Feeling the love from Taitung 台東 this week. Many people there have been asking me how I'm doing, and hopefully this post will answer most of their questions. Long story short: I'm fine. Life in Pingtung 屏東 isn't THAT different from life in Taitung, and work is going OK.
By the time you read this I'll have taught my first week of classes. This year I'm at Fangliao Elementary School 枋寮國小, in Fangliao Township 枋寮鄉, three days a week, and Yuguang Elementary School 玉光國小, in Jiadong Township 佳冬鄉, two days a week. I'm getting used to being "new" again, and I'm getting used to doing things differently. It's not always easy, but I'm learning a lot about the area and the kids seem glad to see me.
I get up at 6:30 in the morning. After that I wander downstairs, try to wake up, and then ride my bike to one of the two schools where I work. If it's Monday, Wednesday or Thursday I go to Fangliao. If it's Tuesday or Friday I go to Yuguang.
Fangliao is a little closer to where I live. From Shin Kai Village 新開村 there's a road leading down the hill through Shuidiliao 水底寮, and on the other side of Shuidiliao I cross over Highway 1 and head into downtown Fangliao. Fangliao Elementary School is just a little north of Fangliao Fishing Port. In Fangliao I can hear the waves crashing against the shore, and I can always go to 7-11 or 85 if I want a coffee.
Yuguang is a little farther from my house. Instead of going down the hill through Shuidiliao, I take a right from Shin Kai onto the Mountainside Highway 沿山公路. I follow the Mountainside Highway north, taking a left on the road leading to Lili Village 力里村. From there I go down a hill between pineapple and banana fields, cross Highway 1 north of the Ping Nan Industrial Area 屏南工業區, and ride along a trail leading into an old cemetery. On the other side of the cemetery is Yuguang Village, and after a couple turns I'm at Yuguang Elementary. Yuguang Elementary is in the middle of farmland, and buying a coffee there isn't quite as convenient.
The way the two schools operate is very different, but I think it's better not to go into too much detail with regard to their differences. I am new after all, and I don't want to make too many assumptions about either place. Let's just say that one school is a lot more serious than the other, and this seriousness filters down from the principal to the teachers and students. Is this seriousness good or bad? I can't say yet.
Around four I finish work and head for home. When I get home I take a shower and then we think about where we want to eat dinner. After moving into our house we discovered that our refrigerator wasn't refrigerating enough, and as a result we got very ill from eating spoiled meat. Since then we've been eating in local restaurants.
And here's where living in a more rural area can be a problem, because there really aren't many local restaurants. The only option in Lili Village is 7-11, Jiadong has a few restaurants on the main road, Shuidiliao has a handful, but for the most part downtown Fangliao is the only place to go if you want to eat out. South of Fangliao? There's almost nothing until you arrive in Checheng 車城. In places like Fangliao people just don't eat out that much, and this limits the number of restaurants open at any time. When we have more energy we drive up to Chaojhou 潮州, which has more of everything, but that's not a place you want to drive to every day.
On the weekends we've been exploring Pingtung. Last weekend we drove down to Jialeshui 佳樂水, in Man Jhou Township 滿州鄉. After visiting Jialeshui we had pizza in Hengchun 恆春. We've already been to Kaoshiung 高雄, Pingtung City 屏東市 and places along the Mountainside Highway several times. I've ridden my bike to Dapeng Bay 大鵬灣, Fangshan 枋山, Wan Luan 萬巒 and several other places. If it's not a weekend, going to anywhere in Pingtung County is easy. If it happens to be a Saturday, Kenting 墾丁 is best avoided. Driving north along Highway 1 can also be a chore on Sundays.
This weekend? I'll be in Kaohsiung. My younger daughter's (finally) starting school at the Kaohsiung Hospitality University 高雄餐旅大學, and we need to go with her to help her get settled in the dorm there. My older daughter starts school at Wenzao University 文藻外語學院 a week later. My wife is the sixth grade homeroom teacher at Yuguang.
So yeah, that's what's going on with me. If you're reading this in Taitung don't worry; I'm fine. I'll probably be back over there during the coming four-day weekend. We'll pack the cats in the car, work our way east, and be there before you know it. Rest easy, friends, and remember that I'm not THAT far away.
Some People I Know in Taitung County, Viewed Through the Side by Side Textbook, Unit 9 and My Line Account