Sunday, July 31, 2005


Since I also got paid on Thursday, I bought myself another DVD, Jiaozi, directed by Fruit Chan, starring Bai Ling (possibly one of the weirdest people I've ever seen). It's actually written by Lillian Lee, who wrote the book Farewell My Concubine. Anyway, as a Chinese lit major it's sort of impossible for me not to read something into the film. But anyway, the whole plot is centers around this retired actress married to a rich straying man, who wants to regain her youth. To do so, she goes to Bai Ling who claims to be in her 60s but looks about 30. Bai Ling goes to China and picks up aborted babies and then makes dumplings with them. Anyway the whole film is about what transpires between these two women, as well as several other characters who are involved.

The movie also looks really good, but since Christopher Doyle is the cinematographer I'm not really surprised. I think Dumplings has come out in the US at least in international film festivals so if you can see it, check it out, I thought it was pretty good, and the Chinese nerd in me was happy when they made references to the Water Margin and dumplings made out of people. It fits in well with the whole Chinese people eating other people genre of modern Chinese lit.

Disoccidented #2

I no longer point excitedly at the TV when I see an Asian person.

What did you do yesterday?

Something I ask my students all the time. Yesterday, I went to Taibei again. I feel like maybe I should be more adventurous and try going somewhere else, but there's an awful lot to see and do in Taibei so I'm pretty content with it for the time being. Anyway, as there was no typhoon or anything like that my fourth visit to Taibei was pretty enjoyable. I'm getting a lot of use out of my Youyouka, which is an electronic card that you can put money on and then use on the Taibei buses or MRT. I went back to Ximending and walked around. I'm not entirely sure what the big deal is about this place, but it could be that I'm just missing something. Anyway, they had these really elaborate sets advertising The Brothers Grimm. I walked around a good bit, got myself lost, found myself (at least geographically, the other part I'm still working on). I hopped back on the MRT and went off to Taibei 101, there's apparently a free shuttle bus, but honestly when where you want to end up is the tallest building in the world it's really not that hard to figure out how to get there. I mainly went there for the bookstore, the mall is large and shiny, and if you're into that thing I'm sure it's pretty cool. Otherwise, it's sort of like being back in America.

Incidentally for those of you Chinese studies people who are reading this, I ran into Zhou laoshi's book while in the bookstore. So perhaps he'll get a better job now and leave. It's called The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry or something like that.

An area I'd like to check out more next time is the area around the Taibei Train Station, I think next time I'll walk to the peace park and check it out.

Internet Cafes

So because there is apparently no more internet in our apartment I am using the internet cafe across the street, called Potato net with a little sign with a potato man. For the first time in a very very long time, I am surrounded by teenage boys playing computer games. This is going to take a little getting used to I think.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Sometimes I walk behind two blonde people and they turn around and they are Asian, in fact, 99.9% of all blonde people I see here are Asian. However there are a lot of Caucasian models on billboards and ads, and so in some ways, you see a lot of white people. In other ways, you don't see many at all.

Once in Taibei, an African American guy walked by. I assume that he was American mainly because he was dressed like American, for all I know he could have been Canadian, English, Jamaican or African. This Taiwanese guy who was lounging on the street corner did this double take and said (in Chinese) "Whoa, a black guy!"

Today, subbing for a class, this kid started speaking to me in Chinese, and I said "I don't speak Chinese" which is half a lie, and half not. So he asked "Where are you from?" and I said "America." and he actually looked me up and down, with a head motion and everything, and said "You're an ABC?" and I said "No." and he said a "CBA" I don't know what that is, I'm guessing Canadian, and I said "No." He's the only person who's pushed it that far. American is good enough for most people, although some will simply assume that I was born in Taiwan and have come back. I have to say, Taiwanese people so far have been way more tactful about the whole "Where are you from?" thing than my 21 years of experience in America.

However, in talking to my roommate about his experiences, I realize that I don't stick out as much as he does, in that I don't get people running up to me trying to be my best friend because I'm visibly foreign. At the same time, I think most people get the general idea that I ain't exactly from around here, although my roommate did advance the intriguing theory that they do think I'm local, but just as he put it "evil."

Something I think is cool #2

I've already linked to him, but I would just like to give a shout out to my buddy from high school, Nien, the only person to make me laugh out loud in an empty room twice.

Weird Things I Have Seen #3

A man in a wheelchair riding on a scooter. He had made this sidecar which he steered from.

Another woman in a wheelchair which she had covered with stickers, her chair plays music and advertisements.

Another sort of odd moment in my class was when this very serious little girl, Irene grabbed my hand at every available opportunity to grab my hand and say "Thank you teacher, thank you!" I don't really feel like I've done anything in particular with her so the whole thing was sort of weird. She's an odd one, she's very bright but she hates playing games and has curiously adult facial expressions. Some kids just have old faces and hers is one of them, she'll probably look the same when she's 20 as she does now. I guess it just makes me wonder what's going on with her to make her do things like that. I'll probably never know.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Something I think is cool

This guy's site, I originally read it for the comics, but I like his taste in music quite a bit too.

