Sunday, December 18, 2005

Quick update

Hey all. I just wanted to drop a line because things are good. I just found out that I got accepted to NYU for law school and Jake is coming on Wednesday. Merry Christmas to all! :).

I am waiting for Columbia, and I am lightly debating applying to Stanford still. That said, most likely, next year I am in New York at either Columbia or NYU.


I will try a real post soon.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I really hate this cafe

This cafe is terrible for me. I reek of cigarettes when I leave it.

Anyway, I love lots of people in America, so I thought I would drag myself here to bang out some non sequitors.

I have started working with a private teacher. So far so good. However, having one teacher bearing down on me can be intense, as my listening is not used to fast constant Chinese. I realize that is why Rie got good at understanding fast, she had a native speaker blitzing her with the language.

I also am seeing things from my kids perspective even better. We are now at ever closer language levels (as my kids have somewhat decent English). We all need to be able to understand, should be expected to understand, yet often don't.

I really see why they don't have any idea what I am talking about for about half an hour, and then it seems like they grew up in America (not literally). The first half an hour of my class was terrifying. I was doubting not just my Chinese, but my capability to learn. But I dealt.

I need some way of launching my mind into Chinese. One of the great weaknesses of my Spanish was that it became an extension of my English. I learned the language by basically continually adding words to my English vocabulary, and then just using the Spanish ones when I "spoke Spanish." My grammar was decent because I enjoyed grammar, but I could never really improve my accent. And, something I am strikingly ashamed of, I have never really been able to understand fast Spanish, or Spanish television programs.

With Chinese, a few words have been added to my daily lexicon for that little thing so beloved here, Chingrish, but not nearly as drastically. One reason I think is that I have to speak English for three hours a day at least. If I throw in a Ni3 Hao3, something I often use in English speech, my kids would murder me for breaking my harshestly enforced rule.

Furthermore, Chinese grammar is so drastically different from English or Spanish grammar, and moreover, poorly explained. With Spanish, I learned every rule, and learned it well. Really grammar was the center of my studies. As such, even the most complex English sentences I could filter into Spanish slowly. But with Chinese, my grammar learning has been sporatic and oddly ordered.

This seems to be somewhat of a given with learning Chinese. For one, the language does not have a long history being taught to foreigners. Second, and I think more importantly, its a bitch to teach. If one is learning real Chinese, not just spoken, where do you start? Writing the characters? Words? What grammar rules? Tones? There are so many givens, that you can't worry about grammar until you are writing, and you can't really write until you know at least some grammar.

As such, I am basically trying to create a Chinese section of my brain. A part of my brain that really speaks Chinese, and relies on its grammar largely from instinct rather than translation or a rules barrage. Its actually working pretty well, at least I think so, we will see.

I am a little home sick, being that I will miss Christmas, but Jake is coming, which is going to be beyond any adjectives that comes to mind. Furthermore, the weather has become on par with Oregan fall (though with more sunny days mixed in), so its not like I am in a lonely winter wonder land.

Despite the many trees, the occasional lights, and the barrage of Christmas music, it just does not feel like Christmas.

Zai4 jien4.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A blog entry

The other day I wrote a long, long blog entry. Some thirty minutes of content, but it met a grizzly demise, I am not sure how or why, but I think my posting got mugged in a dark alley adjecent to the internet. Where petty thugs wait to do evil, unspeakable, things to innocent posts.

I actually then deleated it, as my Chinese, ironically based on the content of this post, was not good enough to read what I was doing.

You might notice a different tempo, a new sort of style to my post. Furthermore, sheer deprevaties done upon the English language, notably spelling. Things that will make my mom wake up at night with tears in her eyes.

That is to say, my computer is broken, and thus went my spell checker.

I could use another spell checker, but that seems some what like adultry.

So for now, I am typing on my school's computer. My last entry was created in a smoke filled internet cafe, a room that would be a great text book example of musky, yet at the same time, exceeds the term by bounds.

I have a lot of things to post about, but I am deterimed to write about just one.

I will rewrite much of the last post, Chinese.

I like Chinese a lot, especially writing it. I assumed as my character knowledge grew, I would come to agree to the writers that so passionatly put down Chinese's accessibility (like that NY Times writer and the Prof whose names are not coming to me). Yet really, I could not more disagree.

Chinese is one, not inaccessible. I have been learning for five months, on and off at that, and I can at least chit chat. Sometimes I have no idea whats going on, which was not the case with Spanish, but I also had far more time to study Spanish.

The characters are filled with repition. A character that used to scare the heck out of me was 錢 (qian2 or money) - for some reason on a computer screen it seemed rather scary. Now I write it often, partially because its really just three things that I write often. Most of Chinese is just constructions of stuff that you have already learned.

I actually have only been focusing on writing for two weeks, but I have almost caught up to my classmates who have been writing for five months (in other words, I have learned all the characters that the book has taught in that time). Mind you I had been reading them for some time, but it still goes to my point.

It is what makes Chinese beautiful and worth learning.

Chinese is no more inaccessible than science is. Some people are good at it, some people, not as good at it. Some people like it, some people don't. I really do like, I really actually love it.

As far as speaking (which I like, but not nearly as much), the tones are supposed to be the hard part, but they too are not that difficult. Any competent English speaker can say the tones. Most can memorize the tones with words. Hearing them becomes more and more natural just listening (mind you, maybe I will take all of this back in another six months). For me, the hard part is saying them in context. Saying them with fluency. But that too is coming naturally.

I recommend that you at least learn a few characters. Its interesting to really consider it a lanaguage. Don't just write what you see, but look at each part.

Anyway, I have a lot of posts to put up here, and hopefully I will have the time to go to an Internet cafe and type them out.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Me playing basketball

Wow, I wrote a charming entry and very much lost it.

Anyway, here are not so great photos of me playing basketball. They are not bad, but the person was not really trying to get photos of me. I have always wanted photos of me playing, so that is cool.

Speaking of the basketball court. I now play at city hall. The lights go late, so I don't have to worry about the sun setting. They have different skill levels, everyone is my age, and they are a little more intense. After playing today, I was propositioned, by an actual propositioner I believe. I am not sure how I would deal with that sort of awkwardness in English, but Chinese made it far more awkard. She kept leaning sideways to to look into my dodging eyes. This was clearly her tatic, to give sympathetic looks to guys who are awkward and can't look a girl in the eyes. Having my eyes look in two completly different directions at one time really threw her game I think. She would put herself along the crossed eye, only to try and chase down the other. Her whole body ended up ticking and tocking like a metronome. This made all the worse as she tried to understand the Chinese of a three year with a speech impediment.

Anyway, here are photos...

Here is me, utterly not involved. I need to work on that.

I really want to know if I pulled this move off. It looks like it is going to be a sick move, but I probably just hurt myself.

Not bad hops for 5'10" and clumsy. Again, i want to dunk, just once. I can touch the rim again, which I did sophmore year. And that is without actively working on my jump. If I now seriously do squats and stairs, maybe maybe. Just once, just once.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I give my MSN address to basically anyone that expresses a vague interest. Here in Taiwan, my MSN address is spread far and wide. Because of that, I have an extensive list of friends for chatting with. This is very useful, because if I ever need a fluent speaker of Chinese, its simply not that hard.

To give them my address, I give them my email address which is @ my website address, That address leads to this blog. But I realized, in a deeper way, that link leads to me.

That sounds silly, and I was embarrassed when I thought this, embarrassed when I developed it, and embarrassed as I write this. But the fact is, for over five years now, has had little pieces of me. But now it leads to more me than it ever has.

I have not updated this blog in over two weeks, and I still believe that is true. Hell, even the spaces are interesting, in that they show the rising tides of how busy I am.

The interesting part is the blog rarely discusses things of too much substance. Really my life has had a lot more frustration and annoyance than this blog really conveys. I convey work issues, and Chinese issues. These things occupy my brain, but a large part of my emotions have been elsewhere.

That said, this blog still conveys so much of me. Its tempo, its tone. Its concerns, they are all parts of me. And if for nothing else, the sheer quantity of it is essential to me being me.

No person will get a clear image of me from this, but it is incredible we live in an age when this is so easily available. Through this site, you can find my pictures, my writing, my thoughts, and my life. All of which is pretty shallow, but far more than could have been done before inherent (without carrying large biographies with us).

So I gave this link to someone today and realized that with dedicated reading, they could know an awful lot about me, very very fast. That is a strange feeling.


Excuse the bad Chinese attempts, but I need to start throwing more in there.

Also a quick update of things in my life:

Dating Rie - Very good. Describing the intricacies of our relationship would take time and a larger blog, but its good. We study a lot together, and eat a lot, two of my favorite things I am finding.

Learning Chinese - Not bad. My tones are terrible, and Rie may kill me if I don't improve them. My reading is getting better fast, my writing is okay. It will be easier when I have a one on one class (一對一課).

Teaching English - Ups and downs. A few weeks ago was hard. Sometimes everything is smooth, sometimes, ugh. One student is getting batty on me, and that is not really helping.

