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.

Christmas Party!

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).

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!

Trip Announcement!

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.

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!

June 3, 2017

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!

Clockwise: Me, April, Rarity, Jason, Ella, and somebody’s legs going down the slide, Jason, Ryan, and I’m not quite sure what’s going on in the last picture-they all just kind of piled on top of me!
Clockwise: me and Jason refilling at the pool, George seriously eyeing his next target, and Qing shooting me…with a wicker basket on her head…cause she thought it would protect her from my watering can…even though she was already soaked. Kids!
Qing was super serious-she had Cookie on the ground surrendering! Then there’s Zach, April, and Lucy tickling George.

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!