Monday, November 29, 2004

Oh, the excitement!

Well, no culture shock this week (though slightly lower than normal toleration level for long sermons... i'll get over it)
I just sent in my weekly report, which reminded me that it has been a few days since i reported in here too! Of course, it was the weekend, so i'm sure you were all too busy with your exciting lives to check my blog anyways!

Friday was another school visit, which was a lot of fun! I'm getting excited about teaching... one more week! Though i have a lot of work to do before then!! Friday evening we had a "thanksgiving dinner" here with Jeff and Sherly's small group. We contributed stuffing and sweet potatoes which everyone was quite interested in! We met some really fun kids (the children of one of the teachers we will be working with actually! Everyone is connected here, it's crazy!) And they warmed up to us this time! We went to the night market after the Bible study and when the little boy saw some of his classmates he proudly grabbed my hand as if to show off that he was hanging out with a foreigner, it was so cute!!

Saturday was a long and fun day, we went to a children's program in the morning where we got to spend some time with some of the kids we know! The cutest little girls, Ming Ting and GiGi gave us hugs and let us pick them up, they wanted to be our partners for any song or activity that required one, it was so adorable! I love the kids here, they are just precious! It was great to see Liz, Phil, Jason and Libeck! I realized how much I missed Libeck! She is so great! We had lots of hugs and fun stories to share. The afternoon was teacher training, and the evening was a youth group activity which was interesting! Pastor Dzang was preaching about everything from being a baby to the evils of dating before university! I wish I had a video of him preaching! He is the most energetic and expressive guy! The things he was acting up in his sermon were HILARIOUS! If he ever decided to go into acting he would probably make it big!

Sunday already, I'll try harder to write every day so each day gets a better description instead of a little blurb! Church was kind of long for me due to lack of a translator or a fellow foreigner to whisper too (aren't i terrible?), but Hope was talking to her parents so we left at different times and it ended up being a really full service so we didn't sit together. Fortunately, she sat beside one of the English teachers at the bushiban nearby our house, and was able to fill me in later as to what happened! After church we went for lunch with Jamber (a psychiatrist) and Sabrina(his wife and a teacher we will be working with), their three adorable (but really shy kids) and two more Psychiatrists to a really nice restuarant. In case you are wondering why we know so many psychiatrists, it's not because we are experiencing any mental problems, but because this area has a large mental hospital and a veteran's hospital, so actually, every third person we meet is a Doctor! It's crazy (bwahaha).
After lunch we went to the famous town of Gwang Fu, which is home to an old sugar factory among other things. It is about halfway between here and Hualien. We got to take a ride in an oxcart which was quite an experience! And ate their famous ice cream. It was a fun day but a little tiring.

Speaking of tired, we spent the day wandering around the metropolis of Hualien! Well actually we were chauffered around.... it's really nice that everyone here really wants to take care of us, but I'm worried that they really inconvenience themselves sometimes! We called Peggy before we left to ask her a couple questions about buying a train ticket and she proceeded to drive us to the train station (about 30 seconds from her house), help us buy tickets, and walk us to the platform! She was worried that we might get lost in Hualien, or get ripped off by a taxi driver because we're foreigners, so she called Dr. Su's father to drive us around! We felt really bad about it, but she insisted! So Su Xien Shung picked us up at the train station and drove us to Pizza Hut where we had lunch! Then we wandered around town a bit and even bargained for some shirts! We felt really good about that until we realized that really, we only saved about 85 cents in American money. Next we had Starbucks, mmmmmmmm, and then called Mr. Su to take us to the ocean, it was very beautiful! There is a path above the shoreline with a lot of landscaping that we walked along. Then we went to Carrefour which like a big department store, and I spent too much money... lol that's ok
We met up with Mr. Su again and then went for supper at McDonald's with him and his wife, they are so cute! We tried to pay and she practically pushed us out of the way... it was quite funny actually.

So anyways, here I am in my room that could use a good cleaning (though not as bad as my dorm room back in the day), wondering if I should go to bed or work on the game show we are planning to have on our first day of English "Club" it's going to be so much fun! Though I am wishing for a thrift store right now so i could find a cheesy 70s game show host jacket or something... ah well.

Oh yeah, speaking of our English Club, it will be our first time teaching here! We are holding it in the public library and i believe it has been advertised in the schools as well as in the youth group at this church. We are calling it an "English Club" but it is actually an English Bible study... I don't totally know how i feel about that little discrepancy, but it has been explained to me that not as many people would want to come if they thought it was a formal "Bible study" which it really isn't... we are talking about the bible, but there will be quite a bit of English teaching, and hopefully a lot of fun too! And also if it were adverstised as a Bible study some teens wouldn't be allowed to come, anyways, I am REALLY excited about it, and I hope we do have students come to our first one! Lots of planning and technology work ahead for this week!

