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04/04/2014

Hello from Chongqing

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Hello everyone! My name is Jared O'Loughlin and I'm a new blogger here, so I thought I'd introduce myself and explain my situation in China.

I moved to China about two months ago to teach at Chongqing Multinational HRM Co. Ltd. Yes, it's a mouthful, but I'm essentially an English teacher for a flight-attendant training program. I work with Alexis Pellerin, another CIEE blogger.

Work has been very challenging so far, but I can't complain because I love my students and I love teaching. My class sizes are very small and some of my students are so great at English that it feels like I'm just sitting down to have a conversation with friends. 

Chongqing as a city is incredible. The people are amazingly friendly, the food is delicious and spicy, and the city is exciting. It's incredibly easy to make Chinese friends here because everyone is so friendly, especially to foreigners, but for the times when I just need to speak some English, there is also a great community of expats that are always willing to get a drink and hang out.

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I'm really loving my time here in the Mountain City. Look for my blog posts over the next year!

谢谢大家! 下一次见!

 

03/26/2014

Hey Everyone!

This is my 1st post to CIEE's blog and I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Alexis Pellerin. I'm from Syracuse, New York. I am currently teaching in Chongqing, China. I don't have the ordinary job of teaching for a school. I work in a government office for Chongqing Multinational Human Resources Center, Chongqing Talent. I teach English to flight atttendant trainees. It's a very interesting job. I'll talk more about my job in one of my later posts. I am 22 but turning 23 tomorrow actually. It's weird to be away from my family and friends for my birthday but I am in China with my new family. I love travelling and exploring the world. I studied abroad through CIEE in Alicante, Spain for my junior year of college. I graduated from St. John Fisher College with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Spanish. I love photography so I will be sure to post as many pictures as I can. I arrived in Chongqing on February 9th, 2014. I had a week of orientation at the center I work at through CIEE and we stayed across the street at the California Inn. I started working on February 13th and here we are almost 7 weeks later. I want to talk about my lifein China, things that may be weird or unusual to foreigners, the food, working here, and my travels and experiences. Unti next time :)

 

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11/04/2013

hello, world

This is my first post here on the CIEE Teach in China blog! I'm a little late to the game, seeing as I'm coming up on 3 months here in China already.  I'll begin to retroactively post what I've already written about my experiences, starting with my arrival back in August. I look forward to chronicling my adventures on this blog!

Some highlights to look forward to:

  • My luggage gallavants around Italy without me!
  • A typhoon turns me into an illegal immigrant!
  • Szechuan food makes my life flash before my eyes!
  • Chinese supermarket demolition derby!
  • Accidental haggling!
  • And more!

I tend to write in the present-tense, which might be strange for a blog but I hope you'll bear with me. I find it much easier to tell stories. Cheers!

07/01/2013

let's reflect.

Well, here is it folks - my final post to CIEE's Teach in China blog. Can you believe it? I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed writing about my life living and working abroad. I am currently writing to you from a computer in the lounge area at my hostel in Tokyo, Japan! I am traveling through Tokyo and Kyoto until the 7th, returning to Shanghai just for a few hours to sleep, then will be making the 24 hour journey back to the States on the 8th. I'm so excited to be here in Japan - so far it's a whole world different from China, which is taking some getting used to, but I'm feeling pretty positive about how awesome of a week I'm about to have! 

But I didn't come to Japan so easily. Leaving Shanghai was actually quite difficult. I sat in silence as a driver from my company took me to the airport, taking in driving down my street for the last time, passing by the Oriental Pearl Tower for the last time, and realizing that this is what is familiar to me now. My friends and I were joking that we couldn't believe that we had to leave Shanghai - that there is no life other than Shanghai and working there and living there - that that was the life we were now leading. It made sense - to graduate college and move on to a new job and a new place. But now, even though I have a graduate school plan back at home, it's still like stepping into the unknown, even though it's the most known place in my heart. 

