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Many people I know have been under tremendous stress at work. Often the stress was the result of office politics or nasty administrators. I have encountered a few of those as well in my career. People who know me well would tell you that I am a softie and a trouble shooter, and I don’t “play games” when dealing with issues. I am still quite “old school”, I guess. I would be one of those who would defend honour and integrity all the way to my grave. It was my misfortune to meet this guy when I had my dream job working for a convention and events organizer years ago in Taiwan.
 
A couple of years after I graduated from university, I started to wonder if teaching ESL to children at an after-school language centre was truly what I wanted to pursue as a day job. I was quite happy to be a teacher. As a matter of fact, I quite enjoyed teaching adults at Fu Jen University in the evenings. The money was more than good, but I did not know if the freelancing type of teaching job was what I wanted to do during the day. I looked around me; many of my friends were either in teaching or in the business sectors. I didn’t really know if I would like to pursuit a business career. I started asking and networking with some friends. I could not tell you how I got the information then, but I was told that one of the famous travel agencies (I will call it the XTravel here) was planning to open a subdivision as an event organizer to help big organizations plan their conferences.
 
The XTravel was very reputable. The subdivision turned out to be a separate entity but remained under the big umbrella of the mother company. The conference company was affiliated with many other sub-divisions, such as rent-a-car, tour planning and hotel booking. I was just thrilled that I would have the experience of planning events from scratch for hundreds of people from all over the world. I used to do that for inter-school events, summer camps or corporate outings during my university years. Finally, I could put my interpersonal skills and language skills to use at last! Anyway, the job interview went well, and I was hired and introduced to the Omni-president of the XTravel a few days later. The president was a very gentle man, for whom I still have great respect for to this day.
 
I started working for this company full time and our office was located on the 11th floor of the XTravel building. My company was great but very small. We had five girls and a male manager working in the same office. I adored the girls I worked with. They were all new graduates, very energetic and lots of fun. The job was interesting and challenging, and I just loved it! There was only one problem, my manager, the guy who actually hired me.
 
My manager was a tour guide and an assistant manager for the in-bound department of the XTravel. After he obtained his MBA in the States and returned to Taiwan, he came up with this brilliant idea of operating a conference company. He wrote the business plan and submitted it to the XTravel Board of Directors. At the time, Taiwan was in its boom time. Many organizations started to sponsor workshops, small conferences and conventions. It was perfect timing for his brilliant ideas. Unfortunately, his brilliant idea fell short right off and stopped at the business plan. He really had no ideas how to target his potential clients and promote the company. 
 

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The other day I went out for lunch with a couple of friends who were originally from Hong Kong. YZ has all her family members in Ontario, but KC’s relatives are all in Hong Kong. I asked KC if she had been back to Hong Kong after all these years in Canada. She replied that it is very difficult to plan a trip, which is also extremely costly, for her family of five to travel back to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, her children have gradually lost touch with all the family and relatives on the other side of the world. I felt for her and understood her sentiment as I was listening to her and thinking about my own family.
 
One disadvantage about moving to a foreign land is that it is so darn difficult to visit family and friends back home. During the first few years in Canada, I could not travel freely because of the immigration process and my study at the Faculty. A few times I had to make a few emergency trips to fly home for funerals. Then, summer time is the only time that teachers can take different courses for professional development or for higher education. So, I spent many summers to take AQ (additional qualification) courses and for my graduate study. We don’t travel to Taiwan frequently because we simply could not afford to do so due to our vacation time arrangements and mostly the pricey travel expenses.
 
First of all, a flight ticket alone is so expensive during the peak summer season. Unfortunately, being a teacher, I can only travel during the summer time. (We do not have a long winter break. My Christmas and New Year break is usually about 12 days. Da Pong can get five days in total. ) When we plan a family trip to go somewhere in the summer, it is not an individual outing but a whole family event. So, you can imagine the total price of the plane tickets alone could be substantially costly.
 
When we go back to visit Taiwan, we don’t tend to stay for a week or two because of the time difference and jet lag. It would take up at least three days to travel and then a couple days to recover from jet lag. So, at least we (or I) would have to stay for a month (four weeks). I have the perks of having the summer off, but Mr. Da Pong does not usually have that kind of luxury. The maximum vacation time he could get is probably two to three weeks. Then he would also need a couple days to recuperate from the jet lag before going back to work.
 
Living cost could be expensive as well for travelers. Travelers also have to eat as well. (It might also be a good time for us to go on a diet. Ha-ha) How often can you live off family and relatives’ kindness and have feasts from one invitation to another? Often we have to pay for food or take them out to dinner in return, which could be quite expensive when paying for the large group of people. We usually avoid accepting any invitation to a banquet. This way, we could cut down the frequency of spending money at the fancy restaurants. But, it is inevitable that we would have to eat at restaurants whenever we were on the road to visit people or places. You can imagine that the traveling expenses for a family could be skyrocket high.
 

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I just bought the CD two days ago. KT Tunstall is the singer from UK, born to Chinese mother and Irish father but adopted at birth. KT grew up in St. Andrew, Scotland. I think she is quite a talented song writer. These are the three popular songs on the CD.









