Monday, September 25, 2006

The Boss

I think one of the most gratifying thing about teaching is - you get to be THE BOSS in class and have full control over what you'd like to do with the students.

If you know what you're doing, that is.

My head TF said he was super nervous before his very first section at Harvard. Come to think of it, maybe I should be a bit more nervous. Maybe I'm just trying to 說大話 at this point, or maybe I will 死的很慘 tomorrow (gosh, what's up with my super-duper Chinglish tonight?!), but I really am excited about teaching and meeting my students.

I love that sense of youthfulness mixed with a glow of anticipation as well as hidden nervousness in new students. "If you are nervous, they become more nervous than you," as people say. So I should just go in and have a good time so that my students can have a good time tomorrow as well?

It's been 3 years since I last stepped into a classroom and claim to be the boss. Oh all those Saturday early morning classes starting at 9 am (and the long sighs over the inability to sleep in during the night before) and the hectic commute starting at 8:30 am ... How I miss those days in retrospect.

At least I won't get questions like "how old are you, Ms. Shaw" or "Are you half or married? ... Why do you have an American last name?" this time.

梅ちゃん at 4:04:00 PM


Saturday, September 23, 2006


第一週在看似三百年也整理不完的紙箱堆中找尋小小的角落湊和著睡覺,吃飯,寫email。說吃飯,不過是每天以兩碗營養早餐穀物打發。從早到晚的TF training, micro-teaching, 和staff meeting把自己攪的頭昏眼花。第一堂section還沒開始就已被各式教書技巧與竅門轟炸到不行。

第二週在終於整理完畢諸事齊備的情況下展開。沒想到先是手機摔壞而(因掉行李)臨時購買的充電器因等同無用而痛損荷包(很可惜,雖然晚上十點在公寓垃圾集散點很努力尋找丟掉的充電器包裝盒,此浩大工程終告一無所獲)。再來印表機也罷工修業而讓剛花了60美元購買的全新墨水盒白白報消。修個印表機要一個月,寄回總公司就要付上全新印表機一半价位的郵費;新出品的iSight開出天价美金140,想試著買個蘋果電腦可以通用的webcam卻一問三不知;連個電話的technical support都要美金10塊錢。

我的光華商場你在哪裡?!? I thought I was only missing a Taiwanese 7-11 or a Japanese Lawson.





在新的房子,新的社區,不修課的學年,與大部分熟朋友已經離開的當下,有太多的時間與空間是我獨自一人渡過。回到家迎接我的是滿屋子的寂靜,走在路上碰不了幾個熟人。進入lecture hall全是沒見過的大學生面孔,未來一同共事的教授與TF也絕大部分非同系的同事。無論周圍有多少聲音,多少突發狀況。自己如何聒聒不絕地發表著什麼已經記不得的言論,或微笑、或點頭、或給什麼人一個擁抱,內心的深處似乎離所處當下人事物非常遙遠,非常非常地遙遠。


I guess I'll find out.

梅ちゃん at 3:01:00 PM


Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Thought

A thought hit me today while I was in the middle of maddening unpacking business.

In every phase in life, I tend to spend quite a bit of time with folks whom I'd actually never see, miss, recall, or even remember for the rest of my life. But in retrospect, so much of daily mundanes are spent with these folks. Their presence means regularity, sense of belongingness, and sometimes merely passage of down time at the very moment, but as soon as the moment flees, their presence is reduced to near-zero significance.

And I'm sure I've been a figure like that in many people's lives as well.

Sometimes it is nothing but about just getting through the day, needing a company during meal, or having someone there to go through a late-night study session.

Life seems infinitely long filled with infinite pockets of such passing times in life. Yet no one is able to fastforward or simply skip the time and jump ahead into the future.

The art of living, I presume?

Or maybe I'm just tired after a long week of unpacking, adjusting, and getting back to the loop of things. I feel like nothing but a floater, standing outside of all the regular pace, schedules, and routines that others go through. And now it's time to start my own.

Let's hope that this is going to be a good year.

