New Blog…

7 03 2013

I have permanently moved my efforts over to a new blog with a slightly different aim.  Still in the works, but follow if you wish!

Taipei Gay Pride Festival 2011

16 11 2011

Taiwan has one of the largest gay communities in the whole of Asia, and in turn hosts one of the largest pride festivals on the continent.  Taiwan was in fact the first Asian government to propose legalization of gay marriage and the right for same-sex couples to adopt.  The proposition was ultimately shut down, but it’s a start!  Although gay marriage remains banned, there is legislation protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

This year’s Gay Pride Festival fell on the last Saturday in October (also Halloween weekend which the Taiwanese are avid celebrators).  Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Taipei in support of the movement.  Below are some photos of characters from the afternoon.

Ni hao, Taiwan!

8 11 2011

It’s been ages since I’ve written!  I feel I really should start it up again; at least it’s some small bit of discipline.  But we won’t get into that.

It seems appropriate to end my hiatus by reflecting on my new environment and the one I left behind.  I was able to visit America for a few months before arriving in Taiwan, but as I unconsciously compare my new surroundings with the ones I am used to, the comparison automatically lines up with Korea.  Asia has, in reality been my home for the past year and a half.  A life that was nonexistent in any reality I had before all just seems normal to me now.  Standing on the bus or subway amongst a sea of black hair, picking up fruit at the outdoor market on my way to work, buying things at the grocery store and guessing how to cook them, playing Frogger across each and every road as to not be hit by the hoards of scooters and buses that have the right of way over pedestrians, and all the extra attention and freebies.  Not much surprises me here anymore, which is a big reason I have been so lazy with keeping the blog.  I will have to take it as a challenge to dig deeper!

Since leaving Korea, I only remember the good things.  In fact, my first week in Taipei I had a few moments of running through whether or not to just go back – go back to my easy life there, my friends, my free apartment and well paying, insanely easy to find jobs, comfort of knowing where to go and how to get there.  This whole new city with long ridiculous names over each MRT stop, impossible bus routes, no way to communicate with taxi drivers and no friends seemed looming and lonely.  Those moments were few, but they were there and were strong.  But I can never forget the strange satisfaction I get when I realize that I am familiar with this street, district, bus route that felt so alien only a short time before.  Like the map in my head has expanded to include this place that did not exist to me before and can never go away.  That feeling has been driving my life for the past 3-4 years and it’s undeniable to me.  Of course I wasn’t going to let myself go back to Korea.  Afterall, I KNOW that although I never think about them, there are plenty of reasons I was so happy to finally board that plane out of Busan.

I was going over those reasons today, trying to remember.  Though I never allow myself to dwell on the negative (Rule #1 of living abroad), it is a big part of the experience and probably should be given the most credit in regard to personal growth.  With respect to Korea, culture was definitely the biggest hurdle.    This word, “culture”, is something quite opaque when you are constantly surrounded by your own.  Not even in America’s melting pot do you really see or feel this intangible thing as you do when you are outside of your own and submerged in one completely foreign for the first time.  And the strangest thing about this feeling is that you are the foreign factor in this equation; the one that’s got it all wrong.  It’s something I could have never prepared myself for, and something impossible to convey through words to others.  It felt insanely lonely.  I felt out of place, unsure, self-conscious, and wasconstantly walking on eggshells.  But it really does thicken your skin, build your confidence, and grant a whole new (very necessary) sense of humor.

Taiwan I don’t feel the culture shock, really at all.  My first few days in town, walking around Taipei’s massive subway stations I remembered that feeling of self-conscious – that everyone is looking at me and knows I have no idea where I’m going even though I’m desperately trying to act as if I belong.  That feeling quickly subsided here and now, quite honestly I feel right at home after only 2 months.  I can’t quite decide if it’s more the culture or because it is my second time living in a big Asian city.  I”m sure it is partially attributed to both, but I also know that people here are much more open minded to cultural diversity than in Korea.  The overall mindset of Koreans is still set on preserving homogeneity of the culture, and recently graduated English teachers from the West do NOT by any means help forward that agenda.

