Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Egypt Air

Writing is becoming boring for me.  Mostly because life has remained consistently monotonous since I have been in China.  There has really been very little to write about. 
Christmastime was fun.  We spent the weekend as a group of five Americans and four Canadians at Ryan’s dad’s apartment in Zhuhai.  We dressed sharply for Christmas day and hiked across the border to Macau to catch a Cirque du Soleil show.  It was a well-choreographed event, but I think I still prefer Guangzhou’s international circus—I saw bears riding bicycles and a man shot from a canon.  We also celebrated New Year’s in Zhuhai with Tommy Poole.  Zhuhai houses a fantastic massage parlor, so we welcomed in the New Year with a massage instead of a countdown. 
Now it is Chinese New Year time, and instead of the three weeks we were expecting to have off, we have been blessed with a five-week holiday.  I booked tickets to visit my friend, Alex Vercio, in Ethiopia.  The flight plan was great too, because it was a 6:30am to 2:30am layover, which provided for plenty of time to see the pyramids.  And the 2:30am fight was changed to 11:00pm, which made it so that I didn’t have to wait in the airport nearly as long as I’d expected. 
I arrived back at the airport a little early for my 11:00 flight, and they told me that flight didn’t in fact exist, but that I needed to catch the 2:30 flight that I was originally scheduled for.  They kindly put me up in a five-star hotel with dinner to help me wile away the hours until the 2:30 flight.  I went back to the airport a bit after midnight, and I was shuttled from terminal to terminal over and over because neither terminal knew about my flight.  As it turned out, my 11:00pm flight was for the next day, so I had an additional 24-hour layover.  Egypt Air kindly put me back into a second five-star hotel, complete with meals to take me through the next day.   Plus, I had an extra day to see the Cairo museum and their mummified alligators, snakes, and birds.
I’m in Ethiopia now, where I have been pickpocketed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More pictures...

The boy in the doorway is giving away crumbs from the moon cake I gave him for good behavior.  The whole class is in line for these crumbs.  The second kid in line doesn't know the moon cake was originally a gift to me from his mother, but I am entirely unable to eat moon cake because it is bad food.

I tried to put on Melissa's awesome little jacket thing, but it didn't fit me.  So, I asked Sophy (my TA) kindly to try it on.  She did so, reluctantly.  But I really think she was stoked on the idea.  The jacket looked pretty good on her.

Ryan and I dressed up for Halloween.  We were scarier than we looked.  One boy saw me while walking down the stairs.  He screamed and ran back to the top.

This guy trimmed my toenails for me while my other foot was getting a massage.  He was really pretty impressive too.  All he used was the razor that is in his hand, and he never slipped or anything.  

We went to probably the most impressive circus I've ever seen.  This elephant was balancing on one leg on a stool and spinning in circles.

It's finally feeling cold enough to wear jackets and sweaters--but I'd like to dwell more on the date and time at the bottom.  

We were invited to a special art exhibit and were recruited by Jian Tan Kung Fu as special guests.

They dressed us in their fancy garb with gold pants and we were VIP.  Many cameras focused on us during the event.  It's a race thing--we weren't athletes.  Actually, the redhead is an athlete.  He does Kung Fu.

A man was shot out of a canon at the circus!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

China Pictures

Yeah, we got the iPhone 5 here.  Not there?  Bummer!  It's pretty awesome.

P or B?  Really, it coulda gone either way.

Seth (my student, on the right (I think)) and his twin brother, Jessie.  With Monkey peeking through.

Quality haircut.  Obviously.

Visited Tommy in HK.  That pizza was HUGE!

Andrew and I looking at a casino in Macau

Huge spider in Hong Kong

The church we attend

My turtle is a climber (he escaped this way once when I left the lid off, gone for three or four days)

First Grade!

Kids at a ceremony.  Mine are in the far right group, in the two center columns.

Just look at these guys.  They don't settle down (except for when I forget to clean out their home)




The class all ready for sports day.  (it's kinda like the Olympic opening ceremonies)



Melissa (it was her 7th birthday)

Ella again :)

Ym (Now officially Amy)

Group leaders helping represent the American program

My brand new phone.  It takes TWO SIM cards.  Plus, as you can see, it's almost Nokia.  It has a touch screen.  A game.  MP3 player.  Front and rear camera.  Blingy lights on the side when I get a message.  And it only cost $30.

I'll post some videos sometime too. 

And I started Chinese lessons last night.  I'll do two 2 hour sessions each week.  I'll maybe be fluent in a couple weeks.  


