Saturday December 31st, 2011

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice ~ T.S. Eliot

Last day of classes ...

Advertising and Practices = one exam to write
News Reporting and Writing = one feature story due
Internet Journalism = done
Radio Program Production = one 5 - 7 minute radio diary due
Professional Writing = done
Principles of Communication = done
Environmental Dynamics
= one exam to write

The countdown begins ... five days to go ... exhaustion set in long ago ... I am so ready for this semester to end.

Professional Writing: Meow

Cats are extraordinary creatures.

The piece, Cat Bathing as a Martial Art, written by Bud Herron had me crying with laughter, as I'm certainly no stranger to this type of activity.

That is not to say that I bathe the two indoor cats that reside in my apartment; they do a fine job of it themselves. Washing cats removes the luster from their coat, leaving them not as soft and cuddly as they should be.

On the right is Girl Cat, a.k.a. Levi. She is absolute trouble with a capital 'T'. If she's not in it, she's on it, under it or hanging from it — she has conquered every place that exists high and low within her surrounding walls. On the other hand, Boy Cat, a.k.a. Datsun is extremely well behaved. This could be due to the fact that he is a scaredy cat and sleeps 22 hours of the day.

The pair run the house and most days I remain amazed by the ability of their movement. There are stories upon stories that could be told and the best thing is that other cat owners will undoubtedly relate coming back with an extremely similar incident.

My favorite part of the written piece is when Herron mentions wearing canvas overalls, construction boots, steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face mask and a heavy jacket before cat bathing begins — excellent advice the next time I need to get Boy Cat into the carrier for a trip to the vet.

Last Post this November, 2011

Cold with snow or warm with rain?

I'm kind of content to stay put.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart ~ Steve Jobs

A Nice Surprise ...

Today my classmate showed me a magazine, which is put out by the university I attend, and one of my pictures is in it! Sweet!

Fun with Photo Booth ...

Photo Booth doesn't get used much on this computer of mine. Opening it this evening led to some forgotten photos.


Meet Flat Stanley ...

My second cousin, Owen, is in the third grade; and as part of his social studies class, they read a book titled, Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. The story is about a happy-go-lucky boy that was unfortunately crushed by a bulletin board. Yikes!

The now flat Stanley has since discovered that he can see the world by folding himself up into an envelope, mailing himself to different corners of the globe.

What a fantastic idea!

The Flat Stanley project will allow students a sense of realism knowing that the Flat Stanley they colored in has actually been in the pictured places.

I kind of wish I could sit in on the lesson when all of the Flat Stanley's make it back to Mrs. Dietrich's Grade 3 Class!

Morning Coffee ...

2011.11.01. 9:25AM.

Rainy. No university. No work. Most importantly, nothing pressing in regards to homework! My camera has been collecting dust. I have resorted to taking pictures of my morning coffee.

Mmmmm ... hot coffee!

Monday October 31st, 2011

Leave closet door open for 2 minutes and out of nowhere come two cats that were only moments ago fast asleep.

Professional Writing - Narrative:

My Mother's Child
Co-Written by: Jimmy Cooper

I am not my mother's child. I'm not suggesting that I disowned my parents — it's just not physically possible to be my mother's child because my mother didn't carry me in her womb like most other mothers do. People seem surprised when I tell them this, especially given our similar looks and personalities. I don't recall exactly when my parents told me I was adopted or if they did at all but I've known for as long as I can remember. I've often wondered what life would have been like had I walked a slightly different path.

My birth mother's name is Kate. She was only nineteen years old when she fell pregnant with me. She was single, working in a tiny hair salon, and anything but ready for the responsibility of motherhood. She didn't have the heart to go through with an abortion so she decided to give her baby up for adoption. She contacted an agency in the area and was told that the hospital could help her make all the necessary arrangements once the baby was born.

Although the uncertainty of how things would unfold came with loads of stress; she wasn't more than three months into her pregnancy when a co-worker informed her that she knew of someone who wanted to adopt her baby. Those words changed everything. Kate felt an enormous sense of relief and was grateful that she may have found someone to watch over this baby growing inside of her.