My life here is great so far.  The Taiwanese might be the friendliest group of people I have ever come in contact with, I have a job teaching kids that I love so far at a school that I really like, a fabulous apartment in a perfect location, good roommates, a growing base of friends, and am overall stress free (which most of you know is very high on my list of essentials!) .  I’ll keep you posted!

Teacher’s Pet

16 03 2011

When you’re young you like to think that teachers like all the students equally.  There may always be a “teacher’s pet”, but deep down you liked to believe that they liked you all the same – even those who were always stuck banging erasers after class.  This fondness all those beyond the age threshold of adulthood foster for the younger of their species.  Like how your parents love you, and all your friends’ parents love you, regardless of past misbehavior.

Well, today I would like to officially squash that naïve, possibly once self-protecting little theory of mine once and for all.  The teachers do NOT like all the kids equally, and there is said “teacher’s pet” for a reason.  And no matter how much you didn’t want to believe it back then: the teachers really DO talk about the kids in the teacher’s room!  An age-old practice that may be the cornerstone of suicide prevention in many cases.

I don’t care if you’re 5 or 65 – as far as age is concerned, not much changes through time by way of one’s partiality or detest for specific human beings.  The difference is the necessity and heightened (hopefully) ability to control how you really feel.  Through years of socialization, humans become masters of disguise.  We glide through this life leaving civility intact by wearing masks specifically designed for different people in different situations.

Though it turns out, partiality and detest can switch on and off more quickly than I could have ever anticipated.  Many students whom the others may have called “pet” in the beginning of my time here have turned out to be some I must force a smile with, and those who’ve made my life hell have become the most fun and rewarding.  First impressions are deceiving, especially when you are digging under language, cultural, and age barriers.  Also, kids are simply moody as all hell, and the angle the sunrise hits the foot of their bed in the morning can trigger either a great class or the onset of a migraine for me.

This enlightenment of my prior naïvety has caused me to wonder, then, if it is too a fallacy that all parents love their children “unconditionally” and equally, as they all claim (again, hopefully) that they do.  I am not a parent, so can’t obviously know firsthand, but I do know that parenting a child 24 hours a day for 18 years must be much more trying on affection than 50 minutes twice a week.  Especially if the kid is a bonafide brat, which I now believe is legitimate.  I know there is certainly a degree of “love” there, since the small human is a product of your own body and there is an innate drive to take care of it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actually like it.  I know I didn’t always make life easy for my parents, and I have to say even I was better than many people I know.

All I know is, something must be working on some ulterior level because we keep producing the unpredictable little things and allowing them to grow one year older.


Dog Café

1 03 2011

I found something new!  Well, experienced something new anyway.  I read about these “dog cafés” in an ESL text book with one of my classes a few months back.  Sounded brilliant!  I tried with all I had to make my middle school boys care about people drinking coffee with other people’s dogs in English – a futile attempt that could make an unanesthetized leg amputation feel like afternoon tea.  Though it did get me excited about the prospect of one day coming across one.

I had a terrible dream last night that I was out to dinner with some people who decided to order dog meat soup.

I was out with some girlfriends today and immediately noticed the yapping of dogs from behind a window as we walked by on the sidewalk.  Any other day I probably would have just sauntered by without paying notice, but the dogs in cages inside brought the recollection of my dream flooding back.  The ground level looked like an average pet store showing off the youngest, cutest animals to passer-bys, but through the 2nd floor window we could see people in booths drinking tea covered in small, domesticated creatures.

So how it works is this.  You walk inside and are immediately hammered with the intense smell of pet store.  I’m sure you know what I am talking about.  Walk upstairs and through the puppy gate and are greeted by a swarm of dogs massive and chihuahua, young, old, healthy and coned.  You pay a flat fee of about $8 (a bit pricey, if you ask me), order your beverage and hang out in a booth with a pet of your choice or in the lobby area playing with squeaky toys.  People drop off their dogs here in the mornings before work so they are not lonely throughout the day, and people who don’t want the full time commitment of pets of their own can benefit from the busy schedules of those who did.  Everyone wins!  There would surely be some health code violations, but I think this could really take off in the states!  …Maybe..  There are also many other things about Korea that I think could (or should) do well in America, but after thinking a bit more about it retract my supposition.

