It means what?!

If you’ve ever learned a foreign language, you know that some words in other languages sound like inappropriate or funny things in your native language.  We giggle, we move on, or in the cases of us less mature people, we never move on.  It just sits there at the back of our minds waiting for the chance to make it’s reappearance when we’re bored and need a laugh (or, in some cases, at inappropriate times).

For my students, it’s always the inappropriate times.  In the middle of a lesson for example.  The giggling is always the tip-off, followed by whispers, then out-right laughter.  This is usually followed with me thinking, “I know I’m funny, but not THAT funny.”

The most recent occurrence of this inadvertent hilarity, was when I was reading a book to my class called “Squanto, the Pilgrims’ Friend.”  Since Thanksgiving is quickly approaching in the US, I decided to teach a little bit about the first Thanksgiving and the friendship between some Native Americans and the Pilgrims.  When I first read the title of the book, the tell-tale round of giggles, whispers, and laughter tipped me off to my faux pas.  After a few minutes of this laughter and my apparent confusion, my co-teacher came to my rescue and told me that Sqaunto sounds like the Chinese for “bald man.”  I thought it was pretty funny so I gave the students a couple minutes to get their giggles out, but to no avail.  The whole rest of the class, whenever I read Squanto, the whole class burst into laughter again.  It was funny, but not THAT funny!

Moral of the story: when kids think something’s funny, that’s all they’ll be thinking about for the next 40 minutes or so, so if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Categories: Education, Fun Stuff, Humor | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the number for 911?

119 of course!  We are in Taiwan after all.

Wednesday was field trip day, and we went with the 2nd grade to visit the Fire Station!  I have to admit, I was really excited about this excursion, just imagine all the possibilities!  Climbing ladders, spraying the water hose, sitting in the fire engine, it all seems so much fun!  I was so excited I even contemplated putting black spots on Bai so I could pretend he was a fire house Dalmatian, but Nick wouldn’t let me. 😦 Oh well.


In the midst of our busy week, I had forgotten all about the field trip to the Fire Station, but I woke up Wednesday morning with lots of excitement!  It’s a good thing I’m not a dog, or I would’ve had an accident. 😛  The first activity of the day was riding the elevator up to the sixth floor to listen to a presentation from the Fire Fighters.  This was enough excitement for the kids, you’d think they’ve never ridden in an elevator before by all the oohs and ahhs.  After the presentation, the real fun began!  The kids rotated through some stations like riding the bucket, spraying the hose, getting in the ambulance, and sitting in the fire truck.  They were having so much fun!

Being foreigners kind of gives you instant celebrity here in Taiwan, and we got another taste of that at the Fire Station.  The fire fighters let us spray the hose all by ourselves, ride up high in the bucket, and try on the fire fighter uniform. They even made us honorary fire fighters by giving us each an official Magong Fire Brigade patch!!! 😀  It was so much fun!

Us with our official Penghu County Fire Brigade patches and new fire fighter friend!

Us with our official Magong Fire Brigade patches and new fire fighter friend!

Afterwards, we all went to the park across the street where the students ate and ate and ate all their snacks from home.  Those little kids can really pack it away!

Categories: Education, Fun Stuff, Taiwan | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments


It’s November!!  I can’t believe how fast time has gone by.  It seems I say this every year, but time just always slips away.  Why is that?  I guess we should just be reminded to enjoy our lives and be content with what God has given us now.  You know, Carpe Diem, or live in the moment, or YOLO, or whatever it is that motivates you to enjoy the time you have, since we’re not guaranteed tomorrow.

But, enough of that serious stuff! 😛

Onto Halloween!  Our school always throws a big shebang every year for Halloween, and this year was just as much fun as ever.  We had a costume contest (with some great costumes), made play doh for a scary monster sculpting event, and gave out lots of candy!

