Wednesday, 31 December 2008

PingHe New Year's Party

So last night was the PingHe High School New Year's party.

I was involved with a few things. One, I can't remember if I already told you guys about it or not, but I was in a "Guess Who" game. Some upperclassmen students took a picture of the back of my head with my red pen sticking out of my ponytail. It's an old habit of mine to keep a pen in my ponytail and I've gotten some weird reactions here about it. A woman from my office said it was "romantic" and another teacher gave me a Christmas present of a hair pin because she said that she thought it would look nicer than a pen. Anyway, when the picture came up during the game, a student that I've never even taught before took one look at it and said "Stephanie!!" and won the prize. If you ask me it was too easy since I am the only person in the entire high school that has blondish/brown hair.

I was also in Class 10 (1)'s play. I had a few small things I had to do including be the voice over for a character, I was a farmer, and I also was a delivery person.

The strangest thing I did was sing "Duimiande nuhai kangoulai". It was the first time I had played guitar in front of more than 6 people or so. It was terrifying. I'm fine in front of crowds speaking or acting...but singing or playing guitar? SCARY! In the middle of the song I was shaking so bad I could barely get my fingers to hit the right chords.

Ahh well. It was fun. I cross-dressed a bit with my sweater vest, white shirt and tie. I also tucked all my hair up in my irish cap. The teachers that were dancing all dressed like high school girls. They had borrowed the student's skirts/shirts/sweatshirts from their uniforms. And Randy? Wow. He wore quite the outfit. I suppose I will let the video show that.

Anyway, here is the video. I love how when I start singing the crowd kind of goes a little crazy (I'm guessing because I sang in Chinese...). The crowd then goes nuts again when they see their teachers dressed like students. And then everyone loses it when they see Randy! :-)

Be kind when you watch the video though. My singing is rather off (remember I was terrified?).


Monday, 29 December 2008

Weekend in Suzhou

So this past weekend I went to Suzhou with Charlotte. I booked us a hostel and she got the train tickets.

We had a little trouble meeting up since she had taken line 1 and I had taken line 4 and I didn't realize they emptied out on separate sides of the street. Eventually we found each other and got to the train. After navigating the train station by myself at night to get to Nanjing, it was super easy to figure things out this time. The train ride to Suzhou was short (about a half hour) and uneventful other than a small boy across the aisle from us that was ADORABLE. His mother was trying to encourage him to call us either "auntie" or "older sister". For those who don't know, it's considered polite in China to call strangers by family terms.

The hostel's website said that there were a few different ways to get to there, but the only way to get dropped off at the front door was to take a pedicab. So we found a pedicab right outside the train station. I told the driver the name of the street. Then I told him the name of streets near the street. Slowly a crowd started to form. The driver started looking at a map. One person who could speak about 5 words of English thought he could help...which he couldn't. I was about the call the hostel when the driver exclaimed in triumph that he had found it on the map. Off we went.

I felt bad for the driver. If I had known how far away the street was I would have gotten us a motorized pedicab instead of push pedal bike cab. It's no secret that I'm a big person, plus we both had overnight bags. A couple of times the driver had to get off and push his bike up a hill. After a sort while we arrived at the right street and we discovered why a taxi couldn't have dropped us off at the door. The hostel was in the middle of a maze of alleyways that followed along a network of canals. Now I see why Suzhou is called the "Venice of the East".

This was my first time staying at a hostel and I loved it. It cost about $26 for one night. We had a private room with two beds and a private bathroom. The hostel was set up like an old fashioned Chinese house with open courtyards and such. Our doors opened right up into a rock garden. It was beautiful! When we arrived we dropped off our bags and then decided to rent bikes from the hostel (2kuai per hour! That's like...20 cents...)

Our first stop after we rented our bikes was a dumpling shop where we got lunch. I got beef dumplings and shrimp dumplings. Then we looked for an electronic store since Charlotte's camera was broken and she wanted to buy a new one. Then we couldn't decide where to go. We saw the top of a temple shaped building in the distance so we decided to bike towards it. Eventually we found them. We ended up at the "Twin Pagodas". We walked around and took pictures. Slightly further down the street was a beautiful Buddhist temple. We weren't allowed to take pictures there but it was beautiful and calm and smelled like incense. After that we wandered some more and found some signs leading to tourist locations. We decided to go to the "Master of the Nets Garden" since Charlotte's Lonely Planet book said it often had cultural performances of dance or theater.

We found the alleyway which led to the garden so we pushed our bikes down and checked out street vendors. I bought a couple things that I will put up pictures of later. We arrived at the garden and walked around. It was beautiful and definitely worth visiting, but sadly there was no performance going on that day.

After that we went back to the hostel and returned the bikes. We rested in our room for a short while and then headed out to find a place to eat dinner. Charlotte is a vegetarian so it's hard sometimes to find places where she can find a good variety of choices...especially in China! After stopping at a few places to check the menus we decided on a strange Fusion restaurant that was shaped like a big square and resting over a shallow pool full of rocks. I'm describing it oddly and sadly I didn't get a picture. It was down a different alley close to our hostel. Before dinner we decided to go to a cafe across the street for a snack and a drink. We got some TsingDao beer and french fries.

My dinner was delicious...sadly Charlotte was not so lucky. I ordered fried noodles and roast duck. The roast duck was done Beijing style with pancakes to wrap the meat, duck sauce and onions. It was really good! The noodles were cooked Shanghai style and only once or twice did I eat an unnoticed pepper and get a mouthful of spicy. Charlotte got a salad and pasta. She specified to the waiter that she wanted her pasta without meat. I know he understood because she ordered first and then when I ordered the noodles he worriedly pointed out that the noodles had meat in them. Then we explained that SHE didn't eat meat but I did. Her pasta took 15 minutes longer than the rest of the food and when it finally came, it had meat in it. After we complained it took another 10 minutes or so. When she finally got to eat it...she didn't even like it. AHH!

After dinner we decided to try and find the night market mentioned in her book. We took a taxi to Shilu (Stone Road) and wandered around looking at stuff/shopping until it started to rain pretty badly. When we finally got a taxi in the rain we realized we didn't know what to say to the cab driver. He couldn't take us right to the hostel and I couldn't remember the name of the main street outside of the alleyways. Luckily Charlotte remembered the name of the big shopping street that was near the entrance of the alleyways. UNluckily, the cab driver dropped us off at the wrong end of the shopping street and we couldn't figure out how to explain to him to go around. We got out and walked down the shopping street, then across the street, then through the twisting alleyways all the way back to hostel. In the rain. Ah well.

The next morning we woke up to more rain. We checked out of the hostel around 10 and went to the cafe we had gone to on Saturday night. We got some breakfast. I had a latte that was pretty rancid (I don't know how but I think they burnt the steamed milk) and then I ordered the "American Breakfast" which was pretty good, if cold. I only miss a few small food things from home, since Shanghai is so diverse I can get most things I want here. One of the things I miss? GOOD BACON. Ahh well.

After breakfast the rain had nearly stopped. Charlotte said she wanted to go back to the street where the night market was. She saw some things she thought looked interesting. We went back and wandered and wandered and wandered. We took tons of pictures. We found a big sloping bridge and also a piece of the old city wall with a large gate. For those who don't know, many of China's major cities were walled in a long time ago. Xi'an's city wall is the most complete wall that has survived. Suzhou only had a little piece.

We found more alleyways with shops so we walked down and did some more shopping. We decided we would walk to the end and find a taxi and get to the train station. The problem? The alleyway wouldn't end! If we had turned around and walked back the way we came when we decided we were done, we probably would have been back to the road and in a taxi in about 10 minutes. Instead we walked for another 45 minutes or so. We kept telling ourselves "it has to end eventually" so we just kept walking...and walking...and walking. And then it started raining again. And harder. And we kept walking. We walked under a bridge. We kept hearing cars or seeing cards but not seeing a street. People peeked their heads out of doorways to stare at us. We walked past chickens in cages. There were guys gutting and cleaning fish. We heard voices talking and tvs and radios. We walked in the rain through mud and fruit peels and fish guts and feathers. Finally, just when we were starting to get really worried that there was no way we were going to get out in time and we were going to miss our train...we got out and back to a road. We grabbed the first taxi we saw and made it to the train station soggy, relieved and with about 15 minutes to spare. Ahh.

All in all, I really had a really good time. I know I talk a lot about the bad things in this entry but it's easy to go on and on about getting lost in an alleyway, but harder to describe how much I loved being there in the first place. I really do love China and I forget sometimes how much or even why.

