Catching Up

Sorry, I’ve been AWOL. Things have been crazy lately. I finally got rid of my kids! It was a great day. There’s a couple I’ll miss, but otherwise I’m so glad to be done with this group of children, and this group of parents. I have a bunch of photos to share though, of graduation and other activities. The last 3 weeks were pretty much just games and toys. My parents are always bringing kids late, pulling them out of school for days or weeks on end; several took off after the graduation ceremony, even though we still had two weeks of school left.

Then I immediately started summer camp the Monday after our last week of school, which really should have been cancelled since I only had 2-3 kids on any given day and they were at wildly different levels. I had two that were nearly 7 and fluent in English and reading, understood everything I said, and two that were barely 4 and spoke next to no English and understood nothing, and some only came half the time. It was frustrating and impossible to plan for them so I basically just babysat and let them do whatever while I cleaned and organized my classroom for next year. We did some science experiments and S.T.E.M. activities every day though. I’m also trying to get everything organized and order supplies for next year, which I am determined will be better. It can’t get much worse.

Other than that, I’ve just been doing a bunch of homework. I have a roughly 30 page paper on American art history to show for it if anyone is having trouble sleeping… Jess and I have also been in the process of moving apartments, and it has been an ordeal. Our lease was up at the end of July and we wanted a bigger place. Fortunately, one of Jess’s coworkers was also moving and his apartment was bigger, closer to both of our jobs (I can bike to work finally! At least, when it’s not 110 degrees and/or pouring rain, as it’s been lately), and not too much more expensive. Rents are rising like crazy in Beijing and this building is in one of the more expensive areas so we really lucked out. I really like the apartment and we’ve got most of our stuff moved in. We had a month between the time we moved in here and the time our old lease expired, so we’ve been moving very gradually, packing suitcases, bringing them over in a cab, emptying them, rinse and repeat. Over and over. You know the scene in Harry Potter where they’re in the bank vault and every time they touch something it multiplies? That was our house. I don’t know how I accumulated so much stuff in three years but it’s got to go! I’m leaving for Vietnam tomorrow and Jess is heading to the States Saturday so everything has to be finished before we leave, so this past weekend was nothing but packing, cleaning, and trying to sell anything remotely valuable to fund our travels. I need to get rid of things anyway. What was I thinking, buying books? You can’t cart piles of books around the world. I knew that, but I bought them anyway. It’s a sickness. We thought we could move everything ourselves in a few trips but a few turned into 8 or 10 or 150, I don’t know, I lost track. And did I mention we now live in a fourth floor walk-up? I think we got more than our fair share of exercise this week. There’s no way I can take all this with me when I leave China, which will absolutely, positively, 1000% be next summer. I swear. That’s all the China I can handle. I believe I’ve said this before but I really mean it this time! It’s a toss up whether my lungs or my sanity will give out first.

Anyway, here are some photos of the new place:

We’ve been exploring the neighborhood this week and found our new favorite restaurant. They have excellent dumplings and everyone is really nice.There’s also one of the best markets in the city-SanYuanLi-just down the street. It’s awesome. They have the best produce and meat, plus a bunch of imported goods that are much cheaper than the actual import stores. It looks small from the outside but inside is huge-like an enormous indoor year-round farmers’ market.

I am going to try to update more regularly this year, especially because it’s my last year (really!) and I feel like there’s lots of things I want to say about China but I just haven’t gotten around to yet. I also want to travel to some more places within China before I leave for good.

For now though, my next trip will be Vietnam. Finally! I’ve been wanting to go forever. Tickets are incredibly cheap right now too, only about $250 roundtrip from Beijing to Hanoi. I leave Beijing Tuesday and have a short layover in Guangzhou, arriving in Hanoi after 11 that night. I’ve got the next day to explore the city, then I booked a tour of Ha Long Bay the next day. Everything I read and everyone I talked to said Ha Long is not to be missed and it’s the one place to splurge so I did. I’m taking an overnight cruise of the bay before returning to Hanoi the next day. Then Saturday I fly to Da Nang, which is the closest city to Hoi An, which doesn’t have an airport. I’m staying in the Old Town area of Hoi An though, to spend a few days exploring. Then it’s back to Hanoi for a day before returning to Beijing. It’s going to be a busy trip for sure. I’m excited; everything looks beautiful. I’ll definitely be posting pictures!

Hoi An isn’t even on the map, but it’s about a 40 minute drive from Da Nang, I believe.

Holiday Fun!

It has been a hectic, and festive, couple of weeks. I’m just going to tell it in pictures:

Tonight Jess and I went to see On Pointe’s original production of Mary Poppins at the International School of Beijing. It was so much fun. They turned Mary Poppins into a ballet but also had jazz and tap dancing. They used the original movie soundtrack with the leads lip syncing along in place. ISB has students from elementary through high school in one huge campus so there were all different ages. Some of the older students were really great. And all the little ones were adorable. Several kept missing cues and they’d just keep going, twirling and trying to keep up with the others.

