These last two years being a part of WCEO’s Connexpedition Vox Nativa team have been a life-changing experience. Not only was I able to create an amazing bond with the children, but I was also able to learn and appreciate Taiwanese culture. It was a very humbling experience getting to interact with the kids.
My first year volunteering I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to connect with the kids, but I could not be more wrong. My class and I instantly formed a connection on the first day of teaching. Two of my students, Curry and John, would dance with me during recess and free time. Leo, another student, would tell me funny jokes. From my students I learned to be more outgoing and confident. I learned how to be carefree and appreciate what I have. I remember always having a silly story to tell about the class and being excited to wake up every morning and seeing the kids. They made the experience memorable and encouraged me to try to join Connexpedition Vox Nativa for a second year.
I realized that the children do not have much but can find an abundance of joy over simple jokes and the friendships that they share. They persevere through any circumstances and find ways to enjoy life as it is. The sense of community and togetherness among the aboriginals was a nice surprise. I liked that the locals valued unity and acted like extended family. They made the experience even more comfortable. I am partially aboriginal and wanted to learn about the culture. Coming back and interacting with the locals and learning about certain aboriginal customs was a special experience. I was grateful to be able to get in touch with my roots.
This year i wanted to come back for multiple reasons. I had promised the kids that I would return and visit them. I also wanted a chance to return and improve my teaching. I was excited and thankful to get another chance. It was astounding seeing how much my kids from the previous year had matured. The kids had all grown as tall as me and their English had improved. Even though it had been a year, the kids welcomed me in with open arms and made me even more grateful to be back.
Coming back this year I faced different challenges. I taught a younger class and had to learn how to simplify our lessons and keep the kids engaged. It was difficult at first because my teaching partners and I were unsure how to teach English from scratch, but slowly through trial-and-error we were able to overcome the obstacle. I became a more flexible person and a more patient one. I had to learn how to recreate lesson plans to fit the kids better. In addition, my kids this year taught me to be more creative and to chase my dreams. One of my students, Jing Wei, read books during recess instead of playing outside because he wants to be a writer. This taught me that being different is okay and that I have to pursue what I believe in.
The bonds that you create with the kids are never broken. Even this year as I was leaving, my old kids ran up to me with hugs and told me that they would be waiting for me next year. My kids from this year held onto my sides and asked if I would come see them again next year. The kids of Vox Nativa are undeniably different than any other kids that I have met. They have the most welcoming and happy-go-lucky attitudes. They made me feel as though I was a part of a family and not just their teacher or friend. I hope that I will get yet another chance to return and see how the kids have grown even more.
I was part of Connexpedition Vox Nativa for 2 years, 2015 and 2016, and both years were memorable in its own way.
During Connexpedition 2015, the whole group was new to the program, except for the team leader, so we didn’t know what to expect. We learned to work together and we created good bonds among all the members, so we could plan and laugh as a team. We bonded with the kids and learned a lot more about their lifestyles. The kids there don’t have all the luxuries that we do, such as malls or fancy restaurants. They mostly live in rural areas where they have to help their family with house or farm work. Yet they seemed to be happier than me, they could enjoy the whole day off of something as small as playdough. Here we complain about school work, social problems, and anything that could be an inconvenience when we already have so much more than them. The kids really taught me to enjoy the simple things in life, to embrace life and nature, and to not take things like water and food for granted. Because of the great experience, I chose to apply again for Connexpedition 2016.
I was excited for Connexpedition 2016, wondering what type of group we would work with this time. Things turned out great; we had a hardworking and funny group once again. We made effective lesson plans, great project ideas, and another influential performance for the kids. This time we had 4 returning volunteers, including me, and we all wanted to improve on our performance the last time we went. My personal goal was to become a better teacher, to make sure they learn English for them to use when they visit America. Last time I connected with them on a more personal scale, this time I wanted to connect English with daily life so they can understand what the outside world is like. However, some things don’t always go as planned, like the class schedule and students. My class this year was a younger year and they seemed to be very naughty. The kids would argue about who got to answer or ignore our help when we tried. At first we thought this was a problem and we had to act stricter, but soon we realized that this was not the way. Throughout the week while we watched the kids, there was a pattern for their supposed bad behavior. We saw that the kids wanted to answer all the questions to test their own knowledge; they would sometimes ignore us because they believed they could do it themselves. In the end, we finally understood that they really wanted to learn. Their misbehavior was usually a sign of pride or a way to seek attention; they were actually very well-disciplined students. I was touched by this, because from such a young age they embraced determination and learning. They really are amazing students; if I could go again I definitely would.
