At Alishan, we also saw lots of gigantic trees. The picture to the left is a red cypress about 2,000 years old! When we went to Alishan, the weather was fantastic, clear skies and very warm. We hiked the trails up the mountain and then came back down on the train. Most people took the train up, but the line was too long at the bottom of the mountain so we decided to just walk up.
Be sure to check out photos here! There are lots of jumping photos of me and my host family.
The participating countries this year included Russia, Turkey, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and Taiwan. The two-day conference was filled with lots of activities. The students each gave 7-9 minute presentations on their region's natural disasters, participated in a video conference with other NDYS teams around the world, and visited Nantou & Jiji, the places struck by the September 21, 1999 earthquake (the picture to the left is a piece of the Earth's crust where distinct layers in the Chenglongpu fault line are visible). The students also discussed with each other their different cultures, lifestyles, and education systems. I think NDYS is a really rich experience for these students and I wish I could have had something like this back in the United States. Perhaps when I go back to the U.S., I can do something similar to NDYS.
The September 21, 1999 earthquake was one of the most devastating earthquakes to ever hit Taiwan. At 1:47 am that day, Nantou and JiJi in central Taiwan were hit by this 7.3 magnitude earthquake. According to the 9-21 Museum brochure, the earthquake killed 2,415 people, injured 11,305 and caused NT$300 billion dollars in property damage. To reflect on this event, to remember lost loved ones, and to educate people about earthquakes, the Taiwanese built the 921 Earthquake Museum in Nantou. We visited this museum on the second day of the conference. The museum is really interesting because it's built on the Chenglongpu fault line and there are many structures around the museum that reflect the devastation the earthquake caused. If you look at the pictures, an elementary school building that is a part of the museum has utterly collapsed except for a few columns.
The museum and the conference was a really memorable experience. To see such enthusiastic and passionate students engaging in discussions on how to live in harmony with nature was really refreshing.
The Girl's Team, #1 in all of Kaohsiung City (above)
The Boy's Team, #1 in all of Kaohsiung City (above)
The film crew will give us a copy of the video/DVD later in the semester. At the time they filmed us, they had already filmed nineteen schools with English Villages. The Kaohsiung Bureau of Education has really put a lot of money into building these English Villages.
At Tai-Ping Elementary School's English Village, my students went to 8 stations, 4 in the restaurant/hotel and 4 in the supermarket. At one of the restaurant/hotel stations, my students had to put together a puzzle that me and my fellow Fulbrighters made (see above picture). At another station, the students had to unscramble some words (see picture to left) and at yet another station, they had to make a paper airplane (because the simulated environment was an airport). I previously spoke about English Village in these blog posts. To understand more about English Village, click here.
My students with their homeroom teacher (above) at the airport simulated environment. All in all, I'm really glad my students had a good time at English Village.
Some of my new friends that I frequently hang out with, pictured from left: Andres (German), Finja (Taiwanese), Kevin (Taiwanese), Olivia (Taiwanese), Alex (German), & the other three Fulbrighters you already know (Gered, Rebekah, and Dan).
Ip Man (葉問)
Additionally, one of my relatives suggested I watch this documentary:
Up the Yangtze
Up the Yangtze is a documentary on how the building of the Three Gorges Dam in China is affecting the lives of millions of people and their culture. I hope to watch it when I go back to the States.
Some of the lyrics:
You can also find a link to this video here.
And here is a picture of me with all my co-teachers, past and present, at Hua Shan Elementary School's English Village classroom:
Pictured above (from left): Me, Ashley, Chia-Ling, and Yi-Ling.
I co-teach with Ashley all the 5th graders at Hua Shan Elementary School. Yi-Ling (Janice) has taken over all of Chia-Ling's old classes so I still co-teach the 4th graders, the 6th graders, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders have their own special English time for half an hour each week. The 4th, 5th, and 6th graders have two periods of Enlish a week.
Before I left for China, I was given very special gifts from the Counseling Director of Hua Shan Elementary School. Her two daughters, Lily (whose previous name was "Toyota") and Mazda, bought me a special gift from Penghu, an island off of Taiwan that is known for their beautiful minerals and rocks. They gave me a seashell wind charm, which is just gorgeous (See picture to the left). I'm not too sure how I'm going to get it back to the United States, but I'm sure I'll figure something out. The entire wind charm is made of special seashells found in that area of Penghu.
