Thursday, February 6, 2014


Taiwan and I. Hmmm. Well for starters, I was determined not to have another “Korea” in my life. By that I mean that I didn’t want to develop a hatred for a country I hardly knew and then have to work through the healing process. I’ve got other shit i’d rather learn thanks. Now the fastest way { I } know to avoid hatred is to find a way to enjoy before malcontent can set in. So I thoroughly enjoy nature and food and knew from my previous trip to Taiwan that both of those things are all around you at all times. Boom - book me a ticket. I came here post Philippines, so that’s another variable that I didn’t expect, but I wouldn’t say its a hindrance to my goal. In fact it might have helped get me in the right frame of mind before I came. Oh look ~ unexpected aid. In Taiwan I expected nothing more than to accomplish the following: 1) Make a circuit from Taipei in the North, working down the west coast, stopping in the major cities and back up the east coast back to Taipei for my flight almost 2 weeks later. 2) Eat like i’m not gonna have another chance to 3) Rest and find peace for my soul. So far i’ve done all of that except for make it back to Taipei - but i’ve got lodging booked and a general idea of how i’ll get there (not to mention 5 or so days left to do it~). I’m now in the most “different” place in Taiwan that i’ve experienced. It’s important to note that i’ve spent the past week going down the west coast, going to night-markets, watching people and yah - I’ve been living in China for going on 3.5 years. So when I say “different” I mean, unusual compared to all that. This is Village called DuLan, just a bit north of Taidong (台东 ~aka Taitung) whyyy oh why did i choose a village? because all the hostels in the city itself looked laaame, and i’ve been in enough cities over the past week ~ and you can see the sea from the 3rd floor of this hostel. Not gonna lie - being sandwiched between the sea and the mountains is pretty glorious. Quick recap: up until this moment i’ve been from Taipei in the far north, to Taizhong on the central west, Tainan on the mid-south-west Kaohsiung on the sooouth west, and now over to slightly above taidong on the south east. Geography aside: this is the most grim and hostile place i’ve been in Taiwan. Not that anyone has been mean or anything, its just that “vibe.” I wonder if its something the sea brings with it when its cool/cold? It reminds me of that grim artwork of fishing towns, where people have this calloused expression like they half-expect you to go to sea and not come back. Dark y’all. Gloomy folk aside though ~ i’ve been to the beach 3 or 4 times just to sit there and let my heart pour out. I also climbed the road going up the mountain to an art-cafe (which if you’re ever in DuLan ~ I suggest “The Moonlight Inn (月光小栈)”) There is an awesome view of the sea, the air is super clean and the coffee is reasonable. I was expecting it to be way expensive, but the price matched the quality (reasonable...). It was an accessory to the moment lets say. I get drawn to nature a lot. Migratory birds need to go south for the winter; I need to find a forest, stream, ocean, or mountain with some quiet vistas when the call comes. So its a pretty conflicted place i’d say. Its odd though. Its a little spit of a village ~ i’d be quite surprised if they break 500 people, but there’s foreigners floating around all over the place. I went to a pizza place run by an italian guy who’s girlfriend works in Taipei (like 200 miles away...). He doesn’t like the city so he came down here and runs a little pizzeria out of a tin shed ~ how bout that. Yesterday I went to the old sugar factory (there’s one here too??? its not as cool at the one in KaoHsiung though...). There is a stage and they have live music weekly ~ and there was a bamboo shack off the entrance of the parking lot that has coffee and drinks etc ~ and LEGIT japanese beer sold in blue bottles. There were reindeer and snowy peaks on the front and I do believe that enhances the flavour. How can such classy things be available in an otherwise dump-esque place? What brings people (tourists) here (and they ARE here)? is it just the vistas? There is surfing, but its on like 2 foot tall waves so I can’t say that’s it... To spit it out solid - this has made me seriously wary of my notions of setting down a head-quarters in Alaska. Not expunged those notions, but definitely call into question. The value of geography and scenery can be sullied and distracted from by the local (albeit small) populace. Taiwan, Taiwan. What do I have to say about you. I think it would be easier to live here than in Mainland China. There is a lot here to make one comfortable. There is a lot of interesting, delicious, clean, polite, new. Its small, but there is a lot of good here. If I had come here first, maybe I would prefer Taiwan over Mainland. I am glad that I didn’t come here