Saturday, August 29, 2009

Little Leaguers

Taiwan advances to the LLWS final!!!

Sorry Mexico....Sorry US, I'm pulling for Taiwan (also known in international sport competitions as Chinese Taipei)... in this year's Little League World Series!! jiao yo jiao yo Taiwan!!


Friday, August 28, 2009


Jin tian tai re! Wo bu xi huan!


Dalai Lama in Taiwan ?

But this article offers a little more insight

Saw this article...the Dalai Lama is planning on coming to Southern Taiwan next week to comfort the victims of Typhoon Marokot. Aside from the historical aspect of has obvious political ramifications. China immediately denounced and opposed the visit (which they do in almost every circumstance where he visits another country) But this issue is particularly difficult here. Of particular interest is his Visa status. His first visit here in 1997When the Dalai Lama first visited Taiwan in 1997, "the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government considered him “an overseas Republic of China national without a household registration” and granted him an “entry permit” (入國?? issued by the Bureau of Immigration."

"For the Dalai Lama's second visit in 2001, he was recognized by the then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government as a “foreign national” and was allowed to use his Identity Certificate — a travel document that the Indian government issues to Tibetans living in exile in the country — to obtain a visa to enter Taiwan.

Dawa Tsering, the representative of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Taiwan, said the Dalai Lama had filed his visa application for Taiwan yesterday using his Identity Card.

It will be an interesting week for sure. I hope he makes it up to Taipei I would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see him.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'll miss these crazy kids

Today was a good day. The students were all in an awesome happy and energetic, well-behaved mood. Two things stuck out today that made me realize how fun teaching kids is...
1. During the break time two of the girls in the back spent the entire ten minutes drawing "poopoo" family. Basically they drew poo-poo then drew glasses, a cane, and wham grandma poo poo. Drew lipstick and a purse and its Mom poopoo....They had a whole family of them and were cracking up the whole was really funny.

2. "Teacher teacher I have a good joke for you (said by the craziest girl in class)...Yea what is is?
"What did the boy octopus say to the girl octopus he liked?"
"Can I hold your hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand."

A good joke but the best part was the girl proceeded to explode with laughter after she said it. And honestly I found it pretty funny, along with the poo poo family. Guess my sense of humor is on the same level as 11 year olds....go figure.


Zai Jian E5 class

Another lesson I learned from teaching yesterday:

Teaching 5 11-year old Taiwanese kids the difference between the future simple and future continuous, in August, at 530 in the afternoon, for 2 hours, on a sunny day, when it is 95 degrees outside and the Air Conditioner is not fun.
Lesson Learned

Tomorrow will be my last day at my kids' school. As much as I disliked teaching kids I think the positive aspects of it far outweighed the negative ones. It was actually a lot of fun. My class this term is so full of energy and life and lots of fun. I really enjoyed teaching this bunch. I realize I got pretty lucky in terms of my kids' school. The director is a great woman who really cares about the kids well-being and education. And as a result she's able to recruit like minded teachers. It's not a chain or English making factory like so many other schools here and the teachers aren't just hired because they have a white face. She takes time to observe to give feedback to help with lesson planning and consult with parents about the teachers. She has been incredibly generous and kind giving me this job and I will miss everyone there a lot. far the best job I've ever had, even though at times it was a serious challenge (see above) Still I've had lots of jobs and this is by far the most challenging most rewarding job I've had; and teaching these kids for the last year or so has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've done in my life !!!
(I'm gonna take some pictures tomorrow and try and post them)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Free beer? Ok

So this bar here in Taipei was having their 6.5 year anniversary party. An odd time to celebrate but a party nonetheless. Now I'm a guy who likes beer. I can't help it. I don't know why but I like it. I also enjoy things that are very cheap. I enjoy saving money. I don't know why it's just how I am. So I'm always looking out for good drink deals. Well I've been around a few bars and have seen some good drink deals. Most of them in Binghamton. The deals there included: 10 cent beer night....50 cent mug night....two beers for the price of one on Tuesdays....and a free buffet with the purchase of a 2 dollar drink. But nothing can compare to the drink deal I found last week...

