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Friday. Not only the end of the week, but the end of the semester. The tradition here is for staff to be given some sort of gift/token in appreciation for all the hard work. I received a lottery ticket from one of Taiwan’s many lotteries. Now, I have to figure out how to find out if I’ve won! A teacher’s dinner is another tradition. Our staff went to a traditional Taiwanese restaurant where we had a wonderfully festive meal. I enjoyed the rare opportunity to get to know the other teachers while we ate shark, shark bone soup, pork belly, fried rice with river shrimp, poached fish, fresh fruits and a dessert of sweetened, pureed iced green bean soup.

After all this, what better way to relax than to go to a hot spring! Lucky me was able to accompany Rose, her principal and her son (Andy) to a Baolai to visit a hot spring. We drove up into the mountains in northern Kaohsiung County and arrived at the Fun Chen Resort Hotel in a couple of hours. The spa is set in a town that is in the homeland of the Rukai aboriginal tribe. Many places exhibit and sell their art and craftwork. Our evening started with a small feast of river shrimp, rice, cabbage, fried tofu and plum chicken. Delicious!!!

One thing I’m learning about myself is that I’ve outgrown my sense of adventure. I’ve settled into being a Holiday Inn kinda camper. Our lodgings for the evening were actually in small cabins rather than in the hotel. When we walked around to the front of the cabin, the setting quickly and quaintly turned rustic. The log cabins looked out onto a picturesque mountain setting with the relaxing chirping off birds and the sounds of a nearby stream flowing by. Walk back around the cabin and it’s back toparking lot, hotel and city streets. Yeah, my kind of roughing it!

Now this was a great weekend from the time in the springs and sauna, feeding fish in the mountains, visiting an aboriginal elementary school and stopping at a gorgeous national forest…it was all wonderful but sleeping on such a soft, plush mattress rather than my bed that reminds me of a coffee table, well, that was a slice of heaven!

Since we got here, there was one thing Kristen wanted to do. She wanted to go to Kenting National Park. a huge national park that encompasses the southern tip of this island. It’s all tropical beach and everyone says it’s the place to see. In fact, we chose to live in this county expecting be be down there in Kenting. With Kris leaving in two weeks, we realize there is a lot that she just isn’t going to get to see. We made it to Tainan, missed an opportunity to get to Taichung, have plans to get to Taroko Gorge and will celebrate the holiday back in Taipei. She was OK about not getting to Kenting…but I guess Mr. Hseih (pron: Shay) wasn’t. Now, understand Mr. Hseih is a busy man. Both he and his wonderful wife work full time and they have small children. He works at the school as a teacher and has administrative duties. On top of that, he’s been charged with taking care of me and Kristen: he’s busy!!! Yet and still, he had heard Kristen mention Kenting enough to know she really wanted to get there. So, he and his family took us last weekend. We drove along the coast about two hours Saturday morning on a beautiful sunny day. We stopped at the beach the Hseih’s usually visit, but it was pretty empty. This particular beach is marked by a monstrosity that sits in the ocean and is called “Nixon’s Head”. Yeah, it’s just that ugly. We spent some time walking on one beach that is covered with sand formed from coral, then went to another clean, bright vibrant beach where groups of kids and families were busy having fun in the sand; people were playing on jet skis and parasails and there were banana boats.

Somehow, being the wonderful mother that I am, I let this crazy daughter of mine talk me into going out on the OCEAN on this inflatable device called a banana boat. Um, I can’t swim. I had NO BUSINESS doing that!!! Yet and still, it was so much fun!! No photos to document this event, but believe me it really did happen!

Then, we drive up into to mountains to visit Sending National Park. We traveling upon this great little brick path through minor gorges, down AND UP AND UP AND UP mountains, twisting and turning through the landscape as the sun was about to set. We saw and heard bamboo glens, a purple spider and wonderful vistas. I was too busy huffing and puffing to see the wild pigs. It was pretty incredible, nonetheless!

We spent the evening eating shrimp fried rice, bubble tea and fried chicken. We did a little shopping in the night market, saw foods we’ll never see elsewhere (like a patty make from rice and duck blood) and came on home!

Just delightful! Kristen got to do her thing!

The weeks are going by so quickly! Here it is another weekend, once again time for that deep, deep cleaning necessitated by the grimy environment of polluted air and water. Its so ironic that I see such a deep need for nature expressed through the placement of potted flowers and trees in front of every home and parks everywhere, yet rivers and streams are the color of mixed cement and smell like septic tanks. Ah, the cost of developing an economy!

I took a while to process last weekend’s events, and never took a moment to mention them here. I was scheduled to give a presentation for Pingtung County at my school on international teaching and Carolyn (Kansas) and Rosezina (Michigan) were kind enough to come and provide support. I looked forward to outlining education in the US and particularly discussing the role of media centers. Here, school libraries only contain books.

No technology and no staff.

Teachers staff the library when they bring their class and there is no librarian or media specialist to promote literacy, select books or provide instruction on research, finding information or developing presentations. Computers are only in the computer lab and computer skills are taught in isolation.

So, I wrote a nice little presentation and developed a Powerpoint with some nice photos to add a few visuals to spice up my talking. (Vernon sent about 30 current photos from AHS and I was able to create a very nice Powerpoint!) I was pleasantly surprised when the Taiwanese teachers on the program mentioned the public and school libraries they visited on their tours of Australia and Singapore respectively, providing a nice opening to what I was able to report. They were quite impressed by the libraries they saw and the important services they provided to schools. I hope I am able to provide more information on this important topic and maybe, maybe influence even the slightest of changes.

After the program, we went looking for a new Caves bookstore. These are stores that exist in Taiwan mainly to provide books for English language instruction. We walked a little further than we expected (which was fine because we found a great new restaurant!) but eventually found the bookshop which couldn’t be more than a month old. Can you imagine the heaven I was in to smell the newness and the books??!!! They don’t necessarily have the newest of selections, but when you consider I’m in little Pingtung where I never expected to find a single book to purchase in English, you have to realize what a wonderful place this is! They really do have a large selection of children’s books, many of which I hope to purchase to enhance my teaching. And there are many paperbacks for adult reading as well!

All that having been said, I think my download of “Men in Trees” is about done and it’s time to scoot!! Yes, I have to find random websites all over the web to ‘watch television’. The network sites only work inside the US!! I find that one of the little things I miss (and it’s really only little stupid stuff that I really miss!) is the regimentation provided by nightly television shows.

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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