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What Not to Say to a Teacher

September 30, 2015
This is my sixth year teaching, and I'm loving it again. In a positive environment and with the right support, teaching can be one of the most rewarding careers out there. With that being said, there are still some things that I'd rather NOT hear on a regular basis. Here goes nothing...

1) "We will meet about it during your planning time." That time is precious and most likely I have about a million other things on my to-do list. Last year, I did not get a lunch break, so my only time away from my students all day was my 50 minute planning period. During that time, I always had a ton of grading to do, copies to make for the following day (who wants to wait in the long line at the copy machine in the morning??), e-mails to respond  to, and parents to call. Oh, and this was the only time during the day that I was technically free to use the bathroom, so of course I made a pit stop there. Unfortunately for me, we had our grade level meeting on Fridays, I had to meet with the district mentor on Tuesdays, and one of the other days was ALWAYS taken by one of the coaches. I was lucky to get 1-2 times a week free to actually plan. On days when our planning periods were taken away (so most days,) I seriously had not one moment alone. The sad thing was that I went in early and stayed late as well, so every day was a 10-11 hour day or more likely with no break! This year I am blessed with ample planning time, which is a rarity in the field of education. Amazingly, there are days when I finally feel "caught up," although I still stay over sometimes. When I do stay an hour or two over to work, I'm not bitter about it because some days I have extra time to just chat with my co-teacher, so it evens out. The extra planning time helps me prepare as a teacher and I know that I'm able to deliver better lessons!

2) "It's raining. You have to have indoor recess." Yes, hearing this is upsetting to many students, but it's really me as the teacher who is the most bummed out. Kids need time to run around, socialize, play, and work their large motor skills. While there are some quiet indoor games to play, this isn't an equal substitute for the time they miss when they should be outside. It is recommended that children in early childhood get at least one hour of exercise a day. It's hard to accomplish that when cooped up in a classroom with limited space.

3) "Miss K, this fell off the wall." I had to battle with classroom decorations falling off the wall all year last year. We were told that we weren't allowed to use hot glue gun because it would damage the paint on the wall, so we were only permitted to use masking tape. Of course that meant our decorations were falling down left and right, especially because of the humidity. Our air conditioner was turned off at night and over the weekends, so that didn't help. Every morning my students would hand me about 5 things that had fallen. It's still early in the year for me this time around, so I haven't had to deal much with this yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

4) "Just stay after school so that we can meet." Okay, I'd much rather meet after school than during my planning time (see #1), BUT I like to be asked and not told that I have to stay! I mean, what if (dare I say it??) I had plans. In the past, sometimes I did have places to be, and I just had to rearrange everything for a surprise meeting with a parent or colleague. I have no problem meeting anyone after school, but please be respectful and schedule a meeting with me instead of just assuming. Again, I don't really have this problem at my current school...Have I mentioned that I love it here?

5) "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." No one has ever said this to me directly, thank goodness, but what a terrible way to ignorantly slam an entire profession. Yes, I'm sure that there are some teachers who are only teaching because they can't do what they really want, but there are people like that in almost every field! I will say that before I ever taught, I thought it seemed like a stress-free job. While I always respected my teachers, I thought they had it easy because until I started teaching, I had no idea about all the behind-the-scenes action. Those hands-on lessons that my teachers delivered while they circulated the room and casually guided our learning must have required so much prep work. Now that I've done it myself, I really admire my childhood teachers so much more!

6) "Unfortunately ________ (insert name of favorite student here) will be moving away." Usually this is something that is told to me with not much notice and suddenly I'm without my favorite little angel that makes my day 100 times more tolerable with his/her cuteness. I totally get attached to my students! When I think about some of my past students, I even get heartache. Also, why does it always seem like the students with the less-than-stellar behavior stick around all year?!

