Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hanging up clothes and lack of space in apartments in Taipei.

This is where I hang my clothes when its raining.

So since moving into my apartment in Taipei I have really noticed how little storage space we have.  I assume it is the same for most people living in Taipei and I really struggle with where to store things.  As you can see from where I hang my clothes when it is raining outside.

So when it is pissing it down outside I cannot hang my clothes up on the roof, so they end up hanging all over my stairs with the fan belting away on them to try and create a wind effect.  This works but it is still not as good as them drying naturally on the roof because sometimes they can kind of stink and I have to wash them again, but when they dry on the roof they smell nice and fresh.

In our room, we bought these things a bit like hooks, and you can just stick them to the wall.  They were good for ages but every now and then they just fall off for no reason.  We have tried to put more storage space in there Jen got loads of places to put books and things from her friend Joy.  I need to try and find something that we can put all our stuff into, in the room and make it look a lot nicer because at the moment there is too much stuff and not enough places to put it.  We have 1 wardrobe for the 2 of us and sometimes it cant take the weight of the clothes and falls apart.

The kitchen is tiny too, and only has 1 tiny cupboard to keep you food inside, the other cupboards have cleaning stuff in, and toilet papers and bin bags.  We have one dryer for the dishes that we store our plates in. This is tiny and I think if I get any more plates, glasses or cups there is going to be no room for them either, and if you liked to do any kind of food shopping you would be well and truly screwed in this apartment so its a good job we don't do so much food shopping otherwise there would be no where to put it.

I think it is really difficult to store everything here in your apartment and thats something I am really going to look for when I am finding a new apartment here in Taipei.  I imagine apartments with loads of storage space would either be really expensive, or outside of Taipei City, and instead in Taipei County meaning you would have to commute every day to get to the City.  Anyway that decision on where to live next will be coming up soon because I think I only have around 5 months left on my contract.

Looking for and finding a new job.

As you are all aware I lost my job at Happy Marian (or Sad Marian) as I used to call it.  I was very happy about this because they were horrible and lied all the time anyway.  They went back on a lot of things we agreed on when I signed the contract.  

Top picture, me as dressed as a ghost with the kids at the first school I worked at before they sacked me, bottom picture one of my kids who was amazing at English dressed as Buzz Lightyear.
This threw my life here into a bit of uncertainty and chaos.  The reason it threw everything into chaos is because I need a job to stay in Taiwan, the job is like your sponsor for the visa.  Which means no job, no sponsor and no visa.  I asked what will happen to my status now in Taiwan to the correct and official people, and they told me when your employer contacts us and cancels your ARC we will call you, then I think you have around 7 days to leave Taiwan, I don't remember the correct number.  I was not aware when or if the immigration agency would call me to tell me that my visa would be taken away, that means I would have to leave Taiwan again and I didn't want that to happen because I was unsure how long my money would last, especially since I was now a number of the unemployed.

This meant I had to go back to the same daily routine as when I first arrived on this island.  Jen supplied me with big lists of schools and numbers then we started to systematically call through all the different schools to see which ones had jobs available.  We started to line up the demos and interviews again and my daily schedule was busy, but not quite as busy as when I first arrived here in the summer because not many schools were looking for teachers.

A lot of the jobs I went to for the interviews you could tell straight away that they were a heap of crap and it was obvious why they did not have a teacher, because in most cases the only time a job becomes available is when they are crap.  Who leaves a job they love in the middle of their contract unless for some kind of family crisis.  So I could tell there and then that it was going to be kind of tricky trying to decide which one would be best job to take if the offers started to come in.  This worried me slightly because I didn't want to be in the same situation 2 months down the line as I had been before I got sacked.  

We looked for jobs ourselves but we also decided to contact agents because the situation was quite urgent and we thought we might as well get all the help we could.  As it turns out most of the jobs the agent sent me too were piss poor or what I clearly told her I was not looking for.  She kept trying to send me for full time jobs when I told I wanted part time only, and she also kept trying to make me accept her job that she had in Yilan without looking at the school, meeting the staff, knowing what I would have to do, she wouldn't even tell me the name of the school, and she wouldn't even tell me the names of the schools she sent me to for demos she would only give me the address, I had to force the names of the schools from her.  Oh and Yilan is over 1 hour travel time from my house.  I didn't even know how close the school would be to where I would get off the bus or train.  

In the end I totally pissed her off when I told her I had found a job on my own.  So she then stopped contacting me even though I told her i'm still interested in a morning job.

In the end it seems like she fucked me over anyway by supplying the old school that sacked me with a new teacher before I even left, so the slimy bitch was trying to get a double payment really, money from me if I accepted one of her crap full time jobs, and money from the new guy she sent to replace me.  No wonder her apartment was huge, and seemed like she had loads of wonger, i'm not surprised if thats how she acts.  So I will never contact that agent again, I did have an idea of posting her name and number online for other people to contact her and say it was from the guy who gave the contact to me, because she is quite secretive about it all and doesn't want loads of people contacting her for some odd and bizaar reason, maybe she is working illegally.