Friday, November 26, 2004

so many new friends

It seems like every day we meet someone new, or get to spend time with someone different. We've met some really cute kids who have taken a bit to warm up to us (most kids here are quite shy at first), but then they are so fun!
We went to visit two more schools this week which again was fun, but, especially today turned into more of a "pronunciation lesson" than an observation... it did give me a feel for where the students are at though. I think I am going to have fun teaching them.
I'm really sleepy now, for some reason my body decided to wake up at 5 this morning! It can't be jet lag, so i really have no reasonable explanation! but I got to see some people practicing Tai Chi outside (when i went out on the balcony) that's such a random fact.... lol it was quite impressive to me though... ever have a moment when the reality of something becomes extremely clear? well i have that whenever i see something like that, like the farmers in the rice fields wearing the round straw hats with a pointy top. anyways, maybe that's bizarre, maybe i spend the rest of the time in denial haha
Jeff and Sherly had a big dinner today at their house sort of a Thanksgiving dinner, and we made stuffing and sweet potatoes, which we ate on top of rice... as far as i know everyone liked it too!
anyways, this entry is anything but exciting lol i'm kind of sleepy... i need to write when i'm more energetic!
schedule for the next few days:
Tomorrow kid's rally in the morning: we leave at 7:50
evening: youth group
Sunday: church, lunch with some people from the church/one of the teachers from a school we're teaching at, and some work to do: Bible study planning
Monday: possibly go to Hualien

OH another fun thing is that we've been giving people English names! it is an interesting task... especially finding names they can pronounce! I'm working on finding out chinese names for some people, but i have to ask someone else about it

funny moment of the day (among many i'm sure) : my Chinese last name is "O" and so i was introduced as teacher O (O laoshr), to which one girl in the class responded "oh, hello" it was REALLY hard not to laugh! trust me, it sounded really funny...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

我 知道...

can you read that???
it says "wo zhidao" meaning "i know...."
over 30 chinese characters now!
isn't that exciting???
good thing too since we have a test tomorrow... what's up with THAT?

asian bird flu

Flu season has come (or so I'm told) and the flu is popular here every year (again so i'm told). We have the option (maybe not the best choice of words) of getting a flu shot... something I have never done in my life... i never really have a problem with getting sick, and when i do, it only lasts for a few days... i realize that getting sick in another country is crappy, but i'm quite undecided (leaning toward the negative) about this flu shot... could this be in part because of my fear of needles? or maybe my last immunization experience? here's a little excerpt from my description of it:

6:15am Friday, January 23, my alarm went off and I slowly stumbled around my dark room pulling on clothes, trying not to wake my roommate. Out the door I went, not forgetting my stuffed camel, Humphrey. Braving the early morning cold, I met up with 4 other team members, perhaps the "morning" group when we go to Brazil? When Shantelle arrived, we finally embarked upon our expedition, discussing theories on gravity and the nature of light, and whether needles in fact DO hurt. "They're sticking a piece of metal into your flesh, of course it's going to hurt!" That was my sentiment.
At the clinic in Regina we met up with Tara and were soon ushered into a small room to watch a this twenty minute visual masterpiece on travel safety. After this we returned to the waiting room to nervously anticipate our vaccinations (well maybe I was the only nervous one). I was called in first, taking a deep breath and pulling Humphrey out of my bag, I followed the nurse into the small room where the shots would be administered. After lengthy explanations some of which sounded suspiciously like a sales pitch, I decided upon my immunizations and readied myself for the plunge. Closing my eyes and gripping Humphrey tightly, I tried not to cringe as the nurse swabbed my arm and instructed me to take a deep breath, I knew what was coming, and she knew I knew what was coming, and there it was. One down, three to go... After the third needle, everything went black, yes, I had fainted. It wasn't nearly as bad as that time in the mall when I had foolishly decided to get my ear pierced on a whim (I had been standing then, and many, many more witnesses had been around). The nurse gave me some orange juice, and I had to lie down on the floor. By the time I got out of the room, almost everyone else was finished. Now all that was left was to await the final, Yellow Fever shot, one which only lasted for an hour after opening and therefore had to be administered to us all right away. This one was the worst, I could feel the metal in my arm, feel the liquid being injected with a slight burning, tingling feeling. Managing to keep my consciousness, I returned to the waiting room where we prepared to head for lunch.

oh memories....

