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Over the years, I’ve offered an extra bed or at least a couch to a number of online friends who have stopped by Taipei or wherever I happened to be living. I’m not sure my grandmother would approve, but I think the conventional wisdom about is wrong on this topic. The risks are mostly over-stated and the benefits are often overlooked. People are mostly good and on the whole and as far as I can tell, helping travelers out is a net gain for both the traveler and the host.

The online friends I’ve invited over fit into three groups. Some, such as Brian, keep mostly to themselves, spend a lot of time on their laptops blogging or doing whatever it is they do and don’t really impact my routine one way or the other. Without exception, they’re always good for an interesting conversation or two. Hosting them is definitely a net positive. The second group are people like Darin. They make plans to come and I offer them a place to stay, but then they end up canceling the trip. Nothing is lost and nothing is gained… except maybe an increased chance of them offering me a place to stay when I visit the country where they live. The third group is those like my friend Wayne who end up becoming great friends and hanging out with me regularly for months or even years. That’s not only worth it, but it’s enough to upset the risk of a really bad guest (which I haven’t experienced yet).

One other thing that has been absolutely wonderful is that an unusually large number of people have let me crash at their places. John, when I visited Shanghai, PR when moving in Taipei, Matt before I left Colorado and now Ben in Kunming. I can’t really draw any connection between me having other guests at my place and them inviting me to stay at theirs, but if I did believe in earthly karma this experience would certainly reinforce that belief.

to be filled in soon…

(06/21/08) I’ve been buried under a mountain of work, once again. I can’t even remember what, exactly, I had been planning to write in this post. The key point, though, was that Franc (AKA “Prince Roy) became my best buddy in Taiwan during the later part of his tour, he left, and I’ll miss him dearly. I hope we meet again in Laos, PR!

Update: Prince Roy has a much more detailed entry about his departure. So does Poagao.

To be updated once people give me my pictures…

So, I did a “walkabout” for my birthday. Basically, it was a celebration of many of the wonderful things about living in Taiwan, and a chance to hang out with some good friends. The plan was to meet up at the 鍋貼 restaurant by Yongchun MRT and walk from there to the Jingmei nightmarket, hitting 7-11’s on the way for snacks, beer and whatever else it would take to sustain us for the several hour walk.
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What a day. I rolled out of bed at 10am, brushed my teeth, and sleepwalked over to Starbucks for a business meeting. It went pretty well.

Then, it was to the school, where I had to so some last minute editing for my Tuesday/Friday class’s first semester exam. For some reason or another, the internet connectivity was horribly spotty (and it’s on a LAN, not a WAN), but I got everything done.

The Bookstore

Next, it was off to the bookstore. I went to the new Caves Bookstore, near 圓山 MRT, and what a bounty they had for me! Over fifty books I had ordered for my students were there waiting for me, and I found a new series of readers that may have some potential for curriculum.

I’ve been very satisfied with the Oxford University Press Bookworms series, on the whole. However, their “starter” level books are terrible. They use the simple present tense for just about everything, and do so in unnatural ways. Chinese speakers have a tendency to do that anyway, and the last thing I want to do is reinforce the problem further. The problem is that the level one Bookworms are a bit difficult for low level students. I push my kids pretty hard, and it takes them about year before they’re able to read them. Not only that, but I have to give them some vocabulary sheets are support so that they can get through them at a reasonable speed (15-20 pages/hour).

Today, I saw a series that just may fill in some of this gap for beginning level students– OUP Dolphin Readers. The entire series is at a very low vocabulary level, and the books are full of good illustrations that make them much easier for students to understand. Levels 3 and 4 include multiple verb tenses, and at least from the browsing I did, the 1st and 2nd level Dolphin Readers managed to avoid the unnatural usage of the present tense that’s so common in other EFL books. They even offer headword lists online. The only problem is that the Dolphin Readers have a lot of writing activities inside them, and I’m really looking for something that can be re-used from class to class. Few parents would be happy paying for all those little readers.

The Election

On my way home from the bookstore, some middle aged Taiwanese guy commented on all my books, and we got to talking. It turns out he’s a History teacher at a university near where I live. He gave me an update on the election– it was an utter rout. I had thought that Ma would win, but I’d never imaged that he’d pull in 140% of Hsieh’s vote total after his party already won three quarters of the legislative seats a couple months ago. The people have spoken for the KMT and spoken loudly. It will be interesting to see what they do with their mandate.

