Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three Weeks In

We've been in school for three weeks and I love it. I'm super insanely busy, but in a good, feel-productive, love-my-job kind of way. I spend an insane amount of time in my office at school getting stuff ready. I don't know how other teachers don't have to do the same, because I know my prep periods alone aren't enough time for me to get everything I need accomplished. My TA, bless her, is a wonder, and really helps me so much. I've gotten to know all my students' names now, and they are really fun. I feel like so much more of a teacher than I did last year. We're going to be starting a unit on World Cultures sometime next week, and I've been getting all my materials for that sorted and prepped. Parent orientation is on Sunday, and I think a lot of my students' parents will show up. They just strike me as an involved bunch. I've already had notes from several of them, and I think it will be good.
Last weekend was district conference, and it being in Shenzhen, I did not attend. So I had the laziest, most do-absolutely-nothing weekend imaginable. I went out of my apartment building two times in two days. It was awesome. I really needed the relaxation time. I watched movies, I drew, I read books, I crocheted, and just hung out. Fabulous. And then on Monday it was back to reality. Urg. Next week we have a three day holiday, but for which we must work three weekend days to make up. I don't understand this system, but it seems to be pretty standard across the Chinese school system. Why bother even having a holiday?
This week has been nice, too, though. I went with Andrew, Kimi, and Kathryn to get foot massages on Monday, and got a mani/pedi today with Kimi. Life after payday is niiiiice. :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New School, New Year

Well, I'm back in China, settled in, and ready to get the school year started. Summer was great, and one week too short. If I'd had another week in Utah to see everyone I needed, that would have been perfect. But as it is, my trip was pretty close to it. America is awesome. Just in case all you natives who are living there with English speaking, non-smoking, non-spitting people take it for granted. You blend in. People don't stare and ask to take your picture. No joke, this has happened to me in China. You can buy anything you want and you have a variety of food. Okay, that's all for my America pedestal putting.
China is good too; I like the food here, even though I miss Mexican food like nothing else. I live really well, make a good salary, and have a good circle of expat friends. I've learned to speak some Chinese, and can now function fairly competently on my own, which was not the case early last year. I needed a lot of help.
I've changed schools this year; I'm now going to be teaching grade six in the Bilingual (as opposed to International) section at Clifford School. Clifford is an enclosed community that is in Panyu, a suburb of Guangzhou. It has a lot more shops, stuff to do, and well... polish, is a good way to put it, I suppose.
I've been at school for over a week now, but no kids until this past Thursday. I thought that five and a half days for prep was a little excessive, but as the whole sixth grade was moved and we had to unpack the office as well, by the end I was feeling the pinch of dwindling time. I really like the other teachers I work with; I share my office with the other two sixth grade teachers and out TAs. It feels like a comedy show in there. Really good environment. School started on Thursday, and while I thought it kind of weird to start it that late in the week, by Friday I was grateful for the more gradual transition. I'll be working a lot harder here than I did at Country Garden School, and it made me tired already. My kids speak really good English -- better than I was expecting, so I'll be able to teach really good, in depth lessons. I'm kind of surprised how diverse my classrooms are for China; I have four kids from Taiwan, two from Hong Kong, one from Korea, South Africa, and Australia - all in one class. I haven't even asked my other class yet.
Earlier this week Andrew and Kimi and I bought electric bikes. I wasn't sure I really needed one, but I'm sold on it now. It's really nice to be able to just zip off and not have to wait for the bus. I just ride along, with my hair flying behind me and my purse hanging on one of the handlebars. Awesome.
I've also been crocheting a lot this week; I recently finished a project for which I waaaaay overbought yarn, so I've been trying to get rid of it all. I've made a scarf, a shawl, started a blanket, and done four hats (with limited success - they're harder than I thought; easy in theory, difficult in practice). I swept up my bedroom today, and the majority of it was fuzz from all the yarn. Stuart made fun of me for having such an "old maid" hobby, but I like doing it, and I can make things. What else should I be doing? Playing video games?
It's been a long weekend, and not quite as laid back as I'd been hoping. I did get a pedicure yesterday though, which is something. Now it's 9:40 and I'm ready for bed. I feel like such a boring grown up. But when the sun wakes you up at six in the morning, you gotta go to bed early.
Good night!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ahhhhh, Vacation

