Monthly Archives: October 2012

An education in Penghu

This is Mike, Nick’s dad, writing a guest post. This is the 7th terrific day that Gina and I have been experiencing Nick and Liv’s world. We are getting quite an education.

From what I can tell, there are two types of English teaching positions in Penghu and the rest of Taiwan for native English speakers.

Nick, Liv, Gina and fellow English office staff Anly, English Program Coordinator and Sophie English classroom teacher.

The FIRST is with the ministry of education (MOE) teaching English in a public school. This is what Nick and Liv are doing. You have to be a certified teacher (US certification is preferred). They teach English in classes with three other Taiwanese teachers who are fluent in English.

The SECOND is in what are affectionately called “cram schools.” These don’t require certification. Getting ahead through education is so popular here, that kids go to these private businesses at 4:00 i

n the afternoon into the evening.

In Nick and Liv’s case, they work for MOE in a public school of about 900 students that has an English Village–rooms dedicated to teaching about various aspects of life in Taiwan, but in English. Other schools bring students in (like a field trip) to be taught in the English village. So far most of Nick and Liv’s teaching has been in the regular classrooms, teaching the standard curriculum there. Each lesson plan, they may teach to seven different classes. Nick and Liv have also been boated out to a couple of outlying islands a few

times to teach there. Soon winter will set in with high winds and put that on hold. They are told that in April, when the winds have died down, they will make more trips to outlying islands, possibly even for a whole week at one island. I was surprised that people of all ages work th

ese teaching jobs. The DOE recruits in Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan.

Teachers are greatly respected in society here. When we tell people our kids are teaching and that Gina and Emmelyn are school teachers, their esteem for us seems to go up.

Because the cram schools meet after regular school gets out at 4:00 and many students (whose parents can afford it) go to these schools. It makes it very hard for the church to have teen ministries, because students are so busy with cram schools. An expat from the U.S. 20+ years ago at Nick and Liv’s church owns a cram school. On Sunday he was encouraging them to come and work for him next year. I think they prefer the environment of working for the DOE (Better hours, pays for housing and gives a free visit for one blood relative [like Nick’s dad : )] within the first three months).

Nick, Liv and Anly, English Program Coordinator and friend of Nick and Liv.

At an ex pats dinner last Sunday evening (in front of a surf shop, of all things) we met some cram school teachers. Some of those we met impressed me as young adults wanting to get out of Canada or the U.S. for an experience. Others are wind surfing fanatics, who use the job as means of income to continue their sport in the windiest place in the northern hemisphere.

Yesterday we got our own personal “Take Your Parents to Work Day.” We ate lunch for the second time this week with the school staff. For lunch each person brings their own bowl, chopsticks and soup spoon to school. On a counter are 3-5 containers. The first contains white rice, the second a meat, the third a vegetable and the fourth a soup. You scoop from the containers into your bowl all you want. Yesterday was shrimp and pineapple with cabbage as a vegetable. Yum!  I passed on the pigs liver soup. Staff members  eat at their desks, which are all in a large room. We ate in the conference room with English speaking teachers. People seem to focus on eating and not talk much while eating. After using chopsticks each day, I have even gotten at least adequate at consuming a meal with them. Shoveling from a bowl does make it much easier. After lunch we, along with the rest of the people at the school, washed our dishes in an outdoor sink with cold water and some dish soap.

The schools here seem to be built in squares with a large courtyard. Hallways are all outdoors around the courtyard side of the building. Thus with windows on both sides of a room, the sea breezes can easily blow through the rooms to keep them somewhat cooler without air conditioning.

The education system encourages creativity. The creative way the English village is laid out is evidence of that.  I love the use of music through the PA system to tell that class is over, rather than a bell. It is much more soothing and encouraging than our harsh North American bells.

