Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chronology Swine flu Pride

So, as I said in an earlier post, NST (Native Speaking Teacher) is my official title. I spent the first three weeks expressing as one author puts it, "the agitation of a captive animal in the first hours of its domestication". New jobs always make me feel that way. But I'm getting the hang of it. The job is easier each time I do it.
Teaching English is the primary topic of conversation between Ashley and I. In fact it is the main topic among most of the expats. There is a martial air to community here. The weathered old veterans, the rosy cheeked new recruits. The battle stories one exchanges when you meet with each other by chance.
I've learned that the more I am able to break the golden rule "no speaking Chinese," the better the classes will be. Teaching kids that can barely read their mother tongue the meaning of a word is much easier if I can give them a close approximation of what I am saying in their own language.
Especially since the flashcards are ambiguous.
Adjectives are the worst. On the flashcard for "cool" is a picture of a skateboarding monkey wearing a Hawaiian shirt and purple sunglasses.
"Curious" though that may be, even "interesting", it is not cool.
Between the two branches of Hess at which I work, I have encountered 4 NSTs. One is South African so english isn't even his native tongue. The other 3 are Canadian. All of them look sick. Black circles around the eyes. Most of them emaciated. Translucent skin. They look like they are dying. They complain about how much work they have to do. Their biggest complaint is how their time is managed because for us a day is often from 9 in the morning until 9 at night with a break of a couple hours in the middle of the day.
I recognize how different this is from traditional North American time management. Typically, we rise early, go to work, and are home before Jeopardy. Admittedly this is not how it works for everyone in the Americas and certainly not for most of the people that I know but this is our cultural temporal template. This template, or chronology, (I can give it a fancy name because it is so ingrained in us that it is like and ideology, or theology in that we all have it but hardly recognize it), This chronology is challenged in Taiwan. It is not that the demands put on us are so heavy that they are impossible to manage, it is that no one at all uses Time the way we expect it to be used. People wake up early "-5AM. They go to bed late-12 or 1AM. The Chinese teachers work 6 and 7 days a week and they work 14-15 hours straight through the day (teaching and office work). It is the way of life here. They don't itch like these foreigners to be doing "something else". It is not that we (the foreigners) necessarily have anything else very special to do, it is just the way we were acculturated.
I am going to try to adopt a Taiwanese chronology.

Friday one of the women at the office said to me "Nicole (one of my students) is sick." OK. That's nice of her to tell me. I marked that Nicole would be absent from class in my book. I would have discovered that at roll call but I guess it is good to have a heads up. Gee, I thought, Nicole is a good kid. I think she likes me. She was especially effectionate the other day. She hugged me a couple times. I think I remeber her sneezing on me. Saturday, Halloween, I went to teach at another branch. While I was grading papers at the break Teacher Rebecca NST came up to me and with a knowing look said "So, Nicole is sick, hunh?" "Yeah," says I, "she's a whippersnapper". And Teacher Rebecca said "But she's sick". And then the realization came to me and I said "Wait a minute. How does everyone know Nicole is sick? You mean she's Sick? Like, with the Sick sick? Like the..." "Yeah," she said, "They didn't tell you?". "Well, yeah, they told me she was sick but they didn't tell me it was....Oh my God. She sneezed on me. I think I have Swine Flu".

After work Saturday, I hopped on a bus and met up with some friends of mine in Taipei and we wandered around and found the Gay Pride parade. It was the most well behaved parade I have ever seen. It could have been a May Procession (when all the Catholic school girls in their white dresses march from the church around their parish singing songs to the Virgin Mary).
It is the biggest and longest running Pride Parade in Asia and consisted of about 25000 revelers. There were a couple of girls who asked me to take their picture. I did. They told me they were from Beijing. They asked where I was from. I told them the US and one girl said "Welcome to China."
Everytime I meet someone from the mainland they say "welcome to China." Everytime I meet a Taiwanese person they say "Welcome to Taiwan." And both welcomes are expressed with significant political undertones.

Today Megan and Ashley are going to walk up 500 steps on a mountainside somewhere.
I am going to work.


  1. Number of H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemy cases grows (already more than 30,000 deaths worldwide) and you or one of your family could have this fatal disease. If you want to protect yourself and your family, friends, colleagues - bookmark the address - http://b23.ru/slfc - and send it to all who you know, may be so you save their lives. This is a list of social emergency medicines that can be used against Swine Flu H1N1.