Tuesday, December 25, 2007

here we are

im still in taiwan teaching english, last weekend I went to a reservoir in the mountains south of Taipei which was really beautiful. Taipei in christmas in funny becuase its just one big commercial gimmick but is not celebrated in any other way besides signs and decorations everywhere, but its just like any other day. however we do get off for new years. teaching the kids is cool, they are good kids but are totally overworked by the educational system which is a little sad. I try my best not to add to that pressure, just be a goofy english teacher that the kids have fun with and communicate with in the english language. Its just basically playing games and practicing vocab and sentance making with different simple activities usually involving a sticky board, white board, and die.

Here is an outline of other interesting points in daily life
eating a lot of organic food and traditional chinese vegetarian food
reading Dylan Thomas, the China Study, New Yorker
dating an actress in the theater that I met at Taipei Experimental Elictronic music festival
listening to a lot of Grateful Dead, Bluegrass, Donna The Buffalo, World music on my Ipod
not playing guitar enough
going hiking on the weekends
meditating and doing yoga
riding around on moped
going to christmas parties
learning a little Chinese, simple phrases and what not and some very basic knowledge
I plan on going to thailand jan 23 -feb 2 if anyone knows of anyone who is going let me know.
Upon my return from Thailand my parents will be joining me for a week of sightseeing around taiwan, hopefully going to the east coast of taiwan which is full of mountains and natural wonder.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rainy Taipei mandarin fever

I started learning Chinese a few weeks ago from a family friend who is living in Taipei, and is Taiwanese. She's a friend of my great Aunts who was in China on a hiking tour and broke her leg there and decided to stay in Taiwan until she can walk again because most of her family is in Taiwan although she hasnt lived here for 30 years. So at my aunts request I visited her, and we hit it off, shes very intelegent and also a vegetarian, and she offered to teach me Chinese. I have been learning the phonetic alphabet (in chinese there is no real alphabet since every character is a word), but in order for westerners to learn it there have been several ways of making a phonetic alphabet, a few through romanization (using roman letters) and another through unique symbols called BoPoMoFo, named for the first few sounds that are symbolized. My teacher prefers to teach me these symbols to get out of the habit of trying to correspond the sounds of mandarin with the letters of english. In addition, for every symbol (there are 37 of them), there are 4 tones, like saying the sound in a high pitched voice and going lower, for example. So I have just been learning to recognize and pronounce the phonetics of Mandarin, and also learning to spell simple sentances with the bopomofo alphabet and the tones. It has been an uphill struggle, but I think I am starting to familiarize myself with it a little. I also have plenty of oppurtinities to practice.
This weekend I went to an arts festival in Taipei city, and the centerpeice was a experimental electronic music DJs accomponied by visual artists on a big screen. The first performer I saw was an ambient DJ. Ambient music sounds like background noise, but if you just let yourself absorb it patiently, you start to notice patterns which are very subtle and can be mood and even conscious altering. It was very interesting. The second DJ was a more progressive techno DJ but played really spacey sounds becuase the ambient performer set the mood. It was a really great show I thought.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