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

wo yao bing sha cafe

i'm drinking a lovely frappuccino type thing right now, if you're ever in Taiwan and want one that's what you need to say. Bing sha - shaved ice/smoothie is not to be confused with bing cha - iced tea...
Anyways, we had a fun school visit today, though it wasn't exactly what we had been expecting... i am starting to expect that more and more, especially with the schools... the chances that we will be observing a class that we would actually be teaching are quite slim... anyways we joined a class of 31 today who were quite excited to have us, the teacher maybe not so much, since we were rather distracting.... we were the cause of both small and large "lesson hijacks" (as my tesol books put it), from asking us to read a sentence on the board for them to coming up to the front and introducing ourselves (closer to the end), and singing a song for them.... talk about thinking on your feet! We sang the "English is fun when we learn it song" which sounds suspiciously like "Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah, Praise ye the Lord!"
It was a lot of fun, but didn't allow me to get the best feel for the class, I can tell that they're pretty low level though, the teacher was translating probably 90% of the time, but they are definitely not using English much, more like learning about it... it's strange to think about the idea that the first time they have really used English in real context might be meeting us... i guess that's partly because my last two language learning experiences (portuguese and chinese) have been kind of a jump right in approach... you definitely retain it a lot more when you need it for daily functioning!

Then we talked to a couple of teachers about the classes we will be teaching, but that's when things got a little confusing... they told us we will be teaching two 1-hour long classes, one will be using Let's Talk in English, and the other one would be a conversational/drama class, with the goal of producing some sort of performance at the end of the semester! well that's the first we had heard of that! I emailed our supervisors at ORTV to see if they have any materials that we could adapt for this purpose, and they said that they want us to use LTE, so i'm not really sure what's going on... will i be scriptwriting?? i do have some ideas as to how their goals can be achieved using LTE, especially since each article is actually a set of dialogues. We could study the magazine and have the students perform some of the dialogues from it, and maybe add their own endings etc. anyways, this is yet to be resolved. I did have a fun idea though:
since we will have pretty large classes to do a drama that gives each person a speaking part, i was thinking that we could do something based on movies (starting from a November LTE article) and then have the students in the drama decide to make a movie, the actors being the other group in the class... anyways, that's tabled for the moment... but hey could be fun!

In other events, i got my box sent away today... my was that interesting... first i packed it hoping that nothing would break, then i made an inventory of the items since i figured i would have to declare them, and even looked up each one and wrote out the pinyin and phonetics (bo po mo fo), only to discover once i got there that there was quite a small space for items, and they weren't exremely concerned about it! anyways, it took at least a half an hour to get it mailed, especially because of communication diffiulties... but it's on the way, i sent it by surface mail, so i have NO clue how long it will take, though my post cards apparently only took 1-2 weeks... does the weight of the mail have anything to do with how long it takes to deliver? you wouldn't think so, but anything is possible with mail.....

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ooooh pretty colours

I'm feeling a little more vibrant lately (maybe due to the fact that i'm the only red head in any room...), anyways, time for a change of scenery on this blog!

I cooked again today, which was fun, I really do like cooking, and I am learning that you can cook almost anything in the frying pan/wok they have... the things i have cooked so far are:

~ vegetable beef stir fry
~ chicken curry
~ apple crisp
~ rigatoni with chunky marinara sauce

Jeff and Sherly always make a big deal if they come home when I am cooking, it is really cute, they are always like "wooooow, it smells soo good!" personally i think they are just being nice, either that or they are really shocked that a foreigner can produce appetizing food....

anyways, I finished my Christmas shopping today (the earliest ever!), although I only bought gifts for immediate family at this time, since money is tight from getting settled and all, our pay schedule is a little off at the moment... but anyways, tomorrow I will attempt to mail a box home, we'll see how THAT goes... last time we were at the post office, 2 of the 3 employees pretended we weren't there, even though we were trying to get their attention!
Tomorrow promises to be an exciting day, complete with a school visitation AND a chinese lesson... speaking of which i need to get to bed... since we're meeting at Dr. Su's clinic at 8:10!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

I know, I know

see, i'm having this problem with my uh... my blog updating chromosome, yeah, that's it!

Deepest apologies to the faithful few (or many, I really don't know who reads this, though I have now passed the 400 hits mark! woohoo! i wonder how many are mine...)
I can imagine it now, you trudge home through the snow, and as soon as your fingers unthaw you are entering the URL for my website, desperate for the next installment, to find out if i've fallen off my bike yet, to hear about the strange cultural taboos that i have broken in my attempts at communication, and most of all... ok never mind that, just needed to add a little melodrama to your lives to make up for a week of not updating...

Oh, speaking of falling off my bike, I had my first accident last week! Apparently it was nothing to write home about, since I didn't! Anyways, I was on my bike, coming up on an intersection, and there was a scooter in front of me, they were signalling to turn left, and beginning to execute the turn, there was no oncoming traffic, it seemed like this would be yet another successful driving exercise, but instead of turning, she decided to brake... causing me, the oncoming bycicle who tried to quickly break and go around to run right into her! She was stopped and I was almost (but not in time), so it wasn't an extremely spectacular collision. There were many apologies, and I came out of it with a squished basket and a spilled coffee (which I think i was the most cranky about).