Wayne called me up and told me a bunch of people were meeting up for a post election party, so I hurried home, dropped of my stuff and headed out. I had expected it would just be the usual suspects– Wayne, Franc, and Poagao. I was pleasantly surprised to see that David and Maoman made it there, too. The food was great, and I’m sure those guys will have a zillion pictures online tomorrow.

All in all, it was a pretty good day.

Last night, I went to The Beer Factory for the first time. It’s near the intersection of Bādé lù and Jiànguó nánlù. The place was huge, there was good food, and lots of cheap beer. The only downside is that it was all Taiwan Beer. I guess it’s kind of hard to fault them for that, since it’s their factory after all. But, still.
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Last night, I went to Range’s (likemind). Truth be told I thought the name sounded like some creepy sort of cult, but I love meeting up with people and socializing, so I was really psyched about it. The location they picked was a bit far from me- in Banqiao, 13 stops down the subway line away from where I work. Also, they all wanted to meet up about half an hour before I got off work. Still, Range said it would go late, until at least 2am or so, so I thought it would be worth it.
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While hiking through the country-side around Xindian, Prince Roy, Poagao and I got to talking about the whole issue of what we miss from home. All three of us are from the U.S., but we also have connections of varying degrees to Taiwan. Poagao, obviously, is the most Taiwanese and the least American. He gave up his U.S. citizenship for a Taiwanese one, served in the army here, and has made it his home for about two decades. PR, on the other hand, served in the U.S. military years ago, and continues to serve the U.S. as a diplomat, even now. I know he has a special attachment to Taiwan, but after his post here is done, he’ll be off to another country and continue his Foreign Service work there.
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Yesterday, PR and I went down to Xindian to meet up with Poagao (AKA TC). I showed PR my highlighted and marked up newspaper I’ve been studying from. It’s a technique integrated with flashcards that I got from the How to Learn Any Language document on Scribd. It was a surprisingly quick ride, maybe only 20 minutes to get to the end of the subway line.

After getting to Xindian, we met up with Poagao, rode a boat across the river and went hiking through the countryside. It was amazingly peaceful and clean for someplace so close to an MRT station. There were big dogs kicking their heels through knee-high grass, little kids running around, and wide open fields on all sides. It was really relaxing, and I can sort of see why Poagao’s been raving about how great Xindian is. There was even a decent pizza place called Rendezvous, that we hit on the way back. Better still, Poagao lent me a sci-fi book I’ve been meaning to read for a while- Red Mars.

There’s no doubt about it. Xindian is so much more livable than the Linkou/Guishan area that I used to live in that there’s no comparison. It’s right on the main subway line, too. I’m still happy living in the heart of the city, though. Truth be told, I think I’d enjoy a bigger city.

Update: TC has written up the same day’s events far more eloquently than I did in this post.

Tonight I went to a Harbin restaurant that Martin found a few weeks ago. The cool thing about this restaurant is that the laoban actually is from Harbin. Unlike the other Chinese restaurants I’ve been to in Taiwan, this one is pretty authentic. There were great lamb kabobs, quite a few potato dishes (labelled with the mainland name “土豆“, of course), several spicier dishes, and a huge selection of dumplings. It was about $250/person for the meal and it was pretty good! The restaurant is at 光復南路29051.
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Tone Marks on Roadsigns Part IMark’s opening argument.
Tone Marks on Roadsigns Part IIPrince Roy’s opening argument.
Tone Marks on Roadsigns Part IIIMark’s rebuttal.
Tone Marks on Roadsigns Part IVPrince Roy’s rebuttal.

What should the road signs have on them?

  • Mark was right, characters and pinyin with tones (42%, 22 Votes)
  • Prince Roy was right, characters and pinyin without tones (31%, 16 Votes)
  • Nothing but oracle bone script, you wusses (12%, 6 Votes)
  • Only characters, foreigners who can't read them suck (10%, 5 Votes)
  • Whatever the guerrilla tone-markers deem fit (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Only pinyin, it's about time the locals learn it (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 52

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