For their 6.5 anniversary party, for whatever reason, this bar had an amazing drink deal....I'll give you time to sit down...Ready?
The deal was this: OPEN BAR from 7-10......... including Tequila, Stella, Guinness, mixed drinks, you name it. Plus a free buffet including pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches etc. The catch? Well you can only get all this if you wear a pink shirt. I know it seems strange, but this was the deal.
I actually had a pink shirt that I bought for my brother as a gag gift but was too lazy to send to was in luck. Everyone (girls and guys) were wearing pink and it was three hours of FREE beeer!! I couldn't believe it. I just kept thinking about what this would be like back in NYC...I pictured lots of homeless dudes wearing a pink rag trying to get in to the bar to get some whiskey. I imagine any free beer night back in NY would included 1. a serious riot, 2. several injuries, 3. dozens of lawsuits 4. a chair through a window 5. dozens of arrests and 6. the bar goign out of business...

But here in Taipei, that's just how it is....Free BEER! The weirdest part was that the bar wasn't even that crowded...I was baffled. It was the first time I went to a bar and ended up leaving without spending a cent.....

hooray beer! Hooray free beer!!!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Improv at the Cram School

I've taught hundreds of hours of lessons since I got here. Most of them just blur together but there are a few that stick out in my mind, usually ones that were particularly awful or particularly great. Today's lesson had a little of both.

Today was my first day at a new adult cram school. THe school is located right in the heart of Taipei's cram school district by the Main Station. Seriously there is a CRAM SCHOOL DISTRICT here. Anyway the class was substituting for another teacher and was a business English class. I only got the book yesterday so I wasn't familiar with it at all.... Unlike my last cram school, the classes here are two hours, not an hour and a half. I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to stretch the material for that length of time. Seeing as how it was my first class and I wanted to make a good impression, I spent like and hour and a half preparing. I made a handout, complete with key words, new vocabulary, grammar exercises pertinent questions etc.

There were only five students in the class. I began by introducing myself and then explained today we'll be doing chapter 4. I began giving out my handout and noticed a lot of confused Taiwanese faces.

"We're up to chapter four right" I asked sheepishly,
"No we did that already we're up to chapter 7 today" was the reply.

I had no idea what chapter 7 was about; nor had ANY material lined up at all....I was visibly flustered. 2 hours in an adult English class with NO lesson plan, not even an idea about the topic, nor any previous rapport with the students to help me out. And worst of all no windows to jump out of...this should be fun
A quick glance at the topic, "How to Delegate"... Ok... I thought, ......lets do this and have some fun

I explained the definition of the word, gave some synonyms and asked what kinds of things do people delegate? What was the last thing you delegated? etc....
My students could tell I was flustered but in true Taiwanese fashion didn't call me out on it. Anyway with no lesson plan, no prep work.... I proceeded to teach what I would say by my standards was a pretty decent, even good lesson. I've had some lessons before that I had a clear plan for but bombed badly.

However two hours of basically bullshitting paid off. And by the end the students were comfortable, relaxed and learnin' some good English...
It was so good that after it one of the students asked if I was teaching any other conversation classes because she thought I was a good teacher....
And actually, improvising that whole lesson was pretty fun; got a little rush out of it! Lesson plans are overrated anyway.


Friday, August 14, 2009

More Typhoon problems

This article in today's Taipei times is truly heartbreaking.
Apparently up to 10,000 people have been trapped for days. One township had "395 houses of which only 2 remain"

" The government said its operations had been hampered because many areas of the country were cut off when roads and bridges collapsed." well yes that's what happens in natural disasters, but governments should find a way to solve that problem.

The government is now accepting aide from other countries after initially rejecting the funds....

It's a terrible situation...made even worse if the above story is true about the number of people stranded there.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Typhoon Morakot

Thanks for all the concern about the Typhoon. The typhoon was most damaging in the South of the island and on the West coast near Taichung. But Taipei was relatively unscathed. Last weekend Taiwan had it's worst typhoon in 50 years. There was a huge landslide ; a river that was normally 10m wide had spread to 800 meters was also responsible for the collapse of this hotel. 20 or so bridges were destroyed, several villages were also destroyed and thousands are homeless or missing. It was a serious tragedy. Relief efforts are still underway. Luckily all of my friends who have relatives or live in the Taichung area are ok. It really puts things in perspective and helps us realize how lucky we are....things like this just solidify my view that we have a responsibility to help those in need, whatever the cause or however great the need...... I've already donated some of my hard earned NT to help and if you'd like to help the victims, the Taiwanese government has set up a relief fund for people outside of Taiwan to help out. If you want to donate to help the victims this would be the best option.