this weekendo

Saturday afternoon I went to meet my friend Paul who was at an english teacher conference, where I was to have a consultaiton with his Chinese Doctor, Leo. Leo is Paul's chinese doctor who Paul claims cured him of serious back problems resulting from a herniated disc that western medicine was unsuccessful at alleviating. He gave me a physical checkup based on chinese medicine, and made some reccomendations on my diet and also some facial massage excercises intended to clear up the cold like symptoms and fatigue symptoms resulting from my lyme disease, which is inactive but still have some spillover symptoms. This doctor was quite a picture, becuase he had long hair and a long goatee and was dressed in the manner of a kung fu master in a traditional chinese shirt he seemed like he knew what he was doing, so I am doing my best to follow his directions. Saturday evening, I had dinner with my friend Grace who was an exchange student at UMD for a year where I met her but is now back at National taiwan University in Taipei, and we went to some awesome bookstores where I copped WH Auden's book of Light Verse, The Book of the Subgenius, the post-modern satire religion that David Byrne is a follower of, very funny worth checking out and an awesome find, Ivan Turgenev-father and sons, and also an encyclopedia of world literature. Then i went to my co-worker Oliver's place, where we hung out with his wife who grew up in the States but is Taiwanese, and her wifes taiwanese freind; and enjoyed interesting conversations.
On Sunday I drove my bike into yanmingshan national park which the road that I live on takes me deep into the heart of. It was a beautiful fall day in the mountians, with a slight breeze wafting the hearty scents of the craggy woods in the fall. I was going to bring my camera, but when I got it I realized I hadnt recharged the batteries. I hiked one trail which led deep into the woods and eventually there was a green copse over looking the vast valley where someone had set up what looks like a hermatige, with a 7 feet bodhissatva Avolokitishvera in a blooming lotus pond blessing the wood dryads and nymph spirits. As was required in any serene spot such as this overlooking such a gallant scene, I sat down to fully absorb the pure mountain air and nourishing crisp atmosphere of such a voluptious deserted natural scene. After a soothing session of contemplation and absorption in the essence of forest spirit, I made my way back down the path to where I parked my moped. I then continued down the same road whcih began on my doorstep into the mountain range which is designated as a national park so it really feels like the country, cruising down roads that werent much different than those I experienced in Yellowstone a few years ago. There was magnificent vistas and landscapes of the craggy southeastern asian mountains, with banana plants, betelnut palms, and other exotic palm trees dotting the decidioous fauna. Although most permanent buildings are absent, on the side of the road clustered around scenic overlooks are mobile tea houses offering delicious chinese and herbal tea, as well as coffee, and, uh, popcorn. I guess people would enjoy eating popcorn and enjoying the view, as one enjoys a movie.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Weekend in Taichung

This weekend I went to the center of Taiwan for a Jazz festival in the city of Taichung. Taichung is a city of 1 million people, the second largest city in Taiwan. It was about a 2 and a half hour bus ride from Taipei city. I went with my friend Jessica. We left Saturday and came back Sunday. We stayed in a really nice hotel on the 25th floor overlooking the sprawling and the omnipresent mountains in teh distance. On Saturday night we saw a great Fusion jazz band which opened with a smokin' rendition of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein, and they did a hot cover of Miles Davis' Walking. Sunday we went to the Museum of Natural Science and Biodome which had a fantastic exhibit on the evolution of life and earth. I was most impressed with the lively and informative exhibit on Dinosaurs, it awes me to think one day these surreal creatures ruled the Earth, being that we have such an anthrocentric viewpoint. I think it reflects the endless possibility of existence and the universe.
School has been interesting and exciting to say the least, however, I have been suffering from the chronic fatigue that comes with Lyme Disease (I am in the recovery stage right now, so dont worry) so it is often a struggle to provide the energy and attention that elementary schoolers who speak very little english require. However when I can summon the energy we have a blast, and the kids (for the most part) thoroughly enjoy my goofy antics. Life in Taipei is very interesting, so many oppurtinities to meet exciting poeple and Chinese culture is so rich I am always learning something new about it. However the city can be a little wearisome, I often yearn for some peace and queit that the countryside provides. Overall I am extremely grateful to be able to have this far out experience on the other side of the planet, and I feel I am growing and learning a great deal.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Master Wong Represent

