The Semester is Ending

The end of the semester approaches at a steady rate. Sometimes I want it to come faster but not all at the same time. It has been raining a lot here too. My colleagues and I joke you know it’s raining when you see kids wearing sandals to school. A coworker of mine even asked why I was so militant with my whole outdoors mentality because I walked to school in the pouring rain. It isn’t far at least to me, about a mile walk taking anywhere between 15-20 minutes. It varies depending if I need to play frogger as I walk to work. Briefly looking at my time here in Taiwan, I can say I learned a lot. I still have so much more to learn though. There is not enough time but I can learn what I can with the time given to me.

If you have been reading my blogs, I have struggled with my job going back and forth. One day I want to leave the next I will stay, I couldn’t figure out what was what. I have concluded that teaching with my school which is a cram school, I can no longer teach there. I have learned that I don’t like that I don’t have room to invest in them as an individual’s. I see them three times a week for two hours at a time. You figure that would be enough time but it is not.

 

My yoyo class, I see them everyday for 2.5 hours at a time which allows for more investment. The barrier to the yoyo class is the lack of English, so I play and show them how to do stuff. They are about 2-3 years old, if they are able to have a conversation in English with me it’s a plus. Aside from the lack of investment time into the students, I have seen too much of the business side of the school. I feel like I’m employed at a business corporation not an education institution. I understand that schools itself still needs to generate money to keep it going. I draw the line to where parents are being told one more semester and your kid will be better. Sometimes it’s vice versa, parents threaten to live the school if their child(ren) don’t move on.

Here is a rundown on what the parents pay from what I was told. One semester at my branch runs about 5 months.  For the semester parents pay about 30000TWD (about 985USD). They also have a monthly fee of 10000TWD (about 330USD). You’re probably thinking that’s not much, it totals to 2600USD for 5 months. Now when you look at the pay for a local here they are paid below the US minimum wage. Imagine having to pay for your child(ren)’s tuition and other must necessities on below minimum wage. It is not cheap to do so.  

When mid-July rolls around I will be leaving this sweet potato shaped island. I have learned many things during my time here. Upon my departure from Taiwan I will be going to China. By the will of God, I will be in China teaching at another school. I have already accepted the offer and am working on getting paperwork in. As time draws near I am slowly ending my time here and getting ready to start a new adventure. If all goes well with my paperwork to go to China, I will be in the city of Wenzhou teaching. I will go from teaching English to teaching math, history, P.E and spelling/literature.

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When Things Don’t Go as Planned.

This past weekend was Dragon Boat Festival here in Taiwan. I haven’t quite learned what the meaning of this festival is about. This is the idea I got from doing the skit for the kids. It is a story about a king and his friend. The two were close but strangers had told lies to the king and he broke of the friendship and exiled him. The friend heard that his beloved home was invaded he fell into despair committed suicide by going into the water. When people heard the news they went to save him. The banged on drums and threw sticky rice dumplings into the water so that sea creatures would not eat him.

I was given a four day weekend. The plan was to do a day trip to Keelung, Fulong Beach (sandcastle festival currently happening), and to Jiufen/Shifen. Then spend two days in Taichung and go to Sun Moon Lake while I am there. Turns out I was only able to make the day trip because of the finances I had available to me at the time. I forgot about the festival when I sent money home.

My day begin early with a cup of hot ACV and working out.  I took train to Keelung city where I spent a couple hours looking around the port city. It is also home to one of the most famous pineapple cake shop, which I learned is a traditional pastry here. I took a bus to get to Jiufen but it was the wrong one. Who in the world would have the same bus number for two different routes with different destinations? I got on the wrong bus, ended up going south instead of east. After I got off I walked to the nearest train station, took about 15 minutes, bought a ticket to Sandiaoling.

