Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Holidays

I am so excited for Christmas this year! I only teach today and tomorrow and then I am off for about 2 weeks.
This Saturday morning is going to be "Christmas morning" for us because we leave for our trip that day. I think this has been the most low key, simple Christmas for us, but I'm the most excited about it. Maybe because we get to go on a trip and it brings back all the memories from my youth of traveling at Christmastime.
I have been stressing over all the hotels for our trip for the past several weeks, but now that everything is planned, I'm just excited. It's amazing to me that such a simple thing in the U.S. (booking a hotel) is so complicated here. I booked several different hotels in Hong Kong and they told me they were available, but then I'd get an email several days later saying they were full. It got closer and closer to the date and everything seemed to be full. I really tried to plan in advance, but then they would come back and tell me they were full. So, I had to call in the help of my T.A. Ivy and she found us a hotel for Saturday night. We are just staying one night in Hong Kong so that we can watch the BYU bowl game on Saturday. Everyone at work thinks I'm crazy, but that is my Christmas present to Jason. And, of course, it's kind of a present to myself as well since I love the games just as much as he does. I'm also looking forward to being able to eat at California Pizza Kitchen and maybe go to a movie. Movies and eating out just seem like Christmas to me.
Here is the itinerary for the rest of our trip:
Sunday night we fly out of Shenzhen to Bangkok. We arrive very late, so we will stay the night in an airport hotel. Monday morning we will travel to Koh Samet, an island, where we will stay on the beach for 3 nights. Then we travel to Kanchanaburi where they have the Bridge on the River Kwai. We will stay there 2 nights and get to ride elephants, see the beautiful jungle, see waterfalls and caves, and visit the tiger temple. Then we head back to Bangkok for the last 4 days of our trip where we will see the Grand Palace and everything else that we can fit in. I'm really excited, mostly just to get to spend time with my family. We have been so busy lately that it will be so nice to just be together 24/7. My kids are so excited too. I love telling them about everything we are going to do and watching their faces light up. When I told Haley about the days on the beach, she jumped up and down screaming. Too cute. I'm glad they are as excited as me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Haley did a modeling shoot the other day for a catalog, so Jason snapped a few candid shots, too.


Haley and Abby at the Branch Christmas Party.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oh, the weather outside is...


I am absolutely loving the weather here. I'm wearing short sleeves today and it's a week until Christmas. I love it! I missed the snow for about a minute. I love being able to ride my bike everyday, sit out on the balcony in the evenings, and take the kids to the park still. It's the perfect weather.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Rant for Today

Would it be too much to ask for some reliable classroom equipment?

Each of my classrooms that I teach in have a computer with this big console thing with a projector and an overhead. The console is supposed to be able to make it so that you can project either the computer, the overhead, or the DVD player onto the big white screen. This is actually quite a nice system for a teacher if you could ever count on it to work.

First of all, the consoles are always locked and I don't have a key. So, if I ever want to use anything, I have to have a student unlock it for me (yes, the students have a key, but I don't). In some classes, the students don't even have a key so I have to send one of them to find the homeroom teacher to come in to unlock it.

Second, all the buttons on the console are in Chinese and everything on the computer is Chinese. Because I know about computers, I am able to do everything pretty much fine with that, but there are about 50 different buttons on the console and I have no clue what any of them do. So, I have to have a student come set everything up for me each time I want to use it.

Next, at any given time some or all of the equipment in any given room is broken. My main frustration lately is that the DVD players only have 3 buttons-eject, play, and stop. This is fine if you are starting a movie, but then the next day, when you want to start in the place where you left off, it's impossible to do because there isn't a fast forward button. Who makes DVD players without rewind and fast forward anyway? What good is that? So, on the second day of a movie, I am forced to play it through the computer just so I can get to the proper place. In most of my classrooms, the volume works fine when you are using the DVD player, but then it is very soft when you use the computer. Anytime I use media, I have to have a back-up plan of some sort. Many of the teachers here have given up on media altogether. But, that's hard for me, especially with an ESL class. It's so much better when you have pictures or a visual of some kind to connect to the new vocabulary.

