Sunday, May 30, 2010


I just finished my first 4 days of teaching and I am bushed.  Going into this, I anticipated that teaching would be difficult but I did not imagine that it would be THIS hard.  Why is it so hard?
  1. When you are in front of a group of kids, you need to be on 100%.  I don't like half-assing it because it would be doing the kids a disservice.  And, if you ever met these kids, you would understand why I don't want to let them down....they are adorable, earnest and, in general, striving to master English to the best of their ability.  I feel like I should reciprocate! 
  2. I teach 10 classes per week.  Every class is on a different level so I have different teaching objectives to achieve.  Also, given the wide age range (anywhere from 5-14) I need to consider how to best teach to different ages.  This is harder than you might think.  
  3. Classes are 2 hours.  So, 20 hours of teaching, piece of cake you might say.  However, I spend a LOT of time working on my lesson plans.  I can plan a class in about an hour if I really run through it, 2 hours if I take my time and mentally rehearse everything.  This adds quite a bit of time to the work week.  
  4. In addition, re-learning English grammar has been challenging but fun.  I don't think I ever learned about the various verb tenses etc. so it has been interesting teaching myself English's wacky rules.
Anyhow, it is tough but I really like it.  I've always enjoyed teaching and working with kids (I used to teach violin lessons) so the work itself is quite fulfilling.  For those who are interested, here is my regular M-F schedule:
Wake up around 8
Goof off/eat breakfast/drink coffee until 10
Plan one lesson 10-12
Eat lunch/take a break12-1
1-3 Plan lesson 2
Shower, walk to work, arrive around 3:45
3:45-4:45 Grade homework, odds and ends
4:50-6:40, Teach Lesson 1
6:40-7 relax, run over Lesson plan 2
7-8:50 Teach lesson 2
8:50-9 Relax
9-9:30 Grade homework
Walk home, get home around 10
Eat dinner
Goof off until midnight
Head to bed
Wake up and do it all over again!

Like I said, once I get better at lesson planning I think I can get it down to around 1 hour total which will open up a huge block of time in the morning.  I am looking into a gym membership to help fill some of that time!

What else, what else.  I am finally getting set up in my bedroom.  Bed will be here tomorrow or Tuesday, air conditioning unit is in.  Oh!  And I am doing some cooking!  I am finally settled enough to do stuff like that and it feels great!   Adios!

Random usual, hover over "notes" for captions

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Assorted Taipei Randoms

Random junk from Taipei.  Lots of pics and videos.  For the pics, hover over "notes" for captions:

Get the flash player here:

Ximending at night.  Ximending is a hip cool area where lots of Taipei's youngsters hangout.

Taipei Main Station. The hub for High Speed Rail and the MRT.

Iridescent fish at the National Taiwan Museum.

228 Peace Memorial Park.  It's super pretty.

People practicing tai chi in the park.  They are gifted.

Feeding the squirrels in 228 Peace Park.

Longshan Temple front gate.

Longshan Temple interior.  Very busy.  Lots of worshippers.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and the National Concert Hall.

Why I Love the MRT part 1

Why I love the MRT part 2

Let's go for a ride on the MRT.  Looking east from Yuanshan station to Jiantan station.

Danshui. A small, touristy town accessible by MRT where Taiwanese families go for day trips.  I really's all about food, walking around, enjoying the Danshui river etc.

The Danshui River.  Not the prettiest river I've ever seen.

Chinese musician at Danshui.  There were also performances from other the guy I nicknamed the Taiwanese John Mayer.

Whew! What a post!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Taipei Food

(I am back from Taipei and will try to resume a semi-regular blogging schedule.  Here is a set of pics detailing some Taipei eats.)

As usual, hover over "notes" for captions.

Get the flash player here:

And one video...hear Ludacris?  Yes, it is that Justin Bieber song...Bibermania for life.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Super Busy In Taipei

Hi hi.

I have been HELLA (<3 Bay Area) busy with work and training so I haven't had time to write an update. However, this doesn't mean that I haven't been eating! Food here in Taipei is consistently good. Everyone, from the smallest street vendor to the mom-and-pop owned restaurant, takes real pride in their product. Again, my usual rule of follow-the-local-crowds has been a winner. I found some stunningly good boiled dumplings last night on a shady looking alley because I followed a 10 person deep line.