 

I thought I would be able to catch a bus and have a more scenic route to Jiufen. It turns out the place was located in the remote mountains, not a 7-11 in sight. So like any person who is lost, I decided to go explore the place for a little bit. They have a beautiful waterfall to visit and many hiking trails. I didn’t venture to far off, I was still adamant about getting to Jiufen. My couple hours there had me tired out I was ready to head home around 1530. Since the train station was out in the countryside it was at least a 30-60 minute wait for the train to go counter clockwise.

 sandiaoling

Then I took the wrong train and ended up in Jiufen. Who knew I still ended up where I wanted to go anyways. At this point though, I was already tired and ready to go home. When the train arrived I figured I should go look around despite my tiredness. I learned I should have explored more in the mountains. I was not fond of Jiufen, maybe because of the touristy aspect of it. This is the place where the anime movie Spirited Away had its setting taken from.

 jiufen

Finally I made my journey back home. I wish Fulong Beach was also one the agenda that day too, but for another day. I learned today that there was a very long line to just get into the beach today. One the way home I was asked by two locals at different occasion if the train would go to a certain city. I was only able to answer one of them. I ended my day when I got home at 2100 hours. Despite my research getting to Jiufen by train is possible it is not only accessible by bus though more frequent then the train I believe. I also learned I some how hurt my tail bone it hurts to do lunges or squats.

Reconnecting With a Friend.

It was the spring semester of 2014; I was living in South Carolina. At this point in life I have already received my bachelor’s and began pursuing my master’s. I was working two part time jobs, one on campus and another off campus. My on campus job I was the night lead for the campus store; in a way night shift manager. I pretty much made the call with everything unless it was beyond my authority to do so.

We had been friends for about two years at this point. There were many memories and laughter. Often times we questioned why either one of us did what we did. She was organized, a planner and a rational thinker. I was a laid-back, go with the flow and non-rational thinker. We had our share of giving perspectives to discussions, which were really debates.

Every Monday night when I closed the store my roommate and friend would stop by, we ended work the same time, so we would walk home together. As the semester went on, she quit coming by. Even at home things were different with her. I’m the type to go and ask what is going in and individual’s life, especially those close to me. I had an idea but I wasn’t sure if that was it. So I had asked the third roommate if she knew what was going on but she didn’t know all the details. One night we had a discussion, it escalated and was the first time I have seen her truly irritated and mad. Her last words to me that night were something along the lines of just go and have fun even though you knew we were going to have this conversation. I had made planned to meet up with some other friends later that night.

If I had known the conversation was going to be like that, I probably would’ve never made plans to have the conversation. Yet when she spoke those words I was kind of glad and not. It gave me “permission” to leave, but staying and speaking to an angry person wasn’t going to be any good; so I left. From that point until the end of the semester she was “invisible”, sometimes I didn’t know if she was home or not.

After summer break, I tried to interact with her but it all ended in forms of letters; which I gave to her. That semester was the last time as we know it would be in the same part of the world. Though we went our separate ways, one thing wasn’t clear, was the friendship over? All I knew was that I didn’t want the friendship to end because she had become like family to me, a little sister.

Fast forward to three years later to around Easter 2017; one night I got a message from her. When I saw that I was surprised and wondering why after all this time now contact me yet kind of happy. I contemplated on reading the message. After reading the message I responded back and we were messaging each other in response to what was asked. If I may say after discussing the logistics of the past and what led to the current event; there was still one question left, does the friendship still exist?

After our lengthy conversations we have concluded that we still want to be friends. We currently live in different parts of the world now, she in Europe and myself in Taiwan. The hard part is how to proceed since we live so far from each other. Had it been when we lived closer to each other it’d be easier. All we know for now is to do our part in staying in contact with each other. I can only say this is God at work to allow people to reconnect after time has gone by. I am really grateful to have my sister friend back.

 

far away
Probably how we felt after reconnecting.

 

Reconnecting with my friend reminded me of a few things. First, I was reminded of how great God is. I have seen miracles and wonders but have forgotten how great he is in the midst of this life that I live. He has been in my back pocket. Secondly, God takes his time, in the words of one of my professor’s, “God is not in a hurry, he grows things.” He takes his time to mold and shape people even if it seems like such a long time for us. Lastly, 1 John 1:6 came to mind often it says “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (KJV). It made me look at my life in perspective of my spiritual life, is my life one of a lie or one of truth? This is just one of the myriad of questions I have running through my mind as I look at my spiritual life to life in general.

 

think
Thinking Mode.

 

Which door???

I have been in Taiwan now for about three months. It has been an experience with my job. I started at training with I can do this. When I arrived at my branch I was a bit nervous. Then when I began teaching I was ready to quit my job. Now I have a better grasp of what I need to do, but I still do not like the job I have with my school. Only with God’s grace have I been able to sustain this job up to this point. Otherwise I think I would have left within my first month teaching with the school.

Through my months of struggling, as I have mentioned in a previous post, I miss Bible teaching. I have been looking for jobs in the ministry field or teaching jobs within a Christian setting. I have been pondering whether I have been running from what I was supposed to be doing the whole time, Bible teach. I have also been considering a job offer I was given, if I take it I will move to another country. It is a Christian base school which I think I will be more content there.

Aside from school, life has been pretty good. I am slowly learning Chinese now. I don’t know enough to order food but I hope to get there. I know words for certain things but I don’t retain it because of the lack of repetition. I also know a couple Chinglish words because of my students. I’m functional like a local minus the language part. If I can’t find something I ask my Chinese coworkers or google.

So far on weekends I have spent them at cafes and coffee shops. They are my second home here. There are a couple I that like some I just kind of wonder why they exist. So far I have enjoyed my time at Mumu 小倫 (Little London), Gemi café (which is Aussie theme) and 190 café house. I do plan on visiting more than coffee shops and cafés in the future. I want to bike the whole country. I learned that you can bike Taiwan in 2 weeks time. If I can’t bike the country I would at least want to bike the west coast of the country and end up in southern Taiwan.

 

pokemon water

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Quit or Continue?

As I type this post, it has been three weeks since I have began teaching English. The start of the job was rough. Training did not prepare me well for what I was going to do, but it did at least help me not have to figure everything on my own. After my second week of teaching I was ready to quit this job and move back to America.

Now I have become familiar with what I have to do and how to teach, the struggles aren’t as bad. The things I despise most about my job is have to incorporate the arts into my curriculum, not the arts and crafts. Parents spend a lot of money to send them to this school and they want to see their kids speak English, I get it. I rather have them come and watch me teach a class versus putting together a skit and choreography it. I don’t do well in this area.

Although I am getting use to the routine and getting the hang of it, in the back of my mind quitting still lingers. I have questioned why I am here. I have wondered if this was what I am suppose to do for now. Now I am wondering what am I suppose to learn while I am here. There are so many thoughts going through my head as to what I am doing here. I hope God reveals to me in due time what it is. I need to be patient in all of this.

Since I have been here I have learned that I do not enjoy teaching in a school setting. I have some room for creativity and flexibility but I still have to adhere to the teaching curriculum they have here. I rather teach and talk to people about life not teach them about English. I have also begun making progress towards my dreams and goals. It just took moving halfway around the world to make it happen. There is something about not being in an environment that is too comfortable that allows me to not be lazy. Right now I do not know if that is good or bad.

As I embrace the moment quitting still lingers and questions still asked. I am still planning to finish out my contract as I had signed. I am enjoying my time here in Taiwan. I have not been able to go see much as it has been raining almost every weekend so far. I cannot wait until the next beautiful weekend that comes. I am ready to go explore the west coast of the country where I live, although the east coast has more of the scenic nature view.

 

cafe pic
My second home are cafes in the area. This is 19o Café House.

https://www.facebook.com/190CafeHouse

 

 

It has only been two weeks.

It has officially been two weeks since I have started teaching with my school. This week makes it week three of teaching. The transition is still happening, getting use to and learning what I need to do. I have enjoyed teaching my classes so far but it is also challenging. There are two classes that I have taken over from previous teachers; the students are use to their way of doing things. My third class is new so I have a fresh start with them this semester, which is great.  

I teach three classes which they call yo-yo and treehouse. My yo-yo class consists of students between ages 2-3, pretty much like a daycare. I spend about 2 hours exposing them to English whether they understand me or not. They know how to repeat and recognize flashcards. I have been able to have a short conversation with one student so far in English which is good. It shows how comfortable the student is in speaking English. What is most challenging right now is telling the students that I don’t speak Chinese. I don’t know if they understand that I am American.

The one kid who I converse with started out with always speaking Chinese to me. I would tell him that I don’t speak Chinese. Here’s how our conversation went for a while:

 

S: speaks Chinese.

