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The very first time I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter here, I was asked how I felt about being bowed to by the students.   A vestige of Japan’s occupation, student’s bow to the teacher before and after class.  At the end of class the students thank the teacher.  How does this make me feel?  Humble.  It makes me feel quite humble.  It makes me ask myself if I did indeed give the students a lesson for which they should thank me and if I treasured their time and their selves enough to earn a bow.

Last Monday, walking to Carrefour, I approached a cart I had never seen before.  It was slowly progressing down the street, in fact I initially thought it wasn’t even moving.  As I approached the cart, I could hear music coming from it and I could see a statue of Buddha inside, protected by curtains.  As I proceeded to overtake the cart, I saw that it was being pulled through the streets by a Buddhist priest (I could identify him by his dress).

On his knees.

I saw him again on my way home from the store that evening.  And I saw him again Friday with his cart, on his knees, making his way down the street where I live.   No, he had no pads on his knees.  Would it have mattered if he did?  Why? How long?  I don’t know.  I couldn’t even look at him.


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!!

I thought I would become a recluse when Kris left, just go to work and cocoon most of the time inside my apartment with my books and laptop. HA! There’s the nightly dinner trek. And while I’m out, I just have to stop to get some fresh fruit or yogurt or check out the $10 store or some such. That’s 10 New Taiwanese dollars. That’s about thirty American cents. They have pretty much everything you can find at a well stocked dollar store and they are a teacher’s paradise! There are also $39NT stores, one of which is in the Dream Mall in Kaoushoung. It’s actually a Japanese store and a wonderful place to shop for those little Japanese trinkets you just have to have!

Guess what I did in Chiayi!

Well, back to the subject… cocooning… not yet! I ended up in Chiayi with Carolyn on Saturday. Caught the high speed up there all by myself! I left on a beautiful, sunny morning and a few hours into the afternoon, the temperature began to drop and the winds picked up. It looked and felt like a chinook was about to settle in! It was so much warmer when I got back here in Pingtung! Sunday, I went to Kaousoung to the Dream Mall. I went to see the anticpated “American Gangster” and was much disappointed to see Denzel looking so incredibly gorgeous in a role that glorified the man who put poison into the veins of so many so that he could profit.

I did a little shopping after the movie, dinner at TGIFridays and headed home. I was so amazed by the lights outside the mall! I really think the display of lights has increased in the past week! Trees are laden with monocromatic, effervescent blues or oranges or greens. Some have a light blue and a dark blue stream of lights and they are just dazzling! Add a thread of red and they pop! And of course, I didn’t have my camera with me.

Today, the cold settled into Pingtung. Typically, it’s cool in the mornings and it begins to cool again just before sunset. But today it never warmed up. I’ve been told this will last for a while. Now, this could get interesting because apartments (i.e., my home!) have no heat. My classroom has four doors and two walls of nothing but windows. I was warned that it does get cold on this rock (which lies in the tropics) in the “winter” but I was also told that there are two climates in Pingtung: hot and hotter. Well, it’s not hot now! It’s not really too cold as I’m fine with a sweater or long sleeved shirt. For now.

And at the faculty meeting, our school nurse announced that flu season has hit the building. Yep, winter is here!

This will be my last post of 2007. I’m wishing all of you who have taken the time to check up on me some wonderful and exciting adventures of your own in 2008! May peace be your journey–cool runnings!

I’ve been planning on entering something ANYTHING for several weeks! I’ve put together some great stuff in my head, you know how those early morning thoughts can be so creative! But as I rush into the day, I manage to forget what I was going to say and how I was going to say it.

The last time I had thoughts of posting, we had just walked across half this town from one new area we discovered to a new (to us) Italian place near Carrefour. We passed several spots that look so inviting, but not to those of us who had absolutely no way of figuring out what was in the menu. Sorry, creativity doesn’t work when dinner could have black squid ink, pig intestines or steamed tofu. I’m not feelin’ it! It is my own fault for not knowing the language, goodness knows the Taiwanese make every effort to speak English, we’re the ones who haven’t made the effort. It was kinda cute though, when we went in one restaurant and this 5’10” twenty-something guy was actually shy about speaking English to us! I do get it, I have tried to speak my broken Spanish to some of the Spanish speaking students at school and it gave me one of the most embarrassing feelings I’ve ever had!

So, we walked passed these great looking places and walked and walked and walked and walked ’til we came to this Italian place we’d seen before. I was doubtful because I’ve had enough of the pasta dishes that were prepared with the strangest of ingredients and aromas and I was too hungry to have someone messing with my food. I don’t think Kris has learned her lesson yet. She was excited for the possibility of something cheesy with noodles. Well, I’ll just say I had one of the most amazing spaghetti dishes I’ve ever had! I bet it put to shame any of the pasta Dadrian is feasting on!! I believe they had Mamma Mia herself in the kitchen! Homemade-tasting Italian wonderful food!

Yeah, we spend a lot of time looking for good places to eat. And we spend even more time walking. We walk everywhere we want to go: bookstore, work, visiting, touring, dining, shopping. . . . you get the point! And it’s working! We found the scales in Carrefour and they indicate a nice weight loss! No, I’m not going to say how much, not going to get your hopes up too high, get you expecting me too much cuter than already!! LOL Honestly, the exercise feels good and the walking is one thing I will really miss when I return home.