The only disappointment so far has been last night's beef noodle real flavor in the soup, just sorta salty. Nice beefy pieces of beef but, for me, niu rou mian is all about the broth.

Off to spend the day exploring Taipei. No real destinations (either food or otherwise)...we'll see where my feet (and nose!) take me.

I will post pictures ASAP.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

This Little Piggy...

...went to market.  I have done it every single day thus far and I don't foresee stopping anytime soon.

Anyhow, yesterday (5.9.10).  Did the usual morning market-grind-read thing but spent a lot of time at a local air conditioned coffee shop.  Rather nice.  I can see myself going there on a semi-regular basis to read and grade homework.  What else was new...Oh!  I did laundry for the first time!  Well, I didn't so much do it myself but I brought it to a laundry shop and they did it for me!  About two hours turnover and 3 bucks.  Not a bad deal although I think I will consider doing my own at the apartment.  We have a washer but no dryer....I usually hate the stiff, starchy feel of air-dried clothes but will revisit this at a later date.

Oh yah!  I also met my brother's girlfriend, Corinne.  Nice gal and she, somehow, seems to like my brother.  Go figure.  :P

Grabbed dinner with Daryl, his wife Anita, their ADORABLE 4 year old daughter Andrea, my bro, his gf and a friend of Anita's.  The original plan was to get hot pot but the restaurant screwed up the reservation.  We ended up at a Taiwanese steakhouse restaurant which I have been to in the past.  It's all right, not my favorite experience of all time especially given 550NT (about $18) price.  In America this would be a crazy bargain but I usually buy a $1 night-market dinner and the steakhouse was not worth 18x the price.  I suppose it's a once in a while thing for my bro's b-day so I guess it's okay.  The world doesn't revolve around me.  Although it should, it should.  :)

Pictures.  As usual, hover over "notes" for captions:
Get the flash player here:

A few videos. The first is the interior of the chao fan shop I go to. Stark and utilitarian but it does the trick:

The second vid is the interior of the coffee shop:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sleep Sweet Sleep!

So I finally slept an entire night! I rolled into bed around 11pm and didn't wake up until 6am! It took nearly an entire week but I am officially over jetlag! Hurrah!

Yesterday was one of the muggiest days yet. I went to Noobburger for my brother's birthday lunch and, after 5 minutes, was sweating buckets. Given it's outdoor location, lack of air conditioning and hot food it's understandable. I wish I could've taken pictures of the restaurant but I left my memory card in my computer.  It's kind of neat.  They played Muse and Miyazaki soundtracks for music, the menus are amazingly cute and popcorn is served as an amuse.  It's also interesting to see the Taiwanese take on a hamburger so I'll just have to go back at a later date!

Other than that, I did nothing extraordinary. The usual morning market, eat, grind, read, eat, tiny bit of wandering, eat, grind, read, TV schedule I've been vigorously keeping.

Hopefully something interesting for tomorrow's post.

As usual, hover over "notes" for captions:
Get the flash player here:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More of the Same

Nothing really extraordinary occurred yesterday. I simply did the eating, grinding, sleeping and exploring thing.

Here are some pics. As always, hover over the word "notes" for captions:
Get the flash player here:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I won't lie.  Leaving the house is kinda exhausting.  It's not so much physical as I am adjusting to the weather and the humidity.  It's more the mental aspect of it, knowing that leaving my house entails complicated, mentally challenging, possibly embarrassing moments when trying to execute simple tasks such as buying breakfast.  Oh well, I guess the good thing is that this will become less of an issue the more I get out there and practice/learn Mandarin, right?  I will say one thing for any of you would-be Asian travelers.  Learning how to say "I'm sorry but I can't speak your language" in the local tongue is sure to elicit laughs and works as an ice breaker.  There's your pro tip for the day.  :)

And I thought my sleep schedule was getting better but yesterday (5.6.2010) was the weirdest day of sleep yet.  Woke up at 6:00am, napped from 8:00pm to 9:30pm and then fell asleep again at 5:30am,  Bizarre.

