Being Back in China

September 26, 2017
Well, I'm back in China and have been for about a month now. I haven't posted much because I had problems with the internet, but they seem like they're all sorted now.

My flight back was rough. It was delayed for two hours, but I was so happy to see that the seat next to me was empty. That was short-lived because the flight attendant wanted me to move seats so that a man could be by his baby's crib. Even though it would have been better for me to have had two seats because of my injured back, I felt too bad to say no since a baby was involved. Instead I just stood up a lot and walked around, which helped immensely. My new seat was pretty awful because the man in front of me kept farting and it stunk up our whole section. Nothing like smelling noxious fumes for a 15 hour flight. I tried to stay positive by thinking, "At least the lady next to me is dainty." That thought vanished rapidly when she started picking her nose without even trying to hide it. She pulled out huge boogers and then instead of discreetly wiping them into her tissue, she would inspect them one-by-one before wiping them off of her finger. WHY? Well, I'll stop with the gross stories. If I didn't have a pleasant flight, at least it was a safe one.

Being back here is different than last year, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Last year, I basically did nothing and was experiencing a severe case of PTSD. Going home did me a world of good and I feel almost normal now! Anyway, let me go on describing how this year is already different. A bunch of teachers (myself included) moved to an off-campus apartment. Everything is great about it besides the commute. It does add roughly 2 hours onto my day, but because of traffic, not because of distance. A lot of teachers avoid this by riding a scooter, but that is out of the question for me. The morning rides aren't bad, and I'm actually kind of enjoying them because it brought me closer to a friend I fell out of touch with last year. Since my friends and I all now live in the same building, it's very convenient for making plans. I feel much more included than I did last year, but maybe I get more invites because I can actually walk now!

There is also a subway stop right by my new apartment which is so nice. I didn't like taking the subway before because I would have to take a taxi just to get to the subway station, and once I got a taxi, I would want to just stay in! The subway stop by us is just a small subway station, so it's simple and not that crowded. Since it's so far out, there are usually plenty of seats available on the train.

When we got back it was SO HOT. I'm talking sweat everywhere. My eyes were burning because of the sweat that dripped into them. Lately it has been muggy and smoldering again, but I guess that's the price you pay to enjoy a mild winter.

Now I'm back in first grade, and everything is going well so far. It is just hard at the beginning of the year because the students are all new to the school and have to learn the routines. My class is doing a lot better now with understanding the expectations.

I do miss my old students terribly! I can't believe they're in third grade already because two years went by so fast with them. Seeing them walk right next to my first graders is surreal because they look so grown up. I really had a strong bond with that class, as it was a great combination of personalities. When I see them, I just want to run up to them and give them a big hug! They just made one of the worst times in my life a lot better and were a really understanding, thoughtful, and fun class. Those students made teaching feel like one of the best jobs in the world.

In other news, I was finally able to install Didi (Chinese Uber) after multiple failed attempts. For awhile there was no English version of Didi, but now that there is one. Having Didi is life-changing! Seriously! Instead of cursing under my breath at the lack of taxis available, now there's another option. And all but one Didi driver was nice and professional. The cars are so much cleaner than the Shanghai taxis and I can pay right through We Chat.

Since I've been back, we had our welcome banquet. It was pretty low-key this year since it was on a school night, but a group of my friends and I were able to recreate a photo of us that we had taken at our very first welcome banquet two years ago. I'm so lucky to have stayed close with the three of them and am grateful that they're still here.

It was Teacher's Day in China earlier in the month and my students' parents chipped in and got my co-teacher and me some flowers. A few students made me cards, which was very thoughtful.

I've also been out trying some new (err, new to me) cafes around Shanghai. My friend Tara and I spent an evening at Cafe Montmartre so that we could plan our trip for the October holiday. It was a nice place to have dinner and get some work done.

Another quirky cafe that I got to try is called Cloudy Cafe. It has big puffy cottony clouds hanging down from the ceiling and the decor is all together whimsical. My plate of waffles was garnished with gummy bears and heart shaped fruit. My drink looked like something that Dr. Seuss conjured up and had a long, twisty straw. It was served with two mini swans and a rose. The menu was all hand-written. The cafe was just full of special touches like those, and the lady working behind the counter was adorably sweet.

I also tried Brut Cake Cafe, which again was pretty adorable with tasty food like chicken and waffles and a burger placed inside of a Chinese steamed bun. There were a whole bunch of hand-painted mugs on display as well as patchwork furniture.

I harassed my friend Lauren about organizing a brunch for awhile, and my badgering paid off because  a group of us tried Bull and Claw one Saturday. We had a large party so they gave us the whole upstairs! It was private and we had our own waiter and our own balcony. I felt so spoiled. There is a set menu of different courses and you can order 1-3 courses depending on how much food you want. I settled on two courses, as I didn't dare leave there without trying their English breakfast since it was voted the best in Shanghai. For my second course, I tried some cookies and Ovaltine, which I thought was kind of weird. The Ovaltine bit, I mean. Truthfully, that is what attracted me to that course and ever since I have been buying Ovaltine at Lawson (a convience store) and have been bringing it to work to have as a snack.

In case you can't tell, between my sips of Ovaltine (obsessed and feel the need to bring it up again), I am very much enjoying my time in Shanghai so far this year. Last year was so blah for me. This year will be nothing like that! I'm starting to get my spark back.

Finding new places to go to and exploring the city I live in always boosts my mood. What boosts yours?
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