The first rule of the school where I work is to not talk about said School. If only I’d paid more attention to Fight Club, I might’ve avoided my major oopsie for today: I told someone how many foreign teachers work at School. That’s not a good thing because it’s illegal for foreigners to teach kindergarten. That’s what I get for being polite when a Taiwanese person asks me a question in English; “I don’t know” would’ve been sufficient, but I wanted to reward him for his bravery in asking a question in English.
I learned my lesson. Most likely nothing will come of it, but if there’s a raid on the school, it’ll be thanks to me. Ta da!
Teaching is intimidating. You have all these little people staring up at you, waiting for your vast wisdom to come flowing out of your mouth in words they can understand. It’s especially fun when they get confused and start babbling at you in Chinese or baby-English; several times a child has come up to me, said a few sentences to me, only to hear the response, “Was that English?” I never know, really, because the way some of the kiddos mumble makes everything they say sound like gibberish. “Muhgo t’ahroo?” is shy-kid-mumble-speak for “May I go to the bathroom?” I’m sure it also means something in Chinese.
Really and truly, though, the kids are precious. It’s so hard to discipline them initially because all you want to do is pinch their cheeks and make them giggle because they look like little dolls. What I’ve heard from so many teachers is to make them all cry at least once so they can know you’re the boss, but it’s so hard because they pull off the puppydog-eyes so well. There have been a few who got on my nerves so quickly that I wanted them to do something wrong so I could make them cry, but no such luck. Thankfully, sometimes the Russell Stare Down is all that’s needed; the only good thing I got from Grandpa was the ability to look crazy angry by just staring someone down. That shuts ’em up real quick.
My first full week here has been very, very busy. Monday was half a day of work and an hour of being lost on the scooter. Tuesday was work from 8:30am-6:05pm; normally I only work from 4:25-6:05 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I subbed for another teacher. Wednesday was 6 hours of teaching, followed by another day of subbing today. I supposedly get paid tomorrow, but Gretchen may not know what she’s talking about. It would be really exciting if that were true. In Austin, my rent was 30% of my income; here, it’s approximately 13%. That means that I earn my rent within a few days’ work.
I’m learning a few Chinese phrases and, surprisingly, remembering a lot of Spanish. Gretchen and I laugh about it a lot; we’re in a foreign country, and we both know conversational Spanish, so our first instinct is to speak what we know. If I come back from Taiwan fluent in Spanish, my life will be complete.
All in all, life is good. I’ve gotten a lot better at riding the scooter, and I’m now driving more like a conservative soccer mom with a Baby On Board! bumper sticker than an octogenarian. This doesn’t mean I’m without mishaps; just today, when parking my scooter at our apartment’s raised sidewalk, I managed to hit another scooter and stub my foot (multiple toes were involved). Most scooters are in thrown-off-a-cliff condition, so hitting the other scooter wasn’t an issue, but my toes are sore and the word that flew out of my mouth was definitely unladylike.
Teaching is becoming a little easier every day as I get used to it and comfortable in front of the children. As the routines set in and I get more adept with common phrases, it all feels a little more real – I’m really here. I feel like I exist just outside of society, since I won’t ever fully be a part of the culture and religion here, but everyone is kind and life is easygoing. All the foreigners act like family since we’re all so far away from home, and everyone goes out of their way to help each other out. That’s been the most incredible thing: experiencing this welcoming, open group of interesting and vastly different people. As Gretchen told me, “We’ve all been there, and we’ve all had to be helped out. So you help out when you can.” There’s no sense of quid pro quo here – more pay it forward.
I suppose I should stop writing and get to work posting pictures. I haven’t gone out with my big camera yet, but I carry my point-and-shoot with me for the fun little moments that happen. This weekend will be for relaxing, grocery shopping and taking pictures, though the primary purpose for the weekend is to wear shoes at all times. I teach barefooted since Asian custom is to take your shoes off inside. I’d enjoy it more if I were a hippie, but my feet hurt a little from standing a lot. I often grab a chair and make the kids sit around me so I can teach while sitting down, and they get excited and point at my red toenails. I never thought I’d miss my running shoes so much.