to a bar with a friend of mine....I heard while we waited for the elevated MRT, then I swore I heard it when we got off...and IN the bar. I really thought I was losing my mind and that this living in Taipei thing was making me hear things that weren't there. So I was in HsinChu last weekend with some other teachers (more grizzled and experienced than I) when I heard that damn song again...

So I asked them what it was. They said "oh the garbage truck song? Yea that's the song the garbage truck plays when it's driving around. You'll definitely never think of that song the same way again after Taiwan."

Apparently here the garbage truck, just like Mr. Softee plays the song as it drives around picking up trash...the reason they play the song is to let people know they are coming because in Taipei you don't just put your trash on the sidewalk and then they pick it up....instead the truck will park in one area and you have to bring down the garbage and throw it in the truck yourself. This may seem convenient btu it's kind of frustrating....They pick up the garbage (at least by my apartment anyway) around 10 pm. And they only wait for about 10 minutes or so...
There have been many times so far when I've had a particularly stanky garbage I needed to take out...but didn't get home until around ten. I heard the song a few blocks away and had to run all sweaty, with all my teaching books....up to my apartment (4 floors) then grab the garbage and hustle back down to try and catch the trucks before they leave...most of the time I make it...but sometimes I'm left standing in the middle of the street, dripping in sweat, holding a bag of garbage while the truck drives of blasting Beethoven all the way. It is a pathetic sight....standing in the middle of the road holding a bag of garbage.......
What's even more sad is having then to walk back into your apartment carrying said bag of garbage....

It is pretty funny though one day I just was eating at this outdoor restaurant type place on my corner when the truck came....and just saw a panicky mass of Taiwanese people running from their apartments with trash bags........ in flip flops, or their pajamas to catch the truck. It's really funny to watch as long as your not the one in full flight......I recommend youtube searching for Taiwan garbage truck...


Anyway will post more interesting stuff and more about teaching too....now time for some 30 NT breakfast, and 10 NT milk tea to start my day!

Cheers
Brian

Sunday, July 6, 2008

teaching tomorrow...yikes!

So tomorrow is my first day of work....here is how my jobs actually break down...

I will be teaching kids Monday to Friday from 450 - 620
I will also be teaching an adult conversation class at Time Language for 1.5 hours a WEEK.....

then the coup-de-grace (the irony is I had to google the correct spelling of coup-de-grace)- I will be teaching a TOEFL class for 3 hours a week (also at Time)

TOEFL is the test used to allow foreign students admission into Gad schools here in the US. So these people are probably pretty smart, and also probably know grammar rules, and vocab, better than I do. The New York City public school system did not really drill grammar rules into my brain. I'm really nervous about all my classes but especially the TOEFL class. These students have a lot riding on the test and here I am some 24 year old English major telling them what's right or wrong. The reason I'm teaching this class is apparently because the adult school believes my English degree makes me qualified to teach it. The fools. As anyone who knows me can attest to I am a lousy speller, and even lousier at grammar. But the pay is 750 Taiwan dollars an hour which is like 25 US or something...so I really am going to have to work hard in that class....

I could've come to Taiwan and taken some BS English teaching job, just reading off a sheet of paper to kids 8 hours a day, but I've never been one to back away from a challenge. So I decided to take the job that would be most challenging (teaching grad students who are older, wiser and probably more focused than I am seems challenging enough)...I knew I'd face challenges, and the bigger the challenge the bigger the reward. It's going to be really really tough though...I know that for sure.

So I have to observe a bunch of conversation and TOEFL classes before I can teach...Oh also I'm teaching at a summer camp in Hsinchu this weekend...it should be fun, I only teach 3 hours on Saturday and 3 on Sunday and the rest of the time I'm free to chill, plus they put us up in a hotel...I think I might try windsurfing while I'm there!

I'm really nervous about all my classes though...this is def. the biggest challenge I'll face so far, but I just gotta suck it up and do it...Also I want to say congrats to my cousin Beth and her husband Seb!!! My family had a big party in Battery Park for her wedding and obviously I couldn't be there. I feel terrible about that, I wish I could've made it...... I'm really close to all my cousins, aunts and uncles and is sucks not to be able to be there for it. I really miss my family at times like this...but knowing my family... I'm sure there was enough booze at the party that they probably didn't even realize I wasn't there...

Oh so here are the pictures of my apartment, it's kind of annoying because I have to do all the tedious shit that comes with moving into an apartment (buying curtains, sheets, blankets, pots and pans); which in and of itself is pretty awful, only now I have to do it all not speaking Chinese....keep in mind this apartment is only about 300 US a month! 2 blocks from the MRT and in a chill area....can't even imagine how much it'd go for in NY...

off to bed now...tomorrow I hope I do ok, and the kids don't walk all over me (the adults too)...tomorrow will be interesting.
Enjoy the apartment pics....

living room


kitchen area:


MY ROOM (and yes I know it's a bit girly with the purple and all, the French girl who I rented it from decided to paint the whole room purple one day on a whim....but it's a HUGE room....I think my first paycheck is going towards a bucket of paint and some new curtains)


VIEW ONTO MY SEMI-BALCONY:


BATHROOM


here goes nothing,
Brian