Wednesday November 29th, 2006

The sun has decided to join us today, I think. The weather says it's to be 25 - 29 ... though it feels a bit chilly out there. Winter is certainly arriving. This is my second winter with the cats and I've noticed their fur has become quite thick over the past few weeks. Last year, they lost a lot of hair awfully fast when summer arrived. I thought perhaps someone came in and shaved around their ears while I wasn't home. It's interesting stuff.

My turkey soup gathering was a great success. It seemed everyone was quite happy with the turnout as we all had two or more bowls. Vernon will be going to Australia for one month on the 13th, so we will be having a turkey dinner on his last weekend here. I am hoping he'll agree to give me the remains so that I can try another turkey soup. Perhaps a good way to stay warm and healthy over the winter.

This week has been a bit of a quiet one for me. With Doug being away on his honeymoon and my Chinese teacher cancelling our Wednesday evening class, it's left my schedule quite open. It's been a nice change. I've been getting into Lost in the evenings ... just finished watching season 1, episode 11. Each episode leaves me with a feeling of suspense ... it's great stuff!

Our Christmas trees are up at school and talks of activities are in the works. It's hard to believe it's that time of year again. Just when I was finally getting used to writing 2006 on the board, I'll have to soon start remembering that it's 2007. I don't know what I'll do for the new year. My thought is that I'll have to work on the first as it is a Monday.

Well, a sushi lunch is in order today so I best sign off and get ready. After a great cardio workout this am, I am starving! Mmmm ... sashimi.

Sunday November 26th, 2006

American thanksgiving was a busy day. Our school luncheon went well ... I think all the teachers enjoyed the feast. I managed to have two plates myself. After my two plates, I was invited to another feast that evening for a friend's work party. I wasn't sure where I was going to put it, but I accepted the invitation anyway.

My second turkey dinner for the day was much better than the first. The party was held in the late evening at a restaurant in Taipei called Cosmopolitan's. Yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread, turkey, pumpkin pie, ice cream, wine ... it was all there. Needless to say, I had to roll myself into the taxi home.

And the luck continues as I was left with the remains from our school turkey lunch ... I made turkey soup this weekend. I will have a few friends by the house tonight to help share in the yummy goodness. I'm off to rugby now.

Not to rub it in or anything, but just so you know ... see the date above? I am in shorts and a tank with all my windows open ... the weather says highs of 29 today ... oh yeah! I'm feeling a tan coming on.

An American Thanksgiving

I am thankful as I was able to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving last month. Today, we will be celebrating American thanksgiving at school. Two turkey dinners down and hopefully one or two more to go with Christmas coming up. Spoiled!

I spent the night preparing mashed potatoes, carrots and green beans for the sixteen of us that will be enjoying the feast today. I am hungry just thinking about it. The turkey, I believe, is being ordered in hot from Costco. Hopefully it will be good. I was at Costco on Sunday with a friend and I noticed they had a whole freezer full of turkeys ... seems there won't be any trouble getting our hands on one for Christmas.

My mom seemed to think that my last post was a bit negative ... that wasn't my intention at all. All I meant was that 2006 has been a great year ... 2007 has the potential to be better than great! I guess it's true that things get better with age!

I've got to get myself to school early today as I'm the one bringing most of the food. I'll bring my finicky camera and see how it holds up. Some days I get great shots while other days I get big blurs of nothing. A new camera will be in my possession soon. I am waiting for my monthly pay in December, then camera shopping here I come! Anyone want to shoot some suggestions my way?

Grumble, grumble ... got to get.

Monday November 20th, 2006

As I sit down to write, I find all I can do is stare at the screen. So much to say, yet nothing I wish to share. In a very short time, my life has become something it's not been for some time. I look forward to the end of 2006 ... I welcome 2007 with hopes of good things to come.

I'll start with work, as that is where a good chunk of my week's hours lay. Or would that be lie? I imagine one never really dissects their own language until they are asked to teach it. A long time back, one of my language exchange partners asked me about the differences between lie and lay. I couldn't really figure it out myself so I decided it best to check into it. If one were to be curious:

Lay means "to place something down." It is something you do to something else. It is a transitive verb.

