First World Problems

I stand on my mountain above the clouds
Looking down at you sulking in the rain.
Being so dry, I can’t help but feel proud
While trying hard not to laugh at your pain.
But I worked hard to climb to this top
While you chose the easy route down below,
So I wish that all your whining would stop
And allow for my happiness to grow.
You only care about where you are at
With only a glance at news from the other place.
Why should I care ’bout the problems you got
When the hot sun is shining on my face?
I forgot one thing in my life of ease
Before I burn, pass up the sunblock please.

The Day the Cable Went Down

How am I supposed to know what to think
When I live without any commercials?
It is the only way that I can link
My hard earned cash with my consuming goals.
Who will tell me which product is the best
When all of the celebrities have left me?
Will I be the judge of my own taste test
If they no longer show it on TV?
Won’t anybody tell me what to do?
Don’t expect me to make up my own mind.
There is a lot of info to sort through.
Making a choice has put me in a bind.
I never knew when my money was spent,
It was guided by your advertisement.

The Activist

My silky hair needs expensive shampoo
With fine ingredients such as palm oil.
I also need to fix things with strong glue
‘Cause it easier than having me toil.
I can get all my cheap electronics
From a local sweat shop deep in China;
I don’t think ’bout the darker specifics
If the workers have a ma or a pa.
But be sure not to hurt the elephants
Who get killed for their healing ivory.
Those creeps are nothing more than sycophants
Who don’t care ’bout this endangered species.
I will never be a contributor
‘Cause I live the life of a consumer.

An Air Travel Love Song

Make sure you get you place in the herd’s line
‘Cause there are places we need to take you.
We will plop some slop on a plate to dine,
So make sure to obey your cabin crew.
Take your seat in that tiny, little box,
And you do not have the right to complain.
Get some shut eye as the plane gently rocks,
But no one gets sleep that they can sustain.
If you feel you deserve entertainment,
Open the shade and look out your window.
Being so high, you will wish to repent,
So you don’t end up in the place down below.
There’s nothing like modern transportation,
A happy way to your destination.

A Free Market Look at Education

I am going into my thirteenth year of being a teacher, and as the demand grows for teachers grow in the United States, I am amazed that the government does not try to make this job more appealing for people to pursue as a career. I know that many people think that teachers should not receive much benefits because they do not work as hard as other professions do. I could sit here and tell you that this is not true, but those people will not listen to me as they have already made up their minds that teachers are overpaid people that don’t work much to begin with. And if that is your perception of education then you are correct, teachers should not get the raises that they are begging for right now. So I have decided to look at this from an economic, free market perspective as this might be a better way of reaching those individuals who believe that we should not be taking care of our teachers better.

In order to make this argument, I first need to establish that education is important for the future of the country. Any community needs an educated workforce, and the more educated a community is, the more powerful its economy becomes. If there are a bunch of people that don’t know how to count money, communicate properly, or work the ever evolving complicate advances in technology. An educated workforce is the foundation for any thriving economy. Just look at South Korea. Here is a country that has no real natural resources, and because of their unique relationship with connecting nations, they are basically an island, and need to import most of the food and resources that they need in order to thrive. They do not have anything of significance to offer the world, yet they have the eleventh largest economy. How is this possible? They looked to the one resource that they had, and utilized it to their advantage, their people. They educated these people and then sent them out into the world in order to help their economy grow, and they created one of the biggest turnarounds ever with an economy, going from one of the world’s worst in the 1950s to where they are today. They did this through an educated workforce.

On the other hand, if a government wants to repress a people, the first thing they do is to take away their education. Hitler did this by burning all books he did not agree with. Pol Pot did this by taking the doctors, professors, and lawyer out to the Killing Fields and getting rid of them. Mao did this by promoting the reading of his red book and only that book. I don’t think that anybody would say that these societies weren’t repressed and the people under the control of these ruthless dictators suffered because of the lack of education. These leaders have gone down in history as some of the greatest killers to have ever walked the earth, and nobody within their societies were able to stop them from these atrocities because they did not have the mental capabilities to bring about the change needed. They were not given the education that was needed to start the revolution because revolutions are not started from gun but from ideas, and it takes an educated individual to create the idea that will inspire the masses into action.

