Thursday, 6 December 2012
MRT Trains, Local Trains, Express Trains....oh the Timing of all the Trains... So I'm traveling to Hulien so that I can finally visit Toroku gorge and I actually end up falling asleep on the train. Now I made three mistakes in this little adventure. First, I was so tired and I fell asleep, second, I woke up and read my clock wrong, and third, I got off the train thinking that I would just have to re-route back for 10 minutes or so based on the time that I'd overslept. As I was stepping off the train, I had a thought flash across my mind that maybe this wasn't the best stop to get off due to the lack of other passengers exiting and the darkened station. But I did get off and I found the station manager who was so sweet to help me and seemed especially confused about why I was at that particular station. Using monkey talk (basic charades), I managed to convey that I had been sleeping when the train had stopped at Hualien and so I had decided to get off at the next nearest location to try and correct my error. After discovering that the only other person at the station could speak a little bit of english, we were able to translate what I needed to do and where to go. So, with ticket in hand, I made my way back up the platform where I waited for a local train to take me to Saaoxin station where I would re-board another Express train to Hulien City. After all of this hooplah, I sat in my seat and re-looked at my map and realized that yes, I had fallen asleep but that I shouldn't have gotten off the train in the first place! I had still had an hour left of my trip! It turns out that my ipod hadn't synced up with the local time and instead of adjusting for that hour ahead, I took it as the real time and thought that I'd missed my stop by a mere 10 minutes. No wonder the train manager was so confused about why I had gotten off at his station when all I had to do was stay on the train!!!!! And so, here I am feeling foolish and wide alert and waiting for my next stop, hopefully in Hulien City! Update: I am here in Hulien and safe and sound and going to bed to get a good night's rest for tomorrow's adventures!
Posted by Mackenzie at 5:45 am
Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Angels in my Asian Outfield As a member of the Murphy's Law team, I've always found myself in the strangest, most random, and, at times, the most frustrating of predicaments. As a result, I've learned to always have what some would like to refer to as a backup plan. I'd rather refer to the strategy of being a problem-solver becuse even the back-up plan to the back-up plan rarely gets carried out in a linear fashion as was pre-arranged. And so, while it usually works out in the end, I cannot fully take credit for my successful adventures in the midst of traveling chaos. My best friend once said that I was the type of person where one angel was insufficient, the angels must have had a meeting where it was decided that I would have a whole team of angels on duty for me. There have definitely been times where I would agree one hundred percent with this! This trip has been spectacular and though I attribute a large percentage of it to my "dynamic" personality (and I've had so many taiwanese and korean people so sweetly tell me this) but in my moments of gone with the wind attitude and when my plans have gone belly-up, those angels have stepped into high gear and saved the day. If I think about them in terms of angel office policy I cringe when I think of the paperwork that has been submitted due to my behaviour :p On the other hand, my journey has been wonderful, random, and full of positive experiences; everything that I was hoping that this traveling adventure would be....