first. I am glad that I started in the Mainland (not really an active choice, as much as it was an acceptance of fate). I’m also glad that I had my rough experience with Korea. I am glad because, through that dip in the crucible, I have learned much (burned much?). I have learned that judging a country(culture {language}) by what they have or what they do is not wholesome. It may be “fair”, but i’ve seen that “fair” is a judgement that sucks a lot of the possible good out of the world. Taiwan has a lot of good. So does Mainland. And the dog-eat-doggery of their relationship makes thing difficult indeed. I’ve met wonderful people from each of these places ~ and shit heads. And whats more, I don’t care to say that because of any of my experiences, I think one should rule the other. (PS they both have {at one time or another} expressed an entitlement to the other.) Possibly my favourite thing in this island is the night markets (their transportation is pretty legit too~) after maybe 5:30 or 6 these areas open up, and they’re available in all of the major cities I’ve been to in Taiwan. Think of any “county fair” or “carnival” that you’ve ever been to. Booths upon booths of people selling food and random stuff ~ thats a night-market. Massive variety, and abundant deliciousness at such cheapness that anyone can wander about with a nonchalant spend-happy demeanor. So thats what i’ve done for over a week. I worm my way into the flow of people and go from booth to booth looking, and when I find something that I think looks delish - I dig my heels in, and all those suckers can flow around me while I wait for my deliciousness to be made ready for me. Milk-tea in a bag, little egg cakes with shrimp tails sticking out the top, some sort of mascarpone cheese with wild berries in a footed cup, everything possible on a stick, everything possible deep fried in tempura, fried noodles in a deluxe hot-dog bun, the list goes on just as quickly as someone can think of something new and set up a booth for it. Transportation wise ~ the trains go everywhere (admittedly, the island is like 300 miles long and there is a mountain ridge that runs down the middle, so “everywhere” isn’t exactly expansive). The have vending machines for train tickets, so you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll get where you’re wanting to go plus or minus an hour or two (pending loads eh?) Their fast train is lovely ~ but also only necessary if you are in the direst of hurries. Slow train will get you from top of the island down to the bottom in 5-6 hours, and if you’re used to Mainland China ~ that’s par for the course. uh~.~~.~ What is there to say really? I suppose the thing that I think is most worth saying, and ties into my trip to the Philippines, is that Taiwan is generally more developed than Mainland China, but that does not mean that it is “better.” I have said that I Taiwan is a more comfortable place than Mainland China. Neither do I count this as factor that really defines Taiwan as “better” than Mainland China. Taiwan is cleaner, the people are more polite, and there are a lot of international comforts available around every corner. But this glorious wedge of cheese needs to be viewed with the the mouse-trap as well. Politeness for one. The more rules there are to follow, the more judgement follows when the rules are broken. In Mainland, if I ask someone for directions somewhat vaguely, they’ll answer me, or they might not know, and they’ll tell me. In Taiwan, if I don’t know the exact name of where I want to go, or the address for the place, I might get a “oh... I don’t know what you’re talking about dude” and a half-roll of the eyes that echos the same face we’d use in the US when thinking “you should really be better prepared than this.” ??? So yah, there is more politeness, but I wouldn’t say there is more kindness here. Cleanliness ~ the west coast (all the major cities) are noticeably polluted and covered smog~ its not a wide island. What would happen if there was an actual “inland” to this island? No more sea wind to pull of some of that stinky stank? Littering wise, there is no comparison, Taiwan wins hands down on that front. International stuff ~ oh its lovely. I love me some of that, cheese influenced foods, wine, international beer options. Japanese candies, Cold Stone Creamery ~ and Tieguanyin (a unique kind of tea) Ice-cream. OH my. Lots of good foods, and openness to new types of foods it seems too. But in a way, I think so much comfort in a place like this makes you never want to leave. Its easy to weigh all of this good and say that, because of its creativity and its development, taiwan is better. I rebel against that line though. Taiwan is a munchkin land by comparison with Mainland China, and this island has had a lot of international help (at least through economic exchange and military support), whereas the Mainland has fought for everything they