Thursday, January 25, 2007

Comet McNaught Glory

Guoxi sent this photo of Comet McNaught that one of his classmates at pilot training school (they're in Adelaide, Australia) took the night before last. Guoxi said that this was the first time he'd ever seen a comet.

Sometimes I miss Magalia's whole sky full of twinkling stars on a dark, dark night. It's too bright here in Taipei, so even if there were no clouds (rare), we still couldn't see many stars.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Not Too Politically Correct

I've just now remembered this little story that I had intended to write here but forgot.

The last time I did recording for that cram school, I was working with a guy named Roger. Instead of reading a conversation as we sometimes do, we just had to clearly and slowly pronounce words on a list, and we were alternating. Well, you know that many words have two different pronunciations, one for if it's a noun, one for if it's a verb, like research, subject, reject, etc., with the accent on the first syllable for nouns and the second syllable for verbs. We weren't sure if we should read noun or verb, so we were just winging it. So it's Roger's turn, and he reads "REtard." A moment of silence as our eyes meet, then both of us burst into hysterical laughter, pointing at one another and yelling, "Retard! Retard!" while the two guys in the sound booth stared at us with puzzled looks. I had snot coming out of my nose and tears flowing down my face. It took forever for us to calm down, because we'd read a word or two and then start the whole laughter thing again. The Taiwanese guys just didn't get it, even after Roger explained to them what retard means. Some humor just doesn't translate well.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Finally, Something to Write About!

There's a Chinese saying 舊的不去﹐新的不來 - if the old doesn't go, the new doesn't come. Well, in the case of English students it appears to be true.

Today I was on the MRT on my way home when my phone rang. It wasn't a number I have programmed into the phone, so I thought it might be one of the girls Ye Ying gave my number to, a couple of prospective students. I answered (in Chinese, of course), "Hello?" A man's voice replied (the whole conversation takes place in Chinese), "Hi, is this Marla?" As I said yes, I was thinking maybe it was Kitty's brother or father calling me with an update on her whereabouts, which would sure be nice. But it wasn't. To my profound surprise, the voice said, "Hi, it's Xiao Zhu." A couple seconds of silence while I processed this information. Xiao Zhu? Wu Bai's bass player Xiao Zhu? Huh? OK, a phone call from Dino would not be totally unexpected, but Xiao Zhu?? Wah.... When I recovered my wits, I asked him how on earth he could be calling me.

It appears that Xiao Zhu's thirteen-year-old son, Vincent, is in need of someone to speak English with him, as there is no one at home who can do this, therefore he's not making much progress in his lessons. Xiao Zhu knows that I taught Guoxi English, so I guess he asked Dino for my number so he could see if I was interested in teaching his son. I told him of course I would do it, as it would be very convenient, living so close to them as I do. I'm even giving him a huge discount, because a hot (and I'm referring to his skill, not his looks, although he certainly is a cutie) bass player like Xiao Zhu deserves it. So, in a couple of weeks, on Saturday, I'll start working with Vincent.

I'm wondering how I'm going to feel about Xiao Zhu seeing my apartment, with posters and photos of Wu Bai all over the place. I think perhaps I might be just a teeny bit embarrassed about that! What can I say? I'm a fan....not just of Wu Bai, but of the whole band. It's just that photos of the rest of the guys are few and far between.

And speaking of these posters, DZ lost one of her lives this afternoon after I discovered she'd jumped up onto the cabinet, on top of the little oven, and had shredded one side of my Li Hai concert poster! That little shit, the worst she can do is fuck around with my Wu Bai stuff. Last week I found another poster from above the same cabinet on the ground when I came home, but I assumed the sticky stuff had just worn out and that it had fallen down. Now I know she'd been up there playing with it. Perhaps after her spanking today she'll think twice about jumping up there next time. She's going to find herself shut up on the balcony while I'm in school if she keeps this up.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Welcome to the World, Kimi Tuominen Ng!

Congratulations to my Singaporean friends, Tona and David, on the birth of their first child, a boy, born January 17.

Make sure you raise him right, as a proper Wu Bai & China Blue fan!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Completely Abandoned

I am now studentless. Funck came for his lesson this evening and said he wants to quit, because running his website is taking too much of his time.

Kitty is still MIA, went to Shanghai for "a week" at the beginning of December and has not been in touch since. Oh, her father called me the week after she left, said she'd be in Shanghai through the end of December, so sorry. What, they don't have e-mail in Shanghai?

Jennifer said she was too busy September through December doing her wedding consulting and would start up again in January, but she hasn't gotten in touch, either.

Rosa quit a few weeks ago, because she's just too tired on the weekends after her long and stressful work week. I can understand that.

So here I am, making no money at all. I suppose it's time to seriously look for new students, but I'm so fed up with the way people just cancel all the time or aren't all that serious about the lessons. I'm not sure it's worth it, and I'm spending more time on my own lessons this time around anyway. Hm, have to think about it, I guess.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

2007 - So Far, So Good

Once again I begin with an apology for not writing much. I wish I had more excitement in my life to share with you all, but.....I don't.

So, the party on 12/23 was a success, we had fun, ate lots of good food (including some homemade hot and sour soup that Ye Ying and Xuan Yi made), I drank lots of beer, my Korean friend Kayun drank too much pear cognac and fell asleep on the couch for awhile, and the tiramisu was awesome. So awesome that I made a second batch, which turned out not quite as good since I used too much espresso. Next time I'm experimenting with making my own invention, Kahluamisu.

