- Kathy (杜 言 艷)
- Tainan, Taiwan
- I am an ESL teacher in a private school and a mom to a cheeky little 8 year old "Z", I also call my sweet Dove (or sometimes silly Goose). We moved to Taiwan in July 08, when she was 2 1/2. I hardly time to blog, much less lead more than a quiet social life centered around routine and dear friends. Fortunately Taiwan is an excellent base to explore Asia, and Tainan one of the better, if not friendlier cities to live in Taiwan, especially in Anping by the beach.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Its that time of year, to cultivate gratitude and remind ourselves to be thankful everyday. While friends and family are stuffing their face with organic turkeys, pumpkin pies on gluten free crust, washed down with local micro brews, I will be going to work like it was any other day. Evenso, I am counting my blessings-literally and in no particular order.
1. The People- Also a source of anxiety at times, but that is just part of living with imperfect people in a different culture. For the most part, the people here are very friendly, willing to help. Its very easy to make friends in Tainan, and friends that last.
Ive also come to appreciate the expat crowd. Undoubtedly we all might never hang out with each other if we lived in the same town back home, but here in Tainan we do, so its an interesting cast of characters. In my neighborhood, within a 5 minute radius there are a handful of guys, friendly neighbors that have helped me out in a pinch. Despite Tainan being a small city there is a pretty international crowd, loads of S. Africans, Japanese, Latin Americans, to name a few.
2. Health care- As an American I cant tell you how thankful I am to have cheap, affordable health care. Dental, reproductive health are all cheap and good. There are no political hang ups about how national health care is paid, everyone agrees that as part of the social contract of having a high standard of living is paying a very small tax each month. Every month I get 2000NT (67 USD) taken out of my paycheck for me and my daughter. I dont mind. If we need to see the Dr or Dentist, its a 150 NT ($5 US), including meds.
3. Relative Safety- Personal guns aren't legal so unless I'm hanging out with gangsters I can pretty much count on going to a movie theater or school without threat of a psycho with a gun on the warpath.
4. Base to explore Asia- My daughter and I have vacationed in Malaysia 4 times (twice to the peninsula and twice to Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak), as well as Sumatra, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong. When I lived in Taipei before she was born, I was able to to travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. There are some great low carrier Airlines like Scoot, Peach, Air Asia and Tiger that make it affordable. This Chinese New Years we are going to Myanmar.
5.Sea, Mountains and Islands- I live literally 1 minute from the beach and port. I am blessed.Ok in Anping you have to travel a bit to get into the mountains, but Taiwan is pretty loaded with nice mountains thats an easy trip from Tainan. We have been to Alishan twice, Sun Moon Lake, Nantou 4 times, Guanshan covered in Daylilies, and of course Taroko. I went river tracing last year for the first time and hope I can do it again. Now that my daughter is older, I want to start to do some more serious trekking.
As for islands, even that is pretty easy to get to from Tainan. There is Green Island (went there twice), Matsu, Xiao Liou Qiou and the Penghu archipelago. Orchid island is next on my list. In terms of coastal scenery nothing beats the East Coast. Taitung has it all, mountains and sea, indigenous culture and outdoor sports. Its just a 4 hour train ride away.
6. Exotic fruit All Year Long- It seems like every month a new fruit is coming into season; dragon fruit, local pineapple, sugar cane, guava, waxed apple, asian pear, lychee, avocados, papaya, plums, pomelo, mango, it never stops. I live for my fruit shake breakfasts.
7. Cheap Living Expenses- In comparison to the States rent, bills, fruit, clothes are cheaper. For a 3 bed 1 bath, super small kitchen, I pay 7500 NT ($253US). I can still get a decent bottle of wine for 8-10 bucks US. A 80 minute full body, traditional Chinese massage is 800NT (27 US), a 2 hour facial is about 30 bucks US.
8. Mild Winters- Having grown up in Colorado, which yes is beautiful and yes so is the snow, but after a few months of scraping the ice off the windows, waiting 10 minutes to warm up the car, yes I appreciate the relatively warm winters. Plus its drier here than Taipei so we don't really deal with year round rain like they do in the north, except for a few typhoons here and there.