I felt this same strange bittersweet feeling leaving study abroad a few years ago. I wasn't sure how I was going to react to home, or how people were going to react to me. I have this insane experience behind me that only the ones who experienced it with me will truly know about it. I don't mean that to sound snobby or anything - and I know it comes off that way. It's just difficult to come back to a place where you have changed, but everything had stayed the same while you were away. Don't get me wrong, I am insanely excited to go home and see my family and friends - it's been long enough! But, still, there's always the fear of reverse culture shock. 

I loved Shanghai and my job more than I expected. Shanghai was the first major city I actually had residence in, and boy was it major. All the buildings are so tall that to see the top you basically have to bend over backwards, there is food from literally all over the world, public transportation and walking are the only way, and crowds crowds crowds. It was the perfect amount of Asia and perfect amount of Westernization that I needed to get by. I came to Shanghai not knowing a lick of the language except for ni hao and xiexie. I quickly realized that wasn't going to get me far - and I ended up picking up a decent amount by the time I left - at least enough to get me by in my daily life. There wasn't really anything I did in Shanghai that I disliked - whether it was trying new food, checking out a new area, going to a tourist attraction, watching a fitness class in the park, going out at night with my friends, seeing art exhibits, going to work, or what have you. I am really very grateful for the life Shanghai provided for me. 

My job. Oh, my job. I came into CIEE Teach in China thinking that I'd be working an easy amount of hours a week, teaching a zillion different children at a zillion different schools, scraping to make ends meet. But luckily, I was far from that. I worked a standard day - Monday through Friday 8 AM to 4 PM - and while that is like a real job, I much preferred that to a schedule that changed constantly, sometimes without warning. I taught around 30 kids divided into 2 classes, and I went to the same kindergarten each day. While I had some difficulties working under the Chinese government - i.e. mandated medical examinations, confusing information about school events/holidays, etc. - I managed to love most moments of my daily life. You've already heard me rant about how much I love my kids, so I'll save the sap, but...I love them. Just as I predicted, it wasn't easy to leave them on the last day of school! Especially when they kept leaving the classroom, then coming back for more hugs and kisses. They're small kids, but they've really got the hugest hearts. 

If you're reading this as a prospective teacher in China, especially in Shanghai, absolutely feel free to contact me. I'll talk to anyone who will listen about this life-changing experience! If you're reading this as someone from home - SEE YOU SOON! I will be updating my personal blog about Japan, and adding all of these CIEE posts to that one as well to make it complete - I was unable to use that blog starting around the beginning of second semester - so if you're interested in reading about my trip in Japan/seeing pictures, get in touch for that URL! 

Take care everyone - 谢谢 for reading. Until my next adventure in who knows where - 再见! :)

06/30/2013

The Last One.

So I’m sitting here in the Shanghai airport, sipping cappuccino and counting the hours till my flight leaves. Five hours, fourteen minutes. I’m running on three and a half hours of sleep with twenty-three and a half hours to go before I actually get home. But I love it. I love airports- the people watching, the departure board, the different airplanes. I love looking at all the departures and seeing the various places you could go. So many adventures to have!

 And that’s why I teared up a little in the taxi on the way to the Hefei airport this morning. Either that or it was the polluted air blowing in my face through the rolled down window. Just kidding. I didn’t cry when I said goodbye to my friends. I didn’t cry when I said goodbye to everyone in our office. I didn’t cry when I said goodbye to my fellow foreign teachers. But I almost cried when it finally hit me that this adventure is over. I did it. I moved halfway across the world by myself for a year. And now it’s over. I’m pumped to go home, and I’m at complete peace knowing that going home is what I’m supposed to do, but that doesn’t make leaving China behind any easier.