Anyhoo, yesterday was a great food day.  I discovered the most delicious bowl of noodles.  Just phenomenal.  A bowl of boiled noodles with greens and a bit of pork topping infused with dried shrimps.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  In addition, I ate the best egg custard tart I have ever eaten.  Perfect flaky crust.  I must eat more.  Once I am done here I think I am going to go out for noodles and the custard tart.

What else, what else.  I took care of my medical examination.  As a fully sponsored employee, I am entitled to state-run health care.  It costs around 15 bucks per month and is, from most accounts, very good.  The U.S. really needs to get its s*** together and provide this service.  The hospital itself was sleek and modern.  My brother informed me that it was recently built.  Oh, and another example of random Taiwan kindness:  Some random, I-just-ended-my-shift dude was flirting with a hospital receptionist but, as soon as he learned that I needed directions to the International Health office, he escorted me to my destination.  It was NOT a short walk but he was super nice and we had a conversation in my signature Chinese/English dialect.  Thanks a lot, random dude!

Other than that, it was a fairly average day.  Morning market, morning exploration, poker/reading, afternoon exploration, more poker/reading, nap, meet with brother for night market eats, late night TV with him and then bed.  Not terrible, as far as I am concerned. always, hover over "notes" for captions:

Get the flash player here:

And I made a few videos so you can see what it is like to ride on a scooter in Taiwan:



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jungle Foot


I spent much of yesterday with really itchy feet.  I asked my brother what the heck was going on and he laughed and said, "Jungle foot, man.  You're in the tropics.  All sorts of weird bacteria grow here."  O rly?  Is "jungle foot" the medical term?  :P Anyhow, things seem to be better today so wish me continued luck.

I feel like I am starting to settle into a routine.  Let me tell you about it:
6:00-7:00  Wake up
???- 8:30  Write blog post, reply to e-mails, play poker, surf web, read....lots of random things happens here.
8:30-10:00  Head to morning market and grab breakfast.  Explore a little before it gets too hot.  I bring back breakfast for my brother 'cause he sleeps in a lot.
10:00-13:30  Go home and grind, read, surf some more.  I'm starting to adjust to the temperature but still find it too warm to do much outdoors.
13:30-14:00  Go grab lunch at afternoon market.
14:00-16:00  Grind some more, read, chill around the apartment.
16:00-18:00  By now, it is cool enough for me to explore the city.  Yesterday, I just picked a road and walked for an hour.
18:00-18:30  Check e-mail again, read, maybe grind a bit more.
18:30-21:00  Take a nap.
21:00-21:30  Grind a bit.
21:30-3:00  Grab dinner at night market, hang out with my big brother, visit his friends, etc.  Lots of young people out and about because it's not oppressively hot.
3:00 Sleep. 

 My sleep schedule is gradually adjusting and I can't wait for the day when I sleep a full 8 hours.

Anyhow, let's talk specifics from yesterday:
I picked yesterday's breakfast joint based on how busy it was.  This strategy has not yet led me astray.  I ate at the stall and had a nice conversation with two middle aged Taiwanese ladies.  I have my own special blend of Mandarin/Taiwanese/English/Wild Gesticulations.  It kinda sorta works and, in fact, I learned the name of the dish I was eating.  I think it's "mee suah" although this is the Taiwanese name.  I have no idea what the Mandarin pinyin is.  This might be a good time to discuss Taiwanese.  Yes, it is a language.  It is also completely different from Mandarin.  From what I know, it is a derivative of Hokkien.  Most Taiwanese folks speak both Mandarin and Taiwanese and the further south you travel the more likely it is that you'll hear Taiwanese.  Anyhow, the ladies explained to me that mee suah is a very, very common dish.  Thin wheat-based noodles in a broth with pork, oysters and assorted garnish.  I can't say I loved it because I like distinct, chewy noodles and these were too thin to be readily distinguishable.

Afterwards, grind grind grind.  Lunch consisted of a local joint for a rice plate.  A little birdie reminded me to eat veggies so I ordered three vegetable side dishes to go with the poor interpretation of lu rou fan.  No fat or lusciousness,  just dry ground meat.  Poor.  Veggies were great though.

