Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Staff

Monday turned out to be a typhoon day and school was canceled. This was unreal for me because I needed to have another day to recover from the rhea. I tell you it still isn't fully gone but today has been much better. Also, I think I got a line on picking up a fixed over here, it looks like they have Friday night riding events called Frider Days, if you want to check it out look at this www.fixedgeartaiwan.com. There is a guy that lives in Taichung which is about 2 hours by bus from here and he builds custom bike frames, I got his number from a guy on the internet and I might pay him a visit in a couple of weeks. Currently I am representing in the back office at Gram, I don't have a class for another 45 mins so I thought I would take this time and introduce everybody to the staff at Gram. Each one of these peeps is quite solid in their own way.


This is Vivi, she works up at the front. I guess you could say she is the secretary. She doesn't speak English very well but she does know how to call out on the intercom in English for kids to get ready when their parents come. For example if Jimmy's dad is here to pick him up she will pick up the phone and push intercom and say "Jimmy, Jimmy, please get reeaaaaddyyyy".
It is classic. Oh ya she is also in charge of ordering the food, so when it comes to this I have to make sure she understands what I want. I usually get the dumplings, they are succulent. Once and I while I get the Neo row minh, which is beef noodle soup. Its ok but I think I got turned off of it because I ate that the day I got the rhea.


The infamous. Seeing as I gave Fanny her name and everything we are pretty tight, so I got her to pose by the board here. Fanny works side by side with Vivi and another girl named Liv. They kind of do the same job, all of them take care of all the secretarial duties. Liv is the best at English, Fanny the second best, and Vivi is the worst. Fanny drives a scooter and from time to time I see her wizzing by on the streets.


Liv, another front face taking care of administrative duties. She lives in Banciao(where the subway station is) and also rides a scooter. I think she studies English at university and is really into computer games. Whenever I ask Liv how she is, it is rarely good, she always gets frazzled and blurts out some kind of an answer that indicates she is not good.


You should all know Tobey by now, but here he is just taking care of business. Tobey is serious about success, he likes his Jhonghe branch to be a tightly run ship, and is constantly giving the secretarial staff shite. He drives a Ford Focus and also has a Yamaha scooter, I have ridden in/ on both. He also loves baseball, and doesn't eat beef. However, he really likes soda and baked goods.


I just finished a class with Katrina, it went pretty well. I was teaching past and present tenses. For example "Every day, Susan travels to Taipei" and "Yesterday, she didn't travel to Taipei". Sometimes she gives me tips on games to play with the class and also helps me with the photocopier because it is all in Chinese. She doesn't drive a scooter because she is scared, so instead she rides the bus from her house somewhere near the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Jhonghe. In fact it is the same bus I use to get to the subway station except in the opposite direction.


This is Queenie, she is the "Queen of the classroom". She is solid with helping out with my lesson plans. She teaches the little kids so sometimes it is tough to keep them under control. She lives just around the corner and rides a scooter. Her house is about a 5 min walk and she still drives it almost everyday. I give her shite about that on the regular and tell her that she should walk. As you can see she is a hard worker and is always flipping through some kind of book. Her boyfriend lives in Taichung where he is a doctor.


Ahhhhh, Teacher Mieling. Thats what I like to say every time I see Meiling roll through the doors, I say it like Mr Miyagi says Ahhhhhh Daniel Son in the Karate Kid. Yesterday I was chatting with Meiling about her class because I am going to be teaching it later this week. After we finished with our business discussions I asked her what she got up to on the typhoon day, and I couldn't believe what she told me. She told me that her nephew was in a baby race and she went to watch. Immediately I was puzzled by this so called baby race, so I continued to probe at the subject. She told me that there are crawling races for babies and that her nephew was in one. I immediately pictured this sort of mini dirt track in some underground night club at 3:00am with all kinds of people standing around smoking and placing bets on the babies. $10 bucks on Little Jimmy Lee, $20 bucks on Big Alfred Wang, $100 on Charlie "the bullet" Tsai. I guess I think like this because of that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer got the rooster and named it Little Jerry Seinfeld and starts entering it in underground cock fights. Anyway, the whole idea seems crazy to me and I was dying laughing when she told me about it. So in the end I asked her how the baby did, and she said "terrible", she said when he got on the track he froze and didn't go.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

When you're driving in your Chevy and you feel something heavy.

Ohhh man. The past few days have been the worst yet. I have had the worst diarrhea of life and I think as a result have been feeling a little homesick. I think today though it is starting to clear up, things are looking better, I haven't had a dotty deuce since last night. I think what happened was on Thursday morning I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom as usual and I was rinsing my mouth out at the end of my brush. Clearly not really thinking, perhaps a bit groggy from my slumber , I swallowed a mouth full of the tap water. As soon as it went down I realized, I contemplated making myself barf for a few seconds, but then I thought naaaaaaa its probably fine. Well let me tell you, I will never make that mistake again. Currently conditions outside are intense, there is another serious typhoon out there, this big sign of this chick that was right outside my window blew off the side of the building. Perhaps school will be canceled tomorrow and I will have an extra day to recover from the rhea. This is what it looks like outside my window right now.

