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Language Learning

February 21st, 2011 No comments

It is not obvious, but English is technically my second language.  For the first two years of my life, the language I heard was the Filipino dialect, Tagalog. Then we moved to Canada just after 2 years and I started to hear more English.  In this video Patricia Kuhl speaks about the linguistic genius of babies and their findings really make sense of how I remember experiencing the world with two languages.

By the time I was 4 years old our parents were speaking less Tagalog at home because my older brother and I would make our half of the conversation in English.  I think we realized in our new environment that English was the preferred and most widely used.  Because the tagalog language is a collage of different European and Asian language sounds, learning French in high school and beginning Spanish in adulthood had a very natural feeling, as if my brain has been waiting for me to engage those sounds.

Recently, I have become more and more keen to learn Mandarin.  I enjoy traveling and hearing other languages so I feel frustrated with my linguistic limitations, especially when I was in Taiwan in 2007.  My interest in Mandarin is a bit surprising because 4 years ago when I was immersed in it, my interest in learning the language was very little.  I didn’t think it sounded nice, but now I’m associating people to the sounds of Mandarin, just by living in Vancouver and having friends who speak it.  I like to think that if I am ever to raise a child, I would expose them to other languages as much as possible within the first 7 years while the brain is wide open for possibilities.

I am working on reading and listening to Spanish, but I think what would really be effective is to go to warm, sunny Mexico for a few weeks had have the immersion experience!

Because I want to see Autumn

October 14th, 2007 2 comments

It is a beautiful autumn day and from where I sit in Joseph’s apartment, I can see the glorious mountains and orange tree tops.  Aahh….I love this season of transition.  I feel more and more that September is the true beginning of the New Year.  Maybe because it’s the start of the school year and that has stayed with me.  I truly appreciate the ability of the trees to let go of their summer glory and transform.  I don’t always approach change as gracefully and I am thankful to learn from nature, these wiser ways of riding life.  As their leaves turn colour and prepare to fall, the tree isn’t thinking, “I’m dying, I’ve failed in being a tree.”  It just is.  It doesn’t resist or judge itself for losing it’s most celebrated form.  In fact, what I find so special is that it is in this state of letting go and vulnerability, that the core of the tree becomes even more distinct and attractive.  And when the leaves fall, that tree expands even further into the world around it, filling it with life and colour.

Imagine what one could accomplish each day without the fear of failing.  What would you try if you knew that your success were assured? 

I strive to explore that way of being with more awareness of what holds me back and what motivates me forward.  I strive to eliminate fear from my motivations when choosing thoughts, intentions and actions.

I wrote a short story recently based on what little I know about the Binukot in the Philippines and I’m excited that it has been selected to be paired with the skills and talents of a filmmaker, Mark Borowski, in Victoria.  I’m actually getting paid to contribute to this project called “Scene and Heard”!  I discovered in the process of writing this short story that I actually really enjoy creative writing and I feel energized by the process when it is something that I have personally selected.  Often in school I experienced writing only as a requirement and somehow that took away from my feelings of enjoyment.  Is that a similar dynamic when we stop enjoying something when it becomes a requirement?  Like when I wash dishes, I usually enjoy it.  I like making things clean and refreshed.  BUT, if I know there is an expectation or requirement that I do the dishes at a certain time or a certain way, the idea of doing dishes changes and the experience of washing the dishes is not as enjoyable, if at all. 

I woke up before the sun started to come into the room today, before 7:00am.  It’s Sunday and I went to sleep after 12am last night.  I wasn’t tired and my body had enough rest and it wasn’t a sound or my bladder that woke me up.  I was just ready and happy to wake up.  This in not a rare happening.  But what’s interesting is that I can’t do that during the work week when I know I must wake up for 7am so that I can go to the job that earns me my current living salary.  What a joy it is to wake up simply motivated to be alive.  My hope is that I can start each day with that enthusiasm and love for life, regardless of the required tasks within a day; for each day is a new gift with infinite possibilities to be surprise and delight.

Have a magnificent Autumn Day!

Am I an OFW?

February 3rd, 2007 No comments

I got a comment from a Filipino in response to my post titled “Pinoys in Taiwan” and I just wanted to comment on the comment.  Firstly, I think it’s so neat that someone other than my friends and family is finding relevance in what I’m writing.  And secondly, I’m really starting to feel the eeriness of being public via the world wide web.

The comment, if you can’t be bothered to click back and read it, was a request to use my story of being a Filipino Overseas worker in Taiwan.  Now this is an interesting question to me because while I was there, I often thought about whether or not I qualified as an OFW.  I am Filipino and I was overseas working, but in no way was my story similar to the men and women who had fled the poverty of the Philippines to work hard for low wages in Taiwan and send money home to their families for survival.

I was warned that I might experience prejudice from prospective employers whose ideals for an English teacher can often be more about how much one looks Canadian, as opposed to how well one teaches English.  They were right. Teachers are a respected lot here and if a school were to hire a teacher who looks the same as the students’ nannies, then parents may complain or at least question the school’s judgement.  I did get work, and fairly easily, but mostly because there is a shortage of native English speaking teachers in Taiwan.  And also because I had good people connecting me with open-minded school directors.  What many have not come to realize there, probably because they have never been to Canada, is that “looking Canadian” is not exclusive to any one race.  But hey, even here in Canada many think that there is a way to look Canadian, and I don’t mean by wearing a hockey jersey and toting a six pack of beer around.

It’s quite easy for me to see how I’m different from the majority of OFW’s:  I speak the North American dialect, I dress and walk differently (I don’t know what it is, but other Filipinos can tell that I’m not from the Philippines before I even open my mouth) I didn’t go to the Filipino church services (although I wouldn’t have minded for Christmas), and I didn’t work as a nanny or a domestic aid, or a nurse, or a factory worker.  I have not known the hardships that burden them and my Canadian passport allows me privileges and freedoms that are beyond the imaginations of many.  And I walk differently and attract different things into my reality because I grew up in receiving messages that I am capable.  The majority of Filipino’s receive the message at a young age that their options are limited and so, they are.  But at the same time, I don’t think I’m all that seperate from them.

When one is in a foreign land for long enough for one’s routine to develop beyond that of a tourist, the source of strength to endure the vulnerability of being immersed in strange sounds, smells, structures and systems becomes, I believe, a communal wellspring.  No matter what brought us there or how we sustained our stay, I can appreciate their plight on the basic level of being an outsider.  Some might say, “But you chose to go there and you were making far more money than them.”  True.  And they also chose to go there to make money.  The difference of income is a larger economic issue that I won’t address in this blog mostly because it doesn’t change the fact that our choices lead to a transforming process.  What I find interesting, is that when I read the stories of OFW’s from the Philippines and their accounts of feeling homesick, I can relate.  And as I’ve written in past posts about homesickness, I refer not to a feeling of missing a place or specific people, necessarily, but the feeling that who I am inside is not aligned with the life that is reflected back to me by the activities, sights and relationships in my day-to-day reality.  In truth, I often felt homesick in Victoria, B.C., where I have roots and a house and relationships that span 1/3 of my physical life.

So was I an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan?  One might say I was an overseas Filipino-Canadian worker in Taiwan.  And even though I’m a citizen of Canada, my privileges do not rob me of knowing what it is to be foreign.  I’m grateful for that gift because I think it has caused me to think more about identifying as a global citizen rather than depending on a national identity.

I wrote to Dominic, who made the comment about my OFW post, saying that I remain open to sharing my story for her site should it seem appropriate.  It’s been my impression that the stories of OFW’s usually seem to be accompanied by trauma, pity and shame.  Maybe we are coming into an age in which Filipino’s will see themselves as adventure-seekers, travellers, the finest in helping professions, global citizens.  The power of who I am and who I am not, is in what I believe and do.

Categories: Taiwan Tags:

Why now? Why here? Why not!

January 14th, 2007 No comments

The most common question asked of me (and most foreigners to Taiwan) is “Why did you come here?”  Indeed, this is the question many people ask whenever one decides to leave a familiar place to explore something foreign.  My answers have varied from ” I followed a boy here,” to “I wanted a change,” to “I wanted to make some money to pay off loans” to “I don’t know.”  The 3rd is the most authentic, and the most accurate while the others have all just been rationalizations, excuses, qualifiers.  Rationals are so very important aren’t they?  We need them more than sex, more than food.  We can live a day without food or sex, but we probably couldn’t do a day without a rationale.  I’m pretty sure I read that in a book, the title of which I have forgotten.

And so I just love the arts for allowing and requiring me to shut down the left brain buzz of analysis and rationalizations.

These words of G.B. Shaw are validating for me when I feel the unnecessary pressures of finding a good enough reason to begin or to end an exploration.

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a
purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the
being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the
scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a
feverish selfish little clod of ailments and
grievances complaining that the world will not devote
itself to making you happy.
George Bernard Shaw

When I decided to go to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago, it was something similar.  I simply felt joyful to embark on a unique and challenging adventure.  The purpose to live playfully, curious about the world and its people, helps me to learn about myself and grow.  The accomplishments I most highly regard of my experiences so far, have not been those that promised prestige, stability or wealth (on the contrary, they’ve been at the expense of these somtimes); they have been experiences that I opened myself to because I felt drawn to them. 

I’ve always felt that my privilege of being a Filipino-Canadian immigrant meant that I must live my life to the fullest joy possible, or my parents’ sacrifice and dedication to my upbringing and the lives of people who died in the name of “freedom” would have been in vein.  They fought for the the options I now have, and although sometimes the scope of them can be paralyzing when making decisions, they are leading me down some incredibly fascinating pathways.

We are living on borrowed time and borrowed soil, with boundless opportunities to create and experience Joy and Love.  I can’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t have come.

As my friend Yuta put it, “The world rotates at more than 14,000 miles per hour.  We should do our best to keep up.”

It is the search that brought me into this world, it is what keeps me here, and it is what will lead me home to Creator.

Categories: Quotes and Poems, Taiwan Tags:

Wedding Party crasher

December 30th, 2006 No comments

Today I went to the wedding reception of a couple I’ve never met before and probably will never meet again.  At 5:30pm today I was passing the time of my laundry’s wash cycle walking with my cup of bubble milk tea and I get a call from Anita, “What are you doing? You want to go to a wedding?”  I was reluctant and because I didn’t feel up to an evening of watching people I didn’t know, talk in a language I can’t understand, I said no.  Weddings are bad enough in English.  I say, “I think I’ll just go downtown and do some shopping.”  Anita quickly offers, “Oh, ya well I’ll give you a ride down because the wedding is downtown.  We’ll go down together and I’ll meet you for a drink after and we’ll come back home together.”

“Um, okay.”  I was a bit curious about what a Taiwan wedding reception would be like, but I didn’t have the energy that it requires to decode the language of facial expressions and nuances and tones and bodies, so I agreed to take the ride down but resolved to go shopping.  Anita picks me up and as soon as the car door closes she says, “Ya, I think you should just come with me to the wedding,” in a tone that let me know that I wasn’t getting a ride anywhere but the wedding party.  So we go and it turned out to be a fun time.

In Taiwan weddings, the bride gets to wear 3 dresses!  One for the ceremony, one for seeing guests in during the reception and the 3rd for saying goodbye to the guests.  I didn’t see the ceremony because it was just a reception party for the Taiwan side of the couple.  The groom was from New Zealand.

What was really surprising was that after the guests left our table, Anita started packing up the left over food from the platters.  I’m talking soup and lamb chops and desserts.  The hotel staff was helping her pack it too.  I got to take home half a bottle of very nice red wine and some tropical fruit that I don’t even know the name of and yummy seafood soup.  Not at all frowned upon.  Reasonable logic, really…it’s been paid for so, take it home.

After going through 12 courses we did some shopping at the Night Market and then went off to the Pig & Whistle pub where we met up with a couple that is staying in the same temporary housing as I.   We danced and danced and danced.

Then!  I got a skype ring from my buddies John, Alia, Finn, Joseph and Jim!  Yay! And suddenly, what seemed to be a difficult decision, suddenly became clear and even exciting.  I’m going home.  As early as mid-January, no later than March.

Categories: Taiwan Tags:

Homesick

December 28th, 2006 No comments

The novelties of temporary home surfing are wearing off.  It’s fun for the same reason that it’s challenging: I don’t know what I’ll be doing next or where I’ll end up. I guess it’s a natural feeling.  I’m now at the point of deciding to sign a contract to stay longer, beyond february or to go back to Canada.  Ugh, decisions!

