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my posts from Taiwan!
I feel honored to have been invited as one of the thirteen featured speakers at the PAC/20th International Symposium on English Teaching in Taipei. This year the conference planning committee invited many well-known scholars in the field as featured speakers: John Charles Alderson, Patricia Duff, Rod Ellis, Ken Hyland, Michael Lockett, Andy Kirkpatrick, Stephen Krashen, Liu Dilin, Jun Liu, John McRae, Paul Matsuda, and Paul Nation. The event was well-organized with about 1,200 participants.
My session entitled “Trends, Challenges, and Strategies for Non-Native Speaking TESOL Educators in the Global ELT Field” went really well and I enjoyed the sessions I went and the interactions with old and new friends that I met at the event. I was very pleased that I got many good ideas that I can use in my teaching and working with the ETAs here.
On the last day of the conference after the farewell reception, a few of us rode the subway (捷运) to Shida (师大) Night Market and had a lot of fun – a wonderful way to relax after three days of information overload -J
I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of this important celebration in Taiwan. Taiwanese name their years after the 1911 Democratic Revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Dr. Sun, the “Father of the Nation國父” was the first provisional president when the Republic of China was founded in 1912.
On Oct 10, there were so many major events throughout the island. In Taipei, there were parades starting in front of the Presidential Building, performances at major attractions, the fireworks and concerts, etc.. All the Fulbright scholars were invited by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to attend the Celebration Reception where all the diplomat officials, VIPs and the top government officials attended. I was lucky that I happened to stand close to President Ma Yingjiu and three other presidents from different countries when they walked by. I even had a chance to shake hands with President Ma! Many told me that I should not wash my hands -J wish I had a photo of that. The reception was in a beautiful setting and we all walked on the red carpet and greeted by the Minister and other officials. What an honor!
The food was fabulous as this year’s theme was local specialties from all over Taiwan. Many famous restaurants and ethnic groups displayed their best specials at this annual national reception. The food booth displays and the taste of every item was beyond description –not too fancy but elegant and flavorful with original taste with no added chemicals.
What I enjoyed most beside food and meeting people was the performance by a world-acclaimed Taiwan Dance Group- Cloud Gate,. The dancers moved gracefully on the water and some on a big piece of lotus leave with beautiful local music in an open pond under the sunset. I wish I had brought my video camera to capture everything… I felt so honored and proud to be a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan and have this wonderful opportunity to be part of this remarkable international cultural and social event! It will be a significant part of my life and I am truly grateful.
I have not been able to write anything for my blog for a few weeks as I have been so busy traveling between Yilan and Kaohsiung giving workshops, visiting classes and writing observation reports on ETAs (Fulbright English Teaching Assistants) and LETs (local English Teachers). . . Sometimes I had to work close to 12 hours a day to get things done. This is the first year that Fulbright Taiwan combined two Fulbright positions into one. I hope things will get better and more manageable later on.
Teacher Day – Sept. 26, 2011
I was in Yilan on Wednesday, Sept. 26- the Teacher Day in Taiwan. Taiwanese name Confucius Birthday as their Teacher’s Day. As I arrived around 11am, my two local ETA coordinators insisted on treating me to lunch at a local restaurant – small but nicely decorated. The food there was absolutely delicious with reasonable price- around $7 per person. What a treat!
I was prepared for a small group this time as many schools organize activities/receptions for all the teachers. To my surprise, many teachers and TAs showed up and we had a great discussion and sharing on classroom management strategies… a real cross-cultural communication on different ways to handle challenging students and managing class activities. Everyone had a great time learning and laughing. I was just about to say Goodbye to the participants when the workshop ended, one of the ETAs walked up to me and gave me a huge envelop. All the participants cheered “Happy Teacher’s Day” to me. I opened the envelop and to my surprise, it was a Teacher’s Day Thank you Card!! They all signed the cards with kind remarks… I was soooo moved!! What could have been more rewarding than being surrounded by these wonderful colleagues!! They made my Day VERY Special- Celebrating Teacher’s Day in Yilan- a small town in Taiwan with wonderful people from both the USA and Taiwan.
Yesterday (Saturday, Sept. 17th), I went back to Yilan again to participate in one of the local major festivals – The Mackerel Festival with all the ETAs. We boarded a bus for Nanfang Ao. It was a 35 minute ride down to this small coastal town, where mackerel is the local specialty. Located in SuAo Township, Nanfang Ao Fishing Port is the largest one on the eastern coast of Taiwan. Each year, the total catch of Mackerel alone exceeds 50,000 tons. I was told by the event organizer that 95% of the Taiwan’s total mackerel are harvested from Yilan County.
In 1997, in an effort to promote cultural attractions and tourism, the Yilan County government urged each of the 12 districts to come up with a festival. Nanfang Ao decided to create a “Mackerel Festival,” and it has been the most successful of the 12 activities. The festival celebrates the Mackerel harvest and involves a two-hour parade through the town up to the beach. We joined a group of elementary school students carrying papier-mâché mackerels, sharks, and swordfish.
