By Joshua Dent
I am writing to you today from the top of Tute Mountain in Taoyuan, Taiwan. It is quite the scenic view considering it only takes about 15 minutes to drive here from the heart of the city of Taoyuan, in northern Taiwan.
While I sit in the dirt with nothing but my pen and notebook, I decided to take some time to reflect on
some of the different ways my lifestyle has changed since being in “The Taiwan. ”
Sitting on top of this mountain could not be more picturesque. One problem looms large, and is roughly 23 feet away from me however.
This obstruction to complete peace and serenity is a flock of two-winged annoying, and smelly bastards chirping away in only the most obnoxious of all voices.
That is the voice of a fucking pigeon. I have hated those evil and filthy creatures since they used to haunt the gutter of my house on Filetown Road in Nazareth, PA in the 80’s.
Where is my bee-bee gun??
#1 Hello, I am… (Josh) from …. Taiwan
I will still continue on writing in the hopes that they fly the fuck away very soon.
In my opinion, the most comical mistake that Taiwanese make when speaking “The English” is an insanely profound overuse of the word “The.”
You probably wouldn’t have to read more than 5 lines in any of my blog entries to spot me making fun of this.
This constant obsession on my part to find ways to poke fun at has become a huge part of my psyche.
On several occasions, I noticed I had to refrain myself from introducing myself as “The Josh,” from “The Taiwan.”
I could go on for days with “The.”
Practicing my “the free” intro.
#2 A slap on the shoulder=FLIRTING
With the mystical charm of the word “the” behind us, let’s move on to important topics like women.
I warn you in advance that this upcoming information is just “my opinion.”
It wouldn’t take more than 5 minutes of walking the streets of “The Taiwan” before you would see a Taiwanese girl playfully slapping her boyfriend or friend on the shoulder, coupled with a laugh.
Back home, no man has ever said “Did you see the way that girl slapped me on the shoulder?”
It normally equivocates more to something along the lines of “Oh Shit, She caught me looking at her friend,” or ” I can’t believe her birthday came so fast.”
For some reason, in “The Taiwan,” this is more like a nervous flirt in my opinion.
So, ladies feel free to slap either of “The Josh’s” shoulders.
Women are mysterious!
#3 Motorcycle Helmet Time
With my sorry analysis of Taiwanese women flirting behind us, we need to discuss what I will most likely be wearing on these “shoulder-slap” style occasions.
It seems the longer I live here the more strange places you can find me wearing my scooter helmet. It started when I used to put it on in the elevator of my apartment complex.
Now, I keep progressing forward to more and more places like 7-11. The best part is that it only covers about half of my enormous cranium.
#4 Flip-Flop Fever
I am probably not going to win over the hotties with the helmet look.
But, let’s progress forward to “The Taiwan” dress code.
Taiwan is definitely a flip-flop crazed island. It doesn’t matter the age, the profession, or even the weather.
I ‘d say my unofficial numbers would list about 5 out 10 people on any given day will be wearing a pair of flip flops.
Flip flop fever is hard not to catch yourself. It has gotten so ridiculous for me that I actually bring a pair of flip-flops with me to school.
This is because I can’t even stand the thought of the uncomfortable feeling of driving “the entire 10 minutes” home in a pair of sneakers.
Poor me, I know.
Jeans, dress, suit. Expect to see this on their feet.
#5 Magical Stop-Slow Dummies
Hmm, women, flip-flops, let’s get a little more random.
In a close second place behind the misuse of the word ‘The,” one of the things that absolutely makes me laugh every single time is the mechanical “Stop-Slow” guys.
The Taiwanese government took it on themselves to longer pay somebody to direct traffic at a construction site.
They put in the hands of these mechanical dummies that make me laugh so hard every time.
Thanks for the laugh, Taiwan!
#6 Left Hand Spelling Pad
Now, we know about some of my adaptations on the road, with women, and work.
How about communication styles?
I had no idea before I cam e to “The Taiwan” that your left hand could be used as such an excellent communication device.
Somebody doesn’t understand what you are trying to say to them in English? Don’t be shy.
Go ahead and spell it out in English while using your fingers as letter tracers on your left palm.
It sounds bizarre, right?
The even crazier part is the Taiwanese will get it very quickly.
#7 Sleeping on The Train
Taiwanese people have an amazing ability to fall asleep on you in mid-conversation.It is something that I think I will never stop laughing at.
This passion for the nap doesn’t get left out when they hit the train You will still see them in the middle of the train snoring away while standing up.
