Friday, 19 December 2014

Is it Christmas?

Christmas is less than a week away. But I have to keep reminding myself of that.

There is no snow. It’s cool, but not cold. There is no holiday coming up. (In fact, I have to work Christmas Even and Christmas Day and the only reason I don’t have to work Boxing Day is that I don’t have any classes on Fridays.) In short there is no Christmas spirit.

We do have a tree and gifts. Except my wife thought our old tree was too much of a hassle — to hard to get out and put away and too difficult to put together — and so she went and bought two small trees instead.

IMG_3087-2014-12-19-15-30.jpg IMG_3093-2014-12-19-15-30.JPG

But still, there’s no real feeling of Christmas. I have to keep reminding myself that Christmas is coming. It’s hard to get in a Christmas spirit when there’s no Christmas decorations everywhere like there is in Canada. It’s hard to think about Christmas when Christmas Day is just another work day.

But this is Taiwan. There is no Christmas here. (People in Canada may be shocked to hear that, but it’s true. Christmas is not a universal event.) So I’m not really complaining. I’ve gotten used to it.

No, my point with this is not to lament the lack of Christmas spirit or the loss of a holiday. No, my point with this is to explain something to my family and friends in Canada.

Maybe you have wondered why in the past — or this year — that I didn’t express any wishes or gifts or anything for Christmas. Were you expecting me to send a card or an e-mail; were you expecting me to call or wish you “merry Christmas” on Facebook? If or when I didn’t, were you disappointed? Were you wondering if I had forgotten about you? Were you upset with me?

Well, the simple truth is that I didn’t really forget about you. It’s just that with the lack of Christmas spirit and all the other stuff that goes along with Christmas in Canada, the idea of Christmas just slips my mind. Honestly. As I said, I have to keep reminding myself that Christmas is coming. By the time I realise that Christmas is coming it’s too late. By the time I think about possibly sending cards to people in Canada it’s too late to send them. Unless I wanted them to arrive sometime in January.

Consider this: We will likely start opening our gifts this weekend, the weekend before Christmas, and continue opening one or two on selected days going, quite possibly to the weekend after Christmas. A total break from tradition, I know, but what else can we do? On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I have to work all day and my children have to go to school. After we wake up, eat breakfast, and get ready for school I won’t see them again late at night and when I do I’ll only have time to say “hi” to them before they have to go to bed. It’s a school night, after all. There’s no time on those days to open presents. So we do what we can and open them when we have the chance.

So even though we have a tree and we have presents (except for my wife because I never know what to get her — any ideas?) there is no real feeling of Christmas here. So it’s not that I’ve forgotten you over the Christmas season, it’s that I’ve forgotten Christmas.

But I can, right now at least, wish you a merry Christmas. (At least I think I can. From what I’ve been hearing, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say that anymore or not.)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Rude Service

Usually when I go into a store to buy something I like to look for it myself. I don't like to ask someone where it is because I feel that looking around is much easier. Maybe I'm strange, but that's just the way I feel.

The other night I went into a drug store to buy something and as I was looking around for it the clerk asked me -- in English -- if she could help me. (Since I live in Taiwan, it's unusual to have someone speak English; most people would speak Mandarin -- or nothing at all -- to me.) Her pronunciation wasn't great, but there was nothing really wrong with her English. Still, I find it much easier to deal with other people in Mandarin rather than English. One of the reasons for that is that I don't like the assumption that just because I am white -- and therefore not Taiwanese -- that I am unable to speak Mandarin. Another reason is that my Mandarin is usually much better than other people's English. Not always, but chances are that if you are working as a clerk in a store -- and not at a professional job like something in a hospital, large office, or English school -- then my Mandarin in better than your English. So I told her what I wanted in Mandarin.

Now here's where we get interesting.

The clerk calls out to the pharmacist what I want and he goes to get it. I tell him I want two and he brings back two bottles. As he does do he says what it is, which isn't unusual, but how he said it was. The way he said was in Mandarin but with an inflection void of intonation. (Chinese is a tonal language, but many people misunderstand what they means. They think there are tones in Chinese, but it isn't tones, it's intonation. The same sound can have an entirely different meaning depending on whether the voice rises or falls while saying it.) The clerk then started doing the same thing.

They were, essentially, making fun of me and my Chinese. And I told them just as much.

The clerk then tried to engage me in conversation -- in English -- but I basically ignored her. I was quite insulted and upset. Finally I told her -- in Mandarin -- to just give me what I wanted.

This kind of behaviour is, quite honestly, very common. This happens to me quite often, but usually the people who do it are younger, people like children and teenagers. It most often happens in class when my students speak Chinese and I ask them to speak in English. They then repeat what they said but in a flat voice, as if they think that Mandarin spoken without intonation automatically makes it English.

