Exploring Taichung

We’ve spent the past few days trying to get lost in Taichung.  Pick a random street, go along a ways, and there we are smack up against a street we know.  Turn the next corner and there’s another one.  We’re slowly expanding our mental model of the city.

I’ve been able to introduce Dan to a few of my favorite places here.  We found ourselves on Gongyi Street the other day and decided to visit the traditional Japanese teahouse.  You may remember the aggressive carp.



We were seated upstairs across from a couple enjoying books and tea.  Lovely.


Another day found us in Taichung Folklore Park.  We’ve tried to find this in the past but it was closed or just eluded us.  This time we forgot about it until we turned the corner and there it was.

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It has a brand new parking garage but other spaces seem to still be in process.


Today we found ourselves at Taichung Metropolitan Park.  This park always seemed a little overbuilt to us.  It’s far away from the center of town and always seemed deserted.  But today was a beautiful day and we finally saw the park as it was meant to be used.




Starting the School Year

Today was the first day of the new school year.  All students were welcomed in the new gym.  One of my favorite things about this school is that the students lead all assemblies. By the time they graduate they are all very comfortable speaking to large groups from a stage.

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Then we squashed all the classes into the rest of the day.  That meant that I only had 20 minutes to introduce the 5th graders to the cooking class.

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I did manage to squeeze a quick recipe in for the high school class.  Andrew seemed happy with the result.

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Revving Up for the School Year

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.

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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.

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The end of the school year

We’ve been in Taiwan 11 months as of today.  What a grand adventure this is turning out to be.  We’re feeling as much at home here as we can without being able to read, understand, or speak the language and without truly understanding the culture.  We’re still learning, little by little.  I’m certainly doing things I didn’t think I would be doing (Dan is still in shock that I am enjoying teaching and I’m more than a little surprised at all the writing I’ve been doing).

Here are my cooking students on the last day of class.  The older student behind me is a senior who was hanging around for the day and decided to sneak into the picture.  He learned early to come by right after class in hopes that there were leftovers he could eat.


As interesting as it has been to live in another country, it’s really the people we’ve met who have made this such a great experience – the people we work with, the new friends we’ve made, the market ladies and the folks in the building who take care of us.  Recently there was some sort of Dragon Boat Festival party in the building that of course we didn’t know about (because we can’t read the signs in the elevator).  We got a phone call from the front desk telling us to come downstairs for our share of the sticky rice dumplings and bamboo shoot soup.  Here’s a good video from Peggy Teaches Chinese that explains how her grandmother makes sticky rice dumplings.


It’s quiet here for the next month.  I’m working on putting together my high school course on cooking and nutrition and Dan is cleaning up the computer network at school.  Nearly everyone has gone home for the summer.  In July we will both teach at summer school.  And in August new teachers arrive and the school year begins again.  We’re resting up while we can.


Sounds from Home – online radio

We brought plenty of movies with us from home, but we didn’t bring our music.  The “program your own radio station” websites we used at home (usually Pandora) do not work here due to copyright issues.  But there are several excellent online radio stations that we listen to all the time.  Even though we sampled stations from all over the world, the best stations we found are from our hometown, Seattle.

When we moved here we searched for a good classical music station online.  We tried ones from Switzerland, the UK, and Australia.  Now we know.  The best steaming classical radio station in the world is our hometown station, KING.  KING plays complete music selections (not just frustrating snippets) and their announcers are both unobtrusive and informative.  The music is always excellent and often unfamiliar.  They don’t just play the standards (over and over and over again).  And as a bonus they play music from local groups (Seattle has many excellent classical music groups).  Sometimes I am delighted to unexpectedly hear my friends in Choral Arts.

Today I was sitting in my corner of Dan’s office at school when I heard another familiar radio program.  It was after 6pm Sunday in Seattle and time for John Kessler’s All Blues program at KPLU.  Ah, the sounds of home.  John does such a good job of finding and explaining great blues music. I love this program.

Casey and Laine have both been surprised to find how many people they know in other parts of the world who are also big fans of KEXP, yet another fantastic, innovative streaming radio station from Seattle.  Most of these fans have never been to Seattle, they just recognize a great radio station when they find it.

There is wonderful music of all genres coming out of Seattle. And we get to hear it in Taiwan.


Kitchen Help

Mom and Casey helped me with cooking class yesterday.  We tackled mashed potatoes and chicken gravy.  It was great to have some experienced hands in the kitchen helping the students with such concepts as waiting for potatoes to actually cook before mashing them and the nuances of making a roux.

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After the students scarfed down their handiwork, Mom washed all the dishes (in cold water because that’s all we have in that room) and Casey cataloged all of the equipment.

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Casey is going to help me put together cooking kits to use in the classroom, one for every four students.  The cooking kits will be particularly useful for the older students in the longer classes when I can tell them to get out what they need for the day’s lesson.  Until now I had an ever increasing jumble of bags in the back of the room with all the bits and pieces I’d collected.

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Stocking a kitchen from scratch takes some serious shopping and investment.  One of the challenges of buying equipment for 14 students is that I frequently buy all that a store has and still don’t have enough for all the class.  The elementary school students very much prefer to cook by themselves instead of in teams so when I can set up a recipe that way I do.  That means bowls and measuring spoons for all.  It’s a lot to keep track of.  Just the sort of organizing project that Casey loves.

Ms. Betsy Teaches Cooking

I’m getting paid to do one of my favorite things – teach kids to cook!

The school has added so many students during the school year that one of the art classes became an unmanageable size.  I was asked to take on some of the fourth and fifth graders for a cooking class for the rest of the school year.  Half the students are in class with me while the other half are in art class.

We meet in the cafeteria where there is one full size oven with four burners, four microwaves, two sinks, and lots of table space. The class meets every other day for 45 minutes.  That requires a little juggling on my part to find recipes to introduce, make, eat, and clean up in that short time.  The kids originally asked for cookies and cake but they loved the carrot salads and fresh tomato pasta sauce we did instead.  Stone Soup will certainly be on the menu.

I started a new blog to record my cooking teacher adventures and publish the recipes I’m using.  Thanks to Casey for the great title, Careful with the Knife.  She claims I said it all the time when she was growing up.