KTV before lunch

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Wednesday, August 12th, my collegues took me and my roommate out for the afternoon to KTV.   KTV is basically like private karaoke.  Small groups rent rooms to sing songs in for hours. I was actually supposed to work that day but when I arrived at work my collegue asked me to spend all afternoon singing.  It was a pretty strange idea but I was definitely interested.  We were at KTV for four hours.  My roommate and I sang new and mostly old English songs including songs by TLC, Celine Dion, The Pussycat Dolls, Whitney Houston.  We had so much fun getting to know our collegues and watching them let loose their frustration from working so hard.  With the rented room you receive access to an all you can eat buffet.  No wonder it is one of the most popular past-times of many Taiwanese.

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My co-teacher Su Fang

Liyu Lake

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August 14th a few teachers and a family from my roommate's school took us to Liyu Lake, which means "big fish lake."  We were both treated to a fabulous lunch and we took a paddle boat ride on the beautiful lake.  One of the teacher's daughter kept talking to Tara and I but we couldn't understand each other.  I would talk to her in English and in my poor Mandarin and she would say back to me in Mandarin, "I don't understand."  She talked non-stop in Mandarin and we would say in English,  "we don't understand." We laughed a lot!

After we left the lake another teacher took us to a part of the Eastern Hydro-electric power plant to have popsicles.  It was a bit weird to go to a power plant for a popsicle but it wasn't as weird as bean flavored popsicles that we were given!!!  I like to try everything so I wasn't put off by the beans in my popsicle.  My roommate couldn't handle it so she was given a fruit flavored popsicle.  At the power plant there was another neat view of a bridge but we didn't get to walk on it.  I really wanted to.

Dinner and Dancing

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Thursday night, August 14th, Tara and I were joined by Jacquelyn, another foreign English teacher from Indiana.  She lives about 25 minutes away from us and decided to stay at our place for the evening.  The three of us went out in search of a good place to eat and found this fabulous spot near our place.  We parked out bikes and walked into the place.  We saw fear and confusion on the faces of the young waitresses.  They sat us at a table and the real challenge began--we had to order.  I'm not bragging but I have the best Mandarin out of the three of us so my friends were looking to me to ease the situation.  The menu was completely in Chinese characters and none of us could read them.  I tried to use my Mandarin but the waitresses were in panic mode and so we ran for our Chinese language phrase books.  As we were ordering there were about 6 to 7 waitresses standing all around us!  We had no idea what we were ordering except for it was two chicken dishes and one pork.  When the food came to the table they also gave us a tofu dish for free.  The food was great and we had an excellent time.

After our dinner we started to head home on our bikes then from the corner of our eyes we saw that across the street there were lots of ladies dancing outside after dark.  We couldn't believe that there were older ladies, even gradmas outside dancing in the dark in a park area in the middle of the city.  We decided to join them.  So we hopped right into the back row.  At first we heard the macarena song so we thought "we can do this!"  We learned quicky that the dancing was more like aerobics and the moves were much too fast and odd to pick up quickly.  We tried anyway.  I couldn't stop laughing at myself.  I never felt so silly dancing in public.

Grocery Shopping

Yesterday my roommate and I went grocery shopping for the first time by ourselves.  We only have bikes so it was a bit challenging.  We made a list of things we needed to buy but of course we didn't stick to it well.  We got the things we needed but we just couldn't resist the little treats that we get back home like Oreos, Skittles, chocolate chip cookies, and so on.  By the time we go to the checkout line we were shocked at how much stuff we had gotten that was not on our list.  We didn't want to put anything back so we quickly thought of where to put it all.  We both had backpacks and we filled them up completely and then each of us has a basket on our bike.  So, Tara's basket had juice and a dozen eggs.  The juice kept falling on the eggs as we rode home.  I had a watermelon, milk, and orange soda in my little basket.  Can you imagine?  We didn't have far to ride but we were dripping with sweat by the time we got home, and that was after the sun had gone down.  It is quite different shopping for groceries, not to mention the confusion of actually shopping for items.  We just had to guess at what many things were. Most of the packaging is written in Chinese and it is difficult to distinguish between items like meat and dairy. 

Liyu Lake Aboriginal Water Show

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August 21, the girls and I went to an aboriginal water show at Liyu Lake.  The show has been going on all summer and we finally got to go.  We took a free shuttle bus to the lake and we shopped and bought some snacks before the show.  The show was terrific!! We had to stand the entire time but it was worth it.  There was dancing, singing, and beautiful light work. 

