Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I am always amazed at how many foreigners marry Koreans. The new teacher at school who replaced the guy that died (hit by a train), article
his wife is Korean. The last intensive semester at school back in January I taught the credit class which is a required class at school. Supposedly we alternate credit and Kelp, which is the extra study class, not for credit. Credit class is 3 weeks and the Kelp one is 4 weeks. And also, the credit class starts immediately after the spring semester whereas Kelp waits for 2 weeks or so. So, this summer I have about a month and half break, beginning July 11. That is a long time. Oh and it’s paid vacation. I want to visit an old friend. I met a couple of Japanese guys in Seoul awhile back. I want to hang out with them.

Reflections on Heilein books. In the book “Glory Road,” Oscar had his whole life planned out after high school. One thing happened to him after another, whether it was the “fairy godmother” or the “practical joke” department. The “unwar” prevented him from receiving university scholarships. He went with Star and Rufu on an adventure. At the end of the book, Oscar is in Nevia, where Star is the leader. He gets bored, with only studying and training to fill his time. He finally leaves Nevia to continue his journey. He says he might come back to be with Star. It goes to show you after a long journey or adventure, it’s hard to settle down and live a non-adventurous domesticated life. Oscar wants to walk down the “Glory Road” again and slay some dragons.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thoughts on returning back “home.”

I do feel like Korea is my home, although I’m living a counter culture lifestyle. It’s easy to make everything in my apartment American and familiar to me. I don’t watch Korean tv, basically because I don’t understand it. The shops always have it on, and it seems they have the same shows. Being in the states, everything seemed so foreign to me. I forgot how to go places and was amazed at the selection at the grocery store. My students tell me they want to go to America. People here think that life is somehow better in America. I find it odd, because when I ask them if they want to stay there, they invariably say no. I read an article in a magazine here about a guy going back to Canada after several years. I agree with many of his sentiments. He lamented that people were obsessed with trivial things, like weather and politics or news. For some reason, life seems more real when out of the bubble, that is the U.S. My Korean language partner asked me what I knew of Korea before coming here. I said I just knew about the Korean war. People from other countries, mainly the least well known countries learn about different countries.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Continents away

