How to Fake a Language:


How to fake a language:

Okay, I don’t pretend to be a linguist. College Spanish 1 was one of most studied/worst grades that I’ve ever received. That being said, I’ve been told that I’m an excellent language –faker, and I’m about to reveal some secrets to my most loyal readers.
It really helps faking when you’re living in another country, but no matter what the case, you’ll undoubtedly feel like an idiot a lot of the time. Here’s how to cover your booty so you don’t look like an idiot all of the time.

1. Learn the most common words. Learn yes, no, thank you, please, left, right, etc. ..There’s no way around it. If you want to fake it, you’ve got to learn enough to successfully bluff.
2. Learn one phrase really well, and use it a lot. For me, ordering coffee was the most useful phrase I learned, since I’m a bit of an addict. There’s no greater boost to my language self esteem than walking up to a coffee shop and busing out with, “Ching gay-wo ebay cafĂ© late, jhhh.” I say it fast, I say it commandingly, and I act like I know exactly what I’m doing. In English, “Please can I have a cup of latte, hot?” Then when they ask me the hard questions that I don’t understand, I just answer yes, yes yes. (“Dwe, Dwe, dwe”), or a little (“de-in, de-in”) assuming that they’re asking about milk or sugar. Sometimes I say, “A little” when they ask me if I want it to go.
3. Read body language and context clues. They say 90% of communication is body language. I highly disagree with this, but I do agree that the body does give off a lot of clues about what is happening. I don’t know how many times I’ve “caught” students saying bad words or getting into trouble simply by reading their obviously guilty body language. Along with body language is “speaking” using charades-it does wonders.
4. Learn “key” abstract words. The words, “This” or “That” in Chinese are “Jigga” and “Nigga”. People use them all the time in reference to just about anything. They’re the best words because you can just point to an object you’re talking about and say “Jigga”, and like magic, people will know what you’re talking about!
5. Talk to kids. If you really want to learn or fake a language, speaking with children is your key to success. Kids have no hidden agenda, they’re patient, they think it’s hilarious when you try to speak their native tongue, and they are constant encouragers. They like games and make learning fun. Go find a kid today!
6. Learn how to say, “I know what you’re saying”, or “I know” or in Chinese, “Wo je dow….” Funny story about this one. Some of my students were chattering amongst themselves when all of a sudden, there went an uproar of laughter and all of them quickly turned to look at me to see if I knew what they were saying. Of course I had no idea. But I threw out the “Wo je dow” and they all said, “Ooooooohhhh!!” and they got in big trouble because of course they were saying bad things.
Faking a language can make you survive for a day or two, or 7 months like us, but I think that most people who spend an extended amount of time in a country deeply regret not learning the language better after they leave. I can agree with this, and encourage all of you to immerse yourself in a language and not just survive on faking it alone. (does that discount everything else I said in this blog?)

SURPRISE for Delli!


To save room writing, I’m going to refer to our friends, Kelli and David as “Delli” from now on. Sorry guys, but you’re a little bit like celebrities and to celebrate that fact, you get a combo name.
Delli has been planning on visiting us ever since Kelli got a trip to Taiwan for Christmas from her family. She convinced David to join her and we’ve been excited and planning and scheming ever since then. We found out about two weeks before their arrival that Aaron’s potential employer was flying us out to California to check out the job and we somehow finagled it so that we could fly back to Taipei, not only on the same flight as Delli, but even on adjacent seats as them. In our plan, we would sneakily show up to the airport sporting disguises and hide until the last boarding call. In the meantime, we would find someone who was willing to take a photo of them on their phone, email it to them accompanied with the message “I’m watching you” or something uber creepy like that. Then we would photograph their scared reactions, throw our heads back in evil laughter, and then surprise them on the plane.

Everything was great until Aaron snuck around the gate with his bright orange t-shirt. Now I’m not saying it’s Aaron’s fault, I’m just saying-He was wearing a very bright orange shirt. (I had a muslim burka on-I’m just saying…). Aaron thought he had the perfect spy angle when all of a sudden, he felt breathing down his neck. David had seen him sneaking around and since he and Kelli had moved to another gate to find power plugs, he had witnessed Aaron’s antics from the very beginning. So maybe it wasn’t the orange that did it. There were hugs and confusion and explanations and then Aaron made them sit down so he could take a fake picture of them to make it look like he had been spying to show to me when he reported back. I was not amused when I found the photos to be staged. (i mean come on, they were doing goofy stretches, and the pole was halfway in the picture-overdone!)

But in any case, they were still surprised and that was our ultimate goal. The 14 hour flight to Tokyo wasn’t so bad flying with good friends that we haven’t seen in 7 months, and we got to do a little trip planning too! The flight attendant, Sally from Delta, even hooked Kelli and I up with the little service packs from 1st Class so that we could sleep peacefully with earplugs and eye masks. You’re the best, Sally-I hope you read this!

