Archive for the 'Teaching' Category



is the color of luck and happiness, weddings, and Chinese New Year.

So I was rather surprised when my tutee told me that it’s also the color for suicides. I discovered this because I was wearing all red one day and waiting to meet him by the dry well that would be a fountain if someone turned it on instead of just a little depression with rocks and lights in it. Sipping from my little boxed juice, I was accosted by a greying gentleman who began to flatter me and ask for my contact information. He does get the metaphorical points for the ability to try to pick me up in English. He was bespectacled and apparently lounging about during the afternoon at the park since he is a retiree with heart difficulties. When my tutee arrived, the poor fellow was interrogated as to whether he was my boyfriend (I’m sure my face was red to match the rest of me at that point), and I bid the farewell as we carefully casually made our way out of the park.

According to my tutee, perhaps a reason for the gentleman’s odd attempt at romance was due to the tradition that women who wanted to create strong vengeful ghosts would don red before their suicides. (An extensive google search found this interesting article which has a paragraph way down about red-dressed suicides). So in an odd logical leap, perhaps he was only chatting me up because he was worried about me dunking myself in the not deep, not watered well and doing some mean haunting.

Personally, I wear red as a pick-me up. I decided it was my favorite color after being undecided (evading the favorite color question in middle school with “iridescence”– why, yes, I’m a dork!) for a very long time.

But although it is the adopted color of Republicans (it is also the adopted color of Communists, so there’s always a flip-side), I love red.

Red roses stood for love triumphant in Victorian flower symbolism as Anne’s House of Dreams tells me. (This rose is from my grandmother’s garden).

I got into trouble for the predominance of red in my wardrobe (which isn’t really completely my fault, as a chunk of my clothes were thoughtful gifts from aunts with good taste who early on realized my cousin liked blue, so I got the red stuff) when I came to Taiwan for a brief visit once. We were headed to my uncle’s funeral, and I had a black dress for the funeral itself, but had no idea that there was mourning clothing involved outside of it for family visits that required pale or dark clothes. Traditional funeral wear is pure white, but I guess western influence having bleached brides white from the traditional red, has darkened mourners into black for funerals. So I ended up on an emergency visit to a boutique before visiting the rest of the family, after sending the bit of it I was staying with into slight shock when I trotted into breakfast with a red shirt on. Fortunately, this being Taiwan, I was able to get a white shirt off the rack that fit instead of tented on me in five minutes.

Anyway, I only mention red because I was once again wearing complete red trying to liven myself up after a mosquito-disturbed slumber the other night. My class was discussing a dream Buck the dog has in Call of the Wild, when one of the boys (teaching middle school age children has reminded me why I was so happy to grow out of middle school) started joking about it. I, in my over-tired trying-too-much state, said something like it was certainly NOT that sort of a dream, going into a literary comparison with the boy’s dream in The Giver. Then there was laughter all around because all the boys remembered that particular incident in the book, and none of the girls did. I ended up hiding behind a book laughing in spite of myself, and asking if I was red. One of my students said, “Yup, your shirt certainly is!”

This article has more info about red and Chinese culture.


Interested in Teaching in Taiwan SOON???

Hi all, this is a shameless plug for my school.  ETA:  We have our new teacher, but there should be options to teach in the fall.

One of my colleagues is heading off to the foreign service and we need someone to take over her classes for the next three months. If you’re interested in teaching, my school is a fantastic place to be, since it has small classes (no more than seven students a class), and works with an American curriculum. My director is a very supportive person to work with, and the kids are a lot of fun. Your classes would probably be 2nd to 4th grade level English.

A North American accent is preferred. ABCs and CBCs are welcome.

We’re conveniently located a five-minute walk from the subway station, a yummy bubble tea place, markets, a park, the 7/11, dumplings, and a fruit stand (seriously, the necessities of life in Taiwan!) It’s around a 15-minute ride on the subway to Taipei Main Station from here, and not too far away from Tai Da and Shi Da either, if you’re interested in taking Chinese classes.

If you’re interested for a longer stint of time, my director will definitely be hiring for the fall as well.

Send an e-mail to euchi <at> if you’re interested!



My students ate so many M&Ms and Skittles that their teeth turned blue. I didn’t even open the bag of peanut M&Ms.

And after we read the The Outsiders a little before the part that makes me cry, but at the part which still drew me in enough to totally forget to mark which parts we would talk about in class and which parts would be served by a verbal summary, we played Taboo! with very generous squeals of the red spike-headed squeaker. Predictably, two kids flicked their socks off, one rolled on the floor laughing, and we had a jolly good time. Also, possibly predictably, my team won. ;D

On the way home, I stopped in my little corner 7/11, where I know all the staff and they all know me dashing in to grab a box of microwave dumplings at three in the afternoon for the day meal that isn’t really breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the way to class or sometimes the night meal on my way home after nine, or the daily bottle of orange juice or cranberry juice or in pre-diluted milk tea days, milk tea.