Applying for Law School - It is such a weird experience. You are fighting this fear of rejection, but at the same time, paying for that battle. It makes applying very weird. Actually, so far it has been cheap as I have not applied to any schools where I did not have a fee waiver. There is only one where I might, but I think I might not. Now excuse me, I have to go print out and frame that sentence.

Basketball - My inside game is getting really good. My outside game is somehow getting even worse. My dribbling, control, and teamwork, also getting better. I realized that dunking might be as distant as being a good writer, just not likely. However, I have my jump to where it was Sophomore year of college (can touch the rim solidly). The theory is now I should do squats seriously and try to get really up there, but I don't have decent weights.

Martial Arts - I still have not really had the time to pursue a teacher or a group to learn the basics with. But I will do it.

Oh, and to close, a quick story. Ran into a guy from Longmont the other day. He knew exactly where I used to live. Really great guy, bought Rie and I's dinner. We talked Broncos, it was really cool. Really interesting to think of that small town, with so little of them traveling overseas (unless I have a horrible misconception of Longmont), and I run into one, in an obscure part of Taiwan. Crazy stuff.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

And one more

A photo of me and the girl because, darn it, we are cute.

Rie photo

For those of you have not seen, I wanted to post a photo of my girlfriend. For the anniversy of my school, they dressed up the foreigners as patriots. Because Rie is down for whatever, she got really painted up (a flag on each cheek which you cannot see in this photo, as well as the head band and a flag. So she looked ultimately Japanese (when really, although Japanese, she is not as hard core as this image would indicate).

She is an amazing girl, she has traveled to over twenty countries, studies fast and hard, and is generally a delight to be around.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A need to post

My lack of posting has left the area of lazy or busy and entered a stage of simply negligent. I recognize that someone must be looking at this site, and it is so terribly annoying to check a dying blog. However, I do recommend people get serious about RSS and get something like Safari's checker to keep up to date.

Anyway, life is good. I have a Japanese girlfriend that I care for, duh. We spend a lot of time together, which is bad for my Chinese but typically good for me. Balancing Chinese and each other has been the most awkward relationship issue I have had to deal with. My future hopefully includes Chinese, I want it to, but that is ultimately optional. Rie really wants to learn Chinese, and use it in day to day life. She only has a year here, at most, maybe only four more months.

As such, we have to schedule a great deal of apart time, not simply to be alone, but because of a tangible reason for the future. Her English has been improving dating me of course, but it can only so much. She studies with a markably veracity, but that time must be spent on Chinese.

She actually has caught up to my Chinese in two months, largely because she has a fast moving one on one class and I have a very slow group class. I am completely unwilling to let her pass me, so now I am studying a chapter a head, at this rate, I will end up studying far far ahead of my supposed level.

We now speak a great deal of Chinese together, but its very ugly, and arguably bad for both of us. Without the correction and of a native speaker, its good to think in Chinese, but not necessarily that helpful.

I want to learn Japanese, but that would just confuse my Chinese right now. However, I am trying to become as fluent _sounding_ as possible. I have now mastered a few collection of words, that if used at the right times, sounds like I speak Japanese, example.

Them: Some complex Japanese idea...

Me: Why?

Them: Elaboration

Me: Really?

Them: Yeah, really.

Me: But...Well...Okay, I understand, whatever...

Them: Probably more Japanese

Me: Really?...

My Chinese is doing fine, but my typing and computer literacy is far ahead of my speaking. My speaking is just ugly.

When I get a one on one class I will be able to learn at a real pace, but right now, there is too much stopping.

Anyway, speaking of which, I should study.

However, I recommend this blog for people interested in Chinese - His last entry on language affecting us really hit me because of my current relationship, and, well life.

I will post more in the coming days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My drinking gang

The difference between Taiwan and China is vast, yet I have never explored it. If you went just by my blog, this is little China, and that is simply not true. So I thought I would talk about the differences somewhat. I just had the most Taiwanese experience I have had so far, so I figure tonight is a good time to explain.
First, arguably most importantly, there is the language. I don’t speak the language here. I speak Chinese. I speak it poorly, but after a month of classes and almost four months of study, I at least speak Chinese. But I speak virtually no Taiwanese, so I don’t speak the language here. This is a crucial difference between southern Taiwan and northern Taiwan.
Northern Taiwan has a lot of former Chinese or Taiwanese that embrace China. Southern Taiwan is Taiwan; it is not China. The people speak Taiwanese, and the people are Taiwanese.
I actually on realized how distant the two were until yesterday. I was in an argument over dinner, a long story in itself, with a restaurant manager that reeked of Taiwanese. His clothing fit poorly, his teeth had been replaced from too much betel nut, and his skin was dark and worn.
Normally, Rie and I have a killer question, “Do you speak English or Japanese?” This question is normally devastating to people. When the answer is no, they simply feel bad. Why? Japanese and English are THE foreign languages. It is like going up to someone in America and asking “Do you speak ANY foreign language?” Many would say no, but most would feel at least a little guilty. So I use this question whenever someone tries to be smart with me. Typically its because they are pointing out a weakness in my Chinese, and I am essentially saying “hey, you don’t speak ANY foreign languages.”
So I got in a fight at a very Japanese restaurant in a very American mall. But for some odd reason, a very Taiwanese guy managed the place. When things started to derail, I asked my Plan – B question, unknowing to just how Taiwanese he is.
This is the most Taiwanese answer to that question: “No, but I do speak Chinese.”
Obviously he said this in Chinese. What amazed me the most was that he was obviously proud that he spoke Chinese. He truly viewed it as a foreign language, and an accomplishment that he could speak it. The oddest part was that he seemed young, and basically the younger someone is, the more likely they use Chinese primarily.
The comment really sat with me. Up until then I did not really consider Chinese as foreign to the people here. However, to many, it is.
I often ask people what their political party is. However this has turned out to be an intensely personal question. I was on a date with a a girl and asked it, and it seemed like I had over stepped my bounds. Asking what political party you are is asking a very serious question as to how you think the world here is.
Tainan is green. There are two political parties, much like America, but rather than red and blue, they have green and blue. Blue is Chinese. Blue believes, at least to some degree, that Taiwan should work with China, if not join with China. This tends to be the Taipei attitude. Ironically, I should say it is very similar to the US blue attitude. It is what the young people like, what the “cultured” people believe in. Taipei is the blue headquarters by far.
Green is Taiwanese, and Tainan is green. A green party member is against unification and is usually very pro-Taiwan. Green people speak Taiwanese at home, and approach Chinese with reluctance.
Tonight I just wanted to eat. I went out to eat at ten o’clock. I had napped most of the day after a long night and had not eaten. So I want to get food and ran into some of the locals drinking tea. The pourer offered for me to stay and I said sure. Much as most Taiwanese tea session go, it quickly broke into a drinking binge.
Taiwanese was abound. Basically, the only time someone spoke Chinese was to speak me, and they approached it like they were speaking the queens English. The speaker was given time to annunciate, and they tried to speak clearly and slowly. However, it seemed that they were not doing such a performance for me, but rather, Chinese was a big deal. They all spoke Chinese, but they viewed it as a foreign language, much like the restaurant manager.
I think Taiwanese is equivalent to whatever language America’s Deep South spoke a truly different language. It is ugly, and bluntly, it sounds uneducated. I could catch words because the people were drunk and spoke slowly, but I could not understand anything.
Anping is the home of the gangsters. Its fun to make fun of the idea of Asian gangsters, but remember, from Japanese Samurai to the Chinese Triad, Asian have a history of being WAY hard core. Taiwan gangs seem somewhat benign in comparison to the Bloods; but trust me, you hear stories, they are plenty hard core.
Anping is the Western district of Tainan; it is where I live. The guys I drank with were gangsters, and not individual gangsters, but the big deal. I knew one was because of a friend who told me when I first came here. However being a gangster boss in Anping is like running a restaurant: that is cool, but not really a HUGE deal.
Yet, I realized later that the people I drank with were all pretty big deals. I kept asking one what his job was. He said he was a “boss” and I said a “boss of what” and the comment just sort of sat there, ike it was unheard. Now I think it was heard, just ignored.
All I wanted to do was eat. I went downstairs to grab food, but I saw many of the locals drinking tea and they wanted me to join. So I joined in and had a tea. They were cool, and it was fun.
We chewed betel nut, the rather disgusting but definitely energizing drug around here. We drank far too much beer, and it was fun. On Wednesday, I am going to hang out with them again. They keep saying I can “help” (a Chinse word I am glad I learned). If it turns out I am now a member of the mafia, I will make sure to tell the blog community.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Teaching and learning

I just now realized that teaching is truly a part of me now.

Not really the idea of expressing an idea for someone else to learn, I think that was always there. In that sense, teaching is easy. I can typically express an idea fairly well and be understood.

What is harder is the herding of cats. Getting all the kids focused on what you are doing, or not breaking rules, or whatever.

Just now I heard kids speaking Chinese outside, and I felt a desire, a true pull, towards the window. My head had outlined a plan somewhere in my subconscious to yell "HEY, SPEAK ENGLISH!" Luckily I am not, well, crazy. However the sound of a little Taiwanese kid speaking Chinese grinds against me. Conversly, the sound of an adult Taiwanese speaking English grinds against me.