I guess that's another negative about not having my own classroom. At least with my own classroom, I could keep up to date on the electronic situation.

I guess I should just be grateful that we even have computers and DVD players and tools like that to help our teaching. I just get frustrated with the unpredictability of it all.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Some of My Students

Jasmine and Zoe

Performing their Exercises (the buildings in the background are where I live)
Twinkle and Zyla
Angela and Rachel (1st and 2nd place in the 800 m)
Uki and my TA, Ivy

We had "Sports Day" a few weeks ago, so it gave me a chance to snap a few pics of my students. Sports Day is quite the event. The whole secondary school spends Friday and 1/2 the day Saturday outside participating in track and field events. Each homeroom class competes against the others in their grade. It was a really fun day for me because I just got to be outside hanging out with the kids all day. And it was beautiful weather! It was hilarious to watch these kids compete too. They practice a lot for the opening ceremonies when everyone parades out together making sure everyone is in formation and that it looks good. But, hey don't really practice or prepare for the actual sporting events, so none of them are really prepared to run sprints or relays or do high jump, long jump, or shot put. But, they are super competitive and super dramatic, so it makes for a good show. They run as fast as they can and then they practically collapse as soon as they cross the finish line and all their classmates gather around and try to carry them or massage their legs etc. It's really over-the-top drama. Good times. I got to compete in the teachers 4X100 m relay. It was really fun even though the Western teachers came in dead last. We only have 8 teachers to chooose from and our two best runners were away at a basketball tournament, then probably the 2 next best runners refused to participate, so we were scraping the bottom of the barrel just to have a team. Even still, we did fairly well until the last leg, when we had a 50+ year old, out of shape man running. But, we had a good time.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Favorite Picture from the Zoo

We got to take our picture with a chimpanzee! It was so much fun. Haley was a bit apprehensive so she is hiding in the back. Too funny.

Play Day

About a week ago, Melanie and I took the day off to have a play day with our kids. It was so much fun! We went to the aquarium and zoo in Guangzhou. I was very impressed with the aquarium and how many animals were at the zoo. The kids had so much fun and so did I! Jason was my sub, so that was nice too, I didn't have to worry about my students, I knew they were in good hands. It was so nice just to have a break and spend it outside with such nice weather with my kids and friends. What a great day!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Something I Thought I'd Never Have To Say in my Class

"Girls, put away your knitting or I'll have to take it away!"

Almost all my grade 7 students are infatuated with knitting right now. They all keep their knitting supplies in their desks and try to sneak in knitting while we are doing other things. They all show off their handiwork by wearing the scarves they have just made. (Even though it's 75 degrees outside!--I love Decembers here!)

As a fellow knitter, it's hard for me to even care if they are knitting instead of doing their assignments. But, to be fair, I have to keep them on task just as much as I do to all the rubiks cube players, cellphone texters, and PSP addicts.

Yesterday I was asking some of the girls where they get their yarn and other supplies. They were trying to explain but didn't know the name of the store in English. So, after lunch, one of the girls brought me some yarn and knitting needles. How nice! Too bad we can't just sit and knit all class period!

I started making a scarf for Haley as soon as I got home. I'll take pictures when I'm finished.

Chimelong Paradise

Okay, it's been a while (about 3 weeks) since we went to Chimelong, but I haven't had a chance to post about it.

I love amusement parks! They are one of my favorite things. Since we arrived here, everyone has told us what a fun park Chimelong is. So, we finally just decided to take a day off of work and go. Jason and I were just going to go by ourselves, but then Mel and Shane had the great idea of taking our Aiee with us so that we could take our kids, but also go on rides together. When we were at Disneyland and Ocean Park last month, we had to take turns going on the "big" rides by ourselves while the other one stayed with the kids. It was the perfect idea because it was so much fun to surprise our kids and to see them enjoy the rides. It was also really fun to see our Aiee's reaction to everything. She is so funny anyway, but I don't think she's ever been to an amusement park before, so it was really fun. Plus she takes her job very seriously so she insisted on carrying Haley when she was tired, taking her to the bathroom, carrying our bag of stuff around all day, etc. And around 3:00 when the kids were tired, she took them home and put Haley down for a nap while Jason and I stayed for a few more hours.

