Friday, May 13, 2011

Busy with Buxibans

Brett and I have been busy seeking work since our arrival in April and as a result haven’t had a chance to meet and hang out with any fellow travelers. That all changed the other day when I was on the train coming home from an English school. I noticed a foreign girl by herself holding a map and looking confused in one of the biggest KRT stations in the city, so I approached her and asked if she needed help finding her train line. We walked together and she explained she didn’t even have a place to stay for the night! I told her to come back to our hostel for the night where there was lots of room. Turns out she’s Brett’s age, from Florida, and has already been teaching in the country for almost a year. After she got settled in, we headed out for an awesome walk to Cijin (a long, skinny island right along much of Kaohsiung’s coastline). We took a quick and cheap ferry ride there from Kaohsiung Harbour, ambled up to an old fort, followed a trail to a beautiful lighthouse and then wandered down a rocky slope where I ripped my pants on a modest scramble. Then we went to Amy’s which is quickly becoming mine and B’s favourite Taiwanese restaurant. We tried to be good and order lots of veggies but MSG had clearly been liberally sprinkled all over them. Over dinner our new friend gave us lots of advice about what to see and eat in Taiwan. An excellent evening!

B and I have applied to quite a few schools in the city and so this week was spent catching up and being interviewed for some of those positions. The schools that most foreigners are allowed to work at in Taiwan are called buxibans (pronounced bush-ee-bans) or privately owned cram schools. Each of these schools has very specific things they look for in their foreign teachers. Some schools prefer South African, UK, Australian or Irish accents, and some prefer Canadian/American accents. Some prefer teachers with little to no experience so they can train them, while others refuse to hire anyone without several years of Taiwanese ESL teaching under their belts.

A common step in the interview process is a “teaching demo” where you’re given a scenario a few hours before class starts and are asked to teach an hour long lesson to a group of ESL students. I had two of those this week and it was really cool to see how some of the schools work and to interact with some very bright kids. There is nothing quite like a cluster of adorable Taiwanese children crowding around you asking “Teacher, what is your name? Teacher Amanda, are you our new teacher?” I was also really surprised at the end of each of my lessons when I was pulled aside and PAID!

Between the two of us, we’ve had appointments nearly every day this week. It feels great to spend a lazy Saturday morning doing nothing and I think this afternoon we’re going to the beach! I hope everyone back home is getting ready to have an awesome weekend too. We miss you!

Catching the Ferry to Cijin
On the Ferry to Cijin
View of Cijin from Cihou Fort. Tuntex Sky Tower in the background.
Sunset at Cihou Fort on Cijin Island.
Dusk on a beach on Cijin Island.

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