Both teaching and learning are slowly creeping, nesting in the back of my brain.

I still like it, my classes rock, however I wish I could be studying more Chinese. I just wish I could be a full time student.

That said, the pay here just gets silly. I teach three hours a week at a private school outside of my main school. Those three hours pay for my weekly expenses alone, and that includes going to nice dinners at least three times a week. I want to focus just on Chinese, but that is just super nice.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I should have posted this a long time ago

This is a quick story that my dad's blog ( reminded me to tell this story, even though it happened about a month ago. It was actually somewhat important in getting me into learning Chinese more aggressively.

A long time ago I got a friend to tell me the worst thing you could call a foreigner. The goal was for me and my friend to call each other that word. There are some good words like Yangguizi, but that is more popular in China (it means foreign devil). However, we found one that sounds like See Ah Dough Ah. Ah Dough Ah means foreigner, and See means dead.

The term is great, you say it around a Taiwanese person and there is blushing and freaking out all around. I quickly came to have the same social inhabitions about it that I would about any similar word in English, if for no other reason than the word's effect.

Well I was playing basketball, and me and a guy got in the way of each other. At the time I spoke even less Chinese, so the kid figured he could say something in Taiwanese (most cursing is done in Taiwanese here) and I would not understand. So we get in the way of each other for a rebound. When he comes down he said "See Ah Dough Ah" nice and clearly.

The whole court froze a little bit, I am not sure if they would give him props if I did not understand or if they would have said that was not cool. But I made it, real, real clear that I understand. I got up in his face, and wishing I spoke Chinese, I said in English, "What? What did you say?" It scared the shit out of him that I understood. I basically cursed at him in English, told him to watch his mouth and lets finish the game. I finished the game at 1000x speed (I made a move at one point that I have tried to recreate ever since, I damn near accidently dunked it).

Eventually the older guy made sure he apologized (okay, the kid wanted to apologize, Crazy father just made sure I did not kill the kid I think). I am cool with them all now, and they at least speak some Chinese to me, now that I can say something. However, I now play at a more serious court, so I don't see them as much.

I wish he had done that now though, because now I can say all the things I wanted to say in Chinese. Now that is progress! :)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

PTA and feeling good

Since the last blog entry was clearly so interestingly recieved, I might keep these things snappy and bloggy. I liked all the comments on the last one, maybe I should do more messed up things just for the reaction?

Anyway, I had PTA the other day and I am flying high. I was super nervous and it turned into a Loving My Class fest. The parents with the most questions were all about me. Apperently the kids rave about me, and the parents love how I am approaching the class. It was all very cool and felt really nice. I enjoy the class more now too, its like I have a mandate.

It was really nice because I have developed specific goals and my own style, which I will often question and re question. This is mostly because I am learning a language, so I am always wondering "hey, would this teach me?" So they totally were into it and it felt great.

So with that things are good. The only problem is there are a lot of people I want to see this weekend, but it is hard to manage.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

For you vegetarians

If you are a vegetarian, do not read on:

If I am depressed, I guess I eat a big mac. If I am happy, I eat sushi.

I am happy, I ate sushi.

I ate sashimi from a STILL LIVING FISH. It came out with Sashimi on the fish, I thought "Oh that is messed, we get to see where it came from." They put it down, and the fish starts BREATHING. It lived throughout the entire meal. Occasionally freaking out a little and looking at us. It was totally messed up and very very cool. Albeit wrong, very very wrong. When you are done, they make it into Miso soup which they serve you later.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Some people

When they are depressed, some people do some desperate things. I ate a Big Mac, true culinary desperation.

The best part about eating a big Mac is the digestion process, where you body asks a lot of questions like "What is this?" "What am I supposed to do with this?" and "Are you sure this is food?" It is a confusing process, but at least I will have enough refined sugar to last me for a couple of weeks.

A new blog

So I have now been running another blog that will clearly grow and keep going,

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Check out my law school essay

This is the main essay I would like to use, probably for Georgetown, NYU and Harvard. I think it conveys my interest in the law and what I bring to the school (there is one word that becomes very obvious and repetitive very fast, but I think that is for the best). Alright blog readers, let the comments rain, you hear that? RAINING comments, I want a typhoon. You have about three days, maybe four.

I will post Columbia and Stanford if you guys show me how you do:

Personal Statement for Georgetown Law
When I went to Mexico, I spoke no Spanish; when I went to Taiwan, I spoke no Chinese. After six months in Mexico, I was taking literature and history classes in Spanish. After three months in Taiwan, my Chinese is fine, but I have enrolled in formal courses to improve faster. I do not have a knack for language, but I have a passion for immersion and learning. I hope to bring that passion to Georgetown Law, to immerse myself in the language of the law and leave as a more capable person.
With most challenges, I prefer to make things difficult and rewarding. I studied abroad for three semesters during college, six months in Mexico and a traveling program in Asia. In Mexico, I enjoyed learning not just Spanish, but how to learn a second language. My second study-abroad experience was under the Freeman scholarship, which allowed me to travel to over twelve cities in Thailand, Japan, and China. The program’s speed was challenging, but the experiences have had a profound effect on how I view the world.
I took a similarly immersive approach to my honors thesis. My thesis was on the Pudong New Area of Shanghai in China. Its fantastic skyline caught my eye and held my interest. Until then, my classes had been directed towards Latin America. Thus, I had to begin from nearly square one in gaining an understanding of China and Shanghai’s economic histories. My thesis became very extensive and combined my diverse interests in economics, politics, and sociology. The end result ranged from the broad to the specific and, I feel, conveyed my points well. My passion for understanding gave me the drive to start from little knowledge to disect very specific knowledge.
I am equally passionate with my personal interestes. I love writing and photography, and I got the opportunity to edit The Palimpsest, a publication by CU’s Humanities club. I have taken thousands of photos abroad and was nominated for CU’s 2004 Study Abroad Photo Competition. I have a similar passion for my essays and was nominated for The Harvey Longfellow Essay Competition. Computers have been an important interest of mine; my first job at 15 was designing, managing, and publishing my local newspaper’s website. For seven years, I had different computer jobs, primarily focusing on mixing technology with existing traditional structures, such as bringing CU courses online or putting my newspaper on the Internet. I have eclectic passions, from dancing to chess; and I try to fully explore these interests.
I now live in Southern Taiwan, where I am an English teacher and a student of Chinese. Chinese has been more interesting to me than Spanish, because it is so different and success becomes more rewarding. It is constantly challenging, and there are no shortcuts. I enjoy studying for extended periods and really feeling like I have grown. Teaching is actually strikingly similar. It is often extremely difficult, with varying challenges; it also provides many opportunities to experiment and learn. Suddenly surrounded by five and six year olds was initially terrifying, but I learned quickly. Despite difficulties, I have remained passionate about it and have learned a lot about teaching and about myself. I now feel comfortable teaching, have my own individual style, and know what type of classes I prefer to teach.
I hold a similar passion for the law. I find complex legal problems intriguing. I cannot really know what type of law will attract me because I maintain eclectic interests. However, I hope to be involved in international law, corporate law, and technology law, because I think they are profoundly important. The movements of the legal field directly affect how our society forms, and I would like to be a part of that process. I would like to use my experiences abroad and experience with technology to bolster my understanding of law. In that way, I hope to be especially attuned to modern law, as it faces complex issues involving technology and globalization.
At Georgetown, I will fully immerse myself in the language and culture of the law and combine them with my past experiences to have an understanding of the law and its development. I hope that my passion and enthusiasm will allow me to become adept at the complex and exciting language of the law.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What up

This is now just a blog. I am going to post how I am doing. My attempt at lIterature is going to be directed to a new blog, Its probably early to post that link, as I don't know how much Kat and I will realistically post, but I hope a lot. Its a blog with my friend Kat, writing back and forth with similar themes, styles, whatever.

My first post is a little silly, parts are good (damn it) parts are terrible, but I did not want to edit it that much.

How do I feel? Right now, at this exact moment, I am so good I am not sure what is going on. In fact, I think it might be the first time I have been this just silly happy for a month. I am not sure why, but I have had low confidense, not sure what I am doing, etc. Not more than twenty minutes I was being self depricating and generally lazy. I don't know what it is, but this city can really get a brother down. i think it is fears about teaching, but I am not sure. Teaching acts like this weird symbiot that is always on the back of my head, so when things are bad, I just feel it constantly.

Nothing has changed that much, but I had a great time hanging out with my friend Teresa the other day, and I met some new friends at my college, and spent the day playing arcade games. I needed to be working that time, but whatever, I will deal, I will figure it out. I have a lot of work, but I just need to take it step by step.

The real inspiration was a moment so good I decided to post - I was watching Monday Night Football on a Tuesday night, waiting for the greatest show on Earth to finish downloading, I spent the day playing videogames, I am about to be in a language exchange I like, I was having a super good cheese cake, I had a great song, and the game went from a boring beating to a real game. So now I am watching the cowboys try to save a game they should have already won by now.

When basketball season starts, this place will be just sick.