One of the cashiers was in her day clothes with her little daughter in tow, and two of the teens were manning the register in the requisite burgundy-tan shirts. I was walking back with my bottle of orange juice and noticed a white butterfly fluttering and flitting over the blue-silver tinsel garland hung from the ceiling to decorate Mother’s Day cake promotions. It was suspended in a blur of white wings looking for the heart of this long strange flower-wannabe. The tinsel threads swayed just a little as the white wings frantically beat the air around them. The little girl and I watched it weave around the shining strand and finally settle to take a deep breath on the ceiling, eyes still on the tantalizing tinsel.

It was a cabbage butterfly, I think. My cousin told me that it’s a plague for Taiwanese farmers, as it hasn’t much in the way of predators.  This one was happy drinking from daisies by the river in Gongguan.

Anyway, the tall cashier with a smooth white forehead and curly long hair got a wooden stepping stool to stand on, her hands cupped as they tried to encircle the butterfly without hurting it. She ended up chasing it with a large translucent plastic bag to the back of the store, then a plastic basket. In the meantime, I’d checked out my bottle of vitamin C and thought I should get back, but the drama forced me to stand outside the sliding doors in the darkening twilight and watch as she skipped and hopped trying to get it into the bag.

Finally she met with success and the daughter of the off-duty cashier got to look at the butterfly fluttering in the bag filled with air, a giant slightly opaque white bubble. The mother took her daughter by the hand, and they stepped past the singing sliding doors and crossed the street to let it go in the park.

I got back and found out that more of my long-term lottery tickets haven’t paid off, and I may be destitute as far as having a clue with my life next year goes. I’m homesick, but maybe I’m homesick for a place that only exists in my head. And maybe it’s a strand of blue-silver tinsel that will leave me thirsty, and I’m a butterfly that will end up lost again where it all began.


An Aside…

At times, being a teacher has been extremely rough for me (the day one class went into revolt and progressed from eraser- throwing to penny-throwing being one….) And while I’ve always believed in the power of education, teaching can be draining (spent my Friday night after class cleaning vomit– one unlucky student had food that did not agree with her. While the cleaning lady got the floor, there were still the table, the wall, and the chairs and figuring out what to do with one slightly unlucky book.)

However, sometimes you get to introduce ideas or books or present things in such a way that they bring joy to your students. It’s an incredible high to excite kids about learning, to watch them make connections and think in new ways.

On Friday, I usually have my students play games after some work and quizzes. They tend to make a beeline for the computers. After I discovered the games mostly involved shooting little bouncing blobs, I banned them. One persistent student, who avoids board games for some reason, asked for permission. I agreed on the condition that I pick the game. She quailed. After a few minutes of boredom though, she gave it a shot, and I introduced her to free rice which combines donating rice to the hungry with figuring out vocabulary words. It happens to be one of my procrastination vehicles of choice (collecting intriguing words being one of my quirks). Surreptitiously watching her and her friend, I noted that they did indeed remember some of the words I’d taught them, and were getting into the game. They asked me to e-mail them the link, and were really excited that they were donating rice in the process of playing. It’s warm and fuzzy-inducing. Hopefully figuring out words will last longer than their knitting attempts.

I’m putting the banner on my sidebar. It may eventually migrate South… I do quibble with some of the definitions sometimes, not that they’re technically wrong, but at times they’re the definition that I don’t think is as commonly used. The game is challenging partially because the words can come from anywhere– science, music, archaic uses, etc. I find my French and Latin helpful in random guessing. It would be helpful if there were sample sentences, not just definitions upon getting the correct answer–context and connotations being very helpful in learning words. Anyway, the words go from very basic to rarefied and multi-syllabic.

Go play.

Now if there were only a version for learning Chinese…

(Edited to add:  My student told me that she donated 3,000 grains of rice this weekend.  Whoo hoo!)


Being Someone Else’s Grown-Up

Today I took my class to the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts, and craggy-voiced got them to tell the difference between 3D and 2D, discuss the colors, the shapes, and how they felt about them.  It’s a mixed class– the oldest child is in sixth grade, youngest in first, mixed English abilities as well.

We went to the calligraphy exhibition and discussed how the artists must have made the different kinds of lines– big and sweeping, versus fast, scribbly and little, airy brushed versus wet-brushed.  They made their own rubbings of pictograph-antecedents for modern Chinese characters (as someone studying Chinese characters, it was nice to see the evolution of some of them) at the children’s exhibit.  The line for the dragon was much longer and more stubborn than the fish, or the horse.

The first floor had modern dimly lit installations, and the kids had fun watching a video installation– two televisions with close-ups of a baby’s eye and a man’s eye apparently looking at each other, and then the baby’s mouth making noises to be copied by the man’s mouth.  My class did a bit of echoing cooing themselves.

