Questions Students Asked Me

In no particular order:

  1. Is your hair color real?
  2. How old is your mother?
  3. How tall are you?
  4. How much do you weigh?
  5. How much money do you have? 
  6. Do you have a girlfriend?
  7. Are you married?
  8. Do you have children?
  9. Do you like Taiwan?
  10. Do you like the USA?
  11. Can you touch the ceiling?
  12. Do you do synchronized swimming?
  13. Do you do ballet?
  14. What is your favorite food?
  15. What is your favorite fruit?
  16. What is your favorite flower?
  17. Do you play video games?
  18. Do you play League of Legends?
  19. Does it snow in all of the USA?
  20. Is your house big?
  21. What are you doing to the head of that bear? (in reference to this photo)
  22. Have you tried stinky tofu?
  23. Have you been to the night market?
  24. How many countries have you been to?
  25. What is your favorite country?
  26. How many friends do you have?
  27. Are you fat?

 

Teaching: Day 1x4 (Part I)

Alright, I've now officially been in front of Taiwanese children, introduced as "Teacher Kyle," and everyone walked away unscathed. I haven't actually taught much beyond where Wisconsin is and what I looked like as a baby (one kid asked if it was a photo of my son), but it was just the first day of class for half of my sections this past week. Because of the way my schedule is set up, I actually have four first days before I see all of my students. I'll give you a more detailed look at the first one.

Last Wednesday, Nancy, my co-teacher at Dayin Elementary School, picked me up on her scooter at 7:40. Riding on the back of a scooter is still new for me, so I spent our 15-minute commute clinging to the bike for life and nervously looking over Nancy's shoulder. But riding through the Taiwanese landscape is also still new for me, and I found my gaze drawn to the hazy mountains in the distance, highlighted by the morning sun. 

Like many of the schools I've visited in Yilan County, Dayin is a tall building with open-air halls hugging a courtyard. The detached gymnasium/assembly hall/auditorium, standing 40 paces from the main office, is where the day began. After filing in, the students stood in line at varying degrees of attention for half an hour. I could see beads of sweat run down their temples as introductions of new staff (including myself) were made, safety reminders were given, and the principal gave her opening remarks (during which she ordered the students through several stages of attention and at-ease). One girl got sick from standing in the heat.

Morning assembly

Morning assembly

Classes that day consisted mostly of writing names on textbooks, practicing a couple of sentences, and introducing me. I prepped a slideshow that shows some photos of me and my family and gets the kids to guess my age and home location. While some classes were very good at guessing my age, some ranged from 18–47. The questions that they came up with after were amusing, including "Do you have a girlfriend?" and "Can you touch the ceiling?" (I'll save the rest for another post).

Some kids were more excited to have their photo taken than others

Some kids were more excited to have their photo taken than others

Dayin's language classroom is cooler than your language classroom (except for that typo...)

Dayin's language classroom is cooler than your language classroom (except for that typo...)

At Dayin I have my own desk! Most schools seem to have an office room where nearly every teacher and staff member has a desk, and I'm right in there with them. The staff were friendly to me, although many were shy due to limited English skills. My even more limited Chinese skills make me equally shy, so we'll see how well I get to know everyone over time. 

Overall, the day went very well, especially because the staff celebrated Ghost Month after the students left. I got to partake, and.... what is Ghost Month, you say? I'll cover it in greater detail in another future post!

First day of school decorations. I think they're on to me. 

First day of school decorations. I think they're on to me. 

Alive At Night

Although the lights never really seem to turn off in Taiwan, they were made for the darkness. When night falls, the city cores come aglow, with dazzling marquees stretching far into the distance in every direction. Some buildings are completely framed in multi-colored lights and some have none, but almost no building is completely devoid of signage, each vying for the passerby's attention in a mix of Chinese and English.

The night life pulses beneath. Many are headed to or leaving the central attraction: the night market. Nearly every city in Taiwan has its own night market, a walkable web of stores and stands selling everything from bras to barbecue. These informal bazaars are a common sight across East Asia, although particularly in culturally Chinese areas. Luodong's, hugging the city's central park, is one of the best-known on the island. 

The Luodong Night Market

The Luodong Night Market

Each member of the Yilan Fulbright crew has hit either the Yilan City or Luodong night markets at least once a week since we arrived. Street food (particularly the local specialty scallion pancakes) is the usual purchase, although clothing, accessories and fruit have also been gotten. Food is significantly cheaper here than in the US: a street food dinner can be easily had for $2-3 US. Other items are not quite as cheap, but are rarely expensive: I purchased a highly practical wallet featuring a handy coin pouch for $200 NTD (New Taiwanese Dollars), approximately $7 US. As in many other countries, coins dominate everyday transactions, making a coin purse/pouch quite useful. 

Poorly-translated English t-shirts and food items unfamiliar to the American palette (chicken feet, grilled squid, tripe, and more) make any walk through the market amusing, if not fascinating. And the food and shopping make it valuable. But it's the bustling people and the dazzling lights that make it feel alive, and that will keep me coming back.

The Hello Kitty Plane [updated!]

In approximately an hour I will be boarding the Hello Kitty plane bound for Taipei, Taiwan. Yes, it’s a 777 with cartoon cat decals on the side. Yes, it’s pretty fucking awesome. Yes, it did bring a smile to my face despite my hunger and headache and the fact that I’m in O’Hare. 

I’m embarking around the planet to serve as a Fulbright English teaching assistant for the better part of a year, and I’ve ambitiously pledged to keep a blog the whole time. In order to hold myself accountable to this pledge, I’ve outsourced that responsibility to my friends and family. Hopefully their appetites for riveting journalism, breathtaking photography and mediocre blogging will drive them to pester me enough to overcome my writing laziness.

Lacking the foresight to plan out this endeavor, I don’t have a theme or perspective for my blog. I’ve been told that a blog needs a topic, so please let me know if you have any suggestions (sooner, rather than later).

Boarding on the Hello Kitty plane begins in 10 minutes. They said the food, pillows, headrest covers, and flight attendant uniforms are all themed. I’m stoked.

PHOTO UPDATE [August 6] 

The flight was surprisingly tolerable considering its 15-hour duration. EVA Air did a nice job of providing amenities to economy class, like non-sardine legroom, toothbrushes, lotion, and (best of all) scented eye masks. I actually slept and dreamed for several hours. But, of course, the Hello Kitty theme provided a delightful gilding on all of this. Nearly every printed object had some theming, from the safety cards to the toilet paper; the utensils were molded into the shapes of cartoon characters. See for yourself: 

Another post should be coming in the next day (or so)! Thanks for reading.