Wildlife Wednesday: More Taiwanese Wildlife

For last month’s Wildlife Wednesday, I posted the last of my wildlife photos from Taiwan. When I did, I also asked my friends and former students to consider sending me some of their photos of Taiwan’s wildlife, and Fu-Ting, a student in my Advanced English course last year, came through for me. So today, I have some photos of her sister, Ying-Ting (English name, Linda) and a few photos of wildlife they observed in Miaoli, which is a city not too far from Taoyuan, where I lived while in Taiwan.

There are four creatures here, and I’ve arranged them in order of creep factor. So we’ll start out with two creatures that are pretty safe, and I’ll offer warnings before we head into places some of you may not want to go.

I don’t know official names for the creatures here (other than Fu-Ting’s sister), but our first one is a cute little amphibian they snapped in the water.

 Futing 1

Next up, we have a praying mantis or two. Though in this first picture, you have to look for it. Good camouflage. HINT: A praying mantis can change from green to brown, depending on its surroundings.

futing 5

Here’s Cindy with a lovely green specimen.  🙂 To be honest, I don’t know if it’s the same one as above or not. Since the praying mantis can change color, it’s possible these are two photos of the same praying mantis. I could ask Fu-Ting if you really want to know.  😉

Futing 6

If you’re not a spider person, you might want to stop here. But it’s hard not be in awe of this little guy. Not much to look at in terms of flash, but what lovely structure and you’ve got to love those legs.

Futing 4

Our last critter might be considered by some to be the creepiest of the bunch. But notice, Linda thinks it’s pretty cool!  🙂 So if you’re squeamish about crabs, you need to stop now. Especially, if you get creeped out about someone holding one. But hey, it’s a small one! 🙂


Futing 3

And now for a close-up of this little guy!  🙂

Futing 2

I hope you enjoyed a few more specimens from Taiwan’s wildlife. I’d like to thank Fu-Ting (who I suspect stays behind the camera instead of getting up close and personal with these things); her sister, Ying-Ting, for showing us such a great variety of wildlife; and Tina at My Gardener Says for hosting Wildlife Wednesday.


The Pause That Refreshes: SoCS

It’s time for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, which means I’m also going to get a post in for Just Jot it January. What I like most about this happy coincidence is that I like getting a two for one in a post, AND SoCS posts usually end up being something I never would have written otherwise. So it’s a great surprise. If you’ve never tried it before, you should check it out. It can be really fun! So here is today’s prompt from Linda.

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “pause/paws.”  Use one, use both, use ’em any way you’d like. Have fun!

When I saw this prompt, I couldn’t help think of the Coca-Cola commercial with the slogan “The Pause That Refreshes.” (OK, so I date myself.)

Refreshing or not, it’s time for a pause. Following the holidays, and all those reindeer paws and Santa Claus and shopping and festivities, a break is what most of us need. There is something to be said for that week between the holidays when people comment about not knowing what day it is because schedules as we typically know them during the rest of the year simply don’t exist. Many of us can just move through those days and catch our breath. The pause might actually be refreshing if it weren’t for all the hoopla leading up to the holidays, along with the reality of heading back to reality as soon as we recover from our New Year’s revelry (if we partake in such revelry and IF we’ve recovered by the time said reality sets in).

Still, the pause is something we look forward to, often hoping in vain that we will be more organized, less stressed, and full of contentment and good tidings. For many, the pause itself is an illusion, as we trade the crazy schedules and expectations of the holidays for the crazy schedules and expectations of the day-to-day routines we manage through the rest of the year.

One of the great things about Taiwan is that I was able to step out of the holiday tradition as I experienced it all my life. I experienced a different kind of pause because of the cultural differences. Although Christmas will be a holiday of sorts in 2016 in Taiwan, it wasn’t during the six years I was there. I have actually taught classes on Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve, and the days leading up to New Year’s (although that day was a holiday for different reasons). It isn’t until exams are finished and graded, and final grades submitted, that the holiday pause happened.


The semesters in Taiwan are 18 weeks long, and while classes start a week or two later than they do here in the States, they don’t finish until the first or second week of January. Sometimes exams can sneak into the third week. THEN we have our semester break, with a three to four week break before the second semester starts following Chinese New Year. 2015 issued in the Year of the Goat.

