Monday, August 31, 2015


In honor of TV's best new show, Mr. Robot (and awesome people in general who defy authority and proper convention) here are some silly examples of FSOCIETY from around town.   Smile and Enjoy.
 Let's start with Asian Costco.  As any foreign visitor knows, a mere visit here can make your  blood boil.  A ten minute trip can turn into a full-on cardiac arrest.  Surging crowds.  Banging shopping carts.  Dozens of shopping carts parked in the middle of the aisle for twenty minutes abandoned.  Stunned locals gawking at the shelf stacks of fifty toilet paper rolls and seaweed potato chip bags bigger than their head.  Asian Costco is Disneyland.  Lines forty people long standing for thirty minutes to sample a salted sardine.  Reject Costco!
 Real Estate Agents dance calisthenics in the morning.
 IV-Drip dude in hospital gown nibbling pork dumplings down the street at 7-Eleven.  He would later stand outside for a smoke.
 Jaguar on the rocks.
 Chinese Periodic Table.  Egads!
 Hanging the Stars and Stripes in the French Department Store.  Love this one!
 Ross, the proud transgender doodle on my Mice and Men Final.  No, he didn't pass the test.
 This lovely key chain a student gave me.
 This INCREDIBLE cartoon Taoist Temple.  It's hard to see but...on the right side that's a statue of a news camera team beneath a gold-plated lizard dragon shooting a white Lipizzaner stallion team on the left. Up the stairs, a children's anime statue of "Goat Man" is smiling before a "Big Bad Wolf" statue will gobble him.  It's...the tackiest temple I've ever seen.  Amazing.
 This FANTASTIC Anime car parked outside my apartment.  Betty Boop and Hello Kitty.
 My Friend Totoro...
 Oh, and of course... the sexy anime girl.  The guy just couldn't resist putting he.
My junior American Lit students outside my classroom stand in 30C heat for an hour while an ROTC student corrects the 90 degree right elbow angle of their salute.  Baffling.
Last but not least... shot at the hospital entrance... this slick backpack says it all.  Complete with Happy Smiley Face pants.  Have a Nice Day!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Typhoon Soudelor Damage

"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!  Rage!  Blow!
You cataracts and hurricanes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!"  -King Lear 

Maybe you've seen some of the images on the news.  The delivery truck picked-up off its wheels and spun like a top.  The Volkswagon caught in a tornado and dropped in a tree.  The 747 airplanes tied to the tarmac.  Typhoon Soudelor, which hit Taiwan Aug. 8, packed quite a punch.
 A great many typhoons hit Taiwan, most though, barely affect the city of Taichung, where we are still arduously situated.  Pounding the east coast of the island, the powerful winds peter out across a large mountain range and barely manage more than a whimper over our fair town.
 Soudelor was different.  Hitting around midnight with salacious winds.  I was forced to move all the balcony furniture inside and tied the (impregnable) barbecue to the rails, which still slid across the surface 23 floors up to my terror. Plates of metal and corrugated steel tumbled from building tops.  Wrought iron gates toppled and slammed onto cement.  Chunks of asphalt lifted out of the earth and slammed into cars.
 Thousands of city  trees, whose roots had not firmly taken hold of the earth, snapped like twigs, but to really convey the damage, these trunks were thick as a man's thigh.
 The whole night I couldn't sleep.  From midnight until 7 a.m. I laid by the balcony door and listened to the screaming and howling wraith-like wind.  The girls huddled together in the other room, safe from exploding window glass.  Our apartment shook from the wind, a slow and steady swaying back and forth.  Not an earthquake shake... a terrible vertical rumbling that sends you racing for the doorway as coffee mugs roll off the counter and pictures fall from the walls... No, this swaying was like a dull roller-coaster...a bed spin of fear.  In all these years of living here, this was my longest night.
I don't expect much from the world anymore.  I certainly don't ask for anything.  I've come to learn that just when you are most happy and filled with a sense of calm and serene joy, that's when the rug is pulled out from you.  But the following morning, when the rain stopped for a moment and the eye of the typhoon passed overhead, I did peer up into the heavens and was glad.  A rare feeling these days.  We'd made it, we all had, to fight another day.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Taiwanese Boy Punches a Painting, Bad Chinese Translations, and Minion Easter Eggs. This Week in Asia!