Lie means "to recline" or "be placed." It does not act on anything or anyone else. It is an intransitive verb.

The reason lay and lie are confusing is their past tenses. The past tense of lay is laid. The past tense of lie is lay.

The past participle of lie is lain. The past participle of lay is like the past tense, laid.

Layed is a misspelling and does not exist. Use laid.

How is that for confusion?

In speaking with my father today, it seems he is willing to help me with my studies. I've been toying with the idea of hiring my Chinese teacher on for another two hours a week. He expressed a great interest in helping me to pay for the class, so I am thrilled. I can't say thank you enough, Dad!

I know more than anything my father wants me closer to home ... somewhere in Canada, at least. I am thankful for his offer as this tells me that he, perhaps, understands and even stands by my decision of where I am today. I know I can only benefit amazing things from my experiences here and it's nice to see that he may be seeing that as well.

My Chinese teacher has time for an extra class, so starting next week we will have class on Wednesday nights, after work. Doug and I have agreed to trying to meet one night a week. I am going to park my scooter at the closest MRT station and I will take the train down to Taipei Main Station. I think we will spend a longer time studying for one night as we are both going to have to travel a bit of distance to get to one another.

His wedding was great. I asked a friend of mine to go and of course we were the only two foreigners there. It seemed that a few were curious as to why we were there. I was called up on a stage ... which I'm terrified of ... to speak into a microphone ... which I'm also terrified of ... to speak to a room full of Mandarin speakers. I spoke a few sentences of Chinese and one or two in English. Doug ... when I see you on Tuesday, you're in trouble!

Sunday, some of the day was spent up in 大溪 (da shi). It was great to get out of the city. The ocean was packed with surfers. You gotta love that it's the end of November and people still have the ability to be in the ocean. I think about the ocean in Canada in the middle of August and it reminds me of why I'm living in a warmer place.

I think tonight is going to be an early one for me. I have most of the day off tomorrow and my thought is that the weather won't be too cooperative. Either way, I don't really mind ... rain will bring a nice excuse to stay indoors.

Thursday November 16th, 2006

Almost Friday, once again ... the week has gone by rather quick. I found myself wandering home today with this big unremovable grin. Could be that tomorrow is Friday ... perhaps it's something bigger than that.

My language exchange partner will be getting married this Saturday. The wedding is at noon and I'm hoping my camera will hold out for some good shots. This will be my third Taiwanese wedding. The other two were foreign friends marrying Taiwanese girls, so I imagine this one will prove to be a bit different. I'm not sure what I'm going to wear ... I may find myself shopping tomorrow night.

Talks of American thanksgiving dinners and even Christmas are in the works. I am trying to decide if I want to put up a tree again this year. Last year it was great, but I couldn't keep the cats out of it. It was knocked over a few times by you know who ... she's got the same attitude as the little engine that could.

Tomorrow should bring somewhat of an easy day. I hope with the easiness comes the sun and some blue skies. Today was a hot day ... I could hardly bring myself to wear more than shorts and a tee. Fingers crossed for much of the same on the weekend.

A wet Levi is sitting in my lap. The cats were playing around in the washroom while I was taking a bath ... needless to say, it's all fun and games until one of them falls in!

Chinese class is going to come bright and early. With a bit of homework left to do, I best sign off for the night.

Monday November 13th, 2006

I'm not sure what to write about tonight. This is the first time in some time that I find myself with spare time. I've not been taking any photos as of late, so I don't have much to play around with on the computer. I'm kind of bored with TV and movies. I did watch Season One, Episode One of LOST. It certainly sparked an interest, however, the content may be a bit heavy for my liking. I'm really into keeping things simple these days.

