Saturday, June 30, 2012

What Would You Rather...? The 8 Year Old Version

Oh yes... a funny thing happened on the way to the market today... we saw a bunch of creepy and gross stuff!  Which lead me to play a game with Xian:  "What Would You Rather?"  In this case... would you rather see a creepy human wig made out of chicken feathers resting on a traffic pylon... OR....

An abandoned shoe in an alleyway?  The answer?  The wig totally freaked her out!

Next Question:  Would you rather come across a half naked Taiwanese homeless man in the market beating a plastic drum...?  OR...

Cross paths with some mutilated rotting goose and turkey meat?  The answer?  Get me away from the creepy half-naked Asian man!

Next Question: What makes you more nervous... people who collect and display McDonald's Figurines on the dashboard of their car... OR...?

Chinese Fashion?  The answer?  It's Chinese fashion!  Which is more creepy than you can even imagine.  I've kind of come full circle on Asian hand-me-down clothing.  I think it would be very freeing to not have any clue or desire to know what is stylish or en vogue and rather just wear crazy pinstriped pants and polk-dot shirts and just care nothing for how I looked... Sadly... I wasn't conceived in a Wall Mart.

Next Question:  What inspires more hope or dread?  Asian women and their love of pets in baby strollers... OR...?

Restaurants that serve "live" lunch?  The Answer?  Chop that chicken up, lady!

Next Question:  What would you rather buy for your significant other?  Fly-ridden, spoiled, un-refrigerated hanging beef carcasses...?  OR...?

Lingerie on the street?  The answer?  Of course it's sexy Chinese lingerie!  I mean, just look at this sampling! What women wouldn't love to open a box of Victoria's "Dirty Alley" Secret?  I mean, really?  That's a no brainer.

Oh yes... it was a fine morning strolling around the market... last question... what would you rather?  Stay at home and never see the world... or...well, you know my answer.

Edelweiss and the Bowing Lady Greeters in the Window

"Edelweiss, Edelweiss, every morning you greet me."

Wandering the back alley streets around Taichung, I come to the Shin-Dong Department store to watch the bowing lady greeters welcoming customers in the morning.

"Small and white, clean and bright, you look happy to meet me."

They're lovely, these immaculately and impeccably dressed real-lie mannequins, smiling and serving the public's every whim like untouchable mascots, introducing the customer to the possible treasures that lay waiting inside.

"Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow."

This is what it's like to be a foreigner.  You stand behind the glass looking in.  You know that the culture is there.  You know that the people understand something you don't.  You get a glimpse of it, but you can never enter inside and take it for yourself.

"Bless my homeland forever..."

Well, you spend a couple of years in a place and you have moments of realization like this.  That's all.  Good luck, ladies.  You'll need it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Last Day Notes

It's the last day of school and I'm sitting here proctoring a study hall, and I realize this sounds like the beginning of a letter that I might write many of you. In fact, so many of my letters and texts and emails are written to people during downtime moments spent in classrooms...

But although this is the last day of school, instead of celebrating, the students are taking three exams, and I am sitting at the podium in front of a room full of 37 sweating, yawning, sniffling, sighing, exhausted 8th graders. Their homeroom teacher refuses to let them turn the air-conditioning on before 10:30 and so it is "boiling" in here... I'm even dripping onto the keyboard.

Later, after their final test, the students will be forced to clean the school. This means mop all the floors, scrub out the toilets, clean out the desks, and wipe the dust out of the schools cracks and crevices... and before some old grouchy dude says, "Hard work builds character," yeah, yeah, yeah... but they do this thing every day. You know, I just wanted to see some smiles today. That's all. I wanted to see some kids celebrated all that they have accomplished.

So here are a couple of acknowledgements because no one else will recognize these kids at all:

Daisy, you really turned it around this year. You used to be one of the meanest, toughest, most belligerent kids in this school, and I love that you are smiling now and talking to me and saying, Good Morning," and just opening yourself up. You're a beautiful kid!

Tom, you used to destroy class moral. You would curse teachers, punch students, destroy school property, defiantly stare me down during class... and all I wanted was to help you. The way you act now, after all those conversations with you in the hallway, the way you finally are maturing... helping others, being a productive LEADER... I am so proud of you. I want you to know that I see you, every day... and I like what you are becoming.

Kenny, you haven't been able to sit still for two years. You make it a point of pride to disrupt class every chance you get. It used to give me physical pain when I saw you... like being kicked in the stomach, and you loved it. You tested my patience completely... you were rude, senseless, uncaring, and thoughtless... and NOW LOOK AT YOU. You're bringing study materials to class. You're organized. You are acing tests. You've come such a long way. I'm sure such good things are ahead of you.

