Since I'm not doing weekend recaps anymore, I'm just going to compile all of my updates into one post, so below are all of my recent updates. If my weekends stay eventful, I might switch back to weekend recaps, but for now...
* I have decided to stay a third year in China. This was a no brainer. Last year, I mulled it over for much longer, but this time around there was no hesitation at all when signing my contract. First of all, there is a monetary incentive if we stay for three years. Second of all, I was in no state to job hunt because of the major surgery I had last year. I still have debt from my surgery and student loan debt, so I kind of told myself that unless there are some drastic changes that I don't like, I will stay here until I can get rid of all of that. The original idea was to stay here for three years if I liked it, but now I will likely stay for longer. In the future, I'd like to find an international school in Europe or Japan, but for the time being I'm fine here.
* Over the Chinese New Year holiday, I traveled to Morocco for 13 days and then went to Sevilla for about a week. It was such an epic trip and Rachael and I had so much fun traveling together, which we always do! I hope to write a trip recap here soon before I forget all of the details.
* I changed my hair color. I was blonde before, but wanted to go darker at the roots and keep the blonde at the tips and have ombre hair. It's not as dramatic as I would have liked, but I still am happy with my new hair!
* I've just been enjoying life in Shanghai. Last semester, I had a few pleasant moments, but I really can't say I had a good time here overall. This has nothing to do with Shanghai and everything to do with my recovery. Last year, I felt like I had the perfect balance of friends, but some of my good guy friends including my best friend here moved away. That's just how it is working at a big international school--it has a very transient atmosphere and of course that is to be expected. Due to health problems, I was staying home almost all the time because I couldn't physically handle going out. Another teacher even had to help me with some of my classroom duties so that I could lie down because my back could barely handle working a full day. The other teacher took my students to lunch, recess, and the assembly, which is the main time to talk to other teachers at my school. I feel like I was a bit isolated and wasn't really able to make new friends while everyone else WAS making new friends. It was not the best feeling in the world, but at least I know why I was feeling like this. I mean, it makes sense. Truthfully, if I didn't have my friends Lauren and Rachael, I don't even know how I would have gotten through last semester! Happily, this semester I was able to take back all of my duties and can work a full day without any major problems. Also, I am starting to have more of a social life, slowly but surely. I made it out to a girls' night and had a really good time. This weekend, I went with Rachael and Keri to try a new place for brunch called Blackbird. I found out about it on Instagram using hashtags, actually! It was a hit and we all want to go back for afternoon tea. I feel like soon I'll be able to get back to exploring Shanghai more.
* I was all worried about my teaching license because it was going to expire. Since I'm not working in Ohio and not doing induction there, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to renew it. I found out that I can extend my license one time for two years just by paying a fee, so whew! In these next two years, I will have to take a course if I want to be able to renew it again, but at least I have time to figure that all out.
* Recently I read some fabulous adolescent lit--a book called The Raven Boys. I got sucked in because this book has it all: interesting characters, adventure, mystery, the supernatural, and of course the main problem wasn't resolved in the first book so now I have to read the second one. I highly recommend this book if you like fantasies.
* Traveling is now an option for me again, so I've been making plans here and there. So far, I think I'm going to go to Hangzhou with Chris, Tara, and Rachael one weekend. Chris and I also want to take a trip to Macau for one of our long weekends. Rachael and I have discussed going to Koh Lanta for a week in the summer before we go back to Ohio. Over the summer, ideally I'd like to visit my best friend Ev for a week. We talked about going on a road trip to Atlanta, but nothing is confirmed yet. Then I'm going to go back to Ohio and see my family and friends there. I also want to go to Pennsylvania to visit my grandfather and good friend Nanci. My grandfather recently had a stroke, but he seems to be recovering well. I really, really want to see him, especially because I wasn't able to fly back to Pennsylvania for my grandma's funeral last summer because of my back.
* At work, I was selected to give an open class. That means I pick a time and any teachers (both Chinese and foreign) can come observe me. Principals and my bosses with probably come watch me, too. I get really nervous about this kind of thing, way beyond the normal amount of nervous. I'm talking not sleeping at night and just getting overcome with a feeling of dread, but I basically have to do it. It's considered an honor to be picked to do this.
* I'm finally "off" of the gel nails. I say that like an addiction because I think that's what I had. After having gels for almost a year and a half straight, my real nails are pretty much ruined. They are breaking left and right, so I'm going to take a break and have already gotten two nail strengthening treatments. I also read that the UV light is so bad for the skin on your hands and that you should be applying sunscreen before putting your hands in the machines. Oops. From now on, I will ONLY be getting gel nails for a special occasion and if I do, I will totally apply sunscreen. All the gel manicures were fun while they lasted, though!
That's pretty much all I have going on. What about you?