When I first arrived in Taiwan and was subbing at JumpStart, I worked with a girl named Vikki. We taught Blue Class; those kids are now my students in Purple Class. I remember how clueless and eager I was then. I asked her plenty of questions and was immensely thankful for her presence. For example, on the first day I asked, “Vikki,… um, how am I supposed to sing the Goodbye Song at the end of the day? How does the tune go?” She laughed and looked a bit uncomfortable because it’s not her song; she neither made it up nor has she ever sung it. I felt like I could hear her thinking, “Oh geez, now I have to sing in front of this random girl, damn Teacher Valerie and her stupid goodbye song”. Now I know Vikki wouldn’t think that at all, but I’m sure she was a little caught off guard. The Taiwanese teachers at my school don’t ever sing along with the our Wiggles or Christmas songs. They have their own songs in Chinese that they sing with the kids during the Chinese school weeks. Can you imagine if someone was asking you to sing in Chinese? Can you even imagine singing a Wiggles song without being coerced?
Anyway, Teacher Vikki sang the little song for me. But for the entire four weeks of this job, at the end of the day when I was supposed to sing, “We have had a happy day, happy day, happy day. We have had a happy day, see you tomorrow!”, I would start off singing the wrong tune. Then I would stop and look desperately at teacher Vikki until she chimed in with the correct tune. Eventually it got to the point where I was so embarrassed I wasn’t embarrassed anymore. Apparently there’s a cap on that sort of thing at least when it comes to singing jingles to three year olds.
Another thing I was clueless about was the schedule. I understood the main parts: when to teach the alphabet, when to read a book, and when to have them watch me do their art projects for them, but what I didn’t understand is when to drink water (now I know it’s all day). So, we’d come back in the room and I’d say, “Okay Blue Class, I want you to sit on your name spots and I’ll tell you about a a little girl who gets REALLY scared when she goes to visit her Grandma! Who is sitting nicely, nicely, nicely? Who is sitting nicely, nicely, who? Very good! Okay, it’s called Little Red Riding Hood.”
Then I would hear, “Um, Teacher Emily… I think they need to drink their water first”.
“Oh, right… didn’t we just do that?… Oh, because we played downstairs again?… so like every time we enter the room then huh…”
“It’s okay,” Vikki says as she sets out all their water bottles and the kids sit down for a marathon session of beverage avoidance.
Looking back I find it amusing that I overlooked this part of the day. It’s ingrained in me now.
Anyway, Vikki is about the best combination of sweet and cool that you can imagine. When I was subbing, she said she and Teacher Shelly want to take me to Jiufen, a mountain village with amazing views and a famous shopping area. Jiufen is actually “spelled” like this: 九份 and means “nine”. I could never remember the name (pronounced “joe fin” by the way), so I just told Carrie, “They want to take us to a mountain.”
The trip to the mountain finally happened a couple weeks ago, and we were extremely lucky to have chosen a day with excellent weather. The view was fantastic, which is somewhat rare since it rains even more often in these surrounding mountains than it does in Taipei. Carrie didn’t come because that weekend she was with a friend doing some much needed clothes shopping. You should see her new clothes, bright colors and adorable little details that I can’t describe in words without making you throw up in your mouth a little. I’ll try to remember to take some photos because I know that description makes them sound bad, but they’re not.
Before I start posting the amazing photos I took while at Jiufen, I have to say that I had a wonderful time. Shelly (my current co-teacher) is really good at making someone feel comfortable. She does it everyday with the students at our school, especially the newcomers. When we went to Jiufen, I didn’t have to worry about anything. Shelly and her cute smile met me at the MRT station that is between our two houses, and I followed her around for the rest of they day, trying to take pictures of everything, even the commute so I’d be able to remember how to make the trek on my own one day. Fail. In my defense, it was a little confusing (MRT train, regular train, taxi, and then on the way home: bus, train, and MRT), and well, I’m just really glad I was with Shelly.
My camera battery died while at the temple. I don’t remember what the fifth stop was, another view I think. See, this is why wasting time taking photos and not “living in the precious moment” is important. My friend Megan said her mom encourages her to “take a picture with your mind”(a phrase I’ve since adopted), but my mind is just not strong enough to hold all those scenes. And how deprived would I be if I forgot the beauty of this temple, allowing it to waste away in the recesses of my mind where I stuffed my experiences at that one babysitter’s house when all the other kids had left and I sat on the couch made of cat smells, trying not to look over the edge where the amount of hair makes you cherish your mom’s spring cleaning days even if you are the only kid who dreads Spring Break. I know, I’m exaggerating, practically likening my lack of memory to the guy’s in Flowers for Algernon, but I really don’t remember when your birthday is, trust me.
Then we went to the famous shopping area that overlooks all these sights I’ve just shown you. I took a lot of photos (with my mind) of the interesting food and sights in the shopping area, so I’ll post those later.
Disclaimer: Since my phone is now an extension of my mind, I meant that I took them with my camera phone.