Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Good Things, Bad Things

Good things:
1. Got a 92% on my test yesterday. Surprised the hell out of me.
2. Got my visa extension today without a hitch. Surprised the hell out of me.
3. Met with Xiao Zhu last night to discuss his son's classes. Discovered Vincent is not actually a child but is a small adult and should be treated as such for best results. Duly noted, and this Saturday will attempt to teach him to play poker and chase women instead of giving English lessons.
4. Tomorrow is a holiday.

Bad things:
1. Without Cheryl here the noise from the monsters above is all too clear. Must teach DZ to talk so said noise will be less noticeable.
2. Stupid US bank has an irrational fear that my Visa card "may have been compromised" which "may result in counterfeit cards being made and used" so they have issued a new one that, of course, has not arrived yet. And the old one "will no longer be valid as of March 2, 2007." Idiots.

Well, hey, there are more good things than bad, so no worries.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Return to the Real World

Chinese New Year holiday is over, back to school tomorrow, and a test. Yippee skippy. Cheryl left at 5:00 p.m., after a food-filled visit that doubtless left us both a few pounds heavier. I'm sure she's not looking forward to returning to the less-than-pleasing Hong Kong food. Taiwan food rules! I know she's already planning her next visit, making out the list of foods that are a must.

This visit was a fairly laid back one, more of an eat, drink, and watch movies trip instead of a see-the-sights one. The day she arrived we hit Carrefour for an infusion of junk food and alcohol and spent the evening watching movies. Cheryl brought me three Shaw Bros. films that I'd asked for (and wouldn't let me pay her for them, the stinker), along with my very own specially made copy of the best of Little Britain that Terry had put together for me (yay!) and a copy of Castle Cagliostro. The first night we watched the Bollywood film Dhoom 2, which had us alternately laughing at the ridiculousness of it and drooling over Hrithik Roshan's very, very fine body. Damn, that is one fine-looking man. I kept trying to picture Wu Bai's face on Hrithik's body, which I think might just be the perfect look, but I couldn't hold the vision in my head. 'S OK, cuz I kinda like Wu Bai's slightly chubby body anyway. It suits him.

We met up with Natari, Charlene, and Betty for dinner at Niko Niko on Thursday night, always a pleasure because of the good discount we get, complemented by the freebies PJ sends our way. Funck took us to a nice hotpot place in Tian Mu last night, and we filled out the rest of the time with some niu rou mian, local vendor french fries and fried chicken, Ge Ba Fu Fu mixed nuts, pistachios, Sushi Express, French toast made with raisin bread from Ginno Pasco, my homemade tiramisu, and lots and lots of raspberry vodka and beer - and corn dogs, how could I forget the wonderful corn dog I had at the zoo? Oh my, been so long since I'd had one, it was pure heaven. I think it's a good thing Cheryl only spent a few days. We're really each a bad influence upon the other. Then again, we did an awful lot of walking over the last few days, so maybe we balanced it out a bit. Maybe.

I shouldn't be online. I should be practicing writing characters and studying for the test tomorrow. But my eyes were starting to cross and my hand was hurting, so I decided a short break was in order. However, it's getting late, so I suppose I'll be a good girl and get back to studying. At least Wednesday is another holiday!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Yesterday I got a phone call from Luke and Kayun in Japan. They've decided on a wedding date - May 12, 2007! Congratulations to them both, and a very happy life. Kayun has to return to Korea next week, and I'm sure she'll be very busy with wedding preparations over the next couple of months.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Death Wish

My cat apparently desires to die. You remember back on January 23 I wrote about coming home to find that she'd clawed my Li Hai concert poster? Well, what I didn't write was that the very next day she did the same thing, but this time she totally destroyed the poster, as well as tearing up corners of two other ones. I didn't get a photo of the destroyed one.

I was so pissed at her, and her butt got beat hard. I ended up completely rearranging the dining room and kitchen, moving the cabinet she'd jumped onto into the kitchen and making it impossible for her to to reach those three posters (Charlene gave me a new Li Hai concert poster to replace the destroyed one). So what does the little shit do? She jumps up onto the cabinet in its new location in the kitchen next to the fridge, up onto the fridge, and proceeds to rip my Wild Day Out poster, which is irreplaceable! Again, the butt is beaten, and this time she's tossed onto the balcony, where she stays without food for about five hours. Did that stop her? No, the next night she was back up there, again ripping the poster in the same place I'd taped it. Another beating, and no food, exiled to the balcony. But wait - this cat is so stubborn that she did it yet a third time! And each time she knows she's wrong, because as soon as I wake up, she runs and hides because she knows I'll find out.