This week has been, fine.... not incredibly exciting, not bad, just fine.
Monday after our hike we went to a hot springs, which I enjoyed, it was quite relaxing, though one with less sulfur scent would be better... fortunately we (Hope, her sister Amy who came to visit, and I) nearly had the whole thing to ourselves. I don't even want to think about the potential chaos of three white girls in bathing suits... we cause a bit of disruption in normal circumstances.

Anyhow, poor Hope has been sick so I have been kind of on my own and having to field all questions about her condition/treatment and medical advice/suggestions.... but apparently they go to the Doctor for every thing here. Dr. Jack tried to explain something about insurance or something... I don't know... Hope and I both agreed that we would normally never see a doctor about a mere cold...

Wednesday night I discovered that I am still somewhat of a novelty at church... it does kind of catch you off guard when the speaker suddenly welcomes you out of the blue (well maybe not so out of the blue if you happen to speak chinese) and everyone turns to look at you/come shake your hand... but I got the english version of the material they are studying which was nice, and I got to practice sharing testimonies/the gospel with Dr. Su. I discovered that the simplified english version of my testimony lasts about 1 minute, good to know! I suppose I could work on that.

Thursday night I got to go help with a class, it was so fun! Our good friend Amy Lin who we call Amy Jieh (Big sister Amy) teaches an hour long english class on thursday nights, so we joined her. She was teaching about animals, and, unbeknownst to us beforehand, decided to have the teachers act out animals to review the names (the kids had to guess which animal we were acting out) well that's one way to introduce yourself to a class! I had fun, it was nice to be in the classroom again, although a little odd to have not 1 but 3 teachers....

I have had some fun times with Jeff and Sherly this week too, they are so cute! I gave them some Castlegar paraphenalia (wow it's been a long time since i've tried to spell that word), including a brochure and some pins *thanks chamber of commerce*
which they were very excited about! Jeff wants to go there and climb all the mountains/go boating/fishing/biking
Today they invited me to go to a bbq up in the mountains... it was interesting! I agreed, and we went up this extremely steep one-lane road (half of which was too and through villages...) to the property of some people from their church. We really did have somewhat of a bbq, chinese style though... interesting... they had what looked like gas hot plates with a big grill set on top to cook meat/stir fry vegetables including onions, green peppers, bean sprouts, and bamboo shoots. There were many varieties of meat, including a whole chicken (possible minus the head).... i think i am starting to get used to the sight of someone gnawing on a chicken foot. Jeff ate his chicken intestines with great relish, after asking the english word for them...
Of course no chinese meal is complete without soup, which they cooked over an open flame for pretty much the whole time we were there, randomly (to me) throwing stuff in and adding water etc. And fruit, some of which was fresh off the tree... they have these things like giant grapefruit here, they're pretty yummy, but really hard to get into, guava, and this fruit that looks like a tomato, but is kind of like a peach, well not really... it's good though, and i saw a real banana tree! how cool, did you know they grow upside down? well from the way we eat them anyways... they grow up though, not hanging down, it looks rather neat.

One of the fun things about today was the kids! There were a bunch of kids who I have met before that were there, some were in the English class I helped with on Thurs, and they are so fun! I barely got to talk to anyone else until they left to go to another activity. These two girls Tina and April immediately lactched onto me, grabbing my hands when they were free, bringing me here and there, and speaking in chinese and then saying "ting bu dong" (which means you hear no understand), but they were really cute, and we were able to communicate a little. The boys were a little shyer, but there was this one that kept asking me "are you ok?" i'm not even sure if he knows what that means... anyways, it was fun!
I like kids.

lol what a random ending... anyhow... you may have noticed my odd temperament tonight...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

And me without a camera

I have found myself in a camera-less state a number of times these past few days, while I am seeing extraordinary things, from a suspension-bridge view to teenage boys wearing adult diapers outside their clothes, I have repeatedly mumbled under my breath "Where's my camera??"

Today we went to Yu-Shan National Park, which actually encompasses a whole mountain range, and we visited a beautiful waterfall and walked around that area for awhile. Then we went on a hike! Maybe not what I had been expecting to do when I left thae house (I even remember debating whether I should wear my flip-flops... so glad I didn't!) but it was fun, if not a little tiring! We did walk almost 4km in all, and it was very beautiful there! We crossed two suspension bridges. The scenery was simply incredible... everything is so green and lush, there were many trees that resemble palm trees but their leaves (fronds?) are like a large fern. We even almost saw a monkey! Well, maybe, we heard something and the tree moved, but I'm sure it was a monkey... what else?

