星期一, 7月 30, 2007

An ICLP Student Tip: Transportation

* When buying your MRT Easycard, remember to present a student ID to receive the special student rate MRT card. Don't pay adult fare if you don't have to!

* Riding the bullet train (HSR) from Taipei to Kaohsiung takes roughly a little less than 2 hours and costs 1490 NT. The HSR is predominantly filled with grouchy middle-aged men trying to sleep. Once you've taken the HSR, everything else just doesn't cut it. Riding the 自動 train from Kaohsiung back to Taipei, despite it being the fastest regular train, takes 5 hours and costs 845 NT. It is usually full and has all sorts of Taiwanese people riding on board.

* Taipei taxi fare starts at 70 NT.

星期四, 7月 26, 2007

The Student Lounge

Lately, when walking into the lounge to grab books from my locker, there have been scads of students sitting around tables, books open, chatting away about everything under the sun. I'm not really sure if any studying is actually getting done, but everyone who frequents the lounge could call each other a friend by now. Many of these groups end up planning trips to places like Hualien or Kending over the weekends.

The lounge has a sink, water machine, microwave, mailboxes, daily newspapers, and lockers, which makes it a central hub for everyone.

I spend more of my time in the library, typing these blog entries. Call me a geek. :)

ICLP Lecture #5 - Love Poems

Today, an NTU PhD student who teaches Freshman English at NTU came to show us samples of poems written by her students. I found it interesting just how the sheer "visuality" of Chinese characters lends itself to poetry. Unlike the English language, Chinese poets can utilize the vertical axis just as freely as the horizontal in visually structuring their poems.

The poems reflected a young Taiwanese perspective by the references to pearl milk tea, typhoons, and the internet. Their overall tone was innocent, romantic, and filled with insecurities. What a great way to understand the hearts and minds of the people who surround me on campus, but with whom I never speak a word.

星期三, 7月 25, 2007

ICLP Library

The ICLP Library is on the 4rth floor. Most students who come to this library use it as a study room rather than an actual library. I don't use any of the floor-to-ceiling books that line the walls, mostly because I really don't have the ability to read them and also because they intimidate me. I have been coming to this library a lot more often lately because 1) I really like the clean, open, and brightly-lit atmosphere and 2) it's convenient for my laptop.

many students like the rare atmosphere of silence found in this library

I had started out in the computer labs, but after a while,the air-conditioning, the whir of 20 computers, and the fortress-like walls of the carols began to get to me. In the library, I still feel like I can stretch out and breathe. Also, I can bring my laptop and plug it into the outlets. I couldn't find outlets in the computer labs and of course I prefer using my own computer to using someone else's.

EDIT: (8/05)
明高 informed me there are outlets embedded in the floor behind each seat in the main computer lab.

A university I attended in Beijing which had just launched its Chinese language program (and of which I was among their first batch of students) put us in a classroom where the wall paint was peeling, the flooring was from the 1950s era, our desks were one row long and made of wood and our chairs were wooden too. The teacher used a traditional slate blackboard and chalk (oh, the nostaligia!) and we came in our winter coats and gloves because the heaters hadn't yet been turned on and winter had already arrived. I don't think universities (especially like that of Tsinghua) have this atmosphere, but I admit, I did love that classroom. Its sparseness made my education feel all the more essential.

星期二, 7月 24, 2007

The NTU "Creamery"

NTU makes its own ice cream! It is sold in the NTU Farms store, a small "hut" within the food area that's by the Gongguan MRT side of campus. I had the peanut ice cream popsicle as well as the saltine cracker ice cream sandwich.While there, I also found NTU bread, cake, jams, and other agricultural-type products. They also sell NTU branded shirts. Flash your student card and get a teeny discount.

星期二, 7月 17, 2007

ICLP Writing Classes

Two weeks ago, ICLP posted a sign-up sheet for writing classes on the announcement board. I signed up for it because I'm always game for any activities the program offers its students.

The first class was last Tuesday but I was still too dazed from my whirlwind visa run to the Philippines (the visa problem I mentioned earlier) to remember the class. I was pretty disappointed when I realized I had forgotten about it.  The following week, I certainly did not forget about the class. I got to the classroom at 2 pm today and bumped right into the instructor who was about to shut the door.

"No way! (不行!)" she said sternly before I could even utter a word.

She eyed me for a half a second, "Didn't Miss So-and-so tell you that you can't attend?"

I returned a lost stare.

"If you didn't show up for the first class, you are not allowed to attend this class, sorry." With that, she curtly shut the door.

I can't really think of any other way she could have rejected me out of the class, but really, the rudeness was a little uneccessary. The class had 3 students in total and that empty seat I saw was calling my name! If a student is going to make such an effort to remember the class's location and attend it even after the sign is taken down, couldn't the staff be just a little more friendly in light of such diligence? How much more trouble is it really to have one more body in that empty fourth chair? Especially given that I paid $3000 USD to come here?

The class is a beginner's writing class (i.e. learn the 214 radicals and their meanings) and not an essay writing class as I had originally thought. Not to say that learning the radicals more solidly wouldn't have been helpful! I'm always amazed at how many times I fall back on the radicals when learning or recognizing new characters. A refresher course would have been really good.

Fortunately my classmate IS in the class and will be sharing with me his notes.

A Little Bit Tired

Over four weeks of intense Chinese and I'm feeling a little tired. Perhaps I threw myself into my studies with a little too much gusto early on. Language acquisition is lot of studying with no shortcuts. Encounter, memorize, use, internalize, express, rinse, repeat. On the brighter side, I do feel like the learning curve has leveled off even further! I'm finally getting into a groove and it's just too bad that I have to leave in four weeks time; I know if I stayed I would learn so much more.

For students planning to study for a year at ICLP. I would suggest the summer term as the first term because the classes are only 3 hours per day rather than 4. I can't begin to imagine what having 4 hours a day of class at this intensity would be like for a newcomer.

ICLP Class Schedule

The majority of the summer term students have classes in the morning. From the schedules that are posted up on the wall, I noticed that only a few students had class as late as 1pm. My classes are back to back from 8am-11am. This means that all my work has to be prepared the night before. Unfortunately for me, anything I review the night before tends to disappear into oblivion by the time I wake up the next morning. I end up barely squeaking by in my one-on-one class as a result of my hazy memory. Fortunately, a solution has arisen on its own. I wake up at 4 am. Yes, I wake up at 4 am. This ensures two things: 1) that I retain the information I study (and maybe even reinforce it during classes) and 2) that I don't end up being a lazy procrastinator, since I only have about 2.5 hours to complete my assignments during the pre-dawn hours.

Classes at ICLP are actually 50 minutes, but it seems that this is done so that students don't end up being late for their next class. My instructors regularly go overtime by 5 minutes. My one-on-one tutor is really putting a lot of effort on me by keeping me until the next bell rings. She doesn't have to do that, but she does. She also checks my Chinese language learning blog and makes comments, which I really appreciate. My classmate has told me that since her Chinese level is too high for her class, the professor uses 30 minutes of her lunch hour to review a higher level text with her.

On Fridays, the instructors have open office hours for ICLP students until about 1 pm. I haven't taken advantage of those yet. Sometimes, I really feel like I'm not taking advantage of the resources I have. I must keep reminding myself that after ICLP is over, I won't have all of this to take for granted anymore.

星期日, 7月 15, 2007

ICLP Fieldtrip to Wenshan Tea Farm and Wulai

Yesterday I participated in ICLP's first big fieldtrip to two places, the Wenshan Tea Farm and the merry hotspring town of Wulai. Both of these fantastic spots are south of Taipei and accessible from the Xindian MRT station.

The world's #2 Wulong tea

Our group of 25 students and 5 staff members (our lovely and dedicated secretaries and a young professor) spent the morning being guided about by our Chinese speaking tourguide around the farm. I probably understood about 15% of what he said.

trying our hand at being tea pickers

For lunch, everyone ate BBQ outside, while another girl and I went to the restaurant to share a very delicious vegetarian meal.

i was delighted by the deep-fried tea leaves

After lunch, we learned how tea leaves are processed. At this point, the heat was so pervasive that everything seemed like a haze and I felt the symptoms of heatstroke coming on. Everyone seemed to be on the verge of fainting. Our guide, rivers of sweat streaming down his face, did a great job amidst it all.

step #4 in the tea process

In the end, we finished our whole tour by learning the art of serving tea and sipping several cups of Wulong tea. Maybe someday I will be able to read our guide's notes.

Wulai is a hotspring town not far from the tea farm. It specializes in Atayal culture and of course, the hotspring experience. Many people were also cooling themselves off in the river. I had heard that the 明月 hotel was a great place for hotspring bathing, but I simply did not have enough time to go soak. The price was 450NT all you can bathe...hehe.

Aside from the intolerable heat, I had a great time meeting more of my ICLP classmates and getting closer to those I already knew. For future reference, I think this trip is really more appropriate for wintertime. Who goes to the hotsprings during the summer?