That is quite annoying -- and I let my students know it isn't funny or appreciated -- but it is understandable when one considers the age and maturity of the people doing it. But to have adults do it is another thing entirely. And not just adults, but adults who work in the service industry. And not just that, but one of them -- the one who started it even -- is a pharmacist, a person who I would assume to be educated and at least semi-intelligent. Maybe I am wrong with that assumption, though.

If I can, I will be avoiding that particular drug store in the future. If they're going to treat me like that, I am not going to give them my business. I'll take my money somewhere else. I don't appreciate their attempts at humour.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Being Treated as Air

(A little background information, in case you weren’t aware of this: I am a Canadian living in Taiwan. My wife is Taiwanese and both of our children were born here. As well as my first language of English, I have also become quite fluent in Mandarin Chinese in the twelve-plus years I have been living here. I am quite capable of carrying on a conversation with anybody about anything here. The person mentioned below knows this -- or at least should know this because I have spoken with her before.)
As posted on my Facebook page: 如果我一天不想在台灣繼續住下去的話,原因就是我受不了別人認為我是空氣。
This afternoon my wife, my daughter, and I went to pick up my son from school. As we were standing there waiting for the children to be let out, one of the teachers came out to tell us – or I at least thought it was “us” – something good that my son had done that day. I was holding on to my daughter and my wife was standing right beside me. The teacher came out and started telling my wife – not me, apparently – what had happened. The interesting thing that I noted was that her eyes were focused on my wife and my wife only. They didn't register me at all. It was as if I wasn't there. To make matters worse, as they were talking, both the teacher and my wife turned their bodies to look at my son who was across the yard playing. In doing so they essentially turned their backs to me and left me standing behind them. I was effectively eliminated from the conversation.
That in itself isn't very nice, I think, and left me feeling quite strange. The big thing, however, is that the school my son goes to is a little special. They are taught the basic concepts of Buddhism and Confucianism. One of the things they are taught is that the family unit is very important. In particular, children there are taught that one's parents are very important and need to be respected. For example, all the students are expected to bow and say hello to every parent – including their own – that they see.
Should that doctrine not also extend to the teachers as well? If we as adults want children to behave a certain way, should we not act that way ourselves? As such, should the teachers not also respect the parents of the students there? One way, I would think, to show that respect is not to pretend or in any way give the impression that one parent is not even there. Because that's the way it felt to me as I was standing there. I got the feeling that that teacher didn't even know I was there, even though I was standing right beside the person she did know was there.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Love or Loathe?

I don't know whether this person really likes my post or hates it, but either way this person cant' spell.
> i read your article and loave it so much ,thank you so much.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Classroom Rules

1. Speak English. Do not speak Chinese, Taiwanese, or anything else.

2. Listen. Pay attention. Do not talk to your classmates.

3. Look at the teacher when he is talking and when you are talking to him. Maintain eye contact.

4. Answer all questions. Be active.

        A) If you don't know the answer to a question, you can say, "I don't know."

        B) If you don't understand the question, you can say, "I don't understand."

        C) If you didn't hear the question, you can say, "Say it again, please."

5. Bring your books to class. No book, no chair.

6. Have your book and a pencil case on your desk. Nothing else.

7. Do not do homework in class or any other writing or drawing.

8. Do not put your head on your desk. Do not sleep in class.

9. Keep notes.

        A) If the teacher writes something on the board, write it in you book.

        B) If you don't have a book, write things in a notebook or on paper.

  1. 10. Be respectful and polite to everyone.
Did I forget anything? Please let me know.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I Mean What I Say

I’m sorry people, but I can read Chinese, at least a little. While I may not be able to read something as difficult as a novel, things like advertisements, menus, and text messages are usually quite understandable. Therefore, when I say things like: “Hey, look at this!” I am not asking you to translate it, I am not asking you what it says. No, I am saying to you: “Hey, look at this!”

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Sunrise over the Mountains

After her breakfast (150cc of tasty formula) and after she had burped, I decided to take my daughter outside for a little stroll. I was very glad I did, as I got to see the sun coming up over the mountains in the distance:


I just wish I had a better camera (this was taken with the 1.3 megapixel camera on my cell phone), that it was clearer (it was a little hazy in the distance), and that I had another hand to keep the phone steady (one arm was needed to hold on to my daughter). Nevertheless, the pictures turned out okay considering, it was a beautiful sight. This is one of the reasons I enjoy living here.



I don’t have access to the EXIF info for these pictures, so I can’t tell you the difference in time between the first picture and the last picture but it’s probably only a minute or two (two at the max). I think it’s interesting that you can stand there and look at the sun in the sky and it doesn’t seem to move at all, but when it’s rising up over the mountains, you can almost see it move. Notice that the sun is higher in the last picture than it is in the first. As I said, there was only about one minute or so between the two pictures.