Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thought for the Day... from the Weekend

Saturday around lunch time, I biked into the city to get Cheap Thai and do some reading. Cheap Thai was jamming, so I ended up just ordering my Pad Thai to go. No problem, there is a large park nearby, so I took my food there, found a bench in the shade (it was a hot day!), and took out my book. For my birthday I was given Anna Badkhen's Peace Meals. Written by an overseas war correspondent who grew up in Russia, it's a compilation of experiences she while reporting in war zones surrounding food and the human element of these countries. Each chapter then ends with a recipe related to what she talked about in the chapter - food she ate while she was there.  The particular chapter I was on was about how traveling can make you appreciate little things. The author talked about "dreaming about lettuce" because fresh vegetables were hard to come by in a dry, dusty, war torn Afghanistan. She said that later on when she would be trying to coax her young son into eating his veggies she'd think to herself, "I dare him to try to find something more exciting than lettuce." As someone who likes to travel, I can appreciate what the author was saying about being thankful for what you have. It made me think of my trip to India. While there often times hot water didn't come out of a tap, so if you wanted a hot shower, you had to boil the water and then shower out a bucket. Running, hot water out of a tap is certainly a little thing, but it can make a big difference when it's what you're used to. I was just thankful to be able to be clean. I also remembered being in Peru. A friend and I had joined a four day trek to Machu Picchu. The views were stunning! When we finally arrived and there were actual toilets though, everyone laughed and joked, because every person in our group spent at least 15 minutes just sitting in the bathroom enjoying the fact that the could do just that. The world is full of so many amazing things to see, do, and experience! No matter where we are it's important to be thankful for the little things. 

After reading a bit in the park, I hopped back on my bike and started the ride home. I decided to go the back way, past the driving range. You can tell there's a driving range because of the huge green nets that jet up into the sky making a limp box around a square area. Taiwan doesn't have a lot of free space, so I imagine the nets are used to keep the balls from crashing into the surrounding buildings or getting lost in the nearby rice paddies. I love how green the rice paddies are right now, it's a bright, vibrant green with hints of yellow that's full of life. I love measuring time in Taiwan by the rice paddies. It took around 45 minutes to bike from the park to my place. I was one sweaty mess when I reached my destination. After cleaning up, I spent the afternoon watching Doctor Who and sketching. I've never been much of an artist; I just like to doodle. 

Saturday was a peaceful, relaxing, productive day. Those words could probably sum up my whole weekend. After having several hectic weeks and knowing that I have two full weekends ahead of me, it was a nice respite. 


"It seems to me there's so much more to the world than the average eye is allowed to see. I believe, if you look hard, there are more wonders in this universe than you could ever have dreamt of." Vincent Van Gogh from Vincent and the Doctor

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

他真的復活了! He Really is Risen!

Although Easter is still two weeks away, the past few days here in Taiwan we've been celebrating it at school. Monday was E3-E6's Easter Jubilee, Tuesday was the Kindergarten Easter party, and today E1-E2 will have a chance to learn about Easter and play some games. Easter is my favorite holiday. Riding in triumphant on the back of a necessary, albeit solemn, Holy Week. My CE4 and CE5 students have already started to read the Easter story. They have heard how Jesus entered Jerusalem on a lowly donkey. They saw Jesus wash the dirty feet of the tired disciples. Neither very kingly activities, especially for the Son of God. But one of the great things about Jesus is that He leads by example. My CE students have read about the Last Supper (one of them pointed out, "Isn't that a famous painting?!") and Jesus praying the garden. Finally, with bated breath they witnessed Judas' betrayal of Jesus and Jesus' arrest and death. This week they'll complete the Easter story and hear about Jesus resurrection. As God's Son, Jesus couldn't stay dead and rose triumphant. Because for both the elementary Easter and the kindergarten Easter festivities I was at the egg dying stand, you won't hear much about the Easter story later on in this post. I'm glad that the students had a chance to hear a bit about it this week (many of them will be hearing more about it in the upcoming weeks). Although it's easy to get caught up with the eggs, the Easter bunny, and the candy, it's important to remember the real reason we celebrate Easter - Jesus. With that in mind... here's what my students have been up to. :)

Brian J. helping his classmates find their names.
The upper elementary levels Easter extravaganza included dying Easter eggs, watching a movie of the Easter story, a craft (making a basket), and a game outside. Each grade cycled through the four stations, with around 15 mins. at each site. I was camped out at Easter egg dying, which was outside in front of the school. It was sprinkling a bit when we started, but soon stopped, although it remained cloudy. It was set up to have three check points: pick up an egg, color on the egg using a crayon and dying the egg, and lastly finding the stand with your name on it and leaving your egg to dry. At C.E.L.A. we've dyed Easter eggs for previous Easter shenanigans, but for some of the new students, this was the first time they'd ever dyed eggs. The number one question was, "Can we eat it?" I explained that yes, the eggs were still edible. So before going home that night, all the students picked up their eggs, and many of the students proceeded to eat them.

Some of the finished E6 eggs.

K1 Cherry Class students decorating their bunny masks.
Around 9:15am yesterday morning all the teachers cleared out of the office and headed to an assigned kindergarten classroom, blank, white bunny masks in hand. For the first 45 mins, students were allowed to color their masks in their respective classrooms. After that, all the classes met up in Luther Hall to learn about the Easter story and watch an Easter movie. The first picture came up on the powerpoint, and several of the K3 students shouted, "JESUS!" before anyone had even asked them anything. It made me smile. :) Then by grade (K1 and Pre-K, K2, and K3) students made their way through three different activities: egg dying, an egg hunt, and having their photos taken. Again, I was at the egg dying station. When you think of the chaos that can ensue when 60 some kindergarteners are all together, it's an Easter miracle that no one ended up splattered in dye. In groups, students sat down to decorate their eggs. After they were finished, they made little lines behind the bowl of dye that they wanted to use. They had four choices: blue, yellow, red, and green. For as much as was going on, it was surprising that we ended on time, and I think the students really enjoyed themselves.