Chinese is going fine, I am learning. I did not speak it much today which bothered me. And I have to speak ENglish during the days, which I don't like. But on the whole, I am learning it and enjoying it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Back to where I began

I came here in order to get away from school. But it seems I can't do it. I am going to be a student and the National Chengong university starting Monday. I just want to learn so bad, so I am going to attack Chinese.

I think I will start a second blog soon. This will be for little news like this, but a new one that only has photos and stories, something more literary. I am not sure, but I have two very different audiences, that want different things. Plus, it will organize things better.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Little update

The hardest thing about writing about Tainan is picking a theme for each blog entry. I have written, I estimate, about 12 entries that are half finished and going no where. Partially because they always get on some long winded tangent that could go on forever. The main issue is that it is hard to say where some things start and some things end. Everything blends together so profoundly.
My dating life is obviously connected to my view of the city as a whole. It’s also connected to my growing Chinese. My school life is connected to my view of the county as a whole. It also connects to a personal view of myself. If I quit an aspect of my job, I have free time for Chinese or exploring, which I do not always take.
When I sit down, I have written none of it, so I try to write all of it. I write about a crazy date, which then becomes a discussion of Chinese, which leads to a discussion of English on some larger philosophical level. Everything loses its bounds.
I will try to post something real, about something specific in the next few days, for now, quick snippets. I know people want real entries, with voice and thought. However, some people just want to know what the heck I am doing, this is more for the latter, the former will get there’s some day, I promise:

1) I now have a roommate Ryan. He is a very cool Canadian. He plays good music, and we get along really well. I have so much room here that it is not a problem. However, as anyone knows, I get tragically messier with a roommate, and I think so does he (perhaps not to the same severity). That said a cleaning lady is so cheap here its amazing. It sounds extravagant, but if you could get your house cleaned for $15 US, tell me you would not do it….
2) I was teaching little babies for a week. By the end of the week, I was doing significantly better. However, I was signed up to do it for 22 weeks. Even the idea gave me the shakes. So I ended up dropping that, and I am glad to do it. I will just be teaching an elementary class I like for 12 hours a week. Also I have a few classes on the side which pay better and have less pressure.
3) The extra time is going to Chinese. I am trying to fake formal classes. Their University is actually really nice. It is huge, and beautiful, and just seems like fun. So I plan on taking two classes a day there. My goal is to get all the way up to four hours or more working on Chinese a day.
4) Applying for law school is going pretty well except the LSDAS does not have Mac Support. Also I need to finish my personal statements. Today’s big goal is to finish two personal statements. If I do that, I should be able to be applied to some schools very very early (which was my goal).
5) I am playing an egregious amount of basketball these days. I have a good story about this that will be in here soon (that one should lack the constant tangents, so it should be okay).

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Raw poltiical anger

I still think about politics. I want to support the things I love in a vast and usually amazing country. But I wonder if I have the emotional capability for it. Bush has left the kind of distaste in my mouth that makes me question eating in its entirety.
That photo did it for me. I was already reading articles and getting more and more angry. But something about the photo makes me feel terribly upset. It just seems like he does not get it.
I know it is likely just me. I perceive something that is generated from my political bias. Still, it really makes me very ill.
I have loved ones who voted for him, and that makes it harder. I realize there must be something to him that someone must like. However, I can’t envision it. I have never seen him that conservative, I have never seen him that compassionate. Perhaps he is some incredible genius and I don’t see it, but I can’t honestly believe that.
It just seems to me that the country has given the most powerful job in the country to a frat-boy-spoiled-brat.
Being here has made me think about November 2nd a lot. That was a beautiful day, being my mom’s fiftieth birthday, and such a terrible day for my nation.
I often wonder which is more important. I mean that metaphorically, but the question is whether American politics equates to American life. After the election, I just went on with my life. I realized I had friends and things I loved about America that were so distant from the worst political mistake in my lifetime (albeit a short life time).

The thing that bothers me so much is how did this even come up for debate? Clinton had an affair in office. That’s terrible! Yet I think he is infinitely better than what we have now. How did Watergate happen? How in the world can a country so blessed have people running it that think George Lucas style power-mongering is okay? Why is this a debate?
The more I think about it, the more I am disgusted with American politics. How did they sink so low?
I refuse to believe that humanity cannot find more capable leaders. I don’t ask every politician to be MLK, but at least be a nice person. Blunt statement: I and at least 70% of all my friends and family are BETTER PEOPLE than the last three presidents, chief of staffs, and senate majority leaders. I am just a dude, a normal person, but I am confident in that statement.
I have a lot of answers to these questions. I specifically don’t want answers I guess, because I have them and they make me more upset. The real question is whether or not to play a sport that you love when the game has gotten so dirty.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Crazy father

This guy really helped me when I first came. His English is not great, but my Chinese is TERRIBLE. So when I first came he helped me out a lot. Now that I "get" their system (their rules are very specific and involve terrible Chingrish) it is okay.

They call him the crazy father because he plays like Shaq out there. Actually, they all call one of the smallest kids Shaqu (who can make some amazing things), but I think that is for the irony.

Crazy father goes for rebounds with flying elbows and incredible verocity. He is the only one I am afraid to play. The really great kid and I play at a new level against each other. Crazy father is amazing, but sometimes he just scares me (he plays fair, but he occasionally just humiliates you).

He makes this shot

I took a lot of photos at basketball today. I only had an hour or a half because of the sun, but this is my favorite of what I took.

The best part was he actually made this shot, which was rather impressive.

I am limiting my photos to five today, but I have some great ones with this kid and the great kid from before (since they covered each other).

Time for Asian basketball

Some of the kids can really ball out. The one who is scratching himself is okay, he will be very good.

The one shooting is just plain good. He is my favorite to play because we go for the throat against each other.

Not posed

I am not sure why she is giving her son the smack down (she is not actually hitting him), but I did not pose this photo. I was just taking a photo of her when she had her hand on her shoulder. In the process of taking the photo, she put her hand on his face, and looked at me. I actually did not realize that she put her hand directly on his face when I took it, which explains why she sort of laughed and acted funny after I took it (she clearly did not mind, and was not hiding him, but it turned out funny).

Where I live

So I now have the new camera. I know I promised more written stuff, but, well I just got a new camera!

So I am going to post some photos and then I will try to write this weekend. I will try to focus on quality over quantity with the photos. This one is a picture from the center of my building looking at one of the towers.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Rant about an email

I was going to post a normal post on here some time today, and I will, but I got this email forward and it ticked me off so much I had to write about it:


First of all, it would not work, it does not say don't drive on September first, it says don't buy gas. So if everyone still drives, but does so on fumes for a day, September first would suck for gas companies, but man will the second rock.

Say however it worked, and the government had to do an about face. Then the price for running a Ford Explorer stays at the price that it is now. No one has to switch to hybrids, and the world just gets more polluted and gas consumption remains high. We don't develop and then will need the government to force change again.

Or equally good, in order to lower prices, we could guarantee more oil reserves. How about invading another country, or getting even more oil from the beacon of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Or Pat Robertson might sponsor a drilling exhibition in Venezuela.

The fact that we don't have hybrids pouring down our streets is why I stopped thinking about politics. Because politicians are so enwrapped in their daily bull that they can't make a change that we so desperately need. Sometimes there is a genuine urgency to politics, like in the case of New Orleans now. That said, what is with Nero here ( Seriously, did Bush just fire all of his political handlers when he got into office? Did he say "Well boys, you bought me a second term, and now the country can go..."

I know people like to point out that he was working very hard at Crawford. I am sure he is strumming that guitar filled with the sorrow of massive devastation occurring in his country, but seriously man, now is not the time for photos with guitars and racing Lance Armstrong in poppy fields!

My only bet is he is trying to give Harding a run for his money.

To quickly return to oil. Ultimately, we want the price of oil to go up, at least from an economics point of view, or what I think to be a rather sane point of view. Price of oil goes up - cost of driving an SUV becomes unrealistic - demand for SUVs goes down - demand for hybrids and other sane cars goes up - the cost of hybrids and such cars goes down, as will the technology. This is Macroeconomics 101, the end result, the world is a better place.

The only reason I think we don't have hybrids all over the place is the greediest whitest people in the world. I am not a big conspiracy theory fan. I don't believe in cigar smoke filled rooms as obscenely rich white people discuss how they will continue world domination. That said, the case of hybrids is just ugly. Its clear the demand is there and people want them. But politicians who are invested in oil companies block such efforts. Although many car companies are invested in oil country, they know as well as a ECON101 that the first company to make cheap non-shitty hybrids will make boat loads and boat loads of cash.

However the politicians need help to retain such terrible policies, and ignorance like that email forward is great help in that regard.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Passing rain

By 7422 427 2 4 4 32423

This is fiction, but the story is directly lifted from my friend Stu and what he actually saw (the story hit me very hard).

Although melodramatic, many of the themes in this story I I would keep, it has many of the motifs that I associate with life in Taiwan.