 How do you put a year of living abroad down on a piece of paper? You can’t. I saw too many things, tasted too many foods, experienced too many adventures, and met too many people. But I can say this: it was awesome. Before I came to China, I always thought that the traveling I would do would be my favorite part. I never would’ve guessed that just being immersed in the culture would be the aspect I most enjoyed. Forgetting you’re halfway around the world only to have that realization hit you whilst you’re meandering down the sidewalk is the coolest feeling in the world. It’s like Christmas morning over and over again. And that’s what I’m going to miss.

 But I can leave with no regrets. Not only did I complete a year of living abroad, which for an introvert like me is quite a feat in and of itself, but I did it successfully. I taught to the best of my ability and earned job offers for next year. I made friends from all over the world and learned things from each of them. I traveled all over China and even ventured into Korea and Thailand. I did things and went places by myself with hardly any knowledge of the Chinese language. I learned things about myself and realized just how much I can do. Most importantly, I loved every second of it.

 So with that in mind, I look forward to my next adventure with deep breath and a satisfied smile. Yes, this adventure is over but there are so many more to come. And that makes as happy as a bug in a rug. I guess it’s “zai jian” for now…so…big gulps, huh? Welp, see ya later! 

06/26/2013

Goodbye 再见

An Ode to China: a Terriby Written Poem

Goodbye, duck, I'll find your American equivalent with a little luck.

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Goodbye, China, I shall miss both your flora and fauna.

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Goodbye, calligraphy, look at my work.  Look and see!

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Goodbye, kids, may the world fill your sponge like lids.

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Goodbye, school, it's been real cool.

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Goodbye, classes, may you shine amongst the masses.

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Goodbye, Jiujiang.  Goodbye, and so long.

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Goodbye, friends, what a shame we are coming to many ends.

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"There is a saying: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift.  That is why it is called the "Present'." -Master Wugui

06/23/2013

I'm Ready.

So I leave for home in five days. Actually 4 days, 23 hours, 54 minutes and 5 seconds...to be precise. A week from now I'll be at home in my own bed, the gentle sound of lapping waves lulling me to sleep. Or I'll be wide awake watching reruns of Boy Meets World, snacking on the plethora of foods I've been dreaming about for ten months. It all depends on how hard jet-lag decides to hit. I guess we'll find out. This is my last weekend in China, and it's the first time I've actually wished I could just teleport myself home. I want to skip the next 5 days and the 30 hour journey home and just be there already. I mean, the past month I've been going back and forth- one minute I'm smiling at the thought of walking off the plane and seeing my family for the first time, and the next minute I'm staring forlornly out the window saddened because I'm leaving soon. Look up bittersweet in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of me. But now I just want to be home, and I think I know why. I'm finally ready. Wow, deep huh? I mean it though. My friends and my kids have been the two things that have kept me grounded here. I love teaching my little whippersnappers and receiving sweaty hugs and countless high-fives. I love the fact that even though I never understand a word of what my students say, they still continue to tell me long, very animated stories in every class. I love being greeted at the coffee shop by name and forgetting that I'm a foreigner for a little while. I love working out at the track with friends and eating dinner at the tiny restaurant across the street. But now my classes are over; no more kids to hug, no more paper airplanes to take away, no more stories to listen to. And most of my friends are taking the biggest exams of their lives this week and are busy studying like their lives depend on it-because they do. So now I don't really have anything to keep me here. I've already said goodbye to most of my kids, and I'll say goodbye to my friends this week. But I hate goodbyes so part of me wants to skip that part. Horrible, I know. But now that this chapter of my life is finally coming to a close, I'm ok with it. Don't get me wrong, I'll miss my life here a lot. It will still be bittersweet to leave, but I'm ready. I have no regrets. I did what I came here to do. I had an adventure of a lifetime, and now it's time to go back. It's time to plan the next one! This won't be my last blog, I'll write one more either in the airport or on the flight home. Mostly because I'll have a lot of time to kill, but also because I want to be able to write about my entire experience, including these last five days. Even though I'm ready to go home, I still know that I need to enjoy the 'here and now' as much as I can. That means soaking up these last five days. Because if this past year has been any indication, they will go by faster than Superman on steroids.