Wednesday 8-4
I got up early and went down to the bus station to catch the bus to Incheon airport. This is about a five hour ride. I arrived a little early so got in line to get my ticket. So, I proceeded to go through the usual airport rigeramaro. The flight to Guangzhou, China was 20 minutes late. People with connecting flights were held up. The immigration held our passports and boarding passes for 30 minutes or so. The guy didn’t explain why. I think in some cases, and in this case, in this country, it was best to not push it. A woman led us upstairs next to the xray machine. She was holding everyone’s passport and started to call our names one by one to collect them. This was not the most efficient method, but I don’t think they’re worried about it. The airport didn’t have wi-fi, much to my shagrin. Just as well I guess, because I heard that China blocks facebook. I had about three hours to kill before my next flight, so I decided to go this cafĂ©. They were playing MTV China on the tv. It was a little more interesting than k-pop, but that’s not saying much. I settled on a club sandwich and can of coke. It’s times like these that I wish I had some local currency, it just didn’t cross my mind to get some before I left Korea. It cost me $15 US dollars. This reminded me of Seinfeld’s rant on how everything costs so much at the airport. “$12 for a tuna sandwich, yeah that’s fair.” The connecting wing of the airport was about the most uninteresting one hallway I’ve been to. The duty free shops were not very appealing, unless you wanted to buy jewelry, perfume, or whisky or something. Finally, my flight was ready to board and out of nowhere a buch of middle eastern people got on the plane. This flight was from Guangzhou to Dubai, thus I sure was glad to have had an isle seat. The flight wasn’t too bad, just seven hours which means you have about three meals and several drink rounds. I arrived in Dubai about midnight and the immigration people were wearing the all white garb you normally see on tv. The immigration guy was pretty jovial. I had less trouble getting through in Dubai than I did in Calgary or Manchester, who would’ve thought? As soon as I stepped outside I felt the dry heat. I never felt heat like this before, the heat just stung you. I noticed outside there was a sign that read “Ladies greeting area.” I took a taxi to my hotel. It was a nice drive through town. I checked in and asked for a wake up call early.
Thursday 8-5
I enquired at the desk about stuff, she told me stuff doesn’t open til 10, so I decided to walk to the beach. It was the strangest sight I’ve seen. Desert sand for the beach and ocean of course. It was about 8 am or so, but still steamy. I wonder how the beach operates because Muslims are all about covering up. I saw a couple of foreigners get in the water. On my way back to the hotel, there was a big mosque. Mosques have the dome looking thing on top. And this was going to be a theme, they have a tower with several speakers blasting the call to prayer. When this hits, you can’t sleep. The sound was shrilling. I stopped at the bank to exchange some money. The bank’s tag line was “Modern banking services based on Islamic values.” I saw a bookstore, so I stopped in and perused the middle eastern subject area. It turns out a guy who grew up in the region, but from England, wrote about his experiences traveling around the middle east. Also, he wrote about this travelings in Kenya. Back at the hotel I signed up for the desert safari for later that day. I got a taxi to go to Kamara Souq (market). It was like a strip mall that mostly sold Rolexes and other high end stuff. I only saw maybe two souvenir shops. As expected these shops had camel stuff there. I read that the middle east is famous for shawarmas, which is a wrap with chicken, lettuce, and veggies inside. I asked around and none of the restaurants were selling it yet, not until the evening. So, I settled on a street vendor between two buildings. I ordered a mango smoothie and the shawarma, it was quite tasty especially with the french fries. I went back to the hotel to get ready for the desert safari. A white robed guy picked me up in a two row Toyota suv. We stopped at two other hotels to pick up more people. It turns out that one couple was from Nigeria. The husband said it is the only African country not to be occupied by an outside force. We drove along and then we met up with other suvs. Then, we plunged into the sand dunes at full speed. I’ve riden an atv, but never a suv going off roading. A few times I felt like I was going to lose my lunch all the while listening to Persian music blaring out the speakers. We stopped twice for pictures. We were surrounded by nothing but sand in all directions. Off roading in the desert can be a little nauseous to say the least. As we were riding, I noticed a herd of camels wallowing in the sand. Finally, we made it to the eating area. An interesting thing about the bathroom is the water was always really warm, maybe because of the desert heat. I saw some folks riding camels which drew a crowd. I wanted to try my hand at it. So, the camel guy has the camel bend down so you can get on. The hairy beast stoops all the way on the ground then keeps raising up until you are really high up. We walk around in a circle before we dismount. They have a few snacks for us to munch on, like honey sweet balls, something that looks like pancakes. The buffet was ready and we chowed down. It was an amazing spread of good eats. We finished off the meal by smoking a sheesha pipe. These are huge pipes that fruity flavored. I ate with three high school graduates from Kuwait and the Nigerian couple. After that it’s belly dancing time. The woman could move every part of her body from the waist up. I didn’t know there were muscles all those places. Back at the hotel, I went to the corner store to get some snacks. It seemed that half the workers from the dry docks were in the store. The dry docks was across the street and their living quarters was behind the store.
Friday, 8-6
I checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world. It was a nice view from lookout spot. It was quite ironic, everything was brown except for a green golf course. Dubai mall connects to it, so I sat a spell and ran into a guy from the desert safari. So, we decided to go to the spice souq. He wanted to take the subway, but we found out it didn’t open til 2 pm. We were told you can’t pay with cash on the bus or subway, so we had to buy a metro card. So, we ventured out to the spice souq which had bustling shops and interesting spices. There were many shops selling Rolexes, but they were not for us. We took a dhow (little wooden motor boat) across the creek. We kept hearing the really lound siren for the call to prayer, but everyone just kept going about their business. One shop owner told us he has the “three wise men,” that is gold, francencise, and myrr. I thought that was funny. I got a little of francencise and myrrh for keepsake. My friend, Regent told me about a dinner buffet cruise. It sounded enticing and a nice way to end my last night in Dubai. Plus, it will probably be my last time eating Arab food, which is really good. We hung out at his motel for a bit. Meanwhile I booked my seat on the river cruise. I went to a little shop down the street to get some postcards and stamps.