At the Jjimjilbang (bathhouse)

Example #1:  Public bathhouses.  They are fantastic!  Huge, beautiful male/female separate facilities with pools, steam rooms, massages, showers and saunas.  After freshening up, rendezvous with your friends/family of the opposite sex in communal areas to watch private TV’s, relax in even more saunas, bathe your feet in beautiful pools, order drinks and snacks, and other odd amenities.  Though this would not fly in America because we are not comfortable with nudity.  One of the most trying mental situations for any young American has to have been the mandatory showers after gym class.

Example #2:  Call buzzers on every table at restaurants to call over your server when you need him.  That is the only time the server will come over to the table.  Bypass all the phony greetings, small talk, and premature “How does everything taste?” (5 seconds after the meal came so you don’t really know what you need yet, then have to wait God-knows-how-long for them to reappear once you finally decide what you do need from them.)  Don’t even get me started on the joys of not having to tip anyone!

Example #3: Norae-bangs!!  Private karaoke rooms, open 24 hours, bring all you can eat/drink.  Need I say more?  There is absolutely NO reason these should remain an “Asian thing”.  Stop being so selfish, Asia.

I think many Americans would think the Dog Café thing is “dirty”.  Or someone would get nipped, prompting a lawsuit to shut down the whole game.  For whatever reason it hasn’t made its way west yet, I can still enjoy them in Asia for a few more months.  Or not.  $8 is a lot of money to leave a café smelling like someone else’s dog, and I really wish at this moment I had a lint brush.

Goodbye 2010

2 01 2011

On this day exactly one year ago I scribbled down my Personal Goal for 2010.  I refuse to call it a “New Years Resolution” since that sounds more to me like a wish for some genie in a lamp.  It also has proven just as effective.  I will lose 20 pounds.  I will work out every single day.  I will stop eating sugar and/or carbs.  I will hang up my clothes instead of flinging them all over my room.  Yeah right.

So I have changed the terminology and the nature of the resolution, and these minor tweaks in the system must have worked because it is the first year I feel I actually achieved my goal.  The funny thing is, today was the first time I looked back at the goal since I wrote it.  I spent no time obsessing or feeling guilty and angry at myself if ever a slip-up.  It was internalized.

In a nutshell, the goal was to trust myself.  To waste no more time in in self-doubt and stop finding excuses for things I know I really want.  There are always a million reasons NOT to do something, and if you can’t trust yourself, who can you?

2010 was an amazing year.  Emotionally taxing at times, chock full of up’s and down’s, enough “Hello’s” and “Goodbye’s” to last a lifetime, and an overall crash course in Self-Realization 101.  I have just put down my Personal Goal for 2011, and will again internalize it and drop it from the front of my memory.

I wish nothing but peace, love, and happiness for everyone in 2011, and from Korea: “Always be healthy for the new year!”


15 12 2010

I sometimes like to wallow in nostalgia by leafing back through old journals that are the past prophecies for my own future.  It’s odd how the mind’s eye pictures the future so vividly; specific moments and events that will happen if I follow down a certain path, yet looking back I have gotten it all wrong every time.

Maybe this can be credited to the winter coming, and having been away from family and friends for so long.  But lately I’ve been more introspective than usual.  Trying to realize my angle on life; my niche in the world, but hitting a perpetual brick wall.

It feels like the times I walk to the bus stop with my headphones in, all the while scanning my iPod for something to listen to when before I know it, I am at the bus stop without having listened to anything at all.  Sometime this outcome arrives out of a desire to listen to too many things at once and my inability to choose just one.  Other times, including this one, it is from a boredom of everything I am seeing scroll by.

While I don’t really believe in such a metaphoric “bus stop”, or plateau that seems to drive many people through hoops, I sometimes feel like there is something more I should be doing.  Is this normal?  Does everyone feel this, or am I really missing something?


I believe a day is wasted unless I pay realization to, if at least momentarily, something that makes my life worth living, no matter how petty or small it may seem.  The past few weeks I’ve had difficulty putting my finger on such things.

But as I’ve said before and has proven true, this too shall pass as if nothing ever happened.