Saturday, April 22, 2006


Taipei Photo Shoot

Thank goodness for people who think for themselves.

Well that's what I'm stoked about, ESL Studio Cafe. It's coming together in so many ways.

We've got a piece of script coming through to make direct uploading and downloading of audio recordings as easy as a few clicks. We've got a logo. We've got some catchy pictures that will be posted on our website in order to better depict how our workshops function. This is the result of my one-day trip to Taipei.

After the 2.5 hour bus trip, I jumped out into the city, dressed in a shirt and tie, carrying a small whiteboard and laptop briefcase. Ate Vietnamese spring rolls on cold noodles.

The city bustled with SERVICE, much more so than I ever remembered from living there a few years ago. The Vietnamese restaurant was full of well-off, discerning patrons. In general, the Taichung middle class is just a little shabbier, less discerning and more money-conscious than the Taipei middle-class, which must be the highest echelon of middle-class on the whole island.

There was just enough time to scarf down the spring rolls on noodles before meeting up with an old friend from my exchange student days at National Taiwan University. Hailing from Japan, he's also plannin' to start up a business in the new Land of Opportunity. The future is now and it is language learning.

We scouted for a suitable location, preferably well-lit with movable tables and not too many people to gawk and stare. Bongo's did the job. After ordering some coffees, I whipped out the camera and camera stand, set up the laptop and headsets, balanced the whiteboard on a ledge behind us, and wrote some catchy advertising on it. You'll see some of the results in May or so, on the ESL Studio Cafe site. In the end we're only gonna need 7 pictures or so.

Then my good friend from Japan told me about his company, or rather, his boss's company, small but growing. Language learning is the future and the future is now. They want to hire me (teaching and some management), but I sort of have to live in Taipei. So I kind of want to move there, in order to do my own thang, as it were. Working for him and setting up ESL Studio Cafe are definitely "my own thang", especially considering that I teach children at the moment.

Despite evidence to the contrary, children are not the future. They're not. They don't have the motivation to be "the future", not in Taiwan anyways. Short memories also frustrate me to the extreme, but what can I do? I'm just an English teacher in a country full of people who mistakenly believe that ESL for kidZ is the future.

I even heard that Mr. Ma (the most likely candidate for 2008 presidency) is in favour of cutting the few English classes in public elementary schools here to make more room for Mandarin education. I guess literacy in one language is the goal there, but also his remarks certainly highlight a lack of consensus on the status of English in Taiwan.

Right, so anyways, I got some great pictures. On the bus back to Taichung, I sat down beside Xiaoding, vocalist for ***GHETTO JOKER***, quite possibly the best metal band in Taiwan. He was travelling down to Taichung to make a skateboarding video.

Skateboarding is a very nascent sport down here. Skaters are simply not allowed to skateboard in most urban areas, and there isn't much in the way of skateparks, especially compared to Vancouver. A friend of Xiaoding's is one of only a handful of "professional skateboarders" in Taiwan, but even Xiaoding openly admitted that his skater friends would definitely be considered amateur in the West.

Taiwanese skaters, don't give up the fight! Skateboard for your right!

Anyways, in the next installment, I'll have to tell you my options for trying to do my own thang in Taiwan without having to leave every two months.

My trip to Taipei was a breath of fresh air, more figuratively than literally. Living in Taichung, I almost forgot that civilization exists beyond terrible driving habits (there is a ridiculous Taichung scooter rider's consensus that sudden unsignalled ADVANCED left turns are OKAY and TO BE EXPECTED if you want to survive traffic), awful service, and people who talk about internationalization the way frogs at the bottom of a well gossip about the world beyond their well.

As long as you can see one metre in front of you and plan about five seconds into the future, you'll do fine in Taichung. There's absolutely no need to move anywhere else. Now if you'll excuse me, I believe there's a skateboarding video shoot out there. Thank goodness for people who think for themselves.

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