Entries from October 2009 ↓

Taipei 101 :: Typhoon Survivor

(Flashback to October 2-8, 2009)

Despite the worst weather conditions possible for a time to visit Taiwan – approaching typhoon, I made out a winner with my time spent in Taipei, nonetheless. Got in late on the Friday night and linked up with dearest Evelyn (NYU ’03 holla!) on Saturday. Met her and some of her fam: aunt and uncle who picked us up from the Guting Metro Stop. Ev and I would be staying with them and their fam (2 daughters: 25 and 18 in age respectively). Later in the afternoon, Ev’s dad and grandma joined us in the full house affair for the week.

Ev had forewarned me of her uncle being a sweet man, but “loves to practice his English, and thus would talk my ear off….” – of course, after reading this in her email, I smiled and was excited to be able to speak my native tongue with someone else… even if it meant that I had to wear my teacher hat (I’m used to it by now anyway, I’ve got trainers at my gym all yappity yap bc they want to practice their English while I’m doing my thing on the elliptical :: sighs!).

Anyhoots…originally, I had wanted to explore the lil’ island of Taiwan, ie. southside = Kenting = beach, but with the tempering typhoon….. I still made out well with a few random highlights:

* Bringing home a completely wasted 18 year old’s (Ev’s younger cousin) first time at a club home to her mother and grandmother at 5AM – UNintentionally of course; talk about “OMG! Unnecessary!!”
* Sun Moon Lake Hot Springs – I thought I was gonna give myself pneumonia from running to and from the hot and cold springs to warm and cool off… it’s not easy to stay relaxed!!
* Taipei 101 Building aka “the skyline of Taipei”……crashed a televised wedding party of 15 couples!! – Random!
* Many a’ large cups of the most awesome’est bubble tea I’ve ever tasted!! — They use real tea!!
* Ev’s Uncle. (yes, he deserves his own bullet point)
* Ev’s Uncle’s English.
* Ev’s Uncle’s enthusiasm and advocacy for green tea. (what can I say, he deserves 4 honorable mentions)
* Ev’s relatives’ super cool “robot/automated parking garage.” Sooo technologically advanced! This is how it works: Ev’s uncle would park the car in the “garage.” He’d step out, and press button to close the garage door. Once garage door is down and locked, an opening is made under the car, allowing for the car to be brought down into the parking garage. The automation then becomes complete, as it auto-finds a parking space for the car…… so that when Ev’s uncle has to retrieve the car, he just flashes his key or infrared something and it recognizes the car…..and brings it up to the “garage.”
* and some fantastic FOOD!


Overall Impressions:
I had said before that Hong Kong is an awesome “oasis of civilization” within China borders… but now I’d like to officially put Taiwan under that category as well. People are super duper nice, courteous and orderly! They have frickin’ LANES for when queuing up for the metro/subway…and people ABIDE by them! It is AMAZING! I also realized that I DO in fact understand Mandarin… well Taiwanese’ Mandarin as since they speak with more of a “neutral tone” vs. Shanghai, where folks speak with more of a harsh tone… (also because folks in Shanghai go back and forth with Shanghainese..which is completely indecipherable!) Additionally, Taiwanese are much more patient with foreigners and actually devote sincere efforts in providing assistance. Ahhhh refreshing! Plus, great food selects as well! All in all, thumbs up for Taipei!

Here’s a photo reel for your viewing pleasure!

. . don’t burn the day. .

My Three Cups of Tea

Book III: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

In 1993 a mountaineer named Greg Mortenson drifted into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram mountains after a failed attempt to climb K2. Move by the inabitants’ kindness, he promised to return and build a school….. Over the next decade, Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools — especially for girls — in the forbidding terrain that gave birth to the Taliban.