Today’s performance of Mary Poppins

My plans with my kids for next week involve making Christmas cards, making Christmas presents, making Christmas cookies, watching Christmas movies, and then having a Christmas party on Friday before taking off on Saturday for Switzerland. Sometimes I do love this job!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just thought I’d share a brief history of Thanksgiving with all my friends and family across the world on this occasion. Disclaimer: I threw this together in 20 minutes before my kids arrived this morning, it was done entirely from memory, any resemblance to people, places, or things, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, yada yada yada, yes there are stereotypes, I have the illustration skills of a second grader, and it was intended for 5 year ESL kids who have the attention spans of a fruit fly with ADHD, so yeah, let’s not take it too seriously. But I was trying to explain briefly what Thanksgiving was and keep their attention:

TheFirstThanksgiving

Then we all made Thanksgiving lunch. Turkey isn’t really available but we roasted chicken and the kids mashed potatoes and made instant stuffing and pumpkin pie. I made some green beans and we ordered some canned cranberries online. The kids had never had them but they loved everything!

After lunch-which the kids inhaled-they were a little dopey. Which worked in my favor actually. We watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and I took them outside to enjoy some crisp fall air. It’s been beautiful the last few days.

My little drama queen, Raina!
Alisha is a ham, always performing, loves the camera
Super active boys-George in the background, and Bentley in the blue jacket. Bentley is such a sweetheart. He knew maybe five words of English when he started this year and he’s younger than the other kids so I wasn’t sure he’d keep up. But he learns amazingly fast, knows all his letters and numbers and asks me questions in English now. He’s so polite too!

Beautiful, but icy cold. Winter is either mild and smoggy, or freezing and clear. The same arctic winds that come down to clear away the smog also cause a major temperature drop. It’s also unbelievably dry. I took my sweater off earlier and it nearly electrocuted me. At night, my sheets actually throws of sparks in the dark room anytime I move. Crazy!

Tonight Jess and I went to a Thanksgiving buffet at EAST hotel. Their food is always amazing: ham, lamb, turkey, all kinds of side dishes, salads, and seafood, fruit, wine, beer, soda included. It’s a popular holiday spot for expats. Two Thanksgiving dinners in one day though-bad idea. I think I’ll go into hibernation now. Work tomorrow sounds awful.

chocolate bread pudding, apple & raisin pie, red velvet cake
cake, walnut pie (like pecans, but pecans aren’t common here), and black forest cake 

Yesterday we talked about gratitude and made a Gratitude Tree. The kids wrote all the things they’re grateful for on leaves-mom, dad, flowers, butterflies, cake, eggs, friends, eyes… Then they glued them to the tree trunk:

I’m way behind on this blog! Later this weekend I’ll catch up and post about our trip to South Korea. For now, here’s a few pictures from our field trip to the aquarium last week:

Then we read the Rainbow Fish and made our own rainbow fish to go with the story, since we’re learning about caring as our character trait, and different habitats in science. They turned out really cute!

October 6, 2017

Sadly, I lost the rest of my footage of the Great Crab Takedown of 2017 but it was hilarious. And yes, they did end up as dinner! (They were delicious.)

I also have some craziness from my kids last week. I have found the perfect Chinese phrase to describe them: Ta men chaochaonaonao bu xiaoting (吵吵闹闹不消停。) Roughly it means they are super hyper and kicking up a ruckus and won’t stop. I just like the way it sounds. I’ve put it all into video form to practice my editing skills, which are rough, and I give you fair warning: don’t watch it more than once or you’ll never get the songs out of your head.

I did some exploring this week with my time off. I finally got to go to Grand Canal Forest Park, which is out in the Tongzhou area south of Beijing. It’s not a long trip but it was nice to be outside of the city and it’s beautiful. I read about the canal last year and it’s an interesting history; I’d been wanting to see it for a while. The canal stretches 1,100 miles from Hangzhou to Tongzhou and is the longest man-made waterway in the world. It was begun in 456 B.C. and took 1,100 years to complete, mainly by slave labor. Now, the Tongzhou section is a huge park, with an amusement park, trails, fishing, boating, picnic areas, crazy flower sculptures, and all kinds of fun. But it’s also really peaceful.

I also explored my neighborhood a bit more and found another little park I hadn’t seen before. Someone in the community had a litter of these little dogs and they were all down there playing-so cute!

This and That

Had an awesome Sunday, relaxing-with Jess (of course). We met for brunch at East, a really nice hotel near my school, which was amazing, and worth the painful price tag. Then we walked around the area and explored a street I hadn’t been down before. We ended up stumbling into JiangFu Park, which is beautiful. It’s in  a quiet area with hardly any people, and there were hundreds of butterflies all over the place:

Brunch at Feast, LiDu
Hanging out in JiangFu Park

And of course, I have photos of my new class. Don’t let the cute faces fool you, this batch is a bunch of holy terrors.

