The days were filled with classes and meetings, and at least two evenings were devoted to music (Taiwanese love karaoke!), dancing, food and lots of laughing and camaraderie. I feel that in four short days, I've made some wonderful friends, though they're scattered across the island, who I can email in an instant if I have a question or need some help with a lesson plan. All have invited us to their individual home towns to share time and to tour their specific home areas.
On Friday, August 11, I officially signed my 11-month contract with Da Du Elementary School to teach English to students in grades three through six. Representatives from my school, Christie and her husband Tiger, were on hand for the official signing ceremony, as well as directors from the Taiwanese Ministry of Education.
Though excited to be off on my new adventure, to settle into my new home and school, I was sad to leave the friends I'd bonded so closely with in just a few days. I think we were all a bit nervous about stepping out of the small comfort zone we had quickly established together in Taipei and heading out in different directions, starting new lives in unknown places... by ourselves.
Hengshan is located about 30 minutes west of the city of Hsinchu, which is on the west coast of Taiwan, about an hour's drive south of Taipei. Mountains covered in dark green foliage nearly surround the small village and because of the heavy afternoon rains that arrive regularly, everything is lush and green as far as the eye can see. The mountains and surrounding countryside are simply beautiful. This area was settled by the Hakka tribes people from China hundreds of years ago, and the culture survives; I hope to learn a lot more about the customs of that culture this year.
This week and part of next week I will be getting settled into my apartment before the first teachers' meeting on August 26, my first official duty; school begins on August 30 and will continue until almost the end of June. I'm anxious to start planning with my co-teacher Mandy as soon as she returns from Taipei at the end of the week.
Meanwhile, getting settled in Hengshan is a little scary, I have to admit. I'm pretty sure I am the only Caucasian person living in this village or surrounding area. The shops are small, and as far as I can tell, all signage and labels are written in Chinese. I will definitely be relying on my Chinese teacher colleagues to help me navigate for a while... or I might lose a lot of weight!
P.S. I really miss everybody!! ;-)
Published: August 23, 2011