Overall, a dense book filled with details of place names etc., yet, adventurous in capturing the trials and tribulations of Mortenson’s mission to promote peace, one school at a time. I skimmed for the most part when it came to super details of names/places etc, as since all that becomes mumbled jumbled in my head… but a poignant excerpt that stuck out to me:

Mortenson took a breach. He felt an ember of the anger he’d carried all the way from Kabul flare. “I don’t do what I’m doing to fight terror,” Moretenson said, measuring his words, trying not to get himself kicked out of the Capitol. “I do it because I care about the kids. Fighting terrors is maybe seventh or eighth on my list of priorities. But working over there, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that terror doesn’t happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us. It happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death….. If we try to resolve terrorism with military might and nothing else… then we will be no safer than we were before 9/11. If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.”

Ya know, as much frustration there is when it comes to teaching… and especially in a foreign land, where cultures can at times, collide, I can honestly say… that, as is, in the start of my 2nd year of teaching, it truly is one of the most rewarding thing I’ve done all my life….(Sure, we can also check off, getting folks tipsy via drink tickets and bottles + arousing music sensors in crowds, but teaching is a different kind of reward.)

I had mentioned in a previous rant of a post that I had missed my former students and had been itching to make a surprise visit to check on my lil’ babies. But before I get into all of that, I’d like to say: for the record, all is getting a bit more dandier in the new school. No rocky boats since I last posted…. and the kids (and parents) have finally gotten into gear that I’m a teacher not to be messed with when it comes to providing a meaningful education to these brats, oops, I mean students….And you guessed it, my fantabulous school-wide presentation of the Ninja Turtles’ Introduction to Italy surely made the Director + school-wide staff + special professor guests from the University of Taiwan in attendance, RECOGNIZE that I’m not a force to be reckoned with…. + the awesomeness of me! HA! :-)

Anyhoots, so last week, I decided to take my 1 day off from work…and travel 1 hour back to my former school to see my mini-me’s from last year. I was first bombarded by colleagues asking/encouraging me to return as since “my replacement” has been causing a lot of parental disturbance. But that’s a wholllllllllle other story. Basically, the “new teacher” isn’t so great and COUNTLESS issues have arose… thus, making me feel quite sad; I feel as if I have “abondoned” my lil cherubs. What hit home the most when when the students-themselves, came up to me and told me their own reasons for why they want me back instead of having their current teacher. :-( I got the “the new teacher is nice but…….. we like you to teach us! The new teacher doesn’t ____________yada yada” Among the many complaints, the new teacher is slamming the kids with 25 spelling words on a Friday for a test on Monday…and they gotta look up and define each word from dictionary…and apparently the new teacher isn’t correcting the hefty assignments that she is giving out etc etc. It makes me sad… because these kids are REALLY, TRULY, ABSOLUTELY lil baby geniuses. They’ve learned more than the average 1st grader in USA last year. I’ve been receiving phone calls and emails from these former student parents in search of advice etc from me…and it, in some ways, makes me feel guilty a tad. I can only hope that these kids will not turn and feel overwhelmed, discouraged and disenchanted with their English studies. Le sigh.

Nevertheless, it felt GREAT to be with them again. The wides eyes and smiles as their heads turned when I silently and surprisingly walked into the classroom = PRICELESS!! One by one, I heard “Ms. Mimi!” Soon, they ran to give me hearty hugs and grafitti’ed their chalkboard with all sorts of loving messages:


Then, just the other night, a former’s student’s parents invited me out to dinner as a belated thank you… lovely family…and such a cutie of a son! He lost his two front teeth…but was still adorable as ever! He ordered a watermelon juice, “to be like Ms. Mimi.” This kid knew NO English at the start of the year last year. I ended up providing extra tutoring hours to him for the first semester…and just the other night, the kid was carrying on a conversation with me.. and actually, really “confiding” in me on things happening with his studies, new teacher etc. “When new teacher talks, I don’t understand. But, when Ms. Mimi talks, I can understand.” – verbatim from a Japanese/Chinese mix boy. Such a cutie!


