Saturday, September 30, 2006

The MS faculty at TAS

Here is the photo of our Middle school Faculty. I am in the back row on the right side between ba red shirt and a blue shirt just to the right of the door frame. As you can see, the faculty is pretty balanced between older and younger, male and female. The kids had this turned into a mouse pad as a gift on Confusius dau Posted by Picasa

Happy Confucius day and Happy Teachers Day from the PTA of TAS

Lobby arrangement from the parents. Posted by Picasa

Carol on her first Taiwan painting

Oh I have been waiting for her to get a chance to paint to her heart's desire! But no...mandarain lessons, ballet rehearsals, substitute teaching, laundry, dishes, living, lunching and feeding the cats has really cut into her painting time. Posted by Picasa

Temple above Beitou dive site

Ok so you pray before you get in and give thanks when you get ouy. As I used to say as divemaster on the boat," Well congratulations ladies and gentlement. You have cheated death once again." (Not an original saying) Posted by Picasa

More of the squid boat

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Squid Boat in Beitou

This is the back end of a squid boat. They carry huge lights like the ones you see. One boat uses even more light and another comes behind a catches the squid who are attracted to the light. Kind of like Venetian night only bigger. I must say I found a little guy who cooks the 2nd best calamari I have ever eaten. WOW! Posted by Picasa

Beitou Northeast coast of Taiwan Dive Site

I finally got to go diving with my office mate Jennifer and her instructor husband McGill (named after the Canadian college) We giant strided off the ledge in front down about 10' to the water. Saw lion fish, stone fish and emperor angel fish to say nothing of the nasty shrimp that like to break class and stab people. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 28, 2006

September 29, 2006 – Carol
Time is flying and so much seems to be happening (I suppose you call it life!) but I wanted to share a few of the things that have been going on here lately.

One, the weather is glorious, it SEEMS to have broken early and has been in the 70s and low 80s at most, which is apparently quite unusual for this time of year. It is usually October before it begins to cool down. There has been a lot of typhoon activity lately, perhaps you have heard about the big one that hit last weekend in the Phillipines. I still really miss the DC autumn, though, crisp and colors and smells. Haven’t seen a single pumpkin-like veggie so will probably have to substitute some other squash for carving. Oh well, Martha Stewart made a fortune doing stuff like that! It is coming up to the Mid-Autumn Harvest and Moon Festival time here. Apparently it is celebrated by barbecuing outside and admiring the moon, sensibly. The treat for the season is a pastry called a “moon cake”, which comes in endless varieties, put out by every bakery, hotel pastry kitchen, Haagen-Daaz, Starbuck’s, 7-11, but not home! There are even savory varieties, but all must have a center like an egg yolk so that when you cut it open a moon-shape is revealed. They are then coated with all kinds of things like sweet red bean paste, sesame, you-name-it and then covered with a final pastry or coconut or chocolate, or….you get the idea. The gift boxes of them which are sent even to teachers, thank you, are beautiful, silk and knot-wrapped, and just gorgeous. We have received a couple of boxes since the holiday this year coincides, coincidentally, with the Confucius Day celebrations. At this time all teachers are honored by their students. We were feted with a breakfast at school, accompanied by string trio of middleschoolers, flowers and gifts of mousepads with the faculty group printed on them. The PTA provided a 6 foot floral arrangement and easels of homage to the teaching profession in the school lobby yesterday. Now THAT is culture shock! I was subbing for the dance department so I even got to participate! I really do enjoy the subbing and the little bit I am helping on the production of Romeo and Juliet. It’s just nice to be around kids, and there is a possibility that I might teach a regular ballet class for the IB kids. I would enjoy that, too, as they are really enthusiastic and there are a ton (10-12!) guys who really can dance and would benefit from the classes. They are really into break dancing and can do the acrobatics!

Speaking of acrobatics, I am having a good time at the classes at the gym. I’m pretty sure I won’t be frequenting the “Disco” class. The dynamo little instructor named TinTin just about put me in the ER. I can’t remember when I last went anaerobic! However, the Latino jam, spinning, and now a great Tai Chi class, will do very nicely. I have to keep up with Bill and his trainer, Daniel. The other acrobatics are strictly mental as I TRY to wrap my head around Mandarin. It takes a ton of study outside class, but the teacher is a veteran of dealing with overwhelmed aspirants and we actually have managed a few jokes in Chinese in class, not all inadvertently!

