[Me teaching (or attempting to) at Reiting Elementary School, Butterfly Class.]
I had applied for a program in March this year called AID Summer. Despite the hideous web page design and the unnecessarily complex and misguiding application process, the program ended up being, for the lack of a better word, awesome.
The program was supported by the China Youth Commision (a.k.a. PREASE COME BACK TO YO HOME LAND Commission) that recruited 300-400 teenagers of Taiwanese or Chinese descent in foreign countries to teach English in the rural areas of Taiwan.
The program stood for “Assisting Individuals of Disadvantage,” sounds fancy as hell but there was little to no actual “assisting.” With the students bouncing around the classroom like their tushies were on fire, it was virtually impossible to teach the children proper English in two weeks.
I was starting to feel like the government was wasting their sweet money until I eventually realized that “English teaching” was more of a front. Our job there was simply to, well, exist. All we needed to do to change these kids’ lives was to be there, as Asian Americans, speaking two languages fluently (which blew their minds!). With their only knowledge of the rest of the world depicted through prime time television and Spongebob Squarepants (which they all knew the theme song to, miraculously), it was influential, to say the least.
We were their eye-openers. Our job was to bring them a new perspective and curiosity. To inject into them a desire to see more of the world. With the new opportunities of the modern world, all you need is initiative.
After our two weeks of changing the world and saving lives, the program took us on a tour of Taiwan for a week, where I spent some more quality time with fellow ABCs (American Born Chinese). In my whole life, I’d either been living in Caucasian head-quarters Indiana or the bum-fuck nowheres of rural Taiwan where they still refer to the white man as “round eye.” Let’s just say I haven’t seen a whole lot of people who share my characteristics. I was just starting to think we were an endangered specie when the program brought me around over 300 people just like me. I just kept thinking, where the hell have ya’ll been??? The sudden ability to communicate in Chinglish, sing along to Tong Hua, and understand Russell Peters references… It was almost too much to handle. I guess us ABCs share this unique bond. We can be from all over the world, but put us in the same room and we will start singing karaoke like we’ve been buddies for years.
(On the last day of the program, we didn’t sleep all night and went to the roof of Chiantan to see the sunrise.)