In some ways, the preparations for festivities surrounding Chinese New Year are the same as the Christmas season for those who celebrate it. People plan their meals, clean their houses, pick up gifts. But in other ways, there are major differences. Where you celebrate each day of the Chinese New Year is proscribed, depending on how close you follow the ancient traditions. And while many people look forward to Chinese New Year’s Eve dinners based on the male’s family, and the reunion luncheons and dinners the following day based on the female’s family, it’s the same level of stress and activity that we experience on this side of the world.

I was fortunate to be invited to various Chinese New Year’s celebrations of various kinds, and I found that the sense of pause and catching one’s breath wasn’t really there. On the other hand, for someone like me, who only accepts a few invitations and picks up gifts for the hosts of the events I attend, the season is one where I can at least catch up on projects I’m behind on, even if it’s not a true pause. But occasionally, I was able to steal away hours and sometimes a few days to truly pause and recharge my batteries. It was during those semester breaks in Taiwan where most of my quilting time happened. I later learned to sneak it in other places, but CNY worked for me. I suspect though that it was largely due to the fact that it wasn’t MY holiday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing in Taiwan resulted in a huge shift in the way I approach Christmas. During my six years there, I sent greetings to family and friends, but aside from grandchildren, I didn’t do gifts. I invited students over to the house for a meal. I let them put up the tree, and we exchanged small gifts and ornaments, and they asked questions about the way Christmas was celebrated in America. But aside from that, it was business as usual, and we worked these gatherings around classes.

My first Christmas back in the States has been more of a pause than it would have been before my time in Taiwan, but as I reinvent myself in 2016, I have a feeling that Christmas will take on a new look as well, a space in time where I can truly pause and recharge my batteries and live in the moment of the season without getting wrapped up in the unnecessary trimmings.


This post is part of SoCS and JusJoJan. Join us. You can check out the rules and the other participants for either or both of these events Linda’s blog.

Taiwan – 21; Michigan – 6 (It’s not sports!)

Yeah, those are centigrade temperatures as of 10:30 am (Michigan time), which means the Taiwan temperature is a nighttime temperature 13 hours in the future — 11:30 pm. For those of you who don’t do conversions, it means that at 10:30 in Michigan, it was 43 degrees here and 70 degrees in Taiwan.

During my six years in Taiwan, it rarely got below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so when my students complained about how cold it was, or why I didn’t wear heavier coats, I often laughed and just said, “It’s no problem; I’m from Michigan.” So, this post is largely for those in Taiwan, because those of you who live in the northern US, you will likely not be that entertained by the photos I show below. But for those I left behind in Taiwan, they will be “crazily” fascinated.

frost warning 011As the seasons continue their trek through autumn, it is getting cold overnight. And in the morning, it’s cold enough that it’s like practice time for winter. This morning, I drove into work at 8:00 pm. And it was cold enough, not 6 degrees centigrade, but minus 3, or 29 degrees Fahrenheit.. Because I haven’t been here for the last several early frosts, I decided to stop the car and take a few pictures. In addition to the frost itself, you will notice that the sun is not up very high. It takes a lot longer for the sun to come up at this latitutde than it does for Taiwan. So here are a few pictures from a stop on my morning trip. For those of you in Taiwan, enjoy, ask questions, laugh if you must. The rest of you may want to avert your eyes.

frost warning 012Before we ever get snow, we get frost. What it means is that all the moisture on the morning grass freezes and looks not quite white, but almost grayish. It melts off as the temperature rises from its early morning numbers to a reasonable number by mid-morning. (It went from -3 to 6 today between 8 and 10:30 am.) this rise in temperature means that at this time of year, the frost melts by mid-morning and we are “safe” until it cools down overnight and threatens to freeze the morning moisture again.

I’ll have another view of the changing seasons for you later in the week. In the meantime, here are a few more pictures to enjoy.  🙂

frost warning 013frost warning 014frost warning 015I’m off for a cup of coffee to warm up.  More soon!

Part of my Heart will Always be in Taiwan

taiwan-mapAs I immerse myself into rebuilding a life in Michigan, there are times when I miss my friends from Taiwan. In the six years of my life there, there were so many special people that entered my life:  students, colleagues, neighbors, store owners, and coffee shop customers. Through email, Facebook, and Skype, I’m able to keep in touch with many. And I have many mementos from many of them. And in spite of all the good intentions, the connections aren’t as strong as they were when I was living there. I still catch up with a few people here and there, but the daily connections have largely been transferred back to the people here in the US.

