Thursday, September 27, 2012


My parents are here to visit! And that means it's time I get spoiled, very spoiled, by all the home cooked meals they will be cooking for me, as well as helping me take care of chores around the house. It feels so nice to actually be under someone's care again, so I'm going to make this one month worth all the while!

Nevertheless, that also means that I probably will not have time to update so much, since I want to take them out as much as I can, and we will be traveling around every weekend. School work is loading up as well, with exams coming up, Halloween performance, TV program filming, and preparation for my MOE teaching observation. Looks like October is going to be one crazy month!

I apologize in advance if I happen to be idle for quite a while. Fear not, I will definitely save up my travel photos for a later post.

Tomorrow is Teacher's Day here, and this Sunday will be the Moon Festival (a.k.a. Mid-Autumn  Festival). We have been invited by our landlord's family to attend a barbeque event with them at their Tai Chi Club in Miaoli City. Not sure what to expect, but it should be interesting.

 Going to eat with my co-teacher at a Teppanyaki (iron grill) restaurant in Miaoli city
 Trying out a conveyor belt sushi place in Hsinchu. So much fun!
 My afternoon dessert, mango Froyo!
 Students at my school assembling to film a song for our county-wide anti-drug campaign
Some awesome toys I picked up for my classroom while browsing through a stationery store

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ready, Set, MEV!

Just got back from our second MEV pre-run today at Wen Feng Elementary (where Shannon is currently teaching). A bit tired, but definitely had a good time.

I have mentioned MEV a couple of times before in previous blogs, but have never gone into full details about it. I guess it's time I explain a little bit about how it works. All the FET's (Foreign Language Teachers) teaching in Miaoli County have to participate in something called the Mobile English Village (MEV for short). Basically, since many rural schools throughout the county don't have the luxury of having a foreign English teacher at their school, the county government has created the Mobile English Village group, where all the foreign teachers and local SMS (Substitute Military Service) guys will get together on Wednesday and travel to a rural area elementary to teach the students there English for the day. We have a total of 5 official MEV trips, and will travel to a different school each time. On weeks when we don't have to travel, we will be meeting up at our headquarter for workshops, teaching demo, TV program recording, and radio broadcasting (yes, we will be appearing on local radio and TV station for an English teaching program as well).

For MEV, there's a North group, and a South group (which I am in). There are currently a total of 5 foreign teachers in the South group, and 4 different stations, themed after the countries: USA, Australia, Kenya, and Canada. Each teacher will be in charge of teaching a station/country, and students will be divided into 4 groups, and will rotate to the 4 different stations to learn about each country. I am in charge of Australia, and will be teaching the students about the famous landmarks of Australia, the unique animals found there, and the distinct movements of the animals, such as fly, hop, swim, run, climb, etc...

We did our first practice teaching with actual students today, and by golly we needed it. There are definitely many details that we still need to work out and finalize to make our MEV session run smoothly. Other than teaching the countries, we are also in charge of the opening entertainment and the closing, which we have reached a group consensus to teach the students the Cupid Shuffle and sing a couple of songs (yet to be finalized). That part should be a lot of fun! We tried a little bit of that today, and I won't go into details about our flops, but let's just say that we still have some work to do. Still, I am very glad we got the chance to practice teaching today before we do the real thing, so we at least have the chance to experience what it feels like and make any needed adjustment.

Overall, I am ecstatic about this whole MEV thing and really can't wait to do the official thing. Not only do we not have to report to our regular school every Wednesday, we will get the chance to travel to different places and get to know the schools and the culture there. What a wonderful chance to explore and understand more of Taiwan! Unfortunately, we won't get to start our MEV run until November, but when it's time, I will certainly be ready for it!

 Miaoli County Foreign English Teachers
 MEV workbook for students
I'm in charge of teaching about Australia

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A step back in time

September 12th marked an official full month since my arrival in Taiwan. I am rather proud to say that I am adapting quite nicely to the new environment and lifestyle here. Even though I do miss my friends and family from time to time, I have to say that I am actually less homesick than I thought I would be. In fact, I really don't miss my old life too much. This new lifestyle, I feel, has given me much more zest and energy. I feel much more alive and real than I have ever felt before. It's a simple lifestyle here, yet I feel so rich in knowledge and experience compared to the past. Of course, everything has its ups and down, but flexibility and an open mind is the key and have helped me immensely in my transition into this new life. Work has been tough, as expected, and I have come home almost everyday exhausted thus far. Part of it must come from the unfamiliarity of the school culture and the new teaching materials here, along with all the amount of extra work that is involved. Still, I am holding a positive outlook that it will get easier as I become more comfortable with the system. Nevertheless, what has really been getting me through the work days are all my elaborate weekends spent exploring the different parts of Taiwan. So far, I have been to nine different cities and townships, counting the one I'm living in. With each new place come new delights and insights, keeping me motivated to get through the week. 

The past few weekends of exploring big cities, busy streets, and bustling shopping malls sure were fun, yet I felt rather lacking in some aspect. I love the energy and vibrancy of the city life, but I realized that what I have been looking forward to the most coming to Taiwan is to be able to explore the root of the culture, the natural environment, scenery, and the remnant of the past that still lingers beneath the surface of its modern counterpart.

How delighted I was that I finally got a chance to encounter that part of Taiwan this past weekend on our excursion to the township of Sanyi, only one train stop south of Tongluo (where I live).  The town itself is beautiful, in the middle of grand mountains and lush greenery. It is a charming, quiet little town, most well known for its wood carving industry and its historical sites. With the help of our friend Ben, we visited the Shengxing Old Train Station, which is no longer in use and is opened as a tourist attraction. We also visited the Lonteng Broken Bridge (remains from the earthquake in 1935), and the Chateau in the Air (a restaurant inspired by the anime Castle in the Sky, built on the side of a mountain, overlooking a beautiful view below). I have done a lot of travel research prior to my arrival in Taiwan, and all three of these locations has been at the top of my list of places to go, so you can imagine the thrill I got from the experience. All I have to say is that I felt like I have stepped into another world, another time. The rest is beyond words of description, so I will let my photos speak for themselves...

 Miaoli county is most well known for its Tung Flower Festival every May

 Old Shengxing train tracks

 Inside the tunnel, now open for people to walk to the other side. Not much there, but we did find a bunch of bats.
 Street performer

 The old train station

 Stinky tofu, anyone?

 Authentic Hakka style noodle for lunch
 Longteng Broken Bridge due to a major earthquake in 1935

 Board documenting the earthquake

 Chateau in the Air

 What a view!

On Sunday, some colleagues and I took another trip to the city of Hsinchu to do some shopping. I finally got the chance to meet up with one of my good friends here, Adriana, who is currently teaching near Hsinchu. We had our little reunion/girls' day out, which was a lot of fun, despite a small mishap which landed Shannon and I on a wrong train, stranded in the middle of nowhere. However, we figured it out and got home ok, just 2 hours later than anticipated. It was quite an adventure! 

 Boarding free shuttle to department store
 I miss hanging out with her
 Space-themed Big City shopping mall in Hsinchu City
 A very fancy Pizza Hut
 In the food court
 Saw a bull dog with her precious little pups in a stroller. Pets are allowed practically everywhere here. How nice!
 Very cool staircase

Hsinchu train station