Then I find myself in a quiet Buddhist temple with the scent of incense floating past, barely audible chanting in the air, and a monk walking past in silent cloth shoes with prayer beads around his wrist. And a calm settles on my shoulders and my mind.

Or walking down those alleyways with the feeling of LIFE all around you. You can breath it and taste it and feel it in your bones. There's laughter and family and music and food and a thousand different smells. It's an orchestra of life and just being there makes me want to add my voice to the choir.

Or biking down the streets and alleyways. Making suicidal dashes across big streets. Squeezing between buses and the curb. Narrowly avoiding death at every turn from taxis and trucks and other bike riders, and laughing at the sheer joy of it. The cacophony of horns and beeps and bells and squealing brakes and yelling voices.

I don't know why this entry ended so...poetic? Ahh well. I had a great time in Suzhou and I hope I can go back. It was nice to have a reminder of how much I like China and why I'm here in the first place. I took a BUNCH of pictures and video so you should expect those soon.

Much love!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas Pictures!

Me, Lucy and Audrey at Lucy's apartment on Christmas Eve. By a weird coincidence we all ended up wearing red and black.
This is a wood carving my parents sent me. My friend Liz's grandfather carved it and thought it was cool that it was coming all the way to Shanghai. So I took a picture of it with the Shanghai skyline in the background. Sorry it's not too clear...
My bamboo plant from my welcome bouquet is still alive. Here he is all dressed up for Christmas!
These are Christmas decorations my parents sent me.
This is an example of the Christmas presents I gave to the teachers in my office. Isn't the cup pretty?
This is my Christmas tree on Christmas morning with my package from my parents under it.
This is a Christmas tree from a huge mall in Puxi. It's from the Swarovski crystal people.

That's all for now. Love!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Some Christmas Themed Stuff

I started this post a few days ago and I have a bunch of stuff to cover so I'm sorry if the tenses sound weird and it'll probably be long...

Monday night was the Christmas dinner with the foreign teachers. We ate at a place called the Tang Dynasty restaurant. It was a super fancy kind of place. We had our own huge room with a TV for karaoke, big couches and even a baby grand piano. On a higher platform was the usual round dinner table. We also had our own bathrooms (male and female) and a coat room!

The dinner was amazing. There was beer and red wine to drink. There were a few starter dishes and then tons of dinner dishes. One strange one that was a first for me was snake. I felt a little guilty eating snake since I've had a pet snake before, but it was REALLY REALLY good. It was cooked very crispy with this kind of seasoning mixture you could sprinkle on top. It tasted like a chicken-fish hybrid and was very tasty. It was interesting to eat because snakes are basically nothing but tons of rib bones and a spine. The fun part was after I ate all the meat off of a piece, I could make the spine wiggle just the way a live snake moves. (Is that too much information? Does that weird people out? I am a bad judge of what is too weird or gross...)

There was so much food I can't remember it all. There was this lobster and noodle dish which was a hit. There was this glutinous crab rice, lobster congee, salmon, a delicious fish (I have no idea what kinda it was), goose wing, duck, this crispy fried thing with a kind of pork filling ... There were also some desserts including this mango pudding thing served in a shot glass.

All in all it was a nice evening and I also got my first ever Christmas bonus. Whee! I decided to treat myself to a trip to Harbin in January. I already bought the plane tickets and now I just need to find a good hotel. I've wanted to go to the ice festival since I first heard about it in college. Now I get my chance! I'm a littler nervous about how cold it will be and also about traveling in China by myself for the first time (well...on a plane). Ah well...I'm sure it will be awesome.

Christmas Eve I was at Lucy's apartment for the first time. It was so sweet of her to have a get together on Christmas Eve. It was also the first time I ever had home cooked Chinese food made by a real Chinese person. Haha! She made a bunch of different dishes like mushroom and beef and potatoes with peppers and pork and was all delicious. K.C. and Audrey (two friends of her's) were also there. We made some home made sangria that turned out pretty yummy. We also had a dessert of rice ball congee and then some ice cream. And then there was dancing! It was a lot of fun.

On Christmas day I sneaked into the office extra early and left Christmas presents for everyone in my office. I bought a bunch of really pretty coffee mugs and filled them with a bunch of candy, tea, a candy cane and a red pen (cuz they're teachers!). My students told me that cups are good presents because it means you are full of love for that person.

After that (and a short nap) I had a webchat with my parents. I opened up the present they sent me while talking to them. I miss them a bunch but it was good to talk to them on Christmas.

On Christmas night, Ned, another foreign teacher, and I organized a party. I bought some cheese and meats and crackers and nuts for snacks and he brought wine, beer and pizza. person showed up. Wow. Well, some of the other foreign teachers were on vacation and to be fair we did only let people know on TUESDAY that it was on THURSDAY so people already had plans. Oh well. It was a good excuse to completely clean my apartment. And I got some pizza and beer out of the deal. :-) It was a little weird spending Christmas with two coworkers, with me being the youngest person there by 26 years...but at least I wasn't alone and I did have a pretty good time.

Next week there is a Christmas/Winter/New Year show and I am going to be in two performances. One is done by the students from Class 1 and I am being the voice over for one of the characters. I have 4 lines, two of which are in Chinese. Should be interesting. Also, I am doing a performance with a bunch of teachers from my department. I told them I could play guitar and somehow that turned into me playing "Dui mian de nu hai kan gou lai", a song I sang in high school. It's about a guy who is upset because this girl won't pay attention to him. I am going to play guitar and sing it while all of the teachers from my office and the IB director walk past me and ignore me or diss me. I'm rather amused by this idea. Hopefully I will be able to get it on video so that those of you from home can laugh at me. I keep practicing and practicing because I don't want to make a fool of myself. I want it to be funny because of the acting, not because my Chinese singing sucks. Oh well. Wish me luck.

I think that's all for now. I can't believe Christmas has come and gone. It's rather unreal. Today I've been cleaning up from the "party" and trying to catch up on stuff. Tomorrow I am going to Suzhou with Charlotte. Hopefully that will be fun.

Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely holiday season.

Hugs and misses!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Today is Special

Today is a very special date.

Today marks my four month anniversary. I have been in Shanghai for exactly four months.

Today also marks exactly one month before I come home to visit.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Hey Look! A Non-Video Post..

So nothing big has happened recently, but some small things have.

On Tuesday I went with Zeno to the primary school since they were having an English performance. The students did a bunch of different stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, the Emperor's New Clothes, and the Boy Who Cried Wolf. I thought we were just going to watch, but we were given sheets of paper and sent to the front row where we were "judges". At the beginning of the performance the student announcers thanked the judges for coming and introduced them all to the audience. All the other teachers were introduced with their names...I was introduced as "the foreign teacher". Haha. I don't know what's weirder, the fact that I was the only non-asian in the whole auditorium or the fact that it didn't feel strange.

My favorite story was probably either The Emperor's New Clothes which was hilariously acted by the students and included both intentional and unintentional slapstick. I also liked the Little Red Riding Hood because the students included a bunch of other stories and fairy tales just for fun. It also included Harry Potter. Red met a wizard in the forest who said he was Harry Potter. She said he couldn't be since he wasn't wearing glasses. He said, "Glasses? Please! Glasses are SO out of fashion...I'm wearing contacts!"

On Thursday, one of my students came up to me while I was getting ready for class to start. He asked me if I liked Chinese tea and I told him that I did. He said that he wanted to get me tea for Christmas but that he wanted to make sure I liked it first. I thought it was very sweet. :-)

I played a version of Jeopardy with my students this week which they seemed to enjoy. I also had a discussion with Class C about dreams that went pretty well. Students talk SO MUCH MORE when I ask them stuff about themselves. I try to start every class out with them being able to tell me stories. Some had some pretty interesting dreams. One student had a recurring dream when he was younger that he was with a girl on a beach. She asked if he believed in ghosts and he said no. Then they walked away from each other. Then a man appeared and shot the girl. My student said that often he would realize he was dreaming and change his actions but the dream always ended with the girl getting shot and screaming.

