Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Gusts and gales



Clouds burst
Down the
He huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

From Lemons to Lemonade

Every year I am required to advise a graduating group of students on their senior project. Basically, they must produce a group paper based on some kind of research. I always try to encourage my students to make this to make this more of a research project- in which they can explore questions they may have, express their opinions or insight or to learn more about a particular topic of interest. In this way, the project will become more meaningful for them. This seems to work much better than writing on some dead guy or some such similar topic; I find that with such topics, students are prone to simply regurgitating a list of facts and statements, and taking the easy wasy out, in other words, plagiarizing.

The entire process is certainly quite daunting for students who have barely even honed their essay writing skills. Individually writing a paper in English is challenging enough, nevermind attempting to write a paper when there are 5-6 people involved in the process! English is their second or third language; many native English speaking college students still struggle with the process of essay writing.

Honestly, I find most students to be poorly equipped for the task at hand. Their writing skills leave a lot to be desired. Sometimes it seems as though they've forgotten the rules of grammar and the mechanics of a sentence. Why are their writing skills really so poor? Have they compartmentalized what they have learned in grammar class and completely forgetten how to apply the rules of grammar to their writing compositions? Have they had enough time to develop their essay writing skills? Are they just plain lazy? Or are they being thrown prematurely, like a fish out of water into this?

So far I've supervised three senior project groups. Over and over I've had to deal with things that seem so basic like how to quote and reference sources and issues of plagarism. I don't know how they've gotten thus far without having learned such things. It makes me wonder what they are being taught in their writing classes...

When I decided to take this year's group under my wing, I knew that I'd probably have my work cut out for myself. I knew that it would be a challenge, and hoped it wouldn't be too much of an exercise in frustration.

A few weeeks ago I discovered that my current senior project group didn't know the basic structure of an essay or even how to write an outline! Silly me, how could I assume that they'd come to me already having learned these basic skills?

I tell you the logic or lack there of around here is unbelievable. How could students wihout these basic skills be expected to produce a paper?!

After advising them for about 2 months, laying the ground work, helping them to organize their thoughts, and telling them how to write an outline, they've finally actually started putting their thoughts into an outline form. That made my day. I can see some progress and direction now!
Well it seems that someone around here is going to try to make some noise over the "anthem" currently being used here in Taiwan. It's all here in the Taipei Times front page story, TSU plans referendum on anthem.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Like I've barely undressed
I'm ready to jump in the shower
The more you think about it
The older you get
The harder it seems to "leap"
Who says it has to be that way?
I've always believed that when the right person comes along I'd be ready to make that leap of faith. There's no such thing as being half in, 'cause that's half out.
The Taipei Times' front page story today, Chen comes out in support of anthem, immediately caught my eye. I just had to read on, thinking that OMG, could it be that President Chen has gotten some guts and said something supporting a newly proposed anthem?!

As I read on, my hopes were dashed. Well actually, I wasn't holding my breath. A few months earlier I'd heard that the proposed name change for China airlines was going to be Mandarin airlines. Not having the word China in the name of the nation's state-owned airline will certainly minimize confusion over Taiwan's status, but it's not that much of an improvement.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary mandarin means: 1. a) a public official in the Chinese Empire of any of nine superior grades, b) a pedantic official, bureaucrat, c) a person of position and influence often in intellectual or literary circles; especially an elder and often traditionalist or reactionary member of such a circle. Mandarin with a capital M means: a) form of spoken Chinese used by the court and the official classes of the Empire b) the group of closely related Chinese dialects that are spoken in about four fifths of the country and have a standard variety centering about Beijing.

Turns out that in today's article, President Chen was complaining that people, namely government officials, don't sing the national anthem out loud. Well get a clue! Might it be because it is a relic from the Kuo Ming Tang's one party authoritarian rule?! The "anthem" when written, was the anthem of the Kuo Ming Tang Party which was basically synonymous with the Republic of China. Problem is that when the KMT fled from China to Taiwan in the 1940s, after being defeated by the Chinese Communists, they brought this and the Republic of China framework with them to Taiwan.

Who knows? Maybe singing the ROC national anthem so many times has effectively brainwashed President Chen Shui-bian.

This is going to be the hot topic of debate on all the evening talk shows for about a week and then all will be forgotten, nothing will have changed and everything will be "back to normal" as it should be.

Monday, May 08, 2006

My rose-tinted glasses

It's spring and
I'm in love
With life
All is lovely, light and right
Out of dormancy
Emerges new life
Boundless optimism
Shedding away extra layers
Something new
Poised for adventure
Time to play
Open the door

Sunday, May 07, 2006

To loosely paraphrase what a new found American friend told me recently of how he feels about living in Taiwan, and he's lived in Taiwan for a damn long time, probably over ten years or tens of years even...

He used the analogy of a person going to Mars and having this sort of alternate experience, having senses that he'd never had before; and he likened this to how he feels about living in Taiwan. It's as though having lived in Taiwan stimulates the senses in a way very unlike life in the U.S. and now that he's experienced it, he can't go back.

I've been hearing this sort of thing a lot lately, from people who have been living in Taiwan for 5 or more years. I've also been hearing that the standard of living and quality of life in Taiwan is one of the best in Asia- this from people who have lived in other major Asian cities such as Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong. So these people have well-based points of comparison, I think they know what they are talking about.

Is someone trying to tell me something?