Penglai 6th Grade Graduation & Volunteer Parents’ Lunch

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 the 6th grade class of Penglai Primary School, graduated; and I was there to share in their celebration of completion.  The entire school buzzed with the excitement, and from the opening ceremony (presentation of flower pins and well wishes from the 5th grade to the 6th grade), to the exit ceremony (6th grade parading each floor then out through the front gates); emotions ran raw.As I walked to school, the sidewalk just outside the school building, became more and more congested.   I could smell the aromatic  bouquets that were tightly gripped in the hands of the waiting parents.  It was as though they were waiting for royalty.  Their wait was not a short one, for the graduation ceremony did not begin until after 9am.  When they were allowed in, they signed the register and packed the auditorium.  There was standing room only.

The end of the school year is always a little hard for me; this year was perhaps even more difficult; because  it is not just a “so long” for us; but rather a “farewell”.  It is just possible that I will come back here one day to teach; but for now; I long for home.

I will truly miss my students, my colleagues, and new found friends.

I shall cherish every moment, every event of this wonderfully exciting and rewarding year; always.  I don’t want to mislead the reader; there were times when I just wanted too give up and “GO WEST- OLD WOMAN”.  Days when the temperature was so hot and the humidity so high, that I felt I’d drown just by stepping outside the door; days when the wind was so fierce and humidity so high that my bed was wet when I arrived in my 1 room flat; and although it never got any colder than 50 degrees F, I almost froze because of the wet, and the absence of heaters to knock the chill off ; those were very difficult days; but the days when my childrens’ faces seemed to register _______________; THOSE were the days that tried me most.  When the children begun to try to hold conversation with me, outside the classroom, I knew that I HAD to finish the task  I had begun.

I look at them now and I see what I came to see;  SUCCESS.   I didn’t expect them to be able to address the UN in perfectly fluent English; however, I did enjoy hearing some of the speeches that had been prepared for the English competitions.    They’ve inspired me tremendously.

The volunteer parents are an integral part of Penglai’s English Village and  have been a great help this school year.  They accompanied us in our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade classes to help the students with NEP (NO English Profficiency).  They translated for us (the FETs) only when it was absolutely necessary.  They helped us with role-play, handing out and  collecting materials, group activites, clean-up,  getting the classes settled, and ready to go home.  We saw our 2nd grade students on Monday afternoon, the 4th grade on Thursday, and the 3rd grade on Friday), for 3 forty minute periods.  6th and 5th grades were on Monday and Thursday mornings (4 forty minute periods).  Tuesdays we had visiting schools.  The volunteer parents did not work with us with the 5th, 6th, or visiting school classes.

We celebrated their hard work with a luncheon on wednesday June 22nd and we presented them with a gift (slippers with a picture of all of the English Village teachers).  The slippers are very significant because, in the classrooms, shoes are NOT allowed.

We’ve completed the first week of planning for summer camp and we now have just one more week (planning) then summer camp begins; ironically on the 4th of July; luckily it doesn’t begin on the 3rd, because I’d have to miss the first day; that’s my birthday, and I’ve never worked on my birthday.

Summer camp is only two weeks .  We will have two 1 week sessions with 45 students each session.  The actual time spent with the students will be about 3 -1/2 school days.  I Hope to have more to say before I leave on the 19th of July, as we have an end of the year event for the staff (cruise on the river to see Taipei City from that point and dinner) and the Principal’s farewell dinner.  I suppose I shall wish to share some of summer camp as well.  Love to you all.

South China Sea, Graduation, and Wrap-Up

There is so much happening now.  I’m trying to get to all the things I promised myself that I’d get to.  I missed the Dragon Boat Races because of miscommunication; but I can’t let that get me down.  I did visit the northern most point in Taiwan, in Shihmen District on the South China Sea, just about an hour and a half north of Taipei City.

School was out for the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, so I walked through Da’an Park, located in Da’an District; very near the place where our orientation was held in August.  Although the sun was quite intense, I spent about two hours there then had lunch at a Subway.  This was my first visit to a Subway since my arrival almost eleven months ago.

There are so many things and so many people that I’ll miss when I return to the US;

but most obvious will be my students.   They have become so bold as to come to the English teachers’ office to say hello, or to give us small gifts.  Some stop me in the school yard to have a quick conversation.  Funny; some of the very ones that I couldn’t pry an English word out of in class, are those who now prove to me that they did indeed learn something this year.

We have two weeks to prepare for our summer camp program which will last for two weeks.   We will teach only 3 1/2 days each week.  The final day for students is July 14 and our date for out-processing is July 15, then annual leave begins.  We’re all ready for a break; ready to go home; or move on to the next assignment; but we’re all beginning to feel the pre-separation sting.

  Last week we celebrated the sixth grade students’ accomplishments with a big luncheon at a very popular buffet style Japanese restaurant.  All 100 students, half that many parents, and the entire staff of Penglai were in attendance.  We are now preparing to say farewell to them at their graduation tomorrow (2011.06.21).  I will have more pictures to post; most will probably be tearry eyed.