The wind catches the rain and moves it horizontally; it moves fast but looks slow, looks unreal. The rain pushes across, without beating, it gently shifts along the empty street. Taiwan pauses and Tainan watches from its insides. The city waits. I watch the floating rain, falling around buildings, past windows, and over lives.
I watch the rain from my balcony. It creates an enclave that holds the rain away. Tainan gets dirtier in the rain. The oppressive stench of rot that fills the sewers rises, and reaches higher. Now, the stench reaches the 8th floor, but I stood on the 9th, preserved from it.
This rain started with a lightning strike. Then it poured. It poured so hard it became more of a mist; the air became water. As the winds picks up, the rain never seems to hit the ground, just float along. The thunder gets worse.
People are still driving in the rain, cars making the same irrational decisions, but slower. Motorcyclists wearing bright yellow garbage bags, or blue, green, and yellow jumpsuits. Flashes of neon trying to stay up on the slick road.
Below my balcony is a one-way road. A car comes out of the parking garage under me, and turns against the legal flow of the street. Symmetrically, but faster, a motorcycle turns the corner about twenty feet away. He is wearing a blue rain suit and a small black helmet on a new scooter, his girlfriend is in a yellow garbage bag on the back.
Their tire sticks into one of the road’s ridges, and the bike quivers, about to fall as it finishes the corner. He corrects to the left. His tire leaves the ridge at once, causing a quick, unprepared acceleration. His bike leaves the ground for a second and then hydroplanes into the black car.
The driver's leg gets crush between the car's side and his bike; his girlfriend leaves the bike.
Her climb and her decent are more awkward than anything else, like throwing up a floppy plastic doll. It does not look poetic or dramatic, just peculuar. She lands on the car's roof, somewhat inexplicably.
She lies there as the scene freezes in the pouring rain. After a second, maybe two, the motorcyclist pushes back his bike back with his good foot. His bike is heavily scratched up, the car has a sizable dent where the motorcycle hit it, the roof is fine; the girl has not moved.
The driver of the car walks out, expressionless. I am nine floors away, and he is not expressionless because I am nine floors away. He just is expressionless, it’s simply the best word for it.
The motorcyclist and the car driver get out and talk. They seem upset as they speak, but it seems more like a passing annoyance or a difficult business deal than out right anger.
The car driver points to the dent. The motorcyclist points to the scratches, his leg, and his girlfriend. She shifts her head. The two go back and forth, pointing at their various loses. The car driver points at the corner, and makes a convex curve to show the motorcycle turning. The motorcyclist points the direction that the street went to show that the car was going the wrong way. Through their hands, its clear they reach a consensus that the fault and damage cancel each other out.
They carry the girlfriend off of the roof, and prop her up on the back of the motorcyclist. The pair drive away, with the girlfriend’s feet dangling from the bike. The car goes the way it was going, the motorcyclist, hopefully to a hospital. They never exchange cards; they just talked until there was an agreement. I walk back inside, and I write this.

Quick notes

Writing on a computer makes failure a bit more palatable. If my half written personal statements and blog entries were physically piled up, there would a good excuse for a bon fire, or perhaps, arson. I am moody and insecure lately. I am continually questioning everything I do.
I don’t think I am homesick, though that is involved. I lasted longer in Guadalajara, a lot longer. I think the issue is that there is so much silly drama here that it drives me crazy. There is so many things that hang me up for no reason, and then I get hung up on being hung up.
I am declaring war on my piles, and showing you what I am working on. To my audience, the lack of comments suck, I will step up my game if you step up yours. If you want posts, post that you want posts. This is a blog and not a book for a many reasons; we might as well use a blog’s capability for interaction. As a gesture of good faith, I put an attempt at fiction up.
Also, sorry for the non-sequitor, go out and hear Kanye West’s new album. It is not as good as they are saying, it is better. Its rare five stars from Rolling Stone are entirely justified. Just listen to it, this includes Mom and Dad – Miranda and Nick. Everyone that might read this blog. It is music, amazing music. It plays like a greatest hit collection from an excellent artist after a long running career, every song is just that good. If you are reluctant, just IM me. But you have to hear it. It is going to be mandatory listening some day, maybe not “Abbey Road” but at least my generation’s Abbey Road.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

More posting

There is a demand for more posts, so I am going to put more quick ones up. These will not be edited and will be far less literary (or attempted literary). I just want to actually tell you about some of the more interesting or funny day-to-day happenings here in Taiwan.

One, there are at least ten tea stands on my block. Not even the whole perimeter of the block, just the side in front of my apartment. I have my regular tea stand, but I have decided to explore more. So now, I am trying as many as possible. I did not even realize how many of them there are, I have even accidentally discovered a couple (some are hidden by food stands). I think I have tried six or so; the street is not even that big and I have plenty more to go. At each I order one of the tea staples here (nigh tsa is how I say it, and that usually works), which is milky Chai like thing. They are so good, but they can really range in quality, so it is a fair battle. Right now, one of the stands has a clear lead, with a nigh tsa that just about killed me with goodness.

Two, as I am writing this sentence, jets are passing overhead, four or five at least. They do that, low flying military jets. I am not the only foreigner who can't help but think it sends the wrong signal. I assume it is supposed to give the people here the impression that they are safe from China. However the people are not stupid. China has more jets by, lets say, a dozen, maybe even a touch more. So I would think that the daily fly bys would just seem kind of sad. Plus, who knows when those jets will actually be Chinese jets and not Taiwanese.

Third, telemarketers like to call me. They have adopted the technique of getting all the information out before you can say hello. So I pick up the phone and then a flood of Chinese flows over me. In normal conversation I can now catch a few words. However, the telemarketers are trying specifically to talk as fast as possible, so I get nothing. Then I usually say “I can't speak Chinese” or “Do you speak English” and then we laugh. That is basically it. So, next time you guys get a telemarketer, say you can't speak English, and you can laugh and laugh.

Four, I bought the camera. I realize it’s only been a few hours, and I did not wait for any responses, but I could not help it. I suddenly remembered being a little kid, looking at a camera half as good as the one in question for $3,000 wondering if I could ever afford a digital SLR. When I was 16 I bought my first digital camera at $616 give or take. The camera in question now is only $100 more and way better than the cameras I dreamt about as a kid.

I realize the extension of that logic, this camera will some day be $8 and not worth it. But by then, I will have moved on, however, in that time, I want to have moved. I love photography, and even if I can’t do it professionally, I can do it. The same goes for writing. A lack of excellence should not deter me, or even bother me. If that was the case, I would give up Chinese, as I will never become fluent without dedicating myself to it. However, I enjoy Chinese, I enjoy photography, and I enjoy writing, so I will try to do all three.

Quick blog post

This is much more blog than it is pretentious in comparison to most of my posts. However I have been "tagged" and I should do something about it.

Also, right now, I am debating buying a new digital camera. It is $750 and should be about $1,000, so it is a great deal. I really want a new digital camera, but I also need money to be getting ready for law school. I will take votes in the comments section, furthermore, the lack of comments has gotten out of hand (with the lovely exception of Melina). If you don't like a lack of posting, put it in there, peer pressure will get me moving and its good to feel read.

This is so blog, but I "got tagged by faraxk aka Miranda"

List ten things in a day that give you a moment of joy...then tag six of your friends (you don't have to do the last part, I will tag various people, but I don't want to be apart of a second generation of involuntary tags):

1 Talking to my mom and dad, both on the phone and in email. In the case of my dad, reading about him in news articles is also a joy of increasing frequency.

2 Talking to my friends, in Chingrish, in Spanglish, and in old fashioned English. Especially online (I like the written language more I guess)

3 Playing basketball.

4 A great date with a charming person.

5 Dancing.

6 Writing and photography (I group them together because I view them in a very similar fashion).

7 Saying something with even the slightest tinge of fluency in Chinese.

8 Helping students successfully produce something in class.

9 Reading blogs and books. One gives me a feeling of connectedness with those I know, one gives me a feeling of connectedness with those I want to know.

10 Thinking about what I am actually doing.

Tagging (again, you do not have to tag others unless you want to):
Old Math (Yeah, you heard me dad, you get a blog, you have blog responsibilities for a lil friendly spam)
jsn 3G (Jared)
javajake (Jake duh)
phototesting (Clark, even if I am the only one who is reading your blog now :))
probando, probando (Melina, this should be real easy for you with the casarandose going on).
jada_gaia (yeah J., lets see if you check this site)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Better writing through the NBA

The Mavs tried to take advantage of the situation. When the annual league revenue increases stopped and a luxury tax loomed, teams adjusted their financial profiles. To get under the tax threshold, they offered good players packaged with horrible contracts. We took them. We hoped the talent would get us a championship before the number of bad contracts we took on in trades caught up with us.
It didnt [sic] happen --Marc Cuban

