Thursday, June 26, 2008

All My Bags are Packed...

So, it's our last night here. I'm up way too late. I've had a million things to blog about and tons of pictures to post, but just haven't had the time. And now my cord for my camera is packed and everything will have to wait until we get back to American soil.
These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of trying to fit everything in and saying goodbyes. I don't think I'm ready yet to be done--emotionally or physically. But, tomorrow is the big day whether I'm ready or not. Our plane leaves at 9:00 pm.
Here are some highlights of the last week and then I'll have post all the pictures later. I haven't even posted my Beijing trip pictures yet and that was nearly a month ago!
Monday night the Yeung's took us out to dinner at the Herbal Cuisine restaurant. We had never been there, so it was fun. We really enjoyed the food and of course we enjoyed the company. The Yeung's have been great home teachers and good friends. They are always willing to help with anything. One of the hardest things about leaving here is leaving the wonderful branch. We have met some AMAZING people and have had so much fun. Hopefully, we will be lifelong friends with all of them.
After dinner, I went up to bridge club to get our last night of playing in. I think I've already expressed how much I love bridge. And the more I play, the more I love it. I will miss having a regular group to play with.
Tuesday during lunch we went to the pool. It's a good thing we did too, because Wednesday a huge storm came in and it's still raining. But, Tuesday was a beautiful day. In fact, the pool was filled with a lot of the teachers. It's a great way to spend a lunch break. All of Britton's friends were there. They are at the age where they can just swim around and play without much adult supervision. It's so nice. Shane and Jason played with them, taking turns throwing them around and playing shark and whatever else. Melanie and I played with Haley and Ezra and just talked. Good times.
Tuesday night our Aiee watched the kids and Jason and I were able to go to Guangzhou for some last minute shopping. It was really nice to have a night out together, it hasn't happened in a while. We went to Beijing Lu which is a really fun pedestrian road filled with tons of great shopping. We also went to Tianhe, but we didn't really find what we wanted there.
Wednesday after work we went with Mel and Shane (and Naomi) out to dinner. The kids had a kid pizza party all together with Maddie and Brianna babysitting. They were so excited to be able to have them babysit them one last time. When we got home Britton said, "Maddie and Brianna are so funny, we laughed at least half of the time you were gone." I'm glad they had so much fun because we had a great time going out. After eating, we all went to get foot massages at the resort center. I haven't been at all since we've been here because my feet are so ticklish but I actually really enjoyed it. There were only a few times when it was too ticklish to handle.
And today has just been a crazy "packing and giving away things" day. I can't believe how much stuff we have. We have had to go through our bags numerous times trying to see what we can get rid of to free up space. We're finally packed and we got all the essentials in. And luckily we have nice enough neighbors and aiee's who are happy to take the stuff that we are leaving behind.
Now it's nearly 1 am. Jason and Shane are out getting noodles and massages. A very fitting thing for our last night here. Jason is really going to miss Shane. They go for a midnight noodle run or massages or both at least once a week. I love that they are both night owls and can hang out at night and Mel and I can both get up early and go jogging in the mornings. Man, we sure are going to miss them. I can't think about that right now though or I'll get too sad.
This week at work has been fun. Monday was our last day with students and then the rest of the week we've just been doing grades and cleaning up. I tried to pace myself a bit, but I've still been done with everything for days. But, these days are still fun just hanging out with my colleagues trying to entertain ourselves. Shaun reads us random trivia from the internet and Murray and I are having a free cell competition. (Murray's killing me right now with a winning streak of 21 in a row!) The others are still gradually getting their work done. It's just fun being in the office all day long with everyone getting to chat and joke around. I'm going to miss my office and my colleagues. It's been a fun and interesting dynamic to be a part of.
So, here's what's on the agenda for tomorrow:
6:00 Morning jog with Melanie
7:00 French toast breakfast with Britton (he requested that I wake him up before I leave for work, we used to always have french toast together before he started to go to school later. Now he sleeps in every morning)
8:00--11:30 Last day at Work
12:00 Manicures and Pedicures with Melanie and Haley
1:00-4:30 Finish getting rid of everything
4:30 Final apartment checkout
5:30 or 6 Off to the airport
9:00 We'll be in the air!

So, I better be getting to bed!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Big Game

Pictured:
Back Row: Dave, Ryan, Andrew, Murray, Paul, Shane, Terry, Rory, David, Cal, Leoz, Cos

Front Row: Ben, Sterling, Jason, Shaun, Matt, Terry

Jason played in "The CupBowl" on Friday after school. The guys have been playing football every Friday for the past few months and they decided to end it with a bowl game. It was really fun to watch and, of course, Jason loves playing. Unfortunately, his team, the Light team, ended up losing 4 touchdowns to 3. But, everyone had a great time.
I'm really grateful to all these guys for making sports so fun for Jason this year. He's loved all the opportunities to play and that's made life fun for him here. He's been able to play volleyball twice a week, squash once or twice a week, and football once a week.
For the past little while, I've been playing volleyball with him on Thursday nights. It's been so much fun. There is a restaurant/bar not far from here called Cohiba's. They have a sand volleyball court. We play 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 depending on how many people show up. I really love playing but don't get many opportunities. It's fun riding our scooter over there, then playing in barefeet on the sand for a couple of hours.
Last Saturday, Jason set up a doubles tournament for all the guys. It turned out to be really successful. Jason and Shane won the tournament (which I expected), but the other teams were very competitive. Everyone had lots of the fun.