Speaking of which, Kristen will be returning home soon. Yes, I’ll miss her! These days together have been wonderful and I could not have spent my time with a better person. But, Ms. Kris has some business to take care of, namely her education and her career! So please wish her god speed and safe travel!

Last year at this time, I was on the banks of the Red Sea having an Hijazi Thanksgiving. This year, it’s just another work day. Rose may come down and we’ll head over to the Beaver Dam to meet up with some expats. No turkey, just good company. Thus begins vicarious holiday season that I’ll experience through YOUR notes and emails. No snow here, no Christmas! no New Years! no carols! no eggnog! no stuffing on Thanksgiving and no holiday sales! So, instead of dwelling on what isn’t there for me or for you, lets give thanks for the gift of life and for all the blessings it contains. Thanks for your friendship! Peace

I’ve uploaded photos of the apartment, but not really described it!  We live about 8 minutes walking distance from the school (5 minutes for most walkers).  We’re in a residential area with many single family homes in the area.  Yes, I need to get some photos of them!  They appear to be very nice homes.  They have huge 2 car garages which protrude from the front of the building with the home sitting back from the street.  They are all two story homes, and brick because of the climate.

We live in one of the few apt. buidings on the street on the 6th floor of a 10 floor building.  There is an elevator, stairs, security guard and locked security gate.  Our place has a living room/dining room area, kitchen (stove top, no oven) which leads to a washroom, porch area, two bedrooms, a japanese tea room, a balcony off the living room and two bathrooms, one with a tub/shower and the other with a shower.  There are air conditioning units in two of the bedrooms and a ceiling fan in the living room.  The place stays amazingly cool!  It came furnished.

Other than that, I can say that it’s Saturday and I’m at work.  The students are outside for assembly because we’re following the monday schedule.  There is a lot more talking and applauding than usual, I wonder what I’m missing?  I also keep hearing bagpipes!

A while back, my friend Susan asked if I was liking the desserts here.  I though she was referring to the wonderful desserts we had in Saudi and just kinda asking if I was still eating them.  Well, after the third or fifth bean dessert, I got what she was asking!  There was the wondeful little shaved ice place we went to in Taipei that put 4 varieties of sweet beans on ice for dessert.  This was followed by a gelatenous rice dough cookie that was filled with bean paste.  We’ve had moon cookies with beans (that are quite good!) and other such treats.  Desserts here are not as sweet as at home, they’re not eating as often and they are often bean filled. 

 I can’t believe it’s only Sunday because we’ve been so busy!  Friday evening, we heading out on foot to find dinner.  We walked a little further than usual and found some very interested Taiwanese restaurants that at least had pictures of food.  We passed the night market which is where you will find the most.  .  .   interesting  .  .  . delicacies.  There were fruit stands with fresh pomelo, bananas, dragon eyes, HUGE grapes and apples.  We decided to walk to the corner, see what else we could see, then turn around and find a place to eat.  The blocks here are long!  We saw that we were near Carrefour and went we looked up, saw we were near McDonalds!  We ended up in Carrafour ( a huge discount grocery/department store from Europe) and spent hours looking at electronics, housewares, music, school supplies and food!  We ended up walking about 3 hours that night. 

We returned home to find Mr Chay AND HIS ENTIRE FAMILY waiting for us!!  He had tried to call us on our cell phone, but couldn’t reach us.  He began to worry.  We feel so blessed to have a family here!  Mr Chay wanted to let us know that he had made our cab arrangements to get to and from the train station for our trip to Kaoishoung on Saturday.  Mrs. Chay had typed out a list of statements in English and Mandarin so that we could buy tickets, get to the station or catch a cap in Kaoishoung.  They also gave us a Moon Festival present to use when looking at the moon over the holiday weekend:  mooncakes and chocolates!  What a great evening!

Saturday, we took the train to Kaoishoung and met Rose, a teacher from Michigan. We spent the day at the Dream Mall.  This is a HUGE 9 story mall with something for everyone!  We closed the day by eating at TGIFridays and riding the train home. Rose is actually only two train stops away from us in a city I can’t name at this time and we were able to ride the same train home. 

Folks think living overseas takes a lot of bravery and indepence.  It is not for the faint of heart!  Life in other countries is so different from being at home, you really have to be able to adjust to things and realize they are different, not right or wrong.  The Taiwanese lifestyle isn’t backward, or in any way LESS than what ours is.  The first major lesson you learn is that you can’t do it by yourself.  I have found myself relying on other people, asking for help and reaching out more than I ever have before.  I rely on Kris for companionship, for assistance with so many details throughout the day and for insights into my classes that I miss.  We rely on my English speaking colleagues to let us know where to shop or to eat or how to buy a train ticket.  We couldn’t even survive in our own home without them!  They’ve had to tell us NOT to flush toilet paper; to meet the trash truck at 8 pm and the turn off the gas when it is not being used.  We won’t know if there is a typhoon or holiday unless they tell us!  It seems that I stay because I have so much to learn!

Kris is blogging as well.  Her blog is From Chicken Noodle to Rice and Egg Noodle. If you read hers, or read mine, take the time to make a comment!  It would be much easier than following up with an email and it might get a good discussion going!

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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