I do not think that there would be many people that would argue that a basic education is needed for each individual, and because of that the future of our nation is dependent on the skills of the teachers that provide this education for our youth. There are numerous studies that show that this is true. In fact, it is not technology that produces great results in the classroom, but it is the strength of the teacher and the size of the class that does it. If you have a child and you want to make sure that he or she gets a good education, you want a skilled teacher leading a class of no more than twenty people, so that skilled teacher can give each student the attention that they need. In order to do this, money needs to be put into education to make sure that this happens.

None of these arguments are new to the person who does not wish to raise their taxes to make this happen. They still think that teachers are given enough money to perform their jobs, and they do not see why more money should be given to them to have them stick around. Well, there is one little trade secret that many of these people do not realize that is already have profound effects on the educational system in the United States, and it has to do with the principle of the free market.

To best understand this principle, think of it from the perspective of a teacher. They want to paid fair wages for the job that they are performing. They want a strong health insurance so they can take care of any medical conditions that might arise through their stressful job. They want to make sure that they are taken care of financially after they have retired from their jobs. They want a place with a diverse population that can add to the educational experience with the unique perspectives that the students bring into the classroom. If they could get this job with great working conditions, as well as somebody paying for their housing, and the added perk of being able to travel to exotic locations during their breaks, what would stop a teacher from doing this? Some people would have to ask about these teachers’ children and the opportunities afforded to them from such a place. Well, if those teachers had children, they would be provided with one of the best educations in the world because they would be able to go to that teacher’s school for free.

I know that there are many people out there that do not believe that a situation like this exists because if it did, many highly qualified teachers would be rushing to get one of these jobs. But I am here to tell you that these jobs do exist, and there are so many of them, that schools are desperate to get the best teachers to fill in those vacancies. It is a simple matter of supply and demand. Because of years of painting educators as greedy individuals who spend most of their time sitting around doing nothing more than babysitting children, many people have stopped going into this profession. Because of being vilified, many teachers that are still in the profession are looking to find a place where they can get the respect that they deserve. If the current practices are allowed to continue, it will only be a matter of time before there is a  serious brain drain in the United States concerning this field. The best in the field will take their skills overseas, leaving schools to scramble to find anybody to fill in the spots that they need to fill. There is already a struggle to fill in science, math, and special education positions because there are already other professions that pay better and are looking for these people to fill these positions. For those that truly love the passion of teaching and being able to connect with the future generations, there is now another option made available to them. And there is a huge demand for English teachers overseas because this is the language that most of these schools teach in and the students want to graduate with a strong grasp of its intricacies.

The best education will eventually come from schools that have been exported overseas. Colleges and universities will look to these same schools to find the students that they believe are worthy enough to attend their institutions, and the people that attend will take their education back to the counties that they come from. Some might claim that this is a slippery slope argument, and there is no way that we can predict the future in the manner, but the truth of the matter is that this is already happening, and as the other countries of the world continue to get smarter, Americans continue to discredit their own educational system, and not fund it to the level that it needs to be funded at. I have seen countries like Korea, Japan, and Cambodia take an active approach to education, and they have seen the benefits of this push already within their economies. America needs to take the same approach to their schools if they wish to compete in the future. Education is not about having a certain part of the population given the privilege of being smarter so they can gains the advantages of a capitalistic society; it is about making sure that we are all smart enough to maintain what needs to happen to make that society sustainable. We should not be sacrifice this aspect of our society because of the financial burden that it puts on us because it is a vital part of what makes America great.

It is the government that eventually decides how they fund their school, but it is up to the people to make sure that the government is doing the will of the people. So during this election cycle, pay close attention to the politicians that are looking to take over the positions of leadership and make sure that you choose wisely. The future of America should not be compromised because a few people do not find a value in it. We should all find a value in it because it affects us all.

The Night Market – Taiwan Day 7

If you are looking for nightlife in Taipei, you should not go try and find the fanciest club or the greatest bar, but instead, you should head to one of the many night markets, and participate in what the locals like to do for fun, eat street food. It is a great tradition here, and the food that you find at these markets is not just good, but it might be some of the best food that you can find in the city.