Halloween normally sneaks up on Nick and me like a ghost.  We usually don’t start planning our costumes until Halloween is a week away, and by then it’s too late to be very creative, but this year was different!  Maybe it’s the fact that we were teaching Halloween for the four weeks prior to the actual holiday, or the plethora of costume ideas online, but whatever it was, we couldn’t forget that Halloween was coming.  We started planning our costumes a couple weeks into October, and we got pretty excited about it!  I was a pirate, and Nick was (for lack of a better title) a cardboard man.  I think this year has set a precedent for our Halloween costumes every year, we really have to step up our game from now on because now we realize it’s fun!

Categories: Education, Fun Stuff, Taiwan | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Missing the Boat

This week I was supposed to go teach on a little island called Wang-An (read about my previous teaching adventures in Wang-An here).  I was all set for my week in isolation.  I had my iPad stocked with movies, my nook loaded with the new book I’ve been wanting to read, and my bag stacked with snacks to fill the lonely nights.  This may sound a little ridiculous, but ask any foreign teacher in Penghu who’s done their week of island teaching, and you’ll find out that there isn’t much to do.  Most of the islands don’t even have a 7-11 (that’s a cry for help right there :P)!  I arrived Tuesday morning all ready to set out.  I had given the dogs and Nick hearty goodbyes, and was setting out with my co-worker to catch the boat to Wang-An.

We arrived at the port and to my excitement disappointment, we were told the boat wasn’t running today because of the weather.  Living in Penghu, everyone knows that everything depends on the wind on that particular day, and I guess Tuesday’s wind was just too strong for the boat to brave. Darn! 😛  We returned to school with the sad thought that I would be staying in Magong all week. Shucks!  Unfortunately Fortunately, there was another boat that would make the journey in the afternoon.  Yippee!

After spending the morning being very unproductive productive, we set out again for the port.  When we arrived at the port, the boat was sailing away!  Boo!  Apparently no one told us that the boat sometimes leaves early, and sometimes leaves late, but hardly ever on time.  Who knew?!  So as we waved to the people on the boat, I settled into the sad happy reality that I would be staying in Magong with Nick and the pups all week!

If I had been in Wang-An, I wouldn't have this awesome cuddle time with Bai!  Everything happens for a reason. :)

If I had been in Wang-An, I wouldn’t have this awesome cuddle time with Bai! Everything happens for a reason. 🙂

Categories: Family, Humor, Island Teaching, Taiwan | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare says that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and although he’s right about that, I think it would lose some of its appeal if it was called an ox, or a fork, or a seat.  It’s just not doing it for me.  Wake up and smell the forks.  See what I mean?  Names are important.

In our job, Nick and I have had the privilege of picking English names for some of our students.  This is a fun part of our job, but it also carries some pressure, I mean some of these kids will use these English names for the rest of their lives.  Other kids will change their names five times in the course of their school years alone.  Take Eagle for instance.  Last year his name was Summer, he comes back for school and says his name is now Eagle (even though he can’t spell it).  We think he got tired of hearing “Summer!” from the teachers.  Unfortunately, the name change did not help change his behavior, and next year he’ll be tired of hearing “Eagle!” and change his name yet again.

Picking English names is kinda fun.  We try not to just pick names willy-nilly, but instead try to find something that sounds like their Chinese name.  So we’ll listen to their Chinese name a few times and then pick something that has a similar sound in it.  This way it’s easier for them to remember and say (which is helpful for students who don’t know English very well).  Of course, every once in a while we’ll come across a name like Cake, Ocean, Pink, Boots, Wacy, or Doraemon, and those get us giggling each time.

It’s the same way with us.  For our banking and other important things, we need Chinese names.  Our co-workers picked names that sound like our English names.  It’s quite fun and I feel special having a Chinese name.  I’m sure you’re wondering what they are, so I’ll be kind and share them with you!  Olivia- 孫麗薇 (Sun Li wei) Nick- 孫尼克 (Sun Nicka)


We are currently teaching an evening class of adult postal workers.  We also had the privilege of giving some of them English names.  We suggested Vincent to one man, and he seemed to like it until another man brought up Vincent Van Gogh and the fact that he was crazy and cut off his ear.  Needless to say, Vincent is now Paul. 🙂

Categories: Education, Fun Stuff, FYI, Taiwan | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Why I love my job

I love my job.  There are many people in the world who go to work everyday and hate every minute of it, and I am thankful that I’m not one of them!  On my way to work the other day I was making a mental list of all the things I love about my job and there were a lot of things.