Overall, Connexpedition was a big part of my summer life and it was a good decision. The times that we shared as a group, no matter if it was working through struggles or playing with the kids, will never be forgotten. I have made some lifelong friends and experiences that I cannot get anywhere else. I must thank WCEO and any other organizations for giving us this opportunity to widen our perspective on the world. I hope that one day I can also give back to the community and help it, like they did for me.
Last year was my first time going on this trip, and this my second. It was my first time living in an underdeveloped area, and as a result I grew a lot as a person. I learned to get out of my comfort zone, deal with hardships, and to act more mature as a whole. Coming back and experiencing everything for a second time has allowed me to reflect on myself even further, allowing me to grow even more. I learned from experiences such as teaching, getting to know the kids, and even things as small as just talking to the other members have taught me so many lessons. This trip has ultimately granted me so many special learning opportunities that I would not have gotten anywhere else.
Firstly, the kids at the school have taught me many things throughout my teaching experience. During one of the lessons, I had the kids memorize the names of the 12 months, along with the days of the week. It didn’t come as a surprise that the kids had forgotten them since elementary school. For whatever reason, the kids worked hard and helped each other out to memorize everything. This made me feel extremely happy as the kids are usually really noisy and destructive. This experience has taught me to help others whenever I can, for the outcome will always be positive. After this particular lesson, one kid stayed behind to finish the worksheet assigned for that period. In essence, he sacrificed his break to spend time with me in order to finish a worksheet. He finished the worksheet a few minutes before break, giving him a short amount of time to go outside and play. This really touched me, and taught me to work hard in everything that I do, even if I have to make some sacrifices, for the outcome will be worth it. Sometimes, I would go outside during break and play with the kids. When I played volleyball, I noticed how happy the kids were, even those who could not play the game properly had smiles on their faces and were laughing. The happiness coming from the children has taught me to be always happy, despite the situation. Throughout this trip, the kids have influenced me in positive ways, and I am glad to have made a connection with them.
The other volunteers have also heavily impacted me and helped me develop and mature as a person. I believe that Vox Nativa is an extremely special experience, partly because you become very close to the other members. Spending almost every second with the same people for two weeks creates a special bond between you and the people you are living with. I remember during one night, all the guys gathered together, and we shared our life stories and some struggles we were having in life. In that one night, I gained so many perspectives on life. This talk also allowed me to deeply reflect on my own life and the struggles that I have to overcome, and what I have to do to become a better person. Through their stories, I learned to be especially grateful for what I have now. If I did not go on this trip, I would have continued to view the world through my own limited perspective. Spending time with these guys has also helped me become more outgoing. Before the trip, I was not an extremely outgoing person, but dancing and doing skits with everybody has helped me become more confident as a person, and will surely help me in my future. I am extremely happy to have been able to spend time with this group of people.
With this trip now behind me, writing this has helped me reflect on everything that I have learned from both the kids and the other volunteers. This trip has been filled with ups and downs, in which every single moment was a learning experience that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I have been able to grow, mature, and gain confidence as a result of this trip. In the future, I hope that I can come back again and see the kids, as they have made a big impact in who I am today. I will never forget the experiences created from this trip, as this has been such a huge part of my life.
When I first applied for this program, I thought it was just another volunteer event that will help me improve myself while helping others. I remembered my goal was to improve my leadership throughout these two weeks. When it was finally time to leave for Taiwan, I was both excited and nervous. I was excited to know the kids and work with the team but was also nervous because it was a mountain environment.
When we arrived at the school, the first thing I though was this place is beautiful. In the mornings, there would be fog around the school, but as the sun rised, the fog dispersed and the mountains appeared. Every day, we would exercise, eat, learn, and play with the kids. At the end of the first week I finally knew what happiness meaned. Even though their lifestyles are simpler than ours, they live a happier life. At home, I spend everyday in a constant cycle, repeating the same moves over and over again. I had nothing to look forward for each day. But at Vox, I woke up everyday with something to look forward to, the kids. While kids in America spend most of their time on their computers and phones, kids at Vox spend time playing with each other outside.
