Thursday, April 30, 2009
"I know you! Do you remember me? We met on New Year's at City Music! You are dancing queen! I have your picture!"
I promised her I'd stop by the bar tomorrow night so I can see my dancing queen picture and listen to some live music.
Oh man, living in Nankan is awesome.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Whenever I watch these, I feel like coming home. Also - two weeks ago I ate a "barbecue" sandwich at T.G.I.'s and thought it was delicious. If that's not proof I've been away from America too long, nothing is.
The boy band (ouch, I bet they don't want me to call it that) is playing at Siuslaw Middle School Friday. And Billy is singing "Amazing Grace" during the church service Sunday. I really wish I could be home for that. But I would probably cry and everyone would be embarrassed.
As for here in Taiwan: On Saturday I got to see Invitation Only (Taiwan's first slasher-horror)with a director Q&A for free because James' uncle's friend's daughter is the leading actress. Gotta love that guanxi. A L.A.M.P. post will follow shortly.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Many were easy to delete: a handful highlighted my lazy eye; plenty were awkward or out of focus; some were a little too sexy for my prim sensibilities; in a few the light hit my skin so I looked like Crater Face from Grease; and in a whole heap I looked really nervous. I made myself nervous again just looking at them. So long nascent modeling career.
Still, it took an hour and a half to find the photos I wanted (poor, poor James). And I wound up paying an extra $390NT for a 13th (only 12 were included in the package).
My package included a novel-sized photo book. The sales lady tried to trick me into upgrading to a coffee- table-sized book, like the kind they sell at museum stores.
She acted so surprised when I declined her "special offer." Oh, she was good. She could tell I was mighty tempted to supersize myself.
Saleslady: "Ni bu yao? Zhende ma?!" (You dont want it? Really?!)
Me: "Wo de qian bu gou!" ("I don't have enough money," much more fun to say in Chinese).
My practicality, and sense of shame, won the day. I really don't need to haul a coffee table book across the Pacific. Also, the fact I already dropped more money than I meant to ($390 extra picture, $500NT stupid face cream) helped steel me against her beguiling smile and uniform skirt suit.
Besides, I thought, if I got a coffee table book I wouldn't be able to carry it everywhere I go. Or I'd at least have to buy a bigger purse (joke).
I'm pleased with the photos I picked. They're pretty zany. I have a page of proofs and when I look at them I think they look like photos taken in Asia. I like that.
In two weeks I'll go back to pick up my small book of photos and the CD.
Who needs a coffee table book when there's the internet?
Friday, April 24, 2009
Today we learned "chi xi jiu," or, "eat happy wine" is a Chinese idiom for wedding. So you say, "I'm going to go eat happy wine." And everyone knows you're going to a wedding.
Speaking of weddings, my classmate from South Africa got married Tuesday. And my Australian classmate leaves Monday for her wedding/honeymoon in Bali. The life of an ex-pat is sooooo roooomantic.
And yesterday, during a break from Chinese class, we all peered out the third-story window to watch men in dress shirts strapping a bamboo tree to the top of a sedan, another Chinese wedding tradition.
My teacher explained the symbolic significance of tying a bamboo tree to the roof of one's car, but I forgot it. I think it had to do with eternity.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
They burst out laughing and wagged their fingers at me.
"No! Kaizi is stupid rich man!"
Really, I knew that car was, 'che' or 'chezi.' However, you 'kai' (drive) a car, and I think that's where I got mixed up.
Chinese is funny: Last week a student complained to me that her friend called her "ben dan." Stupid egg. I knew what she meant before she translated it. 'Stupid egg' was too silly-sounding for me to take seriously. Although, it can be used as a serious insult (like calling someone an idiot).
Last weekend, for the first time, I was able to chat a bit with James' grandma. We talked about how much James eats. And I asked her about when she was married (in 1951, after moving to Taiwan). I asked if she wore four dresses (the local tradition). She said no. Times were very hard back then.
