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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Of Sheltered Princes and Princesses

 Today at work, my class along w/the other kindy and preschool classes took an all day field trip to a nearby farm .Everyone arrived early and was excited. There were caged goats to feed, chickens and fighting roosters, water rockets, a wading pool with dirty water. It was fun. There was a butterfly garden with several butterflies (we’ve seen better on other farm field trips), a spiky shelled turtle and bunnies.
Water bottle rockets

Some observations: Several of the kids in my class were afraid of butterflies. I had 2 girls wrapped like mini spidermen on each leg. Some of the other children in my class were afraid to feed the goats, who were caged. Ok they are 4 years old but really I couldn’t believe how “sheltered” these city folk are, and this is Tainan, a provincial town by most Taiwanese and Im not exactly country folk myself, more suburbanite, but really! I recall a childhood of catching lizards (I was a lizard farmer in my fantasy) and grasshoppers. (Where have all the grasshoppers gone? Fa, la, la, all the GMO plants and insecticides, Fa, La, la,….

It all came to a sad culmination when we gathered around a bucket of mud and the teenage worker (volunteer?) proceeded to demonstrate how to play with mud. He started his introduction by saying, ”in your grandparents day, they didn’t have toys so they played with mud.” He showed them how to make a mud pie with a hole in it and throw it against the ground. I felt really old and really grateful. I recall getting brown in the sun as my mom let me and Andy play with mud for an afternoon all summer and we made mud pies, cakes, soufflés, burritos, no instruction needed. I asked my younger coworker who was American if she played with mud (I needed some agreement that making mud pies as a kid is in fact NORMAL and these wonderful kids are lacking) and she didn’t of course.

Whenever I get near goats no ones knows the flood of memories and emotions that seethes my deep internal places. How I was worked to the bone for 7 months as a WOLFER in Ireland once when I was 21. I literally woke at 3am 7 nights for 7 months and took care of 360 milking Nubians and 100 non-milkers in 165 acres in Co Cork where the Blackwater River flows to the sea (Yougall, on the border of Cork near Dungarven). There was another WOLFER Claire but she left me after a few month (she was there longer before I got there). I love goats, they’re quite affectionate and smart and have their own personality. When I get near goats I physically hurt and feel heart ache. I left that farm (my bosses were Namibian Germans) and vowed if I EVER work THAT hard again it was going to be for myself. It was educational, I know how to care for goats and make apple cider (they had an apple orchard), along with goat cheeses and yogurt. Since then I’ve had this fantasy of when I do ever settle down somewhere , I will get me a couple of goats….Oh the stories I could tell of being a goat herder! (We had 60 sheep too, but they got on my nerves, I had no patience for their stupidity, ‘tho I pitied them).

Ok kids are sheltered here, Z is 5 and still not comfortable riding her bike on the street or rollerblading. (We were popping wheelies at 5 I roller-skated at 3 or 4). Taiwanese kids don’t get much outdoor play time, they don’t have these long luscious summer vacations, or a backyard (their houses go vertically where ours have a circumference of front and back yard. The majority of my students don’t go to the park. Parents are working or don’t see the point. In that respect my school is indeed providing the kids with a good, all around, education.

We made some traditional rice steamed buns filled with red bean paste. These are made of mashed rice flour colored red and after the red bean paste is added is pressed with a stamp. My kids used a turtle shape (symbolic of a long life) which is traditionally eaten on the first day of Chinese New Year. They places them on a leaf and the old gran steamed them. They had a semi edible keepsake of their day on the farm.

Every place has its good and bad, kids are sheltered here, my kids dont like their hands to be dirty, DIRTY, they freak if they are sticky or yucky for more than 30 seconds, but they dont have to fear about some crazy NRA dude with a gun and no health insuance for his psych meds to go Rambo in their school. Just some thoughts before I call it a day.

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