And that is why I cannot write. That is why I can’t seem to update this blog. I have not written because I sound like Marc Cuban. Marc Cuban writes like this. And that annoys me. He is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, a team that I really enjoy. He seems like a nice enough fellow, but I think he is a dork when it comes to writing. And I write like him. Like that, short sentences mixed with long, to create a fake rhythm.
Then he has a pretentious paragraph.
His writing is choppy, and not good. What he writes about is fine enough, and it’s not bad either, but he could not be a professional writer. And I write like him. A lot like him actually. Very sadly, I want to write more like the writer of a web comic, Tycho at His prose always keeps me reading, even about the most boring topic. I never thought my life would reach a point where I am idealizing a comic writer.
So I will no longer write like Marc Cuban, starting with this sentence, so get used to long and confusing sentences. My days of trying to mimic a bad Hemmingway are over, periods will be denied, commas will be overused, mistakes will be made, and readers will stop reading. I have no style, and that will continue to be true, but the semblance of style that I do have, will be longer and even more contrived. Pretentious to the max, I may even get a thesaurus, or, a word a day calendar.
The second reason I have stopped writing is the same as what I spoke of after the rain. Everything is in flux, where a true writer shines, and I simply do not. I was watching the Daily Show (brought to me by my new internet), and Jon Stewart accredited a solider in Iraq’s gritty writing to him having written it during the war itself, rather than after the fact. I could not do something like that, I just feel like I am talking about nothing, because so many lines of thought, or belief, will just get chopped off.
“Does she really hate me?”
“Is she going to get fired?”
“What is the Chinese word for confused?”
At least half of those will remain unanswered, and knowing that, I don’t ask them. I mean, I would not want to leave a reader hanging or something. Instead, I wait until after everything gets answered, or not, and then I write about things that turned out to matter. However, I can’t leave something that might not be significant, I would be a terrible mystery writer.
Next, I have not put anything up because when I have the mood to write, I am dedicated to writing terrible personal statements. That is my new hobby, making as many bad, unreadable, unusable personal statements for law school as my tired fingers can churn out. By the time I send my personal statements, my delete key will be rounded down to a nub.
The problem is that I have psyched myself out, I often think that Stanford or Harvard should not let me in; and if I don’t believe that, how the hell will I make them believe that? Look Stanford, you can probably do better me. The next application will likely be a gay racial minority with a 175 LSAT, a 3.97 GPA, who is a firefighter, let that person in. In fact, let everyone in you would normally, and me. See, that would be really easy, you just admit 178 students + 1. It’s a good idea, because you get me, and I am cool? Right…Right…Stanford?... It feels like an awkward date, the personal statement is the only dinner conversation I get to try and attract a girl that may simply be out of my league.
The last reason I am not writing, there are too many things to write about. I have eight or nine documents of half written entries. Things that I simply have to write about but I just can’t put into words deserving of the situation. I have worked with the meanest person I have ever worked with. I am meeting all kinds of people. I am eating all kinds of things. But everything I write seems to patronize what I am writing about. The only thing I feel comfortable writing about is how bad my writing is. I will continue posting things, and trying to make my sentences longer, or something; and I will try to have a real post very soon.
I hope.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Very quick tech story

Very quick story:

The other day, me and my friend Stu went to the phone company to move his internet connection to my house. The way their system works is you can actually pass on an Internet connection to someone else, so we were doing that.

After a very long wait, we get up to move everything. We get a nice lady who clearly used to speak English butt has not used it in a very long time. At one point she needed a copy of my passport. However, my passport is with the Taiwanese government getting a green card.

We tried calling my work, but they apparently did not hold onto any of my information (this is why I can get so frustrated about school sometimes). They did not even have my passport number (they found it later, but after everything was resolved).

So the solution? I had my computer in my bag, which had a scan of my passport for when I was applying for jobs. I whipped out the computer, we saved the passport image on my friend Stu’s USB drive, and then printed it out on the phone company’s computer. We did this very fast. Not only did we get it printed out, but also the passport image was the size of an entire piece of paper. So not only do they get it, they REALLY got it.

And people ask me why I carry my computer with me wherever I go. Now you know.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Did someone say cute kids?

The graduation show is past, to everyones relief. Here are cute photos. I have more on a friend's camera.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Walking away from love

“I love you!” he shouted down the street.
A hesitant pause, “I love you too!” I shouted back, lying.
I didn’t really love him; I didn’t even know his name. But I did not want to leave him there, waiting, with his friends watching, embarrassed.
I knew why he loved me; he loved me because that was the only other thing he knew how to shout in English. The first thing, “Hello,” had been expended, and I don’t think he wanted the conversation to wane. Luckily, by the time I had confirmed my reciprocal love, I had continued walking far enough that we did not have an awkward silence after our most intimate moment.
I was coming back from getting food and tea. My favorite food stand makes sweetened deep fried food, and yes, it tastes as good as it sounds. With this, I bought lemonade and tried to flirt with the girl at the tea stand.
My Chinese flirting is pretty rudimentary, “I like your clothes;” I point at her Chingrish shirt, because I love Chingrish.
She says, “thank you.”
“What name is you?”
“Shou li”
“I ### Matt”
Blank stare.
“I am Matt.”
“” Is being what I keep saying for yes, because I am stupid in Chinese.
…”You ### here?” She points to the building where I live.
“Oh, is, is…I am in it.”
She asks, “you ### ###?”
“Ummm…I am a tea her.”
“I am a tea her…”
Then it went downhill from there. I later realized, or think that I realized, that the mystery question was, “How old are you?”
This is actually one thing I like about Taiwan conversations. People will ask you anything, right from the start. I hate the western dance. I like being able to ask, “How old are you? What do you do? Do you have a boyfriend?”
This is one reason my language shortcomings anger me. The age question is my favorite because people get very excited when they find out how young I am. Most people guess my age around thirty. The highest was 35, the average is about 27 or so, and I think most people lower their guess to be flattering.
This sort of thing would be nice to communicate, but I just can’t do it. I can’t even seem to learn the verb “to learn.” How can I not learn the verb “to learn.” It is the one verb that I am always doing when I am speaking Chinese. “I am learning Chinese” is one of very few statements that I can make a hundred percent of the time that I am speaking Chinese, yet I can’t say it.
Equally disturbing, my friend Stu, who can speak decent Chinese (at least passable), does not know the word. He uses one of his many backward Chinese tricks, in this case, he would say, “I am being taught Chinese.”
Chinese just does not let you cheat. There are no cognates to lean on and your pronunciation has to be perfect. It would be like if English had nothing but words like “dot, done, dope, down…” If you mispronounce a word, it's a totally different word, not just an ugly version of what you mean.
A Chinese kid was trying to say the word “dark” to me the other day. He kept saying “ball.” He got frustrated that I did not understand that by “ball” he meant “dark.” His frustration is what I feel with virtually every word that people don’t understand, which is virtually every word I say.
In Spanish, I could force the words out, it sounded like I was spitting marbles at a gong, but the words got out. My grammar was great compared to my terrible accent I was a good student, just a bad speaker. I always felt sorry for anyone who had to listen to me, but at least people understood me.
With Chinese, I am not even a good student. I have the potential of forgetting any word, such as “Yes.” The only words I always remember are “this,” and that.” They are properly said as “Nagga” and “Jagga.” However, the Tainan accent makes it more of a “Nigga,” and “Jigga.” For the large contingent of my blog readership that are not Jay Z fans, Jigga is the nickname of one o one of the best, rappers to date. He has /many songs with the chorus filled with “Niggas,” and “Jiggas.” So now, every time I order this or that, I am thinking, “What’s my mother f--king name?”
Arguably the most peculiar part of my Chinese is that I am becoming more literate than conversational, something that should not really happen in Chinese. With some of my friends, I use more Chinese than English. I can’t actually write any characters, but I have learned to type them.
The worst part is interacting with the regular population. People often run from me. If I go up to pay for, waitresses will run and get the English speaker, even if I just want to give them money. The problem is that I can often not blame them. They have a prejudice assumption that I can’t speak Chinese, but it's a completely correct prejudice assumption. Other foreigners, who can speak Chinese, get mad when people insist on using poor English with them or clearly avoiding them.
Learning is very slow going; the biggest problem is that I have to speak English all day long. If I end up speaking Chinese in the day, there is a big problem on multiple levels. If I had the money, I would just stop teaching and become a full time student again; then I could declare war on the language. However, teaching is teaching me a lot, it just doesn’t happen to be Chinese.
I will learn more Chinese, but it is frustrating that I cannot meet people now. Sometimes, I feel very closed off from people. However, at least, drunk and stupid, I know that at least one person loves me in Taiwan.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

I am selling out!

Sorry about the lack of posts. This week has been exceptionally busy, which has increased the stuff I have to write about to the point where I don't know what to write, and vastly decreased my energy and enthusiasim to do so.

I am going to begin writing my law school essays this week and next. I want advice, I think I will incorporate stuff from this site, so if there is a line that you like, please tell me. I want to have my open and close be especially pithy (thanks Mom).

And as the title says, I am totally going to try to sell out. I don't know if that is the right term, as I never really bought in, however, I am going to put ads on the site. That sounds silly, but I want to use it as a way to track my traffic, plus its hilarious. Also I really like Google, and feel like I should be paying for their services in some way, so there you go.