A white unmarked van pulled up so we got in. We assumed that this was the tour group, and the driver confirmed as far as we could tell. He drove down to the docks which was quite picturesque at night. There were old style looking sailing vessels. We walked down into the boat. Everyone was herded to the lower level, but I wanted to check out the upper level. I’m glad I did, the scenery was so much better and a lot less people. The waiter came and took our drink orders, and after an exceedingly amount of time finally appeared. There was an amazing spread of food there and best of all it was a buffet. We cruised down the river and back again. All in all it was a pretty relaxing time, a good respite from the hawkers selling imitation Rolexes and such.

Saturday, 8-7
I took a taxi to the airport. The airport has a really nice duty free shop, the biggest selection I’ve seen. As Seinfeld says “how much is duty.” I still don’t know. They have a lot of European foods, so I got a few things and stuffed them in my bag. I decided to ship some souvenirs with DHL. That was a huge headache. It took about four weeks for my package to finally clear customs and come to my house. Back at the airport, I found out my flight was over an hour late. There was no one at the gate, only security. In the Dubai airport, there were only a few seats in the middle of terminal. You have to check in at the gate to have access to the big seating area. Kenyans had several taped up boxes of electronics and otherwise strung together stuff. It was rather cramped on the plane and it didn’t help that my seat didn’t recline at all. There were only a few white people there. The Nairobi airport was like a open warehouse. That’s when it hit me, I’m not in the West or Asia for that matter. I suppose the setup works for the people there. I called Lee to check on the Jim Cab (taxi). He said the Peace Corps has a deal with the Jim Cab folks, so I should take them. So, the guy comes and he takes me to the hostel. On my way to the hostel, people were just walking around and riding bicycles. I noticed many businesses had a huge gate around it with security guards. The hostel looks like a compound with a big gate. Lee flew in later about 5:30. We ate at the little restaurant there. It was an open air area with tables and chairs. We ate a grainy burger with Peptang (Kenyan’s version of ketchup). Peptang is basically a gloupy congealed tomato product.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fukoaka, Japan

I decided to go to Japan at the last minute with my Korean friend. I met him at the train station, then we took the KTX down to Busan. I got a smoothie at Smoothie King in the train station. It is really smooth, albeit on the expensive side. After slurping to our heart’s content, we walked down to David’s sister’s house. David was going to drop off his dog at his sister’s house while we’re gone. His sister is well versed in Japanese he said, it’s too bad she couldn't’t join us. His sister already has a dog and a cat, which has the run of the place. David’s sister gave him a big bag of kimchi for the trip. She said he would miss it. That stuff reeked, I’m surprised the security people didn’t say anything. The Koreans probably wouldn’t mention it, but what about the Japanese side? Our ferry was scheduled to leave at 10:30pm, but we had to board at 7:30pm. I went to check out the room, because it’s an 8 hour boat ride. It turns out we sleep on the floor on a mat with a rock hard pillow. Also, apparently they don’t separate men and women as both were represented. You may ask, “where do you change?” Well, there was a little area with a curtain for that. There were some Japanese on board as well as Koreans. Japan was playing that night in the world cup. So, we were wondering if we could pick it up on tv. They had a tv in the room and in the big room. We watched the Japanese game with a few Japanese around us. David kept asking the guys questions about Japanese language. He kept saying he doesn’t speak Japanese, but he could’ve fooled me. He would stop people in the street and ask for directions. The two Japanese guys knew the players on the team. I swear there must’ve been 5 Honda’s on the team. A Korean woman (ajuma) there was drinking and so naturally wanted other people to drink. She must have bought five cans of Japanese beer from the vending machine and passed them around to the Koreans and Japanese alike. The game went to penalty kicks. The guy called it, he said this Japanese player was going to mess up, which he did. Earlier I walked about the ship to scope it out. I went on the deck and saw a whole group of people drinking in the middle of strong wind and rain. Whatever floats your boat I reckin. The ferry arrived about 6am. I was surprised that Fukoaka had so many high rises. We were herded downstairs and loaded in buses to take us to immigration. The guy at immigration knew the Korean word for teacher, which was a little humorous. We talked to the lady at the visitor’s booth and got unlimited bus rides for the day. We made use of it. We made our way to Fukoaka Castle in the rain. It was not a castle, only the gate remained. The tour map said there was other things in the vicinity's, but no such luck.

