Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sports Competitions

Beginning in Junior High, I played basketball whenever I had some free time. Yes, I competed whenever the opportunity arose. My class won some and lost some. I hated to lose, that was my strong point and my weak point too. Taking a sport too seriously was always a bad thing at that time in Taiwan, since no one considered sports important and certainly there were no professional sports of any kind. But for me, I never cared about what people thought. Sport, and basketball in particular, was just pure enjoyment personally.

In the second year of our Cheng-Kong High School, we had a school wide Track and Field competition. We had quite a number of items on the competition list. In running, we had 100m to 1500m with everything in-between, plus some relays and a hindrance race. In field competition, we had all the jumps, except the pole jump (I did not know there was such a jump then) and all the throwing events, such as disk, spear, and lead ball. My class, believe it or not, received the over-all first place trophy, beating many classes older than us. (There were, of course, several classes in each year of the School.) I was the class leader and it was a proud moment when I represented the class to receive the top trophy. The High School even paid a professional photographer to come and take a picture of the whole class with our Physical Education class teacher and our coach.

It was one of the two big events (another one will be posted soon) in my High School experience!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Class Leader (班长)

This position in the class was an elected position. The job of class leader was first of all to make sure to alert every student in the class when a teacher arrived. He/she would shout "stand up" as soon as the teacher arrived at the door, then say "sit down" so that he or she could start the class right away without wasting any time. Every student was ready to show respect to every teacher in this fashion. Once in a while, the class leader would represent the class at a meeting for school-wide affairs. Most importantly, this position was a seal of honor. It meant that your classmates had decided that you deserved their respect. This is certainly very different from our children's classes; they elect people who they deem to be popular.

I was elected as the class leader the semester after I reached the top of the class in my grade point average. Later I was elected as the president of the High School student body by all the class leaders of the whole campus. Two pictures were taken during that time, one was at school and the other was in the front of our home, all in uniform without the hat.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Grades Improved

My first year at Cheng-Kong was a very happy experience. My parents bought me a new bicycle so I could peddle my way to school under my own control. A bicycle in Chinese is called a "Self-Free vehicle". I like the name. It was better than feet, since it provided me a fourfold extension in both speed and distance. It took me about twenty minutes from home to school when I peddled as fast as I could. We got to school before 8am and got back after 4pm. One usually brought his own lunch daily since you could not go off campus for lunch-break. The school provided a steam room, so your lunch would be piping hot when you ate it at lunch time. The students took turns so that each day two were assigned to deliver all the lunch boxes to the steam room, then take them back for lunch. At the end of day, we could stay for some basket ball playing. With singing and basketball, I was in seventh heaven!

At the end of my first year, on the day to get my final report, the teacher again as usual read the name of the student with highest grade first, then the second, etc. I was not bothered by the order, but when my classmate in the next seat was called (the 11th), he made a gesture to me that he was ahead of me. Even though he did not say a word, I still remember that gesture today. I swore that I would never get behind him again. That was the incentive for me! I improved enough to reach the top of the class for the next two years of high school. (remember that in China there are three years of high school, not four.)

A picture of all the model students was taken with the president of Cheng-Kong High School:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

High School Chorus

In the second part of our first year in our high school, my good friend Chen I-Chun(陈一川)  and I started to organize a high school chorus. With the strong support from our music teacher (see Oct 16, 2010 blog), we got that achieved quickly. Chen and I became even closer as a result of this joint project. To celebrate our achievement, we took a picture together. This was the first time that either of us used a professional photographer to take a picture together other than with family members. In the back of the picture, Chen wrote: "Dao-Shing classmate, Let us remember forever this glorious, happy moment in our High School time, and may all the moments worthwhile be treasured. And I hope that we will be good collaborators for all our lives' activities".
I was appointed as the conductor of our first concert. The first concert was given at the Taiwan University Law school auditorium. I have no memory of what we sang!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Extra Curricula Activities