That someone was a lady named Caroline, whose quiet voice pleaded with Kate about how much she wanted to adopt her baby. Caroline wasn't able to have children of her own but desperately wanted another child. She explained that she and her husband had already adopted a baby boy through an agency two years earlier and the chances of them getting another child this way were very slim. The only alternative was to find someone willing to do a private adoption and that's exactly what Caroline did — I was adopted.

I was only three days old when I left Kate's arms for Caroline's. There was no looking back after that — not until I was seventeen and had enough money saved up to take my very first solo vacation. I decided to hop on a plane to the place where I was born on the east coast of Canada. The thought of looking for my birth mother did cross my mind but it wasn't significant enough for me to consider how to actually go about finding her. That being said, you never realize how close you are to someone; all you need to do is find the right links in the chain.

It wasn't until I arrived in Fredericton that I learned Kate was my grandmother's sister's daughter's coworker and could be reached immediately. Once this link was presented, the big question that wouldn't leave my mind was whether I should meet her or not. I chose not to consult with my mom because I wasn't sure if it would hurt her feelings; but I couldn't help but wonder why she had never told me of this simple connection. The words now or never kept running though my mind and curiosity won me over as it usually does. I decided to press forward.

I was at my great aunt's house when Kate and I spoke for the first time on the phone. We had few words to share despite being of the same flesh and blood. We said so little that it was almost like a silent agreement to meet the following day at her salon — the same place she had been working while I was growing inside of her. I hardly slept that night. My stomach was tied in knots with the realization of what was about to happen. There was a faint sense of finally coming home but it was little more than a shadow in my mind. I arrived early the next day absolutely terrified.

I waited in a windowless classroom that was the upper floor of the salon. Empty chairs that were normally occupied by giggly, young girls aspiring to be hairdressers were instead full of silent anticipation. The three walls in front of me were mirrored from floor to ceiling. I gazed blankly at my reflection, reminding myself to breathe. I was distracted for a moment by the piles of plastic chairs sitting upon two long rows of tables in the center of the room. They made a path towards open cupboards that protruded from the walls. A jury of wigged styrofoam heads with expressionless eyes returned my vacant stare with a silent verdict.

The silence was soon replaced by footsteps climbing the stairs, coming closer and closer. They sounded crisper than any other footsteps I'd ever heard, each clunk reverberating through the room. I could hear my breathing getting louder and louder even as it became more and more shallow. My eyes and mouth were dry. Silence returned to the room as her feet became motionless. All I could hear was the sound of my beating heart. The lady who had given me life was standing directly across from me. We stared. Silent.

A pair of eyes precisely shaped like mine with similar lashes and the exact shade of blue reflected back at me from an unfamiliar face. It felt like I was looking into a mirror as my eyes moved down to a nose that also resembled my own; then my dimples and finally my smile. Her teeth were crooked and discolored in places and my mind escaped for a few moments as I thought of the times I had cursed my parents for forcing me to wear braces all those years. Neither one of us knew what to say so we just embraced. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be feeling so I didn't pull away until she did.

I numbly followed her downstairs towards her personal workstation that was situated along a wall in perfect formation with four others just like it. Her co-workers were standing together trying their best to be politely calm but their expressions betrayed their excitement. The salon was sparkling clean with soft shades of pink contrasted by splashes of glossy black furniture and dark cotton towels. I stopped suddenly as my eyes landed on the photographs around the edge of her mirror— I never knew my mom had been keeping in contact with Kate over the years. The photos helped me to relax a little with a feeling of familiarity at what was an otherwise awkward moment in time. Conversation began to flow as I told her about the memories each photo held.

I learned that she and her co-workers had always referred to me with the name she had given me at birth — Cheryl. I felt uncomfortable when they addressed me with it, as if the legitimacy of my existence was trapped in somebody else's memory. My birth certificate had been changed immediately after the adoption but Kate had never given up that name — to her, I was Cheryl, her baby.