I am looking forward to getting home and back to my high school students.  The break away from them has helped me to appreciate them more.  It has also helped me to appreciate the hard work and dedication of my elementary school colleagues (world-wide).

The top picture on the left shows Taipei 101 from the balcony of my 4th floor classroom

The lower picture is of my 2nd grade class with their completed “Dragon Boat” projects.

The next picture is on the shore of the South China Sea in Shihmen District.  The Northern-most point in Taiwan

This picture was taken in Da’an Park

The group picture is of me with out last visiting school group for the school year.

The next picture is Mr. Liu Grade 5, class 502; he is teacher of the Year at Penglai

Kristy, sixth grade, speaks fluent English

My colleagues and I joined the children in their celebration.

Perhaps 1 more post before I come home.

Love to you all

Mother’s Day, Earthquakes, and Tornados

The Assistant director of our English Village has invited me to join her family for several weekend outtings.  Each trek is a treasure.  For this Mothers’ Day week end we visited Taiping Shan (Peace Mountain) in the north east of Taiwan.  We stayed at a quaint (I do mean quaint) resort located between 2000 and 4000 meters in the mountain.  The buildings (each bearing the names of trees  – Chinese Fir, Japanese Maple, etc.) were situated about 200 meters apart, each farther up the mountain.  After settling in we took a very scenic ride on the “Bong Bong” Train.  At the end of the trail the train turned around, dropped her passengers for a couple of hours of hiking,  sight seeing, and picture taking.  The clear (thin) mountain air made it difficult to breathe for the first hour.  Later my lungs felt so refreshed, I felt that I could go on for another TWO seconds.  The train came back for us and we stopped at the Peace Cafe to have a coffee.  The espresso gave me quite a jolt, but that was nothing compared to the booming, shaking, and rattling that we got from the small scale quake.  It registered about 4.0

Dinner and breakfast were included in our weekend package, and there were NO choices.  Unless you wanted to go back down the mountain, you had to eat what was prepared. luckily I had taken a couple of apples.  With all the day’s activities, the lack of television, and or other entertainment, I found myself in bed by 8pm.  The monkeys served as an alarm clock.  I didn’t see any, but I certainly heard them; loud and clear.   I was awake before 5am, and found that the sun had already risen.

Standing in the early morning air, looking out across the mountains, watching the clouds as they playfully caressed and kissed the heads of their tall sleeping friend and then move on; I developed a new appreciation for the song; “How Great Thou Art”.  Art meaning How Great You ARE; and Art, meaning How Great YOUR ART is!.  And so I bow in humble adoration.

The temperature in the mountains was about 65 degrees (F); however, upon our return to Taipei City, we found the ground level temperature to be about 85 degrees.  By Wednesday the temperature had soared to above 90; and for the first time in 50 or more years a tornado touched down in New Taipei City (the Sindian section).  New Taipei is the name given to what was Taipei County (until the November 2010 election); this is  about 2 miles south of my district (Datong).  The only notable damage was an overturned SUV.  Some people actually filmed it and posted the film on Youtube.

I have about 11 more weeks, then my visit to Xian and Beijing in Mainland China; to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, The Great Wall and The Forbidden City, and ………

So there you have it; Mothers’ Day, Earthquakes, and Tornados.  Love to you all.

What’s Happening at Penglai

Everyone is bustling about as the year comes to a close,.  Students and teachers , all nervous about testing, somehow make it through.

The Student Teachers from Taipei Education University have had their final ceremony and have returned to the university campus for examinations.  These young people will spend a full year’s ex-ternship after graduation.  It was an honor to be a part of their exit ceremony.

In a 45 hour work week, I have 17 – 24 (40 minute) classes each week; that gives me  21 – 25 hours in the office.  We’ve had our share of ups and downs; thank goodness the ups outweigh the downs.  Over the course of the past 8 months we’ve come to know each other quite well; we’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, professional and academic awards; we’ve become friends; we’ve become family.

Only one or two of our group will remain in our office (The Penglai English Village) for next school term.  Two of the Taiwanese teachers will be going to the US (One to study and one to teach); and others may be moving on to bigger and brighter things.  Even our principal will move on.  He has just completed his 8th year in this building (the customary period for a principa is 7 years).  The three American teachers (representing Arkansas, and California) will all be leaving Penglai; however one will remain in Taiwan – maybe in Taipei City.  It has been a most rewarding year, and I expect to continue to learn and grow until my last work day.

We’re making plans for our summer school scenarios, but , those plans are still in infancy; so I will make updates as we progress.  I am also planning for my trip to Mainland China after I leave here.  My ininerary is not yet complete, but already on my agenda are: visit to the “Forbidden City” – Beijing, the Terra Cotta Warriors – Xian, and about a 500 mile (bus) tour of the Great Wall, and another trip to Hong Kong.

