Tuesday, September 29, 2009

home in New York

I'm home, back in NYC. All it took was an 8 hour flight from Taipei to Anchorage, a 2 hour layover in Alaska then a 8 hour flight from Alaska to JFK. As an aside the airport in Alaska was small, rustic (complete with bison/wolf skins in display cases) and the scenery around the airport was amazing...as we flew out all we saw were snow covered mountains. Definitely a place to visit soon. However as we (mostly Taiwanese people ) arrived in Alaska we were immediately greeted by rude and gruff US Customs agents. One berated a poor elderly Taiwanese lady for not declaring the cookies she brought for her grand children as being 'food'

Ahhh good to be back in the US of A

What I've noticed so far, people here , even in New York City are a bit larger....bums are prominent and more cracked out then your average Taiwanese bum; hipsters have taken over the L line, more so then when I left; when I'm in the subway no one looks /stares at me at all; the air is so much cleaner, even in a congested city like New York; and the Italian food is amazing compared to the ketchup flavored sauce passed off as marinara in Taiwan. And also, the tap water is damn good ! All in all it's been great so far and can only get better.

Tonight I'll be hitting up the Yankee game and tomorrow after I take the GRE, I'll be going to yet another Yankee game. Overkill? I think not. Thursday I'm hightailing it down to DC, the capital of this fair country, followed by return to New york Friday morning and a bash/party/ shindig at a bar on the lower east side....then Saturday is a wedding (the reason I'm here) which promises to be epic as well....
This video comes to mind...

Time to go for a run...this fresh New York City air beckons....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Miss New York

I miss new york. It's the greatest city in the world for a reason. It's my home, where I was raised, where I feel most at ease....

I'll be back September 25th and I can't wait.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rave reviews

The tough thing about teaching English in Taiwan is that the market is saturated with teachers. There are lots of shitty teachers here. The reason for this is that, as bad as it sounds, if you're a native speaker, particularly a white male between the ages of 24 and 30, it doesn't matter how qualified or how much experience you have. Someone will hire you. As an example I recently went on a job interview, well what I thought was a job intreview, but turned out the boss wanted me to sub a class. SO without even a hello I was thrown into a classroom of 9 year olds, given a book, told what pages to teach and left to my own devices. I was able to handle it, but the point is it really doesn't matter how qualified, or how good of a teacher I am.....I'm a native speaker and that's all that (at most schools) seems to matter.

It's in this context that it's often hard to figure out where I stand, what kind of a teacher I am, if I'm actually helping anyone...As stupid as it sounds I do want to enjoy being recognized for my abilities. Not just fr being a native speaker. At my new adult school...they have a system where students can write comments about the teachers, how they are doing, what the teachers need to improve, what are their strong points etc....
One of my adult students wrote this:
ta? wobu ? ? shang ? kuoshou zhende hen ? delaoshi
He? menot? ? ? ? speaking very very ? of teacher

Google translator told that said something about giving confidence, and understanding.

The last bit I can translate though, without the aid of Google:
我很高興今天上到他的課!!awesome!!!!!" MEANS:
wo hen gou xing jin tian shang dao ta de ke
Today I am very happy attending his class. Awesome!

I do like the awesome part at the end though. So although I still have a lot of ways I can improve my teaching and am still learning more about it everyday; it's reassuring to know that I'm not just another native English speaker, not just another white face.... and actually a teacher who occasional has an impact on my students.

PS: One year in Taiwan and I can translate a short sentence....awesome!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ex-Pres in Jail

I'll avoid another 9/11 post, I've posted last year and in the 8 years since it's happened I've thought a lot about it. There's not much to say that I haven't already said.
However yesterday some big news happened in Taiwan. The ex-president of Taiwan was sentenced to life in prison. A monumental and politically ground-breaking event. One wonders how many other former presidents (from Democratically elected nations) are currently in jail. One can't help but to imagine what it'd be like had Richard Nixon not been pardoned, or Dick Cheney prosecuted and convicted for his stance on torture. I'm sure there would be a lot of people happy had both of those crooks been sentenced to long prison terms, (I can only speak about my feelings about Cheney, but I hope if I was around in the mid-seventies I'd be calling for Nixon's conviction). Personally I would be happy to see Cheney convicted for his stance and sanctioning of torture...but I realize American Courts would never allow that to happen; even though one could argue that Cheney's crimes are far worse than former President Chen's....

