Thursday, 13 September 2007

Earthquakes, exams and no football in Taiwan.

I've been in Taiwan two weeks. The teaching position is interesting. However, it's harder work than I was expecting. It is also making me think hard about my own language in ways I've never considered before. Do you all remember what an adjective is? The past, present and future tenses of the ‘be’ verb? I have to think of the language from a foreigner's perspective. It's not like my own grammar is without question.

One oddity: I was under the impression you're not supposed to start a sentence with Because. However, after reading a very thick grammar book (so it must be true) I was surprised to see this is now acceptable! I'd just spent two hours marking teenagers incorrect for this – ooops! It goes to show that things do change since school. 

Anyhow, it's all going OK. I'm working 8 – 9 hours per day which is preventing me spending money. Last night at about 0200 while I was sleeping an earthquake struck. I'd never experienced one before! I was rocked and shaken in bed. I thought Armageddon was starting. Natural disasters like this, and the typhoon in the Philippines, might force me back to the safety of England! Look at the following local news report:

A strong earthquake jolted the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, early Friday 7th Sept 2007, shaking buildings and waking residents. The Central Weather Bureau said the 6.6 magnitude quake struck at sea, 74km southeast of the eastern city of Ilan at 1:51 a.m. (1751 GMT Thursday). Ilan is about 80 kilometers east of Taipei. There were no immediate reports of injuries or casualties, but the quake was felt for at least 30 seconds. Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan, but most are minor and cause little or no damage. However, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake in central Taiwan in September 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.


You know you're living when earthquakes interrupt your sleep. I was excited about this but the locals just shrugged it off! They're used to this phenomenon whereas I'm a newbie. I am still finding Asians peculiar in many ways. For example, they think I am crazy for walking 10 minutes to work. These people never walk anywhere. It's taxi or motorbike even to cross the street. I can't get used to this. It's easy to label them as lazy but this isn't really the case. I just don’t understand it.

Tomorrow, I meet a work mate to show me more of the town. She was horrified when I suggested we walk! Anyway, she has agreed to it and seems quite enthusiastic, as if walking somewhere is an adventure!


I went for a medical yesterday at a Taipei hospital. This is a prerequisite for obtaining a Taiwanese residency visa. The medical people barely looked at me and charged the school handsomely for this pathetic amount of work. I reckon it's all a government ploy to extort cash from foreigners. They say that you have to have (and pay for) a medical in order to get a visa.

It's been an entertaining first few weeks in Taiwan. I met Mike Han and loads of his mates and went to a place called Lava Club in Taipei. So trendy. I hadn't been to a place like this in ages so I felt a little out of place until the whiskey started working. Either everyone else is getting younger or I'm ageing as I really felt my age in here. Not too many over 25's. Bloody hell - you should have seen what the lasses here were (or weren't) wearing. So sexy!


I had a spot of bother getting in this place as I'd left my passport behind but seeing as Mike knows the manager (and most of the other people in Taipei by the look of things) I was allowed in! Around 0400 I thought the night was over, however, we all headed to a Hotel and hired a karaoke room for 3hrs. This room had a circular sofa and about 20 of us sat singing songs and drinking more booze. Most songs were Chinese but I sang Hotel California since I was the only non-Chinese person there. I 
fell asleep on the MRT. I woke up further from my apartment than when I started. Luckily it just runs back and forward along the same line.

At work I was handed an exam to test my proficiency as an English teacher. Here are some of the questions. See how you do:


1. Should we teach the "third person" or "present continuous" first? Why? (5%)


2. When teaching perfect tense, what grammar should we review first? Why? How to compare them? List and explain. (10%)


3. If you want to teach past continuous tense, what is your lesson plan? Write a complete one. (15%)


4. Before you teach relative pronoun, what can you review first? Why? (10%)


5. Before you teach the superlative degree, what should you review? (5%)


It came as a quite a shock. I didn't have a clue what most of it was about. Anyway, I've done it now. I regret not doing any training for this job. Most teachers do a four week "Teach English as a Foreign Language course" which covers grammar and teaching techniques.


I can't control the kids. The youngest ones don't even know what I'm saying. It's like going to a zoo. I'm really surprised at how exhausting it is. It's long hours for someone who hasn't done any paid work for two years.


Shulin reminds me a little of Ashington. To me, Ashington feels like a shitty little satellite town of Newcastle. Just like Shulin feels like a shitty little satellite town of Taipei. There's nowt going on here. I went looking for bar last Friday and had no luck. Apparently folk go to Taipei or nearby Banciao (in between Shulin and Taipei) for a night out. I'm the only foreigner in this town and I sometimes feel lonely at night. I miss speaking English.


I also miss football. I've made a misjudgment regarding this. Most other countries in Asia love it. These kids don't even know Beckham! There are a few sports channels on cable TV but they show continuous Baseball. Fifty more weeks without football may well drive this Englishmen nuts. Thank goodness for the net!


Zoutian wanshan wo suijiao liang dien ban - Last night I went to sleep at 0230.


La mei - spicy girl (stunner).

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