梅ちゃん at 2:35:00 PM


Friday, September 15, 2006

Fiasco Anew

1:25 am. I'm scrubbing my white, wooden table real hard. Left ... right ... left ... right ... (spray again) left ... right ... left ... right ...

Why am I down to setting up a new home again? How many more new rooms, new apartments, new tables, chairs, folder organizers, closet spaces are there for me to scrub and clean (with the magical all-purpose Lysol cleaner and paper towels) in the next year?

In the living room, there are 3 more boxes awaiting to be opened up, a dozen of old ones ready for recycle, and a huge broken plastic bin in desperate need for disposal.

Now, where did my scissors go?!?

My doorway is blocked, disposable contact lenses are spreading all over one side of the bathroom counter, and my dinning table is covered by handouts, folders, pamphlets and silly souvenirs from the Bok Center over 2 days of TF training.

Thank goodness that it only took me 4 days to have Internet and cable TV set up (last year's record - 1 month).

If there could be a machine that automatically saves the memory of previous packing experience so that the next time when someone moves, he or she could just press the bottom and automatically the machine would recreate boxes in exact same size, dump all goodies in the exact same order, seal them all up tightly and orderly and ship them directly to wherever the person may go, my life would not be too far from heaven.

Otherwise the moving process is nothing but hell. And no, it doesn't matter how many times you've gone through it.

2:25 am, I'm munching a packet of Tomato Pretz purchased at Narita Airport while pondering upon the design of this imaginary machine. 2 more boxes to go, an entire floor to vacuum and mop, and a basket-full of laundry to take care of. "Not tonight," my body is telling me, screaming with fatigue.

Wish there could be more than Tomato Pretz right now. Eh-uh, no more Kellogg's "Pop" cereal. I've had 7 bowls of it already over the past 5 days.


梅ちゃん at 3:15:00 PM


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Trip from Hell

I realized that I underestimated the extent of fiasco on the first night of arrival.

Everything started to go wrong as soon as I stepped onto the American soil.

Literally. Not in the pouring rain on my way to the airport on the morning of 9/10, not in the run-down Terminal 2 building at the Chiang Kai-Shek airport, not at Narita airport (apparently the only pleasant part of the journey), nor during the 12-hour trans-Pacific air time (though not necessarily painless). But in Chicago.

Chicago O'hare airport is considered the American soil, right?

The immigration line was long, and the only source of entertainment while standing in line with a 10-pound backpack weighing down on my shoulders after 16 hours of flying was watching the security dog (the quietest beagle ever seen) walking around sniffing every passenger's bag. I wonder if my own Shiba-inu at home would ever live up to acquire such great professionalism.

Then going through customs and struggling to *somehow* squeeze my luggage back to the luggage belt among other tens of thousands of luggage carts next to me. "Beep!", the lady scanned my luggage tag. "Gate B9. Go out this door, take the escalator up, take the air-train to Terminal 1 and go through security, NOW," she yelled at me. "Wait, my luggage ...," I was about to say. "No, go now, you've got no time. We'll take care of it."

I looked around trying to relocate myself. "Terminal 5," a huge plastic sign hanging right above the belt. Alright, I really need to run.

15 mins later arriving at Terminal 1 and again struggling to get through a long line of security check as fast as I can, I arrived at my gate. "Departure Time Rescheduled at 4:40pm." Great, a whole hour to kill ... Why was I running so hard again?

4:20 pm, no sign of boarding. I checked the monitor again. "Departure Time Rescheduled at 5:30pm." What?!? ... Now, why is the AC so strong here? Mind that there are people flying in from tropical regions and it's only 60 F/15 C outside?!?

5:10 pm, everyone boarded, and the aircraft was about to pull out of the gate. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just been informed that due to a road construction at the Boston airport and extended air control, we won't be taking off till 6:30. We apologize for any inconvenience that we've caused you ...", the pilot's announcement woke me up from semi-deliria.

By then, I'd been up for 24 hours straight. I wish I could just scream.

"When is Boston not under construction?", I heard one of the passengers in the back chuckled.

Good question, my friend.

9:30 pm, my flight finally landed in Boston Logan Airport. By then, I'd been freezing for 2 hours. "Sorry, we run out of blankets and passed out all the pillows."

