Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Just Another Moon Festival

Today's the first day back after a three day weekend - Monday was Moon Festival (中秋節), also known as Mid-Autumn Festival. Here Taiwan people celebrate by getting together with family and friends and barbequing. Pomelo (柚子) and moon cakes (月餅) are also traditional Moon Festival foods. And after eating the pomelo, people put it's rind on their head like a hat. 

The Americans hosted a Moon Festival barbeque Sunday evening. We grilled hot dogs, beef, and sweet potatoes. Others brought salad, cookies, mini-pizzas, and pasta salad, similar to an American barbeque. Aside from eating, we talked, and then later in the night a handful of us played games. 

Moon Festival itself was on Monday, thus we had no school. I woke up in the morning to the sound of drums and cymbals as the temple parades steadily marched past my apartment. In the afternoon you started to be able to smell the barbeque that neighboring families were preparing. It smelled delicious! For dinner, a handful of us met up at Caves to enjoy each others company and the food. Apparently we weren't the only people who thought that a family style meal would be perfect, because Caves was hopping! As always though, we walked away having eaten more than enough. 

It was very relaxed, but that was perfect.  中秋節快樂大家!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back to School

The first week of classes have come and gone. This semester I have a smathering of grades from all over the board. I'm teaching K1, two sections of K3, E1 Bible, CE5, CE6, and E6. Many of these classes, and over half of this year's students, I've taught before. This means that instead of having to formulate and create lesson plans from nothing, there's already something in place and I can build off of that. CE5 and CE6 are probably the ones that require the most lesson planning work. Having so many familiar faces in my classes is also nice. Although we all change and grow over time, I have some sort of a baseline idea for what will or won't work for different students. My week starts out pretty slowly, which allows me to get a lot of prep and any lesson planning/tweaking out of the way early on. But starting Wednesday and continuing through Friday my days are very busy! Teaching a wide variety of age groups and classes keeps me on my toes as I'm always having to switch which English gear my brain is in as I transition from one classroom to another. Sometimes I have a break in between classes to help with that, and sometimes I don't. God always rounds out the corners though.

This week in K1 we looked at the story of creation. First we just talked about what we saw in the pictures in the BIG book that I'd brought with me. K1 students are still pretty young, about 3 years old, so they don't have a very expansive vocabulary yet, not in Chinese or English, so I pretty surprised when looking at the pictures, some of my students were able to point out things like: LION or ZEBRA. We also are starting to learn "classroom vocabulary," things like: sit down, stand up, listen, and be quiet. We played a game where I'd hold up a picture and the kids had to copy the action in the picture. This brought forth a lot of giggles from students.

About half of my K3 students I'd had before in K1 two years ago. Their favorite part of class this week was the same as my E1 Bible students, singing Hip Hip Hooray and dancing around. The joy on their faces brought a smile to mine, even after I'd been singing and dancing all morning! :)

With the exception of about five new students, I had all of this year's CE students last year. I just moved up a grade with both grades. This too is a combination class of Bible class and reading. I tend to get a bit tan in the summer which isn't something that happens much in Taiwan since everyone tries to stay as white as possible, so when one of my students walked in she exclaimed, "Teacher, you turned black over the summer!

I taught E6 last year, and am now building off of what I did then. Our first reading lesson is an article entitled "What Were They Thinking?" that talks about fashions throughout the decades as a response to what was going on in the world around them. I added in music and tv shows from different times periods to help fill out what we were talking about. While listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary's "Blowin' In the Wind" one of the girls informed me, "My dad has this song." I also exposed them to things like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Vanilla Ice, the Lindy Hop, and "Play that Funky Music."

It was a good first week back with many familiar faces and also some new ones. I look forward to the semester ahead! :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Friends, Art, and Sushi: My Trip to Japan (朋友們,藝術和壽司:我去日本旅行)

In between summer camp/school ending and regular school starting, the teachers at both C.E.L.A. and C.M.S. have around four days to travel. They can choose to go on an office trip (which the school helps to cover) or a trip of their own (then they're on their own). Although for the past three years I've gone on the office trips (two to places here in Taiwan and one to Bali), this year I opted to use the four days to visit a friend of mine from college who now lives in Tokyo, Japan. It was great to see her again, and it was fun to visit a new country!

