I haven’t posted a blog for a few weeks now for a few reasons. I’ll keep the excuses brief, but after a fairly relaxing first few weeks back in Taiwan with no Chinese course to attend, things turned hectic. I’m back to my mid-day cycles to Cheng Kung University (despite the heat and the prospect of blistering heat to come, I am happy to be back). There is plenty going on at school; I had to prepare for a visit from the great white bald one from Europe (yep, dad); and to cap it all, I have had a debilitating virus manifesting itself in a hacking cough for a few weeks.
To my delight, my time at Jhongsiao has involved an increasing amount of hockey coaching. Perhaps they have figured out that my English is terrible, or perhaps they just recognise that hockey is my passion. Either way, I enjoy coaching. I did suffer a personal setback, however - one of the kids guessed that I was 30. When you are 18, that hurts! Anyway, things are looking up. My old school hockey coach (Mr. Leonard) has agreed to donate some sticks to help me develop hockey at Jhongsiao. They should have arrived by the time I post this.
Away from school and my metamorphosis into a clone of Mr Leonard, I have again dabbled in 'mountaineering' in Taiwan - its seems like you can drive most of the way. This time, I made the journey to one of the most famous mountain ranges , Alishan (阿里山), with Winnie and her mother. Although Winnie’s father was unable to join us, our party did end up as four. When we climbed into our taxi, we were surprised to find a 20 year old girl. I had no idea what was going on - the wall of Chinese went right over my head - but I later discovered that we had ‘adopted’ the girl and would be taking her with us as a substitute for Winnie’s dad. We had never met her, but she made us into a round number, so why not?! Despite her lack of English, she turned out to be good company.
The highlight of the trip was meant to be waking in time for sunrise. Going to sleep at 1.30am and waking at 3:00am to leave the warmth of a duvet is not the best feeling in the world. I had to put on more clothes than I have ever worn in Taiwan. Rightly so, as it was snowing. (The average altitude of the Alishan mountain range is 2,500 metres.) We had an hour and a half journey to the viewpoint where we waited for sunrise.
The snow was definitely a highlight. It put everyone into high spirits. It was the first time Winnie had ever seen snow fall. But the sunrise was less spectacular than we had hoped. It happened behind the clouds. More sleep might have been preferable. I’ll have to go back another time.
The week after this excursion, I had a new English class to attend (class 208). The teacher, Eva, had given me some Chinese and some English translation to learn. In all honesty, my preparation was not brilliant - I had left it until the night before - but in teaching, things can develop unexpectedly. Often with me, classes begin slightly awkwardly, but fortunately this awkwardness doesn't last long - class 208 was no exception. By the end of the lesson, I had them singing me a song. Such are the rewards of teaching at Jhongsiao.
The following weekend (beginning the 2nd), I was ill. I had had a cough for a few days and was feeling generally poor. However, I agreed to go to an amusement park with Shirley, Denny, Irene and family friend, Hank. I will write more on our adventure at "Wonderland" in another instalment. This one, as per usual, is too long already.