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.