31 August, 2005


something else i've been meaning to post for a while: one of the letters i received from my students before i left Taiwan. this one is undoubtedly the best, for reasons you will see for yourself. though i have done my best at recreating the feel of the actual letter, including the creative spelling and grammar, you will unfortunately miss much of the impact that the cute stationary and numerous little hand-drawn pictures bring to the piece.

Dear proffessor ball:

I'm Sherry Duo I'm Sandy Lu.

Can you don't tiggle us! We hate it! Can you give us your picture and e-mail and adress. When you go back to England we will miss you! really............ Don't be like girls.... we hate you like this! (this is a warning) Can you don't give us so many homeworks, please.... >:< (this is seriou)s, You are not very handsome! but we think you are a good teacher, (exapt when you make we mad). We are free to be mad, and don't make we laugh when we are mad! >:<.......,
  this letter didn't have using any grammer, sorry! We always shout to you! (sorry) Can you think more ""fun"" game for us. we like to play game with you, but your game always is bord! And can I ask you a question? why we always need to give you [picture of a hand] (5)! <- we didn't hate give you ""5""! we just what to ask!
  we think you are a good teacher! You teach we many thing. thank you. I'm glad you are my teacher in Berhan. You did your job great!

Don't --> forgot --> --> don't --> tiggle --> us !

This letter is give you some warning and we are sorry to you Don't always threaten us, like you need to do your thing finish or you can't have a break>. you are responsible teacher!

You are a good teacher

Your smart student =


Sherry Duo

Sandy Lu

thanks to Sherry and Sandy for providing this great memory, and a good insight into what i was listening to for six months.

24 August, 2005


i've been meaning to write this post for ages: it documents what is pretty much the first major event i attended while in Taiwan. indeed, many of you will be shocked to know that i paid a full $800 for the ticket to this event, but i thought it well worth the price.

having only been in-country for a few days, someone who was to become a great friend, Leah Schwenke, asked the newbie teachers if we were interested in attending a flamenco show in Taichung. partly because i was interested in flamenco, but maybe more because it seemed, even in those early days, like such a strange event to be having in Taiwan, i decided to go. it was a show named Los Tarantos performed by the Jose Greco II dance troupe. Jose Greco II is, surprisingly enough, the son of Jose Greco, who was apparently quite legendary as a flamenco dancer. by all accounts Junior has acquitted himself quite well over the years too.

i'll leave the interested reader to check out the particulars of the show in this fairly comprehensive article from the Taipei Times, one of Taiwan's English-language dailies, while i tell you the more entertaining story from that night. it was the first of many, many times that i employed the now-signature strategy that involves a shrug and a apologetic look that says "i don't speak, read or otherwise understand any Chinese, so i'm pretty much going to ignore you and do whatever i want." it's a wonderful strategy if you happen to be in China, by the way, and you want to do something that doesn't seem like it would be allowed. they don't seem to know what to do with people who won't do as they're told.

anyway, the show was good, but i felt we needed more; like an audience with the master, for example. so upon descending to the lobby i began to look for a way backstage. seeing a staircase with a velvet rope and a sign that said something like "employees only" across it, i felt like we had a good candidate. you may say that the rope and English sign were pretty good indicators that we weren't supposed to go down that staircase, but the others agreed with me that because we didn't speak Chinese, it was okay. and since the Chinese friend that was with us hadn't quite achieved native level English, she could hardly be blamed for ignoring the sign. so we went, and given our conspicuous appearance, we felt justified in our course of action when nobody even attempted to stop us.

we finally got down into a garage which appeared to be directly beneath the stage, and in which the tour buses were sitting, inert and silent. none of the drivers seemed to mind that we were wandering around, so we searched until we found a staircase on the far side which led us up four or five flights, until we heard noise. we had found the dressing rooms. so far unhindered by any discernible security, we now began to wonder if this was all a little invasive, given that several performers seemed to be dashing about in various states of semi-dress. any ideas of turning back were squelched, however, when one of the performers approached us from behind and asked, in quite good English, what we were doing. our struggles for a good answer were thankfully aborted when the man himself showed up just seconds later, seeming so happy to be able to entertain some fans for a moment that all the tension vanished.

we talked with him for 10 or 15 minutes, during which time we learned he actually lives in Texas, though he is a native of Spain. after snapping a few pictures with him (the one below is courtesy of Ginger, a fellow teacher), we let him take his leave and went outside, where we met some of the other performers as they were getting on their now-running bus.

so it was a pretty good evening after all, and well worth the $800, like i said. that language doesn't have to be a barrier, but can even be a distinct stepping-stone, is a lesson at least that valuable.

a few of the English(ish) folks backstage at the flamenco show of Jose Greco II in Taichung. from left: a friend of Leah's; Leah; Greco, the man himself; Ginger; me; Melissa and in front, a very tired-looking dancer from Jose's show.

ps: 800 New Taiwan Dollars is around 25 of the ol' American ones.