Me: I don’t speak Chinese. English only.

S: speaks more Chinese.

Me: I don’t understand what you are saying.

S: Yeah, I’m Daniel.

 

This was my conversation pattern with him for about a week. We are now talking about favorite colors, toys and he asks me what I’m doing.

My other two classes are the same level, treehouse 4. They are 2nd-3rd graders, I teach these classes back to back. It is easier to teach them but the learning curb is different between the two classes. The first class consist more of the advance kids while the second class has more students who are average. For awhile my second class thought that I was Chinese so I had to tell them that I am American. I think some of them are still baffled as to why I still don’t speak Chinese even though I’m American. I believe the biggest thing that is throwing them off is that I look like them.

In each of my classes I have a Chinese teacher with me. My yo-yo class the Chinese teacher will explain the instructions in Chinese after I have said them in English. She will also speak Chinese as need to discipline the students as well. In my treehouse classes, only one of my Chinese teachers frequent Chinese in the class. She speaks it to them when she needs to explain something to them when majority of the class misses an answer. Otherwise in both of my classes if they speak Chinese they have to write the English translation 10 times.

So far I have learned that I rather play with them then teach them English.

A month has gone by.

I have been here for about a month and I enjoy it so far. I know that I will experience culture shock at some point during my time here. Some say that I am anticipating it, maybe it’s true, but it is also reality as well. I’m not trying to guess when it’ll happen I just know it’ll happen at some point.  A friend once told me one of the things she notice most in foreigners when they visit her country was the food. The foods there are “too weird” for most foreigners, which I’m glad it’s not the case for me.

Since I have been here my greatest frustrations so far has been looking like the local and not being able to speak or read the language. I know it’s only been a few weeks in and it was something that I had already anticipated but it’s different this time from previous experiences. In previous experiences I have been there only for a short term basis. I knew I was going to leave in a couple weeks so that okay; it was something that I can deal with.

Now it’s a 180 degree turn, it’s no longer a short term stay but a long term stay. Since I cannot read/recognize Chinese characters or speak it, it hinders me from going into some places. I have the desire to go into certain places but fear keeps me from going to certain places. I know that in time I’ll be able to do more but frustrations are here now; maybe this is my culture shock right now. The frustrated foreigner, hindered from my own inability to know the language. I am a mute for now.

When I go into certain big box stores I do one of two things, one, if I am looking at non-food items and a sales person approach me, and I wait for the person to be done. Then I point to myself and say “meiguo”, which is American in Chinese. If I am purchasing something I look at where they are pointing to know where I am going. If I am not buying then they leave me be.

The other thing that would happen is when I buy food items. The sales people would point to certain things and say something about it or it would be samples that they are passing out. If it is a sample I would take it. When there is no sample I just nod my head. I know they are trying to help me decide by giving their opinions but I don’t understand what they are saying.

panda help 

7 Eleven: Thank you come again.

When I go to a 7-11 or when I see one it often reminds me of Apu from the Simpsons. If you have seen the Simpsons you know that his Kwik-E-mart you can do anything there. Here in Taiwan that one stop place for almost anything you can possibly need is at a local 7-11. I know many of you may have heard of the possibilities of what can be done there. I will assume we are on the same page on what we heard but man I heard you can do even more while I have been here.

In a local 7-11 here it looks like your basic convenience store. They sell snacks, candies, drinks, alcohol, tobacco and hot foods. They also have either bar style seating or tables sometimes both. You also see two ATM machines one is an ATM machine the other offer other services, and a copy machine. If you turn on your phone you can get free wifi but the catch is you need a local number to access the free wifi.

At a 7-11 you can do the following:

  • ·        Pay your bills
  • ·        Sit there and eat
  • ·        Have stuff delivered there
  • ·        Have your clothes cleaned
  • ·        Refill on prepaid minutes
  • ·        Sit there like it’s a café
  • ·        Pay with an easy card (metro pass)
  • ·        Copy and fax
  • ·        I was told you can get a sim card there
  • ·        Buy liquor, it’s a small section but it’s there
  • ·        Buy health and beauty products, they have more than shampoo.