 In honor of the bumbling and portly Taiwanese boy bored on the museum tour who, tripping over his own toes, managed to punch a hole in a 1.5 million dollar painting while still maintaining a firm grasp on his bubble tea...(Yes, this glorious representation of baffling stupidity is a perfectly illustrated slice of my teaching demographic...) the following photos of funny are for you.  Here's my week in Asia!
 Traffic Cops pause for a selfie using a PC Monitor.  Old School!
 Department Store Swim Mannequin... or French Jewel Thief?  You decide.
 Pucker Up, Baby!  Goldfish in Sushi Restaurant gives his Best Duck Face.
 It was so hot this week, well over 30 C, that even the murals were considering a trip to the South Pole.
 Marie Antoinette has enough cake for all of us...
 Security Guard outside Department Store Stares into Distance.  Lion Chuckles.
 My favorite Wood Carving ... is that a nipple?
 Milk Peanut Soup... I dare you!  Really.
 Yet another example of a Chinese phrase that just... doesn't translate.
Who wants some Minion Easter Eggs?  I know... I know... Keep Laughing, People.  

Friday, August 28, 2015

This is Just to Say...

 "I have  been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain."  -Robert Frost

This is just to say...  there is a purpose in what we do.
 "The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over the harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on."  -Carl Sandburg

Not for all of us... but the very select few who make it their life's pursuit to push students toward a dream of possibility.  For those... you have my utmost respect.  The rest of you... be damned.
 "I have eaten 
the plums
that were in 
the icebox
and which
you were probably 
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold"  -William Carlos Williams

The moment I told you I'm not coming back, you had me replaced within the hour... my whole curriculum erased.  You thought I didn't know, but I knew.
 "The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough."  -Ezra Pound

So this is just to say... I still believe in teaching literature!
 "If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching
Or cool one pain
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again
I shall not live in vain."  -Emily Dickinson

This is just to say... these students are better equipped than you surmise.
 "So much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white 
chickens"  -William Carols Williams

This is just to say... stopping the test taking and the math memorizing for just a see something sparkle... is worth it.
"The modest Rose puts forth a thorn;
The humble Sheep, a threatening horn;
While the Lilly white, shall in Love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright."  -William Blake

This is just to say... I will miss you all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Room Without A Roof

(The following poem was composed last year by my daughter Xian in the middle of 5th grade.  Originally posted Feb 27, 2015)

I see buildings like Lego blocks
Beneath me that prickle my feet
Parks and streets no bigger than my thumb.
Clouds at my elbow, mountains at my cheeks.                                                    
I’m 23 floors high in the sky.
The world is mine.

 (View of Wenshin Park from the balcony. Third apartment in Taichung.)

My tippy-toes touch the tile floor whirling past me below
As my sisters and I ride scooters in the living room.
On two wheels and a board blade we fly.
Round the smooth recliner chair and the soft brown sofa
I hear the piano cry, “Whoa!”  I hear the book case scream, “Go!”
I hear the window tremble with envy.

I put on a record: 
“Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof!
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you!”
Dad is at the barbecue on the balcony.
I taste the burgers on the grill melting in my mouth.
Cheese sticking to my tongue, lettuce cooling the heat.

I smell the sweet afternoon with my family
Spinning and riding high above the city.   Dad says, “Remember this feeling.”
He grabs a scooter, and races me round the kitchen table
He’s right on my heels!
I see and hear and taste and smell and touch
What happiness is to me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

FLICKR PICS! Kyoung Ju South Korea, Spring 2015

 Finished our Korea trip this summer with some adventures out among the ancient forest tombs of Kyoung Ju.
 Kyoung Ju is the old capital city of Korea and holds mystery and allure like no other Korean destination.  As we wandered through the forest pines, there were signs warning us of shaman attacks and ghosts, but we saw none.  Kicked off our shoes and ran through the river beds instead.
 Inside the traditional villages, we sat by the lotus pond and sipped hot tea in the shade.
 Courtesans danced.  My little girls danced too.
Dad wandered around looking at lines in the architecture.  One building flowing into another in subtle curves bringing you full circle back to home.  Check out the link to the right for FLICKR pics.

FLICKR PICS! Haeundae South Korea, Spring 2015

 ONCE UPON A TIME WHEN TIGERS STILL SMOKED.... Yes, yet another trip to the Land of the Morning Calm! Bug-Eye'd Crazy Tigers and all.
 Staying in Haeundae this time, jogging along the beach, running into the craggy rocks among the pines in the rain.
 Waking up and overlooking the beach... what shall we do today?  Oh, swim and dance in the waves.  Of course.  Of course.
 Even the Man of Steel agrees.
 Took the girls out to their great-grandmother's house to hang with the kimchi pots and their oldest living relative.
 Back through Hadan's old stomping grounds.
 No trip to Korea would be complete without live octopus gobbling at Chagalchi fish market.
 Or cruising through Somyeon at night.
 Traveling by local train... Chug!  Chug!
 Are you kidding me?
Then back to the beach, stick my toes in the earth and think.  Sink and think. Watch the world pass by.  Check out the FLICKR link to the right for all the photos.