Thursday, May 28, 2009
James and I have today off, so we decided to take a few more days off and do some traveling. We're headed to Tainan, and then on to Penghu Island.
We wont be back until Tuesday, so no posts until then.
The other is a teacher in his mid-thirties. And, bless his heart, he brought both his wife and another female friend to our first meeting just so I wouldn't mistake him for a creep. His dream is to one day do doctoral studies in the U.S.
With both partners we spent about half the time talking in Chinese and half the time talking in English. It's really encouraging just to know I can spend that much time talking in Chinese. I think these exchanges are going to be really helpful.
My partners are proof you don't have to go abroad to learn a language: They're both basically fluent in English, and neither has ever left Taiwan.
But what going abroad does do is - out of necessity - make you realize you don't have to be fluent in order to speak a language.
I'm nowhere near fluent: I can't understand the news, and I'm not watching movies in Chinese (although I did rewatch Tropic Thunder and caught a Chinese joke I couldn't have before).
Am I conversant? Mmmm... only if the conversation stays broad and simple. Say for instance, you are my cab driver and you tell me how rude and miserable people are on the mainland. I'll get that. But probably because Taiwanese people - on both sides of the political spectrum - are quite proud of their superior warmth and courtesy.
Fluent, conversant - maybe not. But I can speak Chinese. I can make my way around and I can get to where I want in a taxi. And if I'm talking to someone (like my LE partners) and I use enough words and take enough time, they'll probably understand what I'm getting at. Likewise, if they say it slow enough and repeat it a couple times - I'll probably figure it out.
And that's already way more than I could ever say for my Spanish.
So if you're learning a language, or thinking about learning a language, for your own sake FIND SOMEONE TO SPEAK IT TO! And speak often! That's the single most important thing to do.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
|Is that a feeder bunny I see on the right?|
On Lily's last night we went out to Taipei's most touristy night market, Snake Alley, where people go to admire and/or eat snakes.
Just like my Uncle Indiana, I'm not a big fan of the snake. But I managed to cowboy up and ingest some.
|Snakes are about as delicious as they are cute.|
|Lily one-upped me and had two bites.|
|The rest of the table passed on "bile."|
|Dinner on Display!|
Saturday, May 23, 2009
|From Lily visits|
Thursday, May 21, 2009
My kid brother had a killer weekend last week at a North Bend baseball tournament:
He hit three home runs and three triples and batted in most the runs his teams scored.
Then he hit a double when they were trying to walk him by throwing over his head. According to my parents, he jumped up, swung over his head, and hit it.
His big sister never scored a goal in her one summer of kiddie soccer.
This will be my first summer since he was in T-ball that I wont see a single game - the true cost of living abroad. Sigh.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
On Monday, Lily's first full day, we took the train to Yilan. We didn't have much of a plan, but after some tromping around and train-hopping we wound up in Jiaosi, which my Taiwan Rough Guide calls "a workingman's hotspring resort town." Whatever that means.
We walked into a hotspring hotel near the train station, and the front desk lady gave us the key to a rent-by-the-hour hotel room with a bathtub. Uhhh.... Once in the room, much cackling and awkward noise-making ensued. Thankfully, the clerk was cool about giving us our money back. And we pressed on to a much cheaper resort with an open bathing space and an assortment of bathing pools, water massage sprayers, and one huge water slide!
Lily's parents are from Taiwan, so she can speak Chinese. "But my vocabulary is really small," she says. At first I thought she was just being modest. But then I knew the words for "beer" and "hotspring" and she didn't. nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyahhhhh... She's been helping me with my tones. And boy, do I need a lot of work...
It's interesting to tour about with a fresh pair of eyes (Lily was last here ten years ago). It illustrates to me how much I've grown accustomed to.
The two of us have to start remembering to take some pictures. Hopefully I'll get some up before too long.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
|If you know where I can buy this kind of hat, please advise.|
|Flower. Me like.|
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
Every week my reading group learns a new phonics word family. At the start of class today we were reviewing the "ore" family (more, store, etc.)
Me: Ok, class what are some "ore" family words?
Gregory: WAR WAR WAR!
I write w-o-r-e on the board.
Gregory: NO! WAR!
Me: How do you spell it?