9. My child is fluent in Mandarin- Its a changing, global world and China is a major player. Chinese business, Chinese people are everywhere and Mandarin is and will be an important language.
10. Don't need a car- This is probably truer in Taipei with better public transportation than Tainan, but for getting around Anping, a scooter is just fine. I do get around Taiwan, using trains, planes and ferries, but if I could afford it I would have a car, if only because I grew up doing road trips. I covet the freedom to just take off and explore a new part of the island for a weekend. Still I see it as a luxury rather than necessity.
11. Hot Springs galore - The closest hot spring to Tainan is Guanzhiling, but I've also been fortunate to have been to 2 in Nantou, the rare salt water hot spring on Green Island, a handful in Taipei's Beitou/Yangminshan, some on the East Rift Valley, Hongye Hot springs (twice), Rueshuei and Antong. Then there was that nice hot springs on our way back from Kenting,
12. Fascinating Indigenous Tribes- Its not really something that comes to mind when you think Tainan, but I live 1 minute away from an Indigenous Park across from Anping port, which frequently on the weekends gets buses of different dancers and musicians from various tribes sharing their culture with each other. Z likes to eat some wild boar BBQ and I'll sip a little millet wine and enjoy looking at the different traditional costumes and interesting faces.
13. Cheap TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)- Because of the cheap national health care system, I can pay 150NT to see the TCM Dr who at his recommendation might prescribe TCM herbs, acupuncture, cupping or scraping or whatever I needed. I also have learned a lot from friends about how and what to cook according to the weather and Chinese cosmology.
14. Less typhoon disasters and earthquakes- In comparison to Taipei or the East coast, Tainan is known for its safer position from tropical western moving storms and rarer earthquakes. The locals attribute this to Tainan's supposedly higher number of temples and temple activities.
15. Parks- In a 5 mile radius there are several nice parks with trails along rivers, trees with flower blossoms, bamboo, playgrounds to keep my kid busy, while I'll do some yoga or hang up the TRX straps. There are a plethora of baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts. Every morning the locals are practicing variations of Tai Chi alone, or in groups, with swords or fans, or practicing Chi Gong. I always feel lucky after spending sometime in the park, I'm fortunate to live so close to them.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I recently read an article in the Features section of the Taipei Times about Taiwanese American Lin Wei-Kou and his experience filming "100 Days" on Matsu. ("Hollywood to Matsu") I began to reminisce my April and thought I'd post a blog before 2013 becomes over.
My longtime friend and language exchange buddy Vicky (鄭鼎宸) and I, had planned on going to Matsu a year before and our schedules just couldn't flow together until April of 2013. We had a 3 day weekend or I took a day off, I can't remember. I had suggested we go to Matsu because neither of us hadn't been there before and Vicky is always up for an adventure. Our families and mutual friends had gone up to Alishan together and other various BBQ get-togethers before. Vicky and I used to meet every Sat afternoon at McD's so our kids could play in the indoor playground and we could do our "language exchange" (basically both of us mutually making fools of ourselves and having fun doing it.) She opened 2 successful guesthouses (The Flower House) in the beginning of summer this year and our Sat exchanges weened out to zilch. I know she is super busy, but I miss her!. ( If you ever need a new, modern decorated, cheap place to stay from visiting friends or family, they have a location in Anping across from Shi-men Elementary school and one by the train station.
Matsu (馬祖列島 Mǎzǔ Lièdǎo) is made of 18 islands divided into townships. I counted almost all of them from my cropduster window. Our departures from Tainan high speed station was rife with strange energy. The train before ours had stopped because of a bomb, which rarely if ever happens here. Of course we didn't find out until lunch later in Beigan, eating local handmade fishball noodles, the freshest I've ever tasted. (See 600 Evacuated from Taiwan Trains...)