1. Feeling like a rock star every time I walk into a classroom.  The kids here love me!  It may be because of my charming personality or maybe because I’m a great teacher, but it’s probably because I’m white.  But whatever the reason, I love having adoring fans and I’m just like


2.  Having great co-workers.  My co-workers are wonderful.  I know not all y’all can say that, but I guess I’m one of the lucky few.  My co-workers help me out so much!  My limited knowledge of Chinese is probably part of the reason they help me out so much, but the main reason is that they’re just so awesome and caring!

3.  Getting to travel to beautiful tropical islands.  That’s right, I get paid to go to the beach (teaching there is just a side note).

4.  Getting to wear jeans to work.  Now this may seem like a minor thing, but getting stress pimples over picking out what to wear is just not something I need in my life.

aint nobody

5.  Can anyone say 5 minute commute? On a scooter no less.  I feel like this speaks for itself, but just in case you’re a tad bit slow, it’s AWESOME! I mean, what better way to air out your sweaty pits from getting ready without a/c?

6.  Getting to teach whatever I want.  While this is great, this whole freedom thing does take a little getting used to.  At first Nick and I were like


but then we were like


7.  Having great students.  My students are wonderful.  It’s not just that they treat me like a rock star (although that’s part of it).  They are sweet and funny and have names like Cake and Boots. What’s not to love?

8. Getting to leave after work and know that I don’t have any work to take home.  This may be my absolute favorite thing!  It’s gonna be hard to teach in the States again after this paperwork free job!  Because, once again,

aint nobody

9. Getting to work next to my best friend all day.  Like I’ve said before, Nick and I love spending pretty much every minute of everyday together.  We laugh, we tease, we help, we encourage, and we go home and do it all over again. What more could a girl ask for?

10. Nap time!  I don’t know why everybody doesn’t stop and take a nap in the middle of the day.  It’s great!  I’m a strong advocate of naps, because who doesn’t need a little refresher in the middle of the day.  It just makes sense!  For those of you who don’t share my love of napping, you’re missing out!

Did you see Taiwan on that info-graphic!!!! 😀

Soooooo that’s why I love my job!  Why do you love your job?

P.S. This is my first post using gifs and stuff.  I hope you like it, cuz I was really excited about it!

Categories: Education, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Year one in review: what we’ve learned

Wow! Can you believe we’ve already lived in Taiwan for a year? It’s been a great year full of fun, adventures, new friends, and discoveries. God has really blessed us with this opportunity and we wouldn’t trade this year for anything!

We started this adventure knowing absolutely nothing about Taiwan, but we trusted God that He had a plan for us and would provide for us. And guess what, he did! Here are a few things we learned this year.

1. Taiwanese schools are completely different than American schools. (Not just in the language area). Read about it here.
2. There are many languages that are spoken in Taiwan. The main language is Chinese, or more specifically, Mandarin, but other languages include Taiwanese, Hakka, and other various aboriginal languages.
3. Taiwanese people are very nice! We have made so many new friends this year, and everyone we meet is very helpful. They’re not just nice, they’re also very trust worthy. Theft is almost unheard of here, especially in Penghu.
4. 7-11s are everywhere!!!!!! Seriously, they’re more common than Starbucks in America.
5. Authentic Chinese food is nothing like the Chinese food served at “Chinese” restaurants in the USA. Additionally, forks are a rarity in Taiwan. We had to learn to use chopsticks very quickly; now we’re pros! Aren’t you jealous?
6. Scooters are the main form of transportation. And you better watch out, cuz they drive anywhere they want to. Nick has easily adjusted to the Taiwanese style of driving, so I’m a little nervous about his driving in the States.