06/22/2013

a compilation.

My time in China is hanging by a thread now, days are slowly dwindling to zero, and it's completely unbelievable. At this present moment, I have 5 work days left, 8 days left in China, and 16 days left in Asia, but I have already completed and cherished nearly 200 work days, and just about 250 days in China and Asia. I can't help but feel like I have accomplished an enormous amount while being here, and I am so thankful I decided to take this gigantic leap of faith after graduating college last year. But, more reflection will be saved for my final post at the end of the experience! For now, let's catch up on the random cluster of activities that have been consuming my time here in Shanghai. 

First things first: food. One of the best things about Asia is the food, obviously. I've been lucky enough to experience food from literally all of the world living in Shanghai and traveling throughout this continent. However, some of the best food I've eaten are foods that my friends and I have created ourselves. I can't remember if it was before New Years or after, but a long while ago, Kayden and I started our Sunday night wonton tradition. We've gotten pretty creative with our wonton fillings, from pumpkin and feta, to Indian samosa, to blackberry cheesecake, to raspberry/nutella. Each week we discuss the prospect of our delicious wontons, and if they would possibly have a future of being sold from a food truck. If all else fails in life, or even doesn't fail, we have our back-up to start our food truck White Girl Wontons. Just try to tell me that you wouldn't want a bowl of fresh wonton soup for $5 or a plate of delicious fried dessert wontons from a truck. Just TRY. 

Recently, we created I think our very best wonton soup. We have fallen in love with a new restaurant in Shanghai called Spice Bazaar that serves food specialized from Xinjiang Province, China. The style is Chinese but with a heavy influence of Muslim and Middle Eastern flavors. Pretty much perfection. One of our favorite dishes is a soup, filled with chunks of potato, carrot, red onion and cilantro. Sounds simple right? It is, but something beautiful happens when all those flavors combine. While we were eating it one day, we thought: wonton. 

So we did, we made Xinjiang soup into a wonton filling. 

XINJIANG POTATO WONTONS:

- russet potatoes (peeled, chopped)

- red onion (finely chopped)

- carrot (peeled, finely chopped)

-cilantro (finely chopped) 

First, peel and chop potatoes into chunks, boil, and mash as usual. Mix together with chopped onion and carrot, add salt to taste. Combine with chopped cilantro, and easy as that, this is your wonton filling. 

Place a scoop of the filling in the middle of the wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in warm water, and run it along the bottom of the wrapper (side closest to you), as a seal. Fold up from the bottom toward the top, leaving a horizonal space about the size of a small pinky nail, not to thin, but not too thick either. Once that is sealed, pull the two sides together toward the middle, overlapping the sides, and seal with warm water. Then, pull over the extra wrapper at the top so that the wonton looks like it is wearing a cape. Done! It takes practice for sure, so don't worry if you tear the wrapper a couple times, or end up just making them into a triangle. I was a professional triangle-wonton maker for a while until I got the hang of the proper folding method. They look like this when finished: 

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When they're signed and sealed, the next part is delivery. Fill up a pot to about where the handles sit, and maybe a little above (depending on the size of your pot). In China, we use water, then once it's boiling, we add these strange vegetable broth "pellets," however, not in China where liquid vegetable broth exists, just go with that. Or if you're a carnivore, chicken or beef broth would be fine too for extra flavor. For this soup, we added our extra cilantro into the broth and it was delicious. The more wontons you put in, the longer it will take for them to cook, but let them boil until the wrapper is transluscent, and their capes are soft.

We find that somewhere around 7 - 10 wontons makes for a good enough portion where you don't want to just flop over into bed afterward. But they're just so good so sometimes we eat more. Don't judge. 