My students love receiving stamps in class and now they can receive one with their teacher's name on it! Although the stamp is a bit huge, I think the students will like it.
Here is what the inside of the lid says:
I'd like to say "Thank you" to Lily, Mazda, my Counseling Director, and her family! What beautiful and memorable gifts! Thank you so much =D
You can find more pictures from today in this album: Taiwan Photo Set 30.
On the first day, we went to the Aquatic Marine Museum. There, we saw lots of beautiful fish, sharks, and we even got to see a beluga show! You'll see pictures in this album: Taiwan Photo Set 29. During the beluga show, if you answered questions about belugas correctly, you were given an opportunity to be kissed and professionally photographed with a beluga for free. Of course, I couldn't answer any of the questions in Chinese, but I was lucky enough to be given a free photo pass by an elderly women who answered a question correctly and was leaving the show early. Quite an experience! When I put on the life jacket and pet the beluga, the beluga felt squishy and soft. I was a bit nervous when the beluga came to kiss me on the cheek and I was hoping it couldn't tell I was nervous. Anyway, it was fun.
The mid-year conference was different from the orientation conference in September because we actually got two days to explore Taiwan instead of sitting in a conference room all day. During those two days, we hiked in Kending National Park and saw two caves, orchids, and several unique trees. Pictured in the photo above is a tree whose roots grow vertically--really amazing! We also saw a tree that was wrapped in vines. The vines knotted themselves to keep from squeezing the tree to death, according to our tour guide. You can find the picture of the tree in this album link.
The Fulbrighters took several group shots and I'll post two of them here. You may not recognize me because I'm wearing glasses. One of my contacts ripped and I had to take it out so I wore glasses the entire weekend. I thought I was so smart because I actually brought an extra pair of contacts with me to Kending. Unfortunately, when I opened up one of the new contact lens packets, it was empty! There was no contact in there...so much for my luck, eh?
In this picture, I'm in the middle, popping the peace sign...
In addition to going to the Marine Museum and Kending National Park, we visited a beach and observed egrets. On the last day, each grantee and group of ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) presented on their experience in Taiwan so far.
Here are some pictures of English Club building the map of the United States and drawing in each state what each state is famous for:
Click above to enlarge the pictures
Chia-Ling, Ashley, and I recently had to deliver a presentation on the English curriculum to the entire faculty of Hua Shan. You can find the powerpoint we made here. Be sure to take a look; it will give you a good picture of some of the things we do at school.
Check out photos in: Taiwan Photo Set 28- My Students at Hua Shan =D!
The English Village Classroom at Hua Shan (see how it resembles an airport? Look at the surroundings)
One of the classrooms I teach in is in the English Village Airport classroom. Of course, being an airport environment, there are no desks, but only comfortable seats. So, when my students come to class, not only are they really excited because they know me and my co-teachers always plan a fun activity/game at the end of class, but they have super comfortable seats to sit in that are incredibly close to each other so they can talk to each other in class! Ack! You can imagine the management problems we've had in classes trying to get our students to be quiet. For the most part, they students are well behaved, though.
I've noticed that Taiwanese students are pretty obedient and very good test takers. The entire society here is centered around exams. If you want to advance socially or professionally, you'd better ace that exam in your junior high school, which will determine your placement in high school, which in turn determines your placement in college and life. It's rather unfortunate that it seems your professional trajectory is locked and unable to change at such an early age.
Me, Ashley, and our students in the other classroom I teach in
The classroom environment makes a big difference because it influences how students interact with each other and how they pay attention. I would much rather have my students sit in the uncomfortable wooden chairs, rather than the cushioned red seats of English Village because it forces them to not fall asleep. But, the students that come to English class never fall asleep. I say this without exaggeration. Since there are two teachers in the classroom, one of us can teach while the other "grazes" or walks around the classroom to make sure students are understanding and paying attention. It's really nice.