I think in the future I would rather fail than use another agent.  No matter where I am they always act the same if you ask me.  Whether it has been in England, Germany or Taiwan they are all horrible at least the ones I have made contact with anyway.

So I started going to interviews again and it reminded me how much I hated demo's and interviews.  They always make me feel so nervous and I always somehow manage to forget my words and everything I know from the past and have read about learning, education and everything else slips out of my mind while the nerves set in.  I think I put too much pressure on my self to be great in the interview and I make myself so determined to do my best it makes my mind go like a blank sheet of paper, and then when I come out of the interview I remember everything again and think shit man, why didn't I say that in the interview or do that!

Another thing is sometimes you feel like they are just using you.  Like when they ask you to come and do a demo, but sometimes they just use you to fill in if there teacher has called in sick or whatever, or to trick the parents and say there kids get a free class or something.  Its wrong but I have heard it happen, and I have felt like that has happened to me a few times.  There is nothing you can really do about it because you can get quite desperate when you really need a job.

I had jobs for all different types of schools, and different styles.  Kindergardens and cram schools etc etc.  All the types of schools here I applied too, I just thought I have nothing to lose.  I even went all the way to Taoyuan for an interview which was a heap of shit.  It was miles away from the train station which took me over 2 hours to get there.  Then when I got off the train it took ages in the taxi, and cost over 200 NT dollars for the taxi journey which means I would lose money by taking the job.

Then I got offered 2 jobs one at a Kid Castle by Taipei Zoo and one at Joy English quite close to my home.  I had pretty much accepted the job at Kid Castle, then the next day I got offered the job at Joy too.  This put me in a situation I have never been in before.  The reason is when I get offered a job I normally get quite excited at the prospect of the new job and just accept whatever is put on the table.  

My new place of work, Long Fu Branch.
Even though I had pretty much said I would take the Kid Castle job, all the staff at Joy English seemed lovely and just what I was looking for.  I was quite concerned about the hours at Joy however, when I thought about the extra money made was going to be spent on the transport cost to get too and from work as it is further from my home.

Another thing that was concerning me about the Kid Castle job is that they seemed like they changed their mind a lot already about what they were going to be offering me.  The health insurance was a classic example they said yes they would provide it for me, then when I double checked and asked again, she said her manager would not provide the health insurance.  It was also taking them ages to answer my simple questions about the job which set off alarm bells ringing in my head.

In complete contrast to Kid Castle the boss at Joy English was a lot more helpful.  She seemed completely nice and pleasant and had no problems about answering any of my questions.  She could clearly see I was deep in thought about what I should do.  I was thinking which contract I should sign, and it is obvious she really did notice.  She let me take the contract home over the weekend to let me decide what I was going to do and think it over.  This was one of the first signs of them being really nice to me.  There were more signs too, some of the others were; the boss meeting me in the MRT station and taking me in a taxi to the school, not doing a demo and having what I consider to be a proper demo by western peoples standards, being up front about everything in beginning in regards to the visa, health insurance and labour insurance and what I would have to pay towards these, regards the visa she said she would get it done the very next day, but she could not guarentee that I would not have to leave the country this was because she had to wait for the government to sort it out and it was out of her control then, and she also let me meet all the other teachers before I even signed the contract this was good because the other schools always tried to give you dodgy answers when asked these questions.  They always tried to keep you away from their teachers too.

First picture is where I get off the bus, second picture is the road I walk down (notice Blockbuster) third picture is the alley with Joy English, my job in the alley.
I was cautious about only have 12 hours per week, but at the time I was trying to study Chinese (you can read about that struggle in the learning Chinese blog) but, now I don't know whether to get another a job, or save money and try and study Chinese again.  At the moment I am doing nothing in the mornings but have started running, and swimming and working on my fitness in general instead of doing it in the evenings.

So I called up my would be new boss, and told her that I wanted to accept the job.  She said that was great news, so I went in that evening and signed the contract.  Ever since I have signed the contract it has been great working there.  I really believe that my manager is one of the best I have had anywhere that I have worked in the world.  There really keen about communication between their staff and training for the staff which is great for me and them.  From my point of view though it is great for me personally because it means your staff will always be up to date and have good ideas about what they should do in classes.  I have struggled a little bit with Saturdays because I have to be up at 6.30am at the latest as I start work at 8am.  I am now getting better with getting up though as I am getting more used to it.

Inside my job, with co-teachers and kids, and one of my bosses in the middle.
I have to be up really early on Saturdays, every other day however I can just lie in bed all morning.  I think it is making me very lazy though, I just sit up all night and then sleep all day until it is nearly time to go to work, but now I have started breaking that habbit as I am changing my routines to make it better for me, and not just get totally lazy.  I can see how it is easy for other people to fall into this routine though, and I can see how Owain done this when he was here too.  Its too bloody easy to do it thats why.