Top-Raina, Bottom-Angela and Ryan
Ella, QingQing, Alisha, and my assistant, Nina

I can’t even go into details at the moment because it will turn into a rant and I don’t have time for that because it’s almost my bedtime. But suffice to say they have traumatized me; I’m exhausted all the time, I don’t have time to think, much less write. I’m outnumbered 9 to 1, and four weeks into the school year, I have to say, I think they’re winning.

Also have the smog to combat. This weather just can’t seem to make up its mind. The pictures below were taken less than 24 hours apart. It’s been back and forth like this for a couple weeks. Unbearably smoggy, or bright blue skies, no in between.

I realized I never posted anything from my Boston trip, which is a shame, because it was fun. So I’ll just put up some quick pictures. My mom and I got to spend my last Sunday in the States with my youngest brother, Mitchell; we all took a whale watching tour down the coast, almost to Cape Cod. My pictures didn’t really turn out but we got to see a few humpback whales-amazing! We got to see Mitch play with his softball team. The next day Mom and I took a tour of the city and saw all the historic sites-Old North Church, Fenway Park, the original Cheers bar, and Boston Commons. Then I came back to Beijing, Mom went back to K.C., and Mitchell headed to London for a semester there. It’s funny; ten years ago I never would have imagined us scattered all around the world!

Boston Commons was beautiful and it was fun to see all the places from Make Way for Ducklings-plus the ducks were cute!

 

May 17, 2017

Not much going on. I had a pretty good week with the kids and thought I would share these. We’ve been studying Europe so for their cooking class we prepared a British tea for Mother’s Day. Kiki brought a ton of flowers so the kids could arrange flowers with their moms too.

The air has been nice since we had the OBOR (One Belt One Road) conference in town over the weekend. The traffic has sucked though, and the police have been raiding bars and restaurants all over the city checking people’s passports and checking for drugs. They occasionally crack down but eventually it eases up. Jess and I took a bus a little ways out to Shunyi Saturday to try to escape Beijing for a little while and do some exploring.

Monday, one of my kid’s moms decided to take the whole class out to lunch. She booked a limo van to take us out to this fancy room at a really upscale restaurant with course after course. We had about half a dozen people waiting on us and a private patio with a waterfall and swinging chairs. The kids really got a kick out of it. I enjoyed it to but on the other hand this is the kind of thing that frustrates me about China. People do things like this, partly as a nice gesture, and I give her credit for that, but most of the time it’s also about mianzi, or the Chinese concept of “face”-anything to make themselves look good and gain face. As evidenced by the hundred or so photos posted on WeChat for all the other parents to see. But I’ll get more into that another time. It was still a nice day.

 

March 26, 2017

So I’ve been working on a much longer post but it’s still not finished and it’s just some general China stuff, so I’m going to keep working on it and post sometime soon. For now though, I know it’s been a while, so I thought I’d post pictures from the last couple weeks. It finally feels like spring, although March has definitely been a mixed bag. We went from sunny, clear, and sixty, to smoggy, rainy/sleety, and freezing, and back again in one week. But Jess and I were able to get out and take advantage of the clear days. Two weeks ago we went to spend an afternoon at Forest Park, the north end of Olympic Park.

Last weekend we went to the Wanda Plaza IMAX theater to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie. I know it’s gotten some mixed reviews but I loved it-it’s one of my all-time favorite stories. We explored the area around the mall too and found some cool things:

I printed up fake money for my kids to earn and started a store where they can buy fun stuff: toys, candy,  coupons for iPad time, to skip an assignment, skip clean up duty, etc. Yes, I have resorted to out and out bribery and it has worked wonders. We’ve been studying Asia-Russia, India, and Arabia, and made a Russian lunch for cooking class one day, then some Indian cake this week. We also started learning about space in science and they are so excited; asking a million questions every day. One three minute video about Mars turned into a thirty minute discussion about aliens.

In other news, Jess and I took up boxing, which is actually a lot of fun and we have not managed to seriously injure ourselves, each other, or anyone around us, so that’s always a plus. The first few classes went kinda like this though:

Yeah…we’re a little out of shape. But on the way home the other day I ran into a woman passing out flyers for a gym really close to our house. So we ended up joining that too; it was incredibly cheap. Two year membership  for 3700RMB, about $540. And they even have a pool.

This weekend I spent doing massive amounts of writing for my psychology class, cleaning, shopping, and trying to get some work done for school because it’s going to be a crazy week. We’ve got a field trip to the planetarium on Thursday, a tie-dye party on Friday, then Jess and I leave for Malaysia super early Saturday…think two a.m. early. What were we thinking?

Found some pretty spring flowers at the market today!