Spring Break Exploring

Time once again for spring break exploring.  We arranged for cat care (thanks, Christine!) and took off on our favorite road to Hualien.  What a spectacular day!  Beautiful views and lovely weather.

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The cherry trees were blooming.

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We found two traditional markets just blocks from our hotel.  I tried to restrain myself to just buy apples and bananas for the drive back.

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The trip home turned out to be more of an adventure that we really wanted.  We thought we’d try a new route across the mountains this time so we stayed on Highway 8 instead of turning off on Highway 14.  This part of Highway 8 is clearly more of a working road. The guardrails are not kept as neatly painted as on the more tourist road.  It’s a little wider, but not as well repaired.  It’s also steeper.  But it is beautiful.

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There were fruit orchards along much of the road.

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And then there are the landslides.  At this point we were carefully let across once car at a time, with one man assigned to just watch the slope carefully for more slipping.

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And the construction/clean up.

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We were very thankful to get off this particular mountain road.

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Art and Cookies

Today was a big day.  Art, writing, and cooking converged to honor 5th grade achievements.  Rod had the kids creating portraits in art class. He thought they turned out so well that (inspired by his own life as a working artist) he wanted an art show of their work.  Of course the art show needed an opening party.  And of course the opening party needed refreshments.  And of course (my favorite part) we needed artists’ statements about their work.

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Here are the artists attempting to avoid being photographed with their own work.

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And here are the goodies that 5th grade cooking has been working on over the past two weeks.

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Excellent work, 5th graders!

Supplying the Kitchen

Two classes and two clubs chew through large quantities of raw ingredients in a week.  One of the biggest challenges I’ve had in cooking class is keeping the kitchen stocked.  The high school seems to inhale bacon and the 5th grade just scarfed a large jar of peanut butter.  To complicate matters, my recipes are almost all American ones, using butter, milk, and cheese on a scale unusual here.  I’m trying very hard to keep my school shopping to once a week.

Imagine my delight at finding a restaurant supply store not too far from our apartment.   Giant jars of peanut butter!  Big slabs of chocolate!  Italian and French and Mexican ingredients!  Dill pickles!

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It made me very happy.  We might need to go back tonight.

Upping Our Game

There’s always an adjustment at the beginning of a school year. We have a new crop of teachers and a new crop of students.  Some things stay the same while other things inevitably change.

Maybe this is just a function of us starting our second year, but there seems to be a new level of energy at school this year.  Somehow the new building (gym/cafeteria/kitchen classroom) and the programs established by our new set of very experienced ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teachers, and the after school programs for the elementary school, and a whole host of other things settling in place has led to a real excitement at the school.  The level of collaboration is amazing.  Just in the kitchen we’ve had science classes and ESOL classes and Spanish classes in addition to the regular cooking and nutrition classes and after school clubs for both high school and elementary school.  But it’s not just collaboration in the kitchen.  Everywhere I turn there are conversations about new things we could do at school – and then they happen!

This is very exciting.  I really feel I have to be doing my best to keep in the game with these colleagues.

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Teacher and Staff Gatherings

It’s almost the end of our first school year in Taichung.  What a great experience this has been.  The people and the location have really surpassed our expectations.  We are trying to fit in a few last minute things before the group scatters for the summer.

I’ve been talking for months about having a cooking class for the teachers and staff.  I finally realized that it was now or never for this school year.  Last week we had the first after school American cooking class for teachers and staff.  We made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (really tasty since I accidentally doubled the butter), quick pasta sauce, carrot raisin salad, and classic macaroni and cheese.  Drop me a line if you want the recipes.  Amazingly we finished all these recipes in just under an hour.  The real advantages to teaching the teachers and staff instead of 9 and 10 year olds are that the conversation is better and they clean up after themselves!  I’ll teach this group again any time.

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The other big event last week was the year end dinner.  There’s a great restaurant on the 27th floor of Hotel One in Taichung.  It was a beautiful evening so we had a great view.  The food was wonderful as well – buffet salads, good bread, and soup followed by a choice of entrée that was some of the best Indian food I’ve had here, and then the dessert buffet.  I’m a little embarrassed to say we ate like Americans.  We loved it.

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I really haven’t wrapped my mind around missing the daily presence of those teachers who are leaving. It’s an inevitable part of working in the international teaching world.  But it does occur to me that now we have people to visit in more parts of the world.