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.