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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Field Trip to Yilan (宜蘭)

Towards the end of last week came the big overnight field trip. Last year's was to the aquarium in Kenting. This year we went to Yilan (宜蘭). Admittedly, I'm always a little daunted by overnight field trips. I like having my own time and space. And when you're chaperoning a field trip you're expected to keep eyes on your kids ALL THE TIME. That being said, I've always heard that Yilan is a stunning part of Taiwan, so I was also a bit excited to be able to see this magical, beautiful part of Taiwan that I hadn't seen before. The students had all been divided into groups of 5-6 kids per teacher before leaving. Groups were either all girls or all boys, but different age groups were all mixed together. My group was composed of five girls between second and fifth grade.

Thursday morning around 8am we all climbed aboard the bus and departed campus for the north-eastern part of Taiwan known as Yilan (宜蘭). The school had hired tour guides for the trip, so as we were driving the movies were occasionally paused so that the guide could point something out of interest to the kids. There aren't really highways that cross the mountains that run down the middle of Taiwan, so to get from the west side of the island to the east side you either have to drive up and around or down and around. We drove up, arriving in Yilan (宜蘭) mid afternoon. The only thing scheduled for the day was the International Children's Festival. First we lined up to go on a short sailboat ride, and after that the kids were given time to go and play in the water park area. Between the teachers that wanted to play in the water and the tour guides, any adults who didn't want to get wet didn't have to, so I sat in a chair under a tree reading Swift's Gulliver's Travels. The water park area was crazy! There was loud music pumping through the air, water spraying down from suspended nozzles, inflatable covered platforms, and wading pools. Workers with whistles were patrolling several of the areas. After that it was time for dinner and then we headed back to base for the night. Each group was assigned to a suite of rooms comprising a bathroom, living room, and two bedrooms. One bedroom had two double beds, the other had a queen with two mats on the floor. I told the girls that they could choose where they wanted to sleep. They decided that I'd get to sleep on the floor, because all of them were afraid of sleeping near the floor to ceiling windows on that side of the room. It was fine by me. I'm not too terribly picky about where I sleep. The girls all had so much energy though! And especially the three girls in my room just didn't want to fall asleep. Finally after multiple trips to the bathroom and a few ultimatums though, everyone was sleeping peacefully.

Waiting for the sailboat rides to start up. They could seat six to a boat, plus the "driver".

Some of the girls playing UNO before bed.

Friday morning started around 7am when I started waking the girls up so they could pack up their stuff and get ready for breakfast. We had to take everything out of the room with us when we left to eat. The museum itself didn't open until later, but there were plenty of different little crafty shops and stores to walk through, and that's how our morning was spent. S.J, one of the teachers, bought a traditional umbrella. The kids also bought a variety of different pictures, toys, and food. After lunch we visited a museum where each floor had a theme. We started on the third floor, which was all about the mountains around Yilan. The second floor looked at the plains. And the first floor focused on the sea. There was an actual retired fishing vessel housed on the first floor that the kids could take turns boarding in small groups which they really enjoyed! Then it was time to start heading back to Chaiyi.


Putting the finishing touches on the umbrella S.J. purchased

The museum we visited in the afternoon.

A few of the girls reading a display in the lobby of the museum.


My group of students realized fairly quickly into the trip that my Chinese was good enough to communicate with just that for a multitude of things, which meant that Chinese was their go to when talking with each other and me then. Although sometimes they'd speak English, and if I really didn't understand they'd go back and say something in English. All that functioning in Chinese required a lot more thinking, processing, and paying attention on my part, which made it a little more exhausting, but it was also good practice!


In the end, I think the students enjoyed their field trip. One week of summer camp to go. Then I'm off to Japan for a few days!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Camp: Spain and Picasso

It's my second week of summer camp, my students' third, and we've finished talking about Japan and started learning about Spain.

We started learning some Spanish, mostly family members. I made a matching game with the Spanish words on some cards and pictures of what the words are for on other cards. Then we used the cards to play a memory game trying to match the word with the picture. We also talked about Pablo Picasso and some of his famous paintings. Their craft this week had each of the students making their own Picasso inspired portrait. This is harder than it may at first appear. One of the other teachers had found a video by an art teacher that modeled an easy, fun way to accomplish the Picasso effect, so Tuesday we started with that. Students start by picking out different geometric shapes cut out of construction paper and then draw eyes, mouths, and noses on them - as many as they want. After that, the kids fill in the void of the face with lines, squares, scales, and any other sort of geometric pattern that floats their boat. Then they fill in the background the same way. Today then the students finished their portraits and presented them to their classmates. It was fun to hear the different students explain their pictures. One girl said, "I like to listen, so I put on many ears." Another said, "I like to talk, so I gave mine many mouths." Many of them were filled with bright colors.




