Entries from September 2008 ↓

I’mma Ride A Hump

While I still have plenty of other things to fill ya’ll in on, I’ll have to get around to it, when I have the time to write and load and stuff…

Nevertheless, please be forewarned that I will be out of contact during the first week of October (this coming week) due to National Week aka Golden Week here. (October 1st is designated National Day in the PRC… celebrated in similar fashion as the US’ 4th of July… but not really…  hmph.)

However, whatever — it basically means I get one week off from teaching, and I’ve decided to tag along on a REAL BACKPACKING excursion with a few experienced colleagues.

DESTINATION:  INNER MONGOLIA

ITINERARY: I don’t know details, but supposedly involving 3 days of desert and camel riding; 2 days of grasslands and possible horses; sleeping in yurchts aka huts; trekking of some sort. I was also told as a response to my “Where do we shower?” question, “Ummmm with a bucket….. if you’re lucky.” BOY OH BOY!!!

WHY? you may ask.

Answer: I really have no idea; it’s not as if I came here and Inner Mongolia was on my top picks to visit. It basically came down to: in the midst of the whirlwind activities with the new school year and National Week fast approaching, I did not have time to think things through nor to PLAN out anything. And as a result, I signed my name on the dotted line for an out-of-the-ordinary experience for this city gal.

Overall, it is pretty amusing as it seems that everyone in the group (there will be 5 of us in total), seem to have this concern for “how Mimi will survive” this trip. To be quite honest, I am worried too! (Well, sorta.) For one thing, this Manhattan chic has NEVER been the first to raise her hand for a ride on an animal as a means of transportation, especially if there’s been such great invention such as the 4-wheeler. And the list could go on……

But!  This will most definitely be a personal challenge for me: To withstand being away from all the modern luxuries for one entire week….. could perhaps be somewhat liberating….. just me and my camel on a desert (and well, with four other travelers of course.. but still…).

As my friend Anthony recently encouraged me,

That sounds like an amazing trip honestly. I am all about pushing myself to do things I never thought I would do…. I want to be able to look back at my life and say, ‘Wow…. I really did that?!’

Ant, you’ll dig your Peru trip, I promise!!

Anyhoots, so yeah, that’s where I’ll be for the next week. Wish me luck; Keep me in your prayers for this one!

I wonder if I’ll get a one or two-hump… Hmmmmmmm…

. . don’t burn the day. .

Looking For A Friend… at Karaoke!

REWIND: Teacher’s Day fell on the 2nd week of school. To celebrate, the Dean decided to show appreciation to all teachers with a night of karaoke! Sounds like a good gesture so far right?!  Right. HOWEVER!  The Dean made it mandatory and thought it would be a great bonding experience for each foreign teacher to buddy up with a local teacher to prepare a song to be sung in Mandarin. Yes, each foreign teacher had to sing in front of everyone else, solo, in Mandarin!  (And ditto for each Chinese teacher to sing a song in English.) Oh the presssssure! But, because everyone was soooo freakin’ busy for the first two weeks, I didn’t receive my song till the day before showtime.

Show night came, and my song wasn’t even on the list of available karaoke songs!  I rejoiced and figured that I would not have to perform… until the Dean made a request for me to sing it accapella. Boy, oh boy!

Here are my lyrics:

Zhao yao, zhao yao, zhao peng yao,

Wo yao zhao ge hao peng yao,

Jing ge li ya, ju ge gong,

Xiao xi xi ya, wo wo shou,

Ni shi wo di hao peng yao.

Hey! Hey! Hey! (repeat all)

And translation:

Looking for, looking for a friend,

I want to find a good friend,

To salute and bow to each other,

Smile and shake hands with each other.

You will be my best friend.

Hey! Hey! Hey! (repeat all)

My partner, Barbara has a good voice, so I gave her the challenge of singing a karaoke-favorite, “Greatest Love of All” by Ms. Whitney. Find us singing together in the flicks below…. Oh, by the way…. the local staff LOVE THEIR KARAOKE! Anddddddd karaoke is not so much like back in the States. Here, there was a STAGE and people singing solo or duets… not the happy-everybody-sing-a-long types… These folks are SERIOUS about it. (OK, I’m exaggerated a LITTLE bit… but only a little bit!!)

Spotlight on Foreigners…


My turn!  My partner and I belt out the fitting words….