Nick teaching THE GIVING TREE

We got to watch Nick and Liv each teach. What a wonderful experience! They taught in classrooms (not in the English village). They each co-taught with a bi-lingual teacher who gave the kids more complex explanation of instructions in Chinese. Nick and Liv each did most all of the actual instruction. Nick taught out of a story book—THE GIVING TREE. Nick had scanned the pages of the book, pulled out vocabulary words, added appropriate pictures and created an electronic reading book which he used on a smart board. He taught some pretty hard concepts, like the difference between one “leaf” and many “leaves” (not leafs).

Liv was asked to teach a unit on Halloween. She could not find a good Halloween story, so wrote one herself (!) and made a terrific electronic reading book with it, including the trick or treat song, for which she found a recorded rendition and the kids sang and danced along. She had the kids volunteer to come up front and do the motions twice with the songs. Gina and I even joined in up front.

Gina and I both thought they did a wonderful job. Their lessons even kept us “young” adults engaged. They both taught in an expressive way encouraging the kids to be more expressive in their readings, used consistent gestures (like pointing to their heads when saying “remember”), brought in similar concepts from previous stories for review and were holistic in their approach (using a story to teach vocab, concepts, North American habits, spelling, pronunciation, irregular verbs, concluding with a fun kinesthetic game that worked on vocab/spelling and more, all around a story). These children are competitive, so the competitive games were a hit.

Olivia teaching the students about the Halloween holiday

Liv has some great ideas for creative additions. There is high interest here in North American traditions. She has a college friend teaching this year in a Christian elementary school in Kingwood, Texas. The idea is for her friend to video her students talking and teaching on various holidays like Christmas and Easter and then show that to Liv’s students. Liv’s students will do likewise with holidays here like winter solstice and Chinese New Year.

Nick and Liv love the respect they get here from the students and the fellow faculty, all older than them. The classroom control allows them to spend 99% of their time teaching creatively, which, you can tell we’re proud to say, they do an excellent job at.

A creative way to identify bathrooms

Wen-Ao Elementary school courtyard.

Children sliding on cement slides.

Outdoor hallway.

In English Village: Display for Winter Solstice. Turtles are considered good luck.

In the English Village: The newsroom.

In the English Village: The restaurant.

In the English Village: The transportation room, includes a mockup of the inside of an airplane.

In the English Village: The transportation room. You exit the airplane to find that the hallway is painted like the outside of an airplane as well. We get on a jet in a couple days to say good bye, Nick and Liv. We love you, are proud of you, thank God for jets to allow us to visit you like this and will miss you!

Categories: Education, Friendship, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments


Wednesday was Taiwan National Day or Double Ten Day.  It commemorates the uprising that led to the establishment of The Republic of China, more commonly known as Taiwan. 🙂  Because of this day, we had a holiday from school.  Our friend and co-worker Anly, invited us over to her house for lunch!  Anly has been very helpful and really friendly to us.  She has showed us where many places are around town, and always answers any questions we have about anything.  Needless to say, we were very excited to be invited over to her house.  When we arrived at her house, we met her mom, aunt, sister, and her niece and nephew.  Then we sat down to a tasty looking lunch.  The main dish was fried rice balls.  They were delicious.  They are made with rice (obviously), mixed with some bits of honey ham, and cilantro.  Once that is mixed, you roll it into a  ball and put some cheese in the middle.  Next you roll it in bread crumbs and fry it.  So unhealthy for you, but really really tasty.  They also served some chicken soup, seaweed (surprisingly tasty), white carrots, and pork.  It was all so good, Nick and I were stuffed by the time lunch was finished.

After everyone was finished eating, we sat and chatted for a little bit.  Anly’s mom and aunt asked us a little about our lives and where we come from.  It was wonderful getting to talk with them!  The kids- Melody, who is seven, and Hugo, who is five were playing in the living room, and eventually, Hugo put on a home made Patrick (Spongebob’s best friend) mask and started waving a sword.  I then proceeded to put on a Spongebob mask and challenged him to a duel.  He accepted and we both fought valiantly, but being the kind person I am, I let him win.  After that, we started playing with trucks on the floor and he was serving us make believe ice cream and drinks.  He was quite the little host. 🙂 It was so much fun!  It’s surprising how much you can communicate even when you don’t share a language.  We have never felt lonely here, which is wonderful!!!  Everyone is so kind to us and makes us feel included.

