Sunday, May 28, 2006

There were two sweet young ladies from Indonesia in my class at CLD, Angie and Ya Di, and both of them had to return to Indonesia a few weeks ago, when they found out they couldn't get their student visas extended. They left while I was in Hong Kong, and I had no chance to get any contact info from them. Now I'm reading about all those people who were killed in the earthquake, and I don't know how to find out if my friends are OK. Hopefully the school will have an e-mail address or phone number in Indonesia so I can try to find out.

Not knowing is such an awful feeling.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lerning Inglish in Tiewan

I was asked to prepare a short demo of my teaching abilities by a local cram school which helps prepare students for their Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) tests prior to their entering universities in English-speaking countries. The assistant at the school copied twelve pages from one of their textbooks regarding the speaking section of the test to help me familiarize myself with it. I was shocked to see how many errors were contained in just these few pages, and I'm here to share my dismay with all of you. I shudder to think what the remaining text looks like.

1. "Raters look criteria including of delivery..." - should be "Raters look at criteria, including delivery...
2. "That said, all most all....." - should be "That said, almost all...."
3. "The characteristic deference's between English...." - should be "The characteristic differences between English...." - Ding 'em twice for misspelling as well as an apostrophe where there is no possession.
4. The word "General" as a heading at the top of one page was spelled "Gernal."
5. "...has some of the best and lest expensive message theorists....." - should be "...has some of the best and least expensive massage therapists....." Well, OK, maybe Thailand does have something called message theorists, but why the hell would that make one wish to go there for vacation?
6. "Its got relaxation..." - should be "It's got relaxation..." (This error is a pet peeve of mine.)
7. "The supporting details prove the topic sentence stratifies the criterion." Huh? I think they mean "satisfies the criterion." But that's just me....
8. "....beaches are the prefect place...." - Now, me, I prefer perfect places. How about you?
9. "...they rent equipment of a variety of activities,...." - should be "...they rent equipment for a variety of activities,...."
10. "Form C strength is that it offers examples." - should be "Form C's strength is that it offers examples."
11. "That is because shrine houses a ghost that...." - should be "That is because the shrine houses a ghost that...." (Those pesky articles are almost as bad as prepositions for speakers of an Asian language.) Here's another:
12. "Therefore, it is duty of every...." - "...the duty".
13. " to....Shrine at least one during our lifetime." - should be " least once during our lifetime."
14. "The key to doing the successfully is..." - should be "The key to doing this successfully is..."
15. The word "delivery" was misspelled as "delievery" a total of four times, three of which were section headings.
16. The word "cohesive" was misspelled as "cohesvie" twice.
17. When providing lists of words and phrases the student could use in sentences as transitional devices, some were duplicated (another pet peeve, sorry, it just bugs me).
18. The word "identified" was misspelled as "idenified" once.
19. The word "more" was misspelled as "morer" twice.
20. The paragraph discussing subordinating clauses stated, "Link two related sentences to each other so that one carries the main idea and the other is no longer a complete sentence." However, in both examples given, the sentences were composed of two independent clauses - if the subordinating conjunction were removed, both were complete sentences. Big help, huh?
21. The word "manufacturing" was misspelled as "manufcaturing" twice.
22. In two places two words had been crammed together without the required space: "Taiwanlast" and "wooditems."
23. The word "sightsee" was misspelled as "sight see" right next to "sightseeing," which should have given them a clue how to spell the first one.
24. The word "opportunities" was misspelled as "opertunities."

This list does not include the multiple errors in punctuation, such as missing commas and the like, which also adorned almost every page. This was just a cursory exam on my part, since my main goal in reading it was not to proofread but to prepare for my demo, so perhaps there are even more gems that I've not yet discovered.

Sadly, I am unable to obtain a job as a teacher at this school, as I do not possess the required BA degree (although they were quite happy with the first demo I gave them last week and would have hired me if the Taiwan government had given the official okey-dokey). Perhaps the materials are written by a qualified person who does have that little piece of paper that makes government officials jump and down for joy. Gosh, I wonder if I can get a job as a proofreader......

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ah, the pain of being unwanted.....

Taiwan is a very small island. So small that it would fit right in the space between my old home in Magalia, California and the big city of San Francisco. Yup, that small. Consequently, the Taiwan government isn't too keen on people moving over here and taking up space; and so they have adopted some rules.

If one wishes to stay in Taiwan more than one month, one must have a visa. How does one get this? Well, one must either have a confirmed job here and a work permit to go with it, or one must obtain a special student visa. The catch is that only certain schools are on the government-approved list, and if one does not attend one of those schools, one is S.O.L. Hey, no worries, my school is on that list.

Let me rephrase: my school was on that list. In April the government revised their list, and for reasons completely unknown to us normal people, they removed two of the language centers which have been popular for years. Right, you know it, one of those was mine. I think about 95% of the students at my school are here on student visas. They are not people with jobs who are studying Chinese in their free time, not foreign spouses of people who are here working in Taiwan for a long term. Granted, there are a few of those, but the school makes its living from those of us who need student visas.

We knew there was a problem, but the gals at the desk kept assuring us that the boss was in negotiations with the government, and the issues would all be resolved in May. Some students decided to play it safe and transferred to other schools that had the big thumbs up from the government. Other, more optimistic sorts (like me!), decided to wait and see. And last week I got the news: there is absolutely no way to extend my visa if I continue to study at this school.

