Monday, February 22, 2010

A Chinese new year

I was able to spend the Chinese New Year holiday in the beautiful East Coast region of Taiwan. We travelled to Hualien (花蓮市, the city by the sea and Taroko Gorge National Park). It was the perfect scene for an enamoring vacation and spouted more meaning for why the Portuguese originally named the island "Formosa".

The sea came to my feet. I let it soak into my flesh and felt the sand gravitate between my toes. There is nothing quite like the feeling of sand engulfing my feet while the waves roar beside them, hugging them like a mama to her little ones.

I had yet to discover a sea like this. It was endless. I knew I was on an island, but in living so far away from the shore, I felt grounded on mainland, this evidence proved me otherwise. The sea is my home, bodies of water seem to welcome my heart gracefully. I grew up on a lake in Coeur d'Alene, ID, and swam almost everyday. My days were filled with jumping off docks with just floaties on. On this body of water, I viewed with great admiration as fishermen stand alongside their gear for a long day with their friend, the sea. Their floaties removed long ago but their dock still with them loyally.

As the beach welcomed me, my feet wanted to say something back. The only thing that came to mind was the great place in which I found my self in, "Taiwan".

The teaching crew from Berhan on the sands of Taiwan. We all danced upon the shore that day. Jumped high into the sky. We travelled by scooter, banking narrow turns downhills and uphills, all the while the sea breeze played alongside us. It was magical.

Cliffs mangled heroically beside the beach to entice further investigation. The edges of landmass amazed this watchful traveller. I climbed a rope to get here and the mist of the crashing waves welcomed me full-heartedly. I gladly could of stayed here for weeks. If I would have, as night fell, the crashing waves would've retold old bedtime stories while the mist tucked me into my cliffside bed.

My mind can get lost among the sounds of the waves. This is a moment like that, where the mind functions with the rhythm of the sea, each overturning concave deepening the trance.

The next day, a red bridge welcomed me on a small canyon highway outside the city, near Liyu Lake. The sun was singing to the mountaintops.

A road was carved from the listening monster of a mountainside. It came alive here as the pillars clung to the mountain making makeshift teeth for the beast.

Eventually the monster ate me up. I had a small spill among a wet spot on the road seen and got a good scrape on my right elbow and some damage to the foot. I brushed it off, everything intact, the journey continued.

I was eventually led to a great spot near a dam. The view stole the show.

Later that day, a monastery was the show-stealer. It lay hidden inside Taroko Gorge, the buddhist chanting luring us towards its discovery.

A good time to think deeply...or maybe just a good time to take a picture of me pretending to think deeply...yeah, I think it's the latter. But regardless, thinking did happen among these mountains, about how small I am and how big the masses of the Earth can shoot straight out trying to reach the limits of the atmosphere. So yeah, maybe deep thinking did happen...ha ha.

Day three brought hiking towards a blue wonder of river water. Miscommunication got the best of our navigation skills and we were led past the blue river to the hills of aboriginal viallages (a two-hour hike turned into close to six hours).

The land was rich with history. Life sprung out of every crack in the side of the mountain. The land is still used by living relatives of the aboriginal people, one of the few remaining sanctuaries for them.

We walked among the clouds. The white wisps I mostly peer to from below marked their wet droplets against my brow. An abandoned rigging system seemed endless, escaping deep into the hazy conglomeration of the hollowed water particles.

A journey unexplainable through words or even pictures. A living experience worthy of savoring as life continues onwards, beyond a Chinese new year and towards the rituals of a life known.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A moment in the park

This place is not seen, mostly, I guess. The places here are quiet, if you can find them. I ventured outwards, biking around a circle road in the Taiwan city of Fengyuan, my home, for now.

I find this place. It's the cherry blossoms that grabbed my attention. That and the shiny white bridge, decaying at its railings, making it still more beautiful. I found it and turned my bicycle around. "Here lies something new and undiscovered" I thought to myself. It's the butterflies that greeted me first along the path. I knew I was in the right place.