However, I still get some really nice surprises. A few weeks ago, a student who became a friend and stayed involved in my life beyond our teacher/student relationship contact me. She sent me a file on Facebook that she wanted me to read. It was an autobiography that she was doing for one of her classes. She focused on her family, and most of what was written there I knew about, although there were a few new details that were new to me. Dante’s parents are divorced, but she does an amazing job of being part of both families that allows her to be an integral part of both.

Here is the first part of her story.

100_0635My name is Dante Chiang. I am a girl who loves cute stuff, watching cartoons, and playing video games (and I enjoy every part of it). Besides all of these, I want to tell you my so-far story. This may not be the usual way to begin, but I want to share with you the three families who make up who I am.

When I was 11 my parents got divorced, and since that time, I have been living with my father, my granny and my younger brother. My father and my granny try their best to take good care of me and my brother; however, because my brother is about 10 years younger than I am, and because of my father’s busy career, I have to help them to do house chores, baby sit my brother and also take good care of myself. I started to do part time jobs after high school just so that I could help support myself and not have them worry about me. I’ve worked in a steak house and a stand as a server; I’ve worked at the Bank of Taiwan, helping with student loans. I’ve also worked in a fishing market, and since my freshman year in college, I have been working part-time in MCU’s General Affairs office.

My father’s house is located in a small fishing village in Keelung, facing the Pacific Ocean and backed with mountains. Because of the fine natural environment, the local schools often have their students out for field trips, teaching them about the local ecosystem and how to protect their hometown’s environment. And I was one of those students. As a result, I am a nature lover and an animal lover. When I was a high school student, I rescued a kitten, abandoned by his mother, and kept him as my own pet and as a friend. Ever since his appearance, I became a cat lover. As a result of these experiences, I learned to take care of not only people but also animals, and I learned the way to ease people’s worries.

My second family consists of my mother and my younger sister, who is now studying in nursing school. My mother raises my sister and provides her a nice, warm home. Although my parents are divorced, my mother still shows her care for me. She calls me regularly and answers my calls whenever I need her. She encourages me to be strong and independent  like she is so that I can sail through my problems without any tears. I admire her as a mother and as a woman.

Although she wants me to be strong, my mother also encourages me to follow my interests and passions. When I was 18, my choices were military school in order to support my father financially, or study in a regular college and major in what interested me. My mother’s advice was: “Don’t think too much. Just choose what you love. I will be here and help you.” And, I am here. In a regular college, majoring in English.

But it was the next part of her biography that was the real surprise to me.

My third family might be considered unusual by some, but I consider Deborah and Dave as my American mom and dad. I met Deborah when I had her for my second-year writing teacher, but our relationship became much more than just teacher and student. When I was in Deborah’s class, Deborah invited me to her weekly writing group that met at a local coffee shop. And, soon, we became friends.

drama photoWhen Deborah’s previous assistant was in her last semester before graduation, she became too busy to help anymore, so I was invited to be Deborah’s new assistant one or two days a week. I thought this opportunity would be cool and helpful for myself as well, so I nodded. Sometimes we met at her house and worked there; sometimes, we met at a coffee shop, worked, and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee. I helped her with school work, helped to work on the textbooks she was producing, and became her personal interpreter. Whenever I went to her house, dinners were included in exchange for my help. Her husband, a great cook, made delicious American style meals. Deborah also asked me to be one of her TAs when the Japanese students from Tottori University came for their three week English program. Deborah taught them writing, and I assisted them in class and helped explain class materials to them. It was cool that I could help some Japanese students with their classes.

Through the time we spent together, we talked a lot. As we became closer, I could talk to her about any problems in school or in my family. Deborah comforted me, gave me advice, and even encouraged me to go to graduate school. “I will definitely write a recommendation letter for you whenever you need it.”  Thanks to my American mom and dad, I am hopeful that I will someday go back to school and study translation.

