danshui, april 2008

Settling in

I found an apartment my first day. It is close to my job and fairly close to downtown. I have get to get a scooter and a phone because I have to have some government paperwork processed before I can do that. My apartment is nice and I am figuring out where things are (stores, etc.) I have been walking a lot and its been hot (between 85 and 92 degrees with 75% humidity) so I have been sweating and drinking lots of water. I think tomorrow I'll venture to the City Library and try and find a library card. I can't start work til some government paperwork is processed so this week it looks like I'll be hanging out unless I figure something out.
danshui, april 2008

Safe and sound in Taiwan

I arrive in Taiwan last night. The school had a driver pick me up and take me to the Hotel. I forced myself to stay awake on most of my flight over so I would sleep last night. It seemed to work pretty well. I woke up a few times but slept fairly well. I had breakfast and walked around a little bit. Its 91* F right now, so its a tad warm. In a few hours one of the secretary's from school will take me to a few apartments that are available for rent, and hopefully I'll find something today and be able to move in.
danshui, april 2008

Going back to Taiwan

So blog readers, if you follow this blog you will have seen that I have not updated it for a while. So here's what you've missed...

-Peter returned to America to figure things out. He decided that he really liked being a Librarian (he worked in a Library in High School and College) so he went to Graduate School to get his Masters in Library Science. After he graduated he was offered a job back in Taiwan. Right now hes in California at his Grandparents house waiting for his flight tomorrow. He'll fly to Taiwan and be living in Hsinchu and will be the Librarian at an International School. He's decided to blog here about Taiwan related things and at his other blog about Library related things.

And that's what you've missed.
danshui, april 2008

For everything else...

Plane ticket to Taiwan: $32,000 New Taiwan Dollars (NTD)

Chinese Textbook: $500 NTD

4 Semesters of Chinese Classes: $80,000 NTD

Cell phone: $500 NTD

Knowing how to tell Telephone solicitors in their native language: "I don't speak Chinese. I am an American": Priceless.
danshui, april 2008

This is only a test part 2

Our teacher corrected our Achievement Tests. I was not surprised that I got the lowest grade in the class. However, it was my best grade on the achievement test so far: 67%. I am pretty happy with it. Had I understood one section better (the Chapter where I got a 55% on the regular test) I would have done better I am sure. However, this grade entitles me to be placed MOVING FORWARD AND NOT REPEATING ANY CHAPTERS.

Yes. After 4 quarters I am finally moving forward.

However, since I am taking a break, when I come back, I might ask to repeat some Chapters. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Needless to say I am quite happy, quite pleased with myself.

This is only a test

A few hours ago I took what my school calls the "Achievement Test." This test is given every quarter to test what we have learned and to place us in the appropriate class for next quarter. They give this test about 2 weeks before the end of the term so they can have the old students registered so they know how many new classes they need to make for the new students.

This quarter I am repeating the same material as last. All 10 Chapters. Needless to say I felt I had an idea of what format the test would be based on this, and since this is my 4th Test total. I was wrong.

The test is automated. Everyone listens to the same recording at the same time. This test, unlike the previous ones they decided to NOT have a pause between the instructions and the questions. They also decided to not repeat the questions during the listening comprehension. Further they decided to have the speakers speak at a rate that was quite fast. Even faster that the tapes that come with our course materials. Needless to say, right of the bat I was confused. Every other previous test, and every other section they repeat the question and the answers. By the time I realized what had happened they were on question 2. So I had no choice but to guess and realize that I had to listen VERY carefully.

Later on I was puzzled because the question had a Character we have not learned. Yes. So I do not know if that was the correct answer, or the wrong answer (because the question was so fast I couldn't understand it). Further later on they used a grammar structure that we have not yet learned.

Another part of the test was giving directions. We had a simple map showing 4 buildings and were expected to tell how to get to the building. Last quarter we were allowed to write our answers. This quarter however, we had to RECORD our SPOKEN answers. They have never required this before.

The first question was "Where is the school?" I answered "The school is next to the Post Office" (it was) and then I got confused because the other 2 questions asked things like "From the Store, how do you get to the bus stop?", etc. And so I added to my answer assuming the question was SUPOSSED To say "How do you get to the School?" Needless to say I was unprepared for this turn of events and on one of the questions ran out of time. However, I got most of my answer verbalized so I hope its ok.

One section I could not remember at all, however, I remember that on the test for that Chapter I did quite poorly. That is also the section that Friday I am going over with my Tutor. So perhaps we should have reviewed that sooner.

There is hope however. As soon as we started the test the teachers were up at the front of the room discussing because they had not seen the test before hand and evidently were quite angry about the changes and the material that was not appropriate for our level. I even spoke to my teacher about all this immediately after the test. She said she was also upset and would talk about it in clas tomorrow. To illustrate how mad I was, When I spoke to my Teacher I didn't even TRY to use Chinese.

The one saving grace is that our teacher is the one who grades the tests. If I get a very poor grade I refuse to take the same material over a third time (I'll be fine repeating the last 6 chapters, but not all 10, especailly since the last 3 chapters are the ones that I had the hardest time on). I will argue to be placed my next term based on the average grades of my in class chapter tests. From the moment the first question was asked I was thrown off my game psychologically and there was never any time to recoop that because of the timed nature of the exam.