This is everything that I was able to find out so far as to what you can do at a 7-11. I’m sure I may have missed a couple of things. As many people say here, “You can do almost everything at a 7-11.” I believe it too, I was told to go pay for my utilities at 7-11 every month.  

 

7-11
The café side of 7-11.

 

Some Observations of Taiwan so far.

In the midst of training I was still able to go and observe part of local life the best I can. When I go out with colleagues for dinner or do errands, we got a lot of stares. I don’t know if it was because they were white or that I was the only Asian among the group, maybe both. It got interesting when an individual want something specific; the vendors were looking at me to speak Mandarin to them. Then I get locked into this stare with the vendor unintentionally, I feel like they are thinking “Do you really not speak Mandarin?” After multiple accounts like this I would here and there drift from the group to not have these “awkward” stares. The struggles are real.

 

I have also noticed how open the LGBT community is here. I know it has become a cultural norm in Western society. It seems Taiwan has followed suite in this area. As far as I know no Asian country has an open LGBT community. I have not checked on the facts but I have heard that Taiwan is the most liberal Asian country and possibly with be the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage. I also learned from one  of my tours that there was a park back then that gays would go to to feel safe and find someone special. There are still remnants of that today in the park.

 

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Just for fun.

 

 

Transportation not only in Taipei but the whole country is by scooter or moped. I learned that Taiwan has the highest scooter per capita in the whole I was surprised. They are everywhere. When I was in the main office for training I would look down from the 8th floor and see a massive flood of scooters weaving through traffic and waiting a stop lights. They have a special law for scooter drivers. If you want to make a left turn you have to turn right and go into a marked box that is white. The white box is in the lane(s) that is going straight to the road you want to turn onto. This is the legal way to make left turns on a scooter, unless your bike meets the require cc power to make the left turn. You also have your bus, cabs and metro lines.

 

When I went to the local Taiwan banks to exchange money I ended up going to three different banks. Bank one took all the money I had and gave back most because it was too old for them to take it and exchange it. Bank two told me that the bank across the street has a higher exchange rate. Bank number three took the rest of my money to exchange it and charge a $2 fee for the unacceptable bills that I had; but still took it to exchange them. So good looking money only if you physically bring in bills to exchange in the country.

 

There are also temples and altars almost everywhere; more than one would think. I walk past about 3 when I walk to the huge store in my city and it’s only a 20 minute walk. Everyone the southern part of the USA is known as the Bible belt and that’s one of the best ways to describe the temples and altars. They are Taoist, Confucius or Buddhist. On the street you will often find metal can like small garbage cans outside. It is often used to burn money to ancestors. I have witnessed two in my three week period here.

 

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Everyone loves comics^^

 

 

If you like the comics check them here: http://theawkwardyeti.com/

Training is Done!

I’m a little slack in my updates but training has been officially since the 22nd of this month. I’m glad to be done it began to drag a little bit after day three or so. There were so much information shared with us, I hope something was retained in my mind during the duration of training. When you sit for 7-8 hours, a lot of information is shared. Then you go and hangout with colleagues at least for dinner, it can take a toll on an individual. As draining as it was I also enjoyed it and hopefully made some lasting relationships with some colleagues.

During training there were quite a few people with an English accent, not all from the U.K. After interacting with them for the past week and a half, I picked up some of their intonations and accent in certain words. I don’t think it’ll stick with me though.

Now that training is over I will no longer be in Taipei, I have been placed in the district of Taishan which is in the Sanchong area. During training some people have decided that this wasn’t for them and left the training; this happened after we have received our assignments. Then the team had to readjust some things and I was offered the opportunity to change branches if I so desire to. I asked for information about the new place. I was told it is a large city of about 1 million people and still in development. When I was told this I was surprised because I considered that to be a huge city since large cities in the US don’t run that big.

After weighing out my options and choosing it solely base one what they tell me only I chose to move my assignment to Taoyuan. I figured I will be city enough for me and having been in a small town my whole life a little change won’t hurt.

Now begins my adventures in learning how to be a functional citizen in Taiwan. As of posting this blog I have found a place and got lost on my first day walking to work, in the rain! Man was that an adventure, when every alley looks like the last one you was just looking down. The confusion is real.