Posted by Mackenzie at 12:07 am
It seems like every time I sit down and get started writing that I'm always wonderfully interrupted by someone! I keep meeting the kindest, most interesting, and most generous individuals. Of course they always apologize for how "poor" their english is even though they seem to keep up with our conversation and my wacky expressions just fine (with a little bit of an explanation about my humour). It seems like the written story of my asian journey may never be written about sequentially or written accurately at least in terms of the emotions and the various and random combination of choices and details that led to these special meetings. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that stumbling upon these people brings something special to my life and, I would hope, their lives too. My journey is not so much about the places that I visit and the statues and landscapes that I pose with (though they will be plentiful and posted accordingly) but rather, the tiny happenings and thoughts that are along the way and are too numerous to even attempt in documenting. These momentary occurences may not be the most memorable of my trip if I try to recollect them as an individual but if I think about them as a whole then the are given a collective identity within my mind as a guiding positive force. I feel my energy rising as I talk with these people and I can see the other people responding in a physically and energy-reviving way. It creates a circular path as we connect on a deeper level than mere words. Separate of the language and culture barriers, we are part of a soul-coupling that allows us to be authentic with one another. For that moment, even though I will probably never see them again (although nowadays with facebook I am quickly gathering up the number of internet friends as I go along) I have taken part in the pure essence of what it is to be a person; to be full of positivity, to reach out, to ascend beyond the restrictions of norms and pleasantries, and to be consciously ignorant of the pressures to form a good impression. As a result of this soul-coupling, I have willingly accepted this natural and positive friendship and can move forward with a greater sense of self. ` `
Posted by Mackenzie at 12:00 am
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
So now that I've seen almost every combination possible of scooter passengers, I was actually surprised to a couple drive by in matchy-match tan leather bomber jackets. Now, if you live in Asia (especially in Korea) this matchy-match phenomena is no surprise and in many places you actually get discounts for these "couple sets" as well as bonus points for advertising your "coupleness." Yet, this was my first time seeing a daschund and its owner paired up in such fashionable (and practical) attire. How long do you think that this woman had to search for such an outfit? Perhaps it was easier than the average westerner would assume, for if you make your way down to the market area, they have venders catering specifically to your doggie clothing needs. Everything from faux leather to faux Gucci and ballerina tutus for your furry child surrogate. Now, not to point fingers at the absurdity of this asian trend because thanks to Paris Hilton in the early 2000's, we also have a generation of mini poodle-toting fanatics who shove their animals into tiny carry-alongs and have them fluffed, manicured, and dressed to perfection. Well, news update North America, Asia's got you beat in the market now that they are dressing their animals for all occasions and freedoms (at least these pets get to breath and wander rather than being encased on a daily basis) and have "organic" lines of make-up and hair dyes that can primp your puppy up to live up to the high maintenance lifestyle of their mistresses (although I have seen a few men at fault). So ladies, if a man is too much work to primp, pamper, and mold to your liking then might I suggest that you throw your well-intended (but oh so wrong) need to mold a partner into a store-front couple into the realm of pet ownership. Just remember, as cute as it is, that animal lives for at least 10 years, it eats, barks, needs love, and it definitely won't pick up after itself. Well enjoy the trend while it lasts and get ready to pick up a second job to pay for that second wardrobe ;P
Posted by Mackenzie at 8:35 am
Tonight I went to a cute European style restaurant here in Chaiyi with some of the "practice hotel's" occupants. While everyone else ordered delectable pastas and beef sauteed in wine sauce, I decided to try out the Kung Pao Chicken. Having eaten some chicken rice an hour or so beforehand, I wasn't particularly hungry but I figured that I could get it packed up and taken home (an easy feat in Korea). So while I'm picking away at my food with my mouth running a mile a minute discussing the differences between the education systems in Canada and the USA, everyone is getting their food packed up. So finally, the waitress comes back to the table where I've neatly arranged my side of ride in my barely-touched bowl and I make a motion to wrap it up and give her a positive response (Duay) to her question (I'm assuming that she was asking me a question). Well we sit and sit for about five minutes waiting for her return and peering around the table to see what on earth could be taking so long because half the restaurant's occupants (us)are about to leave and the other table seems to be quite content. We make a few cracks about how they probably didn't think that I wanted my food and they're probably chowing down on it in the back or have accidentally thrown it out but I start to get a little concerned about my food's whereabouts. Finally, we motioned to her to come back to the table and attempted to ask about my food and she made the universal "ooooh" sound and scurried off to the back room. Once again we start in about how they've probably thrown it out and are scraping it off the top of the trash and throwing it into a box just to please the crazy foreigner but as I'm laughing hysterically, I realize that my chances of getting my food back are waning as the seconds pass by. I couldn't even look her in the face when she returned to the table to quickly us that my food had indeed been thrown into the pit of no return. Only me! Everyone else had gotten their food wrapped up with no problems. Why on earth would she have assumed that I wanted my food taken away and discarded? I can only assume that as she was pulling my plate away she had been asking if I was fully finished with my food and I had stupidly answered with the only word I deemed suitable for the situation being played out as I perceived it...."correct, correct" or rather "Duay, Duay". My one word of chinese sealed my food's fate. Into the trash it went. My tasty and super pricey (by taiwanese standards) Kung Pao Chicken. I'm seriously considering taking a vow of Chinese silence and reverting back to the ignorant foreigner content to use monkey language and nothing else. It seems to have worked so far....especially at the tea stands....but that's another story.... Here's to you Murphy!!! You got me again!