Gregory (with supreme confidence): w-h-o-r-e
I wrote the letters on the board as he said them, and there I was with whore written on my English class whiteboard. It was like we were suddenly transported out of the cram school and into an American public bathroom stall.
Me: Where did you see this word?
I tried to ask innocuously, but clearly the "THIS IS A WORD YOU SHOULD NOT KNOW" vibes shone through, because Gregory just smiled with his lips closed and looked shifty eyed. Oh yeah, Gregory is 9.
Me: What does this word mean?
Gregory drew a picture of a glass of wine on the board. Okay, fair enough. We recently learned the "ine" family too, and I taught them "wine" and "whine." So maybe all these things got jumbled in his mind. But boy, did he look mischievous.
This reminds me of when my brother was in fourth grade, and I would tease him by calling his current love interest a strumpet. Not a very nice thing for me to call a little girl, I'll admit. But hey, I'm his older sister, and to me they're all floozies.
After much badgering, he finally asked what a strumpet was. I told him to look it up, which he did, making the same phonetic mistake my Chinese student made:
My Little Brother with the dictionary open: A WAR?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
He was joking with kids between classes last week and used the idiom, "A little bird told me." But he said it in Chinese. But in Chinese little bird (xiao niao) is a euphemism for penis.
He said they didn't even laugh. They just stared at him.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
My Chinese class on its way to buy the next textbook!
I haven't posted in a few days because we had our big book-number-one Chinese test. I don't know if I actually studied more by not blogging. But I felt I couldn't justify doing anything productive besides studying. In reality, well, I watched a whole lot of Britain's Got Talent on YouTube. Man, that's quality reality.
Our class is on the third floor, after we finished the test our teacher immediately sent us to the 4th-floor office ("Kwaidian, kwaidian!" Quickly, Quickly!) to purchase the next book and we plunged right in.
So now I'm on my second Chinese textbook. I'm feeling pretty big in my britches, like I'm running with the big dogs now. Of course, this feeling will rapidly subside the next time one of my students tells me I talk Chinese funny, or worse just gives me a blank stare.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
There was a band that did a great version of "Stand By Me." I was even able to request my favorite Dolly song, "IIIIIIIeeeeeeeIIIIIIII will always love..."
We sat down at the bar and James asked Cleo for a Corona. Instantly, a girl in a pleather tube top and mini skirt popped up at his shoulder asking if he'd get a Blue Girl instead. Taiwan's wateringholes are rife with promotional girls.
James looked confused.
"You can get whatever you want," I growled.
I don't know. There's just something about girls in pleather talking to my boyfriend that stirs my inner psycho bitch. I think pleather could see she had rousted the beast, because she laughed nervously and tottered away to the other end of the bar.
I asked Cleo where the deaf chihuahua was from last time.
"Oh he's at home. He lives with Kiki," she said motioning to a waitress. "Do you want to pet a kitty?"
Moments later a 2-month-old cat was placed in my hands by Cleo's boyfriend, Bruce.
|Bar or undersized pet menagerie? I don't know.|
James and I sat by Bruce most the night. He proved just as friendly as Cleo. Bruce told us he's completing his required military service down in Miaoli (Central Taiwan) and counting the days until he can return to Cleo. He gave the impression being away was fairly torturous.
Miaoli is 96 kilometers from Nankan, or roughly the distance from Los Angeles to Riverside. That hardly counts as a long-distance relationship by my American standards, especially when you have Taiwan-style mass transit. But hey, Bruce is in love.
So do you want to marry her? I asked in Chinese.
Yes of course. He replied in English.
Awhile later pleather girl risked another appearance and asked James to sign up for a drinking game to see who could down a beer the fastest with a straw. James was no match for Nankan's finest.
|From City Music|
|Game face. In it to win it.|
Then people started to dance. When the owner beckoned me to join "C'mon Dancing Queen!" I did for awhile.Later a couple guys, with just a little prompting, got down to their skivvies on top of the bar.
At the end of the song they jumped off.
"Him." Bruce motioned to one. "Next time, I think maybe him no clothes."
|From City Music|
We meant to only have a drink and see Cleo's pictures. But we didn't get home until 3 a.m.
So worth it.