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So I know it is 5am in America and no one is awake to read this but….I GOT MY NUMBER ONE CHOICE SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!! From the moment I saw Su-Ao Elementary School, I knew it was where I wanted to spend every day of my next year. I also fell in love with Dong-Guang Junior High School, where I will spend every other Wednesday teaching. I preferenced the schools first with a heartfelt few paragraphs about how much I loved the school, the learning environment and the passion of the wonderful principal. I knew there was no guarantee of what school I would get, even with my preference sheet, so I went into today with an open mind (but still really really hoping for Su-Ao!!!) The day went like this:

We arrived at the Teacher Center at 9:40am. The ETAs (English Teaching Assistant…aka me!) sat at the middle table and the LETs (Local English Teachers) and principals of all the schools sat at the tables on either side of us. Each ETA (16 of us) went up to present a quick powerpoint about ourselves. They included things like schooling, family, hometown, fun facts etc. which was translated for us as we spoke, into Chinese for the rest of the audience. Then, after what seemed like forever waiting in anticipation, at 11:15am, it was time for school announcements!!!!!! Each school was called up one by one, and given an envelope. The school representatives would go to the front, and open their envelope to reveal the name of an ETA. The ETA would come up and accept some small gifts from the school and take pictures with the principal and LET. It was so exciting to watch all my friends go up, but also so nerve wracking!! I watched my number 2, 3, and 5 preferenced schools go to other ETAs. I was getting nervous and then Su-Ao was called to the front. This school is absolutely stunning and a truly amazing place, so I knew I was not the only one who put it #1 on my list….but to my surprise and complete elation, they opened an envelope with my name on the inside!!!!!!!! I ran up to the front smiling from ear to ear. I got a Su-Ao hat put on me for the pictures and gifts from the school. But I did not need any gifts…getting placed at this school made me happy enough for a life time. I could not ask for anything more. There are more pictures than the ones below, but these were the ones on my roommates camera. We have to track down the rest of the pictures from the other staff, and I will post them later!

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We then spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know our LETs. We were all assigned a cool place in Yilan to go visit. So it was Jane, Anna, me and our LETs that went to a famous temple here in Yilan City. First, we all went out for lunch. We went to this really delicious vegetarian buffet. We made our own bento boxes! I got broccoli, cauliflower, veggie dumplings, spinach, and two different kinds of noodles. For those who know me well…you’ll know that is the best food I could have asked for. So, we brought our food to Luna Plaza (a big shopping center) because it had big tables and AC…it was a hot day! After we ate we got a tour of Yilan on the way to the temple. One of the LETs of Anna’s school knows Yilan very well and showed us a lot of cool things along the way, like a 100 year old tree and a building that is still around from the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Then, we made it to the temple. See below for how stunning it was. Now keep in mind, this temple is just in the middle of a busy street, just like a restaurant or clothing store would be. That’s the cool thing about Taiwan…there is such beauty mixed in with the normal city buildings. It really makes you stop and look…and truly appreciate this place. 

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After we saw the temple, we were brought to this famous lemonade/jelly place. Oh yeah, that’s another popular thing here. They put a jelly like substance in the bottom of drinks and you get a giant fat straw to drink it with. It’s made from some plant (called aiyu jelly) and it’s actually pretty delicious. So we waited in line for a while for this specific kind of jelly lemonade because it’s super good and it was worth it! Very refreshing and delicious. And on the way back to the Teacher Center, my two LETs stopped off and bought us all the best cookies ever. They are more like waffles…theyre fluffy and delicious. I can’t think of the name but I’ll get back to you. It was a truly perfect day.

My LETs, Sophie (Su-Ao) and Charlene (Dong Guang) are some of the most genuinely kind people I have ever encountered. Sophie is who I will be spending most of my time with, since she works at Su-Ao. She is amazing. She told me she saw an American classroom on YouTube and it looks so fun and she wants to decorate her room like that but she’s not good at arts and crafts. I love that kind of thing so I’m so excited to help her make our classroom fun and inviting!! She also told me that she is a chocoholic so we will get along just fine!! We talked for almost an hour just about everything. She was excited that I want to be an elementary school teacher forever, not just for this year, and we were discussing what it took for both of us to become teachers. Surprisingly, the process is very similar in both countries. Sophie seems to genuinely care about me already. She offered to get me from the Su-Ao train station each day so I wouldnt have to walk in the rain! She told me she was concerned for my safety scootering and just wanted to make me as comfortable as possible. I have never felt so cared for by someone who is not my family or extremely close friend, especially since we just met!!! Charlene is awesome and I wish I got to spend more time with her! I will only teach at Dong-Guang Junior High every other Wednesday afternoon. So just twice a month. The cool thing about Junior High though is that I dont have to teach from a textbook…it’s more about cultural lessons. So I can teach about whatever I want!!! Anyways, Charlene told me she just hiked a mountain for 8 hours without stopping!! She said the view from the top was amazing. I said in my powerpoint at the Teacher Center that I liked to hike and go running so she invited me to hike with her and her family! Hopefully a shorter hike than 8 hours…dont know if I can do that! But regardless, she was so nice! She also offered to pick me up and bring me to her school even though its only a 10 minute bike ride from my apartment!! The hospitality here is truly amazing. You just feel so safe and loved by complete strangers! Very different from America.

I’m spending my Saturday with Sophie and Charlene. They are going to take me through the route to school, both to Su-Ao from my apartment and from Su-Ao to Dong-Guang, so I have timing and directions down a little bit better. Then, they are taking me to the cold spring park in Su-Ao!!!!!! (: I’m beyond excited. There are only two places with cold springs in the world, here and in Italy. I’ve been wanting to go, and going with locals makes it that much more special.

For those of you reading, who can’t keep all these places and schools straight (I’m right there with you….) but Su-Ao Elementary is right near the stunning beach and fishing port I took pictures of in an earlier post. So check those pictures out again to see where I will be spending my year!!!!!!!

This post does no justice to my level of excitement. I cannot even express how happy I am feeling right now. I am on top of the world! I am so excited for this year and everything it will bring me. I am ready to start teaching and be the best ETA possible! I am so thankful for this opportunity I have been given and I plan to take full advantage of it. 

As for Mom and Dad, I CANNOT wait for you to visit this wonderful place. You will love it!!!!!!! I miss you though!! 

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