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!
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?
I’m not entirely sure what happened to December. It seems to have evaporated. Yesterday was Thanksgiving right? Anyway, I don’t care because I will be home in KC in less than 36 hours! It’s going to be a long 36 hours though, since I have to work Friday and I’m going straight to the airport after our Christmas party. I’ve been dying to see my family and friends and dogs, but I must say at this point I’m kind of more excited about being able to breathe some fresh air. Beijing has gotten disgusting this week.
The last few weeks have been insanely busy with homework and projects, present shopping, lesson planning, party planning, and general festivities. I’ve had so much fun with my kids. We took a field trip to this huge indoor flower market and picked out a live tree for our classroom. We decorated the school together, made calendars and coffee mugs to give as presents, read some Christmas stories. It was awesome to get to do all my favorite things with them. Today we made cookies to share at our party tomorrow and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas. They loved it!
Sunday I had tickets to see the Russian Royal Ballet performing Swan Lake, which I have always wanted to see, and it was incredible! The Beijing Exhibition Theater is beautiful too, I hadn’t been in that area before.
That’s all I have time for at the moment. I still have to finish some homework, clean the house, pack my bags and get ready for our party tomorrow so it’s about to be a long night. Hopefully I’ll see some of you soon! (And if you could cross your fingers that my flight doesn’t get grounded due to smog, that would be great…)
I hope everyone is having a great holiday. I had to work all day but it was pretty relaxing. I don’t often let my kids just watch movies but this morning we finished watching the Thanksgiving cartoon from yesterday while they colored turkeys. Then we squeezed in some reading/sight word practice before baking a big apple pie, which was a really big, fun mess. I let them mix up the pie crust and roll it out, then they helped to peel the apples. It was a good thing I bought too many apples because these guys were swiping and eating apple slices as fast as I could chop them. Then we had lunch and some free quiet time, a little bit of math, and made thank you cards with the recycled paper we made yesterday. Then they got to eat their pie for snack time. That pie got demolished. We had leftover pie crust and apples so we had made half a dozen apple turnovers as well-all gone. That’s Zach with his head in the pie tin trying to scrape all the caramelized pie crust off the bottom. I think it’s safe to say apple pie-or pínguo pài– is a big hit.
After snack we played outside for a while and then watched a Berenstein Bears Thanksgiving cartoon. (I introduced them to the Berenstein Bears a while ago and they love the books and TV shows. I’m excited because they were some of my favorite books as a kid.)
After work I met Jess at this upscale hotel-EAST-for dinner. One of their restaurants had a huge Thanksgiving buffet. And when I say huge I mean a counter about half the length of a football field filled with food. Tons of appetizers and salads, a bar full of different cheeses, pumpkin soup and seafood chowder, turkey, duck, ham, prime rib, tons of vegetables and sides, and drinks. Oh and desserts. It was delicious.
So, in spite of not being home with my family, it was an awesome holiday!
It’s been a fun crazy hectic couple of weeks. My body is getting a serious workout trying to adjust to rapidly changing temperatures and smog levels. Last week the air was disgusting and I came down with some sort of miserable respiratory illness. But then Saturday was sunny, sixty and perfectly clean so I pushed through it and Jess and I stayed outside as much as possible. We got haircuts early in the morning, then went to check out the Wangjing SoHo and ended up taking a four hour walk around the city-lots of cool new sites.
Traditional tea shop where we did some sampling
Found these adorable animal made by students and teachers at a local school
Then we went out to the suburbs where the British International School was hosting this winter fair. There are lots of these types of events coming up but theirs was the first. It was fun. The weather was perfect to be outside, just a little chilly, but hot mulled wine took care of that. They had roasted a whole pig and were selling gingerbread cookies. There was a Christmas tree lighting and all the kids were outside singing carols. I know it’s a bit early for holiday festivities but I still enjoyed it. Mostly because Christmas is not so over-the-top and obnoxious here. You can still find activities if you know where to look but they’re not so in your face. And they don’t start in August. I’m finding I actually prefer to be out of the American madness, although I’ll still be glad to go home and visit.