My Korean friend told to check out the 100 Yen store in Japan. We finally found it and perused the cheap trinkets, food, and stationary. It was a rather big store. That night we made our way to Fukoaka Tower. It didn’t seem as big as Taipei 101, but it was neat nonetheless. I met a family from Ohio. It turns out, the son works for Honda. He started out in the U.S., then transferred to Japan for two years. His parents came up to visit him. We reminisced about Ohio State, otherwise known as “runner up U.” I asked about Woody Hayes, as his last game was against Clemson. We stayed at a capsule hotel, but we opted for the cheaper sauna part and slept in recliners with a little tv on each chair.
The next morning we bought unlimited subway rides for the day. We treked out to the Marinoa. It has a outlet mall and the largest ferris wheel in Asia. We walked around a whole lot. We saw a gambling area inside the arcade room. That was interesting. Also, there were vending machines every couple of blocks leading to the Marinoa. They had Coke, Pepsi, and coffee respectively. David asked a passerby directions to the subway and she proceeded to lead us there. We took the subway to Hakata Station, which is the main station in Fukoaka. We picked up lunch at the underground shopping area. This was a small grocery store beside the train station. There was a huge shopping area near our hostel called Canal Shopping Center. It had about four levels and included a Hilton I believe. There was a huge fountain and later on it was coordinated with music. It reminded me of Disney a little bit. We met a girl from Holland who has been travelling for 4 months after only working for 6 months. Holland played Brazil that night at about 11:30pm. The communal room was slated to close at midnight, so we had to beg the owner to let us finish watching the game. I asked her why the Netherlands wears orange when their flag is red, white, and blue. She said the monarch’s last name in Dutch means ‘oranje.’
We slept til 11 and checked out three or four temples nearby. We met a woman from Germany. She was travelling by herself. I was surprised to discover so many people travelling by themselves. We went back to the underground shopping area to buy a ready made meal (tv dinner). Then, we went on the hunt to find an international ATM for David. He finally found one, but the minimum withdrawal was 10,000Y. We crashed at the hostel for a few hours. The owner told us about a 24 hour grocery store just down the street. So, we checked it out and stocked up on 99Y tv dinners. They actually had some western foods in the frozen section. I had spaghetti, pancakes, chips, and a coke. It was a little random I know, but it’s been awhile since I had those kinds of food. By the way, 100 Yen is about $1. We gorged ourselves and were full for once. We went for a walk a bit then came back to the hostel. The owner told us we had a roommate and to top it off he was Korean. We also met a Canadian who used to teach English in Seoul. We walked around that night and ran into a group of Koreans. It gave us a chance to practice our Korean.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Saturday, Jan 30
I went out with a friend late Friday p.m. downtown. We went to Dunkin Doughnuts to chat a while then watched a movie. Sarah Jessica Parker took a swipe at Sarah Palin and the couples confession of their “mistake” of sleeping around turned me off. Other than that, it was a good movie and good company. My friend drove me to the bus station. I took the 2 a.m. bus to Incheon and arrived about 5:30 a.m. for my 9 a.m. flight. Upon arriving at Taipei, I took the bus to the city and sat behind two talkative people, quite annoying if you ask me. I went to the tourist information center and asked where were certain sites and information on train tickets. I went straight to the National Palace Museum. On the bus to there, I met people from the UK who were working in Hong Kong. This museum is famous because it has a lot of artifacts from China. There were many tour groups from the mainland (China) and other westerners. It mainly had pottery, carvings, and things from everyday life. Next, I went to Shinil night market. This market is famous so I though I’d check it out. There was a Christian band playing on the stage. There were stands that would juice up any fruit or vegetable, so I chose star fruit, which was quite tasty. I ate a small bowl of rice and chicken I think. It was getting late afternoonish so I went to Taipei 101 (tallest building in the world or used to be). It was a bit cloudy so a little hard to see. I took a taxi to my hostel. My driver was watching Taiwan's version of American Idol on the tv. He let me out at the MRT station close to the hostel, but he didn’t tell me where it was. I had to ask several people before finding it.

