For going to a place so picturesque, you’d have thought I’d have brought my camera with me today. Contrary to this statement, I found myself making a conscious although somewhat uninformed decision to leave said camera at home today, which was ultimately a bad idea. I realised this as soon as I recalled that today we were visiting Na Nao county and the four elementary schools there.
While at first I was a bit miffed that I had made the choice to leave my camera at home that morning, I soon realised that it gave me the opportunity to be really in the moment at these special schools and capture the experience to paint a different kid of picture, that of words.
Our other visits had been numerous and undertaken by hours on a bus, so I was glad to take the train down through the counties of YIlan, which isn’t really as big as it seems on the map. We could get from Yilan to Nanao county in 30 minutes by train. Deceiving, no? Our tickets said ‘standing seats’ which meant essentially that we weren’t guaranteed a seat and were made to stand. The train was air conditioned, I wasn’t about to complain. Good company was had, along with enlivening discussion.
Stepping off, we were met with a wave of heat and a small town that was very much different from Yilan city. I was first stuck by the lack of movement. Everything was still which is in stark contrast from the city where I live where everything is moving late into the night, honking, whirring, revving, squealing. Cars and mopeds did not move with such urgency. People stopped to look, following our group with their gaze. Little children even followed us down the road into some school campuses, eager to figure out what strange people were doing in their traditional area.
Walking about five minutes led us to the first school where we were met by lunch boxes (again again again) and cold water, as well as the spokespeople from each school who would then proceed to present their schools to us. For those of you who don’t know, we have been placed in temporary housing for this month of orientation and preservice training. We will be assigned schools based on preference (or so they say). With 20 to choose from there is a spot for all of us. Honestly, I’m not going to bother being fussed wherever I end up, it will be a great experience and I’ll grow to love my students. That said, I was a bit smitten by the Nanao presentations and the area in particular.
Nanao schools are smaller, most with 100 students and around 16 staff members on average. Their focus on aboriginal tribes is something I”m going to have to think more about and will leave to another post for discussion. I was, however, really impressed with the staff’s obvious love and commitment to the schools and their students’ heritage.
Each school had its own flavour, but were all small, tucked in some back road between the jumbled and mismatched houses of the community, like a backyard in themselves. Awnings and shades sheltered the students from the heat, and libraries seemed well subsidized. Slick wooden floors and shining new air conditioning units featured prominently in the spaces, as well as many a no-shoe policy. If it’s anything that’s going to sell me on a school, it’ll be the library.
Courtyards were replete with greenary and, although the heat permeated every inch of my clothing, the sea, visible on the horizon, provided a lovely cool breeze.
In comparison to the schools we visited yesterday, Nanao schools seemed more accessible. Teachers were approachable and students even hung around and, in the case of the last school, gave us a performance. Four aboriginal students performed a song and dance for us and then we got to dance with them. Smiling and laughing, I could picture myself being welcomed to these schools with hugs from students. Getting a bit ahead of myself, but I’ll have to make a preference sooner or later.
Pulling away from each school in our bus, I felt a different feeling from the other schools. Somehow I relished the rural aspect of the whole experience. The jumble of houses at the side of the road, the families crowded around makeshift tables between the trees, the long unabashed stares of the children who probably haven’t seen many foreigners in their lives. Again, too early to judge, we’ve got another 11 (ELEVEN) schools tomorrow.
But, it’s always a good time 🙂