Amis Aboriginal Harvest Festival

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August 22, the girls and I went to the Nanhau area in Hualien.  We arrived about 9am and the festivities began around 10am.  The harvest festival was really special and a lot of fun.  As soon as we arrived a few of the elder aboriginals clothed us in their traditional clothing and we took silly pictures.  The funny part was when the number of people increase after every shot.  Even the chief jumped in at one point.  After shacking hands with all the local government officials we danced with the aboriginals and learned their steps.  We ate traditional aboriginal food after we danced.  Everything was free and we had such a good time getting to know the aboriginal culture a little better.

Aboriginal Concert

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August 29, my fellow FET's and I went to Hualien City to eat dinner, go to a aboriginal concert, and have some drinks.  We at a neat, little Japanese restaurant then we went to the concert. The concert was outdoors and it was actually located at the site of a former winery.  At the concert there were lots of venders selling hand-made aboriginal artwork and crafts.  I wanted to buy everything. Most aboriginal artwork has bright colors which I love.  I didn't have a lot of money so I got a tatoo! --Just kidding!  It was a stencil, glitter tattoo.  I really liked the aboriginal music at the concert. I reminded me a lot of reggae.

Picnic at the beach

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August 5th, Tara and I went to the beach with the director of her school, Doris.  I was so happy to go because I was able to fly my kite for the first time.  I wanted to go kite-flying several times when I was in China but I never got the chance.  At the beach I collected several rocks.  The beach is made of rocks instead of sand and they have numerous patterns and colors.  The waves that day were huge and sadly we couldn't get into the water.  After we collected rocks we had a picnic on the beach with another teacher from Tara's school.  The best part of the evening was the full moon that appeared about an hour before we left. It was beautiful.  You can't really tell from the picture but it seemed so close and enormous. 

Quick Trip to Wu He

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September 16th, I was invited to go to Wu He to congratulate a teacher on her new job as principal.  I had never met this women before but I was told that she used to teach at my school, Yi Chang, so the teachers wanted to show face and support her new position.  Teaching is a very honorable career in Taiwan and being a principal is even more highly respected.  One thing that I thought was surprising at the ceremony is that the new principal recognized every single person that had come to congratulate her by asking them to stand and have everyone applaud them.  I am only used to a few people being recognized at a ceremoney, not every single person in the crowd.  It was very considerate of her though. 

After there ceremony we travelled back home.  On the way we made a stop at a dairy farm.  I didn't catch the name because it was in Chinese but it was very cool.  They have a large pasture that contain lots of cows and about 4 or 5 emus.  While we were at the farm we ate cheese cake, ice cream, fried buns, and we drank cold milk.
 

Faculty Retreat to the Eastern Hydro-electric Power Plant

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This past weekend, September 19-20, Tara and I went with the faculty and their families on a retreat in the mountains.  I  believe we visited Lungchien power plant.  We left Saturday afternoon.  First we toured the power plant and then we walked around to take in the scenery.  At one point I was standing by a great scenice area and screamed because there was a great, big man-faced spider just above my head.  Later we went to the dorm, which was the place we were staying to the night.  There were about 30 people from Tara's school on the trip. Once everyone was settled we had a very nice meal.  Each table was set with at least 8 dishes.  We also bar-b-qued sausage and slices of pork all night after dinner.  After dinner we sang, danced,  and at pomelo fruit.  It is getting close to moon festival and pomelo is a favorite fruit to eat at this time.  Children like to make hats out of the skin of the pomelo fruit.  Finally around 11pm we finished off the night with some KTV. 

My favorite part of the trip happened Sunday morning.  We all ate breakfast and some went back home but we stayed to go to the large creek near the power plant.  The water level is low right now so some of the teachers and children were able to swim.  Others fished and played in the water.  The area was so beautiful .  I didn't bring my swim suit so I sat on the large boulder rocks and sun bathed.  I had so much fun playing in the cool blue water under the hot sun.
 

Moon Festival 2009

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Moon festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (October).  Taiwanese children listen to the ledgend of the moon goddess Chang-o, friends and families gather to bar-b-que under the moon, and eat moon cake and pomelo fruit.  Friday night, one day before moon festival I was invited to a fabulous bar-b-que with several of my collegues.  We ate bar-b-que until mid-night and sang KTV.  I had so much fun getting to hang out with my collegues and celebrating the moon festival.  I also learned several new Mandarin words by speaking with my collegues.