Speaking of monkeys... well actually it really doesn't have much to do with monkeys but there was this one act.....On Friday, we went to Yuli High School, where they were celebrating the school's anniversary. We were VIP's, which we could have done without... but anyways, we sat on this large platform while the various classes paraded around the track and stopped in front of us to do some sort of dance/act... Well I have to say that most of them cracked me up! It was very interesting, and more than a little quirky. It became apparent that the students had both designed their own costumes and choreographed their own acts. The first one, which I referred to earlier must have been made up by the girls, since they wore sort of like grass skirts over their pants, in contrast to the boys, who were wearing adult diapers! It is definitely on the list of the strangest things I have ever seen... Anyways, they did a cheerleading routine, and then sat down on the grass. This parade continued for almost 2 hours (I think) and we saw, among other things, Aboriginal Costumes, a lot of garbage bag fashion (which I rather approved of.... sorry if you didn't get that reference, ask me sometime!), fishnet stockings, halloween costumes, and a group dressed sort of like the Flintstones who chased one of their classmates (who was playing the monkey) hogtied him to a log, and carried him onto the field. I can't imagine any of this happening in a high school at home, where, during my time, there was both a complete lack of school spirit, and a huge fear of looking bad in front of anyone else.

Anyways, after that, things got really confusing! The main reason for this being that Dr. Su had to leave and so we were kinda on our own (though we did have some help from a retired teacher who spoke good English and was quite funny, he told us he speaks "chinglish" which is a step up from that i speak that's for sure "wo yao _____ insert English word here!)
They were taking a bunch of pictures, which I guess they wanted us to be in... not every year they have a couple of foreigners in attendance, I guess! But after the photos, the speeches began, and before we knew it, a microphone was being passed in our direction! They wanted us to say something in English... but we didn't really have a clue what all the preceeding speeches had been about so it was yeah... anyways, I managed something about how we were happy to be here and congratulations or something like that (i don't really remember now) and Hope agreed with my sentiments. Following that were more pictures, an aboriginal children's choir performance and i'm sure a number of other random things including some wine/punch...
Anyways, I must be off now, but fortunately, someone else DID have a camera! So I got a few pictures from Dr. Su which I'm sure you all will enjoy greatly!
Waterfall/mountain pictures coming in a few days!

This was the adorable children's choir!  Posted by Hello

Here you can see them trying to give Hope the microphone! "Say something to them in English" aiiie Posted by Hello

The boat I believe was specially constructed this year, but I could be wrong! Posted by Hello

Us with Dr. Su and the school Principal at the Aboriginal Art Exhibit Posted by Hello

It ended with a flag ceremony Posted by Hello

 Posted by Hello

This group was supposed to be cats I think Posted by Hello

This was one of the many acts at the High School Anniversary, the second boy from the front is our friend Andy! Posted by Hello

Friday, November 12, 2004

stir fry and schedules

I cooked for myself today!! Isn't that exciting?
There isn't a ton of variety to food in Yuli, you have your pick of noodles and rice, and then a few other things like Jaotze or Shway Jao as we discovered might be the correct name for it, which is little dumplings with pork and vegetables inside that are boiled. We have a couple of regular restaurants now that we know are safe. But anyways, realizing we've been lacking in the vegetable department I decided to do a little stir fry for supper! It did end up costing more than eating out, depending on where we go (simple things like Jaotze and Yuli Mein are usually less than between 50 and 80 NT, a nicer restaurant could be 100-200. By the way, 100NT is about $3.60 Canadian so in any case it was less than $10 to feed two people), but it was healthier. I came home from the supermarket and was asking Jeff if they were cooking today and told them that I would be making some food. He told me they were going out, which i soon discovered was because they were out of gas (to run the burner!). But before I could say anything, he had already called the gas person who was there within 5 minutes.. now that's fast service! Anyways, my canadian style chinese food (aka stir fry) turned out alright after all.

These last few days have been kind of slow since we're not actually teaching yet, but we have gone for a bike ride for the last 3 days in a row, and have been preparing to teach. Today I made a sample lesson plan which was kind of fun. It will be interesting to see how this goes since we will only be teaching once a week for a couple of hours. We have to make sure our lessons are memorable since they are not very frequent. In some of the schools we will have a much larger class size than I would consider ideal (36 students is the most I think).

Our meeting with Ivy and Carolyn was really good, it clarified many things. Although it did kind of scare us when they gave us a paper and the first point read "Main Jobs: Teaching English conversation in schools - Yuli Junior High, Yu Dong Junior High, Sun-Min Junior High, and Yuli High School and in Elementary schools (12 in total)
Now this came as a bit of a shock since we had until that point only heard about three schools... but further down the sheet was kind of our year schedule (which as always is subject to change with little notice) which kind of goes something like this:

  • November - start book club (English Bible study) in church
  • Dec-Jan - (note: in addition to what has already been started) Teach at 3 Jr high schools (starting Dec 6)
  • March - June (i'm not really sure what happened to February except that we get 9 days off for Chinese New Year, so if anyone wants to come visit, that would be the ideal time... meet you halfway??)
    Teach in High school, Start working with English teachers, Help in elementary schools (reading stories), "character education" (don't ask)
  • June-August - They have the same school break as us, so we will be doing some summer camps and probably some summer English programs. It seems like the summer will be pretty open but of course, i'm sure tons of stuff will be planned once it arrives
  • August-Oct - Basically a continuation of what we were doing at the end of the school year

And then, well who knows...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

a day in the life...