Tea is good. Three cups, even better.

. . don’t burn the day. .

Turtle Power in Shanghai!

Cowabunga, for real! Soooo each year, the school selects one country to highlight for a few months through various activities. Last year, the UK was the focus….and this year, Italy! Luckily for the school, I am an Italy-fanatic! Having studied/lived there for a period, I’m can somewhat say, I’m an Italy connoiseur (to an extent, of course).

Today marked the kick off “ceremony” to introduce all the festivities that will ensue in the upcoming weeks/months. I was asked to curate the project and prepare a lil somethin’ somethin’ for the opening day…. (And well there’s just no such thing as a “little” somethin’ somethin’ with me.. I kinda went a lil’ overboard with my over-achieving and zealous self. HA!)

1. I decided to introduce the country by ways of the American pop culture classic (esp during my come-up times), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! While many kids around the world may or may not be familiar with TMNT, many of who do know, aren’t privy to where our turtle friends’ names are derived from. So….. here are some snapshots of my totally rad slide!…..

Picture 1
Picture 3
Picture 4

Here are some shots from my presentation:


The kids went ridiculously crazy throughout the presentation!! Talk about student participation! Sheesh!


2. Thereafter, I showed a 2nd slideshow that highlighted “sights and sounds” of Italy, complete with music: “Volare” sung by Gypsy Kings – well known song among Venetian gondola rides….. The kiddos were roaring!

Picture 5
Picture 10
Picture 6
Picture 9
Picture 11

The whole thing was beyond a hit! Throughout, the auditorium felt like Madison Square Garden…. and I felt like < insert your favorite music artist here > My ears were almost bleeding from all the screaming, shouting, excitement!

Here’s a lil video clip captured of the kiddos’ reactions… the overly amped lil’ Colombian/Chinese boy in front is one of my own .. :-)


3. Throughout the upcoming weeks, we’ll be devoting time to the major cities:
Venice: Each classroom with make their own gondola… and race around the track on Sports Day in November.
Milan: Fashion Show
Florence: Art/Architecture
Rome: Fencing remixed Collosseum style
Naples/Sicily: The kiddos will all make their own pizza!

Phewwwwww!!! That’s about all the energy I’ve got left for today….. My goal in all of that was to make them all love the country that looks like “a boot kicking a football” as much as I do… I think I succeeded! Hope ya’ll enjoyed as much as I did in creating…and the kids did in experiencing! Have a COWABUNGA one!! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Little Miss MacGyver

A couple weeks ago, I had posted my announcement of “forbidden” comm’unication methods on this here land…. and had promised some MacGyver-esque maneuvering….

Welps folks, a promise is a promise only when kept… so I here now announce, my duct tape-paper clip-rubberband (thanks Lun) were taken into the operation room, along with some tips from my fellow sneaky, expat bud, Krazy K….and voila! I’m back like magic! All communications are a greenlight, including viewing of vid clips!! Back, and better than before! Whooo Hooo!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Brooklyn Follies

Book II: Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

Ummm about 3-3.5 weeks ago, I had met up for a fantastic “American-style” brunch deal at Element Fresh (Ritz Carlton/Portman location) with my fellow NY friend, Josh – who opted to be a “gentleman” and scooped me up from the metro stop with his red scooter-bike (that he purchased 2nd hand, off of our beloved NYC ABC Kim, who returned to the States earlier this July); we were zooming/weaving in/out of the fabulous Jing’an district, beeping our way through local traffic, drawing all attention (as 2 foreigners aka “lao wai” should be); I REALLY wish I had my camera for video, but ya’ll will just have imagine the hilarity, particularly brought forth by the reactions of the locals. Anyhoots, after a lil pep talk to brighten up the spirits of my then-slightly homesickened friend, we decided to bookstore-hop. (At that time, I was looking for guides on Taiwan for my then upcoming trip… after 3 different bookstores… I found nada! Hmphed! Go figure… PRC has no books on tourism in TW. Hmphed again!)