Yesterday I felt this wave of contentment. I think it might be because things are feeling familiar and routine. I was walking back from Family Mart with my usual items (a loaf of bread, soda, apple juice, sushi, shrimp pocket bread and chips) and just thinking about the weekend and feeling good it was a Friday and all that. I also understood a whole Chinese conversation as some students were passing me. It was nothing big. One student was asking whose milk he was holding since he couldn't remember who gave it to him, and another student was asking for help carrying a box because it was heavy. But still...small victories. I was also happy because there was sunshine. I feel guilty for enjoying the relatively nice weather when Christmas is 5 days away. The New Englander in me wants a white Christmas.

Friday night I met up with Ron at Enoteca (the wine bar) for dinner. Dinner was SO GOOD. We shared a bottle of the Van Lovern Pinotage (one of the wines at the last wine tasting). We got a bunch of different things to share. We had mushroom risotto cakes, salmon spring rolls, whipped goat cheese tarts with marinated tomatoes, we even got oysters. It was the first time I had oysters, I think, and they were delicious. We also shared a creme brulee for dessert. It was a pricey dinner but since I knew it was coming the whole week before I had sandwiches or baozi for dinner. I think that made friday's dinner taste even better.

Ron leaves for California on Tuesday. I really am going to miss him. He's the first and only real friend I made here in Shanghai outside of work. He was really sweet last night saying that I helped make his semester here in Shanghai even more special. We had a lot of fun hanging out and who knows if and when we'll see each other again. We made tentative plans for dinner again on Sunday but I told him I would completely understand if he was busy packing or wanted to spend time with other people before he leaves. I need to go through the effort to make another friend here! Ron is going home and Isabelle is in Vietnam for a month. I'm glad Lucy is here. We have plans for Christmas Eve dinner.

I'm pretty hungry and I don't really have any food in the house so I should really head out for some dinner. Guess this is all for now.


Friday, 19 December 2008

My Sped up Shanghai Day

WHAT!? Three video posts in a row!?!


This is just something I did for fun....let me know what you think.

Video: A Package from Lee

Hey Lee! I got your package. :-)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Video Blog December

Another long video. I cover a lot of stuff in this. My package from Rose, my trip to Nanjing, my decorating for Christmas, my space heater "Sauron Jr." and a song I am trying to learn on guitar.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

A Social Butterfly Am I

This was a kinda crazy week. Monday and Tuesday mostly involved finishing up buying/making/packing/sending Christmas cards and packages. The rest of the week shall be done under headings to keep things organized.

Wednesday night I had to give my monthly test to my students during the evening class. I felt bad giving a test at night but it seemed to be the only time that worked. It went a little later that I had planned so I had to rush out of there since I had plans to meet someone. One of my students, Jackey, saw me biking off and RAN next to my bike just to chat with me on my way out. Hehe.

I met up with a knitter who lives pretty close by. We met up at Starbucks, which was remarkably like Starbucks in the USA. Most restaurant chains here are at least a little different than their American forefathers, but other than the Chinese words on the menu I felt like I was in a Starbucks back home. Her name is Fiona and she has had an interesting life. She was born in Scotland, lived in Minnesota, then met and married a man from Shanghai and now lives here with her two young boys. We talked about what we were doing here, how much we missed nature, and our knitting project. She is making a fair isle cardigan with a yolked neck. I really liked how it looked so far but I REALLY liked the yak hair scarf she was swearing. We made a promise to get together again sometime.

Thursday was another wine tasting. I was amused when I walked in and found that the seat I had sat in the last two times was left open. Yay! Tradition! This month it was South African wines. I think my favorite was the second white wine called Van Lovern. Mom, you should check it out. I think this month's wines were my favorite, but the food wasn't as good as before. Ah well. I stayed late and chatted. I gave one of the regulars a shoulder rub and she scratched my head. Ahh...human contact! Ron was there and we made some plans to get together before he has to be all responsible and go back to "graduate". Hrmph. I gave him a scarf I bought for him in Nanjing and he immediately put it on. Yay! I was lucky enough to get back in time to catch the last bus home at 11:30pm.

Friday was a kind of easy day at school. Some of the other teachers had taken some of my classes so I had an extra class with two groups. I didn't want to start something new so we played Balderdash instead. I thought it would be a fun game and a good way to teach them a few random words that they might run into that they didn't already know. Like jiffy and rendezvous and such. One group had a lot of fun with it, the other seemed bored. Bah.

There was no staff meeting on Friday so after my classes were done I went back to my apartment for a quick lunch and some cleaning. Then I went out shopping to get stuff to make a delicious dinner for me and Lucy. Originally I was thinking of making crab cake burgers, but then I remembered that Lucy had said in her opinion the main American food is sandwiches and that they were boring cuz they are always cold. So I made us hot chicken sandwiches. I flattened the chicken and then cooked it up in a little olive oil and spices with a melted piece of cheddar on top. Then I toasted the buns in the pan with some garlic and oil. I had tomatoes (for her. tomatoes are gross) and salad greens and honey dijon sauce. Oh it was so good. Lucy also loved it. Hours later when we were hanging out at a club she leaned in to me and said "I'm still thinking about that sandwich!". Ahaha. She said she would never be able to enjoy KFC again. That made me laugh.

I also whipped up a batch of rice krispie treats for dessert. Lucy gave me some ornaments for my tree and I gave her a bracelet I got in Nanjing. She also invited me over for dinner on Christmas Eve. She said she would make me some home cooked Chinese food. I am excited and also happy I won't be spending Christmas Even alone. Still no plans for Christmas, but we'll see.

After we finished eating we headed out to Xintiandi and met up with some friends of hers. I get the feeling that Lucy and I were crashing a party. We were there for all of 10 minutes when everyone headed out and onto a bus. The bus was loud and fun. After a short ride we ended up at the fancy pants club called Mint. Apparently you need to be a member to get in, but whatever group we were with went right in. The entrance was this long hallway with a big shark tank. There were people in skintight lycra suits in gold and silver posing on the speakers. The DJ was pretty good though. I shared a glass of champagne with Lucy and danced for a while. After a bit she asked if I wanted to go to a Jazz club.

The place was called JZ (I think). It seemed like a cool place when she gave me a tour, though it was PACKED. It had this lovely outside balcony that I would have loved to hang out on if it hadn't been so cold. We had mojitos and hung out with another friend of Lucy's. I chatted with some people with the standard "Where are you long have you been here...what brings you to Shanghai?" I get annoyed because when people ask where I'm from I never seem to be able to answer correctly. If I say "America" they laugh at me and say America is a big place and what state am I from. If I say "Connecticut" I usually get a blank look (unless that person is from America too). I've taken to just saying I live "near New York".

I headed out pretty late and took the loooong cab ride back. I had to direct the cab driver once he got to my area. I like knowing my area well enough that I can give a cab driver directions.

Saturday I got up late. I did a little reading and cleaning and puttering around the internet. I headed over to Charlotte's for a foreign teacher party that she and her boyfriend were having. I didn't know the foreign teachers in my building were going so I took the subway by myself. Ugh. On line 8 there was puke in the subway car I was in. Luckily I only had to stay on for one stop.

We all ended up showing up at the same time. I brought the rest of the batch of rice krispie treats and everyone enjoyed them. A few people said they were hoping I was going to bring the tortilla roll up snacks I had made for the last party. I'm glad they remembered and liked them. We hung out for hours just snacking and talking and laughing and drinking. We played "Never have I ever", which is an interesting game to play with a bunch of world travelers. I took a cab back with Stephanie, Chris and Becky.

Today I seriously need to do my dishes. I don't think I have any clean silverware. Ugh. And I need to do laundry. And I need to correct my monthly test. This coming Friday I have a LOT due. My final exam, personal comments on all 60 of my students, my grades so far...

Anyway, that's catch up on my last week. Hope everyone is having a good time at home. I know Drew people and friends of mine in grad school are doing finals now. Good luck on those!

Sending love,

Knitting Update Four, Nanjing Pictures Link

I was a speed demon and went right through four more squares. Here they are!

This is from Dawn at Kamatics. She wrote a really sweet note and stuck it in the yarn. Now the note is on my wall of love and here is the finished square.
This yarn is from my Grandpa and Grandma Stebbins. I really love this color combination. Like a sunset.
This is yarn from my cousin Savannah. This color skein seemed to be a popular choice. I'm guessing because I like blue so much. :-)
Annnnd this one is from Kim! This was one of the ones I got in the mail. Mmm purple and pink.
That's it for knitting for now. Currently working on a square from Auntie Bonnie.

Also, if you want to see more pictures from my Nanjing trip you can see my albums HERE and HERE.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

They Like Me!