Wednesday, September 14, 2011


After a three year absence from the food in China, I am finally back in noodle paradise.  I was expecting that from Taiwan, but somehow in their transition from mainland China to that island they must have forgotten all their cookbooks and never went back for them.  You'd think it wouldn't be that tough since they managed to bring everything from the Forbidden City with them.  One little book, that's all it would have taken to satisfy my tastebuds for the past six months.  Instead, I gradually lost fifteen necessary pounds to poor eating habits formed from a lack of delicious foods.  Thank you, kindly, to those of you who have been so nice as to point that out.
Our two weeks of training in Shanghai was okay, but most of the details would probably bore you.  The bottom line, however, is that Shanghai is probably my new favorite city.  Truly incredible!  Plus, I was able to get some pants and shirts tailored at a very low price.  And due to my overwhelmingly perfect sense of style, I look awesome in exactly the right textures, colors, collars and cuffs.
At the end of August, we flew south to the massive metropolis of Guangzhou and were introduced to several of the people we are working with and our apartments.  The apartment isn't as swank as the one we had in Taipei (the washer machine is in my shower), but it is free of rent and we each get our own apartments.  The people here are naturally fantastic and we made several friends quickly.  I won't bore you with their details either, just as I wouldn't bore them with yours.  
The situation here is mostly as I had written in the previous blog, aside from one pretty big detail.  Instead of teaching third graders well-rehearsed in English, I have been given first graders who are just now learning the basics.  It's a pleasure.  The good news is that they are fantastic and cute and they love me.  They see their parents only on weekends, and it is pretty rough on them.  Fiona began to cry the other day, and Ella saw Fiona crying and it made her cry.  They left the classroom together and gazed into each other's eyes inches apart without blinking while crying big tears.  It was a quality mixture of sad and funny, and it's part of the reason that I probably already love these kids.  And there are a few funny names if you want to know those.  There is a girl named Join and a boy named Monkey.  My favorite, however, is Ym.  It is pronounced like Amy as you would suspect from the spelling, but it's horribly misspelled.  I think that whoever named her Amy spelled it correctly from the beginning, but she got it confused since then and insisted, when I tried to correct it, that Ym is the correct spelling.  So, I'm leaving it.  It helps me differentiate her work from the other Amy's--also, the other Amy's work is far superior anyway, so I could just differentiate their work by quality.  Ym is a sweetheart.  I have honestly never met such a sweet and cute girl as Ym.  But she is terrible!  She doesn't do her work.  She wanders the classroom when she should be in her seat.  And she has a terrible time doing as I ask.  But, still, such a sweetheart.
Ryan and I spent last weekend in his dad's apartment in Zhuhai, where we were able to get up at 4am Monday to catch the Seahawks game as they lost to the 49ers.  I grew a bit sick that weekend, and I'm sure you all would like to know that I got some nasty diarrhea that kept me up all night.  But I won't tell you about that.
Today, as we were walking to lunch, Ryan spotted a kind lady who was selling turtles on the street.  Obviously, we had to have them.  They're about an inch and a half in diameter and pretty green.  We got two each and have yet to name them.  Your suggestions will probably not be taken, but please share if you like.  Tonight, we went to town and invested in nice new homes for them.  I'll show you pictures later.  Of them and the kids.  
There is so much more to say, but I'm not feeling like writing it.  I only wrote this because Evan Kinne doesn't think I am keeping up with my blog well enough and is a whiner.  
Good night!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Asia Phase B (or C, if you please)

So, obviously I'm done with Taiwan now.  It's still a bummer, I mostly liked it there.  But, I am in Hong Kong now on my way to Shanghai.  And, if it so interests you, here is a brief synopsis (actually, it's the entirety of what I think I know) of what I'll be doing for the next year or whatevs.
The program is called a twin track program and schools students from Kindergarten to 12th grade.  Half of their time is spent learning from American teachers (me, for example) and the other half is with Chinese teachers.  Hopefully, after thirteen years of study, these students will have earned both American and Chinese diplomas with the obvious goal of getting accepted into an American university.
The school year, as it stands, is a bit longer than our own with 220 days.  I've heard rumors that we are trying to add a bit of a Christmastime vacation (contract states that we have Christmas day off--it's a Sunday).
The students are placed in dorms directly from Kindergarten (lucky kids get me etc. instead of Mom and Dad (sarcasm)).  I think I'll be teaching third graders.  What do Canadians call third graders?  Grade three-ers? Students in grade three?  My point is, why don't they just call it third grade instead of grade 3?
Also, the program costs $20,000 per year from Kindergarten.  That seems steep to me.  Especially considering that I am half of what they are paying for--bless their hearts.
Anyway, I'll be in Shanghai for the next couple of weeks with the other teachers, preparing for the next year.  Then I'll be moving down to the massive metropolis area of Guangzhou (pop. 40,000,000 which is California plus the city of Los Angeles a second time).  It is south of Shanghai exactly as far as Los Angeles is from Portland (I was just guessing that last week, and it turns out there is only a three mile difference).
Really, I am looking forward to this next year. Visit at your leisure if you think you're worth my time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tyson's Visit

Fourth of July came and went.  They invented fireworks here, but they won't allow us to light them.

