Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dear Santa...

(The following are excerpts of Dear Santa letters from my 7th graders)

Dear Santa: It is Christmas and my hope is to get a hand grenade from the Japanese. I think they are cool and I will paint a smiley face on it and throw it at the teachers. –Oscar.

Dear Santa: Please bring my mother a baby daughter. I think she is bored and it is good for women to keep a child when they have nothing else to do. -Thank you, Howard.

Dear Santa: I believe you live in the North Pole. That means you must like snow, but you do not get cold because you have fat. Please bring me a bag of pig babies I can keep in my bathroom. -Melody.

Dear Santa: I know you are busy delivering gifts to all the children in the world, but please bring me a baby snake. I like to watch them eat the mouse. – Becky.

Dear Santa of the North Pole: My sister Winnie says you don’t exist. She is a big, ugly girl with black eyes and black hair. Don’t bring her anything except for a bag of poo. Please bring me a lightsaber and the power of the force. - Your friend, Rich. (God be with you)

Dear Santa, My friend: Tony says you don’t exist. He is a small sickly boy with freckles and don’t bring him anything. Please bring me a cute baby puppy to hug and love. - Kevin, AKA The Chain Saw.

Dear Santa: My friend Gabby Chiang says you will live forever and you can eat ten thousand cookies in five seconds. That is like a vampire. I like the Twilight. I think Robert Pattinson is hot. Please bring me Edward Cullen and Window 7 (with touch screen) and a baby rabbit. -Your friend, Melody.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas To All

Well, Christmas in Taiwan came and went. The girls had visions of sugar plums, thats for sure. There were stockings and Christmas lights, and a little festival across the street with paddle boats, and a gift exchange at the girl's school. We also had a nice teleconference with the Colton House too and everyone is doing fine though we miss our family back home terribly.
Lauren Kinu got a late Birthday gift from her Grandmother in Oregon, and also got a photo album from her Dad. She is talking so much and is just a sweet little ball of goo.
Rebekah got a cool computer game and a little pink bike with a basket in front. We have gone riding every day since and she loves it, but toward the end, I know her legs get tired because she starts sucking her thumb and asking for ice cream with sprinkles.
Xi'an also got a bike, a little too big for her frame, I can ride it don't you know, but she did get skates and loves them dearly. Her favorite so far is to put on all her gear: knee, elbow, and hand pads with her big helmet and attack me WWF style. She will knee me to the head, "Does that hurt, Daddy?" Or elbow me to the throat, "How about now?" So basically, this holiday season, I just whimper in the corner until it's over. Love you all! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Festival

Our school had its annual Christmas Festival and since Xi'an is a student in the kindergarten, she got to perform while I worked a booth across from the stage. Xi'an danced to the Tikki Room and I manned the "Snowman Smackdown" which was awarded first prize for raking in the most charity money.
Afterward my daughters got to sit on Santa's lap and finally get some Christmas spirit. This is Teacher Curtis doing the honors. Hardly anyone in Taiwan really celebrates Christmas and so when Santa asked the children what they wanted most said, "Uhhh, a sandwhich?" Xi'an said, (I got this straight from Santa himself) a Barbie Doll made out of chocolate and a new bicycle. Rebekah and Kinu were too terrified to get near him. Curtis didn't take it too personal though.
As stated, "Snowman Smackdown" was a huge success. Here Brian meets with a couple of his favorite students Anne and Tiffany.
Here is the finale, that's Xi'an dancing in the front row, all the way second from end on the right. See flickr pics for more fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teaching Shakespeare in Taiwan

Six years ago I got serious about teaching Shakespeare by re-writing the Bard’s plays as ridiculous farces poking fun at different aspects of American pop culture. Starting with “Hamlet and Eggs,” my classes then moved to: “Much Ado About Yo Mama!”Midsummer Night’s High School Comedy,” “Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom, the Taming of a Mafia Princess,” “As You Like It- The Real World,” “Shrek Lear,” “Romeo and Juliet, the Musical,” and finally, “The Jedi of Venice, the Revenge of Darth Jew.” This time around, while here in Taiwan, my students will perform “MacBackstreet: A Tragic Tale of Murder, Corporate Greed, and Asian Boy Bands.”

To study the plays of William Shakespeare by turning our class into an acting troupe and acting, directing, and producing a performance for the public.

The Assignment:
Students will read a Shakespeare play, work in teams to translate each scene, then Mr. Hartenstein will take your translations and write a new script. This script will be edited for jokes and content, divided into roles of actors, directors, costume and prop people, music and light supervisors, and advertisers. We will practice during class each day for a month, students will be expected to know their lines and blocking, take direction and cues from peers, and produce this play on their own. Students will then write reports on their experience interacting with Shakespeare in a real live way. All money earned from ticket sales will be donated by students to a cause decided later. (Not a pizza party, sorry)

Today was the first day we started MacBackstreet (Macbeth), and over the course of this next month I will let you know how it goes. Wish us luck!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In Search of Santa Claus