Still hanging in here!  Still enjoying it; still exploring.

Fourth Quarter

Students engaged in the learningWorld Crossroad

The school year is coming to a close.  In Taiwan the first Monday in April is set aside for the celebration of Children’s day (NO SCHOOL),  the first Tuesday is “Toomb Sweeping Day”, a celebration, not unlike Memorial Day in the US (NO SCHOOL).  I took these days and enjoyed an extended weekend (5 days) in beautiful Hong Kong.   We’re back on task and working for success on exams in June.  The sixth grade will have a graduation and the ceremony to welcome each class to the next grade.  We are making plans for summer camp which will run from July 4 – July 15.  After a quick trip to Mainland China and a couple of other necessary European stops, I will be heading for the US, my family, my students, and my colleagues.  I hope that I can share some of the insights that I’ve gained.  Keep your comments coming.  Even though I have only 4 months left, it’s still a little difficult (sometimes over whelming) from time to time.


Memorial Park

Colleagues: Min Hsien, Nate, Helen, Self, Christine, Sonia

Wild Mushroom Risotto


In the tulips

Fairy Valley

Fairy Valley

Fairy Valley

Fairy Valley

Seafood Risotto
Taiwan Memorial Park
Kong Fu zi (Confucius)

On February 28th Taiwan celebrated Memorial day.  This day is memorialized because of the uprising and subsequent massacre which occurred in 1947.  This incident also marked the beginning of what was known as the “white terror”.  This statue of Confucius (Kong fu zi) stands in the Taiwan Memorial park.  Monday February 28th was a day off work to commemorate the events. 

   We are more than half through our adventure and the time has begun to move faster.  This is my attempt to share some of the beauties of Taiwan with readers, and th beginning of my obvious straw grasping.  I am more than ready to be back in my own little comfortable sphere; however, I feel a growing attachment to this, my new little nook. 
   Just when I’m getting to know my children; just when I’ve gotten into a comfortable routine; just when I’m beginning to know a little about being an Elementary school teacher, when I’m learning my neighborhood and neighbors;  and just when I’m beginning to feel that I’m a part of Penglai; the time to return to my own reality is drawing in.
   This experience, while not yet over, has taught me far more than I could have learned in a classroom, from reading a book, from sitting in PD sessions; it has given me strength, humility, compassion, patience, and tolerance, and above all; a true understanding of all the hard work that is performed daily, by my Elementary school colleagues.  My hat is off you you wonderful people (WORLD WIDE).
     I am a little jealous of those of you who will be enjoying Spring Break this month.  We don’t have that here.  There are, however; two days in April that we will have off (the 4th and 5th); BUT it is the 5th that is a holiday, the 4th has to be made up on Saturday,  just as we made up for the 11th of February because the children were given an extra day after the Winter holiday.  School ends near the end of June and summer camp (2 weeks) begins ON July 4th; imagine that. 
   I hope to have more to share soon.  I will take a quick trip to Cambodia during the days off in April. 

Second Semester- And We’re OFF!

Who was the photographer?

First Staff Meeting With Pineapple Upside Down Cake

     Wednesday meetings (HELD EVERY WEEK) are usually not quite this eventful; but because the Taiwanese are famous for their pineapple cakes  (Try this recipe), Helen decided to bake a Pineapple Upside-down cake; done in the scenario center.  We’re all wearing “Pink” today to promote the “NO BULLYING” in schools concept (A GLOBAL concern).

Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes


230 gm. Butter (8 ounces)
100 gm. sugar (3.2 ounces)
25 gm. milk powder (.8 ounces)
10 gm. green tea powder (1/3 ounce)
1 egg
320 gm. plain flour  (11.25 ounces)

1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. green tea paste (optional)

Pineapple Jam as filling


(1) Roll pineapple jam into small round balls.
(2) Cream butter, sugar, milk powder, green tea powder till creamy.
(3) Add in egg and green tea paste and beat till well combined.
(4) Add in flour and baking powder and mix till a dough is formed.
(5) Pinch a small portion of the dough and wrap up with pineapple fillings.
(6) Press into small square or oblong rings and place it on a baking tray.
(7) Bake in preheated oven at 175C  (350 F) till golden brown.
(8) Remove and leave to cool on wire rack before storing into cookie containers.

Getting back into the swing is not as easy as I thought it would be.  It was my belief that a visit home would give me that exta “umph” to go sailing through the second semester.  But, well I just miss home.  The snowy weather kept me tied to the house for several days, and I got out of town just in the nick of time, before last Wednesday’s (Feb. 9) big storm hit Little Rock. 
We’ve already begun out new scenarios for the semester.  I have “Supermarket” for 2nd grade; “Health Clinic” for 3 – 6th grade, and still the same for visiting schools.  The 5th and 6th grade will change at 6 week intervals to “Banking” and “DIY – Do It Yourself” respectively.  I don’t know how to do ANY THING myself.  Any body got any ideas?

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