The Triumvirate of Terror and more stories from Teaching English

Remember the loud class that I mentioned? I once again had to send a kid out of the classroom, this time it was Loud Andy. I also suspect that I intervened and saved Willy from potential social humiliation when Andy jumped on him and another girl, Wendy, wrestled his paper away from him. I just took it and asked him if he wanted it back or if I should give it to him after the break. And he said, "After the break." Things like this sort of make me wonder what the hell I'm supposed to be doing? I'd feel a lot better if I knew for myself where I'm supposed to stand on things like these. Should I intervene or mind my own business? It's like being a HA all over again.

However quite a few kids said goodbye to me as they left and Wendy offered me some of her crackers after class, which was really nice because I was incredibly hungry. I actually like that class a lot, and they have now stopped insulting me.

Yesterday, I had a late dinner with my TA Ann. We went to this really hilarious place, a train themed restaurant. By which I mean there are traffic signals and you actually have to walk on gravel filled railroad ties for part of it. All of the staff are very cooler than thou and the whole time, hip hop music was blaring. I'm going to have to go back there even though the food was terrible just because it's so funny.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Wish you were here?

I'd really like to go to this. It's like the Decemberists concert all over again.

The most disgusting thing I've seen since I came here: ants swarming all over the dead body of a cockroach. I just thought I'd share.

Monday, July 25, 2005


One thing I have noticed about my school and teaching English there is there are some people who you never knew who used to teach there, who have left these sort of weird echoes of themselves with other people.

K. told me about the other two 22 year olds who were here last year, N and D. So I know that N was half white, half Asian, K. called him Amerasian, is that term valid anymore? Anyway, and D was South Asian, but had lived in America. Both of them are now in grad school.

I also know that D took the GRE while he was here, which I also hope to do. It's funny though because everyone here, from the teachers to the landlords upstairs loved D and talk about him all the time and how nice he was, whereas N has left very little of an echo at all. I also know that D and Feilin talked about racism in America and how D had encountered it in America and that he went to India to visit his "motherland" and came back thinking it was pretty dirty. Feilin said that he "thought too much" about things, which I suspect that I might as well in comparison. But living in America when you're Asian, maybe you do "think too much" about "those things." W is another guy who left an echo, he's the teacher Rodger took over from, who skipped out on rent from those upstairs and also used to smoke, drink, and visit those Cages which I have mentioned before.

Anyway, it made me wonder what sort of echo I might leave when I leave, or if I would leave one at all. I suspect mine would be more like N's. I tend not to talk in the office and I don't really socialize with the other teachers really. Whereas D seems to have been a fairly social and funny person. Of course the echoes from the school are rather different than the echoes from upstairs, although they generally correspond. But I'm guessing my echo from upstairs is rather different than that from the school. It's funny though since I almost feel like I know more about the people who are gone than the people who are here.


Yesterday, my roommate Daniel and I were supposed to go out looking for apartments but ended up sitting in a cafe and talking instead. Really this was fine since the one place we wanted to see resulted in a conversation on a busy street on a cell phone between me and some woman who I could barely understand. Rodger has observed that you really need a Chinese person to help you and after yesterday I pretty much agree. In talking to Daniel, he revealed the address of his own website which, if you are curious about you can read here.

Taiwan or Jilong is starting to grow on me. I've found a place to eat that serves vegetarian food, particularly eggplant and tofu and it only costs between 40-50 NT. I like both of my roommates a lot, and so for now, that and email make up a good amount of my social interaction. I think if I can afford it, I will take classes in September, if simply to meet more people and also because I know my writing and reading of Chinese is rapidly going downhill. Actually that's not entirely true, often I can make sense of the Chinese subtitles on the TV, but I prefer channels which have both English and Chinese.

A couple days ago, I amused myself by reading the Backstreet Boys' new music video's subtitles and comparing them to the original song. They're nothing alike according to my understanding of Chinese but it was fun to be able to read it. I have also noticed that I am picking up the Taiwanese "lazy s" in which sh becomes an s sound. Actually, learning Beijinghua means I am sometimes rather incomprehensible to other people, for example sishi (40) means nothing, you have say si tsi.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Girls are sneaky

I had a million ideas to write about, but of course by now I've forgotten them. One of them was a story about my K8-81 class which is mainly a bunch of junior high kids, except for 3 smaller smart kids. One of whom, Nick, cannot stay in his seat for the life of him. Anyway, they're a well behaved class but they just refuse to speak English. Anyway, there are groups of girls in the class and I noticed that although they aren't loud or throwing things like the boys, they are always talking to each other. So eventually I separated two of them, actually two pairs of them, and the girl I moved just sulked for the rest of the class.

There are some really good kids though, the smartest kids are actually the girls. I've found you just need to give them encouragement or they don't talk at all. Which can be frustrating because sometimes I don't understand and when I ask them again, they won't say anything. Hopefully this will improve. Actually I had a funny exchange with two of them. The boys, as always, are the most talkative.

