Finding the Rabbit
Shin Yin Quai Le! (Or however that’s supposed to look in English.)
Happy New Year!
So, Chinese New Year is upon us again, and the island is decked out for the mother of all oriental holidays. The kids have been out of school for the last three weeks, plus they’ve got another two more to go. Due to this nice long holiday, bushibans like ours have picked up a lot of business. It seems to be a combination babysitting and way to nudge your kid a little closer to being the top in their class. My regular Saturday reading and writing class switched to Mondays and Thursdays during winter break. We read a Valentine’s Day mystery and posted more writing up on the wall. Here are pictures of both incarnations of this class:
Winter vacation class: Henry Lee, Justin, Kevin Lin, Vicky, Stephanie, and Zippy down in front with Vicky's little sister
Regular Saturday class: Ivy, Stephanie, Zippy, Kevin Lin, Vicky
I also picked up a lower-level reading class. I don't like complaining on this blog, but I will do so shamelessly now. This was a class of seven students, all from Sacred Heart. I’ve had plenty of other kids from that school, and, with exceptions, their English proficiency and their behavior seem to be inversely proportionate. Let me say this: those kids have exceptional English! They're usually among the most advanced students in class. True to form, five out of these seven were perfect villains. I only had them for six classes, but it felt like twelve days rather than twelve hours. I’ve never faced a higher concentration of rudeness, impatience, utter selfishness and social ineptitude before. Whiny, demanding brats who couldn't see that I was speaking to another student, or setting up a game or even in the middle of a class discussion, who sat there wailing at the top of their lungs and ordering me to drop everything and pay attention to them. And this includes my CE07 class, which could still very much hold its own in the high-stakes rounds of national immaturity championships! It made me marvel: this is the next generation? Such infantile behavior certainly isn't limited to Taiwan, either; I saw plenty of tantrums in the US, too, and not just from kids. Luckily I’ve become quite good at dealing with overgrown babies, and to their credit this class did improve their behavior somewhat during the six classes I had them. We read three books in that time: The Ugly Duckling, The Gingerbread Man, and The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. Three favorites of mine, and they did seem to enjoy the stories quite a bit. In those moments when they were relatively content, they loved to chatter on about things in the book. That part was great fun.
We’ve been having unusually sunny, dry and warm weather. Doubtless the effects of global warming, but this particular change is hard to complain about. My sinus problems have been nonexistent and walking to work has been quite nice. The downside is that I’ve had such a full schedule these past few weeks that I’ve barely been able to enjoy it! Last Sunday, Jennifer invited me and Neil, our new teacher who has arrived from England, to join her and her family in Taipei for a bike ride. It was cool and windy, good biking weather. We rented the bikes for two hours and followed a trail along the river that ran between Danshui and Xindian, though we certainly didn’t make it to either city. That would have taken a whole day. My only complaint was the bike seat was designed for a male pelvis and it was far too low, so I was quite sore the next couple of days, but worth it to get outside and play again.
The trail ran from Danshui to Xindian, many miles across Taipei. We only biked for two hours, but that was plenty, given the shape of the bikes and the roughness of the path.
This is Neil, the teacher who's come to replace me at Shane. He's a very energetic, very happy person from England, and seems to be fitting in with everyone here really well.
Stephanie's dachsund, Nicky. He's a very sweet dog but he is a puppy, and riding in the basket on a bicycle was not his idea of fun. Eventually JB and Stephanie stayed behind with the dog while Jennifer, Neil and I rode on.
After the ride, Jennifer, Stephanie, Neil and I headed downtown Taipei. Stephanie played with my camera on the way there.
Now that everybody's on winter break, Taipei, Keelung and probably everywhere else have been packed with tourists. Downtown Taipei was decorated for the New Year, with holiday jingles playing in every store, upbeat but not entirely creative songs (like the same Christmas carols every store plays), and oddly, usually sung in English.
This picture came out the best of any we've taken here.
Neil and I went up to 89th floor observation deck without them, and later met them down in Page One bookstore on the 4th floor. Here are people looking out the windows. They've redone this place since I was last here with my family in October. There's a gift shop up here now, and more information panels about the building, and a film in Chinese and English specifically about the tuned mass dampers.
We decided to pay the extra 100 quai and go up to the 91st floor outdoor observation deck. I was disappointed to find that the outer wall was so tall, preventing anyone much shorter than 5'10" seeing over it. Neil had a good view, but I had to hop around to see anything. We walked the whole perimeter of the deck, and found a nice little movie theater with a short film about the construction of Taipei 101. That made the extra money worth it. It was very interesting.
Well, I did it. Yesterday was my last day at Shane. Eighteen months of living and teaching in Taiwan is nearly completed. I started telling my classes that I was leaving a few weeks ago so they’d be ready when Neil came. I’ve received many wonderful gifts from my students and their parents, too. A glass candle-holder, a very Chinese-styled butterfly that’s supposed to hang from your rear-view mirror for good luck, rosary beads, a very nice journal from Nicole, a coffee mug with an image of the town of Jiufen on it, and several handmade cards. When you’re feeling down or lonely, maybe you just need a class full of elementary school kids. That, or puppies. They’ll restore your faith in pure, unconditional devotion real fast.
KINDERGARTENDoing one of their favorite songs, called "123." This refrain here calls for the screaming of numbers, which of course is great fun.
Vincent, Miffy, Johnson, Shawn, Judy
Shawn and me
Miffy - They were supposed to be putting the stickers on words that started with the same letter, but evidently the stickers started drifting to other places. Next thing I knew half my class was covered in letters!
Johnson and Jacob - learning AEIOU
For a kindergarten class they were exceptionally good, better behaved than CE07 and sometimes even CE16. This was a fun bunch to teach. Front row L-R: Roger, Debbie, Ryan, Jacob, Shawn. Back row: Vincent, Judy, Miffy, May, and Johnson.
CEI02This is my newest class, whom I don't think you've seen yet. Here are Ken, Eric, Angel and JoJo.
JoJo (with Angel and Renee)
Cindy (and Daniel)
Jacky, Renee, Daniel, Cindy, Amy, Ken
JoJo - willing the stickyball to the right square
Three silly boys - Eric, Hank and Jacky
Ian playing before class. This is one of the first classes I got as a new teacher, and it's interesting to see how far they've come since then. Their behavior continues to be largely horrendous, but I think they're almost housebroken now. Hopefully Neil will be able to take them even further. Individually they're bright, fun, and even lovable, so there is hope.
David and Doreen
Jordan, Amy and Steven working on their readers. We read a book called "Zoo" in this class.
Gibby and Jason, two unlikely friends. I originally seated them together because Jason never liked anyone and Gibby was a tease. Well, that backfired! They became inseparable.
Rose and Lisa. They had a brief party on our last day. I refused to take them out for dinner but they brought in some snacks and drinks, and we had a good old time for about 25 minutes.
Stephanie in the hot seat playing "Cahoots."
Playing musical chairs
Justin, the original anarchist
Kevin Wei and me trying a self-portrait
Last Saturday, my junior high class, plus three former students, took me out for a tea-coffee date after class. They're a very smart, dedicated, wonderful group of teenagers and I feel honored to have known all of them. L-R is Monica, Judy, me, Neil, Cheyenne, Annie, Ruth and Yo-Yo.
Monica, Judy and Jessica
Ruth and Yo-Yo
Cheyenne and Annie
There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.
- Robert Louis Stevenson