Sunday, Jan 31
I got up early and went to Chiang Kia Shek Memorial. My hostel MRT goes directly there, which is much easier than taking a bus. There were several elegantly designed buildings. There was a courtyard which was surrounded by the buildings. I went in one with many steps and displayed a statue of Shek. Upstairs was pictures and other memorabilia. In the MRT underground I met a group of students who wanted to show me a magic card trick. The student said she wanted to find someone who is handsome and is over 150 cm (I am 180 cm). She wanted me to sign my name, so I wrote it in Korean. They couldn't’t believe I could write in Korean.

Monday, Feb 1
I took the slow train to Hualian early Monday. I met a guy from Austria at the tourist information center at the train station. It turns out he is studying in Hong Kong. He kept saying that Taroko Gorge reminded him of the mountains at his home, ie the Alps. The first city bus to the gorge wouldn’t leave for another two hours or so, so we decided to take a taxi. The taxi driver stopped at every site for a few minutes. We took pictures and took in the scenery. Some of the gorge pathway was closed because of rocks falling. Everyone had to wear a hard hat before entering. I heard someone was killed when a rock fell on their head a day earlier, they were not wearing a hard hat. Although, I don’t know how much a hat would’ve helped, probably just extended their life another few seconds. After a day at the gorge, Erwin and I took a bus into town to the night market. The girl at the tourist booth said they’re having a really big market for 15 days leading up to Lunar New Year. The market was set up like a fair with tents lined up. There were vendors selling food and trinkets and there was a big stage across the way too. When I was in Kaoisuing, we watched a singing competition from Hualian on that stage I believe. I bought a couple of trinkets that the Aborigines made. We came up to a stand selling hot dogs (corn dogs to us). Erwin bought one and I asked what the brown liquid in the water bottles was. That’s when a 20 year old girl came up and started talking to us. She lived in Singapore for 6 years. She knows English decently enough. It turns out it was black tea, sweat at that. Can you believe it? I got a cup, I should’ve bought a liter but didn’t have a way to carry it. Erwin, from Austria had to get back to the train station to get back to the airport later. We tried to get on the bus at the market, but he didn’t want to take us. We finally convinced the second driver to give us a ride back to the bus station. From the station, we took a taxi to the train station. My train didn’t leave until 9 p.m. so I got a snack from 7-11 and sat a spell. I took a train to Taitung in order to go to Green Island the next day. My train arrived about 12:30 a.m. and then I took a taxi to a motel. For some reason some people don’t want to try to communicate before they call the English help phone number. I go to this motel late at night and the lady is asking me stuff. I just want a room, there is no conversation required. I give you money, you give me the key. But, she called the English help line, the guy was helpful. I told him I wanted a wake up call the next morning and could she call a taxi for me. I went upstairs, but the lights weren’t working. I went back downstairs to try to express “no lights” and point at the light in the ceiling. She got the picture and flipped the switch.