So today I sent out some cards and packages. I have now officially sent packages out to everyone who I have received a package from so far and cards to everyone who has sent me a card or letter. I feel very accomplished. And poor. Yikes. I'm going to live off of noodles for the rest of the month. Meh, I would rather send out packages and cards than buy a toaster oven (or two...).

In different, very happy making making news, I sent out an e-mail to the woman here who hired me to ask if they had job openings next semester since Alex and Jenny were curious. I mentioned that I like working at this school and got this e-mail in response:

Hi Stephanie,
Thank you for refering our school to your friends and I was more than happy to read that you enjoyed your working with us here at Pinghe and so do we. Every time I bumped into Ms. Luo and Xuping either at meetings or at the cafeteria, they would more often than not talk about you with so much satisfaction. I think they really take pride in what you've done.
Once again, thank you for your hard work and I'm looking forward to meeting you at the school Christmas dinner in two weeks.

Just for reference, Mrs. Luo is the principle of the IB dept and XuPing is like the coordinator/director.

It makes me happy that people here seem to think I can do this job well.

This afternoon for review for the test I am going to have a snowball fight in class. I am putting review questions on pieces of paper and then they are going to ball them up and throw them at each other. When I call stop, I'll call on a student to answer a question on their snowball. I thought it would be a fun way to burn energy and review.

I gotta make my lesson plan for the rest of the week...

Much love!


Monday, 8 December 2008

Weekend in Nanjing

So I spent this past weekend in Nanjing. I finally left Shanghai!

At first I was really worried things were going to fall through. Charlotte canceled on me but I decided to go by myself. I was told to get my tickets ahead of time. I asked Charlotte to pick some up since she lives in Puxi. When she tried to go to the office for me, it was apparently closed. I decided I would try anyway.

I finished up work on Friday, cleaned up my apartment so I wouldn't come back to stinky trash or dirty dishes, packed a weekend bag and headed off to the train station. As I was walking off campus I saw a weird, unexpected sight. A Goodyear Blimp. Hmmm. I took a picture of it just cuz I thought it was funny to see in Shanghai.
I found the ticket office without any trouble and then waited in line for my tickets. It was a little scary buying tickets in a foreign language but I got them with no issue at all. Yay me! It was around 4:30pm when I bought the tickets and the earliest train I could get out left at 7:30pm but I was more than happy. I was worried I wasn't going to get a ticket at all.

I decided to get some dinner even though it was a bit early. I found a DongBei restaurant right next to the ticket office. I got a bowl of noodles with beef and some dumplings. I was sitting by the window and as I was eating a guy walking by actually did a double take. He back tracked and stared at me through the window, miming using chopsticks with this look of disbelief on his face. He actually came into the restaurant and walked towards me saying "kuaizi!" (chopsticks) over and over. I just nodded at him and went back to my noodles. I've never gotten such a surprised reaction when I use chopsticks...

I corrected some homework in the waiting room for the train. When I boarded the train the guy sitting next to me turned to me with a picture on his cell phone and told me it was his daughter. I told him she was very cute. Then we had a two hour conversation. Seriously. I talked to the guy next to me for the entire two hour train ride. WOW what a workout for my Chinese. I had to make use of my dictionary a few times and sometimes he had to write a word down before I could understand it but otherwise we talked the whole time. He seemed really nice. He works for a company that makes solar panels and has a young daughter. He was mad at me for having a cell phone without Chinese on it so he couldn't send me text messages. He tried to persuade me to get a different cell phone. Hehe. We talked about food and school and America and working and families and my class rings and knitting and traveling and Nanjing and college and everything. He made fun of me for wearing my irish cap, saying I looked like an old man. He told me I should come over so that he could make me dinner. He took a picture of the two of us together so he could show his wife. It certainly made for an interesting trip.

I arrived in Nanjing around 9:30pm. Kyle met me at the train station and we took the subway back to Nanjing University. He had tried to get me a room at a hostel but the two closest to the college were full. Luckily Alex and Jenny (two other Drewids) each had a double room to themselves. Alex stayed in Jenny's room and let me have his room for Friday and Saturday night. It was actually rather adorable. He had a new bar of soap and roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. He left out a map of Nanjing for me to use and even put a chocolate on my pillow! My poor planning and last minute trip actually meant I got to stay in the same building with my friends and for free! Win!

After I arrived I chatted with people from Drew for a while. Went to bed relatively early since I was exhausted. Travel makes me tired. Saturday morning I woke up and Kyle took me to this fried meat bun/dumpling place for breakfast. OH MY GOD they were so delicious. So cheap. So fresh. It cost 6rmb for 8. It could not have been fresher. They literally finished cooking them right in front of you and served them up so you could go eat them. We took them inside the restaurant and ate. Man...I wish there was a place like that near me. They were so tasty.

After that we walked towards the subway and split up. I headed off by myself to explore Nanjing. I had heard about different places to visit and looked at the tourist map Kyle gave me. I decided to go to this Confucius Temple. I took the subway and then walked. I saw a gate to a museum area and figured why not, paid 15rmb and headed in. The first section was a museum about the Taiping Heavenly Army. There was also a museum about the writing, poems and carved seals of a man named Li Lanqing. I think he used to be a government official? There were some pretty interesting seals. He made one for Mozart and the characters looked like music notes.

My favorite part about the first place I stopped, though, was the garden. *happy sigh* Nature! There were so few people and the air felt clean and fresh (at least compared to Shanghai). It was really relaxing and calming. So quiet. So peaceful. So solitary. So nature! I climbed up this big rock face and took a bunch of pictures. I wandered up and down every path I could find. I even ended up going through this cave that came out right next to a waterfall. I don't even know if I was supposed to go in it, but no one was around to say otherwise and there weren't any signs saying not to.

Here is a picture of the waterfall. The flat stones in the pool of water make a path from the tiny ledge on the right to the cave I was in on the left (you can't really see it).
Also at the garden was a bunch of bonsai trees. I took pictures of all of them. Here is one.
After I walked around the whole garden making sure to explore every inch of it, I decided to head out and see what else was in the area. I found what I THINK was the Confucian temple, though I'm not sure. It was rather small and mostly had this small rooms with fake models of men in traditional Chinese robes posed as if they were taking the official examinations. In each room there was some information about the exams.
What was weird was I swear I thought I heard music or throat singing or people meditating or SOMETHING the entire time I was in the temple. I can't be sure.

Here's just a nice picture I took while wandering in the temple.
There were also tons of shops and stuff. The only thing I bought were some bracelets and some cotton candy. I was super excited to see cotton candy. I really don't know what to buy people for presents. Plus pretty much every shop sells the same thing so after a while it gets repetitive. One weird thing about the area I was in is there were a lot of pet shops. I saw lots of birds and what looked like tanks of mostly dead turtles and even some puppies. It was rather heartbreaking so I tried to keep my eyes forward and keep walking.

After my touristy wandering and shopping I went back to the college. I hung out with Benno for a short while and then went out to dinner. Kyle had organized this dinner with me, him, Alex and Jenny and a Swedish couple he had hung out with. The Swedish couple (whose names I am pretty sure were Bjorn and Marna?) are teaching in Nanjing. I'm teaching in Shanghai. Jenny and Alex WANT to teach in China. It was a very fun evening. The Swedish couple was very interesting and fun to talk to. It was interesting to find the different experience we've had teaching. We went to this Japanese hibachi restaurant where they had an all you can eat AND drink special.

Oh my. Everything was so very tasty. We had sushi and scallops and pork chops and steak and veggies and fish and ice cream and lamb and onions and tons of stuff. To drink we had wine and sake and beer and these drinks that tasted like liquefied watermelon (which is probably exactly what they were...) Everything was so delicious. I think the waitress was getting mad because we just kept ordering more and more. What a delicious dinner. So totally worth the 150rmb.

We also chatted briefly with the other foreign devils at the table across from us. Without knowing it we were both playing the "I wonder what country they are from" game. Marna thought at least one of them was Swedish (using what she called "Swededar"). They thought we were all French. We were all wrong! The entire table across from us was Germans.

After a lot of sake and beer Bjorn taught me a weird Swedish drinking song about a frog. I don't really remember it, but apparently the creepy doctor in the movie "Minority Report" sings it if I want to practice. I also told Bjorn that I liked the chef's hat. So Bjorn asked me to teach him how to say "I like your hat" in Chinese (wo xihuan nide maozi). After he said it to the chef, the chef nodded and left. Everyone was like, "Huh...where did he go?" I jokingly said "Ahh...he went to go get us some hats."

