The school week began with some “Reading Theatre” on Monday morning. To explain, the students are currently preparing for an English speaking competition and they are performing a play. My job is simply to correct pronunciation errors. To be completely honest, I had relatively few corrections to make – most of the students’ pronunciation is really rather good. I don’t know the standard of the opposition, but the kids in my class can be proud of their ability already. Clearly competition is a useful motivator. I should probably enter a Mandarin Chinese competition!
My next job that week was not an English class. It was a music class. I had arranged these classes a few weeks ago. I was listening to Taiwanese and trying to retain it, not very successfully. The follow up to this lesson came on Friday when I met the music teacher to find a key that was comfortable for us to sing "Auld Lang Syne". It was a kind of music exchange. They introduced some Taiwanese or Chinese songs and I introduced "Auld Lang Syne". At the time of writing, I still have to teach them "Loch Lomond" as my voice began to fail me as I was developing a sore throat, for which singing is not the best medicine.
By Saturday morning, I was completely miserable. Joining my throat in pain, were my head and my eyes. I was generally exhausted. Suffice to say, literally nothing happened that weekend. My phone reports that my number of steps plummeted from over ten thousand on Friday to four hundred on Saturday. Sunday was equally inactive as I lay in bed all day.
Shirley took me to the doctor on Monday, but of course, I was feeling a little better and the doctor didn’t show me the sympathy I craved. Instead, she gave me a ridiculously fast check up and some pills to take after every meal. There was no Jhong Siao that day, but I did manage to muster enough energy to cycle to Cheng Da and attend my language class. There was an incentive as attendance counts towards the final grade! The problem with this system is that everybody comes and spreads their germs to earn an extra mark. That Monday, I wasn’t the only one – there were two of us effectively quarantined in the "sick corner” for the duration of the class.
I returned to Jhong Siao on Tuesday, mostly slumped in my chair catching up on the homework I had failed to complete at the weekend. I slowly improved over the week and by Thursday managed to play badminton with the other teachers followed by dinner at Wang Zhu Ren's house. Thursday was a good day for another reason - the temperature had dropped dramatically from the high 20s to the high teens, so I was much more comfortable during the day, especially on my daily cycle to and from Cheng Da.
Back track to Wednesday the 25th – that’s the day Winnie's father picked me up from Jhong Siao to go for dinner in Tainan, or so I thought. Inevitably, after a hard day at school, it wasn’t long until I was asleep. Imagine my surprise to wake up to a sign for "Kaohsiung University" – it’s about 45 miles from Tainan. My language skills had let me down again.
We were there to attend a festival-type event, but first we ate. This was no ordinary meal, as I had to hit a block of mud with a hammer to unveil a chicken. We strolled around the stalls and watched performers before sitting down to enjoy a snack of deep fried flour dipped in almond milk. (See photo kindly taken by Winnie.)
That was another late night, which impinged on my homework, but you have to grab these opportunities to smash a chicken. When would that happen back home?
On Friday, I was even up to singing "Auld Lang Syne" with the music teacher (slightly croakily) to the class as well as explaining the meaning of the Scottish words. I have to be honest - these classes are just as good for me as they are for the students. They do require some preparation!
I have to say, I am experiencing an incredible variety of activities in Taiwan. This past weekend is a case in point. On Saturday, I was invited to the wedding of one of Shirley’s colleagues, so it was probably just as well that I had a haircut the night before to smarten myself up. The wedding didn’t seem too different from one in the UK until the bride and groom entered the room suspended from the ceiling in a giant swan throwing "mushrooms" to all the guests. Other than that startling entrance, it was the standard "lovey dovey" event with a classic slideshow of cute pictures. The food was really nice though and I much appreciated the invitation and enjoyed the occasion.
Sunday was a bit of a struggle - the Wei family seems to be early risers, so they picked me up at 6:40am. It wasn’t long before I was sound asleep on a bus tour, meaning that once again, I had no idea where I was most of the time. I do know one place we visited: 彰化 - the pin ying is "jiang hua". There we ate dinner, but not before an expedition to find cockles, oysters and other shellfish. We waded around in the water searching for about half an hour. Luckily the water temperature was nothing like it is in Scotland! Should I be struggling to find employment, this could be my ‘fall back’ job. In all modesty, I was pretty good.
After a hard day (half hour) hunting for food, I returned home in time to catch the end of the Davis Cup final. It was a great result, but late evening scheduling by the organisers (and my failure to prioritise appropriately) meant that homework had to wait until Monday morning – not ideal!