The kids at my new school are really nice, and I think some of the classes really like me a lot.  I think though that they like any foreign teacher, because foreigns teachers are used a lot to play games and make the learning fun for the kids, so I have to realise that I have to just keep doing what I am doing and most of the kids should like me.  

Me with one of my classes.
One of my favourite kids!  He is always so happy!

All these are kids from one of my classes.
I forgot to mention that I work at 2 different schools, 2 days a week in each, but I have just managed to get another 2 hours so I will be working Monday and Tuesday at Long Fu school, and then Thursday Friday and Saturday at Shin Chuan Long School.  Meaning I have 2 days off, Wednesday and Sunday.  I used to think to think this was a bad thing because I wanted continuity but, it means I get to see how both schools work, see the differences and meet a lot more new people and see a lot of kids too.

Everyone at both schools has been more than helpful to me although, one group of staff is more serious than the other group.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, its just they have different personalities.  I really do love the job, and things seem to be going well.  I really like all the people I work with and all the help and advice they have given so far, and I know they will keep giving me good advice until I finish working there which makes me really happy to work there.  I am going to keep working as hard as I can because I want to repay everyones faith in me at the school for employing me when it would be easy for them to see that I had been sacked and just not take me on.  I also want to repay the manager for all her help to me, and all the other staff members help.  So I will definitely be trying my best all the time.

When work give me an extra 12 hours I was really happy because 24 hours was ideal to have enough money to live comfortably, pay the bills, buy what I want and learn Chinese.  They only let me work them for 2 weeks though.  I was disappointed at first when they took them from me but, maybe they think I couldn't manage all the hours or something with being relatively new with working here, and working in their system, plus they still thought I was learning Chinese and thought I didn't have the time to do the hours.  I am over the disappointment now though and back to showing them how great I can be.  I am determined not to mess this job up because I really do love it.

She has a very inquisitive mind.

Some of the classes that got taken away from me, we made loveheart lollipops for Valentines day.
In the end I was kind of sad that I dropped the Kid Castle woman in it, because she seemed really nice too, I had to think what was best for me at the end of the day.  It did really take me ages to get any kind of reply from her which meant it would of been like that whenever I wanted to meet the real boss and not just my supervisor.  I got the feeling her boss was not so honest as she seemed to come across as being.  It meant I would of been in the same situation at Kid Castle as I was at Happy/Sad Marian.  

At the end of day, it is clear to me and everyone else that I have made the correct decision and I do not regret it to this day, I am sure the woman at Kid Castle will have found someone to work there anyway.  I am really happy at Joy English, I am happy with the people I work with and I love all my classes too.

Football yesterday.

So after football yesterday, I was having beers with one of the guys and then he decided that he wanted to go somewhere else away from the rain.  He bought all the beers at Family Mart for us, and then he paid for the taxi to some other bars which I have totally forgotten the name off but they were completely dead.  We played some pool, ate there and drank loads, when I went to pay he refused to let me!  Said he wanted to show me around.  We played some games of pool and he totally whipped my ass but I did pagger him when I decided to concentrate a bit more on what I was doing instead of just smashing the balls about like an angry man.

Then we went to another bar on the same street and that was also completely dead, but it totally felt like an English pub.  The most English pub I have been to while I have been to Taiwan.  Then the football came on the TV and I was talking to 2 old guys from Yorkshire who were on holiday in Taiwan, when I asked why they chose Taiwan they told me because they love Asia and have seen most of it, so thought why not tick Taiwan off there list.  My guess is they love the ladies in Asia they looked the type but I can't just genralise so I have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Then when I went back round the corner turns out my new friend from football had pissed off and left me, however he paid the bill.  He paid my bill how sweet and nice of the guy is that.  The woman in the bar told me that he went to Brass Monkey so I thought I would follow him like a bad smell, and offer him some drinks back.  He refused to accept any drinks and told me not to worry about it, I decided to play some more pool against some Taiwanese guys and I took some more beatings, then when I went back to speak to the people I had met they were gone!  Ha maybe he disliked me following him like a bad smell.  So, I paid Ruby for my beer and took a taxi home, all in all I had a good night and will have to thank the guy when I see him at football next Saturday.

Another thing I forgot to mention I met the president of the Taiwanese football association yesterday after football, you can't say that happens to you in many countries around the world can you ha!

Sorry I took no photos of the night out.  I will take some photos of the football next week.  Maybe write a proper blog about people playing football here.

Oh an another thing to mention, 2 teams were playing a competitive match on the pitch next to us, full of big black Africans.  One team was playing in black and white stripes which put me off my game a bit because I wanted them to win.  When they got a penalty I was shouting get innnnnnnnnnnnn.  Then the guy took the shittest penalty ever!