This weekend was far out. After work Saturday morning, I went out to eat with my Freind Grace who was an exchange student in the US for a year at University of Maryland. Then I went to Xindian, an area south of Taipei which has much riverfront entertainment, chinese snacks, a giant old pedestrian bridge and a beautiful view of the mountains. At one of the Resteraunts was a performer on the acoustic guitar who played a really moving version of John Denver's "Country Roads" which transported me back to my West Virginia country home which was groovy. On Sunday I went on a hike up the mountain located behind my apartment, then I went to a vegetarian buffet in the bottom floor of a giant bookstore, a 13 floor bookstore, but it also has a bunch of super chic designer fashoin stores, infcluding a really post modern store of artsy clothes which is pretty cool. Taipei is super chic in terms of designer brands and shopping is the Taiwanese national sport, there are clothing shops everywhere, even tucked away in the subway stations. Not my thing, but still an interesting cultural phenomenon. Then I went to this Chi Kung class where I did some super-meditative chi kung with a bunch of other interesting foreign expats who are interested in buddhist spirituality and other esoteric practices. After the Chi Kung there is a question and answer session with the buddhist master who owns the center where the Chi Kung takes place. Although intended for foreigners, both Taiwanese and foreigners were present and they all treated this teacher with great reverence. He proved to be very clever and vast in his wisdom and knowledge of buddhism, as well as having a very humble presence and a good sense of humor. The foreigners asked him so many questions and he gave his full attention to everyone. Apparently this Master Wong made a fortune early on in his life Taiwan, and has devoted all of his energy and much of his finances to spreading the Buddhist dharma (teachings) all over the world, and is ordained in Chinese Zen, Pure Land (Chinese Mahayana) and Tibetan Buddhism, as well as being a Taoist master. It was a very cool experience.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Typhoon destruction yoga retreat botanical gardens happy fun time

These past few weeks have been swell. I had a four day weekend a two weeks ago, and when down to the South of Taiwan for a yoga-meditation retreat. I took the train down, and didnt get to do much sight seeing since i spent the whole weekend blissed out meditating, doing yoga, dancing Kiirtan, eating tasty vegetarian chinese food, and having stimulating conversations with other colourful people who are simply happy to be alive. In the south it is much more exotic, a ruggid southeastern Asian rainforest with plenty of heat and rain, and bursting with lush vegetation and varieties of Palm trees. The tempo in the south is also much slower than in Taipei, with it being much more rural and slightly less developed. Then I took the bus four hours back to Taipei, driving through the Taiwanese country side which was quite beautiful, with interesting cemetaries, temples, and giant fat golden buddhas dotting the landscape.
Then back to work, forcing english down kids throats but trying to make everyone have a good time which I am only partially successfull at, but ill get it yet.
This weekend there was a huge typhoon, pouring down buckets of rain, and knocking down trees left and right with 75 km/h winds, but there was minimal disastrous damage to my knowledge. Today I went to the botanical gardens, with my freind Jessica who I met at the yoga retreat and have been spending some quality time with, which was a beautiful pleace with so many different kinds of trees and plants, although it was kind of a mess due to the Typhoon on saturday. She has taught me to drive her moped, which everyone drives here, so I got to cruise around town on that with her which was quite Gnarly.

Pictures to come....

Monday, September 17, 2007

Danshui and Taiwanese Wedding

his weekend was cool. I went to this area
far north of Taipei where the river that runs through Taipei opens up
into the ocean. Its kind of like a boardwalk, but with a chinese
market on it. It was really good. We got some really good thai food
and then hung out for a while on the shore and it was a beautiful day,
which has been rare in Taipei lately. Did I tell you how I slept
through an earthquake last week? There was a 6.8 quake at like 2 in
the morning, and I woke up for a second but not completely so when it
happened I felt like I was dreaming, like i remember being in a dream
and thinking its an earthquake and being really disoriented and
confused; and I totally forgot about it when I woke up in the morning.
Then I looked on a freinds facebook profile from here and it said
"still reeling from the 6.8 quake last night". And I was thinking, I
dreamed about an earthquake! like it triggered me remembering a dream,
I still didnt believe there actually was one until I googled news it,
and there was an article about it on USA today's website! I slept
through my first earthquake!
On Sunday, I went to a wedding of another teacher's friend who is
Australian and his bride was taiwanese. My friend I met the first day
I was here, my recruiter introduced me to her. Shes really cool, she
was in the peace corps for a few years and also worked at the SImon
Wiesenthial center in LA, but shes not jewish but is a total
philo-semite so we always talk about jews. She is also very well
read, so its nice to have someone who I can have stimulating
conversations with. Anyway, we went to this wedding in a city about
an hour and a half away by train, called Hsin-Chu, and the wedding was
in a reception hall and was totally non-religious. There were a few
speeches by the bride and grooms family, but we could not hear a thing
becuase all the chinese families were so rowdy, having really loud
conversations. I hear thats how it is here. My friend is in a social
(read: drinking) club with the groom, called the Hash Run, which is an
expat social club started in Malaysia where the participants go on a
tour/run through the jungle in a prescribed route and then party
afterwards. So all the people from the club were drinking buddies,
and very interesting people from all over the english speaking world,
and they were all getting quite booze-happy. They have this special toast in
the club, and they did it really loud with the groom and then all the
other taiwanese tables did the same toast which is like "Olay Olay"
and were all laughing, all the grandmas and families, and they thought
it was a western wedding tradition! It was hilarious.
Next weekend is the Moon Festival, a traditional Taiwenese festival which is celebrated with barbecuing and moon cakes, a sweet butter cake in the shape of the moon. I have monday and tuesday off, so I am going to a yoga retreat in central taiwan saturday and then hopefully Ill see some more beautiful taiwanese scenery. The country is full of natural wonders, it is also known as "Il Formosa", Porteguese for "Beautiful Island".