And yesterday I was standing outside my school when a parent walked up. In Chinese, I told her I lived across the street, and that I was waiting to go to Taoyuan to teach my night class.
It's so gratifying to learn a language in a place where everyone is a potential teacher - little kids, teenagers, people in the elevator, my boss, James' grandma, the bus driver, even the curmudgeonly tea man who lets me know he has no idea what "moo lee hua cha" is. Oops.
I really like learning Chinese. And now that I've been teaching a foreign language for six months, I have a much better idea about how to be a good student.
While learning Spanish, I somehow convinced myself it wasn't necessary to talk in class - I figured it was enough I understood the other people talking. This, I now realize, is a terrible way to learn a foreign language. You must must must talk to do it right.
The flip side to this Chinese immersion environment is I catch myself speaking pidgin English for the sake of expediency. It's unconscious. But I feel bad when I catch myself doing it with students. I only hope upon my return to the English-speaking realm I wont feel inclined to say things like, "This afternoon we go to other school. Have give students a test."
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Me: "Oh thank you."
Her: "Your legs, your skin is so so so..."
Her: "Yes! So white! I hope my skin can ... be like you!"
Brother, I don't hear that often. In fact, I have A. been sunburned in late afternoon in spring in Alaska, B. endured laughter and derision several times for wearing shorts, and C. more than once, been likened to a vampire.
My high school choir (which I played piano for) took a senior trip to Hawaii. I thought I looked pretty cool in my red two-piece, strutting down the beach, until I got within shouting distance of my friends (who were, duh, laughing). "We spotted you from way over there! You're the whitest person here!"
Really, I like to be outdoors. But you would never tell from looking at me. After many, many summers of calculation and attempt - I've concluded that I just don't tan. I burn.
So what a change it was to hear someone say she wanted to look like me. My student went on to detail the pricey whitening cream she tried the previous night (to no affect).
That skin whitening stuff is everywhere here. There's a three-story drugstore near my apartment. I went looking for Theraflu once. There were whitening creams on every floor, but no Theraflu.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
For the first two shoots (the Chinese dress, then a giant red prom dress) my photographer didn't want me to have a big smile. But I don't have a small mysterious smile. I have a full-teeth, wide-eyed grin, and then I have a smirk, and that's it.
He kept telling me not to look nervous. I kept looking nervous.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Today we were working on "Where is he from? "Where are you from?"
The list of famous people that a group of Chinese 10-year-olds and I can both identify is pretty short (Obama, Chairman Mao, and S.H.E., the preeminent Taiwanese girl band). Really, we know a lot more of the same people, it's just that they only know the Chinese names, and I only know the English ones. (Lots of famous people, like Michael Phelps, are known by Chinese names. His is "Fei Yu," flying fish.)
So I thought I'd try drawing Hitler, because I knew they learned how to say "Germany" in English.
I started with the haircut, then the moustache. And then shoulder boards with swastikas.
They didn't get it.
So I finished his military coat and planted a giant swastika on it.
Oh! Teacher, Yesu?
He is Yesu?
You mean Jesus? I mimed praying to make sure we understood each other.
No no no no no. He is from Germany. He killed a lot of people. His name is Hitler.
The kids seemed to get it after that. Though again, they only knew his Chinese name.
I'm pretty good at sketching. So I think it's the swastikas that did me in: Back home, sometimes the cross is used as a generic symbol for religion, here it's the Buddhist swastika. I think my kids thought I was trying to emphasize that he was religious. Oopsies.
One Track Minds (The Middle Children):
Just in case the world needed more proof 12-year-olds think about one thing only, here are the sentences mine came up with when working on sensory verbs:
Vivian hears Sam's heart beating.
Leslie watches boys dancing.
Ted felt he loved Bella.
Angela saw Bob washing his body.
Potty Mouth (The Eldest):
I was explaining when to use the word "terms" instead of "words." I asked the students to make sentences using "terms." The most notable came from Judy:
"He uses lots of bad terms, like fuck and shit."
