listening to the soundtrack from the film, Marie Antoinette that i picked up in Taipei. I saw the movie before the trip and enjoyed it. It was certainly ambitious and didn't always deliver but it was great visual fun and i thought Kirsten Dunst's performance was wonderful. I also enjoyed the music, so when i saw the soundtrack at a music store , i bought it budget be damned. Also picked up Pink Martini's Hang on Little Tomato album which is a french import and seems to be disliked by the windows player on my computer. Only plays it for a short time. figures.
so yeah. went to Taiwan for 6 days and had a wonderful time. Went by myself and don't really regret that decision. It would have been a different kind of fun with a friend or two--Taipei is a great town with lots of options for entertainment, but i had a good time on my own, more subdued but relaxing and reflective.
I put up all the pics on the fotki site with short explanations for most of them, so check that out if you want a visual story of the trip. Of course not everything i saw and did is on the photos. I had a great time meeting people at the hostel and during my trip to Taroko National Park, and those things can't be transcribed through photos. Not my photos anyways. :)
I spent the first 3 days in Taipei, and then very early Sunday morning took a train to Hualien, a city on the east coast of Taiwan, south of Taipei. My goal was to go to the Taroko National Park from there, which was another hour by bus. I didn't have a clear plan for my trip to Taroko, but it all worked out splendidly. I took a bus about half way into Taroko NP and stayed over night in Tiansiang, a small village in the forested hills of the gorge. I walked south from Tiansiang on both days to explore the sights. On the first day it was cloudy and a bit chilly towards the evening and i didn't make it as far as i wanted to, but i did meet a fellow walker and we made it back to Tiansiang and had dinner together and enjoyed a great show of native taiwanese dancing.
The next day brought sunshine and with the pack on my back i walked south following the same road as the day before hoping to catch a bus when i got too tired and after i had walked the trail called The Tunnel of Nine turns. After the trail and about 11km later, i missed the bus and was seriously considering hitching when a car pulled over and the driver motioned for me to get in if i was going their way. I stuffed myself and bag into the back seat with two grown children of a husband and wife in front and their two cute dogs (pic on Fotki). The university age kids spoke broken but decent English and the father chimed in a bit as well. We had a great ride all the way back to the Hualian train station, which was my destination and since they were staying the night in Hualian they offered to drop me there. But not only that, the kids walked with me to a local specialty shop and helped me pick out sweets to bring back as omiyage(gifts) to my school, BOE, English class, etc. It was one of the kindest gestures i've experienced in a long time.
So that's just one little story from a great trip, which also included lots of stinky tofu, night markets, late night hostel chats, wrong metro stops, and more stinky tofu. So perhaps if you're curious, you can ask me about it in person sometime, but now i'd like to tell you a bit about my job since i don't seem to have done that in a while.
I came back late night on the 13th and i had promised my English club students a Valentine's Day fondue during our club meeting the next day, so on the way home had to stop by a store and pick up all the delicious ingredients. First, we made Valentine's cards and the girls went all out with decorations. Then i melted 4 chocolate bars and we dug in with strawberries, marshmallows, bananas, apples, dried pineapples and apricots, cookies and sprinkles to top it all off. Delectable! I've never had a chocolate fondue, or any fondue for that matter, and it was quite fun.
Classes are their usual mixed bag of fun. But since the 3rd graders have their high school tests coming up in a month, we have to finish up the textbook in a hurry and so we're skipping over a few things, but there's no new grammar, so apparently it's all right. We are doing something we haven't done before--we're attempting to have students write down their opinions based on a debate lesson in their textbooks. The debate is "school lunch" vs "boxed lunch". So we had both classes vote and in one class only one student and myself voted for "school lunches" and in the other class about 2/3 of the students voted for it. So i had students divide into groups and write down three reasons for their opinion and hopefully during the next lesson we can have them take up positions on opposite sides of the room and read out their reasons. But I do have to share two that made me chuckle. One was, "Boxed lunches are better because they are made with mother's love." and i didn't edit it. there's one very high level student in that group. and the second one was, "Boxed lunches are better because school lunch is cooker DEATH." i think they meant to be negative towards the lunch ladies. ha ha. thought it was funny.
in other news, the boys basketball team won first place in a tournament between northern schools at the end of January and the PTA threw a party tonight for the teachers, team members, and themselves. It was nice and made me want to check out more sports events, it's just unfortunate that they usually start early in the morning on Saturdays.
Tomorrow I'm meeting my English club students for an afternoon of karaoke fun as a going away party for them. They'll leave the school in mid March and i'm going to miss them a great deal. I made real connections with these girls and other students in the 3rd grade classes. Sometimes i don't feel like going to school because i know what the teaching experience is like, but when i'm in the classroom with them or greet them in the hallways, or have random conversations about "corn candy" and "landmines," i feel that i'm a part of their lives and a part of the school and they care that i'm there, and that feels great and i have a better day.
and on that sentimental note, i bid you adieu.
PS here's an excerpt from my journaling in Taiwan:
Oh yeah. Before i forget. had a revelation of sorts about being in an Asian country. It's like constantly being yanked from a state of comprehension to a [state of] complete lack of bearing in a present situation. There are so mnay signs in English, western companies, recognizable brands. The eye moves along the varied surface of the new surroundings and is instantly attracted to anything that holds familiartiy, from a sign for a dentist office to McD's to an upscale store front and then once those have given the brain a moment of clarity next come all those things that make the connection between seeing and understanding arduous to establish in best circumstances. Usually the connection is established via numerous clouded links and assumption or not at all, as is the case with most signs in the [chinese and japanese] hieroglyphs. I constantly go from understanding a feeling of loss. It's tiring. Funny though, that anything Japanese related [and sounding] brings me comfort here in Taiwan. Perhaps because i've already settled with those misunderstandings.