You cannot imagine how many e-mails I’ve received from others wondering about my experiences half-a-world-away. Do I get homesick? How do I handle the language? Are the people friendly? Did I have trouble adjusting to the food? How are my students? Should I apply to take this opportunity? The questions vary depending upon who is asking the questions and why? Curiosity, interest in applying, maybe planning to make an extended visit…”Inquiring minds wanted to know!” Well, this particular blog entry is my response to anyone even thinking of visiting this part of the world. How could you not, if the opportunity presents itself? I have yet to regret my taking this past year to live and experience another culture in Asia. Fortunately, Taiwan has been wonderful to me. I am a Spirit-filled individual who put her faith entirely into the hands of my God. I prayed about my decision to come and a very loving husband said he would support whatever decision I made regarding teaching in Taiwan for this school year. Once God put it upon my heart to accept the invitation, our plan became a reality. My husband would visit several times, as he had other responsibilities at home. Thank heavens for this decision as my father became quite dependant upon my husband’s caregiving. I have had such wonderful experiences while being here the past seven months. My co-teachers at Siang-He Elementary are awesome. They have treated me as one of them and continually offer their expertise and assistance. All 525+ students are truly blessings to this teacher of 28+ years. Smiles always greet me no matter where I am…in school, shopping, at church, or just riding my bike around the area. Parents will stop, park their vehicle and cross a street just so their child(ren) can come speak to me using their English. I am embarrassed to say that the children far exceed me in their new second language acquisition. I continue work on the very basics…yet I’ve had no language problems being understood as to what I am wanting or trying to say. Bless sign language! My My My travels around the Island and off of the Island have been extensive. My Principal Huang and Director Cerita Hsu marvel at my independence but…well, I’ve just always been that way. Had strong maternal influence and paternal encouragement. I have traveled to Taipei, Tainan, Kenting, Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Hualien, Kinmen Island, Alishan Mountain and Fenchihu as well as Sansia. I toured the Taroko Gorge where due to plate techtonics occurring 4 million years ago, high pressures and temperatures compressed and metamorphosed the original rock turning it into marble. A recent weekend on Kinmen Island, just a few miles off of mainland China, was an eye-opening. Because its proximity to China, it was the site of many great battles between China’s Communist Party and the KMT troops who fled to Taiwan in 1949. Millions of artillery shells and bullets have been showered on the small islands of Kinmen and now Kinmen is a national park, known for its pottery, wine, peanut candy and marvelous knife cutlery made from artillery shells. Some pictures are included to show Maestro Wu as he makes renowned knives of the old bomb and artillery shells left on the beaches of Kinmen. Even today, workers, many from South Africa, continue to work on the beaches to remove the unexploded bombs of not so long ago! The work continues to be quite dangerous but the workers say the pay is very good and allows them to help their families back home. I’ve included pictures of the marvel of nature and man but trust me, your mind’s eye has to see to appreciate this, in person. I’ve been thinking, our United States is a lot like this Island. You have all of the seasons, although somewhat modified here with no snow except on extremely cold mountain tops. I’ve traveled from the Strait of Taiwan to the Pacific Ocean. I’ve seen fishermen who make it their living. I’ve watched the rotation of crops from corn, tomatoes, red peppers, melons, cabbage to rice and other crops, I’m uncertain of. From the third floor of my school building, last Tuesday, I actually could see the mountains east of me. I’ve been here for seven months and this was the first day that the healthier air quality allowed me to see the mountains without a haze. I was in awe. I hadn’t realize how close I am to the mountainous view! Although I am well-traveled in the United States, I don’t think that I have actually SEEN America. That will change now that retirement is in my very near future. I want to see and appreciate the Grand Canyon and really notice the Tetons in Wyoming. I can’t wait to once again smell the pines early in the morning in Flagstaff or witness the tree lines of Colorado. I have learned not to take so many of God’s gifts for granted. Ours is a wonderful world but we mostly get to see and experience just a small bit. As for my eleven months away from home, what a marvelous experience. I can’t think of a single regret, hesitation or change I would make, if I had it to do over again. Oh, once last thought. You may wonder why the children, teachers and others have English names. That is kind of a custom here. Taiwanese families allow themselves the privilege of selecting an English name…I really think they do this because we have such a hard time pronouncing their Chinese names. I even have a Chinese name that I’ll proudly share with you, when next we meet.