After some degree of chaos, I can now say I have a new apartment in the “suburbs” of Hsinchu. My apartment is ocean themed.. As in the Greek blue and white motif. Sounds weird, but I have always wanted to have a house with Greek white and blue (not making that up) so when I saw this apartment I was pretty much sold. Being near some nature, trees, grass, and gardens feels like a fresh breadth of air for my mind. The apartment is on the ground floor with a glass door and screen door that I can leave open for FRESH air! Wow! The cicadas screech and talk all night.. I am situated on top of hill near a temple, a lake park is at the bottom of one side of the hill and a park on the other side! I have even been waking up before 8:30 and taking walks. We will see how long that lasts. Of course I am going home to the U.S. of A. soon so I will be leaving my new home so abruptly, however hoping for many good days upon my return.
I lost the blog bug a while back. It hasn’t returned with full force and it seems to me that part of this is because of routine and a sort of familiarity with my current life. Taiwan is not new anymore, my job is not new, the sound of Chinese is not new, and my surroundings are not new. This has lent a sort of perfunctory rhythm to my days which is not necessarily a good thing. With comfort comes complacency. Recently the topic of occupational hazard arose in conversation with a friend, and the danger of routine. We can become less passionate, or even careless with our work. But what are the occupational hazards of being a teacher..? I had to think about this and I decided that the hazard is forgetting that all of the information I need to teach my students may not be new for me, but it is completely new for my students and therefore pertinent. Teaching, “I like cats but I don’t like dogs,” for the 15th lesson loses it’s glamour. However, this small sentence will hopefully grow and blossom into fluency someday, that is the part I cannot see, and may never witness long after I stop teaching, or leave Taiwan. This small sentence seems silly, doesn’t it? But let’s look at what it contains. A subject, a verb, and an object. Already the basic building blocks of communication. When we look further we see, ‘like’ which communicates a positive emotion, plurals, and finally a negation of like, or a more negative emotion. So, the sentence we have to work with is small, but there is already a foundation and room to grow. The point is we don’t know how long transformation may take on our work, or within ourselves but let’s continue with faithful effort. You know, Mother Theresa said, “Do small things with great love.” And in another beautiful book I read recently, called The Course of Love, I learned that there is glamour in cleaning and hanging laundry when it’s done for love.
And moving from all of these thoughts, some pictures that I have taken and not posted!
Cool, like me. Just kidding. But in reference to the weather, yes. We have entered “the beautiful days.” That is not a term here, I just think these are the beautiful days in Taiwan. 70’s and mostly sunny. And my plants finally look happy.
Today is Friday evening so of course I am all happy for the weekend. But I did want document one thing. One of my young students came up to me today as I was entering the classroom and put her arms around me and gave me a great big hug with a pat on the back. Suddenly, I was just filled with happiness, almost to the point of tears. Have you heard this quote, “The soul is healed by being with children” (Dostoyevsky). Because over the past two years I have found an abundance of truth in this small sentence. And I’ve wondered about this quote more than a few times. Why, why, is it that children are so special? Even though I’m not sure I will have a complete answer, I think it is because of the way they love. Just, like the hug, it was without any expectation or question. She wanted to hug me, and she trusted me, so she hugged me. Is there not some beauty in this? I want to say, please take a moment to appreciate how beautiful our children are.
Sometimes we are blessed with a near perfect day. We have our own pockets of joy, no? Mine contain sitting on my bed with the window open, knowing that my family is over in America sleeping. My plants (when alive) are happy and the sunlight shines yellow through their leaves. I will be reading one minute or gazing out my window and then having a sound nap the next. The weather is 80 and breezy and I have friends to share the day with. Which is exactly how I spent my day. I bought some fruit, and watermelon for Andrea’s aunt as they have been kind enough to invite me to their home for many meals. And everyone knows a sunny hot day needs watermelon. Andrea and I walked over to a temple in her neighborhood. It’s a temple of love. Or I guess a temple of asking for romantic love. I didn’t ask for love today. Some days you just have all the love you need. This temple while being for love also has a hidden secret behind it. Could you have guessed that the Garden of Eden is in Taiwan? Well, the name in Chinese is something like garden of beauty, but in English, The Garden of Eden. A hill crawls down at the base of the temple and in the garden are perhaps one hundred statues made of marble or metal. They aren’t being up-kept so they are slowing becoming eaten by the jungle and moss. Still they have charm. There is also a museum in the basement of the temple with an interesting assortment of things including horse drawn carriages entirely carved from jade.
Or moon festival, or mid autumn festival, or 中秋節. And have you ever thought about the moon, I mean really looked at if for about one full minute and thought about it’s role in our seasonal lives. Because the Taiwanese do, as they barbecue late at night with their families of every September, every year. Any way this beautiful moon gave me a four day weekend. My friend invited me to her home outside of the city. Her husband took us basically anywhere our whims took us. We saw tea farms, and Chiang Kai Shek’s tomb. They taught me to play majong. And, as a person who does not enjoy games in general, I liked majong quite a bit. And learned to play it in Chinese. I’m set for life.