We also invited Anly to church with us on Sunday, so hopefully she will come and enjoy it.  Continue to be praying for us!  Our church is starting and English Bible Study for us on Sunday, so we are really excited for that, and hopefully it will help us get more involved at church.  Also, Nick’s parents are coming tomorrow, so we are excited for that, and hope they have a fun time.  Please pray that we will continue to be a light to the people here and will follow God’s lead. 🙂

From left to right: Melody, Anly’s mom, Me, Hugo, Nick, Anly’s aunt, and Anly


Categories: Cooking, Friendship, Travel | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Busy Busy Busy

Hi Friends!

I’m sorry it’s been so long since you’ve heard from us!  We’ve been super busy!  It seems like everyday for the past five days has brought us fun and surprises.  I’ll try and catch you up in the next few posts. 🙂

So, this past weekend was a blast!  We started Friday with no plans for the weekend, other than a movie date with our co-worker Anly.  We were just going to take it easy and chillax, because that’s nice every now and again.  But, a simple weekend of going to the market on Saturday morning quickly turned into the busiest weekend we have had since living in Penghu.


We woke up and decided to go to the market and grocery store.  We got a late start, so we were hurrying to get to the market before all the vendors closed up.  We barely made it, but thankfully there was still some chicken left. 🙂  After that, we ran to the grocery store to pick up a few staples for the kitchen.  While perusing the aisles of the store, we ran into Ted.  Ted is a fellow English teacher and the proud owner of The Beach Break, a surf shop here in Penghu.  He told us he was a little overwhelmed because a group of about 40 Europeans asked him if they could have dinner at his shop that same night.  The weekly dinners are a tradition during the summer, but Ted and his wife had all but closed up shop for the impending winter, and he wasn’t expecting a group of 40!  He invited us to stop by, and then had to run in order to prepare everything for that evening.  Nick and I were excited to go and meet all these English speaking people, so we went home, took a nap, and made some food to take to the dinner.  The dinner was a huge success!    All of the Europeans showed up and loved the food and getting to hang out in Penghu.  We found out that they were all exchange students at the University in Taipei and hit up Penghu for a long weekend of fun.  There were students from Germany, France, Spain, Sweden  and the Netherlands!  It was fun getting to talk to people of all different cultures, and getting to hear their unique accents. 🙂 I am always excited to hear accents from other countries, I guess you could just call me weird. 😉  We were even more excited to spend an evening around English speakers.  You don’t realize how much you miss being able to understand all the people around you, until you are able to experience it again.  We went home around 12:30 am in the hopes of being able to stay awake through church the next morning.


I was able to stay awake through the service, but it was a constant battle with my eye lids.  It made me realize how old I’m getting 😛  We stayed for small groups after church, and the other young adults in our group invited us to have lunch with them after church.  I was very excited, because this was the first time we were invited to go out with them.  It’s a great feeling when you feel like you are officially involved in something.  We went to this small restaurant close to the church that served noodle soup (I’m not sure if that’s the official name, but that’s what we’ll call it).  I had noodles with pork, and Nick had the “extra spicy” noodle soup that featured Pig’s blood 🙂  While eating, they asked us questions about where we are from, how we are enjoying Penghu, and English grammar.  Surprisingly, grammar questions are frequent occurrences in our daily conversations, so it’s a good thing Nick was an English major. 🙂 Towards the end of the meal, they invited us to go to a BBQ at one of their houses later that night.  We eagerly said yes, and voila! Another day filled with excitement.  I’m sure all you Texans are wondering what a Taiwanese BBQ was like, and I’ll ease your worries now, it’s nothing compared to Texas BBQ.  We arrived at the house to find our friend sitting on her front porch with this tiny grill that was about 1 square foot, and stood about 2 inches off the ground.  We were eagerly invited to pull up a tiny stool (to accompany the tiny grill) and start BBQ-ing.  I have to brag that I am now an expert at grilling pork skewers 😉  They had tons of meat- pork, chicken, fish, tofu (which isn’t meat, but I’m including it), dried squid, and something we assume to be chicken livers (we didn’t try them).  It was all really tasty, and the company was wonderful, but we did get a little cramped sitting on the tiny stools.  One of the girls had recently visited Australia, so she contributed some Vegemite  which Nick and I decided wasn’t our favorite snack.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and had so much to eat, but we had to rush off to catch Taken 2 with Anly at the local movie theater.  We love the popcorn they serve at the movies.  It’s kettle corn, and coincidentally, kettle corn has a special place in each of our hearts, right next to chocolate for me and tools for Nick. 🙂  We enjoyed the movie, Anly’s company, and of course the popcorn, and returned home exhausted, yet satisfied.