Just a few weeks ago, I even decided to try to give this a try myself. My first attempt to sleep while standing up was met with an overwhelming abundance of failure
After, I still thought “Shit, I have been here a while now.”
Take a rest!
#8″Super Wai Guo Ears”
“Wai Guo Ren” is the Chinese term for foreigner.
It took me about 7 months to be able to recognize it when a Taiwanese person says it. Now, I feel like I have Super Man style ears for this.
I hear “Wai” or “Guo,” and it is like I am calling in the neighborhood watch to let the entire world know that somebody just called me foreigner.
This over-reaction on my part is actually quite stupid. This is because it really doesn’t have the same sting in Chinese as some English h racial words have.
Did somebody say “Wai Guo Ren?”
#9 Sing Me a Song
After being gawked at like you have a giant sign on your neck that says “Stare at Me,” for the last 9 months, I would be telling an absolute lie if I said it never pisses me off.
That is why Taiwanese that stare at the “Wai Guo Ren” can take this as a warning.
If somebody is staring at me at a traffic light, you better believe they are going to get my loudest and most obnoxious version of the 3 lines I know.
Plenty of stop light “sing-offs”
By Marcus Denton
Warning– I have been in Taiwan less than one year. I understand I don’t know shit yet. That is why taking the contents of this article seriously may cause serious brain defects.
1. Don’t Take The Job Before You Get to Taiwan– I learned my lesson on this one the HARD way. You have to remember if an employer can’t find a teacher in the country, it is normally a HUGE red flag.
Their co-teachers and managers probably have shitty English at best if they can’t even talk to somebody walking through the door looking for a job.
Demand at least 2-3 solid references from current foreign teachers if you even consider doing this.
Hold your ground on this also. The reason to hold strong, is that the school will probably give what sounds like a valid excuse why they don’t have a reference for you. WARNING!!
2. Being a great Uncle doesn’t make you a great teacher– So, your brother calls on you for an emergency babysitting role with the niece and nephew? You rise promptly to the challenge. And ,you let them eat every candy they aren’t allowed to, play hide and seek 357 times, and even take an accidental roundhouse to the gonads without ever doing anything besides smiling.
Amazingly enough (sarcastic voice), the kids absolutely ADORED you!
On the ride home from your brother’s house, you are still awe-struck about how much the kids love their magnificent Uncle. And if you are like me, and like to do things irrationally, you start thinking that you are missing your calling as a teacher.
I hate to inform you of something. Spoiling your family and controlling 20 rowdy Taiwanese kids in their second language are two totally different skill sets.
Anything to get “Uncle of The Year” mug!
3. Kids Aren’t ALL The Same– This came as one of the biggest shocks to me. I remember thinking before I came that I don’t know Taiwan, but I am certain that the kids would still fall for the old favorites like “I got your nose, ” or the “pretend cry.”
The pretend cry and a few other tricks seem to work ok. Don’t be surprised however if some of your more reliable tricks to make a kid smile are greeted with a blank stare.
“I got your nose” doesn’t always work!
4. Don’t DAT (Drink & Teach)
It’s Friday night. And, you had 13 kids try to rip out your arm hairs today, sang the old classic with a dunce cap on your head, “A Sailor Went to See See See” 14 times, and if you have to take another one of the classroom toys called a “sticky ball” off the head, just to get the head just to get the kids’ attention, you are probably going to have a nervous break down.
Let’s not also forget that you are pretty damn tired of the 4.5 minute chant you are forced to say every time you want a kid to repeat something, ” I say ENNNGLISSHH,” you say ENNGLISHH, and CHIIIIIi neeez.”Ohhh kayyyyy???”
Be sure to make the “Ok sign” with your right hand also!
And after your 4.5 minute chant of what seemed like absolute hell is over, it gets greeted with DEAD silence.
Not to worry, your 120 hour online course instructor told you to glance over the room when this happens.
So, you can’t wait to assess the situation.
You look down to see one of your prize 5 year old pupils, “Little Leo” has just commited one of the 7 most deadly sins of ESL Kindergarten “No Fingers On The Word.”
To the non-teachers, this means that as you are all reading together, he rebelled against the one constant demand any teacher makes on their ESL student “Fingers On The Word.”
I literally hear it in my sleep at this point.
You are thinking to yourself “How could HE of all people, not have his fingers on the word?”
That is when you notice one of the most horrifying sights you can see in a classroom. Poor Leo has got a case of the “itchy nuts.”
