Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Settling in...


I've just finished my first week teaching in Taiwan and it's been quite enjoyable. There is a lot to get used to on the paperwork side, but all in all I've adjusted quite well to the teaching here. The job here seems much more focused on teaching younger kids than my last job. It's fun and the lessons have a lot of structure which is handy but I'm still getting used to adapting some of my stock games to the style of teaching here.

My first week here was spent in Central Taipei on a training week and was fun to be honest. It got a bit tiresome having to travel into Taipei every morning and evening but the bus home is only about 30-40 minutes so it wasn't really that bad. I had the fortune of bumping into Rob a friend from Rugby... it was quite strange! He's a cover teacher for the same company and seems to float around different schools on a daily basis depending on demand for cover... so it was quite interesting that he ended up at head office during the week I was there!... Another incident occurred in a similar vain. While observing a class in a different branch somewhere in the city, where exactly I have no idea, I got talking to the teacher I was observing during the break and it turns out we have the same degree, from the same university and graduated in the same year and we had never met each other before, we even have a mutual friend... a very peculiar situation!...

With all the novelty of being a newbie and peculiar happenings starting to wear off, I've finally been able to get down and dirty and start getting into the flow of my classes. I'm gradually getting to know the students but they're not as responsive as students in Indonesia... they react to games but struggle when it comes to writing because I guess they are dealing with Roman script and sometimes even understanding that they are competing against each other prohibits the fun in an activity from shining through!... Luckily the bright students kick in and get competitive and help the weaker ones out. My teaching here is pretty much entirely kids in public classes and adults in a private one-on-one scenario. I kind of like it because it encompasses all of the aspects I enjoy about my job and the school provides texts that allow me to teach the material I'm supposed to be teaching!... For the last six months or so of working in Indonesia I became kind of deflated due to the lack of academic support on offer... so I'm really grateful that that predicament has been reversed!!... I put together a lot of my own materials during the last couple of months and now that I have a new toy box to use in class to make activities more exciting, accompanied by full courses and my own archive of supplementary materials, I'm spoilt for choice of things to use in the classroom!...

The only thing that is getting me down is the weather. It's about the same temperature in Taipei as it is back home at the moment and I've just left a country where it's 30 degrees centigrade EVERY day... but hopefully summer is on the way soon and it will start to heat up a bit here!... I'm just about getting used to the way things are done in my new school but am still having teething problems... in Indonesia I managed to get to know most of the kids really well and I could bellow at the top of my voice to inject pace into activities and the students knew that I wasn't angry because they were familiar with me on some student teacher kind of a level and that is yet to happen here so when one of the girls didn't realise it was her turn to race for her team during a board relay I shouted “Vivian!!!...” and bless the little moo she just burst into tears!... That's only the second kid I've made cry since I started teaching and that was just an overreaction, I think!... Fortunately we have teaching assistants here and there was nothing malicious on my part just a bit of a wimpy overreaction from a ten year old girl! =p … The TA gave her a hug and eventually she was able to man up and during the final activity I let her hold some of the flashcards... She left the classroom smiling and I was free from an ear bashing off Mummy which happened on only my second ever day of teaching! ...

Peace xxx

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Leaving Indonesia... Arrival in Taiwan and Everything Inbetween

So for the last couple of months I've been somewhere between waiting to leave Indonesia and on holiday. I haven't really wanted to leave but I couldn't wait to go on holiday for five weeks and right now those five weeks have just finished. so I'm going to recant the last five or six weeks in the best fashion that I can as there is really too much to tell for one blogpost and I've been lazy!... So this is more of an update on my situation than an actual blogpost in the report style nature I usually employ...

