Teachin’ and Gettin’ Around
As most of you know, I was one of the lucky ones here. I arrived in Kaohsiung on a Wednesday, interviewed at Schoolhouse on Thursday, did a demo for Schoolhouse on Friday, and was offered the job on Monday. From what I’ve heard, that kinda of thing just doesn’t seem to happen very often. Some people look and look and look before finally landing a job; some folks get hired right away, but their schools leave a lot to be desired – like money, health coverage, and emotional support.
But somehow, I was able to bounce in off the turnip truck and land a job at one of the top schools in Taiwan within 3 business days. I consider myself more lucky and blessed than good. But whatever, I can now tug on my suspenders with my thumbs, rock back on my heels, and proudly say that I’m an English teacher for Schoolhouse.
How long will that pride last? Who knows for sure, but I can tell you this: so far, I love this job. It’s weird, and it may sound a bit daft to some of you dear readers, but for the first week, anyway, I feel like this is exactly where I belong at this point in my life. I love teaching, and I love kids, and so far, it’s been a great mix. The kids can be a challenge, but not like a West Baltimore challenge; hell, most days not even like a West Plano challenge (less heroin). For the most part, the kids are adorable and sweet and smart and eager to learn. I dare say that most of the Westerners teaching them weren’t even close to the caliber of students these kids are. So it’s nice.
This past week was technically my second week of training, but all I did was teach classes on my own. These next two weeks are Schoolhouse’s summer break, and so I was substitute teaching for all the teachers who got out of town early. All told, I taught for 22 hours, which is pretty much a full-time schedule. I was a bit nervous the first day (mostly because I didn’t know where anything was, like the textbooks or the a/c controller or the roll sheet, or even one time, my classroom). But as the week went on, I got all that pretty much salted away. Teaching is fun for me, because I get to be creative without having to be too creative. Basically, they say “teach this curriculum using these materials however you want.” Ok, yessir, I can do that! I’m good at being creative within set parameters. But if you were to say to me, “Create a lesson from scratch that teaches the alphabet,” you’d probably find me the next day huddled along the riverbank, shivering, mumbling, and holding tight onto an apple and a banana.
But I feel the week went well. The kids all seemed to like me, I think they learned a little something, I only had to threaten a couple with bodily harm, and most of my hair is still brown. Starting tomorrow (Monday), I begin with one of my own classes. It’s a ABC (beginner) class, and the kids are young and sweet. So it should be swell. And the nice thing is, this is the only class I’m teaching during the summer break, so I can break myself in a bit more gradually than most teachers can. Plus, the time off will give me a chance to finally look seriously for a place.
So yeah, on the job front I’d say it’s gone pretty damn well…
Now, how am I getting to this job, you may be asking. If you’re not, ask now. Go ahead, I’ll wait. …
Well, since you asked, let me tell you this: In Taiwan, there are many cars and many bicycles; there’s a very good bus system, a brand new but small MRT system, and of course, taxis. But the thing you see almost more than anything else are little motor scooters. Lots of them. You know how in the States, it’s a fairly remarkable thing to see like 4 of these on the road a year ? I can walk to the front of the hostel right now and see three or four. They’re everywhere. I knew this when I got here, because my friend Katie U. told me about them. She had one when she was in Kaohsiung, and she talked about how I’d definitely need one if I moved here.
Well, um, to tell you the truth, the notion of choosing to ride one of these around town scared the bejeesus out of me. First of all, the roads are insane – not because of size or potholes, but because everyone seems to be going everywhere at the same time. The driving test here seems to consist of three simple questions: how well can you run red lights, how well can you turn left from the right lane (and vice versa), and how quickly can you come to a complete stop? Picture the hardest level on any video game where you drive through the city, and imagine that being your daily commute. Think about driving in New York, or Boston, and then throw about a million scooters into the mix. So yeah, I wasn’t sold on the idea of paying real money to ride one of these little deathcycles.
But after getting a job that’s nowhere near the limited MRT, and after making some friends that don’t live that close, and mostly, after taking the bus to work for a week, I was forced to face the truth: I needed a scooter. Sooooooooo…. after Mike, Karen, and I saw the fistball last Saturday, the three of us split a cab up to Louis’, the scooter man Mike and I had been referred to several times. Karen’s ridden plenty of scooters in her 17-months traveling Asia, and so she came to ask the questions we would never think of asking. (Also, to be honest, she came to give me a ride back home on my scooter, since I wasn’t sure I wanted my first test to be driving the insane Kaohsiung streets on a Saturday night. Mike was a bit more courageous.) Louis found a couple of 100cc’s for us to rent, we ate some hot-pot while he did the paperwork, and 45 minutes later, we had our scooters.
The trip home was for the most part uneventful (meaning there were no crashes/deaths), which we all considered a rousing success. Mike’s seamless driving inspired me, and so on Monday I practiced for about 2 minutes and then drove up the river to Carrefour (a local supermarket chain) to get some passport photos taken. I made it back without incident, as well, and clasped my hands together over my head in triumph.
And so, for the last week, I’ve driven my scooter almost everywhere I’ve gone. It’s cut down on my work commute quite a bit – from 45 minutes to about 15. So that’s swell. And no crashes to speak of! There have been a couple of close calls (turning left is not something I would recommend for those with weak stomachs or emotional attachments to living), and I did accidentally give a row of potted plants the what-for when I mistook the accelerator for the brake. But as far as not killing myself or anyone else, I get two hearty thumbs up.
Anyway, I know you’re all desperately wanting to see pictures of me on said bike, so follow the jump to see Biker Boeglin up close!
Update: Now there’s a video of me looking retarded on the scooter, too!