星期五, 7月 13, 2007

Halfway Point at ICLP Summer Program

Four weeks completed at ICLP and I'm getting my 屁股 whooped yet again. I blame this on the visa issues I had over the last weekend which resulted in me losing my entire weekend plus Monday to straighten it all out. (I ended up taking a one day trip to the Philippines).

I took the trip to Manila because I was sick of going to Hong Kong all the time. However, if you need to make a visa run, please choose Hong Kong unless you have good reason to go to the Philippines. They gave me all kinds of trouble at the Manila airport which I won't go into because it will scare you.

So I've spent this past week trying to catch up with my work and miserably failing at it. ICLP is intense and you've got to keep pace. My one-on-one tutor will not slow down for me; I simply have to do my work...and have been losing a lot of sleep in the process. Kind of like a sink-or-swim scenario.

Four weeks left! I've really got to push myself harder!

星期四, 7月 12, 2007

ICLP Lecture #4: Pu-Yi

Professor Huang (University of Hawaii, Honolulu, PhD in Psychology) discussed in Chinese to an audience of about 100 people, what exactly happened to Pu-Yi (1906-67), last emperor of China after his abdication of the throne. There were many Taiwanese from the Psychology department there, as well as many kids from the Berkeley Program. I couldn't 100% follow what he was saying, more like 20%, but I did catch words that I had just learned. Apparently, Pu-Yi had an intense fear of the Japanese. The professor recommended his autobiography, "From Emperor to Citizen", translated by W.J.F. Jenner, 1964-65.

星期五, 7月 06, 2007

ICLP Instructors

I've spent the past three weeks with 3 instructors and I'm positive they and the rest of the ICLP faculty are the reason why tuition is relatively steep at ICLP compared to other language schools. These instructors are simply the best at what they do. They are always prepared and they have a knowledge of the language that goes deeper than I could ever fathom. They are never perfunctory; it always seems as if the class I am in is the first and last class they'll ever teach. They don't need to prove their ability, you can see it in the way they carry themselves, it seems they are relaxed, smiling, and have a natural confidence. They welcome emails and all kinds of out-of-class activities that they think will enhance your learning of the Chinese language. Of course, this could only apply to my instructors, but I have a feeling this is not the case.

I have no complaints. A staff of this caliber justifies the cost. They are not wasting my time, and I hope I won't waste theirs.

星期四, 7月 05, 2007

ICLP Summer Student Body

I think a rough breakdown of the majority of students who are attending this program this summer are:

1. people recently graduated from university
2. college kids from upper-middle class to upper-class families
3. graduate students (on scholarships and fellowships)
4. employees whose companies have covered tuition

The first week of class, everyone is too busy adjusting to notice the others at school. I'd say it's the second week of classes where people are more relaxed about getting to know their classmates. By the third week, general cliques are formed.

ICLP Movie Time

Today ICLP has turned one of the large classrooms into a movie theater and is showing "A Battle of Wits" this afternoon. I hope they will host one of these every week; it's a great extra-curric activity.

星期三, 7月 04, 2007

Linguistics and Karaoke

ICLP hosted another lecture today by a Chinese linguistics professor who was going to discuss the use of the internet in Chinese language training. I REALLY wanted to attend this lecture, but went to spend the afternoon with my friend instead. Today was his last day of his three day stopover in Taipei before setting off to attend a conference in Vietnam.

What did we do? We went and sang Mandarin (and Taiwanese) songs at a Qian Gui karaoke mecca for two hours. I learned quite a few new characters and song names! (閉, 卻, 溫柔 and a few others...)

星期一, 7月 02, 2007

ICLP Lecture #2 - Prof. Shelley Rigger

Professor Shelley Rigger from Davidson College gave us an overview, in English, of Taiwan's political parties, their position on the political "color" spectrum, and their background and evolution. Prof. Shelley also discussed the Taiwanese term "thiau-a-ka" and the underground workings of Taiwan politics, which shed a bit of light on why it is so prone to corruption and votebuying.

Interestingly enough, the professor pointed out that Taiwan's Legislative elections would be held on Jan. 12, 2008 under a completely new system which would shrink total seats in the Legislature down to 113 from over 200 something. According to Prof. Rigger, the move would raise the bar on the quality of the candidates. Another reform for the next Legislative elections is proportional representation, which would cut at the root of the thiau-ak-ka practices and other similarly corrupt practices.

The talk was extraordinarily engaging and broadened my understanding of Taiwan's political structure just that much more. ICLP is doing a great job at bringing in activities which are of interest to graduate students.