Well today was not really a typical day since we're not actually teaching yet, but here it goes:
I woke up around 8:30, and shortly afterward Cindy called from Taipei to see if we were ok, because there was an earthquake last night.... well that was news to me! The earthquake measured about 5.7 and was north of here. The epicentre was in the ocean I believe. Anyways, I read, had some breakfast (an orange, tea, and pb and honey toast... they do have chinese breakfast stuff here, but that's more like meat and sandwiches... which i think of more as lunch), tried to phone someone in Canada (you people and your social lives! sheesh!), checked my email and studied some Chinese. We went for lunch at Yuli Mein (Yuli Noodles... yes the famous "chow mein" actually means fried noodles though it is pronounced slightly different here when you order it), and then went for a bike ride! Yes, I actually went for a bike ride of my own free will, and i actually enjoyed it... we went the same way we rode on saturday, though not as far. We want to eventually be able to ride all the way there! On the way back i stopped at a little coffee place to get some iced tea, and i wanted what's called in English "bubble tea" it has these little black jelly-like things in it... i don't really know how to describe it, but I didn't know how to say it... and the lady didn't have a CLUE what i was trying to order.... so i kinda gave up and tried to order one i thought i knew how to say.... but i guess i didn't know how to say that one either, because i ended up getting a fruit smoothy type thing, which was actually quite good! I think it was a variety of passion fruit, smaller than the infamous maracuja in Brazil... all that before 1pm! wow, what am I going to do for the rest of the day?

Monday, November 08, 2004


now there's some randomness for you... don't ask where i get my titles from
As last week progressed, my stress level over the impending bicycle trip augmented... especially once I actually got the bike... anyways, we were riding with the young holistic group which I think is more like Junior youth group with some older teens attending, but there were a lot of 10-12 year olds there. We were to meet them at the church at 1 and start the bike ride by 1:30, which lasted over an hour. Hope and I rode at the back.... and it wasn't long before we couldn't even see the rest of the group anymore! Poor Dr. Su rode along slowly with us. We (the whole group) stopped for a little rest, and by then we were feeling rather tired, but determined to go a little farther (we were allowed to ride along in the van when we got too tired). So here I was, tired, sweating, and wishing I was in the van when we approach a hill, not a really big hill, but definitely a easily discernible incline... while riding up I tried to change gears: I do remember a little from those days when I used to ride a bike long long ago.... but apparently not enough because I didn't quite do it right and suddenly my bike chain was loose! We had to stop and they fixed it for me. All in all it was a very eventful trip. In the end we did make it about halfway before opting for the comfort and air conditioning of the van (even a gel seat feels like a rock when you haven't ridden a bike for 7 years....). We visited a really beautiful place where there is an aboriginal school and some interesting statues etc. The youth played a bunch of games and then we returned back to Yuli by 5:00 (we rode in the van on the way back).

Oh but this was only the beginning of my interesting day.... see we have a washing machine here, but not a clothes dryer... so we bought this odd drying rack that looks somewhat like a clothes rack in a store or a hotel... anyways, I had done laundry in the morning, and decided it would be a good idea to put the rack out on the balcony so my clothes would be dry by the time I got home.... while we were gone there were some strong (or not so strong) headwinds on our little balcony... and I came home to find the rack tipped over... my clothes all over the floor of the balcony... well except for one shirt, which was hanging off an awning type thing two floors down... i had to use our broom handle to retrieve it.... not impressed....

Sunday was our much needed day of rest, although that didn't start until about 2:00! We went to Yuli church, and when we got there, Dr. Su gave us copies of the songs with the phonetics written beside the characters so we could sing along!! He is so sweet! Actually I think it was his wife Peggy (Yes, her English name is Peggy Su...) who wrote it out, but it definitely made the service more enjoyable for us! Also the guy sitting next to us (who I don't think we'd met before) translated kind of the outline of the sermon. Afterward we were invited to the house of one of the church elders for lunch. It was really nice, although kind of akward at times becuase of the language barrier. He knew enough english to want to try it out though, so we didn't get much chance to practice our Chinese. We watched an old episode of Friends after lunch, and he wrote where we were from on his globe.... lol i thought that was a little odd since it is something sitting in his living room, and he just started writing on it! Anyways, then they discovered that my name is the same as Charlotte Church, and so they brought out her cd. They offered to take us to see a lake but we were both feeling really tired, so we declined. We both slept two hours in the afternoon too! i guess all that biking did tire us out!
It's kinda funny, but I've noticed that everyone and their cockroach wants to sit down with us for a half an hour every week and practice their english... that could add up to a lot of half an hours!
hmmmm anyways, we had a chinese lesson/Bible study today with the Su's, and then they took us for lunch (they're all about the eating and taking you out for meals here I've noticed). We got some food to go and drove up to a national park in the area, which is the beginning of a hiking trail to Taiwan's highest mountain (I can't remember the name at the moment, but it's 4000 metres tall). We looked through the visitor's centre, and then walked through a rice field which was pretty neat... I was wishing I had my camera with me! We were walking on the raised paths between the rice paddies, with the rice growing waist high. It was kind of surrealistic... one of those things that reminds you you're in Asia (in case you forgot...)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

