Tuesday, August 24, 2004

8 years old...

A typhoon is coming to Taiwan. It was making good time, but now it's stalled up by the northern tip. The counties up north have already cancelled work and classes for tomorrow. I'm sitting and watching TV, waiting to read those magic words: No school tomorrow for Taichung County. Of course, it's all in Chinese, which makes it a bit difficult, but for this, I'll persevere.

Outside it's windy and rainy. It reminds me of those days long ago watching the snow fall in the evening, and then sitting by the radio in the morning before school praying for the day off. Rain isn't as pretty as snow (and not much fun to play in), and when you get a foot of rain in 24 hours, it tends to cause a lot of hell, but I don't care. Wish me luck.

Newsflash: School cancelled! Hurray! Time to open another beer. I never imagined I would live in a place that doesn't have "snow days," but "typhoon days."

Oh, and as an added bonus, Tim and I will get to keep an eye on our dog, who just got fixed. The worst part of it all was that the Chinese-speaking vet only knew the word "castration." Ouch. He is wearing the cone on his head at the moment, poor guy. He's bumping in to all the furniture and his cone scrapes the ground when he tries to sniff things. But he may yet get the last laugh. The vet told us he only had one testicle. I think maybe he kept the other one inside in case of just such an emergency.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


My dog had a wet dream last night. He needs a trip to the vet to sort that shit out. Sometimes I like cleaning the house, but no thank you.

Monday, August 16, 2004

These Things'll Be the Death of Me

My school is in an old part of town. That doesn't really mean that the buildings are old, but that the streets were twisted and chaotic before they got finalized in ashphalt. So there are lots of blind corners, narrow alleys, and assorted household junk piled in or near the road.

My school is across the street from the facility where all the local cable-guys work. Not the office, but the lot where all the trucks park. The vehicles they drive look like minivans that have been squished from front to back, they're stuffed full of cables and tools, and they have a ladder on the roof.

These guys drive the vans like bats out of hell, and they keep the same hours as me. When I wind my way to work through the cities' alleys, there are a stream of them pouring out of the lot infesting the streets with big dangerous bumblebees. And they come back at lunchtime, about when I'm leaving work for home. Then, they're leaving again for the afternoon when I come back to work. I never imagined cable guys as the hurry-up sort.

So far, we've managed to miss each other on the blind corners. But if I had a dollar for every near miss, I could take a few days off with a clear conscience.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Sshhh.. Don't tell.

Do you ever say something quietly to yourself when you're alone? Something you'd never admit to anyone else, or maybe just something you're not sure if you believe, so you just try saying it--today I did.

I tried out the sentence "I hate my job." It sounded pretty true. It doesn't look bad on paper, but I've just had a hard time lately being motivated enough to go. I do, but about 500m before I get there, I just have this feeling of dread.

Fuck it. I'm taking the afternoon off. No one will miss me.

Monday, August 09, 2004

I am not your Brother

In Taiwan, children nearly always call all adults by some family name or other. Even complete strangers are "Auntie" or "Big Sister." Where I work, the kids call the cook "Mother Wang," and the manager (the only other male usually in the building) "Uncle."

Adults usually call each other the equivalent of "Mr." or "Miss," unless they are clearly of superior status (i.e. teachers, bosses, supervisors, etc..) and then they get referred to by their title. That's fine, I'm not complaining. I've worked hard to explain that instead of "Teacher Jason," my students can also call me "Mr. Tucker" if they're brave.

But at a little restaurant up the street from my house, it's a different story. It's a "lunchbox" shop, which means that they serve pre-packed boxes with rice and vegetables plus the one main item you order (chicken leg, pork steak, etc...). The woman there always calls me "shuai ge," which means, more or less, "handsome guy." She doesn't smile when she says it, it's just another word to her. I thought that was nice, but lately she's substituted it for "wai guo peng yo" which means "foreign friend." That's also fine, but I have to confess that I kind of liked the other one better.

Of course, there must be a downside for children to address strangers as kin, but don't get me started on the Asian lack of privacy. Like the McDonald's coloring contest where all the 5-year olds' pictures were on display in the shop front, along with their names, addresses, and phone numbers.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Hound Dogs and Private Lives

We took the dog to the vet. Nothing serious, just a gouge from some street dog. Our beagle is just too trusting.

While we were waiting for the vet (Here, vet wait times are like the dentist at home. But when you walk into a dentist here, they can see you right away. Go figure) a parent of one of Tim's students walked in with her young son. They made some polite conversation for a while. She wasn't there to see the vet, she just saw Tim and walked in. It's a store-front vet, like all of them here--no cozy cottage in the country for vets here. After 30 minutes, we still hadn't seen the vet, and she was still standing around, having exhausted her English and her son. In addition to being an awkward moment for everyone, she insisted on exchanging numbers and trying to invite Tim over to their house some time.

I understand that people like her are completely sincere, but surely they must know at some level that teachers never want to meet parents and kids on their own time. Make an appointment, drop by the school, write a note, send a gift, leave a message after the beep, but please don't ask me to come to your house for tea on Saturday afternoon.

And for the animal lovers, the dog's fine. She sold us a cone to put on his head so he won't lick his wound. It's healing fine, the vet even said so, so there's no way we're putting that crazy-assed thing on our dog.