Afterwards, more grinding and then I decided to explore the city.  I headed to Wuquan Road, a semi-major thoroughfare near my brother's apartment.  Pick a direction and walk.  I gotta tell you, people look at me a lot. I'm already slighty paranoid about people watching me when I cross a crosswalk and it's even worse here.  Heads turn.  I guess I will get used to it.  Now that I am gradually adjusting to the weather I will definitely be spending more time outdoors.

Went home and slept.  Woke up, headed to my brother's friend's house, watched some TV and grabbed niu rou mian (niu rou= beef, mian= noodle) for dinner.  Went home, ate, watched two episodes of Star Trek Voyager with my bro and then passed out.  And here I am again.  :) always hover over the word "notes" for captions:
Get the flash player here:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gotta Fix My Mandarin

Yesterday morning, I walked to my brother's local morning market and ate a few bowls of deliciousness. The first, noodles and fish meatballs in a white pepper flecked broth, really hit the spot. Screw breakfast cereal, this is the way to go.  It is pictured below. The second, kong rou fan, is very similar to lu rou fan in that it is soy braised pork over rice but the meat is cut much bigger and you get a large wank of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth fat.  Anyhow, at the second breakfast, it was evident just how much of a local curiosity I am.  4 elderly, VERY talkative Taiwanese dudes tried to engage me in conversation the entire time I was eating.  I'm not complaining and, in fact, really liked it and tried to keep up as best I could.  After I finished the kong rou fan, I  explored the market.  At every stall, I was greeted with an inquisitive smile and an offer to sell me something.  Too bad I can't understand what they are saying.  Taiwanese people are so nice, so friendly that they can't help but talk to you.  I need to fix my Mandarin so I can respond accordingly.  In addition, the morning market is amazing.  Easily the best fish I have ever seen and the squid positively glows.  I will dedicate a full post to the morning market in the near future.

For lunch, niu rou chao fan.  Yep, beef fried rice.  There wasn't much else open near here given that I went out at 3:30.  Nothing too special but it was fast and filling.  And about a $1.00.  I also met the most adorable little girl.  She walked up to me and asked, "Ni shi meiguo ren, ma?" which translates to "Are you American?"  I think she was the street vendor's daughter.  Sweet girl.  Too bad her mom's fried rice lacked flavor.   Speaking of prices, things here are kinda strange.  For instance, shaving cream cost 4 bucks but nearly everything I've eaten has been around a dollar.  It's kinda the opposite of what I am used to.

Back to the night market for dinner.  No, not the morning market.  It's kinda awesome that there is a market open only until noon, one which is open only in the afternoon and then one only open at night.  We wandered around and settled on vegetarian food.  I had noodle soup (tang mian) and my brother ordered some veggies and bean curd.  We also went back to the arcade and I watched him get his ass handed to him at Street Fighter IV.  For the curious, he was E.Honda (how appropriate) and his opponent was M. Bison.

After dinner, we headed to a store to buy my toiletries, clothes hamper etc.  The kinds of things you need when setting up in a new place.  It was a blast. I really like checking out the local brands and how they've taken Western brands and adapted them for local tastes.  Potato chips are a great example...anyone up for seaweed flavor?

And I need to join a gym.  Food is too delicious to not eat but it is too hot to run outdoors.  I think I will do more exploring tomorrow.  I am going to give myself a chance to gradually adjust to the humidity.

Get the flash player here:

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I'm gonna blog my time in Taiwan.

I've been here for 10 hours. It's currently 6:30am and I just woke up from a 3 hour nap.  As expected, I've got fierce jet lag.  It's nice to be here though and nothing has changed except for my brother's weight.  Hahaha.  It is crazy humid and hot over here.  Pictures...I've set it up so you can hover over the word "notes" and see the captions:

Get the flash player here:

Also, two brief videos.

This is just so you can see how shiny clean the Taoyuan High Speed Rail station is.

Just a random arcade. These two men were gifted at Street Fighter IV.

That is it for now.  Laters!