When we first arrived we heard the phrase, “I don’t have American time.” It was confusing. Aren’t Americans always rushing someplace? Isn’t our life in Taiwan just a little bit slower?
But our Chinese teacher finally clued us in. American time is leisure time. American time is time to read and follow Facebook and hang out.
American time is time to not work.
The Taiwanese work. They work hard. They work long hours. The students go to school, and then cram school, and then do their homework before getting not nearly enough sleep. The small business owners are always in their shops or stalls.
We have American time.
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!
It made me very happy. We might need to go back tonight.
It’s the season for pomelos – like giant grapefruit, only not as juicy. I’m really developing a taste for these. This beauty is from Carol and Simo’s backyard.
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.
The 5th graders made biscuits with chopped vegetables and cheese today.
It’s a messy business. They did a great job on the biscuits and it’s a recipe that they enjoy. But last time I made biscuits in cooking class it took two hours to bake everything and clean up.
This time it took 45 minutes.
And that’s with a 5th grade class where I have to wash the dishes. (The high school class washes their own dishes and cleans up the kitchen. They do a very good job of it so I have nothing left to do when their class is over.)
45 minutes is the longest I have spent cleaning up in the new kitchen. Most days it is only about 15 minutes.
I love this kitchen.
Today the school dedicated the new activity center. It’s a beautiful new building and the school is justifiably proud of it.
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.
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.
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.
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).
It’s almost time for the new school year to begin. The new crop of teachers has arrived and the returning teachers are trickling back from summer vacation.
There are always lots of things needed to settle into life in a new place – stepstools, shelves, baskets, brooms, and more. Charlene arranged for the new teachers to shop at several kinds of stores, but we felt they could benefit from an introduction to the wonderful Taiwan “everything” stores. Everything stores are kind of like dollar stores and they are everywhere. The stores sell all shapes of plastic bins, household gadgets, inexpensive dishes, and more, all jumbled together.
At the welcome dinner last night we figured out the car pools and all met this morning at our favorite breakfast place, the Pancake and Waffle Café (which after a year we realized has no pancakes on the menu). Even Carol and Simo made a surprise appearance, fresh off the plane.
We coached the new teachers through the extensive menu, dragged them down the block to the everything store when we were done eating, and walked them through their first morning market.
Job well done.
The new teachers are wonderful! They’re a great fit for the school. I’m really looking forward to seeing the whole team together next week.
Rest up, folks! We have a big week coming up. Classes start on Thursday.