My last weekend in Jakarta before heading to Thailand on a visa run was pretty brutal and I don't really remember that much. I got hammered beyond belief, which is quite rare, and just remember getting personal with a drain and is therefore very bad news in Jakarta ;) I said a few goodbyes to people that I wasn't likely to see during my last month on holiday and that was nice. Next stop was Bangkok. I arrived in Bangkok on the evening of the 31st and was pretty impressed with how well organised it was, in my mind it was going to be on a par with Jakarta but actually the traffic moves quite well. My friend Sam works there and while I didn't get to chill with her as much as I may have liked I was quite well catered for in terms of good company by her friends Olly and Sarah... I was very tired and proved useless when it came to getting around autonomously. We also managed to make it to an island called Koh Chang and it was really nice. It would have been nicer if I had been a little more adventerous during my trip there and seen a waterfall or something but only really for my photo album because I was really tired all the time. The food in Thailand was excellent and I managed to see some cool temples, the reclining and emerald Buddhas and Vimanmek Mansion, so really I had a nicely balanced week between activities and chilling out. There was also a beach party and that killed me the net day with the hangover as I'm really a big girl nowadays as i rarely really drink anymore.


After Thailand, I flew to Bali to meet Rob my friend from University. It was nice we spent a day walking around the Ubud area and saw the Monkey Forest there with it's temples and what not. We stayed with his Auntie there and her villa was gorgeous. I cooked a pasta dish to say thanks and did a fair job of it, I was quite impressed with myself because I've been really lazy with y cooking the last year or so!... Bali was just a meeting point really... it's really nice but a little too developed for my liking and as it has good links with Thailand and Flores it proved a useful meeting and departure point to get to Labuan Bajo. Labuan Bajo is in West Flores and is a popular jumping off point to visit the Komodo islands and that's exactly what we did. We hired a boat the next day to the island of Rinca, we only went for the day because of time and finance restrictions but I definitely want to return and see Komodo itself as well as swim with the manta rays and sharks that I was unable to get done... but on the plus side we did get to do some snorkelling a bit closer to Flores and I saw a clown fish... essentially I found Nemo!... The dragons were also pretty cool and we say plenty around the camp of Loh Buaya but on the trek we didn't see much more than a few water buffalos really and the great 'coastal savannah' style scenery that I'm at a loss to describe... Rinca is a really beautiful island. After Rinca we headed to a place called Bajawa with a pitstop in a place called Ruteng to catch a break from the 11-12 hour road journey. We arrived in Bajawa a couple of days after Rinca with plenty of time in the day to spare, so I for one, was very eager to get something done after a day and a half of buses and waiting around. We attempted to find the Wawo Muda crater, but seeing as there are no signs we essentially just went for a walk in the Flores countryside close to the Wawo Muda crater and despite not actually seeing the crater that day I wasn't too disappointed with the day because it was nice to walk in the mountainous countryside and not be on a bus! I also found it quite quirky that the locals hide or destroy the signs, not to hinder tourists but to spite the local government as the government in the local area want to turn Wawo Muda into a major attraction but won't contribute money to the local economy. The day after I had arranged for a guide to take us to the actual crater this time in the morning, and to see some 'traditional villages' in the afternoon. Rob wasn't so keen to hike back up the mountain due to his poorly knee but after being put on the spot at 7am and not being given time to 'see how he feels' he decided to man up and enjoy the glorious walk that it turned out to be. The crater was cool and there were beautiful views over to the close Mt. Inerie and views across clouds to the evn further Mt. Ebulobo. The villages themselves are generally the main attractions to people in the area, and while being pleasant they weren't at all remote from the main town and therefore the people live the same as people in all the other villages in that part of Flores and the attention they attract is purely from the style of the houses and not the lifestyle they lead. I don't mean that to sound critical, it was nice to see the traditional houses and some Ikat weaving but may be not so spectacular. The last thing we did before leaving the Bajawa area was to visit a natural hotspring and it was really very pleasant.


