Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Steve, what time is it?

Nearly every afternoon, during our basic reading classes, Steve, Laura and I take our kids to the park 30-40 yards from the school. Steve has a class of eight, Laura has about the same and I have ten. Half-way into their three-hour class, these kids need a break, and they get it too, regardless of whether or not we take them outside. The mania is easier to work off in a park than inside four walls of a classroom. I've been tied down and tortured by these little people like Gulliver in his travels, for trying recess indoors. Kids gotta breathe.

Unfortunately, break can't last until the end of class. This necessitates a watch. But none of us ever have a watch. Like clock-work though, Steve asks me on the way out to the park each day, "Did you bring your watch Joseph?" This is only a cue for me to reply in the negative. "No. Forgot it again." Both Steve and I own wrist watches. Neither of us bring it anywhere. Why don't we bring it? Both of us know the time shows up on Steve's digital camera after every picture he takes. Steve takes at least three pictures during break everyday just to check the time. In consequence, Steve has a lot of really important pictures on his camera like the one you see above. Is there anything in the picture indicating...anything? No. You might have already asked yourself, "is there any reason this picture was taken? Is Joseph running out of pictures to blog about or something?" No on both. The picture was not taken to capture anything Kodak and I'm not running out of pictures. Steve takes just as many Kodak moment pictures as time-check pictures. So why did I post this picture? To remind me of the times we didn't need a picture, but needed to take a picture.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Review

My sister Rachel recommended this book to me. I brought it with me to Taiwan. I just finished it. If you are looking for a good read, try this one. It has action, history, and perspective. It wasn't written by an English major, but what it lacks in word technique, it makes up for in personal perspective. If you've ever been curious about communist Russia and the difficult transition away from 70 years of this regime; and if you've ever wanted a little more detail on the real life drama of people engaged in espionage (not just Hollywood drama) and factual clandestine work; and if you have ever wondered what an intelligence officer/agent with LDS beliefs might think about during covert missions; and if you have ever wanted to know why I'm facinated by Russia when you aren't--pick up a copy of "A train to Potevka." It's worth the quick hours you'll spend between its covers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

They have monkeys here

...even stone ones. This sculpture is a monument dedicated to my Taiwanese namesake. After being called "Mr. Monkey" by what seems to be at least two or three students in every class at Berhan (even classes I don't teach), I'm starting to think someone tipped off the kids before I got here. Who told them I was Mr. Monkey? It appears that trying to keep that a secret totally flopped. Word's out and now I spend my free time at photo shoots next to giant monkey statues, then signing souvenir photos of the same. Every kid wants one--an autographed picture of Mr. Monkey standing beside a statue of something that looks just as monkey-like as he does.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kids love me part II

I do gym with the kindergarten every day. They love me more than you do. Does your face look like this when you see me? Are you ready to poo your britches with excitement every time I say, "OK, climb on my back!" No, you are too mature for that. But these little folk? Their love knows no bounds, and they wear their fan t-shirts everyday. If I didn't think that was what I needed when I first started teaching here, it is now. Just one look at their miniature gleeful faces and I get all the warm fuzzies I need. It reminds me of something my good friend Jared said upon realizing he had a little person clinging to his fingers. "Here, take my credit card, my bank card and my beard card. Take all the money in my wallet. Sell what ever I have and take the cash. Do what you will little smuggly mumpkins--just keep holding onto my fingers."

Plus, they give me a good workout. Can you do push-ups with ten little miniatures on you? Try it sometime. It ain't the simplest feat, but you'll never let them down. No sir, you'll do that push-up if it's the last thing you do in this world. They never doubt you can do it, and neither do you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

sand dance

The sand dance is an Eastern Taiwanese Tribal rite dating back to 5 billion B.C. when man discovered political persuasion. It was found that human beings, once assimilated into societal groups, could be driven as a single entity when moved upon by the power of one orator. One could manipulate the movements of a whole society by mere suggestion. The only difference between the one and the mass was instigation, the voice of opinion, the sound of reason. You could move mountains by saying something to a herd, regardless of merit. "Someone said food, and I come running." "Someone said fun, and I come running." "Someone said dance on the beach like an idiot, I come running." Billions of years later, a group of Taiwanese aborigine wannabes, in which I find myself included, decide to revive the dance on the basis of the same timeless motivation: someone suggested it. Someone said, "Hey Joseph and Tammy, we're on the beach! How about you do some neat frolicking moves for the camera?" Don't ask me why the fact we're at the beach has any power to force Tammy and I into karate-kick formation, it just does. They didn't know 5 billion years ago and they don't know now. They also don't know why once the idea has been voiced and carried out by a second and maybe third party, every establishment inside the unique human being that defames lemming-like behavior, crumbles and makes way for the stampede. And there's no way of stopping it once it starts. Every member of the group wants to dance like an idiot because, "hey, we're on the beach!" Go ahead, check the blogs of the other group members. I'm sure they have pictures of their totally wicked awesome sand dance routine as well. We all did it. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