7) "The Promethean board isn't working." (Feel free to replace the Promethean board with any other kind of technology you might use for a lesson.) Just hearing those words would make me break out into a sweat. At most schools, technology is used throughout the day to enhance the lesson, but last year our lesson plans for 1st grade WERE our flip charts for the Promethean board. In my lessons, I tried to make them hands-on and interactive and also tried to include music and short videos. Without the technology working, I had to improvise by using just a regular old whiteboard for everything. It never kept the students engaged that long. Plus, your students can tell when you aren't as prepared! We do not have a Promethean board to use at the school I'm currently at, but students will start using their i-Pads in the class next week. I've never used i-Pads with students just because I haven't had the opportunity. Students have to type in a long username before they can log on. It's harder than it sounds when you have 25 five and six year olds. Also, our school's internet is not reliable and frequently cuts out. I am always going to have a back up plan, but the students are SO excited about using their i-Pads, so I'm sure they will be equally frustrated if we can't log on. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

8) "I threw up this morning, but my mom said I had to come to school." I'm such a germophobe, so this is never what I want to hear. Like most teachers out there, I have gotten sick from my students. Preparing for a sub is work in itself, and when I have to miss a day, I always worry. Seeing as how at my current school we get zero sick days, I want to try to avoid illness as much as possible. 

9) "In three weeks, little Johnny will be going away for a week. Can I have all the make up work for him now?" If you want the honest truth, I have never planned that far ahead. Last year I had to make a lot from scratch or at least find a ton of stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers. I didn't feel like there was much available at my school in terms of resources, so no, I never had all the materials ready that far in advance. Right now I am waiting on the English lead to give me some workbooks so that I can base my plans for the following week off of them. Even if I wanted to plan right now, I couldn't really do it without the materials I'm waiting on. Also, lesson plans change so much and good teachers adjust them accordingly based on the needs of their students. I find myself planning for a whole week and revising nightly--that's what works the best for me. We have meetings with our grade level and the content might have to change because of what the other teachers say, so that's another reason why planning way far in advance does not work best for time management in my experience. 

10) "I don't understand. He doesn't act this way at home." I get why parents get frustrated if their child has behavior problems at school but is fine at home, but school is a completely different environment. At home there aren't about 20 other kids with one adult in the room. Plus, school has a whole set of demands that aren't placed on the child at home. Luckily, this also works in my favor. I've had many parents tell me things like, "Chrissy (yes, that's a made up name!) throws fits at home and hits me. I can't believe she is so good at school and doesn't cause any problems."

What do people say about your profession that bothers you? Would you be interested in reading a "What to Say to a Teacher" post? 

What Surprised me About China

September 24, 2015
This isn't my first time in China and it's not my first time living in Asia, so I didn't expect to be shocked by much. However, I still find myself surprised and sometimes even bewildered. I love discovering cultural idiosyncrasies at the most unexpected times. I've highlighted a few of them below. 

* Mooncake- I probably shouldn't start out with this one because it's going to make me look like an idiot, but I thought all mooncake was the same. (In fairness, I discovered that it wasn't very quickly after moving here!) Back in 2004, I went to China for the first time and tried mooncake during the Mid-Autumn Festival. I thought it was delicious--it had red bean paste inside. This time around, I went to the grocery store, bought some moon cake, and took a large bite thinking it was going to be the same delectable treat that I had years ago. Wrong. Inside the mooncake I picked was an egg yolk right in the center. It wasn't hard boiled, either. I was told that this was most likely a salted duck egg. This type of moon cake is just not for me, but there are so many other kinds that I do like and didn't even know existed until recently. For example, I tried chocolate mooncake just the other day! Even the types of crusts can vary.

While on the subject of mooncake, my students had to color and decorate "baby mooncake." It was basically a mooncake personified with a face and body. I don't know why I think that is so hilarious, but I laugh to myself every time I hear my co-teacher ask my students about how their "baby mooncake" looks.

* "The parents don't like it when you change your hairstyle, so you should try to keep it the same." I've heard this from a few people now. If this is true, good thing my hair was tied up the first time I met my students' parents so that they couldn't see I just got a ton of it chopped off. I am probably going to keep my hair the same color for awhile, so this shouldn't be an issue. I'm not really sure why this matters that much, but might ask my co-teacher. She has worked with a lot of Westerners and is not easily offended. She will often ask me about American culture, so I hope she can shed some light on this one for me.