Camp Taiwan in Kenting, the very southernmost part of the island, was a real trip – in lots of ways! Two hundred 6th graders, 25 teachers and nurses and a replica of an ancient Chinese compound for a week! I loved it all! The weather cooperated for the most part, which was really good, as most of the activities, including art were outside. They and we, hiked, beached, biked, went to the fabulous National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, flew kites, played water games, did art, played an ecological tag game called “Web of Life” and had marshmallow roasts (we had to teach the kids how to do it!) “Goosebumps” walk and scary stories, cocoa and Oreos, and all those good camp things. We each had a table of 9 kids to preside over, which was really fun. They politely set the table, collected our rice from the communal pots, poured water, distributed chopsticks, etc. and waited until everyone was seated to begin serving and eating. The tables had big lazy susans in the center with all the dishes, and each child just helped themselves to the contents onto their rice. It is the way most Chinese meals are consumed. There is one dish approximately for every diner at a table, chicken, vegetarian, fish, beef or pork, vegetables, fruit, and a large bowl of soup which you eat after you have finished the rest of your meal. The Japanese children think most Western foods are too sweet, prefer fish, and the Chinese and Korean children like pork and chicken. All of them, except Western-raised children, will often pass up beef, as in a Big Mac, when offered, for a chicken or fish sandwich. The faculty kept the dry cereal in our rooms and parceled it out to make it last for the week, but my group didn’t even finish their allotment, so we did some horse-trading for scrambled eggs, etc. The snacks they like are fish-flavored puffs and seaweed-flavored chips (Lay’s actually has a whole line of International Flavored chips here, with some VERY exotic flavors! One really has to hit Costco for sour cream and onion or barbecue!) I was in charge of art activities and after seeing the place and the situation have a few ideas I’d like to implement for next year if I get to go again! Everywhere you look the architecture and surroundings are just loaded with symbolism and the kids were actually unaware of most of them, since they live in highly sophisticated international surroundings most of the time. Besides, they’re just normal 6th graders and video games, TV, and school takes up all their time.

Well, enough for one day. Keep in touch, it’s a long way over here, and we do love to hear about the life we left behind. Apparently the boys have settled in so well at my sister Patti’s that they race for her the minute she comes home and Miche prevented her from answering the phone the other day by using his entire substantial person on her hands! Our porch kitties here are fine, complaining when the food isn’t out quickly enough and sneaking into the house, while hissing at us the whole time! They are cats without a doubt!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Kids at camp

Some of carol's kids on the beach. Iris is the next to left. I always call her Petunia, or Sweetpea, or Mugwort......basically any flower and she sometimes answers back hello dr horse! Posted by Picasa

Bear Rides Shotgun

So Carol's bear got to sit next to the drive on the way to Camp Taiwan with the 6th graders. Lots of cool stuff to play with "if I only had a brain." Posted by Picasa

Other bears off on a Spree

Carol bear and bear on the bus for Kenting in the very south of TW with 200 6th graders for camp. Posted by Picasa

TAS Friday Afternoon garage band

This is the indoor entry courtyard of TAS on a Friday pm as a garage band is setting up to play.
Sure this is Kansas. Posted by Picasa
I swear I have not been inside although I would like to get a clear definition of what they mean. I encourage you to let your mind go free.....I assure you I have! Posted by Picasa
Yes this is yet another dumpling guy we like. Have you gotten the idea that dumplings are really good? Posted by Picasa
Home of Daniel my friendly physical trainer/torture master. We are 8 minutes from here so we can get pain and a sauna every day. A true "balance of life" component. Posted by Picasa
Carol at our local butcher for cheap t shirts before camp Posted by Picasa
The inside of Southern City paula dean is not involved as Southern here means Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam, and Thailand. This is in our neighborhood. Posted by Picasa
This is the first Taiwan orange off the orange tree on our porch. There are about a dozen more on the tree. They never get orange but it is such a great "trip" for a Northern boy to grow citrus. We also have lemongrass, mint, rosemary, basil and thyme growing. Posted by Picasa
These are our friends Leslie and Stephan Abernathy and Sophie. We are at a local ice cream parlor, yes in a teacup. Okay so all the world does not need to be serious all the time.  Posted by Picasa