OK, fine, I took the poster down and moved it to a wall with no access to save us both some grief, and we have a couple of days of no trouble. Until this morning.

I walked into the living room to find my Two-Faced Man remix poster with one corner detached from the wall and claw marks. That little shit! She jumped up onto the TV stand and from there up onto the shelves that go along the top, then up onto the bookcase and across to the little DVD rack and got my poster! What the fuck is she doing? Why is she on a mission to destroy every one of my posters? Then in the bedroom I find that she'd gotten to the Two-Faced Man poster over my bed, who knows when. She'd already long ago torn up the corner of the DNA Lounge poster that Carol sent me, but she's been working on it even more lately.

So, I guess DZ will no longer be allowed in my bedroom at night. She's already banished from there and my office during the day when I'm not home, because she destroys things. Her world is getting smaller and smaller, and soon she'll find that the balcony is all she has. I'm moving everything I can, but it seems almost impossible to keep things out of her reach. She jumps up onto every cabinet all the time (I find her footprints, so I know), and no matter how much I spank her - even using the toilet brush! - she keeps going back and doing the same things, knowing that she will get in trouble for it. I have never in my life seen such a stubborn cat.

Anyone want a cat?

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I've been sick all week. It started last Sunday evening, when my throat began to hurt. Monday I felt awful, but I still had to go to school, because it was the first day of the new semester. I got my final exam - and it was 99%, wow! I was amazed. I got a final grade for the semester of 90%, which I assume is based on tests and homework completed. It's high enough that I am eligible to apply for the scholarships they give out, so I think I will.

After the first session with the new teacher, I knew I wasn't going to be very happy. Boring, boring, boring. This teacher seems like a nice person, but no spark of life in her at all. Perhaps her mind is on her upcoming wedding in March, but all of us were in danger of falling asleep.

Tuesday I was so very sick that I did stay home, feeling chilled all day despite the warm weather outside, even my skin hurting when my clothes slid across it. I dosed myself with some Theraflu and spent most of the day sleeping. Dragged myself to school Wednesday and Thursday, still feeling like crap, but if I don't go to school, then I have visa problems. The bright point was that the teacher, Chen Laoshi, decided that it wasn't worth her time to teach a class of only four students, so on Friday we split, with my three Indonesian classmates joining Chen Laoshi's 8:00 a.m. class and me going into Deng Laoshi's 1:00 p.m. more advanced class.

I like Deng Laoshi. She was the one who gave me the placement test, and I thought at that time she was pretty cool. Even though she's one of the older teachers, she's not stuffy and rigid, she's funny and lively. I was still half out of it on Friday, doing a lot of coughing, but I enjoyed her class, and it's obvious the other students really like her, too. I'm now on a two-week break for Chinese New Year, and I'll be spending a lot of time reviewing things I've forgotten. The book we're using in the new class is called Taiwan Today, and when I was at CLD we had studied up through lesson 4 of this book. Thankfully, a lot of it isn't brand-new stuff, but reviews what we learned in the Practical Audio-Visual Chinese Book 2, Part 2, and that's the one I've forgotten most of.

Today is another book-signing event, two actually, and Charlene, Natari, Xiao Niu, and I are going. Charlene and I went last week to the one at the book exhibition, but there were so many friggin' people there that I didn't think it was worth standing in line. Besides, my lower lip was blossoming with a huge cold sore, and I certainly didn't want to stick that in Wu Bai's face. It's better now, despite two smaller ones that popped up over the course of this rotten cold. Since I am sick, I might wear one of the face masks folks here use to prevent germs from running rampant (popularized by the SARS epidemic). I already have my book signed, but I need to get Alice and Caroline's signed, if possible, which means standing in line twice.