When I take a look at the extra curricula activities of our children and our grand children, I am amazed at the amount of time involved! Piano, ballet, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, chorus, girl scouts, and basketball were/are included on a weekly basis. Many semesters, they have as many as three or more sessions a week in one activity or another! When one single activity must meet two times a week, it is the parent who has to worry about how to get them there, how to squeeze a meal in the schedule and how to pay for these activities. If these are important parts of growing-up education, they should be included in the education in school. Yes, when we were in school in China and in Taiwan, everything came as a package. There were no extra curricula activities. Our outside school activity was to sneak out to see a movie once in a while on our bicycle, but outside school activity to our parents was mainly home work assignments. Music, soccer (or other sports), and drawing were all taught in the classroom on a scheduled basis, therefore, they were all taught very superficially. In other words, primary and secondary education in China is the "basic" general education. The main purpose was to pass the college entrance examination so that you could finally learn something in a specific subject in college. I do not remember that we ever bothered our parents for school activities. As I told you before, I won the solo singing competition in both junior and senior high schools, but my parents did not participate in any of these activities. Clearly, both systems have their problems.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Music Started Here!

Music in my life started during my high school years. There were no singing stars, no records, no CDs, no popular songs, not even radio when I started junior high school. Music was a subject in school which would not be on any entrance exams. Therefore you just had to pass it when you were taking it. However, I enjoyed the classes in junior high, and I liked the music teacher, Mrs. Bi (畢华雯), who I introduced on this blog earlier (see August 9, 2010). Recently, a classmate of mine, Jerome Sung, and I were chatting on the phone. He asked me if I remember that I received the first prize when I represented our class in the school singing competition. I told him that I do remember that competition. Then he asked me if I remember that he was supposed to be in the competition, too. However, just before his turn, he was so nervous that he shouted to make his throat hoarse so that he could excuse himself from the competition. He later went on to major in music at Normal University and became a famous choral director in Taiwan. You never know how life will turn out! It was nice to hear his story.

At Cheng-Kong High School, I had another music teacher, who not only helped me to form a high school chorus but also gave me special instructions on basic singing techniques. I spent a lot of time with music in my high school years. I will report on this in more detail later. The teacher's name was Ou-yang Ru-ping (欧阳如萍). His surname had two words, which is unusual but not uncommon. He was a very big fellow, with a thundering voice. I tried to imitate the way he sang. Since that time, music became part of my life. Later, I directed many choruses and choirs. And I certainly sang many different songs. I was also the first price winner again in the senior high school singing competition.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Facets of My Life

Up to junior high school years, I more or less followed the path my parents laid down in front of me, with little variation. While I sometimes thought that I was deviating from my parent's direction, I was really more or less on the line they drew. Study, study and study were the directives. Besides some sports and singing, I did not do much of anything else. And the study we did was not for fun; it was for the entrance examinations one after another. When looking back, this path might have saved me. Because of it, I had the drive and preparation to finish a doctorate degree in Chemistry. Had I grown up in the USA, I am not sure at all that I had the discipline and the character to achieve as much. Of course, I could not predict what kind of person I would become, who could have foretold anything!

Two facets in my life started to develop during this period of time. One was religion, the other was music. I am going to talk about how religion started to become part of my life now.

Sometime in the first year after I entered Cheng-Kong High School, I went to play ping-pong with my friends at a Lutheran Student Center, which was located about three blocks from my home near National Taiwan University. It was a place for the college students to study, make friends, and play ping-pong. An old foreign lady came to stop me from playing there; she said that this place was for "college" students only. I argued with her, told her that I would be a college student later. She relented, and as this result of this incident, we became friends. Gradually, we become closer. Her name was Clara Jones.