Oh and I scored a hat trick again, I think my movement is getting a tiny little bit better but anyone who knows me, knows thats still not much.  There was a tall fast guy marking me but his movement and knowledge of how to play the game is shit.  He doesn't follow his man he always runs after who ever so he can be dragged out of position easily enough!  I was happy with my 3rd goal the most looked the simplest of them all to score but its the type I normally mess up.  Cross came in, I managed to lose the marker, or more like he lost me then I flicked it in on the volley!  Happy days

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Learning Chinese

After a while looking a job I decided to spend the majority of what money I had on learning Chinese.  This was for two reasons.  If I could not find a new job then I would be able to hopefully change my ARC to a student visa, I didn't know if this was possible or not inside the country but it was worth the risk.  The other reason, was the main reason.  It was I really wanted to learn Chinese a lot to be able to speak to people and not rely on others to get by in my daily life.

Me and Jen looked at a lot of courses and the schools that provided them.  We decided to go for the Cultural University at Technology Building MRT.  A lot of people recommended it to be really good and practical.  It was also one of the cheapest which I needed seeing as I was spending most of my money on it and didn't have a job currently.  So I called to esquire about the course and it was fully booked, I was really disappointed about this.  I didn't know however that Jen put my name down on waiting list in case anyone dropped out.

Then the next day I got a call from Jen telling me that there was a place and I had to go there with the readies right away and pay to secure my place.  This I done straight away it took a bit of time to find the school but that was because of my map reading ability than anything else.

So that was it.  I had paid and I was due to start the course the next day.  I was really excited about and Jen was really happy too.  I got there nice and early so I could find the room I was supposed to be in.  I was having difficulty as the rooms were signed well.  I asked some guy if that was the room in front of us.  He told me yeah it is.  He seemed nice and friendly, we stood and chatted for a bit.  (I didn't know at that point that we would have a lot of things in common and become good friends.)  

The first day on the course seemed like it was going to be fun.  We started by trying to learn bo po mo fo in only a couple of days which was never going to be enough really.  The teacher seemed to be trying to make it fun for us at the beginning maybe this was just until the class got to know each other more.  

Which brings me onto the class.  There was such a different mix of people and nationalities in the class.  There was an Aussie, Swede, 2 American ABC's, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Mexican and my good self.  The only people from the same country were the 2 Americans.

Chinese Class with our Teacher
It seemed everyone in the class had a big personality.  I thought it would be interesting to see how all the different cultural backgrounds would mix together in the class, and how everyone would adapt with each other in the class.

So at the beginning it was really fun and everyone seemed nice and interesting.  Once we got through the first couple of days of bo, po, mo, fo we then started trying to learn the characters.  This is where the problems began to begin for me.  I had such a nightmare trying to learn them.  I would sit up for hours trying to write them (over and over again like I had been told to) but I still did not manage to remember them no matter how much I wrote them.  This was frustrating because other people could manage them, and then they looked at me like I was holding them back.  No one else in the class worked though and some even didn't have bills to pay I don't think, but I am not 100 per cent certain about that.

Trying to write Chinese!
Some other people in the class especially the Italian woman would say all you have to do is write Chinese more and you will learn it.  Writing Chinese characters is so boring and time consuming, totally tedious work.  I would try all night then go to university and barely remember them.  Then the Italian woman would start with all her patter and bullshit about me having to study harder and all that.  I stayed calm for ages and didn't get angry with her then eventually I just shouted at her "I am trying to fucking shut up!!!"  Then she never bothered me anymore.

Writing Practice
Another major talking point about my Chinese class was when my teacher started crying in the class.  I wasn't there to see it but the Italian woman called me when I was out for my birthday gift from Jen.  She told me that Hong Lao Shi (teacher Hong, in Chinese) ran off crying.  She was insinuating that it was my fault.  She was saying that I ask too many questions and she could not answer them.  She also said I ask my questions too directly.  She started blabbering on to me that I am not such a good student, I need to try harder, and I shouldn't ask so many questions.  

Well I'm afraid if your going to be a teacher you should expect your students to ask questions and want to understand, otherwise it's blindly following everything you have been told and accepting it, where as I would rather understand it.

I understood it was an intensive course and you were expected to do a lot at home.  I decided compared to the others I only had limited time so wanted to concentrate on my weakest areas which I thought to be writing and reading.  If you couldn't read or write in the class you were looked at like you were an idiot and made to look completely stupid by the teacher.

Halfway through the course the teacher even asked why I wanted to learn Chinese.  Which I thought was a stupid question and the answer was fairly obvious considering where I am now living.  The reason I was there was clearly because I want to know Chinese.  Why else would I pay and go to the class?  The teacher also said that our writing ability was not what she expected.  I told her it is a beginners class.  I took the remarks about the writing quite personally seeing as I was pretty much the worst at it.

I also felt like we were being treat like children.  For example the teacher would write our name on the white board if we were late and would make a big song and dance about it.  Then say we had extra homework for being late.  If I was struggling managing my time doing regular amount of work and homework there was no way I had time to do extra.  Another thing is were all adults so if we are late we are losing out for ourself.  It is only effecting me in the long run not the rest of the class.  