have. What will happen over the next 50 years in China? I hope to see whatever portion of that time that God will leave me on this earth for. Mainland is humongous and draws influences from all over its massive territory. The opportunities for new, and different are proportionately massive. Let me wheel around now and talk of the Philippines for a minute and hopefully this will become clearer for you. This is not some mighty tally sheet where I am keeping score between the Mainland and Taiwan. I don’t think that kind of cosmic math will come up with “the right” kind of answer when we are trying to understand the world we are in, or the world we hope to be in. The Philippines is a special place. I believe it’s classed as a third-world country, and that was a term that used to evoke in me the response: Aw~ how sad. They should have “more.“ I wouldn’t likely say something like that because other people would think it hateful and judgmental unless they were having the same thoughts and had voiced them first... But I found a number of sources of “more” and “muchness” that I have not seen ANYwhere but in the Philippines. Somehow we get caught up doing what we do in our countries, but many of us are left horribly incontent. Yet we secretly consider ourselves better off because of what we have, or have easier access to. The most shocking point of realization for me was children. I’ll not lie ~ I don’t typically like kids. I find most of them obnoxious and gross and its always a question I have as to WHY on earth people would want to have them. Some people collect children like bits of shiny rock and show them off to the other adults. “Hey, have you seen my latest off-spring, see how it drewls? fabulous right?” And my normal internal response is that convulsive shiver that runs up my torso like my spine’s been replaced by a slimy-escaping eel. Kids do have their bright moments, but for my part i’d say the frequency of bright to dark moments is usually on the less respectable side of the fraction. Kid by kid basis of course ~ and multi-lingualism instantly makes kids cuter to me somehow. More personally though, I will also admit now that I do not have a feeling of congratulations and excitement for people when they say they are pregnant, or having a child. The feeling just isn’t there for me to give. When I hear that news, internally i think ~ well~ you’re life is gonna get a whole lot harder now. And thats my first thought. I don’t even really nurse an after-thought along the lines of: your life will be more enriched because of this toil later. Nope - to me thats a very insubstantial maybe. It might be enriched because of your toil through pregnancy, raising and hopefully cultivating the child. Perhaps. But the Philippines gave me a very different look on things. I’ve forever looked at children as a burden and sources of natural discomfort like mosquitos or bed-head. Here though, kids’re just a part of the show. Life goes on whether they stub their toe or grow up to drive a tricycle taxi. They just let them “flow.” In China kids are almost all called “treasure” and they are treated like it, and they have massive entitlement issues and give me no hope for the future. In the philippines they’re just set to roam with the other kids in herds like cattle. They run out into traffic, but the tricycle taxis (a motorcycle with a side-car that looks to me like the soviet interpretation of an amish-buggy) are all used to kids not paying attention to a single damn thing, and they swerve around them with a dexterity and tolerance that I massively respect. The kids play with each other. None of the parents is apparently concerned about the other kids being a bad influence on “their” kid, and the parents mostly let them keep their own lord-of-the-flies-esque society. Aside from them roasting one of the unfortunates of their society, pretty much anything goes. I didn’t see too much interfering. Kids are taken along on all sorts of trips, but they are not allowed to dictate how the cookie crumbles when they are in adult society, and they are kept in line when it comes to infringing on the other adult members human experience. The kids of my host’s relatives were constantly being told to keep their voice down and this or that when they were around me, because my host was super perceptive that I can’t handle the full spectrum of “the childhood experience.” I wasn’t rude or imposing, but I can’t help but wince when a rug-rat decides to bellow his opinion to the world a foot and a half from me. Why do they progressively get closer to me? They like me often, even though I don’t think the world of them. My Co-worker was with me, and he was doing his darndest to get them to like him, but I maintained my feline semi-detached state. Thats really my problem ~ they always want what they cant have :D. The kids in the area I was in were given a very loose leash. They were left to occupy themselves