Uproarious giggles ensued.
"Judy, you can't say that."
"The f-word is a really really bad word."
"So please, you can't say that. Don't say that in front of foreigners, because they will think bad things about you."
I can't really blame her for not knowing the weight of the word. I've heard obscene unfiltered American rap lyrics in clothing stores here. Context gets lost in translation. All I can do is tell her not to say it.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I think at first I said "4 o'clock Saturday morning," which caused momentary confusion and distress, but eventually I got it right (Saturday afternoon).
It's so gratifying to learn a language and be able to put it to practical use.
I don't expect the photographer will speak a lot of English. I've even heard it's more common for photographers to speak Japanese, since plenty of Japanese people come to Taiwan for pictures.
If nothing else, it should be interesting.
Everyone says it's important to practice making faces in front of the mirror ahead of time. I haven't really done that. But sometimes James will coach me when we're out at dinner or waiting for our order at the tea stand: "Pretend you're in a Sofia Coppola movie. I want to see intelligent, but lost." "Now I want to see getting a tooth pulled, without Novocaine." "Okay, make a face like you're at a funeral but you really have to fart."
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Then in today's vocabulary we were introduced to "tiao."
"Tiao" is the measure word for long-narrow objects, such as fish, roads, boats, snakes and trousers, my book says.
In Chinese when counting things you have to use a measure word. You cannot just say "three pens" ("san bi"). You must say "three writing-instrument-measure-word pens" ("san zhi bi").
The measure words we've learned so far have been easy, and the simple "ge" suffices for lots of things - fruit, people, schools, ideas...
Now they tell us we have to use "tiao" for fish, roads, boats, snakes and trousers.
Chinese makes less sense than it did yesterday.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
|Me, Danshui River, Taipei 101 in the background|
James and I rented bikes and went for a ride along the Danshui River today. It was the first sunny Saturday we've had in awhile, so we wanted to take advantage of it. And after I got over my initial terror that people here would bike the same way they drive (mmm, which they kind of did), I had a lovely time.
|From Bike Ride|
|From Bike Ride|
|From Bike Ride|
|From Bike Ride|
|From Bike Ride|
What I really want to see though is some Taiwanese Little League. Taiwan has won 17 Little League World Series, second only to the U.S. (which has won 31). The U.S. has 300 million people, Taiwan has 23 million. Even if you don't care about baseball, this should impress you. Although, I still don't know how kids here find time to play sports after all the school work. But I intend to find out where they play.
We turned our bikes in just before 5 p.m., they only cost $100NT ($3 U.S.) for two hours. So we had a nice, cheap Saturday enjoying Taipei's green space!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Fast forward 15 years: I live in Taiwan. I like Chinese food, and I can speak enough Chinese to buy it myself.
Last night I ordered noodles and fish ball soup at a shop up the block from my apartment. James and I eat there often, they make Fuzhou (Southern China) cuisine. Their noodles are only garnished with green onions and a little bit of spicy sauce, but they're delicious. They make them some special way, so they have this meaty delicious flavor - not plain at all. The fish balls are also fabulous - hearty and not fishy.
I'm really pleased with how my Chinese is progressing: I was able to order my food; say thank you when the cashier complimented my Chinese; affirm that I was an American; and say "He's at work" when she asked where my boyfriend was.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
It wont be screened in mainland China. The People's Republic deemed it too violent. In truth, I had to cover my eyes when gangsters cut off Jackie's friend's hand outside the guy's chestnut stand. Eeeeeeh.
My biggest problem was the movie starts with Jackie as a poor farmer in Northern China. He is engaged to a young country lass, who looks much, much younger. The girl moves to Japan. Jackie immigrates to track her down. I spent half the movie tsk, tsking 55-year-old Jackie for chasing jailbait.
During the second half of the movie, I realized there was a big time lapse between the China scenes and Jackie's arrival in Japan. The lovers are supposed to be near in age. But Jackie just looked old throughout. Lighting and makeup, folks...
