October 27, 2013: Adding of Google AdSense Banners Complete
I just finished adding Google AdSense banners to 19 different pages on the Taiwan site. My Web hosting costs are $6.95 a month (not to mention countless dollars per month worth of time in the time I spend updating it and and maintaining it). I want to get some of this back, understandably, and maybe even turn a small profit on the Web sites that I have been working on for so many years. Therefore, I have finished (for now) with putting ad banners on all my Web sites except my Japan Web site.

March 7, 2011: Summary of Weeks 8 & 9, My Last Days in Taiwan, and Japan: the Future (hopefully)

The front of my Taiwanese residence. On the left is a paper ghost money burner, and on the right, it appears that the new inhabitants of my room will be a bear family.

Jeong-ok (from the Chuncheon Korean Restaurant) and I


View of Shikoku, Japan, from the Plane

I'm in Sakai City, Osaka now. I just arrived less than 12 hours ago, so there isn't much to say on that, yet.

The last two weeks in Taiwan have been frantic, and unless you count the massive number of loose ends I've tied up in preparation for the move, not particularly productive in the second week. Here's what I did:

  • Work: I hired my replacement (after interviewing a bunch of people). She's a 28-year-old Canadian with experience as an art teacher. At least she showed up to her interview/demo, that's all I can say... She shows promise if she puts some work into it. I also finished up at work, clearing out my cupboard, getting a recommendation letter, etc. I helped train the new woman. I applied for 11 jobs in Japan (one definite interview offer so far, tomorrow at 3:30 PM in Hyogo Prefecture). I made the deposit on my room in Japan (which I now inhabit), and bought a plane ticket, and now I'm here and it's really something. I hope I find a job but can't be too optimistic given the market conditions.
  • In terms of education, I finished memorizing all the JLPT N4 and N5 words. I memorized a few words beyond that (perhaps 30 or so), but then was too busy to continue to study. Computers fell by the wayside altogether. Study of religion progressed only slightly (20 pages in the BOM, now I'm on page 178).
  • Health/Hygiene: I was reasonably hygienic and healthy. What more is there to say? And I cleaned up my room, though it still looked rather dingy.
  • Spirituality/Religion: see above
  • Fun: I had basically no fun for the last two weeks. Simply too busy. I did not do anything fun, really, whatsoever. I hope I can have more fun now that I am in Japan.

    My goals for this week are to send out ten apps a day, rewrite my resume, and continue studying Japanese at the rate outlined by the previous post. End of transmission.

    March 1, 2011: 125-Day Study Plan for Japanese
    Today is March 1. Yesterday, I accomplished my goal of reaching ~1,500 Japanese words on Anki (all of the JLPT N4 and N5 words), and now it's time to plan ahead to my further Japanese study. Once I get to Japan in six days, my schedule will have only two important things in it — job-hunting (or working if I'm lucky enough to find a job) and studying Japanese. My goal is to reach JLPT N3 on the July 3, 2011 testing. With a JLPT N3, my employment prospects in Japan may look up somewhat (of course the N2 and the N1 are the best in terms of employment options).

    Here are the phases that I have either done already, or that I plan to do:

  • [COMPLETE] Phase I: Review JLPT N5 Material and Learn all the JLPT N4 Words: November 14, 2010 - February 28, 2011

    - I used Anki (a freeware spaced repetition quiz program) to learn the top 1,409 Japanese Language Proficiency Test words. In order to make sure I remembered them, I drilled each word three times initially, then let the spaced repetition engine work its magic.

    - I listened to the first two levels of Pimsleur Japanese.

    - To build cultural knowledge, I read two books on Japan (Japan: a travel survival kit and The History of Japan by Louis G. Perez). I also wrote up five-minute summaries of newspaper articles in the Asahi Shimbun for one month. Doing these things, I think I increased my cultural knowledge considerably, which will help my language improve in turn (words like "Kanto Region" or "ashigaru" may not be words that one finds in a language textbook, but are extremely important nonetheless).

  • [PENDING] Phase II: While Working on Learning ~20 Words Per Day, Do a Full JLPT N4 Review: March 1 - March 31, 2011
    I already have most of the JLPT vocabulary and kanji down pat from my earlier Anki study. However, my knowledge of JLPT N4 grammar and my ability to comprehend Japanese at an N4 level still lag. Therefore, this month will have two focii:

    -Learn ~600 JLPT N3 words.

    - Do intensive self-study of JLPT N4-related materials (an emphasis on grammar/reading and listening; language knowledge/vocabulary is already good for this level). I figure that if I study four hours per day this month, that will be 124 hours total, and here is how I plan to spend it:
    * Listening: do one hour of focused listening comprehension practice a day
    * Speaking: no focused practice (speaking is not tested on the JLPT, and besides, my Japanese speaking skills are already sufficient for most daily tasks, and furthermore, I'll be speaking Japanese on a daily basis in Japan)
    * Spend about 51 minutes per day doing this. Reading (mostly grammar and reading speed improvement): Upon entering Osaka, go to the bookstore (perhaps the one I went to three years ago) and pick up another JLPT study guide (this time for N4). Figure out a methodical, paced way to study it over the course of the month of March. Until then, find some JLPT N4 grammar sheets and study them religiously.
    * Spend about one hour PER WEEK on writing. Writing is a low priority because it is not tested on the JLPT, but I should still have some writing feedback occasionally. My plan is to use lang-8 to get free feedback on my Japanese writing (I will write one journal entry on there per week and Japanese native speakers will read it and give me feedback).

  • [PENDING] Phase III: Preparing specifically for the JLPT N3: April 1 - July 3, 2011

    - This stage is largely TBA. It will include learning slightly less than 20 words per day (all from the N3 list) and doing intensive listening comprehension practice and JLPT N3 study guide reading in order to boost my Japanese to the point where I can pass the JLPT N3 when I take it on July 3, 2011.

    February 28, 2011: Taiwan Bucket List

    Bucket List for February 21 - 28:
    1. Find a chow chow wearing sunglasses. Get a photograph of him. Take a picture with aforementioned chow chow.
    2. Make the deposit on my gaijin house reservation for Japan.
    3. Master the top 1,409 JLPT words (N4 & N5 lists with all kanji mentioned on the lists by 11:00 PM, 2/28).
    4. Submit my first job application for Japan by 11:00 PM, 2/28.
    Bucket List for Taiwan, Overall
    1. Find my replacement for my school. Try to do this directly, but if the direct approach fails, contact an agent on Wednesday to find a replacement.
    2. Pack my stuff for Japan. This will involve buying a suitcase and assembling everything I have of importance into the suitcase.
    3. Get rid of large, bulky trash, including my surfboard, bicycle, etc. Since I do not know how to dispose of large items, I'll have to ask one of my co-workers or my boss how to do this.
    4. Finish the entire Pimsleur Japanese series (all 90 lessons).
    5. Sell my PlayStation 3. Try to sell it on Kaohsiung Living first (going all the way down to 6,000 NTD by the end of this week) but if it doesn't sell after seven ads, just toss in the towel, bring it to the Jianguo Road PlayStation 3 store, and take whatever they'll give me (probably around 4,000 to 5,000 NTD). I need the money, but honestly, I strongly dislike the PlayStation 3 as a system, hence why I'm selling it.
    6. Buy things like clothing that will be much more expensive when I am in Japan.
    7. Write a tenth photo essay on Taiwan — about the aborigines, preferably with an excursion to an aboriginal village. The aborigines were very important in Taiwanese history and were even a major factor in Japan annexing Taiwan in 1895.

    Recipient: Hwangdae (my friend in Osaka, a Zainichi Korean)
    Subject: It has been a long time, hasn't it?
    Mr. Hwangdae! It has been a long time, hasn't it? What have you been doing recently?




    I DID IT!

    I am planning to become an English teacher, for sure!

    Finally, it is my dream to live in Japan!

    Are you, perhaps, in Osaka now?

    Or are you in Korea now?


    Sadly, I got a delivery error. It appears his e-mail address is no longer valid. How will I find Hwangdae, if he is indeed still in Osaka (his home in Japan)? Osaka is a metropolitan area of 18 million people... It'd be like finding a needle in a haystack. It'd really suck if I couldn't get in touch with one of my best buddies from Korea.

    February 23, 2011: UPDATE 2: Graph Based on the "Japan English Teacher" Web Site

    This graph of another job-finding site (Japan English Teacher) corroborates the first graph for the most part. Once again, the Kansai Region and the Chubu Region come up very strong. However, the way in which this graph differs is that Chugoku and Shikoku appear to be much weaker areas. The results of this graph suggest that perhaps locating myself in Chubu would be slightly preferable to locating myself in Kansai (Osaka). However, this advantage would only be slight, as the jobs in Kanto would be highly unlikely to go to me (extreme levels of competition).

    Besides, there are some other qualitative (not quantitative) factors in favor of Osaka (in the Kansai Region):

    1. A gaijin house there — so far as my research has shown, there are no gaijin houses in the Chubu Region. Therefore, I would have to stay at a hotel there, which would be horrendously expensive, or a youth hostel (no privacy). I require a gaijin house to balance privacy and price.
    2. One of Japan's largest Koreatowns — as I am a graduate of Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, I'm generally able to endear myself to Koreans, and Osaka being a major Koreatown will help both with meeting new friends and making "underground connections" that could help me in all sorts of ways.

    This graph (with a smaller sample size) essentially shows a toss-up between Chubu and Kansai (although Chubu would allow access to more jobs without crossing an entire region, these jobs would be in Kanto which are likely far too competitive for me to get).

    In any event, it shouldn't matter too much whether I situate myself in Chubu or Kansai (Osaka) — they are adjacent to each other, and either way, the bulk of the jobs on Honshu will be accessible. It's a good thing I did this research instead of putting myself in Sendai, Sapporo, or Tokyo with their utter dearth of jobs (well, not for Tokyo, but a dearth of accessible jobs)...

    February 23, 2011: The Answer is Glaringly Obvious — OSAKA!

    For a while now, I have been debating with myself on where to base myself while I job hunt in Japan, and what kind of transportation option to get (transportation in Japan is expensive). However, after a short study of O-HAYO SENSEI (a major English teaching job portal), I have come up with the data in the above map, and the answer to where I need to locate myself is quite obvious — OSAKA, OSAKA, OSAKA.

    Allow me to explain.

  • Hokkaido and Tohoku (the northern regions of Japan) are an absolute dead zone for jobs in Japan. Of 35 positions on O-HAYO SENSEI that claimed to offer sponsorship, ZERO were in Hokkaido or Tohoku.
  • Kyushu and the Ryukyu Islands that jut off the south of Kyushu are also basically a dead zone — I found a measly one job in Kyushu and zero on the Ryukyu Islands (such as Okinawa).

    Therefore, this leaves only two parts of Japan left: south/central Honshu and Shikoku. Now, although the Kanto Area (Tokyo, essentially) had eight of the 35 job offerings, I know Tokyo is by far the most competitive. Therefore, it can be weeded out. This leaves the following places:

  • Chubu: 9 jobs (the most)
  • Kansai (the Osaka area): 6 jobs
  • Chugoku (think Hiroshima): 8 jobs
  • Shikoku (a small island near Osaka that I'm betting most foreigners don't bother to visit): 3 jobs

    Well, it just so happens that the Kansai region is at the GEOGRAPHIC CENTER of the job-rich region that I just described. From Osaka, it is easy to reach jobs in Kansai (6/35), relatively easy to reach jobs in Chubu (9/35), and relatively easy to reach Chugoku (8/35 jobs). Kansai is also connected to Shikoku with the world's longest bridge (the Akashi Kaikyo, which I have photographed previously from directly underneath it while on a boat). Therefore, if the job rich area is a clock, Osaka is at the center of this clock, not Tokyo.

    I want to add another note. Shikoku appears to have about 9% of the country's visa-sponsoring jobs, which may not seem too great until you consider that:

    1. Shikoku is the smallest of the major islands in Japan.
    2. Very few foreigners even go to Shikoku because it is out of the way.
    Since Osaka affords easy access to every single job-rich (3+ jobs) area except Kanto (too competitive), Osaka is the obvious choice. I should make my reservations at an Osaka gaijin house as soon as possible.

    Another development is that since it appears that neither northern Japan nor Kyushu have job openings, the Shinkansen (and therefore the pricey JR Rail Pass) will become unnecessary. I will be able to travel from Point A to Point B with a mere Seishun 18 Kippu (a much cheaper pass only valid on regular trains). This not only saves me money, but allows me to cherry pick which days I use it (unlike the JR Rail Pass) so I only use up my days when I actually have an interview (the JR Rail Pass would cost the same sum of money if I had 100 jobs interviews or zero).

    So it's becoming pretty clear: Osaka and a Seishun 18 pass. This will be both more economical and more likely to succeed in finding a job than the Tokyo/JR Rail Pass scheme.

    And to top it off, Osaka has one of Japan's largest Korean communities (connections, yay), and also Hwangdae might be there (not sure if he's going to be in Korea or Japan when I arrive). Osaka, although my least favorite Japanese city, appears to hold great promise on the job-hunting front.

    February 21, 2011: Summary of My Past Two Weeks (Weeks 6 & 7 of 2011), Including the Flea Market, Ape Escape, etc.

    My student, Howie, pretends to have no head.

    Dog at the Shihcyuan-lu Flea Market

    Dudes at the Kaohsiung Shihcyuan-lu Flea Market Selling Stuff

    This sign says "Pachisoko," and is a typo for "Pachinko" made by someone with a limited grasp of Japanese katakana... I photographed it on my failed excursion to the flea market on 2/13 (I actually reached the flea market on 2/20).

    This is a view of a Chinese temple from the Kaohsiung Mormon Temple.

    One of the major accomplishments from the last week was finishing Ape Escape on the PS3 (downloaded for 147 NTD via PlayStation Network.