B, a first-grader I met yesterday, held my hand and buried her head in my arm as we walked through the dimly lit galleries with odd noises from some installation in the back.  She whispered that it was scary– the noises, and some of the art.

It’s odd– I could identify with her response.  When I was in France and tip-toeing through the bottom gallery of the Pompidou with its video installations talking in the distance, rope trailing across the floor from another installation, and Marcel Duchamp’s up-ended unicycle pointing upwards, I missed having someone’s hand to hold and guide me through this separate world gone strange–  I think each piece was interesting and wouldn’t have intimidated me on its own, but the overlapping of such disparate visions was jarring, and being alone in the mostly empty (except for video-installation faces talking at me) gallery didn’t help.  Company helps in reinforcing reality of a kind–depending on the company I guess.

Anyway, I so often feel rather Piglet-ish– a very very small person in a very very big world, that it humbles me when a smaller hand than mine holds onto my little finger for consolation.  I used to find it frightening– being the grown up for my children.  I still do somewhat, but I guess I’ve learned from being my younger cousin’s pillow on long car rides, and teaching, that it’s something I can sort of do– pillow-service is easy– just stay still and try not to mind appendages falling asleep, though peed pants still freak me out, and my ability to perform stern reprimands still needs a bit more brimstone.

I held B’s hand through the rest of the exhibition until we came out into the light of the courtyard, descended the stairs and she cheered up with lunch.


So this is how it ends…

I thought to myself as we pitched forward into the darkness, two girls hiding their faces in my lap. The doors opened ominously and we were on our first ride for the last day of school. The car jerked us through the “Haunted House” that was frightening for the entirely wrong reasons (dummies clad in army camouflage shooting guns at you as you ride past!? Keeping in mind that they are included among dragons, glow-in-the-dark skeletons, pirates, mummies, etc…?! ).

The final hurrah of the school year was a trip to Leefoo Village, which was predictably exhausting and fun, though I was exposed to my students for the ‘fraidy cat I am by refusing to go on rides that would make me sick. (I can be susceptible to motion sickness and swift drops in height, even in a jerky elevator tend to make me queasy). I did win points for managing to make our swirling barrel spin faster than the rest until we were delightfully dizzy. However, someone needed to stay with the kids who were not going on the big swinging ship

and hold on to the glasses of those that were riding the roller coasters,

and the spin-you-upside-down whirligigs,

so I tried to take nice pictures of the red dragonflies unsuccessfully, while keeping an eye on my fellow ‘fraidy cat charges. I’d only seen red dragonflies in Chinese paintings before, but they are real, kissing ripples on the green man-made concrete pond, and weaving spells of summer through the air.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This is a real, albeit sadly out of focus red dragonfly– but they’re really red all over!  And I think they’re pretty, not just because I’m partial to red, but I think I’m becoming partial to dragonflies…  In fact, they’re getting their own category.

We petted and fed the goats, greeted the flamingos, and said hello to the rather large pig on the premises. I was most enamoured of the tigers lounging in their cage and the butterflies as big as small birds that visited the flowers along the walkways.

We didn’t get to go through the safari train, because just as it was finally pulling up to the station, the skies let loose with a pelt of thunder and lightning that seemed simultaneous, and right on top of us. They decided to cancel the ride, and we made no complaint as we dodged puddles and ran to the cafeteria to munch on snacks before fording rivers of rain in squelching sneakers and boarding the buses early.

I made it through the school year! Yet it doesn’t feel completely over. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have time to do my usual note to each student, or because I am still figuring out books and lessons and will see some of the usual suspects in summer school for a bit.  Or because my summer adventures are still up in the air.  There was definitely the end-of-the-year exhaustion though.



 If you tried to post a comment and it was identified as spam.

I just discovered the manipulating comments section of my administrative powers here on WordPress, and was a bit distressed to realize that there were 12 comments marked as spam.  Of the four that hadn’t been deleted yet, two were attempts by ME to reply to a comment (duh, WordPress Akismet spam blocker!), and one was from a friend.  I’ll be more careful about keeping an eye on it from now on.

Tomorrow I’m hauling my class on a field trip no one is enthused about.  I love where we’re going, but am not sure I’m up to the task of inspiring excitement in my students…  especially as I’m supposed to have them write a report on it.  At this point, they’ve all told me they’d rather stay in school and have their quizzes and play games afterwards– the usual Friday routine.  Ungrateful brats…  They didn’t like poetry; when I cooked with my class of five, everyone had some a issue or other– no chocolate, no dairy products, not fond of bananas, etc.; when I fed them junk food, so and so got more, they wanted more flavors; no whole class ever truly agrees on what game to play on Fridays, etc….!  I really do love my students, but goodness, making them happy is difficult!  I just hope I don’t lose anyone, or wilt before we make it safely back.  And on that cheery note…  g’night.

Free Rice

September 2019
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