Happenings In and Around Su-Ao

So, a lot has been going on in the past few months at school, so I’m going to get caught up on some of the more exciting things that were not long enough to get their own blog post, but altogether make some cool stories (:


1. The Yilan Green Expo 2. Su-Ao Sports Day 3. THE EARTHQUAKE! 4. English Camp 5. The Recorder Competition 6. Skyping with America 7. The Fulbright Farewell Dinner


1. The Yilan Green Expo is a government funded nature expo. In order to support the government, most public schools take field trips to the expo…Su-Ao included. When I showed up to school, I was informed that I would be chaperoning class 103. I was so excited because I barely ever see the first graders since I don’t teach them and they are so cute! It rained a little bit, but nothing terrible, and it was good because it kept it cool. The expo was huge, so a lot of walking around…in theory. My first graders and their tiny legs did a lot more resting than walking, but the school let Sophie and I walk around together so I could see everything. My favorite part was of course the animals: ducks, tiny pigs, bunnies and goats! The rest of the expo was cool too, with cars made of flowers and towers of vines and waterfalls. I’m not totally sure I get the point…especially because my kids never really stopped to look at anything or actually learn much, they just walked through it…but oh well, it was a day off from school! Check out the pictures below!


2. Every school in Taiwan has Sports Day. Normally Sports Day coincides with the school’s birthday and has food, educational booths along with performances and sports. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Su-Ao already had it. It was when Su-Ao turned 114 this fall….or so I thought. I recently discovered Su-Ao has two sports days. The spring sports day is like Su-Ao Olympics. I got to school and saw the high jump, the long jump and our track was set for relays, 100 and 400 meter runs. Su-Ao even has a sand pit for long jump that I never knew existed! Each class competes against each other for medals. It was mini-Olympics and it was so fun! I got to shoot the gun to signal the start of the race…no one told me that it was deafeningly loud though…so I couldn’t hear out of my right ear for a few days. Thankfully, its better now. I watched my kids run, jump, cheer and tug of war. They were adorable as always!


3. Duh duh duhhhhhhhhhhh. An earthquake hits Taiwan! I have felt earthquakes here before. Normally it takes me a second to realize what is happening and by the time I realize, it’s already over. I’m all nervous and shaky and my kids don’t even notice it’s happening. But, not this time! I was teaching my 5th graders, when the board starts shaking…and it doesn’t stop. After a few seconds, my kids all hide under their desks…then, when it still hasn’t stopped, they start screaming and running outside. Clearly the line up and walk in an orderly fashion outside (the American model) doesn’t apply here in Taiwan. It’s mass chaos. Then, the big siren goes off (very reminiscent of WWII bomb sirens….) I run outside with my kids who are all wearing their protective yellow hat (not all that protective…) but makes for a great picture! Luckily, everyone here was fine. Some places in Taiwan got it worse, and things collapsed, but overall, people were safe and unharmed.


4. Twice a year, Fulbright is responsible for running English Camp. Kids (aka their parents) can sign up to attend a Saturday English Camp. It is supposed to be both educational and fun. So, my group made our camp theme, “Under the Sea”. I was paired with Lakyn and our station was all about Spongebob!! So we planned, drew Krabby Patties, printed Spongebob posters were ready to go. Bright and early Saturday morning we went to Toucheng on the train with six other Fulbright ETAs. First, we played a big group game of shipwrecked. Then, we split into stations…meaning we had to teach the same Spongebob lesson four times in a row. Greatttt. We taught the parts of a Krabby Patty and then we taught action verbs. Our station was in the gym, so we had them running around like crazy people, hula hooping, jump roping, crab walking, skipping, hopping, doing push ups and more! They were exhausted by the end! We did a relay race where each time a kid went through, they had to grab a piece of a krabby patty (Yes, Lakyn and I spent hours drawing, cutting and laminating realistic looking Krabby Patty parts). They had to give me their krabby patty piece, and the team who completed the most Krabby Pattys at the end, won. It was fun but tiring, since I was doing a lot of the motions with the kids as well. Glad I only had to do it for one Saturday! After our stations, we all gathered together again and made sailor hats and our day was complete. I went to bed realllyyyy early that night!


