Monday, October 29, 2007

Treehouse of Horror

The past week was our Halloween unit for my Treehouse class so I got to do some fun activities with them. On Wednesday, we made masks and the kids got to go "trick or treating" with the office ladies and other teachers. Then on Friday, I brought in two pumpkins. I had carved one the night before into the shape of a skull, and together as a class we carved the second one. I should mention that real pumpkins apparently do not exist in Taiwan, so the only ones I could find were about the size of a large grapefruit. They were also about 5 inches thick and quite difficult to carve. In the end, I think my Chinese co-teachers were more excited than the kids were. None of them had seen a jack-o-lantern before either. They were all taking pictures with their camera phones and asking questions about them. At the end of the day, one of them asked what I was going to do with the pumpkins now. I said, "I don't know, probably get drunk and throw them off the balcony." She then asked if she could have one for her kid. I, of course, said yes. Then I gave the other one to Ellen. All in all, it was a pretty fun week of festivities.

Here are some pics...

Kelly cutting out her bat mask

The kids hate posing for pictures

Carving the pumpkin

Scooping out the insides

"Teacher Ethan, our pumpkin looks gay."


Another forced group pose

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Skidamarink chaos

The following are some pics of my Kid's Club 5 class. They have all had about a year of English so they love to talk and experiment with the language. It's probably my favorite class. All the kids are adorable and love to jump and hang all over me during the breaks.

Here are all the girls in my class posing with my co-teacher, Ellen.

Ellen has to constantly make sure everyone is working. I, on the other hand, spend most of my time goofing off with them.

Eva and Cindi

Kay throwing a stickyball at the whiteboard

This is Una. She is by far one of my favorite students. She's the cutest little girl I've ever seen and I'm seriously considering putting her in my suitcase and bringing her home with me.

Una doing the Asian, peace sign, finger thing that all Asian girls (no matter what age) do in pictures.

This is Sandy. Her mom always makes her wear little sun dresses. In the words of Ellen, she is "very much a little girl." Sandy's outfits are actually a nice change of pace from what most of the other students wear. Usually they come in wearing their school uniforms. These consist of yellow cotton shirts and blue shorts that look like old, ratty gym clothes; or a white, collared button down shirt and brown slacks that makes them resemble tiny, gay sailors.

Sandy trying to avoid having her picture taken.

And here's a video of them going nuts for the skidamarink song. No matter how many times I play this they still scream and jump along to it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The past few weeks

CHAOS has recently taken over my life and now that I have a few minutes to sit down and breathe, I think it's time for a new post.

MOON festival was a few weekends ago. This got us a long weekend off from work. I asked several Taiwanese people why they celebrated Moon Festival, but none of them could give me an answer. So I Wikipedia'd it and found out that it's the time of year when the moon is the brightest and they celebrate the harvest to ensure a good crop next year. Apparently one way of celebrating is by making such an abundance of mooncakes that you can't even walk down the street without stepping on one. Mooncakes are cupcake sized desserts that have a variety of fillings. They range from the very, very good (ice cream filled mooncakes) to the very, very not good (red bean filled mooncakes....... no seriously, red beans.). I also believe that these are the Taiwanese equivalent of Fruit Cakes at Christmas time. Nobody really wants them and they are constantly being re-gifted to other people.

To celebrate our extended weekend, some friends came down from Taipei, and up from Khaosiung, to go camping. We headed to Sun Moon lake, the biggest lake in Taiwan. We got to do a little hiking and exploring, and the whole area was gorgeous. Unfortunatly, I only stayed one night since I was sick and it rained a lot at night. I decided waking up in a puddle of water wasn't going to accelerate my healing process.

I AM now fully into my Chinese classes. It's going good so far. I start to recognize symbols a little bit and even had a conversation with a lady in Chinese. I told her I liked her dog, asked what it's name was, told her I used to have the same kind of dog (a dachsund), and told her the dog was beautiful. I'm sure my grammar and pronunciation was terrible, but at least she understood what I was trying to say and seemed to appreciate the compliments.

TEACHING is still a joy for the most part. I've been particularly frustrated with one of my students though. He is in one of the most basic classes and had no prior English before coming to Hess. All the other kids whiz through the material (it's only 1 sentence pattern per two classes!), but he just can't seem to grasp it. Not only can he not understand the concept I'm teaching, but he can't even imitate the sounds that I make. I honestly can't tell if he's dumb or has a serious speech impediment! During an oral test last week I purposely gave his last so I could spend the remainder of class so it was just him and me. The entire hour I spent with him consisted mostly of this:

Me: Gary, What is this?
Gary: wha duh dah?
Me: No, Gary, WHAT IS THIS?
Gary: Bah dah duh?
Me: No, Gary say 'What"
Gary: Dah
Me: No, WH-AT
Gary: Dah
Me: -loud gunshot as I blow my brains out-

After 45 minutes he still couldnt pronounce the word. I've told his parents that I want to spend a few extra minutes with him after each class, but I honestly don't know if that will help. It's very frustrating because I don't want to give up on him, but if he can't even copy the most basic, monosyllabic sounds; how am I supposed to teach him grammar and vocabulary?

THE stresses of teaching have led me to explore quite a few watering holes after work. Whenever I'm having a particularly bad day I will send a text message to Sue (she's sent me quite a few as well), and we will go to a different pub to grab some dinner and a drink. There have been some really cool ones that have decent drink specials and a nice atmosphere. We've been to one place, The Frog, a couple of times. It has a little waterfall on the patio and is off a quiet street. It bills itself as a Mexican restuarant, but when we ordered the nachos all we got was a plate of Doritos with melted cheese on them! I guess that's as close to Mexican as you can get in Taiwan. During dinner and a couple drinks, we usually spend a few minutes bitching about our jobs and the kids; then once that is out of our system, try to completely avoid anything Hess related. After a few more drinks, the conversation usually gets pretty interesting. I promised Sue I wouldn't blog about anything we talked about, but if you want to know the juicy details about her just shoot me an email and I'll tell you anything you want to know.

I REALIZE that I complain about teaching quite a bit in this blog, and I don't want to give the wrong impression. I really do enjoy what I'm doing. Working with children is very fun and rewarding. It's nice to know you are making a difference in someone's life and not just going to a menial job every day. So I will leave everyone with a cute story that happened to me yesterday. It was my Saturday morning class and I had an oral test. The way the oral tests work is you spend about 15 minutes reviewing with the class, and then you take each student out one by one and ask them the questions. This class had one of my favorite students, Ariel. I wrote about her in a previous blog post. Her english is phenomenal for a 10 year old girl. I knew I would have a lot of time left over after the tests were done, so I purposely made Arial be my last students so I could talk to her and goof around with her for the remainder of the time. I asked her things like if she had a dog and what kind of movies she liked. Then she would ask me questions like what is my dog's name and do I have a girlfriend. I then asked her if she had a boyfriend and she giggled and yelled out 'No!' I said that Justin, the boy that sits next to her, told me he was her boyfriend. She started screaming and ran into the classroom and hit Justin in the arm. When she told him what I said, he started screaming and blushing. The whole class was dieing of laughter. Afterwards, I was talking to my co-teacher when Ariel came up to me and tapped me on the arm. I looked at her and she said:

"Teacher, I have a secret."
"What is it, Ariel?"
"You can't tell anyone."
"I won't. What is it?"
"I do have a boyfriend, but it's not Justin!"

She started laughing and ran away.

And that's why I love my job.