Iowa Public Radio did a piece on the Fulbright Scholar program and I am featured about halfway through the program. Have a listen:
Activism and Fulbright
Iowa Public Radio
We talk with Marisa Handler, UI Writer's Workshop graduate and author of "Loyal to the Sky," an award-winning memoir that documents her coverage of activist communities worldwide.
Then, we discuss the Fulbright Scholarship program with a coordinator and a former scholar.
We spent the first day getting up really early in the morning to catch an 8 o'clock train from Kaohsiung to Hualien. It took about four and a half hours to get to Hualien. When we got there, we headed straight for Taroko Gorge National Park. It was lightly raining the first day and we were only able to finish about half the national park in half a day. So, we decided to finish the rest of the National Park the next day and head to the beach for the rest of the evening. You can find some amazing beach jumping pictures at the end of this blog entry.
View of Taroko Gorge from a bridge
On the second day, we got up around 8 o'clock to go hiking in Taroko National Park. we came across a beautiful bridge with lots of different looking lion heads. You can see the pictures in this photo album-- Taiwan Photo Set 43: Hualien Trip Day 2. After that, we went hiking along another trail and came across beautiful landscapes. There were clouds that floated amidst the mountains that made you feel so cool and calm. It was breathtaking and a worthwhile experience for anybody visiting Taiwan.
View of the gorge along one of the trails
There were many hiking trails in Taroko National Park and the trails were not too difficult either so you could enjoy the scenery and not be entirely focused on where next to put your feet. The views were spectacular as you'll find out in these photo albums:
Taiwan Photo Set 42: Hualien Trip Day 1
Taiwan Photo Set 43: Hualien Trip Day 2
Taiwan Photo Set 44: Hualien Trip Day 3
Scenic view from climbing to the pagoda
After hiking on many trails in Taroko Gorge National Park and visiting the Buddhist shrines and pagodas nestled in the mountains, we headed for Guan Shan and Taidong for the last two parts of our trip.
Biking in Guan Shan
When we got to Guan Shan by train, we used some bikes at the hotel we were staying at to bike around the town. It was nearing sunset so I got some beautiful pictures of the landscape. You may be wondering how I managed to take pictures on my bike. Well, I rode a two person bike and I was on the back so I didn't have to steer, but merely peddle.
When we finished the bike ride, it was merely the end of Day 2. we still had a whole Day 3 ahead of us.
Enjoying ice cream in Taidong, Taiwan
For Day 3, we headed to Taidong, Taiwan to visit a ranch where you can feed cows, ride horses, and eat/drink fresh yogurt or yogurt ice cream/milk. It was quite an adventure and it was a very relaxing way to finish our 3 day trip to eastern Taiwan.
Thank you Joyce for taking us on such a delightful trip! We had a really fun time and can't wait until our next adventure. This was a great final trip in Taiwan before I left for America.
Jumping pictures from our trip to the beach on the first day to Hualien
When I finally gave the speech, it went well and the children responded to my questions to them, asking them why they were special to me. I'm planning to make a video of the speech so everyone can see, but I've been extraordinarily busy so you may have to wait until I go back to the United States on July 1.
I will miss my students very much. They were the ones that inspired me to go into teaching and I hope they remember me. I will remember them and hopefully their English will be good enough so they can understand my writing.
On the day I gave the speech, I took many wonderful pictures with my administrators and fellow teachers. The picture to the left is with my principal (far left), Miss Liu (dean), the Counseling Director, Shang-Ping Lao Shi (6th grade sports class homeroom teacher), me, Coach Pao (6th grade sports class homeroom teacher), and last but certainly not least, Mr. Sha (the Academic Dean).
The next week, after I gave my speech, was the 6th grader's graduation. At the graduation, the school honored the 6th grade students and also me. I was given so many gifts! the picture to the right is just a sample of some things I received.
From top left and circling around: A certificate from the Kaohsiung Bureau of Education (this was actually given to me yet another week later by the mayor of Kaohsiung, more on that later), a book called "I like you" and it goes on to list the reasons why he/she likes you, a glass plaque, a 500GB hard drive from my school that has my picture with all my administrators stuck on it (see picture on top)--inside the hard drive are all the movies and photos from my entire year at Hua Shan Elementary School (really special right?! I was so surprised when I received it), a cup with the 6th grade sports class with whom I played basketball, and handmade soap by a 6th grade class. These were really amazing gifts. I also received many cards from my students which were really special because they wrote me messages in Chinese and English. Below is a close-up of the glass plaque:
When my 6th graders graduated, they were all teary-eyed. Here is a picture of me with one of my 6th grade sports class students, Fred. When we took this picture, he had just given me the sports class cup.
So, these last two weeks have been hectic; first a speech and then graduation.