Chinese class is coming along ... I am thinking about crunching some numbers to see if I can't hire him on for one more day a week. I don't know what his time is like ... I suppose I'd have to check on that as well. As he has picked up a new job, we have changed our class time. We'll still have classes on Monday and Friday, but we are meeting from 7am - 9am. I didn't make it to bed until almost 2am last night ... 6:45 came awfully early.

I have most of the day off tomorrow. The gym was closed today, so I was able to get some things done around here ... that means a free day tomorrow. I am hoping the weather cooperates as I'd love to get out for a hike. Maybe hit somewhere new so that I can get my camera working again. It must think I've forgotten about it.

I drove past CKids Kindergarten today and they have their Christmas tree up already ... I couldn't believe it ... a Christmas tree. I know it's getting on to be that time of year ... but when you cruise by on your scooter in shorts and a tee ... it hardly seems the time for Christmas.

Christmas falls on a Monday this year, which means I'll be at school for the day. My birthday falls on a Saturday, which means I should probably have a party at mine. I don't know if I'll do the same as last year as Vernon (the man with the big BBQ) will be going back to OZ for the holidays. It'll be a weird Christmas without my bro and without him as he is kinda like a bro.

Some of the best news I've heard all week is that Brother J is moving to Victoria. I am thrilled that him and Spring have decided to get out of the hammer. I don't imagine there is much opportunity there for people of our age and having just spent a week or so in Victoria ... I think it to be a wise decision. Victoria is a stunningly beautiful place.

Best of luck on the move and the drive down ... all I have to say is, nice one, guys! Nice one!

One Fish, Two Fish ...

It feels as though 2006 began only moments ago, yet here we are eleven days into November. The weather in Taiwan has been fantastic. We are probably experiencing our last heat wave before the rain and cold. It's been shorts and tank top type weather, which I've been loving. I think I may even be sporting a bit of a tan.

I've been tutoring this girl, Angel, for about half a year. Her and I are the same age and my wish is that I was better able to communicate with her. We get by during classes ... I teach her some English and she always teaches me a bit of Chinese. She seems like a very cool girl, but of course, communication is limited.

The grammar book we are using would be that of a first level. We have been learning about countable and uncountable nouns ... we are learning words like a, an, some, much and many. One of the cartoon photos in the book is of a swimmer ... he is in a restaurant and he is having some fish and a water. On the swimmer's plate sits one whole fish. Her sentence reads the following:

He has a fish.

Now, this to me sounds as though he has a fish, in a fishbowl, as a pet. Now, imagine her level of English and my level of Chinese and me trying to explain to her that when we are in a restaurant ordering food, we never say a fish as we are never really served the whole fish. Of course, she tries to explain that in Taiwan you get one fish. This is true ... eyes and everything ... apparently the head and brain of the fish are a speciality ... some will actually play paper, scissor, stone to see who gets to eat it. I haven't brought myself to try it as of yet.

It, once again, makes me consider our language and think about the complexities it offers. I had to introduce measure words to her like slice and piece and whole which is almost a whole other lesson in itself. Too funny!

We are reviewing countable and uncountable nouns and measure words in my Chinese class right now, so timing couldn't work out more perfect. It allows me a chance to test my Chinese during an English class.

Tonight I will be heading to 淡水 (dan shui) ... meaning fresh water. Apparently there are some cafes and restaurants along the water. A friend is playing with a jazz band, so it should be a good night. For now, I think I may grab the two cats and head back to bed for a little R & R.

If I had the ability to create a world of my own, everyday would be a Saturday! I am working on ...

Monday November 6th, 2006

Monday arrived too quickly, once again. The weekend was busy. It started off with a welcoming party for the new teachers at my school. The school decided to take us to KTV. It is said that outside of Japan, Taiwan is known to have the largest number of Karaoke clubs, aka KTV. These clubs, some of them being unbelievably extravagant, consist of floors and floors of private rooms for people to rent. Each room has a big screen TV, it's own high-tech karaoke machine, couches and tables and chairs and a bathroom. Food and drink orders can be placed via an in-room telephone.

