Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. ~Helen Keller
I’m really behind (again) so first I’ll post some stuff from our Christmas party last week, then I’ll do another one with Switzerland.
I filled all the kids’ stockings before they came in Friday morning so they were all a little riled up with sugar. They got to be ‘Secret Santa’ and we let them have a snowman building contest with tissue paper. Then they shredded up all the paper and we had a big indoor ‘snowball’ fight. Even the parents joined in. They were so funny.
Carol and Lucy and I tried to teach them some Christmas songs. They did really well with ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’.
We also tried to teach them ‘We Wish You Merry Christmas’. But Qing thought we said ‘Ni weishenme Merry Christmas’, (ni means you in Chinese, and weishenme means why) so she started singing it that way, and they all joined in. Basically, ‘why are you merry Christmas?, hahaha! It made no sense but they thought it was so funny we just sang it that way!
My favorite story is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas so I read them the book, then we watched the cartoon. They were spellbound! (They look worried in this photo, but they really loved it).
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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!
I’m excited to announce my Winter 2017/2018 Trip Itineraries! I just booked my last tickets this afternoon: October 27-29-Busan, South Korea; December 16-23- Zurich, Switzerland; December 26-29-Xi’an, China; and finally, February 10-22-Delhi and Agra, India. So stayed tuned for some stories!
Otherwise, it’s been an uneventful week. For science class, we’ve been learning about the 5 senses so I did a taste test experiment Thursday and let kids try different tastes: lemons for sour, coffee and super dark chocolate for bitter, cookies and sugar cubes for sweet, salt water (salty), and spicy beef jerky (spicy).
I also thought I’d share these paintings. The kids were supposed to be drawing elephants from this story their art teacher read them. These were the results; I’m a little concerned about the last one.
Friday night Jess and I held our Second Annual Halloween Movie Binge. Hocus Pocus, Nightmare Before Christmas, black bean and bacon chili, corn bread, and apple crisp. We even did some pumpkin carving.
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!
Crazy fun couple of weeks here! Officially my kids graduate next Friday so we’re just having fun right now. Some of them will leave after next week, but the rest will still stay through the end of June. The smog went a little crazy last week so I had to keep the kids inside for recess, but then had the idea to make a tent/cave out of tables, chairs, and tablecloths. It reminded me of being a kid and my grandma let us take pillows and blankets and hide under the furniture. Creativity is seriously lacking here-they don’t know anything about pillow forts. It was sad. But I taught them everything I know so my work here is done.
We’ve been learning about Africa lately, and last week we focused on Egypt so I let them build sugar cube pyramids and we made the Nile out of tin foil and little clay camels and boats. They loved the idea of mummies too so we made some out of pipe cleaners.
Last weekend Jess and I wanted to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (Loved it, btw). Jess found a new website to book tickets in English and we randomly picked a theater which turned out to be a 40 minute drive outside the city. But it was fun to explore a new area. The Shine Hills mall in Shunyi is this huge outdoor shopping center with tons of stores and restaurants with all kinds of cuisines. It’s full of these fun sculptures and play areas too-we took pictures with some of them. We even found an amazing Italian restaurant and a small petting zoo! So random 🙂
And since Tuesday was Dragon Boat Festival, we had a four-day weekend to enjoy, which, even better, meant a three-day workweek this week. So after a much-needed break, I came back this week, taught Wednesday, then we had a big blowout party for Children’s Day on Thursday. It’s a big thing here-my school set up a wading pool and rented a big bounce house/slide. The kids all brought water guns and we filled up water balloons. I unfortunately did not think to buy a water gun, but found a watering can and threw buckets of water at the kids when they attacked me, because you can do that here without getting sued by hyperactive parents. In fact some of the parents came and ran around shooting the kids with water guns. Everybody was soaked by the end of the day. The kids even talked me into going down the slide with them. It was all fun and games till the upstairs neighbors came home and called in a noise complaint. Super fun day though!
Friday morning the kids had class with their Chinese teacher, then in the afternoon, since we’ve been learning about dinosaurs in science, I set up a dinosaur dig. I took a Lego dinosaur kit and buried all the pieces, plus small plastic dinosaurs and eggs, in two big containers of dirt and rocks. Then I split them in teams and had them put on gloves, and, because I’m diabolical like that (and had time to kill) told them they weren’t allowed to use their hands. They had to dig everything out with coffee stirrers, chopsticks, tweezers, dust them off with paintbrushes and q-tips, and then piece the dinosaur together as a team. It was awesome. Then I let the watch the (original) Land Before Time movie. I don’t think I’d seen it in 20 years and we were all tearing up and laughing in the same places. They loved it.
