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Went to Tainan today. It was so good to get back in when the sun was still up! I’ve been there several times  in the past few months and gazing out the train window, I still see new sites: the Christian church near the bus station in Kaohsiung, old ladies in their bamboo hats working in rice fields and the fact that the Gaoping River is so shallow that I could walk across it and my knees would not get wet. Not unless I fell in the jade colored water. Most of my time was spent reading _Never Let Me Go_, a book that really catches you off guard if you don’t know what it’s about before starting, and I didn’t!

Among other things, I had to get my glasses repaired. The clerk impressed me so with his English and won my affection as he fought with himself to stop calling me ‘sir’. Remember, there are no pronouns in Mandarin, so it takes real effort for these speakers to differentiate between males and females when speaking. Also, he explained that his English was usually for professors at the university and most of them are males. Rose and I compared horror stories of food preparation practices we’ve seen and decided it can’t be that bad to eat at McDonalds and while there we saw a cat on a hot tin roof.

Last Sunday, the temperature spiked to the upper 80s. Spring has sprung!! I know the real heat hasn’t arrived yet as the mornings and evenings are pleasantly cool.

If you enjoy reading my blog in the least, you really should check out A Wandering Woman Writes from Spain.  It has got to be one of the best travel blogs I’ve read.

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I haven’t posted in while! Life here has been busy. Carolyn, Rose and I went to Tainan a couple of weeks ago to see the China Spectacular performance and ended up back there last week for a variety of services. I’ve wanted to get some eyeglasses here because the prices are so much more reasonable than in the US. So, I took advantage of having someone with me who could tell me what I looked like in the different frames to go ahead and purchase some in Tainan. (I can’t see without my glasses!) So, this weekend it’s returning to pick them up.

But, that’s not what this post is about! I promised something on technology a while ago and it’s time to deliver. Honestly, I don’t know how people who planned to return to the states after living abroad for a short while managed to adjust without technology. If one is planning to stay, they’re doing more mixing and mingling, actively learning the language and not trying to maintain ties at home.

I’ve written about the television situation. Movies are limited as well. Many movies from the US, Europe, China, Korea and Japan to eventually make it here, but its several weeks after they open in their homelands. Typically the only movies with English are those produced in English (i.e., no subtitles on Asian films). So, my laptop provides me with hours and hours of visual entertainment in the form of television shows and movies. I haven’t purchased DVDs (though I’d like to) because the ones here are in a different region from those in the US and will not play on my DVD player at home. I can play them on my laptop (which is called a notebook here) but I can only switch regions on my computer so many times before it locks to one region.

Cell phones make calling home extremely reasonable. The most affordable solution is to purchase a cell phone here and even more affordable than that is to use an Internet phone services such as Skype. I can call any computer that has downloaded the software for free. Calls to landlines or cell phones is much less expensive than other services. A note of caution: if you plan to use your US cell phone, be sure to understand pricing for services. While my text messages were supposed to be free, I was roaming and was charged for every text I sent. Yeah, they got me good. Real good.

After taking pictures, I’m able to upload them to an online storage site. I’ve been using Picasa, Kris uses Photobucket. Flickr is another, but they provide very limited storage space. Uploading photos to the net makes them available to folks at home (I send links everytime I upload) and it gives me a safe place to store photos in case my laptop crashes. I can also access the photos at school to incorporate them into lessons. (No filters here!!!!)

Like most elementary schools, mine has rather limited technology. It’s been very interesting communicating about technology in two different languages. Because the words are so new in both languages, they are usually very similar. ‘Blog’ in Chinese is something like ‘bluloga”. Something like that! Asking for cables and extension cords results in comical pantomimes. I often use a digital projector to display Powerpoint presentations (wonderful for displaying images and sounds to give meaning to vocabulary), YouTube videos which provide images and words for songs, cartoons with subtitles and movie clips which show certain actions. I also use it to project online stories or games found on the many sites for language instruction. In a pinch, I’m able to use my flat screen computer monitor to project to the class.

Most teachers use portable microphones in the classroom. There is a large amount of ambient noise which makes hearing the teacher a challenge. Even in the US, these devices are becoming more popular as students ability to hear decreases (from listening to the pounding bass and loud music) and because they’re reliant on hearing digitally improved sound. I’m beginning a blog with my teachers who are learning English after school. This is a way for a community of learners to practice and learn from each other.

Many of the Taiwanese websites are bilingual and I’m able to use them to get train information, book hotels, find out about upcoming performances and check out museums and exhibits. Webservices such as Tealit allows English speaking expats to form an online community and exchange survival information including taxes, mail, jobs, visas, shopping, buying cell phones and shipping stuff out of the country. I’ve connected with English speakers by finding their blogs. Kristen met many people before coming over through her MySpace and Facebook accounts. (There’s an interesting story there!) I met a school librarian in Taipei through my Ning account. These are all social networking sites that obviously bring together people all over the world. I’ve even used Facebook to stay connected to my Arlington students. I read about Christian making it to the state finals on the Star’s website and I do still have my IPS email account which keeps me connected as well.

I read Educating the next generation and Plan B 3.0both free onlinefull text books. New books to follow soon. It seems the second best way to get current books at good prices is to order them online.

I end my day by watching the evening news on msnbc.

We’re trying to get in as much of Taiwan as possible before Kristen leaves. So, when she’s gone, these posts will probably get a bit… boring!

We took to the train Saturday morning and headed northeast to Tainan. This an old and historic city is known for its festivals, shrines and temples. We’ll remember it for great shopping, huge technology district, delicious Greek food, clean streets, sidewalks and fresh air!! It was so nice to see blue skies and sunshine! I wish I could have reached the clean air before this second sinus infection hit me. Oh, well!

Tainan is nowhere as big as Kaoshouing or Taipei, but looking that mannerisms and dress of the people, I’d say the difference between Tainan and Pingtung would be like the difference between San Francisco and Ft. Wayne.

We’d like to get back to Tainan before we leave, however, there are so many places to visit yet!

With a transfer in Kaoushoung, we took about 1.5 hours to get to our destination. I had book a room online at what turned out to be a very nice hotel (Hotel Dynasty) and I had one of my Teachers write a list of statements such as “I’d like to buy two tickets on the next train to Tainan” “Please take us to the Hotel Dynasty” and “Please take us to the jade market” in Mandarin so that we would be able to reach our destinations. People at the hotel spoke English quite well and were also able to help by arrange cab service for us. We saw quite few westerners in Tainan, but for some reason I don’t understand, few of them ever speak.

I requested western mattresses in the hotel, so we had a decent night’s sleep. This request meant that we didn’t want the typical Taiwanese mattress which is as thick as those we have in the US, but about as soft as this table top.

There are incredible blue lights all over this city. I first saw them at Snake Market in Taipei and have seen them since everywhere!! I think you can see them if you search for the photos I’ve posted of the exterior of the Dream Mall. I finally found some of them in Tainan and will be bringing them home for xMas next year!!

In August, 2007 I will be leaving Indianapolis with my daughter, Kristen, to live and work in the Republic of China (Taiwan). This will be my fiftieth year on this planet and my first year living in another country. This blog will let you join us on the adventure!
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Chikky Soup Meets Stinky Tofu by Edi Campbell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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Taipei

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