During the last two weeks at school, though, I let my students chat with me in class for five minutes using only Chinese. Of course, they had to earn this privilege by making 5 english sentences, each student saying one word in the sentence and each sentence had to be at least ten words long. It was a challenge for the 6th graders, but the 5th graders did really well. Once the 5th and 6th graders were able to make the sentences, they went crazy!
They asked me so many questions, ranging from boyfriend questions (Taiwanese really like to ask personal questions, regardless of whether you're an adult or a child) to pet questions. The students really enjoyed this time to chat with me and I really enjoyed it, too. It's a pity that my students only knew at the very end of the year that they could speak Chinese with me. However, it was for their own good that I only spoke English with them; if they knew I spoke Chinese, they would never speak English and that could be problematic since I'm the English teacher.
I will miss my students very much. All their funny questions, cute phrases, and their efforts in learning English have touched me. Hua Shan Elementary School do not forget me for I will never forget you. Thank you for the gifts and the wonderful love and welcoming you have given me. The best gift of all has been this time with you. Thank you & I love all of you!
You can find more pictures of my last two weeks at Hua Shan here.
For Dr. Wu's parting gift, the Kaohsiung Fulbright ETAs made him a calligraphy piece. Two of our Fulbrighters, Shana and Billy, took calligraphy classes this semester and painted a beautiful piece using Dr. Wu's name. My only contribution was my chop (the red stamp signature of my Chinese name). It was beautifully made and Dr. Wu appreciated it very much.
After the farewell party on Friday, I went to a glass museum called Tittot in Taipei. It's not really a glass museum but it has small sculptured made of a type of material that is a blend between glass and crystal. It's called Liu Li. It's beautiful and a little rough on the surface. It's characterized by it's illuminating colors. You'll see pictures of Liu Li in this photo album: Taiwan Photo Set 40.
As my Fulbright year comes to a close, I want to thank the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange, the Kaohsiung Bureau of Education, AIT Kaohsiung, AIT Taipei, and the U.S. government for supporting me to come here and teach English. This experience has been life changing and my gratitude extends to them and everyone else who has touched my life in Taiwan. I especially want to thank the people I have met in Taiwan. My close friends, the fellow ETAs, my co-teachers, my school, my students, my host family, Joyce's family, my students' families, and many many others. Thank you for giving me one of the memorable and meaningful experiences in Taiwan. Taiwan has, to follow the city motto, touched my heart.
Can you guess what this is? It's a handmade god's eye that our pen pals in America made our English Club students in Taiwan.
We've been doing an exchange this past semester and have been learning a lot about each others' different culture and language. We've had a very successful exchange and you can find out more about it on this page where I've posted pictures. Thank you again, Ms. Shields!
The tea house from outside
When we finished eating dinner and watched the firework display, we headed to Jiu Fen, which used to be an old coal/gold mine and the surrounding area has different colored water shaped in a yin-yang. Unfortunately, it was already 9pm at that time so we were not able to see the different depths of water that cause the change in color at this place. However, we were able to go to Ah Mei Cha, a tea house that they used as the model for the tea house in the movie, Spirited Away. We stayed there until about 11pm and then headed back to Keelung.
At the Evergreen hotel after breakfast
The next day, we got up to go have breakfast at the Evergreen Hotel. You'll notice that this was not our first time staying in one of their hotels. Last time we went to Taipei to see Lang Lang play piano, we also stayed at the Evergreen hotel.
After breakfast, we went hiking on Wang Yo Gu mountain. Wang Yo Gu literally means "forget [your] worr[ies'] valley." Whoever named the mountain wanted you to know that when you stand on the mountain, you will forget everything unpleasant. It was a nice hike, but it was really hot.
After our hike, one of the taxi drivers told us to go to another mountain for a hike. So, after lunch we asked another taxi driver to take us there. It turns out, it was the same mountain, but instead of hiking to the top, you drive to the top! It was a good laugh. We decided to go back to Chia-Ling's office to rest and later hike on a trail around her university. The last hike in Keelung, I got tons of mosquito bites!
You can find more pictures HERE.
It was a great trip and I really thank my host family for taking me. It was really nice to see my other co-teacher who will be leaving for England in a few weeks to defend her PhD dissertation (It's her second PhD). Congratulations, Chia-Ling & good luck!
Here we are in the classroom. The students prepared lots of questions to ask me about my background as a Chinese-American, what food I like in Taiwan, and many other questions.
Thank you for inviting me to your classroom, Class 1 of Xiao Gang High School! You guys are an amazing bunch of students! I had a great time and wish you guys the best in the future!
You can find more pictures of our time together here.