As well as all this the teacher always mentioned her French student to.  She went on and on about how good he was so much that it sounded like she wanted him to bum her.  (Although she would bum him seeing as he is French.)  

I wouldn't mind so much if it was someone linked to my situation, but my situation couldn't be compared to some bloody French guy who only came here to study Chinese and nothing else.  It is not an inspirational story.  French guy goes abroad, spends all day learning Chinese, nothing else, wow funnily enough he is good!  Shock bloody horror!

Fuck France!
If I was shown someone who had a full time job, kids, marriage, and a house to look after I would have been more inspired. 

Most of the time I was only late anyway because I was staying up all night to do the homework and practice the writing.

There were other moments too when you could clearly see the class did not like other members.  One occasion was when the Italian woman started to tell everyone if they were not happy at the class tomorrow they should not come back the next day.

What exactly gave her the right to say this, she was not in charge of the class and it brought a quality comment from Anders.  He grumbled angrily "DO I HAVE TO SING KUM BYE AH BEFORE I AM ACCEPTED INTO THE CLASS OR SOMETHING?"  This made me laugh loads, I laughed about it all the way to work.  I just had a picture of him rocking up to the class bible in hand singing kum bye ah and saying happily, "is that happy enough fuckers?"

Another time she went crazy with the big American guy in class.  The class clearly bored him and he couldn't be arsed anyway he turns up late again for class and the Italian woman starts going mental with him, telling him he is affecting her learning!  Telling him he could be great and getting all rowdy with him, he starts  telling her to fuck off and to stop touching him and what have you.  The teacher just stood there and let them argue.  The fact she just let them argue didn't help the class dynamics, in the end the Spanish girl ended up stepping in and calming down the situation.

I then became very sick towards the end of the course, I think this was due to staying up late every night and the stress and pressure of being made to look and feel completely stupid and useless in class.  Was making me try harder and longer every night, but made me sleep in, get extra homework and the vicious cycle was continued.  In the end I thought the extra homework can go where the sun doesn't shine!

Ill in bed, trying to recover!
This made me fall really far behind and made me feel more stupid.  Which made me stop wanting to go to the class anymore.  Plus the atmosphere in the class by this point between the people in the class was a heap of shit, the only thing that kept me going back was the encouragement Jen kept giving me and I didn't want to let my parents down.

The daily routine of the class was so boring too.  There are a lot more teaching methods that could of been used instead of the ones we were using.

We would have a test every day which I thought was pointless, why test students everyday it is pointless because the same students will always come out on top, and the students who need more help will be obvious.  Sometimes there can be an anomaly but at the end of the day some people are more suited to everyday traditional tests and teaching methods than others, and you should try and mix them up instead of sticking to the same routine. 

I always wonder why more practical methods were not being used.  We are in an environment to use natural learning methods and the daily routine in the class was the same every single day.

First we would go through yesterdays words, then next we would do some writing practice, and answer some questions from the teacher (we would never have to ask the question!)  Then we would take a test, then we would go todays test answers (another pointless time wasting exercise because it would of been much more beneficial to go through yesterdays test answers, on the test paper that the teacher just gave us back) whats the point in going through the test you just done when you can't fix the mistakes because you have just gave it to the teacher.  Then we would read read the new words for today and read the conversations from the book and that would be it.

Fun day learning, should of been more things like this.
Why not teach practical stuff that will be needed in daily life situations like directions, how to take the bus, does this bus go to destination x or y, how to call people, how to make a reservation for a restaurant, how to tell the doctor what hurts, order food etc etc.  We could of role played this together in class, which would of helped us practice conversation and not just writing and reading, and we could of also went out of class to do this.  We could of recorded it, we could of wrote down what happened in Chinese there are loads of ideas that could of been done.

I had to ask a lot of the time for words I needed in my daily life, like MRT (how practical is it to know that here in Taipei) and work.  Don't even get me started on the use of duo! (can mean both, not both, or some both!!!) I still don't understand how to use duo to this day, and even now when I try to use it I always get it completely wrong.

When we had a test coming up I was still ill.  I went in totally ill to try and do the test but I couldn't think and didn't prepare at all due to spending all my time in bed trying to recover.  I failed with a shitty score of 48!

After that I just felt totally frustrated with it and the course totally killed my enthusiasm for trying to learn Chinese.  Jen told me a lot of the schools have the same shitty method of teaching too.  It's not a practical way of learning at all, and it is a way that education is moving from in the UK because they know there are better ways, and they also know that way does not suit everyone.

Now I have just been starting to try and re gain my enthusiasm again but, I need to save more money to try classes.  If I end up with the same shitty routine of;
answer questions (never ask them) read words we learned yesterday, have a test, go through the answers, read the new words, read the conversation, then go home.  I will go mental!  This same shitty routine will be ingrained into my head until the day I die.