We arrived Friday afternoon at Beigan 北竿, and spent the night in the stone village in Cinbe Cun across from Turtle Beach and Turtle island. Fujian, Mainland China out in the near distance called out like a casual, impulsive invitation How strange to be closer to China than Taiwan. I could see the fishing villages and windmills.
Our accommodation was rustic, stone and wood, just perfect, with all the windows and doors overlooking a small beached bay and near little Turtle Island, The night was cool, we were bundled up, the big airy bathroom was freezing just for a piping hot bath. Wine mixed with the sound of breaking waves, lulled me to sleep, cozy in the cold.
At 芹壁村25號「Chinbe No. 25 Guesthouse」. 全海景宅所/全海景套房 (Panoramic Sea View Villa/Suites) 半海景多人雅房/半海景套房 (Partial Sea View Rooms/Suites)
Room rates include traditional Matsu breakfast. 住宿費用包含早餐 Online Reservation
We toured Beigan on rented scooters on Saturday The island was dotted with pristine, empty beaches, innocent from any evidence of human footprints, except mine. There were tiny villages here and there, mosly old people and young soldiers, the old people living as time hadn't stopped. They were all fishermen, drying seaweed and tiny fish out in the day sun, drying themselves off from early nocturnal catches.
We parked our scooters and checked out a few trails. The most remarkable started from some Soldiers memorial museum (the Iron Fort) where they had displays on Comfort Ladies, bombs, stories of armed Chinese scuba spies (water ghosts Chinese People's Liberation Army frogmen infiltrators) that swam to Matsu's shores and occasionally killed locals. The trail went away from the island towards the sea and was a dangerous one person dirt trail that went occasional along the edge of a precipice (Suicide Cliff). One slip and it was certain death, which I suppose was crazy stupid since we had kids, but for some reason it seemed safe and doable they have been avid hikers/backpackers for years, and well same here. We moved slow and cautiously when needed, there was rope nailed into some of the rocks to help out. Mostly the trail went down the spine of this island's reaching arm, surrounded by some tropical kind of heather, island scrub, thistle flowers everywhere courted by darting lizards. We all certainly felt lucky to be there in fine weather enjoying the finer views in all directions, enjoying a clean perspiration that quickly cooled in the aquamarine breezes.
Saturday late afternoon we took a 20 minute boat to Nangan 南竿, the bigger island. We stayed in another picturesque coastal town with stone Fujian style homes in Jinsha, Village, Nangan. This time instead of stone we stayed in a wood guesthouse and it seemed even colder.
|Saturday night minsu|
After we arrived we quickly hopped on our scooters and started our exploration. It was definitely bigger, more villages. The biggest city had a famous distillery of which we had a few samples. The local dishes were flavored with locally made fermented red rice yeast, that was added to the rice. We ate a lot of seafood of course. There was a massive Matsu statue, a well placed garden cafe and lots of military things we stopped to see, Vicky's husband had done his military service here and we saw the museum he helped built (Folk Cultural Artifacts Exhibition Hall).
|Tunnel 88 brand kaoliang (38 and 58 proof) sorghum liquor, as well as aged laojiou rice wine (around 30% alcohol).|
Would I go back? Of course! If only because the plan of developing the island is spoiling it into some second rate gambling wanna-be Macau.
Click here for all my Matsu photos.
Click here for all my Matsu photos.
Friday, October 18, 2013
|Dr. Mark Signore checking my daughter|
I was asked by three people this week about making an appointment with my chiropractor, so I thought I'd just write a post.
Call it an occupational hazard or byproduct of modern living, but my back is messed! Bending over to help little bodies and picking them up, bad posture from the computer whatever, my back pain predates Tainan. I thought I did something having a major car accident at age 16 (we totalled my friend's car, the guard rail was singed into the motor). Or when I was a PTA in a nursing home, we were understaffed and had to lift heavy, often combative old people on a daily basis. So I've noticed the past 8 years or so whenever I get stressed out (bad sleep, argument, driving too much, etc) the left lower muscles seize up and gets rock hard. I always thought since my back was so strong and flexible it would in moments like this pull itself out of alignment.