Although the lady standing before me nurtured me with her body, she was nothing more than a complete stranger to me. She was never there when I needed someone to mend my scraped knees or bandage my bloodied elbows. She was never cheering from the sidelines. She was nowhere to be seen when her growing girl needed comfort the most.

My mom was. Despite the missing bond that a mother should have with her child, I felt grateful towards Kate for that much.

I think Kate was relieved that her decision left me with a mom who provided me with a lifetime's supply of love — like a real mother should; it just so happens it wasn't the same woman who gave birth to me. I may not be Caroline's child but I am certainly her daughter.

New growth ...

This is one of the two dragon fruit plants that I am growing; it being the smaller of the two. Cute ... and exciting!

Growth begins when we begin to accept our own weakness(es) ~ Jean Vanier


Taken from Merriam-Webster:
High and tall mean above the average in height. High implies marked extension upward and is applied chiefly to things which rise from a base or foundation or are placed at a conspicuous height above a lower level. Examples: a high hill or a high ceiling. Tall applies to what grows or rises high by comparison with others of its kind and usually implies relative narrowness. Example: a tall thin man.

Taken from Yahoo 字典:
高 (ㄍㄠ) (gāo) tall ; high; of a superior grade or type; (of voice) high ; loud;( Polite) your respected.

This was one of the new vocabulary words in my grade 5 class last week. When I asked one of my students to make a sentence, he responded with, "Teacher Jenny is very high."

Of course this caused a bit of a chuckle from me while another student attempted to correct this sentence by stating, "Teacher Jenny isn't high."

Still slightly giggling, I agreed, "You are right.  Teacher Jenny isn't high ... today."

How could I resist?!  It was unfortunate that I was the only one able to see the humor in this conversation!

Teaching English can be a lot of fun sometimes!

Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!

I try not to have road angst here in Taiwan due to the fact that I'd spend a good chunk of my time being angry.

Please bear with me on the above image taken from Google Maps. The blue line represents a mass amount of scooters weaving in and around one another during rush hour, presumably on the mad dash home, hoping to make it through the green light.

The red X represents ONE guy on a scooter who was unfortunate to catch the red.

Please note that turning right on a red is illegal in Taiwan.

Mr. X decides to get off his scooter despite the thirty or so of us lined up trying to get through the small space between the sidewalk and the cars and slows traffic to walk his bike around the bend and then stops everybody so that he can then mount his bike and continue to drive on.


When you then meet someone like this at the next red light ten seconds away, it's extremely difficult not to push them over and then proceed to say as politely as possible, "You're a dumbass."

Time is tight ...

... hence the lack of posts.

My schedule for this new semester is kicking my butt. I think I've finally gone overboard by taking on more than I can handle. The small picture on the left shows my schedule:

Yellow = University. Blue = Private Students. Red = Grade 5 Class at a school. Green = Chinese Class.

Please note this schedule doesn't include travel time, homework, prepping for private classes, exercise, eating or climbing.

What was I thinking? Yikes!

Sunday September 11th, 2011

Please note the arrow and notice the tail that's a little hard to make out. Datsun is under there somewhere. Perhaps a little hot to be doing that, Levi, don't you think? Always the cuddle bum!

Back in Taipei and melting ...

Published ...

A small assignment for the August edition of Cebu Pacific Air's in-flight magazine! Things to do by day and night in Taipei, a hotel recommendation along with a few useful tips for those visiting the city.

Korea on $185US – Day three ...

Day three started late and my first stop was the massive Gyeongbokgung Palace where the entrance fee is $3,000KRW. I managed to arrive just in time for the changing of the guards. I spent three hours wandering the compound and that was skipping parts of it here and there. It was unfortunate that there weren’t any blue skies for the occasion.

Starving, exhausted and well after the lunch hour, I passed a Quiznos and found myself turning back as I wasn’t sure what else would be around. I had a tasty bacon, turkey and guacamole half sub with a masala chai latte for $12,350KRW which cost more than the Indian food I had had the night before. The a/c and comfortable sofa chair made it well worth the expense.