* Fire drills in China- The middle school already had their fire drill and I heard that there was actual smoke everywhere. At a staff meeting, we went over the procedure for the fire drill and we have to dampen all of these towels/give each student one to hold over their mouths as they exit the building. We have a fire drill coming up this week and I'm dreading it. My students are so young--I don't want any of them to be scared or cry, although I might! I hope it is not too intense for them. I'm going to prep them ahead of time so that they aren't panicking.

* Getting a taxi- I've never been turned down for a cab so many times in my entire life. It appears to me that taxi drivers are wary of foreigners because a group of us will often get passed by for a Chinese person down the street. I've been told to get out of taxis before. I don't know if it was because the driver did not want to take me and was discriminating or if he just didn't want to take me because he did not like my destination. When I have to go somewhere, I try to allot extra time since I never know exactly how long getting a taxi will take.

* The concept of guanxi- I didn't know at all about guanxi until our orientation, but it helped explain a lot about working closely with a Chinese staff. In a nutshell, if someone asks you to do a favor for them, you should try really hard to say yes. This will not go unnoticed and your "guanxi bank" will fill up so that when you need something, you will most likely get what you ask for in return.

* Cupping Therapy- I saw a few people with these strange reddish-purplish marks on them and was wondering about it. No, there are not boatloads of people with weird birthmarks all over their bodies. The marks are actually from cupping therapy, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote blood flow. In cupping therapy, suction cups are placed on the body in an attempt to draw out toxins and impurities. Hollywood celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow have tried it. There is also the "wet" version of this that involves being sliced with a cupping scalpel and bleeding into the cups...I think I'll pass on that one. 

* Our water and power usage was posted in our building. I did read in our contracts that if we don't use all of our monthly water allowance that we can get some money back. We are also expected to pay if we go over, so I knew it was being monitored. What I did not expect was for how much water and power we used to be posted in our building. It was kind of embarrassing because I accidentally left a light on one day when I was at work and so my power usage was on the higher end of the spectrum. Even though our names aren't posted, our room numbers are so Scott was sure to look at mine and tease me. It has made me more conscious of conserving energy, so I guess that's a good thing.

* I really dislike my Chinese lessons. (I feel guilty for admitting this.) This is surprising for me because I have always loved studying a new language, but learning Mandarin is stressing me out. I expected that it would be hard, but the pronunciation is killing me. A few days ago our instructor gave me and Scott a quiz that we both failed. I just wanted to take it for fun and not in a serious way because I don't plan on becoming fluent. That would take years of study and more time than I have in the day. All I wanted to do was learn some phrases that might help me out in my day-to-day life. Right now I am going twice a week, which is not a good amount for me. I'd really like to go once a week so that I have more time to study the vocabulary for the next session. I paid for ten sessions in advance, so I'm going to see how I feel at the end of the last session. I also think I'd really prefer to work with the teacher alone because all I focus on now is getting called on and I can't even fully concentrate.

* I was told,"The subway system in Shanghai is terrible, you'll never get a seat, and it's filthy." I've ridden the subway about 5 times now, got a seat more than half of the time, and don't find what was said to me to be the case at all. I heard that mothers will just let their kids pee on the train, but thankfully that is something I've yet to witness. Maybe I've just been lucky so far, but I don't mind taking the subway in Shanghai.

* It takes forever to get mail! This is my sixth year living abroad, so I'm familiar with the waiting game, but I don't think I've ever had to wait THIS long. My dad air mailed me a package over a month ago and it hasn't arrived. A letter got sent out to me about three weeks ago and it's still not here. I'm getting really worried that both items will never come. Scott and I both mailed our parents a postcard, and my parents got the one I sent about a week ago, but Scott's parents and his grandma are still waiting to receive theirs. 

* The popcorn is all sweet. Okay, this would have surprised me except that my Chinese co-teacher from last year told me about this. While I do love some kettle corn, I did work at a movie theater for almost ten years, so I'm going to miss the salty, buttery popcorn I'm used to.

