danshui, april 2008

Sick again

The last few weeks I have been ill.

One weekend it was slight stomach bug. The next week it was a virus (fever of 102) then an infected saliva gland (yes, I know, HOW does that happen?) and now, as of last night, possible food poisoning (or some other stomach thing).

The weather has changed and has gotten hotter so maybe I caught something. But I am sick of being sick. I have already missed 3 days of Chinese class (out of 16 so far) and 3 days of work this month. I just hope I get better soon
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danshui, april 2008

Can you spare some change?

It seems that my horrible math ability is actually better than my horrible Chinese ability. As anyone in my family can attest Peter is not very good at math. I sometimes have to do simple calculations on paper or on a (surprise!) calculator. Despite this ineptatude twice in the past 3 days have I had to correct store clerks. In both cases I gave them the exact number of coins so I could (a) divest myself of them and (b) so I wouldn't get any more. This effort seems to prove useless.

Taiwan does not have cents. However its dollar comes in coin form for 1, 5, 10 and 50. Today for example something cost $160. So I gave the clerk $1060 who promptly gave me back change in the amount of $840. That would have been right had I given her $1000, but that was not the case. The same thing happened when I bought a bottle of water the other night.

It is heartening to know that even though I struggle with Chinese and Math, my Math is better than those who can speak Chinese.
danshui, april 2008

Questions about Apostrophes and Elephants; or Why I wear my Headphones

While waiting to cross the street to take the MRT to work a man looked at me and started talking to me. I took out my earphones so I could hear what he was saying. I did not understand all he asked, but I did get the fact that he was asking (in Chinese) if I was an American.

I responded and he proceeded to ask me a question about a phrase: "Elephants stuffed peanuts." I responded that I was not familiar with that phrase and perhaps he meant "An elephant stuffed with peanuts" (as in had eaten too many). He did not mean that and repeated the phrase, asking whether an apostrophe was necessary. I told him I was not sure because the phrase did not make sense.

We continued our conversation across the street and into the MRT station. It became apparent that he was mispronouncing a word. "Peanuts" was supposed to be "penis." Yes, that's right. Evidently he had read an article about a museum that had a stuffed elephant phallus and he questioned the possessive nature of the apostrophe.

I wonder who remembers the grammar of newspapers, but be that as it may I spent the next 6 minutes trying to explain when an apostrophe would be necessary (to indicate possession) and ways to reword the sentence so it would not be necessary. I tried to steer clear of using the exact phrase and kept saying "tigers stuffed head" instead. Despite my attempt at that he continued to use his example and somewhat loudly.

I was rather embarrassed to be discussing the possessive nature of an elephants stuffed reproductive organs in such a public place. I was lucky that my MRT stop was only 2 stations away and that he did not decide to disembark at the same location as me.

While I do not mind conversing with strangers this is exactly why I listen to my iPod while taking public mass transit.
danshui, april 2008

Für Elise is trash

I really don't think Für Elise is trash, but now every time I hear it I think of garbage. Much like the Ice Cream truck playing Scott Joplins rag "The Entertainer", the garbage trucks in Taipei City play Ludwig Von Beethoven's bagatelle to announce that they are there and ready to pick up the refuse.

Trash in Taiwan is very organized. Official garbage bags must be used. A tax on the bag pays for the frequent trash pick up. Your trash much be organized into paper (for recycling), food waste (which is given to pig farmers for feed), plastic bottles (also for recycling) and another category I cannot remember.

Despite this system trash can still be found in some streets and alleys, abandoned lots and of course the river wherein I have been paddling for Dragon Boat practice for the past 6 weeks. Today it rained and one of the team members said, "Just think, the rain is cleaner than the river so you are getting a shower." Everyone laughed. But someone also mentioned that it was probably more acidic. Who knows, maybe by the end of the race I'll end up with a third eye and a tail.
danshui, april 2008

Look both ways

It has been said that when you are a foreigner in another country you should wait for the locals to start before you cross the street. It is pretty good advice and advice that for the most part I have followed. I have been in Taiwan for 6 months now and admit that I have on occasions been lax regarding this truism. Complacency perhaps has set in. Today however my vigilance is renewed.