Me: Why don't you guys speak English?
Ken: Because it is bad and terrible. And hard.
Me: What do you guys want to do?
Ken: Play the stickyball game!

Later, Ken's pal Daniel was still in the classroom after class.
Me: Daniel, you can leave, you can go home? Why are you still here?
Daniel: My mother says I have to stay here and do my homework.
Me: Why?
Daniel: She says if I go home, I will not do my homework.
Me: What do you do instead of doing your homework? Do you play computer games?
Daniel: No.
Me: Play basketball?
Daniel: Watch TV.

It's a pretty big difference between them and my K9 class on the same day where everyone is much younger and really likes speaking English. We were talking about "forget" What did you forget? What did you take? and one of the kids said "I took a shower." he looked very pleased with himself. It's actually pretty funny though.

I have been here for over one month

Ok, so I still don't have internet, but my roommate Rodger is letting me use his connection while he is at work.

Last night I finished a beer (Kirin Ichiban) for the first time. Laurel would be/should be proud. Since I'm a little past the month mark here, I thought a list of things that I miss about home and things I like about Taiwan might be interesting for people (all two of you).

Things I miss
1. comic books (mainly sort of weird ones like Same Difference, or Love and Rockets)
2. Asian Americans
3. hipster music, you know, the Decemberists, the Gossip etc. They just have top 40 stuff here and smooth jazz
4. people who are my age
5. a reliable access to the internet

Things I don't miss
1. The food, I still haven't been to McDonalds, Burger King or Starbucks
2. Tall people, here I'm not really very short
3. Usher

Things I like about Taiwan
1. The food
2. Cheap DVDs
3. The ability to see almost any Asian movie that I want to
4. The people, who except for the one lady at one restaurant that I went to have all been pretty nice
5. 7-11. High Life, Quanjia and all the other convenience stores
6. The fact that every cup of coffee is really an Americano

Things I don't really like about Taiwan
1. people who stare at me, and they do ALL THE TIME
2. the traffic
3. dog crap lying on the sidewalk
3. MSG

Oh the humanity!

I have been without Internet for two or three days now. Anyway, I'm back online and I have much to catch up on.

For the last couple days I've been seeing people in a parade dressed in what looks like Chinese opera outfits parading through the streets with floats. Today took the cake though, besides the people in the parade and the floats there was a truck playing disco-y pop music at the end of it. I'm not quite sure what's going on exactly, I'm guessing it might have to do with the Ghost Month festival or something.

Today, I went with Shuqin, my buddy, to Jiufen, which is up on a moutain. It's a little touristy, with lots and lots of people and lots and lots of things to buy. It's really beautiful though, you can look down and see Keelung Harbor, or Jilong Yu. Tomorrow (Monday) is the last Monday I'll have off, so I might head off to Taibei for a while, we'll see.

Also, I think my Chinese is getting better. I can understand what the Chinese teachers say at my office, although they don't know I can understand them. Also, I have now complained in Chinese and made someone laugh in Chinese.

There'll probably be a hundred other posts as I become less tired and remember things.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tom and Jerry the Jesus Twins and other stories from Teaching English

If you recall, the dice-rolling Jesus twins, I just realized last night that their names are Tom and Jerry. I had been thinking of them as Jerry and Tom, and then I realized how they must have gotten their names and I almost died. Anyway, on Tuesday, I had their class again and the concept I had to teach was "the same" and "different." It was really great because Tom and Jerry always dress alike. So I said, "Tom and Jerry's shirts are the same. Tom and Jim's shirts are different." Tom who is the better behaved twin understood at once, and just said, "Oh, I see." However Jerry, who sits in the opposite corner from his brother, just said I don't understand. So I explained how my shirt and his was different and his shirt and his brother's were the same. When he figured this out, he stood up from his chair and said (in Chinese) "I understand! My shirt and his shirt are the same, but my shirt and his(or her) shirt are different!" which lasted about a minute and a half.

That class is funny, but they've caught on to the fact that I can understand Chinese and they've caught me out a couple times.

My last class, which was older, K8-82, which means they are junior high school students, is also a handful. I actually had to send a kid out into the hall today simply because I was tired of dealing with him. However it made the other kids better behaved since they knew I would actually send kids out. Although all the kids test badly, they can speak English so they insult both me and each other in English. It's nice to have kids that can and do speak English though. The pages I had to teach were about parties. So I asked them to think of things that they would have to do to prepare for their party. Among some of their sentences, "I have to buy a gun." "I have to buy the Harry Potter DVD/VCD/book (there was a lot of vehement disagreement about this)." I did sort of enjoy the class though, and there are some good kids in it. Willy is probably my favorite so far, he's a good student and doesn't say much, but he's a nice kid. Although I do have a soft spot for Tina, who is one of the loudest girls and constantly tells me to hit the other students. Most of the girls here are so shy it's nice when some of them have some spunk.


