Project Colin

As I write this entry, I have switched to listening to Rockabilly. Currently, “Hard Headed Woman” sung by Wanda Jackson is playing. I knew my taste for ole time Country wouldn’t last. Actually, I was listening to ICRT earlier. That is a bilingual (Chinese and English) radio channel here in Taiwan. They play a diverse selection of music. Today, they were playing Top 40 music and I really got into it. I love to dance around the house, which makes Shu Mei laugh a lot. Luckily, we have obscure glass on the side of our house that faces the neighbors, or they would think there was a wild man living hereâ?¦and there is!

Today was the second day of tutoring Colin. He is becoming very comfortable around me. Sometimes, I feel he is too comfortable. At times, it becomes a challenge to keep him interested in the subject matter. This is perhaps my fault. I should strive to make the tutoring sessions as interesting as possible. I remember when I was his age. Things had to be fun, or I would just not pay attention.

Colinâ??s Dad brought me food, from McDonald’s. The Taiwanese people think Americans love McDonald’s. For the most part, they are right. I never realized just how frequently I eat at McDonald’s until today. Looking back, I think I eat there about three times a week. That is surprising, because I really love the variety of food this country has to offer. I guess that my blood is just too American.

I think I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. The driving conditions here are downright scary. Almost daily, I come really close to hitting someone. The problem is that traffic laws are not followed very closely by the Taiwanese drivers. I think that is because there are not many police officers about the streets. In the three months I have been here, I have only seen someone that has been pulled over by the police on two occasions.

There are many scooters on the streets here. Actually, to say there are â??many scooters hereâ?? is an understatement. I am not a myrmecologist, but there certainly are similarities between the throngs of scooters and a giant colony of ants. To me, it appears that many of them can barely ride a scooter, let alone obey any traffic laws. Shu Mei told me that many of the scooter drivers do not even have licenses. I should not find this alarming, as I, myself have ridden one several times and I do not possess a license. Recently, the police have set up checkpoints for scooters, to verify that the drivers have the proper license. The driving age for scooters is eighteen. Many of the drivers are under that age.

Speaking of scooters, there seems to be no end to what a person will attempt to transport on one. Just today, I saw an alarming sight. There were three people riding on one scooter, two boys and a girl. That wasnâ??t the alarming part, as I have seen up to five people riding on one. It wasnâ??t even alarming that the boy in back was carrying a bicycle and the girl in front of him a bag of groceries. The alarming part was that the driver was driving with one hand and smoking a cigarette in the other. Iâ??m no fuddy-duddy when it comes to this sort of thing, as I could even understand this situation if they were going along at a slow pace. However, this scooter was winding through the traffic as if it was in the World Grand Prix.

It rained today, which is a very good thing. There has been talk about rationing water, here on the island, because of the lack of rain this past year. I would think that this is a rare situation, Taiwan being such a humid and tropical environ. However, Shu Mei told me that they have had to ration water here a couple of times before. What that means is that we go out and buy a lot of water for cooking and drinking beforehand. Then, we only use the water in our water tank, located on top of the house, for bathing and doing laundry. It doesnâ??t sound like a tough situation, not like rationing water in the middle ofâ?¦sayâ?¦the Sahara Desert would be.

There was a minor earthquake here today. It occurred in the middle of my tutoring session with Colin. He did not even feel it, being immune to the small ones I guess. At first, I did not notice it either. I just thought I was feeling a little dizzy. Then, I looked up at dining room light (a telltale monitor) and saw that it was swinging back and forth. I ushered Colin outside, explaining to him in simple English that there was an earthquake occurring. He seemed a bit irritated that I would actually want to go outside, it not being a big one. My thinking is that how do you know -when- it is a big one or not? Honestly, I do not think you would have time to make that deduction, if the big one actually occurred.

I heard on the radio that this quake was a 6.2-magnitude, with its epicenter about six miles off the islandâ??s northeast coast. Apparently, earthquakes are common here. At first, I thought I would be prepared for the experience of them, having lived in Los Angeles, where minor tremors are frequent. However, I am a bit more concerned about this locale than I was about LA. You see, Taiwan is located in an area where several fault lines intersect. In fact, 51 fault lines in total crisscross the island!

In reality, most of the tremors cause little or no damage, but a 6.8-magnitude quake last month killed five construction workers in Taipei and damaged hundreds of homes across the island. The construction workers were working on a crane on top of a skyscraper that was being constructed. I was there just the day before that occurred and made a comment to Shu Mei about how scary it would be to work on that crane. Little did I know that it would prove to be a fatal situation for the craneâ??s workers.

The radio also said that the Central Weather Bureau reported todayâ??s quake was an aftershock from last months deadly tremor. Shu Mei has told me horror stories of the big earthquake they had here almost three years ago. It was a 7.6-magnitude earthquake and killed 2,378 people. It also destroyed more than 40,000 homes in central Taiwan, near where I live. Shu Mei said that some of her students at the time were among those that were killed. Sad story.

On a lighter note, I managed to teach the children at school and in Châ??ing-shui without a hitch. That is a miracle, of sorts, for me. In the past, I have found it very difficult to keep control of the groups of students. I recall a day last week where I put four of them in timeout at one time and still had the remaining students misbehaving. Shu Mei told me that they are treating me as they treat all other foreigners they have met.

Usually, foreign English teachers will teach at a big school where there is a native Taiwanese home teacher in every classroom. The foreign English teachers go from classroom to classroom, giving their little one or two hour lesson repeatedly. It is up to the homeroom teacher to keep order in the classroom. The foreign English teacher merely presents his/her lesson. Such is not the case with our school, where I am the only teacher in the classroom. I am responsible to keep order and present the lesson. The students I teach have had foreign English teachers before and they are not accustomed to the current situation. They feel that a foreign English teacher does not demand control of the classroom. They are changing their feelings rather quickly with me.

Speaking of their past English instruction, it really does not show. The students that come to our school can barely speak a few words of English. They cannot, by any means, form complete sentences. Some of them, especially the Châ??ing-shui students, have had multiple years of English instruction, but still cannot formulate complete sentences. Utilizing Shu Meiâ??s teaching strategies and a caring attitude for the students, we can teach them more English in a month than all their previous years of instruction combined. It is simply a matter of approach and attitude.

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