Monday, January 28, 2008

Taking a deep, cleansing breath today...

I'm not, as a rule, cruel to animals; however, I am going to beat a dead horse.

Still seething from the fiasco with Amazon, I wrote them an email last night full of indignation, with just a touch of legal threats. I have a feeling it won't be read by a human until after the weekend, and in the meantime I'll receive a computer generated "Thank you for bringing this situation to our attention. Please be assured that we are considering the matter carefully..." blah blah and more generic fluff.

Here's the letter if anyone is interested, but please excuse the unprofessional layout and language.

I need to clear my head today, so immediately after posting this entry I think I'll go back to the Sutro ruins and contemplate the ferocity of nature.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Care for some cheese with that whine?

So, I had hoped to write about my adventures this past week, but I'm angry and frustrated at the moment and I need to vent.

I haven't been able to do much here in SF that costs money because I have been waiting for unemployment and school financial aid funds to come in. I finally received some financial aid money earlier this week. "Great," I thought, "At last I can do something fun this coming weekend." Well, those plans went down the crapper.

My roommate Fernando has been shopping around for a laptop, and found one online at that he liked. Before he left Brazil he had purchased what he thought was a kind of prepaid debit/credit card, safer than cash for traveling (since so many places won't accept travelers checks anymore). However, there weren't enough digits on the card to be able to use it to make purchases online. Turns out that in the US it can only be used at ATM machines. He asked me if I could order the computer using my debit card and he would give me the cash to deposit into my account. Sure, no problem. (He ended up having to go to several ATM machines at different banks, since each had a withdrawal limit, costing him $50 in fees).

I deposited the cash and placed his order with Amazon on Thursday. He ordered the computer and a DVD box set. He paid extra to have them shipped the next day so he could use the computer over the weekend. On Friday morning, before I left for class, I noticed that Amazon was trying to charge my account twice for the $1,300 computer. This resulted in me having a negative available balance. I had to go to class and didn't have time to worry about it, but I figured it would be adjusted Friday evening when the bank did their posting.

Fernando received an email on Friday morning stating that they had shipped his DVD set, but not the computer because there was a "problem with the credit card." I couldn't access my bank account information nor contact Amazon Friday after class because the Wi-Fi at my hotel wasn't working. Grrrr.

Now it's Saturday, and the Wi-Fi at the hotel still isn't working. I'm at the public library right now, where fortunately I can connect to the Internet. My bank account still shows two charges for the exact same amount--$1,313.11--pending against my account. This means I have a negative available balance, which means--once again--I'm broke for the weekend. Even if I could contact Amazon, my account won't be straightened out until after Monday.

No, I did not hit the send button twice when placing the order. If that had been the case, Fernando would have received two confirmation emails when the order was placed, which he didn't. Additionally, the full amount of the order--$1,362.95 for the computer and DVDs--would have been charged twice. However, only the computer price is being charged twice, since the DVD charge of $49.84 came out of my account on Friday.

I know it will be taken care of, it just sucks that I'm spending another weekend in SF with no moolah. And now every other little problem that comes up is magnified in my mind. For example, our room was cleaned on Friday and the old towels replaced with a new bath towel. Yes, singular, one towel. There have been two of us staying in the room for 3 weeks now, and we've always received two bath and two hand towels. So Friday evening when I discovered this I asked for another bath towel, only to be told that the housekeeping staff was gone for the weekend and the front desk didn't have a key to the towel closet. I let Fernando use the bath towel Friday night since he was going out to a party at his school and wanted to shower. I ended up drying myself this morning with the tiny hand towel.

Yeah, I know, it wasn't the end of the world. But for me it's irritating on top of everything else.

OK, I've finished whining. I better do my schoolwork for my online classes at CR. Fortunately I can do it here at the library.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Two weeks down, two to go

Wow, this last week has flown by!