So, America is awesome. That's what I've concluded in my five weeks back in the States. Being in China made me realize and appreciate how great America really is. No spitting, staring, scary driving, or bones in my meat unless I ask for it. And people understand me when I talk to them. Which has been such a nice break from my new reality of sign language and broken apologies in Chinese for my massacre of their language. I've had a great time here; spent three weeks in Maryland with the family and shopped like a madwoman, and now two weeks in Utah, also shopping like a madwoman. I have to stock up on everything that I can't get or is difficult to get in China. I bought more clothes than I anticipated... oh well. I'm really enjoying being out in Utah; I really wish I had another week. I have too much to do, too many people I want to see, and not having a car sucks. I hate being dependent on everyone else for transportation; I feel like such a burden, and it makes me feel bad for putting anyone to any trouble. I'm staying at Rita's house for home base, with satellite visits up to Sandy for family time, and to Provo for friends-from-college time. Utah has been really fun to visit; I'd forgotten how pretty it is, and how much I enjoy it.
I spent some time up with Jen, Colin, and the boys, and it was awesome. Evan calls me "AnKatie," with no spaces. I think he thinks that is my real name. He's probably too young to know that "Aunt" isn't part of my name, but my relationship to him. So it's really cute; he wanders around and comes to me "AnKatie, I wanna watch Mickey Mouse," or something else, always preceded by "AnKatie." And he's a snuggler. Which is so nice. Ryan wasn't much of a snuggler, so I'm enjoying having a nephew to snuggle. Ryan is very much his father's son--interested in xbox games and not a whole lot else :) It's really cute to see him play Harry Potter Legos on the xbox. He gets really absorbed in it, and ends up standing six inches away from the tv until reminded to back up a bit. It's been really nice to hang out with Jen and catch up; we've done some shopping together, and she introduced me to In-N-Out, which is a burger chain from California that recently came to Utah.
I've also been hanging out with Ashley and Steven a lot, which has been great. They're thinking that they might come visit me in China next summer, so keep your fingers crossed, cause I would love to have them! It's been really nice to see everyone and play.
Yesterday I went to Walmart and Costco to load up on supplies for China this next year. Oh my gosh. Money money money. Oh well, I'll be grateful for it later :)
So that's all for now, I think. Nothing else really to report.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Home Sweet Home

It's 6:39 am in Maryland, and I am wide awake because of jet lag. Which actually hasn't been too bad. My trip was really long; 20 hours of combined flying time, and then layovers on top of that. My flight into Baltimore landed at like 6:30 in the morning, and since I'd slept a bit on the plane, I wasn't too exhausted, and adrenaline carried me through the day until about 6:15 pm when I crashed really hard. Being home is super nice, and I'm enjoying English speakers and the good food, and of course the time with the family!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I can't believe I've been in China for an entire school year. It feels like I just got off the plane a couple weeks ago and I'm still new. It's gone by super quickly, and I've had a lot of fun. I've been thinking lately about everything that has happened, everything I've done, and all the new people I've met and become friends with. It's really awesome. So here's what's been on my mind:
Stuart and Brooke. I am so grateful that they both speak Chinese, are more gutsy than I am, and patient with me when I'm wishy washy and don't know what I want or what I'm doing. It's been so awesome to have them here as family and support; if they hadn't been here I definitely would have been on my return flight home six weeks later. China was kind of overwhelming. Especially when I broke my ankle.
Andrew and Kimi. They have been my other great support system in China, and it's because of them that I know my way around as well as I do and feel comfortable doing things on my own. They've shown me places to eat, get things fixed, buy a bike (which was unfortunately more trouble than it was worth), and they generally have been just awesome friends. I'm so happy that I get to go to Clifford next year and that they're going too!
Dad. He's handling my bank and student loan accounts while I'm in China, which is a big help, as I'm 12 hours ahead and it's difficult to arrange things from here. The internet is a wonderful thing, but it just can't do everything in case of an emergency. He's also safeguarding my car, which I'm so happy about. I love that thing.
Skype. This is my favorite thing on my computer. I love that it lets me call my family for free or for super cheap. I've been able to keep in touch with friends and call and talk to Erin till the wee hours of the morning. I'm so happy that I didn't do this earlier in life when skype didn't exist. Because calling from China on a telephone is a definite money-drainer and would be a no go.
Traveling. I love that I can pop over to Hong Kong for a weekend, and that I got to spend two glorious weeks in Thailand and Cambodia. If I'd stayed in the States, who knows if and when that would have ever happened! I love that I can save up enough money to do these awesome things.
China is cheap. Food is cheap, entertainment is cheap or free, and luxuries are cheap. This lets me have a lot of fun and still save a lot of money.

