Taiwan: Mosquitoes, Humidity, and Unforgettable Students - My Family Travels

I never thought that I’d become a full-time teacher while still in high school. I never knew that I would be able to touch 16 lives in two weeks. However, I have not enjoyed a more rewarding experience than Assisting Individuals with Disadvantages (AID) Summer, a program that provides for high school and college students of Chinese and Taiwanese descent to teach English in rural Taiwanese schools. After staying for a week at Chien-Tan Youth Activity Center in Taipei, Taiwan to train and draft teaching plans, our group of eight volunteers departed for Ma-Guang Elementary School in Yunlin. During the three hour bus ride, I vowed to remember: we are not here on vacation; we are here to change lives.

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Our first day of teaching mostly consisted of improvisation. We realized that the students’ English speaking ability was much higher than we had anticipated, and played icebreaking and vocabulary games as we thought of them. Although we were anxious for our fifth-grade students to respect and like us, we quickly realized that the students were just as nervous about meeting the teachers who had traveled halfway around the world for them. The two weeks flew by. Instead of standing petrified in our sight, after the first week, the students started treating us as friends, asking for piggyback rides during breaks.

On the last day, we decided that the students had earned a break from classes. We handed out water balloons after lunch, allowed the students to fill them up with hoses outside, and prepared for the worst. The bell struck 1:30pm. Let the fight begin! The students ran to the sinks outside the classrooms, warding off all teachers who tried to replenish their water balloon supply. As we retreated to a pavilion near the playground, the students slowly surrounded us. We ducked; the shorter teachers hid behind to the taller ones, but to no avail. 12 teachers against 70 children was a lost cause. Amidst the pelting balloons, five teachers ran out into the line of fire. They stole empty water buckets from inside the classrooms, and gently elbowed kids away from the sinks. The other teachers, already soaked from standing in the besieged pavilion, soon followed. As fifth graders ran towards us with cans full of water, we thought of a defense strategy. Turning the cans toward its carriers, we dumped water on their hands and heads. The battle intensified; kids exchanged water balloons for buckets and cans; the teachers’ clothes stuck like plastic wrap. The kids continued to run around, attacking any adult they encountered. Some of them especially targeted their own teachers, smiling mischievous yet adorable smiles while taking aim. The bell rang again. It had been an hour. The fight had ended; the soaked teachers had lost miserably.

After we all changed into dry clothes, our students impatiently waited for us to return to the classroom, where they showered us with handfuls of handmade cards and gifts. It had only been two weeks, but the students already looked up to us as older brothers and sisters. We entreated them to e-mail us often, so that we could continue to be involved in their English education and their lives. As we left the school, every heart was torn. However, these wounds were not irreparable, nor were they harmful; the tears were memories and promises of our respect and love for one another. Although we of AID Summer had limited time acting as teachers, we will forever be our students’ mentors, just as they will forever be our siblings, treasured in our hearts.

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