He’s just scratching away. And, you just pray to God nobody tells on him for this.
Oh yeah,a further glance shows your other class favorite “Smiley Emily,” staring at the ceiling like she is looking at a picture De Vinci just drew on the wall.
You keep browsing the room to spot your class trouble maker.
You finally find 9 year old Sam, who was placed in the class with 5 year olds, is sleeping in the corner.
Let’s not forget how funny he looks. He has been forced to sit in a desk so small that his legs are coming over the table.
Sound fun and rewarding yet? Not really, huh?
You probably want a drink by then, right?
Let me just warn you. Friday night drunken debauchery makes for a LONG 8 hour Saturday work day.
The shit we do as teachers…
5. Expect to Be Ignored– Many Taiwanese people I have met have been extremely warm and friendly. Living in Taiwan has been an absolutely wonderful experience.
However, in the work place, don’t be surprised if your cheerful Monday afternoon “Hello, how was your weekend?” to your Taiwanese coworker doesn’t exactly get the same 45 minute answer you are accustomed to getting from the cute chick in your accounting department when you worked back home.
This is a cultural difference that can be very difficult for many foreigners to understand when they first get here.
I still don’t get it. And, I would be lying if I said the deadened conversations don’t exactly inspire me to sing songs to 4 year olds.
Do they look like they want to answer “How was your weekend?”
6. Never Say “What?”- One of the things you better learn quickly about teaching in Taiwan is you need to get really good at guessing. If you don’t hear the kid, you really have to just try and guess what they said in my opinion.
It is true that maybe you didn’t hear a kid because 7 others were screaming at the same time. However, saying “what” is like slashing the air out of their brand new bicycle tires. It just deflates their confidence!
I would even say a “what?” is almost guaranteed to be met with 100 % silence.
It is really frustrating sometimes because you legitimately did not hear them, and you really need to know what they said.
Try to survive a “What!”
7. Nobody Can Help You, But You–
I will preface this with saying I have had some legitimate help from coworkers. But, there have also been many times where I was in a jam, and nobody really could help me. It really is due to my own fault, and shitty preparation.
So, the story goes like this.
You are in the teaching lounge desperately plotting today’s task of making the grammar of “the present perfect” come alive.
Let me tell you. It is no easy task.
Suddenly, you think it is your lucky day.
Last year’s “Teacher of The Year,” comes stumbling in.
With 13 years of experience from this teacher, you are certain he is going to bail you right out of this jam.
It has been my experience that your conversation is going to be far from helpful, and will include the following 3 lines:
“Dude, this is the easiest job I ever had.”
“Just play a game man!”
Or, even better ” Do you want to see pictures of my snorkeling trip this weekend?”
And, if you are REALLY lucky, he might rip off his entire arsenal of games all packed with his own lingo of how to explain them within 30 seconds max.
Guess what? There’s not a chance in hell you are going to understand a single word he just said.
Moral of the story is you have to keep looking towards yourself if you ever want to get any better.
8. NEVER GIVE A BAD GRADE!
Giving legitimate grades was something I learned through experience. This was after I had the noble intention of giving my class full of 14 year old assholes the 70 percent grades that they deserved on their final.
I legitimately thought this would help inspire them to study when they started the next class. How dumb was I?!?!
I was warned of doing this previously. But, my co-teacher was riding my every move at that point, and I was also certain it would be fight #323 in 4 days if she looked at the tests and found I let them all pass.
Apparently, there is a reason not to give bad grades.
Taiwan is all about competition. This intense competition can lead to Nirvana like symptoms of depression when kids get to be as young as 9 years old.
The rage and sadness is because students are given a number or a ranking in their class. To a 9 year old, it may feel like their entire self-worth revolves around this statistic..
In my humble opinion, after reading $213 dollars worth of self-help books, in my mid 30’s, this is the stupidest shit I ever heard of.
Learning that this system is not for me to judge or determine its worth is one of the hardest things that I have had to learn while being in Taiwan.
I try to dream up lesson plans where kids are learning English for practical use. I have even ran mini-debates in the one class I had that wasn’t monitored by a supervisor.
This is all noble and grand for a first year teacher. Practical use seems to be a bit irrelevant. They want to learn how to pass the test!
A wise friend of mine once told me “You may think you know what you are doing after teaching for 6 months. Just remember. Your school may have been doing this for 20-30 years.”
Soccer field or English class, PASS ’em ALL!!
After 8 months of teaching in Taiwan, I feel like a beaten and broken down minor league baseball player just trying to survive. I will still stick it out for the same reason that the minor leaguer goes for it.
