Why Did I Just Pay Someone To Injure Me?

Tonight I had a Taiwanese/Chinese foot massage.

When I lived in China, a few American friends and I used to get a massage almost weekly. I don’t know if it’s that I’m not used to them anymore or if this one was just extra intense, but yowzer! Did I really pay someone to hurt me?! Did I actually hand a man money for jabbing his elbow into me?


One can clearly see in this picture that my dude was trying to break my ankle.

Ok, ok. It wasn’t too bad. There were times when he pressed on certain parts of my feet, and it hurt though. You know how your feet are supposed to correspond to certain parts of your body? Well, maybe my spleen is bad, or perhaps my windpipe is in bad shape. (Hey, it’s on the list, along with genital gland!)


Chinese massages are said to be healing. They can increase blood flow, remove blockages, help the lymphatic system, and remove toxins and waste. Maybe they’re not supposed to be pleasurable but just beneficial. My friend thought it would be a great idea for me to have one tonight since I’m sick. Traditional Chinese medicine for the win!

And I’m kinda obsessed with the sounds that are made during a Chinese massage. Watch my ultra, super-secret iphone video to see what I mean.

While living in China, I also had fire cupping done on my feet, and I also had a blind massage (massage done by a blind person). There was also that one time we had Chinese women hanging off ropes on the ceiling and walking on our backs, but that’s a whole other blog post! Have you had a Chinese massage before? If so, how did you like it? I fully expect my diaphragm to be feeling better by the morning!

I Now Know What A Taiwanese Hospital Is Like

Yesterday I started feeling really poorly, and I mean pretty bad, so my friends insisted I go to the hospital today. Doctors’ offices are closed on Sundays, so off to the Taiwanese hospital it was for me!

American goes to Taiwanese hospital

Turns out I have an acute respiratory infection, probably from the high humidity, a low-grade fever, and am very close to having heat exhaustion. I was prescribed 3 medicines and sent on my way.

Taiwanese Cough Medicine


I was also told not to stay outside so much and to drink more water. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was hot here! And when you’re out walking around in it for 9 hours a day, that doesn’t help much either.


And my colleague thought it’d be a fun idea to take a picture of me during this adventure.


Thanks Mackay Memorial Hospital for helping me get on the road to recovery! Oh the adventures I always seem to have while traveling!


Modern Toilet Restaurant- Taipei, Taiwan

I ate out of a toilet today. So, there’s that.

The Modern Toilet Restaurant is just one of many themed restaurants in Taiwan. There are others, such as hospital or airplane-themed, but the toilet-themed must be the strangest and most unique of them all.

                           toilet restaurant Taiwan                   toilet restaurant Taiwan


They serve drinks out of urinals and food out of toilets, both the Asian-style “squatty potty” and Western-style toilets. The most popular are chocolate ice cream and also curry, and you can see why. You sit on toilets instead of seats, there are showers are on the wall, and you can buy poo themed souvenirs.


toilet restaurant Taiwan


curry in Taiwan

toilet restaurant Taiwan


toilet restaurant Taiwan

toilet restaurant Taiwan

If you’re ever in Taipei, visit this restaurant. The food is actually quite good, you’ll get some great pictures, and have a few laughs!



Taiwan, Are You a Country or Not?

Well, it depends who you ask whether Taiwan is a country or not. Most of the world will unofficially say it is. It has its own government, issues its own currency, and has its own flag.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Yet, only 23/191 members of the United Nations officially recognizes it. Taiwan has a population of over 23 million, and its sovereignty is disputed, yet Vatican City has less than 900 people and is a sovereign state. Why is that?

China puts a great deal of political pressure on the world to support them in saying that Taiwan is just another province of China. No one wants to make China mad. In fact, China has said they will invade of Taiwan ever tries to officially state its independence. After living in China for 2 years, I can tell you firsthand that it is a very sensitive subject. Chinese people refer to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei.

Modern-day Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China,  began when the communists took over China in 1949. Over 2 million Chinese nationalist fled to Taiwan and began a government there. That’s why the language is Mandarin Chinese, the food is similar to Chinese cuisine, and many aspects of the cultural are identical to mainland China. I’m very interested to see exactly how similar or different these two places are for myself.