So those are the wonderful Xinjiang wonton creation - definitely would be a staple on our WGW truck menu. Also, all those wontons cost us about $8 total to make (wrappers and vegetables and herbs) so that was about $2/person when a few of us ate them. Cheaper than take out, MSG free, and just plain yummy. 

Tomorrow will be our final wonton Sunday, and we've decided to give those wontons a reprisal because they're just too damn good to not make again! In addition to our favorite dessert ones: peanut butter, oats, bananas, and [vegan] chocolate chips. That recipe was actually an accident. Originally our plan was to make cookie dough wontons (which we did make another time), but it was Passover that week, so we sort of came up with this idea as a Passover-friendly wonton. And it was perfect. 

I apologize if I've made you hungry now - subject change!

Everyday this week I've had ridiculous realizations about how little time I have left with all my students. They've been proving to me how much they have learned this year, and what fantastic little humans they have become. For example, my four-year-olds, who are now speaking an incredible amount of English compared to September (*patting myself on the back*), and I were having a short discussion about how summer vacation is coming up, and that unfortunately I won't be back at school when they return in the fall. Most reactions were "WHY?! You don't like us?! Where are you going?!" Why: It's time to move on to my next life adventure. You don't like us: You're right, I don't like you. I love you. Where are you going: Back to America, I need to go to school again! They seemed to understand once I explained to them, but I made them promise to me if any of them visited the States that they would absolutely have to call me. They all promised. 

I also explained to them that on Friday (yesterday), we had concluded learning all the countries we would be for the year and they should be so proud of all the countries they know about now. Response: but there's still so many countries on the map we don't know. Answer: Well, yes, that's true, but maybe your teacher next year can teach you more countries. Response: No Aliza! Only you can teach us countries and English! What they realize is that they just can't say things like that because my eyes welled up a little bit after that, and I needed a second to gather myself before I continued teaching. On my first day in China, I never expected this sort of connection with my students to develop, but it has made me a better teacher, and has given me the encouragment to continue in this profession. 

Earlier in the week, those same students presented a beautiful show for their families. The program consisted of Chinese and English singing and dancing, and each of the children had the opportunity to present the next act in both languages. 

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fan dance!

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trying to get ready to sing...

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silly little fashion show.

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moms' turn to sing!

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dads' turn to Gangnam Style...

For the English portion, I had taught them a very cute song for Earth Day that they loved, so we practiced that again, and that was the first song they performed. It's to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and goes "Reduce, reuse, recyle, words we all know. We have to save our planet, so we can live and grow! We might be only children but we will try you'll see, and we can save our planet it starts with you and me!" I taught them some easy choreography for the song so it would help their memory, and they're totally adorable while singing it. The second song was the chorus to the Jackson 5's "ABC," which I taught them during our American culture week. Also adorable. The final song was a classic, "Knick Knack Paddy Whack," complete with choreography as well. 

I had them do some dancing, too of course, since well, that's what I like to do! I taught them about France and Spain prior, and while we were learning those countries, I taught them about flamenco and ballet. So, for the girls, I choreographed about a minute of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker, and for boys and girls, I taught them flamenco to a song I found that is some beautiful flamenco guitar playing. They did a great job in both - even if I had to remind them once in a while what exactly to do :) The final dance is to a song that is called "Wishy Washy Washer Woman," which Kayden taught to her classes, so I got the video from her. It goes a little something like this "way down in the valley where nobody goes, there's a wishy washy washer woman washin' her clothes. She goes ooh ahh, oo ahh, oo ahh, oo ahh, that's how the wishy washy washer woman washes her clothes. I said heyyyyy washer woman, HEY WASHER WOMAN, oo ahh, oo ahh, heyyyy washer woman, HEY WASHER WOMAN!" So it's pretty silly and the kids love it. The dancing is pretty easy, so they can put their own personalities into it. The song continues with other things the wishy washy washer woman does, and finishes with how she strikes a pose! If you want to watch it, you can just search on Youtube for it! 