Soon thereafter, Tyson came out for a visit.  We obviously made a party out of it.  He showed up Friday night, the ninth.  He's lucky that he works nights at home, otherwise I'd have dragged him around Taipei the next day while he was sleeping, and that would be uncomfortable for me.  We saw most of Taipei's wonders that day.  On Sunday, we went to a little town outside of Taipei called Wulai where two rivers met together.  We followed the smaller river upstream to a spot where we met with several other teachers to go swimming and jumping off the rocks.  It was mostly a good afternoon.  And I saw my first big snake--probably about six feet long.
We were going to ride up the Maokong gondola on Monday, but it was closed for maintenance when we showed up, so we settled for a tour of the zoo.  Always enlightening.  Same animals as last time.  Just on a hotter day.  And this time I actually got to see the pandas, which were way overrated.  No action.
Tyson did some research on hiking near Taipei and discovered a mountain just south of the city which would be a neat one to climb.  When we arrived at the mountain, our tour guides (a couple of dogs) greeted us and led us toward the top.  After the first five minutes, our guides lost their tempers at one another and got into a big fight.  Instead of interfering, we felt it would be best to let this one play itself out.  And sure enough, soon the smaller dog put just the right pressure on the larger one so that is fell off the bank and a long way down the trail.  It scrambled back up, and all was soon forgotten.
The trail was unique, in that it had steep rock faces that needed to be climbed to make it to the top.  Ropes were suspended in front of us as an aid to allow us safe passage up the mountain.  Somehow, the dogs would consistently sort out their way beyond the rocks for the first half of the hike.  You'd  think that after so many years of service to hikers these dogs would be in good enough shape to make the round trip, but they tuckered out early and disappeared.  Pansies.  We continued our climb to the top, which afforded better than average views and sounds.  It was a good hike, and left us pretty tired at the end.
The next day we began a three day adventure to Long Dong where Dragon Cave is located with its world-class rock climbing.  When we arrived, we met with our friend, Sandy, who had been there a few times before and guided us around and provided fun company.  The plan was to sleep out on the rocks, but it turned out to be super windy, we didn't have ground pads or blankets, and the bugs were terrible.  Instead, we rented a room for two nights--also without beds.  But we had AC, and blankets, and a nice hard wood floor to almost sleep on.
The climbing was fantastic, and we had some of the best views ever whenever we made it to the top of a route.  Tyson and I each burned ourselves really bad.  Tyson even grew blisters on his shoulder from too much sun.  But we had a great time.  And before we started climbing on Friday, we rented snorkel gear for a little under $2 for the afternoon.  We did some diving and saw pretty fish, puffer fish, massive crabs and a lot of seaweed.  Someone directed us to some cliffs eventually, and we were able to do some cliff jumping.  Really a fantastic little trip.
That weekend, we finally made it to the top of the Taipei 101 with Ryan who finally met up with us.  And on Sunday, we enjoyed a water park with several other teachers as we celebrated one of their birthdays.  And then, on Sunday night, we brought Tyson out to the school with us so that he could be introduced to what we have been doing.  He was able to perform some unicycle stunts for the students, and we did some magic shows for them during class.  That was a lot of fun, and the students all missed Tyson when he left for Portland without any warning to them on Tuesday morning.  It was nice to have him over.  Just goes to show me who my real friends (maybe just friend) are.
Last week, we met with our Taiwanese staff for a dinner to say farewell, and I was able to meet Claire's kids.  They were a ton of fun.  The boy played on my iPhone throughout his meal, making it very greasy as he stole away some of my food.  And I gave the little girl one of my french fries with some BBQ sauce, and her eyes went crazy and she will never ever touch that stuff again.  At the end of the meal, we agreed that they should come to the school on Monday.  The boy is a good little unicyclist, and it was a fun time unicycling around the campus with him while his little sister enjoyed taking pictures of us.
Last Sabbath was the last time that all the staff from the four schools had an opportunity to meet together at our school.  We had a grand afternoon, and one of the Taiwanese staff from our school, Fish, asked me if he could cut my hair like his.  I told him no.  But he asked again, so I said yes.  I look better than ever now, with shorter than ever hair.
Yesterday was my last day at the school, mostly as a support staff because there were already four teachers there and I needed to be there only for paperwork.  So everything is mostly done for me now.  Ryan and I are planning on doing a weekend trip to Kenting at the south end of the island with several of the Taiwanese staff from our school and one of the other schools.  We are really looking forward to the last bit of bonding before good-byes that will last probably the rest of our lives.  Those good-byes are the biggest downside of traveling in general.  In the future I will not meet people while I travel to avoid those painful, tearful moments.  I will shun those I come across.  See how I am continuously improving?

The view from my apartment that I will miss greatly.

The swimming hole at Wulai.

This little guy was close enough to the fence that I could reach over and touch him.

Our tour guides.

A for example of our Tuesday hike.

Climbing at Dragon Cave.

A pier at Long Dong.

Our climbing crew at lunchtime.

With Fish and Claire, and her two kids.

Snorkeling at Long Dong

Some of the fish.

Our cliffs at Long Dong.

My haircut.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Für Elise

The kids broke into song while in class today.  I didn't recognize it at first, but then I got them on video a second time and recognized it.  It's Für Elise, right?  Anyway, I got them to write out the name in Chinese.  So you can hear them sing it, and see how it is written in Chinese.