Friday, September 19, 2008

Week Two Slightly Better

I've made through the 2nd week of university without killing myself, but it was touch and go there for a bit.  Last week was really, really tough, and I was near tears many times, as I couldn't understand a lot of what was going on, and I was having serious misgivings about the wisdom of deciding to attend college at my age when classes are taught in a language I'm not fluent in. When I went to talk to the Chair, he assured me that in three months I'll be fine.  Three months!  Aiyo....but the mid-term exams are in November, what about those?  How am I ever going to pass any tests?  The Chair also said that the teachers will grade me based on my ability.  I can only hope this is so.

At least my schedule got a little better, now down to only 12 classes per week:

10:10 - 12:00 Introduction to Literature (Difficult to understand a lot of what the professor says, but she's really nice and I think she'll be patient with me.)
12:00 - 4:10- a four-hour break, during which I can come home and relax a bit
4:10 - 5:00 Introduction to Computers - Practical Exercises (I cut this class this week, seemed pointless, as we hadn't actually had the real Intro to Computers class and had nothing to practice)

8:10 - 10:00 English (I love this class, hahaha, but I feel sorry for the teacher, as she can't seem to get any response out of the students at all.)
10:10 - 12:00 Phys Ed (First item on the agenda was jog around the track five times.  Well, I can't jog, so I walked as briskly as I could, in the 100 degree heat, playing Wu Bai songs on my cell phone for encouragement.  Since the others were half jogging, half walking, I was able to keep up, because their walking pace is extremely slow.  Then we did some stretches in the weight training room, and that was about it.  Next week we're supposed to learn how to use all the equipment, after the jog around the track.  I like the teacher, she's funny but no-nonsense, and she understands about my bad knees.  However, she told me I need to lose weight.  No, gee, really?  Gosh darn, if you hadn't told me, I just wouldn't have known, thanks ever so much for the enlightenment.)
12:00 - 4:10 - a four-hour break where I can go home and shower after sweating like a pig during the phys ed class.  I dropped the Grammar and Rhetoric class that I had at 1:00, because it's a 3rd year class, and I didn't understand anything at all.
4:10 - 6:00 Introduction to Computers (Incredibly annoying class, because while the teacher talks, the other students chat loudly or sleep, and I can't hear anything.  The teacher never once told them to shut up, just kept talking, and they got louder and louder......I mean, sheesh, I wouldn't understand an explanation of binary code in English, let alone Chinese!  Why on earth this is a required class for the Chinese Department, I'll never know.)

8:10 - 10:00 Computer Word Processing - the other students practice typing English, I'm trying to learn how to input Chinese with the keyboard instead of with software, it's kinda fun
10:10 - 12:00  Readings in Chinese Poetry (I like this teacher very much, he's cool, but I don't understand much, yet.  Too many references to things the Taiwanese kids studied throughout grade school and high school, and I have extremely limited knowledge in that area.)
12:00 - 1:00 LUNCH!  (I have a standing date with my friend Maria for Wednesday lunch in the cafeteria, where I can get a huge plate of rice with four veggie selections for only US$1.50, and it's tasty, too.)
1:10 - 3:00  Taiwan History (Another cool dude for a teacher, totally adore him.  I understand most of what he says, but sometimes he loses me.  In this class we'll also be doing some field trips, which I'm looking forward to.)
3:00 - Go home!  I dropped the Selected Readings of English Sinology Writings because 1) I discovered I didn't need the credits and the course is an elective, and 2) the teacher was pretty boring.  This class is taught in English, but his English is not very good at all, and he was nervous about having me in the class.  

Sleep-in-late day!
Originally, I had the practice class for English in the morning, but the Teaching Assistant said it would be silly for me to attend and listen to the English CDs with the others.  I just have to write a short paper for him, and that's it.
1:10 - 3:00 Chinese Paleography (Otherwise known as the study and scholarly interpretation of earlier, especially ancient, writing and forms of writing.  Not an easy class to understand, and requires one extremely huge, heavy book along with a smaller one, no fun lugging those to class. It's a subject I find very interesting, and I hope I'll be able to puzzle it all out.)
3:10 - 4:00 Labor for Education - Groups of students clean up the campus and sometimes go out into the community to clean up there, too.  I think it's a great idea, and American students should also be required to do this.  However, spending an hour in the hot sun in the summer in Taiwan is not much fun.  Still, I guess it's better than having to clean the stinky restrooms.
4:10 - 6:00  Introduction to Chinese Classics (OMG, so hard to understand the professors, who is also the Chair of the Chinese department, because he uses a lot of words I just don't know.  And his voice through the mike is SO LOUD.  Yesterday the itty bitty girl next to me was concentrating on taking a note, and the professor suddenly shouted to make a point, and she shrieked and jumped out of her seat in fear.  I had a bad headache by the end of class.) 