Tuesday, Feb 2
Early the next morning the phone rang, but no one said anything. I figured it was the clerk calling to wake me up. I went downstairs and the taxi driver was waiting for me. He drove me to the ferry port of Taitung. From here I would take a ferry to Green Island. It turns out that the taxi driver w From here I would take a ferry to Green Island. It turns out that the taxi driver was related to or friends with a lady who ran a little restaurant there. She is from Singapore and has been in Taiwan for 6 years now. She negotiated for me in buying a ferry ticket and booked a hotel room for the night. There were many boats that have seen their fair share of fishing duty. Most of them small either blue or red colors on them. I met a family knew some English and translated for me from time to time. I got on board the ferry and climbed to the top deck. I have been on ferries before, albeit much bigger than this one. This one was rather small, hence the ever present barf bag. We had our share of ‘turbulence’ but nothing too major like on the ferry I took to the Hebrides in Scotland. The ride was only about an hour or so. A guy from the hotel met us at the ferry terminal. He drove us to the hotel in a golf cart. This guy knew some English, but not a whole lot. I wanted to rent a scooter, but after trying it out, decided against it because I couldn’t balance it. I opted for a golf cart. It cost 300 New Taiwan Dollars, not a bad deal for two days. I took a load off in the room then started driving around the island. I stopped and took some pictures. There was a lot of volcanic rocks strewn about on the coast. I saw some fisherman on the rocks, no doubt hunting clams or other animals that liked to cling to something. I also bought a ticket to the hot springs. This is famous because there is only about three in the world. There is one on the beach and one in a shelter up the beach a ways. I drove by the infamous Green Island prison. This is where Taiwan’s political prisoners were sent back in the day. Now, it is a memorial and museum to those people. I stopped at the Family Mart and got some lunch and then I headed over to the hot springs. I went to the one in the shelter because I didn’t have any sandals and also a kid told me it was dirty. Her mother corrected her by saying it had seaweed in it. It was 26 C and rising. It was relaxing. I drove back and drove through the main drag in town. I spotted a street vendor that caught my attention so I pulled over. I picked up fried chicken and fish, it was fresh and quite tasty. I went back to the hotel lobby and ate there. The lobby had wi-fi, so I perused the net. I asked the guy from the hotel if I can use the phone to call my friend in Taiwan. He dialed the number and I talked to Julie for a bit. The next morning I knocked around and noticed a new shipment of people from the ferry just arrived. I saw these two people who were hobo-ing it. This guy had dreadlocks, and he was white. I passed by them and asked if wanted a lift. It turns out they are from Australia and on a month long backpacking trip through southeast Asia before he starts work in Canada. I drove them around the island and had lunch. He said he would like to travel around the U.S. and see bands play and go to the ‘burning man’ thing somewhere in the south west. This has to do with spirtualism, new age stuff. The boat ride back was uneventful. The family I met earlier gave me a lift to the train station. It turns out that they live in Kyoushung, where I’m heading in a few days. They said maybe they’ll see me there. I got a ticket to a city and then I have to take a bus down to Kenting. Kenting is a popular beach, but trains don’t go there. It’s always interesting playing charades with people. It’s much easier in Korea, maybe because the hand gestures aren’t the same in Taiwan. Before I got on the train I met two university students who help me with directions. They gave me their digits so they said they will show me around their city, Donggang. One girl is in the Air Force university majoring in airplane maintainence. When I arrived in the city I asked where the bus stations was, and the guy pointed past the 7-11. There was so many 7-11s, especially in Taipei. There was one on every corner, it was just insane. And contrary to Korea, they do have slushes. I asked some kids which bus I should take, so they motioned I should get on with them. I wasn’t sure how long the bus ride would take so I asked the driver a few times where I should get off. After an hour or so, he said ‘hello.’ That was my cue. The street was bustling with street vendors and young people walking about the street. I found this hostel in the travel book, a catholic hostel at that. In the rooms there was a crucifix over the bed, kind of creepy. This was the nicest hostel I have stayed at. It looked like a hotel, but no towels. It was a good thing I brought my super absorbent towel. I got it at a outdoor store in Daegu before leaving. There was every conceivable food and trinket shop lining the main drag. I thought it was interesting that KFC had several magazines for your reading pleasure. I decided to get a neck/shoulder massage. This guy put some cream on my neck and began to really work it in. It was painful at times.

