I cannot believe it is already the third week of February. I am amazed that my journey here is about half over. When I think of how much I have (finally) learned, the opportunities here for teachers (but not librarians), the easiness of being here, I really think about giving it one more year. But, when I think about my mom, my Kris, Evan and Rod, libraries!!, students with whom I can communicate, the possibility of dating and so many of the little things to which I’ve grown accustom, there is no way I can stay here two consecutive years.

This year has been a whirlwind and winter break has been no exception. I, like many of the foreign teachers spent parts of the break at English camp. This gave us the opportunity to teach students English in a more relaxed atmosphere. I was able to continue traveling during my time off as well as to gather items to decorate my rather bare classroom.

And the other teachers? Rose (Michigan) in Fongshan went to Taichung and Haulien with families from her school; Gene was able to visit Carolyn (Arkansas) in Putzih, spending time with members of her school and traveling the country; Betty (Canada) and Marilyn (Arkansas) had an incredible trip to Cebu in the Philippines and Mama Leah was in Malaysia. Sandy just sent me photos of her incredible trip to Bali.  We keep in contact with each other, like touch stones filling the void. Sean (IN) and the Grandersons (Arkansas) came to visit Pingtung and Kaouhsoing. As big and as busy as Kaouhsoing is, many people never make it there to visit. They are convinced that the only happenings are in Taipei, so they miss out!

The true highlight of winter break is Chinese New Year. This holiday, stuffed with tradition, is quite unlike the New Year in America. Rather than revelers taking to the street to count down the minutes to the new year, those in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China go home to celebrate with family over a 5 day period. The calendar in Taiwan changed to the year ‘97’ in January, but this new year while mark the beginning of the year of the rat on the lunar calendar.

While huge dinners have traditionally been prepared in homes, more families are taking to reserving banquet facilities for the huge meals which take days to prepare. Traditional foods are prepared to insure prosperity in the upcoming year. The more food, the greater the anticipated prosperity. There is majjohng, and red envelopes—the giving of cash to children still living at home, or to parents of grown children. There are special offerings in the temple, fireworks to scare away evil spirits and special spring couplets put on the doors for much the same reason.

Everyone is home with family for 4-5 days. Stores and restaurants close and the trash man does not cometh. Those of us (ME!) who have never cooked stock up on food supplies from Carrefour and begin a new year tradition of one’s own (cooking!). The holiday also includes the Lantern Festival which is held on the first full moon of the new year in about 15 days.

I know there is a big celebration in Kaouhsoing, but I don’t know what happens in Pingtung, or if it is even a day off work.

It’s also still winter and the temps have dropped. The 50s and 60s are nothing to sneeze and when homes don’t have insulation (it would hold too much moisture), floors are made of tile and there is not enough reason to invest in central heating.

Monday is still a day off from the holiday and Tuesday it’s back to school. I get to see my students again!!

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