Saturday, September 29, 2007

Vignettes from the New School Year

Practicing fan dancing in the morning at NCKU.

The Old One
Entering the elevator, I found myself among a bevy of young women wearing t-shirts from a university department I hadn't seen before.
"So," I essayed, "What department are you all from?"
"We're from the Department of Senior Citizen Welfare," explained one. There was a pause, and then another, eyeing me, gave vent to a jocular "Yes! And we'll be helping you soon!"

Seen on a student t-shirt.

The Omniscient One
Being omniscient is just like being a psychic -- it's easy if you can get the mark to supply all the information for you.

Just before the evening class I ran into two students in the class. I had memorized all their names the previous week, but without the reinforcement of homework, of course I'd forgotten them. But ya gotta try....after all, it's important to keep up that pose of omniscience....
"Patrick?" I asked the man.
"Jay!" He laughed. I turned to the young woman, a pretty, bronze-skinned girl.
"Jamie!" She looked familiar, like I'd seen her before elsewhere. I studied her.
"Haven't I taught you before? I know you," I began cautiously, "from OCIT...."
"Yes! Wow! You remember! From the TOIEC class!" It was a class I had taught for a semester a couple of years before at another university. Of course I had been about to say ....from the night class... She grinned at me. "Wow! You remembered me! That's really smart." She immediate got out her cellphone to tell her friends the amazing news.........

My omniscience is in good hands.

A breakfast place near NCKU.

The Hero's Sidekick
Coming home today we passed my neighbor standing by the side of the road with her daughter, who is half my daughter's age. As we passed, she gave my wife such a terrifying look of utter heartbroken despair that we drove around the block again to see what was wrong.
"My son! My son!" She wailed as we pulled up. "I got a call from the school! They said he's been kidnapped."
"The Educational Affairs office called," she said, fighting back tears. "Then the kidnappers called and said they wanted me to take out $200,000 and wait at home. 'If you don't take out the money,' they said, 'we're going to kill him!'"
My wife quickly explained that the whole thing was probably a con and her son was no doubt safe at the school, a local junior high. Fake kidnappings are one of Asia's most common cons; we've encountered it several times.
"Did you call the school and double-check?"
"The call was from the school!"
"Are you sure?" My wife demanded. Dawning hope. We got the boy's name and class, and called the school while the mother waiting anxiously outside the gate of her home for the kidnappers to appear. The school authorities promptly found the boy and brought him to the phone, and we brought about a tearful reunion between mother and son, much to everyone's relief and joy. Afterwards my wife chatted up the teacher at the school, who said that with the new semester and many new children starting at the local junior high school, parents were full of vague fears for their children, easy prey for amoral mobsters.

How do such people live with themselves?

UPDATE: The papers reported yesterday that parents of dozens of new kids were hit with this scam in Taichung yesterday, with more than ten falling victim. It is very easy to get hold of class lists -- cram schools I know buy them from teachers on a regular basis. The schools themselves need to warn parents the first day about this scam. And I must say it again: here is an issue where an inexpensive all-out campaign can save people lots of money.


The Advisor
I'm an advisor again, this time to the third year students. Yesterday after Business Writing several of them sat down with me to explain their situations. They were applying for the subsidy for low-income students, and I had to fill out the forms and interview them. I then had to write up their stories on the form.

Each told me a variant of the same story. Dad had either passed away or was sick, and Mom was shouldering the burden of providing for the family, invariably by working in a factory. Not just them either; one of the girls remarked that lots of students were in similar situations (something I have also noticed), but they weren't impoverished enough to get a subsidy from the university. Apparently working single moms are the sinews of the working class; I'd be curious to see stats on what percentage of families in lower income groups in Taiwan derive the bulk of their income from the mother's production.....


Anonymous said...

"we'll be helping you soon!" --- Did they really say so?

If it is true, you are not the funniest person in that University, I guess.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the NCKU brings back memories...God I miss Taiwan...

Michael Turton said...

Yes, it's true! Everyone laughed and made fun of her effrontery too. I laughed my ass off. Smartasses are just so rare here, they should be treasured and encouraged.


nosta said...

Thought everyone in TW knew about the bogus kidnapping rackets--it's amazing a Taiwanese mom wouldn't automatically suspect a scam and call the school...Guess it upset her though.

Anonymous said...

THAT IS ABSOLOOTLY the best story you have ever told here about the education life there, and your sense of humor is....showing. Great story, great retelling.

"We're from the Department of Senior Citizen Welfare," explained one. There was a pause, and then another, eyeing me, gave vent to a jocular "Yes! And we'll be helping you soon!"

LOL. And that gets the sense of humor of Taiwanese young people very well. Sweet, loaded and warm.
You are not old, THEY are the ones gettting OLD. YOU are getting younger by the day.

Anonymous said...


your comments like this will get you in trouble one day: "I turned to the young woman, a pretty, bronze-skinned girl." You appear via this blog to be sexually obessessed with some of the young nubile women at your school, and describing them this way is very suggestive terms will one day land you in hot water. Don't mean to pour cold water on your wet dreams, but sir, a professor should not write such things about his female charges, not matter how charged up he might be about them. In the UK where I live, you would be fired immediatement! This is not to criticzie you, after all you are a man, but are you aware that you describe women in your blog posts in sexual ways and not men? I predict that one day you will regret this. In private, say what you want. But showing your sex urges in public, re your students, the women, that is, that is grounds for dismissal here in the UK. Did you just go to Taiwan to screw the chicks or what?