Some of our teammates posing for a picture before we row (I'm in the first row, left)
Because not everyone showed up for practice, when I first sat down in the boat, I thought we were going to flip over because the boat was so close to the water. This was because we had never had such a heavy boat! Everyone finally showed up to row the dragon boat. While it was the day of the competition, at least everyone came!
Competing at night. All races were held at around 8pm
Although I forgot to bring my goggles the first day of racing, I definitely remembered to bring them the next day of competition.
Like I predicted in a previous post, we did not get first place. We did not get second or third, either. We got fourth place (out of four competitors) in our bracket. It was a lot of fun, despite how slow we were =). On Monday's race, our time was 4 minutes and 39 seconds. We were so close in beating the Oxford team. We were only two seconds behind. Oxford was also slow that day. But the next day, they were very quick and were not in a close race with us in grabbing last. All our competitors that second day of racing had a score of 3 minutes + something seconds. We were the only ones who had a score of 4 minutes and 18 seconds. Well, although they beat us in speed, we beat them in having the coolest name, "Hamburger Breakfast!"
Our logo for our T-shirts drawn by a Fulbrighter
Actually, our program coordinator was a little embarrassed to put down our name "Hamburger Breakfast" so they put down "Fulbright Hamburger Breakfast" as our name, which they ultimately shortened to "Fulbright."
Zhong Shan Da Xue (Zhong Shan University) took first place with Wen Zao taking second and Oxford taking third. All in all, it was a really fun experience and we all had a good time.
Check out some very cool pictures here.
Shana & Nicki reading their scripts with cashier Vicki
We began writing scripts for this video about a month ago and we filmed it in two consecutive days, 9am-7pm. The setting for the film took place at Taiping Elementary School in the Xiao Gang district, which is about 40 minutes from where all of us live at the Kaohsiung Cultural Center. When we got there, we immediately launched into filming our various scenes--classroom, recess time, MRT, airport, birthday party, shopping, talking on the phone, library, and hotel.
Rehearsing on the simulated airplane environment wth our scripts
Of course, our children's video would not be complete, though, without songs, right? So, after filming for many hours straight through, we sang three songs:
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
If You're Happy and You Know It...
For the "Hokey Pokey", we just danced. For "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," I played a chicken who "went a cluck-cluck here and a cluck-cluck there, here-a-cluck, there-a-cluck, everywhere a cluck-cluck,..." For "If You're Happy and You Know It.." we all sang the song and did the actions associated with the emotions happy, sad, and angry. It was quite an exhausting two days.
Can you tell we just loved each other after rehearsal and were so full of energy?
We were so exhausted from acting each scene multiple times. Furthermore, the air conditioning was off because the fans and the air conditioner would interfere with the sound. The good thing was that we could get all the filming done in one place, Taiping English Village. Taiping Elementary School had all the equipment we needed to do our film; it had a classroom, a simulated airport environment, a simulated MRT train, a simulated hotel, a simulated grocery store, and a big area where we could sing and dance.
Those two days were so tiring. However, I do look forward to our finished project, which we still have yet to name. We sang and danced our hearts out, Kaohsiung. We hope you find this video useful and entertaining!
Now I know how exhausting it is to be an actor, for say "Blue's Clues." Goodness, you really have to be smiling, happy, and full of energy. It's not easy.
You can find more pictures of our crazy day of filming here.
Some of us in the hot springs
At Ruesuei, we stayed at a hot springs hotel where they had three outdoor springs at different temperatures--cold, warm, and hot. It was very soothing. Ruesuei is known for its "rustic" hot springs, as my guidebook tells me, so I'm glad we got to experience that. The hotel is nestled at the top of a mountain so it was quiet and secluded.
The next day, we got up early to go rafting in another part of Ruesuei. The rafting company we chose had rather old gear (old lifejackets, old rafting boats, old spongy helmets), but they saved us at least NT$300. We rafted for five hours, going over 23 rapids, and over a distance of 25 kilometers. A few of us fell out of the raft a couple of times, but nobody got hurt. We also had some pretty excellent water battles with neighboring rafts, where we used water buckets to throw water at each other. Of course, we're not supposed to do that, but it was still pretty fun because it turned into a battle between the Taiwanese and Americans; the Taiwanese would yell "Welcome to Taiwan!!" And then they would throw some water at us while we would yell back "No honor! You just said 'Peace'!!" It was a good time. This rafting trip would not have been possible without Gered & Rebekah, two of our Fulbright ETAs, organizing it, so a big shout out to both of you! Thank you for organizing the trip!
Click to enlarge the above pictures
After a day of rafting, we went to Tai-Dong in the evening by train. There, we stayed a night at the aboriginal culture hotel. We didn't do too much exploring in Tai-Dong because we arrived so late. The next morning, we went to Green Island (Ludao), an island off of Taiwan.