In the summer of 2012, the expats of Tainan had our Beach Olympics. I didnt actually participate in the competitions but I did get a little too rowdy and fell hard and basically twisted my pelvis out of alignment. My recovery has been a slow process. More like 1 step forward, 3 steps back ever since. The flexibility in my left leg still isnt the same as it used to be, I suffered from piriformis syndrome until I found Dr. Mark and even after being adjusted, have continual sciatic and shoulder pain that comes and goes in intensity (I'm sure standing all day doesn't help.)
Boy was I shocked when I saw my x-rays and did it all suddenly make sense.
|My lower back is S curved and where it torcs is where my muscle often "seizes" up. Also one hip bone is smaller than the other and thus one leg is slightly shorter. This means my musculoskeletal has to seriously overcompensate so my head sits up on my shoulders.|
My back care regime is basically practicing yoga several times a week, weight lifting as heavy as I can in moderation and 2 full body massages a month. Before last year I also would go to the local physiotherapy clinic for some electrical therapy cupping and infrared lamps. It costs only 50NT ($1.70 USD) each time. I dont go there anymore because I just don't have the time, I seriously need to rethink my current schedule. Its mostly just old people in there, the woman therapist speaks English. The clinic is across from the Fire station on Yonghua and Yuping Road, on the 2nd floor. Its nice to go there with my headphones and chill out for 30 minutes.
My Massage:Hurts So Good
The massage couple I go to are amazing. It costs 800NT ($27 USD) for 80-90 minutes for a full body traditional Chinese (deep tissue/meridian/tuī ná 推拿) massage. I have been seeing them religiously for 5 years. It's not your soothing, soft, Swedish style massage. I brought several expat friends there who only went once and never returned. Its excruciating--in a good way, if you like that sort of pleasure/pain--which I do. I'm muttering coarse words, and then drooling on the floor, eyes rolling in the back of my head, purring like a cat. After so many times, the woman (whom I prefer) knows exactly what I need, where I need it; her hands are a symphony of knuckles, elbows, oil, pounding and finger tips. Often a session includes a round of cupping (拔罐).The massage is good for stress release and also because I do regular weight bearing exercises. The cupping is good for circulation, blood and lymphatic health.
There were several times,when they were pressed for time and they both worked on me at the same time. Magical. I couldn't tell my legs from my arms, its a seriously mind altering experience. They also do foot/leg massages for 400NT, takes about an hour and is definitely not my cup of tea. After about a 5 minute foot soak in boiling mugwort water, all the sensitive areas on your legs and foot are prodded and poked and smacked. I was alternating between crying and laughing from being tickled.
To get there from Tainan City go west on Mincyuan towards Anping. When you passed the light/intersection at Huaping, its your 2nd U-turn, flip one and park it. (439 Mincyuan Road Sec 4). Its the building on the end beside a side alley (Anping lane 406) that goes to Anping Road. They dont speak any English and its recommended you call first and make an appointment. Their hours are 9 am-9:30pm. 2269227 or 0931878923.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)My TCM Dr thats in my neighborhood (Yonghua and Huaping) suggested I see his friend (also in my neighborhood) Dr.Su.The good Dr didn't adjust me the way Id hoped, or he didn't adjust me at all. With very little examination except reading my pulses (that might be all he needed), he threw acupuncture needles like darts into my shoulder, and hooked them up to a machine that sent excruciating electrical impulses. It seemed to work. When it was time for my left hip and sciatic, it was just too painful, I could barely stand it.
After this treatment I had to sit and get my lower left back steamed with mugwort steam. I did this about 3 times, but it was just too excruciating His office is on Yonghua in Anping between Yuping and Jiankang 3rrd Street, go passed the light where Xiao Bei Store is and its next to Toto's Hair Salon, on the 2nd floor.