Anders had the right idea when he just stopped going sooner than I did.  So all in all I learned some things but, I feel it was a missed opportunity to learn so much more.  To blindly follow 1 book that is clearly outdated is such a bad idea.  It is not 'one size fits all' you have to realise that this attitude does not work.  It works for Taiwanese people but westerners all come in different shapes, and sizes, and from different culture and educational backgrounds.

Why don't they do what they do in England and pick the best parts from different books and teach it instead of regurgitate from 1 book and stick to it rigidly?   If they took the approach of using different books, picking what is most relevant to students right now in society here and make a course relevant to that I firmly believe people would get more from learning Chinese here.

I'll tell you why it is easier for them to just follow one book, it is because they will still earn the same money that they are now even if it only clearly suits a tiny percentage of the class which was clearly visible in the classes.

At the end of the day my teacher tried her best and deep down she was really nice, and I hope this does not offend her, or anyone else who went to the class we all have our own struggles in life, and our own struggles here and learning Chinese.  Deep down I can tell she intended well, but maybe she has not had so much experience with this kind of class.  In the end I think she tried her best, but needs to gain more experience because I know myself class room management is not an easy thing to learn, and neither is time keeping in class.

She also needs to calm her emotions down too, and stop trying to become friends with the class and realise she is only there to teach us.  It is not important for the teacher to be my friend I only want to learn from them, and at the end if we become friends then that is fine, but I would rather have respect for my teacher because there good at there job, other than liking them because there nice.  In fact most teachers who I have thought of as cunts, I have often had the most respect for!  She also needs to stop clearly having favourites in her class, or stop making it quite obvious she has favourites.

I hope my next experience of trying to learn Chinese in a classroom setting will be a much more positive experience but I am not holding out much hope, as people in education here seem quite close minded.

Chinese class (I didn't go much after this picture) Disclaimer underneath please read!!!!!
(This is a disclaimer)

These are only my feelings, thoughts and opinions about the university, the teacher, and the classmates.  Deep down I do know all the people are genuinely nice people, and my intention is not to complain, piss people off, make them angry or upset.  The reason for this blog is to let my family and friends know about my struggle learning Chinese.  So if you get offended, angry or upset tough shit!  Stop being soft and don't let such small things effect you.  Toughen up!  

Keep on keeping on people!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mark Chagall Painting Exhibition and Wendels German Restaurant Tianmu

So when Jen came around today she told me that we were going to see some art exhibition I thought cool.  The reason I thought this was cool because it meant we would do something different to what we normally do.

Jen had a coupon buy 1 get 1 free on the entrance ticket.  We took the MRT to Shilin night market and then we took the bus from there to the National Palace Museum.  When we got to Shilin Jen then had an idea that we should go back to the flower festival on Yangming Shan to see how they have blossomed but with my recent battle against the hay fever I think we made the correct decision.

When we got there we had a little walk around outside the National Palace Museum mainly because we didn't know were the entrance the exhibition was.  We wondered about for a bit looking and took a few hasty snaps but the weather was intensely hot!

National Palace Museum 
The Exhibition we went to see.

Chaing kai shek statue.

When we seen it and got inside I was quite surprised that it was really interesting.  I had never heard of the guy who's paintings we went to see.  They were pretty cool and a lot of them were very abstract which looked like sometimes he wanted to give across two or maybe three meanings.  

The pictures with all flowers in however were pretty damn boring.  Jen told me that the section that included mainly flowers, was because he was inspired to paint them because of his love for his wife.  I'm sure there are more interesting things that you can paint that can show love, I mean paint some flowers thats fine but not only flowers to show the love.  I guess the only reason he would of painted mainly flowers to show his love was because his wife must of loved flowers, if that was the case then it would make sense. 

By the time I got to the end of the exhibition a lot of the pictures started to look similar.  I guess you must really have to be some kind of art expert to really appreciate that kind of thing but it did make a nice change to what we normally do, which was good. I think I could go to see more exhibitions and things like that try and be a little bit more cultured than usual.

Jen heading for the bus.

National Palace Museum.

People Praying.

It seemed there was huge tour groups of Chinese people at the National Palace Museum.  Jen told me it is because Chaing Kai Shek moved all valuable items to Taiwan when they fled.  Therefore they have nothing of real importance in their National Museums in China, this is the same thing as what Sean told me when we went to the Forbidden City in Beijing too.

We then took the bus back to Shilin. I was starting to get hungry and asked Jen if we should eat around here before we go home, to which she got angry.  She got angry because she said I would ask her "where should we eat then?"  If she said yes.  She is right I would of asked her but I was only wondering if she wanted to eat around there.  I was not to be put off anyway on my mission of going somewhere to eat before we went home, and I couldn't help laughing when she got angry.  

So I was suggesting a few things and ideas and then when we were on the MRT station I thought why don't we go back to that German restaurant I went  to, to celebrate getting my first job here in Taiwan.  When we went there the first time their main dish that they are famous for was completely amazing.  Their main dish is a pork knuckle done in the traditional German style.  The meat inside is tender with the skin being really crunchy making it a great combination when it is done well, and last time we were here Wendels done it well!  Which brings me onto todays underwhelming experience.

