I won the lottery!

No kidding, I really did.  I didn't even have to buy a ticket.  You see, in Taiwan, they used to have a problem with businesses underreporting their income.  And since most stores didn't used to give receipts in exchange for purchases, there was no record of their transactions, so there was no way to prove anything.  But somebody in the Taiwanese bureacuracy had a bright idea: What if we make every receipt a lottery ticket?  Then, everyone will request a receipt when they buy something, and businesses won't be able to lie about their income.  So most stores now do give you a "Tong Yi Fa Piao (Goverment Uniform Invoice)" when you make a purchase.  (Some still don't, mostly small restaurants and street vendors).  Each receipt has a number printed on it.  They have a drawing every 2 months.  The Grand Prize is NT$2,000,000 (about US$60,000).  There are various prizes, though, the lowest being NT$200.  I had three receipts that together won NT$600 (about US$18).  I'm rich!

In other news, I've decided to stop Chinese classes all together, and just study on my own.  The reason being that the Chinese school I had intended to transfer to didn't offer the class I wanted at a convenient time for my work schedule (contrary to their published information).   And since I really like my current jobs, I'll just stick to studying on my own.  I think this will work out OK.  Basically, the thing I need to work on right now is my writing, which you generally don't need a teacher for.  It's just lots of practice.  Once I've learned enough characters that I can actually write a coherent essay in Chinese, then I'll need a teacher to help learn how to write WELL in Chinese.

This is not to say that I can now speak fluently.  I'm pretty good, though, and I'm good about using it when I go out.  I currently have five language exchanges running right now, soon to be six (and possibly seven).  If you don't know what a language exchange is, basically it's you and a Chinese person sitting down and teaching each other your native language.  This can take different forms.  With one friend, we go out for dinner every Saturday night, and on alternate weeks speak English or Chinese (last week was English, this week will be Chinese), correcting each other's mistakes and checking our dictionaries if we can't figure out the right translation on the fly.  In most other cases, I'll speak Chinese and they'll speak English, and we'll just talk to each other like that, and ask questions about each other's language and culture.

There's more I want to write about, but I'll save it for next time.  I've gotten enough comments about the length of my e-mails.  Cheers!

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