Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Great Wall

Well, I don’t think I can title my entries by the week anymore as I am not doing a very good job of writing on Sundays. I will start by saying that I am beginning to feel quite official here in China. I received my ATM card for China Construction Bank and it works and as Monday was payday I actually have money there. I should have my passport back by Friday with the official work visa and as time goes on I feel as though this is feeling more like home. Well, not home… but home away from home!

On Friday night I went with some friends to a jazz bar where a jazz band was playing. The cool part was that the singer and guitar players are both teachers here at ISB. So we went to support. On Saturday morning all the new teachers were up bright and early for our first trip to the great wall. We went to a part that was built in the 600’s. Many were taking the gondola to the top but I was seeking some exercise and decided to hike. Hmm… I have never climbed so many steps all at once ever! By the time Bebe, Malcolm and I made it to the wall we were already exhausted! But then we needed to walk the wall. It was absolutely gorgeous – I really enjoyed it. Beautiful pictures – I wish I could attach some for you now. We stayed up there for a couple of hours and then took the toboggan down which proved to be exciting – especially since the girl in front of me kept stopping around curves which would force me to ram into her!

Saturday night we went into the city for authentic Chinese hotpot. They boil the water and seasoning in front of you and bring plates of vegetables, raw meats, etc. and you decide what to put into your own pot. I love the food here – love it! The only thing I have had that I didn’t like is some soups and tofu dishes with a “numbing” spice – very hot and your tongue feels like it is swelling.

On Sunday we had a girls night and went to dinner at a place called Red Rose – a Chinese muslim restaurant. We ate great Chinese and watched the belly dancers. When one man went up to dance he grabbed me to dance on the stage with him. I was a little embarrassed at first but then just decided to have fun with it. J

Tomorrow night is Open House at the school. This is a busy week because on Friday I leave for a bike trip in Mongolia and won’t be back in Beijing until midnight on Sunday.

I thought I would show you a list of the countries where my students are from. As you can imagine, it is interesting listening to them talk. Not just about themselves or their home countries but all of the different accents as well. Some of the teachers tease that if I was teaching higher level math classes I’d have less Americans – I have to constantly remind them that at least we have REAL sports. I have already seen and heard enough about cricket for a lifetime!!! Check it out, keep in touch and as always – I’m missin you!

Australia 7
Brazil 1
Canada 4
China-Hong Kong 2
China-Taiwan 1
Cuba 1
France 2
Germany 3
Ireland 1
Italy 2
Japan 1
New Zealand 1
Norway 2
Pakistan 1
Philippines 2
Singapore 4
South Korea 3
Switzerland 1
UK 10
USA 29
Zimbabwe 1

Monday, August 29, 2005

Week 3

Finally last Monday I got my computer so I took the 5:30 bus home from school because I had tons of work and ripped open the box. Hopefully I will have time this week to get someone from the compound to set up my wireless internet for me. I’m hoping to be able to do my blog from there – Thanks Castro for all the cutting and pasting you have been doing for me! As I don’t have access to my blog please respond to my email directly. Otherwise I can’t see your comments and I want to see them very much. I’m missing everybody dearly!!!!! ;-)

On Tuesday I woke up at 5:45 so I could do the 6:30 am swim with some of the other teachers. The school hosts an optional morning swim practice twice a week. I have never been a strong swimmer but after 4 knee surgeries it seems to be the sport Dr. Jones keeps recommending. So I rode my bike through the village bright and early, put on my swim suit and hopped in. I was immediately given goggles, a cap and told to buy a one piece as soon as possible. Ooppsss… no problem! After that I loved every minute. We were doing different types of laps, blobs, some sprints. I had so much fun and have felt good all day after the exercise this morning. The only tough part – I had to shower and get ready at school. I was starving so I didn’t dry my hair (no one does) and I walked into first period to meet today’s new students with crazy hair, no make up… “hello kids I’m your new math teacher.” Can you imagine what they were probably thinking??? AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

First week of school went well and my kids are so great! They do more than the homework I assign and seem to be interested in what is happening in the classroom. On Wednesday night I went into the city with a group of teachers for dinner and had the best Chinese food I’ve tried yet. We had these garlic green beans that were to die for and the Chinese do wonderful things with tofu. I’m enjoying the food a lot although I will say – the chopsticks are giving me some trouble. But someone is looking out for me because most everyone has been sick already but I am doing fine… knock on wood!