Oh gosh, I don't think I've written about my first lesson with Xiao Zhu's son, Vincent. Well, I consider it less than a success. His mom dropped him off last Saturday, and I spent two hours trying to get the kid to say more than "yes" or "no" to anything! I think he was just so shy that he didn't know what to do. I finally discerned that he liked Harry Potter and brought out my Harry Potter books. Vincent picked up each one, opened it in the middle, stuck his face in, and inhaled deeply. I have never seen a kid smell books before. Very strange. He also enjoyed playing with DZ and wandering around my house as if he lived there. I need to sit down and talke with Xiao Zhu and Du Du and find out what makes the kid tick, what he's interested in. I can't spend two hours just talking at him, he has to talk back. This week my voice is so bad that I told Xiao Zhu no way could I teach, so hopefully during the next week I'll be able to meet with the folks and form a plan. If anyone has hints on how to get a shy kid to talk, let me know. I even plied him with chocolate! He's either 13 or 14 (Dad says 13, kid says 14), and he's as tall as me, maybe a little taller, and he's pretty chubby, which surprised me. Xiao Zhu and Du Du are both rail thin, like most of the people here. So at least Vincent and I have one thing in common - a love of food. :)

Hm, I think I'm still a little loopy from the Theraflu. Sadly, last night I downed the last packet, and I don't think I can buy it in Taiwan. It's about time to make up a shopping list and impose on the folks back in the US to shop for me. I'll bet I can twist Dad's arm a little bit, ha.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Feeling Testy

Today was the last day of my first semester at the new school. Next week I begin a new class with a new teacher, and I'm so sad. I love Wang Laoshi! I wish I could continue on with her, but she'll only be teaching the very first book next semester, and I must move on. I've heard a couple of bad things about the new teacher, Chen Laoshi, but I'll wait to form my opinion until I've actually experienced her teaching. I sure hope she's not one of those extremely strict teachers, ewwww.

So because today was the last day, we had our final test, which covered the seven chapters we've studied over the last 11 weeks. I began studying yesterday around 2:00 p.m., and I kept going until 8:30 p.m., mostly practicing writing characters, because that's my weak point. Man, was I tired! I think it paid off, though, because I felt I did pretty good today. Won't know until Monday, of course, but I have a good feeling. As I was coming home on the MRT, it hit me that I'd written the entirely wrong answer for one question, though. Duh...

This semester marked my first experience with a test that's very common in most Chinese classes, but not at the school I previously attended. This is called a "ting xie" which means "listen write." The teacher reads a sentence, and we have to write the correct characters, as well as the pinyin spelling (or bo-po-mo-fo) with the correct tone marks. Luckily, we only had four of these, the first two being full sentences, and the last two being just words or phrases. On my first test, I scored 92%, on the second 93%. The third was 100% correct, and I'm confident that today's will also turn out to be 100%. For the other tests at the end of each chapter, I'm happy to say that I always did pretty good. My scores were as follows:

Chapter 1 - 95%
Chapter 2 - 99%
Chapter 3 - 98%
Chapter 4 - 98%
Chapter 5 - 98%
Chapter 6 - 100% (finally! I was tired of the 98% rut.)

I'm hoping for 95-98% for today's test, but since the final portion was writing a small essay, I'm not so sure I'll get that many points. When I can write at home, I do quite well, because I can type it first and then I have something to look at to help with characters I don't remember how to write. But on the spot like that, I can only use words I remember, which makes my composition read like a child wrote it. Argh.

Update: Wow, I got 99% on the end-of-semester final! Shocked the hell out of me, that's for sure. I got a final grade of 90% for the semester, which I assume is based on both homework and tests. Me so happy....

In other news, Xiao Zhu called to say he can't bring his son tomorrow, because he has to go to Tainan for a show, so his wife, Du Du, will bring the boy. I like Du Du, she's very energetic and happy whenever we see her at ABS shows, seems like quite a character. I must make sure the house is spotless tomorrow to make a good impression!

Tomorrow evening a new student named Donny will come for his first class. I hope that works out, because I sure can use the money. I think it will be only about a one-month class, because he's taking his IELTS test in March, and if he passes, he won't need me anymore.

Sunday Charlene and I are going to the International Book Exhibition at the Taipei World Trade Center to see Wu Bai. I went to his book forum on Monday at the Eslite store, and it was quite fun. He looked particulary handsome that day, and I was so happy that I understood about 75% of everything he said. Plus, he remembered my name, when I brought my book up to be signed. I like his photographs very much, and I hope one of these days he publishes a book of his drawings, too. Quite the talented fellow, that Wu Bai is. Music, photography, art, cooking - the man does it all.

One more week of school, then we break for two weeks for Chinese New Year, and Cheryl comes to visit! Yay!