Sunday, September 9, 2007

One Month in Taiwan

This weekend is my first month in Taipei, Taiwan. It has been an awesome month, I have learned much about myself and the world already. I have also met many interesting and lovely people. Teaching English to elementary schoolers is fun, rewarding, and inspiring. Although it is a lot of work, and can be quite exhausting. Often I feel like Im pacing aimlessly drilling vocab words into a bunch of reticent elementary schoolers who probably think I'm from Mars, and what the heck am I doing in their country. At other times I feel like I'm a funny and enjoyable educator who is teaching them a valuable school and makiing them laugh their eyes out at the same time. Its interesting and challenging, and positive so far. My coworkers are very nice and freindly, although there are some cultural frustrations and challenges that I am wrestling with, as can be expected.
Yesterday I took a gondola from a subway station in Taipei city into the mountains with some Taiwanese freinds, which was very fun and exciting. Its amazing how rugged the mountains are considering the teeming, crowded metropolis that they enfold. The gondola ride was also really neat becuase it went over the Taipei Zoo so as we are climbing the mountains you could hear the cries of the monkeys, birds and other animals.

Today I went on another monstrous hike through the mountains borering in North Taipei and the Neihu district where I live. I must have climbed three or four mountains, and taken dozens of trails through the jungle like tropical forests, which was bustling with friendly faces and beautiful, vibrant coloured butterflies, and even a 5 inch exoitc spider that looked like something out of a spiderman comic. There was also one trail going down the mountian that had a grappling rope becuase it was just one giant smooth rockface, which you had to grapple down. That was really awesome. After this grappling trail, it took you right back into the city, where I hopped on a subway home!! Its such a juxtaposition, with the rugged mountains and traditional temples, and the fast-paced, high-tech modern metropolis. Its reflects the underlying juxtaposition of this culture, tradional chinese and the modern developed world.

The Picture of an apartment building is where I live, the first apartment building straddling the mountain trails and the city. The old guy on a rock I didnt know, just thought to use him as a scale.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

DIspatches from Taipei...

So I have been in Taipei for two weeks now. Tomorrow begins my career as an elementary school english teacher, which I have anticipated for a few months now. I had an awesome weekend, yesterday I visited the Taipei Fine arts museum with a couple of my friends who are also foreign teachers, which contained awesome contemporary art and photography, which spoke volumes about taiwan and life in general. Today I went on a monstrous hike across a few mountains and to the other side of town (at least the northern part of town). It was amazing, all the mountains are loaded with buddhist temples and taoist shrines, which you can go into and pray, meditate, light incense or just be a grade A tourist like myself. Then I went to a group Ananda Marga meditation, where I met a load of friendly Taiwanese margii's (practitioners of ananda marga yoga), which was excellent and lots of free really good food, for the body and for the soul. Attached are some pictures from my hike today.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My first days in Taipei

