Friday, September 21, 2007

Quick, short update

This update is more for myself so as I don't get out of the habit of keeping a regular blog. Something that I feel will happen very easily.

The teaching is still going well. I have a few classes that are quite troublesome though. My youngest class, called Kids Club, have absolutely no English skills whatsoever. I spent FOREVER with one kid just trying to get him to properly pronounce the word 'is.' After about 30 minutes, he still couldn't grasp it.

A few days ago I made a trip to Sogo, a very large department store, to pick up some much needed clothes. While there I went to a bookstore which had an English section. It contained roughly 20 books. However, I was very pleased to see a copy of Rory Stewart's book, The Places In Between. It is about the authors trek as he walked across Afghanistan six weeks after the American invasion and fall of the Taliban. The walk across Afghanistan is just a portion of his journey, in which he was retracing the steps of the first emporer of Mughal India; Babur. During the forward to the book, Rory writes:

"This book is dedicated to the people of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nepal, who showed me the way. They were not all saints, though some of them were. A number were greedy, idle, stupid hypocritical, insensitive, mendacious, ignorant, and cruel. Some had robbed or killed others; many of them threatened me or begged from me. But never in my 21 months of travel did they attempt to kidnap me or kill me. I was alone and a stranger, walking in very remote areas; I represented a culture that many of them hated, and I was carrying enough money to save or at least transform their lives. In more than 500 village houses, I was indulged, fed, nursed, and protected by people poorer, hungrier, sicker, and more vulnerable than me. Almost every group I met gave me hospitality without any thought of reward."

I like to think I've experienced a small bit of this hospitality in Taiwan. Although a little less extreme, on more than one occasion I've relied on the kindness of strangers. Whether it was an older Chinese woman who motioned at me to share her umbrella as we crossed the street in a torrential rain; or stopping a young guy on a scooter and asking for directions, only to realize he drives 15 minutes out of his way to actually take us there. These are the instances that cause people to step out of their comfort zone and travel across the world.

Being new to the country, working constantly, and scootering everywhere has recently caused me to become in very bad shape. Couple this with the fact that my dinners mostly consist of something deep fried in a night market, and I realized my health is not at all where I'd like it to be. To combat this, I've decided to take a brazilian jujitsu class. I took this for a year in college, and a little bit when I was in Thailand; and have always enjoyed it. It's great exercise and I really miss the competitiveness of sports. Now if only I could find a lacrosse league over here...

Another recent development is that I have officially enrolled in Chinese school. I paid my (expensive) tuition to National Chung Hsing University and will begin my elementary chinese classes on September 26th. It's pretty intensive too. I attend class Monday- Friday from 10:00- 12:00. I can't wait to be in a university setting again. I walked around campus today and it reminded me a lot of UT. Minus the sporting events, the bars, and the very pretty, very blonde sorority girls, of course. It will be nice to be considered a student again. It will also be nice to be able to order food.

And that's about all that's been going on in my life since the last post. Just to recap for everybody: I'm teaching Taiwanese kids, learning Chinese, taking a Brazilian martial art, and reading a book about Afghanistan.

Quite the international education, I'd say.



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