So, what makes a country a country? This short video does a good job at explaining it.

Most will agree there are 196 countries in the world, Taiwan included.



Someone Tried to Buy Drugs From Me?

I had a pretty sketchy night last Friday. And I blame it on the Greyhound bus system, every single bit of sketch on Greyhound.

Take almost any city around the world- Tokyo, middle of nowhere China, Paris, Bogota…you can easily catch a bus and go anywhere you want to go. You just go to the station, purchase a ticket, and hop on. Usually the buses are a safe way to travel and fairly cheap.

This is not the case in the good ol’ US of A. Most of us don’t take long-distance public transportation. It’s really uncommon and can actually be expensive. We are a car nation, unlike many other countries where public transportation is the norm.

Want to take a train in the US? If you take Amtrak round trip from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC, it can cost you $197! And that’s if you live in a big city that actually has a train system. In the small city in which I live, there are no trains to anywhere. You would actually have to go to Pittsburgh to take a train.

If you want to take a Greyhound bus, it’s a bit cheaper. $58 to go from the capital city of West Virginia to Lexington, Kentucky. It’s usually a 3.5 hour journey by car but takes almost 10 hours by bus. I have helped 2 of my international friends take buses here in the US, and they’ve both had trouble and were a little scared of the whole experience.

Recently, I took a Japanese friend to catch a Greyhound bus here in town. She tried to describe to me where the bus station was. Well, it turns out it was in a defunct CVS parking lot in the bad part of town. I told her I would wait with her until the bus arrived. We witnessed quite a few strange things while waiting. First, a car pulled up beside us and the guy in it tried to talk to us. I yelled at my friend not to look at him and keep the window up. I was confused about what was going on, but then another car pulled up to his, they both got out, handed each other something, and then left. It struck me! He didn’t know who he was buying drugs off of, and he thought I was it! Someone tried to buy drugs off me! If you know me at all, that’s pretty laughable.

Later on, we saw an old man walking around with no shoes carrying a bag of chips and a glass of water. I don’t know what was up with that. And then a woman approached us, the only other person waiting in the dark parking lot. She was from Finland and had been backpacking the US. (Although I don’t know why she ended up in small town, West Virginia.) She told us she had been waiting in that parking lot since 2 pm hoping any bus would come through and she could hop on. It was 10pm, and not a single bus had come. After THREE HOURS of waiting for my friend’s bus, we finally left. It never showed! And since there was no real station, we couldn’t ask anyone about it or get a refund or anything. It was so frustrating! I’m so glad I didn’t just drop her off!

So, the lesson learned here… if you are ever looking to score drugs, don’t ask me!

I’m getting ready to go on an exciting journey to Taiwan and South Korea for work. I’ll do my best to blog all about it. Be on the lookout!

public transportation in China

Bus in China

Why I Don’t Want The US to be a Christian Nation

Have you heard of the Iranian men and women who made a video of themselves dancing to Pharrell’s song “Happy”? It’s actually very cute and tasteful, but the Iranian government has deemed it vulgar and inappropriate. The problems were that the women’s heads weren’t covered, they were dancing in public (on a rooftop), and men and women were socializing together. These are all illegal in Iran. The dancers were all arrested but have since been released. The director of the video, however, is still being detained. You can watch a BBC news video about it here.

In my opinion, incidents like these are why religion should stay out of the government and the government should stay out of religion.

Sharia law is Islamic law based on the Quran. It dictates diet, sex, prayer, dress code, and hygiene. The law includes how economics, crime, divorce, and punishment should all be dealt with. It’s a melding of the religious and the political. Laws are made and enforced according to religious beliefs.

Islam is the official, constitutional religion in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan do not allow laws to be made that go against Islam. Some countries are very strict regarding these laws, such as Saudi Arabia, yet some countries, like the UAE, are a bit more lenient, like allowing some alcohol.

While I do think religion is important, the use of Sharia law assumes that everyone in that country or place follows the same religion and that all citizens entertain the same level of religiousness. I think the “Happy” video shows the dissonance in these assumptions.

