Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well it's not the "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner, but at least it was American food...

Thanksgiving dinner two years ago in Taiwan was somewhat expensive and rather disappointing. So due to busy schedules and classes (today Charlene started taking evening French classes; I'm teaching myself French from my Fluenz French DVD's) we decided to save our time and money and just get a turkey sandwich from Subway for Thanksgiving dinner. The McDonalds' fries were a nice surprise, but my stomach is feeling kind of strange as I type this, so it probably wasn't the best combo. I guess there is a reason why it is turkey and mashed potatoes and not turkey and french fries.

It would certainly be nice to be back in the USA with family and friends and celebrate Thanksgiving and enjoy a "real" Thanksgiving dinner, but I guess you can't have everything when you choose to move to the other side of the world and do your own thing. It sounds like a cliche, but when you're away from family and friends on a holiday, you realize that it is just that, family and friends that make the holiday and not the other way around. So if you're reading this, please eat a large helping of turkey and mashed potatoes for me, thanks!

As far as my Midterm Exam, I did much better than I expected. I got a total grade of 77%. On the spoken/reading portion of the exam (25% of the final grade) I did pretty well with a score of 88%. On the listening/grammar portion of the test I ended up getting a 73% (75% of the final grade). So combining those two scores gave me a final grade of 77%.

My Final Exam is in three weeks. I'm learning about 30 new Chinese characters a week, as well as new grammar lessons, but I feel like my spoken Chinese has gotten much worse from lack of practice. After this class is completed, I'm going to find some interesting way to go out there and actually force myself to speak Chinese a few hours every day. I haven't decided exactly how I'm going to do that, but I have a few ideas. That will give me about a month to practice speaking Chinese before moving to Paris...and then I'll start the whole process over again with French.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Midterm Exam

I took the Midterm Exam for my Chinese class today. I've taken some tough tests in some difficult classes before in college: Differential Equations, Calculus, Thermodynamics...hell I even took a course in Astrophysics (mistakenly thinking it was Astronomy) and today's Chinese Midterm Test definitely ranks up there with being just as difficult as those other classes.

Listening, speaking, reading and writing all in Chinese; no English. I finished it, but felt like I got run over by a bus in the process. I knew it was going to be tough, but I don't think anything could have prepared me for how difficult it was. For me, I'm thinking a grade of somewhere between 50-70 will be extremely good, and this exam is 20% of our final grade in the class!

After the two hour test, I packed up my things to leave, but was surprised to learn that we had to stay for the final third hour of class and "study". So our reward for completing the Midterm Exam, was sitting around the classroom talking with the teacher about "how long you would wait for a friend, if they don't show up to meet you". After 50 excruciating minutes, we were able to leave and go home. In the end, I think it was actually better to talk after the test in Chinese, instead of just going straight home after the demoralizing exam. It somehow difussed the volatile test taking experience, and made the weekend a little easier to slide into.

The biggest thing I learned from today's test, is how much I DON'T know about the Chinese language. What's the saying, "The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know"?  Well for me, today is that day in learning Chinese.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hooters in Taiwan

About a month ago, I was walking from the subway exit and someone on a bicycle called me over and gave me a business card. He said (in half-English and half-Chinese) "this is my restaurant" and showed me on the back of the card, a map. I knew exactly where it was, because it was right behind a major hotel in Taipei that is a block from Charlene's parent's home. I said, "Ok, thanks." Later I looked at the card and it was called Big Bucks and served American style hamburgers and beer. And I kid you not, the bottom of this professionally produced business card said "Fuck fear, drink beer!"...classy!!!

So after class today, I finished my test and did probably average. Today is actually the halfway point of the semester, I just got over some mild cold that is going around, and I decided to go try out Big Bucks because I had a craving for an American hamburger. After walking awhile, I got there and saw that the prices were a little too expensive and really it wasn't what I was expecting, so I left.

I pass Taipei's Hooters everyday after I get off of the subway coming home from classes, so I thought I could at least get a good lunch deal there and eat an "American" hamburger.

I walk into Hooters and notice they are showing an EPL soccer match between Manchester United and Manchester City...ok, I'm sold. It doesn't matter what happens, I'm eating here. So I get the menu and ask about the "hamburger special" I saw posted outside. Apparently they were sold out (FFS I just want a god damn hamburger, is that too much to ask for?).

Here is the dialogue:

Jim: 我要一個漢堡薯條跟可樂
Hooters Waitress:  對不起今天沒有漢堡
Jim: 什麼?
Hooters Waitress: 今天沒有漢堡, 太多人想要了
Jim: You don't have any hamburgers???
Hooters Waitress: No.
Hooters Waitress: 你說的中文很好!
Jim: 謝謝.
Hooters Waitress: (pointing to the menu) 這個很好吃.

Basic Translation: I wanted a hamburger, they were out, she said my Chinese was good, she suggested a pork sandwich instead, I said OK.

Much like a Playboy subscription, I only go to Hooters for the articles and blog reports err...I mean the food. The food was average, but wasn't expensive for a lunch meal: soda, soup, pork sandwich, fries and a dessert (something like ice cream) for $8 US. I got to watch the entire second half or the Man U vs Man City soccer game with my own private HDTV, so I was happy.

Friendly service, nice ambiance, good prices...what's not to like?

As for my Chinese class, my Midterm Exam is in 7 days....and I'm so screwed, it is not going to be easy. A different teacher from the school will give us the Midterm Exam. There are 4 parts: writing answers to questions in Chinese, reading Chinese orally, answering questions orally in Chinese, and describing pictures orally in Chinese.

I have a hell of a lot of catching up to do.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vienna Boys' Choir

There are a number of great musical groups that come to the Taiwan National Concert Hall to perform each year. I was hoping we could see Lang Lang in concert recently, but he is so popular, that tickets were sold out before we could even think of getting them. After going through the calendar schedule, I saw that the Vienna Boys' Choir was performing. I had heard of them (how many other choirs can you actually "name" besides them?) so I thought it would be great to check out. We ended up getting tickets and saw them perform this week.

This is a group that isn't 100 years old, isn't 200 years old, no...keep going...they have been around for over 500 years. Mozart used them in concerts and Schubert was actually a member of the Vienna Boys' Choir. It was quite amazing to realize that these boys range in age from 10 to 14 and can sing in any singing style you can imagine, and then some. In the concert they performed songs from: China, India, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Vienna and Africa. They also performed traditional classical as well as popular music: Schubert, Strauss Jr., Gershwin, music from the Broadway show "Hair" and even an amazing arrangement of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time."

It was an awesome concert and a lot of fun. From the kids running out clapping throughout the audience, to watching them sneeze and cough onstage trying not to laugh at it; it was great to see "traditional music" in an environment that was very relaxed, fun and honest. It showed that music really is the universal language, and that it should be enjoyed and not be taken too seriously.

As far as Chinese, my Power Point Presentation on my daily schedule went well and I got a 90% on my latest test. My Midterm in coming up on November 19th and that is 20% of my final grade so that's the next big thing coming up for me.

After not playing guitar for almost half a year, I started playing guitar again this week without any "real" pain, and that's the best news I had in a while. It's been 6 months since I first injured my tendon, and it is still not 100% healed...crazy! One common theme you can gather from this blog is GETTING OLD SUCKS!!!