Monday, October 19, 2009

"Green Johnny", "Escape Plan" and Other Tales

Green Johnny
Once there was a man who was born in Nigeria. He fell in love with a woman from Ghana and moved with her to that country. There they had sons. Their sons grew strong, swimming in the river, eating fresh delicious fruits, and wonderful meals of boiled fish and vegetables. One day, the youngest son, Johnny, took leave of his family. "I'm going to Taiwan," he said, "to teach English."
Johnny got on a plane. He came to Taiwan. He started looking for work at the English schools. The people in the schools would always tell him that he was not what they wanted. People who met Johnny on the street or in a cafe would always ask him "why are you here?...are you working? you drive a cab? you sell knockoff shoes?... Are you a laborer?" but no one ever guessed that he was there to teach.
One day, a school that Johnny sent his resume to called him up. The man on the phone said "are you black or white?" "I am green" said Johnny. "You are green!?!" "Yes, I am green. A group of us green people came over here together. There are three of us in Taipei now and two went to the south. We have green skin." "OK, you come in tomorrow for the interview." "I will be there at 1 o'clock." At 1 o'clock, Johnny showed up to the school. As he walked up to the glass doors he could see all of the secretaries looking over the tops of their cubicles to see the green man. He could hear them whispering "is that him?" Johnny opened the door and said, "I am Green". The manager ushered him into his office, looked at him and said "you are not green". Johnny said "that is because you can not see me. With my eyes, I look at my skin and it is green, my hands are green. my arms are green. my legs are green. You are wearing glasses so you can not see me with your natural eyes. Take of your glasses off and you will see that I am green". "If I take off my glasses then I cannot see you at all", said the manager. "That then is your problem. If you fix your eyes then you will see".
Johnny got the job teaching. He has been in Taiwan for over 10 years. He works sporadically for that first school that hired him and where they still call him "Green Johnny". Johnny now also has a fairly lucrative scooter parts export business. Johnny procures scooter parts from all over the island and ships them to his brother in Africa where they are then put into custom scooters and sold.

Escape Plan
Derek is a Canadian who showed up at the hostel with his boyfriend a few days ago. He is working for Hess the same company that I work for. His branch is in Taipei City and is exclusively kindergarten. Derek didn't know that it is illegal for foreigners to teach kindergarten in Taiwan. Yesterday he was given a tour of the school. There are three class rooms. In each one he was told where the emergency exit was and given an elaborate escape route up to the roof, then over to the roof of the neighboring building, then down that building's elevator and onto to street. If at any point when he is in the building "the song about the purple monkeys swinging free" is played on the loudspeaker, then he is immediately to grab his belongings and escape.
Today I went into work. My locker was gone. All of the lockers were gone. "Curious", I thought. I needed to find my locker because in it were my lesson plans.
I asked one of the girls who answers the phone where they were and she said they were moved into the classrooms. "OK". I turned to go through the door to the classrooms but there was no longer a door there. Where the door used to be was now a wall. We got inspected today. I guess my school has fake walls. No one every told me about any escape plans or purple monkey songs. Maybe they have a trap door in front of the chalkboard that will shoot me out to safety.

A week ago I went to RenAi hospital to have my health check done. A health check is required for all foreign workers. I went in and took a number and filled out a form. They called it and sent me to window 11. That is the cashier for foreigners. I confused the woman at the window who was entering my data into the computer by putting down my name as Helen C.M. Jackson. I didn't know what the trouble was. Middle names. As it is, my name was too long anyway. In Taiwan I am now Helen Jackso. I then was sent into a room and where there was a long counter with swivel chairs at regular intervals like an old Woolworth's dining counter. In front of each chair was a number1 2 3 ...There was a different woman stationed opposite each station. First I was weighed and my height taken. I'm 177 cm. 54kg. At station two my blood pressure was taken. switching seats my eyes examined. Then i was sent upstairs and sat in front of a similar set up with the phlebotomists. first chair-handed the woman my file. she gave me three empty vials to take to the next chair where a woman filled them up with my blood. Then into the x-ray. "take off your necklace" the man indicated. I could not. I am wearing a Joan of Arc medal tied around my neck with thread. He put it in my mouth. had me wrap my arms around a big metal box. snapped a picture of my chest and in thirty seconds I was on my way home.
The entire process took under an hour.
Friday I had to go back and pick up my papers. I was sure I'd have a clean bill of health. I was wrong. I needed a measles/rubella vaccination.
Now, if any of the Plagges are reading this, Angela, I swear there was a Taiwanese candystriper who was an Asian version of your mother. I almost said xiexie Mrs. George to her at one point. She guided me from counter to counter paying, picking up the vaccine and and showing me to the door where they would stick me with it. She was very good.
After picking up the paperwork I took it to the Hess office. There I signed "the government" contract. It struck me as odd that the Hess name appeared no where on the paper.
Tomorrow or Wednesday I will sign "the Hess contract" in Sanshia.
I'm contracted till August 15. It is a little shorter than a year but that is because I'm filling the space which was vacated by some English guy who took off in the night.

Teaching is going to be strange. I have 11 classes now and by December I will have 13. I will be in or around the offices from 9 til 9. I was grading papers last week. I was doing it wrong. I am not permitted to give a grade lower than 85.
I'm teaching many different ages and abilities. One class I was teaching verb tenses to kids that don't know what a verb is.
How do you explain a noun to someone who hasn't had "person, place, or thing" as a vocabulary word yet?
Teacher Rebecca was sick last night so I covered her honors class. The subject was places of worship.
That's a funny story. Maybe I'll tell it later.

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