So what about Christianity? I am a Christian. However, I do NOT want religion in schools or religion in the government. Some Christian friends are surprised when they hear me say that. I think all Americans should be free to practice their own religion. I believe that includes not having religion forced on them. Let’s talk about prayer in school. I think it’s absolutely appropriate for students to pray to God or pray to Allah or whoever on their own or in small groups. Do I necessarily want the class or the school to be lead in prayer as a whole? No, not really. Do I think 100% of the students are Christian? Of course not. Or maybe the person leading the prayer is Catholic, so even though they are a Christian, they don’t necessarily believe in the same things as you or pray in the same way. Let’s allow the freedom but not force any religion.

I do think people from smaller towns and more homogeneous communities have more trouble seeing this, because we grew up around people who are “just like us” and we all think the same and have the same beliefs. Well, not necessarily .

What about religion in the government? Let’s say the US suddenly became mostly Jewish. Would you appreciate the government telling you that you can’t eat pork? That you might get arrested for eating pork?

I think we need to be careful what we wish for. We just might end up in prison for “being happy”.

Journal Topics for Writing Class

As a writing teacher, I love having my students write in a journal for the first 5 minutes of class. It establishes a routine of how we will begin class each time and also gets them in the habit of writing. I find that the only time most students write is for formal assignments. Journal writing can help them experience writing their feelings and thoughts on papers, knowing there is no right or wrong answer and knowing that their grammar won’t be corrected. I have my students buy a composition notebook and only use it for journaling. I collect it every Wednesday (for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday class) and give 2 points for every journal entry completed. They can not make up journals once I have collected them for the week. (This saves me from grading 30 journal entries for each student at the end of the semester!) This is an easy yet useful way to get points. It usually ends up to be about 70 points at the end of the semester.  I also make it a response journal. They write and I respond. It’s usually just 1 sentence asking a question or making a comment, but they know that I read it and care about what they write. Sometimes it creates whole conversations and really helps you to learn about your students. I actually enjoy grading these! So that’s how I utilize the journal writing process in my classroom.

Here are some topics I use for my freshman composition class, but they can also work for ESL writing classes, who would also benefit very much from journal writing:

- Why is writing important?  (this is always my first  AND last  journal topic)

-What is your biggest fear?

- What is your  favorite childhood memory?

-What is the most appealing non-physical quality of the opposite sex?

- What is one thing you would change about your personality?

-What is one thing you wouldn’t change about your personality?

- What is the one country you would love to travel to and why?

- Do we depend on technology too much?

- If you were stranded in a foreign country with no money, what would you do?

- Is lying ever ok?

- Do you believe in ghosts?

- Tell about a time when you got undeserved criticism.

-Does racism exist today?

- If you could live in a different time period, which time would you choose and why?

- Explain why attitude is everything.

- What do you use to make a first impression of someone?

- What’s something really good that has happened to you lately?

- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

- What is your life motto?

- If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

- Tell me about your hometown.

- What makes a person dependable?

- How have you changed since coming to college?

- If you could go back in time and meet any person, who would it be and why?

- If you had to live outside your home country for a year, where would it be and why?

- Describe the most interesting person in your family.

- Describe a funny moment in your life.

-  How does the media affect our body image?

-How do smart phones affect relationships negatively?

- Do you think the phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a good way to live?

- What do you think about immigration to the US?

- What was your most embarrassing moment?


ESL students usually take longer to write a journal entry. They may take 10-15 minutes. So, if you don’t want to spend that much class time on it, you may want them to do a complete the sentence activity. I write this on the board at the beginning of class, and they can either write about it or think about it (usually they choose to write), and then we discuss it, which incorporates the speaking aspect of course. It usually takes 5-7 minutes total. They key is that they only have to complete the one sentence.  Here are some ideas for complete the sentence:

- I get angry when…

- Last summer…

-My parents…

- In high school…

- When I was a child…

- I am really looking forward to…

- My favorite vacation was…

- When I have free time…

- I get stressed when…

- I think people should…

- I see my greatest weakness as…

-I see my greatest strength as…

- Being a friend means…

- I feel lonely when…

- I am most talented at…

- My favorite hobby is…

I hope these were helpful. If you have any journal topics you have used that you found to be quite successful, please share! And, as always, please share via social media if you have some teacher friends you think could benefit from reading this.