This week I felt much more confident student teaching than I did last week. I've been getting good evaluations, and I'm really trying to apply the suggestions that the instructors have been giving. For posterity's sake, here's a list of topics that we've been studying for the past two weeks:

Language Skills: Listening
Organization of a Lesson
Present Tense
Communcative Activities
Language Skills: Reading
Eliciting Techniques
Past Tense
Future Tense
Lesson Planning
Language Skills: Speaking
Perfect Tense
Business English 1
Beginner Grammar
Language Structure: Writing
Error Correction
Gerunds & Infinitives
Classroom Management
Video Teaching Techniques
Teaching Children 1.

We have teaching practice on Wednesdays and Fridays. Last Friday I taught an interm-adv. level listening class, last Wednesday an interm. reading class, and today an interm-adv. speaking class. The types and levels of lessons are always varied, and we never know who is going to be in our class, so that's a challenge. Fortunately, at this stage we get our assignments at least two days prior to teaching so we have plenty of time to prepare and ask questions.

Lask weekend I took a break from school and wandered all over San Francisco. On Saturday I walked around the Pacific Heights area and located the Mrs. Doubtfire house. I spent quite awhile strolling around that section of town, marveling at the huge 3 and 4 story mansions.

I then headed to the coast to the ruins of the Sutro Baths. So far, this has been my favorite spot in the city. As I was on the lookout, watching the waves crash against the rocks and spraying salt water high into the air, I was listening to Josh Groban sing Gira Con Me Questa Notte. The combination of the beautiful Italian song and the majesty of that spot brought tears to my eyes. This area was featured in the movie Harold and Maude, which was my geeky reason for visiting it.

My next stop was the Haight. Just as I expected, it was full of smoke shops and hippies. Basically, a larger version of Arcata. I made the obligatory stop at Haight & Ashbury and had an ice cream at the Ben & Jerry's on the corner.

On the suggestion of my classmate Peter I next journeyed to Twin Peaks. There are no buses that go up there, so I had a steep 20 minute hike. But it was very much worth it, as the view was stunning. I could see all of San Francisco and across to the East Bay. You can see the spectacular view in the top photo.

After my hike back down, I found a bus stop, but I was confused about how to get back home without taking the long, roundabout route that got me to Twin Peaks. I asked a woman who was getting into her car but she said she didn't know the bus lines. I guess after seeing me trying to figure out the bus stop map she felt sorry for me, because she drove around and offered me a ride to Castro and Market, where I did know how to get back to my hotel. Very nice woman; she even suggested a Vietnamese place on the Embarcadero called The Slanted Door (which turned out to be out of my price range).

Sunday I met one of my goals while in San Francisco: I rode the underground Muni. I took it to the Financial District and got to see the Transamerica Pyramid up close. I also happened to find the Taiwanese Consulate (where I'll be getting my residency visa) right across the street. Next I walked through Chinatown and watched the old men playing go and the old women playing cards in the park. I also got to practice my very rudimentary Mandarin with a kind Taiwanese woman who runs the Sino-American bookstore. She seemed like the typical 大姐 (dàjiĕ - Chinese auntie) I've read about and seen on Sexy Beijing.

I then headed to Coit Tower, another uphill hike but not quite as bad as Twin Peaks. The view was great there also, at least from the parking area. I didn't bother riding up the tower because the line was way too long. And that winds up my adventures last weekend.

Tomorrow is Saturday and, while I should work on a project I'm supposed to do for class (testing a non-native speaker and submitting an evaluation), I may just explore the city some more. Especially if the weather is nice.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My first day student teaching

I loved it, even though I was extremely nervous.

There were five students in the class that I taught: Telek, Jeed, and June from Thailand; Dae Hoon from Korea, and Aki from Japan. They were very nice and very forgiving of us new teachers as we blundered our way through our lessons. Mark, the instructor who evaluated our group, is considered by some to be the "tougher" one; I'm glad I got him because I know his praise and criticism are honest and therefore the most useful for me.

After receiving our evaluations, Stacy, Yang Hae, Ik Joo, Maya, Junie, and I found a pub and toasted our first day of teaching. Maggie and Peter had other plans or they would have come too. I feel bad that I didn't see Len, Jared, Jandie, or Lily after class or we would have invited them also. Keiko wasn't in class today.