During the two weeks with the kids, they learned a lot but so did I. Even though they didn’t prepare a class to teach us anything, I learned a lot just by spending time with them. The kids there are very pure and will express what they want to express. In the 2nd grade class, a kid named Michael stands out to me. He is chubbier than the other kids but also more expressive. He can sing opera and dance. Michael isn’t afraid to voice his opinions or express himself. Even when he got in a fight, Michael told the other kid his feelings with an open heart and he isn’t afraid to cry when he was frustrated. I saw potential in Michael to become a fun guy that everyone loves.
The kids at Vox Nativa are very loving for others. Sometimes kids from other classes would visit my class to say hi. Even when I didn’t reach out for them, they reached out for me. I got to know more kids because of their welcoming personality. The place where a lot of feelings were released was at the banquet. During each performance, the kids would cheer on the performers with their hearts. The whole environment was positive and friendly, a safe place without judgment. But the most memorable thing was after the performance, the time for goodbyes. As I looked around, I saw tears being shed and hugs being exchanged. Even though I didn’t cry, I was moved. I felt the love by the way the kids looked and hugged you. It is a feeling that I never want to forget. That night as I was reflecting, I realized my opinions about this place have changed dramatically from the time I first applied for this program. Vox Nativa is such a unique place with so much culture and traditions behind it. Through the kids and tour trips in the mountains, I learned more about the Bunun tribe and the life of the people there.
The culture here is completely different than anything I had ever experienced. They have a rich history behind them and many stories and songs to share. Their culture is simpler than what I expected. They still hunt, have gatherings, pass down stories, etc. In the environment we are all used to, most things revolve around technology, making things easier but we are also losing precious things such as spending time outside playing with friends. We gain so much from technology but also lost so much at the same time. At Vox, everything is still so pure and I really respect all the people there.
This trip has really improved me as a person. The kids helped me voice myself and become a better leader, our group of volunteers allowed me to contribute to the team and improve as a team player. I learned to be more conscious of other people and take their feelings into consideration before I do anything. One of my kids named Jin-Wei showed me something that I didn’t see at first. Jing-Wei would often get mad at me. At first I had no idea what was going on, what did I do wrong. It wasn’t till Bryan Yang told me he was jealous that I was spending time with others kids rather than spending time with kids. Jing-Wei felt hurt and felt that I didn’t love him. Because of this, I got the chance to sit down and talk with Jing-Wei. I learned that kids are really loving but my actions may hurt them. I didn’t take consideration for Jing-Wei when I spent time with kids from other classes. When I had the talk with him, I had to step back and look at myself from his perspective to understand his thoughts and feelings. Taking consideration for others is something I learned from Jing-Wei and I am thankful for it. By the way, Jing-Wei is so cute and has a marshmallow tummy.
The two weeks in Taiwan has been full of lessons and bonding time. The two weeks past by so fast as school is about to start. The environment there is something I never experienced before and most of my feelings towards this trip I can’t explain in words, it’s just something I feel in my heart. I still think about the morning fog and the mountains around the school. It makes me happy to know a place so beautiful exists and the people there are equally beautiful on the inside and outside. There are many moments that made me smile, sad, and sometimes frustrated at Vox. These are the moments I wish to forever stay in my memory and I hope we made a lasting impact on the kids of Vox Nativa.
“Emily, money doesn’t matter to me.” Cindy clutched my arm while sitting on the floor crosslegged. Curious, I asked her what she meant by that.
“Without money, I can still do the things that I love. I can still see my mom and dad and my brothers and sisters! I love my mom.” She laughed her her childish and carefree way, reminding me yet again how different our lives are.
For two weeks in the summer, I, a child raised (for the most part) in California, lived my life among Taiwanese aboriginal children in the mountains of Nantou. My class consisted of 18 rowdy elevenyear olds, who would be going into sixth grade the following year. To someone like me who has never even killed a cockroach by myself, I found the way the kids played with bugs (cicadas, flies, spiders, moths, you name it!) shocking, to say the least. I was also slightly stunned pure chaos of the classroom on the first day; the kids were running, jumping, screaming all over the place. And it seemed that my nightmare my fear that my two weeks here would make absolutely no difference to any of us would come true.
But even in such a short time, my perception of my children changed completely. At first, I thought they were wild, but then realized that they were lively. At first, I thought they talked too much, but then realized that they were great conversationalists. At first, I thought they were too clingy, but then realized that they really cared about us.