Monday was the first snowfall of the year, with just a light dusting that blew away before noon, but still pretty. And the air was pristine for three whole days, big plus, although it was freaking cold, under 20 degrees and felt colder. I still took my class outside though. Between the cold and the smog they don’t get outside as much in the winter so I’m taking advantage of any opportunity to get them out the door because they are insane when they are cooped up inside.
Last week, their character trait was Patience (which they all desperately needed a lesson on). Each trait is linked to an animal that represents it; for patience the animal is a butterfly. We made butterflies with toilet paper rolls and then I tied them up in a cocoon and made them be quiet for one full minute. It was quite a challenge.
This week their trait is gratefulness, and we’re learning about the U.S. and Canada in their international cultures class, so I’ve tied everything together and we’re celebrating Thanksgiving. I played them a really old animated cartoon I found on YouTube about how Thanksgiving started and they were totally fascinated by the idea. We made a gratitude tree, writing all the things we were grateful for on the leaves. This is why I love teaching kids:
Rarity put birthday cake, flowers, dogs and cats
Zach said “iPad, mom, dad”-in that order too. We need to get his priorities straight.
Qing: family, shoes, candy (Hey, those are my top three, also!)
Ryan: Bapi (Daddy)
We’ve also been covering the environment in science so today we took all our scrap paper and made recycled paper. To be honest, I did not think it would work. I didn’t have any of the equipment listed in most of the instructions I read. But we threw paper and water in the blender, poured it through a screen improvised from a coat hanger and some old nylon stockings, and voila! Paper. Kids had a blast. Tomorrow when the paper is dry we’re going to use it to make thank you cards for Thanksgiving. Also, apple pie.
I sat down and booked accommodation for my Spain trip-super exciting. I’m splitting my time in Barcelona, a few days near Sagrada Familia and then some time at this converted artist studio in the gothic quarter. Then 5 days in Granada, all Airbnb finds. I kind of want to do a couple days in Madrid too but it depends on transportation. It appears it would be much cheaper to rent a car for two weeks than to buy train tickets all over the place, and I would kind of like to drive. However, my U.S. license expired over a year ago… and since it’s been so long I think I’ll have to retake the driving test…so yeah. I need to call and check on that and see if I can renew it while I’m home before I finalize the rest of my plans.
And finally, I’ve had some technological breakthroughs lately. I finally got my online banking straightened out and also set up a Taobao account. Taobao is like the Chinese version of Amazon.com, but cheaper. I went on a bit of a shopping spree-pretty much everything I’ve been deprived of for the past year is on this site. There are plenty of import stores in Beijing but they don’t have everything. I found the exact jeans that I pay $60 for at Macy’s but on Taobao they’re only 60RMB, or about $8. And some cozy fur-lined boots for $10-just in time for the snow. I also got the DiDi app-like Uber but in Chinese. You can get a cab anywhere, it’s cheaper, you can even do ride shares. Only drawback? All these apps are in Chinese. And the Didi drivers always call to confirm and make sure you are where the GPS says you are. This had made for some awkward conversations this week. So I’ve been buckling down and trying to study. I’ve drafted my friend Cami to help. Every week I come up with a new topic and write down the phrases I want to know. And I learn stuff from my kids too. Fred especially always wants to tell me the Chinese phrases for something I tell him in English. Then they all laugh at my pronunciation. I have picked up the names of lots of countries in Chinese from our international cultures class, which resulted in an incident this evening:
One of the best things about our neighborhood is Jinganshichang, this huge year-round indoor farmers’ market. They have tons of fresh produce, meats, and eggs, even live seafood flown in daily and swimming around in tanks. It’s a great landmark for taxi drivers as well-almost everyone knows this market. And it’s super cheap- I can get a week’s worth of groceries for about $25. I always go to the same vendors and they know me now. The produce lady is really sweet. I think I threw her for a loop this evening though when I went in looking for pumpkins for Thanksgiving decorations. “You fànguō ma?” I asked. She looked confused. “Faguó?” Now the lady next to me looked concerned and looked at the saleslady like “I don’t know what the heck she’s talking about either.” I finally pulled out my translation app. “Oh, nánguā!” Relieved, the vendor pulled out a couple of pumpkins. Only after I got home and was telling Jess about this did I realize that I had asked her first for a rice cooker and then the country of France. We laughed till we cried. One of the many joys of expat life.