All the kindergarten students waiting for the story and movie.

The playground all set up to dye eggs.

Sample patterns.

K2 students decorating their eggs.

"In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words." 
Luke 24:5-8

婦 女 們 驚 怕 , 將 臉 伏 地 。 那 兩 個 人 就 對 他 們 說 : 為 甚 麼 在 死 人 中 找 活 人 呢 ?
他 不 在 這 裡 , 已 經 復 活 了 。 當 記 念 他 還 在 加 利 利 的 時 候 怎 樣 告 訴 你 們 ,說 : 人 子 必 須 被 交 在 罪 人 手 裡 , 釘 在 十 字 架 上 , 第 三 日 復 活 。他 們 就 想 起 耶 穌 的 話 來 , 
路 加 福 音 24:5-8

Friday, April 4, 2014

Birthdays, Food, and More Food

I am so blessed! 

Birthday cake and tea in the office.
This past week has certainly been busy. Monday was my birthday. Around 3am I was roused from sleep by the rain that was falling in sheets... into my apartment. Sunday had been a warm day so I went to bed that night with the window open. It took about half an hour to clean up, but in my half awake state, I still could smile, because I knew the rain now meant that if the clouds cleared in a few hours, I would be able to see the mountains when I woke up for real. And I could. The office celebrated with an ice cream cake and tea. A few of my friends and I went out for Korean food for lunch. My E6 students were delighted that I had decided to bring treats and all of them enjoyed the Chocolate Chex Marshmallow bars. Some of them even tried ploys like, "Teacher, you are so beautiful today! May I have another treat?" or "Happy birthday, Amanda! Can we just eat treats and not have class today?" E6B broke into song at least four times throughout class if they thought they were talking too much and were going to get in trouble. Tuesday and Wednesday I seemed to go none stop between grading, classes, tutoring, Chinese class, lunches, movies, etc. I had lunch on Wednesday with a friend, Lily, and her family. She knew that I couldn't eat regular cake, so she prettily arranged some fruit and decorations on a platter and put a candle on the top. We were supposed to be celebrating several birthdays - of some of her family members, some of her co-workers, and me - but not everyone could attend, so I had the honor of blowing out the candle. Then, I joined her and her family for a movie, "KANO", about the Chaiyi baseball team. It was really fun, even though it made for a late night! It reminded of me of being with my family back in the States a little, and it was nice. It's good to be loved! Thursday morning was full of kindergarten classes, with my K1 class being observed by parents. Thankfully, my afternoon was a bit more relaxed. Anna and I even had time to meet for coffee. In the evening, the team had dinner together and then Jim Found, a previous missionary in Taiwan, gave a short talk about contextualization.

Birthday collage

And then...

It was the weekend! Huzzah for long weekends! This weekend is home to both Tomb Sweeping Day and Children's Day, both of which are national holidays, so no school today. I spent the morning in bed, reading Austen's Emma. This afternoon I made cookies trying to use up peanut butter leftover from last weekend's baking. Then I cooked dinner for some friends. I made meatballs and Spanish rice. The meatballs were inspired by last week's cooking demo that Lucy and I attended, although they weren't made strictly following the recipe. I would definitely make them again. :) Things I am thankful for: a loving God, good friends, being able to travel, and good food. :)

A giant peanut butter cookie drizzled in dark chocolate.

Meatballs, onions, sauce...

Dinner's ready! Just waiting for the guests. :)

"Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love." Craig Claiborne

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Haikus, Poetry, and the Like

I can still remember being a young girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old, spreading a blanket out in our front yard and examining a book of garden poetry I'd been given. Poetry to me has always been an art that I wished to appreciate but could never quite enjoy the way I felt I ought. Sure, throughout the years I've encountered a few poems that have stuck with me. In high school we read some poems by Langston Hughes and I was impressed with the rhythm and soul of his work. In college, William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow" always tickled me pink. I could identify rhyme schemes and talk about iambic pentameter, but I never had a passion for poetry. I felt like there must be more and I was missing it. After all, poetry is supposed to be food for the soul.

The past several weeks my E6 students have been learning about poetry, and I've been growing in my appreciation of it as I teach them about it. This is the first time I've taught a unit on poetry, and certainly there are things that I could do better. As we talk about poetry terms I try to provide them with simple examples of the vocabulary. Since English is their second or third language, when asking them to produce their own poetry, I've tried to stick to things with more structure, but nothing high fluetent, like haikus and cinquains. Two weeks ago, I had them try their hand at writing haikus, and I can't say that I was disappointed. Some of them wrote about people, others wrote about objects. Almost all of my students exceeded my expectations. Last week I let them read poetry and they did a good job getting the rhythm down, which surprised me. Then they wrote cinquains. This week we're going to look at rhyme scheme.
I have no doubt that I could have organized this unit better. There's a lot of great resources out there. If I teach this class again next year, there are certainly improvements that I can make and things to tweak here and there. In general though, as I discuss different types of poetry and different poems with my students, we learn together. Creativity isn't something that's necessarily nurtured here in Taiwan. So creative writing is something that's new for my students. Something that's not necessarily easy for them, but that they're doing very well with. I'm so proud of the work that they've put forth!

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” Phil Collins