Lots of weird experiences this week, new student, got the scooter, new class, incredible drama with my Chinese teacher and my school, a crazy club experience, and all sorts of other things. I am working on a new entry. 10 percent chance it is out tonight, 20 percent chance tomorrow morning, 30 percent chance tomorrow evening, 10 percent chance that it is out Tuesday, then the remainder goes out from there.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Random photos around Anping

Here are random photos of Anping.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The rain after the typhoon

After the typhoon, the rain comes, nearly nonstop, for as long as week. It breaks occasionally, but I hear I should not expect the sun for some time.
I have a lot to write, and not the will, time, or skill to get it all down. However, the grey skies, gentle drizzle, and beaten attitude of the city should be a much better inspiration than an Oreo frappe. Perhaps I can write something melancholy, or, if I stretch, gloomy.
Though life has been too good for melancholy. I am the first person to lodge a complaint about someone blessed with everything and pouting about nothing. As hypocritical as I am, that would be too much of a stretch.
I have an apartment that continually amazes me. Every time I come home, I can’t help but enjoy the place. My living room is the best part. I have really gotten to make it my own. Night and day, it maintains the impression that it is just as big as it should be. It rides the edge of excessive so cleanly, that it becomes just right. I like to dance in my living room, knowing that much of the neighboring apartments can see me through my wall of windows.
I enjoy watching the middle-aged woman learn to play the violin across the street. The crazy white dance should leave an impression on the neighbors.
Tomorrow will be the end of a long battle. My vanity fought my desire to be dry, and I think the desire to be dry finally won out. This makes evolutionary sense. In the wild, vanity might help one find a fertile mate, however, being dry could save a life. Thus, in conflict, it should be expected that my ancestors would be willing to wear a neon blue, yellow, and green rain suit. Although a uniform hideous enough for the NFL, I am going to be joining the legions of the 80s rain suit army. As it is the only rain suit available this side of the color pink.
Next week, I will have a scooter that amazes me. The scooter is waiting to move when the current owner leaves. I actually agreed to a different scooter and had to pull out at the last minute. I was going to take an ugly, fast scooter that ran well. Instead, I am getting a beautiful, faster scooter that runs well. Inspired by a friend, the scooter is now named 魔鬼 (mo2 gui3), or, the Devil. Perhaps that is getting off on the wrong foot with the new guy, but I think he will like it.
The wettest I have ever been was in Guadalajara Mexico. I was three miles away from my new home, and the rain started. It did not have the suddenness of Bangkok, or the burn of Hong Kong, but it was bad. Feeling uninvited from the city’s inner-dry-sanctuaries, I just got wet until I found a Burger King. That is why I never got into Mexico; I thought they wanted me to be wet.
Today was the second wettest I have been. It sounds impressive, four-foot geysers flying from my hydroplaning scooter while dodging cars that decide to be in my lane for no reason. The problem is, I am used to it. I am in a city that is sliding on oil slick streets, always on the verge of an accident, and that seems okay. I even practice my Chinese during my rides.
My life is not so neat and orderly, divided up by my lavish possessions and slippery drives. However, my ultimate failing as a writer is that I cannot write about something occurring, when things are so up in the air. Its one of the reasons I cannot be a writer. I cannot capture that mystery, that suspense of what will happen.
I did not write about the typhoon, because I was not really sure what it was. I should be able to take a reader up to the edge, letting their imagination circle like the clouds bearing down on the island. I was imagining flying buildings and toppled buildings. Yet I did not know how to express that. My pride and arrogance did not want me to express thoughts that would turn out to be wrong or foolish. When I know everything about the situation, I can make piffy comments, but I can’t make people care. The people who care are those who know me, and they care anyway.
Before the typhoon hit, it was full of potential. I had never been in a typhoon, let alone a “Super” Typhoon. In fact, my experience with natural disasters was limited to blizzards. I am not sure if a blizzard is really a natural disaster, being in a blizzard is a fairly benign experience. One sits there and watches snow, occasionally looking outside and thinking, “yes, that is a lot of snow.”
Being in a typhoon was pretty similar experience. Wind and rain whipped around, but it was not like my place was going to fall over. Occasionally my bathroom rattled a lot. Mostly however, I hung out with friends, occasionally going to a window and saying “yes, that is a lot of wind and rain.”
At what seemed to be the climax of the storm, my friend Stu and I decided to go to 7-11. We did this under the pretense of getting food. As we were leaving the garage I asked him, “We are doing this just to say we did it right?” We both agreed.
It would be different if we lived in one of the poor apartments like other foreigners. I have heard of a handful of stories of people bailing their house out, or getting a swimming pool in their living room. I was just disappointed when neither Stu nor I got airborne.
My personal life is currently in the rain after a typhoon, and I don’t have the piffy comments to describe it.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

How I roll

This is how I roll next week. I just bought it. Custom built in January, all new but with a 5 year old 150 CC engine. It looks brand new, half modern, half old school. Half off-road, half street. I am so excited I don't know what to do. It is the perfect bike for me. It looks even better in person.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Two kids in a big class

Note: This replaced the last entry about Eason and Kevin, which was massively unpopular for valid reasons. I cut a lot of material. If you read the earlier version and like something, tell me, I will add it to a later entry.

Right now, I teach two kids, Eason and Kevin. This sounds like a small class, but in its own way, its huge. The two kids are so vastly different that they should be in different classes. They are both behind the other elementary school kids in terms of English, but whereas Kevin is beginning sentences, Eason is fairly far behind.
They are both sweet kids. They both love me, and I care for them both. They both like to be picked up. Being able to lift them above my shoulders provides me a touching justification for working out. It makes my vanity seem like a labor of love.
Teaching them can be very difficult though. Kevin is beginning increasingly complex sentences, and he is learning spelling. Eason has done nothing but basic phonics his whole life.
Eason has only really heard English as basic phonics. Thus, he randomly, and often inappropriately, launches into the alphabet for no reason. Occasionally he catches up, but most of the time he is working on learning a few words in the sentences Kevin is learning.
The most telling class was the day Kevin was not there. That was especially hard, because I had to really see where Eason really stood. The worst part is that he still needs phonics and alphabet work; yet that is his greatest enemy. He has trouble thinking of words as individual concepts that have to be spelled and written certain ways and in a certain order.
The hardest part is that I see myself in his ‘I’s, and his ‘e’s. We do writing lessons, and his handwriting is terrible. We have to carefully go over strokes, and it gives me terrible flashbacks. I spent hours doing basic writing lessons; I had to write each letter with a certain stroke order. I hated it; I hated it more than any other part of my young education. It made me feel stupid. So I was not coordinated, did that make me dumb?
The schools seemed to feel that it did. I was tested to find out if I was entirely together. Looking back on those days, really cynical thoughts jump to mind. These are either the conscious thoughts of a secretly jaded kid, or like a good wine, a cynicism produced from bitter fruit aged over a decade.
I remember that my writing teacher had a dog with an electric collar that shocked him when he left their yard. I vividly remember sympathizing with the dog when I wrote e after e, carefully lifting my pencil before the line.
I actually had to correct Eason’s lower case ‘e’s. That was the worst part. I was entirely unwilling, or incapable, of doing it like I got it, so I tried to make it fun. Bombs with long fuses were involved. Creating tension over perfect writing, I layered constructed game over constructed game. Timed spelling, life or death writing, it really worked. I was having a good time, and Eason loved it.
But games won’t solve all of his problems. Eason’s biggest problem is the same that I had when I tried to learn French. He does not really understand language. He does not really understand that people can communicate exclusively in English, and in parts of the world, that is all they do, all day long.
For me, being in Mexico fixed that.
That is what is valuable at Jumpstart. Kids are exposed to a barrage of English as the only language. It stops being some kind of cumbersome code, but becomes the only acceptable way to communicate.
My favorite part about Eason is his dad. Eason is kind of pudgy, especially in this land of the toothpick people. His father is a scaled up version of him. They even had identical haircuts. They look like the Eason section of the toy store, where you could get a large Eason or a small Eason.
If I talk about Kevin, I just glow. It might get a little overly extensive if I really describe him. However, simply, Kevin’s work is incredible. His handwriting is better than mine. His cartoons are great, and star yours truly doing such fun activities as riding centipedes, driving buses, or pondering deep thoughts. The latter was to depict the emotion “worried.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

More photos

Photos from around town and school.