Experience a “Fresh” Kaohsiung Meet William and Shiela／高雄鮮體驗 認識William 和Shiela
【Text／Hsin-yi Peng；Photo Courtesy／William and Shiela】
William(left) and Shiela (right)(Photo／William and Shiela)
Sutdents wear Halloween face masks in Shiela's class.(Photo／William and Shiela)
When we got to Taipei, we walked around a lot because we got there super early. The outdoor concert started at 7pm; we got there at 6pm. It was also lightly raining in Taipei and it was much colder than Kaohsiung. The wind chill is not as awful as Iowa winter weather, but it was colder than the 70 degree weather in Kaohsiung. I borrowed Chia-Ling's coat because I didn't bring any real winter clothes because I thought this tiny little island wouldn't be cold. Well, I sure was proven wrong when I got a cold last month during the weather change. Anyway, thank you Chia-Ling for letting me borrow your coat; it kept me very warm =D.
When the concert started at 7pm, it was pretty cool because Kate, Chao-Wei, and I got pretty good spots considering we were so early. There were many famous singers at the concert, but I don't really remember their names. However, I did see S.H.E. sing several songs, this guy from Tainan who wore cool glasses (see pictures below), and I really wanted to see MayDay (Wu Yue Tian) sing, but they were last. We left our good spot in front of the concert early because we wanted to be near the MRT to beat the mad rush home after the fireworks. I was really grateful that did that because we got to where we were staying at 1:30am and not 2 or 3 am.
The Famous Singers at the Outdoor Concert (at least up until we left for a closer location near the MRT)...
Click to enlarge the pictures
The next day, I was very tired, but I had an excellent breakfast to start the New Year. Check it out:
We met up with some of Chao-Wei's friends in Taipei and we had lunch at Din Tai Feng. After lunch, we headed to the biggest night market in Taipei, Shi Lin Yie Shi. Lots of fun! You can see lots of photos in Taiwan Photo Set 27.
At the end of the concert, Lang Lang did TWO encores!! The audience was so surprised and we couldn't stop clapping. During the second encore, Scarlet and my host dad left to stand in line to get Lang Lang's signature. So, when Tai-Shia (my host mom) and I came out of the concert, Scarlet was already in line and I just took the place of my host dad. When we were waiting to get the signature, I realized I had nothing but a scrappy piece of paper for Lang Lang to sign. When I approached the signing table, Lang Lang looked at me funny and asked me what this was in Chinese and I told him I didn't have anything else. He looked at me funny again and signed it. When I got out of line with Scarlet, we were some of the first people he signed, I snapped a few pictures of Lang Lang, then got back in line. Why you ask? Because my host mom bought me a program booklet for Lang Lang to sign properly. This time, though, I was at the very end and I had to kindly ask the security guards to even let me back in line. So, I got Lang Lang's signature TWICE! The picture above is Lang Lang's signature in the program booklet. The scrappy piece of paper just didn't make the cut =D.
When we got back to the Evergreen Hotel after the Lang Lang concert, Scarlet decided that we would visit the Evergreen Maritime Museum the next day. What a good decision that was because when we went to the museum we learned so much about ships, their history, and their operation. The museum director even gave us a personal tour of the museum! (See picture below).
After that, all of us (Chia-Ling and my host family) went to Yang Ming Shan (Yang Ming Mountain) to hike. It was breathtaking and you can find pictures here in Taiwan Photo Set 26.
You'll find in the same photo album that I like to jump and take pictures a lot, especially if there's a bridge. Check out Scarlet and I jumping, teehee. Click to enlarge the photos.
My school celebrated Christmas with an end of the year performance. In Taiwan, not many people are Christians, but they still celebrate Christmas. It is not as sensitive of an issue here as it is in the United States where some people may be offended if you celebrate Christmas and are not a Christian or introduce Christmas into the classroom. In any case, I did my best to let my kids understand the diverse ways Americans celebrate the winter season and get together with their families.
Click on the pictures above to enlarge.
During the Christmas performance, there were classes singing holiday songs in Chinese and there was even a kung fu performance by a second grader. The parent's association of our school also got up and performed a little dance right after the aboriginal student club performed a dance. At the end, there was a plethora of classes pretending to be rock bands. The very very last performance, though, was the surprise: The Shiela Band, performing "I am falling in love with you!" Talk about a surprise! The students were lip syncing to a song and it was so cute. It was such an honor to have a band named after me and the students really touched my heart. The performance was in front of the entire school (See picture above).
You can find more pictures here in Taiwan Photo Album 25.