Questions from Home

Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Taiwan  ,
Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thanks for all of the great e-mails and comments to this blog!  I have received an e-mail from someone back home nearly every day since I have been here.  It is very comforting to hear from all of you and news from home is always appreciated.

My Dad recently e-mailed me a list of questions he had about Taiwan that I thought would make an interesting blog entry.  Here are the following questions and my answers.  Enjoy!

Q:  Do all the signs have Chinese/English writings or just Chinese? 
A;  A majority of the signs are in both Chinese and English.  Road signs have English, but the words written on the street itself (caution, pedestrians, etc...) are in Chinese.  Most restaurants and businesses are written primarily in Chinese, but there are also a number of them who have an English translation underneath them.

Q:  If just Chinese,how do you know what they are or where you are?
A:  They have taken steps to ensure that the "important" signs are in English as well.  However, you have to use clues like pictures and just follow the crowd when it comes to restaurants and places.  Thankfully the people here are extremely friendly and jump at a chance to share their ability to speak in English.  Some restaurants have menus written in English, while others have only a few items translated into English.

Q:  What is it like where you are living?  Big room?  How many people
there?  Who does the cooking?  What about laundry?  Is the water clean?
A:  I have not seen the inside of my apartment yet, however, I can tell you about the hotel room.  The hotel is very basic.  The room is rather small, but has a bed (which is rock hard), pillows (rock hard), bathroom, air conditioner, TV, small refrigerator, and even a tea pot.  The hotel has a special "hot water" faucet for tea and coffee as opposed to most American hotels that have areas for ice.  They also have a water filter in the hotel, but water is almost never served cold or with ice as they do not believe iced drinks are all that healthy.  Locals and foreigners are encouraged to drink filtered water as opposed to tap water.  This is because the pipes are quite old.  Toilet paper is also asked to be disposed of in mini trash cans and not thrown in the toilets because it is difficult for water filters to clean.

Q:  Is this a high income, middle income or low income area?
A:  I feel that this is a rather middle-class area that I am in.  No one is starving and I have not seen a homeless person.  Everyone is well fed and has a motorscooter/car.  However, no one is extremely rich either (except the parents of my students).

Q:  What do they do for jobs there? 
A:  Most middle class appear to own their own restaurant, shop, autobody, or work for a large company like most Americans.  Depending on how well your restaurant or company does determines how much money you have.

Q: Is there large commercial buildings?  Any farming?  
A:  Where I live, there are a number of commercial buildings.  I will be living on the 19th floor of an apartment complex in the heart of the city.  The shopping mall here is 17 stories tall.  So, it is a rather large city with some high rises though not as many as Taipei.  I have not seen much farming, though I really haven't been outside of the big cities yet.

Q:  Where do they get their food from?
A:  They have markets on the street that sell fresh fruit and food.  There are a ton of 7/11's which serve as the local store for a quick snack or food.  However, they shop at supermarkets and a CostCo recently opened here as well.

Q:  When does school start for you? 
A:  During the regular school year, school will start for me at 10am and last until about 5pm.  On Tuesdays, I have a class that I teach from about 4pm until 7pm.  I will have a few more details soon because I am currently learning the summer schedule.

Q:  When do you have to get your room ready?
A:  As soon as the "old teachers" move out. Which means I will start putting my room together by the end of the week and will start teaching my own class next week.

Q:  How many students will you have in a classroom? 
A:  The class I observed had about 18 students, which was pretty common.  They all have a variety of school uniforms on because they spend the mornings at Chinese school and come to English school in the afternoon.  They then go home and have music lessons and do homework.  They do not have much of a social life and sports are definitely not emphasized by any means in this culture. The parents get upset if their children do not receive much homework and we are required to give them about three homework assignments a night.

Q:  Have you met with any of the other staff? 
A:  Yes, the staff is a great group who are very helpful and they all seem to enjoy working with each other inside and outside of school.

Q:  Are most of them new teachers or have most of them been there for
a few years?
A:  There are 9 new teachers this year.  A number of the teachers who are leaving have been teaching for 1-2 years, which is the common turnover rate here.  However, there are also a few who have been teaching 3-4 years as well.  Everyone seems to really like it here but say they really miss home.
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