Always a Silver Lining.

I promise I’ll be better at updating things here… Oy… I have about a dozen half-written pieces waiting for you! Here’s a little excuse for that?

For now, here’s a daily anecdote to tide us over.

In typical Kelly-in-Taiwan fashion, I never really know what’s going on around me. Today was a funny day that highlights this.

I had three things I needed to get done this afternoon. Go to the bank, make a reservation, and buy unsalted almonds.

When I opted to go to the bank, it was closed. I then went to make reservations at a restaurant for Friday night, and the English speaking owner wasn’t there… So no dice. I waited for awhile after repeatedly gesturing and using the absolute basic (and crap) Chinese that I know to indicate what I was doing. I brought out the smartphone (it’s definitely smarter than me), and we could translate some things that I was trying to say but with the wrong tone and pronunciation in combination with the English I was trying to say with a Chinese accent along with gestures… All to the conclusion that I should just come back tomorrow. Then, the only place I know where to buy unsalted nuts was shutting down and closed for business when I showed up. We’re talking all of this before 4:30pm in a country that I am rightly and wildly under the impression never (ever) stops working… So I thought I was batting 0 for 3.

These might seem very trivial things for anyone living in a country where you speak the dominant language, or understand the dominant culture. But let me assure you, these basic trivial needs become quite prominent when you live abroad. More on that later.

Thankfully, life has a way of reminding me that the silver lining is always in sight.

Most nuts here in any Changhua grocery store have way too much seasoning or salt on them. (If anyone knows of a good place to buy unadulterated nuts here, I might kiss you). I walked away from the little gift shop near the giant Buddha where I had hoped but failed to buy my unsalted almonds. As I walked away, I got to take in the sight. The sun was setting, and I had the best seat in the city.

This beautiful big Buddha statue overlooks the city, atop a mountain that’s preserved for spiritual, social, and nature walks or sits. It provides a marvellous escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Any time I visit I find a little bit of peace and contentedness.

It’s not hard to get to. It’s literally right in the centre of the city. And yet I don’t go often enough. The little bit of nature the Buddha provides is like a tonic for the part of me that finds frustration in a never quiet city. Not to mention, they sell salt-free almonds.

So today, as the sun was setting and as I was walking down the steps dejected from my nut shop (and earlier bank and restaurant fiascos), but still feeling uplifted by being around trees, the Buddha, and nature, I realized the normally dormant fountains at the base of the Buddha were putting on an elaborate show. I sat on the steps to watch the sun disappear beyond the city and the water show put on before the Buddha, myself, and just a few other observers. The city and life from this perspective looks alot bigger and yet more peaceful than it seems when I’m actually in the mix of it.

The fountain show had beautiful music and lights to go in tandem with the water spraying. It didn’t last long, but it was enough to slow me down, and to remind me to stop and just breathe for a while. If all of the previous activities I’d needed to get done had actually gone according to plan, I would’ve missed it. I’m glad it didn’t work out for me this time.

After the fountain show, the water just lapped out of each fountain head slowly and peacefully. I could hear the steady hum of the city going on outside of the quiet bubble the mountain provides, and I was both hesitant and excited to join it again.

It must be a good thing I’ll need to go back soon to find those nuts.

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View from the steps of the Buddha

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Buddha at dusk

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Mountain meets City / City meets Mountain

Teaching and Learning in the ESL Classroom

It’s time for the third edition of the Reach to Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival. This is a monthly series that provides helpful tips to ESL teachers around the globe. This month, I’m hosting the amazing bloggers here! If you’d like to get involved in next month’s carnival, please get in touch with Dean at dean@reachtoteachrecruiting.com

The topic this month is about the learning we do as teachers. We aren’t just fixtures designed to instruct from the front of a classroom. As teachers, especially teachers abroad, we are given the wonderful opportunity to learn just as much as (if not more than) we teach along the way. Read the entries below from these amazing teachers (and subsequent students) to see just how teaching and learning truly do go hand in hand.

Shay Delagarza and Zach Zine – Teachers in the Students’ Seats

Hello!  Our names are Shay and Zach and together we make up the team that is “Internationally In Debt.”  We are both Chicago natives, have been dating for over seven years, and have lived in Taipei for about 16 months now.  We love our lives here and live them to the fullest despite the fact that we have a combined student debt load of over US$140,000.  We hope to prove that you can do it, too!

Sometimes in our classroom we become the students.  We have learned so much in the past 16 months of teaching here, and we wish we could explain every last detail.  But, alas, we cannot.  In our post, though, we have compiled a few of the things we have learned that we see as very important. Enjoy!

Dean Barnes – What Teaching ESL has Taught Me

My name is Dean, I have been traveling for around 2 and a half years now with a small stint back in my home country. I’m from the UK and I began my teaching career on the island of Bali. I then made the move to Taiwan where I currently reside. Here I have the joy to fulfill my passion for writing by providing ESL/travel related articles to the Reach To Teach website.

Teaching ESL can teach us a lot about ourselves as people. Here I discuss what teaching abroad has taught me about myself and my personal life. Teaching English in Taiwan and Bali has given me two different ESL experiences that have taught me a lot about myself.