with the other kids, and they played with whatever and whoever was around. There were kids wrestling and fighting in the streets, no one stopped them. You know that old-school game in illustrations of like the 1800’s North America where there is a hoop and a stick and the kids try to keep the wheel going as long and as far as they can while they run along-side it. Yah ~ they still play that in the Philippines. And I tell you what ~ there were loads of kids playing at it all along the way ~ and I spent almost ten hours flying (slamming?) around mountain roads in a Jeepney to a different province. And they looked content. What more could you really want? something that you’re willing to be occupied by, food, friends, and love. They have all of that. But how many kids do we have in our own stretch of the earth that are sat at home going: I thought I was gonna have some more fun today. My own niece said that when she was at headquarters (my parents home) a few years ago. I thought it was a dreadful thing to be feeling. An expectation of fun, and then being disappointed about it. Kids need society, but in our larger society, I see less and less kids finding it. Yet we go about worried about whether our kids are getting “exposed” to the “right” kinds of education, society, and culture. We worry about: are we rearing our kids “correctly”. We meddle. We control instead of coax. By controlling on such a wide scale, i’d say the controlee (the kid) comes to expect that the controller will have the answers. And what happens when we have a few extra kids and that kid, that was being controlled or led about on the leash now has a bit “too much” freedom? What roads do they go down when they get all that extra leash or no leash at all and they’re open to doing all the things they were told they couldn’t but have constantly harboured a desire to do? I don’t see the Philippinos pulling out their hair about this?!! and I am immensely impressed by their ability to cultivate, and love, and develop fantastic members of their ever widening communities. And it really is community. Everyone is allowed in. We were dwelling in an area that I would have considered a slum before I came to the Philippines. There were tin roofs everywhere, bars an all sorts of windows, narrow alleys, and ram-shackle of every shade and texture available. We stayed in the tallest building in the area (a three story building that towered over the other one and a half story dwellings nearby.) I was honestly a little worried (surreptitiously) about being judged or scorned by the locals because of it. I hate the word “rich”. I particularly hate it because it is usually the word that people in the US use to express contempt for people who have money. It’s judgement passed on someone who has something, with a feeling of “they don't deserve it” steeped through the entirely too potent one-syllable word. That was the sentiment that I was worried people would pass off on me because I was a foreigner (first) and because I was in the dwelling of a friend who was (at least apparently) better off than the typical member of the community. There was NONE of that. Sometimes you get a feeling or “vibe” when you are in a group of people. Friendliness, ill will, etc. they all carry certain tangibility that is often not expressed directly with open language. This negativity was not in that place with us. And I am humbled and somewhat embarrassed by it because I know the same civility could not be seen in the majority of my first world country. People came up to us left right and center, and there was plenty of opportunity for them to. We went around with our host ~ being that it was Fiesta (A celebration in a certain district within a province for their Patron Saint). They have some of the most gifted and well rehearsed marching bands i’ve ever seen. After high-school, where does that kind of dedication and enjoyment of skill and community exist outside of the full-professional world in the US and Canada? There were marching bands from each “Barangay (bah-rang-GUY~ the subdivision of a municipality ~ each being maybe the size of a city block? someone with more knowledge can correct me.)” Members of the bands ranged in age, stature, gender... whatever. I saw little munchkins with trumpets, and old men with those massive things that are bigger than tubas (the ones that wrap around your torso and look like funnels that willy wonka or Doctor Seuss would use.) And some of the youngest were stealing the show - there was maybe 14 year old on a drum-kit who was taking my breath away. The majorettes ~ a term i just learned in the Philippines, were smoking out the place too. I’ve never seen a society enjoy fire-engine red lipstick quite like these Philippina ladies. And my was it pleasant to behold. Beautiful. They were feminine, but strong, and proud, and it was such a breath of fresh air. It was innervating (videogame word) to