Kayun stayed with me for a few days last week. She had to give up her apartment on Wednesday, so she showed up at my front door Wednesday a.m. with her huge suitcase in tow and stayed until she left yesterday at 5:00 a.m. Silly girl had booked an 8:30 a.m. flight back to Korea! So, she had to take a cab to Yuanshan MRT station to get the airport bus. I hope she made it on time, haven't heard from her yet. I'm really going to miss her.

Oh, getting the visa extension was a bit of a kerfuffle this time. My visa was due to expire on January 2, so I went to the Taipei County police department in Banqiao the week before, on Wednesday. The last time I went there, there was no MRT, just a bus, so taking MRT I wasn't sure if I needed to go to the police station close to the Banqiao station or the one at Fuzhong (they are very close), so I tried Banqiao first. Nope, the folks there said I needed to go to the one close to Fuzhong, so Kayun (who kindly accompanied me) and I walked there. After arriving at that police station, they said, "Nope! You need to go to yet another station." Well, OK, we don't mind walking, finally got to the place I'd gone to before, and I got a form and started to fill it out while Kayun went to get a number. They had a sign posted there, only in Chinese, not in English, telling foreigners that if their visas expire after 12/29, they have to wait until January 2 and go to a new office to get their extensions. Kayun was trying to figure out what the sign meant (we both read Chinese pretty darned well but this was complicated), but she didn't quite understand it all and finally asked a clerk, and he told her. She was shocked that they would post such an important notice only in Chinese and expect foreigners to be able to understand it, and she proceeded to tell them how stupid that was (not exactly the best thing to do, but she was right). I didn't know any of this was happening; I was still filling out my form. We were very confused, and the clerk drew us a little map and told us to go to the new location. OK, so we walked a little way, went past number 168, which looked like a police station, looking for number 166. There was a brand-new office being worked on, still not open, and we asked the workers if that was number 166. They pointed back the way we came. We returned to 168, where we found a police officer. Asked him where 166 was, he pointed back at the workers. WTF? Finally, we just walked back to the police station and told the guy there that the office at the address he gave us wasn't open yet. "Right," he says, "you have to come back on January 2." "But that's the day my visa EXPIRES. Isn't that cutting it a bit close? What if I'm sick that day? Can't I apply for the extension today?" He goes and asks some other guy, who finally explained to me that the government was moving the handling of visa extensions to the immigration department, and that the police department will no longer be responsible, and that there is simply no way I could apply for the extension until January 2.

I was really worried about having to wait until the last day, because one other person told me that when her friend waited until the final day, he was told he had to leave the country and apply for another visa! But I had no choice but to wait until the 2nd and was afraid they might tell me "no" when I went. I thought about buying a plane ticket to Hong Kong on Tuesday just in case, but then decided I should just hope for the best. Everything turned out fine. Kayun and I went bright and early because we figured there'd be a crowd. The office was a madhouse, tons of others who had had to wait all piled in, the poor workers hadn't been provided with essentials, like calendars, so they had to count on their fingers to figure out dates for visa extensions, and the woman helping me kept her cool despite being so overwhelmed.

So now I'm good until March 3, when I will be applying for the Alien Residency Certificate (ARC) to avoid having to keep leaving the country. That will also propose a problem, since I have to apply two weeks before my visa expires. Here's the hitch: school closes February 10 through February 25 for Chinese New Year. They, and all government offices, will also be closed February 28 for a national holiday. So the week before my visa expires, there are four working days. I have to have all the paperwork from the school before I can apply for the ARC. I have to wait three days from the day I ask the school for the paperwork before I can get it. So, if I ask on 2/26, I can't pick them up until 3/1, which would again be cutting it way, way close. But applying before the holiday closure is probably too soon, so who knows what I'll do? Not me, that's for sure.

Taiwan finally got some cold wintery weather. We went from balmy days in the upper 70s to upper 40s, low 50s. It's still not super cold, especially inside the house, but I now need to wear a jacket. Been a bit rainy, too, which always makes it feel colder than it is. The long-range forecast says we'll be back to high 60s, low 70s by the 13th. Maybe, we'll see. I just hope it's nice in February when Cheryl comes to visit.

Doris from Hong Kong arrived Thursday, and Nat, Charlene, Betty, Xiao Niu, and I joined her for a wonderful dinner at Shanghai Dumpling. I love that place, especially since we get such a great discount, as it's owned by the company Nat and Charlene work for. I passed on going with Nat and Doris to Miaoli yesterday. They were going to go to the hotspring, and I don't do hotspring, plus they were spending the night. I can't afford to spend much money now, since I'm not making any. What I have in the bank has to carry me through four years of university, so I'm saving the bucks for Wu Bai & China Blue related stuff!

I managed to waste all of my Saturday yesterday, doing absolutely nothing except dinking around online and reading, with a tiny bit of timeout for meeting with a young lady named Vivi who wants some help with English. Her family owns the convenience store by my house, and I've chatted with her off and on since I moved here. She truly wants to study English but can't figure out how to pronounce words she doesn't know, so she gets intimidated. I told her I'd try to find some phonics stuff online to help out, because I don't understand the method they use here in Taiwan to try to teach the kids English pronunciation.

Need to get my hiney in gear and accomplish something today, so zai jian, see ya, toodles, ta, and all that.