On Monday we journeyed to a very remote island to teach English at small school there.
Let me set the scene. Nick and I wake up at 6:00 in the morning (1 hour before we normally wake up mind you) to hurry and get dressed for our first day of teaching. On a remote island. That most likely will not have any air conditioning. My first thought…what do I wear? Thankfully Nick calmed me down and helped me pick out my clothes, which ended up being jeans, a t-shirt, and my tennis shoes (because that’s totally acceptable here ;D) Anyway, our coworker meets us at our house to show us where we need to catch the boat. That’s right, we are taking a boat to this island. We arrive at the dock to find tons of people scurrying around to load things onto the boat. We see boxes of food and drinks and suitcases and other random boxes. And it smells like fish.
Then we load the boat. We are some of the last people on, so we have to walk through everyone to get to our seats. At last we embark. The boat was loud, but pretty smooth. After about 15 minutes, our principal calls us up to the deck to look at some of the scenery. There are random islands around that are very beautiful. He points out different ones that are known for different things (unfortunately I don’t remember any of these islands) and then tells us that we won’t be seeing anything else until we arrive at the island in about 45 minutes. While we wait, Nick reads and I inevitably fall asleep. We finally arrive at the island and unload the cargo and journey up to the community center, where all the kids are gathered.
When we walked in there is a magician performing for the 13 students we are going to teach. Thirteen, that’s all the kids on the island. When the magician finishes, we are introduced, which by the way is always a little awkward because they want us to say something about ourselves, but no one can understand what we are saying. Anyways, then they introduce some other people who journeyed over with us and then divided up the students between myself (1st,2nd,4th grades) and Nick (5th and 6th). Nick’s group leaves to go up the school and my group stays in the community center. Thankfully there was air conditioning because it was a hot day.
The students I worked with had not had very much English before, so they were very shy and confused when I spoke. Thankfully a teacher was there to translate for me and help, without her, my lesson would have been a complete flop. My lesson consisted of “what is your name?” “My name is ______.” a story containing names of fruit and animals, and of course games! It was a little difficult because the students would leave one-by-one to see the dentist who was at the back of the room, but I’ll talk more about him later. After a while, the students started to warm up to me. Thanks in part to the goofy faces I made at them when I caught them staring. 🙂 After three hours of teaching, everyone comes back in to have lunch.
Normally lunch here consists of rice, some type of meat and veggie, and possibly fruit, but today there was a feast! All the boxes of food that were loaded on the boat we cracked open for this feast. In a state of confusion, we asked our co-teacher what the special occasion was, and she tells us that it is in honor of the dentist. Apparently he makes the rounds to all the rural islands once a year to check the children’s teeth. He had all his equipment with him (hence all the random boxes on the boat). It was a regular dentist’s office. Anyways, lunch is delicious. We eat tons of sweets like cakes, and little cookies that taste like cotton candy, and chicken nuggets, and soup, and mini pies, and tons of other things I can’t even remember. (Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a picture).
After lunch, everyone retires to an air conditioned room to take a nap. Nick and I end up falling asleep too, and before we know it we are being summoned to take a tour of the island. We set off with the rest of the group, and tons of guava that someone passed around, to see the island. We walk up hill for a very long time. Everyone once in a while a man will stop and explain something to everyone. Unfortunately we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but the gist was that there are old houses on the island. We continue walking, and walking, and walking, and soon we are looking out over the ocean from a very high cliff. The view from up there was amazing! I’ll let the pictures show you (because someone once said a picture is worth a thousand words).
We then walked up hill (again) to the light house. While the man is talking, Nick and I read the sign that’s in English and it tells us that this is the western most island in Penghu. We then take a long rest in the shade of the light house to cool down. After that, we all journey (downhill this time) back to the boat to go home. While we were walking we learned that all of the families on this island fish for a living. There are maybe 50 people who live on this island. We are exhausted and so hot, so of course once the boat starts moving, I fall asleep on the way home.
That was our first day of teaching. We think it was exciting and interesting. It made us glad that we are here and have opportunities to explore while working. We don’t know how often we will go back to that island, or if we ever will, but it was a memorable teaching experience. 🙂