    In terms of overall things I got done, well, in some ways, I fell short of my goals, but in other ways, I exceeded them by quite a bit. Here's a breakdown by category:

  • Work: I exceeded my goals in terms of work. Not only did I show up and do lessons (complete with a Valentine's archery game and another game) for all my classes, but I also took on some side work from Gatetong Co. and make an extra 275,050 won over the Internet. This is close to US$250 and is the main reason I was unable to accomplish my other goals. I also posted an ad on Kaohsiung living to find my replacement and have gotten 13 PEOPLE interested in the position so far (of whom I am interviewing four). I have also contacted Cindy about getting my tax documents. Finally, in terms of money, I went only NT$100 (about US$3) over budget for the whole two weeks.
  • Spirituality/religion: Well, I didn't accomplish as much as I'd hoped. I had hoped to read a bunch of the Book of Mormon and attend two services at their church, but I only read 40 pages (up to page 158) and attended one service there. Got to work on that, but given how busy I was with my proofreading and translations through Gatetong Co., I think it's understandable.
  • Fun: I completed Ape Escape! Hooray! That is the first game I have beaten in 2011. I caught all 205 monkeys to accomplish this (including the final boss, Specter, who is a monkey himself). Please see above for the ending screen. As for other fun things I did over the past two weeks, well, I first attempted to find the flea market on 2/13 (but was too late), and then actually made it on 2/20. It is on Shihcyuan Road and begins to close around 5:00 PM, with most of the stalls closed by 6:00 PM. It's an excellent flea market. Some interesting things included pirated combination Game Boy cartridges, old wood-paneled radios, cool Buddhist sculptures and things like stalactites and geodes, military surplus (including some camo pants that I hope to buy at a decent price), etc.
  • Education: I studied Japanese fairly extensively. I did two Pimsleur units per day during the first week and three per day in the second week. This was to get my Japanese speaking/listening up to speed. I also learned/reviewed at least 14 JLPT words per day for Week 6 and 14 - 28 per day in Week 7 (resting days were 28; working days were 14). However, on Sunday, I failed to learn any new words. However, at least I kept up with reviews. I stand currently at over 1,100 words and my goal is to boost this to around 1,500 by the time I move to Japan. In terms of Java/IT, besides re-reading my study guide and making a flash card deck (with no cards yet), I was utterly stagnant for the last two weeks. It just isn't a priority now.
  • Health/hygiene: I walked 30 miles last week. Yep, I figured out a distance of 12 feet on my floor and considered a "lap" to be 24 feet. I tallied laps and came up with 6,600 laps. This means I walked 30 miles. I did this to shed a few pounds (I want to look good before going to Japan). However, honestly, this isn't a very efficient way to lose weight and I should probably find a more efficient way. I maintained acceptable health and hygiene for the two weeks, including limiting my drinking and going to the hospital for a blood test (I'm negative for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Syphillis, yay).

    So overall, they were a very productive two weeks. I fell short on some goals, but exceeded my work goals. I hope to come up with a schedule for this week that emphasizes tying up loose ends in Taiwan/migrating to Japan and Japanese study.

    January 30, 2011: My Bachelor's Degree, at Last
    Here it is. The actual piece of paper that I completed three months ago, but didn't get until very recently. Click to enlarge.

    January 24, 2011: Summary of the Second and Third Full Weeks in January
    Wow. I have gotten so much done over the past two weeks. Allow me to share some photos and expound upon what I have done in the past two weeks:

    For my Week 2 R&R trip, I went to Banpingshan Park. I have many photos. This is just one of them.

    For my most recent weekly goal, I made it my goal to visit a night market or two. This is Guanghua Night Market. It utterly sucks — it is just a bunch of food stalls and no non-consumable products to be found...

    Same with Jhonghsiao Night Market...

    Here is a classroom game I made out of a pizza box for my students. It is called "Domo-kun versus the Groundhog" and is meant to be related to the Groundhog Day holiday (I try to have holiday themes for my in-class games). Basically Domo-kun and the groundhog have magnets on the back, and the game is played like Hangman, and as the students get things wrong, I put the groundhog on the board, then Domo-kun's legs, then his arms, and finally his body. If the students don't guess the word, Domo-kun becomes fully assembled and "attacks" the groundhog. Probably less objectionable than a man hanging from a gallows. :-)

    I went with Emma up to the top of Dream Mall and we rode the ferris wheel. Here is the view from near the top of the ferris wheel. The tall building is the Kaohsiung 85 Building.

    Here, we have two pieces of work-related memorabilia. On the right is a memo from my boss, asking me to re-contract! Hooray! I told her that I'm not re-contracting, but was still very flattered that she asked. Not getting fired is one thing — having the boss ask you to stay on for another year is another! On the left is a picture of a "crap hamburger," courtesy of my seven-year-old student, Queenie. I inadvertently taught her the word "crap." I was showing her a picture of crayons and asked "What are these?" and she replied in her little Queenie voice "They are crap." I said (in Chinese), "No, Queenie, that word means 'poop.'" Please note that I did not even repeat the word "crap" back to her. However, a few minutes later, I visited her desk again, and found a picture similar to this one drawn in pencil in her book. I asked "Queenie, what is this?" She said "It's a crap hamburger!" Wow, she sure picked that one up fast... She drew this picture for me later on on the back of a piece of in-classroom money...