After a long rest, I walked over to a traditional Korean village called Bukchon Hanok Village. There were plenty of old style houses that appeared to have been restored over the years. The houses spread over a hilly expanse of land and contained many small lanes that twisted and turned every which way. It was easy to get lost in the maze and absolutely worth the visit.

The day was still young so I decided to hop the train over to the N Seoul Tower. I thought I could hike up to the tower but upon arrival I realized I was way too tired and wasn’t totally sure of how to get up there. I did come across a bus stop that showed three buses heading in the direction I wanted to go so I opted to wait.

The bus ride up was fantastic and gave me a sneak peek into the small mountains that exist around Seoul. Once off the bus, I headed up the mountain on foot in search of the Namsan cable car . The ticket cost me $7,500KRW/return and it wasn’t overly exciting. It did grant me a great view of the city but perhaps two ways wasn’t necessary. I knew I wanted to spend some more time on the mountain and that's why I chose to go back up.

Going to the top of the tower would have run me another $12,000KRW so I neglected to go. I spent some time looking through the loads of locks around the tower. It had been a long day and I could feel myself low on energy. I found a bus that took me back down to one of the train stations and found my way home from there.

It was late in the day and starting to rain. My tummy was grumbling so I made my way out to find some food. Since it was my last night in Korea I thought it would be suitable to find myself some Korean food. Most of the Korean places seemed to be all-you-can BBQ and I found myself drawn into a place playing funky jazz with walls that were painted bright yellow accompanied with cool art. Korean food it was not, but great Italian it was. I had a big glass of red wine and a thin crust pizza with tomatoes, onions and jalapenos costing me $16,000KRW. So, so tasty!

I wandered back to the hostel in the rain on my last night in Korea. I had an early morning flight. Next stop was Canada and it was hard to contain my excitement. All in all, I really enjoyed Korea. It’s never really been on my list of places to see but I am glad I was able to check it out. I wouldn’t be opposed to going there again if things work out that way.

Korea on $185US – Day 2 ...

The hostel included a very simple breakfast of coffee and toast. Despite the Dunkin Donuts directly below, I opted for the free route. I had a few questions for the guy that worked at the hostel anyway before I went on my way to brave the train system.

Although at first intimidating, the trains were actually quite easy to figure out and very convenient. I loved the Korean jingle that plays to let one know the next stop is about to arrive. There were often salesmen on the trains trying to sell things like back braces or toothpaste. They were equipped with headset microphones and had prepared speeches for the passengers. On other occasions I saw blind men walking down the trains with radios hung around their necks that blared music in hopes of attracting just enough attention to get the small baskets they held filled.

First stop was to Seolleung to see the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.  The grounds surrounding the area were full of lush greenery and this made the trip worthwhile. The smells and sounds of nature were amazing! The tombs themselves were blocked off and not easy to see. The stone sculptures that were in sight were facing the opposite direction in which one was allowed to view them. Needless to say it was a little disappointing. One could enter the Tomb of King Seongjong at 10:30 and 2:30 for 30 minutes. It was going on 11:30 when I was there and I wasn’t willing to wait around until the next opening. It took about one hour to wander the area; the ticket was only $1,000KRW.

On the train ride back to the hostel, I was beginning to notice that the younger generation had their eyes glued to iPhones or something similar more often than not. Even when traveling in groups, each would be buried in entertainment offered on their individual devices rather than socializing with each other. I also noted that the older generation was smiling at me a lot. I suppose I looked like a tourist with my camera and map in hand; however, Korea came off as a very friendly environment.

I went to a French Café for lunch and grabbed a latte along with two items from the bakery; both were delicious and ran me $8,900KRW.

Second stop was to the impressive Deoksu Palace which sits in the heart of Seoul. I arrived just in time for the changing of the guards. With the entrance fee only being $1,000KRW, it was no wonder that the grounds were bustling with people. The day was hot and the skies were fabulously blue. I spent a few hours strolling and treated myself to a quiet rest in a shady park to observe the surrounding atmosphere.