Going Home

I will be leaving Taiwan on November 23. Nothing bad happened. Nothing traumatic.

I just had a realization today that I need to go home. I was sitting at school doing my Homework and had a realization that I need to come home. It was clear. It was direct. It is what I need to do. And it made me so happy.

I packed my books and hopped on the bus and then literally ran home to call my parents.

I do not expect people to fully understand. Some will be confused (I know my roommates are) but I know this is what I need to do.

I might be back. I don't know. But for whatever the reason I need to go. And so I will be packing my things, settling all my affairs and going back home. I am happy that I have been in Taiwan. I have met many great people. I have made many great friends who I care about deeply. I have seen some awesome things. But deep down I think I have been unhappy for a while. I truly think I have been forcing myself to stay here. Things are going well for me, so it is an odd time to leave, but I learned a long time ago to listen to the voice that tells you to do things. And so I am taking a leap of faith and doing that.

I am not a person who does things randomly. I am a person who makes deliberate and well thought out decisions. So the thought of buying a plane ticket to go home less than 30 minutes after having the thought, is not typical me. I feel like this is what I need to do and so I am doing it. I have faith it will work out. I have faith it is what I need to do.
danshui, april 2008


The last few days my lower back has been hurting. I was thinking of what to call the pain and decided that "flank pain" was a good name. So I googled it just to see what the vast wisdom of the internets said.

Kidney Stones.
Urinary Tract Infection.

Being as my father and brother both have a history of the first I decided to go to the doctor today. The X-Ray and the Ultrasound were both clear. So the Urologist had me see a regular doctor who said it was probably just a strained muscle (most likely from the crazy bus drivers I think) and he gave me a muscle relaxer and some advice. So I should be ok.

However, rather funny thing happened while I was waiting for my X-Ray. They called out the name of the next people:

"Mister Li" 林先生
"Mister Chen" 陳先生
"Mister Huang"黃先生

And then...

"Foreigner". 外國人

Yes. Literally that is what was said. I had to laugh and smile.
danshui, april 2008

Random thoughts

A few random thoughts since it's been a while since my last update:

You might recall my comment a few weeks ago about how hard parents push their children in school. I had a new student who (in my opinion) should be in a class lower than the ones I teach. Nevertheless, the first few times she came with him, dutifully sat outside the class waiting for him, and then departed at the end of class. Now that a few classes has gone by she no longer does this. In class a few days ago I asked my students what the most annoying sound was. Some of them said "nails on a chalkboard", others said babies crying on international flights, etc. When it came his turn he said, "My mom talking to me." Everyone burst out laughing, but I found it rather sad. I hope he was not serious, but perhaps she pushes him so much that indeed he cannot stand her voice. I do not know. A local expat magazine had an interesting article on the subject of parents in Taiwan and the drive for education [Click here, and scroll to pages 7 and 8 of the PDF file].

Last week I had the chance to go to a ceremony to celebrate the life of Confucius as it was his birthday. The elaborate ceremony is held once a year and last 2 hours. It was rather hot at 6 in the morning and halfway through the ceremony a few of the student dancers and others passed out from the heat. There was criticism of the ceremony from the opposition political party because rather than the "normal" dance, the dancers performed a special dance because (according to them) the President of Taiwan was there. It should be noted that the Temple had been closed for over a year and this was, in affect, its grand re-opening. This reason prompted the "special dance". I find this explanation quite plausible.

I have weathered 2 Typhoons since the last update. One drenching the moon festival festivities, and other other simply ruining another weekend. It would be nice if they came during the week and canceled school and work, but then I wouldn't get paid. So, weekend Typhoons while bothersome are much preferred for me.

I am battling a cold today. I hope that tomorrow it will be gone. My grades this quarter have been the best so far in my study of Chinese. I am quite pleased with this. It is owed to the fact that I do not speak English, but only Chinese with my classmates. I have also made further efforts to practice outside of class as well as redoubled my study efforts. All I think are paying off.

What did you say?

I was at the convenience store (7-11) the other day and was purchasing some beverages. There were 2 little kids ahead of me as well as an older lady. The little kids were counting out their money on the counter and the older woman getting some coffee. So while those transactions were being completed, they rang up my purchases.

Often they only offer you a plastic bag if you have many things. So I took this opportunity to speak Chinese. I asked the man at the counter if I could have a bag.

He looked blankly at me and said "I did not understand you."

Before I could even say anything, both boys in front of me, the older woman waiting for her coffee and the man's coworker all said at the same time, "He asked for a bag!" Needless to say I found this rather funny.

What this means is that in a random sampling 4 out of 5 Taiwanese can understand what I say.

In other news...
I think living in Taiwan will forever stunt my English language ability. I say this in half jest, but half seriousness. Mostly I think it will effect my saying "Burger King". The Chinese translation here is "Hanbao Wang" which literally means "Hamburger King". I find myself referring to it as such in English. There is a new one being built near school and I told a friend (an American) the other day: "They are building a new Hamburger King near school." He replied, "What?" Only because I didn't say "Burger King." This is not the first time I have not used the proper name in English, nor will it be the last I am afraid.