These past two weeks have arguably been some of the busiest days of my life. I can’t even begin to describe the absolute whirlwind of the journey from Boston to Taitung (which involved 3 plane rides and 2 buses for a total travel time of 30+ hours before we got to bed), maybe because it feels less like two weeks and more like two months.
And certainly, all nineteen of us are slowly but surely acclimating. I’ll admit the lack of sidewalks, whizzing scooters, and traditional Chinese characters adorning all the storefronts were strange at first, but they’ve already become familiar comforts. The one change that has been really drastic, probably my biggest culture shock experience so far, is the fact that Taiwanese people are so incredibly nice. I express this wonder to my friends every day, but it’s because I am truly floored by their sincere kindness. Every Taiwanese school administrator, restaurant owner, and taxi driver has been unfathomably kind. It’s one of my favorite things about Taiwan so far.
We have about a month of orientation before starting school on August 30th. We had three days of school visits, where we whizzed around 28 schools around the greater area; later, we have to fill out a preference sheet and our coordinators will help us match us to the schools. The rest of the days are filled with teaching workshops. A typical day consists of biking and sweating our way through 6km of traffic to the local middle school, listening to morning workshop, eating a “lunch box” lunch together at noon, having our afternoon workshop, making our 6km trip back to our dorms, and finding dinner (usually dumplings, or a variation of noodle soup). By the end of the day, we are sticky and smelly from all the sweat we’ve accumulated throughout the day, and we usually crash soon after much-needed showers.
One thing that strikes me as I’m sifting through all the different emotions these past few weeks is that there just seems to be such a clean, clear cut between Boston (was I really living there just three weeks ago?) and my budding life in Taitung. In some ways it feels like I’ve taken a step back living in college dorm-like arrangements, traveling in packs with fellow ETAs, and eating meals with them every day. But in a way it’s also comforting knowing I have a solid base of friends to count on throughout this year.
The next Big Step is our school placements–we hear the results this Friday! We’re also meeting our school principals and LETs, who are Local English Teachers who we will all be paired with. Fingers crossed!