Perhaps no one will find this amusing but me, but among the various things that have been left at our apartment, one of them is James Clavell's Gai-jin. The scholarly and sensitive treatise on Asian-Western relations that it is, I'm actually tempted to read it, just because I'm in Asia right now.

Also remember that man who started singing in the night market in a loud screechy voice along with his walkman? I think he's a regular. A week ago, I saw him in the same place jerkily and enthusiastically dancing to his walkman.

Say it ain't so

So I survived the typhoon ok. It seems to have passed on, but the nice thing is today was unusually cool. Staying inside more or less all day on Monday gave me cabin fever so I went out and walked around most of the day. I found a vegetarian buffet restaurant that I might try going back to some time.

I saw a bunch of weird stuff today. I've noticed that in DVD/VCD stores, a healthy amount of their merchandise is in fact porn. So once when I was waiting for the movie I'd bought a ticket for to start (Initial D), I popped into the DVD store across the street and there's this weird room sort of separate and then I see all these girls in their underwear on the covers. In one store I went to in Taibei, they didn't even bother to wall off their porn, it's just mixed in with the anime miniseries etc.

I had a couple new classes today, the last one of which, K8-83, promises to be full of surprises. Since most of my classes will ask me if I'm a girl or a boy, now I'll just ask them what they think. "How many people think I'm a girl? How many people think I'm a boy?" What gets me is it's always the boys who think I'm a boy and all the girls are like "Are you crazy, she's a girl!" You'd think if you were a boy you'd know one of your own, right? I guess not.

In other news, check out this account of the proposed new Disney film. If it's actually true I think I might kill myself.

Monday, July 18, 2005

My most often used Chinese phrases.

For your amusement:
Dui bu qi, wo bu dong= I'm sorry, I don't understand.
Ting bu dong= I heard what you said but I don't understand.
Zhongwen zenme shuo?= How do you say that in Chinese?
Wo zhende buzhidao zenmeshuo. I really don't know how to say that.
Wo yao waidai.=I want take out.
Bu yao. =I don't want (whatever they're offering).
Yi bei re kafei. Bu yao nai, bu yao tang.= One cup of hot coffee, I don't want milk or sugar.

Blogging in your own name

I thought this might be interesting to people it's a post on the dangers of blogging, particularly where you use your own name. You can find it here.

Things I will never understand #3

Maybe I should start an entirely new category, Video Poker. But anyway, this afternoon, I took a walk after the wind and rain died down. Sitting inside with no windows you didn't get a great idea of what was really going on, but all the debris, sandbags, and props gave me a better idea of how seriously people take typhoons here. Everything was closed, even Dinghao the 24hr a day grocery store. The only things that were consistently open were convenience stores like 7-11 and VIDEO POKER. Even during a typhoon people are in there playing video poker and pachinko.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


So we clearly have electricity during the typhoon. Although classes at my school were cancelled for today. Most everything is closed, except for 7-11 and the police station. So I'm sort of holed up in the apartment for today. In some ways it's kind of nice because I have an excuse to not really go anywhere and just relax for the day. I studied some for the GRE, most of you this doesn't apply for, but for those of you who just graduated, consider taking the GRE right out of high school. Why? Because it's exactly like an AP test only easier since it's not on a specific topic. I'm not that worried about it, except that I'm sort of out of practice at writing stupid essays in 45 minutes and answering annoying reading comprehension multiple choice questions. Standardized tests are such bullshit.

Anyway, the typhoon here so far hasn't been too spectacular, it's just raining really really hard and incredibly windy. There are only two windows in the apartment neither of which is anywhere near my room but I can still hear the wind and rain.

The most dramatic thing about it is that there's no one out on the street at all and all the stores are closed. One thing about Jilong anyway is that walking the streets in the morning, during the day, and at night, the same places are almost unrecognizeable. During the day, most of the stores extend their business out onto the street in front of their store. Also, mostly because of the rain most sidewalks in Jilong are covered walkways, the second floors of the buildings are built out over them I'm pretty sure, so as you walk by you're often literally walking through their store. In the morning, since most stores here open at 11, they all have metal shutters that completely cover their storefront. At night all the bars and strip bars are recognizeable since their signs are the only ones that are lit up.

Things I will never understand #2

Ok, last post for today I swear, but really, we may be without power during the typhoon and then what will I do?

How the hell did a mosquito bite me on the inside of my wrist WHERE I WEAR MY WATCH??

Every movie I see has Edison Chen and Shawn Yue in it

Ximending was a lot slicker than I would have expected of the area frequented by college students but I guess it is Taibei. Apparently a typhoon is coming tomorrow, so there was a lot of rain that started while I was there. However, I did find a large record store that also sells DVDs which had a pretty large selection. I bought this movie, Jianghu on impulse. I knew that it starred Andy Lau of Infernal Affairs fame, but when I played the movie on my computer, the first two people I saw were Edison Chen and Shawn Yue again. They really need to make more movies that don't involve triads or each other.

Anyway it was pretty good movie although the twist at the end I didn't particularly like. It once again confirms for me that Shawn Yue is a far superior actor to Edison Chen. Although I'm pretty sure no one else cares about this but me. It's all about brotherhood, which for you Chinese nerds has something to do with the Rivers and Lakes of the title. Anyway, all this brotherhood becomes a little, uh, well, homosocial after a while, at least to me. Whatever.

Another fun factoid, Taiwanese rain stings. I think it might be acid rain.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

New World Water

When I get back to America, I'm going to drink so much tap water. Just in case you didn't know, like I did, you cannot drink the tap water in Taiwan. You must go to the 7-11 and buy bottled water or boil your own.

I've found I get too depressed if I stay in the apartment for too long. There are maybe two windows in the whole apartment and neither of them are in my room, so I'll go out for a walk. Yesterday, I decided to walk up to the giant Guanyin statue that is in Jilong which I still haven't been to. I didn't end up getting that far, but I did find a nice place that overlooks a roller skating rink and just sat there and drank my passion fruit juice. It was just nice to be surrounded by some greenery and hear birds.

In other news, my roommate Daniel found out last night that he has to go to Hong Kong today in order to renew his visa. He didn't even know if he would have to cover the plane ticket or the late fee. It sounds now like his company will pay for it. Actually his company sounds pretty sketchy and disorganized and he was understandably rather angry. I bought him ice cream, since I just got paid on Thursday, and I don't think he has much money left, nor has he gotten paid. It made me realize how lucky I am really. I try not to complain anyway, but man, I really don't have anything to complain about in comparison.

Today I think I'm off to Taibei again, I'm going to check out Ximending, which is apparently the student area, hopefully there will be some record stores to look at.

Also I have some requests to make, if anyone knows how to
1. make VCDs work on your computer
2. type Chinese characters on a PC
3. a good way to download Chinese music, baidu is ok but I'm looking for a better (Taiwanese) one.

I would be eternally grateful. If you're wondering where the title of my post comes from I will refer you to this

Mos Def - New World Water
There's nothing more refreshing (that cool refreshing drink)
Than a cool, crisp, clean glass of water
On a warm summer's day (That cool refreshing drink)
Try it with your friends
New World Water make the tide rise high
Come in and it'll make your house go 'Bye' (My house!)
Fools done upset the Old Man River
Made him carry slave ships and fed him dead nigga
Now his belly full and he about to flood somethin
So I'ma throw a rope that ain't tied to nothin
til your crew use the H2 in wise amounts since
it's the New World Water; and every drop counts
You can laugh and take it as a joke if you wanna
But it don't rain for four weeks some summers
And it's about to get real wild in the half
You be buying Evian just to take a f**kin bath
Heads is acting wild, sippin poor, puffin dank
Competin with the next man, but how your playa rank?
See I ain't got time try to be Big Hank,
F**k a bank; I need a twenty-year water tank
Cause while these knuckleheads is out here sweatin they goods
The sun is sitting in the treetops burnin the woods
And as the flames from the blaze get higher and higher
They say, 'Don't drink the water! We need it for the fire!'
New York is drinkin it (New World Water)
Now all of California is drinkin it (New World Water)
Way up north and down south is drinkin it (New World Water)
Used to have minerals and zinc in it (New World Water)
Now they say it got lead and stink in it (New World Water)
Four carbons and monoxide
Push the water table lopside
Used to be free now it cost you a fee
Cause all things fully loaded they roam cross the sea
Man, you gotta cook with it, bathe and clean with it (That's

When it's hot, summertime you fiend for it (Let em know)
You gotta put it in the iron you steamin with (That's right)
It's what they dress wounds and treat diseases with (Shout it
The rich and poor, black and white got need for it (That's
And everybody in the world can agree with this (Let em know)
Assumption promotes health and easiness (That's right)
Go too long without it on this earth and you leavin it (Shout it
Americans wastin it on some leisure shit (Say word?)
And other nations be desperately seekin it (Let em know)
Bacteria washing up on they beaches (Say word?)
Don't drink the water, son they can't wash they feet with it
(Let em know)
Young babies and professional neediness (Say word?)
Epidemics hopppin up off the petri dish (Let em know)
Control centers try to play it all secretive (Say word?)
To avoid public panic and freakiness (Let em know)
There are places where TB is common as TV
Cause foreign-based companies go and get greedy
The type of cats who pollute the whole shore line
Have it purified, sell it for a dollar twenty-five
Now the world is drinkin it
Your moms, wife, and baby girl is drinkin it
Up north and down south is drinkin it
You just have to go to your sink for it
The cash registers is goin to chink for it
Four carbons and monoxide
Got the fish lookin cockeyed
Used to be free now it cost you a fee
Cause it's all about gettin that cash (Money)
Said it's all about gettin that cash (Money) (x9)
Johny cash (Money)
Roseland cash (Money)
Give me cash (Money)
Cold cash (Money)
(Repeat to fade)
Cash rules everything around me,

My school

I haven't really talked much about my workplace. I'm still getting the hang of teaching. The people, particularly the foreigners here are sort of odd. Although they are all very nice, at the end of the day, you go your way and they go theirs and that's sort of it. Daniel, my other roommate who I have not seen in a couple days for all that we supposedly live together, and I compared notes last week and we both noticed that everyone here already has their little world and they don't really feel inclined to add to it.