Probably the funniest thing about the day was the hoards of crowds of Chinese people following us around all day. There were tons of school groups there for field trips and the kids were seriously more interested in us than in the rides. I'm not exaggerating at all either. When we first walked into the park, we got mauled by a massive crowd like we were the main attraction of the park. We're kind of used to this kind of attention, but it was funny to watch our Aiee. She was holding Haley and a swarm of people gathered around her, taking pictures and trying to touch Haley. Haley hates the attention, but she did pretty well. There were several groups of kids that came up and asked if they could take their picture with me or with Jason. I just find it so funny. I wonder what they say to people when they show them the pictures. "Here's a picture of the day that I saw a white person." It just seems so funny to me. After we got away from the initial crowds, we just started ignoring everyone and going on rides. There was always a crowd following us though. Every line we were in or ride that we were on, people would take pictures. After a while, Britton and Haley stopped being bugged by it and Britton started "hamming it up". He danced and sang everywhere we went and crowds of people would watch. He loves to make people laugh. There were several different rides that had bubble machines that would blow out bubbles while they were running. So, Haley and Britton would chase the bubbles and try to pop them. It was really cute and it drew a huge crowd. People even got our their video cameras. It's kind of funny to get so much attention everywhere we go, but here it was definitely over the top. And I don't think in the Chinese culture they have any rules about staring or personal space. So, that makes it quite interesting. In every line we would have people, inches away from us, staring into our eyes. Then they would say, "very beautiful". I guess blue eyes aren't something they see everyday (or at all) here. I guess this year in China will be the closest we'll ever come to being celebrities.

I didn't get too many pictures at Chimelong which is amazing since there were so many taken of us all day long. Maybe I didn't realize that only a handful of them were taken from my camera. But, I will post a few. (I just tried to post my pictures and after waiting about 10 minutes for them to upload, I got an error, so I'll have to do it later--posting pictures here is not nearly as easy as at home.)

There were several rides that are worthy of mentioning just because they are different than anything I have ever been on. It definitely is a fun amusement park, and great for kids. There is a 4D theater with a movie about a dinosaur and some aliens. It didn't seem as nice as the similar ones at Disneyland but the effects were definitley enjoyable. The chairs rocked a lot and at one point it felt like a snake was crawling right across your seat. Also something juts out in the back of your seat and pokes you in the back. There were lots of fun effects like that. But, the greatest part was watching our Aiee. She had no clue what to expect or what she was getting into. And she would squeal everytime her chair would move or something else like that. Plus I think it was probably the first time she had seen a 3D movie. So, she was fascinated (and a little scared).

My favorites ride of the park were the flying frisbee, the motorcycle roller coaster, and the 10-inversion rollercoaster.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Early Risers and Shouters!

The alarm went off at 2:55 a.m.--and we actually got up. What could get us up at such an hour? Only the BYU/Utah rivalry game.

With the time difference, the BYU football games are usually on in the middle of the night here. But, that's actually good because that's the only time that our internet is fast enough to actually watch TV anyway.

This is the first game in a long time that I actually got myself up for. I usually sleep through them, waking up a few times to Jason's shouting and cheering when BYU scores. But, today was different.

And the game did not disappoint. It turned out to be everything I could've hoped for. For the majority of the game, it was a defensive battle. BYU seemed to control the game for the most part. It seemed kind of uneventful, but still satisfying.

Until the end of the 4th quarter...then it got interesting. I remember after BYU's drive late in the 4th quarter, when Unga didn't make the catch on 3rd down and then again on 4th down (either one would have resulted in a touchdown). I said to Jason, "they may end up regretting not attempting a field goal when they lose 10 to 9."

