Kira Hinkle


Fellowship Experience

What does peace smell like? .... Many things, but perhaps not stinky tofu.

It is hard to believe that my time here is already coming to an end. Today is the beginning of my last week teaching at Ankan Montessori--and what an interesting ride it has been. It is safe to say that in just three short weeks I have gained an unquantifiable number of lessons in teaching--and I have gained an extreme appreciation for being able to teach in your native language. Teaching with a translator is challenging to say the least!

The timeline material was received well from the students although it has been a struggle to present Montessori lessons to a large group of 40 and I worry sometimes that since it is not being presented in an ideal environment (small groups of children, perhaps 4-8 students at a time) they are not gaining as much from the material as they should. We have discussed in detail some specific nobel peace prize winners such as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., The Dalai Lama, and Wangari Maathai. We have also discussed peaceful people from around the world who did not recieve Nobel Prizes, including Gandhi, Maria Montessori, Black Elk, and Master Sheng Yen. The children even used Gandhi's tactic of "peaceful protests" as a possible solution to their brainstorming sessions about solving local issues in class today. One of the students suggested that their city should stage a peaceful protest as a way to prevent a department store from being erected in place of one of the area's natural parks.

Tomorrow the children are bringing in their own findings of peaceful people from around the world and it will be exciting to see who they find and manage to turn up in their research.

Simultaneously to my peace lessons the children have been sharing components of Taiwanese culture to bring back to Montessori children in America. They've been teaching me how to conduct a formal Taiwanese tea ceremony, about traditional puppetry, and traditional and folk music. I've been taking copious notes and have worked to collect materials while over here for a Taiwanese culture teaching unit that I will be able to use in the next couple of years.

This past week and a half has been a whirlwind experience of Taiwanese cuisine. Occasionally I tell myself, if Andrew Zimmer and Anthony Bourdain have survived this long I can last three weeks. So far my list of Taiwanese delicacies include: stinky tofu (the name says it all--wikipedia has a relatively graphic description if you're curious), dried squid, fatty sausage, betel nuts, red bean snow ice, cow tongue cookies, and sweet green bean dumplings (what these are actually called I have no idea!) Most of which I have swallowed with reluctance, however, my great culinary discovery of the trip has been onion pancakes -- which I will try to recreate on my return with much dedication.

I've shared this link with some of you but I figured I will send it to everyone: is the address of the Montessori school where I am working--unless you read Mandarin you will experience a small taste of what life is like for me on a daily basis (illiterate and confused!) but the pictures are adorable and worth perusing.


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