Eventually, Deborah and Dave left Taiwan because they still have their families back in the U.S. When we saw each other for the last time before they left, it felt so much more than friends, more like parents and daughter.  I will always remember the time we spent together, the times I interpreted for them, and the fun we had. Hopefully, one day I can visit them in America. In the meantime, we can stay in touch online, because we will always be family.

These three families all are part of me and who I am. I feel very lucky to have not one, but three families who care for me.

Thank you, Dante! You will always be a part of my life. Even though there are many miles between us, the bonds that we have made will always keep us close. ❤

Chinese New Year’s Eve in Taiwan: Locked in a Coffee Shop

chinese-new-year-2015_23-2147502883Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve. As evening approaches, the majority of businesses, restaurants, and other establishments will close and remain that way tomorrow and even into the following day. Places like schools are off longer. My university, for example, starts back on Wednesday next week. (Technically, the holiday lasts all the way to the 15th day of the new month, concluding with the Lantern Festival.) Now, that doesn’t mean EVERYTHING is closed. But other than the fireworks that will pick up in the next few hours, things will get pretty quiet. Many of the people in this area actually travel south to join their extended family for reunion dinners (on the husband’s side of the family) and then lunch with the wife’s family on the second day.

Now that you know that, I’ll tell you that I’ve spent pretty much the entire day at the coffee shop that I use as my pseudo office during the semester break. Naturally, I was wondering what they were planning for CNY. It turns out, they wanted me to know their plans as well. So through a couple of my students, they conveyed to me that they would close from 5-9 pm on New Year’s Eve for a family dinner. Then they’d reopen at 9 and stay open until their usual closing time at midnight. (We saw in the January New Year here at the coffee shop, so it seemed like a great idea to do it for CNY as well.)

A few days after telling me about the dinner on Wednesday, they posted a sign on the register and had someone translate for me to let me know they were going to go north of Taipei for the day. So they would be closed all day yesterday (Tuesday), but reopen today (Wednesday). They are also going to be open New Year’s Day (Thursday) and on. On Tuesday, while they were closed, my husband and I went to Taipei to meet a friend for dinner and coffee. So not only did we weather their day off well, I’ll be able to come here tomorrow, when most other places will be closed.

So now, back to tonight. I had (almost without thinking) made an assumption that since they decided later to go north yesterday, that they were NOT closing tonight for dinner. But I was wrong. So at 4:50, I had just gotten a new latte when I finally caught on to what was happening, as the last of the other customers were getting ready to leave. I quickly emailed my husband to tell him he should come right away to walk me home, or that I would come myself.

Through the magic of body language and charades, I was able to suggest that I just stay in the corner of the coffee shop and work here while they went upstairs for their dinner. I was half serious and half joking, but what the hell. Then through another kind of magic (smart-phones and translation sites), the owners were able to convey to me that I was, in fact, welcome to stay here while they did the dinner. They closed the shop, put up a sign that they’d reopen later, turned on some music, and I found myself locked in a Taiwanese coffee shop on New Year’s Eve.

Since my husband had packed fruit and veggies for me, and I have a fresh latte, I figure I am good until 9 when they return. At 9, my husband will join me, and we’ll see in the new year at the coffee shop.

As I write this post, I am nearly halfway through the four hours. It’s been productive and relaxing. A nice mix of work and introspection. It’s been a good day, and it promises to be a great beginning to my last Chinese New Year’s celebration in Taiwan.

If We Were Having Coffee: Happy 2015!

If we were having coffee,

coffeemeI’d tell you that it’s been four years since I had surgery to get my replacement knee. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. I remember that even on the day of surgery, I could feel the difference when I moved my leg. The only downside is that the surgery was done during my second year in Taiwan, before my husband had joined me, but there were so many wonderful friends and colleagues who helped get me through the hospitalization and recovery. So happy anniversary to my wonderful knee! Wishing you many more, dear knee! 🙂

I’d tell you I have set several intentions for the new year based on my vision for the new year.

I’d tell you that this is my first post of the new year. In fact, it’s the first post since November 21. But I’m making a comeback in a limited way. And one of those intentions is to reconnect with the blog world. But I’m going for regularity, not numbers. That means the plan is to write one blog post a week. If I do more than that, great, but I will do at least one post every week.  I’ll figure it out as I go, but no time like the present to start.

I’d also explain that here in Taiwan, our college semesters are significantly different than they are in the US. For starters, our weeks are 18 weeks long, instead of 15. And we start a bit later in September than most US colleges and universities. As a result, we’ve been teaching since September with only two holidays. Our semester break comes in time for the celebration of Chinese New Year. (There is talk that Christmas will be included in the holiday calendar next year.)

Now that you know that information, I’d tell you that final exams are this coming week. And then the grading, and then our semester break. Yeah, it sounds great to have a month off, but don’t forget I taught on Christmas Eve day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. (We did get New Year’s Day.)  I have to admit though, that although I dislike an 18 week semester — everyone gets so worn out, I do like the break at this “unorthodox” time. I feel like it’s more of a break than just being off to engage in lots of holiday hoopla. The Chinese New Year still has a lot of newness to it for us.

I’d tell you that, barring anything unforeseen, the textbook project is over! The relief is amazing. It will be even more amazing when all the ink is dry, and the books are in the students’ hands. My stress level has gone done dramatically.

I’d tell you that I have a big list of loose ends I want to tie up over break, especially things that had to be put on the back burner as I finished the textbook. But it feels good to feel like I will have some time and space to make some real progress.

I’d tell you that I’ve started peeking at a few blogs, starting to read. Not a lot of comments yet, but I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the great people I’ve met here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d tell you that it’s official. David and I (and our wonderful Puppy) will be heading back to the US in July of this year. This is my sixth year of teaching in Taiwan, and while I have loved almost everything about it, it’s time to go home.

I’d tell you that the next six months are going to be a bit of a whirlwind, as I complete things here in Taiwan and anticipate the move back. But it’s exciting, another phase in our lives. I will especially love being to grandparent at a closer range. Hey, Logan! Grandma’s coming!

I’d tell you that it feels good to write this post. I look forward to next week. 🙂

I’d tell you the days are moving by, and there are only 127 days to 60.

Thanks to Diana for gathering everyone together this week.  🙂  https://parttimemonster.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/if-we-were-having-coffee-the-inaugural-weekend-coffee-share/


The One That Got Away

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome days, you would never imagine the things that actually happen. Like Tuesday. It started out like a “normal” day. I wanted to go to one of our neighborhood restaurants for a coffee while I worked on the textbook project. This particular restaurant is half way around the corner of the block from our apartment, so Dave and I headed over there to get me set up for a couple hours.

Along the shops on that side of the block is a lot of parking, mostly for motorcycles. (Motorcycles in Taiwan is a blog post or three all its own, but not now.) As we turned the corner, and walked toward the shop, we noticed something unusual in one of the “parking spots.”

  • instead of motorcycle, motorcycle, motorcycle,
  • we saw motorcycle motorcycle, PIANO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYeah, I wouldn’t believe it without a picture either. And I know you can only see one motorcycle in this picture, but there was another one parked right next to that one. You can see a traffic cone in the street in front of the next shop, as well as other things you often see on streets outside of shops.

Now, back to the story. As a former piano teacher who has been in Taiwan for five years with no piano, I was slightly intrigued. Dave was less so, but it was fun to dream for a few seconds.

Dave went home, and I got settled into my work, but thoughts of that piano out there kept popping up. So I thought, “Why not just ask the restaurant owners if they knew anything about it.” (As an aside, these are the people who rescued the dog that we adopted from them.)*

Well, they didn’t. They were as surprised as I was to find a piano out there. The wife started talking to people and quickly located the owner in the midst of supervising the loading a truck. Apparently, they were moving. After a couple minutes of Chinese conversation, my friend turned to me and asked me if I wanted the piano. I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t seriously thought about this possibility; suddenly, there were many issues to consider.

  1. Our apartment is on the 4th floor.
  2. We would have to make room for it in the apartment.
  3. The piano wasn’t in really good shape (due to large fluctuations in humidity and temperature), although the key action was decent. And it was not terribly out of tune. (Yeah, I checked.)
  4. We’d need to have someone come to service it at some point.
  5. I hadn’t had time to quilt or do much of anything “fun,” so how would this be any different?
  6. Dave would think I was nuts. Oh wait, it’s probably too late for that.

The two of them talked some more, and I think I was asked four or five times if I wanted it, not impatiently, but with excitement, and I kept saying, “I don’t know.” The owner was willing to GIVE it to me. So I finally said, “OK, I’ll call Dave and see if we can figure out how to do this.”

They put a note on the piano that it was taken, and I called Dave. He’s so awesome. He  just gets his tape measure, measures the elevator roughly, and then heads back over to take a closer look at the piano. In the meantime, the husband of the restaurant team, Karch, started doing some measurements as well, and writing dimensions on a chalkboard that was on the wall of the porch to their shop (the same porch our dog had spent her days on).

When Dave arrived, he took more measurements and said it would be tight if it was possible at all. He looked at ways that some parts could be removed to gain an inch here or there. He went back home with the measurements to check the elevator one more time. While he did, I had visions of ten minutes here and there, moments when I could sit down and lose myself in music like I used to do. In spite of the fact, more can be done in longer periods, having the opportunity to sit down at a moment’s notice was quite appealing.

He returned with the verdict. In his words, it was “frustratingly close,” but no way without putting the piano on its end, which wasn’t a particularly good idea. Besides, that was if we figured out a way to get it that far.

In the end, we had to say no to the piano. But the good news is that I realized if I even dreamed about it for a few minutes, it opened up other possibilities. For example, I’ve been putting off quilting because I don’t have a “block” of time for it, but maybe I can set things up that even ten or fifteen minutes can provide a restorative interlude in the busy days.

It was also a reminder of all the people who have been so thoughtful to me and my husband. This is just one example of the many kindnesses the people of Taiwan have given us. Even though I’m returning home next summer, Taiwan will always hold special memories of generous and kind people.


*And here she is.  🙂


 191 days to 60!

UPCYCLED CERAMICS: Yingge Ceramics Museum 2014 (Part 2)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week, I posted part 1 of our trip to the Yingge Ceramics Museum. I wanted to do a separate post for the upcycled ceramics because it was so fascinating. I was afraid if I tried to put everything in one post, it would be way too long. This upcycled stuff is awesome, and I didn’t want anyone to miss out by cramming it in with a lot of other stuff.

If you’re not familiar with upcycling, it involves taking an item–whether it be a piece of clothing or furniture, or some other item that   Here is a link to a blog post about someone who upcycled a couple headboards to make a Mickey Mouse bench. And if you’d like to see another sample, check out this blog post with an upcycled tire clock. I really like how a used item and a few supplies and some creativity creates something much more artistic and sophisticated than the sum of its parts.

The closest I come to upcycling is when I salvaging cotton fabric from outdated clothing for use in my quilting projects. I am fascinated to read about how fellow quilters make use of their scraps, unrealized ideas, and “mistakes” to create new ideas and projects. However, until last week’s trip to the third floor of the Yingge Ceramic Museum, I had never thought about the “scraps and mistakes” that ceramicists have to deal with. They can actually have things break, shatter beyond repair. As we wandered through the exhibit, I was fascinated how these artists have found ways to incorporate these bits of “scrap” ceramics to upscale their designs and take them to new levels.

I have a few closeups of some of these seven upcycled pieces, but first, I’ll show you the view of the whole display. It looks like they are on a shiny reflective surface, but actually what you are seeing is water. The inner surface of this case is black, and so it looks like these objects are on a black reflective surface until you look closer and realize they look like they are floating in the water. 10403199_800296353325751_4825507233357346044_n

In between each of the main pieces, you will notice that there are plates positioned around the edge of the display tank. These plates are broken or have some defect, which is then altered by adding a piece from another broken dish. The effect is quite amazing.

Here are two of them closer up.


It’s hard to do justice with a camera phone, but you get the idea. All these scraps and broken pieces of pottery used to create stunning displays that focus on characters who have striking detail. Now for some closer views of the individual pieces.





There is so much detail in this one. It’s hard to take it all in. You can see some of the imperfections in the plate that is in this photo, but it’s still beautiful.




I particularly like the way these figures seem to be moving.



I hope you enjoyed the exhibit. It made me think a lot about recycling and upcycling, particularly for artists and their materials.

Have you done any upcycling? Or been the recipient of someone’s upcycling efforts?

I’ll have one more part of the exhibit to show you in another post.

Thanks for stopping by!

REUNION (AtoZAprilChallenge)

a-zchallengeAlthough I currently face many frustrations in my work, I love the teaching that I do. I get great joy from helping people express themselves. In my current position, that often means encouraging students to discover ways to express themselves in English, even when they lack the confidence to try. For example, I often hear students say, “Teacher, my English is poor.” I finally realized that I heard it far too often, and many of the students who said it actually had English speaking ability that was quite good. So I finally challenged them to change what they said, AND I made them rehearse it with me before they got away. Now, I have them say, “My English is pretty good, and it’s going to keep getting better because I will keep practicing.” It’s great to see their faces light up when they go through rehearsing that response.
One of the biggest joys of teaching is when a former student goes out of their way to visit me. This was the case last Friday when I had a reunion with Jessica, a bio-technology student I had in a required English class three years ago. She was a junior at that time. She is now completing her Master’s degree doing work in cell biology. She will graduate in June and has just completed the oral interview for continuing for her PhD.
What is especially touching about these photos is that she brought her graduation garb from home because she wanted pictures of me with her. She told me, “I didn’t get any pictures with you when I graduated from Ming Chuan, so I want to have a graduation picture with you now.”
When she posted the above picture on Facebook, she wrote the following:
Last Friday, I visited my favorite teacher, Deb Kraklow.
We haven’t seen for a long time.
We prepared pasta salad for our dinner together.
I am very pleased to be able to see her again because she always gave me encouragement and gave me a chance to speak English.
We chatted about our lives and I explained what I studied in my graduate school totally in English.
I was afraid to speak English before.
But now, although only in simple sentences, I can tell her what my research is.
If I had not met her, I’m still a girl who afraid to speak English.
I really appreciate her.

And I really appreciate Jessica. I couldn’t believe it when she told me during dinner that she wanted to try to explain her research to me in English. Jessica’s research examines the link between type I diabetes and osteoporosis and explores alternative treatments methods that could someday help treat both diseases. As you can imagine, explaining all of that in English is quite a challenge, but we worked together to piece it all together, and it turned out great. She was excited about it, and I encouraged her to think about trying to pursue writing her research in English as well to get even more exposure. I can’t wait to see if she tries. Of course, I’ll be willing to help her if she does.

One more fun fact. Because of her Facebook post, a couple other students have approached me about a reunion. I only taught English to the biotechnology majors here for two years, but it’s a special group to me. In a few days, I may be sharing another reunion experience I had a year and a half ago, with a group of biotechnology students from my first year here. In addition, I have a couple posts planned for next month that tell about my birthday celebrations in Taiwan. Two of them feature biotechnology students. AND Jessica is already working on a plan for my birthday next month.

Even without the birthday plan, I will always have the lovely memories of a week ago when Jessica visited me and shared an evening of reminiscing and research. There are many students who will always be part of my life, and Jessica is definitely one who will always have a special place in my heart.




a-zchallengeI’ve lived in a number of neighborhoods in my life, and I’ve loved almost all of them. But today, I want to share what my neighborhood in Taiwan is like. This is the second apartment I’ve had since I’ve lived here. The first one less than a mile from where I am now. The first one was fine for when I was here by myself (the first two years of my time here). But a year and a half in, I had my knee replacement surgery and was anticipating my husband coming to join me six months later. The apartment wasn’t all that conducive to my recovery (as my bed was in a loft with a narrow stairway), so the time was ripe for a change. Since that time, I’ve been in the current apartment. In another post, I’ll share pictures of the apartment itself. But for today, I’m going to show you a few pictures of the neighborhood.

To begin, once you leave our complex, he head to the left and come to a roadway with a lovely gazebo.



As we come out of our apartment complex, there is a park to the right (maybe you’ll see that on Friday — P is for Park. Around the other side of the gazebo is the walkway to Jessica’s coffee shop.


And here is Jessica’s coffee shop. (J is for Joyful Jessica.)


If you turn to the left at the gazebo instead of heading to Jessica’s or the park, you will find the beginning of the business district leading to Guishan Ho Jie (Back Street) which makes this street look like a sleepy village.


In a future post, I’ll lead you down this street to Ho Jie’s business district, then on to the morning traditional market.

If you have any specific questions about my neighborhood, feel free to post them in the comment section below. I’ll see what I can do to answer them and maybe even provide some photos.