Admittedly, I wasn't too excited on having to help organize this show (I was only given about 2 weeks to prepare - subtract 3 days for a holiday we had), but it ended up being really fun once I decided what to do, and the kids put in a lot of effort to make it pretty wonderful. The parents gave me some great feedback afterward, too, which always makes it worth it in the end when the parents and kids are satisfied with your work! 

With 5 days left of school, it's just going to be a cumulative review of the semester, in addition to some just plain fun activities and crafts (Pinterest will help me out on this one). I'm not really sure what will happen me on the last day of school. I expect some tears from a multitude of feelings - relief, shock, happiness, sadness, confusion - it should be an interesting day. 

Aside from school things, I have managed to be having enough fun to keep my brain sane! We've been trying new restaurants, going to art museums, dancing in the highest bar in the world (92nd floor of the Hyatt attached to the World Financial Center), returning to some of our favorite areas, and eating all the noodles I possibly can before I no longer can. Basically I'm trying to squeeze as much of all the things I love about Shanghai into 2 weeks. So far, so good.

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China Art Museum - built into the 2010 Expo Center.

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very cool panoramic animation of traditional Chinese life back in the day.

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Shanghai subway.

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fantastic Andy Warhol exhibit at the Power Station of Art!

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I suppose my next post will be the last post...

06/17/2013

Have You Heard of First Cup?

So a couple weeks ago I talked about how it was so hot that I could probably get a facial by sitting in my apartment stairwell...yeah, that was nothing. Yesterday, it was a high of 92 with a heat index of 104. Today, it's a high of 93 with a heat index of 110. I haven't left my apartment all day except to go grocery shopping, and that was the biggest mistake since that one time I bought Lobster-flavored Pringles. But I digress. If you've read my blogs, you'll know that I spend a fair amount of time at a local coffee shop called First Cup. It's located across the street from a big university so naturally the regulars are made up of college students. My friend Scott and I have become friends with them over the past couple months, and have become friends with the owner of First Cup as well. The owner, who we affectionately call Boss, opened a new tea shop in another city about "an hour" away. I put that in quotations because in China if they say it's an hour, they really mean two hours or more likely, they have no idea and just made it up to make the foreigner feel better. Anyway, Boss wanted all of us to come to his new shop and do some advertising. So Sunday afternoon we all met at First Cup and headed out to the new shop. But first we had to wait for over an hour at First Cup for who knows what, of course. Along the way we stopped at the 5th largest lake in China, which happens to be about a half hour from where I live. Who knew?! After taking some ridiculous pictures in the 100 degree heat, we set off again and arrived an hour later. It was time for business. We had a meeting in a random parking lot just inside the city about how this operation was going to go down. It was decided that we would split up into groups of three and hit the tea shop in rotating intervals. We would purchase drinks, head into the city to show off our First Cup beverages for all to see, and then go back for round two. We parked away from the tea shop and met at KFC for meeting #2 where we split into groups. We decided to pretend not to know each other if we ran into other groups-that proved to be a lot harder than it sounds. We left KFC at different times and my group decided to head to a mall across the street to walk around before moseying on over to the tea shop. Whenever we walked by a stranger we "casually" mentioned First Cup. I use the word "casually" loosely, since it wasn't casual at all, and usually resulted in fits of laughter. We're terrible actors. My friend Lucky was busting my gut with his segues into talking about First Cup. Every time we walked by someone, Lucky would loudly exclaim, "Oh look, a purse! Bethany, have you heard of First Cup? It's just down the street!" or "Wow, so many sunglasses! Are you thirsty? There's a new tea shop just down the street!" or "Hey, I like that shirt! You know what else is new? A new tea shop called First Cup!" Maybe you had to be there, but I was laughing the whole time. It was finally our turn to go to the shop so we bought our drinks and headed back out on the town. I used my blonde hair to the best of my ability, showing off my First Cup drink to random people I caught staring at me. My friends got a kick out of me advertising to passing strangers since the poor people clearly had no idea what I was saying-you could tell by their open mouths and blank stares. All in all it was a fun, but hot, afternoon. Afterwords, Boss treated us all to a fancy dinner at a really nice restaurant. Being the classy people that we are, we played a rambunctious game of Chinese Signs while we waited for the food to be served. If you don't know what Signs is, it's a game that includes clapping, stomping and making weird gestures. It's hilarious. Good thing we had our own private room! By the time we left the restaurant it was 9pm. We got lost twice on the way back, but I only thought I was going to die a couple times so I count that as a win. Chinese drivers are crazy. I was going to put some photos of our First Cup adventure on here, but my internet decided to be as slow as molasses in January. So, big gulps, huh? Cool. Welp, see ya later!

