Monday, 14 September 2009

And time goes on...

So, here we are, another Monday morning in hot, sticky Taipei! We got our classes sorted out in the end and even wound up in the same class, which some may remember was not what we'd planned. Still, we're managing OK and are not sure that our teacher has worked out we're a couple as yet, so I wonder how long we can play with her!!!=) Classes are quite hard work, there's homework every day and tests about twice a week. As I have to maintain an 80% average, (straights A's, basically), or lose the next month's money, then I have quite an impetus to work hard! A bit of shock to the system, I can tell you! I couldn't remember of the 'older' characters on this morning's dictation test, so I won't be repeating last week's 100%, sadly!! By older I mean not new stuff from this chapter etc, therefore characters I haven't needed to write for most of the last 9 years! I can still read them OK, but I can't remember them actively enough to write them on demand. It'll come though and things are improving greatly in that area already.=) This is one of our Japanese classmates who was a tad tired one day!!

We got all moved in to our new place by last Wednesday. To-ing and fro-ing on the bus with a couple of suitcases, we managed it in 4 trips. The last one was just plain silly with so much stuff it took 3 of us to get it to the bus-stop and onto the bus! Thankfully, Adi, one of the Indonesian bros who was staying in the same temp place was on hand to offer his help and, when we got to the other end, the bus-stop is very close to our home, so I was able to just wait for Sir whilst he took the first lot over. I managed to baffle a poor Taiwanese lad as I read the English on his T-shirt out loud: "'This is a really hard.' This is a really hard what?" Like most Taiwanese, he was very good natured and laughed out loud when he got what I was puzzled by. Also, people on the bus were helping us with our silly amount of luggage, whereas in Englad, most of the help you could expect would be dirty looks and impatient noises! Anyway, we're still getting the things we need for our home, so I'll post some photos when we've got it all done.=) The local congregation have been great - lending and giving us stuff such as dining chairs, a second desk/table, a shoe rack, rice cooker and some dishes. We also managed to get some useful things for next to nothing at a 2nd hand shop - iron, set of still boxed Ikea cutlery etc.

On Friday, I had to go to 2 rather dull scholarship orientation meetings. The first was the most useful as it answered some questions as to grade requirements - if I don't have an 80% average for the quarter, not each month, they will withhold the next month's stipend. However, that's not out of the way here, you can actually get 100% if you get it all right. Quite a change from the University's marking system in Leeds, which, even if I did fully understand it, is too ridiculous to try and explain elsewhere!! Back to the topic: The second meeting was for all the scholarship recipients in the north of the island and had all manner of big-wigs, (ambassadors - the few that there are as most only have full diplomatic relations with China, people from government offices etc), and the chap who wrote the Lonely Planet guide to Taiwan. This is him and I think he was the most interesting of the lot. After we'd had something to eat, I confess to having legged it early with most of the other Leeds graduates who are on the same programme as me. It was nice to catch up with them and find that most of them are in the same level as Martin and I are - phew! Four years ago, I taught them!=) One is 3 levels ahead of the rest of us, but the majority are all in Level 5, albeit using different texts to us.

On top of our 10 hours of classwork per week, we also have to do 5 hours of 'Supplementary Classes' in order to quaify as full-time students. These vary from taking large group classes, such as the 'Practical Taiwanese' which starts this afternoon, (and which we're going to), through working on your own in the library or listening labs (signing in and out to clock up hours) to watching films in Chinese. This last was our only option last week for one aspect and so we went and suffered through 'Once Upon a Time In China'. If you get a chance to see it, pass on it! We would never have gone had we known it was a kung-fu film! I spent a lot of time looking elsewhere and 1 of the 2 Korean sisters who'd also had to go, said she'd gone to sleep!! Nice going, girl!! There was also a display of Tae-Kwondo by the local Uni's nationally recognised team as a welcome performance at the big scholarship meeting. They were talking about the 'power and beauty' of it, but I confess to only having seen aggression and violence, although I'm not disputing the power! The looks on their faces did not reflect what I would call 'beauty'! Why not just put on some display of dance instead??? Chinese society seems to me to be full of contradictions. They talk so highly of family life, but then just go off to work or study abroad, leaving their families behind -sometimes for years on end and, regardless of the child's real welfare, push them fearfully hard in school. They also talk about peace and their art often represents it, but then violence is what really gets glorified in all these martials arts, both in person and on films. Hmmmm....

Onto more positive things: Martin's managing to get his pioneer hours and min going again OK with some local bros even offering to tkae him on studies and meet him at times when there's no group, so that's good. He said that yesterday was rather like the min in the West, it was hard to find someone to talk to and that was a bit of a surprise after our territory at home where almost everyone wants to study with us! Plain old house-to-house work comes as a shock to the system after having 'had it easy' for so many years! It's the one thing I really dreaded about coming back here.....

Not surprisingly, the major typhoon last month has been a big topic here - our first public talk started with a reference to them (I think!). None of our brothers lost their lives in the disasters, but many lost possessions etc and one sister lost 8 members of her family as their home was buried in the mudslides (I thought the bro said that was whilst she was out at the meeting, but Wenfei didn't remember him saying that, so it could be totally wrong!). Also, it comes as no surprise to hear that the main reason for those awful landslides etc was over-forestation in the southern areas.=(

Finally, some street scenes from the Gong Guan area, not far from our Language Centre, which show a bit more of Taiwan street life.



Sorry not much of interest this week! Until next Monday then....

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