2013-07-10 Taiwan Trip 937 --- 7. According to a little American boy I met who was visiting his grandparents in Penghu, “the toilets here are weird.” He’s right. I’ve proudly learned how to use a squatty potty. I’ve even made up a slogan- you haven’t pottied ’til you’ve squattied.
8. Taiwan is a cheap place to live. Eating out here is almost cheaper than cooking food at home. This is really nice because Nick and I haven’t exactly gotten the whole meal planning thing down. (We’re still young). Internet is also super cheap here! Idk what American companies are thinking, but it shouldn’t be so expensive to have Internet at your house.
9. Bakeries are everywhere, and they’re delicious! Nick and I will eat something from a bakery almost every morning for breakfast. It makes me happy.

2013-07-10 Taiwan Trip 1189 ---
10. Traditional markets sell fresh produce, fruits and meat as opposed to the grocery store.  This was really strange for us, but now we enjoy going to the traditional market on Saturday mornings.  Check out some of our market stories here, here, and here2013-07-06 Taiwan Trip 411

Basically, so many things in Taiwan just make sense and we love it!

Stay tuned and in our next post, we’ll give a brief recap of some of our adventures from this year.

Categories: Education, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Under the Sea!

Well, we did it!  We crossed one thing off our 2013 bucket list!  That’s right, you guessed it, scuba diving! (That title’s kinda a dead give away, huh)?    At the beginning of June, Nick and I took some time off work to go to the tiny island of Jiang-Jin to take scuba diving lessons.  We had a great time and saw some absolutely beautiful coral and fish.  Once piece of coral was as big as a car!  In addition to a beautiful bright blue coral, we saw angel fish, some colorful reef fish, groupers, and a sting ray!

Let me break it down for you technical people.  ;P  We arrived in Jiang-Jin on Friday morning, and started the first class of scuba diving after lunch.  We had to start off by taking a swim test which was really easy because we were allowed to use flippers and a snorkel and mask.  While taking this swim test, we got to look at all the beautiful under water life close to the shore.  Next we had to float for ten minutes.  Neither Nick or I can float on our own, but with wet suits, floating was a piece of cake!  Once we passed our tests, we had to watch some informational videos and learn how to assemble our equipment.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to start our official training.  The first few times you go into the water, you are just learning some basic skills and emergency procedures in case something ever goes wrong (losing your regulator for instance).  After you practice the basic skills like replacing a mask, swimming with a buddy, and a myriad of other skills, you are ready to actually start scuba diving!  Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning were spent in the ocean exploring the under water world!  It is so beautiful, and Nick and I couldn’t help but think how awesome it is that we were spending extended amounts of time under water.  Every time I thought about this, I smiled, which is really hard to do with an air regulator in your mouth.  It really is amazing how much life there is under the sea and I felt like I got to see just a little more into how creative God is, which in its self is awe-inspiring!

By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, we were ready to take our certification tests.  Yes, it was that quick!  We studied all the information we were given (well, I studied and Nick laughed at me for studying), then we took our tests and passed!!!  We have now joined the ranks of PADI certified open water scuba divers!  The possibilities are endless, and we are already planning our next underwater adventure!

It's official- see those certificates?  Our instructor was great, and we really did have a wonderful time!

It’s official- see those certificates? Our instructor was great, and we really did have a wonderful time!

Categories: Education, Taiwan, The Beach, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Just a week in Paradise!

Hidey ho there neighbors!

Last week was AMAZING!  Once again, teaching in Penghu trumps any other teaching job ever.  I was sent to the small island of Wang-An to teach the students there.  As with any other new school I was nervous.  You never know how you will be received by students and teachers alike.  This time my fears were unnecessary, everyone was so welcoming and helpful, and the students were very excited to meet me!