06/12/2013

Dragon Boat Festival!

As a reward for working 7 days in a row, the national holiday of Dragon Boat Festival has given us three days off to partake in festivities and relax a little bit. The end of the school year is proving to be extremely hectic - trying to fit in everything academic and fun I have planned, as well as work around the last minute notifications of school or classroom activities. Also, the German family I have grown very close to this year departed from Shanghai back to Germany for the summer this past weekend, so I've been trying to adjust to the fact that they aren't here anymore, and that the next time I see them is unknown. Despite all the happenings and changes, my friends and I have created a calendar of all the things we want to do in Shanghai before our time is up in just a short 2 1/2 weeks. Events include free ladies' nights, restaurants we've been meaning to try, and new gallery exhibitions - generally just trying to do all that we can! The end of the year is so near, and it's becoming very surreal. How is that I am already preparing to put 10 months of life in China/Asia behind me? Didn't I just nervously arrive? Now I have to nervously pack up and go home? 

Regardless of the emotional rollercoaster happening, I've managed to have a really enjoyable couple of days off. On Monday, I had the time in the morning to work out before meeting Kayden for lunch. But more importantly, I actually had the time to take a nap after lunch. I'm not sure when the last time I took a nap was, but it was proven I needed the rest after waking up 2 1/2 hours later. After napping, Kayden and I met to walk around Tianzifang for a little bit, which ended up being much more crowded than expected, so we headed to our usual spot, Kaiba, nearby, and waited for Phoebe to arrive for our usual grilled cheese and fruit beers. Always a good day when Kaiba can be involved! But, we went home on the early side to prepare to wake up very early the next day to experience some actual Dragon Boat activities!

Waking up Tuesday morning to my alarm at 6:35 AM isn't unusual, but, I knew I had the day off, so I was filled with a bit of confusion just for a minute until I remembered I wasn't waking up for work, but for play! Kayden's co-teacher, Jane kindly arranged for us to get in to the Dragon Boat races for the day for free - her mother's friend was organizing this particular event. When we sleepily arrived at 7:45 AM to the subway station Jane told us to go to, she walked us to the seating area set up by the side of the river. We quickly realized we were lucky to be sitting (and for free) since eventually a giant crowd formed smushed up against the fences that were the barrier between the seating area and the sidewalk. We were seated in a pretty good spot, with a mostly clear view of a stage across the narrow river, and sight of the finish line. From what we could see, we were the only foreigners in attendance, so the crowd was eyeing us as well as the boats. The festivities began at 8:30 AM, with a dragon dancing performance with traditional Chinese music playing, and the races took off from there in 3 heats throughout the morning. There were teams from Taiwan, different Shanghai universities, as well as a team compiled of foreigners. We were also close to enough to be able to see some huge rower muscles...

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practice!

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dragon dancing!

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racing for real!

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I am a head.

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jiayou! jiayou! jiayou!

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random jet ski performers in between heats...

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fire-breathing dragons!