American Chiropractor in Anping
|Nancy, Mark's wife with Alex|
My buddy from San Diego was playing tennis and met Dr. Mark. I saw him 6 months after he and his wife moved from LA to Tainan to care for her sick mother. He has a sweet set up, state of the art scanners and tables. The first consultation is free and he will not adjust you without proper xrays.
Although he is certified to x-ray (he had xrays in his office in LA), by Taiwanese law a clinic may not and also the Taiwanese medical system doesn't recognize chiropractic medicine as a legitimate medical science. Which is weird because tuī ná 推拿 could also include manual adjustments
|Xray tech at home in his underwear|
I went with my yoga buddy Aleks for our free consultation and xrays. He sent us to Beiman Rd near the train station. I guess this x-ray tech will take the xrays according to Dr. Mark's detailed requests. The xrays have to be standing at certain angles to see how gravity affects the alignment.
After the xrays, Aleks and I quickly returned for our adjustments. After that first visit every visit is 700NT and for me takes about 45 minutes to an hour, for Aleks less. He also adjusted my daughter for free.
Dr Mark Signore's philosophy is that he shouldn't adjust a patient more than once or 3 times, it should not be a chronic therapy. He is such a holistic Dr and has helped heal people over so many years he came to his own conclusions in terms of diet and nutrition, unresolved emotional issues, mind/body connection and even delving into the spirit world. Just don't call him "New Age' as he is a practicing conservative Catholic. He is very thorough and published his observations in a book.I cant tell you how refreshing it was to speak with someone who not only speaks English but is so professional.
Natural Health Restoration Centre Dr Mark Signore: Spinal care consultation, spinal subluxation correction, energetic balancing 098-1111-675 06263-1515, 1-16, Xinle Road, South District, Tainan City 702. To get to his office from Tainan City go west on Jiankang Rd Sec 2, towards the beach. Passed the light where Giant bike store and Poya's (Jiankang + Zhonghua W Rd) its the next light on your left. You'll see big, expensive, empty looking buildings, its there with the green sign.
Saturday October 19 at 4-8 pm Natural Health Restoration Centre will have free spinal consultation and check ups. At the United Love Garden (Rui Fu and Dadong night market square ). There will be more than 100 stalls, including Dr. Mark's. All charity and food revenue will be donated to this charity. Natural Health Restoration Centre pitch will be in area B. 10月19日星期六下午4點到8點大東夜市廣場瑞復＆美善聯合愛心園遊會。共一百多個攤位。所有義賣＆美食收入全捐獻給此慈善机構。自然健康整復中心攤位在B區，免費脊椎諮詢和脊椎錯位檢查。歡迎大家告訴大家，前往支持此愛心活動。
"If you have become so habituated into the conventional belief mode that you think it’s normal for everyone to get cancer, then maybe for you it’s already too late. However, if you understand that your body was made to last for 120 years, you are still in the game. The human body was not designed so that the thyroid gland should become dysfunctional at 50 years of age, the heart seize at 60, and the liver become cancerous at age 70. As mentioned previously, car parts are designed to fail after a prescribed time. But in nature’s biological assembly line, the parts are supposed to wear out together. If the systems of your body are breaking down prematurely, you have two choices; try to live with it, or change it. To change it (beyond just covering up the symptoms) will require a thorough and objective evaluation of your beliefs. Why? Because so far, your beliefs as to why you are sick and what’s needed to get well have obviously not worked. If they had, you would already be better."
(from Dr, Mark Signore's book Heaven and Health.)
Thursday, August 8, 2013
|Lotus seeds, Baihe 白河區|
I told my Chinese teacher that early Saturday morning I was going to hop on one of those free shuttle buses the local Tainan government provide to get people into Tainan county, but the itinerary was going to mango farms and nothing to do but eat mangos. I like mangos but not enough to ride several buses there and back when I get perfectly fine mangos from my local fruit dude.
|The Bike Route|
My Chinese teacher (and friend) Kevin, advised we take a 45 minute train north to Hou-Bi. So after mid morning yoga class thats exactly what we did.