* The parents of my students are meeting in a public place to talk about my co-teacher and me. When my co-teacher first told me this, my heart sank and I got extremely worried! Were they mad at us? Did we do something wrong? My co-teacher told me to relax because "this type of thing is very common in China." Today I also got three VERY nice e-mails from the students' parents, so that's reassuring!  

What has been surprising to you on one of your trips?

Dreaming of Pay Day

September 21, 2015
So it hasn't been THAT long since I last got paid, but there was a lapse for me because I switched jobs. Also, my last credit card bill was from when I was in Iceland, which was one of the most expensive trips I've ever taken in my entire life. (However, as Rachael so accurately put it, "It was worth every penny.") On top of that, I did have plenty of expenses before leaving for China. The biggest one being my flight over here. We do get some money at the end of the year to help defray that cost, but I will not be receiving back all the money I spent. I also had to save up enough money to live on for the past month and still have ten more days to go until I get paid again, so let's just say it's not the best feeling to watch my savings account drain. I've been here for over a month now, and I have gone out and done things, but am looking forward to having more financial freedom once I receive my first paycheck! I've already been planning how I want to spend some my money!

Book accommodation for the Maldives and/or buy a flight. My friend Scott and I decided that we are definitely going to go there over our winter break. Rachael has decided to join us--even better! Scott found some gorgeous over the water bungalows that are not too expensive. If you opt to share a wall with someone else instead of going for a private bungalow, you can save a ton of money. It's not like we'll be on a honeymoon, so if we can get a gorgeous place for a fraction of the price then I don't mind having a neighbor. 

* Get my blog redesigned. It's not that I'm unhappy with my current design, but I'd like a few updates! It looks like I just moved to Savannah when that is not the case and I'd also like to start a travel page. A few updates are in order.

* Sponsor some blogs. I haven't done that in awhile and since I hope to be posting more frequently it just makes sense. I also happen to think it's fun. 

* Go shopping! I thought that I wasn't going to be able to find ANY clothes in China, but I found some stuff at H&M last weekend that fit perfectly. There are also Zara's and other Western chains that have stuff that fits me! Also, in the French concession two weeks ago, I was tempted about 900 times. I'm going to try to limit buying a ton of souvenirs, but still want to invest in a couple of nice ones. My apartment is bare right now, so maybe something to decorate my new place? Perhaps some hand-painted calligraphy to hang on the walls?

* Take a trip to the Fabric Market. I didn't come here with a winter coat and need one! The fabric market in Shanghai is known for its beautiful cashmere coats. I'd like to have one made now so that it's ready and waiting for me by the time the cold weather hits. If it turns out the way I want it to, I foresee myself spending a lot of cash here...I mean, tailor-made clothes in any style I want?? I might actually have a decent wardrobe again. I talked to another teacher who got boots made and she's extremely happy with them.

* Pay off my credit card bill. I do this every month, anyway, but since I do have to put money towards this, I thought I'd mention it.

* Enjoy a night out on the town. Drinks are actually expensive in Shanghai...at least they are at all of the bars people at our school recommend. I spent about 9-10 USD per drink. Spending that much isn't something that I want to make a habit of, but splurging for a night out once in awhile is fine by me. 

* Put at least $500 towards one of my student loans.  Last year I could only afford to make the minimum payments, which was not good because the interest has accumulated and I owe MORE even though I've been paying. I hope to get the total amount back to where it was before last year or at least be able to pay one loan off. I tried to do that last year, but it just wasn't possible. 

* Get my hair dyed. I haven't touched up my roots since April. Thankfully I just get highlights so it isn't that noticeable, but it still bugs me.

* Get acupuncture. I've always been curious about acupuncture and what better place to try it than in China? I have a terrible back and I'd like to go to a few sessions and see if it helps.

My only regret with this list is that I probably won't be able to put any money into my savings to help replenish that account, but that's what next month is for. I don't feel too bad since I will be putting money towards my student loans, and I have not put a big chunk of change towards those in awhile. In a few weeks, I will probably also sign up for some tutoring jobs so that I can save even more.