After I entered the University I spent almost as much time at her place as at my home. I ate there regularly. She became my second mother. Certainly, her place was a wonderful place for learning English. You probably wonder why I said that she was almost like my second mother. We did a lot of things together, and she cared about me as much as a mother. For example, when Janice and I decided to get married in 1965, she flew from Taiwan to Urbana, Illinois, to give her advice to me, since Janice was a Catholic at the time! She was afraid that I would have a "long lonely road" ahead of me. Because of her and some others in my life (I will talk about them later), I tried hard to be a Christian for a long time. She graduated from St. Olaf College in nursing and did quite a number of further studies in theology. She taught part-time at National Taiwan University, offering both English classes and Speech and Debate in the English Department.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Other Teachers

Another subject that was taught every semester in High School was mathematics. But since every semester we had different subjects in math, we had different teachers to teach them. The math courses included were Trigonometry, Geometry, Advanced Algebra and Analytical Geometry; the last two were one year courses. I had quite a number of math teachers. As a result, I have very shadowy impressions of them. I do not remember much about them individually. As a whole, they were quite competent; they provided challenging problems for us to work on. I certainly remember some of the geometry problems which caused us to work for days. The Advanced Algebra course included all aspects of algebra and was the most challenging course in High School. The Analytical Geometry course really covered the fundamentals of college calculus course in the USA.                      靳吉炑(math and chemistry)


The Chemistry and Physics teachers were my favorite teachers. They were younger and more dynamic. While I knew very little at the beginning, they provided me quite a good foundation for the subjects. This was one of the reasons I listed quite a number of these departments as the choices on my college entrance examination. I will talk about these exams later. These teachers were definitely very close to me also. We had pictures taken with them outside classroom settings, which was quite unusual.
With important teachers at High School:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

English Teacher

Another subject which was required every semester in High School was English. Our English teacher in those six semesters was an older lady (in her fifties) named Liang Jing-Shung (梁瀞训). She was an outstanding teacher, but she had one weak spot. She had some favorite students and I was one of them. Once she decided that you were a good student, you did not seem to be able to do anything wrong. Because of that, I did not work as hard as I ought to. I should have paid more attention, then maybe I could have learned more! In the class, she only asked a few students to answer her questions, or to recite some phrases. In these respects, we, the favorite students, benefited from her prejudice. She always had a smiling face, she was well-liked. We knew that she had a lot of "good jobs" waiting for her should she decide to quite her teaching job, since during that period of time, people with a good English background were wanted in every corner. She was from one of the few well-off families who did not really need her income and so she could just choose what she liked to do! In that sense, we the class was a very lucky class. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of her smile!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Class Teacher

In China, every class has a class teacher. Besides teaching his or her specialty courses, he or she is also responsible for other things affecting all students in the class, such as giving a grade for discipline or giving an over-all comment at the end of semester. If the class is having an outing, he or she is responsible also for the safety of the students and other related matters. At the end of the semester, the class teacher checks the average grades and hands out the final grade reports for the courses which the students have taken that semester, one at a time. Usually the grade reports are given out according to the order of the grade point average. The top student gets his grade report first, etc. Yes, if you are the last one in the class, you will get the grade report LAST. You can leave the classroom once you get your final report, it's your choice! Just imagine! There might be no one left in the room if you are the last one to get your final report. Often a student would ask his friends to stay around so as to diminish the impact of being at the bottom of the class.

In the three years I was in Cheng Kong High School, I had Mr. Chang Jin- Jan (张金鑑) as my class room teacher. He was a kind man with few words. His specialty was Chinese. At the time he was teaching us he was slightly older, about ten years, than the other teachers who were mostly in their thirties. I remember when he was immersed in a lecture he would read the passages over and over again as if in a dream. It was hard not to be affected by his enjoyment. I did not like to study Chinese. However, he certainly gave me a solid background in appreciating the language and literature.

If I remember correctly, I called him the first time I went back to Taiwan to visit my parents in 1969. I had a chat with him on the phone. He was happy and well. But in 1975, when we went back for the second time, his son told me that he had passed away. A dedicated Chinese teacher had gone!! He lived on in many of his students' hearts, I am sure!