At the 'Little Great Wall' on Green Island (Ludao)
We took the ferry to go to Green Island and unfortunately, I threw up multiple times. I don't usually get seasick, but this ride was 40 minutes long and I already had a slight headache in the morning. So, the combination of those factors culminated in a not-so-pleasant experience. Anyway, I digress. When we finally arrived on Green Island, we realized that we couldn't take a tour with the glass-bottomed boat like we originally planned because it wasn't running on that day, which happened to be a Sunday. At that point, we had to decide if we wanted to ride golf carts around Green Island, which is only 6 sq miles, or 16 sq kilometers around, or rent a car for about $30 for three hours. We chose the latter.
Green Island was formed after a volcanic explosion. It is famous for many things including oddly shaped volcanic rocks, a prison for political dissidents (or that's what I hear), and lush green mountains. We saw all of that and much more in the span of three hours. We were very efficient with our two rented cars.
All in all, it was an excellent trip and I'm glad I got to see eastern Taiwan. You should check out more pictures in Taiwan Photo Set 35!
To form a team, you must have thirty people, twenty of which will be rowing, one will be steering the boat in the back, one will be drumming, and one will be sitting on top of the dragon's head to reach for the flag; the other six are backups in case one of us falls into the water during practice.
So, I'd like to say that we're a pretty serious competitor, but I'd be pulling your leg if I wrote that. Let me clarify our place in this competition:
1) Our team name is "Hamburger Breakfast." This name was chosen because so many Taiwanese think that foreigners love to eat hamburgers for breakfast. But in fact, more Taiwanese eat hamburgers for breakfast than foreigners. Instead of trying to dispel this myth, which we've tried, we've decided to embrace our "foreignness" and name ourselves after this misconception.
2) There are seven competitors in the foreign division of the race.
3) One of our competitors is the Kaohsiung World Games Dragon Boat Team.
4) Another one of our competitors has practiced for nearly twenty years.
5) We will practice three times for one hour each until the actual competition...
6) When we practice, we have three rowing strategies, Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Here is the pattern of drumming for each Plan:
7) At our first practice, nine out of twenty-four people showed up.
8) At our second practice, twelve out of twenty-four people showed up.
9) Maybe by our third practice, all of us will show up?
Now, when you're dragon boating, there a few things to keep in mind. First, you're rowing on Love River. In the past, people have said it used to smell so foul pedestrians would throw up walking near it. People did not love the Love River ten years ago. However, things have changed now and it's not nearly as stinky as it was ten years ago. I--sitting at the front of the Dragon Boat and splashing myself with water because I don't know how to row--have tasted the Love River and I'll tell ya right now, it's salty and stings the eyes if you're not wearing goggles. So, to prepare yourself for the race, we suggest you wear:
I hope this has given you a little picture into our experience dragon boating.
One more thing, one of the ETAs thought up of our slogan, "Your ass is dragon!" because it sounds like "Your ass is draggin' " as in "You're too slow!" We'll get T-shirts that say this so look out for pictures later!
Happy Rowing, Team! Go Hamburger Breakfast, Go!
Here are some pictures of the eateries we've been to and the food we've tried.
Spare-rib noodle soup and tofu
I also really like this place:
Be sure to check out more pictures of the food I've tasted in Taiwan in this album.
Happy Mother's Day!
We stopped by a coffee shop on the way to Wan Shou Shan. The entire shop was nestled in the forest; you can see a picture of it to the left.
It was a great trip and we hope to go hiking up monkey mountain before I leave Taiwan in July.
Afterwards, we had a buffet lunch and concluded the meeting.
However, it all paid off when we saw our little students perform! They were so nervous when they got up on stage and the wind blew all their witch hats away, but they still were enthusiastic and happy about performing. Ashley and I are so proud of our students.
Cast of characters: (Top row) Witch 1 pair, Witch 2 pair, Witch 3 pair (Bottom row) Cowgirls, Janitors, and Narrators
Yi-Ling & Ashley (above left), the MC & I (Remember him from Hua Shan's ten year anniversary? He was my co-MC at during the 10-yr anniversary)
Check out their outdoor Reader's Theater Performance:
There is also a special type of barbecuing that takes place in Taiwan. In Taiwanese, it's called Kong Tou Ye. It's a style of barbecuing that takes one full day and the effort of the whole family. A few people use stones to build a little oven (see picture above). Meanwhile, other people use water, newspaper, and mud to wrap eggs, chicken, and other meats they want to bake.
When the stones get hot enough, you take the all the charcoal inside the oven out and put the things you want to bake inside. The Taiwanese call it "men." Then, you cover the entire thing with dirt. That is, you cover the entire oven with dirt so it bakes the entire stuff inside this little mound of dirt and stones. It's really cool. The picture to the right is a picture of all the foods you would want to bake wrapped in newspaper and mud.