On the second day we went to Nanzhuang and Tai’an. We took the true mountain road, which continues to scare the poop out of me. There ARE landslides. At the old street market in Nanzhuang I bought kumquat jam. We also stopped in the valley of Tai’an at a cultural center to see the aboriginal Taiwanese museum and also some music and dancing. There was a natural hot spring and the slight smell of sulfur. It was cool and misty with some sprinkles of rain. Perfect weather in hot Taiwan.
Do you know the saying, “It’s the journey that’s important not the destination.”?
Because I’m going to have to call bull on that one. I tallied up how long it took me to get back to Taiwan yesterday,
2 hours to Boston
2 hours for check in
13 hour flight to Japan
2 hour layover
3 hour flight to Taiwan
20 min bus ride to high speed rail
10 min ride on HSR
25 min train ride to Hsinchu
10 min walk home
Total: 23 hours or basically one full day.
My highlight was vomiting in the train’s pit toilet after too vigorously drinking a big cup of iced tea. For you travelers out there, tip, don’t chug cold iced tea after not drinking for many hours. In conclusion, I much preferred reaching my destination (aka. my bed) and not so much the journey in this case.
However, I did not finish telling you about home. Wish I could say I am going to flawlessly blend back into to Taiwan, but it would be a lie. It’s humid, loud, busy, everything is in Chinese (I’m not Taiwanese)… Right I know, I’m not in America. It must be an incontestable Truth that nothing and no amount of time can replace the place and things that you grow up knowing. Anyway, I will tell a little about things I do know.
My family packed up to do some camping at Sebago Lake State Park. We had sterling weather except for one night where it rained so hard that a pocket formed on the top of the tent and then popped onto me while I was sleeping. It really wasn’t that bad, we didn’t get too wet. We tied four of dad’s sneakers to the canopy to draw the water down off the canopy. Dad also drove us to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to visit with family. Portsmouth is lovely with cool shops, gardens, and houses dating back as far as 150 years old. We walked in the shops and had ice cream. We ended with a dinner overlooking the Piscataqua River where the ships come in and out under a very tall bridge.
Sebago Lake: “The rocks are wet and shiny or jumbled and dry. the sun is blinding off the water. The smell of pine needles is strong. The sun is hot but the shade is chilly. The sky is blue blue. the pines trees and leaves are blowing in the wind. There are small brown ducks and children clambering on bikes or crashing in water. I am sweaty with sand and crazy wind waved hair.”
Today dad and I went to Lamoine State Park to catch mackerel. Did we get mackerel? Yes! 15 mackerel. Do you believe me? Good, because we didn’t get a single one, not even a bite. Although the other man on the dock had a bucket full, he said he at 86. Well no wonder we didn’t get any, pretty sure he fished out the entire bay. But the weather was beautiful. We went to the bird sanctuary and saw some falcons, great horned owls, hawks, saw whet owls, and geese. We also went on a nice hike.
Home for the month. Which means tennis, walks, and other relaxing things. I’ve decided reverse culture shock is not real. It just feels like I’m home for the summer after a year at college; not like I’ve been in Taiwan for two years. Maybe you have to live abroad for 8 to 10 years to experience it. I took some photos when mom and I went for a walk. Maine is beautiful as ever in summer on a sunny day.
mom by the tree, I thought the contrasting colors were nice.
It’s summer camp. It’s a roller coaster. Today we took the kids to a kid friendly park near the mountains and set them loose. Even though it was easily 98 degrees they still raced around like wild animals. One kid started open mouthed bawling because he saw a bee. Just ‘saw’ was not stung. During lunch one boy went to a teacher’s table said, “I feel sick..” and then threw up all over the table in front of the teachers. My friend said the noodles that came out of the boy were still whole. How exciting. Other than this it was pretty fun. The kids made me go on the swing with them and down the slide. They also kept forcing me to hold their sticky sweaty hands while we were walking. Ai oooh. I’ve been spending about 5 hours with them five days a week lately so they have become way to comfortable with me. Today as I was pouring water in my bottle someone walked past me and pinched my ass. I turned around to confront the culprit, it was one of my 7 year old students. She ran away laughing hysterically. Not okay man.
Today I was sitting perfectly minding my own business outside of a coffee shop when a strange woman in large sunglasses ran up and grabbed my arm. Except she wasn’t a strange woman at all. I looked up shocked out of whatever reverie I had been in to see Wendy and her husband. Wendy grabbed me to pull me out of my chair regardless of the fact that I was still waiting for my drink. She was so excited to take me to lunch. So, went to lunch we did. We had Szechuan style food. In case you were wondering this means spice, spice, and more peppers. Wendy’s husband asked me what I wanted, and being a smart ass I said duck tongue. And guess who ended up having duck tongue with lunch? The big question, what did it taste like? Nothing really… maybe chicken HA.