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Teaching in Taiwan

Murray Walkeron teaching English to kids
'They call me names and throw paper planes...'

If you had one week left to live where would you go and what would you do?
Basically i'm trying to figure out where the most memorable week could be spent. Not that you'd have much time to sit back and reflect since you'd be dead. Let's forget about the time it takes to get around. I know i'd like to spend three of those days in a bush camp in Botswana. I'm not sure about the other four days, maybe two days skiing in Switzerland, one day on a remote beach that no one has ever been to and then the last day at the New York Hilton sharing sweaty passion with the love of your life. Then hopefully you would draw your last breath while looking into their eyes as you squeeze their hands gently and then gentler still as your essence drifts away from this world. I'm sure that's a better way to go than having your arms and legs blown off by a cruise missile.

I've racked up two whole weeks of teaching here in Taipei. Mostly kids, but I am fortunate enough to have six hours of adults a week where nappy changes are required less frequently. I really do prefer teaching as opposed to babysitting. I have a few kids classes that I dread. The kids are cute like puppies on their own, but as soon as you put them together they're like a pack of hunting dogs and I'm the hapless pheasant with a broken wing. They call me names and throw paper planes and sometimes I want to burst into tears - not really, but close! I'm 'Teacher' in most classes, 'Monkey' (because of my manly chest hair that pokes out of the top of my shirt) in one class and then 'Murray Christmas' in another. I try and tell them it's closer to Easter, but that does little to lessen the abuse. It's a good thing I'm not a schizo because if I were there'd be a few more personalities threatening to come out.

All I can do in my defense is give them quizzes, and hard ones too. If they complain, I test their spelling on words they haven't learnt yet. That'll teach them not to mess with me! I played a fun game with the 6yr old kids that I have twice a week. I gave myself SARS by drawing coloured dots on my hands. Most of them wanted it to, so I went around drawing dots on their hands. They loved it. Then they started drawing on me and on the floor at which point I decided that I best moderate the imaginary spread of a deadly pandemic. When they're having fun and laughing it's hard to stop it and get back to the textbook. My life is action-packed. There are so many elements that I want to include in my schedule.

I have to learn Chinese. I'm taking two hours of morning classes during the week. It is tough and it takes a lot out of me. I wade through the swamp of Chinese homework most nights in order to minimize the sheep-eyed look the following day. I'm slowly stringing words together in the right order. Each day I decide what words I'll need in getting around and then I learn them before I set out in the morning. It seems to work. The night life is surprisingly festive. The clubs usually start pumping around 11pm and keep going, often only closing as the first shards of sunlight hint at the new day. Pubs, rave clubs and meat markets are all available. I've heard that there are many a Chinese denizen in search of some Caucasian input. Have not taken part yet myself, don't know what I want. The life here is good and I'm thinking of hanging around for longer than a year. The western lifestyle doesn't have all that much to offer me. I miss all you guys and that's about it.

© Murray Walker June 2003

Three Days in Seoul

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