Other than that, it was really fun. Japanese is a great language for gangsters. And the muscle carried machetes instead of guns. That is cool.
At the end a swarm of gangsters attacks Jackie Chan's headquarters. One of them prefaces the fight with, "Now we will use the Bushido Way." Turns out the Bushido Way is hurling sizable rocks at second-story windows. That is also cool.
Again, could not find a U.S. release date, but here's the trailer.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Fans on both sides were enthusiastic. Tainan had a small brass band and a big drum that aided fan chants. People(me included)clapped noisemakers through every inning.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
But I've been in Taiwan long enough that the prospect of visiting a restaurant that sells barbecue riblets and fajitas and fried macaroni bites excites me.
Tonight James and I fulfilled my desires, we visited T.G.I.F.'s in the neighboring town of Cjinpu.
Of course, this wasn't downtown Taipei, so there weren't any other waiguoren. I could see the bar TV from our table. At one point I saw a Tiger Balm commercial with a fat Chinese lady wearing blackface, which would never fly back home.
But other than that T.G.I.F.'s was exactly the same as everywhere else - right down to the faux 1950's knickknacks pinned to the wall. I could've been in any state of the union. I had a mojito and a barbecue beef sandwich, and James and I split the fried macaroni bites. It was awesome.
"The day care teacher wants me to make Earnest cry."
"Why, did he do something bad?"
"No, she just say she can't make him cry, so she want me to make him cry."
"But it's his birthday..."
"I know. So how about I yell at him, make him cry, but then we say, 'Just kidding!' It's your birthday!' and then give him his cake."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"Really? You don't think is funny?"
"No! Don't make him cry on his birthday!"
"But don't you think he will be so happy when he find out he not in trouble?"
"No. I think he'll be angry and embarrassed."
"Really? Really? But we give him a cake..."
"I really don't think that's a good idea."
Boss Man chimed in:
"Maybe you should not make him cry."
I have a suspicion that's as strongly-worded as Boss Man's advice to Boss Lady comes.
"Really? Are you sure it's not funny? Really? Okay."
This thankfully thwarted attempt at humor reminded me of a time the summer before I started high school: My parents used their new copier to create a doctored school district form so that it looked like I hadn't been accepted into the 9th grade honor program.
I don't think my parents were sadists. I think they momentarily forgot they were raising a very high strung kid. The ruse was up seconds after they handed it to me. You would've thought someone had died: I burst into tears. Snot poured forth from my nose. I even remember what I said, "Well, I don't know why noooooooot....."
Boss Lady? Highly probable she has a sadistic streak.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Then I acquired firsthand knowledge of the absurdity that can ensue in light of such "standards."
Last week I had to administer oral tests to a dozen 10-year-olds. They weren' my regular students.
I looked at the units they'd recently learned, and picked my test questions accordingly.
When I asked them, "What do I have?" or "What are you doing?" or "What is the teacher doing?" They had no idea what to say. They grinned and shuffled their feet, the precocious ones offered non-sequitur and ungrammatical one and two-word answers.
So I switched. I asked "What is he doing?" Ah-ha, then they knew: "He is swimming." How did they know? Because that's the example in the book. Most of them had four or five chapters worth of examples memorized, and not a clue how to use the words in real conversation.
A mind-boggling waste of time if you ask me.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
But there's a special group of people who speak to me in neither language. These people prefer the point-and-gesture method of communication.
I've run into enough point-and-gesture people to formulate a hypothesis that they do know some English. But they're torn between feelings of obligation to speak to me in English and feelings of dire humiliation at having to use their language skills. I can relate: I never used Spanish outside the classroom, although the opportunity occasionally arose.
The problem with these mimes, with whom I am trying to do business, is that sign language is not universal.
I know Chinese numbers, no problem, now. But rather than say the price, these people will make a series of hand gestures. In America, we raise five fingers and a thumb for 6. Chinese people do this: