November 26th 2005

Recently I got some packages sent to my school’s address. It seems to be much safer than let them send to my home, because there aren’t any letter boxes and the mail is just put somewhere in the staircase. So, every time when there is a package for me, I get a notice by the school’s office and I have to go down there to take it with me…the package, not the office! This happened three times within the last two weeks and people now think that I’m really popular 🙂 Mostly they are packages with stuff bought in internet or from Miss Taiwanoca’s mom from Taichung, who keeps sending us basic things, such as food and clothes, since Taipei doesn’t have any clothes or food stores. 😉

The last package was one like these, but this time there was also something special in it from which I want to tell you right now.

This is an amber bracelet including a „guarantee certificate“ and description about what it is about. We are now in a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), however already very spiritual. Miss Taiwanoca first had to explain what this is about (…since I wasn’t able to understand the Chinese manual) and after that I began to inquire myself a little bit:

Amber Specs: Amber is the fossilized resin of ancient cone bearing trees (like pine trees) of the Oligocene period.

Color: Pale yellow/brown to dark brown in color with clear to opalescent features. Some stones contain insects and bits of plants.

Finds/Mines: Eastern European countries like the Baltic region, Russia, Poland. Also North and South America.

Ancient Lore: Amber is one of the oldest substances used for adornment. It has been found as jewelry in grave sites dating back 8000 years. The early Chinese thought the souls of tigers transformed into amber when they died. Amber was sacred to ancient Mother Goddess worship. The old Greek name for amber was “elektron” – amber rubbed against wool or silk becomes electrically charged! Women wore carved amber images of fish, frogs and rabbits to ensure conception/fertility. Norse tradition believed amber to be the tears of the Goddess Freya. Amber was worn to guard against ill luck and enchantment.

Metaphysical: Projective energy; associated with the Sun and the elements of fire and Akasha (spirit). Amber is also associated with the Earth Mother and a symbol of life.

Worn to enhance beauty and attractiveness. Amber stimulates happiness, attracts friends and companions to the lonely. Increases ones enjoyment of pleasure. Amber is considered a general protector of health, especially for strengthening the eyes. It is used to relieve or cure existing conditions such as deafness, earaches, headaches, asthma and insanity. Amber is also used to promote business success and stimulate money flow.

Wow, great stuff then! However, everything is about believe. I was never into that kind of thing before, but since I live in Taiwan, between the world’s highest building and old traditional temples, it seems not to be that obscure as it might seem in the west. I therefore decided to give it a try and, believe it or not, just a few hours after wearing the bracelet I got a profitable translation case, which let me earn this months rent just within two days! So much as for „stimulate money flow“. In this case, it can stimulate me even more 🙂

Speaking of money…I won’t tell you how much this bracelet was. I just tell you so much: I personally would never have bought the bracelet for this price, not even for the best promises in the world. However, Miss Taiwanoca’s mom did for me, which even made me a little embarrassed since I’m not really sure, if it really works or not. Thinking everything through, I don’t find any point not to believe in some spiritual power around my wrist, so I’m really thankful for this gift and will cherish it as long as I wear it.

October 23rd 2005

Recently I caught a severe disease here in Taiwan. Well, don’t worry, it’s not about avian flu or something like this. My disease could be called Mahjong fever and if you don’t know what it is, you will get to know it very soon 🙂

Probably you think of this solitaire Mahjong with hundreds of different types you can play at the computer. Well this is something provided using the name Mahjong, however it almost doesn’t have any connection with the original game from China, except the tiles sometimes. Maybe game providers had been afraid that foreigners couldn’t understand the rules of original Mahjong.

Thus, if I write of Mahjong in the following I refer to the game, which rules are described in this great Wikipedia article. I think it’s too long to copy and paste it here, so please just follow the link. Furthermore I found a very interesting intro movie explaining some Mahjong basics in motion.

There’s hardly no one in China who doesn’t know how to play Mahjong, which is very fascinating for a game which might be up tp 4000 years old. The first time I played Mahjong was in Hualien this year in February. Some friends introduced me to the game and helped making the first moves, after a few hours I got it quite ok I guess and since then I never lost interest in playing Mahjong.

Recently I got a software for playing Mahjong at the computer. The graphics are nicely done and the gameplay is very smooth, it just makes fun and it’s really close to  the real game. To give you one more clue how it is to play Mahjong I will add some screenshots of the game for you:

The start of each round. Every player gets 16 tiles (Taiwan style). It’s my
turn right now and I can decide whether to keep the right side tile or not.

PONG! I already had a pair of tiles, now someone
offered the third one, so I can shout PONG and finish one part.

During playing Mahjong in real life,
people might also act like this from time to time 😉

Every virtual player has a unique set of comments and jokes,
most of them really funny. Friends told so because it’s still hard to understand for me.

Ups, someone wins and is happy 🙂

Scoring. The more complicated the
combination is, the higher the score you get.