Posted by Mackenzie at 8:25 am
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
So there isn't really an official countdown for my return home for vacation :( The reason for this is that after pulling in tons of favours and sweet-talking my boss(and basically setting it up so she couldn't say no), I finally managed to get 3 weeks of vacation time. Now, between travelling time, jet lag and whatnot, this will probably translate into only 2 weeks...still more than most people get for their vacation time. How did I do it? By being brilliant ;)
Actually, I decided to take a chance and see ask my boss if it was legit to get a substitute for extra time that I wanted off. I started off small and reminded her the terms of my contract and that I wanted to get my entire ten days (unfortunately, this included weekends) off but that I was hoping to get some extra time so I could make it to an additional wedding while home. She said that if I could find a foreign teacher that was Canadian or American (there's so many South Africans and Brits around here that I wish she hadn't put those conditions on it)then it would be ok. Awesome right? Vacation time here I come! All I have to do is dangle money and the hours in front of a few people, right? Easier said than done. Apparently, this is the absolute worst time to take a vacation!!! EVERYONE is going on vacation! Public is finished and teachers have a week of vacation during that time and all of the university students get out around that time! UGH!!! Ok, so after talking to dozens of people and pulling in some major favours, I managed to find a girl who knew a guy who knew a girl who miraculously was able to take the position...but only for evenings...darn.
Now, I have a crappy schedule and unfortunately that is the curse of anyone who works at a hagwon, especially one that caters to adults as well as the usual clientele of children. So I had to sweet-talk my morning class into attending my evening class and get my coworkers to pick up my kiddie evening classes and voila! Nope, if only it were that simple. So I decided to become a little greedy and get a second teacher for an extra week in August. As long as they were a warm-bodied-foreigner capable of carrying on a conversation who cares, right? Wrong once again! So my boss is shocked that I've managed to be so self-sufficient in arranging all of this (not that she has the time or the energy to do so herself) and although she admits that it seems all fine and dandy, I can't possibly take that much time off. And why, she asks, do I want all this time off? Well I couldn't just come out and say, "because I'm rundown and exhausted and I want out of this place just for a little while and have conversations with people where grammar and vocabulary aren't continuously running through my head while I speak!" So instead, I mentioned that I wasn't sure if I would make it back home for Christmas and that I wanted to make this time with my family and friends as good as possible.
Well she was sympathetic but then she decided to drop the hammer on me and tell me that the reason for these vacation restrictions was that the hagwon had recently signed a new 3-month long company contract and that restricts the teachers vacations...translation...no one gets vacation time during this contract. Ummm, I don't think I'm going to roll with that :) So, I've managed to get my time covered but I do feel so bad for my coworkers especially because we are also picking up extra hours because one of our korean teachers just finished up and moved to Seoul.
Okay, so long story short (rather than tell you about the many aggravating hours that I spent on the phone), I'm going to reaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllly enjoy my vacation this month! Now, to finish booking my flight and get home. Note to self: never leave bookings until the last minute especially when you are depending on the permission of your workplace. Next time, I'm just going to book it and let them know and find a way around the system...it's what I do best...especially with all of my experiences dealing with Mr. Murphy :)