Most of these kids do not come from privileged backgrounds like I do. My typical day consists of talks of studying SATs for college, writing an essay on my Macbook, or maybe asking my parents about a vacation. A typical day for my students, however, could not be more different. Many of their families are poor farmers, and some do not live with their parents at all. But the way they come to class every day laughing and smiling with their friends is a miracle in itself. These kids are filled to the brim with love; I will never forget Anson, crying as he glued our pictures in his notebooks or Eric, who never admitted that he would miss us but made sure I knew I had to send the Facebook friend request again if his mom didn’t accept. I’m not a highly emotional person and I honestly didn’t expect this to happen, but when we left, my eyes did tear up. (I smile to myself a bit every time I think of Curry shouting, “She cried! Look!” to all the kids and Anson subsequently telling me not to cry while bawling his eyes out.)
It breaks my heart to know that aboriginal culture in Taiwan is more or less dying out. Honestly, I am blessed to be able to see a glimpse of the Bunun way of life. Bali, the tour guide during the cultural outing at Wang’siang Village, taught me that Bunun families name their children after grandparents or aunts and uncles so that they will never forget the names of their ancestors. He told us about Pasibutbut, the 8part polyphony in which the men stand in a circle to sing and the Malah Tangia, the “shooting ear festival” which marks Bunun boys’ transition into hunters. I cannot and would not want to forget the respect, simplicity, and beauty that go into these traditions.
It’s one thing to know that cultures exist beyond our scope of knowledge, but it’s another thing entirely to actually experience it. I will perpetually hold the utmost respect for Principal Ma, Teacher Uli, and all the other people who make it possible for these children to see the world and for me to have this lifechanging adventure. In the end, I’m glad to say that I fell in love with Bunun culture and think of my students as my own children。
When I first joined Connexpedition Vox Nativa, I had no idea how much I would learn and how many memories I would make. In the first few days of living at Luona Elementary, my initial reactions were shock and surprise. Before the trip, I had already expected their lifestyle to be different than ours, but through this experience I learned that our differences were vast, and very plentiful. I had grown so used to living in a sheltered bubble with clean hot water and electronics. It took a little time getting used to the cold water, the bugs in the showers, and the no phones policy, but in the end I think I took a lot away from it. In those past two weeks, I found out that you could enjoy life in a way that doesn’t involve our fancy electronics, that you could be happy even doing things you don’t like when you are with the people you cherish, and that a pleasant lifestyle doesn’t have a price tag. Even though those students had less money and less privilege than I, they had so much to teach. In just the short time we were together, they taught me to truly love each other and cherish our loved ones while we still have them.
In addition to these new things, I also learned a lot about Taiwanese culture. I have always been interested in immersing myself in the history of my birthplace, but I found out that there were many aspects that I was unaware of. I gained a lot of knowledge on the history of aboriginal Taiwanese tribes. Without this experience, I would have been pretty clueless about this huge, important part of Taiwanese culture.
Although we were only together for a short two weeks, I think the takeaways were huge. I grew so much so much over those few days, and I made so many new memories. I will remember this experience forever.
Mihumisang! This means hello in the Bunun language. As a recent high school graduate, I was lucky enough to take part in Vox Nativa Connexpedition 2016 where we went to Taiwan’s LuonaElementary School to help teach English to the students of VoxNativaMusicSchool. I taught students going into 6th grade along with 2 team members, Emily and Verena. In our class, we had a total of 18 extremely spirited eleven and twelve year olds. I can still remember walking into a chaotic room that first Monday, wondering how we were going to control the class. My first impression was definitely that they were the loudest and most energetic kids I have ever met. However as time went on, I realized that underneath their lively persona were young kids that truly appreciated the little things in life. I will never forget that first study hall where one of my students, Cindy, pulled me aside to ask for help with memorizing the United States’ national anthem. This left a strong impression because I realized that despite challenges thrown at them, they were still willing to focus their energy on tasks such as memorizing lyrics and studying English. One student who left the biggest impression on me was Eric, a kid who at first refused to do anything in class. However, on the second day when we made straw bracelets I saw that he was extremely concentrated on that and was even helping others with their bracelet. Throughout the week Eric would often come up to me and threaten to cut off his bracelet with a scissor, but he ended up wearing it for the rest of the two weeks. On the last day he told us he would turn into a fly and fly over to America to see us, which touched me more than he probably realized. The sweet innocence of Eric and the rest of the Vox Nativa kids really made me realize that it is the small things in life that you should cherish. I will never forget the people I met through this trip or the experiences I went through. In the end, I believe that the kids made a much bigger impact on me than I did on them and I will cherish these memories forever.
My experience in Taiwan this summer was one that I will never forget. Vox Nativa2016 was the most unforgettable two weeks of my life.