Little did I know he really was. Which led to this picture:
From left to right it's Alex, Jenny, Marna, me, Bjorn and Kyle. We also wore these hats as we wandered out of the restaurant and headed off to a KTV bar on a whim. Which lead to me saying what Kyle believed was the quote of the day: "Follow the tallest chef!" Also, do not worry dear friends and family, I was sure to make many horrible jokes about the "Swedish Chef" to my new friends.

The KTV bar was a bit of an adventure. We were there for about three hours singing pop music, love ballads and TV theme songs. I had barely any voice left at the end of the evening and we got back to the dorm around 2am. Yay!

Sunday we all got up rather late. I went out for brunch with Alex, Jenny and Kyle to this cafe place near them. I got a yummy sandwhich and a coffee. Then we hung out at the college just talking and hanging out. I saw Paul when he finally woke up around 230. It was nice to just be with people from home and hang out doing nothing. It's going to suck when they leave because then the closest person from home I'll have near me will be D'Arcy in Japan...

I stayed probably later than I should since my train was leaving at 4:30. There was a bit of a panicky moment when I was running through the train station thinking I was going to miss my train, but I ended up getting on with about 4 minutes to spare. Phew. No interesting train companion this time. I just meditated and read on the way home. Took the subway and then treated myself to a cab ride cuz I didn't feel like going from train to metro to bus. Then sunday night was spent finishing up correcting homework and planning my classes for today.

All in all it was a great weekend. It was wonderful to see my friends and it was also refreshing to visit some touristy places without seeing crowds. Being in the garden was so relaxing and lovely. I loved climbing to the tallest point on the rock face and then sitting enjoying the view while eating the chocolate that Alex had left for me.

I think one of the best things about this weekend was how independent I felt. I bought train tickets for myself using Chinese. I carried on a two hour conversation in Chinese. I found the places I was looking for in Nanjing by myself without getting lost or confused. I found my way back to the college from the metro station even though I had only walked the way once before in the dark with Kyle. I found my way through both the Nanjing and Shanghai train stations without issue. Every one of these moments felt like a small victory. A tally put in the "plus" side of my self-confidence.

Anyway, this entry is very long and I have been working on it on and off for about 7 hours now. I think it's time to post.

Much love,

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Just saying I'm alive...

I haven't posted since Wednesday. GASP!

Just wanted to say I'm alive.

I spent the weekend in Nanjing and there will be a much longer post to update on that soon.

Right now I am amazingly exhausted and trying to finish up preparing for class tomorrow. Blarg.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

I feel like a stereotype.

So the world thinks of Americans as rich, fat, lazy and spoiled...right? Can we accept that and move on?

I just can't help recently but feeling like a stereotype. The thing I feel most, though, is spoiled. The Chinese teachers get a single apartment. I get a double. I get a dryer and internet in my apartment. They don't. I don't ever get night duty or have to teach night classes. They do. I get more days off than the Chinese teachers. One of the teacher's today asked why I get three days off for Christmas when I'm not even religious. I didn't know what to say.

And now I found out that another teacher is coming in next semester and will be taking two of my classes during the week (to teach Business). I already only teach 14 hours of classes a week. Next semester I'm going to feel so useless.

I don't know what to do about it. I feel uncomfortable being treated so much better just because I can speak English fluently. And the worst part is, it's not something I had to work hard at. I was just born in America.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Maybe technology doesn't hate me...

So I've been using notepad to write up things for class since Word doesn't work. I also am starting to realize how often I usually listen to music now that I have no way to listen to music (other than waiting for stuff to load online which takes FOREVER).

Also, I took this printscreen on Monday when I first saw the box bouncing around my screen because I couldn't read what it said (it was moving too fast). You can see the box with the magic wand that says "This computer is being attacked". On a happier note, you can see the beautiful fall background I picked because I was missing new england autumn. I should pick a winter one now.
I think I don't have to lose all my recent documents, music and pictures. Even though I can't open any of my documents in word/excel/etc, if I e-mail them to myself I can view them in google html format. So the data is still there, the virus just removed my ability to view them normally. I think I'm going to do a huge memory dump onto my big external hard drive tonight since my laptop is now clean. Then the IT guy can wipe my comp and reinstall Windows. Or whatever needs to be done. I am slightly less upset now.

Also, I returned the DVD player last night. I told them it had a problem and they tested it right in front of me and it didn't work. They gave me another one and I asked if we could test that one before I went home and they did. It worked. I brought it home and it still worked. YAY! Now I can watch movies in the living room like a real person! I gotta say, sitting on my futon last night knitting and having a snack felt pretty cool.

Health wise I feel alot better although my nose is running so bad I feel like I'm going to run out of tissues by the end of today.

Umm...I forgot what else I was going to say cuz my coworkers are playing with a cellphone and it's kinda funny.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Oh dear, oh dear...

Well the IT guy at Pinghe got the viruses off of my computer. Randy thinks I got it from watching movies online, the IT guy said that some high school students had the same virus and I probably got it from letting them give me their homework on a thumb drive. Either way, I got it. Now it's gone, but I can't open word documents or play music or anything. I tried to do a system restore but it didn't work. It's likely that we'll have to wipe my computer and reinstall Windows 2007. Which means I'll lose all of my recent work. All of my pictures and videos and word documents since like...March? I think that's the last time I did a full backup on my huge external. I have a whole new respect for viruses now. UGH. I REALLY hope I don't need to wipe my computer. I had done some writing and taken some pictures and I really don't want to lose everything...

Yesterday I bought a DVD player which I brought back home and set up only to find it didn't work. It's a Philip's so it's not like I bought a no name brand thing. I'm going to bring it back tonight and try to exchange it for another one. BAH! Technology not working for me!

Last night I also bought....long underwear! I'm sure Pete is laughing at me because just a few weeks ago he was like "Get yourself some long underwear!" and I was like "HA! I laugh in the face of long underwear!" Maybe it's because I've been sick for like a week, maybe it's because they don't really turn on the heat indoors, or maybe the winter here is just different from what I'm used to....but damnit I've been pretty cold! I feel quite comfy today though wearing my new long johns. Maybe I'll buy another pair. Mmm.

Tonight is seriously "clean the apartment" night. I haven't swept in forever and my dishes are kinda gross. Plus I've had clean dry laundry sitting in my dryer for days. Augh. It sucks getting healthy after being sick for a long time because suddenly you have to do everything you've been neglecting.

In my class this morning my students were silent as rocks. After three good classes yesterday I was really surprised. I played a game with them for ten minutes to wake them up and with the promise they would talk more after we played. They got a little better but not much. Oh well. I really am thankful for my improv experience to let me respond to different class situations. I keep flip flopping between feeling like an ok teacher and feeling like a total fraud.

I need to make another monthly test for next week and I need to finalize what I'm doing in the writing class this afternoon. I think my students can tell when I am excited about a lesson and when I am nervous or bored with it.

I gotta run to class. If you don't hear from me in a while it probably means my computer is being fixed up.


Monday, 1 December 2008

Know What's Fun?

You know what's fun?

Being sick, being in a really crappy mood, and then starting up your computer first thing on Monday only to find out that you have a virus!


UGH! I feel like screaming!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Blerg. Sickface.

First off, Dave, my bed is queen sized. I think?

Ugh. I think I feel worse than I did on Friday. Bah. Please excuse this entry if it seems rambling or weird. My brain doesn't appear to be on.

I got through my two classes on Friday relatively easily. The students were kind enough that when they saw I was pretty sick they shut up so I wouldn't have to yell. The parent's day thing was interesting. I can't remember how many parents came to talk to me. It wasn't a ton but it wasn't none, either.

Two of the parents that came to talk to me spoke only in Chinese. Two spoke about half and half and one spoke pretty good English. I think that's how many it was? 5? Anyway, it was kinda cool to meet some of the parents. One came over with a student from class B and I'm guessing it was her grandmother who said to me in Chinese "She really likes you!".

The only thing that bothered me is that EVERY PARENT asked the same question, "How can my student improve their English?" As though I had some magic serum in my desk that I could just give them. Nobody seemed to think that "hard work and practice" was an acceptable answer.

