Monday, September 28, 2009

River Tracing

By: Coach

Every student loves taking field trips. Who wouldn’t right? You go to the same place 5 days a week for 8 hours a day, so a break from the mundane is a big deal. I can still remember my first field trip in K-5. Not only do I remember the trip to the Birmingham Zoo, but I also remember the kid that I was literally TIED to! The buddy system was a little forced back in those days! Most school trips are, at some level, educationally based so administration can justify allowing teachers to go along and leave someone else to cover their classes as they take a break from teaching for a day.

Here in Taiwan not much is different. Most students jump at the chance of skipping out of school to take a trip (although some would rather stay). Much like the schools in America, our teachers are usually the first in line to sign up to go! I was fortunate enough to be one of the 4 teachers that accompanied our Taiwanese kids on the latest “field trip”.

I have to say, there are many things back home I miss and after teaching, coaching and living in Taiwan for over a year now I often wish things would operate more “American”. However, I am certain that our school trips here in Taiwan will be very hard to top wherever you are. Let me explain: If I depicted an outing that required wetsuits, life-jackets and helmets would a school related trip be in your top ten possible activities? I think not. If I went on to describe a rushing river carving through the lush, green mountains with various boulders along the way (to jump off into the river), would that be in the “educational” category of your trip planning books? Probs not. One last question: if you were told that the activity in said location would be to, in teams, walk up-river through slippery rocks and white water using various techniques (rock climbing) and tools (ropes) would you say something like…”Do what now?” Because that is exactly what I said when I first heard about River Tracing.

Last week I went with a group of high school students and we experienced the beauty of nature while “tracing” and sometimes floating back down just for fun! At the end of our journey we rewarded ourselves by jumping off a 25 foot boulder. Fun times. Here are some photos to prove it:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

I am going to come out and confess to you all a sad fact about Chris and me. We are not good neighbors. I would like to blame this reality on the limits of our language, seeing as how we don’t have much need to constantly inform our neighbors that we are American or to order coffee from them. But the truth of the matter is that we weren’t that great of neighbors in Alabama either. However, we have some friends here who are great neighbors. So great, in fact, they had some of them stop by while we were over the other night. The daughter spoke great English as she had just returned from a year being an exchange student in Minnesota. We got into a very interesting discussion about the differences between Taiwanese and American cultures. Over the past year, I have used this blog to describe to you the funny things about Taiwanese culture. I thought it only appropriate after all of this time to inform you what is funny about American culture according to our friends’ neighbors.

1) Americans drink a lot of milk. I mean, a lot. They drink it every night with dinner, every night! Don’t they get sick of it? It really doesn’t taste that good and it can give you… digestive problems.

2) Americans don’t go to the doctor nearly often enough. Our friends’ neighbor had a scratchy throat and begged and begged her host mom to take her to the doctor. The host mom said that she wouldn’t take her to the doctor unless she had a fever. Can you believe it? She had to have a fever to go to the doctor? All the host mom did was give her some pills she got at the store. The poor girl was very afraid for her well-being.

3) Americans eat cheese. There are few things less appetizing than spoiled milk dyed unnatural shades of orange. And, they put it on everything. Sometimes they even just eat it by itself. Eeew.

4) Our good-neighbor friends are also the ones who just had a baby and we found out that there are many things that Americans do that are strange when it comes to child-bearing. First of all, Americans let pregnant women eat cold things like… ice cream. Don’t they know that it will harm the baby? What is it with Americans and dairy?

5) American women go home right after they have a baby. In Taiwan, women take about a month and go to hotel-like places that are meant to take care of mom and baby in order to ensure that the first formative days of the baby’s life are stress-free.

6) Americans don’t even know what wine chicken is. In Taiwan, new moms eat wine chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a full month after giving birth. (Wine chicken is basically chicken served in a white wine sauce. It’s pretty good but I don’t think I could handle anything for three meals a day for an entire month.)

These are just a few of the things that others find so strange about us. I am sure that there are more but these are the only ones that good manners allowed them to share with us.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Note on Fire Safety

I’ll be the first to admit that I know absolutely nothing when it comes to plumbing, carpentry, electricity, or anything else related to home improvement. However, last week when I put a load of laundry into the drier, I noticed that something was amiss. I’m not sure what clued me in first – was it the stench of hot, burning metal, the ominous black puffs of smoke being expelled from the outlet, or the simple fact that my clothes just weren’t dry? Seen from the photos below, our drier plug and outlet aren’t exactly in prime condition.

This is actually the state in which we found both the plug and outlet a year ago so we were pleasantly surprised that this setup lasted us through the entire year last year.

Apparently, this is a common problem and has something to do with attempting to plug a drier (which has more voltage than your everyday household appliance) into a normal outlet. On top of using a normal voltage outlet, all Taiwanese outlets noticeably lack the third “ground” prong hole (this is all very technical jargon) making the use of driers even more precarious.

So, after the smoking outlet incident, we asked our repair guy (via the school secretary) to please take a look at the offending outlet. Very kindly, they replaced the outlet so that it was free of all scary black marks. However, this week when I put our freshly washed sheets into the menacing little machine, the same black smoke poured out of our fresh, white outlet. Sadly resigning to the idea that we do, indeed, need a new drier, I pulled the wet garments out once again. Lacking any outdoor area in which to hang our laundry, we were forced to hang everything inside our apartment. Dripping sheets, shirts, towels, and undies turned our home into a soggy little maze of wet clothes. I am happy to report, however, that now on Sunday afternoon, all of our clothes have effectively dried and been put away. I don’t know, maybe if we don’t get a new drier by next week, we can put up strobe lights and charge kids to come through the haunted swamp house. What do you think?