MMTO: Stardew Valley

I’ve had to uninstall Stardew Valley.

It’s a wonderful game, well-designed and charming, but it was too much of a good thing, and not just from the perspective of entertainment. Continue reading →

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Lessons Teaching Teaches

(Note: As of summer 2016, I am no longer an English teacher. The lessons below still apply.)

I have worked as an English teacher in Taiwan for two years. While I enjoy teaching, it was never my intention to become a career teacher. Many of the people reading this post will be in a similar situation: you wanted to move abroad, to learn a new language, to meet new people, and the best way to find work in the meantime was to teach English.

Fine. But while teaching may not be your end goal, I caution against viewing it flippantly, as a means to an end. This attitude damages your impact on your students, and on a more self-centered note, it often deprives you of an opportunity for self-development. Teaching a language requires you to sharpen so many skills that are often neglected at a ‘normal’ job back home.

Employers often question why a candidate “took time off” to teach abroad, and many teachers themselves also frame the experience this way. But it isn’t a vacation, and if you pay attention, work hard, and try to understand what you are doing, you’ll find that teaching can be as personally rewarding as it is enjoyable.

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How to Keep Notebooks

My apartment is littered with the carcasses of notebooks. Some are full, some half-full, and in a drawer in my desk I keep several pristine books of different sizes awaiting their own ravishing.

If you’re a creative, and you don’t bother with minimalism,  you probably have a similar dark corner of your home where blank paper stares at you in expectation. It’s just who we are, and if you’re like me, the white expanses can sometimes raise up a sea of anxiety. And yet you buy more paper.

To “keep” a journal sounds almost domestic, like keeping up appearances. The idea of housekeeping comes to mind. The most accurate analogy is to keeping a pet: if you feed your journal, it will reward you with a form of companionship and insight.

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On Keeping a Journal as a Creative

We don’t often discuss this, but ideas have to come from somewhere. As creative workers, we like to imagine that they bubble up from the aether, or from the bottom of a gin tonic. If we’re more honest, we discuss ideas in terms of observations, of memories and experiences. But even in that case, the creative process happens somewhere in the back of your mind, behind curtains in a place closed off to us. The best most of us can do is notice where the ideas start, and for many creatives, that place is in the pages of a journal.

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Yanshui ‘Beehive’ Fireworks Festival 2016

Yanshui was packed with people dressed like androgynous firefighters.

The fireworks festival is famously dangerous and takes place only thirty minutes by train from Tainan city, where I live. Many think of it as something like the Taiwanese Running of the Bulls. The tradition of firing hundreds of thousands of fireworks into the crowd began sometime in the 19th century, when the people of Yanshui appealed to martial god Guan Gong to rid them of the cholera epidemic then raging. Apparently, the celestial general expected to be greeted by fireworks, and that is exactly what his palanquin, carried through the streets, received. The tradition carries on to this day. Continue reading →

The 5 Best/Worst Things about Life in Taiwan

(Note: As of summer 2016, I no longer live in Taiwan, having moved to Shanghai.)

(Disclaimer: I am a foreigner living in Taiwan. I am not a local, nor am I an expert. These opinions are based solely on my experiences.)

I’ve lived in Taiwan for two years. Living abroad sometimes presents challenges, but these are rarely insurmountable and, if you can overcome them, it can be one of the greatest experiences a person can have.

I want to get this out of the way: I love Taiwan and I’m grateful to be here. Despite this, there are days when I want to pull out my (or someone else’s) hair, and on these days it is helpful to reflect on the advantages of a place like this. In a similar vein, when I’m in a particularly positive mood, a brief reminder of the small frustrations can keep me grounded.

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