Since when blankets and pillows are reserved for the business class only?

Down in the baggage claim area, I checked my watch. "At least I could get home before 10:30." Then the carousel started to ring with an ugly, alarming sound followed by a huge crashing noise. A min later, the same sequence repeated 3 times.

Great, now the carousel is broken. Do people know what "maintenance" means in this airport?

9:50 pm, luggage from UA 182 slowly stream-lined out along with those from other 4 other flights at another carousel. No one should ever attempt to put 5-flight-worth of luggage on one carousel. Never.

10:30 pm, no sign of my big luggage. I asked the four United crew members standing aside chatting, each with a big bottle of Dunkin' Donuts coffee/smoothies in their hands. "Do you know if there's more luggage coming out for UA 182 flight?" The guys looked at each other till one of them finally said, "I don't know, Ma'am. Did you check the carousel?"

Hello? What do you think I was doing for the past 45 mins standing here?

"Are they possibly in any of these piles?" I asked again, pointing to mountain-high suitcases behind them in a blocked-out area. "I don't know, Ma'am ... If you want to go in and check it for yourself ..."


11 pm, I realized that back in Chicago airport they weren't kidding when they said that there were 100 people on standby for the flight. Seeing that there're quite a number of suitcases sitting around on the carousel with luggage tags printed "UA 182," I realized that they must have loaded suitcases of the standby folks and forgot to load the ones who actually took the flight.

11:10 pm, I walked to the United office filing a report.

"Do you offer any compensation for delayed/lost baggage?"
"No, only if it's NECESSITY and nothing may be compensated for the first 24 hours."
"What do you mean by N-E-C-E-S-S-I-T-Y?" I asked. "Everything is necessity to me."
"Well, necessity like NECESSITY! Like your change of clothes, toiletries, etc. And no report may be filed until after the first 24 hours."
"... ..."

"So is there a number at this airport where I could call to check the latest status of my los-, *ahem*, well, delayed bag?"
"No, there's only a 1-800 that you could call."
"But it's going to put me through a long automated answering machine system right?"
"Well, you go through the system till the very end and you can say 'Agent' to talk to an agent."

Sigh ... This kind of conversation after 30 hours of flying across the Pacific Ocean + continental America ... I was meant to be on the losing end.

12 am, home. I dialed the 1-800 number to make sure that the lady at the airport who defined the meaning of "NECESSITY" for me indeed filed the report correctly. At the end of the 5-min yelling and shouting session with the voice recognition system on the phone, the message came back saying, "I'm sorry, all of our agents are currently busy serving other customers. Please call us back at another time. Goodbye!"

"(*Click*) ... Doo-doo-doo-doo ..."

Wait, I thought the message should be: "I'm sorry, all of our agents are busy serving the other customers. Please continue to hold until the next available representative." And the "Goodbye!" really doesn't need to sound that cheerful.

12:30 am. In the same T-shirt that I've been wearing over the past 32 hours, I called it a night. Or shall I say - a very very long journey?


梅ちゃん at 5:16:00 AM


Saturday, September 09, 2006

That Feeling Again

Late at night, mom is fast asleep, and my beloved Shiba-inu too is snoring outside. My heart begins to squeeze at its own rhythm, my stomach feels funny, and I'm getting more and more uneasy sitting here.

There's gotta be something that I'm forgetting ...

There's gotta be something that I need to get done yet it's slipping my mind ...

The clock is ticking, my eyes are increasingly heavy, and something heavier is growing inside.

My thought is carrying me over to the future. Yes, I'll drag my own body around in Ohare's airport after 12 hours of trans-Pacific flying. "Oh gosh, not Starbucks and a bowl of cold salad that costs 8 bucks; I'm not ready for them," I'll think to myself. Yet I know that the smell coming from the bakery will be so strong that there's no where for me to avoid it.

Fine, so back to the country of big portions.

3 hours later I'll again drag myself plus the luggage around with swallen eyes, messy hair-do, and completely dried-up skin while deciding on which transportation to take - taxi, shuttle, or the silver line + a transfer on the T. Ok, the luggage is too heavy, I've been on the road for 22 hours, and all I want is a hot shower.