I went to the Raohe St. Night Market, and the city sections off the street to traffic so vendors can set up their stalls and cook their food. You know you are in the right place because you can smell the aroma of good coming at you from a few blocks away, and as soon as you enter, your stomach just yearns to be filled with some of the things that it is smelling. That is except for the stinky tofu. It is a fermented tofu that is a delicacy of Taiwan, and when you get close to a booth that sells it, you know why it now has that name. I did not try any partly because of the smell, but partly because I am not a big fan of tofu, but that does not mean that I couldn’t find other regional delicacies there.

One of my favorites was a steamed peppered pork bun. Basically it was peppered pork that was rolled up in a dough and then baked on the wall inside of a round oven. They would pull them out hot, put them in a wrapper and sell them to you. I knew it would be good because of the queue of people that lined up to get one.

That was the best way to find out which type of food was the best. Besides smelling something that would grab your attention, there were always those lines of people. If it wasn’t for one of those lines, I would have missed another one of the better dishes that the market had to offer.

There was a desert that could only be found in the market, and it was fun to watch the guy make each individual one. Basically it would start off with a crepe, that he would first fill up with the shavings from a block of a peanut brittle. He would then add in three scoops of a pineapple ice cream, and then add a little cilantro before wrapping it all up in a small little burrito.

It was the perfect treat to end the night with, and it was one of the more memorable experiences from going to Taipei. It is a stop that has to be made while visiting here, or it would be like you never learned what the place and people were actually like. It is the heart of the city, and it doesn’t matter which one you go to, you’ll always find a pulse there.

The Typhoon that Never Came – Taiwan Day 6

We were lucky on this trip to Taiwan. The whole time we were in Taipei, there were rumors rumbling around about a typhoon that was supposed to hit the island on Friday and Saturday. It was to bring with it heavy wind and rains, and most of our time looked like would be spent indoors as we tried to ride out the storm. It was to be a big one too. The first reports of the storm talked about it as being a category 5 typhoon. We even got an alert early on in the week to see if we wanted to change our plans to avoid the destruction that was soon to be unleashed on this tiny island in the Pacific Ocean.

But as the week progressed, the tale of the typhoon soon changed. The course it was going to take started to veer away from the island and took a more direct course towards Japan. The power behind it started to diminish as well and the typhoon turned into a category 3 storm. This did not mean that we were not supposed to get rain on the last days of our vacation, and we spent those days carrying around umbrellas in case we started to get hit with the downpour that was predicted to come.

But the rains never really came. Yes, we did get a few bursts of rain here and there, and we even got to use those umbrellas that we carried around with us all over the place, but for the most part, Taipei is used to the rain, and built its city accordingly. All of the streets have really wide sidewalks with at least half of the sidewalk covered with part of the building. It makes the city a great walking town, even in the rain. Yes, if you forget your umbrella, there are couple of moments you need to dash across the street so you do not get wet, but for the most part, if you play it right, you can stay pretty dry.

The city also knows that the rains can create some beautiful scenery. I have been to many other cities in the world that do not get this fact. They build their buildings and let the rain pound on the outside of them until they look like dirty representations of what their glory used to be. They could go out and clean those buildings or repaint them, but why do that? The rains are just going to come again and turn them into the dirty eyesore that they are destined to be. Taipei definitely takes this attitude as well, but they have also built some great parks with lots of trees and flowers that distract you from the ugliness of the buildings and give you a little reprieve from the bustle of the city.

One such location is Elephant Mountain, or as the locals know it, Xiangshan. It is the last stop on the red line of the subway and takes you out to the far reaches of the town. If you go there, you do need to walk through one of the more beautiful parks that the city has to offer, and find your way to the path that will take you up to one of the best viewing spots of the city. The hike is not that hard, but as soon as you hit the forest that covers the mountain, the humidity jumps up a couple of notches, and drenches you in sweat. It is also the perfect environment for mosquitoes, so if you do go, I would recommend bringing some bug spray with you because without it, you will be eaten alive. Or all of this might have been that we went to do this little hike when there was supposed to be a typhoon hitting the city of Taipei, and we were just getting the residual after effects of what it really could have been.

Despite these minor annoyances, the hike was worth it. The views were spectacular, and there is even a little platform that was built so people could see the perfect spot to watch the crazy fireworks that come whenever Tai Pei 101 decides to shoot them off. It is also really close to that building as well which would make for a great day if you start with the hike and finish with food and exploring that area of the city of Taipei.