Since I haven't done to much this weekend I don't have much to report. But earlier this week I went out with Tobey and his girl Elva. We went to the night market in Yonghe and walked around for a little bit. On our way out we picked up some fried chicken and vegetables, it was pretty succulent.

After the market we met up with Tobey's cousins for some more karaoke. This time there was a better selection of tracks, so I hit up Kokomo, and Like a Rolling Stone, both were hits. Check out this guy. He was on the screen when the tracks were playing.

What a classic. I think by the time I leave here I will be a Karaoke pro like him. On a side note my mom paddles with a guy that looks like this.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Framed Picture and a Closed Casket

Bad news to report today. A one Ashley Mogg's kitty has passed onto the other side. Chloe was an unreal little mongoose of a cat, I had many classic encounters with that minx. One that sticks out the most is when I was sitting in the living room with Ashley, and I'm not quite sure what we were doing, but all of a sudden we heard this ruckus from inside the kitchen. Ashley went out to check it out. To her surprise, there was a raccoon standing in the doorway which led outside from the kitchen, good old Chloe was standing facing the raccoon and hissing at it. In between the two rascals lay Chloe's bowl of food. One thing you should know about Chloe is that she had no front claws and was a huge ween most of the time. Normally you could sit right on top of her and she wouldn't even give. So, anyway as soon as the raccoon saw Ashley it bolted, but I'm sure it was already having second thoughts. Ashley is feeling pretty down in the dumps so if you see her on the streets give her a giant hug.

Normally when people I know die I like to take a moment and listen to a track by Ice Cube called Dead Hommiez. Earlier today I took a moment and thought about Chloe while listening.

Hopefully she is in a better place.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

B Boy Nation

This past weekend I set sail out of Jhonghe by way of bus and subway, I picked up a few tips from some peeps around the the neighbourhood before I embarked on my journey. It was quite simple, I had to catch the 307 bus to Banqiao Station and then take the subway into Taipei on the blue line. The subway is called the MRT here, and it is sooo siick. All of the stops are written in English as well as Chinese and they tell you what is in the area of the stop and which direction to go to get there. Check out this sweet map of the MRT. Where the blue and red lines intersect is Taipei Main Station, so you can see that I don't have far to travel to get there.

Inside the bus.

The sickest part of the whole voyage was when I got to Banqiao Station. I was walking through the concourse if you will, when all of a sudden I heard some sweet beats pumping from around the corner, it was some kind of Chinese funk music. So I rounded the corner to see what the commotion was and this is what I saw.

It was a god damn B-Boy Nation, in the subway station. I sat and watched for about 30 mins, these kids were breaking it down like nothing I have ever seen before. A few months before I came here I saw this movie called Planet B-Boy and learned that some of the best break dancers in the world come from Asia, I would recommend checking this flick out if you get a chance. Also, if you want to check out another break dance classic you should see Step-Up 2 The Streets, not as far off the chart as Planet B-Boy but still high up.
So on my walk home from the bus that night I rolled into the courtyard in the middle of my building complex and was greeted with another ruckus. There was some kind of kids festival going down and it was bumping. I didn't stick around to get the deets but I snapped a quick shot.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Inner City Pressure

I was walking down the streets of the rickety village of Jhonghe, which is where I live, a few nights ago and couldn't help but be reminded of this track I once heard called Inner City Pressure by a few cats from New Zealand. Please follow along with the lyrics.

Inner city life.
Inner city pressure.
The concrete world is starting to get ya.
The city is alive, the city is expanding.
Living in the city can be demanding.
You pawned everything, everything you owned.
Your tooth brush jar and a camera phone.
You don't know where you're going.
You cross the street, you don't know why you did.
You walk back across the street.
Standing in the sitting room.
Totally stint. And your favorite jersey is covered in lint.
You want to sit down but you sold your chair.
So you just stand there. You just stand there...

Inner. Inner city. Inner city pressure.

Counting coins on the counter of the 7/11.
From a quarter past six till a quarter to seven.
The manager, Bevin, starts to abuse me.
Hey man, I just want some Musely.
Neon signs, hidden messages.
Questions, answers, fetishes.
You know you're not in high finance.
Considering second hand underpants.

Check your mind, how'd it get so bad?
What happened to those other underpants you had?
Look in your pockets, haven't found a cent yet.
Tenants on your balls, "have you payed your rent yet?"

Inner. Inner city. Inner city pressure.

Man, what a track. Anyways, there are 7 11's on almost every single corner here. They just love it, its like Tim Hortons in Canada except even more. You can also buy brews and wine at the 7 11.