How will you spend your next paycheck? What's on your wish list?

First Few Weeks in Shanghai

September 16, 2015
I've already written about my highs and lows since moving abroad, and last week I posted about my day trip to Zhujiajio, but I wanted to focus more on what I've actually done so far here in China as well as throw in some information on quirky cultural differences.

One thing that I'm obsessed with here in China are their milk tea shops! There are two about a 5 minute walk from where I live, and I think I usually get three drinks from there per week...at least. Seriously, the people at the shop are starting to recognize me and they even gave me a loyalty card! Scott loves it just as much as I do. At first I thought it was a bubble tea shop, but only one of their drinks has the tapioca balls. To figure out which one it was, Scott took a picture and sent it to his sister-in-law who can speak Mandarin. We now know that it's the tenth one down on the menu, ha! Besides bubble tea they have all sorts of flavored milk drinks, smoothies, milkshakes, and tea drinks. My top one is what I'm pretty sure is a taro smoothie. Whatever it is, it's fantastic!

I had to make a hair appointment right away because I had a freak hair incident. I've long had trouble with knots, but when I arrived in Shanghai and washed my hair, I came out of the shower with a HUGE knot in my hair...It was bigger than my fist and impossible to brush out. Even Scott tried (without success) to brush it out, God bless him... but let's not bless him too much because he kept telling me that it felt like there was something in it. There wasn't...it was just pure knot. Anyway, I decided to wash my hair again and use lots of conditioner and then once I got out of the shower, I added some leave-in conditioner, but it didn't help at all. I booked an appointment as soon as I could, but I had to have that massive knot in my hair for five days until I could go in. Rachael recommended a salon to me, so I went to the hairdresser who usually works on her hair. It was embarrassing, and other foreigners were staring at me while two hairdressers slathered my hair down with conditioner and then used a razor to cut pieces out of the knot. Both of them were working on it for 40 minutes! The hairdresser said, "There's no way you could've gotten this out by yourself." He informed me that if I went to a local salon by where I lived that they probably would have just chopped the whole thing off. He asked me what happened, and I told him that I had no idea and was hoping he could tell me. He said my hair was a little dry but not dry enough to form knots like that. My hair WAS really dry in July because parts of fell into the Blue Lagoon by accident. Note to anyone reading: If you ever go to Iceland and float around in the Blue Lagoon tie your hair up with multiple hair ties for good measure. The water there is extremely bad for your hair and it made mine feel like straw for more than a week. (My hair fell out of the bun I had it up in and that's why it got into the water.) Okay..back on topic...Well, I ended up getting about 8 inches cut off of my hair and a conditioning treatment. I thought it was really expensive at $165, but I am picky about my hair and have had many horrible experiences, so I'll pay more for someone who knows what they're doing!

After and so much happier!
For our school, we had an orientation from August 22- September 1st with no days off. This culminated with a banquet which was loads of fun! The school paid for our food and provided us with wine and beer. Teachers who worked there previously all kept telling us that they felt sorry for the new teachers because in past years the banquet was much better, but I didn't know the difference and thought it was great! Afterwards, a group of us went out dancing. Usually I'm not a big dancer, but I had a ton of fun dancing that night.

Another wonderful perk of living here is the cheap massages! A friend recommended a local place pretty close to where I live. She told me that it was "sketchy" but that the workers do a good job. Now, it's not the nicest looking place and it was a little dingy/dirty, but Scott and I LOVED our foot massage! It only cost us about $7.15 for a whole hour! They soak your feet in hot water and then even give you a back and neck massage on top of the foot/lower leg massage that it comes with. I've been in there three times already. The women are very nice, surprisingly strong for their stature, and I leave feeling very relaxed. Now I just need to find a place for back massages since my back is not the best!

