Excuses aside, on returning from HK, my first priority was sleep as I was straight back to school the next day with a busy schedule of Polan's classes. Usually, I start by reading extracts from a textbook. The students have a copy of the extract, but with blanks, which they have to fill in. After they mark their work, I choose 5 unsuspecting victims, who have to read the passage aloud. I correct their pronunciation and we move on to the second part of the class, which is more fun for both students and teachers as it is competitive. The students are called up to the board in groups and I read a sentence that they have to translate. The fun bit for me is that I can make it easy or fiendishly difficult. The fun bit for the pupils is that sometimes I read in Chinese and they get to laugh at me!
The Saturday before Christmas brought a change to the normal schedule. It was the Jhong Siao Junior High School's sports day. An opening ceremony included various performances, including some Scottish country dancing, and yes you’ve guessed it, I was teaching and demonstrating. The whole day was fantastic as the kids had a competition decorating their stands and participated with great excitement in their races. After lunch, it was the teachers' turn to race against the students and I was taking part. I hope I did myself justice because "the nerves were real". It was a relay race and with a teachers team and 3 student teams. I started my leg in 3rd place and scrapped a 1st place finish so even though I was racing against 14 year olds I'm going to count that one as a win!
The build up to Christmas was quite different from back home. I did experience my second Taiwanese wedding, which isn’t bad going as I have only been to two in the UK! It was a lower key affair as there were no giant plastic swans flying into the hall. It was also noteworthy as the first occasion that I have worn long trousers since arriving in Taiwan. The dip in temperature to the low 20s is really suiting me.
You may remember that En Rou and I have been building up to Christmas by preparing a song. Christmas Eve was the big day of the performance. We had enlisted the help of Rei Ting to sing female vocals and a student to play violin. Although I felt as nervous as I always do when I sing, I think the music department at GWC would have been happy with my rendition of ‘Fairytale of New York’. That really was the highlight of Christmas for me.
Christmas arrived and nothing. It felt no different to any other day. How very strange! It may have been my location, or it may have been the lack of family, or a mixture of both, but it felt like a normal Friday to me. A video call home late in the day persuaded me that the family was missing me as much as I was missing them!
With a depressing Christmas out of the way, it was time for another weekend. Enter Winnie to lift my spirits. She took me to a town with absolutely stunning views of Sun Moon Lake –apparently the terrain looks like sun on one side and a crescent moon on the other, and is one of the ‘Eight Wonders of Taiwan’ and I’m not inclined to disagree. I think it's called Nan Tou. Unfortunately I do not have a beautiful picture of Sun Moon lake so here is a picture of me with Winnie and her parents. The lake is in the background but it's night so you are just going to have to trust me.
What I did not fully understand until the day before I left Tainan was that I had been entered to run part of a marathon on the Sunday morning. That was a 5am start to the day meaning that we had to break out of our hotel because none of the staff were awake. We made it to the race...only 15 minutes late. I decided to run with Winnie to be gallant (and to cover my lack of fitness levels). We actually only ran for 4.2km.
The rest of the day was spent in the scenic environs of a town not far away called Ji Ji. We hired electric scooters and had great fun whizzing around. What I didn’t know at the time was that Ji Ji was the epicenter of an earthquake in 1999 (7.3 on the Richter scale). I might not have been quite so relaxed had I known!
After my weekend exertions, dragging myself out of bed for school on Monday morning was a challenge. Thankfully, it was a light day of classes, and thankfully, I received a welcome request. I was asked to develop a presentation on hockey. As hockey is one of my main passions in life, I have been consumed by this project ever since…at the expense of my blog. I do also have some English classes to attend and I am available for students who come to me in the office to practise English in exchange for sweets!
And that takes me up to Thursday, which was, of course, or 31 December. I went with Shirley and the kids to the Tainan High Speed Rail Station as there are food stalls and there is live music ahead of the countdown to the New Year. Despite standing around for 3 hours to not see the band that Irene had wanted to see, it's a New Year that I will not forget.
For now, I wish you a Happy New Year wherever you are!