Friday, May 28, 2010

A Day in my (Working) Life

Some of you have asked me what my life is like on the island. Here's a glimpse:

Monday to Friday:
  • I wake up at 7:15, wash up, and put on my teacher's uniform, which consists of a short-sleeved, tailored, button-up blouse in navy blue or cream (alternating), and any skirt or trousers in tan, white or black. And "smart" shoes. Which is anything except flip-flops. So basically, flat sandals. Casual, comfortable.
  • I leave my house and walk 4 steps to the "main road", where I hop into a "tricycle-taxi" to get to work. This is the main form of transportation on Boracay. It consists of a motorbike with a tin carriage attached to the side, which fits 5 people plus a driver.
  • For this 10 minute ride, I pay 15 pesos (30 U.S cents).
  • On the way, we pass little storefronts selling absolutely everything, we pass luxurious tourist resorts, and tiny local houses made of woven palm fronds with chickens in the yard and no glass for the windows.
  • When I arrive at school, I walk into a lovely little building with a big field for playing football on, and a cement lot with basketball hoops, a volleyball net, and boxes full of balls for the kids to partake in a variety of sports and games.
  • The school caters to children from the level of kindergarten through to Grade 6, but it only has about 50 students spread out over these levels! There are 4 foreign teachers: one for the pre-school, I have the Grade 1 class, one teacher has Grade 2 and 3 combined, and one teacher has Grades 4 - 6 in one classroom. There are also 5 Filipino teaching assistants spread out over the levels, who are all soooo nice.
  • My class has 8 students in it, 4 boys and 4 girls. They are 5 years old, and incredibly entertaining! They are quite a mixed group, too. There are 3 students with Filipino parents, 3 students with one British parent and one Filipino parent, one Korean girl, and one Australian girl. They all get along well, and are crazy and funny and loud and boisterous - like all Grade 1's should be! And SO cute. I love them.
  • The day starts with an English lesson, where we practice reading, writing, spelling, phonics. Hangman has become a firm favourite in the games department, as has I Spy... I also start each morning with a chat, I get the kids to tell me about their afternoons, and let the discussion go off in whatever direction it will, just to get them talking and comfortable and relaxed, and excited. Kids love to tell you about the things that make them happy. And they are really amusing too. It also gives me an important insight into each one of them, into where their heads are at, and how they operate.
  • After the first hour, we have our snack-time. Each of the children brings a piece of fruit to school every morning. The school chef collects these, and makes a giant fruit salad for all the kids to enjoy, together with some yogurt and muesli which the school provides.
  • Then we go back to class for another 2 hours, where we have a math lesson, followed by a Science or Geography lesson. The aim is to have fun while learning, so we do a lot of creative things in these lessons - art projects, multi-media learning, anything that is interesting and stimulating.
  • Then it's lunch-time for an hour, another nutritious-delicious meal provided by the school for students and teachers, and then the kids get to play for a while. It's fun supervising them, as the younger kids are SO MUCH FUN! But it's REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hot. Like super-hot. Like tropical island hot. Which the kids don't seem to care about at all, but the teachers melt in the heat somewhat, to be honest...
  • After lunch we have another 2 hours of teaching with a 15 minute break in the middle. By the afternoon, the kids are all a little tired, so this part of the day is used for the "softer" subjects. We do art, dancing, music, civics, social science. Once a week they have a Filipino class, a library class, and P.E on Wednesdays. Last week we went swimming with them at one of the super-swank resorts on the island for their P.E lesson. My life is sooooooo hard... :)
  • Then I finish at 3:30, and that's the end of my working day! FREEEEEEEE! Nice, no?
I love my job. I love what I do. I love being around children all day.

But I won't lie. It IS hard. I always joke about how easy it is, but really it's quite tough. At the moment we don't have textbooks or a syllabus (we will next year though) so I have to come up with all the lesson plans for all of the subjects, create appropriate worksheets and hand-outs and exercises, and make sure that by the end of the year the kids have mastered all the skills as laid out in the U.K curriculum standards guidelines which we follow. And all this while planning a wedding, arranging accommodation for everyone who's coming here for the big day, finding a new house for ourselves... and trying to live life!!!

Also, working with people is always a challenge, even when they are only 5 years old! They each have their own distinct personality, they have highs and lows, good moods and bad. They get tired, they get sad, the get angry, they get out of control. And I find myself always trying to find a balance between being easy-going and fun while at the same time maintaining a sense of control and respect. It's a dance, one that constantly changes.

But I DO love it. I would take this over working with adults ANY day!

Today we've closed for a week's mid-term break. WOOHOO!!! TIME TO GET MARRIED!!!!!!!
I'll keep you all posted. HUGE love!!! xoxox

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taiwan, How I Love Thee...

Let me count the ways:
  1. I love that local people stare at foreigners as if we are aliens. Or celebrities. It never gets old. I had forgotten this phenomenon, after blending in everywhere else in the world. I even had one old man follow me round the subway to see what tickets I bought, what train I got on... bless him.
  2. I love hearing Chinese. It's a language unlike any other I have ever been surrounded by. I loved being able to "speak" it again, even though - to be fair - what came out was a unique brand of Chinspanglish! (Chinese + Spanglish + English)
  3. I love how Taiwan has a endless supply of things that you don't need, but REALLY REALLY want anyway. You can get ANYTHING here. Absolutely anything. It rocks.
  4. I love that Taipei is the most convenient, safest and cheapest city I have ever been to in all of my life. Crime DOES NOT EXIST. You can go anywhere, do anything, get anything and it's all accessible. It is an incredibly easy city to live in. The best I have EVER been to, from this perspective.
  5. HEELS. I miss wearing high heels. I miss living in a city where you can buy high heels that are sexy and flattering and fabulous and CHEAP. Le sigh.
  6. I love the 39 NT stores, the 10NT stores, the 100 NT stores (30NT = 1 US$). You can buy anything and everything and then some. It's a shopaholic's paradise!
  7. I love the food in Taiwan. There are some things there that are SO delicious and SO unique: conveyor-belt sushi, beef-noodle soup, bubble-milk-tea, fried dumplings, crispy fried spicy seaweed, and an assortment of things that I wouldn't even know how to describe because I don't ACTUALLY know what's in them. But they taste SO DAMN GOOD!!!
  8. I love the randomness of Taiwan! I love the noise and the chaos and the bizarre wonderfulness of it all! I love that on my last morning there, we were woken up and kept awake from 9 a.m for about 4 hours by a crazy parade in the streets, consisting of a cacophony of noises and instruments and drums and fireworks and people performing in outfits of gods, which the main road had been cordoned off for! And I also love the fact that - upon questioning - none of my Taiwanese friends had any clue as to the occasion therefore either!!!
Finally, and obviously, my favourite thing about Taiwan are the EXCEPTIONAL friends that I have there. Friends who are my family. From my girlfriends who put money together and paid for my Bachelorette Party weekend in my old home town, to my darling bestie Victoria who came to pick me up at the airport - wine bottle in hand for the bus-ride home, and who put me up in her glorious little apartment (the "Bunny Hutch") which may well be the coziest and warmest and loveliest little place I've ever been in! To my girl Ness, who prepared an AMAZING 12-course dinner for us all - even down to home-made sorbet, TWO different kinds, no less!!! To all of my friends, men and women, who love me and look after me and make me feel so blessed and so lucky... I love you all SO VERY MUCH.

And of course, as per the heading of this entry...

Taiwan... wo ayi ni. xoxox