Since moving here, I've been to an area of Shanghai called Xujiahui a few times. There are a couple of shopping malls, and it's an ideal place to stop for electronics. This area was the first place I visited in the city! One of Rachael's friends helped some of the new teachers get cell phones. I ended up spending almost $1,000 on an i-phone 6, a years worth of service, and a phone case. I used StraightTalk in the States and couldn't unlock my phone in China like people who had AT&T and Verizon. Plus, my old phone was an i-phone 4s, so I needed a new one anyway. I returned to Xujiahui later because the keyboard on my laptop got messed up and I couldn't type the letters z,x,c, or v. I paid about $30 to get it fixed and picked up a USB flash drive. There is a famous dumpling place there that serves xiao long bao (soup dumplings), so I know I'll be back because Scott incessantly talks about them! We searched Shanghai for some and I finally got to try some for the first time! The broth is inside the dumpling. They are tricky to eat at first and on the first attempt I had spilled some broth, but by the end I got the hang of it.

In other news, we got this e-mail saying that if we wanted to that we could sign up and receive one free milk for each working day. I thought that was hilarious, and I do drink a lot of milk, so I signed up. One of my friends found out that I signed up and teased me, but now she is regretting not signing up because she wants it for her coffee, ha!

It was Teacher's Day in China on September 10th. One of my students drew me a picture, a few came up to me and told me to have a happy Teacher's Day, I got some homemade cookies, a small box of flowers, some chocolate truffles, and L'Occitane body lotion. That was so nice of the kids and parents to think of me, especially because I only just started teaching their sons/daughters. I also like the idea that Teacher's Day is celebrated here. I know that there's a Teacher's Day in the States, but I'm not sure when it is, so I didn't really expect my students or parents to know either. It's just nice to feel appreciated!

Last weekend, Scott and I decided to take the subway to People's Square and then walk down to the Bund. It was sweltering hot outside, but the view of Shanghai's famous skyline was worth it. We walked around Nanjing Road and then decided to have lunch at Shook. We sat by the window and had a pretty good view of the Bund, not to mention the food was delicious and we had a three course meal. We opted for their set menu, which was a way better value than trying to order individual dishes.

All over Shanghai there are these sellers that will approach you asking whether or not you want to buy their "flowers." What they mean by that are some fake flowers, mushrooms, or leaves on a clip. I've spotted adults and kids alike with these "flowers" clipped in their hair or on their belongings. Scott and I decided to join the club and buy some to clip to our bags! Fun!

Oh, and last but not least, I cannot fail to mention this awkward health check that we had to go to. In order to get a working Visa in China, we had to get checked. It wasn't like a bunch of us sat in a waiting room and then got called one by one to get an exam by one doctor. We had to change into these robes and then were given tickets and told which room to go to. Once we visited every room, we were allowed to get dressed again. We didn't know exactly what they were checking for in each room and the EKG room freaked everyone out a little bit because all of a sudden our robes were getting opened up, we were exposed, and there were suction cups all over us. It all happened so fast, but at least they were efficient and we got out of there quicker. Many of us were shocked because there wasn't any explanation as to what was going on in each room. It was also uncomfortable having to be in those robes with all of our future co-workers!

What's your favorite thing to do when you first get to a new place?

Day Trip to Zhujiajiao

September 9, 2015
It's crazy, but we had a half-day with the students, then taught them two more full days, only to have three days off because China had a national holiday celebrating 70 years of anti-fascism. I asked my Chinese co-teacher more about this holiday, but she told me this is the first time that she was celebrating something like this. She also informed me that there was a military parade in Beijing and that it was such a big deal that no flights could go in or out of Beijing on that day. Scott and I decided to take advantage of having some time off, so we took a trip out to Zhujiajiao, which is one of the closest water towns to Shanghai.

To get there, we took the subway to People's Square and exited the subway station at Exit #1 and used our map in Shanghai Lonely Planet to get us to Pu'an Road Bus Station. We had no idea what bus to get on, so we just showed a worker where we wanted to go in our guide book and he directed us to the right bus. It was only 12 yuan ($1.90 USD) for a one-way ticket. The crappy thing is that there were no seats, so we did have to stand for over an hour. I'm going to have to get used to that because I'm sure that will happen many more times this year. Scott and I were stumbling and practically falling over every few minutes, and we were laughing almost the whole ride down. Scott insists it's because we are both taller, so our center of gravity is off. This led us to create our new Instagram hashtag which is so stupid it's funny (at least to us): #tallteacherstaketrips.