Inside Wendels.
We ordered the ceaser salad for starter, and two main dishes the pork knuckle and chicken leg.  First up was the salad, this the waitress told us was only a portion size for one person only, but when she pointed some other people eating it, it clearly looked big enough for two of us.  So we dug into the salad, it was ok a bit bland compared to other ceaser salads we have had but it was fine, however I did think it had too many olives.  I just think that Primo's the Italian pizza restaurant have nailed the salad because of the extra cheese they give you on everything.  There extra cheese is good stuff too.  It was nice the problem for them was we had already had nicer salads with more taste to them.

Cesar salad

Next up we had the main dishes, and these looked good when the waitress brought them out.  So I tried the pork knuckle first, and it was just OK.  Last time it was amazing but their was something not quite the same about it this time.  The skin was not as crunchy, the flavours tasted all wrong, and the meat inside was very fatty compared to last time.  Me and Jen were both totally disappointed with how it tasted.  Jen told me she thought it was just her who thought it was not as good but I told her no!  It was me also. 


Pork Knuckle 

The pork knuckle came served with two balls of things, one seemed like it was made from some kind of bread, and I don't have a clue what the other one was, some pickles underneath the pork and a splattering of mustard.  One of the small ball things I really liked but I don't have any clue what it is at all. 

Jen tried the chicken first, and she told me the skin tasted a bit like fish.  I don't know what sauce they put on top of the chicken but it wasn't great either.  They served the chicken with some potato wedges and vegetables.  The potato wedges were nice I thought but it was not enough to save their dishes from being very unsatisfying this time.

Jen eating at Wendels.
I don't think I will be repaying a visit to Wendels, I was throughly let down by them tonight.  The atmosphere and service of the place was still good and very pleasant making it a nice place to go and chat with friends or the missus however their vital ingredient let them down tonight, there food!  This means they have lost two customers which I am sure they wont mind about, but I couldn't help leaving the restaurant wishing the food was like last time or we had went some where else.

Wendels also has a big German style beer garden outside of the restaurant but I am not sure how much their beers were didn't really look but I can tell you they won't be cheap.  If just going to sit outside and drink it seemed a decent enough but pricey place however.

Beer Garden outside Wendels.
When we left Wendels we decided to go to Carrefour on the way home from there because there is one just next door in Tienmu.  We were only going in for some beers but ended up have a good solid look around, and it must of seemed like I was having a good recce of the site.  The reason we looked around loads is because it was a lot different to our Carrefour in Xiemen.  It had lots more foreign items in there and seemed a lot more 'exotic' in general compared to my local.  It even had its own wine room, with some wines selling for over £1000.  How crazy is that, they even had there own separate temperature compared to the rest of the supermarket.  If I ever bought a wine for that much money I would want it to do everything for me!  I mean I would want it to cook for me, clean, wash my clothes I would even want it to wipe my arse after I have had a mighty shit.  I would never want to drink it!

I did feel a little sorry for my Carrefour in Xiemen mind you however it is mine!  I know it better and it is more local than the foreign one in Tienmu.  Thats where all the foreign schools are, and where a lot of foreigners live so it makes sense, I do wonder however if they ever sell any of those expensive wines.

When we got home we ended the night watching Black Swan, and it was totally a big heap of piling stinking shit!  Over rated yeah it was shot well and the story would be mildly interesting if you care about ballet dancing but I just found it really boring.  Jen really liked it though it seemed which I was glad about because we have never watched a movie for a while.  Anders best supply me with only good movies in the future or he will be getting told!!.  Anyway the quality of the movies he downloads are awesome which means I might have to supply myself with a massive hard driver too, and a HD TV, the need to buy list is getting bigger. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Yangming Shan Flower Season

Last Monday me and Jen decided that we would go to Yangmingshan Mountain to see the flower season.  It's a really popular time here when all the flowers come out to blossom on the mountain.  We decided that we would set of quite late in the afternoon because it is not so far, or difficult to get to.  On top of this there were special busses put on just specifically because it was the flower season on top of the mountain.

To get there we had to take the MRT from our home in Xiemen, to Shilin Station, and then from there we would take the special bus up the mountain.

When we got to the top of the mountain, I could see why it is so popular.  The scene was picturesque like a postcard.  Totally beautiful I know it sounds a little gay talking about flowers but it was truly amazing.

Flowers at Yangming Shan

When we arrived we wondered around looking at all the flowers and the trees where the cherry blossoms were growing.  First we just looked around where the bus dropped us off, there was loads and loads of people there and it was really crowded.  Jen grabbed us a couple of corn dogs and a drink as I walked around and took some photos.