see those girls genuinely excited to be getting into their dance routine - especially at what was obviously their favourite hip-popping part. I approve. In the competition there were 3 sections: 20 minutes for the band routine ~ formations and what-not, 10 minutes for the majorettes to do their exposition, and there was like a 3 or so minute solo exposition by one of the majorettes, and they all brought honour to their ancestors, I tell you what. Even when they made mistakes, they just kept going (possibly while grimacing their face a little bit. I would have done mighty deeds if I could have been given a recording of their inner dialogues.) I love China, but I am soooo put off by the frail sickly-cuteness that the majority of Chinese girls try to put on. I want nothing to do with a girl this is going to wail and fall over if I were to poke her in the shoulder with my index finger. Philippinas ~ I would expect to look at the poked shoulder with a sneer of offense and then punch me in the face shortly after. And THATS how it should be dangit! And no-body was tearing them down for their efforts ~ or their mistakes. A few casual jokes here or there, but nothing quite so cutting and judgmental as what I know from my own experience (giving and dealing) in the west. The Philippinos, when regarding someone with respect (someone older, or maybe a police officer...) usually ended their sentences with “po” which has no other function apparent to me than to show respect. For example ~ you say /salaMUT/ in Tagalog for “thank you.” Our host (62years old) asked directions of a police officer (30 som’n) and he (who was by far older) said “salamut po” and he meant it. My hostess ~ when her dad would say something to her, but she didn’t quite hear him clearly, wouldn’t say “whaaaat??” she’d say “Po~”. That sort of genuine recognition is really touching to me. My mom will do the same thing in English in her own way, but I certainly can’t say that it reflects the majority of my country. I, being employed in the service industry for “so long” am used to using respectful/polite language, but I also know the stink of kind-words that are not backed with gold in Fort Knox if you understand me. There is so much more, but this is what I want to share at the moment on this train of thought. Much, much more. To bring this 车(che1 - literally car {ref. to train}) into its 终点站 (zhong1dian3zhan4 {final destination}) what needs saying is that I have been very fortunate to know and meet the people that I have. And here I am now in 花莲 on the east coast of Taiwan, in the shadow of the mountains, in my hostel next to a three meter long indoor koi pond drinking a beer. #hipsterking #content #y’alloughtabejealous #betterifyouwereheretoo I in fact just met a guy from Sichuan province (mainlander) and we chatted for a while. (good ~ I need more Sichuan acquaintances). I told him what I felt about polite societies being difficult to understand. He said that China was like a piece of paper that has been written on already, but the writing has been erased, so its easy to write on now. I thought it was a fantastic metaphor. And thats where I wan’t to leave this installment. I think that our chapter of history is just like my friend said ~ its like a piece of paper that has been written on and erased. Nothing is new under heaven as the wise king once said. And I think the important thing as we move forward in this chapter is to move delicately, and do what we can to engage those around us, rather than control or coddle them. I for one don’t have any clue how to raise a child ~ which is part of why I stay FAAAAAR away from that barrel of monkeys. But even more difficult than raising a child is managing a nation, let alone a community of nations. I’m not saying its my place to do this, and i’d be woefully ill equipped for it if it was my place. What I am saying though is that we, as members in mutually influential societies (increasingly more so) need to learn how to live together much more effectively than we do, rather than looking for quite so many opportunities to help or control each other. “Helping” is another part of that cosmic math I was talking about earlier. Through “helping” we are also setting ourselves up with the mind-set that we have done good, and deserve good back. Instead, I think we need to learn to live with a respect for how much our foot-steps muddy the waters. And that goes for us all.

The good we have to give