Vanessa Long – Learning from Teaching

After 26 years in Texas, I decided to take a huge leap and move to South Korea to teach English for a year. As the time zoomed by, I quickly realized that one year just wasn’t enough time to spend in Asia. I currently teach at a public elementary school near Daegu, South Korea.

I’ve been a teacher for many years now. I studied Elementary Education in college, and have worked with students in various ways for over 10 years. Every experience has been very different, especially teaching in Korea. Here are two things I’ve learned, and been able to greatly improve while teaching ESL in Korea.

Eteri Chatara-Morse – Being an Entertainer… and sometimes an Educator

Eteri has lived/studied abroad (Germany and Japan) and lived/taught abroad (Republic of Georgia and Czech Republic). Her blog started as a way to keep her various family members abreast of what she was doing while teaching in Georgia and has carried on into further travels.  She occasionally finds time to remember adventures from her time spent studying abroad in Germany and Japan.  So with no further ado, welcome to her mind. 

This post is a glimpse into my years teaching abroad and how each location influenced my teaching style. My first year teaching abroad was in Kutaisi, Georgia (the country, not the state!). They are a developing country and have a fairly terrible education system. While my next experience was very different in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. Their education system is much more developed and my imagination soared with games and activities. It certainly helped that there was a plethora of materials for me to use at my fingertips.

Lisa Vinish – Things my students have taught me 

My name is Lisa Vinish and I’m a 20-something Canadian with a passion for education and travel.  My first international trip was to Kenya in 2008 and I’ve been traveling nearly non-stop ever since.  In 2010 a combination of disillusionment with academia and an overwhelming urge to travel again led me to abandon my graduate studies and move to Asia.  This continent has been the greatest love affair of my life, and I’m not quite ready for the inevitable “break up” yet.  Currently, I live in Pohang, South Korea and teach at a small private kindergarten.

After over two years of teaching in an ESL classroom I’ve learned so much about myself and teaching.  Over time I’ve figured out what does and doesn’t work; however, I think mistakes are unavoidable.  Every day spent in front of a class is a new opportunity to learn and grow.  This blog post details the top 5 things I’ve learned from teaching.

Liane Nichols – Teaching the Teacher: The things I’ve learned from students abroad

Liane is an independent foreign English teacher and travel writer.  She graduated from Texas State University in 2010 with a B.A in International Relations.  During college, Liane interned with the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Institute, and volunteered as President of the International Studies Club and Sigma Iota Rho Honors Fraternity.  Since then, she has been fulfilling her dream of traveling the world by teaching English in Thailand, Georgia, and the Czech Republic.  Follow her experiences by visiting her blog at Nicholsaway.blogspot.com.

I’ve learned plenty of useful information from my students, but my favorite lesson was learning how differences in pronunciation can really change a words meaning.  Thanks to my lovely Thai students at Wangchanwittya, I accidentally learned a new word!

Chris Schannauer and Jenni Burdge – The student in all of us 

My name is Chris Schannauer. My girlfriend’s name is Jenni Burdge. We both teach at Jungchul Hakwon in Gongdo, South Korea. We have been in Korea for a little over four months now. We hail from the United States. I was born in Pennsylvania, and Jenni in New Jersey. We are both certified to teach secondary history in Pennsylvania. We decided to teach in Korea with hopes to boost our resumes, but also to take this opportunity in our lives to travel.

This entry speaks about two of the things Jenni and I have learned from our students.

Samantha Baker – Master Becomes Student

Samantha Baker is an American who has been living and teaching in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for 7 months.  She previously lived and taught English for 15 months in Taipei, Taiwan.  Samantha is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she was a Special Education teacher for 4 years.

This post is what I’ve learned about teaching ESL by being a student of foreign language.

Tiffany Molyneux – The Teacher Becomes the Student

Hello! My name is Tiffany Molyneux. I am a 28 year old from South Florida. I completed 6 years teaching in Florida, before moving to South Korea. I am in my second year teaching English in South Korea. I love God, people, and adventure.

This is a brief entry of some of the things I have learned while teaching in the ESL classroom.

Sarah Steinmetz – What I’ve Learned in the ESL Classroom

I am a New Hampshire native and a proud graduate of the University of New Hampshire. After teaching at a high school in New Hampshire for a year, I decided to leave my life behind and move to South Korea.  I am currently teaching at a High School in Jeomchon, South Korea with amazing co-workers and students alike. 

When I finished EPIK orientation about two and a half months ago, I felt like I had been through the most overwhelming whirlwind of my life. Everything in my life was suddenly different, and then BAM! It was time to start a new job.  Over the past few months, I have learned countless lessons about students, teaching, and my own strengths and weaknesses.

Mary Ellen Dingley – What I’ve Learned in the ESL Classroom

Mary Ellen has volunteered, studied and worked in South America, Eurasia and the Caribbean. She graduated from the George Washington University where she studied cultural anthropology and creative writing. She currently resides in New Orleans where she dances as often as possible, talks about food a lot and spies on other people’s puppies at the park. 

ESL teaching abroad is difficult in all the regular ways that teaching is difficult, but compounded times five when you throw in cultural differences and language barriers. Here, a few unorthodox lessons from the classroom!