Once we got to Zhujiajiao, a rickshaw driver took us down to the main part. It was small but bustling and just a fun little spot to wander around in for a day. I'm not sure if it's always as crowded as it was when we went because like I said before, we did go on a national holiday. There were plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and food stands. We decided to eat at a restaurant that overlooked the water on a deck so that we could take in the views of all the boats going by. We ordered fried rice, cucumbers seasoned with garlic, and some spicy chicken--it hit the spot. Our next stop was to Yuan Jin Buddhist Temple, which was worth the 10 yuan admission price. The only drawback was that these men pulled us aside and gave us some incense to burn and then gave us a red envelope. We were told to take our envelopes and to go sit down so that these two other men could open them up and tell them about our luck. I was kind of wary because I thought this would lead to them asking for money, but curiosity got the best of me because I wanted to see what was inside...anything to try to un-do my psychic reading that did not go well. The man opened it up and said something like, "Good luck. You take a big trip." Then, sure enough, he asked me for a donation. I put in some change and he told me, "Ten and twenty yuan bills are also okay." Ha ha! I guess the man on the other side told Scott he had to pay 400 yuan ($63.50 USD)!!! I looked up to see Scott trying to get away from that man and saying, "Lisa! Lisa! Come here! Let's go!" Scott told me that an Italian couple actually paid them 400 RMB. I hope it was because they genuinely wanted to and not because they felt like they had to.

Next we went checked out some of the shops, and I bought these bells for my classroom and a 10 yuan bracelet. One of our favorite shops was a postcard store that sold wooden postcards with pressed flowers on the front. There was even a little table with pens so that you could write out your postcards right there and give them to the worker to mail out for you. (Of course they sold stamps, too.)

We decided to stop at a tea shop after looking in some of the shops. Scott ordered jasmine tea, and I ordered mint tea but was given black tea, which was fine. Again, we did some people watching as the boats passed by.

Then we took a boat tour of our own! There was the option of a short boat ride or a long one, and we chose the short one. The prices were set, so that was probably a good thing! Our ride was fun and took us right past everything we had just walked by.

We walked back to the bus station, but not before stopping at a milk tea shop for a smoothie and getting a photo by this Japanese lucky cat.

All in all it was a great day, and I know there will be many more fun trips like this to come. Have you ever heard of Zhujiajiao? Where did you go on some of your best day trips?

Shanghai: Highs and Lows

September 7, 2015
I've been in Shanghai for over two weeks now, although it seems like much longer just because I've had a jam-packed schedule (working and social.) Here are some of the highs and lows of my time here so far!

High: The apartment I live in is very nice and has just been completely remodeled, and best of all, it's free! It is much better than the free accommodation I was offered in Korea. In Korea, I just had a studio, but here I have a one bedroom apartment with a separate kitchen and living room. It's more spacious than I anticipated, and I even have a desk and a balcony!! I'm really happy with where my room is located, too. It's on the top floor, so that means I don't have to hear any footsteps above me and hear others passing by my door on their way out of the building. I was worried that there would be a ton of people living on each floor a la college dorm style, but there are only three others, so it's pretty quiet in our building. One of the three people I just mentioned is my close friend, Scott. It's perfect and convenient for if we need to talk about school, if we are meeting up, or if we just want to chat. Another plus is that my balcony doesn't face the other apartment building with all the other teachers in it, so it is more private. If I'm feeling social, all I have to do is go and sit on Scott's side! 