Basically what this long post of happy thoughts means is that I'm really glad that I bit the bullet and came to China, and I'm excited that I get to stay another year, without having to deal with the culture shock this time around. I'll already be familiar with stuff and not stress out as much.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Merry Month of May

May has absolutely whizzed by; I can't believe it's over already! My friend Alex's sister Marianne came to visit from England for two weeks, and we did a lot of stuff to show her around. Amusement parks, tombs of dead kings, pearl markets, and just wandering around Guangzhou. It was a lot of fun to have her around, and she and Alex introduced me to two awesome pieces of British television: "Blackadder" and "Doctor Who." Love them! Such funny, great shows.
It's started to get warm here, and the rainy season has started; it rains a lot now and the cockroaches have begun their assault. I've had to kill three of the little buggers this week, and it's driving me crazy. Now whenever I have to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night I have to turn on all the lights to make sure I'm safe from the little nasties. I have no desire to step on one in my bare feet while half asleep. Ugh.
I'm also really excited to go home and visit! I'll be in the States for like a month, which will be wonderfulness. Good food, clothes shopping, people who speak English... ah bliss. It' making this last month of June a little more difficult to wade through though. I want it to be time to go already! I want to see everybody!
My birthday was really good this year; it lasted for like a week! Stuart and Brooke took me out the weekend before because they were going to be in Japan for the actual day, and then Saturday the 29th I went to their apartment and took over the kitchen for a couple hours to bake up a storm. I've missed baking and cooking so much. Mom, prepare yourself for a flurry of cooking when I get home. I made a bunch of cookies and then in the evening we went out for Vietnamese food at this really good restaurant called Tiger Prawn. Sunday was my actual birthday, and Andrew and Kimi made me a breakfast lunch after church and I made more cookies since I still had leftover ingredients. It was really good.
Today is Wednesday, which I love, because it means no afternoon classes. I get to sit, play, or be as productive as I want. I'm kind of bored now, though. I've read all my books a million times and finished my television show that I was going through. Suggestions?
And sorry no pictures; I've been trying to upload them while writing this post, and it keeps giving me an Error message saying the request is too big, whatever that means.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

I hate the rain. It's been raining nonstop for a little over a week (which may be slightly hyperbolic, but whatever), and I'm tired of it. The floors are wet, my clothes won't dry, and the bottom six inches of my pants are continually damp. Today we get the added bonus of thunder. It's hard to get up the desire to go out and do stuff when it's wet and cold. I have a friend here that loves the rain, and whenever I complain about it, he laughs and says it's great. But he's from England, so I guess you have to like rain then, as it rains all the time there.
In other news, I have to go judge an English competition tonight, which is kind of a joke, but I get paid for it, which I didn't know, so that's a nice bonus.