Defying Gravity-


I love that song, originally sang on the Broadway musical "Wicked", and then more recently heard on Glee. Listen to it here:

Now that that's off my chest, I just wanted to write a short note to our blog readers that Aaron has been offered a job in Northern California as a boys' dean in a small boarding school that is surrounded on three sides by a river. They flew both of us out (yes, from Taiwan), to check out the school two weekends ago and we fell in love. It's absolutely beautiful and will suit our need for outdoor adventures and it's a delightful compromise between Aaron's craving for cold weather and my need for heat. We don't know what I'll do yet, but we're not too worried about it. We will leave Taiwan in the end of July, drive a triangular route from the US East Coast to West to pick up our stuff that is stored in way too many places, and get Aaron to school by August 8th. This job was definitely out of the blue and happened very fast and we couldn't be more excited about it!

The photo is a quick pic that we took on the way to the school. It's a bridge that is downriver from where we'll live.

It's weeks like this that make me want to be a teacher.


If every week had angels like this, then I could totally be a teacher. These kids are so good, but still have personalities. I don't think I've laughed with my kids this much ever. All of our students this week are from Taipei County, not the city, and come from relatively small schools. They know that they are 11 or 12 years old and don't try to act like teenagers. The boys have messy, uneven, cute haircuts, obviously cut by their mother and not those $40 Japanese style haircuts that always indicate to us who the trouble makers are.

Right now, I'm writing this blog as my students make books about plants. They are quietly cutting out their papers, listening to Mozart's Concerto No. 21 (I swear by playing classical music while working). They are looking up to ask me intelligent questions like, "Teacher, cut?" or "Teacher, same as you?", meaning, "Dear Teacher, may I cut out my book now?" or "Must I use the same colors as your lovely example?"

I get up every minute or so to make sure the girls are on task because they tend to be perfectionists about coloring and cutting and I have to make sure they finish on time so they don't miss their recess.

Okay so they didn't quite finish in time, but it's okay. We'll finish putting them together this afternoon.

Anyway, I just wanted to brag a little, and thank God for good students.

On a quick side note, Aaron and i will find out within the next week or two what we'll be doing next year for jobs. We have possibilities! And that's exciting. Also, our very good friends, Kelli and David, will be visiting next week and we're going to drive around Taiwan in search of thrills and excitement. We've been looking forward to this pretty much since we got here last November. So stay tuned! Much joy to come!

Taipei Vintage-style


Who knew old cameras were so cool? My husband, that's who. He got me a Voigtlander rangefinder for my birthday and we've been spending our week off scouring the city for photo opportunities. For those of you unfamiliar with this camera or rangefinders, it was made in Germany in the 1950's. There's no meter and no viewfinder that helps you focus. So you have to guess your exposure, your focus, pretty much everything. We love a good challenge! (this is putting my photography exposure knowledge to the test!) Enjoy!

p.s. none of these images were enhanced or edited in any way.

Herping with Hans-By Aaron


From springtime

From springtime

From springtime

From springtime
From springtime
Herping with Hans,
By Aaron
This past Saturday I had the pleasure of being invited to a Snake and Amphibian association meeting in Taipei. It was great to meet some of the country’s prominent herpetologists and a doctor that has expertise in treating venomous snake bites here. Hans, the gentleman that invited me, also invited Rika and I to go hiking and herping (searching for and possibly catching reptiles and amphibians).
Sunday morning we packed our bags, got some food for lunch later, and met Hans at an MRT station near Yangmingshan National Park. We drove up into the mountains and hit the trail. The three of us got out of the van and within minutes we found a red banded snake in a drain pipe. Sadly it didn’t really count since we couldn’t catch it (according to Hans) The rest of the hike we saw hundreds of skinks (we caught a couple) a few jalpuras (a small iguana like looking lizard, that we caught as well), but no more snakes. Luckily Hans does not give up easily. After our long beautiful hike full of good exercise and good conversation Hans took us to a Buddhist restaurant. Rika loves Buddhist restaurants because they’re all vegetarian and she can eat anything there. Hans, a German, introduced us to a drink from Germany called Malz. In Germany it’s called children’s beer, here it’s popular with the strict Buddhist crowd because they don’t drink alcohol. I have to say it reminds me of root beer, but not as sweet, and with maybe a bit of a licorice flavor. Pretty good.
After dinner Hans knew where to go to find a snake, we drove some roads up in the mountains and walked some drain ditches and finally spotted our prize. Another Red Banded Snake, but this one we caught. A medium sized specimen that proceeded to crap on us and the snake hook in dismay at being captured, but it was a beautiful snake and for me the first wild catch of a snake in Taiwan. All of these stories I heard from people in the states about snakes being everywhere seem very over exaggerated right now, trust me I’ve been looking for them.
So, Hans if you read this, thanks for the awesome time, next time let’s find some venomous (mom I’ll be careful, I always am, and besides they have great health care, and I met they doctor to go to if I do get bit).

From springtime

From springtime

From springtime