    As for other accomplishments over the past two weeks, here they are:

  • I studied three units of Java applet programming. I learned how to use event-driven programming with the mouse, the keyboard, and also how to do threads using Thread objects. The latter was by far the most complicated. I used the technology I learned on mouse usage (via MouseListener and MouseMotionListener) to program a button into my new Taiwan Straits Slots game that the user can click on to spin the slots. I also programmed the space bar to do the same thing using KeyListener. Finally, I animated the title screen (the bubbles come out of the fish's mouth and creep up towards the surface of the water in animated fashion) using the technology I learned about Threads. NOT EASY.
  • I studied an extensive amount of Japanese and Japanese affairs — I read 180 pages about Japan and learned/reviewed 185 words. I also did newspaper article write-ups for headline Asahi Shimbun articles every single day they were published, to give myself a better grip on Japanese affairs, and also covered at least 13 Pimsleur Japanese lessons.
  • I read 56 pages from the Book of Mormon for my religious studies, attended their church once during the two-week period, and plan to meet with Elder Badger today. I do not plan to convert, but Mormon is the first religion on the docket for my "learn about religions" quest.
  • I held down my job. And got an offer to re-contract.
  • I played at least ten hours of Phantasy Star. I got all my characters up to Level 30 (the maximum level) or Level 29, and finished the Forgotten Tower, getting Alis the Laconian Sword, her best weapon in the game, and her attack is now at 115!
  • I took reasonably good care of myself both from a dietary and hygienic standpoint. Small victories, yay!

    However, I failed on two things, as well. I overspent in Week 2 by 1,000 NTD, and this week, although I was within budget, I failed to get a new pair of pants. However, overall, these were very small problems only, so I'm not too worried. I won't worry about the over-budget problem (1,000 NTD is only about 1/30th of my monthly paycheck) and I'll get a new pair of pants this week.

    January 14, 2011: Priceless, Touching Korea Times Article

    Oh man.

    I have become a fan of the Korea Times, which ranks among the the world's most unintentionally funny and entertaining tabloids.

    It's almost as humorous to read as The Onion.

    Today, we have this short article that really touches the heart.

    By the way, can't frogs swim?

    January 10, 2011: Super Productive Week
    This week, I did the following things. I worked approximately 22 hours (14.5 classroom hours and some "office hours") and held down my job, including having a new Valentine's Day-themed game to entertain the kids. I stayed on budget. I added 84 words (half review from JLPT Level 4, half new) to my Anki deck, I read at least 60 pages of Japan: a travel survival kit by Ian L McQueen and wrote notes, I did six Pimsleur Japanese lessons, I wrote up six Asahi Shimbun articles to prime myself on Japanese current events, I studied a whole unit on Java applets (learned how to use the Color object and create arbitrary RGB colors), I wrote up notes on two Java applet tutorial units, I read 28 pages in the Book of Mormon for my eclectic religious studies goal and wrote notes for them and attended a service at their church, etc. I also had fun — I finished Medusa's Tower in Phantasy Star, got Alis up to Level 26, acquired the "Landmaster" and "Flow Mover" (two in-game vehicles) and spent five hours on the game total. I also visited Guanghua Night Market for the first time in Kaohsiung, which was just a bunch of food stalls, unfortunately. And to top it off, I was reasonably healthy and hygienic this week. Wow, what a week. May the subsequent week be just as productive.

    January 2, 2011: Detailed Plan on Job Hunting in Japan

    Click on the flowchart to enlarge and read it.

    Now, here is a detailed breakdown of each step:

    Step 1: Preparation for the Move to Japan

  • Purchase a plane ticket (current lowest price: $422)
  • Make accommodation reservations in Tokyo (probably the 39,000 yen [$480.25] a month dormitories at Sakura House). Why Tokyo? It's not that I actually plan to work in Tokyo, but Tokyo is a great transportation hub to the Kanto, Chubu, and Kansai regions where many of the jobs are.
  • Learn enough about Japan to survive there for 90 days. Cram all the JLPT N5 and N4 words (1,409 words). Read some books and articles on Japan to really prepare for the move. Currently, I think this will entail Japan: a travel survival kit by Ian L. McQueen, History of Japan by Louis G. Perez, and an article a day from the Asahi Shimbun.