Going for option one - taxi.

Then the taxi will take me into the city that seems famliar yet so distant. Things will flow by me, Charles River will be beaming with lights reflected from afar, and I'll let out a long sigh.

(Sigh) "Back again."

Then the taxi will pull into that little U-shaped street, and the little pink house emerges. "I guess I can't call it home 'cuz this is my 3rd apartment in Cambridge, and this is going to be my first night in the house," I'll think of that as I drag my luggage out of the trunk and struggle to carry it down the little stone-paved road.

Let's pray that it won't be raining.

Searching for that unknown little box up front, looking for the keys never seen before, opening the front door and inner door, at last, I'll be able to say, "Whew, the end of the 22-hour journey."

I'm simply going from one place to another. Why is the journey freaking long?

I'll probably spend the next hour searching for a bottle of water in the frige (and find nothing), struggling to test the neighbor's wireless connection and see if I could kindly borrow some signal, and finally giving up such a stealing activity and resorting to taking a shower before my body truly collapses.

Let's pray that the quietness in the apartment won't drive me crazy.

Thank God for TV.

Then, sleep ... At least before my body wakes itself up at 5 am in the morning.

The dreadful first night after arriving at a new place ... After the first night, everything will become instantly better - as long as I can go out and do some grocery shopping in the morning. How I wish there's a 100-yen store, a Taiwanese 7-11, a Japanese Lawson, or a Matsuya/Yoshinoya/Sukiya just 5 mins away from my apartment.


If I start thinking more about the future, would it make it pass by more easily?

And if I start "missing" what will be missing in the future, will I be able to miss it less when future finally comes?

The gentle heart squeeze, the wandering thoughts about the future, and the feeling of missing something that will soon be lost ... When all these things come together at once, there's one thing I know -

I'm leaving again.

梅ちゃん at 4:05:00 AM


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Well-to-do vs. the Grass-root

People say school reunions are nothing but a time and place where people gather to "show off" the few years of work, money, beautiful wife/girlfriend or handsome husband/boyfriend that they've managed to gather since graduation day.

I think to some extent, I'd have to agree with that.

I attended 2 reunions over the past 2 nights. The first one was a gathering with a bunch of junior high school friends, and the 2nd was with a few girls from 5th and 6th grade back in elementary school.

Let me start with the first one.

Most of the guys in the crowd have just finished serving their 2-year mandatory military duties over the past year or two and begun their first job in the market. During their 2-year terms of service, about half of the guys were stationed outside the Taiwan main island and spent each day looking at mainland China through a telescope (or naked eye if the weather was nice). Most of the guys are in steady relationships, but none are married or have any immediate plans for marriage. Two guys who didn't come just celebrated the arrival of their first babies; one guy in the states got married and was divorced within a year. 2 out of 5 guys work as software engineers in the Xin-zhu science park, and more than half are in long-distance relationships.

For the ladies, one is going to walk down the red carpet in less than 2 months and another one got married 3 years ago. Everyone is working, and only myself and another girl have decided to try out for the academic track. One girl just broke up with her boyfriend, but the rest who are single are all in steady relationships. No one plans to quit her job after marriage for the reason of wanting to develop their careers and simply not being able to afford living off one salary (I think).

Typical 26/27-year-old's.

For the whole night we reminisced about the good old days of pulling tricks on the teachers we loathed, playing fortune-telling game during evening study time, and writing love letters albeit the one-sided nature. We helped each other remember the names of the teachers whom some of us have forgotten, and we talked about how little all of us have changed. Except for one girl who shocked us with her beautiful wavy hair now, there were no major surprises. Traces of everyone's past could still be found on his or her face now; we all just looked slightly older and more mature than 12 years ago.

And we laughed and blushed and laughed again when we each saw what we wrote in the yearbook. "Oh gosh I can't believe I had such horrible handwriting ..."; "I can't believe he openly confessed his love on the yearbook"; "Whose nickname was 'little turtle,' 'mother of the bear,' 'F.C.'?!?" ...

It was so genuine.