I walked onwards. The grass here seems hollow because it moves so softly along with my encroaching steps forward, even the wind acts as an accomplice, slowly blowing the grass petals, moving like millions of maestros conducting their symphonies. I'm amazed by the movement of it all, how nature can act according to no set plan and wow the viewer. Such beauty lies in it. The butterflies and the grass and the blacking of the bridge decay. I'm questioning how the beauty belongs here, it exists with such evasive luster, a universal glimmer to the eyes of many. From Dostoevsky "The terrible thing is that beauty is not only frightening but a mystery as well. That's where God and the devil join battle and their battlefield is the heart of man."

Beauty a battle. It rests in my head and quakes the inner-cogs. Beauty surrounding a young man, as it has surrounded many a-young men and how that beauty can be deemed an inner-struggle. A struggle for survival. An instant-pushing at a middle until something explodes. Perhaps the butterfly sipping the nectar from the flower. Or perhaps the bee collecting the nectar for his queen. I wonder if it all explodes like the Big Bang Theory explains the beginning of the universe. And if one of these moments, the beautiful ones, can be a universe within themselves. A sort of cosmic showdown within a cosmic showdown. That the planets are the same as the petals on the flower. And that it can all be formed by the God and the Devil, or the black and the white, or the good and the bad. That these two opposing forces, the ones that are constant in all things, force each other so hard, that something beautiful arises from the battle. I'm standing there among the battles and they are beautiful.

My mind says these things and when I verbalize them, they sound structured and constrained (and I wonder if I'm even making sense!). My mind says words and spurts them out anyways. I wonder, can the world can be explained by mere words? Can beautiful really describe this around me? But this is all more than that. Words are constraining the true value of the experience. I'm caught wondering if I could just live this moment without words, live among the battling and battle myself too.
In the field, the field with the flowers. The butterflies call to the petals and the flowers hark back. They sing to each other and bring each other liveliness. I read that somewhere. I think. I pass a huge log and the log stands before a simple message. I can't read it. No. Just etchings on a wall. The purple cherry blossomings are here and the faded white bridge. The sky seems so high and the flowers close and the butterflies closer. Everything can be made so simple. The trees can sprout from seeds. The babes can be made into warriors. I'm saying too much. The words are skewing it all. I'll just sit and escape into beautiful surroundings in the park.

My kiddos

Some of my kiddos (Larson, William and Jason) from my second grade class at the Berhan Language Institute. Such silly-nillys.

As the weeks grow so does my relationships with these kiddos. Each one is unique and precious and awesome and makes me want to be a better teacher/person. Not saying that they're not a lot to handle, they are, but each minute is worth it. A few things I've figured out as one month has now gone by as "Mr. Bray Bray", as my little second graders call me.

1. Grow acutely aware of the random touch of arm, leg or facial hair. Sometimes you may lean over them to see how their sentences are progressing and they'll simply just reach up and rub your chin with their palm, either that or sit close to you for reading time and just carefully caress leg hairs.

2. For punishment, offer the corner. If corner doesn't work, it's wall-sits.

3. One push-up for each minute a student is late. Yeah, I'm cruel.

4. One push-up for each minute the teacher is late. Yeah, they're cruel.

4. When going outside for break, realize they'll play basketball, and realize that they've figured out that you suck at basketball. You're now designated the benched player/head cheerleader. Go team!

5. For spelling tests, always check the whiteboard first for the words that are on the spelling test.

6. Seating charts should always be made boy/girl/boy/girl.

7. Avoid the words "long", "trumpet", "bird", "mosquito island", and "shoot" with sixth-grade adolescence.

8. Kids love playing popcorn reading for class, and choose to say another student's name in the middle of a sentence, so it reads something like "Then Galen got out his sword and killed...Hogerth!" Laughing quickly ensues, teacher quieting everyone down.

9. Magic card tricks will excite any kid at ANY AGE!

10. Some will want you to come to their grandmother's house to play wii. Those same ones might say "I love you, Mr. Brandon" when class is over. Oh these kids kill me.

Now to get back to my lesson planning.... :P