I saw the bus coming, but it had to stop at another light before the one I was at. The crosswalk changed and showed the green walking man with the amount of time (89 seconds, don't ask why it couldn't be a full minute and a half at this light, I have no clue, other lights have 90 seconds). I was 2 seconds into the crosswalk when I looked over and saw the city bus headed straight for me. It was far enough away that I was able to jog out of the way but it scared me. I had looked before and it appeared the bus was stopping at the first light, but I guess he decided not to and put the 外國人(waiguoren; foreigner) in his sights.

I was lucky this time. Next time the bus driver might decide to speed up. At any rate, it means for now I will regress to allowing the locals to take the first steps off the curb.
danshui, april 2008

Month of May in 100 words of less

Maybe not 100 words or less, but there is not much to write about.

Dragon Boat is hard. Every day I find myself sore and tired. But it is good. Since starting the Dragon Boat team I have lost weight. I do not know how much, but I have gone down 1 and a half belt sizes. I feel better and can tell that I have lost weight. The Race is in a little less than 2 weeks. I am excited about it, but also have a little bit of trepidation. I do not know how well we will do, but we will try our best.

The quarter ended last week. I missed the last day of class (just a little party) because I was sick. I skipped work as well. I spent the day sleeping. I went to the Doctor who said because I did not have a fever I had a cold. However, I had chills and threw up. I cannot tell you one time I have had those symptoms and only had a cold. Whatever the case is I feel much better now.

I am trying my hand at writing articles for my work. They use a monthly magazine as their curriculum. I do not know if the article I wrote will be accepted or not. They will not allow me to write for the "Advanced" or "High Intermediate" students, but for the "Intermediate" students. I do not like these articles as much because they are in a conversational format. I prefer the other 2 levels because they are more essay-type articles. We will see if the accept my work. It also pays some extra money if they accept it.

The next 2 weeks are vacation but because of work and Dragon Boat practice I cannot go anywhere for the vacation except on the weekends. This weekend I might go camping on the beach with the Dragon Boat team, I am not sure yet.

Next quarter I will start back at Book One Chapter 12. I did not do as well on my test as I would have liked. In fact I think I got the same score I got last quarter on that material. I think the review is good for me. It takes me longer to learn Chinese than most of my other classmates and I am fine with that. This will ensure that I have learned the material and am comfortable with it.
danshui, april 2008

Dragon Boat Redux

The ShiDa Dragon Boat team was supossed to be just one team: a mixed team (12 boys, 8 girls). They were to race in the Taipei City Dragon Boat Festival. However, they will not be. The reason is that the dates for the festival have not been "confirmed". I find that hard to beleive as the race is a month away. There is another reason I think and I will share that later.

Today the team threw me a birthday party and told me the following: The team has been entered in the International Dragon Boat Festival. Teams from all over the world will be competing. For this race the School can enter 2 teams: 1 mixed and 1 all mens. In the other race the men could only be on one team. However, with the International race there is no limit. So that means instead of one team the school has 2: a mixed and an all mens. There is one problem however.

They need 2 more men. If they get two more men that means EVERYONE on the team will get to row in at least one race. Me included. So what does that mean?

I am on the team again. It means lots of hard work (and yes missing class) but the new devlopment has swayed me to participate. Since I now have an actual spot on an actual team (and not just an imaginary possibility) I think I can make the sacrifice. It means I have to study hard but I think it will be worth it.
danshui, april 2008

Making decisions

I decided today to stop practicing with the Dragon Boat Team. This decision was based on 2 main factors:

First, by practicing with the team I am a little late to class. Starting tomorrow the team will be practicing on the water 3 days a week. They will not arrive back at school until 8:30 (planned time). So assuming that, I will miss at least 1.5 hours of class a week. I only have 10 hours of class per week. In just the 2 weeks I have been only 10 minutes late to class every day I have felt that I am not doing well. Also, the early practices have made me so tired that rather than studying, I end up taking a nap which minimizes my study time.