Wednesday, Feb 3
I set out to go to the aquarium. I got on the bus and headed out that way. The place was just ok, nothing special. I just beat the hordes of tour groups from the mainland. I forgot to mention that Julie said to be sure that you have fresh fruit juice. There are many stands that juice it. I had strawberry juice several times. It was amazing during the day the street was deserted. I walked down to the beach and took some photos and saw a ubiquitious 7-11. I headed over and got a tv dinner Taiwan style. The great thing about getting it at a convenience store is they heat it up for you. I never would’ve thought of going to a ‘gas station’ for lunch, but it’s quite easy and convenient. I asked the lady at the hostel if there was a washing machine. She led me to a sink in the courtyard and showed me how to rub the clothes together. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. But, I was out of clean clothes so I had to do it. Then she showed me the ‘drying machine’ which was basically a spinner. It had no heat, it just spun around.

Friday, Feb 5

I took a bus f rom Kenting to Donggang (1 ½ hours) to meet Dora. I got there early so I tried to find an ATM. I went in this one building, but it looked like they were trading stoks. Dora rode up on a scooter wite her mom and her friend arrived in a few. Then, we went to find a bank. The American card worked but not Korean one. 7-11 doesn’t take Korean ones. The 2 girls led me through the market and we ate. We had fish soup with sliced pork and rice cake, surprisingly good but I couldn’t finish it. This place had 2 parots chained up by the ankle and a budha shrine. Dora and I got on bus where we met a Chinese woman who just got back from L.A. She lived in the US for 30 years and she had an opinion on US politics and war. It’s easy to have opinions when you don’t live there. So, she translated for me to Dora. Dora is in an Air Force University and majoring in airplane maintenance. We met Tracy (from Taitung) and another girl at Kyuoushung bus station. We took the bus close to the harbor. I tried ‘buba’ tea, not bubble. We got on the boat for $15 for a short boat ride. There was random vendors along the coast. We stopped in a handicraft store and they bought me stuff. We went in the tourist building to ask about a hostel I saw in the travel book. We went to a big market. It was really crowded with people and vendors. The girls said this restaurant there is famous for its dish ‘bo pi.’ It had chicken/steak with noodles, fried egg and corn soup. It was excellent and cheap, only $100. So 100NT = $30USD, not bad eh. Dora saw her friend there, turns out this guy runs marathons. He offered to give me a ride to the hostel. Taiwanese are the most helpful people of anay country I’ve been to.

Saturday, Feb 6
A French guy came in the room really late and was still asleep when I left this a.m. 7:30 or so. I tok the MRT to K main station and ate a sesame seed flaky sandwich (KFC) and looked at a tourist map. I decided to check out the basilica and fish statue. I was disappointed in the basilica, not much to look at. I walked down the river front. The city had decorations for Chinese New Years out. I cam upon a big area with tables and chairs, even better there was wi-fi. I stayed there an hour or more. It was quiet until Chinese tourists descended, but they left soon there after. It was getting towards 2 p.m. and I haven’t eaten lunch yet, so I took the MRT to the shopping district. I went in a department store and took the escalator up all 15 floors. The first 7 were women and they had Korean food for sale on the top floor. The girl didn’t know any Korean, but they dressed up in traditional Korean dresses. The food court was B2 and I had ravioli and omelette, strange combination I know. It had fries too and corn soup, always good.

Sunday, Feb 7
I stayed at a hostel in K. The neighborhood all looks the same. I got up and watched the first half of the super bowl, then rode with Melissa (hostel manager) and her parents to their church. We got there a few minutes early. There was a handful of foreigners there. No one even acknowledged I was there until I was ready to leave, some church this was. I went to the shopping district MRT stop and went in the department store. I kept going up the escalator and saw a door leading to a balcony of sorts. There was a good vantage poing from about 14F. Then, I came upon a huge bookstore. I started reading ‘Yes Man.” I was not even 30 pages in and I already noticed differences between the book and movie.

Monday, Feb 8
I took the high speed rail to Taipei. It was good to be back in familiar territory. I booked the same hostel as before. There is a big downtown area close by. My train came in about 12, so I went to see what was playing at the movies. I bought a ticket for ‘From Paris with Love.” It’s another shoot ‘em up movie, but at the beginning of it the guy’s partner lays into the French, ‘we saved your tails in 2 world wars and you still hate us.’ I checked into my hostel, then walked a bit downtown to find some grub. I saw a pushcart for ‘helal.’ It had meat cooking on a huge skewer. I finally found the stand awhile later. Man, was it tasty, especially with freshly squeezed strawberry juice. Back at the hostel I watched some kung fu movies with 2 fellow Americans. One as it turns out is from Taylors. He lived in Silverleaf, Riverside and USC. It was all good until our conversation broached politics. Apparently he is a liberal and can’t see why people don’t like Obama and his politics. He hates Sarah Palin and the only reason he gave is “she is conservative and christian.” And to top it off both guys say that Keith Oberman is logical and unbiased and Bill O’Reilly is illogical. I though it a bit humerous when we talked health car that a guy from Norway was in the room, which has universal health care. He said Norway has gone crazy with government control. May I present exhibit A of what happens when government start to take over more and more programs.

Tuesday, Feb 9
I went to McDonald’s for breakfast and ordered on 1F. They make it on 2F and send it down the choot. I went to the MRT station to get directions. I wanted to go to ‘Bongos’ that I saw in Lonely Planet. The directions were not good to say the least. Finally a civilian walked with me to the place for about 20 minutes. We turned here and there, it was definitely not straight as I was told. I read this place sells used sci-fi books as well. I ordered chicken quesodillas with peach ice tea. They put the salsa and sour cream in the same little ramican. It turns out the owner is Canadian. He had a whole lot of books. I got 2, one by heilein “Glory Road” and another random sci-fi book. As I I walked out Taipei tech university was across the street. I decided to walk a bit and find a place to sit and read. I saw tennis courts ahead and plopped down. Those guys had horrible form. I cam back to the hostel then went to the infamous snake alley. I was disappointed from all the stories I heard about it. There were snakes but in cages. No snake handling or offering tourists snake blood to drink. I cam back downtown and to the subway. I met an Australian couple from Brisbane at the subway sandwich shop that is. They were on a cruise from Malaysia.

January and beyond

I have been teaching an intensive winter session at school. I had reading/writing. I assigned them journals everyday. So, the first part of class I checked their writing and corrected it. I always find it difficult to explain why you use one word instead of another. For example, when to use ‘while’ and ‘during.’ Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t remember learning grammar rules, I can tell you which is correct but maybe just by practice. My students know the name of parts of speech and some grammar rules, more than what I learned in school. I diagrammed sentences in just one class, 8th grade in Mrs. Dowling’s class. I bring in articles from Wikipedia and ask the students question about it. I have gotten some random topics, like parachuting, backpacking, hurling, texting, and others. I have one talkative class and one super quiet. Some of the students told me about games they played in high school. It’s a good idea to ask them, because my idea of a fun game doesn’t always turn out that way. Students here are not very creative. I found that out when I played mad libs. That is where I write a sentence and leave blanks for noun, adjective, verb and see what funny sentence you get. Yesterday my coworker and I combined classes and played “mafia.” It’s funny, I really didn’t like that game growing up, but now I found out that students are familiar with it so I play it. Oh well, things come in cycles I guess. I have a vacation in February before starting spring semester. It seems all of the teachers are going somewhere, either back home or vacation, although one is just staying here. I don’t try to figure people out, you mean you don’t want to see your family, I’m thinking. I’m going to Taiwan for almost two weeks, then I’m going to Jeju Island to help with my church “winter camp.” It’s like VBS, but in Jeju. The children’s pastor asked me to help out, they are paying for me. I am looking forward to it, although I will have to teach 10 year old kids lessons. Oh well sacrifices are a part of life. I started to take Korean class again at church. I last took class in September perhaps. I’ve learned a lot since then, but not necessarily book material though.


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