Cijian Island


Last weekend I was a grade-A flake. I said I would be one place and then I went somewhere entirely different three days in a row. Sunday, I planned to go to a picnic near the cultural center in Kaohsiung and instead I ventured over to Cijian on a bike with one of my best friends, K.


We sunned on the beach and watched Chinese tourists frolic in the spray in full regalia of jeans and long sleeve shirts. Then K’s roommate showed up and we made plans to move down to a different beach with a larger group that was fishing.

We biked over, stopping briefly for some fresh coconut water to hydrate from the weekend of dancing. At the beach with Taiwanese friends we found a group cooking eggs in the shell as well as fish and crabs caught in the shallows.

The water was a bit chilly with the wind, but worthwhile using goggles and watch schools of fish along the shore and crabs skittering around on the rocks. There was a group effort to spear crabs with a tiny harpoon and catch small fish with a miniature collapsible fishing pole.  I tried my luck with the pole and found, I am very impatient. I love sitting around and feeding fish and when I try to jerk the line and secure the fish I only ever scare them off with my movement.

After snacking on eggs, fish and crab the crew headed towards the night market for even more feasting. With the cloaking of night over the island the wind picked up and my bare legs and sun-burnt face demanded indoor seating. Shortly after we ran into another photographer friend, T and headed back on the ferry to scrounge up some Korean food. Nothing like a hot bowl of sizzling rice to take the chill off on a Sunday night.



Today was my first workday off since I returned from visiting the States. I wanted to  hike a mountain, find a new traditional market or explore new photography subjects.

Instead after a birthday and mojito heavy weekend I found myself sneezing and dripping mucus like a particularly disgusting mythological creature of illness. It was time to give my lungs a break from the poor air quality outside and languish in the arms of two beloved Taiwanese favorites


The darlings I speak of are the over-the-counter codeine cough syrup Robitussin; and the small packets of tissues that are available outside public toilets because toilet paper is a privilege and not a right in Taiwan.


So it happened that I wasted a perfectly lovely day lounging indoors coughing, sneezing and sleeping. I was just so pleased that I didn’t have to give anyone English lessons or raise my voice above a grumble.

This recovery time came just in time before Chinese New Year break next week. I plan to go hiking near Taipei and I will need my respiratory system in top shape for that venture. If January leaves you in the throws of sickness, I hope you too can lounge  in your bed and pamper your stylish chafed red nose.

Teaching English, Learning Mandarin



Like many young adult ex-patriots in Taiwan I teach English as a means of survival. I have some background teaching summer school and drama camps, but I have been surprised how unprepared I was for teaching English as a second language to students that already spend a long time in school.

In one of my older classes of twelve-year-olds this week I was teaching the comparison pattern ” as…” for example: Mimi is as popular as Ann. As a point of interest I substituted my name and my Taiwanese coteacher’s names: Is Teacher Emily as smart as Teacher Bianca? The resounding response was Bianca is smarter because she can speak Mandarin, Taiwanese and English fluently and I can only speak English.

This didn’t offend me as much as peak my interest in how these students defined intelligence. Taiwan history has several languages demanding attention, there are minority native islander dialects up in the hills, there is Mandarin as the China sanctioned language, Taiwanese is the local language in which they mock the Chinese although there is no formalized written Taiwanese language. In the past century the Japan forced people to speak Japanese during their occupation.

So language acquisition is high on the list of extra curricular activities for Taiwanese parents. There is an understanding that students that don’t have extra tutoring after public school  will be behind when it comes to the entrance tests required for every high school and university.

Many of my students have an extra two to four hours of extra classes after public school lets out for the day. So I can imagine why an hour and a half into their two hours of English class twice a week they are starting to lose interest.

One of the reasons I chose Taiwan was to learn Mandarin in a more friendly environment than China. I look forward to starting classes after Chinese New Year.

Fires of Dulan


I am no surfer. The closest I came to that growing up in Montana was my sister’s two month fascination with skateboarding and bruising my tailbone in a skate park near our house.

Despite my lack of experience I jumped at the opportunity to take the train to visit the South African surfing hostel in Dulan, Taiwan. Friday evening we jumped the Kaohsiung express to Taitung arriving at one in the morning. The two hours on the train only allowed more time to enjoy libations and catching up with friends because Taiwan has no open container laws.

The local beverages of Taiwan include primarily beer, Kaoliang 高粱 a sorghum liquor and balida medicinal alcohol.  PAOLYTA is the balida brand necessary for these weekend excursions.

The trips to Dulan require surfing, beach bonfires and excessive drinking. The best places were food are the reasonable priced Vietnamese restaurant and newer Italian restaurant both on the main street. The local drinking stations include the 7Eleven and the Sugar Factory although the music happens early around 9 or 10 so get there before 11 or you will miss out.

If you find yourself in this part of the world don’t be surprised by the kindness of strangers. Don’t be surprised by the quantity of beer consumed. Don’t be surprised to be walking home from an all night beach party at five in the morning.everyonenight