9:10 - 10:00  Introduction to Chinese Classics Practical Exercises (Sigh....yet another class where I'm clueless as to what's going on.  The teaching assistant has lousy handwriting, so I can't understand what she writes on the board.  Well, come to think of it, I can't understand most of the other teachers' writing, either.  It's like I've only studied printing, and they're using handwriting - big difference!  Anyway, in this class we're separated into groups to work on reports, and at least the guy who sits next to me speaks a tiny bit of English and can help explain stuff to me.
10:00 - go home!  Originally I had, of all things, a "nursing" class in the afternoon, but the school decided that foreign students didn't need to take that, hooray!  Now I have a day that I can go into Taipei to meet my friends for lunch once in awhile.

My classmates are very nice, but they're all 18 years old, and I don't really have much in common with them.  Some of the girls are just too giggly for me, and there are way too many of them who seem to want to make friends just so they can learn more English.  I'm going to be a little standoffish for awhile, I think, and I'm not going to be attending many of their group activities.  So far I haven't run into any crazy-as-I-am Wu Bai fans, but I'm still hoping I will.

When the typhoon left us on Tuesday, it took Autumn along with it.  It's been back to stinking hot for the rest of the week.  I do hope it starts to cool down soon.

Busy weekend ahead, got some reading to do and will meet with Aaron, who has finally come back from England.  I know Monday will be coming along far too soon. :(

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sinlaku Lands on Northern Taiwan

Can you see Taiwan?  Nope, you can't!  We're just a bit to the left of the eye of the typhoon.

From's Hurricane Report

As of late Friday evening, EDT, dangerous Typhoon Sinlaku was centered near 24.1 north and 122.7 east, approximately 40 miles east-southeast of Taipei and 340 miles west-southwest of Naha, Okinawa. Winds were sustained at 100 mph with gusts to 120 mph, and movement was to the northwest at close to 6 mph.

Landfall on the northern tip of Taiwan has occurred tonight, EDT. A ridge to the north and east of the storm will cause it to drift slowly to the northwest, which will cause a direct effect on Taiwan over the next couple of days. Interaction between the storm and the varied terrain of Taiwan will result in torrential rainfall and flooding, as well as mudslides. Damaging winds will be a threat to Taiwan, as well as the southwestern Ryukyu Islands.

Sinlaku is expected to recurve later this weekend and could impact southern Japan early next week.

Sinlaku's close proximity to Taiwan will inhibit strengthening this weekend, but as the typhoon moves northward, over open water north of the island early next week, sustained winds could rebound to 120 mph.

Gosh darn it, why can't these typhoons wait for a weekday to hit?  The weekend is completely ruined (to say nothing of the Mid Autumn Festival tomorrow - no moon viewing, no barbecuing for us, phooey), and it will probably be classes as usual on Monday.  Boooooo, hissssss.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

An Even Briefer Appearance

Best news:  I successfully got my ARC!  Yup, I now hold that coveted little card that will allow me to stay here in Taiwan for the next year without the hassle of extensions, applying for new visas, dealing with the HK visa office, etc.  And I can finally apply for the National Health Insurance, which means I'll be able to afford the MRI on my knee and the possible surgery I'll need to get it back in shape, as well as the much-needed dental work that I've been putting off.  Yippee!

Not so good news:  When I attended the orientation on Thursday, I barely understood anything they talked about.  This does not bode well for my ability to understand an instructor in class.  And you should have seen me trying to fill out the 100+ questions personality test in Chinese!  Actually, I was surprised I understood as much as I did, but I'm thankful we didn't have to put our names on those things, because I may have given some pretty weird answers. :)

Another thing about that orientation.....they didn't tell me they were going to try to kill me. At 8:00 a.m. they made all the students line up on the playing field, in the hot sun.  There I am with a bunch of 18-year-olds, feeling quite out of place.  I knew the orientation would be held in the gym, which was a short walk away, so I was a bit surprised when they marched us all in the opposite direction.  Up some stairs.  Down a long road, around a turn, then back up the way we'd come.  Up a very, very, very long flight of very, very, very steep stone stairs.  And all the while the campus police were telling us to hurry up, making the students jog.  Not me, I can't jog.  I told one of the "herders" that my knee was injured and that I was going as fast as I could.  When we reached the gym, they wanted us to climb the stairs to the 7th floor!  Screw that, I said, and took the elevator.  Mama don't play that tune, is how I think my dear friend Romita would put it. This is apparently a school tradition, making the students experience a bit of exercise and see how it was back in the old days when the students used to walk to school instead of taking mass transit or riding scooters.  Yeah, wonderful idea for today's lazy teens, but bad idea for poor old me.