    Step 2: The Intensive Month of Job Hunting

  • I estimate this stage will cost $2,000. I will stay at a Sakura House dormitory or other cheap lodging establishment in Tokyo and commute out to remote job interview sites. I will purposely aim at low-paying jobs in the countryside which are bound to have the lowest competition rates. Although something that pays 250,000 yen a month and is near Tokyo is a plum job, I don't want to compete with 20 or 30 other people for such a job. Therefore, I will apply to jobs many hours outside of Tokyo and with low pay in the hopes that I can avoid impossibly high competition rates.
  • I will apply to jobs primarily in the Kanto Region (that region around Tokyo), the Chubu Region (between Tokyo and Osaka) and the Kansai Region around Osaka.
  • Here is my rough estimate on costs for the first month:
    Minimum Cost of Lodging: $480.25 (39,000 yen dorm at Sakura House)
    Minimum Cost of the Plane Ticket: $422.00 (checked on Orbitz)
    Minimum Cost of Transportation: $689.59 (assumes basically unlimited bus travel for 20 business days)
    Minimum Cost of Food: $200.00 (assumes cooking at home with supermarket ingredients)
    Minimum Cost of Miscellaneous: $200.00 (should not exceed this since most expenses have been calculated already)
    Total estimated cost for the first 30 days: $1,991.84

    Step 3: After the Intensive Job Hunt
    At that stage, either I will have found a job (congratulations) or I will have failed to find a job. If it is the latter scenario, this is the plan:

  • Start volunteering on a WWOOF farm for free room and board. Do this for two months. During that time, continue to job hunt, but only put a very limited amount of time and money into it. Whereas Stage 2 was a strategic battle, Stage 3 will be more of a long shot. The purpose of Stage 3 will be to ascertain whether Japan is even all that great of a place to live, basically. At the end of Stage 3, if I still haven't found a job, I'll take my last remaining $1,000 (and my credit cards as a safety net) and set out for Korea, where a job is virtually guaranteed.

    December 31, 2010: Happy New Year's Eve
    Wow, it's hard to believe that it has been a year since the last New Year's Eve. Here are some things that I accomplished this year:

  • I completed my first year in Taiwan as an English teacher.
  • I finished 41 credit hours of university and finished my BSL (Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies). I took my last exam on the last day of being 23 years old, hooray!
  • I paid off my credit cards — ALL OF THEM.
  • It was an active year in terms of video games. I beat several video games for the first time: Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, Dragon Quest (the original 1986 Famicom version that used passwords to save), Final Fantasy XIII (Japanese import), Final Fantasy II (a PlayStation remake of the 1987 Famicom game, which I completed with a 100% omake), Aquanaut's Holiday: Memories of Summer 1996, and Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon. Whew, quite a year, gaming-wise!

    When I look back at my New Year's resolutions from last year, you know what? I only met a couple of them (finishing my bachelor's degree at the age of 23 and finishing a year of teaching experience in Taiwan) out of five. However, it cannot be said that my year wasn't damn productive on some fronts!

    For 2011, I think I should refrain from making New Year's resolutions. They just lead to disappointment. I'm a naturally active guy who keeps himself busy without the need for external pushes like New Year's resolutions. I guess we'll have to wait and see what I have accomplished one year from now. :-)

    Happy New Year!

    December 10, 2010: IT'S OFFICIAL

    Excelsior College has now conducted its official "final review before degree conferral." Please note that the date of 11/30 is when they considered me "complete," but I actually completed the degree (as in taking the final exam) on 10/23/2010.

    I will graduate.

    Just to make sure, I called my advisor at Excelsior and asked this question, verbatim: "So if I pay my graduation fee, you GUARANTEE that I will graduate?" He said "yes."

    And there's more good news — I just got paid for November, and made over 32,000 Taiwan dollars that month. Which means that by December 15, ALL MY CREDIT CARDS WILL BE PAID OFF!!!

    December 6, 2010: An Important Announcement

    It is decided. On March 28, 2011, I move to Japan!

    This decision has been long in the making...

    I have been wondering about experiencing Japan as more than just a tourist for a decade...

    Since 2007, I have had an irrepressible urge to move there, and now...


    Here is my plan of action:
  • Spend the next 113 days studying JLPT Level N5 and N4 vocabulary (I already passed JLPT Level 4 in '08, which was the equivalent of N5, but it can't hurt to review). Make sure that 1,500 core vocabulary words with all the necessary kanji are burned into my brain before arriving on Japanese soil.
  • Read the textbook The History of Japan. Write copious notes. This is to assist me understanding the country to which I am moving.
  • Read Lady Murasaki's Tale of Genji, the most famous piece of Japanese literature of all time (translated, of course, there's no way I could handle the original). Do this for cultural literacy purposes.
  • Read and blog about one newspaper article per day from Asahi Shimbun to get a good grip on Japanese affairs before moving there.
  • Become a member of WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). Get the WWOOF guidebook and get set up with a WWOOF host who will provide my room and board for free while I am in Japan, in exchange for manual farm labor.