When she came back, we ate the corn dogs and then we walked over to take a look at the flower clock.  It was a big working clock that was made totally from flowers, apart from the hands.  It was working too because the time on it was correct.  Jen bought this thing for taking pictures called a magic stick.  It works a little bit like a tripod, but it is for taking pictures of your self, when you can't stand your camera on the tripod I guess.  Anyway we tested out the magic stick here, and it was a little more difficult than I first thought it would be to use, you really have to imagine your self standing behind the camera taking the picture of yourself.  Anyway, after a few attempts we managed to get some decent shots of us and the flower clock.

Then when we started to walk up the mountain looking around and all the pretty flowers, I walked past three phone boxes that were made from wooden trees, kind of like our red phone boxes back home but with trees instead of red.  I thought they were pretty good, so took a quick snap of them, when I seen there was no people around, which is pretty much a miracle for Taiwan.

Phone boxes, designed to match the feel of the mountain
We headed up the steps, and on either side of the steps their were trees with cherry blossoms growing from them.  It was a complete beautiful scene, but there was people anywhere, I was imagining at the time what it would be like to be in a place like that which looks so pretty but to have it all to yourself.  It would be picturesque, idyllic and peaceful above a city that is busy, crowded and noisy.  Would be perfect to go there to relax if there was not so many people around.

The bright pink colours stood out perfectly and they were a brilliant contrast to the dull browns of the trees, I think the fact the trees looked so dull made the flowers stand out even more, and made them look even more beautiful.

Cherry Blossoms, Yang Ming Shan

We walked across a bridge, and there was different kind of flowers growing out of the water.  These flower were long and green, and their reflection on the water looked splendid.  Above them, on a tree were the wonderful cherry blossoms on a tree looking impressivley over the yellow flowers coming from out of the water.  Also in the water there was a lot of lillypads (at least I think they were lillypads.)  All the bright colours were not over whelming they were good contrasts and it seems like it was making everyone there very happy to be around all the bright colours, and breathe in the fresh air that you could feel up on the mountain.  You don't get that kind of air in Taipei City thats for sure.

Different flowers, and the cherry blossoms
Jen and the flowers 

After this Jen couldn't find her phone and thought she had lost on the way there, phoned the phone company saying that she had lost it.  Then she phoned our flat mate to see if she had left it at home, and she had which turned out to be a relief because we worried about it.  Everyone knows what it feels like to lose a phone so it was good it was just left at home.

We then took some more pictures of us, with the cherry blossom trees, before we decided to make our way further up the mountain to a place where you could pick your own flowers, in a lake.  We managed to take loads more pictures of the cherry blossom trees in this one part of the mountain where there were loads there.  It was great seeing them all together and the scene looked superb.

Some pictures of us, from Yangming Shan
There was a fountain too, and I think we just caught the end of the fountain spraying out water before they turned it off for the day, because just as we got there and took a few pictures they turned off the water.

Then we went to look for the bus to take us even further up into the mountain.  There was a lot of different busses to choose from so I really really needed Jens help with which bus to take.  As if I managed to take the wrong bus, there was a big chance I could of ended up back at the bottom of the mountain.  It was starting to get late too, and I wanted to make sure I had time to pick the flowers and get some decent pictures of it too.

On the bus

When we got to the top of the mountain the first thing I noticed is, it was rather quite cold on the top.  Ha I knew its cold on the top of mountains but when you feel the difference it is quite big compared to what it was like near the bottom.

Then we walked into the lake where they grow the flowers.  There was loads of people picking their flowers, ranging from couples, kids, and familes all in their together looking for which flowers they wanted.  At first I was not bothered about picking flowers for us, but then when I seen everyone else doing it and the price I thought I would give it a go.

Looking for our own flowers
The cost of each flower was only 10NT each, so off I went in search of my choice.  I wondered about in the lake looking for ones that were well grown, and then when I found mine, I ripped them out, and then thought, hmm Jen should pick one too ha.  So Jen picked one out too.  It was actually fun looking for your own flowers rather than just buying them in the shop.

After that, on the way back to the bus stop.  I seen a big waffle machine in a coffee shop and told Jen I wanted one, after we ordered it, it took them ages to make it for us.  I am sure we waited around 10 minutes for this waffle.  They didn't even start to make it straight away when we ordered it, then they said oh sorry you have to wait a bit, then started making it!!

We had to change bus when we came down the mountain we had to change bus.  Then when we changed the bus, at the stop there was a small kid.  He was staring at me, so I said hello little friend in Chinese and then he started speaking to me loads in Chinese.  Jen had to translate but he said I say "when he waits for a long time, and the bus doesn't come he says OH MY GOD!" and then he said when "something goes wrong I say OH NO!" Ha that made me and Jen both laugh a lot on the way home.

Then when we got back we went to the night market to get some food, we ended up buying loads and loads of snacks.  Then we watched a movie when we got home.  All in all we had a very good day out.

Some other pictures from the day

Gua Sha treatment for heat stroke relief

Earlier this week I had to get Gua Sha, because of suffering from bad heat stroke after hiking in the afternoon, like a madman, bang on midd...