Eva, after that talk with your parents... when I called them to school and they started screaming at you... that's when I understood. We've been through a lot, haven't we? Thank you for never giving up. Life can be very hard and we are attacked at all sides but forces we will never be able to control... but you've shown grace. I have such confidence in you!

Students... I know I can't list you all, but thank you for these last three years. I wish you nothing but the best.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Death of Chinese Chewbacca

"It's not wise to upset a Wookie."  -Han Solo

The Chinese word for Chewbacca is "A-chooo!"  I know this because I asked.  Ok... I'm anticipating your next question, so of course, I then asked about sneezing, they didn't get it.

"Get your hands off me you damn, dirty ape."  -Charelton Heston, Planet of the Apes

For the last week of class I talked Joseph Campbell and showed Star Wars to my Taiwanese students.  Most had never seen it, so... you know... I saved their life.  BUT THE BEST PART WAS... I pulled Xian out of school during her FULL DAY OF SECOND GRADE TESTING... so that she could hang out with me and watch the movie.  I know... being a teacher is awesome!

"Would someone get this big walking carpet out of my way."  -Princess Leah

Speaking of saving lives... I would recommend reading Joseph Campbell more than any other author.  His books on myth and particularly, The Hero of a Thousand Faces, will rock your socks!  But to really understand Campbell's genius is to watch his lectures.  It's endless... but listening to Campbell spin yarns... that old man with those saggy eyes who knows every single myth and ancient story ever etched into a cave wall... will change your life.

P.S.  I really wished that was a Great Gazoo picture instead!

"That's because droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose."  -Han Solo

So it's been a pretty crazy week... the last few days of school usually are... but I did find time to hit the post office.  Here is the man behind the counter... what I love about him is that he has an amazing Chinese mole on his neck.  (Why is it a CHINESE mole?) because he has several long (maybe 9 to 10 inches) strands of hair sprouting out of it.  Yep, he's a modern day Wookie!

"Where are you taking this, thing?... Look out, he's loose!"  -Last Words of Death Star Prison Cell Block Commander

Of course, I've also been watching Euro '12.  You know why soccer is great?  Because  a total douche like Cristiano Ronaldo, who flops like pancakes on a skillet, can primp and pose and run shirtless and become a national Portuguese hero.  This dude would have gotten beat up at my high school.  He wouldn't even have made our (American) H.S. football team.  Someday America is going to wise up and get tired of losing international soccer games to Guatemala and Costa Rica... and we're going to start utilizing our amazing talent pool to dominate the pitch.  We're going to take a group of second string NCAA point guards  and power forwards and a couple of bench warming wide receivers from the Arena Football League and some dudes from the Rec Center Ultimate Frisbee League and we're going to toss them a soccer ball instead of a basketball or football or baseball or tennis racket or wrestling singlet and train them as soccer players and win the next twenty World Cups in a row just out of spite.  Come on, seriously... Lionel Messi is three inches shorter than me.  Are you kidding me?  Are you kidding me?  Derick Rose would you please play soccer for a year?  Russel Westbrook would you just play soccer for a year?  Just to wipe that stupid smug German smile off every face...

"You tell that piece of work-ridden filth..."  -Han Solo speaking to Jabba the Hutt

Oh yes... it's Ghost Money Burning time again... what this picture didn't capture, is this dude's pants were hiked up to his nipples.  I wanted to applaud him.

"Get in their you big fury oat.  I don't care what you smell."  -Han Solo to Chewbacca before leaping into the Death Star garbage chute.

I took this photo of Taichung from a very familiar spot.  If you can recognize it, email me!

"These are not the droids you are looking for."  -Ben Kenobi

So naturally, I mean this will come as no surprise, but my Taiwanese students don't like Chewbacca.  They think he is stupid.  They wonder why he doesn't speak English.  I mean, even Vincent the "Booger Eater," and Freddy the "Finger-Smeller" can speak  better English than Chewbacca... and he hangs out with foreigners all day.  "His GEPT score must be very low," one of my students suggested.

P.S.  This is Rebekah drawing her three sisters dancing on a rainbow with smiley face clouds over a flower.  Seriously... girls, man!

"You don't have enough scoundrels in your life."  -Han Solo

I tried to explain that Chewbacca is, as everyone knows, a total bad-ass!  But they didn't get it.  These are kids that line up for a living and let teachers hit them... so... but still, I gave it a try.