Second, a majority of the the team was selected but there are 2 spots still available. Those people will not be selected for another week or so. So right now I am not on the team, but have a possibility of making it. So there is no concrete decision about that made until nearly race time.

My first goal in Taiwan is to learn Chinese. While the Dragon Boat would be fun, and a good experience, at this point it seems to be hampering my stated goal. Next year I can make sure I take a class that allows me to participate in the team without interfering with my class.
danshui, april 2008

Dragonboats...the bane of my existence

After doing tryouts and working out/practicing for a week they selected the 2008 ShiDa MTC Dragonboat team. I was not among those selected.

However, a ray of sunshine is that they only selected 10 of the 12 men they need (plus a few alternates). They did select all 8 women they needed (and no, I was also not one of those). It was suggested that those desiring one of the remaining positions continue to work out and train with the team. It was also said to me by someone that a few of the people selected for the team cannot actually be here for the race (?!?!). So I have not made up my mind as to what I will do.

Part of me thinks that I have already spent a week doing this...why not continue for 4 more? I was lazy with school this past week and did not do so well on the 2 chapters we covered. That is not a function of my energy, but just general laziness and lack of time management. For example, today I do not work until 7 pm. So as soon as I am done with this post I will make my way to Mr. Brown's Coffee (where they offer free internet) and work on my Chinese for a few hours before I work (while having a very delicious honey citron tea they serve). Tuesdays and Thursdays are tight, but I can stay at school for 2 hours after class doing my Chinese and they come home and get ready for work. Last week I came home both days with the intention of taking a nap but did not and instead played on the internet. So, if that is the case, I can stay at home and do Chinese.

So after all that typing I think I have made up my mind as to what I am doing. Thanks LJ for helping me decide.

In other news, The Oakland Journal has accepted for publication an article I wrote on the main differences between Chinese in Taiwan and China. I do not know when it will be published (probably Fall). I will keep you posted.

In further, more important news, as I type this rm_sister is in labor having her first baby (and my third niece). I am hoping it all goes well...
danshui, april 2008

(no subject)

Yesterday my eye was itchy and red. So I did not wear my contacts. Today it was worse. So bad that one of my students before class asked me what was the matter. I told her I wasn't sure. She said she would take me to a local eye doctor that was very good. So in my hour break between classes this evening I was diagosed with Pink Eye. I do not know how I got it, but I have it.

The good doctor gave me two drops I am to use 4 times a day. I thanked him and started to leave. Before I left I looked at the drops and I gasped. The chemical name of one started with the word "Sulfa". I am allergic to Sulfa Drugs. I walked back in the office and told the Doctor this. "Oh," he said, "We'll give you something else." Yes, I should have told him at the start. Next time I will be sure to do that. I am just glad I caught it before I put the stuff in my eyes.

In other news....

Sometimes the people in my class ask me questions: "What do I think of the subprime mortgage crisis in America", "Who will win the Presidential election" and so forth. A couple of times people have asked me "What do you think of Taiwans new President."

I learned a lesson a few weeks ago. The discussion somehow came to politics and I tried to be fair, but I could tell some people were not happy that someone asked a foreigner about Taiwanese politics. So I came up with a good response.

"I hope he gets the panda bears"

People then look at me and I explain.

The Taipei Zoo recently asked for permission to get a pair of panda bears from China. They were turned down. However they have now finished building a brand new facility for them as well as planting 6 hectares of bamboo. A few other cities are vying for the right, but I think Taipei has the best chance. And so when people ask me about what I think of the new president I tell them I do not know, but I hope he gets the panda bears.