Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weekly Mandarin: 48

48th edition: Zai Jian

(For the ultimate irony, this final Weekly Mandarin was written in Hawaii! Where they don't speak Mandarin!)

This last week has been a week of many "last"'s. Last meal at the awesome vegetarian restaurant. Last class as a teacher. Last time in Taiwan (maybe). And lots and lots of goodbyes. (I'll post some of the best pictures here when I get them.)

Through all of this, I have absolutely determined that I prefer Chinese for this one. People in Taiwan say "bye bye" a lot, 'cause it's easy to say. But Chinese's standard farewell is "zai jian." It translates to "next time I see you" and I think it's just a better way to end things than an English "goodbye." It's open ended and is filled with possibility. And exactly how I want to leave Taiwan.

So with that, I finish my last post on JennygoestoTaiwan. Thanks for reading.

Backblog: Yes, they laugh back

So, there's the website that keeps track of stupid things that are printed in "English" (meaning English letters and often very messed up English words). And we laugh at the silly people using English when they don't understand it.

And they laugh back when we do the same thing! Like the badass looking white-on-black screen print of traditional character calligraphy that reads "I am very smart. I am very cool. But I'm not smart enough to read my own shirt." Or the teacher who laughed for 20 minutes when she met a guy with a tatoo of the Chinese characters for "table."

Backblog: Kids Names

I don't have kids any more 'cause I'm not a teacher any more. But here are some of the best real "English names" given to students:

Apple (super popular)
(paired with) Devil
and my personal favorite: Godspeed (If you did an auditory double take, and asked the kid again, he'd say " Godspeeeeeed!!" And put one hand out to fly like superman

Backblog: School Lunch

(This one almost made Anne lose it)

Early on, someone told me I should order a serving of the vegetarian lunch, rather than the meat lunch option at school. They presented the rationale that the school makes 30-some-odd trays of meat lunch and 1 tray of vegetarian lunch, so meat lunch is just likely to be bad since it's made in such mass.

Makes sense.

Then I hear about another school's emergency drill: All of the kids pretend they get food poisoning and the teachers try to help them (I think this included re-hydrating and mopping more than anything else). This would be hugely entertaining with my hammy little munchkins. And some of them would probably forget to pretend and actually toss their cookies. One clever teacher pointed out to a nurse that the teachers all eat the same meals as the students, so they'd be food poisoned too. And the nurse responded that the vegetarian eaters, young and old, would be least likely to be sick simply because the vegetables won't make you sick from under cooking.

Makes more sense.

Unfortunately, at my main school, the kids and teachers who ate vegetarian ate from the same large trays. Eventually, when I stopped being so tickled pink by the opportunity to casually ask them what foods they were picking (in English), I noticed the kids behaviors... Like when they put things back in the main dish to reject it from their own dish. Or when they show me "LOOK JennyWei. I have a cold sore in my mouth" and then serve. Then I stopped eating lunch at school at all.

I'm a slow learner.

Backblog: Drilling

You may have noted that my griping about the earthquakes in Taiwan hit the internet close to the time the really bad earthquakes hit the mainland and caused a lot of destruction. I felt awkward about that, but I guess it was a busy time for tectonic plates in the Asia-Pacific region.

And because of all the destruction, we had a school-wide discussion of earthquake preparedness, and an earthquake drill. So the bell rang, and the kids were supposed to go under their desks. And there I am trying to convince them to do it head first to protect their brains, when, HELLO, that would block the view of watching their classmates trying to crawl awkwardly under their desks. Then when that was adequately performed, the students all marched down to the blacktop to sit in a file and be counted.

That's when I decided to give them a little lesson about America and the Cold War. We learned the words "duck" and "cover"!

Backblog: Impromptu Vocabulary Review

Unfortunately, the airport known as "TPE-Taipei International Airport" is actually about an hour outside of Taipei. And there's no train or subway to get there, so you're stuck taking a taxi, van, or bus. (In appropriate order of expense)

And just getting to and from the airport should be considered part of your adventure away from home. One time I was riding the bus, and this woman on the bus started yelling/moaning to her captive audience. She was clearly begging for money and listing the reasons why she needed money. It took me a while for me to realize that I could understand her! She was screaming out the very vocabulary words I had just learned: "My mother!" "My little brother!" "My big sister!" "My father's brother!" And I was just totally psyched that I could understand her, even though I, along with the other passengers, was not buying her family sob story.

Then she started throwing things around the bus, and wouldn't stop. And the bus had to pull over to the side of the road and wait for the cops to show. So it took a while to get back. But it's a funny story, eh?

Backblog: Teacher vs. Mouse

This little story made me feel better about how hard I think it was to learn Chinese. It's hard for the native speakers too!

When Brian and I were visiting the Zoo, we visited the nocturnal mammal house (where, incidentally we saw this animal totally freaking out). And as we walked by one family, we heard the dad saying over and over to his little daughter "lao shur, lao si, lao shur, lao si" and trying to get her to repeat after him, making a distinction. She kept failing, and would therefore could be cursed to a lifetime of accidentally mixing up the words "teacher" and "mouse."