Usually, one round at the PC just takes two or three minutes, because you don’t have to care about mixing the tiles, building the wall, breaking the wall and sorting the tiles. However it already happened that I played this game for a couple of hours without knowing it 😉 In real life, Mahjong games could last the whole night or even longer, it’s not just a game to play for fun, but also a good opportunity about anything which comes to your mind.

I wanted to learn how to play Mahjong by all means, because it deeply belongs to Chinese culture and foreigners being able to play Mahjong are considered to be really cool, haha 😉

September 21st 2005

It’s Moon Festival again! After Chinese New Year it’s the second holiday I spend in Taiwan for the second time….heh, I think I should stop counting like this, since there will be many things coming for the second or even the third time in the near future. However, it’s still quite new for me although it didn’t differ quite much from last year.

Miss Taiwanoca and I went to Danshuei to watch the sunset and later go to Bali by boat. No, not Bali in Indonesia (…also would be quite far), just Bali on the other side of the river. There have been many nice places to watch the bright shining full moon…..just the thing to do at Moon Festival 🙂

September 14th 2005

Hi there, I’m back from Germany. Seems like I have never been away from Taiwan, well three weeks aren’t really long and the time being at home passed very quickly….that quick, that I even didn’t find the time to write something from Germany. However, Miss Taiwanoca and I mostly stayed at home or visited family members, there was so much to talk about and so many people to meet!

So this is the beginning of my second year living in Taiwan now. Wow, one year ago a sentence like this sounded like a dream for me. That time, it was hard to imagine how to figure out all things and how to make it possible to stay for a longer period than a few months. Well, it was possible and in fact, all my expectations have been exceeded. One thing may describe it very clear.

When I came to Taiwan one year ago it was my wish to go on top of Taipei 101 at least once, just by interest and of course to tell others that I have been at the world’s tallest building. In the end I have been on top of Taipei 101 for more than 30 times during my work for Acoustiguide, maybe 40 since I stopped counting sometime in between 🙂 You can take it as an example of my exceeded expectations, for more details you are invited to read the last 360 days of this blog 🙂

However, there’s nothing to rest about. Especially not after spending almost every saved money to pay the trip to Germany. Thus, the story will continue as there never have been any break. Nevertheless I hope it will become a little easier, since I can consider myself as generally accustomed to the Taiwanese society. If it’s a big advantage or something you cannot buy anything from I have to see and very probably will find out very soon. As for now, welcome back to Taiwan and good luck again!

August 18th 2005

Finally done! After a few days of studying I wrote the final exam for the second book and therefore the Intermediate Chinese level. It was so relaxing half a year ago, when writing the first final exam! This time it seemed much harder for me, in some pre-exams I only got 20-30% and somehow I had the feeling not even to have seen some of the things mentioned there. It’s the same problem at any end of a semester, but this time it’s more serious. Usually you will need more than 6 months to finish this second Chinese textbook, but there are fixed dates for the exams and you have to see to get ready until then. Thus, I almost entirely studied vocabulary and writing the last days, the PDA had to do extra hours to help me somehow to memorize all the things.

Well, the final exam this morning was very difficult like expected, I first just tried to keep my lacks in knowledge as small as possible. Surprisingly after some time I discovered more and more topics that I have been familiar with, but I could  never lose the feeling that there have been traps everywhere, so I always thought twice or thrice before writing an answer. Really crazy.

Basically it’s about nothing. If you pass or not, it doesn’t influence your further studies or life in Taiwan, however this exam atmosphere always makes me feel like under fire. I don’t get much nervous or something like that, I just don’t want to make unnecessary mistakes and of course want to pass 🙂 Well, I guess I got the necessary 60% to do so, maybe just close, but would be enough. Therefore, my flight to Germany will be the next thing to do. Have to pack my suitcase tonight and tomorrow evening, Miss Taiwanoca and I will already be on the way to visit my family.

Update: Chinese-Master! 81% in the final exam!! How come? I never expected a result like this and I didn’t even copy 😉 I might believe I can speak and write Chinese someday! Awesome. But first I will go home now, will come together with Chinese in a few weeks again 🙂

August 10th 2005

There are things in Taiwan, which I very probably will never forget in my life, for example the following story, which happened yesterday evening:

I have been to Neihu to give some English teaching lessons, which finished about 9.20pm. From Neihu back home to Xinzhuang I have to go with two busses, which usually takes more than one hour. No problem in fact, over here you don’t have to wait longer than 5 to 10 minutes to catch a bus in general. Well, but the street with the bus stop is a one-way street, which means that both busses, going to and coming back the city pass this single bus stop. Every time you have to wave your hand as a sign that you want to enter the bus, but have to see, if it’s the bus going to the right direction. If not, they just don’t stop.