The races lasted until around 10:30, and afterwards, we decided to take a walk over the river to see if we could partake in any of the activities happening in the park, such as zongzi making (Chinese rice dumplings). After Jane talked her way into letting all of us through without a ticket, we walked into the park area trying to see if we could find anything. We didn't find dumpling making exactly, but rather, we found the stage that the performers were on just before we were standing there. As we curiously and cautiously walked up toward the stage, the enormous group of rowers from Shanghai Maritime University showed up, and stormed the stage to take team photos. They had come in 2nd place overall after being told by the goverment to let the Taiwanese team win the race. We all froze with stunned faces, unsure what to do. Meanwhile, Jane waltzed up onto the stage and started taking pictures of the team, and motioned for us to come onto the stage and photograph them, too. We tiptoed on the stage, took a few photos of the team, and just as we thought we were safe, all of a sudden all of the men were yelling and motioning for us 5 foreign girls to come and take pictures with them. There's no way this actually happening right now in my life were my thoughts in my head. Kayden was the first to enthusiastically go over into the group picture, and eventually the rest of us followed. I was literally uncontrollably laughing - which is apparent in the pictures, I believe.

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We took a bunch of pictures with the whole team, and then some of the men wanted individual pictures with us girls, that were all being taken by their team photographer. Luckily Jane gave the photographer her e-mail, so hopefully I will have all of those ridiculous pictures soon! My cheeks hurt from laughing and smiling so hard that I'm sure I look completely crazy towards the end of the photo roll, but how could I not have been laughing hysterically? The men literally formed a line to take photos with the group of us, yelling "wait, give me a chance, give me a chance!" I'm certain I will never feel that feeling of celebrity status in my life again. They ferociously thanked us for letting them take pictures with us, and I'm secretly hoping those pictures are circulating through the Weibo (Chinese Facebook) world and are on the cover of Maritime University's school newspaper. What is my life? 

After our uncontrollable laughter calmed, it was nearing lunch time, so we all headed back toward home to hit our favorite Muslim noodle joint for some comfort food. We were all so exhausted that we all individually headed home afterward for a comatose afternoon. I watched a movie and then managed another nap - two naps in two days? I don't even know what to think - and woke up to Kayden's text at 6 PM. 6 PM?!?! What is wrong with me that I needed a 3 hour nap? I hoped nothing, and then just had to remember that I won't have the opportunity for a 3 hour nap until, well, further notice. After making some leftover wontons for dinner, Kayden and I ended up staying in for a girls' night with Bridesmaids and girly drinks. So far, 2 days very well spent. 

On Saturday when we still had to work, my Chinese teacher for my baby class organized for one of the mothers to come in and teach us how to make zongzi. She brought in the giant leaves used to wrap the rice and meat (of course I made a few meatless ones), and showed us how to make a few before we all got the chance to try. It was a little difficult for the kids, but they still could take part in putting the filling into the leaves, while the adults tightly wrapped the dumplings up. 

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usual general chaos.

That day was sandwiched in between two graduations that occurred for Kayden's two classes that will be going on to primary school in the fall. Jane had her graduation Friday afternoon, which was completely adorable - it was practically a broadway spectacular hosted and performed by the students. Sunday morning was Kayden's other graduation - with the same general sort of performance focused event. I was really impressed with how all of the kids put in so much effort, and none were too shy to be on stage and strut their stuff. Brings me back to my first ballet recital where I tried to hide behind the piano on stage because I chickened out...

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Today is the last day of my last holiday in China. Why does time move so quickly? Back to school tomorrow already. But, I'm planning for these next 2 weeks of school to be as fun for me and my kids as possible. I'm realizing it's the last few days I'll be getting to spend with them, for forever possibly, and I need to make the most of it. My kids in both classes have come so far - improving not only their English language skills, but growing into small, independent humans developing distinct personalities, social skills, and love for others. They're so impressive - and although they may drive me absolutely nuts some days, I could not be more thankful to have met them, and had the opportunity to help them grow. They're incredibly inspiring people.

 

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