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,

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 ! 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.
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.....

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'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'll get the horns.


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....
I feel comfortable here. I think back to arriving here, knowing no one, having no job prospects and literally speaking no 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:


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'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....

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...

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:

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.


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


(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 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 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 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 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:

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'