Here is the Taiwan USA representatives office


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Job hunting

Saw this article in the doesn't focus on Taiwan but does show some of the reasoning behind moving abroad and speaking Chiense


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wisdom Tooth part duex

Some of my more avid readers (all 7 of you) will remember that I had to get my wisdom tooth pulled when I first got here.....well the last few weeks another one has been driving me nuts. I think the first dentist missed this one and lately it's been pretty painful. I'll have to get the next one pulled but he asked me if it was ok to take it out. "Sure if it's hurting take it out.", he said that most Taiwanese people are afraid of needles (I assured him I was too, but it wasn't that bad)
He also said that gas for dentists, that wonderful, magical, drug that makes you feel on top of the world (Don't do drugs, kids); isn't allowed to be used in local dental clinics here in Taiwan...only in hospitals. I thanked my good fortune that I broke my jaw in the U.S.; where they hand out Nitris gas like nobody's business; and not here in Taiwan.

Total cost for my dental check-up today......100 NT Dollars, a little less than 3 US bucks. Crazy right?
If only there were some plan.....some big government plan....or some law.... to ....let's say "overhaul" or "reform" healthcare in the US...
....wouldn't that be novel and amazing??
Where the 50 million people without healthcare, who can't afford a trip to the dentist, could pay 3 dollars to go....

...NO, NO...what am I saying?? Brian you're just being naive... Glenn Beck is right, such a ridiculous plan would lead to a socialist, dystopian, nightmare; where pencil pushers get in the way of me and MY doctor!
Pencil-Pushers!! in the way of MY Doctor!! ARGHHH I'm so riled up...where's the next town hall meeting in favor of health care reform I can disrupt?? Quick! Before my rage subsides...


Sunday, August 9, 2009

"Glendale? Where's that?"

It's no secret that I take pride in where I come from, maybe too much pride. But in my defense, NYC is great so I'm not ashamed about my hometown. When people ask me I always say "New York". The follow up question is always "New York City?". If pushed farther I say Queens which people still understand. But then things get complicated.

"oh where in Queens are you from?"
Oh where's that is that near Long Island?'s...near Brooklyn.
Oh I never heard of it...

No one ever knows about this neighborhood and it is frustrating. But I'm always excited when I meet people from New York City. So last night I went to an all you can eat and all you can drink outdoor BBQ place in Taipei County with a bunch of fellow students at Shida. It was amazing food and only cost 12 US dollars (sorry just wanted to show off a little there). I met a couple (Japanese girl and Taiwanese guy) who studied at SUNY New Paltz. It turns out that they were actually living in Queens for a year as well. Of course I was elated and after all you can drink beers, more than happy to talk with them about it. An even bigger coincidence was that they lived in Woodhaven during that time! Woodhaven is the neighborhood next to mine, basically a few blocks away. They lived maybe ten blocks from where I grew up....and they had no CLUE where Glendale was. None at all. haha it was ridiculous. They have never heard of the place after living a few blocks away for over a year... I mean it's not like I'm from some little town in the sticks..

Ok fine...Glendale may contain more dead people (cemeteries everywhere) than living and it may only have an elevation of 89 feet....but it has its charm. Check out this blog. Maybe it will get some recognition one of these days...


Thursday, August 6, 2009


The following is a word-for-word excerpt from my Kenya volunteer program guide:

" Toileting may be quite a new experience for you if you have never had the opportunity to use a 'squat' toilet. A squat toilet is used by squatting rather than sitting over a hole in the ground. In rural Kenya squat toilets are common place. Toilet paper is sold in Kenya but public toilets tend not to supply this so it is worth carrying a personal supply with you. When using toilet paper it is a good idea to check first to make sure it will not cause a blockage in pipes."

