Tuesday, September 13, 2005

First Impressions

Well, here I am in Yilan.
I arrived Sunday night, and a couple from the church took me out to dinner. Then they drove me around a bit while I tried to memorize everything I saw that I might want to return to (which of course I didn't).
On Monday I started teaching, with one class in the boy's high school (which actually had some girls in it) and 4 classes in the girl's high school man it can get confusing when you teach the same class 5 times in a row, you keep thinking you've already done an activity with the class, but then realize that no, that was the previous class!


I was really impressed with the level of my students, which I suppose is pretty normal for a typical Taiwanese high school student, but it was just so much higher than the students I've been teaching this past year. I would pause to see if they understood certain words I thought were more difficult, and they'd all nod. Unlike some of the classes I taught at the end of the summer (especially if I didn't have a coteacher) I didn't speak a word of Chinese during class, in fact, they don't even know I can speak Chinese. That's fun.

One of the activities i did in class was allowing the students to write questions on cards for me to answer at the end of class. Some of the questions were predictable, "how long have you been here?" "why did you come to taiwan?" "how old are you?" "do you like taiwan?" in the girls high school 5-10 people from each class (of 40 ugh) asked "do you have a boyfriend?" there were a couple of particularly interesting questions including:
"Have you ever eaten a thousand year egg?"
"Do you accept one night stands?"
"Why is your voice listens so sweet?"
"What's your name?" (I'd said it a few times and it was written on the board)
and my personal favorite:
"About Mainland China and Taiwan. What do you think about Taiwan's next step?"

So yeah, I expect it will be in interesting semester. So far, I've been pretty much on my own here, and I've wandered around a fair bit, and found some fun places, like two great bookstores and a place where I can buy the delectable "luo li niu nai" (avocado milk in case you forgot). I still don't know where too many/good restaurants are apart from the western ones... so i guess i'm stuck eating McDonald's or KFC for a little longer... if I can ever talk to some of the people who live there I'll ask them which are their favorite nearby places to eat.
Speaking of eating, one more story:

One of the schools, being very hospitable, provided me with a "bian dong" or lunch box yesterday, and even my own little desk where I could have lunch and kill the hour+ i had between classes. Unfortunately, "bian dong" is not my favorite food in the world (in this case, lukewarm selections of random vegetables and meat on about 1.5 cups worth of white rice), but I ate what I could. As I was beginning to eat, one of the teachers came to talk to me, and asked if I could bring my own chopsticks to eat with in the future thankyouverymuch, since it's better for the environment. I tried to explain that I hadn't actually purchased this myself, but the lunch, chopsticks and all, had been given to me by another teacher (I swear, I'm not trying to singlehandedly destroy the environment and offend all that is good and right). I'm sure the tone and manner of the conversation was largely brought on by the fact English isn't her first language, but I understandably was filled with dread when I had to ask this same teacher where the garbage was in order to discreetly dispose of what I couldn't eat. She asked if I ate it all, and when I said no, she noted that I'd have to take it to scrape out the food somewhere else before throwing away the container, which she offered to do for me.... with great trepidation I handed her my conspicuously heavy container, wishing I'd gone looking for a garbage instead of asking. When she returned she gave me the third degree on what I like to eat. I wasn't really sure how to answer, since I'm generally not that picky, this was more a matter of the way the food was prepared and my doubts as to its freshness (not to mention one of the vegetables was really spicy, and the pork was undercooked), which I really hadn't wanted to complain about. By the end of the conversation I felt like a picky, high-maintenance foreigner who was spurning their hospitality. Ah, but that was not the end, for the teacher that drove me home at the end of the day, also quizzed me specifically on what I like to eat (anything but bian dong?), leading me to the conclusion that the other teacher had taken my unfinished lunch into the teachers room and made them all aware of the "problem" prior to throwing it out.

1 comment:

  1. Char, interesting experiences, eh? I taught middle school boys in South Korea and I wish my guys could ask me questions like those, well most of them anyway. But it was a great experience. Anyway, you can check out my pictures of all my travels at bks.frickles.com.

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