Sunday, November 22, 2009

MRT musings

On my way to work this afternoon I was packed into the already crowded MRT, face pressed against the door, old lady pressed against a delicate part of my lower body, trying not to scream and yell at the high schoolers jabbing me in the back; when I heard an odd sound: it was the sound of English...
Naturally any time I hear English in the subway I perk up and learn to block out all the Chinese jibberish and English always penetrates my most crowded subway rides. Normally hearing English wouldn't be a big deal, maybe some foreign tourists, or a fellow ex-pat....but I listened more intently:
"It is A air conditioner"
"No It is AN air conditioner"
It is AN air conditioner"
It is AN air conditioner
It is AN air conditioner....
Good, now it is A duck.
"It is A duck....

I strained my neck and lo-and behold....directly under me, grasping onto the pole among dozens of adults was a little Taiwanese kid, not more than 5 years old.... holding a fistful of flashcards. His mother was bearing over him (or overbearing) making sure he knew the difference between "A" and "AN". As I was looking over, his mother caught my eye, smiled nodded at her son, then continued the lesson.
This would be amazing enough except on my way back from work, waiting in line for the subway back home....ANOTHER youngster was also practicing English (with the help of his equally overbearing mother, and astute, older brother). He was practicing spelling. "INTERESTING" I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-I-N-G....
Also had a fistful of flash cards.

There's something admirable about the value placed on education here. Clearly education is important, beyond important....I can't really describe the emphasis on English learning, except that people will pay someone like me big bucks to teach them English. But I mean its Sunday at 1 pm....let your 5 year old just stand in a crowded train and daydream about dinosaurs or whatever...

I was talking to some of my adult students and I also found out that in Universities here, English is a General Education requirement....regardless of major. At Binghamton University we also had a language requirement...but we could choose let's say Italian, or Spanish. God help my GPA if I was forced to study Chinese for one year when I was at University. But here, there's no choice. But what about Japanese as a GenEd? I asked; "Nope you must study English, it's Island wide. If you go to university in Taiwan, English is a GenEd"

These kids will have a great advantage no doubt, but again at what cost?
Maybe a few years from now, speaking Chinese will be seen as an asset...

You might be sitting on the F train, packed in against the door, listening to a parent from Brooklyn correcting her 8 year-old's Mandarin tonal pronunciation.
"BU YAO! Not BU YAO... Fourth tone Fourth Tone....try it again."


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chinese New YEar 2010

I just found out I will be off from ..........February 12th -February 21st (my birthday) 2010 for Chinese New Year.

This is the one vacation I get (and most Taiwanese workers get). I'm working a ton of hours now and actually will start working at a second adult school next month. With all my test prep teaching, I can honestly say that I'm pretty comfortable here money wise...I'm able to save and send back to NY A LOT of money each month and live on relatively little here...

Point being I'm planning a trip to China for this New'll realistically be my only chance to visit the "mainland" especially now that direct flights are pretty common between Taipei and China.

My tentative plan is to fly to Hong Kong...then take a train to Shanghai, then train to Beijing....see the sights then fly back to the good old R.O.C.

Who wants to join me?

Monday, November 9, 2009


The thing about living abroad, or specifically living here in Taiwan, is that there is always a strange division. What I mean is there's Taiwan and your "Home". The vasy majority of the foreigners I've met here don't consider Taiwan their home but rather see it as some kind of extended vacation; even though people stay here for 1, 2 or even three years. The other or real Home is like a safety net, we all know that at some point we will return to wherever it is we came from, and be "home " once again. It is this mentality that keeps us from learning the language, learning the culture and really immersing ourselves in this place. Also, it is probably why I hang out with so many ex-pats. It's refreshing at times to compare Taiwan to "home" and knowing we're all only here temporarily it enables a certain detachment from the world and place we ACTUALLY are living. It's an excuse not to learn the language "why bother?.... I'm going home soon anyway" or "I'm not sure how long I'll be here." Lately I've found myself stuck in this mindset and it's been a bit depressing.

Taiwan is my home. I love it here, afterall I chose to come here, chose to stay for more than a year. It is my home and since I returned from New York I've been even more aloof about Taiwan....comparing it to New York, I've become more critical of the cultural differences, and have been looking at Taiwan with more of an outsider's perspective than before my trip.
But acting that way is not fair to this country or the people. I mean it's going to be pretty pathetic when I leave here knowing very little Chinese or very little about the culture I've been immersed in for so long.

Taiwan is my home, I've been here a year and half......and as such I need to stop acting like I'm on some extended vacation and start acting like a responsible human being, immersing myself in the language, culture and just accepting the fact that the Taiwanese way as times confounding, but unique and fascinating; and hopefully adapt, rather than resisting....


Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from TAIWAN!