Thanks for the info.....but thanks to my time in Taiwan I am ALL too familiar with the joys of squat toilets or "Squatties" as I've affectionately been calling them. My experiences with said toilets have included an emergency stop during the Taroko Gorge marathon, and several other experiences I'd rather not get into here....
Kenya: you best be warned... I am ready for your squatters! Taiwan has prepared me well..I will say this though; when I first got to Taiwan, I'll admit, my biggest fear was the squat toilet. I'm dead serious. I heard all these horror stories about them. I wasn't worried about the language, the food, the culture, finding a job, finding an apartment......but I was petrified of squat toilets. My assumption was that there were no regular toilets on the entire island. My goal was to find an apartment without a squater ....I was willing to pay top dollar for it too......
As a precaution I packed in my suitcase two rolls of Scotts Toilet paper. And for the first week, I carried some with me because I heard public toilets didn't have toilet paper......What a naive man I was.

I'll be ready for you Kenya...bring on your Squatters!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chinese and I are not good friends

I've been taking Chinese classes for about 9 months now and today I have a big test to see if I can move up to the next level. I'm hopeful I can move up because being stuck at the beginner level is really frustrating...
...Despite 2 hours of classes a day I still can't get a hold on it. I'm not sure if it's me or just not putting enough time into it, or what but I'm just not able to get a hold of it.

I've decided not to take classes next semester...I am going to be really busy getting my life in order, with Grad School apps, GRE crap, trip back to NYC, planning and paying for this Kenya trip and teaching at two new adult schools. It will be a busy few months for sure....

....people always think that its just non-stop parties here but as much as I hate to admit it, Taiwan is my home. I've been here for a long time and its time to grow up, and get my life/ career/ future all settled out. I hate being inactive and stagnant. And it's time to focus and get my shit together...
But it's not all's a moderately funny clip

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

new class

What a difference a new class old class, had 4 boys, one girl. The ages were 12-13 and it was miserable for the most part. I constantly had to discipline them. There was nothing but craziness. Funny though that when the girl was absent it seemed much calmer.

Anyway my new class has 3 girls and 2 boys and they are all 10-11. It is a calm, well-behaved even quiet class. With no discipline problems at all really.

Either it's the girl to boy ratio, age difference or some other factor, either way I'm not complaining. Don't know how anyone can teach 12-13 year olds....tough gig.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Don't mess with Mr. Softee

Saw this gem in the Queens Chronicle....Apparently Glendale is a tough place for ice cream truck drivers. I always knew Mr. Softee was strong-arming the competition.
As a side note, instead of being serenaded every night in the summer by the Mr. Softee theme song, here in Taiwan I am serenaded to sleep by a guy driving a cart selling "Stinky Tofu" There is a megaphone on the cart that repeats Chinese gibberish well into the night....

Given the choice of what random food vendor I'd rather hear at 10 pm every night...I'd choose Mr. Softee, strong-arm tactics and all.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm Going to KENYA!!!!

It may seem that my decisions are often rash and impulsive. This may be so, I mean coming here was certainly impulsive. Quitting my job a few months ago was also impulsive. It may also seem that I do some crazy things often without a second thought before hand (skydiving, marathons, spontaneous trips).... But this is only half of how I function. Yes I do make some impulsive decisions, BUT I usually think hard about some of the more important ones, those few decisions that have the power to alter the course of my life, ideally but not always for the better. For example coming to Taiwan....obviously it was a huge decision that no doubt changed the course of my life. But I researched the hell out of this before I got here. Spent hours talking to people, looking up the best schools, spent hours in a course on how to teach. And once all of that had been processed, I told everyone about my decision.

My problem is that once I tell myself I am going to do something I need to do it, to the best of my ability. Even if the idea is only stirring somewhere in my head, once if bubbles up to the surface I need to make it happen. Especially an idea that is life changing, like coming to Taiwan....

SO (and thanks for staying with me up until this point) it is in this vain that I decided I'M GOING TO KENYA!

My cousin and her husband are living there now and recently I started researching teaching English there. I found a volunteer program where I would be teaching English in Kenya. I decided to do the six week program. I signed up, put down a deposit all last week.
I don't have all the details but I will be staying with a host family there and teaching 9-5 five days a week. The volunteer program starts June 15, 2010 and runs for 6 weeks. I'm planning on flying there from Bangkok sometime in late May, early June....

Should be a real challenge and a big difference from Taiwan....but I'm up for it. And it promises to be one of those decisions....that 10 years from now I can look back and say, "I'm better off for making that choice"