Two Language Cross-Cultural Puns

We were out driving yesterday and ran across the sign for a small cafe.  It was 8 Na Na.

Get it?

The word for eight in Chinese is “ba”.

You need to know both Chinese and English for the cafe name to make sense.  Banana Cafe.

I love it.


Rapid Road Repair

The Taiwanese are very efficient in their road repair.  Every time we’ve gone over the mountains they have crews working on the roads.  Today the target was the road in front of our apartment building.  In the space of one work day they scraped and resurfaced the street.

Here they are just getting started.


And this is when I was glad I had already brought in the clean laundry.





Finishing touches.


Temple Machine

The faculty and staff went on a field trip to Sun Link Sea (more on that in another post but the short story is… forest that felt like home).  We ran across a coin-operated machine that Dan and I had seen once before.  The faculty started asking about the “temple machine” (really more of a fortune-telling machine).  Push in a coin and the figure turns, enters the temple, gets a scroll, and drops it in the slot.  Here’s Dan getting an interpretation of his fortune that included some things Charlene was too embarrassed to translate for him.

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A new building and a new school year

Today the school dedicated the new activity center. It’s a beautiful new building and the school is justifiably proud of it.

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The gym, cafeteria, and fitness center are great. But what I’m really excited about is the new teaching kitchen. It’s a glorious space with two lovely sinks (with hot water!), a big worktable with four very nice built-in induction burners, three ovens (!) and A DISHWASHER. This is the first dishwasher I’ve seen in Taiwan. The locals think this is silly. That’s OK. I have a dishwasher and I know how to use it! I also have a dish dryer (a very common Taiwanese appliance) and I don’t know how to use it. But I will learn.

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Obviously I needed to test the appliances before school starts tomorrow.  I made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for the teachers yesterday using each of the new burners.  They worked like a dream – much more consistent than the inexpensive ones I started with.

Today I tested the ovens with oatmeal cookies.  The ovens worked well and I was pleased that the space didn’t heat up as much as I thought it would.  It’s been very hot and humid the past few days.  The air conditioning in the kitchen space works well if I give it a good head start.

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The school community oohed and ahhed over the new space.  There was a nice reception (not catered by me, although I did share my cookies), a formal ceremony, and many, many stunning flower arrangements to admire.

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School starts tomorrow.  Dan has the same two classes as last year (intro to business and robotics).  I have high school cooking and nutrition (10 students) and 5th grade cooking (14 students to start with although that should get smaller when the Chinese language class starts).

Mango Sprite

McDonalds in Keelung had a picture of what looked like peach soda with star shapes. So of course we ordered that. It was mango Sprite with bits of fruit. Yum! Just the thing for a hot summer day.
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Just so you know… this was our first visit to McDonalds since we moved here.  And we only went there because it was next door to the hotel.  Of course now that we know about the mango Sprite we may be there more often.

Another Roadside Attraction

We took a few days to explore more of the area around Keelung before summer school started.  As we were driving highway 2 around the northern coast of Taiwan (highly recommended – very scenic), we ran across this just outside of Jinshan.

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So of course we had to stop to explore.

Clearly this is intended for a nighttime light show.  There were a few people around “getting ready for the real tourists” and they decided to just let us explore rather than try to have a conversation with people who were so clearly foreigners.

The backdrops were filled with different scenes and figures that light up and move.  In the center there was a bit of a stage for live performances.

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The whole thing looked like it could be quickly put together from printed plastic sheets and bamboo scaffolding.

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The offices, like many inexpensive buildings here, were made of repurposed shipping containers.

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This place was fascinating.  I think it is the Confucian (?) equivalent to vacation bible school.  The hotel manager suggested that it was for the blessing the local fishermen at the start of the squid fishing season.  I wish that we had been able to arrange our trip to go back for an evening show.  We’ll keep this in mind for next summer.

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Cooking Class Update

4th and 5th grade cooking class has been going well.  We’ve cooked pasta sauce, carrot raisin salad, chocolate chip cookies, and vegetable curry among other dishes.  The students are very enthusiastic and the older students are eager to get a cooking class of their own. 

I just found out that cooking classes for middle school and high school will be offered next school year in addition to the upper elementary school class.  Let’s hope lots of students sign up for these.  I have plenty of ideas for classes for older students.  But I still need to build up my teacher stamina and my store of student-ready recipes.  I get very tired when I teach.  All the experienced teachers in the family have assured me that this is a temporary condition. 

Next school year the new cafeteria will be open and that’s where the cooking class will be held.  I’m told that it will have hot water and even a dishwasher!  This is a very big deal for me (and for Dan who often helps out by washing the dishes after class).  Hot water is not always found in Taiwan kitchens.  And I’ve never seen a dishwasher here.  Believe me, it’s difficult to get greasy plastic tablespoons really clean with just cold water and soap.  It’s possible, but difficult.

The older classes will also be 90 minutes instead of the 45 minutes I have for elementary school now.  That will give enough time to tackle some more elaborate dishes.  I’m thinking about assigning a final exam of a traditional roast dinner served to the teachers and staff. 

The students have done very well with the dishes we’ve done so far.  They are picking ingredients, measuring and mixing all on their own and for the most part doing well.  They are even being safe with the knives, ovens, and stove tops.  But following the recipe steps in order is still a challenge.  They do very well when I demo the recipe but not so well when they are required to figure it out on their own.  It will be interesting to see how the older students do with following precise directions. 


It seems that every week we have had to buy some new equipment for the cooking class – cutting boards, knives, bowls, whisks, and more.  This week we found the best toys of all.  The local store had induction cookers for a great price.  These cooktops have no heating elements and don’t get hot. They cook by heating the pot directly with a magnetic field.  So cool!  (sorry for the pun)  We tried these out today and they worked very well.  They are safe enough that I’m comfortable with the entire class working on their own.  They could still get burned with hot liquid, but nothing will catch fire.  What a relief.  And these cookers are fast.  Water boils quickly.  I’m getting one for my kitchen. 


I have a separate blog for the cooking class. It includes my adventures learning to teach (mistakes and all) and the recipes that I’m using.  Check out Careful with the Knife! for more stories.