OK, ladies and gentlemen, get you chai, your bubble tea or your milk coffee and settle in for a long read. It’s been a while and I have a lot of catching up to do! This will be poorly edited because I’m sitting in an Internet cafe which feels like a video arcade, paying for my time and trying to get as much done here as possible.

Last Wednesday, we finished our training at NAER and were picked up by our school and local officials to be escorted to various remote locations around the island. Seven US and Canadian teachers were assigned to cities in small schools to teach English to students who rarely have the opportunity to speak with native speakers. This is seen as essential in foriegn language education in Taiwan. A teacher at my school expressed her honor in being one of the schools selected to have one of us (me!). So, they go above and beyond for us! I feel so much support and care that I worry that I won’t be able to show nearly enough appreciation, no matter how well I teach or inspire the children.

We drove down Highway 3 to get here. We stopped in the first city we encountered to purchase dried tofu. Some of the best candy you’ll ever have! We drove through what felt like one continuous city probably until we reached Tainan and took a different highway and headed due east. The landscape quickly turned to some of the most rugged mountains I’ve ever seen. Though not steep, they were jagged peaks covered with vegetation. Landslides left scars that looked like something scratched away the land.

Pingtung looks like a small Taipei. It doesn’t really look like a small city at all. My school has about 14oo students in grades 1-6. The first and second graders only attend half days. Everyone only attends half days on Wednesdays because of teacher meetings. There is a lot I will never know about my school because of the language barriers. While there is not a special ed program as large as in the US, there are resource rooms to help students and there is a huge effort to identify the needs of struggle students.

My class schedule is different everyday of the week, with as few as 3 classes on some days and 6 on others. I teach a total fo 20 classes, seeing each class of 4-6th graders each week. That’s about 600 students/week. I eat lunch at school for now and it costs $NT40 per day (a little over a dollar)

This past weekend, Kristen and I went to Kaoishiung City with Mr. Chen, a Director at my school who has graciously cared for us since out arrival. He had language classes at a unversity there and we went along. We spent hours in a university library where I read journals and Kris did the Internet. Then, we went to the Dream Mall. We saw Jodie Foster’s new movie which is called “The Brave One” here and had a great day! The city reminded me of Tokyo. We had been told it was an ugly, industrial city but we loved it much more that Taipei.

Folks here are incredibly kind. They work so hard to help us and it is amazing how many speak English. They work harder to speak English than I do to speak Chinese, and it’s their country!! Actually, I tried to speack tried but my tones are so awful that no one understands me. Not even my ‘knee hows’ or ‘shi shi’s!! I have a furnished aparment right around the corner from my school. They gave both of us a bike and you wouldn’t believe the work to make sure my lease was proper and in my best interest!

Most of you reading this know me and how hard headed I am. I have a lot of lessons to learn and I guess I was given a short cut to learn them by being sent here. I am learning so much about life, about people, about caring and about me.

You cannot be a good teacher if you’re not a good learner!

Peace and much love til next time!

OH!! Expect more guest writers. Everyone from my group is going to take turns posting here so you can get an idea of what it’s like all over the island. Feel free to respond, comment or ask questions. We’d like to hear from you, too!