Saturday morning was spent drinking lots of water because I drank too much beer the night before. I had lots of errands to run during the day and a bbq to attend Saturday night. The bbq was fantastic ... lamb chops and ribeyes from Costco ... mashed potatoes, salad and ... pumpkin pie. Yum! It was another late night or would that be early morning?!

Sunday I felt tired. I'm not used to going out on Friday and Saturday night. I had my second rugby practice Sunday afternoon and it was great. I still find the game to be a little confusing, but I suppose it will all come together quick enough.

Luckily, a lot of food was leftover from Saturday's bbq. A few of us got an invite back for some more yummy goodness. Another night of good eats!

Chinese class today was awesome. I am learning some great stuff. My new teacher has really been able to clarify things for me and grammatically, he has helped me to see things I've not been able to see as of yet. Seems there is still a chance of me becoming a Mandarin speaker.

My teacher will be assigning me writing homework as of next class. Each week I am to write a 300 word paper, trying to use all the new vocabulary. That's going to be tough, but I realize it needs to be done if I want to learn how to write.

That's all I got for now. I think it's time to relax and settle with a movie. I am looking foward to a long sleep this evening. I've had about 13 hours sleep since Thursday am and that just doesn't cut it!

Thursday November 2nd, 2006

Some days I am very aware of my surroundings, and on others, not so much. The past few days have been a constant reminder of living life in a world that isn't my own. Today I had a private tutor in the morning. As some drilling was going on in the building, we decided to take class to a coffee shop up the street.

During class, this older lady stops by the window of the coffee shop and starts banging her umbrella madly on the window. She is yelling and I am desperately trying to understand, but, of course, I can't make anything out. She was probably speaking Taiwanese.

I could see she was trying to express her anger towards me and it was only moments later before she entered the coffee shop and caused a bit of an ado. The only thing I could really understand was the waiter saying strange ... something ... go ... something ... strange. I'm sure she was there to express her dismay with me.

It was at that moment that I had to wonder why some are dealt better cards than others. I know she would never come to realize on her own that I've worked my tail off to get where I am today. That I have made sacrifices. Perhaps my idea of the definitions of working my tail off and sacrifice might not compare to hers.

I've come across this not too often, but often enough to realize what it's all about. It's unnerving sometimes. One never really knows what the other has the ability to do.

As always ... things in daily life remind me that I am in a world foreign to my own. Amazing things happen all the time. Today, for example, was the first time I wrote in Chinese on the whiteboard. I kind of did it to see how the kids would react. We were talking about Monarch butterflies and how they migrate during the cold season. We were talking of direction and one of my students didn't really get the whole North, East, South, West thing. I know how to write the characters for East and West so I gave it a go on the board. They were amazed!

As was I. And I continue to be ... everyday. I guess that's what keeps me here. Amazement and the beauty of it.

As we all know ... everyday always brings a bit of good with a bit of bad. My hope is that the angry lady found her bit of good somewhere along the way.

Wednesday November 1st, 2006

Where does the time go? It is starting to get cold. The evenings are going down to about 13 ... brrr. I had full flannels on last night. I'm thinking it's time to pull out the old comforter ... give it a wash and a go on my bed. The walls are starting to get cold again, as are the floors. I hate winter. My hope is that it doesn't get as cold as last year.

Halloween was fairly uneventful for me. I relaxed, did some errands, relaxed some more and then relaxed some more. I had one two hour class in the late afternoon and then I went to meet Doug for LE. I did get some disappointing news last night. Doug's company is moving even further away, so I don't think we are going to be able to meet anymore. We've had to change locations a few times over the past two years, but now ... we just don't think it's going to be possible. I'm a little sad as I'm not sure I'll be able to find another like him. He is getting married on November 18th and I will be going to his wedding ... it should be fun!

His company will move in another month or so, so we will have some time left. I'm not sure if I'll find another language partner right away. I may perhaps look for some more work as time runs fast around here and two years will come up quicker than I know. If I don't start motivating myself to move on, I could get lost in the great world of Taiwan forever!