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!

 

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!

Shanghai

Took me a while to get all these uploaded, but here’s some photos from our trip to Shanghai last weekend. We flew down after work Friday and got really lucky with seats in the back of the plane. We had an empty seat between us so we put the tray down in the middle seat and played cards for a while. It’s a short flight, maybe two hours, so we arrived in Shanghai after 11:30pm. The line for taxis was at least a quarter mile long-not even exaggerating. From my experience with airport taxis in Beijing I thought we would be waiting for a couple hours. But the Hongqiao Airport was pretty impressive. They had hundreds of taxis waiting, were super organized, and we were out of there in 20 minutes. We had rented an Airbnb place but didn’t realize how far apart things were. The host had messaged us and told us it would take almost two hours to get to the house from the airport and we’d have to take a cab since there was no public transportation that late. So instead she offered to let us stay with her and her husband at their apartment in the center of the city, only about 20 minutes from the airport. They met us downstairs and got us settled in, giving us some ideas for things to do and how to get around. I haven’t had a bad experience with Airbnb yet, but this one really stands out. Mickey and Jackie were super welcoming and even walked us to the bus stop the next morning so we could find this cool bookstore we had heard about.

We spent the morning exploring around the city center, then went to wharf to catch a sightseeing boat up and down the HuangPo river. The view from the center of the river was great; lots of cool buildings to see. We passed the historic Bund area too.

After the boat, we got a late lunch and wandered around a bit more, then found the theater where we were going to see Wicked.

After the show we got a cab to the Airbnb place we originally booked; a small traditional hutong house on the outskirts of the city-near the old town. We crashed immediately, then got up early to explore the old city before catching our flight. The area was absolutely perfect for a relaxing morning stroll, very charming and historic.

And on a completely unrelated note, made this cool poster with my kids this week (we started a unit on tolerance):

Also survived this crazy sandstorm!

 

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A Day in the Life of a Preschool Teacher

4/14/17

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?”

JASON: “Yes.”

NICOLE: “No, you say, ‘Is it five?”

JASON: “Yes”

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?”

JASON: “Yes.”

[Nicole sighs.]

 

[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: “No”

QING: “Why?

NICOLE: “Because you have to keep at least one shirt on”

QING: “Why?”

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.]

QING: “Ow!”

[Nicole sighs.]

 

[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.]

NICOLE looks up: “Rarity, what’s wrong?”

RARITY wailing: “Ella kicked me!” (Translation: Ella’s foot accidentally brushed hers.)

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.”

BOYS: “OK.”

[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!”

NICOLE: “Where?”

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.”

[Ryan sits.]

NICOLE, 3 minutes later: “Why are you in time out Ryan? What did you do?”

RYAN: “I don’t know.”

 

[3:55]

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: “Ew!”

NICOLE: “What?

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.]

 

4/15/17

Friday wasn’t much better than Thursday, but our party was fun. Here’s some pictures I thought I’d share. Happy Easter, everyone!

 

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!

January 26, 2017

It feels like I just arrived back in Beijing and now I just spent the past 6 hours cleaning and packing so I can leave again. The past three weeks were kind of a blur, back to work as usual. Our last day was yesterday so we celebrated by making some dragon masks and papercutting traditional characters for Chinese New Year, aka Spring Festival, with their Chinese teacher, Carol.

Dragon masks 3-pic

I did not neglect our apartment either, cleaning and hanging up traditional decorations. I put the character for Fu, or good fortune, on our front door. Then I stuck smaller versions on every other door in the house.

4-pic

I also put one on ShuaiShuai’s tank for good measure. I’m taking no chances. We need all the luck we can get in this house.

5-pic

That’s all for now, but I’ll be posting very soon from Barcelona. Countdown to take off- 10 hours, 19 minutes!