Living Appropriately: Musings From a History Teacher in Colombia

Let’s see, I think this week we’ll talk about…what’s that, you say? There hasn’t been anything posted to this blog for four months? Oh yes…making actual entries on your blog…riiiiiight. So sorry, folks. Turns out that once one gets out of the habit of doing this over a summer vacation, it becomes a rather easy thing to put off doing, what with the travel and catching up with friends and family and all. Never fear, though–I am back in action and excited to see how the blog might continue to develop this year. So let’s get down to it, as I’ve some catching up to do.

Postcard of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei

Postcard of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei

In order to get this first entry of the season off the ground, I’m basically just going to post some pictures from a couple school events that I never got around to getting up last spring. First off, from our WWII “Benchmark” projects in April that served as the capstone and one of the big highlights from our Modern History classes last year. All the students were able to choose a WWII topic and then were placed into groups of 3 or 4 to create a group visual display that summarized their research, in addition to completing an individual research paper. They did a great job and I was proud of their collective efforts on project night:

Group shot with the Modern History sophomores on project night

Group shot with the Modern History sophomores

 

Parts of 3 groups together here, including Michael, our budding uranium-enriching nuclear scientist.

Parts of 3 groups together here, including Michael, our budding uranium-enriching nuclear scientist.

 

Eric T. and Eric S. built a tank turret in the middle of their display, complete with machine gun sounds blasting from their smartphone. Good stuff.

Eric T. and Eric S. built a tank turret in the middle of their display, replete with machine gun sounds blasting from their smartphone hooked up to speakers in the background. Good stuff–well done, gentlemen.

 

At attention! These girls were all secret German agents during the war and the "hidden power" of the Axis side.

Atten-HUT! Despite their innocent looks and youthful appearance, these girls were all secret German agents during the war and the “hidden weapon” of the Axis side.

Our headmaster, Dr. Cheska, discussing the finer points of Soviet strategy in the defense of Stalingrad with Albert H.

Our headmaster, Dr. Cheska, discussing the finer points of Soviet WWII strategy with Albert H.

I also wanted to post a picture from our second advisee dinner last spring. As you might recall, our first such dinner last fall was, shall I say, a somewhat harrowing experience (at least for me personally that is, as the logistics of getting everyone picked up on time and the stress of navigating between swarms of scooters to get to the restaurant had me on edge). Fortunately this second dinner proved to be a much smoother experience, and we all had a great time at a local pizza joint. I’ll be moving on to a new group of advisees this year, so this was our last official outing together:

Left to right, front to back: Christopher, me, Daniel, Winnie H., Winnie K., Stephen, Ginny.

At Huck’s Pizza in Taichung. Left to right, front to back: Christopher, me, Daniel, Winnie H., Winnie K., Stephen, Ginny.

Overall, it was a great year and I’m looking forward to year 2, which kicks off here on Monday. I’ll be teaching two sections of World History again this year, in addition to a yearlong class on East Asian History. The idea to expand last year’s 2nd semester course on Modern China into this full course on East Asia was green-lighted over the summer, so I’m really excited about that too. It should be fun and I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot about the region’s history as we go along as well.

And speaking of the region: as I wrap up my thoughts about my first year of teaching, I will say that I feel fortunate to be able to come back to Taiwan for another year. It’s funny because I had originally wanted to teach in Latin America when I first started looking for employment while finishing up grad school two years ago; I initially attended the (Latin American only) AASSA job fair in Atlanta in November 2012, but didn’t receive a job offer (turns out it’s tough to get a job overseas with no experience). But by far the biggest piece of advice you typically hear at the international hiring fairs is “keep an open mind as to where you may end up!” I would offer this same advice to anyone thinking about teaching overseas, because if I had the luxury of choosing anywhere in the world that I could go to teach this year, I would choose Taiwan. Not that I wouldn’t agonize about it a little, as there are of course many places I would love to live–Buenos Aires (dancing the tango!), Barcelona (strolling La Rambla!) and Istanbul (there’s no way it’s not an amazing confluence of history, geography, and culture) come to mind–but at the end of the day, I would ultimately come back to Taiwan. The longer I’m here, the more I’m gradually gaining a full appreciation for what a unique place it is; the fact that it’s essentially Chinese culturally and linguistically but still affords Western-style political freedoms makes it quite simply an unbeatable spot for a foreigner attempting to experience Asian culture. So here’s to year two! More to follow shortly.

 

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Andrew Leniton