Anyway, K. is my boss. He's from Canada, although ethnically Chinese. At work he wears one hat and out of class he puts on glasses and another hat so that his students won't recognize him. L., also from Canada, he's pretty quiet, I don't know much about him except that he studies Chinese in Taibei and has a Taiwanese girlfriend. M is the other American in the office and also used to live in Seattle for a while although he's originally from the East Coast. G, also from Canada, who I'm replacing and is leaving for Canada tomorrow. She's been pretty nice, I'm sort of sad she's leaving since she's probably one of the most social people in the office. O also from Canada the other woman in the office. A, who has been here longer than anyone else, is from Australia. He likes to talk a lot. Rodger my roommate who I've mentioned before. And E, who's Chinese and lives with her grandmother but she's from South Africa too. There are quite a lot of Chinese teachers there as well. Y who is a teacher's assistant is well respected in the office as well as being the only Chinese man who is there most of the time. D who is a co-teacher of mine. There are a lot of others but they mostly keep to themselves.

See how well I know these people?

Stuff that's kind of fucked up

In a record store, they sell this CD that's called Orientalism. No joke. That and one of the tracks is called Siamese Sex Show. Encountering it in Asia is also a little weird.

Also there's a brand of toothpaste called Heiren, which means Black Person and it shows a black man in a top hat with shining teeth.

This place that my roommate Rodger told me exists in Jilong which he calls The Cages, which is pretty much a brothel with girls in cages. He told me he visited once with another teacher, although he says he was just window shopping.

In more uplifting news, I've been watching Chinese MTV a lot. There's a record store a couple doors down from my apartment where there were about 200 teenagers, mostly girls lining up to buy a new CD. I got sort of curious about what pop sounded like. If you're curious, Ying (former Language Scholar at Reed) recommended
unfortunately it's in simplified characters which are more difficult for me to read but you can always click on the top 100 newest songs, 200 most popular artists, or 500 top songs.
some things that I've been listening to are
幸福下载 by 元卫觉醒
睁一只眼 闭一只眼 by 蔡依林
亲一下 by Sweety
飘移 by 周杰伦 or Jay Zhou/Chou

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

What makes a FOB a FOB?

For those of you who don't know, a FOB is Fresh Off the Boat. Asian American slang for newcomers. Preoccupied by issues of Asian American identity as I am and since I only worked 18 hours this week, I've been thinking about this a lot.

It's weird to be a person here, rather than an Asian person. If I get stared at it's because I dress funny or am smiling for no apparent reason in public. At the same time, what I miss most about home isn't really American culture, burgers, french fries and American TV, it's Asian Americans. Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone right? I miss obnoxious overachievers, spiked hair, rice rockets, guys named Jimmy Lee who wore plaid shirts and khakis, and girls named Jenny Lin who weighed 80 pounds and had really long black hair. Have I mentioned Honda Civics? I miss Honda Civics. Hell, I don't even like people like that, I just miss having them around.

Also the thing is, there's a very different idea of fashion and cool here. I've been watching Taiwanese MTV and it's native clone Channel V an unholy amount. Some things I don't particularly like or seem laughable to me, but some of it I like a lot. Anyway, tons of people that I know want to go to America, and I feel sort of weird talking to them about America because I have an idea about what they might face when they get there. I went to school with kids who were FOBs and got made fun of for their weird clothes, funny food and shoes. Generally their English was pretty bad and they were too nice to say anything about it anyway. What am I supposed to say to these people who think that America is this wonderful place with tons of opportunities for everyone and for them? I did tell my TA Ann, who wants to go to Denver Colorado for school about how kids I know from Reed are picking up dead bodies for minimum wage, and she said "That's not what I thought America was like at all." I felt sort of bad, I mean who am I to say anyway? But I guess I thought it was fair warning.

It's weird though, here people who would be FOBs in America look cool here, and I mean in my perception. It's just strange to think about how one's perception of people's clothes and bearing changes depending on where you are. Cool's just different here, and my perceptions have been changing I think to accomodate that.


I've been teaching for a couple weeks now, but there really hasn't been much of note, however tonight's 5-7 class took the cake. We were playing a game. I divided the class into two teams, I believe they were the Pinky-Mimi team and Team 2 who couldn't think of a name. Anyway, a person from each team would have to give me an answer and the one who said it first got to pick a number of points from a grid on the board, then they had to roll the dice. They could choose to either keep the points for their team or give it to the other team. Odd numbers meant negative points, even numbers meant positive points.

