Took a Break from Posting on the blog

I haven’t made a post on this blog for almost four months now, and I’m trying to figure out why.

It’s not like anything big has happened since January that is taking up my time. My laptop and iPhone are still working fine.

I just haven’t thought of anything to write about because Taiwan is starting to become “home”. It will never be home because home is where my family is, but I have become so accustomed to living here that every day is a non-event. I now wake up and am not surprised that I’m in a tiny room filled with the sound of traffic. I don’t long for a home-made veggie-packed omelette in the morning because I know I can now get a triangle sandwich and soy milk at the 7-Elevens that are on every street corner.

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I also feel physically different than I was before I came to Taiwan. I have the small beginnings of a paunch. The muscles that I worked on so hard last summer on have slowly disappeared, especially in my arms. My hair has grown longer because I’m trying to be Taiwanese-style trendy. My back is stiff from sitting in class for so long. There are other health changes that I’ll get into in later posts (nothing serious at all, don’t worry).

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So I’ve become accustomed to almost everything in my day to day life. That’s why it’s been hard for me the last four months to post anything on this blog. I hope to start up again starting now, since my time in Taiwan is nearing its end.

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Writing Tools in Taiwanese Schools

The major writing utensil in American schools is the No. 2 pencil. Sometimes its portrayed as a big yellow wooden one with a juicy pink eraser, and nowadays I see more mechanical pencils.

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A group of foreigners found in Taiwan: mechanical pencils, No. 2 lead, a Bic ballpoint pen, and two pink erasers.

 

 

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New additions to my pencil case. In the back is a white-out dispenser. The largest pen was handed out as an advertisement for a cram school. Free pen!

 

Students in Taiwan rarely use pencils. They use pens all the time and therefore need white-out as an eraser.

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One theory of mine is that Chinese characters are closer together. Writing one Chinese character takes up the space of two English letters. Looking at a paragraph of Chinese characters looks like a solid block of ink while looking at English paragraphs, you can often see each line. Students here have to be much more precise when they write. Therefore, they use pens.

And they are different from the  pens that I used in America. The pens can be ballpoint but super thin. You can’t really see the ball on the tip of the pen like you can with pens in America. The pens make scratchy sounds when you write really fast, like the quill in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

 

School Projects

In school, Wednesday is my project day.  I spend nearly four hours in the same laboratory, the first two with six students from 204 (Juniors) and the last two with seven classmates from my homeroom 104 (Sophomores).

Both groups are full of the smartest of both classes, yet we were hindered by lack of resources and direction. The only computers we could use were at the school library, a two minute walk across the high schools campus. We had to think of an idea to pursue, use a lab notebook that wasn’t checked by the teachers, and use materials that we bought ourselves or spend class time going to nearby shops to buy them.

The teachers helped to varying degrees.

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When you can’t afford Christmas lights you make your own.

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We used this hot needle (right) and a “high quality solder” (left) to connect the LED legs to the insulated wire.

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Homemade Christmas lights that don’t work very well.

 

204’s teacher basically ran the entire show. He designed an aquaponics setup that got more and more complex as the weeks went on. It’s a layer of pebbles with probably ten seedlings planted on each level.

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Behold the magical machine! (The teacher put a bottle of his own urine into the system to add ammonia. I found out after moving around pebbles for five minutes and scrubbed my hands and forearms very thoroughly.)

So the 204 teacher plans the project and we do the dirty work.

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Digging worms in the compost heaps behind the school building.

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Of course we are using chopsticks here to dig out plants.

 

 

 

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The teacher comes out to help us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The one piece of fancy equipment we used was a microscope.


 

104’s project was even worse because the teacher let us do everything.

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So yeah… We are dripping shampoo on sloped surfaces (now on balloons inflated to varying tensions) to observe Kaye’s effect.

My high school in the U.S. did not do science projects. For me, science fairs are events straight out of elementary school. In the U.S., I participated in a summer camp that paired me with a university professor for four weeks. I worked in the professor’s lab doing what an undergrad researcher would do. At the end, I made a printed poster and had a poster session. It was much more professional and more directed. I followed the professor and learned about real areas of science through hands-on experience. In Taiwan, we are struggling to get by with few supplies and little to no direction from the teachers.

School Life Pt. 8: New Game Called Deemo

This weekend we went to Academia Sinica in Taipei, which is a pretty big research park. On the bus ride there and back, one classmate brought his Sony tablet on the giant tour bus and sat in the back playing Deemo.

Deemo is a game that’s like Guitar Hero, with buttons flowing down towards you like the credits of Star Wars in the opposite direction. There aren’t six strings like guitar hero. Instead there is a ghostly white line at the bottom of the screen, and you’re supposed to tap the dots as they hit the line.

The whole theme of Deemo is creepy and under worldly, with zombie-like characters that are supposed to look cute. There is a story line to the game but I don’t really want to know what it is.

This entire week, Deemo has been appearing on the phone screens of classmates in between classes and during lunch and nap time. You can hear eerie piano music if you walk to the far end of the classroom, where classmates are clumped against the cabinets, obscured by desks and chairs from the eyes in the hallway.

It’s hilarious to see some students become possessed by the creepy music and tap ferociously at their screens. In high schools in America, social media was much more important than games. Phone games were seen as childish. But in Taiwanese high schools, games are just as important as social media. Girls play phone games here too.

School Life Pt. 6: “Aruba!”

School Life Pt. 1, School Life Pt. 2, School Life Pt. 3, School Life Pt. 4, School Life Pt. 5

“Aruba!”

The last time I went to school in Taipei, about 7 years ago, I was amazed and confused by the screams of “Aruba!” that occasionally burst from the class. What is this non-Chinese word doing in the classroom?

Last time I was in Taiwan, I asked a classmate what “Aruba!” was and they said it was when you grab a dude by his four limbs, hold his legs open, and run his crotch into a tree trunk. I was SO confused. But it was so bizarre and out of place in a Taiwanese classroom that I still remember it till this day.

Then today, seven years later, I heard “Aruba!” again in class, because we were talking about midterm grades with our teacher. I asked what “Aruba!” was and got the same answer. Then, because we are in high school now, I got a demonstration as well!

Both students pictured below were fighting full-heartedly to escape the Aruba. The evil mastermind that is holding the doorknob in the back is the one who wanted to demonstrate Aruba for me.IMG_6383

This was the first student that was captured for Aruba purposes. A classmate thoughtfully took of his glasses and set them aside so that they wouldn’t be crushed in the upcoming struggle. The student being suspended in the air kicked ferociously and he was set down relatively soon.

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Then the mob honed in on another student who had initially been assisting in the Aruba. He was much smaller and lighter than the first classmate.

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This time, the mob got closer to completing the Aruba but this student used his hands to stop the completion of the act.

I tried looking up what Aruba was and found that it is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea. On the wikipedia page called Capital punishment in Aruba, I found out that there used to be tons of different gruesome types of capital punishment in Aruba, but now many of them are outlawed. The list is freakishly long and after reading a few I’m glad that I didn’t live in Aruba in ancient times.

I still don’t really know why students in Taiwan know about Aruba. Is it from a famous movie or book? When the students explained it, they just said that everyone knows about it, and that they’d learned about it a long time ago.