The first morning in Kaohsiung was initially discouraging. We had little experience leading games or teaching English, much less in Mandarin with Taiwanese children. How would we manage?
Leaving our shoes on the steps, we entered the church and looked at the thirty or so children running around or doing their homework. Some teenagers sat on the side by themselves.
We tried to be friendly. “What is your name? How old are you?”
“I don’t know,” each child replied.
If they wouldn’t tell us their names or ages, how could we get to know them better? It was going to be difficult.
But actually, we shouldn’t have worried. The more adventurous soon ran up to us, begging for help with homework. As we led games and taught them English, the children were more open to us. They taught us their games and we played together happily all through the afternoon.
Neither was teaching English as difficult as I had imagined. My students were generally eager to learn. I simply had to think of some common English words and it would be new to them. They dutifully copied down whatever I wrote on the whiteboard, some in handwriting neater than most students in America. Still, speaking loudly for two hours in order to be heard over the noise of the three other classes is tiring.
At the same time it was sobering to think that these young children had experienced the horrors of last year’s flood. What they had seen came out in their drawings and conversation. For many others there were family problems as well.
We knew that more than anything else these children needed love. And that we could give.