I saw on Erin's blog that she made a desert island playlist, which I thought was kind of a cool idea. And as I was reading hers, I was thinking about what songs would be on mine, so here they are:

Bleed it Out - Linkin Park
Don't Stop Believin' - Glee
Let it Be - The Beatles (but I agree with Erin, and I'd probably choose the Across the
Universe version)
Here Comes the Sun - Bob Khaleel
Old School - Hedley
Take Me or Leave Me - Idina Menzel and Tracie Thoms (from Rent)
Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Hallelujah - either by K.D. Lang or Alexandra Burke, both versions are good
That's What You Get - Paramore
Ignorance - Paramore
What Have You Done Now - Within Temptation
Headstrong - Trapt
Halo - Beyonce
Mercy - One Republic
Happy - Leona Lewis

Nothing else to report as of now. Toodles

Monday, April 12, 2010

My speaking has changed since I've been in China, which I was not expecting. For example:
1. I say "supermarket" now. It's never the "grocery store."
2. I pronounce my 't's. If I say "Beddy" instead of "Bet-ty" for example, my students protest that it's not their name.
3. I say "fond of" much more than "like" now. I think this may be the result of British friends.
4. In general I articulate my words more, especially when speaking to my students.
5. Sometimes when I'm talking to my students individually I don't conjugate all my verbs or change tenses. I use the grammar I know they'll most easily understand. This is probably a bad thing.

On Saturday a bunch of us went to the Japanese all-you-can-eat restaurant in Guangzhou. Yum. They have this steak and onion dish that is the best beef I've had in China. Mmmmmm.

MJ, some guy who worked at our school last year that I don't know, Andrew, and Kimi
Julie and April
Alex and me

Friday, April 9, 2010


Life in China is good. I'm enjoying my classes and I've started doing more things with other teachers. February was our holiday, and I went to Thailand and Cambodia with my friend Stephanie from Church. It was fabulous, and I loved it absolutely. I bought a ton of books, since there were a ton of English bookstores : ). We went to the beach for a week, sat on the sand and swam in the ocean (but only a little for me... jellyfish. I stuck to the pool more). Cambodia and the ruins at Angkor were amazing, and almost out of this world. It was hard to come back to the cold weather in Guangzhou after the heat in Thailand.

The ruins at Angkor; specifically, Bayon.
The view from our hotel in Phuket
Aranyaprathet ruins; it used to be the capital city of Thailand, and I really liked this Bhudda head encased in the roots.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok.

March wasn't very eventful other than the fact that I applied for a job at a new school for next year. I'll be teaching at Clifford School, which is a better school, and they will pay me double what I'm making now. They also have a curriculum for me to follow, which is nice, so I won't have to teach blindly anymore. There are a lot of the members of the branch in Clifford, and the complex has a lot more stuff to do: stores, restaurants, and more frequent buses to the city. I'm pretty happy with my decision to stay another year; I'm having a lot of fun in China, and I'm looking forward to staying.

Last week Andrew, Kimi, some other teachers, and I went to see the circus at Chimelong. Wow. It was really cool, and I saw people do things I would not ever in any lifetime be brave enough to do. Sadly, I forgot my camera that night, so no pictures. It was really fun, and nice to finally get to Chimelong, which is close. I still have to get to the amusement park and safari and water park. It's a fun to do list.

One of the teachers at our school, MJ, is leaving on Monday to go to the Shanghai Expo, so there was a farewell party for her last night at a bar that's closeby.

The girl in the white tank top is MJ, the teacher that's leaving.
April, Julie, and Alex

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Tomorrow I am going to Thailand. It's Chinese New Year break and Stephanie and I are celebrating by spending two weeks baking in the humidity of Thailand. I'm packed and ready to go, and excited, but calm at the same time. Kind of like I was right before I came to China. It will be a lot of fun.
The month of January has been a good one, and a particularly easy one, work wise. As the end of the semester neared, students were madly prepping for exams, as were the teachers. Because of this, I had many unexpected days off while the Chinese teachers reviewed with the students. And then of course I didn't have classes while the students were taking their exams. My students are very high achievers, and would come and tell me their scores, expressing disappointment with anything less than a 95. When I told some of my fourth graders that I got an 83 in math when I was in school, they were all like "whoaaaa!" It was really funny for me, and I kept trying to tell them to chill out about their grades. My students are really funny, and come and talk to me before classes and after classes, so much so that I almost can't finish getting ready for my lesson. I really enjoy it though, in spite of the distraction.
After exams it was babysitting time for a couple of days, and then vacation. All of my students went home or on vacation, and I've had the entire week off. It's been really nice, actually. I've had some days that were productive and well spent, and some days where I've enjoyed just being lazy, watching tv and reading.