The sixth graders were celebrating their graduation into middle school–the final destination of the parade. Together, we trekked through the town in sweltering heat as families and some tourists lined up along the street to watch and take photos. With all the young people around, I felt young, too and joined a number of ETAs to carry some of the fish, either for fun or as kids grew tired. There were other groups in the
parade including a team of women carrying flowers on a shoulder-pole and a truck with Mazu- the sacred goddess in Taiwan.
Behind our group, a platoon of fishermen hauled the main attraction: a 25 foot long fake Mackerel! They shouldered it on a bamboo brace and danced to traditional Chinese music played from loudspeakers. I got a chance to carry it for a short while as their group leader invited us to try it. It was heavy but fortunately there was a taller person behind me :)
In order to celebrate the harvest, the large Mackerel fish was eventually cremated in a ceremony symbolizing its return to nature.
As the huge painted carcass burned on the beach, school-children performed ritual dances around the fire.
Balloons were released into the clouds, and fireworks pierced the air. It was a beautiful sight that I can hardly forget.
My second week has been so busy with the first workshop in Yilan for the ETAs and the Local English teachers and the school visits.
Yilan County, where Yilan’s Fulbright ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) are placed, has a population of about 400,000 people.
The county is a strip of land between mountains and the sea, known for its natural beauty and its environmental protection efforts. I work closely with a Fulbright Taiwan ETA staff Kelly and local faculty member, Trace who takes care of the ETAs’s logistics. Both are wonderful to work with.
The first workshop went very well and from the feedback, both local teachers (LET) and ETAs enjoyed the workshop. I was so tired after the three-hour workshop and an evening dinner meeting with two professors from the Yilan University. I fell asleep as soon as my body touched the bed in the hotel…
The next two days, I spent time at the English Village (EV) in Yilan where a team of ETAs teach every Thursday and Friday from 9am-12 noon. There are about 100 5th and 6th graders from one to two schools in the county taking turns to go to the English Village to get “authentic” language experience.
The EV is set up with six stations – a restaurant, a post office/bank, a dance studio, a clinic , an airport and a media center.
The children rotate through each station and interact with ETAs. I enjoyed watching ETAs facilitating mini-lessons and playing games with those children. It was a good learning experience for both ETAs and the elementary school children. We did debrief afterwards.
The ETAs are a group of talented young people who are very dedicated to their work at the elementary schools in Taiwan.
So far from their weekly self- observation reports, things were going well overall. This was my first visit to Yilan and I look forward to my next one in two weeks.
For my Fulbright, my main responsibilities are to provide weekly workshops to the ETAs (English Teaching Assistants who co-teach with a local English teacher (LET) in an elementary school) - one week in Yilan, a county about one-hour’s drive from Taipei by freeway and one week in Kaohsiung, south of Taiwan about 2 hours bullet training ride from Taipei. There are a total of 28 ETAs with 16 in Yilan and 12 in Kaohsiung. I’ll also need to observe ETAs teaching in different schools in both cities and produce written feedback and reports to each person.
As many EATs teach at more than one schools, I need to spend 2-3 days at each site every week. In addition, I also need to give seminars to graduate students and participate in the department and university’s curriculum and assessment activities. This is the first time that Fulbright Taiwan planned the Fulbrighter's assignments this way, I hope the work is manageable and I can be productive for each site that I’m involved with.
Started at the National Taiwan Normal University
Since this week has a Moon-Festival and the university is still on break, I only met Chair of the English Department, Prof. Liang.
He was very kind and helpful - showing me around the campus and making sure that the office staff helps me get access to the facilities at the university. He even helped carry my luggage to the fourth floor of my apartment at the university housing as there’s no elevator in this building.
My office is on the 8th floor with a computer, a printer and a phone. I share the office with another faculty in the department as all the faculty members share office space at the moment due to campus renovation.
Peggy, an office staff and Haogu, the department IT expert are superb! Within a week, they helped me set up the bank account, the library card and access to the internet, e-mail and all the facilities both on campus and at my residence.
My life and work started right away here in Taipei!
September 13, 2011
Greetings from Taipei! Taipei is a dynamic city with so much going on. People are friendly and the food is so delicious, but the weather has been hot.
My first week has been busy as I need to get settled down, make myself familiar with the surroundings and meet with the university and Fulbright office people.
There are seven senior scholars - two scientists, one medical doctor, one law professor, two artists and me. The rest are junior scholars and ETAs. There is no official embassy here in Taipei, but there is the American Culture Center which serves similar functions, thought to let you know.
Like any new comers to a new place, there are many things to learn. One thing which is very different from the states is that as a foreigner I can't open a bank account even if I have credit cards and credit /income history from the states. One has to be a resident to open an account here. With the help from the university, I was able to get one finally before I get my resident card ...
We just had a two-day orientation including a tour of the palace museum.
I'll get busier starting next Tuesday - meeting people and planning for the activities at the Normal University and prep for the training in Yilan to the young Fulbright EATs.
I was told Yilan is a beautiful place and I hope I'll have an opportunity to visit places in addition to visit schools, etc
I'll keep you posted of my activities from this blog!
Happy Moon Festival to everyone!