Three apologies and some rambling about my life in Taipei

Hello all,

Apology 1: I'm sorry this is a mass e-mail.  I feel like I should have enough energy to keep in touch with all of my friends and family individually.  However, since this e-mail has a lot of information that I don't want to re-write a billion times, this is the best way to most efficiently use my lack of free time.

Apology 2:  I'm also sorry for having to make you update your address book.  I will now be using this e-mail, (*censored to prevent spam*) to the exclusion of all others.  So please don't send me any more e-mail at any other accounts.  I'm trying to wean myself away from them, and just start checking all my e-mail in one place.  The nice thing about Gmail, of course, is that there is practically unlimited space to store said e-mails.  It also has several features that make doing e-mail more convenient.  But I am not in the e-mail selling business.  If you are at all interested, go to www.gmail.com, check it out, and if you like it, I'll send you an invite.  But, on to more important matters:

Apology 3: And finally, I have to say that I'm sorry that I haven't written before now.  I mean, I've been here for over 5 months now, you'd think I'd have found SOME time to blog, write e-mails, or something. Unfortunately, I have always been really bad at time management.

I'm getting better, though.  I currently teach 30 hours a week for Kojen English Language Schools, one of the bigger English-teaching companies here, which requires me to spend about 12 hours of unpaid preparation time every week, which is not too bad.  Of course, then you pile on my 7 hours of Chinese class (one hour every morning), my Chinese tea class, assorted language exchanges, transportation time to all of these things, and time for basic necessities (food, cleaning, writing this e-mail, etc.).  At this point, you may understand why I have not had much of a social life here.  Since I don't have much free time as it is, I try to spend it studying Chinese, which means that I don't end up socializing much.

Hopefully that will change.  I was teaching even more hours up until last week, at which point I was able to opt out of my Saturday classes.  So now I only teach M-F.  I still need to do preparation on Saturdays and Sundays, but now it is more of a relaxed sort of preparation, instead of the frantic scurrying that characterized my earlier prep sessions.  I am getting better and more efficient at the preparation, as well, which means that even more time is cleared up for Chinese studying and socializing.

I am getting better and more efficient at teaching in general, too.  I didn't think I'd be very good at teaching more than one student at a time.  And I'm not great.  Yet.  But I haven't even been doing it for six months, I've never taken a teaching class in my life, and the company didn't really train me, either.  So I think I'm doing fairly well.

Most of my teaching hours are with kindergarteners.  I have a class of 12 kids, ages 4-6, which I teach for 22 hours a week.  They are really fun to teach, because we mostly just play games all the time.  At that age, they don't need to study at all to pick it up.  The language just gets absorbed directly into their skulls.  It's amazing how fast they learn.  They're really good kids, too.

I also teach some classes for older children.  I have one class of first-graders, which is a lot harder to control, because there are 18 of them.  I also have some classes for kids who are about 9-11 years old.  I don't enjoy teaching the older kids as much, though.  They're not as sweet, and the curriculum I have to teach doesn't have as much room for the extraneous stuff I can do with my kindergarteners.

My Chinese studying is going well.  I can carry on a very basic conversation, although if a native speaker speaks extremely quickly I'll miss a lot of words.  But I'm getting better.  The daily one-on-one Chinese lessons help a lot.

In other news, I've completely ceased all alchohol consumption. As of May 5, I will have been alcohol-free for six months.  Go me!

I haven't lost much weight yet, though.  I have lost almost 10 pounds, but since I'm not doing much exercise, it hasn't been as much as it could be.  I did buy a bicycle, and I have ridden it to work a few times, but it's becoming so beastly humid that I stopped.  Plus, I got tonsilitis again, which totally put me out of it.  I need to get back into riding the bicycle and running again.  One of my goals when I came here was to run in the Taroko Marathon in early November.  So I really need to get into high gear with training if I'm going to make that.

I've had tonsilitis twice since I've been here.  I'd never had tonsilitis before.  It's not fun.  The first time I ended up spending one night in an ER, my fever was so high.  The second time I did get a fever, but it didn't last as long, and it wasn't so severe.  I'm better now, but it is not fun going to work feeling like that.  People here have told me that every newcomer gets sick frequently when they first come here, but it generally fades after about a year.

Other random news: I now have braces.  The story goes like this: One of the adult molars in my lower jaw never grew in, so I just have a gap in my teeth there.  When I had braces in high school, the orthodontist put a spring in the gap to keep the teeth on either side in place.  Unfortunately, I never had anything more permanent done to fill the gap, so the teeth on either side are starting to lean over into it.  Thus, I need braces to fix that, and then I will have a fake tooth inserted once the braces come off.  The braces will be on for 3-10 months, depending on how fast the teeth are able to move.  So when I come back, and you see me with braces, don't be too surprised.  Luckily, they are only on the lower teeth, so it is not all that noticeable.

Coming back:  I will be coming back to the US for my youngest brother's wedding in late June.  I will be landing at BWI early on Tuesday, June 21, and flying out of National Airport early on Wednesday, June 29.  So I hope to see as many of you as I can while I am in town.

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