In this first part, I need to apologize. If only for my self and because I feel remorse over it, I am here to say in the most childish, and non-snarky way I can: i’m sorry. No really~ Over the most recent span of time and my passage on this human journey, i’ve been reminded that my journey is not just my own, and that no one really walks this road alone. Everyone influences and is influenced by a great number of other people along the way, and that influence also has serious impact. And that impact deserves to be respected. I say I was reminded. It really is a passive sort of thing because I didn’t pull this thought out of the ground or a river, but it came to me. It was given. Washed up on the shores of my 脑海 (nao3 brain - hai3 ocean {aka ~ stream of consciousness})as I sat stewing in my own juices. And for that reminder I am also grateful and consider myself blessed for receiving. But enough of this Grammy awards-type thankfulness that just keeps going on. The thing that I am remorseful for came to me after sitting on a plane going to the Philippines. Marvelous (though hot...) country. It has changed me in so many ways, including the way I will now respect the term “third-world country” and not consider it a slur against any nation. I was in my ticketed seat when we hit some turbulence, which at the time seemed serious. It wasn’t really, but it seemed it. I’ve flown hundreds, possibly even thousands of times. Why did it bother me this time. I’m not afraid of my own mortality. It comes to everyone, and i’m not particularly concerned with eternity at this point in my journey. But before death there was something else that worried me. Not pain, i’m not a child. Not a need for life, I’ll take death when it is indeed my turn. No - i had a Casper-like sort of unfinished business. I love Casper (the friendly ghost). Its one of the movies that has moved me most since my child-hood and continues to move and teach me to this day. Hits me on so many levels. However - the level in question right now is why Casper was a ghost. Ghosts stick around because they have “unfinished business.” Thats why they don’t cross over. And when Casper is there in the attic with Kat (Christina Ricci) remembering on his sled he says, “I didn’t go where I was supposed to. I just, stayed behind.” And there is something more that I can’t really quote verbatim at this hot second. Generally he was talking about how he couldn’t leave his dad alone though. And I don’t have a word for that feeling, maybe someone can provide one for me, but the closest thing I can say to explain what I felt in that jolted seat going over the ocean towards a place i had no knowledge of was a potential-pre-regret. The punishment that fueled my fear in that moment was the possibility of regretting/having unfinished business because I felt like I hadn’t loved “my people” enough. I felt like I had and have more to give, and I don’t mean that in a (think of what I could do if only I had the time) kind of way. What I mean is that I have been holding back, and I have seen it. I didn’t quite know how, but that does not make me innocent, because I knew the source within myself that “held back.” On a certain level it was a choice that I made to hold back. I dont want to talk now about the conflict that led to me to “withdrawal”, but regardless, the thing to know is that it lead me to a place where I believed it was better to hold-back to avoid vulnerability. Avoiding vulnerability is also a sort of strength, so 难怪 (nan2 difficult guai4 blame {})that was the choice I made at the time. But if we (I) are (am) always looking for the point of strength, and choosing it over the place where we can be most full, we are effectively taking the colour out of the world. Utopia is at least worth thinking about damnit! And if we never strive for it, how can we ever achieve it? Shucks, it may be impossible, but it could be MADE possible if the rules were changed, and why shouldn’t we contribute in whatever way we have in us to contribute. Otherwise we dishonor ourselves and make ourselves out to be much less than we could possibly be. We shrink ourselves down to a compact, yet defensible ball, and wait for the tide of reality to eventually wear us down into nothing. And I will not be that ball. I will be much, much more, and if it cost me everything but the meaning that I ca bring along with me, I will take that price and know that I have been as full as my container allowed. And in that I will find my contentment. Anything else will be vile to me and I will cut and burn it off as I have to, because I find it rude, malicious and utterly against me in everything I could hope to be. --------- interlude --------- It took me a while, but I came to the conclusion (temporary?) that the thing I wasn’t giving or the good I wasn’t doing was sharing my journey with “mine.” There were a few prominent figures that came to my mind on that flight, but I don’t feel it prudent to mention them here. (When I say “mine”, I mean “my people”) I need to do what I was made to do, whatever that means, but the absentee-cruelty that I do to Mine, is when I leave them out of what I am doing. So many sights, tastes, smells, people, adventures, lessons, and sources of meaning that I have come into contact with, and I have the capacity to express it. But it has taken me this long to realize that I needed to. Like sunlight