For their lunch my class made a take on paella and Spanish tortillas. Thankfully, this week we were in the school kitchen which not only gave us access to all the burners we could desire but also to sinks which made cleaning up much easier. Pearl and I each headed a group. The boys went with Pearl to make our version of paella. It had chicken, bell peppers, and a variety of herbs and spices. The girls came with me and we worked on making Spanish tortillas. I'd never made them before. The girls were very eager to work. Our egg to potato mixture ratio got a little off, so we ended up turning it into potato scramble eggs. Once everything was done, the kids pulled out their lunch-ware and started eating. Other than some of the kids thinking the paella was a bit spicy (different seasonings than they're used to), they seemed to enjoy it. :)

Tomorrow we leave for Yilan for our overnight field trip.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Camp: Week One for Me, Week Two for My Students

After a long journey towards the end of last week, I'm back in Taiwan and back in the classroom. This is the second week of summer camp here at C.E.L.A. and the theme this year is East Meets West with a focus on Japanese culture, food, and history (for two weeks) and Spanish culture, food, and history (for two weeks). For a change, this year on Monday the Americans were given a chance to adjust to the time zone and work in the office. I'm teaching the highest (English/grade) level group: Nachos. Tien, one of my co-workers, taught Monday. She had them read the story of Kiguya Hime. The rest of the week we continued to look at Kiguya Hime watching video interpretations, as a class turning it into a play, and as groups turning it into a story book. The kids also had different crafts, making paper fish hassocks and origami. And once a week the students are in charge of making their lunch.

Today, the chosen foods were: okonomiyaki and miso soup. Okonomiyaki is a sort of cabbage pancake. Around 10am the class tromped downstairs to Office 2 where we all started cooking. First, Judy helped them to make the soup. They cut tofu and dissolved miso paste to put into boiling water.

Who wants to help Judy cut tofu?

Judy helping a student cut the tofu.

One student adding the cut up tofu into the soup pot.
 
Then it was time to slice bacon, chop cabbage, and shred carrots. All the students chipped in and were able to do something. Then we pulled out another hot plate and started frying the bacon. The kids added handfuls of cabbage and carrots to the mixture. Once it was all cooked, it was taken off the heat, put into a separate bowl, and eggs were mixed in. Then dollops of the mixture were put into the frying pan where they sizzled until done. While Judy was frying pancakes on the hotplate up on the table, I started working at the one on the floor where the soup had been. Students pulled out their utensils and bowls and started to eat.

Later, I asked some of them how lunch was and which part was their favorite. Everyone said that lunch was really delicious! The students I talked to were split between which was their favorite though. Half said the miso soup and half said the okonomiyaki. Albeit a hectic two hours, I think the kids really enjoyed the cooking and being able to eat what they'd made. :)


Monday, July 7, 2014

American Summer Week 1: Readjusting, the Fourth, and Georgia

A little over a week ago I arrived back in the States. I've been keeping busy, not nearly as busy as I could be, but that's probably a good thing since I need to catch up on sleep sooner or later. Every time I return to the States after another year in Taiwan I have to readjust to different things or different things stand out to me. As usual there's the time zone (which is less difficult to adjust to after 27 hours of traveling), portion size, and the overall heaviness of America food. Some other things that have stood out to me or caught my attention though this year also include: just because someone's speaking English doesn't mean that they're talking to you, and just the different sense of what it means to "be friendly." Adjustments aside, it's been great seeing family and friends and eating Mexican food. :)

So, what have I been up to with my first week in the States? Well, here are the highlights...

Saturday night, after twenty-something hours of traveling from one side of the globe to the other, I finally made it back to Wisconsin. After being picked up by my mom and niece at the bus stop, we visited my grandpa (and picked up my dad, sister, and Charlie the dog) before heading to Red Robin to meet up with some of my friends for dinner.

The next morning I spoke during Bible study about Taiwan. Afterwards, I met up with my friend Sam and his fiancee Laura for lunch at El Azteca. I miss Mexican food a great deal in Taiwan, so I always joke that I have to eat a year's worth of it while I'm back in the States in July. :) 

I had several days to just veg and readjust to the time zone before Joe and I headed to Georgia on Thursday. The first flight went really well. I enjoyed some frozen yogurt at the Atlanta airport while waiting for our next flight. Come to find out, said flight had been grossly overbooked, Joe and I were afraid we wouldn't have seats on the plane, but it all worked out. I even got seated in an exit row. Yay extra leg room! After being stuck in a holding pattern due to weather for so long that we had to detour up to Savannah for fuel and then head south again, we finally landed in Florida. Ben, Cait, and Savannah were all there waiting for us. We piled into the car and headed off to Mi Casa. Ben had heard that I'm a big Mexican food-y. Delicious! The next day was the Fourth. We played games, picked up a friend, Will, at the airport, and went to a BBQ one of Ben's Navy buddy's was hosting. We had our own fireworks. And overall, I'd consider it a successful day. Saturday was also very chill. We were able to go to the beach for a bit, which I always enjoy. Our trip was cut short due to the lifeguards making everyone get out thanks to an approaching storm, but at least we got to go. We picked up some ice cream for the road at a nearby ice cream shack, which isn't a bad consolation prize in my book. :) It started to rain on our way home, we ordered carry out Chinese food for dinner, and spent the evening playing more games and hanging out. Sunday morning I headed to church with Ben, Cait, and Savannah. After which, we picked up the boys and headed to a local dive dinner for lunch. I ordered an omelet and corned beef hash. Really nice! Then we walked around Crooked River State Park enjoying the wildlife and the scenery, and trying not to be eaten alive by the mosquitoes. We hung out back at the house before having to head to the airport and return to Wisconsin. It was a really nice trip! It was great to see my brother, to hang out, and to relax. :) 

Playing Munchkin.

At the beach.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! :)

Some flowers along the trail in Crooked River State Park.