Our esteemed household amah (read ruler)

This is Angela who comes to us once a week and keeps our physical world in order. She is an excellent and necessary asset as an interpreter, household manager, friend, and guide to all things Chinese. Also she hates my desk because I like my desk like I like my desk and that is not up to her standards. SO THERE! Posted by Picasa
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Tai Tai Mao, the momma cat, one of our porch cats in MY CHAIR aka their bed. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sept 4-14, 2006 Carol

September 4-14, 2006 – Carol

What an unusual sensation, I am sitting at my computer thinking about the absolutely experience-filled week we have just had, listening to the Leonardo DiCaprio/Clare Danes version of Romeo and Juliet, trying to get a few concepts to throw out in a meeting, and trying to reconcile the worlds, not easy!

On the sublime side of the equation, I insisted that I had been patient in the extreme, waiting 5 weeks to go to the National Palace Museum, so we took off early on Sunday, thinking to spend the morning there. I firmly believe that when one’s feet are in direct conflict with the brain, the feet always win, so 4-5 hours is the maximum for meaningful museum absorption! We had a wonderful English-language tour by a very skilled Chinese docent and the exhibits are very well detailed in both Chinese and English, so it’s quite user-friendly. We were absolutely dazed by the wealth and beauty of the collection. They have 650,000 artifacts which are rotated on a 3-4 month basis, which would still take a visitor years to view! The museum itself is vast, open and beautifully designed so that even though there may thousands of people there at one time, you rarely feel crowded except around the most famous artifacts. Speaking of which, the “jade cabbage” is their self-styled “Mona Lisa” and is a worthy nomenclature. The piece is about 8-9” long and has 2 insects carved on it as well, and looks for all the world like a jewel carved into vegetable, which is of course what it is! Jade is apparently hard enough to make axes and swords out of, but becomes more beautiful with wearing and touching and exposure to elements both in and out of the ground. There were carvings of ivory which took decades, but looked like the finest lace imaginable, concentrically carved balls, 17 within one ball, with no connection whatsoever. The miniature boats carved from a piece of stone the size of an olive pit with EIGHT figures inside, doors with screens, rudders, and other fittings were so tiny you had to use the thoughtfully provided magnifying glasses to see the detail! Our older eyes missed a few, I’m sure! Because they are renovating the West Hall, we have a free ticket to go back before Dec. 31—we’ll need several more than that, I’m sure! The gardens outside are really beautiful and also interesting as there are places for families to picnic, sit, and feed the koi the size of small dogs!!!! For once I am not even exaggerating a little. They are fed special food from vending machines and the children (and adults!) delight in the process. They are like a pile of squirming puppies piling on top of one another, with the larger ones generally winning out, their mouths gaping open to grab the goodies, and generally making an enormous fuss. Their colors are unbelievable, from true “gold” through red, orange, black, white like ghost fish and every permutation in between! All I could think of was John Belushi in “Animal House”!

Bill then kindly decided to try to assist the LARGEST snake I have ever seem not in a zoo, as it was trapped in a plastic protective fence near some of the renovation work along the path. It slithered across in front of us and was caught half-way. My earnest pleas to “just leave it alone and call the authorities” fell, of course, on deaf ears. The suggestions of the passersby ( by now, quite a crowd had gathered!) were also to get away,……I finally had to leave, as Taiwan has 6 deadly and 5 non-deadly snakes, and I was positive we were going to get some kind of information the hard way…… Finally, he took a picture of the problem and we showed it to the authorities. They were more concerned that he had a camera “No pictures in museum!!!” than the snake itself. I hope it was finally freed. As Bill said, even if it is a snake, one doesn’t want to see it suffer when it was only being a snake.

