Tag: GYA16

Three Months Mandarin Immersion in Taiwan – Was it Worth It?

We’ve been back for 3 weeks now.  Ironically, life in the States is faster paced.  There are so many more chores and various other “life” activities that need to be taken care of.  The kids don’t have built in daily playdates anymore, requiring way more conscious scheduling and driving time.

Before our daily routine overwhelms me and I forget completely, I thought I should look back on our trip in Taiwan.

So was three months mandarin immersion in Taiwan worth it?

The short answer is a resounding yes.

At the 1.5 month mark, I was questioning whether or not we were seeing any effect.   But since returning, I have noticed how Astroboy would spout new vocabulary that I hadn’t heard out of his mouth before.   The taxi driver on our way to the airport said that the children’s Chinese are more fluid than 3 months ago.  Definitely Astroboy‘s listening comprehension and range of vocabulary is much better.  We listened to Magic Treehouse in the car the other day and he didn’t get bored like before.

Was it Taiwan?  Because he wasn’t interacting with local children daily.  Or was it the huge amount of cartoon they watched in the last month?  Was it the fact that he had to speak Chinese to random people daily, other than me?  That even the little amount helped?  Who knows.  But now, just like three years ago, his overall language development went up because we were only doing one language for three months, instead of two languages here.  That’s just my conjecture.


GYA16: Taking a Break

Things have quieted down here the last week or two because all the classes we signed up for started.   Last week, we had 4 art class, 2 writing class, 1 homeschool group outing, and 1 science class.

Other than Monday, which is our quietest day because we have to stay home for our milk deliveries and can’t schedule classes, we had something going on every day.

On top of that, by Friday morning I woke up with a severe back ache.  I have herniated discs and once in awhile it flairs up to the point where every step is painful.  By the middle of the day I knew this was one of those times and made an appointment to see the PT.

Three years ago it cost $500 each time to see a PT without insurance.   This time it costs $1000.  Sigh.

On top of PT, I basically stayed in bed most of Friday and Saturday.  Fleur was very nice and took the kids out most of Saturday and cooked.   Thank goodness we had art class already scheduled and that just takes up half a day.

In any case, here are other random life slice of life stuff…

  • Watching LOTS of Robopoli.  It’s kind of like Ciao Hu except with vehicles.   I now have the theme song stuck in my head.
  • Drinking tons of grapefruit yukult every time we’re remotely close to a 五十嵐.  By “remotely close” I mean we stop at an earlier MRT stop so we can walk half a mile with cranky kids to buy some.
  • Taiwan is infinitely more fun with another adult who loves to eat and eggs you on to take side trips just for food.
  • Our neighbor has 5 dogs and we live in a neighborhood full of tall buildings.  The echoes from their nightly barking sound like there’s a pack of wild dogs roaming the hills.  How does anyone sleep around here?
  • I feel slightly guilty every time I take Uber; like I’m doing something illegal.  But it has been much cheaper and often a smoother ride in nicer cars.
  • Taking buses is also cheaper than the MRT because kids get half price.  However tonight I realized I’m contributing to all the terrible fumes on the road by endorsing the bus.  (Yes I’m a semi environmentalist.)  during commute hours the buses just line up 4-5 deep in some stops.
  • How can 7 people shed so much hair?  Our white tile floors means we need to sweep just about 3 times a day if not more.  Thank goodness Fleur seems semi immune to messes.
  • For awhile, if Fleur and I can manage not to fall asleep with the kids, we would stay up to watch a dubbed “W” (Korean drama) that’s showing nightly.  It’s like having a MNO!   There are definite pluses to traveling with a friend.
  • Fleur is a super great housemate.  I will refrain from waxing how great she is in the Internet.  But I’m definitely going to suffer Fleur-withdraw when we return to the US.
  • I’m sad the lack of IMei puddings at 7-eleven means I can’t have a cup a day.
  • We really live b**t far from everything.  I have also not achieved my goal of eating one guava a day because it requires walking by a fruit shop.
  • Thumper is taking up finger knitting and crocheting again after checking out a finger knit book from the HUCC coop.
  • What do you suppose is the point of geometry?   I know it’s everywhere in math but for the life of me I can’t think of how its applicable in daily life other than shape names.  A reason we just haven’t picked it up in homeschooling.
  • Watched “Your Name” online last night.  The anime movie was a super huge hit in Japan while we were there. We kept seeing posters and news about it.  Highly recommend!
  • I have definitely reached my limit in book luggage space.  And yet I keep finding more books to buy!