Tomorrow is the first day of school, very thankful it's only the two classes.  I'll make use of my four-hour break in the afternoon between those classes to finish up some registration stuff at school and to open a new bank account.  There doesn't seem to be a branch of my current bank anywhere near my house or the school, so I'm switching.

Thanks to everyone who sent me good wishes - please keep them coming!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Brief Appearance Before I Vanish

Hm, been a couple of months since I wrote anything, guess I'd best let you all know I'm alive.  Not that anyone seemed worried or anything, which leads me to believe there isn't anyone reading this mess anyway.

So, I went to Hong Kong at the end of June, thinking I'd apply for my new visa.  Nope, that typhoon that was over Hong Kong was dumping enough rain that I decide to blow it off and just go back at the end of July instead, figuring I'd have more time to spend with Cheryl then, as she'd be done with work for the summer.  Wouldn't you know it, the day I was scheduled to fly out, a typhoon hit Taiwan!  What is it with me and typhoons?  I thought the flight would be canceled, but those nuts took off in the typhoon anyway.  It was bumpier than the flight in June, but we made it safely.  

I went to the visa office the next day, waited for an hour, and handed over all the stuff I thought I'd need (and had some stuff like bank statements for backup, just in case).  The woman (and I'd been unlucky enough to get the really bitchy one I've dealt with before) looked through my stuff, asked to see my original letter of acceptance (ha, she thought I only had a copy), and then asked me if I knew I'd have to get my diploma and transcripts approved in the US.  "Oh yeah, I did that already, in May!" beamed I, happy that I'd covered that base.  I'll be damned if that woman didn't look at me and say, "Well, we need to see them."  "What do you mean, YOU need to see them?  There was nothing on your website about that.  I have to turn them in to the university on registration day - those papers are very important.  I left them home so I wouldn't lose them!"  She smirked at me, bundled up all my papers, and shoved them back at me.  "You'll just have to come back when you have them."  

I guess I'm used to the ridiculous rules and regulations the Taiwan government has, having had so many occasions to be flabbergasted by them, so I didn't lose my cool, just thanked her and left.  Got back to Cheryl's and booked another flight back to Hong Kong just 10 days after I was getting home to Taiwan.  Imposed my presence once again on my oh-so-gracious host and hostess, taking over their couch for a few days, went back to the visa office with all paperwork in hand, got a much nicer woman this time, and successfully got my resident visa.

Got back to Taiwan on 8/14, went to apply for my Alien Residency Certificate (ARC) on 8/15.  Was told I'd have to wait 3 weeks to get it, which is this Friday, Sept. 5.  I didn't have it to show the university on registration day, thankfully not a big deal, but we have an orientation on Friday that lasts until at least noon, and it will take me almost 2 hours to get to Banqiao to pick up the ARC.  I'm expecting to run into some sort of problem when I go, as that seems to be the way my luck is going these days.

On September 8, 2008, I will begin my life as a university student, and my current life of leisure will be OVER.  I registered for my classes yesterday and was slapped in the face with the reality of the decision I've made:  16 classes, Mon-Fri from 8:00 to 6:00 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10:00 to 6:00 on Mondays and Thursdays, and 9:00 to 3:00 on Fridays.  Oh, goddess, I just want to cry.

Well, OK, on Monday it's actually just two classes, one from 10:00 til noon, and one from 4:00 til 6:00, but it still shoots the whole day for anything else.  I get 50 minutes for lunch every day.  I have to put in one hour of hard labor per week (yeah, OK, it's only cleaning up the campus, but who wants to be sweating outside at 3:00 p.m. on a hot day, especially when you don't get any credits for it?), and I have to attend a two-hour phys ed class once a week (zero credits).  You can bet your booties I'll be getting a doctor's excuse for that one, because there's no way this bad knee of mine can handle any physical exercise that's any more than a slow walk.  I also have to take one hour per week of a course that translates as "Nursing."  WTF?  This is a required course for the Chinese Department?  I guess I'm going to learn CPR and other first-aid crap, all without getting any credits.  Why?  Why?

Truly, I had no idea that attending university would be this involved.  It seems to me that the Chico State University students I used to see running around in Chico didn't have a care in the world.  Study?  What's that?  Let's go out and party!  Perhaps it won't be as difficult as I fear, but I'm wondering how I'll fit dinner, chores, studying, homework, and my part-time job into the short hours between getting out of class and getting to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour.  I've grown too used to having all day to goof off, I guess, forgetting what it was like to have a full-time job.  I know, you're not feeling one bit sorry for me, are you?

Don't expect me to be answering any e-mails.  You think I'm bad at that now?  Ha, it's just going to get worse.  Don't expect any blog updates, either.  I'm sure you gave up on those long ago anyway, right?  This may be the last one you get for a long, long time.