Onwards, while in “the” foreign bookstore, I got a text from Nate, checking to meet up for dinner and asking me to “pick up a book… a happy book… make it good… surprise” him. Errrrrr, of course, my stress level upped a tad. I had NO idea what to snatch up… esp at a foreign bookstore in a foreign land! Nevertheless, I scrambled and figured, I’d just pick up a book that I, myself would enjoy. HA! (I mean, if I was gonna pick up something, I might as well make it a worthwhile purchase, right? … Right!)

So, I perused and stumbled upon the title, Brooklyn Follies. I thought: Alright, alright, alright. I know Nate had also been feeling a bit on the homesick side and with a title like “Brooklyn” and “Follies” – gotta have some chuckles right? Turns out to be a “National Bestseller” and intriguing, light hearted, with happy lessons to be learned- all according to the write-up on the back cover. I showed it to Josh, but he turned to be of no help as since he was occupied with trying to find his own “Chinese Idioms” book. I went forth anyway, to the counter and made the payment.

Shortly thereafter, Josh and I parted and I met up with Nate for our western pasta fix at Wagas. I presented the book and he let out an “Ahhhh a Paul Auster book! This is good! I’m proud of you. Good choice.” Har har har, sarcasm will always follow me no matter where I go, eh. But yes, it was more than a good choice… turns out Nate’s father has a crazy, coincidentally fanatic story that involves the author himself, but I won’t get into that. Either way, I was quite relieved. I had made a good choice; though irregardless, I was interested in the read whether or not Nate had taken a liking or not. But I didn’t have to worry about the latter, as since he was quite enthused to read his first book from his father’s favorite author. (Ironically, lead character’s name is Nathan as well.)

Now………….A couple weeks ago, I presented ya’ll with our 2-person book club premiere (ha!): Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

I now present ya’ll with our 2nd: Brooklyn Follies.

Nate and I both agree that Auster could’ve done a better job at grabbing the immediate attention of the reader, … since it was quite a slow start for both of us. I’ll even admit, I had almost wanted to just drop the book, but I kept in good faith that at some point, its pace would start to pick up and that all the warm-up gibberish would amass to something more interesting…. and….. when it eventually did, the stories unraveled as its lead character in his late 50s, Nathan Glass made discoveries of his own self (worth), in spite of his self-loathing, depressed, divorced, ex-insurance salesman-state in which the novel opens up with:

“I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain. I hadn’t been back in fifty-six years, and I remembered nothing. My parents moved out of the city when I was three, but I instinctively found myself returning to the neighborhood where we had lived, crawling home like some wounded dog to the place of my birth…..”

My summation: With life seemingly worn and in the pits (divorced, lonely, recovering from lung cancer etc.), Nathan Glass commits himself to a place to spend his final years (“die” as he calls it) and decides to write a book of “Human Folly” to take up the time, thereby recounting tales of all “follies” he had encountered throughout his life – whether him or by those around him. Ironically, as he recounts, Glass realizes peepholes for self-redemption; consequently, instead of dying, Glass brings to life a cast of buoyant Brooklynites whose chance-encounters color up this novel of human folly, flipping it all for a wise narrative filled with pity, laughter, consideration and plentiful suspense! …. In the end of it all, Auster does a fantastic job of pulling it all together, making the shabby start all the worthwhile!

. . don’t burn the day. .

National Week ’09

First week of October is designated “National / Golden Week” here with the PRC’s birthday kicking it off on October 1st. Yup, this year was the biggie: the 6-0. It’s THE major week in which the entire nation shuts down and ERRRBODY’S outta town for the 8-day holiday!!

…and I’m peacin’ out too! Oddly, despite of all the 6-0 celebrations, I’m heading to Taipei!

…catch ya’ll on da flipmode side!!

. . don’t burn the day. .