SO here I am in Taipei in the eastern hemisphere. Its awesome. Taipei is a on a basin in lodged between lush sub-tropical chinese-esque mountains. Taipei is steeped in traditional culture, and there are taoist-buddhist-confucian shrines everywhere, along with loads of traditional chinese food ranging from snake alley where snakes are the main cuisine to vegetarian resteraunts where they do wonders with tofu. On my first day in Taipei I went to the Grand National Palace Museum with other American and foreign teachers (who were very nice and interesting), where all the treasures of the many Chinese Dynasties are exhibited becuase before the Nationalists fled China during the communist revolution, they brought along all the artistic, literary and jeweled treasures to Taiwan where they built a nation of Chinese expats who have preserved and developed traditional chinese culture in Taiwan. The Grand National Palace was incredible, with treasures ranging from the Crystal cabbage to the most elegent China pottery. Then we ate a "Shabu shabu" resteraunt, which is a restaraunt that on the tables there is a grill and a pot to boil, steam, and grill food selected from an uncooked buffet, and you cook it at your table. They had a variety of tofu and vegetable dishes, so I was quite satiated from this unique style of eating out. On Monday I visited the school where I will be teaching. The manager and staff are very nice and I look foward to working with them. After work I met up with my Friend Grace who was an exchange studnet at university of maryland, and we spent the whole day visiting various tourist attractions in Taipei. We went to a number of temples, which was amazing becuase it was the beginning of a holiday, "ghost month" in which everyone honors their ancestors and deceased. There are many folk-gods and much ancestor worship, and at the temples everyones lighting incense in front of the deities and asking for thier help. The shrines to the different gods of the taoist/folk religion canon are so colorful, full of gold and all types of jeweled and textured symbols. Today I went to look for apartments and found a nice, cheap one room apartment in the district of my work. There is also a beautiful park near my hotel in wchih i walked around

Friday, July 27, 2007

What is Om?

"I am the syllable Om." (Bhagavad Gita 7:8)
Om is the sound of existence. When one focuses his attention on the sensation of existing or "being" without an accompying cognitive aknowledgement (or thought about it or anytthing else) through meditation, yoga, pure love, prayer; one still recieves input, experiences sensation and the only way to describe the input of plain existence is by the sound "om" becuase the reception has a subtle vibration (remember sound is a vibration) which can be interpreted as the sound "AHHHHHH-MMMMMMMMMM". This input of "pure existence" is likewise called God, Allah, Brahman, Christ Consciousness in other spiritual traditions which may emphasize awareness of plain existence. Like water and the sun same thing, many different names dependent on culture.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

back in the states

im back in Howard county at my parents house badly bent but not broken. Israel, its natural and historical wonders was amazing but between the sun and the desert hikes my body is savoring the much deserved rest before I go further overseas to move to Taiwan. That leaves three weeks to lick my wounds and pack for a year or more in Asia which I am super-stoked for. However Im at a loss at how to pack for a year, i guess ill just bring a whole lot of Tie Dyes and a suit (haha).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mr Dave goes to the Holy Land