After Bajawa we took a bus to the small fishing village of Riung. We visited the Seventeen Island Marine Park to do some snorkelling, which was amazing and to see some flying foxes which were also really cool! They are these huge bats and Pak Duking (our guide) knew exactly where to find a colony, I was under the impression that he was going to use a whistle to awaken them so we could see them flying, in reality he just bashed a load of trees with a big stick to agitate them while grunting "hee-yar" at them... all good fun though and despite the mild distrubance by an odd few tourists such as ourselves they seem to survive in relative peace. The final stop on out Trans-Flores trip - before departing from Maumere - was to a place called Moni, where they have a fantastic volcano called Kelimutu that has three small lakes that change colour dependant on the gases and mineral content emitted from the craters that they sit on. We headed there for sunrise and it was beautiful. The craters were a deep green, a neon green and a deep black. We also managed to see a fairly nice waterfall in the Kelimutu area it didn't appear to have any special name so I'm going to christen it Air Terjun Moni! =p I wish I could provide more depth to these events but the peculiarities have escaped me because they were a few weeks ago.

After that we headed to Maumere. Rob flew home and I continued on to the island of Lembata. I spent around five days there I think with my only reason for travelling there being to see the whalers of Lamalera. I was hoping to continue on to the island of Alor afterwards but I was starting to become a little restricted by time and money unfortunately, however Lamalera proved to be a spectacle in itself. Within minutes of arriving in the village I had been escorted to the beach to witness them bringing in the catch of the day, which happened to be a "Lumba Lumba" or dolphin in English. I have been intrigued by these practices ever since I heard about them and I'm still not sure if I'm comfortable with what's happening there. They are the last village on earth - according to Lonely Planet Indonesia I think - that are allowed to hunt whales under internation whaling laws because they kill so few. I'm not against hunting as long as the prey is to be eaten and is not endangered. I don't like killing for fun or to extinction. I was perfectly at ease with the hunting practise I saw, despite using Bamboo spears the whalers managed to despatch of the dolphin pretty quickly although it was no doubt stressful for the dolphin. I still don't know how I feel about these practices, even after witnessing them first hand. They have been catching dolphins, whales and manta rays for hundreds of years and therefore the populations seem to be sustainable, there were literally hundreds of dolphins in the area, although I'm not 100% on these circumstantial suggestive premises and therefore would still like to reserve judgement before condemning or glorifying what happens there. It is well publicised and not hidden from any authority and completely practiced in the local area on migrating populations and is therefore seasonal. I just still don't know how I feel about it... I'd be a hypocrite to judge the killing of a dolphin for food and yet happily buy fish from the boats of fishermen who trawl and kill an abundance of fish that they don't even bring back to shore only the species that are deemed worthy for the market. More dolphins are caught in Tuna nets and not eaten than those killed for food by the small village of Lamalera... Food for thought?... I'm still not sure about this, it does however remain an amazingly unique experience and one that for its' right or wrongs I have witnessed.

My last stop in Indonesia before heading back to Jakarta to catch my flight to Taiwan was in a village called Leuwiliang on the outskirts of Bogor, a satellite city of Jakarta. I had always wanted to teach in a poor community during my time in Indonesia and had never really got around to spending a decent amount of time in order to achieve that aim. It was really cool and I got to work in a boarding school for orphans, although the students I was teaching were teenagers, and therefore didn't fit my imagined archetype of all orphans being youngsters!... I also got to teach in a couple of community afterschool courses that are extracurricular and quite good fun!...

I've just arrived in Taiwan and now have a new apartment... but it doesn't have a kitchen :( The school is nice and the people in charge are really nice and seem quite caring. Also the teachers are really nice and friendly and have been really helpful... It's also a lot more efficient here than in Indonesia which was higlighted to me this morning on a trip to a medical centre to have a healthcheck: I was rushed through an X-ray, a blood test and an eyetest and weighing session all in the space of fifteen minutes. That also included the admin of processing my paperwork! And so another year of teaching English and travelling begins... I'll keep you posted! xxx