What we saw upon arrival

Note the tiny stools 😉

The whole gang!

Hard at work.


We woke up and wondered where our weekend went!  When we arrived at school we had a new friend follow us in.  She was so cute and curled up in the corner despite our multiple, albeit half-hearted, attempts to get her to leave.  Unfortunately, some other people tried harder and eventually sent her away. 😦  But in her defense  she put up a good, yet polite fight!  I looked out the window for her all day, but I could never see her.

Why hello there!

Who could resist that?

Categories: Cooking, Friendship, Travel | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

A Satisfying Breakfast

Hello Everyone!

So I’ve been having writer’s block this week.  We did have some fun this weekend, but I felt like it wasn’t anything to write home about, but after much deliberation and a slow day at work, I’ve decided to let you guys take a small peek at some of our weekend (however bleh it may seem to you).

Saturday morning we were Skyping with Nick’s parents over breakfast and were just planning on having a low key kind of day.  When we were finished with our Skype convo, we got an unexpected call from a guy from our church.  We had been wanting to get together with him for a while because he is from the States, and therefore speaks English.  Yippee!  He has also been living in Taiwan for 25 years, so we thought we could get some wisdom from him.  Well he took us to a brunch place that served Western breakfast!  We both got French Toast!!!!  It wasn’t the best, but hey, it’s still French Toast. 🙂  He told us his story of how he came to live in Taiwan.  This is kind of a tradition whenever you meet a foreigner, everyone wants to know how and why you got here.  He told us a great story of his desire to go where God wanted him to be and all the ups and downs of his journey.  Now he has been happily married to a Taiwanese lady for 14 years and owns his own English school in Penghu.  It’s always refreshing to hear of another believer’s journey of faith.

That led us to ask the question that we had been dying to ask, but hadn’t gotten the chance to yet, and frankly made us a little nervous.  We asked him if there was any way we could get involved at our church here.  We weren’t really sure how two non-Chinese-speaking Americans could help out in a church full of  non-English speaking Taiwanese, but he was quick to reassure us that they would love our involvement.  He gave us some ideas and we have been praying about them this week and will hopefully talk to some people on Sunday who can give us more direction.  The options are A) start an English speaking Bible study in our house.  He thinks people would be very excited for a chance to practice English, as well as go to Bible study B) get involved in the college ministry.  Many of the college students know some English already, so they would be welcoming to us. C)  Get involved with the young adult ministry.

We haven’t made up our minds yet, but we have been praying and would love it if y’all would lift us up in prayer as well!  We (I) am a little fearful, but I know that God will provide a way for us to do whatever He wants us to do.  So it turned out to be a not so low key kind of day.  We were really glad we had lunch with Larry, and it pretty much started the process of changing our lives here in Taiwan!

Sunday was a great day too, but I’ll share that experience with you tomorrow 🙂  Aren’t I a tease?

Categories: Faith, Travel | Tags: | 6 Comments

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