The minor leaguer wants to hit that game-winning home run one more time. For me, I still want to hit the home run once in a while also.
Teaching home runs don’t come very often. However, moments like when 8 year old Irene’s father flagged me down in the hallway a while back keep me going.
I was carrying a basket full of toys, shirt untucked and unwashed, hair frizzed, papers flying everywhere, a stack full of unorganized books, all while I was nervously chewing on a blue and green marker on each side of my mouth respectively.
On this day, he decided to stop me before I started my next class, and say the magical words that any teacher with a heart or a soul want to hear, “Thank you for teaching my daughter. I know you don’t have to.”
The eminent danger of hell breaking loose as seven nine year olds were waiting for me to teach my next class as I was already 45 seconds late no longer seemed to matter. I really did not care at that moment if I walked into a 9 year old “Battle Royal!”
On that day, I got my home run. And, that was really all that mattered to me.
Here’s me! Swinging for one more home run!
By Joshua Dent
“Hey Mate, I do this awesome hypnosis called a past-life regression.”
That is what my Australian buddy Daniel said to me at the gym the other day.
Now, I have a hunch that the average person’s eyes aren’t going to light up, and say “Cool, can you hook me up?”
For me, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
Daniel was fortunately not only nice enough to let me give it a try, but he also captured it on video for us.
The hypnosis is very, very, light.
We still made some interesting discoveries to help me work on teaching anxiety. I also attempted a brief little pow-wow with Jerry Garcia.
Take a look at the video.
By Joshua Dent
Greetings everyone from “The Taiwan” as I like to call it.
Did you ever wonder what Easter is like in Taiwan? If you are like me, you probably really never thought of that.
I had been through Thanksgiving and Christmas so far in The Taiwan.
Thanksgiving gets pretty much ignored here for obvious reasons. My only Thanksgiving day celebration came from going to a $500 NTD all you can drink night club in Taiwan called Club Wax. Let/s not forget also the Redskins whooped up on Dallas for a Thanksgiving day treat!
The Taiwan girls did give me a Thanksgiving surprisewhen they stripped off all my clothes except for my boxers on the dance floor.
Taiwan is so weird though. The circle of women around chuckled by covering their hand over their mouth after they admired the work, and then were too embarrassed at what they did to party anymore.
Or maybe, I am not as much of a catch as I think after 12 rum and cokes, and alcohol sweat pouring down every bone in my body.
Let’s get back to the original point of the story.
The week leading up to Easter just had this really bizarre feel to it. It just felt like something was missing from the whole experience. I had no shitty Easter candy to buy, crowded malls, or anything like that to bitch about.
So, about Friday of Easter week, I got myself mentally ready to try a new experience in Taiwan. I decided I was going to church for Easter.
I probably hadn’t been to church since my freshman year of college in 1997. That was only because I was still young enough for my dad to be able to make me go.
Obviously in a predominantly Budhist country, a catholic church might be a little hard to find. That is when the brilliant thought that had been at the back of my mind for a few months popped front and center.
I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to the Filipino church. I would rate my religious interests at about a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 for this adventure.
The Filipino Church entertained the notion of finding some gorgeous Filipino woman just waiting for a handsome American like myself to come strolling through there.
I even had a flashback to the 80’s when I was plotting this mission of heading to church. I can remember watching “Coming To America” with my brother. We were nestled on the couch with our favorite “A-treat Cream Soda” and Red Vines. I still remember one of the guys telling Eddie Murphy that he had to go to church to find a good woman.
It didn’t hurt that I had been absolutely fascinated with the Filipino women since I have been here. I only have made friends with a few of them.
A strong part of their allure is that I grew up next to a corn field on Filetown Road in the 80’s.
It took us 15 minutes by car to get to the nearest grocery store. There was ABSOLUTELY nothing exotic about Nazareth, PA.
My junior high classmates once chased a kid out of town because his name was Mohammed, Mohammed.
But, I had been in Taiwan for roughly 4 months. And, I am only a short flight away from one of the most exotic countries you can find on this planet. It still just all seems surreal to me.
The Filipino women are bronze, and beautiful. They walk with a certain sexiness that is unmistakable in my eyes.
Of course, for the insiders that have gone to Filipino night clubs on Sunday afternoons, we all talk about the certain distinct aroma of baby powder. It is quite funny because they all seem to use the same kind. I have even heard people say that they can smell a Filipino girl coming:)
I didn’t set my alarm that morning for the 10 a.m. church service. Maybe, it was on purpose so I wouldn’t have to actually go through with this plan of going solo to the Filipino church.