Throughout the service trips, there were many situations that taught me how to use patience, persistence, and endurance. Whether it was carrying boxes uphill or teaching behind children how to write the alphabet, those three qualities were tested many times throughout the two weeks of Vox Nativa.
Another huge gain I had from the trip was learning the benefits of teamwork. The guys on the trip bonded especially closely and if we did anything, there would at least be another guy with us doing it. Teamwork while cleaning up or washing clothes made such laboring tasks much easier. My first impression of the vox kids was that they were very rambunctious and the two weeks were going to be hell. But as time passed, I realized that my first impression was a misconception. Yes the kids were very naughty at times but they also had a positive outlook on everything. Their energy and happiness inspired me to have a more positive outlook on life.
My impression of Taiwan during this trip has stayed the same as it always has been: This place is my second home and I love Taiwan. The culture here is very hospitable. For example, there was a guy who sold fried chicken. When the guys and I went to go buy food from him, he would also chat with us and make us feel as if we were longtime friends. Taiwanese culture is just very hospitable and friendly. In conclusion, I felt that this trip has changed my life for the better and inspired me to work harder and hopefully be able to go back again next year.
Because this was my first year volunteering at Vox Nativa, I had no idea what to expect. The two weeks on JadeMountain flew by, and before I knew it, I was back in America. However, things were different. I had become a better leader, my teamwork skills had improved greatly, and I understood the amazing life of Vox Nativa.
The first thing I learned at Vox Nativa was that teaching was going to be hectic. The kids ran around the classroom, despite our constant threats. A few shattered a glass panel, climbed out a window, and dislocated someone’s shoulder. After the first day, my throat hurt from yelling so much, and I was absolutely exhausted. My teaching partners and I were unsure if we could last two whole weeks. However, we didn’t give up. We planned and planned and planned. The next few days, we worked hard to regain our authority that was lost the moment we stepped into the classroom. It was difficult, but not impossible. Little by little, we began to teach successfully. Our lessons began to run smoothly, and we all learned from our mistakes, allowing us to constantly develop better and more effective teaching methods. We learned how to adapt during each lesson, adjusting to the kids’ needs. After realizing that all the kids’ had different English levels, we split the class into four groups, assigning one teacher to a group. After discovering that the kids struggled with focusing during class, we took periodical breaks where we played fun games. Soon enough, I began to feel like I was a real teacher.
The problems arising during our teaching sessions weren’t solely from the kids. We started off with some difficulties among our teaching partners. Because we had four teaching partners while other classes generally had two or three, we had the widest range of opinions.
We all had different ideas on what to do, so it was sometimes difficult to come to an agreement while teaching. We quickly figured this out and decided that it couldn’t go on any longer. We all tried our best to be flexible, adapting to one another’s teaching methods. After a few trial and errors, we found a teaching method that succeeded. Generally, one teacher would be teaching in the front of the class, one would be writing on the board, and two would be sitting at different table groups helping the kids. We switched off, and sometimes each teacher would take a table group and work with them individually. We all learned to work with each other in order to achieve success in teaching. The students were not easy to teach, but at the end of the day, with the help of my teammates, I felt successful.
Life on the mountain was extremely different from what I was used to. The physical difference was huge. While I was used to sunny California, with blue skies and little rain, the JadeMountain showed me a different perspective of the world. Everyday, I woke up to the sight of beautiful mountains surrounded by clouds. There was often rain, a refreshing break from the scorching sun. It was peaceful in the mountains. I learned how to live without my phone, which now seems like a burden to have. I learned to enjoy the scenery or to converse with some amazing people instead of stare down at small screen in my hand. I learned to live a simple life without a washing machine, a clean shower, and a bed. However, the real difference could not be seen with eyes. The real difference was the people there. When I first arrived, I thought that they were blunt. They spoke what was on their mind, without holding back. However, I slowly realized that although they were blunt, they were genuine. I am used to a lot of people who never speak the truth, always hiding their thoughts and feelings. The kids of Vox Nativa express themselves with ease, allowing us to see their amazing personalities. They all are genuinely care about us, and make sure we know that. I remember one night while I was helping JR with his pronunciation, a little girl threw an eraser at me to get my attention. JR immediately got up and angrily told her that she hit me, making her apologize. At the banquet, when I started to cry and hug some of my kids, I looked up and realized that the kids who I expected not to cry had tears streaming down their faces. They all made me promise to return next year, and I plan on keeping my promise. They also know how to be happy. They don’t need a lot of money or luxuries to be content. They taught me how to hold back a little less and to enjoy the simplicity of life.