The experiences just keep coming, faster than I can write and live. My Chinese lessons have started and we have formed study groups for between classes to try to practice and review. Small children look very puzzled at me when I try to speak, but most folks are very patient and kind and don’t laugh right out loud when I make a gigantic gaffe which is about every other word. Four tones, one word, FOUR different meanings! So far my favorite is “ma, ma, hu, hu,” which with all first tones means “horse, horse, tiger, tiger,” or “so so”!

Next time, my amah, or how I lost control of my household, but gained a valuable and wonderful Chinese ally. One clue, Bill takes off his shoes before he enters the house EVERY TIME!.......

Love, Carol

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bill's Musings 9/9/2006

Hello, it has been a long time since I wrote about the life and times of two older bears in Taiwan.
Carol is doing a good job Not Not feeding the cats outside the door, if you get my meaning. Their names are Hu (the male tiger kitten) Haokan,(the female kitten), and Tia Tia Mao, the mommy cat. But of course she never calls them that. RIGHT!
• School. What can I say? It is as they say a pressure place BUT what they do not seem to realize is that the school community seems to thrive and need and generate the pressure. Emails, paper trails, procedures, departmental politics, interdepartmental politics, Asian vs. American culture all combine to make it more pressure than is needed. What is true about pressure is that the kids are greatly under the gun. While I have had several VERY minor discipline moments, there is no even one bit of the problems and attitudes like in the US. The problem is that they are very shy and so quiet it is hard to get a response from them and one has to be so very careful if you try to get them to laugh that the joke is not on them. And sleep is a big issue for them. One little 6th grade boy and I have a “deal” that he will not use his folder for a head rest so he can sleep during choir. I came home from the gym last night around 9:30 pm and the little elementary kids were getting picked up from their private English language tutoring schools. And this would be after they have had violin or piano lessons, a sports practice, and before dinner and before homework. They get to bed around midnight and sometimes 2 or 3 in the morning. And this is a regular practice.
• I have had fun teasing a cute little, very little 6th grader named Iris. She is about as cute a little person with a lively personality and an intense stare that is melting. I asked her how Rose was thinking that I was making a funny on her name. She answered that Rose was just fine. But you I thought your name was Iris and she said, yes but my sister is Rose and she is still fine. Dang it did not work. So I know call her Petunia or Pennywort.
• My new best fruit…cherimoya aka custard apple, Buddha’s crown etc. Since I do not have any food type allergies, I am free to look and decide if I want to try anything on the fruit stand. There are lots of really weird fruits to say nothing of the rest of the food chain, but the cherimoya looks like a pyramid shaped bumpily fat pine cone about 5 inches tall with green knobs all over it. When ripe and soft to the touch, one pulls the knobs off and underneath is a pudding like soft white flesh surrounding big black seeds. It has a flavor that is so sweet and like combing passion fruit guava, banana, sour sop, pear and kiwi all at once. Oh my are they good and they take a long time to eat because you have to roll the seeds around in the mouth to get lots of flesh off. We glory in being able to have fresh passion fruit, guava, pineapple, and melons of all shape and size every day. How healthy is that.
• CALIFORNIA FITNESS is an Asian fitness group including Jackie Chan who have a club about 5 minutes walk from us. One bargains for the best membership rates and waits until balloon days (obviously when they put out balloons in front) so one can get the best deal. We are signed up for 24 months plus 6 free months for about $1800 so it is about like the Y. BUT, I also signed up to be beaten up by my personal trainer Daniel, a 23 year old nice guy with a warm smile, good English and a killer physique. Daniel gets about $50+ an hour to cause me pain. Three of us in the music office have the services of Daniel who tells each of us how the other is doing and what we like to do or do not like to do. When it comes time to sign up for more sessions, it is my understanding that gifts come the way of the enrollee in the form of bikes or shoes or? Anyway, Daniel is helping me with my Chinese because I asked him to count in Chinese for reps rather than English. So on the 3rd set the “BA!!!!” comes out a little strong like an expletive since he is usually physically helping me to complete 10 of whatever torture he has found. I have lost about 4 kg. in 2 weeks and Daniel insists I must lose 14 kg before he will be happy. He is going to be sad for a while longer. BUT for all you UP folks, I get to have at least one sauna every day. The temp is 80+C so it is really cooking. Carol has been using the place for spinning classes, Latin dance classes, Ballywood classes and using the outdoor swimming pool. It really is a great experience and will become more of a factor in our daily lives.