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I am not an architect, but I always like to visit old buildings, churches and castles. I am always fascinated and impressed with the forefathers’ architectural designs, artwork and the superb workmanship. Whenever I am immersed myself in the proximity of those buildings, the presence sometimes arouses me with a very overwhelming stimulation.
 
Two weeks ago when I was in Brugge, I finally broke down in tears when I was at the Church of the Lady of Peace. I am not a Catholic at all. In fact, I would call myself of being more spiritual than religious. I have tried to capture my moments there and search for words to describe my feelings inside the church but in vain. It was simply beyond words. I was surrounded by the sincerity of faith from people around me, the peaceful love of quietness, the magnitude of fine detailed artwork of Michelangelo in front of me, and the effort of preservations for all these spiritual treasures throughout hundreds of years. I was speechless but in awe with tears streaming down my cheeks. I did not want to leave….




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F.Y. and I have become very good friends after we met at the Chinese School. She immediately included me as an additional family member. Since then, whenever she needs help and her children are not around to assist her, she would just call me up. I remember when I first met her, she used to be terrified of driving on her own on the highway. She had to rely on her oldest teenaged son to be the driver, which made her life really difficult. Who can count on a hormone-raging teenager to stay home all day long to take his mom places? Of course not! Her son wanted to go out with his friends to do those typical teenager things most of the time. I don’t blame him.

One day, we planned to visit a friend who lived in the next town. I had never been to this friend’s house. F.Y. was supposed to be the driver to take both of us there. It took us forever to get there because she took a long route around the city instead of the highway. She was terrified to drive on the highway you see. I told her that I would sit beside her to coach her on the way back. There was no way that I would let her take the city roads again. So, she had to take the highway for the first time in Canada. Well, we did get home safely, but she was completely soaked with sweat when we arrived! After that day, FY was not afraid of getting onto the highway anymore.

One day, I was telling F.Y. about the RRSP that I invested for my retirement pension. She suddenly asked me if I could take a look at a few letters she received. Those letters were sent by the company where she invested her money in order to immigrate to Canada. She then started telling me her immigration experience. I was in awe.

F.Y., like many investment immigrants, went to those investment seminars for immigration in Taiwan. Those seminars usually are set up by Taiwanese immigration consulting companies along with investment funds companies from Canada. In order to have her children educated in Canada, she decided to take the easiest route for her, to invest money in Canadian funds and apply for investment immigration. According to the regulation then, she had to invest certain amount of Canadian dollars. I am not sure how much exactly the amount should be invested to qualify for investment immigration to Canada, but I do know that she purchased 250,000 Canadian dollars worth of funds alone from this particular company from Saskatoon, Canada.

I looked at the letters sent to her from the company in Saskatoon. The address on the letterhead was only a mailbox address, which was alarming to me. A reputable company would not be based on a mailbox address. I tried to call the company, but it was only an answering machine, another alarming sign. I asked F.Y. whether she had received an annual statement from this company every year or not. Apparently, the company did send out the annual statement to F.Y., one of many shareholders, and a letter to inform her about their loss in a few bad investments. Their share prices have been in decline, and the company has been in deep financial trouble.

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My friend FY called me this morning to ask me if I know a particular person at the board office. Then the conversation lead to if I could make a phone call for her instead to enquire about the registration for some international visa students. Sometimes, FY thinks that I am a wonder woman who knows everybody and have all the contacts to get information. Well, I don’t! But, I do have thick skin and I am not afraid of asking questions around.

 

I am actually a very quiet person who enjoys observing others rather than blabbering all the time. One thing I’ve learned in North America is that you can not be shy away from asking questions though. “You snooze, you lose.” At school, I always encourage my students to ask questions for clarification and to be able to speak publicly in front of the crowds. Public speaking and attentive listening are two very important parts of oral language skills as far as I am concerned.

 

I remember when I was at junior high school, I was always assigned to represent the schools to participate in formal speech or poetry reading competitions. I might have shown some interest in the beginning of my Grade Six class for poetry reciting, but I was not good at it at all. Then I got better after all the opportunities I had been given throughout the years. In fact, the schools always sent the same students because there were not enough people who showed interest or were brave enough to attend public speaking competitions. My family used to joke about what to do with the awards I won, not enough to wallpaper the wall, but too many to hang up on the wall. Hahaha. So, since my Grade Six class, I had been trained not to be afraid of standing on the stage and facing the crowds, but to speak loud and clear in front of the large group of people.

 

Later on when I went to Fu Jen Catholic U, I was in love with performance arts. I directed an English school play and was involved in a few performances myself. The experiences were added to my public speaking skills, so I became a natural when I had to speak on the radio, in front of the students or with clients for business dealings. I am not afraid to ask questions, either. I am actually a very quiet person but certainly not shy.

 

Now I often apply my performing skills to deliver instructions to the little ones in my class. It is sometimes funny to listen to the students’ comment about me. Some students at school think that I am very funny, but they are also afraid of me because I am very strict. I am not a clown and certainly do not portray myself as one to entertain my students in class; however, I have to be able to deliver my instructions to my students in a very effective, efficient and exciting manners so that my students are able to direct their attention to me for a prolonged period of time. They have to be willing to listen to me and understand me clearly. This is the skill that we absolutely have to encompass as a teacher. The truth is that public speaking is absolutely vital nowadays. We need it for every day work life, but most schools seem to ignore the importance of this particular skill development.

 

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