Wah! I like my school. The tuition is lower than at other schools, the staff is great, the teachers (well, most of them) are wonderful, and I've made a lot of friends there. I'm comfortable there, and I don't want to change. Crap.

Never mind, I must make some choices. What will I do? I will have to leave Taiwan temporarily, because I can't overstay my current visa. No problem, I had already been planning a summer trip back to California for visiting and shopping. But how can I come back? I have to make some decisions.

I'm in a much better position than some of the students, because I already have money. So, if I choose, I can come back to Taiwan on my passport for a 30-day visit, and at the end of 30 days I just make a short hop over to Hong Kong for a day or two (and I don't even need to leave the airport; I can just wait there a couple of hours and catch a flight back). If I take the passport-only route, I must leave Taiwan every 30 days, and every time I go out of the country, I have to have already purchased the next plane ticket out, because you don't get back in unless you show proof that you have a reservation to leave again!

Second choice: I could hurry up and switch to another language center, getting my current school to give me a referral. New adventures with new classmates. But, my current Alien Residency Certificate is tied to my current school, so I have to start the process all over: be in Taiwan for four months without leaving, and consistently attending class. That would shoot my planned US trip right in the heart and kill it dead.

Third choice: attend university now, instead of a year from now, as I had planned. But, I still feel my ability to listen to and understand Chinese is quite lacking. I'm not sure I'd be able to pass my courses if I enter university now, and I wanted another year of language study first.

After much mulling it over, I have made my decision. I will, at least for a time, use only my passport to come back from my US visit, and I will go to Hong Kong once a month. Hey, I have friends there, it's a good excuse to visit them. Or I might even go to Singapore or Japan and see some places I've never seen. Thailand and Vietnam are also popular spots for the folks who make the regular trips out. I figure if I'm not paying tuition (which would be around $18,000NT at a new school), I can use that money for plane tickets. The price varies - in June one can go to Hong Kong for $4,100NT, but on July 1 the price leaps to $8,100. But that's just one airline, and there are always travel packages available.

Also, if I'm not going to school every morning, I can teach more English. Right now I have a lot of students! And they all like me so much that they keep telling their friends, and more people are asking me about sessions. It's been difficult juggling some of them, but I'd have a lot more flexibility if I didn't have a two-hour class every day.

Finally, the school I've been doing recording for has asked me if I want a job teaching conversational English. I gave a demo lesson yesterday, which went so well that they asked me if I would consider teaching TOEFL classes as well, which are more difficult that the conversation classes. They said if I get a job with them, they can apply for a work permit and ARC for me. Now, this would be absolutely wonderful, but since I've been consistently told that if one has no BA degree, one cannot teach (legally) in Taiwan. The government will not authorize work permits for teachers without degrees. The woman at the school did not seem to know this. I asked her to please check before either of us wasted any more of our time. This is Taiwan, and many times the "official" government regs don't seem to apply, and there are stories of work permits being issued to those sans that little piece of paper, but I certainly won't hold my breath. But I will do a happy dance if I get a thumbs up from the government! Easy job, only one day a week to start, three-hour class, $600NT per hour. The TOEFL class pays $700NT per hour. And, they are evening classes, which leaves the day free for more English tutoring :)

I spent five years getting to Taiwan, and I'm not leaving. Where there's a will, there's a way, right? However much I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends when I head back for the visit, there's no way I ever want to live in the US again. This bullheaded Irish/Italian/American Indian chick won't go down without a fight!

I'll keep ya'll posted on happenings, plans, etc.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Shades of Gilligan

The fun continues in Brian Sack's China Travelogue. Since he is far, far more humorous than I, let's just continue to read his adventures in China rather than my adventures in Taiwan. Those of you not familiar with the old American sit com, Gilligan's Island, won't get quite as much fun out of the description of the trip to Guilin ;)

Guilin Dispatch: A Four Hour Tour, a Four Hour Tour.

Yang Zhou Dispatch: Maogaritaville

And....the WTF?! Photo of the Day award goes to this gem from the snarky bitches at Go Fug Yourself (required daily reading for those of us who are also snarky bitches whenever the opportunity arises).

Monday, May 01, 2006

Lest Ye Be Bored Whilst I'm Away....

Since I'm not writing much, here are some things to entertain you while you wait for my return.

Fun with statues: I found this pbase site because the gentleman left a funny comment at my pbase site, and curiousity got the better of me. I'm glad it did.

The following are all from Brian Sack's (he of the eBay "Leather Pants Ad" fame) great website,, and will have you rolling. I give you, the chronicles of Brian's visit to China (and when you read, you will see why I live in TAIWAN, especially after reading the account of the trouble with train tickets).

And Mao For Something Completely Different:

Shanghai Dispatch: Cabbing Fever:

Shanghai Dispatch: Shanghai Surprise:

Shanghai Dispatch: Effects of Overpopulation, #1:

Shanghai Dispatch: Dove Reaches Out To China's Heavy Gals:

China Dispatch: You Dim Sum, You Lose Some:

China Dispatch: Using the Squat Toilet:

Beijing Dispatch: Where The Party Never Stops:

Beijing Dispatch: She's Even Cuter In Kelvin Klein Briefs:

Xi'An Dispatch: Warrin' Terra:

New on 5/2/06 China Dispatch: Tickets, pleas.

I urge everyone to spend time checking out other entries at Mr. Sack's website. His quirky humor is just the thing to force a smile onto one's face when one is feeling a bit down.