I have a pair of twins in my class and both of them started calling out Jesus's name before rolling the dice. Pretty soon the whole class was chanting "Jesus! Jesus!" every time they rolled the dice. It seems a little weird to me to be calling out Jesus's name when what we were doing was essentially gambling. Also it is a bit frivolous to call on the Son of God to give you a lucky roll. But anyway, it was certainly a memorable class.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Why I should never consume caffeine ever

Since apparently a cup of coffee in Taiwan equals an Americano, (for for those of you who are not coffee drinkers an Americano is a shot of espresso with hot water added), I have been gleefully indulging my caffeine addiction to the point where on Sunday when I forgot to have coffee I got the holy mother of all headaches and had to come back home.

Anyway, on my current caffeine high I have been trying to think of a dictionary definition of the word Hella. Please feel free to add your own, if there is in fact anyone out there.

Hella adj. an adjective expressing an undefined quantity.

Weird Things I have seen #2

In the market, a man listening to a walkman suddenly burst into extremely loud and raucous song. When I left he was still singing, which was probably about 2 or 3 minutes later. He had a loud and screechy voice that was particularly unpleasant. What's even weirder is that everyone just sort of went about their business like nothing weird was going on.

The people upstairs

I spent the last two hours with "The people upstairs" so for all three of you that are reading this (Hi mom) I feel like I owe it to them to say something about them. Anyway there's a large extended family living upstairs. I think they own the whole building and they live on top of it. The landlord himself is deaf and his wife runs a beauty salon and likes to go swimming. According to her daughter and daughter-in-law she likes to leave the house without a key and then call them and make them come back to let her in. They have three kids Vincent, Jeremiah, and Feili. Vincent and his wife Shuqin (Rebecca) and their two kids, Angela and Allan, live upstairs and Feili commutes between here and Xinchu. When she's here, she lives in the apartment where I am. She's the one who speaks English the best, although Vincent speaks some as well. Jeremiah and his wife/fiancee/girlfriend? Eva used to live here but they went to study theology in Singapore shortly after I arrived. Have I mentioned they like Jesus a lot? They do. Although their offers to take me to church or bible study have mostly stopped now, so their kindness is geniune I think, I hope.

Anyway, Shuqin likes me. I think in general they like female tenants better than male ones. She invites me up to eat with them a lot or if I have a question she can usually answer it or take me to buy something. I also get along well with her kids Allan and Angela. Angela is 7 and likes the color pink. For some reason we had Candyland in our apartment. This is just one of the mysterious objects that remains, along with a 2003 Playboy, a bottle of what was ostensibly Scotch which now has water and some brown stuff floating at the bottom of it, and a bottle of brown liquid which is labeled opium.

Since the rules are in English, Angela just made up rules. What's weird is every time she plays she makes them up differently and they also get increasingly elaborate. It's really amazing. Allan is 3 and was born in America, in Kirkland, Washington to be exact, and we have the same birthday. He's mostly a good kid, although sometimes he makes a sound like the alien from Alien. I'm not kidding. When both of them are mad, they can wrinkle their eyebrows so that the bridge of their nose makes a bump 3 cm high. They really like my computer because their father won't let them use his. They particularly like Futurama, and Angela now knows the words Robot and You're cheating. Sometimes I do my job.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Why is it that every time I go to Taibei I find myself in a giant mall?

As you may have guessed from the title, today I went to Taibei all by myself. It actually wasn't too bad. I had to ask someone where to stand in line, but otherwise it worked out pretty well. I took the MRT (the subway) to Shilin and then took another regular bus to the National Palace Museum where I walked around for a couple hours and enjoyed some fantastic air conditioning as well as looking at art. Unfortunately, like most big famous museums there were hordes of bored children whose parents were clearly forcing them to do something educational for the weekend.

Shilin seems like a nice area, much less busy and also very green, which is a nice change from what I saw of Taibei in the three days I was there and also of Jilong where I currently reside. The art at the National Palace Museum was pretty cool. A couple scrolls of the type of painting where they use heavy greens and blues and gold, I forget what it's called, Ming copies of Journey to the West, Qing dynasty pocket watches, and a lot of jade were some of the highlights. Although I wished I could have seen the jade pendant that I got my tattoo from.

Under the main MRT/train station is a gigantic mall where there were these flocks of teenagers sitting in circles on the floor, playing the guitar, making posters, doing homework?, anyway, there were tons of other people around who didn't seem that phased by it, so whatever they were doing there, they weren't disturbing the peace.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Initial D

Yesterday, although I guess for most of you it's still today, I saw my first movie in Jilong. I read about it on Apparently in Hong Kong it outgrossed both Star Wars III and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Since it's playing in the closest of the two movie theaters in Jilong aka the one I can walk to and I don't have class until Tuesday, I thought I would go see it. For those of you who are into Hong Kong movies, it's got Jay Chou, Shawn Yue, and Edison Chen in it, and was directed by the same people as the ones who did Infernal Affairs.