Let's face it, I tend to have horrible luck flying in or through Tokyo-Narita. Since it was my final destination, I was less concerned than I am when I have to make connecting flights. After making it through security and all that jazz in Taipei, I headed to my gate. I was pleased to see that we were supposed to be boarding and leaving about half an hour early. Because of previous delays, etc. with the Narita airport in the past, I had waited to send her a message about the change of time until boarding had already begun. But sure enough, everyone was on the plane, luggage stored, seats in the upright position, tables stowed, and we were just sitting there. Soon the captain's voice came over the intercom apologizing for the delay and explaining that we needed a new fly pattern to reach Tokyo and that we were waiting for it to be approved and returned. So we sat. And we sat. And we sat. Eventually we took off. By now, I was supposed to be reaching Tokyo half an hour later than my original flight, or an hour and a half later than I had messaged my friend. But, what's a girl to do? So, after landing in Tokyo I booked it to immigration and customs. Thankfully, I hadn't had to check a bag, so I could move pretty fast and evade most of the long lines.

On the other side of the arrivals wall, my friend Rebecca was waiting for me. We stopped to pick up some Starbucks, because I'd left my apartment that morning around 2am to catch the bus, she handed me a Suica (Japan's equivalent to London's Tube's Oyster Card), and we boarded the train. We stopped by her place first so that I could drop of my luggage and we could make a plan for what was remaining of the day ahead of us. One of her co-workers had told her about some fireworks that the city would be shooting off, so we decided to check those out. There was a free shuttle from outside the train station to the area where they'd be shooting them off. People had perched on both sides of the hill near where they'd be. There was also a little traditional market happening at the bottom of the slope on the near side (there was a lake on the other side). The market served a variety of fried foods and foods on a stick. We watched for about half an hour and then decided that we'd head out and find some dinner. We ended up settling on sushi as we perused the food court at a local mall. Afterwards, we headed back to my friend's place and started what would become our nightly routine of putting on our pajamas and watching Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

People meandering along the market portion finding snacks while waiting for the fireworks to start.


Tuna platter

Day two then was our museum day. In spite of a later first night seeing as we had a lot to catch up on, we managed to roll ourselves out of bed and be out the door between 10-10:30am. First stop was the Museum of Western Art located in Ueno Park. Their standing collection includes works of art by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, and Picasso (amongst a variety of other artists), and so for less then $5 U.S. we spent several hours admiring beautiful paintings. We ate omelet rice for lunch at the museum's cafe before meandering through the rest of Ueno Park. We stopped several times to watch street performers and their acts, before heading to the next art museum which was having a special exhibit from the Louvre. This exhibit was much more crowded than our mornings adventures had been, but we still managed to make our way through and see everything. We even were able to stop and just enjoy looking at a few of the different paintings. By the time we finished that, we were starting to lose steam, so we decided to head to the Shibuya Crossing where we could people watch from Starbucks. It took us awhile to actually get seats, but it was an enjoyable experience none the less. Shibuya Crossing was what I had pictured all of Tokyo would be like. Millions of people hurrying about. The interesting thing though is that there wasn't a lot of shuffling or pushing, just a lot of people getting where they needed to go. For dinner that night we went to an Alice in Wonderland themed cafe. It was a pretty neat experience!

The Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park.

Shibuya Crossing

Down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland.

My third day in Tokyo we went to see the Meiji Shrine and visited 100% Chocolate Cafe. Google Maps led us a little astray, but we got there. The shrine was in a park and since it was nice out we walked around and enjoyed the greenery. Then we boarded another train and headed for the cafe. 100% Chocolate Cafe serves a variety of cakes, frostings, chocolates themselves, and drinks all rooted in chocolate. Besides each getting a beverage, we both picked four (from the 56 available kinds) of chocolates to enjoy. I chose a cinnamon chocolate, a red chili pepper chocolate, a Venezuelan chocolate, and one called 95 Chocolate (nice and bitter!). Still being pretty full from our lunch of Japanese curry, I only two of the chocolates while sipping my Chocolate 'Spresso. The cinnamon chocolate was surprisingly grainy but very fragrant, and the Venezuelan chocolate with it's smooth, full, dark body and rich flavor was probably my favorite out of the four that I had. That evening we picked up sushi on the way home, along with stopping at a gluten-free baked goods stand.

The entrance to the Meiji Shrine

More Meiji Shrine


Chocolate. :)

My last day in Japan was pretty relaxed. We watched the season premier of Doctor Who. :) And took our time getting out the door to get me to the airport.

It was a great getaway for a few days! And now... it's just a few more days until school starts back up. How time flies!

“Alice: How long is forever? 
White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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!