We started out on a Saturday morning in search of Santa Claus by going to the large department store to get our pictures taken with Kris Kringle, but there was no such luck. So instead we walked back to the apartment and I let the girls dig around in the dirt, burrying coins and drawing treasure maps later. Here we are at the end of the adventure cleaning off in a public fountain.
There were a lot of strange faces that passed. Don't let your children dig in the ground, that's unsafe and filthy. Asian parents don't like this kind of behavior.
But in the end, it was worth it. This is a photo of the outside of massive SOGO Department Store where we figured Santa was sure to be hiding. I'm still on the lookout. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

500 lb Pig in the Middle of the Street

Random Notes From This Week:
1. I can’t breathe. Air pollution in Taiwan is up 150% from normal. Industrial chemicals, traffic emissions, seasonal allergens, and high island humidity cause me daily asthma attacks where I have become chained to an inhaler. Despite this, I still insist on running three to four miles a day, and last week I ran a mile in 5 minutes and 45 seconds. The picture above is from my recent trip to the Chinese Medical University Hospital to have my breathing checked. Vital Stats:

Height: 177.8 centimeters
Weight: 71 Kilos
Blood Pressure: 118/82
Resting Heart Rate: 60
Oh, by the way, this is the old geezer who beat my breath score. I even checked with the nurse to confirm. Basically, despite my best attempts at staying healthy, Taiwan has given me the lungs of an 80 year old man.

2. There are a series of insipid inspirational quotes that hang over the urinals in the men’s rooms of each floor in our school. Some gems include:

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing your dreams.”
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
“Reach for the moon, if you miss at least your among the stars.”

Then directly beneath each is a picture of a pig with a surgical mask and a caption which reads: “Please show sympathy for the cleaners by aiming your urine stream into the bowl.” I read these everyday while invariably peeing on the floor.

3. A week ago Eva spoke to me for the first time all year. She came up to me in the hallway and asked for help on her writing. We ended up sitting for twenty minutes as she just talked and talked. At the end, she was surprised I was so interested in Chinese pop music and that we should talk again. I smiled warmly and agreed. Of course, I have zero interest in Chinese pop.

4. Today in class I looked up and three boys in the back where rubbing cleaning lotion on their ping pong paddles.

5. Last week in China, 11 children ages 9 through 12, were trampled to death as a cram school let out at 9:15 at night. The children were part of a 400 student stampede down a flight of stairs on their way home. School directors have been put on paid administrative leave. At our International School, we have the same problem of boys running in the halls, last week crashing into a teacher and causing swelling in his knee. To combat this, the foreign teachers have set up times for hall monitoring to keep the students safe. This morning I saw three boys recklessly fly down stairs past the school Director who did nothing and so I calmly turned the boys around and made them descend the stairs again. Not to be outdone, the school’s Director also pulled the boys aside and scolded them for ten minutes on not having their shirttails tucked in. He made sure I noticed his stern discipline.

6. Today while walking to the post office, I turned a corner and a 500 lb pig was standing in the middle of the street. Traffic was being diverted as a shop owner was quickly trying to lure the sow back inside with a handful of carrots.

Only in Asia.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Lauren Kinu!

Little Lauren Kinu turned two years old this Monday on December 7th, surely a day that will live in infamy. Lately Kinu has just been blossoming by singing songs from school, although the translation of which is usually done by her sisters who say, "Wow, Kinu is speaking Chinese," and just continuing to laugh her way through life.
Her birthday was celebrated on Sunday afternoon, which is sort of a Hartenstein tradition. There was cake with blueberries and lots of presents. Her favortie was this stuffed Hello Kitty.
The day before I took the girls to the park to run around and kick soccer balls and take pictures of all the funny Taiwanese people. Kinu loves to lag behind and just watch all the comings and goings of people. She points at kites, likes to follow ants in the grass, and thinks chewing on straws is terribly silly.
I never thought I would be this fortunate to have children, and often I feel like it is me having the birthday as I watch them grow a year older. Everyone marks time in their own way, but over the last few years my life has become more about them than myself, and that has been wonderful. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Insight into the Mind of a 7th Grader

The following are random notes, side conversations, scribbles, and grammar excerpts from the weeks 7th grade journal check. Enjoy:

“Teacher Brian, would you rather be a jedi or a sith?
Would you rather have a sexy woman or one who is with you all day talking?
Would you have everything in the world for one year and then die?” - Rich

“Teacher Brian, one day you are very hurry to poo poo. There are three bathroom: One has ten poos in the toilet. Another has many caterpillars on it. Another has not tissue paper except soiled paper in the trash which you must use. What do you do?” - Melody

“If I had a choice, I would rather be able to kill everyone with my finger than fly in the sky, but it would be more fun to have a notebook if you write anyone’s name on it, they will die.” - James

“Teacher Brian, would you rather be superman or a ninja? Teacher Brian, what if the ninja was magic?” - Oscar

“Teacher Brian is not very tall, he is not very ugly, but he is colorful. I envy him.” - Michael

“In a house fire, what would you save: Money? Magazines? Basketball shoes? Pictures of you? Or your Mom and Grandma?” - Tony

“Would you rather be able to kill all the teachers or be a god with no power?” - Isabelle

“I would rather have a sexy girl but no smart.” - Kevin

“Teacher Brian, would you rather have a smart brain, 2 slaves, 2 sexy girls, or be a cool man?” Randy