Clubs Monroes share Taiwan experience

Don and Virginia Monroe, not satisfied with sitting in their rocking chairs after retiring from the faculty of USD, decided to journey to Taiwan, where English teachers are in great demand.

For two years, they taught at Taiwan's Christian University. They told of some of their adventures (and misadventures) at Tuesday's Rotary Club.

"We had originally looked at doing something in the Peace Corps," Virginia Monroe said. "While teaching statistics at USD, one of my students was from Taiwan, and I asked if they needed people to teach English there, and everything just took off after that.

Approximately two-thirds of Taiwan's terrain is mountains. The plains located in the western portion of the country is home to 23 million people.

"The houses are built right up to the streets," Don Monroe said. "There are no lawns."

Virginia Monroe admitted that she thought she was being slighted the first time she was simply addressed as "teacher."

"In Taiwan, however, teacher is a label of respect," she said. "It's wonderful to teach under those circumstances."

Students who attend universities in Taiwan must first go through a vigorous exam process. Only 10 to 15 percent of people tested are accepted for a free higher education.

"Most of the students had studied English for six years," Don Monroe said, "but they did not have the experience of being exposed to a native speaker of the language in the real world."

Many of the students, and their instructors, feared speaking in English because they were afraid to make mistakes.

"A challenge was to get them to make mistakes," Don Monroe said.

Virginia noted that she and her husband lived on the 14th floor of a 16-floor apartment building. They were rocked occasionally by earthquakes. She never cooked or washed clothes, because restaurants and laundries are inexpensive in Taiwan.

Don Monroe was hospitalized in Taiwan with an infection. His bill for an eight-day stay was a staggering $10.

Guests at Tuesday's meeting were LTC Phil Wojtalewicz, Roger Jeck and Clem Powers, who are new members of the club, Steve Smith, CEO of Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital, Dawn Johnson, daughter of Rotarian Dean Clark, and Vermillion High School seniors Heather Swensen, Laura Taggart, Whitney Tolsma, Rachel Wells and Anna Wellsfry.

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