During 15 years of living in Taipei, my family has moved twice. One occurred at the age of 6 right before I entered elementary school, and the other at the age of 12 the summer before junior high school started.

The neighborhood that I lived in throughout elementary school years was, at the time, a rising commercial and shopping district. My elementary school was thus known to be one of the prestigious ones due to a lot of parents of well-to-do families. In 5th and 6th grade, I passed the audition and joined the school choir. In order for daily practices to be done easily, the school decided to put all the kids who got into the choir into one special class. B/c most boys at the time had issues with changing voices, our class ended up having 58 girls and 3 guys.

Oh the poor 3 guys who were bullied and lived under the women's shadow for 2 years.

B/c of most parents' well-to-do background, our class enjoyed a lot of additional privileges other than being the already elite class at school. The majority of the parents were able to generously offer money for our additional performances in the city; those who had wide social connections managed to pull us into a few shows on TV; and on sports day, our class always hosted the best class parties that attracted many envious eyes from kids of other classes.

Today, I believe half (if not more) of the kids in my class are studying or living abroad. For those who remain in Taipei or return after their overseas education is complete, they are usually back to take over their parents' businesses, work in fashion/design industries, or run their own free-lance companies.

When I graduated from elementary school, my family moved to another neighborhood in Taipei that is known to be the "university" district. No more overwhelming number of well-to-do families, but a lot of parents try hard to change their residency on paper in order to send their kids to our school for better academic quality. In comparison, my junior high school life wasn't so much of an elite experience but a very a grass-root one. I spent three years with kids coming from a variety of backgrounds all over Taipei.

Woe to the main teacher in charge for our class who lacked experiences in leadership and wisdom, our class - though started with a lot of potentials - didn't end up excelling as well as other classes academically. By the 3rd year, we were sort of known as the "fallen" class. Each time the mock exam took place, our class-wide average fell greater and greater behind neighboring classes as time went on. Soon, some teachers began to slack in teaching, and even our own teacher in charge decided to go through the last few months simply counting the number of days till graduation.

In the 3rd year we were angry, we were furious, and we were - certainly - just a bunch of kids dealing with a lot of difficult issues surrounding puberty. The fact that other classes mocked us as the "fallen one" and some teachers decided to give up on us further enraged us. Strangely, it was this shared sense of anger and frustration that bonded us closer together. Thus there came the rebellious act of playing fortune-telling game (錢仙) in the evening at school even though the discipline master was just walking by our classroom. Thus too came the heroic act of hiding comic books behind the head-portrait of Dr. Sun Yat-sen or bombarding the most-hated teachers with well-thought-out questions before the school bell rang.

Unfortunately our adolescent sense of justice wasn't enough to help us overcome the ills of the system. By the time July passed by, only a handful of people made it into decent public high schools. The rest had to choose among vocational schools, 2nd-rate private schools, or 12 months of cram school in order to take the high school entrance exam all over again the next year.

I lost touch with most of the people during high school and college. In fact, almost all of us lost touch during high school. Perhaps the reality of a class of comrades just yesterday suddenly classified into "good" and "bad" (or "smart" and "dumb", "promising" and "failure") students according to the ranking level of respective high school/vocational school was just too hard to bear. We were only 15. And in our 15-year-old minds, we couldn't figure out why old-time buddies had now ascended or descended into different classes of citizens based upon a simple test score. When the reality was too hard to bear, to ignore seemed like the easiest solution.

Somehow, contacts began to emerge in college. One by one, more people were found, and relationships reestablished. Perhaps we've figured out the hard reality that we never understood 12 years ago. Perhaps we've understood that that simple test score wasn't the end of the world or the beginning of a promised future forever. Today, everyone seems to have found something that he/she likes and has committed to it. No one is well-to-do (yet), but everyone is committed to go forward and see where the current is going to lead.

Still a bunch of hard-working folks.