What is weird is that it's a remake of a Japanese manga, but the dialogue is all in Chinese and I'm really not sure whether it's supposed to take place in Japan or Taiwan or what. Anyway, they have "Japanese" names but they say them in Chinese so for example Jay Chou's character's name is Takumi but in the film they all say "Bohai" which is Takumi only pronounced like Chinese rather than Japanese. Anyway, fortunately the film had English subtitles, but they didn't translate the characters' names so the effect was sometimes a little weird. I also saw the movie at around 4:40 on Saturday which is a work day for most people so it was just me and a bunch of teenagers, it made me feel kinda old.

Anyway the movie is all about what I think is called drift racing, which is some form of illegal street racing where people take curves down mountains at high speeds, I don't really know how to describe it. Given the success of Infernal Affairs, they might release it in America or if not, I'm sure Hollywood will buy the rights to it so you can just see the remake. Or perhaps you can just see Justin Lin's Fast and Furious 3 which apparently is going to involve Paul Walker going to Japan and getting involved in drift racing. 10 bucks says they rip off this movie. Truly there is no God.

This weird thing happened on my way to the theater. As I was walking by this woman started following me and talking to me. She was talking really really fast, so I couldn't really figure out what she was saying, but I sort of shook my head and waved her away and then she said something like, "You're not from Taiwan, where are you from?" I just sort of figured she was talking so much that if I pretended to not understand her, there was pretty much nothing she could do, so I just said "I don't understand." in Chinese until she went away.

Friday, July 08, 2005

On being American in Taiwan

Coming out of college there are a couple things that are striking me about the real world. 22 is apparently very young which means you have to relate to people differently. Being in Taiwan has also made me realize that a lot about the way I was raised in America was distinctly unAmerican. For example since being here I have played Candyland for the first time and
watched MTV for the first time. I realize that this makes me sort of lame, but I've really never done any of this stuff before. Also, it's weird but people always point out McDonalds and KFC as places that might remind me of home. Then I have to tell them that I haven't been to a McDonald's since I was six and I'm pretty sure I've never eaten at a KFC in my life.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

My apartment

I have two roommates. Rodger who I know pretty well since he's been living in Jilong/Keelung for two months and Daniel who I don't know well since he moved in yesterday. Anyway, Rodger is "almost forty," he's from South Africa, and he's lived in Taiwan for four years. He has a long term girlfriend in Taizhong which is another city in Taiwan. He's a pretty quiet guy but we get along well. Apparently all the foreign teachers or a lot of them go to some bar called "The Truck" every Wednesday and Friday to go drinking. I went the first day I was here, and some guy thought I was Rodger's girlfriend, which probably shouldn't have irritated me as much as it did, but it did. Daniel moved in yesterday and he is or used to be from England, and wants to be a writer, apparently he has some sort of travel website where he writes about his travels. He likes to drink coffee by himself.

The people who live upstairs apparently own the entire building. I've become friendly with the daughter-in-law Rebecca or Shuqin and her two kids. They're pretty religiously Christian, but seem nice besides that. They have offered to take me to church a couple times, hopefully if I keep refusing they'll just stop. Anyway Shuqin doesn't speak English so we mostly talk in Chinese, although this really means she talks in Chinese and I sort of say things in a disconnected fashion in Chinese. It's sort of hard for me to communicate my views on interracial marriage or racism in America in a very sophisticated way. Anyway, they used to live in Bellevue and Shuqin's husband used to work at Microsoft. Also I have the same birthday as their son. Weird right?

Weird things I have seen #1

A man, a woman, and two husky dogs riding down a main street in Jilong on a scooter. I don't think this is normal since the people next to me were also laughing at them.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Things I will never understand #1

At 10 in the morning on Thursday, why are there people sitting in arcades playing video poker?

From Taiwan

It is incredibly hot over here. Yesterday, I went to the local big bookstore to just cool off and there were millions of people there. One cool thing about Taiwan is it seems to be ok to read openly in the store. I guess it's a sort of banal way to start talking about "my life abroad" so here's a list of things I like and a list of things I don't like.

Things I like
In Taiwan you get over a hundred channels, I get HBO, which I've never gotten before. Also there are people playing Jenga on TV and once I'm pretty sure I saw an advertisement for a dildo. There are some odd goings here apparently.

Taiwanese people are really nice

The landlord's grandchildren who live upstairs

I can get dinner for NT $20 which is about 60c.

7-11 has good food, is clean, and sells magazines and DVDs, and also apparently you can pay your energy bill there, if you're into that kind of thing

Things I don't like

Foreigners here, they are almost all men, most of them are older. Although a lot of them are nice, including my roommate, it makes for a lot of uncle-like social interactions

At work, one of the guys was telling us how in Australia some Muslims were complaining about the pool not being segregated by sex and his friend told them to go back where they came from. This was meant in a humourous way.

My students asking me or the TA "Xin de laoshi shi nan de haishi nu de." Are you a boy or girl?

Cockroaches the size of Texas

More later.