Low: My flight over to Shanghai was pretty miserable. I flew from Columbus to Atlanta to Seoul to Shanghai and had long layovers (more than 4 hours) at each airport. My flight time from Seoul to Shanghai was delayed for hours, and I got SO scared on my flight from Seoul-Shanghai. Let me preface this by saying that I am not a good flyer to begin with--I am afraid of heights and get really anxious while flying. We were told by the flight attendants that we would be landing in 5 minutes, but after 25 minutes passed, I was looking out my window and couldn't see the ground at all. What I could see was lots of rain and lightning, though. Then the flight attendants finally told us that air traffic control did not give us permission to land due to bad weather, so we were circling Shanghai until we could land. In those 20 turbulent minutes I was freaking out!! Nothing like that ever happened to me before and the constant lightning did not help. The flight attendants told us that they would let us know when we were able to land, but then all of a sudden we just landed. I was so relieved!! Unfortunately, we did not have a gate, so the ground crew was supposed to come and provide us with transportation over to the main terminal. Since the weather was so bad, the workers weren't allowed to come out and help us. We were stuck on the plane for over two hours. Since I didn't have Chinese cell phone service and no Wifi was available, I was unable to contact the person who was supposed to pick me up at the airport! I was supposed to get into Shanghai at around 8, but because of all the delays, I didn't pass through baggage claim and customs until past 1:30 AM. At that point, there was no one there to get me and I didn't know how to get in touch with my school, so I just took a cab over to our hotel. The trip was not the best, but the most important thing is that I got there safely! 

Low/High: I was informed a couple days before my arrival in Shanghai that our apartments would not be ready in time. We would have to stay at a hotel indefinitely until they were deemed safe for us to live in. Basically, they needed time to air out our places because of all of the remodeling they did on them. I was asked by the lead in the foreign affairs office at my school if I would mind sharing a room with another girl, but Scott and I asked to be placed together and they let us do that. At first I was a little annoyed because I just wanted to unpack and settle into my new place, but truthfully it was kind of fun staying at the hotel. It felt to us like we were on vacation, even though we weren't. Also, who doesn't like maid service, fresh towels, and free breakfast? It also provided me with more of a chance to socialize with some of the other new teachers. In the end, I didn't mind staying in the hotel at all. I really appreciate that our school found somewhere nice for us to stay, too. 

High: Last year in South Carolina, it was SO hard for me to make friends! I never had time, I lived in a conservative place so I felt like I might not have fit in, and while the people I worked with were friendly, they already had their own group of friends. Here, I don't have that problem at all. So many of the teachers here are awesome and fun, and I feel like I already have more friends this year than I did in SC. I was fortunate enough to already know Rachael and Scott beforehand, and I felt like I already knew Rachael's friend Tara a little because we chatted before our trip. In that respect, I know I am a little spoiled because I am coming into this with great friends already. 

High: I did not know what grade level I would be teaching until I got here, and I got placed in the primary school in 1st grade.  That's exactly what I asked for! I really feel so lucky in that respect and am thankful that I got placed in a grade level that I'm certified for.

High: The first day of school was last week and I met my class for the first time. They are a great group of kids! People are telling me, "Oh, just wait and you might change your mind," but I doubt that. No class is ever perfect and I can see I have a couple of challenges, but last year gave me tons of practice with that. As an added bonus, I think that I have a really great Chinese co-teacher. That is always important since we will be working every single day together!!

High: I'm very excited to be living in a big city again. There is so much to do and see and the ex-pats that have been living here have plenty of recommendations for me.

Low: We don't get paid until the end of September. I know I'm not the only one that is impatiently awaiting my first paycheck here. While I am going out and am enjoying Shanghai, it is very important that I budget my money. Once I get paid for the first time, of course I will have more financial freedom. 

Low: The pollution... I knew that this would be an issue. No more bright blue skies for me for awhile...

High: There is a one week vacation the first week of October, and Scott and I booked a trip to Yangshao and Guilin! It will be a great respite from Shanghai's pollution that I just mentioned, and we hope to spend plenty of time outdoors riding bikes, taking a river cruise, possibly going bamboo rafting, etc. 

High: I've lost five pounds so far! All the walking we have been doing really adds up.

High: I just feel a lot happier here. My sister Denise sent me a We Chat message saying, "Could you imagine another year at your old school? Aren't you glad you're in China?"  The answer to that second question is a resounding YES.

Mostly, everything is going very well and I'm excited to see what this year has in store! Have you ever made a life-changing move?