Tonight, meeting up with friends from elementary school, however, I felt strangely out of place. Honestly, I didn't know what else I could say or should add. I didn't know what to tell my friend when she said that someone in her in-law family (whose only 24) could get so drunk after a night of partying that he couldn't remember who took off his ring from his pinky finger and forced it into his wedding finger. Nor did I know how to respond when I heard that so-and-so's wedding ran so long b/c there were 1000+ people attending and each dish took an hour to arrive. Same feeling when I heard that so-and-so's parents are opposing a relationship b/c the guy doesn't come from a well-being background or own advanced degrees.

"You can't stand staying in anything below a 4-star hotel while visiting Tokyo for a week? Well, perhaps you don't want to hear about how I went through my summer days living in a 6-tatami-big studio for 5 weeks," I was thinking to myself.

And when one of the girls who's working in a PR firm was complaining about how elaborate it is and how much money a company would spend on PR-ing a cosmetic product, I was thinking - how great if such PR skills and investments could be used towards raising social awareness on social inequality and income gap between the rich and the poor.

Or perhaps such fabulous PR skills, investments, proposals, and media exposure should be used directly on talking to the rich about social inequality and income gap.

Who's the one that needs to be educated?

In the second to the last month of my 26th year of life, I have nothing to show off for. I have no saving, no car, no house, no advanced degree (yet I guess), no business, no job, no concrete professional experience. My graduation date remains a speculation, my relationship isn't steady, and I have to count every single dollar that I spend.

Fortunately I don't have that many dollars to count each month so even that doesn't require much work.

If there's one thing that I can show off for ... It'd perhaps be the very fact that I have nothing now - at least according to the worldly standards. Having nothing at this early age in life could, in fact, be a blessing. Have I already gained the whole world, I really don't know what else would be left for me to work hard for, to look forward, and to feel excited about when I wake up the next day.

Being content is one of the key lessons in life that I'm still learning.

梅ちゃん at 2:10:00 AM


Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Little Recap

For a week and a half since I arrived at home, the following few things occupied the majority of my time in a day:

1) 和狗狗玩 (playing with my dog)
2) 上網 (being online, notably MSN)
3) 思念一位在遠方的人 (missing someone far away)
4) 焦急著每天僅完成以上三項大事 (being anxious about only completing the aforementioned 3 things in a day)
5) 在持續焦急的心情下睡不著而於深夜繼續以上 #2 與 #3 的活動 (continuation of #2 and #3 acitivities due to a continuation of #4)

Finally, a few days later I decided to get my acts together. And so far I've only accomplished the following few things:

1) 逛誠品,以「準備口試」要買書為由血拼媽媽的荷包 (going to the bookstore and making a major damage on my mom's wallet in the name of "preparing for the General Exam)
2) 和老同學朋友見面吃飯話家常 (meeting up with old-time friends)
3) 清理掉iPhoto中5000張無用照片 (deleting 5000 photos from my exploded iPhoto)
4) 去台大圖書館K書 (雖然目前為止只有一次; studying at Taida library, the one and only time)
5) 幫忙完成倒扁總部舉行國際媒體記者會之相關英文發言稿與資料 (helping dad preparing necessary speeches and materials for the int'l press conference held by the headquarter of the recent "anti-President Chen" campaign)

Two weeks have passed, and I'd say only #5 of the second recap list is worthy of any sense of accomplishment. 就算是我為倒扁行動付出的一點小小心意吧,誰叫捐款帳戶在我回到台北還處於混亂階段的時候就關了呢。


One more week to go, hopefully the content of the list will shift somehow and be more worthy of reporting. I'm beginning to force myself to think about Cambridge, even the simplest things like Dado Tea, ABP, the annoying bag check at Lamont, the 1$ instant coffee in the basement of Widener. L from soup kitchen, J who always came to help. T my super duper busy teacher in Chinatown, A my late-night phone buddy. Pastor G who always brighten up my day, D who's been a great help for the Sat night B-study. And then the change of weather starting in late-Sept, the foilage that goes by in a few weeks, then ... winter time ... snow ... frozen fingers ... chasing the shuttle bus ... being yelled at or hung up by the night shuttle dispatcher ...

Alright, maybe I'll just stop thinking before my memories carry me to anything beyond fall.

Returning in 7 days. Should I put a " :-> " or " :-< " or " :-I " ?

梅ちゃん at 3:00:00 AM