January 30, 2013


Well, here it is a few months later, and I’m back.

These last few months have been a bit busy.  Between classes and home life, I don’t really get a whole lot of free time.

The last post showed just how well our students at Giraffe did during the Storytelling Competition in Taipei.  It still makes me feel great knowing that all the hours put in helping my students, and all the work they put into perfecting their stories, pays off.

So, what’s happened since August?  Now that I think back, quite a bit has happened.  New classes began, Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s, and now we’re on the verge of Chinese New Year.  Where to begin. Since new classes are a regularly occurring thing in late August and again after Chinese New Year, there’s nothing new there.  With new classes this time around though, I have about another 50 new students.

Halloween.  This year, I didn’t really have a lot of time to make a new pinata.  Although I do enjoy seeing the end product, I just didn’t have enough time to actually complete one this year.  I did get dressed up and painted my face black-and-white, wore a black cape… well, to see the pictures, have a look on my Facebook account.  It was a fun night, but I didn’t have a lot of time to get prepared.  It is good that photos tend to hide the imperfections!

Halloween over and done, and it seemed like Christmas was almost upon us.  Granted, Taiwan doesn’t celebrate Christmas as such, but I try in my own way, to get that Christmas spirit.  We don’t get snow here in Taiwan (obviously), and the vast majority of the population don’t celebrate Christmas the way we in North America do.  The children learn about Christmas though.

Personally, I don’t teach the kids the religious aspects of the Christmas season, but I do try to pass on the ‘pagan’ celebration to them.  Each year, at Halloween and Christmas, I create a booklet of various puzzles, poems, and stories about the seasons.  This year’s Christmas booklet was the largest I’ve created.

Giraffe once again, had its Christmas show.  As is always the case, I was Santa.

At the end of the program, ‘Santa’ greets each student, wishes them a “Merry Christmas”, and gives them a treat.  However, as a bit of a twist this year, I went against the program and surprised everyone.

The program is all for the kids.  The kids put on shows, they get gifts, the winners at the Storytelling Competition in August do their stories – however, no one recognizes the work that the teachers put in to put this show on.  It takes many hours of practicing with the various classes to put together a 2 or 3 hour show.

So, this year, ‘Santa’ gave all the teachers a gift.  It’s also a way for ‘Santa’ to recognize that the teachers do a lot of planning and preparation to put this show together.  It is apparent that some students don’t want any part of the show.  They (or perhaps, their parents) don’t want or won’t let their children partake in the show.  In some cases, as with older children (just like in North America), some students just don’t want to be part of the show.  The put no effort into their roles.

Then again, there are those that do try.  I realize that most children’s dream is NOT to be an actor or singer, but it is great to see students trying their best.  It’s also great to see the final production, although I still haven’t actually seen the final production.  Normally by this time, I’ve already got a copy of the video and photos that were taken by Simon, to post on my Facebook.

So, Christmas now over, I decided to do something a little different for New Year’s.

I’ve been in Taiwan for over 11 years, and in that time, have not had the opportunity to join in the festivities that Taiwan offers for New Year’s.  Taipei, since Taipei 101 was completed, has had a show and then the fireworks shot off the tower.  I’ve only ever seen the fireworks show on television.

In Tainan, from what I’ve been told, there is usually a show at city hall, and then fireworks. I’ve asked people over the years if they would like to go, and the response is always positive a few weeks prior to New Year’s.  However, the day or two before, usually these people say that it is too cold, or too many people, or they just don’t feel like it.

Last year I spent New Year’s eve painting my apartment!  The year before, I spent drinking a bottle of champagne myself.  This year, I wanted to see the fireworks, hell or high water! I planned on going to Taipei, meet up with a friend there, and celebrate New Year’s for the first time in 11 years.  And that’s what I did.

I went to Taipei on the 30th, and met my friend, Todd.  We walked around Taipei, went up Taipei 101, had dinner together, and then crashed at his aunt and uncle’s place.  The next morning (31st), we went for breakfast at Fong Da Coffee.  This place is great.  For a mere 100nt, you get a cup of delicious java, a couple of eggs, ham, toast and jam.  Mmmm…  A cup of coffee is a bit steep at 100nt, so basically, by having a cup of coffee, you get breaky free!  Not a bad deal.

Today was a bit chilly.  Well, for Taiwan, chilly means anything below 25C!  But it was chilly, even for me.  I wonder if the thermometer got above 15C all day!  Most of the day was spent walking around Taipei, through the MRT shopping mall, a bit of shopping, and dinner at Chili’s.  Todd (as I’ve discovered) and I (as I’ve known for many years) have a special relationship with Tequila.  And Chili’s has some of the most delicious Margaritas I’ve ever had.  The only better Marg’s I’ve had were in Ottawa at Mexicali Rosa’s.

The bar server at the time I lived there, Millie, used to make what we referred to as ‘Millie Margs’.  OMG!  Smooth as silk, and as potent a beverage you could ask for!  Oh, I miss those Millie Margs.

As it was now getting to be about 8pm, we decided to make our way to Taipei City Hall/Taipei 101.  After arriving and walking around a bit, we found a perfect spot.  Although we had to sit on the sidewalk for the next 3 hours, it was worth every minute in my opinion.  I was there with a good friend, and we had a great vantage point to see the fireworks.  Okay, so we couldn’t watch the show on stage, but that was fine.

We had brought a couple of bottles of champagne with us.  During the day, we had picked up some paper cups and decided to share the celebration of New Year’s with the people who would eventually be around us.  Since it was a bit chilly, the champagne was just right!  At about 11:45, the champagne was popped, and while I poured out a ‘half shot’ into 50 paper cups, Todd started passing them out to the people around us.  And there were many!

Although everyone only had a mouthful, I’m sure the thought counted more than the quantity.  It was one of the more fun things that I’ve done in my life.

After the fireworks, and anyone who’s ever been to New Year’s celebrations in Taipei, Vancouver, or Ottawa can attest to, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people, wanting to get back home.  And sure enough, there were.  The MRT was running all night long to get the part revellers back to their homes.  Only problem, the line-ups at the stations were out the door and down the street.  We walked for almost four MRT stops, before Todd suggested meeting his friend.

Marina works in a restaurant, and was required to stay at work until midnight.  Insane.  About the only places doing any kind of business were bars and McDonalds.  McDs had a special of purchasing one fry and getting a second free, so of course…  Most other businesses had closed up around 10pm, knowing full well that people would be watching the fireworks, not shopping or eating dinner at midnight.

Since the line-ups were still insane, we decided to head over to a bar and have a drink.  Why not.  Once the bar was getting ready to close up, and we were heading out, of course, the MRT was still packed.  That’s when Marina suggested we stay at another of her part-time jobs.  She helps to manage a traveller’s hostel.  Out came the tatami mats, and a blanket, and there we slept, in the middle of a hallway, until 6am.

I was on my way back to Tainan, since I did have to work on January 2.  Todd was on his way to visit his family in Nantou.  All in all, not a bad weekend.  Personally, I had a great time, got to spend time with a good friend, and FINALLY got to see the fireworks.  When I arrived home, I was just in time to watch the New Year’s celebrations from New York City. Then, I crashed.  I hadn’t had a whole lot sleep over the past couple of days.

So, now that things have calmed down a bit for now, maybe I can back to writing again.

That’s it, that’s all… for now!

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1 Comment

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One response to “January 30, 2013

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