And it was as if I had predicted the future. The Utes got the ball back, drove down the field, converting on every third down they had, ultimately scoring a touchdown and going up 10 to 9.
We wallowed in disbelief. That's the problem with defensive games--the momentum (and lead) can change so quickly. I lamented the fact that Unga had had a pretty good game but all everyone would remember were the two passes he DIDN'T catch.

But... there was still about a minute and a half left. There was still some hope. Although I really wanted an exciting finish, I admit, that I kind of doubted it would happen. Just because I hadn't seen our team ever do a 2-minute drill successfully. (Since I haven't seen too many games this year, I was unsure if they had even ever been in a situation to HAVE to score on a drive.) After the first 3 downs, I had just about chalked this one up as a loss.

Then, the 4th and long play came. Just as Max Hall seemed like he was sacked, he scrambled away, threw the ball long, and hit Collie just perfectly. It all went downhill for the Utes from here. With the help of a few Ute penalties, we were able to FINALLY get in the endzone and then score the 2-pt. conversion to put us up 17 to 10. I was able to breathe more easily. We at least would go into overtime if Utah scored again. But, there just wasn't enough time and the best :) team came away with the win. I love rivalries! (especially when BYU wins)

It looked like such a nice day in Provo. It was fun being able to watch the game with Jason without any interruptions from our kids (another benefit of the 3:00 a.m. game time). I was glad that it was Unga that got to score the winning touchdown, but that Hall and Collie were also instrumental in even keeping us in the game. I like the 3 of them so much. And Payne did an excellent job hitting field goals earlier in the game, and I don't doubt that he would've made another one for the win if it was necessary. Although, I'm glad that he didn't have to.

I'm really glad that I have a husband who is crazy enough to get up in the wee hours of the morning with me to watch a football game. I'm glad that he "gets me" when I get sick when I think we might lose or I get butterflies, sweaty palms, and an increased heart rate when it comes down to the last play. It's so nice that we both appreciate and love the games. There have been several occasions when we are at a game and they are honoring someone--a coach or player--and I will get all teary-eyed over it. I'll be kind of embarrassed that football gets me all emotional and I won't want anyone to see and then I'll look over at Jason and see that he's teary-eyed too. Then we just both laugh. I'm glad that we are kindred spirits in that way. It's a fun thing to be able to share together.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Deja Vu

I have always been interested in deja-vu's. I have deja vu quite often and it has always kind of intrigued me. I think it's quite a common thing, but I'm curious, does everyone have it quite often?

Recently it seems like I've experienced it a lot and some of them have been really long--more than a passing moment. You know, the kind where you realize that you are having deja vu, but the realization is also part of the deja vu.

I find it very interesting that I have had so many deja vu moments since I've been in China. I always thought it had something to do with things you had already experienced somehow, but this is my first time in China so it seems strange to have such vivid moments of "I've already been here and felt this".

The other day I had a "double deja vu" or "deja deja vu" (I don't know what to call it). I was riding my bike home from work and I had a deja vu moment that I had already experienced as a deja vu. I don't know if that makes any sense. It was weird. But, really cool at the same time.

If anyone knows any theories about why or how our brain does this, I'd love to hear them. It fascinates me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Week in Review

This was a weird week. It wasn't the normal school schedule, so it seemed like such a strange week. Here's a little bit of what we did:

*Monday--Monday was a regular day at work. For FHE, we went out to dinner at Jessica's Cafe. It's this sandwich shop here in Clifford. We really like it. They speak English and make really yummy sandwiches on baguettes. They also have really good quiche, cheesecake, and muffins. Afterwards, we went and played at the park nearby. Jason had the great idea that I take Tuesday off work so that we could go to the amusement park nearby--Chimelong Paradise. We have been wanting to go and I have been a bit burned out at work lately, so it was a great idea.