I ended up waking up about 10:15. I took my time taking a shower. I ran through 700 other things that I could do with my day in an effort to get out of going. But, I finally decided that I had to give it a try.
I got in front of the Filipino Bread of Life Church at roughly 10:45 a.m. even dressed in business casual attire. I suppose I wanted to look good for the girls.
I spent the next 15 minutes pacing back in forth of the church which was on the 3rd floor. I must have ran through one million reasons why it wasn’t a good idea to go in my head. ” Surely, I can’t go to church late, ” “They will laugh at you” They will stare”
Overall, I thought it was just going to be a painfully awkward experience. But, at 10:59, I mustered up the courage to walk the 3 flights of stairs to go to Filipino Church, one hour late on Easter Sunday, in Taiwan.
I got to the door, and noticed that the double doors were strongly shut. I took one more deep breath. I was just certain when I opened this door, the awkwardness was ready to start.
Sure enough, the doors made a noise which felt like louder than a shotgun in a Filipino library. I popped my head in past the doors. A young lady probably in her early 30’s came rushing over to the door to greet me.
I felt so weirded out by this entire experience that I am certain I probably hoped that she was going to tell me to come back later. But, no such luck. She guided me to a seat.
The church had a very interesting setup. It just had about 75 chairs lined up throughout the church. The pastor was speaking in English and reading from a power point presentation.
It took me about 10 minutes to settle in from that original anxious roller coaster ride I put myself through. I started paying attention to my surroundings a bit.
I originally wanted to be a good person and tell myself I wasn’t there just to see if I could meet some nice girls. So, I tried really hard to listen to the service, and what the pastor had to say.
I think that probably only lasted about 15 minutes. That is when I couldn’t help but notice that the church was probably populated with about 60-65 people. I would estimate 45 of them were stunningly gorgeous females.
I also remember thinking that if this was more like a yoga class I could get into it. I just can’t stand to sit still and listen to somebody talk for that long.
For the next 45 minutes, a 2 way tug of war was going on in my head. Option one was to legitimately get into the service and hope to smile at the right time when one of the girls was looking my way. Option 2 was to get up and run as fast as I can.
At the 15 minute mark of my stay, I was forced into my first interaction of the day. The priest did most of his sermon in English. But, he also did some parts in his native language, Tagalog.
He quickly apologized to me for this. That is when I told him with a perfectly smooth and eloquent Tagalog accent “Ayos Lang.” Ayos lang is the equivalent of no problem.
It was like the whole church just stopped for a moment. All eyes quickly became on me when they realized I could speak a little bit of Tagalog. This bizarre looking American guy stumbled into the church solo, and now he knows Tagalog.
I know it is Sunday, but I am sure they were probably thinking, WTF??
He then asked me in Tagalog if I spoke his native tongue. I responded with “Nagsasalita ng kaunting tagalog.”
That really threw the room off. But, unfortunately I was out of language ammo at that point. That was as far as I could take that conversation.
Returning back to the service, I would say that the tug of war ended up being a draw. I ended up staying very close to the end. After the 2 hour long service was over, the pastor gave a pep talk to everyone to get them to stay even longer.
I had only been there for an hour. But, it still felt like more than enough for me.
I did stay as he walked around and put his hand on the shoulders of everyone and said a prayer for almost all the people there.
That was when this bizarre morning came to a climax. He was probably only about 5’3. Me being 5’10, it was one of the few times that I felt like a giant in my lifetime.
He came up to me, and placed his hand on my right shoulder. He looked up at me, and started his series of confusing prayers.
“Dear Lord, You brought this guy to me today, I am not really sure what he is doing here. You brought him to a Filipino church. But, that is ok. This guy looks ok, and I want to love and help him. This guy is going to be ok.” I forget the rest. But, everything was “This Guy” in a heavy Filipino accent.
Although, they invited me to stay for lunch. That was obvious the perfect opportunity to mingle with the ladies. I just couldn’t take it anymore. We were 2.5 hours deep into the service and it had no signs of ending any time soon.
That is when I sadly left the service. They tried to get me to stay. But, I decided I was better off trying my luck at Paddy’s Point, the Filipino disco later on that afternoon.
Overall, it was probably one of the stranger moments I have had since I was in Taiwan. I am glad I can use my words to hopefully share and entertain with you.
Should I have stayed?
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