    Then, on March 28, armed with knowledge about Japan and the Japanese language, travel to Japan via the Kaohsiung <-> Okinawa ferry. After arrival, spend at least between two and three months working on an organic farm (or other volunteer opportunity) there.

    After that 2 ~ 3-month period, decide on the question "Is Japan worth it?"

    If the answer is "yes," make a visa run, come back to Japan, and start hunting for a job. I might have to teach kids for my first year, but I've grown slightly more accustomed to entertaining kids lately. And besides, it'll only be temporary.

    If the answer is "no, Japan isn't worth it," move to either Korea or China.

    However, I simply must experience Japan on a long-term basis (at least two or three months, preferably more) or I'll just keep on wondering. So I must do this.

    November 25, 2010: UPDATE 2: Hilariously Translated Korea Times Newspaper Article

    Oh man, this is great. A real knee-slapper!

    Recently, the quality of the Korea Times has been dropping like a stone. For example, when they lack articles about anything worth writing about, they just dredge up a UFO sighting from one or two years ago. However, today, they brought it to a whole new level of awful journalism!

    Enter Jennifer Riojas, the teacher is is supposedly "pregnant with her student." So, for those of us who can actually speak English, what this means is that she is somehow carrying her student inside her belly! In proper English, we would say she is "pregnant by her student," but hey, this is the Korea Times, anything goes.

    And then it just gets better. My favorite part is this: "Finally, her long tail got stepped on, and she had to stand before a judge." LOL!!! "Long tail?" So first, she has somehow managed to compress her student's entire body to the point where she can fit the whole thing in her womb, and now she also has a tail? WOW! Amazing!

    Well, I can explain that expression, because I graduated from Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, and happen to know the Korean idiom "ggori-ga gilmyeon balphinda." This means "if your tail is long, it gets stepped on." It's a uniquely Korean idiom that basically means "every deception you commit, your tail gets longer, until finally someone will step on your tail and everyone will find out." So basically they translated a Korean idiom directly from Korean to English without bothering to explain why, exactly, Riojas has a tail. To make an analogy, Koreans see a long tail as like Pinocchio's long nose...

    Oh man, got to love that Korea Times...

    November 25, 2010: Tada!

    Official Communication from Excelsior College that I Have Met My Graduation Requirements Barring an Extraordinary Event (click to enlarge)

    My Taiwanese Tax Refund Check, Received Within the Past Month, a Sign of Better Economic Times for Charles Wetzel
    November 22, 2010: Reboot
    Today is "Reboot Day." It is also Lebanon's independence day, but I digress.

    Why do I call it "Reboot Day?" Because I have basically, once again, failed to follow through on all the parts of my November 1 plan. Oh, I followed some of them, all right, but not all of them, and then it got to be a tangled mess, as usual. Therefore, today (the first day of the week that begins the one-month anniversary of finishing my BS), I have decided to outline my future plans after Taiwan and also come up with micro-plans for each week.

    Previously, my plans had been this:

  • Finish up my contract in Taiwan at my current buxiban.
  • Go back to the US and build an IT career there, eventually relaunching my self in Asia in a few years.

    Basically, at that point, I had sort of come to the same conclusion that Germany had come to at the end of World War I — I can keep fighting for years, but I am gradually losing, and the rest of the war won't be fun at all if I continue to fight, and I'll probably lose in the end. So why not make a strategic withdrawal?

    However, then I started to contemplate. And I realized that there are so many things I haven't done in Asia, yet, for example:

  • Work on a WWOOF farm to see what it's like
  • Live in Japan to see what it's like
  • Learn Japanese to a level past JLPT Level 4
  • Learn Chinese to the point where I can pass an HSK exam
  • Try teaching adults to see if it's more fun than teaching kids
  • Make my post-high-school-graduation time in Asia a clean five years rather than 4.5, and make my total time in Asia during my life a clean 10 years instead of 9.5

    By the time I got to the end of this list (through days of deep contemplation), I realized that if I were to go back to the US for a few years, I'd spend all that time missing valuable information and experience that could aid me on my return trip in a few years!

    And then I got to thinking. "Hey, wait a minute, what if I WWOOFed in Japan for five or six months after finishing up in Taiwan? And what if, after that, I tried out teaching in a university on Mainland China for a year, just to see what it was like? Then I could accomplish all the goals laid out above and return to the US content that I 'did everything I could.'"

    Then, I had a startling realization: university pay in China is about 5,000 RMB per month ($753.15). At that rate of pay, I can pay off nearly all of my student loans within a year! The cost of living will be so low and the apartment will be provided by the school, that I can save $600 a month and pay off $7,200 in loans — possibly ALL the remaining balance!