I wanted to post pictures in this and in the last entry too, but they won't upload to blogger for some reason. I'll have to try later.

I'm fairly certain that I won't be bogged down with homework or lesson planning this weekend, so I should have free time to explore the city. Too bad I don't have any money. I do have an unlimited Muni pass, so maybe I'll just explore the free sites (and bring a peanut butter sandwich for lunch). My roommate Fernando will probably want to go too. Do I dare introduce him to the Castro?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I left my heart...

I finished my second day of TESOL training today, and tomorrow is our first day of practice teaching. I'm looking forward to it, although, of course, I'm nervous. Hopefully after this first hurdle I'll be a bit more confident. This evening I agonized over my lesson plan for this first, dinky 15 minute lesson that's primarily meant to get our feet wet. I know that it was overkill, but I so want to be a good teacher.

I'm enjoying my stay in San Francisco. I'm staying at the Kenmore Hotel, which you can see to the right. It's a 'residence inn', which is like a cross between a hotel and a youth hostel. I don't have to use a bathroom down the hall, but I do have a roommate. He's a medical student from Brazil named Fernando, who's here for a month taking an English conversation course. His English is actually quite good; he's very funny, which is difficult in a foreign language. Breakfast and dinner are provided here, but there are no TV's or really any other "luxuries" in the rooms.

I haven't had much time to explore the city. My class is over at 4:30pm, and I have to be back at the hotel between 5:30 and 7:00pm if I want dinner. Since teaching practice is on Wednesdays and Fridays, it looks like I'll have the weekends to look around town.

I really meant to write more in this post, but it's 11:30pm and I need to go to bed.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Finally decided on a title for this blog

Lorem Ipsum? That's the name of the dummy text used by typesetters for centuries, the standard passage being Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. I chose this title because:

  1. It's in a foreign language

  2. Since I couldn't come up with a profound title to describe this blog, I figured I might as well use meaningless dummy text

  3.It's obscure and weird.

Actually, the original text of Lorem Ipsum is not meaningless. It comes from a piece of classical literature written by Cicero in 45 BC:

"Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit..."

"There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain..."

Sometimes I can be such a nerd.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Welcome 2008

Had a rather bumpy ride this holiday season. Theresa's older sister died suddenly of heart failure on December 23rd, leaving behind two kids, her husband of 22 years, and many sad family members and friends. She was only 48.

On January 2nd, after 38 years of driving, I got my first speeding ticket. Not that I didn't deserve many over the years. Mr. Officer clocked me at 45mph in a 35mph zone. I'm thankful he didn't pull me over just a few minutes before, because I was talking on my cell phone while driving, which officially became illegal here in CA on Jan. 1st. I've got to dig around and find my hands-free paraphernalia. So, I now get to experience the joys of traffic school.

I leave on Sunday to finish up my TESOL certification in San Francisco. I'm jazzed! I've been writing to a nice guy in Taiwan whom I met through MySpace a few weeks ago. He lives with his partner in Zhonghe. He's given me plenty of good advice, and has been a great source of encouragement. Turns out that he helped design the course that I'll be taking at Transworld Schools. It's a small world indeed. (I've received much good advice from many kind people, including Holly, whose Taiwan Chronicles appears to the right)

I now have a new laptop computer, which I love. It has a built-in webcam so I'll be able to communicate with family and friends while I'm in SF and then overseas. My old desktop PC had accumulated so many junk programs and files that it continually bogged down, plus it was running on a bootleg copy of Windows, so I couldn't get the necessary updates. I'm determined to keep this laptop as "clean" as possible. When I first set it up I made sure to delete all the unnecessary introductory crap that came installed on it (like Norton...shudder). I bought a genuine version of Microsoft Office, and I've downloaded only a few necessary-to-me programs (Avast! anit-virus, iTunes, Skype, FTP Commander, and Hong Kong Mahjong). Windows Vista doesn't seem too different from XP. I got an mp4 player for Christmas which holds my music and Chinese lessons, and I got a 2GB flash drive for my photos, so I still have most of the 120GB hard drive free.