Third stop was over to the Cheonggyecheon River. This river flows right through the city center and runs about 8.4 kms. Kids were wading in the shallow water while others were dawdling along without a care in the world. I saw signs advertising a light show in the evenings, so I decided to walk around the city in search of dinner in order to pass the time.

There were an abundance of restaurants in the area and it was hard to choose one. I wandered past a place called Taj Mahal and I ask who can walk by a restaurant with such a name and not go in? Certainly not I! I had tasty tikki masala Paneer along with garlic naan and masala chai all for only $12,500KRW. Yum! Day two was quickly coming to an end and still no Korean food.

Cafés of all sorts were everywhere. You could be standing at one Dunkin Donuts and spot another not too far off in the distance. The city was full of foreigners as well, way more than we have in Taiwan. That being said, I didn’t see many English schools around nor did many Koreans speak much English; the level certainly lacked compared to that of Taiwan. One thing I do know is that I prefer being in an Asia where I can communicate with others. Some Mandarin was around which brought familiarity.

After dinner on day two, I returned to the river to view the light show that wasn’t overly moving. Exhaustion set in on the way back to the hostel and I was looking forward to some rest. Day three was sure to be more busy.

Korea on $185US – Day 1 ...

Being a full time student has unfortunately hindered my travels to some degree. I had $185US leftover from my trip to Las Vegas last year and I decided to use this for my time in Korea. First stop was to trade that money which allowed me $193,330KRW. Second stop was to the airport information booth to find me a map of the city and the trains. I let out a small gasp when the lady showed me the complex train system. I told her where I needed to go and she highlighted one stop on a map of what seemed to be hundreds and pointed me in the right direction.

Signs were clearly marked for the trains and I was feeling quite confident.  Upon reaching two opposing escalators, the signs became misleading and I wasn’t sure if both led to the same tracks.  I took my chances and went down one knowing that I could always go back up if it was the wrong way.

I noticed a lady aware of my confusion before heading down and once I had reached the tracks, her son was waiting to ask me if I needed help.  She didn’t speak any English but her sons and husband spoke a bit.  We chitchatted while waiting for the train; they were quite curious about why I was there.  The husband eventually asked me which son I thought was more handsome and I could only politely answer that I thought both were.  Although they got off the train before I did, the wife made sure to point to my stop on the tiny lit map above the exit doors so that things were very clear.

I reached my stop and followed the instructions given to me by the hostel I was staying at which told me to go out exit number two.  The problem with that was that there was a yellow square with a two inside of it as well as a green circle with a two inside of it; they headed in opposite directions.  I went towards the square and then towards the circle and then back towards the square before stopping to see if I could find someone working for the train.  Apparently that wasn’t necessary as a young guy approached me immediately to offer help.  He told me a few important things about the trains while walking me exactly where I needed to be.  Fantastic!  I was quickly becoming very impressed by the niceness I was receiving from the people of Korea. 
The hostel was called Hongdae Guest House and it was recommended by an acquaintance.  It was only OK in my opinion.  The window of my room sat above a very busy road and the hum of traffic was constant.  There was no common room so it wasn’t easy to meet others, only the ones staying in the same room.  There were a lot of young guys staying in my room who seemed to be partying it up into the wee hours of the morning.  They weren’t very considerate of the few that weren’t partaking.  I lacked in sleep over the three nights and decided that may be my last time doing the hostel thing.  The price was right, however, at only 20,000KSW per night and so was the location; it was situated perfectly.

It was early evening by the time I reached the hostel on day one and I wasn’t up for doing much due to the fact that the night before consisted of a staff party at an all-you-can BBQ and beer place and I was just recovering from my hangover.  I went to a night market up the road and wandered around looking for a place to eat.  I ended up with a big Japanese beer (3,700KSW) and a Turkish Donar Kebab (5,000KSW) to go and both hit the spot.  I spent some time studying the map of the city and searching the Internet making plans for the following day which I knew would be a busy one; and that it was.  There’s a new album on the right although my pictures do not overly impress me this time around.

Wednesday August 24th, 2011

Three nights in Korea with US$185 that was leftover from Vegas. Pictures and stories to follow soon.