In January I got a call from Mark Riley at the head office in Taipei, informing me that Shane will be publishing books 4, 5, and 6 of its SPEC textbook series. Right now we only have 1, 2, and 3, which we use for our lower-level children’s classes. SPEC 4 was in its final drafts and they were on the verge of recording an audio CD to go along with it. Being the writer that I am, I thought he was calling on me for my proofreading skills, but instead he asked if I was interested in being a voice on the CD. Not entirely sure that this wasn’t a joke, I said sure I was. It actually wasn’t a joke. For 3 days, several hours each day, I commuted to a recording studio in Taipei, sat a soundproof room with bank-vault doors, put on the headphones and said things like, “What did you do last weekend?” and “I always play the violin after school” into professional-looking microphones. The character I played is Carol, a chubby girl with brown pigtails wrapped in flowers. Laugh if you like; it could have been much worse. And Carol is the lead female, though how they chose me for that role is beyond my powers of reasoning, but they seemed happy enough with it. Even funnier, the lead male character is Rodney, played by a hip young Shane teacher named Josh, who happens to be from, of all places, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Quite an amusing world, this.
Recently, Jennifer has been getting pressure from the parents of my former kindergarten students to reopen that class. I knew we had to wait until we had another teacher at Shane, but I also knew that once we did they'd want me to teach the kindergarten again, something I do reluctantly at best. They're just too little for me to enjoy it much. But apparently I did something right because they'd been asking for me again. So I told Jennifer that if she could get Nicole back as my TA again, I'd teach the kindergarten. Much to my delight, Nicole said yes!! I'm overjoyed to be seeing her on a regular basis again, and two hours a week isn't too much pressure on her college schedule either. I can't believe how well that worked out. So, in March, I will be romping with the three- and four-year-olds - and my favorite eighteen-year-old - again, a highly mixed blessing.
A few Sundays ago, Clara and I took advantage of the break in the rain and rode the bus up the hill past Jiufen to Gold Ecological Park. The hills were verdant, the ocean a stunning blue, and we spent a wonderful day hiking about hills and the abandoned gold mines that gave the park its name. One of the mines is open for tours, and there’s a museum with it, but we opted to stay outdoors and take pictures. There is also a temple, with a gigantic gold statue of one of its gods, and refurbished residence of a Japanese prince that lived there during the time that Japan occupied Taiwan.