and vitamins I, within myself, have needed to show my experience to Mine if only to honour the place that they have in my life and the value that I lay upon them. I haven’t posted a blog in ages~ any of you who care will have noticed that. If you don’t then whatever, I don’t crave attention (THAT much...) I have written some, but have found them far too personal to be able to put “up there” for everyone to see. And i’ve found loads of sound reasons not to. But The fact that I have found those reasons unbreakably sound is part of the problem i’ve described above. For a time, I was being that defensive, conservative ball that was unwilling to share. But it is time to move on. And I hope/ intend to express my journey to you now using whatever ability I have.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Occupational Hazard

So i'm rather snarky on Facebook, I know, and some people have asked me whats going on at work to make me so snarky. I thought i'd relay one of the more recent anecdotes so that people can get a taste. As of 15 minutes ago we emailed the complaint letter which we all signed, to our boss, the principal and the chairman of the school. That letter (which I wrote...and my Chinese translation of it will also be made available below ^_^) The letter was signed by all 5 members of the staff ~ I don't want to put their signatures up on a random blog though... The sixth slot was signed "absent" ~ another nudge at... "hey... remember that bit where we're supposed to have a sixth teacher?" And the reason this blog is titled "Occupational Hazard" is that I realized just how dangerous I am to hire. I'm a decent teacher, but my more honed skills are language and social-organization skills. And this is what happens when those skills are put to use. Oh dear me... will I ever get another job?? (quite probably.) ----- The outgoing president of the PTA (parent teacher association) took the foreign office (and our associated Taiwanese/Chinese staff) out to an opulent dinner. It was one of those bribe-o-meals and he was "saying thanks" to us for doing a job and hoping that we would do an even better job. the PTA has one of those automatic espresso machines, and myself and the other teacher that works in the high-school side were going pretty regularly to chat and get coffee(2 teachers for about 900 students over the week) and he was giddy enough that he said he would be buying our office a coffee machine because we liked it so much. Nice gesture. As with any of these dinners as im sure you know, theres always nice meaningful(less) speeches of thanks and this and that. He didn't speak English really, so our boss was charged with translating... which we all thought was amusing because she did a painfully skimpy job with the meaning, and even the other staff noticed. We spent quite a while talking about it too... and I helped fill in gaps that she tried to duct-tape over with words like  "happy" and phrases like "thank you for your hard work" We'll he followed through not too long after with his 4,400RMB coffee machine Important detail, the teachers office is separate from the administrators/ chinese/taiwanese staff office (this is all under the one department in our school). So we were a bit naughty, and took the machine and installed it in our office. She wasn't there at the time. She comes back. She says that the whole dinner schebang was the PTA president giving her respect and asking her for a favor, and this coffee machine was a gift to her. "This machine is the property of the IEC (our department)" so it needs to be taken care of, and it should be in her office "so that everybody can use it."  I conveniently brought up that the other highschool teacher and I are required to start teaching on friday at 7:45am, before ANY other offices in the school open (to one of the lowest two level classes in the 11th grade... they don't even answer yes-no questions at that hour). She caved. Ok you can keep it in here. (point for me) Next day one of the other intermediary staff who helps us out and does this and that comes in with egg tarts for coffee time before classes start. A few minutes later, she comes in and says she wants to speak to me and my co-teacher when he comes in. Those of us in the office start speculating because gossip is fun, and we brush onto - is this about the machine schenanigans? no it cant be... why would she want to talk to us both at the same time if that was the case... and none of the other teachers.... dunno. we'll find out. Co-teacher shows up. We go in and... The PTA meal was there to give respect to me, and because of it, the president of the PTA is stressing me out and always asking for more more more. blah blah blah. This machine was given to me because he wants me to do more for the English program blah blah blah. And by taking this machine without asking me, you are disrespecting me. You're like two spoiled boys. You see something nice, and you just want to take it for yourself. And all this at 8:20... we have class at 8:40. The class I personally had was going to (and WAS) observed by she herself for professional development. Genius foresight.  