The week following our adventure in Taitung was rather anti-climatic. I had had such a great time at Green Island and adventuring outside of Hualien that I couldn’t help but to be in a slump for the remainder of the week. To make matters worse, back home in the States it was time for Bates alumni weekend, and the Bates Sailing Team’s alumni regatta. I’d been looking forward to both of these events since I was a freshman in college. I couldn’t wait to have the opportunity to come back after graduation and wreak havoc on campus with my closest friends. However, I knew it would be impossible to leave Taiwan for just one weekend so I settled with a few skype calls. This was the first time I’ve felt homesick since leaving the US. This came as somewhat of a surprise because while I was abroad in China I often found myself missing wishing I could enjoy a home cooked meal with my family or hit the ski slopes with my friends back home. I tried to console myself with this fact while I worked my way through the week.
The main highlight of the week was a complete surprise. It was Thursday and I had just finished teaching my fourth grade English class. I was preparing to dive into the fourth grade music class when suddenly all the teachers in the staff room began to vacate the building. Confused, I asked “What’s going on?” The answer was “Butterflies!” I was quickly whisked away on a bus with all of the students and teachers. We traveled just a few miles down the road to the Asia Cement Company. I was definitely not expecting to arrive here but climbed out of the car with all of the students. What I discovered was a whole park and garden behind a giant cement wall, across the street from the massive factory that spewed pollutants into the air. Although I biked by this place every morning and afternoon on my way to school from the train station and I had never known this place existed.
As soon as they exited the bus, my students were so excited and immediately sprinted in every direction. I was assigned to chaperone the third and fourth grade groups and tried my best to keep up with them. There were so many beautiful flowers and a few large greenhouses full of butterflies and bugs. Although I understood next to nothing of what our tour guide was saying, my students excitedly dragged me around showing me this and that shouting words in Chinese. One kid decided to take one of the giant stick bugs out of the cage and chase all of the third grade girls, which resulted in shrill screams that could probably be heard back in Hualien City. It was quite the adventure. I was very conflicted because even though I had a great time, the entire park was managed by a cement company, and we even got giant pins at the end to wear that stated “Asia Cement Company Ecological Park” which to me felt like an oxymoron. Although we didn’t have music class because of the field trip, I was very happy to have to opportunity to get to know my students outside of class.
The day after our butterfly field trip was my observation day. I was the first Fulbright grantee from Hualien to have my observation and was very nervous. I had to prepare a lesson plan, submit it for my adviser and Gill to read and work with my co-teacher Demi to plan a lesson and practice. In addition to this, the whole class was going to be recorded so I could re-watch the observation over and over again. I was told the Dean and Principle of the school also might come which was terrifying. The day of the observation came and I arrived at the school sweaty (as usual) from my bike ride up the hill. Demi was dressed so nicely and I worried that I was under dressed!
My observation was during the first period so at least it went by quickly. Our lesson was to review vocab words “angry, happy, sad, excited, great, terrible, lonely, and tired” and teach the sentence structure “You look sad!” Overall the lesson went smoothly and after a while I forgot about my observers (and the principle didn’t come so that was less stressful!) The meeting went quickly, with the main critique being that Demi and I should try to use less Chinese in the classroom and figure out a way to explain directions mostly in English. It was pretty chill and I was relieve to find I had adequately prepared and dressed for the occasion. And after that, it was the weekend!
Still feeling homesick I tried to make the best of the weekend with some adventures to a cafe called Ngchus that has AMAZING cake but more importantly, two cats! I also decided to go for a trail run along Zuocang trail for some views and exercise, and found a very cute puppy at the top that I had to use all of my strength and willpower not to bring back home and feed at my apartment.
Overall, I did my best to stay positive and keep myself distracted to avoid feeling homesick. For now, looking upwards towards October which is rapidly approaching!