Art Lessons at Soho Art

Two years ago, thanks to Eclectic Mama, I attended a demo class at Soho Art in the US.  During the demo class, the parents had to sit through a lecture on how they teach art.  I fell in love when they mentioned that the children are only provided with 5 colors to work with: red, blue, yellow, black, and white.

Unfortunately, the class is an 1-2 hours drive away and at 5pm.  Plus the cost was very high for 1.5 hours.  So I vowed when I get back to Taiwan I’d sign the kids up for the class.  (They started in Taiwan and now have classes in China and the US.)

Taking the Class

In our branch in Taiwan, you have to take 16 introductory classes, where for 8 of them (啟蒙) parents need to sit through a video presentation on how Soho Art teaches art.  After the class, the teacher will also call all the parents in to tell them what the children did this week.  Part of the goal is for the parents to know how to talk to their children about the art they’re doing.

Classes are taught at 5 or 7pm Mon-Fri, and Saturday all day.  However, they may be willing to start a class for you at an earlier time if you get a minimum of 5 kids.

The cost is $5900 for the first 8 classes (啟蒙班), which includes a portfolio and smock.  Subsequent classes (進階班 and 常態班) are $4400. In 啟蒙 and 進階 they learn to mix colors, work with materials, and how to do self portraits.  In常態班, they work on a topic for two weeks.  For example, they will study “chair” and use two different material (watercolor, clay, Chinese brush) to paint chair.  For Spring and Summer breaks, they have special classes like oil painting.

The Philosophy

I’ve sat through 4 lectures so far, each one on a different artist: Da Vinci, Matisse, Picasso, Warhol.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE these lectures.  I’ve learned more about how to look at art from them than my college art history class.   But the teacher at the front desk says that I’m the only other person who has paid attention in class and laughed at what I’m watching; the other woman being married to a German  All the other parents are looking down at their phone, which is kind of sad.   I guess maybe because these are Western artists and I have encountered them a lot?

Mona LisaIn any case, with 4 lectures, I’m getting a much better general sense of what the founder’s philosophy is.  She repeats, week after week in the lecture, how as far as technique goes, Da Vinci perfected it with his Mona Lisa.  You see this perfection in technique in tons of Classical/Renaissance paintings.

Modern art is about doing things different to stand out.  She shows us slides of how well Picasso or Matisse can do still life.  But it doesn’t make them better or more famous than others being able to draw still life well at 19 vs at 30.  These artists had to break out of the mode by drawing something different.

So how do we train children to do things differently?   To teach them about art, art history, and different types of art?  Specifically these classes have:

  • An emphasis on colors.  During the demo lecture, the teacher showed how if the topic this week is clouds, they will show children pictures of different clouds and ask the children to notice that clouds are not always white; they can be red, gray, blue, depending on the weather and the sun.
  • An emphasis on observation.  They don’t teach you how to draw specifically, though some techniques are touched upon.  But for each topic, they really want the children to look and see that you can draw it very differently depending on the angle you’re looking.  In addition, for any one topic there is no one way to draw.  For example, there are a myriad type of cat, or leaves, or clouds.
  • An emphasis on material exploration.  The children work with different materials each week, crayons, watercolors, pastel, oil, Chinese brush painting, recycled materials, clay, etc.
  • No right way.  One Chinese drawing class I demoed had the teacher giving the children a painting and asking them to paint what they draw, with the teacher teaching them how to reproduce the painting.  In contrast, the teachers here don’t dictate a right way to paint leaves for example, but rather teach them the elements of art.

The Classes Themselves

I first signed the kids up for 8 classes, then decided to put Astroboy in a second 8 without Thumper, partly because I want him to take classes without Thumper’s influence, and partly because he hasn’t touched art much, unlike her.  However, this week, I also put Thumper in a separate second 8 class because I didn’t want her to miss the classes on self portraits.

In our US location, there are only 10 introductory classes.  Not sure why.  Apparently the franchises have up to 20 of these intro classes to choose to offer.

The school is very responsive.  Thumper is the oldest kid in the class.  Most other children are 4-5 year olds.  So after the first week, I talked to the director about how easy Thumper felt the class was (i.e.g mixing colors) and the teacher gave her harder tasks for subsequent classes.