Ivy's Wedding

My T.A., Ivy, got married last Thursday. We were able to attend the wedding. It was so much fun. I'm so happy for her.

Jason, Ivy, and me

Ginger and me

The chicken head

Ginger making the two chicken heads kiss

Something that looked like intestines

Some of the others at our table--Pete, Allison, and Andrea

Ivy and me

Trying to pop the cork on the champagne

Self-portrait

The pig's head--poor little piggie

**Almost everything we were served still had the head on it--it was kind of the theme of the food for the evening. We were all so happy when they would bring out a vegetable dish and we didn't have to see it staring back at us.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Conversation with Haley this Morning

Haley: There are no bugs in Utah
Me: Oh, really?
(She thinks for a minute, trying to remember.)
Haley: Well, actually, bugs don't come into houses in Utah. But, they do in China.

Check!


I can now check off something else from my "100 Things to Do Before I Die" list.
I looooooved the Great Wall!
It's incredible!







More pictures coming soon.
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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Naughty Kids

Today we went to the Forbidden City (more on that later). We had an English speaking tour guide that showed us around. At one point he made a funny comment. Haley was climbing on something and he said, "She should have been a boy because she is so naughty." It just made me laugh. I guess boys are the only ones allowed to be naughty. Maybe someone should clue Haley in on that.

Rainy Days

So, it's been raining a lot around here lately. Like everyday. I love it, but I'm also ready for it to stop so we can go swimming everyday. Yesterday when I was walking home at lunch time, I think it rained more in that 10 minutes than it does in Utah in a year. And I'm not exaggerating. I got home pretty much soaked and I was using an umbrella the whole time. Later in the day, we went to Shiqiao to catch the bus to the airport and the streets were floods. It was really fun watching. All the people walking had their pants rolled up and they were carrying their shoes and socks as they waded through the streets which were now rivers. It was fun to watch the cars, buses, motorcyles, and bicycles all try to get through the water. Shop owners were frantically squeegeeing the water from the sidewalks trying to keep it out of their stores. We saw a restaurant that couldn't keep the water out and it was almost up to the level of the tables. It was kind of fun being able to watch it all. Mostly I guess because we didn't have to be out in it and we were being driven rather than doing the driving and because we knew we were leaving town for a place with better weather.
Now we are in Beijing and the weather is perfect. It's 70's-80's, not so sticky and hot, but we can see the sun and it hasn't rained at all. Life is good.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Great Saturday

I feel so behind on blogging. We are going to Beijing today and I wanted to be able to post about last weekend before I get even further behind.
Last Saturday we had the opportunity to participate in a service project coordinated by our branch president. There is a school up in the mountains about 2 hours from where we live that he wanted to raise money for and donate some things to them. So, we all pitched in and then last Saturday we got to go to the school to deliver the new items and play with the students and treat them to an American barbecue. It was such a wonderful experience, probably my favorite thing we have done since we've been here. It was good for us to see the school and how little the normal people here have. And it was nice to feel like we were making a difference.
The classrooms at the school are very old. The desks are old, the floors and walls are cement, and there was no lighting or fans. We were able to donate new desks and chairs, lights for all the classrooms, and ceiling fans for all the classrooms. We also gave lots of sports equipment, new basketball standards, computer, printer, TV, DVD player, and many other school supplies.
After presenting everything to the school, the men went right to work installing the lights and ceiling fans. The others started cooking and preparing the food and playing with the students. The students were so great! They were very friendly and so happy. It was fun to get to see them using all the new equipment--basketballs, jump ropes, badminton, etc. There was a group of girls that went crazy over Haley. They played with her and followed her around all day long. It was great.
After lunch, Jason and I were in charge of leading the kids in some games. We taught them dodge ball and buddy tag. They seriously played the same game forever, enjoying every second of it. They were laughing and having the time of their lives. It was so much fun.
Melanie had the great idea of making some pinatas for the students, so that was the Grand Finale of the day. I got to help her make them during the week, so that was fun. The students (like all kids) loved doing the pinatas. I'm sure it was the first time for them to do something like that.
After cleaning up and saying goodbye, the students all lined up along side the road to wave to us as our buses pulled away. What a special day! It was so great to be able to give the school some much needed supplies, but I hope we gave them more than that. I hope they will always remember the day that we came to their school. I hope they will have a great memory of the fun times that we shared eating and playing together. I know I will never forget it.

Haley and some friends
One of the pinatas
The first try at the pinata
Britton's turn at the pinata
The hot air balloon pinata
Britton playing a board game with the kids
The new ceiling fans!
The teacher's quarters
The library
The library
A classroom
Close up of an old desk
Playing with the kids
The new basketball hoops
Haley with her new friends
Unloading the buses with new chairs

The outside of the school
The cute kids!
Another view of a classroom