I grew a lot as a person in the two weeks I was on the mountains. My leadership and teamwork skills improved immensely, and I experienced a different life than the one I am used to in the mountains of Taiwan. Although I am no longer in Vox Nativa with all the wonderful kids, my heart will always remain there.
慧智原聲 勇往直前 慧智原聲 努力不懈 啊～水啦！Mihumisang — This is how the Bunun tribal people say “hello” in their native tongue. This summer, I was granted the opportunity to travel abroad with sixteen other high schoolers to the mountains of Taiwan’s Nantou and, specifically, LuoNaElementary School in the LuoNa tribe. There, my teammates and I taught English language and culture to the students that make up Taiwan’s infamous Vox Nativa Choir. My partners, Eleanor and Ethan, and I were assigned to the sixth grade class: Savi (全郁華) , Billy (田有宏) , Mark (全聖煜) , J.R. (史俊祥), Leo (李謙), Nina (林芷柔) , Curry (松慈霖) , and John (伍約翰) .
At first, I anticipated that my kids’ English would have a lot of trouble with reading and understanding the vocabulary; however, my class has impressed me with their English speaking and conversing since day one. Even though our students occasionally act rowdy during classtime, but bonds strengthen and soon enough, we were able to gain respect from the kids. Through cultural exchange, I was able to pick up some terms and phrases in their Bunun language as well as learning some of their cultural chants and dances. From Bali’s tour of 望鄉 provided me a deeper insight on the living conditions and environment of my fellow students, and that I should cherish everything in life just as these kids have done so.
I find my student, Savi, 全郁華, inspiring in that she is able to push herself to reach her greatest potential, despite the girl to boy ratio in our class, 2 to 6, the teasing that she receives from the boys, and poor living conditions at home. She doesn’t seem to be affected by the obstacles and complications circling around her and, instead, expresses her jubilant emotions through her joy in music; I love how she always manages to keep a smile on her face. Savi taught me the true meaning of happiness, which doesn’t include riches and technology, but includes the love from friends and family.
From this trip, I now have a greater respect for the indigenous kids, who usually have to wake up at 5 in the morning to help work the fields at home, and their heartfelt culture. Not only did I gain a deeper understanding of a different aspect of Taiwan, but I also gained a second family and unforgettable memories that will stay with me forever.
Last December, I didn’t really know what to expect from this program. Going in, I was simply told I would be teaching English to a group of kids in Taiwan. But little by little, as I went through the training program, I began to learn more about these kids. I was told they weren’t as fortunate as we were, they had less, and it was our job to do our best at teaching them. It only made me more curious about who they were. Now, after a week of slaughtering over the applications, five months of training, seventeen bonding activities, and four bus rides later, we’re here.
As I step in the classroom, the kids swarm around us, pulling us toward our posters that hang in the back. They listen to us wide-eyed as we talk about our daily lives, and they share some of theirs, too. I’m shocked by the way they so openly make conversation with us, and how easily they welcome us in the classroom. They’re not afraid to ask us anything: their questions range from the cartoon turtles on my poster to my foggy-looking glasses. I fall in love with their curiosity.
Throughout the day, I hear their laughter through the hallways as they take their food up the flight of stairs to share with the rest of their classmates and when they’re washing their clothes. Their attitude is so different from ours; I can’t remember a day when we didn’t complain about getting water and soap all over the place as we washed our dishes or didn’t mention the bugs that infested the showers and our sleeping areas.
At the end of the day, I don’t recognize the kids as the ones mentioned during training. True, they might not have as much as we do, but they’re always so much happier than us. They’re always positive, always trying to reach their goals and chase their dreams. One of my students, Lion, says he wants to be a teacher, and because of that he works so hard in class, looking for a chance to reach his goal. And me, I’m so much more fortunate, but what am I doing to reach my goals?
Looking back, I think these kids have taught me more than I’ve taught them. Their lifestyle and culture has shaped them to be so open with everyone, so pure. Even though they have less than us, they’re all fighting for their dreams, and it’s inspired me to work harder. Because of this, Vox is such a special place that I won’t forget. One day, I want to go back and see them again, and hear their infectious laughter echoing down the halls. But until then, I’ll be thankful for what I have and use what they’ve taught me to become a better person.