The first three busses doing so were quite okay for me, busses number four and five made me a little impatient, especially it got later and later and I also had to catch the second bus in Taipei City. There was no one else waiting and I really got tired and hungry just by standing and waiting there. Five minutes later bus number six also passed without stopping and when bus number seven intended to do the same I really got pissed of, stepped on the street just in front of the bus and forced the driver to stop. Somehow, the situation reminded of the unknown „Tank Man“ in Beijing 1989, just look here. The driver opened the door and the fun began:

Please notice that all the following conversations were held in Chinese without exception!

Of course, the bus driver wasn’t quite happy that me of all people had stopped his bus shortly before he finished his tour, which he told me in this bus-driver-typical-Taiwan-why-the-hell-he-speaks-so-different-from-what-I-learn-at-school-dialect. However, I could understand most of it. So I asked him, why the f*** there was no bus going to the city for more than 40 minutes, which he couldn’t answer me, but invited me to give me a ride to the terminal station where I could wait for another bus going to Taipei City. I was glad that the ride just took 5 minutes, because he was complaining of having been stopped by me over and over again and I was answering him all the time, that I really don’t care who is driving this bus number seven right now, I just wanna go home!

Finally reaching the terminal station, of course he immediately had to tell his colleagues that a crazy foreigner (that was me) just stopped his bus, whereupon I followed him and went to the bus line manager (?). At least he was looking like one, sitting behind a desk in an office and seeming to have control over the bus schedules. So I told him the same (in Chinese of course), no bus for 40 minutes in the right direction and so on, if I hadn’t stop the bus, I would have to stay outside the street or take a taxi back home for quite a lot of money.

Okay, the bus line manager (?) made some excuses, but also didn’t know what was going on. I just guess that the drivers had no mood to drive through the one-way street in the evening, because there is a much faster way to go.

Well anyway, we both together planned the way for going back to Taipei, without knowing whether it still would be possible to catch the second bus for going to Xinzhuang. We finally decided that a combination of bus/subway/bus might be the best solution. After chatting with the bus line manager (?) for about 10 minutes, he suddenly noticed that I’m a foreigner, but discuss with him all the way in Chinese. He was full of commendation for me and we talked a little bit about Germany (at least he knew that Munich is a german city, but just calling it the Chinese „mu ni hei“). At 10.30pm finally the bus going to Taipei started and thanks God everything went fine, so that I came back home at about 11.45pm.

The time before I was just smiling in and outside of me. I really didn’t know that I could bitch at someone that good using Chinese. Well, I know, self-praise is no praise, but I have to say that this was world-class Chinese from me. Any word I wanted to use came to my mind in a speed I usually talk English. I understood everything people told me I answered them as it would be the most simple thing in the world. Just imagine, there is a foreigner standing somewhere in Taiwan bitching at the bus drivers, in Chinese, alone and I also could have talked for a longer time. I think, my can of beer bought at 7-11 was well-earned this evening 🙂

In the end, one more anecdote: when leaving the terminal station the bus line manager (?) said in English „See you next time!“. Well, if I were not in Taiwan, I would regard this as a threat, but the way he was saying it let me suppose that he was just trying to be nice and say good bye. In that situation I avoided to tell him my thoughts 😉 If there’s a next time (…and next week I will go there again) then Heaven forbid! I plan to study much more of Chinese invectives to be even more effective. However, yesterday I really made a big step to my goal of being able to fluently speak Chinese some day 🙂 佳作 !!!

July 28th 2005

I think I just had to do something against the overwhelming amount of grammar and vocabulary of my Chinese classes hitting me every week. Every new lesson brings 70 to 80 new Chinese words and I’m sure, they will be taken for the final exam next month, thus there is no other way to study them right now and hope to be able to write them quite soon. It might be okay for just one lesson, but my book contains 28 lessons and about 650 pages.

怎麼辦? Well, actually there are quite many websites which copious handle the Chinese language and which are very helpful doing homework or preparing exams, for example the excellent dictionary from YellowBridge and for detailed character checking the marvelous list of zhongwen.com. However, using these sites require two basic knowledges: how is a character written and how it is spelled. Therefore these two sites are not very suitable to learn new vocabulary.

So how to remember a large amount of new words in a short time? Of course you can use the traditional method of writing every word down on a card and repeat watching at them until you got all in memory, but hey, we are living in the 21st century and (almost) everything can be done using a computer!

Fortunately, Miss Taiwanoca got a PDA from her dad some while ago, but she didn’t know what do with it, so she gave it to me. However, I also haven’t had any great necessity to use it until I got this problem about vocabulary learning. Once more looking for some programs online, I finally found some to use on the PDA, so right now I can input Chinese characters just by writing them down on the screen 🙂

Furthermore I made it to transfer all the words from my book to a flashcard program on the PDA, so I can practice them quite easily. And, believe it or not, at today’s dictation I got 100%!! Maybe just coincidence or luck? Well, I will find out at the next exams, anyway it just looks very cool to put out your PDA at the bus and write on it 🙂 Maybe I will also buy a graphic tablet to write characters on the computer screen, but for the moment I’m quite okay with this solution, in fact there are only three weeks left until the final exam!