"After all, he's only a Wookie."  -C3PO

By the way, did you know that Chewbacca dies?  Oh yes, there is a 1999 Star Wars book called Vector Prime in which a moon crashes into the planet Chewbacca is on and totally smashes him.  I know, right?  (That author should have his nuts removed) Dudes living in their parent's basements all over the world are screaming... like Luke Skywalker says when he sees Obi Wan's empty robe cut down ... like Darth Vader says when he, you know, becomes Darth Vader... like the entire audience of Phantom Menace says when first introduced to Jar Jar Binks... NOOOOOOOOOOO!

P.S.  Seriously, Lucas... your dialogue is awful!

"Waaahhhaaa!"  -Chewbacca, professional bad-ass

Which leads us to the end.  Yes, I taught the Joseph Campbell Monomyth (Hero's Journey) to my students this week.  Yes, I let my daughter skip her final nationalized test so that she could sit in my classroom to watch Star Wars.  Yes, school is now finished and summer is upon me.  Yes, George Lucas simultaneously created my childhood and then ruined it by selling it back to me twenty years later.  Oh well, as Obi Wan says, "Who's more foolish, the fool or the one who follows him?"  I know... may the force be with you, always.

P.S.  The above picture is a Chinese can of tuna fish.  How awesome is that?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hanging with My Daughters

Kinu had a lot of fun this last weekend, swimming and bike riding and standing in doorways watching the rain pour...

And of course, enjoying her raspberry smoothie!

Yes... that's an awesome little puppy purse.

We hit the big departments store cinema to check out Pixar's Brave... a "Chick-adventure-cartoon-Flick?"

All in all...a pretty cool weekend, wouldn't you say so?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Week of School

Lot's of updates... nobody back in Colton has seen that cougar again. The Forest Service thought it was a mother with cubs and passed all these brochures about what to do if you run into a mountain lion. Make yourself real big. Don't run. Growl... as my mom read these to me I kind of chuckled. The reality... crumble down in the fetal position...whimper... click your heals and repeat, "There's no place like home!"

The girls will start vacation in about a week, I'm looking forward to this Friday being my last day too. Lots of changes ahead, but we'll see how many stick.

Time now to sign some t-shirts, wrap up the year with a movie or two, clean out the lockers and blare some Alice Cooper.

I think I'm going to miss this place. Yeah... I think I will.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Saddest Day of the Year

Graduation today began with students assembling outside their classrooms.  The mood was very festive, students could feel a celebration was at hand.

Taiwan changed it's national exam system this year, giving students only one chance to score well on the test instead of a couple of times.  Yes, it was a little bit more stressful, but after the test was finished, most students just relaxed and enjoyed themselves.   It made for a different end to the usual school year.

These pictures are dedicated to my favorite students.  The ones that stood by me, inspired me, encouraged me, listened to me, and did what I asked.

The ones that made me laugh, that told me jokes, that asked questions, that tried their best.

The ones that I believe in and the ones that seek me out.

Even the shy ones with the secret talents...and the silly ones.  I feel like I know these kids very well.

And yet I don't.  I've always said that graduation day is the saddest day of the year.  That you spend all this time with kids helping to foster this brilliant idea in them, and in the end... they leave you behind.

But it's always been that way... and always will.

So good luck, my dear friends.  Be happy. Follow your heart.

We had such fun together, didn't we?

Random Graduation Notes

Yes... we graduated another batch of future leaders, artists, captains of industry... and some crooks and criminals too.  But it wasn't all serious pomp and circumstance.  No... there were some funny and random moments, like for example our school director's fascination with 7-Eleven figurines that are given out with major purchases (he also likes McDonald's Happy Meal toys).  Those figures on the stage are 7-Eleven mascots...and no, no one can explain what they have to do with graduation.

Here are the school's Big Shots!  Congratulations!  These guys have more money than Elvis and they still can't buy a decent suit or fix their comb-overs.

This is a preposterous cultural no-no... but ironically there was a funeral going on in the breakfast shop next to the school... here's the Buddha Truck brought in for a little side meditation.  And yes, the massive "Death Tent" was set up on the front steps of our school with the creepy death music blaring, and nobody said anything because it's impolite to speak of the dead.

"I am dead behind the eyes!"

Another head-scratch er was the school director's choice of Super Mario as graduation theme.  I thought about this for a long time and asked many students... most refused to tell me. Can you imagine that, refusing to tell a teacher why something is meaningful to you?  Welcome to Taiwan!  My best guess is, that Mario represents a moving to the next level.  I hope I'm right.

It was great to see Winnie return from the States.  She's doing wonderful there.

Yeah, another shot of the Buddha Truck, I couldn't resist.

After the ceremony, there was a microphone set up for students to cheer and scream.  Pretty cool.  Congratulations everyone!