You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2008.

Happy 26th Birthday, Rodney Brice Campbell!

Avoid high luggage fees by using technology and your public library to lighten your load!

  • Pack your library card!
  • Check your library’s website to see what audio devices support their audiobooks.
  • Borrow audiobooks freely from your library while you travel!
  • Rather read? Download ebooks to you laptop.

Who needs Kindle??

This map shows Taiwan taking its hit on Thursday. Could this be a Typhoon Day??  (NO SCHOOL!)

Rose and I bought our train tickets in Kaohsiung and headed to the platform.  The tickets were for a local train.  I typically don’t like to get stuck on these trains because the tickets have very little information on them.  Luckily, we had the agent write the time on the back of the ticket, and from the time we were able to determine from the signs that our train would be on platform 3.  However, once we got to the platform, we had no idea whether the train would be on 3A or 3B.  3B or not 3B, that was the question!!  I pointed at the train and asked someone about to board “Pingtung?”  Response “I don’t know”, in English no less!  An usual answer for someone about to board a train, don’t you think?  I asked two more people and got the same answer.  Now about this time you have to be wondering why these people were getting on this train had no idea where the train was headed.  It wasn’t that they didn’t know!  They knew where the train was going as well as they knew where they were going.  What they didn’t know was how to say in English the same thing they would say in Mandarin.  In Taiwanese culture, no one wants to be wrong and you don’t necessarily want to tell someone they are wrong.  They didn’t want us to be wrong about knowing where we going, they wanted to do this back and forth that would allow them to tell us what we wanted to know.  It would not have been unusual for them to say “Yes, it’s going to Pingtung” when in fact it wasn’t.  This seems like incorrect information to me, but they would be telling me what I wanted to hear. The fourth person questioned knew English langauge (and culture) well enough to point to the train on track 3A and tell us that was the correct train, not 3B.

Class 6-4 invited me to their graduation dinner on Monday. The students designed and created a love invitation, and delivered it and arranged my transportation. My hostess for the evening, the talented and outspoken Tina, picked me up promptly at 5:30 and took me to Noble Family Steak House for a truly wonderful evening!

This past Wednesday, the 6th graders graduated from Raey Guang Elementary School. They spent the previous week signing shirts and yearbooks, cleaning classrooms and saying good-byes.

Wednesday, they were greeted with flowers and banners. Some of the younger classes made special posters for them.


Students took a final walk around the campus before entering the filled auditorium.

Each student was handed their diploma by the principal and awards were presented by special guests: principals from other schools, head of the PTO and me!!

One of the traditions is to have a fifth grade student (memorize) and deliver a speech to the graduating class. She did such a wonderful job!

After the ceremony, teachers and students line the path the graduates would walk as they symbolically left the school for the last time.

This is me with my mom, dad and older brother shortly after I was born. This photo has nothing to do with Taiwan, but everything to do with my dad. My dad loved me! He loved all three of us! His love, his sense of responsibility, his faith and wisdom has given me a healthy respect for all men. He taught me to take care of my family, to value knowledge and to explore and enjoy life. I wonder what he would say about me being in Taiwan for a year. If he were alive and healthy, there’d be a good chance he would make it over here to visit. He was that kind of guy. On this Father’s Day, I hope he is at peace. And to you as well, if you’re a dad reading this!

Here in Taiwan, Father’s Day won’t come until 8 August–my dad’s birthday. The word for eight is ‘ba’ and August is the eighth month, so, the date is ‘ba ba’. In Chinese, ‘ba ba’ is ‘daddy’. So, 8 August is Father’s Day!

I’ve spent time this week signing yearbooks. I haven’t done that in quite a while and all I could remember were the timeless phrases like “stay as sweet as you are” “don’t change” and “2Sweet 2Be 4Gotten”. I could be more creative with students I knew a little better, but all in all it was a fun thing to do! The yearbooks are fun memories and have wonderful shots of students throughout the year. It will be one of my favorite souvenirs.

The 6th graders will graduate next Wednesday. They will go from the fun, protective elementary school environment to an regimented, test driven junior high. I’m speaking from a classroom perspective. It is quite possible that the students do manage to find time to have fun as they get into the upper grades. Why just yesterday I saw a young man at breakfast with a pink rose in his backpack that he obviously intended for a special girl. But, the classroom changes from one where teachers pretty much let the kids play and be children. The textbooks are so extremely easy and lacking in content while the middle school books feed information faster than many college level books. Jr. high and high school students spend the evenings and weekends in cram schools or in groups at restaurant tables where they work furiously to finish homework assignments. Students are often seen even on the weekends in school uniforms because they are attending classes.