This Crazy Week

This week has been full of meetings and visits! Almost every day we have visited a different school where we will be teaching once a week. On Tuesday night, we visited three reading stations which are places set up kinda by the church programs that kids can go for help with homework and activities. There are 12 in the area, and are held in homes, churches, schools, and even a police station! The most memorable one was the second one we visited which had about 15 kids from age 8-12 I think. They were sooo cute and some were really shy, but most were eager to talk to us. Many of them pulled out their English school books and were reading stuff to us, and asking us to read things/sing songs from them. It was really cute! It was also probably the most excited they’ve ever been about their English books ;) The funniest moment for me was when one of the girls noticed my blue eyes. She looked at me and then her eyes got really wide and she told the other kids (in Chinese, but I soon figured it out) to look at my eyes, and then they all started trying to look at my eyes… it was really funny, especially seeing some of their expressions!These kids made a lasting impression on both of us for some reason, maybe because it was a smaller centre, but I know we both really want to continue to visit this centre in particular. We have been given a lot of information, and things have changed a hundred times! Also we have been trying to get unpacked and settled and orient ourselves in Yuli. I think I’m still in danger of getting lost, although there are some places I can find easily now. On Thursday, we got lost twice…. my fault both times! It made me very thankful for my cell phone! The situation was compounded even more when as we were trying to phone Libeck this advertising truck stopped right in front of us and was blasting music so loud that she couldn’t hear us talking. Anyways, we did eventually find the right place (though we ended up going in a huge circle when it was actually really close to us…Anyways, our schedule is sort of decided… we teach at schools during their study halls 3 days a week (at a different school each day), every evening except Monday (our day off) we are doing either church programs, into the schools and observe, which will really help us to prepare some of our first lessons. afterschool study programs, or English Bible studies. Tuesday and Thursday morning we have Chinese lessons. Saturdays we do youth group activites, and Sundays are church. Throw in prep time and trying to make contact with some of the English teachers in the area, and having some English fellowship, and we are rather busy! But it will be fun… I’m really glad we’re kind of easing into things because as evidenced by our getting lost today, we still need time to get our bearings. Next week we get to go to visit the schools we will be teaching at and observe some classes, which I think will really help us! We also went to visit an Aboriginal village, which was really cool! It was not too far from here and was really a village that was built into the side of the mountain! The roads were winding and narrow (sometimes seeming like there was only one lane) and we could tell that the area was poorer even than Yuli. We visited a church and met the pastor and his wife! They were so nice to us! They have known Libeck for a really long time! At the end of the visit they gave us each a handmade aboriginal blanket from their tribe (the Taroko tribe). They blankets are beautiful! What other exciting things have happened? Well there was us chasing after the garbage truck…. The garbage trucks collect garbage every night between 6:30 and 7… they drive around town with a little song playing (it actually sounds like an ice cream truck, which amuses me), and you have to go throw your garbage in! Well we had just missed the truck the other day, but could still hear it, so we ran after it with our bags of garbage, and actually had to follow it for a few blocks before we caught up… I’m sure it was quite an amusing site for the locals… Today another random truck thing is happening… it sounds like there is a parade outside our window, but it is like 3 trucks playing music and shooting off fireworks… I’m not quite sure what it is for… but it is rather distracting.. thankfully they didn’t start until around 10:30.
One more day to write about and then you will be up to date! Today had two major events, the bike ride, and the clothes rack....

Aboriginal Blankets

Aboriginal Blankets
Originally uploaded by CharandHope.
for more photos on this visit, check out

Aboriginal Church Mosaic

Church Mosaic
Originally uploaded by CharandHope.
This is just a fun picture! The church had all kinds of mosaics in its walls (including Santa Claus... go figure)

Houses built into the mountain

aboriginal town
Originally uploaded by CharandHope.
These homes are in the aboriginal town we visited.