From the Aboriginal children who I taught to the mesmerizing view of the Jade Mountain Range, Vox Nativa gave me an experience that cannot be found anywhere else. Even though I participated in Connexpedition last year as a member of the Easy Leap program, Vox Nativa was a whole new experience where I connected more to both my students and my teammates. I also learned a lot about what the school does not teach from my students, specifically the simple enjoyments in life and the hard work that one must put in.
Every evening before dinner, my students Angel and Anna always dragged me outside the classroom, out into the balcony to watch the clouds. In the clear blue sky above the Jade Mountain Range, we found all sorts of animals, food, cartoon characters, and shapes. The short ten minutes that we spent doing this added up to roughly eighty minutes over the two weeks that I spent at LuoNa Elementary School– eighty minutes that I spent learning about the simple enjoyments in life. Living in a century where technological advancements dominate my life everyday and born into a middle-class family, I learned from Angel and Anna that the best entertainments out there are not scrolling through my phone, texting my friends, or shopping at the mall. I learned from them as we observed the changes in the sky and as we conversed that even though technology and fashion are changing everyday, nature’s beauty and interpersonal relationships are constant and everlasting.
Beyond the simple enjoyments that I learned to seek from them, everyday during breaks throughout the day and during study hall at night, the children always ask me to teach them how to pronounce the English words in their lyrics and what their lyrics mean. From teaching them how to read the words of the American anthem to memorizing lyrics with them during the second week, I saw on a daily basis the dedication and hard work that each of my student put into their work, their craft, their art– choral music. To them, making music with their voices is more than just for fun. To them, making music with their voices is a responsibility. A mistake from mispronouncing a word or from singing out of tune not only affects the individual who makes the mistake, but also affects the choir as a whole. I learned from them that whenever I face a responsibility, the attitude that I should have should be similar to their attitude toward music.
Over the short two weeks, I learned from the students of Vox Native Choir what I have not learned in my fourteen years in school. Compared to the children of NewTaipeiCity, my younger brothers and sisters from the Jade Mountain Range moved me with their innocence and changed me with their attitude. Many of my students asked if I will return next year, and my response was that it will be my honor if I can. Like the patterns that Anna, Angel, and I found up among the clouds, some students were like the bunnies that never stop hopping around, some students were like quiet little turtles, but each and every one of my students will forever hold a place in my heart.
The trip was a very enjoyable experience for me. I think the most that I gained from this service trip was the friendship of all of my fellow Vox Nativa volunteers, and my interactions with the kids there that I think, ultimately, humbled me. The kids that we taught were extremely cute, but more importantly, were not privileged at all, and a lot of them came from pretty broken households. However, they were very happy and cheerful every day in class despite everything negative that might be happening in their lives. They taught me that I don’t have to have a lot of things in order to be happy, and showed me how lucky I was in my normal life back in the US.
I also got to see a side of Taiwan that I normally do not see when I visit the big cities like Taipei when we went hiking in the mountains. I saw the typical lifestyles of people in rural areas of Taiwan. I also changed a lot of my preconceptions about the Taiwanese countryside after these two weeks. Before I arrived at the school, I expected there to be spotty power at the school, and for there to be no cell phone reception there, among other things. However, upon arriving at the school, I discovered that my phone had full bars, and that all of the classrooms had a working computer. I thought I would be going to a rural countryside that would have little to no outside contact, but I was proven wrong, and had my eyes opened by this experience.
After spending two weeks in the mountains of Taiwan with the children from the Vox Nativa Choir I have learned a lot about myself, aboriginal culture, and Taiwan. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. The bonds that you form with the kids and the friendships you make, creates a really special experience.
Getting to know the kids and having fun with them is what I feel like this whole trip is all about. We teach them english, but they show us everything that makes them, them. Seeing how responsible they are for themselves makes me want to improve myself. For example, one of my students, J.R., showed me everyday how I should care for others more. No matter what the class was doing he always took the time to see if everyone was doing alright. During nap time he always had to hug someone to fall asleep whether it was John or Curry. When I hosted J.R. at my house, he was always like a big brother to James, and when it was time to go to bed, he was hugging James just like he had during nap time. J.R. is only one example of many in the Vox Nativa choir. Every one of them is so sweet and welcoming; they make you feel like a part of a great big family. Our kids always made sure that class was going to be fun. From Leo’s spontaneous dancing, Savi’s singing during recess, Billy’s jokes, Nina and Mark’s games, John’s cheering, or Curry’s laughing, class was always exciting.
