A Friday of Firsts

This past Friday was not only the beginning of a weekend full of activities, but it also was a day of firsts in Taiwan for us. To begin with, it was our first parent-teacher conference in Taiwan, both for my son and my husband. We met with my son’s homeroom teacher, who not only is new to Taiwan, but also is new to working, living, and traveling overseas after teaching for 30 years in the U.S. There were no surprises, good or bad. Good news is that my son is doing very well academically, adapting well to his new life here in Taiwan, has friends, is happy, and continues to be the compassionate and empathetic friend he has always been. “Bad” news, if you can call it that, is that he tends to rush through his work. This is a bad habit I’ve discussed with him, and that I can relate to, as I was the exact same way when I was in school.

My husband met with about 30 of the parents of his students. They were all gracious and appreciative of his efforts to help their kids. Some parents brought him food. Some students met with him on their own, without their parents. That was interesting.

Later that afternoon, my son paid his first visit to the dentist. It was such a pleasant experience, unlike visits to doctors in the U.S. The dentist is a Taiwanese-American, born and raised in Seattle, who lived in the U.S. until he was 18, so his English was perfect and he was easy to communicate with. Because physicians don’t operate like businessmen here, there was no fear-mongering or attempts to get us to spend more money than necessary. The cleaning procedure was very relaxing. The dentist was gentle, and the machine was completely silent, with none of the nerve-wracking drill noises. It almost seemed as if he wasn’t doing anything except brushing my son’s teeth! Best of all, the cleaning and fluoride treatment totaled only US$10, even without dental insurance! Our friends, who gave us a ride and received cleanings at the same time, paid the same amount for three people (because they already have dental insurance)!

Finally, my son also had a chance to experience life with a local family this weekend. One of his classmates and friends invited him to a sleepover at his house. On Friday, our school had a Welcome Banquet for the school community, and he went home with his friend afterwards, so he was able to spend most of the weekend there. As he excitedly pointed out to us, this was his first two-night sleepover at a friend’s house!

Of course, his experience is still atypical of most of the locals because his friend’s family is wealthy, and they live extravagantly. My son described to us the six-story home his friend lives in. The house has an marble-covered elevator that takes its residents to each floor. The first story is a home theater; the second story consists of the living room, kitchen, and dining room; the third story has the bedrooms for my son’s friend and his younger sister; the fourth floor is the parents’ master bedroom suite; the fifth floor has two more bedrooms, where my son and his friends slept; and the sixth floor has more bedrooms and the laundry facility. There are televisions in every room of the house, as well as telephones for the family members to call each other! My son’s friend’s bedroom is larger than most master bedroom suites–likely the size of both our and my son’s bedrooms combined–and his bed is double-king sized. The bathrooms are large and luxurious, with large, walk-in showers lined with marble from wall to wall. Because my son is interested in cars, he also made note of the kinds of cars this family owns, of course–two SUVs, one being Porsche and the other BMW.

They went out to eat for every meal, including breakfast. The two kids of this family are enrolled in computer and Chinese classes on Saturday mornings, so while they were doing that, their parents took my son to an English-language bookstore, where they browsed for a while and bought my son and their own kids books. My son was in heaven! I think it was sweet and hilarious that they spent alone time with my son as if they were his parents.

Another school friend of theirs joined them on Saturday afternoon, at which point they went rock climbing (which my son has loved since he was in kindergarten); to the night market, where they ate, played arcade games, had dessert, and hung out with other local families. My son tried many local foods that he otherwise wouldn’t try with us and enjoyed them too!

During the weekend, they also played baseball, watched movies and Japanese baseball on TV, and biked. And my son and his friend’s father talked about basketball cards and cars because they both have a small collection of basketball cards and enjoy learning about cars.

Although it was a short stay, the sleepover gave my son an opportunity to better know and understand his friend outside of school; try more local cuisine; and learn more about how the locals live, their family rituals, and some of their cultural practices. It allowed him to feel more connected with and accepted by his local friends.

This past weekend of new and fun experiences gave us a taste of what else we might have to look forward to. Now with Halloween, Thanksgiving break, and the winter holiday break coming, we will have even more interesting events to anticipate.

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My son at the indoor climbing gym.

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