I got some great news this week too. I thought I’d only have a two week break this summer but our summer camp was canceled so I actually get a full month off. I’d been planning to travel around Vietnam and Cambodia but since I get more time I decided I’d rather go home for a while, since I haven’t been home in the summer time in about three years! I can’t believe it’s been that long. I’ll definitely do southeast Asia sometime this year hopefully, but for right now I’m just excited to go home, see my family, walk around barefoot, swim in the pool, and play with my dogs. Only 6 weeks to go!
Thursday was a trying day. One of the days that I question why I teach, or even get out of bed in the morning. Then, I came home, started writing, and this happened:
[9:00-Nicole is in the office in the process of boiling six dozen eggs to color later in the day. Kids run in.]
NICOLE: “Guys, stay out of this room. The pot is really hot. Go play.”
[Kids run out to the lobby. Nicole goes to print worksheets. Looks up to greet Zach as he arrives. Turns around, the rest of the kids are back in the office.]
NICOLE: “Get out!”
[Nicole picks up Fred, carries him out of the room, and deposits him on a bean bag. Goes back, picks up Rarity, caries her out as Fred runs back in. She carries Ella out as Rarity is running back in. Repeat as needed for 10-15 minutes.]
[9:30-Nicole is removing eggs from water to cool. Qing runs up to watch.]
NICOLE: “Do not touch the eggs.”
[Qing leans forward and reaches for egg.]
NICOLE: “Qing, those are hot, don’t touch them.”
QING, touching an egg: “Ow!”
NICOLE: “Don’t. Touch. The. Eggs.”
[9:45-Reading. Kids are talking]
NICOLE: “Shh. Ok, Fred, can you read? Ryan, shh.”
[Fred starts reading, Ryan continues talking, but quieter.]
NICOLE: “Ryan, stop talking.”
[Fred reads, Ryan continues to whisper in the background.]
NICOLE: “Ryan, Stop. Talking.”
RYAN: “I not talk.”
NICOLE: “’I’m not talking.’ You are talking. Whispering is still talking. Who is next?”
[Zach starts reading the next page. Girls start a conversation about My Little Pony.]
NICOLE: “Girls, stop talking, the only person talking is Zach.” [Zach continues reading.]
NICOLE (10 seconds later): “Jason, get your finger out of your nose. RYAN FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP TALKING!”
[10:15-Math class, kids are working on subtraction. Jason has to make sure he has the right answer before committing anything to paper. He also was never taught how to form a question in his last school. We’re working on it.]
JASON: “I want to this.”
NICOLE: “What is this.”
JASON: “Wo bu zhi dao.” (Translation: I don’t know.)
NICOLE: “No, if you don’t know what it is, you say ‘What is this?’.Zhege shi shenme? What is this?”
JASON: “I want to five.”
NICOLE: “Is it five?”
NICOLE: “No, you say, ‘Is it five?”
NICOLE: “Jason, say, “Is it five?”
JASON: “Is it five?”
NICOLE: “Yes it is. Very good.”
[Jason continues to next problem.]
JASON: “I want to nine?”
NICOLE: “Is it nine?”
[11:15-Recess. Note: Chinese people are always cold. Truly, they believe that if they are not actively sweating then they must be cold. In winter, parents send their kids to school in no less than six layers. In spring, it’s four or five-at least two pairs of pants, an undershirt, one or two long-sleeved shirts, a sweater, a jacket, and possibly a scarf. Regardless of the weather forecast, if the calendar says spring, they think they are cold. It was eighty degrees today. As soon as the kids got outside they started stripping and flinging clothes around.]
QING and RARITY (chanting): “Too hot! Too hot! It’s too hot!”
QING: “I want take off” (pulls off jacket and sweater)
NICOLE: “Okay, fine.”
RARITY: “I want to take off my dress”
NICOLE: “Okay, fine” (She has two pairs of pants and shirts under it.)
QING: “I want this off” (pulls off a pair of pants, revealing another pair)
RARITY: “I want my pants off too” (pulls off outer pants)
NICOLE: “Okay, sure, whatever” (Nicole is now covered in discarded clothing)
QING: “And this shirt”
NICOLE: “Because you have to keep at least one shirt on”
NICOLE: “Because I said so.”
QING: “Wei shenme?” (”Why?”)
NICOLE: “Mei you wei shenme.” (“No why.”) “Go play.”
[11:40-Kids are collecting their clothes and lining up to go inside. Qing grabs her pants and puts them on her head, pulling them down over her eyes.]
NICOLE (sighs): “Qing, take your pants off your head.”
[Rarity pulls her pants over her head and both girls giggle like maniacs.]
NICOLE: “Rarity and Qing, take your pants off your head. You will run into something.”
[Qing falls down.]
[11:45-Lunchtime. Nicole and Lucy are attempting a conversation.]
LUCY: “So I think Dan Yang can do an art project with the kids while we hide the eggs.”
NICOLE: “Yeah, that’s fine, Jason take your finger out of your nose.”
LUCY: “Okay, and maybe-Jason, do not put your spoon in your hair. Eat your lunch.-we could do some face painting.”