We hopped on a train to Hou-Bi, and took a 10 minute taxi to BaiHe 白河區. He dropped us off at a bike rental shop in the middle of car-free bike trails and loads of lotus ponds. It was the season of the lotus flowers in bloom, the locals have a Lotus Blossom Festival every year. You'd think taking photos of lotus flowers would get old after so many years, but fortunately it doesn't.
I was rejuvenated just seeing mountains off in the distance, hearing the wind in the tall grass, there were just so many happy birds chirping.
|Me on the path|
The only problem was the weather was extremely humid. It could of been worse, the subtropic sun could of been blasting us, but it was overcast. My daughter was in one of her moods and complaining most of the time. It was during her afternoon siesta, so next time I would bike earlier or later. It didn't help her bike chain falling off twice. Still, even her sour mood didn't spoil the day for me and she was all cuddles on the train back to Tainan.
|View of where we were when Z's chain fell off and we decided to eat our sandwiches.|
Sometimes when I get antsy, a day trip is just the thing to keep me sane. Bai-He is near enough to get out of the city and in nature. I want to go back as we were only 5km away from a reservoir when the girl had about enough of sweating, chains and tiredness.
|The bike rental shop.|
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Lantern Festival 2013 was quite memorable. I had written off ever going to Yanshui Fengpao to check out their crazy famous beehive fireworks--where they purposely launch them into the waiting and armored crowd, because my daughter hates firecrackers, especially up close. She may have PTSD growing up here. One minute you're walking down the street or cruising on the scooter and suddenly out of nowhere the rat-a-tat-tat of some local shrine or temple's firecrackers (which in Tainan is every other block) means someone is scaring away ghosts. Then my friend Tony called me up and his wife offered to watch our kids so we could get our adrenaline fix.
Yenshui is on a whole other level. The town itself is quaint, with an old street, traditional craftsmen like smiths practicing their timeless work. I love the old brick, one story houses with ceramic tiles. Sure beats the concrete charmless apartments that replaced most of them. Yenshui is a photographer's paradise. When the sun sets, the idyllic country town is transformed into welcomed chaos.
The day started out with lunch in Jiali at ShuMin's Herbalife seminar/lunch presentation.
The kids were antsy so we took them to run around the grounds of the cafe on Poetry Road, while we drank coffee and listened to the owner recite poetry. The little lane has a wall with ceramic scrolls covered in traditional poems. One of Shu-min's friends who were joining us to Yenshui translated a few. They were all pretty bleak and depressing.
Around 5pm it was time to head to Yenshui, we parted, Shu-min taking the kids back to their home in Sigang. We parked the car outside of town and walked in, carrying our helmets, gloves, raincoats, feeling li, sooe gladiators walking to the arena. (At least I did.)
|Yenshui, Fireworks, bring them on!|
I didn't take any photos while being fired on (it was a bad previous year for me camera wise). The photos I did take were during our regrouping or intermission.
Friday, July 12, 2013
|View from Junyi School|
Somewhere over the rainbow, there is a less oppressive, creative education system in Taiwan, starting with reversing the brain drain in Taitung. So said my friend Tony when he invited me last minute to Taitung with him for the weekend. How could I refuse meeting uber interesting people, when Shu-min, Tony's wife would take care of my daughter? It was all systems go! I love last minute getaways, thats when the magic happens.
The trip was all leading up to meeting Taiwanese celebrity and visionary Stanley Yen (嚴長壽). He is this self made, self educated hotel mogul whose passion is education reform and mindful sustainable development of Taiwan's east coast. He was the one during DPP president Shui-Bien's term who fought against the construction of a super highway from Taipei to Taitung, because he didn't want this last vestige of pristine nature corrupted into another Kaohsiung or even (gulp) Tainan. Although Stanley is part of the system (he was hanging with his good friend, first lady Christine Chow Ma the day before checking out the art scene in Dulan); Stanley in many ways fights against the traditional mainstream establishment by constantly reconstructing his beliefs and makes his mark on Taiwanese society by transforming people's thinking. He definitely is not shy about using his platform. For him sustainable development starts with education reform. Stanley Yen's (嚴長壽) education reform experiment, is the Junyi School for Innovative Learning, which is a 1st through 12th grade bilingual school in Taitung.
Upon arrival we were escorted to dinner by two of Stanley Yen's (嚴長壽)'s right hand women from his NGO The Alliance Cultural Foundation. Mei is associated with Junyi School and Cheryl Robbins is a consultant, author and licensed tour manager and guide (Tribe-Asia) with a passion/expertise for Taiwanese aboriginal culture.
|Mei, Me and Cheryl after the Spoon de Chop performance|
On the menu, fresh marlin! With just the food alone, Taitung is already tastier than Tainan. Nothing beats fresh caught deep sea food from the Pacific rather than fish farmed bla from Tainan. It was more than I could handle, Tony helped me clean my plate.We waddled back to the open aired farmer's market and caught the rest of "Okinawa Night" at the outdoor stage of Tiehua Village. Cold Okinawa beer, Orion, hit the spot on this sweaty, humid Taitung night. We caught the last band Spoon de Chops. The music was a sublime mix of modern and traditional Ryukyuan folk music with the 3 stringed lute sanshin, and taiko drums. It was a very fun, intimate show, laid back and unpretentious I met the owner of Tiehua Village and then the lead singer after the show.
|Watch video bit of show here.|
That night I slept well in the female dorms.
In the morning Mei gave us the grand tour of Junyi school and Cheryl acted as translator. Stanley Yen (嚴長壽) arrived earlier than expected, which was a good thing, because we all got a good hour or two to chat before heading out together for lunch. Of course I was nervous to meet the legendary Stanley Yen (嚴長壽). But he was so unassuming and humble and so incredibly sincere and engaging, I was immediately put at ease. He talked to me as an equal confident. I could see myself work hard for, bloom under this higher vision of education reform united with indigenous led sustainable development. How rewarding to not just work for a paycheck or even just the students, but a grander, long term vision. He was very candid and to the point, which was a refreshing change from Taiwanese leaders and managers that I have known.
The school itself was impressive, a Japanese architectural design fitted with a roof of solar panels, that contributes energy to the local power station. There are uplifting quotes dotting the grounds, a small farm, outdoor covered gymnasium and a pond. How familiar to see a picturesque mountain range in the background. The students and staff had read the popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey), which was just a little shocking for me imagining how to teach this to 1st graders. Interestingly, it was the older students who were more resistant to the books maxims and the younger ones who were more open. He wants all his students to be ethical leaders. One of the things that won me over is Stanley's allowing part of the student body to be from economically disadvantaged indigenous, communities. He was frank on the both the good and bad aspects of that experience and how to improve upon his desire for inclusiveness.
Stanley took us all out for lunch at a cafe behind Tiehua Village, where there was more stimulating conversation.
|Cheryl Robbins, me, Tony Coolidge and Stanley Yen (嚴長壽)|
After lunch and goodbyes, we went across the street to the air conditioned Esl-lite Bookstore where we could see Cheryl's 3rd book newly published on the shelf. Cheryl Robbins is an amazing and interesting, groundbreaking character in her own right. Originally from California, she married a Taiwanese man, had 2 sons, divorced and is so fluent in Mandarin she has worked as a translator before she became the first foreigner and woman to pass the Taiwanese government test to be a tour guide/manager. She easily connected with me, being divorced so long as to be a single mom, and we shared more than a few laughs about the dating scene (or lack thereof), men and the vibe of Taitung. She is passionate about sharing Taiwanese aboriginal culture by providing intimate tours of local mountain villages and knows all the elders, chieftains, and dates of every festival (and there are loads up and down the East coast in summer). Her scene isn't the counter cultural, artsy foreigner vibe of Dulan, though she walks the beaches, but the remote mountain villages. I felt grateful to make her acquaintance.
With her 3rd travel book on Taiwan's indigenous, this one focused on Taitung.
Will I back in Taitung and will the stay be more permanent? Time will tell, but I hope so.