Just a note, I’m terrible at art so I could have the art terms wrong, especially translated.   Right now, with make up classes and two series of 8 classes happening at the same time, we are taking 3-4 classes a week!

Week 1 was introduction to mixing your 5 colors.


Week 2 They continued learning how to mix colors.  The topic was birds.  Thumper got moved to move advanced class so she drew a rooster.  The younger kids made a duck with clay and then had to mix their own background.

Week 3 We’ll make up next week

Week 4 The children painted rice paddies.  They divided up a piece of paper and the teacher hot glued the lines.  They then continue working on learning how to mix colors.  The teacher pointed out to them that a rice paddy can grow different types of plants, which have different shades of color.

Week 5 They learned to mix crayon.  The teacher wanted to show them how you can add 3 colors together.  She showed them a specific artist, whose name escapes me, who drew a face by composing together squares of different colors.  Kind of like those computer generated images made up of teeny tiny images.


Week 6 was learning about composition.  That paintings should have a point, line, and area.   Plus composition ideas like layering, perspective, leaving part of your subject out, etc.  They cut up recycled material.


Week 7 was learning to paint leaves using the concept they learned.  The teacher showed them different pictures of leaves and asked them to think about point, line, and area.  The leaves all don’t have to have to be lined up.  The kids had to mix the colors themselves.

Week 8 is next week!

Week 10 they learned Chinese brush painting.  The teacher showed them that by mixing different amount of water, they can have a range of dark ink.  She also pointed out to the parents that empty space is very important in Chinese painting.

Week 11 will be made up next week!

Week 12 they learned about the face.  The teacher pointed out that your eyes are NOT at the top of your head, but rather more centered; that your nose doesn’t start below your eyes but from your eyebrows; that your mouth has 2 lips, and you have 2 ears.  Astroboy made a face of Thumper with clay and gave her a cavity, which he was very proud of.

I really love these classes.  It’s at that perfect middle ground where there’s art exploration and artistic expression, but also some basic techniques, but not in the traditional strict way.

I quite agree with the philosophy. At the end of the day, art isn’t about drawing great still life anymore, it’s about creativity and expression, being sensitive to colors, and developing a keen observation of the world.  Most kids don’t grow up to be artists.  But they will be able to take these skills and apply them in other areas.

GYA16: Making Tofu at Yilan

Itinerary: Goat Farm 宜農牧羊場, Making Tofu Pudding and Tofu at 羅東農會

The weather has turned rainy and cold (60s!) again and after a weekend of activities, I took it easy Monday and Tuesday.  On Monday I took a friend, Rain, who is visiting from the US to a bookstore.  By now, I think it’s a bad idea to go book shopping with me.  People always leave with tons of books.  Though thank goodness Rain already knew the books she wanted so it wasn’t all me suggesting books.

We stayed home all day Tuesday.  I had some trouble buying the Puyuma train tickets and learned that you can’t buy more than 5 tickets at a time via the train app.  And also that even if it says it’s out of tickets, they actually release more the day of.

Wednesday morning, we rushed out the door at 8:15am to make it to the train station on time because we had to buy 7 tickets in person.  Thankfully there were seats that were mostly together.

Rain took us to visit her friend in 羅東 Luodon, which is 1 train stop south of 宜蘭 Yilan.  We had such a fantastic time today.  The best part is that all the locations are super close to the train station.  I love to travel with locals.  They never take me to the super touristy places and it’s always way interesting.


GYA16: Chun Shui Tang and Asian Pacific Cultural Day 春水堂和亞太文化節

Itinerary: looking for tutors, Chun Shui Tang, 中山地下街, Asian Pacific Cultural Day, sushi boat

The children and I had a wonderful mindful day together.  Well, at least the first half.  Then they got distracted by the cultural day events.  Still, it was really nice that we actually paid attention to each other.

I had a little talk with Thumper the other day about how she needs to let me know if she doesn’t agree with whatever is on her work plan and not passive aggressively choose not to do them.  She’s been great about learning herself the last two days.  I spent the time talking to Chinese tutors.  Astroboy, on the other hand, spent the morning eating breakfast and snacks while I was on the phone.



GYA16: Theater Show and Marukame Udon 影子牆 和 丸龜製麵

Itinerary: Children’s theater @ 文山劇場, 景美生煎包, Marukame Udon, Browsing for home electronics

Finally!  A day I’ve been looking forward to!   I highly recommend everyone to take their kids to a local theater show when they are in Taiwan.  My dream is the Ciao Hu stage production one they have yearly in the summer and fall.  But those are pricey and sell out quickly.