I hope this message finds everyone happy and healthy. I know its been
a while since you heard from me and you probably think I'm stepping in
front of tanks in Gaza Strip or something, but the schedule here has
been so jam-packed that we have had no free time at all to wander
about. but here I am in Tel Aviv having the absolute time of my life
on a free trip to Israel. This has been one of the most physically
demanding trips of my life which has really put my yogi physique to
the test (not to mention the leprosy-esque poison ivy that once
covered my arms but has since cleared up). Upon our arrival and not
sleeping for a few days, we went straight to the Sea of Galilee/Jordan
River area to go on a water hike in the jordan river swamp jungle,
which was amazing. Then we stayed in Tiberias, a beautiful ancient
roman bath-spa town on the giant freshwater galilee with the Mt of
Beatitudes (where Jesus gave his Sermon of the Mount) overlooking.
The water was electric and I felt revived by the history and intensity
of the place. On Friday we went to Tzfat, the hometown of Kaballah
and Jewish mysticism, which was like being in another time and place
with more payos (jewish curly locks) and beards about than Warsaw.
Also Tzfat has a huge artist colony and is located in the galilee
mountains which adds to the ancient and holy mystique of the place.
Then we went rafting in the river jordan, which was great. Saturday we
hung out in Tiberias ( it being the much deserved day of rest). On
Sunday we went to a Vineyard in the Golan Heights in the morning
(being a teetotaller in a vineyard is a true test of self control).
Then we went hiking in a canyon in the Golan Heights, which was one of
hte most exotic things I have ever done, becuase at the top of hte
mountain it is like a desert with an ancient Syrian Village and at the
bottom in the canyon is a tropical exotic Jungle climate which we
hiked through for a few miles (and rappeled down a water fall in the
After hiking in the Golan Heights we took a bus to Tel Aviv last night
and went to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial this morning. I felt like
they put a lot more thought, creativity into the Museum which made it
a lot more Interesting than the the Holocaust Museum in DC. This
evening we are going to the nightlife district of Tel Aviv, where I am
meeting up with my old best-friend-turned-Hasid JJ whom I am very
excited to see.

Overall my impressions and thoughts of Israel have been many and deep,
as I have been very reflective concerning my own experience as a Jew
and how my own culture has manifested (and not) in this country.
First, it being a relatively new country, I feel like there is a very
grassroots-communal-summer-camp feel to it, as if all these jews are
here trying to pull this thing off together, or so my first
impressions go. For example, seeing Jewish kids who look like they
are going through their hippy-phase and might as well go to Hebrew
school with me - carrying machine guns in a soldiers uniform- but
no-less lackluster. I also see a whole lot of Utopian intentions, with
the kibbutzes and the incredible agricultural and technological
advances adapted to the desert climate. I feel like everything is
thought out a whole lot more than other nations but at the same time
there is a also more of a casual flow to everything. Also there are
artistic murals on everything from telephone and cable boxes to Power
cable towers. Last, everyone looks like they could be one of my
uncles and half the time I feel like I'm at a Bar Mitzvah (especially
at the hotel buffets where I have no problem being a vegetrian with
all the fresh foods and mediterranean salads). All of the people in
my group have been super nice and mature and a pleasure to get to
know. The Israeli girls are incredibly beautiful, so tan and many have
a more natural aesthetic - my incentive for marrying a Jewish girl
has increased a thousandfold since ive been here.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Laughing yoga man


Poison Ivy, Packing Israel

So my trip down south was traumatically cut short by a severe outbreak of a rash to poison ivy. On July 4th, after camping out at the rainbow gathering in Arkansas I broke out with horrible poison ivy blisters and rashes, super itchy and uncomftorable; and ended up only spending a night at the Yoga retreat where I was planning on spending the whole week. The heat in Missouri was unbearable on my poison ivy rash, so I drove all the way home (15 hours) to my parents house in Clarksville July 4th and 5th, stopping at a days inn in Western Kentucky overnight. The next few days were spent in air-conditioned isolation with the fnas blasting and just literally chilling out and recovering at home over the weekend. Today I spend the morning trying to get a Visa for Taiwan in NW DC, then I had my last lunch at the Maryland Food Co-op...Spent the evening packing up for Israel tomorrow. Tomorrow Im visiting my Aunt in NYC then flying out from JFK to Israel on Thursday....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thanks to all the parents and friends at NARA CDC

Today's party at NARA CDC was wonderful. Thank you everyone for throwing an awesome party for me. I feel so exceptionally loved, and am grateful for all your kindness over the years. College is a tough time for everyone, and I am no exception to the rule. I couldn't have done it without everyone's consistent positive, warm, and caring attitude over the years. Caring for such a wonderful group of kids has been a true gift and I feel blessed to work for such lovely co-workers and parents. THANK YOU.