More names and dates, they say. Less philosophy. So here's what you want: The other Berhan teachers and I spent Chinese New year in Hualian, a nice beach town on the east coast of Taiwan. The first day we rode five hours standing up on a packed passenger train until liberated in Hualian. We checked into our hostel, checked the local cuisine and checked the activities that would seek our involvement over the next four days. Toroko Gorge would require the first full day, riding scooters down the coast would take the next, and hot springs would be the main course for the third. The last day would more or less be a repeat of the first--5 hours standing on a train headed back to Feng Yuan. My favorite part of the trip was the scooters. I will die riding into the sunset on one of those things. A few others had the same idea, only they tried the dying part earlier than I plan to. Turns out, sparks fly when the metal of a motor bike meets asphalt at high speeds. My other favorite part was soaking in hot water, the origins of which apparently reside deep in the earth along with unique minerals useful to fertile women hoping to birth a man child. My other favorite part was coming home each night to the hostel where the ten of us all bunked together and talked 'till the wee hours of the morning debating the rightful name-sake for the initials MJ. The first night Mary Jackson wouldn't admit that MJ was universally recognized to mean Michael Jackson before she was even born. Steve argued it a slight to Michael Jordan and to the entire empire of sports not to attribute the initials solely to him. And the second night Mary pretended she never really went by MJ in grade school like she so vehemently declared the night before, but that she'd always thought of Peter Parker's girl friend whenever she heard a reference to MJ. Emily Joy took the torch from Mary, though, in campaigning her own rights to the initials, claiming that MJ stands for the first syllable of her first name and first letter of her middle name. It seems people will go to great lengths to ride the coat tails of the true MJ. MJ always did, ever does, and ever will stand for Michael Jackson. My other favorite part of the trip was kiwi bingshaws and coconut pudding. Then we came home and I was happy.

Monday, February 4, 2008

we play

Wholesome family games. The options are hide 'n seek, super hide 'n seek (involving the additional element of a tin can), or hide 'n seek with murder. We're all over seven years old, we need death and dying in our FHE games, so we choose the last. The rules are explained as such: dress in black, extinguish all sources of light, draw a card, don't ask round-ending questions like "what does a 'W' mean?," run for your life, die when you're tapped on the shoulder, yell "body!" when you trip over a dead person, and debate the circumstances surrounding the deceased. If you can figure out who the killer is and lynch them before the next round, the game's over and you draw cards again. If not, you'll probably be dead ten minutes into round two. The game's a real thrill. We got all sorts of nooks and crannies at Berhan. The rooftop and outdoor laundry room are favorites. Tammy never hides anywhere but in the washer and Steve and Jessica dance on the roof through most of each round. I'm usually pretending I have the license to kill and following closely behind people until they freak and run or start yelling at me for being a jerk and not ending their torment already with the highly anticipated death tap. I get bored being innocent. But then there was that one time when I finally picked the killer card and successfully convinced everyone that we should change the rules to allow multiple deaths in one round. I killed three people in the first ten seconds and got lynched in the next ten. Way too trigger happy, they told me. How'd they know it was me? Was it the shrill laugh I gave after each killing or the smug look on my face during trial? Everyone's an ace detective. Back to being innocent. I try to follow Whitney into dark hallways just so I can see her go nuts with fear when I don't even have a gun. So mad at only being the murderer for ten seconds this whole evening. Now she starts to get nervous, now she starts to run, she screams! And then she kills me. Oh, the shame of it! I was limed! Now she's got the smug look and no one is going to guess she's it because she's always helping old ladies cross the street and undoing knots in kids' tennis shoes and stuff. She walks away after the slightest wink, the only gesture anyone will ever see to prove her maliciousness. And I'm the only one who sees it, but I'm dead! Pray, someone find me and sound the discovery of my corpse so we can end this round and I can get back at Whitney! No one finds me, no one cares. The game goes on for another ten minutes and everyone's dead. True to the rules, none of us move or speak the rest of the night and Whitney is the only one who sleeps in her bed. Nice. Great game. Who picked this anyway? Let's go back to super hide 'n seek.

Friday, February 1, 2008

better pictures

If you would like to see pictures of my habitat at Berhan, click here.
They're on Mary's blog and give accurate depiction.

If you would like to see pictures and short bios. of all the teachers I live and work with at Berhan, click here. I paid Sara a lot of money to say what she did about me. The other bios. are pretty accurate without bribery . . . except Mary's--she paid a bit extra to get 13 children in her family instead of 11.

If you would like to see pictures of my kindergarten kids, click here.
If you would like to see pictures of my former first and fifth grade kids click here.
If you are wondering why most of these pictures are on Mary's blog, it's because Mary and I pretty much swapped classes two weeks ago when all the legal turmoil of who's teaching where the working permit tells you to teach hit. Now I teach in the old school where she used to teach and she teaches in the new school where I used to teach. Mary takes good pictures. I don't. So you should look at her's. One draw back, she makes the kids sound like angels. Don't be fooled.