We got tickets to see 影子牆 at the Wan Shan Theater.  I took all 4 kids with me.  There were some issues with our tickets so we had to wait till 5 minutes before our show to go in.  To pass time, I bribed them with some baked goods from 85 Degrees Cafe, which is across the street, while I relieved the stress of being responsible for other people’s children by having some delicious Grapefruit Honey Tea.


GYA16: Herbal Doc and LoveReadBook 中醫和愛閱書坊

Itinerary: Herbal Doc, LoveReadBook, Socks, Sesame Paste

Did you know that pigs get fed moldy cake in Taiwan?

We went to toss our trash tonight and I was all ready to dump the moldy birthday cake in the compost bin.  But the guy sitting in the back of the trash truck saw the cake, picked it out, and tossed it into the “For pigs” bin.

I’m assuming it’s for pigs, that’s what the recycle poster tells you, that there’s a compost bin (堆肥) and one for pigs (養豬廚餘).  All I can say is, I hope the pigs from HUCC 主婦聯盟 don’t eat those cake.

Astroboy has been sick the last few days and it’s now progressed to his chest.  So time to go to the herbal doc my aunt goes to and get some 百合膏.  It’s like that 川貝枇杷膏 Chinese medicine thing you buy when you’re coughing, but made of Lily?

Fleur took Thumper to EP bookstore while Astroboy and I looked for the herbal doc, who opens at 2pm.  I still find it very strange that docs open in the afternoon and work till 9 or 10pm.  In any case, EP bookstore is this free “library”, with a $100 entry fee, which includes unlimited drinks.  You can’t buy books, you can’t borrow books, you can read books there.  The draw is the nice space with new books to read.


GYA16: Afternoon Bubble Tea

Itinerary: 翰林茶館 Hanlin Tea,大安運動中心 Daan Sports Center

The temperature dropped 10 degrees and it’s the low 70s today.  I even pulled out my long sleeves.  Yay!  Finally some cool weather!

After a morning where I buzzed around doing a bit of this and a bit of that and then felt like I got nothing accomplished, we headed out for some Afternoon English Tea at Cutty Sark.  We had wanted to go yesterday but decided last minute that with antsy children it may not be the best choice.

Basically, my tummy has been tempting me to go out every day.

We took the MRT to Taipei 101 to go to Att 4 Fun mall.  However, the darn Cutty Sark was closed!  That’s the English afternoon tea place I tried 3 years ago.  The one we tried to go to yesterday was closed too.  Since it was already 2pm, we decided to go to Hanlin Tea instead.  This is one of the 2 stores that claim to be the one who invented the bubbles in bubble tea.

hanlin (more…)

GYA16: Halloween and Bookstar

Itinerary: Children’s Amusement Park, 市立大學 Taipei City College, 曉食堂, Bookstar Bookstore

We got a late start today because we got home so late last night.  Though I was tempted to stay home all day, I felt bad because the kids have been talking about Halloween non-stop and we did buy them cat costumes at Yabook.

So I did some research and found out that all the big Halloween activities already happened this weekend.  Oops!  The biggest one is apparently the one in Tianmu 天母.  Not surprising since that’s where the international schools are.

Thankfully, the Children’s Amusement Park supposedly had an event where you can beg for candies so we went that route.  However, after lining up at 3pm to follow some little witch around the park, we found out the candy giving part was actually this morning at 10am.



GYA16: A Day with Relatives

Itinerary: Family lunch, visit cousin’s house, Marukame Udon 丸龜製麵

It’s hard to keep up the one blog a day habit when you’re out at 8:45am and back at 10:30pm!

We had a family lunch with my mom’s large family yesterday at Fleur Lis in Hsin Chu.  To make it to our 11:30am lunch, we left the house at 8:45am because we had a 10am train to catch.  But, next time I know I don’t need to leave so early!

First, we got to the bus stop a bit early and had to wait.  Then we go to the Taipei Train Station 30 minutes early and had to wait.  I did not know how convenient it is to transfer to Taiwan Rail (TRA) 台鐵 from the green MRT line.  We basically got out of the MRT ticket gate, walked right across to the TRA ticket gate, and then upstairs to the platform.

Took us all of 5 minutes.