Saturday, August 27, 2005

This is one of many Budhist temples here. I'm not brave enough to take pictures of the inside yet, plus this is "ghost month" which is the holiest month in Budhism. The temples are pretty full, so maybe I'll be braver when not so many people are around. Posted by Picasa

Damn it, when will we learn. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

a step back

I've only been here for twelve days or so, but I have had time for some initial observations. But first, I would like to tell a story about Chicago, the city I most recently inhabited before coming here to teach.

On August 11, I woke up early, having slept fitfully at best for maybe five or six hours. This was the day I left Chicago for Taiwan. I wasn't afraid. I had already gone through that. The saying "be careful what you wish for, for you just may get it," is a very fitting one. As a matter of fact, it's one of the most profound ideas I've ever encountered. I spent probably three weeks coming to grips with the idea that I was finally going to do exactly what I had been wanting to do for the last eighteen months, probably longer if I were completely honest with myself. As a pessimist, this is tough to make peace with, this getting what you want.

So anyway, I said my goodbyes to my roommate and good friend (one person), and got myself ready to begin my journey. I had one problem, however. My luggage weighed a ton. More accurately, each of the bags I was checking weighed 65 pounds, and my carry-on bags weighed another 50 pounds easily. They didn't have wheels, either. I had picked them out of thrift stores for their big size and junkiness, because I did not want to worry about them getting beat up on the flight, which they were. To make matters worse, it was really hot and muggy outside. I was going to get a great workout, just what you want when you're going to be traveling for twenty-some hours. The great workout was the least of my worries. After I got about halfway to the blue line stop, I was completely wiped. My lack of sleep, the mugginess, my lack of eating anything much that morning and the previous day, all these conspired to shut down my energy. In short, I was fucked. I've pressed more than two hundred pounds. I know I can carry 80-pound dumbbells all over the place. But luggage is not the same.

I was semi-seriously thinking that I might unpack the bags right there on the street to lighten them up, or leave one, go a street over where I could catch a taxi, then come back, pick up the bag if it were still there, and pay the taxi fare to the airport. This would have cost a ton, especially compared to $1.75 that I had planned on paying to ride the subway. The other idea was to stop every twenty feet or so, catch my breath, then move another twenty feet. I only had two blocks to go. I figured that was the way to go. The thing was, I was already wiped. I needed a break already. Plus, I felt like a fool, red-faced, sweat running down my face, trying to ignore peoples' looks.

Out of nowhere, I hear a guy's voice ask me if I'm going to the train. I look up and see someone I've not seen in the nine months I've been in the neighborhood. I nod, yes, and he grabs one of the heavy suitcases, says he'll help, and we're off. He even commented on how heavy the one was. I explained through gasps of air that I was going away for at least a year and needed to pack my life in these bags. He had been going to the post office, which was not very far from where we started, but decided to help me instead. Once we got to the station, we negotiated the stairs down into the train stop, and he was going to use his card to get me onto the train. I already had my card out, so it was unnecessary. I was ready to take the bags from there, because for him to go any further, he would have to pay the fare as well. But he yelled to the booth attendant that he was helping me, and she opened a gate to let him through without having to pay. He then grabbed both of my heaviest pieces, leaving me with just the carry-on, and said to hurry because there was a train coming. It wasn't necessary that I catch that train, but he didn't know, he was trying to make sure I got on the train. All I could do was shake his hand and say "God bless you" before the doors closed.

As soon as the doors closed, I realized that I didn't even get his name. At the airport, someone else asked me if I needed help. I was touched, but somehow, the previous episode had given me my energy back. I didn't need any more help lugging my baggage to a baggage cart, nor did I need any help once I ended up in Taiwan. Thank you, Chicago.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Jetlag over- let the fun begin

It takes about a week to get over jetlag. I've only experienced it once before when I went to Europe, but it was nothing like coming here. For the record, Taiwan is 13 hours ahead of American Central Daylight. You have no control over your body- as far as energy level and sleep goes. I woke up everyday at 3 am for the first five or six days I was here. Finally, last Friday, I was able to sleep in. Yay!!!

I think I will like teaching. I'm still training, but I have also taught classes. The classes range in age from 7 to 17. All students in a class are at the same level. I'm better at older kids for now, but I'm surprised at how much I like working with the youngsters. They are really sweet.

There are hiking trails really close to where my apartment is. Everyday at 6 am, they are filled with locals of all ages. They hike, stretch, do calisthenics, tai chi, it's amazing to see. They are also curious about this white guy who is trying to jog/briskly walk. I just smile and nod a lot- I suppose it's good exercise as well.

The weather here is hot. Don't let anyone tell you that they can handle heat because they came from the Midwest. I thought that. It's a different kind of heat here. Moist and really flipping warm- like 90's all the time. It maybe cools down to high 80's at night.

I had a "lost in translation moment" last Friday. A fellow teacher took pity on me and invited me out with some friends. Through random connections, I ended up very drunkly singing at a karaoke room- a private room- with some other teachers and Taiwan mob-connected people. No kidding. I was up until 8 am, very drunk and tired. They were incredibly gracious. I assume that they saw me as no threat. I'll talk more on that later. Just know that I am well and learning a lot.

Monday, August 15, 2005

okay for now

I won't be attaching photos for a while. In order to get internet service, I need to have all my working papers. The flight was okay, but I have to say that jetlag is no picnic. I haven't been able to sleep past 3 am yet, and I'm told that this may take more than a week. They should call it something that gives the true feeling of the experience, like jetdeath or jetdragass.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

this wall doesn't exist anymore Posted by Picasa

view from the river Posted by Picasa

me Posted by Picasa

american might Posted by Picasa

more Posted by Picasa

more Posted by Picasa

These are photos from Chicago Posted by Picasa


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Preparing to go halfway around the world

I fly out of Chicago on August 11. I've spent the last few weeks paring down my clothes and posessions. I've found that, especially with clothes, I have a tendency to have way too much stuff. I enjoy going to thrift stores and picking up items, mostly clothes, books and maybe kitchen items. In a relatively small amount of time, it is very easy to amass a bunch of crap. Individually, these things are fairly harmless. But put together, they become fairly anchor-ish, if you will.

I have bagged and thrown out a lot. Being in Chicago is good for that, because there are folks who cruise the alleys everyday to turn your trash into their treasure. So, there's little guilt about throwing away perfectly good items. Someone will use them.

I'm going back to Kansas City this weekend to store some things that I do not want to lose entirely- a computer, some furniture, books and most of my winter clothes. Taiwan just doesn't get down to below-zero temperature. Plus, I'll get the official goodbye from my parents. I know, it may sound odd to be 38 and going through that, but I am the youngest of five children. Long ago, I accepted the fact that I will always be a baby to my mom. I can't change it, so I just roll with it. Also, I must face the possibility that one of my parents (both in their 70's) may not be around when I return, especially if I spend more than a year in Asia.

Add that to the fact that I am doing something that I should have done when I was fresh out of school so I feel like I'm regressing, and I am having a little trouble keeping it all together. I haven't smoked weed in over a month, because I will get tested at a physical in Taiwan in order to obtain a work visa. I'm not going to lie. Pot is a good friend and coping mechanism. Al-ky-hol- not so much for me. When I'm worried about something and try to drown my sorrows, it rarely works out well. So, this is a good period of character-building. I always knew that being raised Roman-Catholic would pay off.