Wednesday, October 21, 2009

35 days

Megan in the Deep Mountain:
Today is Wednesday for two more minutes. On Sunday I will call the phone number of the farmer's sister that Megan wrote on a scrap of paper.
She left on Sunday morning for Nantou. Nantou is a rural mountainous agricultural area in the center of Taiwan. All she knew was that she had to meet Farmer Chang at the train station at 5pm. I'm picturing a wooden cart drawn by two white oxen. She didn't know how long she'd be staying. Or exactly where. Or what she'd be doing when she got there. I told her if I didn't get word from her in a week I would call. If I don't touch base with her in a week and a day, then I'm calling in the Airforce. I'm sure she is doing fine.

Ashley and Ingrid, A Love Story:
Ashley went into Ingrid's school, Harmony School, on Monday and broke the news. "I was offered full time work, 27 hours, in Hsinfong". Ingrid turned white. "please stay. I will give you 27 hours". "How?" "I will fire the other white guy teacher." "OK" "Here is a contract...and my heart". That is not actually what happened but it was something like that. Ingrid fired the other teacher. Ashley is staying with her.
Besides the young kids that Ashley teaches at Harmony, she has also picked up an adult class on Monday nights. Ashley brings in a copy of the China Post (an English language publication) and they pick an article to read and discuss. Oh, look! There's a China Post on the coffee table. Let's see what the issues are of concern to the English speaking expat population in Taiwan.
Oh, here's a good one: "PepsiCo has apologized for a free iPhone application crafted to help men seduce women and keep records of conquests but the program remained available on Tuesday".
This class is small. There are only three adult students. One of them is Ingrid.

Teaching as Improv:
I don't have much time to prepare classes. Sometimes only ten minutes. Today I had to go from one school to another in 40 minutes. I got on the wrong bus. I had to get off the bus. I got on another bus. Turns out the first bus I was on was the right bus. I got back on that bus. I had to run along the river dodging in and out of food stalls, jumping over stools, knocking into tables, and I made it to class with 6 minutes to spare. Class was a disaster but the kids never knew it. I made them play a game on the board while I figured out the lesson plan. Neither my previous teaching experience nor my education prepared me for this job as much as my training as an actor. I keep having flashbacks to Improv exercises I did with the acting troupe I was in as a kid. Most of my job is just cold script reading. The books and materials that the school supplies are mostly patterns the children have to memorize. "I am smart. I am not smart. The fat rabbits are on the desk. I like the fat rabbits". I'm a pretty inefficient teacher. Kids look at me cockeyed a lot. They freak out when I speak Chinese (which I only do under my breath, outside of class time), but I like to speak to them because they seem to understand me more than adults do.

Sanshia is Bensonhurst:
The pedestrian bridge which crosses the river is wide. It is not only for traffic but also for lingering. Loitering is encouraged. there are gazebo/pagoda structures fastened to either side ofthe bridge. It is well lit and lovely.
The other night as I walked across the pedestrian bridge, I saw lovers cooing in a corner, I saw teens smoking in a group off to oneside and I saw old men playing a game in the middle of the bridge. At first I thought it was Baci ball because of the underhand tossing motion and the men facing eachother at a distance of about 20 feet. As I got closer I realized that it was not a ball in their hands but a spinning top. In between them was a little wooden stand with small saucer shaped trays on top. Each man took a turn tossing his top onto the saucer. with in the sacucer was a smaller mark that they aimed for. It looked as if two men at a time play while others look on, chit chat and spit betelnut juice. Spinning tops are not for children in opposite land.
My first archaeological field work was in Bensonhurst Brooklyn. 20 of us college kids would make the trek to 86th Street and dig in the old Dutch church yard as the summer sun nuked us. At noon, our shackles were loosened for an hour. We were free to wander and find food. The people of Bensonhurst were friendly, but warry. I remember one time I went to use a payphone and a smiling man came up to me from out of nowhere to let me know that maybe I should not try to make a call. He was very nice about it though. As we were digging I had a feeling were being watched all the time. Like people were sweating lest we disinter something that should not have been disturbed. Like a body. And of course everyone in Bensonhurst is in the Mafia. I think Sanshia is full of gangsters. I don't have any proof yet bu it feels just like that remote part of Brooklyn. When Ashley and I were kidnapped by the Taiwanese brother and sister last week, we found that they did not want to talk about their jobs. I will have plenty of time to find out more about the character of the town. I picked out an apartment tonight. It is a bathroom, and a room with a bed and a desk. Tomorrow I sign stuff. Sunday I move in if all goes well.

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