5. So Taiwan is killing us in the arts in school thing. Killing us. In America we are cutting arts more and more in favor of core subjects, mainly for standardized tests. But not here in Taiwan. In fact, we got to skip an entire day of school for the school wide recorder competition. Yeah, the same instrument I learned how to play in the 4th grade at Pine Hill and only ever mastered Hot Cross Buns…. Well my kids have mastered classical pieces on recorder. I thought it was just going to be recorders hence the name recorder competition but it was the most intense thing I have ever seen. When I showed up in the gym, the 3rd through 6th grade were all decked out in full costume. And it was just not recorders, there was an accompanying piano player, violinist and sometimes more. There was also singing and acting involved in each number. They had to tell a story, not just play recorder. It was the coolest thing ever and it made me realize just how talented my kids are! In third grade, I did not have many talents and I’m pretty sure that’s normal because I was nine years old. But, not Taiwanese nine year olds. Theyre busy winning national piano competitions and whatnot. It was really fun to watch (sometimes fun to listen to except for a very tone deaf rendition of Let It Go…) And one of my favorite fourth grade classes won first place, yay! They also tried to make me drink a green bean smoothie (DONT EVER DO IT). It was the grossest texture I have ever encountered. But, they bought them for the entire school and everyone loved it…except me. I ran away and dumped mine in the grass….you win some, you lose some.


6. This past Wednesday, I held a Skype session. Every other week, I teach my junior high school students. I was having a hard time with them first semester because there is no content to teach. I show up at school and can choose absolutely anything to talk about for 50 minutes. This sounds great but too much freedom is hard! I had no idea what to do, especially with the two week break between my classes. It was hard to make anything feel consistent or meaningful when I see them twice a month. So, I decided to do a Skype project. I spent a class teaching my students about Kents Hill and what it meant to me. Then, we drafted questions. I emailed three different faculty at Kents Hill to help me set up a Skype session with international students. This way, my junior high kids could see people their age, just like them, using English in a meaningful way. My students are in 9th grade, so they could feasibly study abroad next year. After they wrote all their questions, I went home and typed them all up so they could practice. Then, last week my 50 junior high students Skyped with six international students from Kents Hill. 9am our time, 9pm their time. It was awesome!!! The KH kids had great English so I think my students were intimidated at first, but they really got into it! I was so proud!!! It was a great teaching moment! (: And maybe one of my kids will end up in Maine!!!


7. To wrap it all up, I end on the Fulbright Farewell Dinner. This past weekend, Fulbright had a big dinner in Taipei to celebrate the ETAs, the scholars and the researchers of 2014-2015 while also welcoming the Taiwanese teachers and scholars who were getting ready to leave for America for the 2015-2016 Fulbright cycle. We stayed at the Howard Plaza Hotel in Taipei and had a big buffet dinner. The food was really delicious, just not a lot of vegetarian options. I normally don’t eat a lot because I am picky (especially with the food they try and feed me here….ahem fake jelly cartilage…but this time I took every vegetarian option. I had some grilled peppers, some salad, rice and pumpkin soup. It was good, but like I said, I was still hungry afterwards. But of course, dessert always comes through for me. They had the best cheesecake ever…but they were only in tiny squares….so I took five (: After dinner, Dr. Vocke got up in front of everyone to announce the Outstanding ETA award…and I won!!!!!!!! (: It was very exciting!!!!! Part of my prize is that Fulbright gives me NTD$6,000 (around USD$200) to fund a trip around Taiwan. So, this weekend, I am going to Taitung! This will be my last trip of the year! So stay tuned for my blog next week! (:


*P.S. I am running my half marathon in one week!

©2019 by Sammie Herrick | sammie@sammieherrick.com