Sunday, January 27, 2008

Its like Youtube, but better.

When I say that I have found a site is better than Youtube I really mean that I have found a website that has truly changed who I am. I have been kept up at night by thought provoking questions, and endlessly fascinating technological potentials. The site I am referencing is called TED Talks a website that freely shares videos from past TED conferences. The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference brings together every year 50 of the worlds best thinkers, and doers and gives them the stage to talk about their lives and ideas for 18 minutes. In the past two months that I have been on this site I have heard about: the end of aging, the power of love, the interconnectedness of business in our world, the dangers of a Pandemic, and on, and on, and on. I have seen a man compute in his head a 5 digit number times itself, and even think out loud while doing so. I don't really know what else to say about this website but I hope that you all get a chance to check it out. In order to get your hooked on this wonderful website I recommend these talks to wet your whistle.

There is so much more that you will be able to explore on this site, but I of course can't list everything. I will end this blog with a little news about Taipei. Things are going well but the weather has been pretty crummy rain, rain and more rain. School is keeping me busy. We just finished our first text book and our onto the second which I will be using for most of the rest of my stay here in Taipei. I have a nice break soon for the Chinese New Year and I will be going south for a few days during that time. I am sure that I will have much more "fun" things to report at that time. I just figured that I would get back into the blogging thing again even if I don't really have anything new to share.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Taipei Update 1/16/08

As I write this update I find myself wishing that I could put more real content onto this seeming blank screen, but I digress, life in Taipei has become somewhat of a blur. I of course can comment on the propensity of Taiwanese people to show up at least, if not more, than 15 minutes late of every occasion (minus perhaps work). However, this type of thing along with other observances is the type of social and cultural commentary that I wish to examine and explore as much as possible before stepping forth and revealing my own, rather limited view of another place. Truth be told, I have found a groove in this wonderful city and I feel it has become for the time being, my home. I am sure everyone can relate to having their routine in life. Certain places they tend to eat at, certain things they tend to do... or rather the unvaried. Who would think that such a thing could happen in such a foreign place, but it is true! For me it all starts when I wake up in the morning and get ready to walk out the door 4 to 5 hours before class starts.

I normally start my day off with some kind of rice and egg breakfast meal and read a book or listen to my iPod. The portability that such an object as this offers has helped me stay somewhat up-to-date in the world. I offer many thanks to Podcasts, free downloadable internet talk shows of sorts, which have been keeping me abreast of the latest in the world of politics, movies, science, and overall geekdom, that I so enjoy. After my morning meal I am off to the Cafe called Artist coffee, where I hit the books and spend a good 4 hours preparing for my 3 hour Chinese class. This place has the most wonderful Shrilanken Milk Tea that is impossible to resist after the first sip. If I am feeling up for it I also will order a wonderful meal at the Cafe to the step price (for Taiwan bare in mind) of $5 USD.

My homework routine everyday includes some if not all of the following actions: Character Practice, everyday we are given approximately 15 new vocabulary words that we must write a minimum of 10 times in our Character work books. Flash-card Making, writing characters 10 times is just not enough and in order to actually remember the characters I am learning I also make flash-cards for every single one this allows me to study them at anytime (which most often means on the MRT where I must look very strange, or very diligent to Taiwanese patrons). Workbook, This homework coincides with whichever Chapter we happen to be on that day, it is due every two days and takes on average around 2 hours to complete. It could take less time but I have an average score of A+ on this portion of my school work and I wish to keep that consistent so I will keep working at my somewhat slow pace. Reading and Review, Every chapter has three portions of text within them, Dialogues, Narration's etc. and it helps me to study them outside of class. Our teacher does not really stress the importance of the Dialogues but I still like being able to read the Dialogues with some fluidity. Other than the dialogues we also have small exercises in the book to help with the new grammatical structures that are introduced in every chapter.