We went and taught our full load (4 classes) doing our best to not think about how fast our hearts were beating that morning.  My co-teacher talked to her "as a friend" as he puts it. She later apologized for the timing and that was big of her. But she definitely planted a seed of contempt, particularly as that was something she couldn't restrain herself on after I am doing 5-7 more hours a week above my contract because she pissed one of the other teachers off before we even started the semester. And thats why we have a formal letter of complaint that we've written and we've all signed. oh and the only guaranteed OT pay i get is like 57RMB/Hour... which i told them was laughable and if anyone asked me to tutor their child for that much... I would actually laugh in their face and walk away. I'm supposedly guaranteed my bonuses and additional ones... we'll see on tuesday if they follow through. If they dont' there'll be a reckoning. -Peter P.S. I really shouldn't be hired by these people... i'm more trouble than i'm worth. It turns out that social and language skills are an occupational hazard. ----- Dear Maria Lu, 吕慧芬主任 The following is written on behalf of all of the foreign teachers. We who have signed below agree to the following and believe that it is important to very clearly state a number of concerns that we have and have been dealing with since the beginning of term. From the beginning of the semester, we have been very understanding of the difficulties that yourself and the IEC have faced. It is a difficult issue to find a replacement teacher in the outside of the normal pre-semester hiring seasons of summer and winter. It is not however impossible. We the remaining foreign teachers have all accommodated the extra classes and additional students into our schedules. This has however created a number of issues. Extra classes of course means completely separate planning periods are necessary. Double students in turn means double marking, particularly for each of the Bilingual teachers. This additional burden wears heavily on us teachers, and limits our ability to provide well planned and creative lessons. The students also receive a negative impact from the situation. Doubled class sizes in a class with the aim of encouraging conversation means that each student is getting less than half of the one on one attention they would be getting otherwise. They are also required to be in classes that may be less stimulating because teachers’ preparation and grading time is diminished and their attitudes are deteriorating. We as the teaching staff took on this additional work before the first week of classes as a short term solution. We expected that another teacher would be found to fill the necessary gap in our staffing. That gap has not been filled. We have instead been required to carry on wearily without even the hope that our contracted work hours would be given to us. The question we have all asked ourselves is how the solution would be solved if one of us were to become seriously ill, or if someone were to resign. How would the staffing problem be solved then? We expected the problem to be addressed with the same seriousness as either of those situations. It has not been. We do not feel that this situation is being treated with the appropriate seriousness, and the lack of sufficient action has lead to a stressful working environment and is hindering our ability to do our jobs to the best of our ability. Name: Name: Name: Name: Name: Name: (繁體版) 這封信是代表全體外教的心聲和思想。下面簽名的諸位同意這封信的內容而且認為向我們的管理層負責解釋以下情況是很重要的。這些事情是從開學的時候直到現在有的。 開學時我們很理解立刻招聘一位外教對我們的部門帶來的麻煩和壓力是不小的,特別在學期中。不過, 招聘一位外教並不是不可能的。 我們剩下的這些外教都接受了那些額外的課和學生。這一切對我們的課程, 備課,安排等都有影響。多加上的幾節課代表老師也需要多幾小時安排。多加的學生也代表老師需要修改更多的功課。這種影響對資源班老師更大。這增加的負擔對老師很有影響而且也造成對我們備課,上課等質量的降低。 學生也是因這種情況受到不好的影響。兩倍大的口語課就意味每一位學生隻能接受一半的注意和培訓支持。同學也需要接受越來越簡單,沒趣的課因為老師的備課時間已經被用完。因此老師及全班都感覺難過。 最初我們接受加課是為了暫時滿足課程的需要。我們都在期待必要的那一位新老師的到來。可是這一位一直沒有出現。我們還是在渴望的期待,即使我們的工作量超過了, 而且還是沒有將來接受幫助的盼望。 我們都在想,如果任何一位外教生嚴重的病,或者有人辭職,怎麼辦?主任會怎麼樣解決問題?我們都認為主任會去想這個問題,並設法趕快找到一位老師。但是,在我們看來主任並沒有這麼處理問題。 我們都認為這件事情沒有得到令人滿意或認真或嚴肅的看待。這一切給我們很多壓力而且妨礙我們做最專業的老師。 简体(原版) 这封信是代表全体外教的心声和思想。下面签名的诸位同意这封信的内容而且认为向我们的管理层负责解释以下情况是很重要的。这些事情是从开学的时候直到现在有的。 开学时我们很理解立刻招聘一位外教对我们的部门带来的麻烦和压力是不小的,特别在学期中。不过, 招聘一位外教并不是不可能的。 我们剩下的这些外教都接受了那些额外的课和学生。这一切对我们的课程, 备课,安排等都有影响。多加上的几节课代表老师也需要多几小时安排。多加的学生也代表老师需要修改更多的功课。这种影响对资源班老师更大。这增加的负担对老师很有影响而且也造成对我们备课,上课等质量的降低。 学生也是因这种情况受到不好的影响。两倍大的口语课就意味每一位学生只能接受一半的注意和培训支持。同学也需要接受越来越简单,没趣的课因为老师的备课时间已经被用完。因此老师及全班都感觉难过。 最初我们接受加课是为了暂时满足课程的需要。我们都在期待必要的那一位新老师的到来。可是这一位一直没有出现。我们还是在渴望的期待,即使我们的工作量超过了, 而且还是没有将来接受帮助的盼望。 我们都在想,如果任何一位外教生严重的病,或者有人辞职,怎么办?主任会怎么样解决问题?我们都认为主任会去想这个问题,并设法赶快找到一位老师。但是,在我们看来主任并没有这么处理问题。 我们都认为这件事情没有得到令人满意或认真或严肃的看待。这一切给我们很多压力而且妨碍我们做最专业的老师。