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Parent speaks about life in Taiwan

Parley's Park kids learn about life in Asian countries, Of the Record staff

Alison Johnson may not fit the profile of a Mandarin Chinese speaker. But she once lived in Taiwan, and later China. She visited Parley’s Park Elementary School to share her story from across the world with second-grade students.

Johnson brought her 13-month-old daughter, Anna, who she and her husband Chris adopted from Taiwan. She also brought a straw Sampan hat, candy for students, chopsticks and slides she took during her mission in Taiwan while representing the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The four second-grade classes of Parley’s Park listened to Johnson speak in both Mandarin and English.

A decade ago, second-grade teacher Randee Kadziel decided to show her students the world by bringing in parents who had traveled to foreign countries and wanted to share their cultural experiences.

"I wanted my students to get a taste of what it is like outside North America," she said.

Now it has become a tradition for Kadziel to bring in a succession of world-traveling parents over a two-week span sometime between the holidays.

"The most rewarding part for me is that I am learning about the countries also," she said. "I tell the kids, I too, am constantly learning."

Johnson said she found Mandarin Chinese easier to learn than Spanish, because Chinese has no sentence-construction rules or complexities of tenses. Only the present tense is used, she said. The catch: 50,000 words, each drawn with characters made of up to 10 lines.

She sang a song in Mandarin with students. She showed them how to use chopsticks. Student Lindsey Bird, 7, got to don a Chinese outfit.

Taiwan is very modern, she said, while China seems very much a Third World country.

Johnson spoke of the animals she saw in China.

"There are a lot of pigs, chickens and cows," she said.

A student raised his hand and asked, "are there platypuses there?" She said she didn’t think so.

She spoke of her love of the food in Taiwan and China, and she said she has not found an authentic Chinese restaurant in Utah, but maybe that’s because she hasn’t found one that serves roasted water snake or beetles, like the ones she once ate while she lived there. The sampling of beetle, she did on a dare. The water snake had the consistency of rubber, she said. While China and Taiwan dish up foods unheard of in the United States, they don’t have fortune cookies, and never did. Johnson did have one complaint about the food in general.

"They use tons of MSG in their food," she said.

Meanwhile, Kadziel has a full schedule of speakers, two per day, for the rest of the week. Her dream spot where she would like to visit is New Zealand, she said.

Kadziel is looking forward to Dec. 14, when a parent speaks to the second grade about life in Saudi Arabia.


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