Reading Station 2

Originally uploaded by CharandHope.

reading station 2

reading station2 close
Originally uploaded by CharandHope.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Our Apartment and other tales

We went to Yuli Church on Sunday, and again met a million more people. They brought us up to the front and we shared a little bit about how we got here (the amazing Libeck translated for us) and then they all prayed for us. The service lasted about 3 hours, and was probably really interesting. It was in Mandarin and translated into Taiwanese no English translation though...
We went for lunch afterward. Everywhere we have gone so far has served us sooo much food! More than we could ever eat. We spent the afternoon furniture shopping, bargaining is a really, really, really, really long process! I'm thankful that we had a Chinese person to bargain for us!
We chose to live with a couple whose English names are Jeff and Sherly. Jeff is a middle school teacher and dean of students, and Sherly works for World Vision. They are soo nice! They are a married couple in their thirties, and they speak a little bit of English. We are staying on the third floor of their beautiful apartment, and will be sharing their kitchen which is on the first floor. We have one bathroom for the two of us (Hope and I) and we each have our own room. Hope's room is really large with a probably queen size bed. We both have computer desks and balconies. My room is a Japanese style room. It is a really serene environment. It is about a foot and a half higher than the hallway (so a big step to get in or out) and the floor is shiny hard wood. It has sliding doors in four panels across the entrance. They are wooden with semi-transparent plastic and a bamboo pattern, the pictures show it! Posted by Hello

Our balcony, and a nice view! Posted by Hello

Hope's room. Posted by Hello

Inside my room, it looks different now though, I have a different mattress! Posted by Hello

My room from the Hallway Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Our first day in Yuli

Us with the Su's
Originally uploaded by CharandHope.
We are staying in a guestroom at one of the churches we will be working with for the first few nights. We got to see some kids, because one Saturday a month, they have children’s programs at the church. It was really different from the programs that run in North America! First of all, it runs all day, but most of it is the kids sitting all day! They started with singing, which was cool because the whole thing was led by some of the older kids. There was only a couple of adults singing up front, and they weren’t even on the stage! They had kids playing drums and piano, and probably about 12 kids up on stage singing (without microphones) and doing the actions for the songs. Then there was a really long “sermon” which we were very surprised at, because we rarely make our kids sit like that for more than about 10 minutes in our churches, and here were 100 kids sitting through over an hour of just preaching. Most adults wouldn’t even make it! Anyways, it seems like the kids are a lot more disciplined here, likely because of the way they are raised and because of the school system. They had more activities after that and then they feed the kids lunch for free as well, since most of them come from really poor families.
In other events of the day, I fell down the stairs! Did it ever hurt… thankfully Hope caught me, so I didn’t land on my head or anything! Anyways, something like me falling is probably no big surprise to many of you, but everyone here was very concerned. I iced it right away and it’s doing ok, I have a bruise/mark that is kind of the shape of South America on my left leg. Of course this happens about 10 minutes before Liz, Phil, Ivy and the other people show up…. Oh dear…
We spent the afternoon in teacher training seminars for some of the teachers here. And then went to Dr. Su’s for a bbq. The whole youth group from the church was there, so we got to meet them. They were really friendly, though some were quite shy (we seem to be getting that reaction a lot), but it was hard to really communicate. The language barrier is really one of our big struggles right now, especially since we’ll be on our own once Libeck leaves on Friday!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Us after the Aboriginal Concert. Libeck is on the back left behind Doris and the flowers! Posted by Hello


Originally uploaded by CharandHope.
Here's one picture from on the way here... we see these everywhere.

On the way

We're more or less back online, so I'm going to start writing from where I left off, which was before I left Taipei. We have now been in Yuli for 5 days, although at times it feels like we've been here for weeks!
The countryside was beautiful, breathtaking. The ocean was a bright turquoise and blue with large waves, and there were greenery-covered mountains rising up from the coast and extending into the west. We saw many small towns along the way and rice paddies, tea fields, and temples. There are mountains in view no matter where you are.
We got into the train station in Hualien city, and we dropped our stuff off at Libeck’s house. We both had to use the bathroom at this point, but her house only had a “squatty potty.” So anyways, we decided to go for lunch at Pizza Hut” American food, American toilets, it makes sense right?? Well, apparently not. So we decided (considering that neither of us really knows how to use one and it didn’t seem like the most ideal time to learn… if such a time does exist) to go ahead and eat lunch and then try our luck at McDonalds across the street. Fortunately, there was one there. Anyways, we did eventually make it to Yuli which is a 3.5 hour train ride and then a 2 hour bus ride from Taipei. And we met Dr. Su, who is kind of in charge of things here. We got to see our prospective apartments, and then went to someone’s house for dinner. Her name is Amy, and she has two young children who can both speak some English. We had an amazing supper, our first in a Taiwanese family’s home. Afterward she had about 15 ladies over for their weekly Bible study, which was pretty cool, but kind of long since we didn’t really understand much of what was going on. So that was our first day in Yuli.
I have seen so many different kinds of trees, it made me wish that I knew more about how to identify them. I saw at least 3 kinds of palm trees, and what looked like small forests of tall, thin palms. It would be fin to wander through one. It is beautiful here; everything is green, but at the same time the poverty of the area is really evident in some places. There are a lot of older, and run down buildings, and also some really new ones.