Drum Show + Moon Festival Continued

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October 15, my friends and I were invited to see a show in which a group of drummers who are teachers from my school performed. They were given the chance to perform before the professional group, a great honor for the amateur group. Many teachers from my school participate in after-school activities and one activity provided at my school is drum class.  The picture is the group of teachers from my school.  There are many drums and other intruments to choose from and the levels range from beginner to advance. Before I saw the performance I was pondering what type of extracurricular activity to get into.  After I saw the performance I knew instantly that I wanted to sign-up for the drum class .  I have very little experience with playing intruments and the class would be in Chinese so I knew it was going to be a challenge but I wanted to do it anyway.  I have been attending the classes for two lessons now and it is very challenging indeed but I am still having fun in spite of those challenges.

After the show we met the famous drum group native to Taiwan, Ten Drums.  They were breathtaking and I couldn't take my eyes off them. They played so many songs during the 3 hour show completely by memory.  Awesome!  I learned that many of them are actually in high school still.  They have traveled all over the world to perform.  They have been to the US many times. It a show you definitely don't want to miss if you have the chance to see them live. I bought their dvd and it is great also.


After the show my friends and I went to a bar-b-que with my teachers and the Ten Drums group.  We at delicious snacks and I learned a few more Mandarin words.

The performance was outdoors and it was very windy. Everyone was wearing ponchos because there was a chance of rain to a typhoon nearby the east coast of Taiwan.  Sorry that the sound quality isn't better.  You can still see and hear that the performance was brilliant. 
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Happy Halloween

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Students spent a week learning about Halloween and then the 5th graders were chosen to make masks to wear for a fashion show for the whole school.  Most of my students are from low SES backgrounds so it really surprised me that so many of them went through the effort of also decorating costumes to go along with their masks!  I taught all the students “Five Little Pumpkins” during our assembly.  They really had a lot of fun and for many it was their first time celebrating Halloween.

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Taroko Gorge Marathon

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November 7, 2009 will be a date that I will never forget.  It is the date of my first marathon and it took place in the beautiful Taroko Gorge. The marathon is an annual event that allows national and international participants to take on the challenge of running a 5k, 21K and 42K race.  There were many participants and I was only able to race because my friend Stacyie unfortunately broke her toe prior to the race.  I took her place.  I trained for the race by jogging around my school track but it didn't prepare me for the slight inclines and drops of the TG.  I was huffing and puffing from the halway mark.  ;)  "I'm running" by MaryMary kept me going.  I felt like an olympic runner when I crossed the finish line because I had such a feeling of joy, relief, and achievement.  I want to run again in the spring.  There are many marathons around the island and you can easily find out about them on the Internet. 

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Christmas

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For Christmas my students learned basic vocabulary and significant elements of the holiday.  For their Christmas craft all students created a Christmas card to exchange with a secret classmate on Christmas Day.  Inside the card students wrote an English and a Chinese message and drew pictures of holiday symbols.  In addition to our craft each grade level learned and sang a Christmas carol. 

Christmas Day we had our Christmas program in our activity center.  The entire school was present and listened to the Bilingual reading of the classic story, "Twas the Night Before Chirstmas." The program was also filled with songs and dances performed by a chior and a small band.  I couldn't help myself stop laughing when 3 Santas appeared in the middle of the play!

Lantern Festival--Pingxi

Myself and four other foreign English teachers traveled to Pingxi March 6th. we took the train and then a bus into the small village in the moutains.  The experience was thrilling and unique.  We arrived in the afternoon and stayed until about 9pm.  During the day there isn't much to see except for the throngs of people walking around eating at the Taiwanese street stands and shopping in the local shops.  There were so many peope in the small village that I am srue that it only sees this amount of people during the lantern festival each year.  Each train and bus was packed like sardines with people who were trying to get into the small village.  When it became darker we watched the designated lanterns fly off together into the sky.  I was a beautiful scene and no camera can accurately show how beautiful it really was to see all the fire-lighted lanterns.  As you might wonder, there were plenty of firemen around supervising the lanterns.  We saw so many lanterns crash into the telephone wires, trees, and even people.  It was kind of scary because through all the excitement you had to be on your guard because there is no telling which way the wind will blow the lantern when you let go.  The girls and I decorated a bright, red lantern with our hopes and dreams and sent it magically into the sky. 

Yi Chang Sports Day

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Yi Chang has an annual sports day that is a school-wide sports competition in which students compete against each other for medals.  I was told that every other year the sports day is even bigger because the community is asked to join in the competition and compete against each other.  My students prepared by doing morning exercises everyday, sometimes twice a day. 