NICOLE: “Yeah, I think-“
[Ella and Qing are spinning around in swivel chairs because for some reason someone decided to put swivel chairs in a classroom full of five-year olds.]
NICOLE: “Ella! Qing! Che fan! Eat your lunch! That sounds good.”
[12:30-Story time. Nicole, Avery, and kids are sprawled out on beanbags. Nicole is reading. Sniffling noise.]
AVERY: “I think you’re okay, Rarity, it was an accident. Ella, can you tell Rarity you’re sorry for bumping her?”
[Ella bursts into tears, hiccupping and gasping for breath while other kids gawk, and Avery finally has to carry her out of the room to calm down.]
[1:15-Dyeing eggs for Easter egg hunt tomorrow. It’s chaos.]
FRED: “I’m going to make Jupiter!”
RARITY: “I’m going to make Neptune!”
RYAN: “I want two colors!”
ZACH: “I want three colors!”
QING: “I want eat a egg.”
NICOLE: “I want to eat an egg. Wait until snack time.”
RYAN: “Me egg break!”
NICOLE: “Well, if you don’t stab your egg with a pencil, it won’t break.”
RARITY: “I can’t eat eggs”
NICOLE: “I know.”
[Nicole knows this because any time anyone anywhere is talking about food, Rarity has to announce the details of her egg allergy.]
RARITY: “I can eat the yellow but I can’t eat the white. But I don’t like the yellow.”
NICOLE: “The yolk. I know you don’t.”
[3:00-Snacktime. Kids are gathered around plates of fruit and crackers, talking quietly for once. Nicole takes advantage of this anomaly and goes to the bathroom. Comes back thirty seconds later to find all the kids standing in the front entrance, laughing and shouting, door open.]
NICOLE: “WHAT is going on?”
AVERY: “Ryan is peeing in the bushes. He said he couldn’t wait.”
NICOLE: “Oh, yes, he could have!”
[15 minutes later. Zach is in the bathroom.]
RARITY: “I have to go to the bathroom but Zach is in there. I will go outside.”
NICOLE: “No you will not. No one is going outside. Ever. NEVER. AGAIN”
[3:15-Nicole gives up on attempting to do anything with children and shoos them out to the playground for the rest of the day. Maintenance workers are spraying down one of the slides and sidewalk. Puddles everywhere.]
NICOLE: “Stay on this side of playground, ok? I don’t want you getting all wet. Ryan, Zach, did you hear me? Only this side of the playground. Do not go in the water.”
[Kids run off to play. Nicole and Avery collapse on a bench with sighs of relief. It lasts about 30 seconds.]
RARITY runs up sniffling: “Jason scratched me!”
RARITY: “On my there.” [Points.]
NICOLE: “On your cheek? Let’s see.”
[Avery calls to Jason in Chinese and tries to mediate. Nicole doesn’t understand a word and turns around to see Fred, Zach, and Ryan splashing in puddles and kicking water at each other.]
NICOLE: “Boys, get OUT of the water!”
[Zach and Fred take off running. Ryan continues to splash around, twirling and humming to himself.]
NICOLE: “RYAN! GET OUT OF THE WATER.”
[Ryan laughs and kicks water across the playground.]
NICOLE screaming at the top of her lungs: “RYAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GET. OVER. HERE.”
[Ryan looks over, cocks his head to one side for a moment, then slowly strolls away from her.]
NICOLE: “Ryan. Come. Here.”
[Ryan looks over at her sideways, pauses, turns back, and continues walking away.]
NICOLE: “RYAN. Five minute time out. If you don’t get over here RIGHT NOW, it will be ten minutes.”
[Ryan slowly drags himself over to the bench, stands next to it, and starts twirling again.]
NICOLE in serial killer voice: “Sit. Down. Now.”
NICOLE, 3 minutes later: “Why are you in time out Ryan? What did you do?”
RYAN: “I don’t know.”
AVERY: “Are we going inside now?”
NICOLE: “No. We’re staying out here until their parents come and take them away. Hopefully forever.”
[4:00-Dismissal. Technically, but not really, because parents don’t pick up their kids, they send their ayis (nannies) who show up sometime before four and five-thirty. ]
RARITY: “Jason’s nose is bleeding.”
[Nicole turns around to see Jason covered in blood from a massive nosebleed. Avery and Lucy sit him down and try to stop the bleeding, clean him up, stuff some tissue in his nose, and send him back to play. Jason pulls tissue out of his nose and proceeds to run around the room splattering blood on every surface. Girls run around the room screaming at the blood. Ryan runs around screaming because he is Ryan and that is what he does.]
[4:30-Nicole goes home, drinks alcohol, eats chocolate, and attempts to erase her memory before repeating the next day.]
Friday wasn’t much better than Thursday, but our party was fun. Here’s some pictures I thought I’d share. Happy Easter, everyone!