On Friday they had a bbq for all of the teachers and I woke up early Saturday morning to go to the mountains. The bus driver got lost (I’ve heard this is typical) and it took us 4.5 hours to go 110 km. No problem – the trip was gorgeous and I saw a much more remote china than I see on a daily basis. It was nice to be in the mountains again as I always feel so at home there. Looking from a distance every mountain looks the same but when you get closer, you find that a lot of the stone are actually manmade walls and that behind them are whole villages of people. I discovered this when I turned to see what I had heard behind me and found an older man herding goats! Sunday I went to a different church and although it is more casual and contemporary than I am used to I will probably go to this church regularly. A lot of my students were there and several other teachers too (all the good southern ones!) Also, it is only three minutes from my compound whereas the other church is 30 minutes away with no traffic. The minister has already sent me an email too so that is nice.

After church Bebe, Barry and I went to lunch and then to the Pearl Market. You can get lost in two seconds in that place but I am learning to barter well. I bough a pair of pumas for less than $20 – the first price she offered me was close to $100. It’s fun! Then we went to the Temple of Heaven. It was built in the 1400’s and was a place for the emperors to go to pray for a good harvest, etc. It was beautiful and there happened to be a choir there at the time. Charlie would get a kick out of this one! They sounded great. Just a group together singing on the corner but beautiful. Japanese for dinner and then early to bed for the next week.

The things I am enjoying most are the people, the food, the swimming and my daily bike rides to school and home again. I had my first Chinese lesson last night and I think I am going to enjoy that too although this language is very tonal and it will take a LONG time just to say a few things. But I miss being able to communicate more. This weekend we are going to the great wall so I will have lots to share after that. Please write when you can – I want to hear news about everyone and everything. Missin you tons!!!!!!!!! ;-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Week 2

Hey there,

I have just finished my first school day here at ISB with students and they are absolutely wonderful! I was so nervous last night! More nervous than I ever remember being before a first day of school. But I’ll get to all that in a minute – let me tell you about the adventures of last week.

Last Monday all of the other teachers came back from the summer. It was a little intimidating at first but already I have met several of them, all very nice. Monday and Tuesday were busy with meetings and classroom time. On Tuesday afternoon I went to a coaches meeting because I was told I would have to interview for the asst. varsity position. On Wednesday I had the interview and I think the season (I got the job!) will be different than anything I have experienced before. The head coach said the girls are inexperienced somewhat but that he enjoys the season tons. We will actually play several teams from other international schools as the local teams are too … well, he says he plays one or two of them at the beginning of the season to better his team. He said these girls actually go to school for basketball – I would have loved that! They don’t even use a girls ball and refuse to play with one as well. I can’t wait to see them play!

On Wednesday night I went out with about 40 of the teachers to a bar called Public Space for drinks and then on to a restaurant called The Tree. The food at the The Tree was delicious – pizza, better than most I’ve had in the states. Afterwards we went to a dance club called Destinations where we stayed longer than we should have on a school night – well, I thought so anyways. But it was so much fun seeing all these teachers get down. When I said later that was fun but I won’t be back once the students start coming they were laughing at me – I don’t know where they get the energy!

On Thursday I woke up to an extremely smoky sky and the pollution was so thick I could taste it. It brought me back to my childhood as I quickly recalled the smell of pollution in Louisville. One of my 9th graders proudly told me today that living in Beijing and breathing is equal to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day… nice! It hasn’t let up since – you can actually see it in the school all the way down the hallway!

On Friday we all went to a new bar (the entire faculty) that has just been opened by two of the teachers here. It is a “sports” bar (everyone was watching cricket) called Pomegranate in the village between school and the compound. Even the director was there sipping a beer. Afterwards, Jeff and Tammy, one of the new teachers and his wife, through a party at their house. It was fun but I didn’t stay long – I had been looking forward to a good night’s sleep and I had work to do at the school on Saturday. Saturday night we went downtown to an Indian restaurant – my first Indian food and I like it a lot. Didn’t think I would like it at all. Afterwards we went to Barblu for more dancing but for me again – an early night. Yesterday I went into town with Bebe to go to the pearl market. That was a trip. I feel like I am learning my way around the city quite nicely and soon may even be ready to go somewhere by MYSELF! Well, I’m not going to rush it or anything… ;-)

Last night I found myself extremely nervous. I was almost pacing in my apartment and seriously felt like I was about to have a meltdown. And then I remembered to pray. And I prayed for almost an hour and afterwards I felt completely calm and relaxed. And I started thinking about how good God is. I have been so busy this past week, learning more about Beijing, my job, meeting people. And just when I need him, he is there, listening to my every word and need. This morning when I ready my Daily Light, the verse was “The God of peace…make you complete in every good work to do His will.” Hebrews 13:20-21. And I got so excited about school. And my students coming. The morning and afternoon went smoothly – I only had two classes today. But my students are delightful. They were all asking who the kicker was in the picture by my computer so I very proudly told them all about my precious baby brother!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m missing you all and hope you are all well. For now, I’m back to work. I’ll try to update on Sundays. Missin ya’ll!!!!!!!!! J

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Week1

Well, I have now been in Beijing for 10 days and feel more in a daze than when I first got here! Before I came I hadn’t really thought about how challenging it would be to move to a foreign country and start a new job and make all new friends all at once. But even through the challenges, I am enjoying most everything. I’ll start with day one…

I arrived in Beijing last Sunday and was picked up at the airport by Tom Hawkins, the director of ISB. He drove Yvonne and I (another new teacher) to Capital Paradise - our new home. After filling out some paperwork and touring our new apartments, we went for dinner and settled in for the night. I had been advised to stay awake past 10 pm to cut down on the jet lag but no can do. I was in bed by 8:30 and awake by 4 the next morning. But waking early isn’t such a bad thing here as we are 12 hours ahead of the states and this makes a nice time to call home. And I’m lovin those phone calls!

Monday we caught the bus to school and work began. The school is amazing and the week was full of meetings, some classroom time, and more meetings. This is an extremely nice facility and will be even used by Olympic teams for practice in 2008. They told us that one of our main goals is to teach social responsibility to the students as most of them have never even stayed in a hotel that isn’t five star. They told us that their responsibility to us as teachers is to help us grow professionally and that if we don’t – they haven’t done their job. It is nice to have so much support.

Wednesday we had medical check-ups mandated by the government and Thursday we had a workshop on what we should expect to go through emotionally and psychologically after moving to a new country.

Among the work we have had many outings and social events to fill our time. On Monday we went shopping at IKEA to buy the necessities and after only 7 hours of sleep in the past 54 hours – I was in a complete daze. It was a three story building full of local Chinese just hanging out in the air condition on the comfortable furniture. It is somewhat difficult to buy things and ask for help when you can’t communicate verbally at all – incentive to take Chinese!

On Tuesday night, we took a cruise on Hou Hai Lake. On the way back to the dock, you light a red candle in a white paper boat and drop it in the lake behind you. You get to make a wish and it is quite beautiful. Afterwards, we went to the night market (otherwise known as snack street) where you can buy scorpions, snakes, grasshoppers, small frogs, seahorses, centipedes and numerous other things that creep, crawl and slither. These are all on a stick and they are more than happy to fry them for you. None for me thank you – being in China is adventure enough! After that we drove through Tiananmen Square and well – I can’t explain what you think and feel when you see that for the first time.

On Wednesday we had a break (thank goodness) and on Thursday, Chinese culture night. We had dinner in a greenhouse where I did get brave and tried some jelly fish. For the first and last time! J We learned some basic words and had a good time. On Friday, a neighboring international school invited us to a nearby wine bar for drinks and snacks and I met two girls I really liked – one from Beijing and one from Mongolia. They have promised to show me around and take me shopping and I will definitely take them up on that. Saturday I unpacked and rested the entire day until dinner that night.

Sunday I went to church with another girl, Bebe and the director and his family. It is one of three legal churches in Beijing. The people were all friendly – mostly teachers and government workers. The church is in Sanlitun which is called “bar street” and afterwards we went to lunch at a place called Public Space. It took us over an hour to get home (should’ve take 20 minutes) but at least we are learning our way around.

All in all, things are well. I am exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed with work at the moment, but already really glad that I am here. This is going to prove to be a great experience. I will try to update this on Sundays or Mondays – keep emailing. I’m enjoying hearing from you!