Island Teaching

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

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

A Hard Day at Work

On Friday Nick and I went to teach on a small island called Jeibei.  This island is known to be very beautiful and therefore a popular tourist destination, so needless to say, we were very excited to be going here!  This was our first lone expedition, meaning that no one from our school would be going with us.  I was a little nervous about that, but then we were told that we would be going with the dentist that traveled with us to the other island.  (If you don’t remember that adventure, look here).  That calmed my nerves, because he seemed like a nice man.  So when Friday morning came, we met him at his dentist office, and rode in his car to the boat dock.  Riding in his car was an experience all of it’s own.  Most people here ride scooters because they are more convenient and the roads are narrow, so riding in a car is usually a little scary.  He was weaving in and out of traffic and honking at everyone, but after 20 minutes we arrived safely. 🙂  We only had to wait a few minutes to get on the boat, and while we were waiting, the dentist gave us drinks and snacks of pineapple cake (which is a specialty here, and very tasty)!  He also gave us maps of all the islands and pointed out which one we would be going to.

The dock.

Our boat.

The boat we took was filled with tourists going over for a fun filled day at the beach.  The ride only took about 20 minutes, which is good, because the water was pretty choppy.  As soon as we disembarked, we came to a huge scooter depot!  There were seriously hundreds of scooters lined up just waiting for someone to rent!  We followed the dentist to a scooter stand and he rented one for us.  The scooter we rode was smaller than the one we own, and much slower!  We had to go over a big hill to get to the elementary school, and we didn’t think the poor guy was gonna make it.  I seriously considered peddling with my feet! 😛  Surprisingly it made it all the way to the school (which was really just a 5 minute ride).  We parked at the public health center that the dentist was working at all day, and walked over to the school that was next door.

When we got to the school, the Military Service guy at the school was sitting in this tiny chair digging rocks out of the cracks (notice that the bucket is bigger than the chair)! I felt for him.

When we showed up at the school, the English teachers greeted us, and told us that we didn’t need to be back until lunch time.  They told us that we could go to the beach, or drive around the island if we wanted to.  But we felt the need to be responsible, so we decided to wait at the school all morning and perfect our lesson plans.

Nick with the tiny scooter.

NOT!!!!  We jumped on the opportunity to go to the beautiful beach!  We got back on our tiny scooter and high tailed it to the beach.  We had to stop along the way to buy some cheap bathing suits, but it was totally worth it!  The beach on Jeibei is beautiful! The water is so blue and clear!  The water was a little cold, so we didn’t actually swim, but we walked all the way around the beach in the shallow water.  While we were walking and talking, it dawned on us just how amazing God is.  I should say re-dawned, because we realize this frequently.  It’s funny how sometimes we forget and get caught up in ourselves.  We talked about how He knew exactly what He was doing when He brought us to Penghu.  This has been the perfect place to start our adventures and our marriage.  We get to work together everyday!  Since we seem to have less distractions here, we have been able to get incredibly closer to God and to each other!  The people here are so kind to us and help us with whatever we need!  AND we get paid to spend the morning at the beach!  God’s plans are definitely better than our own!!!!

There is a stone weir behind me. Stone weirs are man made walls that trap fish when the tide goes out.

Here we are, having a BLAST!!!

Isn’t it beautiful?

Meet Nick’s new flower shorts 🙂

Next, we decided to drive around the island.  There is a road that circles the island along the water line, so we took tiny scooter on a trip.  We were thankful that he made it! 🙂  The island is pretty small, so the whole trip took about 30 minutes.  Along the way we saw some more stone weirs, boats, beautiful views (of course), a light house, and some interesting grave sites.

Cute houses

Don’t you love the trees lining the road?

After our morning of adventure, we went back to the school just in time for lunch.  The English teachers asked us if we wanted to eat alone or with the students.  We told them that we would eat with the students because we thought they might be excited to see us, and man were we right!  When we entered the room, there were two desks set up at the front of the class, facing the rest. We sat down at these and waited for all the students to get their food and sit down.  Before they started eating, they all said some type of prayer in Chinese.  I was surprised because I didn’t know they did this.  After that, they were eager to talk with us.  Unfortunately these students were only in second grade, so they didn’t know very much English.  Thankfully the teacher helped to translate, and we enjoyed the questions they asked.  They wondered how tall we were, where we were from, if we had any babies (lol), how old we were, and other things of that nature.  After lunch they started bombarding us with questions in Chinese, apparently they didn’t understand that we didn’t know what they were saying, but it was still a lot of fun!  Then they showed us where we could take our rest (nap).  They held our hands and tried to make us hold hands, and talked the whole way.  It was very cute and heart warming.

After lunch time, we started teaching our classes.  I taught about things around the Library, and Nick taught water sports.  After our classes, the students asked if we would play basketball with them.  They are all in love with basketball, especially the Houston Rockets because Jeremy Lin is from Taiwan!!!  We played with them for a little bit and then had to go back to the boat to go home.  When we got back to the dock, we got back in the dentist’s car and went home.  He took us a back way, which meant he went down roads that cars really don’t fit on and used his four wheel drive to climb a hill that over looked the city.  The view was pretty, and he took our picture!  He is a really nice man, and we hope to see more of him 🙂

This is us on the hill.

We were exhausted by the time we got home, but we had a blast!!!  I hope you all had a great day at work on Friday and had a great weekend as well!!!  On Sunday, we bought a couch, it will be delivered today, so we are very excited about that!  We will post a picture when we get it!!

See ya next time

Categories: Education, Island Teaching, Nature, Taiwan, The Beach | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Let the Teaching Begin!

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.

This is us on the boat.

This is what we see as we’re getting off the boat.

A little lagoon where the kids will some times play during recess.

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.

This is the school. It’s located on the highest point on the island.

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.

All the students I taught with their animal masks we made. The lady on the left is my co-teacher 🙂

One of the students with the dentist.

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).

The old building. Notice that the covering made of mud and dirt is wearing away to expose the rocks the house is built out of.

The view of the beach down below.

More ocean views.

This is Nick in front of the ocean. 🙂

Oh and this is a guy with fresh squid on the back of his scooter.

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.

The light house!

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.  🙂


Categories: Education, Island Teaching, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Adventure is out there!!!

What’s this big adventure we speak of?

Yesterday, Nick and I found out that we’ve been accepted to teach English in Taiwan!  This is big news for us because we’ve been talking about teaching abroad for about a year now, and it’s finally becoming a reality.  We have been assigned to Wenau Elementary School in Penghu County.  Just like you, we had never heard of Penghu county before, so we did what any normal person would, and googled it.  Turns out Penghu county is an archipelago made up of about 90 islands and looks absolutely breath taking.


This is just one of the many beautiful views from our new home.  Are you jealous yet?

Where exactly is Penghu county you ask?

Well, we asked the same question, so lucky for you, we now have an answer for you.  Penghu is located on the western side of Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait.  If you’re a visual learner, Penghu is in red on this handy dandy map. 🙂


Just one more thing.

In our research on Taiwan we found out that only 2% of their population is Christian, and that has really been on our hearts and minds.  While we are not officially going to Penghu as missionaries, we plan to live our lives on mission for Christ and would greatly appreciate your prayers and encouragement as we embark on this new journey!  We’re so excited!

Categories: FYI, Island Teaching, Taiwan, Travel | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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