The news is in! This year I will be teaching at two schools in Yilan County, Kai-Syuan and Xin-Nan elementary schools. We taught our first few lessons at these schools this past week, with the first full week of work coming up. Also, this means that I don’t have to move apartments! After a lot of decorating and setting up a bulletin board with all my pictures from home, my room is starting to feel a lot more comfy.
Kai-Syuan and Xin-Nan have different vibes to them. Kai-Syuan is a bigger school pretty close to where I live, where Xin-Nan is small and rural and a bit further of a drive. I like that the schools have different feels to them, because I think I will learn a lot about teaching in different settings.
In Yilan, all of the ETAs have a Taiwanese teacher of English with them in the classroom as our co-teacher. My two co-teachers are named Ellen and Alice and I really like working with both of them! I’m glad that I don’t have to do this completely on my own, and think I will learn from both of them.
One of the things I have noticed about schools here is that there is no designated recess time. Instead, students have either 10 or 20 minute breaks between classes where they can run around and play games. I like this system because it allows the students to stay active and either get out their energy or wake up between classes.
The majority of the ETA’s in Yilan County split their time between two schools Monday-Thursday. Then, on Fridays, we go to a place called English Village, which is a field trip destination where students interact with English speakers in an “authentic” English environment. Each of us works at a station (an airport, a doctor’s office, a restaurant, etc.). We play games with the children and help them learn English that will be helpful in real-world situations. We start next week there and I’m looking forward to it.
On a completely unrelated note, I’ve had some interesting cultural experiences over the past two weeks. Last weekend I got the opportunity to visit the Traditional Arts Center in Yilan, which was a complex of historical looking buildings, temples, museums, and shops. I liked visiting it because it gave me a glimpse into how Taiwan looked in the past. And I geeked out because I’m a shameless history nerd. Below: Lots of pics from the Traditional Arts Center.
I also got to experience going to a DMV in another country, which is something I’m not sure many people can claim. We went to take our scooter license test, and although I passed the written test, I failed my driving test (oops). Thankfully, I get to retake it next week. I’m confident about my ability to drive a scooter, I just psyched myself out before the test started.
But definitely the most interesting cultural experience of the past two weeks was discovering Taiwan KTV. KTV is karaoke television, and it is HUGE in Taiwan. When someone suggested that we do karaoke one night, I pictured a bar with a small stage and a microphone or two. I thought it would be like America where some places have karaoke once a week. I. Was. Wrong. Karaoke here is an institution. We went to the karaoke building, where our group rented an entire room, got to eat a buffet meal, and sing the lyrics to tons of songs (even in English!) on a flat-screen television. It was far more exciting than anything I’d seen like it in the states. The best part was when you would sing a song and the TV would play a music video that didn’t match the tone at all. You could be singing “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga, and the video could be showing the beautiful landscapes of Taiwan. We had a lot of fun being silly and singing, and I can’t wait to see what KTV is like in a big city like Taipei.
Finally, tea is huge here. I’m a tea drinker, but I think I’ll become even more so as the year progresses. Hot tea is sold for consumption at home, and there are tons of commercialized stands that sell iced tea, in every variation and flavor you can find. So far, my favorite has been iced green tea with sugar. I want to try more, but I’m going to have to study Chinese characters because that’s all I can order! Everyone and their cousin seems to have a way to make tea. Even 7-11 has tons of types of cold teas ready for purchase on the hot, August days.
I’m still looking for that perfect cup of coffee. It seems a lot of people here drink lattes and americanos (hot or cold), and it seems like people use sugar more than cream. I’ve struggled to find a good cup of coffee with just cream. However, that could be because I don’t speak very good Chinese and can’t make myself clear. Guess I’ll keep trying! And In the meantime, I’ll drink all the delicious jasmine tea that I bought at the Traditional Arts Center.
Anyway, as I write this, I am sitting on my bed nursing a nasty sunburn on my face after my second day of surfing in Taiwan. Somehow I managed to get burned even with SPF 50… oh well! I caught some waves, so totally worth it. I’m off to work on some lesson plans. Stay tuned for more news!