Once this daily routine is completed I spend a small amount of time walking around Shida yeshi (Shida Night Market) either to buy lunch, if I don't order the wonderfully tasty Penne Noodle dish, or just walk around and relax my mind. After lunch I am in class for three hours. The first two days of a chapter we have a ting xie(literally,listen, write), or dictation test consisting of new and old grammar and vocabulary in sentence form. From there we work on new grammar points and other various exercises that keep us busy for the three hours. During this time of course, no english is spoken. On the third day of a chapter we have our test, yes thats right, the third day of a chapter is also the last day of a chapter. The test is held in the last hour of class but always runs longer than just one hour, so on test days I usually spend closer to four hours in class than three.

After class it is off to fill my stomach again; sometimes I wish i didn't have to eat it would save me so much time and money. The area around school is host to tons upon tons of restaurants from a variety of different places. In the past week I have eaten Indian, Korean, Japanese, and "Italian" meals. Each wonderful in its own fashion. From there my night gets varied. Sometimes I spend time with my classmates hanging out and other times I am with my language partners speaking Chinese and getting coffee or tea (I often chose the latter these days). I am sad to admit that my brief encounter with HwaRangDo has come to an abrupt end. My teacher has found the need for a second job, which, much to my distaste has fallen on our weekly scheduled times. It was fun while it lasted. Perhaps I will find a new martial art to fill the four hour weekly void. However, the more I study Chinese the more I would like to spend time learning something more peaceful and tranquil... perhaps calligraphy or Tai Chi. Well that is all for now from this wonderful land. I will be sure to ponder some more ways to see the sights that Taiwan has to offer.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Chinese Wedding Party

The Chinese calendar must have been in line on Sunday January 6th because it sure was a day filled with weddings. Two of my classmates, two of my friends from school, my teacher, and I all attended weddings this past sunday. The picture above is the character for xi3 (double happiness or in this case marital happiness) and that double happiness was surly represented on Sunday. My friend, who i met here in Taipei through another friend, Chantell and her now husband Alex held a wonderful Chinese style lunch party in honor of their wedding and I was grateful to be a part of it. While I cannot vouch for the goings on of a chinese wedding, I can tell you that the wedding party is much different from what I am used to in America.

The festivities started at around 12:30 when the bride and groom walked graciously to the head table filled with family members from both sides of the marriage. They said a few words thanking everyone for coming to the wedding and then everyone in the dinning hall was treated to a wonderful short video of how Chantell and Alex met. It was a short side show telling a bit about their lives together. A really wonderful treat and not something that I am certainly accustomed to. It was of course in Chinese, but I was able to get most of the story thanks to subtitles! After that video was over they played another short video put together by the bride and grooms friends and coworkers. Rather than having just a few people give a toast everyone got to hear about 20 people wish the new couple well. With the videos done it was time to get on the the main event, the giant and wonderful meal... of which I could not eat at all. I was thankful that my friends alerted the kitchen staff of my vegetarian needs because had nothing been said there would not have been a single dish, save dessert, that I could have even nibbled on. There was crab, fish, pork, lobster, chicken, more fish and more fish. The dishes just kept on coming, and somehow people were able to keep on eating. My meal was a little less glamourous, it consisted of tofu, noodles, vegetables, and some interesting soup. It main not have been super fancy on my end but it did taste delicious and in the end I was full as could be.

After the seemingly never ending meal the coolest part of the wedding began. The MC's of the wedding went around with a microphone and let people congratulate the bride and groom in other languages of the world. It was wonderful to see people from all over coming together to share in such a special day, and also that other languages and cultures were being appreciated. I was able to hear well wishes spoken in Hakka (spoken in Taiwan by very few people) Taiwanese, Tai, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and English. After the well wishes it was time for the bride and groom to make the rounds. In chinese wedding parties the bride, groom and both there mothers and fathers visit each table sharing in a more personal toast with their guests. It was a very nice touch to an already wonderful day. I really felt a nice connection with this kind of a wedding. There was no stress on alcohol or dancing the night away, it was just a ton of people gathering together to share a wonderful meal in celebration of two lovers tying the knot. I still wish I could speak more Chinese so that I could communicate better with the people around me but I did know how to say the most important things in Chinese:
Chantell today you look absolutely beautiful... and of course I congratulate you both on this joyous day.