Neon signs, Hidden Messages.


Those last few pics are of the night market in Jhonghe, it is just up the street from my crib. It is a pretty small market compared to the ones in Taipei but you can still find an assortment of different foods and many strange treasures.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Alright, I drive a Subaru the other is a Vet now lets get in the water and lets get wet. I am now officially "Teacher Jon". I walked into my first class on Wednesday afternoon and greeted the class with a "good afternoon class" and they all said at the same time "good afternoon Teacher Jon", I almost shat. I mean first of all the fact that they all knew my name already was unreal and I had no idea I was going to be dubbed Teacher Jon on my first day of teaching. After a brief introduction of myself and the students to me the class was underway. I already mentioned that the first class was going to be on food, so immediately I dove into the flash cards and started the lesson with some simple vocabulary. To my surprise the kids already had a pretty good grasp on most types of food. Here are a few items that posed a bit of a problem for some students like big Willy, and little Lulu.

Pizza - PIZZA

Chicken- CHICKEN

Fish - FISH

Ice Cream - ICE CREAM

Noodles - NOODLES

Pie - PIE

I think by the end of class everyone had a solid grip on all the different kinds of food. The names of the kids have been baffling me since day one. I have run into kids named Stanley, Berny, Jimmy, Candy, Kiki, Lulu, Charlie, Willy, Kenny, Norton, Terry, Jerry, Sally, and Archy. With the exception of Kiki and Lulu all of these names seem fit for a 40 year old white man or women and not a 7 to 10 year old Asian boy or girl. I couldn't help but wonder how the parents of these kids could come up with such strange names for their babies, I mean imagine a Chinese baby named Jerry or Terry or Kenny, its funny right?
Anyway, I finally got to the bottom of the name fiasco on Friday afternoon. I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when this girl I work with Eva walk by and I said "Hi Eva" and she turned around and said "thats not my name" and I said "Oh, I'm sorry I thought it was Eva", and she said "Well it was, except I had to change it because there is another Eva that works at another one of our branches", so I inquired further and it turns out that they pick their own English names. The kids pick names for themselves when they first come to our school, same with Chinese teachers. Luckily I already have an English name. Back to Eva, she needed to come up with a new name and she pick Nadia. I told her Nadia is a terrible name and that she should change it to Fanny. She loved it and now her new name is Fanny.

This is my teaching uniform, we have to wear this on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It is made of a nice polyester, very breathable.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Home Base

Oh hi there, I hope everyone is doing well today. The sun is just beaming in the window right now and the sound of the highway just bellow is roaring through the screen. I just found out yesterday that I had to pay my own electricity bill so it looks like there is going to be limited use of the A.C and I am currently sweating my balls off. Today is going to my first real day of teaching and it is going to be on the topic of food. I have a set of sweet flash cards, some magnets and possibly a ball in the mix for my class, I think it should be good. I ran into Kenny the other yesterday (the guy who told me about the powdered milk epidemic) and he was still going on about it, however he also told me if I wanted some most delicious foods I should go to Taipei City Night Market, so I think I will try and hit that this weekend. I realized that I haven't really shown to much of my digs yet, so please join me in a brief tour.

We can start with the front door/ front hall, to the right there is the entrance to the bathroom.

Next we have the kitchen, this is where I like to do most of my cooking.

Here is the living room, you can usually find me here doing some of my leisure activities.

Next to the living room is my bedroom, my mattress is very hard.

This is my enclosed balcony, the windows open right up and I have a beautiful view of the the streets and highway.

On the balcony is my washing machine, I found some strange items in there this morning.

This device is considered a luxury here, it heats your water so it is suitable for drinking, it is also very useful for soups.

On the topic of food this was my brrrrrreakfast. (sick chopsticks)

Finally here is an overall view.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Streets

Ahhhh yes, I finally slept until a normal hour this morning. I think the days of the 3am wake-up are behind me. As I predicted I didn't do any actual teaching yesterday, I sat in on 4 classes (3 kids classes and 1 adult class). I have to say that all of them were fun, but I think that the adult class was by far the most classic. 3 students that stuck out for me were Kenny, Norton, and Eric, these guys are unreal. I think they are all computer guys, at least I know for sure Kenny and Norton are. At the start of class they had to talk about some current news that they have read about and discuss it in English. Kenny decided to tell us about how this "milk of powder" being imported from China was very bad and had toxic chemicals in it that could cause kidney stones. Norton tried to tell me that the Norton Anti-Virus was named after him, and Eric tried to trick me into thinking he was "a gay". The whole class was way to funny.

Before class yesterday I hit the street of Jhonghe, my home town here. I picked up some fruit at the local fruit stand and stood on the corner of an intersection to try and pick up some action. This is what I came up with.

The Jungle:

Mail Bike: