Greener Grass

Taiwan is only a memory away. With the diversity of folk and festivals in St. John’s, the memories are coming thick and fast. The problem with my memories of Taiwan is that they tend to be Utopian, drawing me into a life that never was. How do I accept my new reality when I keep looking back, longing for a situation that did not exist? Continue reading

Chinglish ma?

I don’t like to “rag” the Taiwanese about their English, it’s embarrassing to them, and I am ever so grateful that someone has put more effort into learning my language then I have put into trying to learn theirs, though let me mention that i don’t receive the same respect when trying to order a French kiss and vagina in my best Chinese (refer to previous blog, to blog or not to blog), just the other day I was proudly practicing the lesson I had done through my iPod and one of the people in the office said (over the laughing of everyone else) that I shouldn’t be so proud of my single sentence ability since I have been here five years after all. Well now, would you like warm glass of….??? Continue reading

To blog or not to blog…

To blog or not to blog, that is the question. Ok, I’ll admit it, Shakespeare would be turning in his grave right about now at that statement and if he were here, running at me with a pitchfork, a flaming torch and yelling, “Wherefore art thee fiend, show thyself or thou shalt forever be condemned to walk the eternal footpath of shame!”

Who hasn’t tried blogging? Raise your hand. Ok, granted, not all of us have tried this for a multitude of reasons, some are not tech savvy, some are not interested and others just don’t have anything to share or want to share anything or like me, tried and tried and tried. I on the other hand, have loads to share. 1) living in Taiwan (not Thailand) brings about all sorts of interesting stories like learning Chinese  where if you don’t get the tone right (there are 5) you could walk into a store and order anything from a French kiss to a vagina, when all you were really trying to say is, “excuse me, may I have soy milk please.” There’s no escaping this eventuality so after 5 years, you can understand why I still prefer to phone a friend and save myself any undue embarrassment, though I’ll admit this is a terrible excuse, learning Chinese really should be on my “to do” list as how can you live somewhere for this long without any communication skills? Ah yes, charades, patience and a speed dial button to an even more patient Taiwanese (not Thai) friend. “Dui bu chi, wo de zhongwun bu hao.”  Continue reading

Where There’s Smoke, There’s a ‘No Smoking’ Sign

“It is now proved beyond doubt that smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.” – Fletcher Knebel (Reader’s Digest, Dec. 1961)

One thing that makes riding the bus in an unfamiliar city slightly intimidating is not knowing what your destination looks like. Unsure of what to look for, how do you know which is your stop? With Google Maps proving to be a lousy travel mate, I had to rely on gut feeling. One late afternoon, after watching the bus pull away, I realised my ‘gut feeling’ was just heart-burn. I had no idea where I was, and there was no bus schedule in sight.

With only the general direction of the bus as a guide, I headed off to the next bus stop, hoping to find a bus schedule and some sense of direction. I eventually found both of these, along with St. John’s’ largest ash tray. Continue reading

Where There’s Smoke, There’s a ‘No Smoking’ Sign

“It is now proved beyond doubt that smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.” – Fletcher Knebel (Reader’s Digest, Dec. 1961)

One thing that makes riding the bus in an unfamiliar city slightly intimidating is not knowing what your destination looks like. Unsure of what to look for, how do you know which is your stop? With Google Maps proving to be a lousy travel mate, I had to rely on gut feeling. One late afternoon, after watching the bus pull away, I realised my ‘gut feeling’ was just heart-burn. I had no idea where I was, and there was no bus schedule in sight.

With only the general direction of the bus as a guide, I headed off to the next bus stop, hoping to find a bus schedule and some sense of direction. I eventually found both of these, along with St. John’s’ largest ash tray.

Smoker caught on camera smoking in front of a 'No Smoking' Sign
No smoking! That means YOU!

I was horrified by the sheer volume of cigarette butts – especially considering the numerous ‘No Smoking’ signs at the bus stop. More curious than the lack of buses that stopped there was the number of people that did – and they weren’t waiting for a bus at all. They came, they smoked, they left. It was like a smoking area at an airport.

It then occurred to me that this bus stop was right in front of a hospital. A sickly-looking patient slowly wheeled her IV stand to the bus stop. I felt terrible for her. She was obviously not in good health, and she had to wait among the cigarette butts and polluted air for the arrival of a family member. How dare people smoke at a hospital bus stop which is clearly demarcated as a smoke-free area! Then, in an instant, she pulled out a couple of cigarettes and lit both of them! I guess she was healthier than I thought. Either that, or she was a patient for very good reason.

Hospital patient enjoying a couple of cigarettes
Patient enjoying a drag of fresh air…

A bus did finally arrive, and I was able to leave the smoke and mirrors of the hospital bus stop. As the bus took off into the sunset like a Malboro cowboy, there was no knowing which stop the journey of life would bring me to next. I could only hope it was to a smoke-free zone in which the ‘No Smoking’ signs were actually adhered to.

St. John’s in Pictures

Forever entrenched in history and occasionally covered by fog, describing the city of St. John’s as unique is an understatement. Not the most populous city in Canada, or the most diverse, St. John’s is a definite must-see. Here is a glimpse into what I have seen thus far. Continue reading

I’ll have a Thousand Wings to Go, Please!

Until recently, the strangest English menus I’d ever seen were made in Taiwan. This is probably because English is not one of its official languages. Here in Newfoundland, Canada, that excuse does not hold up. But then again, Wing ‘n it gets my vote as producer of the craziest menu not because of typos or mis-translations, but because of its creativity and unconventionality. Continue reading

Google Maps Mayhem

“If you are facing the right direction, all you need to do is keep on walking.” – Buddhist saying

Trying to get around in this unfamiliar city hasn’t been easy for me. Fortunately, I have access to Google Maps. Unfortunately, I have a number of factors stacked against me. Google Maps isn’t the best navigation tool available; I have a good sense of misdirection; and I tend to panic easily. Owing to this trifecta of fail, here are some of the interesting places my broken compass has led me to. Continue reading

Cross about a Cross

“They paved paradise and put up a parking’ lot” – Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

Parking may not be a problem in paradise, but it is in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Most parking spaces have meters, or are reserved for permit holders. ‘No Parking’ signs are not uncommon, but I was disturbed by one I saw this afternoon. Continue reading

Kitchen Chronicles

Living with complete strangers isn’t easy. At first, I worried about overstepping some boundary by using the communal areas at inappropriate times. To avoid offending anyone, would I retreat to my room. Now that I have begun settling in, I still spend most of my time in my room. Not because I am a recluse (which is partially true), but because the communal areas scare me. Continue reading

The Crossing: In Search of Summer

“Through all the days that eat away
at every breath that I take
through all the nights I’ve lain alone
in someone else’s dream, awake
all the words in truth we have spoken
that the wind has blown away
it’s only you that remains with me
clear as the light of day” –Johnny Clegg, The Crossing

Johnny Clegg’s  music came through the iPod so clearly I could almost sense the rhythm of South Africa. I could feel the afternoon sun beating down on me. In an instant, I was taken back to the arrival lounge at Oliver Tambo International Airport. But I wasn’t in South Africa. The bus passed the intersection of Carolina and Mississippi Drive. But despite these names, I wasn’t in the United States. I was in a strange land, and even with the connections I had made there, I was a stranger. Continue reading

Memoirs of an Amateur Planeswalker #1: Avacyn Restored Pre-Release

(This highly irregular series will address my highly irrational obsession with pretty little collectible cards and the oft-confusing, oft-frustrating games I play with them.) 

This weekend, I took a quick trip out to my nearest comic shop to take in their pre-release Sealed tournament for Avacyn Restored (AVR), the upcoming expansion for tabletop card game Magic: The Gathering. At a Sealed event, players receive six booster packs of a given expansion and must design and play a constructed deck built solely from those cards. Continue reading

Hamster Cat

Vets, internet gurus, and various feline experts offer a lot of advice – most of it suggesting that cats don’t like change.  It’s been suggested that if you want to move a litter box to another room, move it an inch a day. If you’re going to change their food or type of litter, do it gradually. I don’t entirely follow the logic behind the slothful moving of the litter box, unless it came from “The Procrastinator’s Guide to Pet Care”, but the advice about slowly introducing a different type of litter may be valid. Either that or our cat is experiencing yet another identity crisis… Continue reading

Satellite TV: Seeing the Big Picture

This Friday did not go quite as I had envisioned it. The morning started off well. Birds were chirping as sunlight filtered through the curtains. A gentle breeze quietly moved through the trees. Then, out of nowhere, dark clouds appeared, the birds fell silent, and the wind gusted up violently. But it wasn’t the weather that had the biggest impact on my plans. Continue reading

ESL Teaching Highlights

“In learning you will teach
And in teaching you will learn” – Phil Collins, Son Of Man

Despite my rough start to teaching English in Taiwan, the overall experience of it was rewarding. Like any career, it had its ups and downs, but the positives far outweighed the negatives. Here is my list of top ten ESL teaching highlights: Continue reading

LongLiveRetro #1: Shaking Off the Rust

Really an excuse to test my DVD recorder in advance of the Castlevania 2 post. So click to watch: Super Mario Bros. Playthrough!

Psalm 119 and Oil of Oregano

Help sometimes comes in unexpected forms – and unimaginable flavours! At least that was the case last week. While visiting a friend, we received some good advice – the kind of advice that was not only encouraging, but also had a good after-taste, as hard as it was to swallow. Continue reading

So an ex-pat and a dragon walk into a bar…

Hey, everyone! I still don’t quite know what Kash’s angle is, inviting me here to open a new blog and all, but I’m happy to be aboard! I’ll be posting various gaming, technology and pop-culture stories I think are worth sharing. All the news that’s fit to print? Hardly. But I’ll keep writing as long as you keep reading (God willing). Continue reading