I taught elementary and junior high school while I was there.  There were about 40 students at the elementary school and 17 at the junior high school.  The elementary school students were shy at first, but once they warmed up to me they didn’t want me to go (one class literally locked me in their classroom when I tried to leave).  Being in a small outlying island, the students don’t have many opportunities to speak English to foreigners, or even see English-speaking foreigners for that matter, they also don’t have the opportunities to attend English cram schools to further enhance their English-speaking skills.   Because of these disadvantages, their English skills were much lower than the students I teach on a regular basis at Wenao, but their energy was just as high!  For the first few minutes of class, the students would look to their teacher for translations every time I said something, but then she got smart and left, so they had to really start tying to listen to me.  We played games and read books and had some basic conversations, it was a great time!

While I had a blast teaching at the elementary school, my favorite part of teaching in Wang-An was the junior high school.  Because these students have been studying English for a long time (since 3rd grade), their English was much  more advanced.  I could hold a conversation with many of them, and if not, there was always another student around to help translate (can you believe that?! Students were translating without the help of the teacher!)  The students were a lot of fun and in our classes we could hold more conversations and really learn about each other and discuss some of the more intricate matters of English.  We also had time for some fun.  Fun?!  In a classroom?  That’s right, singing, dancing, ukulele playing (aren’t you jealous?) We had a grand ole time!

Unfortunately Friday came around and I had to say my farewells to the students.  They made me sweet cards and yummy pizza (what a way to go out)!  But Friday also brought another round of fun, Nick and Anly!  Stay tuned for details on our Wang An wanderings!

Categories: Education, Friendship, Taiwan, The Beach, Travel | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Island Teaching

A typical work-week for Olivia and I consists of us driving to school together, sharing an office, having lunch together, and then going home and spending the evenings together.  In these last 8 months of teaching in Taiwan, Olivia and I have spent nearly every moment together (at least, that’s how it seems).  Last week was very different.

This semester, the public schools of Penghu decided to try something new.  There are 5 foreign teachers who work in the public schools, but many of the students who live on small islands never get the opportunity to speak with a native-english-speaker.  Solution: send the foreign teachers to each of these small islands (7 in total).  Last week marked the beginning of this experiment, and I was the first to go.

Monday morning, I went to the main port of Penghu and boarded a boat for JiangJun island, destined not to return until Friday.  I was warned that I should bring some snacks and food (like instant noodles) because there is a scarcity of shops and stores on this particular island.  In other words, they don’t even have a market.

Another challenge of uncertainty was what I should teach.  I would be teaching 1st grade through 9th grade during the week, but some of the subjects they requested were very different from my typical style of teaching.

Successful activities! Having fun with a map to practice simple prepositions.

Successful activities! Having fun with a map to practice simple prepositions.

When I got to JiangJun elementary school and junior high (they share a campus), I knew I had nothing to worry about.  All the teachers welcomed me and introduced themselves, and the students were so excited to wave and say “Hello.”  (Their excitement was a great comfort, as we have experienced an attitude of “We live on a small island, why do we need to learn English” from past students.)

Throughout last week, I taught many classes, got to explore a beautiful island, and met some amazing, talented teachers.  I also gained a new appreciation for the job I have, as these teachers have to live on the island every week and can only travel back to the city on the weekends.

Meeting, teaching, and learning from junior-high students was by-far the best part of my time on JiangJun.  Every class was full of students who were excited to learn (even if each class only had 4-9 students in it), and some students even asked if we could have some extra conversation time in the evening.  If the students were doing anything, they asked me to join them, including eating lunch with them instead of the teachers, go swimming after school, playing basketball, and celebrating birthdays.  They even had a going-away party on Thursday night before I headed back to Magong!

I was reminded about the importance of why I am here continuously last week.  All the junior-high students made thank-you cards for me, and their English teacher remarked that while they were making the cards, it was the first time she saw the students eager to learn and use English.  Many of the students also told me (in broken English) that they want to study English more and get better at having conversations because of the interactions they had with me.

Although my week in JiangJun was exhausting (between classes, basketball, and everything else), it was so rewarding for both myself and the students I taught.

I’m sure Olivia enjoyed some time apart from me and my shenanigans, too, but the dog was ecstatic to see me when I returned.

Categories: Education, Island Teaching, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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