• Carol is now a full fledged substitute teacher at TAS. She taught a couple classes earlier but last Friday, she taught classes for 7/8 PE, IB dance and 10th grade health class on the last hour of the day. That takes guts. She survived well but was really pooped. Oh she went on the TAS coach bus trip to Costco to buy racks and drawer units and had to drag them home so she had a reason to be whipped.
• Carol had a wild time with the local primates this week. She and a friend from the building went up the Yangmingshan trail up the mountain. Now this trek is 1500+ steps up to the level where the trail begins but it is a great view over Taipei and the north part of Taiwan. All of a sudden, a Chinese lady came yelling down the trail yelling “Monkeys, Monkeys” Another group of local ladies yelled to Carol and her friend to get going because the friend had on red shorts so the monkeys might attack because they love red. Sure enough Carol looked down the trail and charging down the railing were two monkeys yelling and screaming. Having no stick , bumbershoot or other weapon, Mrs Peabody Carol whips out her camera and fires the flash at the leaping monkey who does a quick about face and disappears into the trees with his other brother Daryl. I guess Monkey love is not a good thing despite the Bobs (a singing group) to the contrary.
• Please be aware that Taiwan is in a huge and important political struggle. As we keep finding out, the democracy is very new. They just had their first democratic elections after generations of martial law. Mainland china would LOVE to bring down the current government so they can say “See, democracy does not work.” There are huge demonstrations and they are threatened to last until the President resigns and the VP takes over. Also, please note how often Taiwan does not get mentioned in Asia even though it has the 24th largest economy in the world. This is an active Mainland plan to isolate Taiwan and rob her of contact with those who might sustain the democracy. That good old democratic champion GW Bush just nixed selling jets to Taiwan and has done more to harm the island than anyone in recent memory. There are patriot missile batteries just down from us south of the national palace museum so this is NOT a stable place. It is an important government that could go down and if RPC gets this place back, WOW! Do not worry. I do not think this will happen soon. However, we are told that less than 10 years ago our location was rice fields.
• We have been so well treated by our colleagues. There have been parties almost every weekend. Last weekend we were with people who had been out of the USA for 10 years, back for 2 and then out for 15. They sold their Iowa house. Our up stairs neighbor my music teaching fellow has taught in Egypt, Iran, Zaire, Germany, England, Brazil, Malaysia and TAS. These are not white bread people but gentle souls who have learned how to get along take wonder from life. Last nite we were at a couples’ house. She also teaches music and her Taiwanese husband is a scuba instructor. She came from Saskatchewan Canada and taught for ½ a year in public schools before going to Curacao for ½ a year then Korea and then TAS. Talk about adaptable. We are learning many life lessons here.
• The telephone poles in our area have speakers on them. When I asked why I was told so the local chairman could berate us if we did not do the recycling well, or warn us of a typhoon or an air raid drill. This last bit got my attention so I asked what to do in an air raid. Get inside and stay inside! Ok if you are outside, then what? Get off the island! Oh goody!
• I can not believe GWB has not been impeached for his actions. How many more revelations must come out about lies and manipulations and anti US constitutional actions before he gets axed? We have our request for absentee ballots in before we left so we can do our part. It is wonderful not to have that jerk’s face in the paper or on TV everyday.

There is so much more to write about but I am afraid that with the pictures and this long letter, you all will turn us off. Keep responding to the blog so we know you are getting the info. Respond to it and include your name so we know who anonymous is. No one else sees the responses. You all know our email so keep them coming. With the talk of fall, 50 degree temps and picnics by the fire, we are a little bit not homesick but just aware that we are not home and in a season we love.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sorry for Spamming you! Posted by Picasa

And it is called the pencil school because.... Posted by Picasa

ShiDong Elementary school near us aka the Pencil School. Look in the windows Posted by Picasa

Carol is never w/o cats..note the kitten Posted by Picasa