Besides having the chance to meet all the kids, bonding with the team is one of the best parts of the trip. Meeting people that you never would have otherwise, and becoming so close within such a small amount of time doesn’t happen often. I have so many wonderful memories from this trip because of the wonderful people that I was with. The people that I grew closest to were Verena, Jocelyn, Stephanie, and Zoe. Whether it was dying our hair on a whim, massage trains while taking turns to shower, catching cockroaches, sliding down a half kilometer waterslide in the mountains, getting our hair done for three hundred NT, dressing up as guys and doing very embarrassing dances for the talent show, or running frantically through MRT stations, there was never a dull moment spent with them. By the last two days, we had the option to be split into three rooms for five people, but we turned down the offer of five cozy beds for two so we could all be together.
The two weeks I spent at LuoNa this summer were by far the best two weeks this summer if not ever. Being surrounded by people you love and those who love you makes it an incredible experience. That little school, high up in the mountains, is by far, the happiest place on earth.
友情 無聲降臨 我回味從前 想起了你
不知何是會相見 曾經相處的畫面 不停重複上映在眼前
抹去彼此留下的淚水 重新展開笑顏 各自踏上錦繡的明天
對你說一聲再會 輕輕劃下句點 最美的句點
Over the past 2 weeks at Luo Na Elementary, Vox Nativa’s children and volunteers alike have touched my life in different ways than before when I volunteered in 2013. Watching the growth of each and every member since day 1 till the end brought me much joy at what they achieved and gave back to the children while learning from them. This trip gave me much more fulfillment over the difference I could make through the team instead of individually. I didn’t matter if I got any recognition or appreciation; the children’s, members, and my life were positively impacted for the better. Working behind the scenes to ensure everything went smoothly was sometimes harder but when I saw the fruits of my labor it was all worth it. On the very last day I was surprised by my students from my first Vox Nativa trip; they all wrote personalized letters to me and gave me a big card with all their names on it. To me this small, simple gesture meant the world to me as I fostered hope in these kids that continue till this day through their remembrance of “Chris GeGe” and working hard to achieve their dreams which filled me with many emotions of happiness, sadness, and nostalgia. Six months of hard work correlating to a lifetime of unforgettable memories, enhanced lives, and lessons learned have definitely made me see the world in a more widened perspective to evaluate all opinions and options as a leader and to weigh the options before making the “best” decision from the view point of a bigger “agenda”. Ultimately some decisions may not get the approval of many but for the sake of the end goal, fostering team dynamics and effectively communicating with everyone is definitely crucial to a team’s success and individual relations. Words cannot truly express how this trip has changed my life and only when one experiences it will they understand. I look forward to creating a new and improved team with all the things I learned this year for 2017!
As time went by during the Vox Nativa trip, I began to wonder to myself what have I gained or learned from this new experience. However after pondering that thought for a while, I could not find the answer to my question to myself. But right when I ended the trip, on the plane back from Taiwan, I realized that the answer to the question was right in front of me the entire time. This once in a life time experience was the thing I gained, I suddenly felt honored to be one of the 20 people who were selected for this trip to teach these aboriginal children, an experience that is long desired by many of my peers who also decided to apply to this program. The experience that I gained teaching these children was the art of patience, an area that I was severely lacking in before this trip. Imagine trying to teach kids the colors in English, and suddenly you realize that some of the kids in the class don’t know what a capital “T” looks like. These frustrating experiences that commonly occurred throughout the 1st week tempered my patience and communication skills in order to teach my kids the proper way to write certain letters of the alphabet. However, I also learned a lot from the children of Luo Na Guo Shao. I learned how to appreciate the little things in life. For example, during meal times, the students only serve themselves as much as they can handle, never have I seen a student not have an empty bowl when they go wash their own dishes. This has taught me not to waste food and take everything for granted because, not everyone has the ability to have food in front of them at their whim.
Overall, this trip has been extremely beneficial towards my attitude toward life and school; seeing these students passionately learn English just so one day they can use it in a different country while on tour for choir suddenly made me examine my own learning drive. Often, I am unmotivated to learn new things at school, seeing that I would almost never utilize these skills outside of an educational institute, however seeing the student’s learning attitude made me feel ashamed of my own attitude. I told myself that these students would become my role models for their attitude and their persistence in learning. Overall this experience was an eye opening one in the aspect of life. Of course, I can’t forget about all the people who I met along on this fabulous journey, all the friends I made, over the course of the training period was worth every single second of the actual trip.