Friday November 28th, 2008

We celebrated Thanksgiving at work on Thursday. I have fifteen co-workers. Everyone was asked to bring in a dish to contribute. The turkey was provided by the school. I brought in mashed potatoes. It was the only thing that was remotely close to a traditional dinner. The rest of the dishes contained noodles, squid and shrimp, among other things. I ate my turkey and mashed potatoes with chopsticks. I don't think much more needs to be said here. It was enjoyable, don't get me wrong. It's just ... it wasn't hot, there was no gravy ... it didn't come close to home!

The news has been real depressing as of late. I've been reading about recessions and unemployment. And here I am trying to take three months off work. I wonder if I shouldn't be like everyone else and hang on to my paying job while I've got it and hoard my money. Money is made to be spent though, isn't it?

The news of Mumbai has been a bit of an eye opener. I want to see the world more than anything but I don't want to put my life at risk. The terrorists seem to be targeting things I am not, but openly firing in the train stations with AK-47s is scary stuff. I have an appointment to see a travel doctor on Tuesday to discuss any vaccinations I may require. I wonder what the doctor will say when I tell him where I plan to travel in two months time.

I guess there is a possibility that I may not be allowed to enter the country. With a new roommate moving in in less than a month, I am determined to go on this trip. Having someone to watch over the cats, an opportunity like this may not present itself again for a number of years. There are plenty of places I'd like to see. Perhaps I should start looking into other options.

It's been a busy week. I am off with some ginger tea, the news and some thoughts ...

Great Commerical ...

Monday November 24th, 2008

A pumpkin pie from Costco was the perfect way to celebrate my score of 90% with my co-workers. We will have Thanksgiving lunch on Thursday with turkey and all the fixings. I can't hardly wait!

Test of Proficiency - Huayu

I did it! This test consisted of two parts, listening and reading. I managed an overall score of 90%. I have many hours ahead of me before I can consider testing for the basic level. The only way I'll be able to test next November would be to enroll in a University for ten hours of class each week for at least five months. My focus remains on my travels at the moment but University is certainly something I am considering upon my return.

Not much is new in my planning of the trip. I did reserve a spot on a dive boat in the Maldives for seven nights. It's going to knock Nepal off the list for now. In doing a bit more reading on Nepal, March/April isn't the best time for trekking anyway.

I'm glad the weekend has arrived. I've been fighting a cold this past week. I'm ready for a little R & R.

Sunday November 16th, 2008

The weekend has been very eventful ... my camera didn't partake in any of it though! I'm left with no new photos and not a heck of a lot to say ...

I teach a private lesson at Starbucks every Saturday morning. The shop has been decorated for Christmas. Christmas cups, Christmas bows, Christmas drinks and Christmas music. The weather yesterday was blue skies, sunny and about 27°... it was really hard to get into the spirit.

Christmas falls on a Thursday which means I'll be working most of the day. I had a bunch of Christmas cartoons on my PC but they are no longer with. My PC died again. It is the final time, however. After being in the shop for two weeks, it was returned ... it's not able to be fixed. In the meantime, it's forced me to use my Mac on a full time basis and it's been good.

I had a late night and an early rise. It's going to be bedtime very shortly for this girl ...

Tuesday November 11th, 2008

Rain has been coming down most of the morning ... I'm not overly encouraged to leave the house. I should be at the gym right now ... but I'm not. Instead, I'm in front of my Mac doing some research on my trip. Things are falling into place. A friend of mine from Vancouver will move in at the end of December. He's going to watch over the cats while I'm away. I'm very thankful as it will save me a lot of worry while I'm on the road.

In doing more searching around on the net ... the Maldives has made its way on to my list of things to do while in India. One week in the Maldives will cost more than a one month stay in India but something tells me it will be worth every penny.

I'm considering a liveaboard for seven nights. Rooms include a/c and hot showers. It seems a bit unnecessary, but that's all that's available. Food is all inclusive as are three dives per day, including one night dive. Outside of diving, there will be plenty of snorkeling, island hopping and even a beach BBQ.

I have less than three months until I plan to depart. The countdown begins ...

As is ...

The photos in the album on the right were shot as is ... no manipulation on my computer. I was trying out some different functions on my camera ... have a look ...

Sunday November 2nd, 2008

Yesterday, I took the Test of Proficiency - Huayu test. This test was designed by National Taiwan University a few years ago ... it uses traditional characters rather than simplified.

The test has four levels ... beginners, basic, intermediate and advanced. Practice test books are available for each level. The mock test consists of 120 questions which should be completed in 80 minutes or less. I completed mine in a half hour and only had two incorrect answers. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty confident about the test. When I showed my Chinese teacher the practice book, he suggested trying the basic level. The basic test says that one should have studied 360 - 480 hours of Chinese. I'm not even close to that.

After the first question was read during the exam yesterday, I quickly realized that it wasn't going to be as easy as I had thought. I'm very happy I stuck it out with the beginners. The questions were nothing like the ones in the practice booklet ... no similarities at all.

The beginner level suggests that one should have taken more than 240 hours of Chinese in Taiwan. I think I've put in that many hours, at least ... it's hard to say. A passing grade is 78%. I hope I did enough.

The experience wasn't pleasant. I was very nervous upon entering the test room. I can't recall the last time it was that I actually took a test for something. The test examiners weren't overly organized which didn't help the situation.

The listening part consisted of four sections with ten questions per section. Instructions were to be read before each section. Question ten went straight to number eleven, which I caught and answered. It then went to some instructions. I thought maybe I hadn't heard correctly, so I erased my answer for number eleven. After the instructions, it went straight to question twelve but I was looking back at question eleven trying to make sense of it. When I couldn't, I realized we were going on to number thirteen, so I missed question twelve completely. Others apparently had the same problem as one guy started yelling frantically at the examiners to stop the test. Distraction was the last thing I needed. Nerves ... shot. Concentration ... shot.

I was so overwhelmed and very relieved to get out of there. What was I thinking when I went and applied for this test? I'm still trying to find the answer to that question.

I did go out and buy the basic I and basic II practice test books as I do plan to test again next year. The next test is in May. In looking over the basic books, there's no way I'll be prepared in time. I won't be close to the recommend amount of hours it suggests. Three hours per week doesn't add up ... especially when I plan to take a two - three month holiday.

The beginner test has shown me that I really should be on the high end of the required hours rather than the low. Grades will be mailed out on the 21st of November. Apparently one is able to retest if they didn't reach the passing grade.

Once again ... my fingers are crossed ...