Our Social Weekend

Such a busy life.

Friday we had dinner with the director of the school (His Wonderfulness) and the founder of the school, Anna. We had a great time in an elegant restaurant with lovely food.  I particularly enjoyed the fruit tea that we had in the lounge after dinner while the guitarist played Carpenters tunes.  (“Close to You…”)  The fruit tea was mostly pineapple juice with bits of apple and kiwi. Very tasty.  Dan and Anna got talking about the American approach to education (much more adaptive to the individual child) and how the local Rotary Club’s youth program can be included in Dan’s Entrepreneurship course.  They had fun.

Saturday was an extensive tour of the really cool bits of Taichung.  There are some greenbelts, parks, and museums that look particularly interesting. Plus we loved the Thai restaurant in the university district.  Lots more to explore later when we figure out where we were.  Thanks to Rod and Michiko for showing us their favorite places, including the bookstores and their favorite grocery.

Sunday was at Frank and Krista’s home in the mountains.  Dan got plenty of baby and dog time there.  We had a lovely meal (Thai again) and got to know another teacher, Tim, who has been in the country for years.  Lots of great information about how the school works and how to take advantage of the city and the surrounding country.  Krista has someone we should talk to when we are ready to buy bikes (which will be when it is cooler in a few months).

All in all a great introduction.

Taichung Park

On Being Illiterate

It’s a good thing there are so many American corporate logos here.  The rest of our environment is just an indecipherable blur.  We can’t read the names on streets, or buildings, or bottles of milk.  (at least I think it’s milk. It might be yogurt.  Or cream.)  We can’t tell the difference between a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of floor wax.  There is English on most products, but in many cases it’s something like “Fresh and Fruity” which doesn’t tell you what that fresh and fruity thing is.  Although I want to try new things, sometimes I fall back on what is familiar just because I can’t read enough to figure out what that new thing is.  I understand why the pre-literate Laine thought she would just order hamburgers.  If you can’t read the rest of the menu, you get something you know.

It’s scary not reading.  The roads are surprisingly difficult to tell apart when we can’t read the signs.  It’s hard to remember new landmarks when we don’t have words to use as a memory prompt.  If we get lost without the cards in our pockets that tell a taxi driver where we live, we may not get home.  I can’t tell you the name of our apartment building.  Or even the street we live on.  Our new friends at the school have shown us some great parts of the city that we would like to explore.  But I’m having a harder than usual time figuring out how the pieces of the city fit together. I think much of that is because I don’t yet know how to make patterns of the business signs.

Even in those few cases where we know a few characters it’s hard to distinguish them.  Is that marketing flash (italics! fancy handwriting script!) or is it a different character?  The dictionaries that we do have print the characters in the same size as letters – I can distinguish different letters but at that size I can’t distinguish different characters.  Doesn’t make the dictionary very useful.

Over time we will figure this out. We’re strongly motivated here. I want to know what the signs in the grocery store say.

In the meantime, we are very, very grateful that the second written language in this country is English.  And we are very thankful that we can read English.

On Getting a Head Start

Dan and I were talking last night about how fortunate we have been to get a head start here before the rest of the new teachers.  He just received the schedule for the new teacher orientation which starts on August 3.  The new teachers will need to jump right from the plane into orientation to the school, the people, the town, and the shopping. And school starts just a few days later.

We were privileged to walk into a beautiful and spacious apartment, with all the furniture that we bought in advance from the previous tenants.  And we will have access to our car by next Monday.  Dan was also able to rest for a full weekend before starting work.  Most important, we have both had a chance to get to know the staff before the busy work of the school year begins.  (Great people.)

Of course Dan has also been hard at work learning the tech systems here and troubleshooting some of the challenges.  This was also much easier to do without the teachers trying to kick off their courses at the same time.  Plus he’s been paid for the extra days! Almost too good to be true.

All in all, a good decision to make.

Why don’t we have this?

magnetic door catch

Someone told me that it’s important to record the cool stuff you see when you first arrive in a new country because later it becomes commonplace and you don’t remember that it is new and different.  So in that vein, here’s something I noticed that I wish we had in Seattle.  Instead of just a doorstop, every door here seems to have a magnetic thing that catches and holds the doors.  Such a simple solution!

Furniture Shopping

While we got almost everything we needed (and more) from the previous teachers in our apartment, we did not have a desk.  The conversion of the baby’s room to my office definitely required a desk.  So Charlene took me desk shopping.  I wanted to get something local – better for the local economy and better for our economy as well.  We looked at some new desks but they were not quite what I wanted and, while much less expensive than imports, still more than I wanted to pay for something I would only use two years.

Then we went to the used furniture place.  I found some great old industrial desks back in the “still to be worked on” area.  Here’s what I got…

office desk and chair

On the way to finding this desk I stumbled across these glorious turquoise leather chairs.  They match my toenail polish.  And the price was too good to pass up.  We may need to find a way to get these back to Seattle in two years.

the chairs

Collages

I wanted to do some art while I learn to be a trailing spouse. There’s a great art teacher here who displays the student art all over the buildings.  Wonderful inspirational stuff.  I started small with old magazines left in the computer lab by the teenagers.  Here’s what I was playing with yesterday.

A Slurpee on Every Block

(bit of an exaggeration…it’s probably every two blocks)

7-11 is very important in Taiwan.  In addition to a convenient source of snack food (Slurpees and more), it is also where you pay all your bills.  Parking lots issue “tickets” which are paid at 7-11.  All utility bills are paid at 7-11.

Taiwanese Slurpee