Monday, January 24, 2005

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

I don't normally anxiously await vacations. But it seems like the Chinese New Year holiday has been approaching for several long and slow years.

Tim and I have friends coming during that holiday. It will be the worst time of the year for visiting Taiwan, because half of the families in the country will be driving to the homes of the other half during that week. It's the most thoughtless public holiday ever conceived. Banks, government offices, and public services will be halted most of a week while everyone takes a drive. Then when they get where they're going, all the shops are closed and trash is piling up in the streets.

But this is the one real holiday this year. There are no 3 day weekends, some of the holidays fall on Saturday or Sunday and so are lost, and no one complains. Except me. Dammit. Even Mainland China gets more holidays than we do. Even the U.S.. Even Japan.

And then my school has the nerve to suggest that I can't take 3 extra days off even though I have friends coming, and told my boss as much 5 months ago. Like of course I should come to work even though my friends traveled around the world for a visit. My missing three days of kindergarten would be a tragic loss for these young students.

The Taiwanese are an economic miracle, to be sure. But they have yet to learn the skill of valuing their employees. They don't recognize the difference between working and being at work. They didn't get more efficient, they just worked the same inefficient way for more and more hours.

My real problem is that I've been ready for a holiday since Christmas, so excuse my morning tirade. Now off to work.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Photo of the Month

So, I'm feeling cold these days. It's not brutal, Midwestern cold, but tropical cold. It's still never colder than it gets in, say, Havana.

But still cold in the winter. So we bought a heater. It's great. How do we know? Take a look.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

And another thing...

Not long ago, I was complaining about the Taiwanese being not-very-civic minded. Since I've been in a foul mood today ("This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays."*). So I thought I would add a few more.

1. While some Taiwan-based or Taiwan chapter-InternationalNGOs have donated to the tsunami vicitims efforts, there has been very little private donating. Several foreign teachers who tried to begin fund-raising efforts at their respective schools were met with what could almost be described as incredulity:
Foreign teacher: Let's raise some money for the tsunami vicitms.
Local teacher/administrator: Really? But won't the charities just keep it for themselves? What's UNICEF? Why are you asking the students to work for this money? [someone suggested a pledge-walk].
And then when the teachers organize it, the parents donate 25 cents.

2. People claim public property for themselves. I realize that space is a valuable commodity in this country, but I would estimate that about 50% of the sidewalks in this country are completely impassable. people claim them as private driveways, or storage for their food stalls, or work space, or parking lots, and even occasionally build permanent structures on them. People usually have to walk in the streets. I only bring this up today because I'm particularly irritated at the grand new sidewalks that were recently built along a major boulevard in the city. Within hours of their being completed, they were impassable. They were as wide as a lane of traffic, on either side of the road, and now they're just the urban equivalent of a trailer park. I don't walk to work, but it still burns me up. The businesses that front the sidewalks don't even have the courtesy to leave a path just in case some pedestrians happen to show up. The fucking police department parks their fleet of scooters completely across it. When I drive by, I imagine a massive fleet of tow trucks carrying all of the sidewalk obstacles away and pushing them down a ravine. Or driving a bulldozer down the sidewalk after giving a 2 minute warning. Or spray-painting "NO PARKING" in Chinese (I'd have to use a stencil) on everything in the way. Or a little explosive charge that would flip a car ass over teakettle out into the street (Actually, I was imagining something more like a superpowered hydraulic jack, but let's not get too technical here.)

Oooh, I think I need to stop now. There are compensations for living here. But for some reason, I get really worked up about sidewalks. I actually wrote a long rant about it ages ago that got published in my hometown newspaper. Of course, compared to Taichung, Muncie's sidewalks were like Paris. Little did I know...

* Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year

Isn't it great that these two holidays come so close together? The best part is, now that it's over, I'm not bitter about the lack of paid vacation. I took my personal vacation instead, not even realizing that I had any. The school gave me eight paid days off per year. I thought it was only 4, so I was keen to use my new found bonus. Chinese New Year is coming up, too. That's the real vacation. It will be interesting to see what happens when Tim's old friends come for a visit from Canada at that time.

I have been spending more time away from the computer lately. Watching the horrible but strangely compelling coverage of the incredible tsunami has kept me busy. I also took an afternoon road trip in to the mountains, and ended up seeing similar signs of destruction being repaired; the ongoing work due to massive infrastructure damage caused by this summer's typhoon flooding. There doesn't seem to be any shortage of disaster, but I do feel lucky to be clear of these kinds of life's dangers for another year. Welcome to 2005.

An odd and happy piece of news, I hope:

I believe, after reading the most recent correspondence with the appropriate government officials, that I will be granted permanent residency in Canada this year as Tim's common-law partner. This means that Tim and I will certainly have to move away from Taiwan, which does not break our hearts (though we love it here). Another whole adventure will soon begin, and now that it's moved from the realm of abstract paperwork to distinct possibility, I think I'm actually a little bit...excited...surprised...grateful...scared shitless...?

So. Today's discussion quesiton (More like this week's discussion question): What is a good line of work to get in to after 6 years of English teaching in Asia? Foodservice? Housekeeping? Telemarketing? Where to begin?