But nonetheless, convicting the former president has tremendous ramifications for a place with such a tenuous international standing as Taiwan. Not only did they convict him but gave him life in prison. The blowback from this may be pretty serious, causing a serious splintering of the already divided electorate....or it may open the way for China to continue to exert influence over Taiwan. Also there are claims of unfair treatment and even of human rights violations while the former president was in jail. Either way sentencing a former president to life in jail for embezzlement seems a bit harsh. What message does this send to Taiwan's few remaining supporters? Does it bolster China's standing? Will it ultimately lead to an archaic one-party KMT rule in Taiwan? Like the one that was in place for the last 50 years here?

time will tell...This article in the Economist presents a good summary and insight into the problems of convicting a former head of state...


Sunday, September 6, 2009


Previously I wrote that that teaching 11 year olds in the middle of summer was very difficult. Well I found something that is more difficult than that. My kid's school asked me to substitute for a week but they didn't tell me the level of the class I would be teaching. So Friday I showed up thinking I'd be teaching the E5 level class (11 year olds with really good English level)
Instead I had to sub the P class. The P class is a class of 6 7 year olds. Who have the most basic English Level. Like they don't even know their ABCs. It is the most basic, most elementary level of English imaginable. So I had to teach 2 hours of English class to a group of 6 7 year old students who have no English ability. I will tell you something.....I enjoy a good challenge; I've run marathons, moved to a completely foreign country, got a job without any experience.........but all of those adventures pail in comparison to stepping into a room of Taiwanese kids....who know very very little English. It was by far the most challenging thing I've faced here. How do you entertain, and teach a group of students who barely know their ABCs, without a Chinese teacher in the classroom for two hours?

The Answer.....act like a complete and utter clown. Seriously you just have to release all of your inhibitions, and just have fun. That is one of the key things I've learned here.....in order to be an effective teacher, you have to be passionate, disciplined and above all...relaxed. So I spent 2 hours playing stupid games, acting like a clown, throwing a ball around the classroom, all so that they would not hate learning English.....did it work? maybe...maybe not. They didn't leave the classroom crying, but they didn't leave singing my praises. Am I still completely and utterly terrified of facing them on Monday?...you bet your ass I am. Will I pull out all the stops, act like a clown, have as much fun as I can....in order for them to feel comfortable, relaxed and confident about English? You bet you ass I will!
.....because I believe in the transforming power of education....


Wednesday, September 2, 2009


People are always complaining about teachers getting summers off. How its not fair that they only get to work 9 months out of the year, or that its a sign of laziness to only work such a short time...well as someone who has been teaching English to kids for a year solid with only a few short breaks here and there, I can understand how necessary a few months out of the classroom can be. Teaching year round is draining physically and mentally. Especially teaching in the summer time. The kids are miserable and just want to go home. But in Taiwan's cram school culture, they have to study English for at least 2 hours a day, some up to five days a week....and therefore we English teachers must work an equally grueling schedule. I can easily see how so many teacher burn out after a year or two of this grind. I've met many bitter teachers who have had to work long summer hours, with little time to recover or spend outside the classroom to actually act like an adult again. But I digress....

The point is I will finally be taking a solid two week vacation at the end of September. I'll be heading back to NYC for a wedding....
I'm going to be super busy but I hope I can see all my friends and family...
Here's the itinerary

9/25/09: Arrive JFK at 10 PM
9/26 Recover from my 17 hour flight and serious jet leg
9/27 -9/29 Chill in Queens
9/30 Take the GRE...then off to the Yankee's final home game of the season! And my first look at the new stadium...
10/1 Hop on the AM bus to Wash. DC
10/2 Back to NYC, party it up at a bar in New York TBD
10/3 Cousin Jackie's wedding in L.I.
10/4-10/6 Relax; eat knishes, Italian food, bagels, etc...enjoy New York
10/7 Back to Taipei, after a loooong layover in San Fran

Needless to say after not being home, or in a country where English is the native language for over a year, it will be amazing to be back....to not have to use chopsticks at every meal...to have some REAL Italian food....ah it'll be great!
I can't wait....