Categories: Taiwan Tags:

A good shake

December 26th, 2006 No comments

We had an earthquake in Taiwan this evening! I don’t know the reading on the scale, but the epicentre was about 4hrs south from Kaohsiung and there were two pretty strong tremors that lasted for a minute or two each. It was the strongest earthquake I’ve experienced and was a bit concerning, but mostly really neato! I was at the school and had just finished teaching and was getting ready to leave. I’m glad it happened while I was still at the school and not while I was riding home. It was comforting to have been with locals and children.
Although, when I returned to the building where I’m sleeping tonight (last night with the 3 cats) I saw that the residents had all been evacuated. By the time I parked my scooter, all were good to re-enter. A few candle sticks had tipped off the shelf in the apartment but I didn’t notice any other disturbances; surprising for the 12th floor. I was a bit concerned that maybe the third round of tremors would be coming later tonight and it would be bigger and I’d have to run downstairs from the 12th floor. Ugh, what a pain that would be! There was a really big earthquake island-wide 8 years ago which brought down many buildings. Well, no use in worrying about it because I have no way of being warned except a call from a friend on my cellphone. I don’t have a radio or a tv in this apartment. I guess I could check the news on the internet but what good is that if I don’t read Chinese!

Feeling sleepy now.

Categories: Taiwan Tags:

*Merry Christmas*

December 25th, 2006 No comments

A quiet one this year. My friend Andrew and I cooked a non-traditional dinner with food we bought at the local supermarket. I made a spicy guava salad with orange bits, garlic, chili, soy and green beans, drizzled with lime juice and a touch of sugar…not bad for an experiment. And we had pre-marinated chicken and beef, and stir-fried veggies.

I must admit, this year was a very welcome break from the pressure of having to live up to the traditions of shopping and buying something for the family that seems to grow every year. I let myself off the hook from buying and sending presents to everyone with the excuse that I’m travelling and reserving funds for a place to live and some reliable wheels for transport; basic survival things. And I guess, that is my gift to all…I release any obligation that you may have felt to buy me something for Christmas. Save it for a rainy day when you’d like a chat with a dear one far away, then you’ll find that you have a pinch of change to afford a long distance call. Or what money you would have spent on a gift for me, go buy the book, “Ask and It is Given” and read it…then you’ll be gifting you and me and all the world at the same time.

I think wrapping gifts and opening gifts and watching people open the gifts you’ve given can be such a lovely part of the holidays, but over the past few years, I’ve not been so attracted to it. Maybe it’s because I’m in that in-between stage of not being a child and not being a “grown up” with husband and babies. I should be spending it at an orphanage with children, but I’ve been so focused on finding a place to live and work that I didn’t get to the point of finding the local one. For so many years, I’ve wanted to spend Christmas with children who are in want of company and nurturing. I’ll try not to wait until next year.

Two more sleeps and I must move on to a different place to stay. I will likely move into a friendship house that is run by a Canadian woman from Saskatoon who provides housing to foreigners in Kaohsiung.

Ya, I do feel a bit homesick, but not for Canada specifically or the arrangement of my life when I left.  I miss having a constant.  Whether a person or a place of work, or a bed.  God, my relationship to Creative Energy, is the only constant; NOW.  I am home in this moment, NOW.  I send you love, NOW.

Categories: Down the Rabbit Hole, Taiwan Tags:

Getting Cold

December 16th, 2006 No comments

I woke up this morning before 6:00am, an hour before my alarm, to the sound of howling winds. It’s cold and windy here. Finally, I understand why people are bundling up and buying winter coats. It’s still only about 18 degrees celsius but the wind and the rain make it feel cooler.

I’m going to meet my friend Joyce to catch a bus up to Taichung, halfway up the west coast of Taiwan. There we will stay with her old friend from high school. I hope to get some pictures of the coast from my seat on the bus.

My goal is to get more pictures up into the photo gallery by Christmas. I have had a few hours dropped for subbing work so it looks like I’ll have some time. When I return on Monday, I’ll again be on the hunt for an address of my own.

Categories: Taiwan Tags:

Yucky #2

December 13th, 2006 No comments

Cockroach pages were Yuck #1. And then, after a long day of teaching with a weak and tired voice I ride the train back to Kaohsiung which gets me to my scooter parked at the station by 10:45pm. I can’t read Chinese so of course I don’t know if I’m on the slow train or the express train. But while I sat on the train waiting for it to leave, out the window I watch another train pull-up, one person in my coach jump out and hop on to the one that just arrived across the platform, and then it shoots off in the direction I need to be going. So, I figured out that I was on the slow train. And not only that, but one that smelled like urine.

And then silly thing #3 is not a “Yuck!”, but a “Crap!” I get back to my scooter to find that I’ve lost my key. So I hop in a taxi to go home and I’ll have to return tomorrow with the help of a friend to retrieve my scooter.

At least I can lay my head down tonight knowing that I’ve got people in this world who will help me out when in a jam, and some who cares enough to give me cockroaches.

Categories: Taiwan, Teaching & Facilitating Tags: