Working in private schools showed me, how is our style different to the public ones. On the one hand, public schools in Taiwan are very effective at preparing students for formalized paper-based tests, on the other hand, the students are hardly prepared for anything else in life. For example, as one of my previous articles showed, some kids are excellent at certain math tasks, but they don't have any idea about what is the Parliament, businesses, or even a bank account good for. Some don`t even know his home address.
LiveABC tries to help students to discover their potential in addition to helping to understand tests. Most importantly, the families always know what are we teaching and why. For example, I was the first one, who asked Lana, why does she take music classes, or weather she likes music or not? She recommended me to ask her mom, because she might knows the answer... She signed Lana up anyway.
Moreover, there are some differences between the two LiveABC schools' stiles, I've been working for so far. For example in Jhubei, students shouldn't cry during a lesson, even if they just cry for something irrelevant or for no reason. However, in Shin Fon making students cry after they misbehave is perfectly fine. Both approaches are right from a certain point of view, but still very different. One of my students cried, because she didn't want to sit close to the whiteboard, another cried, because she missed her mom, the other didn't know, why does she cry. The most important is however to comfort the students and create a positive atmosphere.
As a native European, I experienced a couple of tough winters down to -15 Celsius. However, Taiwan is famous for it`s pleasantly topical winters even in January.
I might be the only one walking in T-shirt, when General Winter comes with his +17 Celsius. Everyone else takes the good old winter coat out from the closet and dresses up like Santa. Even the sun smiles of these happy and cheerful people in winter, who don`t even no what is really cold.
Have you ever seen flowers to blossom in December? Come, and pick one from the field for your new boyfriend/girlfriend after coming to Taiwan for teaching position. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the fresh salty breeze coming from the nearby ocean.
Warm afternoons are rare in winter and Hsinchu has beautiful mountains welcoming with salty fresh breeze and majestic panorama. No wonder that I wanted to explore a bit by bicycle before Captain Winter brings cold again.
After 4 hours on the bike I realized, it`s getting dark so I turned back to go home to Jhubei. However, as you could find out the story from the title, I got lost and started wandering on the highways hoping to find the right way. 12 hours passed like this. The temperature dropped to 14 and having only a T-shirt on me and no food or drink with me, the adventure turned to be rather unpleasant.
At 2am a police car popped up from nowhere and two officers arrested me for riding a bike on the highways. In the beginning they looked upset, however when I explained officer Andy and Brian, that I got lost and without Chinese language skills I couldn't read the highway sign either, they decided treat me with a sandwich and a drink. They even dressed me up in a police uniform to keep me warm. In the end, they turned to be very friendly and wanted to take a loot of pictures together in the police station. I believed, these pictures are proof to charge me with fine, but officer Andy just laughed: "Don`t worry. You are not in trouble. We just want to post these on facebook." In the end, they even added me on facebook and told their love stories after seeing my girlfriend's pictures.
In overall, that Sunday night was rather unpleasant, but officer Andy and Brian turned it to be a happy end.
Who believed, that farming and cooking is related? No, I don`t mean in the kitchen, rather cooking on the field. Taiwan's lovely ancients came up with the idea to build chimney corners of mud, creating an excellent base to bake eggs and sweet potato.
Slowly reaching the end of my wonderful year in Taiwan, a group of teachers invited me to do the same in a farm in Jhubei. Building a meter tall ancient oven of dry mud nuggets and sand stones takes good sense of balance, however nothing can stand in group of enthusiastic teachers' way. After placing the bigger bricks on the small ones, we realized, the whole thing needs to be rebuilt from the start. However, the monument was standing firm the second time and we could start to fill it out with dry bamboo sticks to cook. Adding the potato and eggs was only the last step.
The whole cooking ceremony takes for half a day, which leaves one explanation to me. Likely only the women and the retired family members cooked this way, while the farmer men worked on the fields. Anyway, baking eggs this way was really fun.
PISA just came out with the recent ranking, showing Hong Kong and Taiwan the best in in paper based tests and Hungary (my country) one of the worst. As a teacher in Taiwan I see one main reason for this difference, Asian students spend 12 hours per day at school almost from the kindergarten.
While western kids run and play in the park, discover the world, or just enjoy sports, the elementary school students in Hong Kong study like robots. No wonder. Life is competition in Asia starting from the age of 0. I can see that Taiwanese students are more relaxed, but spending 12 hours at school is not unusual here either. This is how I become a teacher.
Have you ever heard of CCRL, the best chess software in the world? Beating this program in chess is officially impossible considering it`s perfection. However, a group of Philosophy professors from Cambridge tried to ask the program, what is chess, or "Why do you play chess?" and CCRL wasn't able to tell it. The same happened to me in Taiwan. A girl was signed up for a Sunday music class, but she doesn't know, why is music good. I asked a group of junior high students, why do you play math, and they didn't know it. I heard that asking questions in the school is "rebellious" in Asia, so the students cannot ask the teacher, why is a task relevant. This is what the western calls lack of critical thinking.
At the meantime, 60% of the Hungarians obtain university degree, the same students, who failed the PISA test. Moreover, 95% of the Hungarians work and only 5% is unemployed. Where is the success from? The 2012 National Census found that 70% of the Hungarians look down at paper based tests and values only practical knowledge. The most important is to be capable, proactive, ready for action and live in the reality. Western employees hardly hire educated geeks, who don`t know how to open a bank account, to book an airline ticket or to work in a team. One BA is degree is necessary of course, but an MA or PHD is hardly pays off.
In overall, I don't say that the Eastern or the Western system is better, I just don't recommend to live a "paper based life" like the CCRL.
One of the most pleasant culture shock in Taiwan is the friendliness everywhere. If you want to buy something in the supermarket or to buy new clothes or just meet random people on the streets, they smile at you and greet you likely in English.
No wonder, that conflicts are so unlikely in the everyday life, if people can kindly discuss their problems without offending others. For example, a guy parked his car in front of the neighboring school`s entrance and the teachers kindly asked the driver not to do it in the future. They didn't call him in names or rose their voices, just wanted to solve the problem.
When I go on land trip, the ticket cashier always asks me kindly, where do I want to go. It`s so unlikely, compared to the other countries I've lived in, where the cashier is close to the point shouting at the customers.
Mainly, people love their jobs and the country and they are extremely friendly with customers and foreigners. Come, and see yourself.
On the one hand, I hardly consider the Taiwanese net salaries low compared to Hong Kong, on the other hand, spending smart is one of the key factors to make profit in a foreign country. I experienced this fact from the first hand in several occasions and Taiwan is not an exception either. For example, if you are new in Asia and want to travel around, you might want make some extra profit before booking the airline tickets.
Firstly and most importantly, you do well to explore which shops, canteens and restaurants offer the cheapest but highest quality food close to your hostel. Buying dishes from different places is always useful, considering that some shops offer cheap fruits and vegetables, some restaurants offer cheap meat for take-out and some have excellent side dishes. There are lots of these kinds of places around LiveABC, so I can plan the daily walk to buy everything beforehand.
Secondly, it`s always handy if you have a washing machine in your living place, because the public laundry is relatively expensive. You might want find a nice department store to get economy size laundry powder, shampoo and tooth pasta. It`s always better to buy multiple packages in case of a discount.
After you save enough, mostly on buying quality, but cheap food very day, making both basic profit and money for your casual travels will be more than possible.
Student`s day, 12.11.2016
On the one hand, High schools are rather pressurizing and competitive in Taiwan, on the other hand, students can really rock and party when they have the annual Students` day. The students from the high school in front of our cram school invited me to join it and I was privileged to see from the first hand how creative, serious and fun activities they have.
The school yard was full of tents of cooking, "mixer", dance, and other clubs. A girl wanted to draw a picture of me at once we entered the main hall, which accidentally, but artistically looks like Micky Mouse. A group boiled eggs and they ran out of them pretty much in half an hour, another put dry ice into colorful cocktails to make them smoky. The main attraction was the podium in the middle ready for rock bands and dance groups. Some of them were more impressive than the ones from certain talent shows, some had room to improve. All in all, we enjoyed the performance, since the performers loved what they did. If you happen to come to Taiwan, let me escort you to a Student's day.
Do you like to step outside from the office after work or in the weekend do do something outdoors? I do and besides the many other choices, going hiking is a golden opportunity to enjoy the fresh air.
Taiwan is famous for it`s fresh air and green mountains, which lures a lot of people to the tourist-roads every day to enjoy the fresh salty breeze. After exploring Hong Kong on foot, especially the romantic forests, I have plenty of confidence to head to the unknown. The closest commonly visited mountain is in Hsinchu city, barely an hour from LiveABC in Jhubei. I was kinda privileged to visit it with my best friend (and boss), Houng Ji last Saturday, which I will never forget. The forest is full of native Taiwanese animals, such as giant beetles, butterflies and a bunch of squirrels with greenish fur. The whole flora and fauna is different compared to Europe.
If you happen to come to Taiwan let's explore the mountains and the seaside together.
Did you expect language barriers in Taiwan? Surprisingly, I experienced from the first hand that everybody can speak English here, at least on basic level.
When I take the bus or want to buy something or I just want to ask about directions in other cities, people understand basic words in English and not only the young ones. Firstly, the street names are familiar to everyone, so they make excellent keywords. Secondly, the shopkeepers can understand numbers, or the fact that you point at something or you hand the stuff over to the cashier together with the money. In overall, combining key words in English with body language always works for both the young and the middle age Taiwanese people.
In the Elementary School and the High School, English is one of the subjects, such as math or literature. They understand basic words, but you do well to repeat the same thing over with different choice of words. Likely, one of them will cover, what they learned in the school.
Food and Drinks are not necessarily different to the western ones, but some resemble Taiwan. Most restaurants open only in school hours to sell lunch boxes to students for reasonable price. If you happen to come to Taiwan, you might want to check them out. There are restaurants in Jhubei specialized only on sea food and also canteens for the physical workers. In overall, every place is different and offer at least one thing that you can find only in Taiwan.
As everywhere, people eat with chop sticks from the main course to the desserts. The most funny thing is to eat soup with them. Besides that, I was surprised that sometimes we eat only soup for lunch and we call it "noodles". In west, or at least in Hungary soup is only appetizer, a first course before you start the main one. Here soup is "noodles" and "noodles" can be your lunch without any side dishes. If you want to try something really Taiwanese, I can recommend stinky tofu, or pineapple cakes or any sea food. If you want to drink something healthy, dragon fruit juice is the best choice. People generally don`t cook, they go to restaurant or canteen religiously, because it`s more affordable compared to the incomes than in the West. Most families don`t even have a kitchen and don`t even feel that they need one. Housewives work as much as the men in Taiwan, so they want to save as much time on the housework as possible.
I love to talk about food and drinks, but having some might be better than describing it. Come to Taiwan and be my guest. :)
Typhoon Megi ploughs into Hualien, Taiwan on 27th Sept 2016
Taiwanese Typhoons are overwhelmingly intense, but seldom dangerous to people indoors, giving always an unforgettable show about the mother nature's power. I have been able to experience this phenomenal from the first hand in several occasions and you might want to see and feel it too. (Only from the balcony of course.)
If you happen to be from the States, the look of a tornado is likely familiar. Just imagine one with the size of five states or three times of Taiwan's. This gigantic storm moves 300-400 km/hour, faster than a jet. Besides that, the whole mass circulates like a tornado, whipping the ground with enormous amount of water with surprising speed, just like a landslide size machinegun. Fortunately, this phenomenal is seldom dangerous, because every family, office and shop closes until this "not official holiday" is over, announced by the government. You might want to shoot a video, or just enjoy the show from a safe balcony.
However, be careful with the "Super Typhoons", which cut trees literally into half in front of your eyes, meaning still no danger to people indoors. I took a picture as a souvenir of a tree cracked into half from the branches to the roots, standing as a sign of mother nature's destructive power. In the other street, a large branch fell on a car smashing the car flat and making the owner feel "flattered" next morning, when he saw it.
Fortunately, the responsible authority provides update weather forecast and announces the typhoon holiday in time, so people stay at home taking no risk. In addition, this is unexpected day off provides a golden opportunity for busy parents to spend some time with the kids or for internationals to experience something really Taiwanese. Are you interested now to come? :)
LiveABC Diary 18.09.2016 – 逢甲 Night Market
Hey Taiwan, thanks for welcoming me with yummy food and delicious drinks! If you want to try dozens of seafood, beef and “vega” snacks, if you want to choose of millions of Asian fruit juices, don`t forget to check out the night markets.
Public holiday is always a rare and precious gift in Taiwan, so you don`t want want to waste any minute of it! Last Friday, during the Moon Festival Jiannguo Huang, Beetthany and her mom introduced me the place in Taichung, because I was a guest in their house. Just imagine ten streets full of small shops and street merchants everywhere trying to sell their stuff regardless if you need it or not. Like a small Dubai! J You can buy everything from to the Italian pizza with sea weed and sweet frog eggs to the most expensive electronic gadgets, even drones. The most popular and traditional food is the stinky tofu with spicy sauce. Don`t forget to try it. The guava juice is quite yummy but slightly too sweet. If you order it, go for the low sugar.
Most obviously people don`t go to the night market only grab the stuff they need and to run away, but they spend amazing time with friends or with the family. In certain areas, you can play games, like archery or Chinese paintball. I hit three balloons with ten shots. Aiming with the bow is not easy, but fun. Anyway, I saw only happy people in the night market.
In overall, if you want to explore a night market in Jhubei or Thaichung just ask me, or Jiannguo Huang and we can show you around. The best place to have fun!
LiveABC Diary 12.09.2016 – Fish Market(新竹南寮漁港 Hsinchu Fish Harbor)
Hey Taiwan, thanks for welcoming me with bright sun and salty fresh breeze at the seaside! The country is guest friendly and pretty famous for fish markets and night markets, so you likely want to check them out.
The reason I love to go to the fish market and also invited my Mainland-Chinese girlfriend for dating in such a place, because the atmosphere is awesome. The whole area is romantic, very busy, but from a point of view in the middle of nowhere. Just imagine a big bunker with multiple floors, small markets with different kinds of fishes and people. … Many people. Besides that, there is an open market outside to have some seafood snacks with your friends. Just imagine, your lunch is alive or sadly passed away just recently and tastes great! You can take any gizmo creatures to hand it over to the chef who will bake it or roast it as you like. Most importantly, there are restaurants on the top floor with romantic view to the sea and reasonable prices. I will never forget the date there with Yangzi.
The school principal and my good friend, Jiannguo Huang and his wife, Betthany introduced me the place, because they also had great time there. We had roasted fish with the eggs inside and pink dragon fruit juice, which grows only in Taiwan! A lot of kids love to fly kites in the backyard and the beach is welcomes you with bright sun and salty fresh breeze.
Obviously, the fish market is next to the beach, so you need to take train to Hsinchu and bus number 15 to the last station, which takes for overall one hour. The place is really a culture-shock, just check it out, have some seafood, fly a kite or just walk at the seaside, … and most importantly come to LiveABC. ;)
Working Holiday in TAIWAN
with Live ABC
Come to join us
E-mail to LiveABC(Jing-Ming) Cream School
- Teacher’s dormitoryWe provide：Wi-Fi 、Internet、TV、computer、washing machineYou have to pay NT1000/week ( water and electricity )
- We provide a bike or a motorcycle
Notes for Working Holiday Visa Holders
I had a Level 3 and a Magazine Class today with bright and funny students. They are very enthusiastic about learning English. The summer holiday is finally over, so the classes are not as small as before. Eight kids joined the Level 3 class and Howl is the only boy. We learned some vocabulary and also sentence structures. Doing homework is not a problem in this class because the girls always hand it over on time, however Howl needs a little help. Besides the Level 3 class, I had a so called Magazine Class, which covers basically the school`s language study magazine.
I teach the Starter Class on Tuesdays, five awesome young girls. They are really enthusiastic and willing to learn English. Firstly, we planned to offer this lesson to an interviewee, who applied for a position to work here. However, this idea was cancelled and I did the Starter Class. I used the digital smart board to play some vocabulary games, such as labeling the pictures and the “pair game”. Later, I had a Magazine Class with six boys in the other building and we learned about the “Famine Events”.
I teach two classes on Wednesdays, namely the Level 5 and the Level 7. There are three students in the Level 5 class and a new student, Hellen joined us from today. Her level is slightly higher than Ben’s, Kimi’s and Justin’s. I should spend some time with two of the boys to complete the previous lesson’s homework, however their daily schedule is tight, so finding them, when they are not busy is rather difficult. Besides this class, I had Level 7 today and we had a unit 3 test. Their scores are high. This class is quite diverse, because Ryder is a very talented high achiever student and the others have much room to improve with the grammar… Anyway, the class is awesome. J
I teach the Level 2 and the Level 10 classes on Thursdays. There are twelve awesome young students in the Level 2 one. Some of them joined us just recently. Despite the fact that controlling the class is rather difficult, I do it pretty well, because they listen to me and do what I say. However, this day was a little difficult, because we had to do Unit 7 test, we had to do two pages from the Student Book and two from the Reader Book and most students didn`t do homework. Therefore, we had to do it during the lesson. Finally, we completed everything, but the students are very young and couldn`t write as quickly as the syllabus expected from them. Their scores were low. However, we always have a chance to repeat the test during the next lesson, so we will redo the test, so the parents won`t feel disappointed about the low scores. The Level 10 class is quite the opposite, we have only two, but very mature and disciple students. We had a unit 1 test, both Lana and James had 94%. To sum up, I love both classes.
I had the freshly started Level 1 class and some private teaching on Friday. We cancelled the Reader Class, because everyone joined one of the “Come to Life” classes. We do both the Level 1 books and the Sound It Out book in the Level 1 class. Nina, Vito and a shy girl, Wawa joined the class. Later, Wawa opened up, like a small flower we had great time together.