Sunday, 9 September 2012

De-stressing in Taipei

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our Back to School preparations. Despite the fact that my son's backpack was well and truly stuffed on his first day back, it turned out there were still several items missing from his must-have list. These were:

Slippers  - there is a room the children can lie down to take a nap, but it has a nice floor so they have to take off their shoes

Dental floss - part of the 'learning how to care for your teeth' sessions

Toilet paper - children must provide their own!

Small bag - to carry lunch things down to the dining hall

And I think that's it.

My son's teacher has been absolutely brilliant. She emails me the school notices so I can put them into Google Translate; she's taught me how to look up characters in a dictionary so that I can help my son at home; and she's had two long discussions with me on how we can help him be happy and work well at school. I couldn't have wished for a better ally in the classroom.

But there's no denying that children at Taiwanese schools work very hard, and now that we've been here a year there are really no more excuses for my son to not do the same homework as the other children. Which includes learning poems by heart, memorising characters, writing a diary, dictionary work, and more! Luckily he finds the maths easy, so he does that in his own time at school.

So, along with Taekwondo and piano practice, this means very full days, and the need to get out of the house and do something different at the weekends is even greater.

This weekend was taken up somewhat by an open day at school, but yesterday we managed a - very quick - trip to the Postal Museum, and a prolonged visit to the fishpond at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Gardens.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is always buzzing at weekends. The National Concert Hall and National Theatre are there, as well as the Memorial Hall itself, which constantly hosts exhibitions. Currently there is one on dinosaurs and one on Salvador Dali, which seems an oddly appropriate association.

They're both interesting exhibitions, but my son was equally interested in stroking the fish.

In the UK, when you take your children to the park, one of the traditional pastimes is to feed the ducks. In Taiwan, you feed the fish.

The carp in the ponds at the Memorial Gardens are huge and have appetites to match.

They're so big and approachable, you would almost think you could reach out and stroke them. This isn't such a crazy concept. Occasionally, we've come across fish in aquariums that did seem to appreciate a little tickle and a stroke. So it was definitely worth a try.

No luck though! We had to make do with plain old fish feeding, and observing the other wildlife.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Gardens is a great place to while away a few hours at the weekend and it will be high up on our list of places to go to once the homework's all done.

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