After parent's day ended, I went back to my apartment and stayed there. I knitted and had some of my turkey mush leftovers and went to bed at like 10pm. I woke up quite a few times but only accepted it at noon. I did nothing all day Saturday but knit and watch Friends and shower. Zeno had said that we should hang out if I was feeling better. I wasn't feeling better but I needed to go out to eat since there wasn't much in my apartment. I called but she didn't answer. Luckily as I was heading out she was heading in. Her phone had been off for invigilating. We headed off to Carrefour together with the intention of eating at Yummie House, a new restaurant, but the Subway there was having a buy one get one free sale so we went there.

On the way there/while eating/on the way back we talked about a bunch of stuff. We made tentative plans to travel somewhere during the new year's break (apparently I get the 1-3rd of January off??) We talked about being teachers and we talked about books and TV shows and such. After dinner she invited me to my place to borrow a book since I finished the ones I bought. I borrowed "Me Talk Pretty One Day" which Nate's mom recommended to me this summer but never got to me. Zeno also suggested "Coming Home Crazy" which is about an American who comes to China to teach English. It's about what he experienced in China and what America felt like to him when he came home. Should be interesting to read since I' it.

After that I asked if she felt like watching "Pushing Daises" since I had suggested it to her. We watched 2.5 episodes. In the middle of the third one she said she wanted to go to bed so I headed back to my apartment, leaving the DVDs with her. :-) It felt really nice to hang out with Zeno. I feel like I said this before but I really hope she actually likes hanging out with me and isn't just being polite. I think she's funny and kind and a lot of fun.

I woke up like a half hour ago and still feel terrible. Ugh. If I still feel bad tomorrow I'm going to the school clinic. I still have one more week of classes on the current topic but my brain has run out of ideas. I have no plans for this week and I hate doing work when I feel this crappy. I don't want to be a lazy/bad teacher and just show movies (as much as my students would love it). I should really do my lesson plan now so I can spend the rest of the day taking it easy.

UGH. I was hoping I would feel well enough today so I could get some Christmas shopping done. Next weekend I'll be in Nanjing so I'm running out of time. I feel so lazy and worthless. I HATE being sick.

In cuter news, I got this e-mail from one of my students yesterday:

I am so sorry to heard that you got a cold .Do you feel better now?
Please take care of yourself. Maybe your family mumbers aren't in Shanghai.But you still have we, we are your best freinds.
I am looking forword to having your interesting class,and see a healthy Stephanie.


Some of my students drive me crazy, some always put a smile on my face.

I suppose that's all for now. I hope I feel better next time I post.


Friday, 28 November 2008

Post Thanksgiving-ness

So yesterday was Thanksgiving. And today I think I might be dying.


I started feeling sick yesterday and now I just feel awful. My throat is all raw and aching and I cough if I try to talk, Not a good thing for a teacher. Luckily for me the lessons I had planned were already minimal on the talking for me. Today is Parent's Day, but the other teachers tell me that the parents might not even try to talk to me since they can't speak English. I hope I can get through today alright so I can just go home and go to bed. I am sitting at my desk debating if I have the energy to walk 4 steps to get a cup of water.

Yesterday was pretty normal. In my classes I showed two Thanksgiving day themed episodes of "Friends", partially because I figured it was a holiday and I wanted a break from teaching.

I asked June if she wanted to go get Thanksgiving dinner with me at this place called "Big Bamboo", a sports bar right down the street. I hadn't been yet and found on an expat website that they had a set Thanksgiving dinner meal (200rmb). It was her first time celebrating Thanksgiving, being born and raised in Shanghai. I also invited Ned, the econ professor from New York.

After work we walked over together. They had a bunch of choices for the appetizer (I ordered cream of cauliflower soup, which was quite tasty), then they had either turkey or ham with garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, steamed veggies, gravy, etc (I got turkey), and then pumpkin pie with ice cream for dessert. And one free drink. I got a glass of wine. Everything was pretty good, though not like my family cooks. I took a look at the menu and they had a LOT of choices. They had stuff like lobster bisque and fancy pants burgers and wraps and stuff. I am definitely going back to try something else. Maybe the next time I start craving American food.

After dinner I went back to my apartment. I cleaned a bit and tried to sleep but I couldn't sleep too well. I signed into windows messenger to wait for my family. Around 1:30am (my time) I got the call. I got shuffled around a lot and we had some trouble getting both the video and sound to work but finally it did and I got the chance to talk to my family. They set me up on a shelf or something and I watched them eat dinner while I had my leftover soup. Auntie Sue kept scaring the crap out of me by grabbing the microphone and talking into it.

I hope I wasn't an annoyance at dinner, or that people felt weird having me just sitting there watching them eat. Usually when people tried to talk to me they had to repeat themselves, so it was kind of troublesome. I still enjoyed it. I miss my family a lot and it was nice to be a part of their holiday in some small way. I said a rather abrupt goodbye since the chat was acting up and I needed to get to bed (as it was now around 3:40 am).

This morning I woke up at 9am. My first class starts at 9am. Oh crappity crap crap. I got dressed in a tornado of clothes and flew out the door, while getting a phone call from June that my students were looking for me. Good for them, I suppose. They could have just sat in the classroom hoping I had forgotten about them. Henry (the student that likes to say "Holy crap!") often shows up late to my class, so when I showed up late he came over to joke with me about it. Ah well. At least we still had enough time to watch both episodes of "Friends" even though we started about 10 minutes late.

I feel pretty sucky about being late. I must have slept right through my alarm because I don't remember hearing it. Being late normally makes me upset but being late as the TEACHER? With a class waiting for me? I feel a bit like a failure. And rather embarrassed. I guess staying up all night when I was already sick wasn't a good idea and I'm paying for it now.

Luckily and unluckily my plans for this weekend got canceled. Charlotte said she was feeling a bit disorganized and had stuff she needed to take care of so she asked if we could move our Nanjing trip to next weekend. At first I was reluctant but now I'm glad I agreed. I would NOT enjoy a long train ride feeling like this and it would ruin my time seeing Paul and Kyle if all I wanted to do was stay in the hostel and complain about being sick. We pushed it to next weekend. Oddly enough, next weekend is Revels. So we TMTers abroad can get together and miss Revels together.

I should go work on my lesson plan for next week since I don't have it planned yet but all I can think about is that cup of water. Imma go get it.

Man I feel like crap.

I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings.

Much love,

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Christmas Wish List

People have been asking what I would like for Christmas so here are some ideas.

Christmas Wish List

Smartfood! I know I already asked for it, but it’s still my favorite snack and I can’t find it here.

Pictures from home/stuff from home/stuff to hang on my walls or cubicle

Bedsheets: The school only gave me a sheet and a comforter. No fitted sheet. No extra blankets even though it’s getting cold. Plus I’ll need more sheets anyway when I have a guest stay over. I would love a fleece blanket and/or a set of jersey knit sheets.

Advil/Excedrin: I haven’t seen American medicine since I’ve been here.

Money is always useful, especially because I want to try and travel around while I am here. I just have no idea what the best way would be to send it.

Clothes: I didn’t bring much with me so I’m getting tired with what I have and there are limited places to go here where I can buy clothes that fit. Anything from PJs or socks to a new sweater would be welcome.

Anything you think would be useful for a teacher. Especially an ESL teacher. Books, videos, games, or resources with class ideas.

Anything that’s a specialty item. Like…only in America. Like maple sugar candy from Vermont or Tasty Kakes!

Funny/weird stuff. Like the toast bandages my mom sent me. Weird stuff makes me happy.

Anything Christmasy!

Honestly, anything I get from anyone would be amazing. Just the idea that people want to send me stuff puts a smile on my face.

Christmas Non-Wish List

This is just a list of things that I like and I know that people might want to send to me, but I can get it here or already have a lot of.

Yarn: I already have too much yarn. I have all the yarn for my blanket plus more than I bought here.

Cheez-its: I know I asked for them in my first wish list, but I have now found them here. I feel bad when people spend the money to send me something I can get down the street.

DVDs or Books: Unless it’s pretty rare or something very special to you (or a teaching book, as I mentioned above), I can probably get it here. Plus, remember, anything you send me I’ll want to take home so a bag full of books will be a little cumbersome.

Also, just FYI, I can get most super popular candies here. Like kitkats and snickers and such.

Fantasy Christmas Wish List

Just some stuff I really want but I know I can't get.

My dogs

My parents

My friends from home/college

A free ticket to visit D’Arcy in Japan

More confidence in the classroom

Being able to attend Revels/Medfest

An oven

And again, if you send me a package, please let me know what you would like me to send to YOU. :-)

Once again, for easy access, CLICK HERE to get all the information on how to contact me.


So I made my plans for Thanksgiving today. I asked June if she wanted to go to Big Bamboo (a sports bar near the school) for their Thanksgiving special. 200RMB for a 3 course meal of traditional Thanksgiving food. Since she's Chinese it's not really important to her, I suppose, but I didn't want to be alone on Thanksgiving. Also, completely randomly, a friend of Randy's is coming to school to teach salsa dancing. So tomorrow I shall salsa to work up my appetite for turkey.

Ron was a sweet heart. I checked with him first about Thanksgiving plans, but he was already booked. He then called me today to make sure I had made some plans because he was worried about me sitting at home all alone. I thought that was really nice of him. Also, he suggest I try have Sprite and Disarona mixed. Apparently it's a favorite of his. When I mixed them I thought it looked rather familiar. Hey people from Drew, what does this picture look like to you?
It looks surprisingly like Sproffee (Sprite and coffee mixed)! Kinda tastes like Sproffee too! So basically it's the alcoholic version of Sproffee. Hehe.

Today I got my Christmas package from Rose. She gave me the head's up that I was going to be getting it soon. Since I know it's Christmas themed (and since I just got a package from my parents on Monday) I am going to wait until December to open it. Let's see if I have the willpower to wait! Apparently there is stuff in there for me to decorate with. I am super excited.
Look at that box. Just staring at me.!

I thought it would be nice if I ate a little Thanksgiving dinner with my family when we have our video chat. To prepare, I've been making some of the food my mom sent me. That way I can just microwave the leftovers and have a mini 2AM Thanksgiving dinner while video chatting with my family as they eat their real feast. Plus it means I get a week of Thanksgiving stuffs instead of just one day. I guess I am making up for quality with quantity.

Yesterday I made the tortellini soup (yum!) and saved a bowl. Tonight I made the mashed potatoes and a rather weird mush. There was a recipe suggestion on the back of the stuffing box where you cook up turkey and veggies in gravy and then put the stuffing on top to cook. I had my canned turkey and made some of the instant gravy (the only veggie I had was creamed corn, so I didn't use that). It was supposed to be cooked in a skillet but all I have is this wok thing. I was worried about it looking too dry but then I added too much water and it kinda turned into slop. Here is a picture of my dinner.
Looks kinda like cat food, huh? Actually it was VERY DELICIOUS. It just tasted like someone had put turkey and stuffing and gravy in a blender. The potatoes were yummy too. I have leftovers of both. Probably enough for my mini-feast and a lunch.

I've been feeling a little burnt out recently. Maybe it's just cuz my body is used to getting a vacation around this time of year. I've decided to be lazy in class tomorrow and show some Thanksgiving themed episodes of "Friends".

I suppose that's all for now.

Much love!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hey Look! A Post About China

So I realize that most of my posts could be about any teacher at any school in any country, which specific mentions about China only happening every once in a while. (Usually when I complain about transferring subway lines in People's Square) But in my recent classes we've been talking about culture and I've learned some new stuff about China that I thought would be interesting to put in here for all of you.

I started the class by asking the students to pretend that I had never been to China before and that I knew nothing about it. I wanted them to tell me everything that they thought was important to know. Some of it I already knew but some of it was totally news to me. Here is some of the stuff that they mentioned that I hope you'll find interesting.

-The number four in Chinese sounds like the word "death" in Chinese, so four is considered an unlucky number
-You shouldn't give a clock as a gift because it means that you want that person to die soon
-You shouldn't give shoes to your boyfriend or girlfriend because it means you want them to leave
-You shouldn't share a pear with a friend because it means that you will drift apart
-If you give a gift of a cup to someone, it means that you are full of love for them
-You shouldn't open an umbrella indoors or you won't grow any taller
-Men shouldn't wear a green hat because it means their girlfriend/wife is cheating on him. Therefore, a woman should not give her boyfriend/husband a green hat as a present
-Calling someone 250 apparently means idiot?
-8 and 6 are lucky numbers
-If you give money in a red envelope (for new years or a wedding or something), the money should be even, like 400RMB.
-The person who makes the invitation for dinner should pay, although most of the younger generation has no problem "going dutch" or "AA" as they call it (and I don't know why they call it AA)

That's really all I can remember. Hope you think it's interesting.

So ends your Chinese culture lesson for the day.


A Thanksgiving Care Package

Thank you so much mom and dad.

Monday, 24 November 2008

A Full November Weekend

So Friday not much happened. It's Monday and I can't remember what the heck I did three days ago. I'm guessing it was my normal "housework/craftiness/laziness" triple threat which involves me alternating puttering around cleaning and watching movies while knitting.

Saturday I went to brunch at a place called Arch in Puxi. I still get a sense of satisfaction when I find a new place for the first time without any problems. I ordered the "American Breakfast" which included steak, sunny side up eggs, roasted herb potatoes, a fruit cup, sauteed mushrooms and onions and a....German sausage. K? It was tasty, though I am a carb queen and would have liked some toast or something. I got there at 11:30 and stayed until about 3 just laughing and talking and meeting new people. It was some of the same people from the wine tasting, plus a bunch more. I met a friend of Ron's who was visiting from Beijing.

After brunch I went with Isabelle to the craft market. She was the most excited about the idea of starting a knitting group so I invited her to go with me to get supplies. I figured I would get a whole bunch of yarn and needles and sell them to people who came to the first meeting. It would be cheaper for everyone if I bought in bulk. She and I had some trouble though. First it took us about a half and hour to get a taxi. When we finally saw an empty one, she gallantly ran across the street through traffic and waved him down. Then when we got to the craft market, I ended up in the wrong one. There are a few handicraft markets in the Yuyuan garden area and only one sells yarn (that I know of). They all look alike so it gets confusing. When we stopped looking for the market and started looking for a place to get coffee instead, we found it by accident! We were walking towards a KFC sign (KFC sells coffee here) and it was just an advertisement. Right across the street from the sign was the right craft market. Yay!

After that we walked to the subway and parted ways, but with plans to meet up later at Shanghai Studio (a bar/club) that night. I went back to Pudong and met up with Ron and his friend from Beijing who were doing some sight seeing. We stopped at my place to rest for a minute and so I could drop off my giant bag of yarn and stuff, then went to dinner.

We couldn't decide for the longest time where to go for dinner. We had considered going to the Super Brand Mall, but then decided to go to some place in JinQiao near me. But then we couldn't decide where. Finally we ended up in the foot court area underneath the Carrefour. Ron suggested we each get something we wanted and meet up to eat. I am so glad we did! The food was AWESOME and pretty cheap. I got a bowl of this delicious broth with noodles, pork and seafood dumplings. It was sooo good. I kid you not, my stomach just growled thinking about it. Ha! I am definitely going back there.

After that we headed back to Fudan where Ron is studying. We went to his dorm room so he could change for the club. It was weird and cool to be back in a dorm room. His dorm was pretty cool. His room was not very big but not too small. It even had a balcony! Down the hall there was a kitchen with a bunch of burners and every student gets a cabinet that can lock so you can store your food there. Cool! Ron also made me a tasty drink he invented made with instant coffee, chocolate milk mix, and amaretto. Delicious.

His friend from Beijing (whose real name was Alex but I decided to call Daniel) was exhausted so he ended up going back to where he was staying and get some rest. Another friend of Ron's who I think was named Christina met up with us to go to the bar. I had SO MUCH FUN. Hanging out with Ron and his friend was very cool. A lot of the people at the club were the same people from the wine tasting and brunch and pub crawl! It was nice to see familiar faces, even if I still don't know everyone that well. And everyone is so nice. First we sat and talked and had some drinks and then we went dancing! The dance floor was a little small but not totally packed like some clubs I've been too. I had a complete stranger come up to me at one point and say "GIRL! You were OWNING the dance floor!" which I took as a very high compliment. :-)

The only downside of the evening, as per usual, was the hike back to Pudong. The taxi driver didn't even know where he was going so I had to show him on a map where I lived. I got to bed around 4am. My throat was killing me from yelling and singing at the top of my lungs. I couldn't help it. They played good music.

Sunday morning I got up and had a shower. Then I FINALLY went to the post office and sent out Cori and Dave's packages. Sadly they are going to take two months to get to them. AUGH. At least sending them was relatively painless so I can get there to send more. Plus I learned the post office IS open on Sundays so my window of opportunity is wider.

As I was biking to the post office, my left pedal felt weird. Once again, the bolt came off. Luckily the bike repair people are in the same direction as the post office so I only had to bike a little further. I probably looked ridiculous as I would pedal two or three times and then swiftly kick sideways to push the pedal back on. I nearly knocked myself off a few times. The guy I went to last time wasn't there but there was another fellow just a few feet further down the road. He fixed it up super quick and I was on my way again.

Other than that I didn't do much on Sunday. Laundry and craftiness. I had a video chat with Alicia and Ciara randomly, which was nice. I had a internet phone chat with my parents. No webcam since mom's computer is off in the twilight zone and when I tried to use my webcam my sound came through bad.

At 6 I met up with a student of mine, Carter, about the medieval projects his class has been working on. Then he asked me to read a letter he was sending as part of an application. We worked together for about an hour fixing it up. Fixing grammar and spelling but mostly working on making sure it flowed. Sometimes having a native speaker is very helpful. Like knowing that propaganda has a negative connotation. Stuff like that.

Anyway, that's really it and now it's monday and I need to get to class. The days seem to go by so quickly here. I am going to Ron's birthday dinner tonight. Thursday is Thanksgiving which makes me sad, but I will be hopefully video chatting with my family.

Ok, I really do need to go to class.

Love and hugs!

Knitting Update Three, and Other Pictures

I like doing these so here is another post made up mostly of pictures!

First of all, I bought another bootleg book. I didn't even notice what was so special about this book until this weekend. I think unless you have been living under a rock you know what name/words should be in the big blank space on the cover. I guess my mind just filled in the blank automatically when I bought it. Apparently I am reading J.K. Rowling and the Deathly Hallows.
I got some yarn this weekend at the craft market since some people were interested in a knitting group but didn't know where to get yarn. I figured I would get the yarn and needles and have them pay me back. Here is my pseudo-artsy picture of the materials I got.
While I was at the craft market I bought these gloves. I know you are saying "Stephanie, you just bought those fingerless glove/mitten things, why do you need those?" Well, the gloves I already have are too thick to wear while typing and sometimes it gets cold enough in the office that I just want a little extra warmth. Plus they were only 10rmb.
I haven't posted a knitting update in a while, mostly because I have been doing other crafty stuff. Here are the two lasted completed squares of my epic blanket.

This square is made from yarn from my Grandma Rice.
This square is made from yarn that Lee gave me.
Now to post a real update!


Friday, 21 November 2008

A Family of Oranges

Isn't is adorable? It's four of the mini oranges that my co-worker gave me plus the normal sized orange I got for lunch yesterday. I currently have them stacked up like a snowman. A citrusy orange snowman.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sauron Jr. Keeps Me Warm At Night

So I've been pretty darn cold at night. We are supposed to get a winter blanket but I don't know when. So far I've been making due with my summer comforter and wearing thick socks and a sweatshirt to bed. But night before last, I kept waking up shivering and figured maybe it's time to actually start using the various heater things I have in my apartment. I checked the weather report and apparently it's been getting close to freezing at night. Oh dear. I figured I would try out the space heater instead of the air conditioner since I only needed one place (my bed) to be warm.

The space heater that came with my apartment looks just like an oscillating fan minus the blades. At least when it's off. When it's on...oh my. The whole back panel glows reddish orange. With the black spot in the middle, it looks like the flaming eye of Sauron. I've decided to call him Sauron Jr. It was a little funky using an oscillating space heater. I put it next to my bed and I would feel this flow of heat from head to foot then from foot to head. I did feel pretty warm and comfy. I set the timer on it to automatically turn off after 40 minutes so I fell asleep toasty and woke up freezing. Oh well.

Last night I was feeling kinda depressed. I had a completely spontaneous video chat with Rose which made my day so much better.

Classes are going ok I suppose. Some better than others. I think one saving grace is how quickly the weeks seem to go. I feel like I was complaining about it being Monday just yesterday and it's already Thursday. It feels like only last week I had to put my water meter readings on my door for the utility bill and I have to do it again tomorrow.

I wish I could get through to my students. This mornings class I gave them the option of discussing the topics as a class or working in smaller groups. They choose the smaller groups. I told them I would give them a strike if I heard them speaking Chinese instead of English and if they could go the whole class without getting three strikes I would end class early and play a game. I gave them a LOT of leeway. It wasn't one strike if I heard any Chinese, I only gave strikes if I heard a LOT of Chinese. They still got three strikes pretty immediately. I talked to them at the end of class trying to impress on them that as much as I wanted to have fun this was still an English class. I asked for suggestions for class rules or ideas on how to encourage English speaking. The only one I got was a student saying that if someone spoke Chinese then they should have to get in front of the class and dance or sing a song. I don't know if I want to use embarrassment as a scare tactic. It's very frustrating.

In lighter news, the older woman in my office brought in a bag of teeny tiny oranges today. SOO CUTE. And I mean teeny tiny. The smallest ones are the size of ping pong balls, the biggest only slightly bigger than that. They are a breeze to peel and so delicious. She gave me six of them. All together they MIGHT equal the size of a normal orange.

I don't know if I already wrote about this, but I am going to a brunch in Puxi on Saturday. Afterwards I am going with some people that were interested in knitting to a craft market where we will get supplies. The plan seems to be to switch locations each time we knit. So one night it would be in my apartment, next time someone else's. These are the people I met at the wine tasting so when it's my turn to host I plan to get some wine and some little snacks and have a fun evening of wine, knitting and chatting. :-)

I think that's all for now. I am enjoying some Chinese sweet and salty crackers and mini oranges. I also have one bag of the candy corn Dave sent me in my desk in case I get a sweet tooth in the afternoons. Yum.

Much love,

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A Packge from Dave

Hey look! Another video blog! I got a package from Dave and opened it in front of the camera.

Let me know if the music is distracting.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Blarg arg arg.

This weekend went by much too quickly. Saturday was spent writing, practicing and recording a song for Lee for her birthday. Sunday I cleaned and made dinner for me and Ron, the guy I hung out with at the pub crawl.

For dinner I made pasta with a mushroom sauce and garlic chicken with some garlic bread and a bottle of white wine. For dessert I tried out one of those "no bake" sets they have in the imported section. We had no bake cheesecake that actually tasted ok. I had some leftover cherry pottage that I made with my students last week during the medieval cooking so we heated that up and spooned it on top of the cheesecake. Tasty!

Ron and I had planned to go to the financial building but we ended up hanging around and eating and talking for a long time. Then he wanted to go to Carrefour since I told him I found Disaronno there for cheap. I am very amused that I could find amaretto but even after circling the kitchen department twice I can't find an ice tray. How can I enjoy a tasty glass of Disaronno on the rocks? Maybe I'll have some luck at the Pines store.

Sunday night I tried to get more midterms corrected. Ugh. They are taking so long. I stayed at work until 7pm and I'm still not finished. I hate grading something as ambiguous as writing especially on the IB scale which is out of 30. So one point can be a big difference. If a student challenges me and asked why they got a 23 instead of a 24, I really don't know what to say. Of course I always give them a confident face and a no-nonsense "I'm the teacher" answer, but it still irks me.

I brought in the leftover cheesecake to share with the office at the end of the school day. I figured eating about 2/3 of a leftover cheesecake by myself was a little gluttonous. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. I just finished eating my dinner of leftover pasta (that's right mom and dad, I ate leftover was ok) and am watching a dumb kids movie to get my mind off of work and stress and my heartburn (which with me is caused by stress).

I had so much fun on Sunday just hanging out with Ron, it made me feel like I was back in college (maybe because he still is). It was great to laugh and have some wine and talk about silly things and cook and have someone enjoy my cooking. But now I'm in a crappy mood. Maybe it's just cuz it's Monday, I have a sink full of dirty dishes, midterms aren't done being corrected, and I don't have the lesson plan set for this week yet.

Sometimes I wish I had taken that job as an assistant teacher at that primary school in Nanjing. I would have spent a lot more time doing fun stuff like dance and martial arts with the kids (that's why they offered me the job) and a lot less time on being responsible for 60 teenagers so grade crazy it would drive any teacher nuts.

Stress and homesickness always seem to come hand in hand. It's like the chicken and the egg problem; which causes which? Either way, together they aren't fun. Also, Thanksgiving is coming up fast and it'll be the first Thanksgiving I spend away from home. Suckage.

Man, I didn't mean for this entry to turn into a rant. I shouldn't write when I'm in a bad mood, I always make things sound worse than they are.