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.
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…..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.