Winnie could be better

A sick child is sitting next to me. Slumped over, with her head in her hands, she has not said one word to me. Winnie is someone I have empathized with from the start.
She has reminded me of me as a child. She is smart, but kind of awkward. She wants friends, but does not have the looks or the interests of a popular girl. Okay, that later is a bit different from me, but you know what I mean. She wears pink, but she does not live pink. She does not obsess over which princess to draw. She is the only kid in my kindergarten class who could read entirely internally, that has to say something.
She was also the worst of my kids at getting in a straight line. She would always stagger to the left or the right, not really paying attention. The other kids would eventually bite, and by the end, I could get a near perfect line, with Winnite wandering around. She could see through my games. She did not want constant hugs. In fact, she recoiled from potential hugs and only seemed to care about class when she needed to think. She enjoys math, and is never sure what to do during playtime.
She always had a lot of energy, so it is especially hard to see her now, slumped over as pathetic as she can manage to muster.
Right now I am only teaching two boys, Eason and Kevin. Kevin is very bright and learning English fast. Eason is not. Eason refuses to learn the most basic things, explained, yelled, spelled for him. Kevin has truly random roadblocks. He can do something complex, something simple, back and forth until some random task will throw him. Kevin eventually overcomes them, but Eason sticks with his roadblocks.
At least they both can say “I see a centipede!” When they see a centipede, and sometimes when they don’t. Now that is progress. That tidbit was from last week’s chapter, “I See a Bug!” This week we are delving into the thick content of “The Pet She Wants.”
I really, really, desperately wanted to do, “I’m not a Dinosaur,” but the chapter was just too weird. As much as I loved the idea of kids adamantly proclaiming that they were not prehistoric creatures, the chapter was too mixed in skill level. The book had a connect the dots with “A,B,C…” sandwiched between pages expertly detailing every single English contraction, “I would’ve been a dinosaur...” The sheets were something I could give fluent speakers, but seemed a bit much for a class where only half the students know how to answer “So how are you today?”
Not to ruin the end, but that question’s answer is “Fine.” What if the answer is not fine? What if I want to say “I am shitty today, how are you?” It bothers me that “How are you today?” has become a throw away question. That is a very personal question, a very intimate question. However, in the name of making chitchat, it has been reduced to being an inane thing to say when the conversation lags or is about to begin.
So now we pass it on to our children. I am learning “Ne hao ma?” which asks the same question. The response is “Hen hao,” I am very good. I consider myself lucky when a native even replies with that, let alone “I just misplaced my prosthetic limb.” For me, I don’t even know how to say, “My world is collapsing into the darkest reaches of a great abyss” or “If I had the option, I would like to have my appendix out right now.” On the other side, I don’t know how to say, “This land is of milk and honey, I now live in a constant ecstacy.”
It bothers me that when I ask “Ne hao ma?” to speakers, I am lucky to get a smile and a knod. I really want to know damn it. I don’t care if they answer in Chinese, and I don’t care if I don’t understand, seriously, “how the fuck are you?”
I know people who have protested the question itself. A somewhat crazy co-worker of mine insisted on not using it, and would sometimes reply with a “do you really care?” Yes, I really did care. Well, maybe not about him, but normally I care.
If all we have is the present. If the past is never going to change, and we can never know the future, then shouldn’t a question asking us to detail our present be a big deal? Hell, that should be the deal, the only deal. That question should be followed with careful diatribes, or perhaps improvised poems.
But that’s wrong, the answer is “Fine, thank you, how are you?”
I am okay. Winnie though, she could be better.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Spotting white people

I have an hour before my movie and I thought I should write. Perhaps it is because I am in a sterile, corporate environment, which apparently, is my writer’s sanctuary. Where better to make cliché comments about a society I don’t really understand, than in a clichéd environment that I don’t really understand.
Just now, a father walked by with his child. The kid was wandering aimlessly, being tethered by the occasional tap on the head. The man looked at me with sheer fascination. The kid then looked at me rather blandly like “whatever.” The father then looked at the son as if to say “What you want more than that? I think he is the craziest thing I have seen in ages.”
My sore throat is back and its all this country’s fault. My throat apparently doesn’t like to be bathed in smoke. I tried a mask and it is better than dieing of smoke, its more of a dieing from lack of oxygen. Trust me, they are similar but different. In my mask, I feel similar and it’s a bitch to breath, but at least it is not smoke. Now I compromise with it on, then off, and back on. With it on, the lack of oxygen makes the whole driving experience even more of a trip, something it really does not need.
Yesterday I went to the Tainan Mitsukoshi, which was easily the most expensive and fanciest place I have ever been, and this includes a number of Japanese Mitsukoshi. I saw stores that are only available in a handful of city’s in the US.
My question, how much merchandise could a Zegna branch in Tainan really push in a day? A polo, on a bargin basement sale costs $150 US. This place is not exactly poor, but where does that kind of money come from? I met a dentist who was shopping at Bang and Olofson. Their stereos are about as expensive as they come, but I could not picture him, or anyone in Tainan, going to Zegna, Armani, and Burberry, and picking up some duds.
Much like I get a kick out of the idea of foreign gangsters, I guess I have a funny image of foreign rich people. I can’t really picture some hard core Taiwanese mofo here who doesn’t give a shit about anybody, similarly, I can’t picture some aggressively rich playboy out on a spending spree in town.
In this mall, the $39 store sells boxes, jars, and all sorts of other carrying devices, with big British and American flags on them. There are aisles with nothing but boxes decorated as American flags. I can picture something like that selling in only two places in the world, Kentucky and Asia.
I run into foreigners here and they clearly don’t give a shit that you are foreign. Mind you, they are rare, I have only seen about two or three. However, each time, its clear they don’t want to talk to you just because you are foreign.
I figure we are having similar experiences, plus I get to actually communicate. However, they are consistently visibly put off. I figure they get so put off by the fact that they stand out, they are pissed off that a fellow foreigner would not understand. I can understand not wanting to be the center of attention constantly, it is weird, but why so cynical about it?
I do find it a tad off putting to be constantly stared at, to be surrounded by shoulder taps amongst groups, and tiny whispers. That said, I have to sympathize. Hell, when I see a white person, I stop dead in my tracks.
I would obviously not change it, I think it is clear that I like it. That said, it does get weird. Sometimes you wonder if the constant stares are your imagination, or if all of them are thinking nasty things. Its one of the reasons I smile so much.
As I said earlier, I think a lot of the people here react so well to my smiles because they feel more cosmopolitan, it’s an approval from the world. However, I start feeling bad if I don’t smile immediately. In the US, I smile at almost everyone, assuming they make the least bit of a look in my direction. But in the US, the portion of the population that looks nowhere near me is pretty high. Here it is pretty rare for someone to not look vaguely in my direction, if for not other reason to make sure they saw what they thought they saw.
Seriously though, white people look messed up.

My life as a movie, Japanese with Chinese subtitles

Ironically, now that I am barreling down the city, the city has seemed to slow down. Perhaps the theory of relativity is to blame. I no long feel like I am on some roller coaster ride going too fast for me to really think. I think often. The ride stops. For me, the ride seems to stop at nice cafés. I go to an inordinate number of nice cafes. These costs all cost far more than anything in Taiwan, but less than anything in the US.
Maybe I am going to these cafés to patch into my inner writer. They seem like the sort of place someone pretentious would go, and outside of pretentiousness and remedial spelling, what does a writer really need? Lets be honest though, pretentious I have already got. Besides, its hard to picture Poe drinking a frappe, let alone an Oreo frappe. Having even typed that I think I have to quit all of these ideas of writing.
Besides, I am not a tortured soul. I am usually happy, and I am not willing to be unhappy in order to make good writing. Maybe if I was a sadist this would all come easy. I would just move to Bangladesh, burn my passport, sell my things, burn the money, and you know, see how that goes. That seems like a novel idea, but I won't do it, even if I could keep the movie rights. I came to Tainan partially to leave my comfort level, but its not like I am walking barren streets here, stepping over dead bodies.
That said, the scooter is an adventure, every time. My scooter has given me a feeling of freedom, yet how much actual freedom I have patched into is debatable. It is not like I am going wherever I want whenever I want. Rather, I am just going to where is convenient. I was on the way to a movie across town when I decided to stop and write this. That was the most freedom I have felt on a scooter, where I felt like I should stop somewhere just because I wanted to, which I do when I am walking often.
This café is called “e-power,” but does not have wireless, in my world, that sort of thing ends in a gang war, that or the terrible music. One of Frank Sinatra’s darker moments, Strangers in the Night, was followed by a singer with half of his talent, twice his melodrama, and three times his “Do be dobe dos.”
Driving here for more than a few moments has made me as bad as the locals. That said, some of my western instincts still get me. Cars will dive in front of me when they see me break for just a moment, why did I break for just a moment? Because I was afraid they would dive in front of me.
My Word grammar check has a casual setting, I enjoy that. I like the idea of Word giving my document a “quick skim.”
I am only teaching an hour and a half a day. My contract guarantees 18 hours a week. Why do I stand for this? Well, it’s complicated. For one thing, my pay checks are for a month. As such, they can argue, perhaps justly, that my pay needs to only average 18 over a month long period. Because I worked so many hours last week and the week before, I will have averaged 18 by the end of the month. So basically my schedule is tons of hours, and then virtually none. In a way, that is not so bad.
I have avoided talking about this, because I know people from the school will read it, well, they might read it. As such, I am going to keep this pretty shallow of a discussion. However, this school breathes tension. The staff can't deal with the foreigners, and the foreigners can't deal with the staff. Both are nice, but no one does anything to lessen it.
My friend Stu seemed very "in the face" with the staff about some random things. I thought this was pretty unfair at first. Now I see exactly why he does it. They don't care if you have been compromising on previous things, they want to get students and do just enough to keep you there. The only way to really get something is to make it seem like this is the one strand that is keeping you here.
In this way, some teachers are in a constant state of half-way-out-the-door. One teacher threatens to leave weekly and has "quit" multiple times. It is a sad state of affairs, but I don’t know how it can be fixed. It has become the nature of the game, and it does not seem like it will change.
I am about to go see a Japanese movie with Chinese subtitles. I will not understand much, but what else is new?