I was a judge for the first and second graders.  The students had to throw tennis balls at a board with 9 holes to score points. I spent all morning chasing tennis balls around.  My thighs and hamstrings were not happy with me!  I had a lot of fun watching the first and second graders try to throw with all their might.  After my job was done I watch my very talented and athletic kids compete.  Many of my students are aboriginal and they are said to be very good at atheltic activities.
  There were venders outside the gates of my school and one vender was selling small pets such as mice. I can imagine what their parents thought when they brought home a mouse they bought while at school.

Kending--Spring Scream

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After my sports day three foreign teachers and I went down to Kending.  We traveld by train and then travel for one hour by car with a complete stanger offering taxi service for $10USD each. He also bought us bubble milk tea and coffee for the ride. How sweet!   We stayed at the UniResort in Kending which is part of the big UniPresident corporation in Taiwan.  The hotel was nicely decorated and adjacent to the concert area.  Its about 10 miles from the nice beach.  We had a pretty good time at the concert.  Most of the music wasn't my cup of tea but I still had fun with the girls. I also met an Arkansan there and he was really nice.  We graduated from the same university and he is now working for an oil company in India.  The next day we decided to enjoy more of Kending and found that it is the Florida of Taiwan.  We spontaneously hitch-hiked to the city strip and saw that it has great beaches, nice shops, and cool restaurants.  You can easily find, Mexican (which is unfornately rare to find in Taiwan), Thai, and American steakhouses and burger joints,  It was my personal heaven.  When I got back home I kept daydreaming about the beach and the Mexican food.

Paragliding in Taiwan-April 18

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My friends and I went down to the Luye area to paraglide off the mountain side there.  There is a small company with about 5 trained coaches that paraglide with you off the mountain.  The day that we went wasn't a particulary good day to fly because there were many clouds and it was sprinkeling every half hour.  We had spent most of the day waiting for a clear moment to go up.  I finally did and it was amazing in spite of the clouds and my crash landing.  The wind stopped just as we were landing and we crashed onto a soft patch of grass.  It still hurt a bit but I was fine.

Mt. Alishan Sunrise

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Going to Mt. Alishan was one of my most desired places to visit. I had heard the sunrise was incredible and I decided I had to see it myself.  We took the TRA and then the HSR train to Chaiyi and then a taxi to our hotel in the Alishan mountains.  We arrived at 2am and then woke up at 4am to trek into the mountains to see the sunrise.  It was amazing just as I had hoped.  There were many tour groups with loud-speakers but I didn't let them ruin my trip.  I just ignored them and tried to take in the breathtaking surroundings.  After the sunrise we slept in a bit longer and then took the Mt. Alishan walk through the moutains which was really neat.  There are great, big trees that are hundreds of years old and well preserved as well as ponds, bridges, and, of course, shops to buy souvenirs. 

Dragon Boat Festival

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The Dragon Boat Festival was such as fun experience for me because I got to be the flag puller on our dragon boat team.  We were the Wily Waiguorens and we were composed on mostly the FET's from the MOE and a few Taiwanese English teachers.  We never got to practice together or had much practice individually so were quite a sight to see during the race on the Keelung River in Taipei.  We didn't come close to winning but I think we got the most cheers due to our effort and persistance to finish the challenging race.  I had such a blast and I got a huge adrenaline rush during the race that kept me high the rest of the day.  The race was also a time for most of the FET's to get together one last time to say goodbye and spend a little more time making memories together. 

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Rueishuei-River Rafting and Whale Watching

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This weekend (June 19th)  me and some other FET's went down to Rueishuei, which is in the southern part of Hualien County, to go river rafting and whale watching.  The river rafting trip was so great.  We were one group out of 12 or 15 so we had a good time rafting on the river and having multiple water fights with other groups, while taking in the beautiful scenery.  It was incredible.  We also had great weather and lots of sun.  We all got sun burned even though we put on tons of sunscreen.  Our arms are a bit sore as well but it was well worth it.  There are abut 17 light rapid areas that are fun but mostly you can float down the river easily.  

We also were able to go whale watching the same day as a part of an awesome, affordable package deal.  We went on the boat at the Shihti Harbor for a 2hr boat trip.  We saw 2 species of dolphins so in total we saw about 40 or so dolphins.  I've never seen dolphins up close so I really enjoyed the sight.  ;)