“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way!” :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

A Cook’ed Up Dream

Word travels fast. I received news today from nephew, that one of our former teachers, Mr. Cook (taught Health Class in junior high school) reached his dream of 33 years just a few days ago…… via reaching the top of The Appalachian trail. Back in my youngun’ days, I recall Mr. Cook being a tad different from all the rest; A random memory: I do recall a poster-sized picture of him skiiing on some snow-filled mountain, hung on the wall of the classroom, with some story of his (which is a little blurry to me right now). But regardless, he was a man full of intensity, and year after year, talked endlessly of how he took up running (marathons especially) as a result of the early-age passing of his father, and of course, the importance of maintaining good health, andddd the big one:  some time in the mid 70′s he met a man who had hiked the Appalachians…. and since then, became a major goal in life for the Cook-man.

I am happy to announce that my Mr. Cook truly stood by his words of inspiration and encouragement back in my school days. “I hope the kids I taught will see I am following through on my dream,” Cook said in the local paper.

Here’s are some words from Cook aka “Old Buzzard” himself, upon reaching his dream!

Three different people were planning to hike Mt. K with me this day. I said no. There would be too many emotions in me this day. Mt. K is the greatest vertical of the whole trail. There is a very steep and dangerous mile or more in this climb. I tried not to think about my fall on Labor Day during this time, but it kept haunting me. One step at a time. Just concentrate on one step nice and easy as she goes. The trail eventually leveled off and then rose gently again. I saw a sign that I was but a mere 1 mile from the summit. I was alone and my mind started going over the past 33 years of my life from the time I met Hiram in 1975 to this moment. My pace slowed. I did not want the 33 years that changed my whole life to a positive vein to come to a close. I missed my family, my wife was waiting, my friends, life. I can come here again. I can go out my back door in Maine and hike the most beautiful parts of this glorious wonderful trail again whenever I want. I thanked God for keeping the Old Buzzard healthy and giving me this chance that so many never have. I looked around to see if I was alone–I busted into tears and I laughed at the same moment. I was the happiest man on earth. I am one lucky person. I touched the sign. 2176.2 miles!!

Wanna read more?! By all means, check his blog here.

I think it is appropriate for me to say to all reading this right now:

But rushing around seems what’s wrong with the world,

Don’t lose the dreams inside your head,

They’ll only be there til’ you’re dead.

Dream little darling,

DREAM!

djm

Thank you Mr. Cook, for encouraging your students to stay on the right path and to never lose sight of our dreams; Gotta chase ‘em down!

. . don’t burn the day. .

My First Pee

Yup, today it happened. I don’t quite know how or why and I don’t think I’ll ever know. But in the middle of class today, one of my favorite (and cutest) kids waved her hand and tapped her feet/running-while-sitting down style and said, “Ms. Mimi!!!  I need to go to the bathroom!” Of course, her hand was also covering her you-know-what, so I said, “Ok, go ahead!”  Two milliseconds passed and wet pants, wet chair and wet floor —- happened. Le Sighhh.

Fortunately, class was about to end in about 10 minutes…and she was no longer my problem. I called the homeroom teacher and phewww, I was safe!

And well, while I’m at it, let’s learn some new vocabulary! Also today, however in my other class, I heard… “Teacher, I don’t have my rubber!”  I triple-taked and recalled what my colleagues had forewarned me a couple weeks ago: rubber = eraser on this side of the world. Phewwww!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Before and After-School Boot Camp

Every morning, the students are lined up on the track for morning flag pledge and excercises. Here’s some shots of them from my office window:

And then after-school, the officials run drills with the boys and girls… I guess to practice for school functions and stuff. umm shrug. Think ROTC…

. . don’t burn the day. .

A Lesson on Private Parts

I’m sure this caught many of ya’lls attention! Sooooo this is what I taught last week in Science class… and remember, I teach FIRST graders!

Mmm Hmm, those are “peek-a-boo flaps,” above.

. . don’t burn the day. .

It’s Been A Long Time…

I know, I know… I’ve been slacking majorly on the blog tip, but I’ve been SOOOOOOOO BUSY and not to mention, egggggg-zausted with the teaching thing.  I’ve got quite a bit to backtrack and catch ya’ll up on and I’ll certainly try my best to bring ya’ll up to speed!  Here are some quick notes:

Teaching is NOT an easy job. First, surprisingly waking up at 5:30am isn’t all toooo terrible (despite that my previous jobs required me to COME HOME at 5:30am…but anyway….) … what is terrible is that by the time I arrive home in the evening, I am completely zonked. And to all my teacher-friend readers out there….. It is incredible how many after-school-hours you spend talking about your kids!!!  I mean, EVERY DAY as myself and the roomies gather around for our evening-chill out session, we share stories of our students… “the things that kids say… and do….” hilarious!  You just can’t make these stories up! (Yeah, at some point I’ll take the time to type out some good ones, but for now — just be happy I’m blogging.)  Even more entertaining and hair-pulling…. is stories of the parents! This is the part that makes teaching a not-so-easy job. As mentioned in previous post, parents are … oye!! ALL sorts of scenarios: divorced, step parent(s), adopted kid, housewives, househusbands (though, I have yet to personally encounter this), guilt-filled divorced parents and their manipulative crying kids, and well, crying kids in general (I had about 4 in one day last week)… basically, you name it! I’ve got it!  The varying approaches of parenting, or better yet, the clueless approaches of parenting bewilders me!  I’ve already been told by a couple parents that they admire my time, efforts and tips on disciplining and teaching their students and that they wouldnt mind sitting in on my class to see me in action, and not to mention learn some English too! LOL!  Of course, everyone reading this is welcomed to join me in a grand head shake. I’ve been pretty much certified in their minds a “professional” in this field – that I can single handedly turn their rugrat into an independent genius while at the same time, advising them on how their respective families should function in order to create the best environment for their kid. I’m convinced if I advise them to jump off a bridge, they’d do it in a heartbeat because they “trust my professional advice.”

HEADDDDDDDDDDDDDD SHAKE!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Remembering 7: From Shanghai to New York

Despite the fact that I’m physically not in the city of Nueva York this year, and I will be “celebrating” Mid-Autumn Festival aka Moon Festival with a dinner, courtesy of the school, on coincidently, “a day that we (New Yorkers, Americans, Human Beings) can never forget”…. my thoughts and sympathies are to those who lost their loved ones to inhumane acts that occurred in New York, on this day just 7 years ago.

Through the many miles and time zones, I remember that morning vividly. Some of you already know of my story, but here it is for the record:

  • I remember awaking to more sirens than the norm (for living in Manhattan anyway) on that very Tuesday morning.
  • I remember not getting my weather report, but rather, NY1 announcing Tower 1 being hit.
  • I remember my brother’s disrupting-my-morning-routine-phone call as the Tower 2 was hit.
  • I remember not fully registering what had just happened, but rather, being super-concerned with not arriving late on first day of class.
  • I remember my Professor announcing The Pentagon had been hit.
  • I remember witnessing from classroom windows, the mass exodus heading northbound on 3rd Ave.
  • I remember being dismissed and yet still being super-concerned with getting to work in midtown on time… only to learn that the subway system had been shut down.
  • I remember joining the exodus on Park Ave to my apartment (at the time, on 27th/Lexington).
  • I remember turning back and seeing clouds of dark smoke hovering over the masses.
  • I remember a woman collapsing onto the the ground, in tears.
  • I remember chaos and confusion.
  • I remember walking out of my apartment the next day in an attempt to donate blood, to the most eerily barren, dusty state of the city I have ever seen or could have imagined; felt like I was on set of an Old Western.
  • I remember being extra careful as my sidewalk was flooded with posters, candles, pictures of missing loved ones. (Military base was a block away on 26th St.)
  • I remember seeing military trucks and tanks lined-up on Lexington Ave… TANKS!
  • —-and the list goes on…

The point is, I still can’t believe I’m in Shanghai right now, but irregardless of where I am physically standing, my heart goes out to New York today. I remember it all. And I remember all who’ve come in and out of my life, within and beyond the walls of NY.

I’ve been known to send annual reflective letters during this time of year and response rates indicate warm reception, but of course there are those you don’t hear from; for some reason, the touchy-feely texts makes many uncomfortable… but that is okay. All that is important to me is to allow for my stance be shared; and if reciprocation comes along, I’m all arms!

But in any case, last year could be summed up as a period of true reflection, reorganization and rejuvenation. This year, I really upped my game of life with newness and challenges. But, I could not have done this without the endearing encouragement and support from my family and friends.  Thank you for listening. Thank you for believing. Thank you for being you. I appreciate you all. I love you all. The pleasure is certainly all mine for having you ride with me on this coaster called Life. Let’s continue to climb two by two; Celebrate we will, for life is short but sweet for certain.

. . don’t burn the day. .

Meet My Munchkins

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera on the very first day of school and missed out on a pretty cool opening ceremony conducted on the track/field where all students in both regular and international divisions of the school lined in formation for the Monday morning flag ceremony, held weekly. (Though, this was the grand version where both divisions unite.. however, moving forward, the ceremonies will be conducted separately…which is why I’m a bit upset with myself for having forgotten my camera. Ah well..)  So every Monday, teachers are expected to dress up a notch for the flag raising ceremony as well as students have a special Monday black/white uniform. The little boys have suspenders.. so cute!!  But I forgot my camera…so here’s a photo of each of my classes in their Tuesday uniform!

Class 1 – (This is my better class, but shhh ya ain’t heard that from me!”

Class 1 munchkins are from Taiwan, Zambia (yes, Zambia!), US, Italy, Hong Kong, Canada, China, Spain and Australia… cuties!!

Class 2 munchkins are bit more trickier to keep under control… but so far I haven’t had too much trouble putting them in check :-)   These little peoples reign from: Holland, Denmark, Taiwan, Japan, China, US, Korea, Belgium, Thailand, Malaysia and Canada…

Already, it has been a bit of an eye-opener as I am getting to know the kiddies on a more personal level. Having already spoken to a couple parents with regards to their children, I’ve learned how much good parenting and solid family foundations are so pivotal in the development of these little beings…. and also, how many parents are SO CLUELESS as to how to raise their kids!! Not that I’ve got actual parenting experience.. but damn….. some of these parents….are in trouble. Ie. Of course all parents are concerned with their kids, especially it being their first year of schooling and are worried about their child’s competence in relation to the rest of the class, and think the world of their child… especially if it is their only child. Then of course, these kids are all mixed, so whereever they were prior, they were used to being the center of attention in their respecitive kindergarten classes and/or home countries etc. But now, they are amongst children just like them — all mixed and “special” in their own way. But what I’ve found in talking to these parents is their need to “justify” on behalf of their child’s both outstanding and moreso, lacking areas. One question they have is: How to make my child better?  I gave a simple tip: “Have your child read with you nightly – a bedtime story, fairytale, poem.. anything!”  Parents’ reacted as if I discovered America. It is unbelievable!

Unfortunately, some stories that I have heard are not the most positive in that they behave certain ways, in class: disruptive, aloof, insecure, shy etc. as a result of parents’ divorce and/or other family-related issues. Quite sad when you think of how these easily-influenced little peoples are brought up in these “defunct” environments.

Then, when you think about it. These kids as first graders are being introduced to so much upon entrance to this thing called, “school.”  At least my kids have: English, Social Studies, Integrated Science, Chinese, Math, swimming, PE, music, art and who knows what other electives they’ve got. And all local teachers (meaning Chinese and Math) hit them hard with homework!  And well, I must follow suit as well especialy with English Language Arts being a primary class for these kiddos. But! This one student in my Class 2, from Belgium… I found that not only does she take all the previously named courses within the school, she is then taken to learn Dutch at an outside language school!  I mean, I know that the best time to learn languages is when young, but damn!! That is A LOT to throw down on the little girl!!

But teaching subjects is not just my role; there’s a lot more responsibility that comes with being a teacher of Grade 1. There is the whole laying of foundation on how to be a good student and life lessons of how to be independent individuals. Ie. I was explaining to a parent, how I read the directions to class with the students following along with their finger, word for word, and then ask students to re-read the directions aloud to me. The parent was shocked and responded, “OH! So it is important to read the directions to the kids too?!?” I was like.. “ummm YES!!!  They need to learn to read and do on their own!! I will not be doing any hand-holding later in the semester!!  They learn to read by actually practice reading!!”  (I shook my head internally at this clueless parent.)  But I have been forewarned, the parents will be harder to deal with than the actual students. Especially “expat parents” who think they can walk on water…

Anyhoots, I’m a real teacher now. Daily anecdotes of my students have become focus of my daily and evening conversations with colleagues and friends. However, I refuse to let this take over my need to converse on my other, cultural topics of interest. But as easy at it sounds, this is pretty hard to do because a) there are sooo many stories to share from one day of teaching and b) it’s hard to find folks who are as culturally-open to varied convo topics. (This is when I miss folks from home.)

Alrighty, thanks for letting me blab away…. till next time….

. . don’t burn the day. .

Another Farewell

One of the greatest upsides of the life abroad experience is the opportunity to meet globally like-minded folks and sharing “what brought you here”-tales.  But to be honest, with the great expat community here in Shanghai, it has proven to be quite challenging to find expats with substance. (But then again, I guess you can say that is the same stateside as well, of just regular folks.  But here, it’s even that much more difficult especially with the limited community that does speak English.)  And then, when you do find those who you vibe with… farewells are in order… just a matter of time…

Which brings us to… the downside of living abroad and befriending other expats, as schedules are seasonal. Many expats are contracted for a certain period of time (myself included) – some, shorter/longer than others; some are given the option of extending, and others, not so much. Granted, I’ve only been in China for just a little over 2 months but it has seemed so much longer. I was fortunate to have found a solid group of buds by the end of my first week who have made the last 2 months very much memorable for me…but sadly, their time in Shanghai has been up!  First, E made his exit and now Cubes and Max… sniff!  Simply irreplaceable! Here’s a shot of our farewell dinner to C and M:

. . don’t burn the day. .