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February 27, 2017

Back on the ground in the US of A, I cannot believe all that we learned and experienced in our one week in Taipei.

I think I speak for the group in saying how deeply we appreciated Chingshin’s care in hosting us. Our visiting schedule, with all its different classroom observations and meetings for rotating subsets of our large group, was a work of creative genius. Several of Chingshin’s administrators and staff devoted large chunks of the week to helping us navigate it! They spoiled us daily, even hourly, with little pastries; I fear that, especially in those early jetlagged days, we may have necessitated an extra order of supplies for their coffee machine. And on top of all that, they granted us truly incredible access to their school. We spent upwards of 20 hours within the walls of Chingshin, observing classes and conversing with teachers and administrators. We all agreed: never have we walked away from a school visit with such a sense of both what a school is all about and what that looks like in practice.

I was truly impressed, if unsurprised, with all that my colleagues gained from our time at Chingshin. Many rides on the MRT and dinner conversations became vehicles for wresting with reflections on the day’s activities. We hope to share soon with all our colleagues at CAIS some of our main observations and takeaways— stay tuned.

Special shout-outs are called for here for Teresa, Ena and ChiChi for showing us around and teaching us about where they’re from. With them, we wandered the best night markets (none of those tourist traps) and ate all the best versions of the best street snacks. They taught us to use public transit, then put some of our newest (and bravest) Chinese speakers in charge of navigating the group. With them we decoded Daoist temple rituals and discussed P.E. class in the context of Taiwan’s compulsory civil service program. Thank you for sharing this special place with us.

Another appreciation: the persistent positivity, curiosity and just plain fun with which this group approached traveling together. A long MRT ride to the Palace Museum? Time for an improptu Chinese language lesson. A free period at school? The whole group skips across the street in shifts to get hair washes and head massages at the local hair dresser’s. Dawn to dusk downpour on Friday, our one full day for exploring Taipei? CAIS teachers buy the local 7-11 nearly out of umbrellas, put in 10, 12, even 14 hours of roaming the city’s sights, pack their sneakers soaked and wear their dress shoes home on the plane.

Finally, many, many thanks to CAIS community members whose generous financial support made this program possible. I can’t think of a more powerful opportunity for our faculty to embrace Chinese, become their best educator selves, and create, or perhaps expand, their places in the world.