I can be walking the streets on any given evening and have a group of young people approaching me. You know in the US when a crowd of teenagers approach, many may decide to cross the street or duck into a store. Here, there is absolutely no reason to fear! The most memorable thing that may happen is some shy boy turning around–after they have passed– and saying “Hello! How are you today?”!! It is comically cute! Little children are a bit different. Too often, they are afraid of foreigners and will scream and run. Black, white, blonde, readhead it doesn’t matter, the reaction is the same. It saddens me that it still happens even in my school but that is so offset by the reaction I get from the students who know me that I don’t give it much of a second thought, other than to wish I could have spent time with them all. Yeah, I’m here to teach them English but so many people here have never ever seen westerners that just exposing them to a taste of my part of the world can be a greater lesson. We talk about this great flattening provided by the Internet, but if it stops us from getting up off our duffs and visiting people, the only thing that flattens in our perception of others. Unless of course we take the time to read someone’s blog!! LOL

I’ve been eating a wider variety of Taiwanese food. Lately, I’ve visited a vegetarian buffet restaurant that had really delicious food! I couldn’t identify what most of the food items were (OK, I couldn’t identify any of it!) but, I can say I really enjoyed it. I discovered a very nice coffeehouse restaurant near my home that has about the best atmosphere of anyplace I’ve visited here. The front wall is a sheet of plate glass which looks onto a serene patio and the music is always soothing, soft jazz. Quiet is not something often found in Chinese culture, but this place has it! Although I walk passed this place all the time on the way to Carrefour, I hadn’t visited it before because they have neither food photos nor English menus. With new friends who can handle themselves quite well in the language, I’ve been able to venture into the heretofore unknown.

Sunday night, I went to a fairly traditional restaurant. The outside of the building was decorated with intricately carved wooden shutters. Inside, diners were seated at one of many unique wooden tables, most of which were crafted from antique items which were boxed in wood and topped with glass. A painting of the face of Buddha glowing in the radiance of a nearby light along with other pieces of artwork indicated that this was probably a Buddhist restaurant, and therefore vegetarian. Some of the workers were able to speak some English and we were able to orders dishes of cheese with rice or noodles. The restaurant even had a library! I know this because the books had spine labels on them.

Meals here are usually ordered from a set menu which will include soup, entrée and a beverage. Salad and dessert are usually availabe in a higher priced set. In these Taiwanese restaurants, if beverages are served, they will be served after the meals. Food is delivered to the table as it becomes ready which means not everyone at the table will be served at the same time. There is no tipping!

Even with all these experiences, what I have to particularly note was Saturday’s dining at TGIFridays. Yeah, I have actually gone there so much that I’ve been given a special discount card. We Americans are used to varying our menus. We may have American food for a day or two followed by a day of Italian and then some Middle Eastern or Mexican. So, from time to time I have to switch up from the Taiwanese.

What I noticed here this time that I had never noticed before is that Taiwanese people will prefer to eat family style, the style offered in Taiwanese restaurants. Even in American style restaurants, groups will order several plates of food and place them in the center of the table. Diners will then take food from the plates and serve themselves. They well eat from smaller plates. The food will be ordered by the highest ranking person at the table, typically the father or grandfather. Since there is no tipping, American chains charge a service fee.

Yes I am counting the days. I started at day 212 and have watched the time just fly by. I’m counting because I am ready to be at home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the heck out of Taiwan. It’s an overwhelming awesome experience and my days are so filled with so much vitality that I can barely find the words to express the experience. I write here about the highlights. I try to comment on the mundane activities that make life so different and so not home. Like yesterday. Not much to do in this corner of the country. This is a farming county, after all! So, friends and I decided to head up to Sandimen, home of the Ruki people. This is a very small town up in the mountains. The aboriginal people were forced into the mountains during the Japanese occupation and they have stayed there. Like native peoples in the US, they are discriminated against here as well. In the mountain towns, you can find authentic Taiwan: the clothing, jewelry, pottery and other craft items that were not influenced by the Chinese or Japanese. After a little light shopping, we decided to go up into the mountains. We couldn’t go too far up, however, because the land, its vegetation and wildlife, is protected. We chose to pull into the lookout point and…lookout! What an amazing vista!! Because we’re in the rainy season, the mountains are filled with clouds. The mist lingers in the folds and crevasses of the treelined peaks creating patterns and images rarely seen. Even rarer because I had not charged my camera the night before. Sounds of thunder annouced coming rains and it was so incredible that after one loud burst, you could witness the clouds rising. We had already seen one waterfall in the distance, but the thinning mist revealed two more not so far away. All of this, of course played out to the tunes of nature’s symphony of birds, insects and critters that filled the heavily forested area. Coming from flat, non-descript Indiana, I will miss being able to be in such an environment in less than 20 minutes.

What will I miss? Maybe this list, filled with is biting sarcasm as well as bits of honesty will explain it better.

I will miss walking everywhere. Everywhere. That is, unless I pay $5 US for a cab.

I will miss the delicious seasonal fruits that are sold throughout the country at very reasonable prices.

I’ll miss being able to travel to other cities so conveniently. I’ll miss the many discoveries I make everyday!

I’ll miss finding geckos on my walls at 3 am and I will so (NOT) miss having to not cook because the kitchen is just too disgusting for words.

I’ll miss Tainan, Kaohsiung and Taipei!

I’ll miss hearing the school loudspeaker at home during vacations. I already miss having Kris sending me emails from the apartment because she has heard the bell and she knows it is lunch time.

I will miss the wonderful variety of beverages in the 7/11. YES! I’ll miss 7/11.

I’ll miss affordable health care and cheap eye wear.

I’ll miss pizza with smoked duck and corn. I cannot lie and say I’ll miss squid on anything or tofu in everything.

Right now, I just miss home. “Be it ever so humble…”

37 more days!!!!!

In August, 2007 I will be leaving Indianapolis with my daughter, Kristen, to live and work in the Republic of China (Taiwan). This will be my fiftieth year on this planet and my first year living in another country. This blog will let you join us on the adventure!
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Chikky Soup Meets Stinky Tofu by Edi Campbell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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Taipei

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