*Tuesday--such a fun day! When Haley woke up I told her that I wasn't going to work and she got so excited. Then when I woke Britton up, I told him that instead of school we were going to have a fun family play day. The look on his face was priceless--he was so happy. We took our Aiee with us which was such a good idea (thanks Mel and Shane for the idea). That way we were able to have fun and play with the kids, but Jason and I were able to go on the big rides together. It was great. Also, when the kids were worn out and wanting to go home around 3:00, we sent them home on a taxi with Aiee and we got to stay for a few more hours. I won't go into any more details because I'm planning on doing another post just about Chimelong, but it was such a fun day. I'm glad Jason talked me into taking a day off.

*Wednesday--all the students went on a field trip, but the Western teachers didn't have to go with, so we got the day to prep. It was nice. I was behind on grading things and putting them in the computer. Plus I had to prepare for Parent/Teacher conferences. It was nice to not have to teach classes. Wednesday was Jonas's birthday, so we got to go to his party that evening. It was a lot of fun. It was a "family" party so our family was there, along with 2 other families who are their best friends here. We had dinner and a pinata and ate brownies and ice cream. Melanie always throws such good parties. I'm glad we got to celebrate with them.

*Thursday--it was a regular day at work. It felt weird though because I hadn't seen my students since Monday. In the evening, I went to Bridge Club. It was really fun. I love playing cards and bridge is such a complicated, strategic game. I'm still just learning, but it's getting really fun. We have a group that plays once a week.

*Friday--we had parent/teacher conferences so I didn't have to go into work until 2:00. I spent the morning playing with Haley and running errands. Haley was so thrilled that I got to stay home with her again. Britton had school, though. I took Haley on a bike ride to the store, then we went to the little play room in the clubhouse here. Parent conferences went well. It was interesting to have to have a translator to communicate with the parents. Ivy, my TA, was my translator. I actually really enjoyed the conferences much more than I anticipated. I had an appointment scheduled pretty much every 15 minutes and then I had an hour break for dinner.

*Saturday--I had to work in the morning to finish up parent conferences. We had them from 8:30-11:30. Jason took Britton to his soccer games, and Aiee stayed home with Haley. It was nice having her there on a Saturday because it also meant that I came home to lunch already made--how nice. Britton went to Jonas's "friend" birthday party in the afternoon. Jason ended up having to go with him because he's afraid to go places without us--what a strange kid. I had a "girl party" with Haley. We didn't do anything special really, but just calling it a party makes her happy. :)

It was such a good week--I got to spend much more time with my family than usual--especially with Haley. But, it was a strange week at work. I didn't teach much, in fact, I didn't even see my 7D or 8C classes at all because of missing Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. It'll be hard to get back into the swing of things tomorrow. Tomorrow I have my formal observation and evaluation. The director of the school, the secondary asst. principal, and my team leader are all coming to observe one of my classes. I'm glad they're all coming at once instead of each individually, but it's a bit more pressure. I'm not too nervous, but a little. They are coming for my very best class, so that is good. And all the students are doing presentations so that takes a lot of pressure off of me and it should be fun and interesting, but at the same time, I don't really have much control over the quality of their presentations. I think it will all go really well though. I prepped my students last Thursday so they know all the visitors will be there and they are all prepared. It should be good, but I'll still feel better once it's over.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Favorite Thing at the Farm

Britton and Jason did this thing at the farm. They got inside of a blown-up ball and went out on the water and tried to stay up. It was hilarious. They were falling all over each other. The pictures don't do it justice. There were times when Britton was flying up in the air over Jason. It was so much fun to watch them. And they had a blast doing it too.

Clifford Farm

A few Saturdays ago, we went to Clifford Farm. It was so much fun. I had no idea about all the fun stuff they had there. They have all the usual farm animals and plants, but they also have lots of little kids rides, a maze, horseback riding, a playground, and probably a lot of other fun things that we didn't have time to do. There are so many fun things to do right here in Clifford Estates.