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A staple institution here in Taiwan is the 7-11. They are quite prevalent, appearing in almost every city block. If you’ve seen the ABC store in Hawaii, or Starbucks in Vancouver, you get the picture: they’re everywhere! What’s particularly unique about the 7-11, however, is the multitude of services which they provide. They have the basic food and household supplies, beverages, toys, magazines and incidentals. If you are hungry, you can purchase a sandwich or a meal which the sales clerk can warm for you in the microwave. My first night here, I had a delicious beef and tomato dinner from 7-11 and I believe Kristen had a chicken dinner. You can pick up your daily coffee here, withdraw money from the ATM, buy phone cards or even pay utility bills. If you’ve placed an order online, it is usually delivered to the nearest 7-11 and you will pick it up from there. Receipts from 7-11 contain numbers that go into monthly lottery drawings. In an effort to attempt to put a dent into the huge underground economy, the government encourages to people to make legitimate purchases and save the receipts to participate in the drawings. While they do not currently have a Laundromat or car wash, they do sound quite like the one stop shop!

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We’ve met a few other teachers who have been here for quite a while. While they all have fascinating stories to tell, I think Michelle and Sandy’s is about the most interesting. They both came here to teach last year with this same program I’m in but from different states. They have both decided to stay here another year. They both teach on Kinmen Island, but in different schools. Kinmen is a tiny island, about 90 square miles in size. China bombed this tiny island every other day for over 20 years. What remains is a haunted land. People do not swim in the beaches because they believe the waters are filled with the souls of those killed in the bombings. Children play in small enclosed yards rather than open fields because only about 30% of the land mines buried in the country have been removed. The people who live there maintain the tradition of a certain sorghum wine, gong candy and Wind Lion Gods. The children are like children anywhere, challenging teachers to motivate, love and accept them as only children can do. Sandy and Michelle teach them English and they continue through the educational system just like their counter parts on the mainland.

The island has beautiful beaches, a national park and a wonderful view of mainland China from its shores. Unfortunately, Sandy and Michelle need a visa to enter the country and get a rare opportunity for shopping.

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