    That led to another starting realization — if I enjoy teaching university students in China, there is no need to return to the US to live! I can simply get a one-year MA TESOL degree and enter either Japan or Korea as a university instructor! So basically, until further notice, I have scrapped the previous plans to move back to the States anytime soon. Instead, this is my current plan:

  • I finish my contract here in Taiwan on March 28.
  • Head over to Japan via international ferry.
  • WWOOF (act as a farmhand part-time for free room and board) for about five or six months (one visa run in the middle). Watch my Japanese grow by leaps and bounds and hopefully pass JLPT Level N3 in July, and simultaneously get a feel for Japan. Is it magic, or is it just another ordinary country? Is living there actually a goal worth striving for?
  • After Japan (okay, so we're in August or early September now), take a boat or a plane to Mainland China and work at a university there.
  • Teach for a year at a university and see if it is acceptable work that doesn't make me pull out my hair twice a week.
  • If it is just as aggravating as teaching kids, return to the US and proceed as per my previous plan.
  • If I enjoy it enough to consider it a "bearable and relatively stress-free job," start working on an MA TESOL (Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) so I'm qualified to do the same job in Japan and Korea for $3,000 a month.

    Now, you might be saying "WAIT A MINUTE! You don't even have your Excelsior College bachelor's degree yet, you're still waiting for them to process it, and you're already talking about teaching UNIVERSITY students? Don't you think that's a bit unrealistic?" Well, the simple answer is "no." I have perused many ads and all they require is a bachelor's degree for those jobs. And for the pay they give (about $750 a month) they can't really ask for anything more. :-) In fact, it seems like my CELTA and teaching experience aren't even necessarily required, although they might serve as leverage for finding a slightly better job.

    Now, here are my micro-plans for each week. I have decided to re-work them to fit my new set of plans regarding WWOOF and teaching at a uni in Mainland China. Here they are:
  • Education: for the next 40 days, here will be my regimen: learn/review 15 words of Japanese per day (from the JLPT N5 and N4 lists), 10 words of Chinese per day from the HSK Level 4 (intermediate) list, and spend about two hours per day studying for the A+ exam, which I intend to take on December 31. As for miscellaneous things like religious studies and so forth, that is LOWER PRIORITY. I think I will only try to read 15 pages of The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions per WEEK rather than per day. It's okay, I'll still learn about them — just more slowly.
  • Leisure: as stated in the November 1 plan, designate one day of the week to do something fun outside the house.
  • Spirituality: this was already mentioned in "Education" — read 15 pages of that book PER WEEK.
  • Work/Money: abandon trying to make money on the Internet for now. Focus on salaried work for the time being. I conducted an experiment with online work and found it just as stressful as my day job, but the pay was about 1/5th. Just do my job and do it well. Spend 0.5 hours preparing for every teaching hour. Have a "game of the week." Pick out a novel for CE1 this week.

    Now, here are my long-term academic goals (an elaboration of above):

  • Have a JLPT N4 (old JLPT Level 3) vocabulary knowledge of Japanese by the end of February. Spend March cramming grammar, miscellaneous things, and practicing listening comprehension. MASTER the vocabulary that I crammed from November to February. That way, when I arrive in Japan in late March or April, I will have about 1,500 words at my fingertips to work with and won't flounder around like an idiot.
  • Pass New HSK Level 4 (intermediate) for Chinese by the end of April. That will require bringing my Chinese vocabulary up to a bare minimum of 1,250, but in reality, I'd say it'll be closer to 2,000 words by that time. This will look decent on my resume when hunting for a uni job on the mainland, and also make living on the mainland easier (though I doubt it'll be any harder to communicate than Kaohsiung County, since both locales are Mandarin-speaking).
  • Pass CompTIA A+ by December 31, 2010. Note that after passing this time-sensitive exam, IT study will still be a priority, albeit a lower one than in the November 1 plan.
  • Finish The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions by 10/23/2011. That should serve as a decent primer to world religions.
  • November 8, 2010: Zhuyin Photo Essay
    I made a photo essay on the Chinese alphabet, Zhuyin. Even though it is the Chinese alphabet, it is mainly used in Taiwan and not on Mainland China. Click here to read it.

    November 5, 2010: Finally the US Government Is Exhibiting Some Common Sense
    For quite a while, I have been in favor of devaluing the US dollar to increase America's competitiveness. Finally, today, it was announced that the government is pumping $600 billion into the economy to devalue the currency. I wrote a post on Dave's ESL Cafe about it, which I captured using screen capture and will post right here:

    November 1, 2010: The Lighter Side of Taiwan

    A perfectly innocuous Barbie doll-type doll, right? Right?!

    Hey man, how's it hangin'?
    Hangin' by a thread, yo!

    Clearly the company that made these seed packets didn't realize that their normally orderly display could be slightly reorganized like so...

    October 28, 2010: Vacation to Kenting/Hengchun (10/24 - 10/26) and Related Photo Essay Complete

    Click here to read my photo essay about my vacation to Kenting and Hengchun. There are lots of pretty pictures. :-)