Switzerland was definitely a good choice of pre-Christmas getaway! Zürich was charming, with lots of old cobblestone streets and medieval history, but also very modern. The scenery is stunning, surrounded by Lake Zürich and the mountains. Everything was all decked out for Christmas and there was just the right amount of snow. Not to mention heaps of chocolate and cheese. What else do you really need?
I booked a private room in this Airbnb apartment which was really comfortable. The hosts were nice and it was easy to walk to the tram-stops and get around. It was in a quiet residential area but easy to get downtown. I thought I might have a bit of trouble with language but nearly everyone I encountered switched to English when they realized I didn’t speak German. I also heard so many conversations in French, Italian, Spanish, and more. I’m so impressed with the way people from other countries grow up speaking multiple languages. I wish schools in the States emphasized this, and from a younger age.
One thing I really loved about the city, once I figured out the transportation system, was the trams. There are regular trains/subway lines that run in and out of the city, I took one to the central train station from the airport, but within the city there are above-ground trams that run along the streets. I saw virtually no traffic while I was there. It seemed like most people take the trams. There’s only a few minutes between them, and to get from the outskirts of the city where I stayed to the central area only took about 20 minutes.
I enjoyed exploring the Old Town of Zürich so much, along the waterfront and down all the winding cobblestone alleyways. It’s like a maze in some places. The weather was cold but not horribly so. It snowed for hours one day but it was really nice to be out walking in the fresh air.
I found the Fraumünster Church really interesting. It’s built on the site of an abbey started in 853. The king at the time granted the abbess power to hold markets, mint coins, and appoint the mayor; effectively she ruled the city. I don’t have pictures of them, but the choir windows were designed by Marc Chagall.
One day I booked a tour to Mt. Rigi, which was amazing. From the center of Zürich, we took a bus to the town of Weggis, a little over an hour away. From there, a cable car took us most of the way up the mountain, then we switched to the cogwheel train-the first mountain railway in Europe-for the rest of the way to the summit of Rigi Kulm. It was a cloudy, foggy day, impossible to see up or down from the top, but still a lot of fun. I climbed a little way up from the train station. People were running around, having snowball fights and sledding.
The views on the way up and down the mountain were breathtaking:
From the summit, the train runs back down the mountain to the town of Vitznau, where we took a boat across Lake Lucerne to the town of Lucerne. I was excited to finally see the Chapel Bridge:
I returned to Beijing on the 23rd and lost my battle with jet lag. It was exceptionally brutal this time. I can’t stop napping. But Jess and I had a nice Christmas here:
We went to see Loving Vincent after dinner, which was a truly incredible film. I loved the artwork, but the storyline was great as well. Otherwise, I got to spend some time video chatting with my family and relaxing around the house. So it’s been a nice holiday overall.
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’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…)
Just some pictures to share. The Atelier, a big art school, was hosting a class on making advent calendars for the holidays. They were full last weekend but the lady offered to host another class this weekend, even though Jess and I were the only ones there. They were all really nice and we had a blast cutting and painting and hot-glueing. Our calendars turned out cute too!
When we got home I made a batch of homemade hot cocoa to drink while binge watching the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. There better be a 5th episode forthcoming is all I can say. I had a bad reaction to the ending. There was some screaming. Think I scared Jess at first and she came running out of her room. Then she started laughing at me. It was an emotional evening.
Otherwise I had an extremely lazy Sunday. I did make a batch of apple butter though. Jess made some apple cider to take to a get-together and there were four quarts of mushy cooked apples left after she strained out the juice. So I decided to experiment with them. I always heard apple butter is a pain to make but now I think what people meant is that is extremely simple, but painful. Because basically all you do is let the apple boil for hours on end. The problem came when I tried to stir all the stuff sticking to the bottom of the pot and got splattered repeatedly with thousand-degree fruit pulp. I have a blister on my right hand that Jess compared to a small planet. (This in addition to my stab wound from slicing apples for pie on Thursday and the glue gun burns from yesterday. Not to mention the lingering cough from this week’s smog attack. I’m kind of a mess right now.) On the upside we now have four pints of delicious homemade apple butter and I have to say…it was worth the third degree burns, if I do say so myself. Especially since it’s one of the few things I have not been able to find anywhere in Beijing. Then Jess got the idea to start selling cider and apple butter on WeChat and put out an ad, so we’ll see how that goes.
Hmm, I must be getting close to perfection then. I’ve changed just about everything in my life in the past month: job, location, my mind (several times), this blog…
Long story short, I quit my job with Best Learning and took a spur-of-the-moment trip home for the holidays. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming so it was fun to surprise everyone. It was a great two weeks!
I decided to sum it up in pictures. I got to spend quality time with my dogs, (oh, and my family), bake cookies, wrap presents, drive (on comparatively quiet roads), enjoy some clear, clean blue skies. I saw the new Star Wars movie almost a month before it comes out in Beijing. And my aunt got everyone hooked on playing Carcasonne; lots of fun! We got enough snow to make everything pretty, but had the side effect of canceling my return flight, so I ended up staying a couple extra days.
And finally, some Kansas City BBQ my last night in town:
Now I’m back in Beijing, which also feels like home now. I think I’ve overcome the jet lag, except for waking up at 5:30am the last couple days. Although it’s definitely easier coming back than it was going home. I’ve got things unpacked and my apartment clean and organized. Spent the last couple days settling back in and making plans.
I decided not to take any teaching job offers and just try tutoring and get more hours at the recording studio, so hopefully I’ll have some more time for my own classes now. Because I actually really like the courses I’m taking with the Art Institute but I just haven’t been able to devote as much time as I’d like to them, or look into any freelance work. So today I just signed a contract with a new company, looking for a teacher for adults, but only part time, about 10-15 hours a week. I’m supposed to meet with 2 or 3 others this week too. So there’s no shortage of work and I’ve had time to relax as well, which is nice for a change.