28 August 2006

Pictures Part III: Field trips and misc.

Last Thursday we went on an all day field trip. First we went to this old temple (like 2000 years old) that they recently built a giant statue of Buddha by. It was huge but really hot. Then we went on a tour of Lake Taihu and some traditional gardens. The following pictures are of those outings around Wuxi.

The lotus tower and the giant Buddha statue in the background.

The intricate carvings on the lotus tower.

Translation: Can't recycle

The laughing Buddha and children.

The giant Buddha from the bottom of the stairs. Apparently, the Buddha is made of bronze and only the Statue of Liberty is bigger than it (in terms of bronze statues).

The view from the top of the stairs, very close to the giant Buddha.

The Turtlehead Island of Lake Taihu. Monkeys inhabit the island and although we did not see any, we sure did smell them.

Do not swim in Lake Taihu! It is very beautiful but the computer screen is not lying--the water was green, bright green, from pollution.

One of my favorite pictures, taken on the garden part of our outing.

My new best friend. It is about a 20 minute bike ride to school and every minute I have to bite my lip and ask for safety.

Finally, last but not least, our group!

Pictures Part II: School

The school building is amazing. It was built four years ago by the government. There are 55 classrooms, but we only use maybe 15 of them. At capacity the building could have as many as 900-1000 students. There are many Asians in Wuxi as the city is home to lots of foreign businesses. Most of our students are from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Our enrollment at present is around 60.

Welcome to Wuxi Oriental International School!

The building is in the shape of a U and is completely open-air. This is from the 5th floor looking down on the courtyard.

This is the street that our school is on. Construction is everywhere in China.

This is a poster hanging in our school. Yes, apparently the Chinese renamed the Empire State Building.

My beautiful face posted on the wall downstairs, complete with my profile translated into Chinese. This is the point of no return, I guess I am officially a teacher.

My undecorated 6th grade homeroom.

School begins on Friday!

Pictures Part I: My Apartment

I have a lot of pictures to post today, so enjoy. They give a good idea of what I have been up to this past week since arriving in Wuxi. Let's start with my apartment:

First, this is our apartment complex, Taihu Gardens III. The view from our stairwell. A seemingly normal Chinese living situation.

This is a member of our team, Daniel, in my bathtub. The tub is raised and he is tall, like 6'6'', which is not a good combo.

When we arrived, I was shocked to find that my apartment actually has two rooms. This is my "living room", but I don't do a lot of living in here. I mostly keep the door shut as it is depressingly empty. We are still awaiting the arrival of couches. The only other object in this room not visible in the picture is my ironing board.

The dining room, as seen from my bedroom doorway.

Dining room part II, as seen from my living room doorway.

One side of my bedroom, looking in from the door. Note the porch where my laundry is hanging.

My bedroom! I love the build-in shelving that is kind of noticeable on the left. I have never had so much storage for so little belongings.

That is the grand tour of my apartment. Please come visit :)

25 August 2006

A Weekend Of Relaxation

After many busy days and weekends recently, I finally have a weekend to myself. The priorities are:
  1. Get my apartment in order. I don't want to have to think about my apartment (organization, decoration, etc.) after this weekend.
  2. Shop! My classroom needs color and I still need a few things to make my apartment my home.
  3. Read all the textbooks. There is limited curriculum so I'm taking home everything I can to read and at least feel comfortable with what is available.
  4. Explore! Some of our group is going out tonight and it will be fun to see the downtown area of Wuxi.
Here are my thoughts on life right now: Today we decorated our classroom. I am the 6th grade homeroom teacher so I am responsible for that room. I have a Chinese teacher with me and together we made our bulletin board in an underwater theme, complete with bubbles to post our students' pictures (all four of them!) I ride my bike to school everyday and it's about a 20 minute ride. Bike riding in China can be hair-raising at times. So far I have not fallen off or hit anything/anyone, so I'm counting it a victory.
I have never been so thankful for USB drives. I still don't have internet at home, so I have to bring everything back and forth by USB. I think I might break down this weekend and pick which pictures I want so I can post at least a few for everyone to see. Digital data and its' transportability is astonishing.
The cycles of life are always so amazing to me. The third week of August was usually when school started when I was growing up and now the reality of school beginning next week is rapidly approaching, except this year I'm (finally) on the other side of the desk. It is still unbelievable to me that my first teaching job would be in China, how incredibly cool!?!
Well let the weekend begin!

23 August 2006

I'm teaching chemistry?!?

Someone has a sense of humor, because as we were putting together the schedule for the MS/HS, some chemistry and physics classes fell to me. The last few days have been interesting, to say the least. We had one curriculum meeting on Monday and since I am on that committee (because I have 'teaching experience'), we had to come up with a schedule for the whole school. We put together a skeleton schedule for the whole school on Monday night, and last night we put together our grade specific schedule for the MS/HS. This is how it fell to me to teach some science...mostly likely we will do a general science for one semester then go to the specific subjects as the year goes on.
Yesterday we went around Wuxi and saw a big huge Buddha statue and then some really pretty gardens. We are riding our new bikes home today. These are the small, yet seemingly large victories in life these days for me.
Last night was a rough night. I went to bed with a headache and spent most of the night awake. I was sick (I'll spare the details), and that was no fun. I eased into the morning and feel ok today. But it is no fun being sick, especially in a foreign country. Still no word on internet for our apts., so it will be a while before I can post pictures or get on Skype for more than a few minutes. I will have some serious blogging-catch up to do.
Many of you asked why have a German major...I'm not even 3 months out of college and I now know...our lone high schooler (yes, we have 1 high school student! and 10 middle school students) is from Germany!! How cool is that?!? There is also an Austrian student as well. School starts next week Friday, whether we are ready or not. We will be ready, by golly!
I apologize for how scatterbrained these last few posting have been; since I'm just doing this at school, I no longer have the luxury of taking forever to read and reread each post.
A few quick shout-outs: Joy, my sister, and Nathan are engaged! Congrats, I want to hear all the details when I finally get on Skype for an extended amount of time.
Sarah M, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. I hope your brother is able to get home in time for the funeral. Know that I am thinking about you!
Drew, I hope your knee surgery went well.

Love to all!

21 August 2006

I am alive!

We safely arrived in Wuxi. Internet access will be harder to come by for a few weeks until I can get it in my apt. There is a steep learning curve ahead; we have to put together a whole K-12 curriculum with standards and objectives in one week. If you have any tips or suggested websites, I would gladly take any suggestions. More to come as I have more time online. Love you all!

17 August 2006

More Walking and More Happiness

Today was another full day. We had more training in the morning and in the afternoon went out to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. My historical knowledge in these areas isn't the greatest, but I'll give the brief version of why these two places are important. The Forbidden City is where the Emperors lived and ruled from. It was an enclosed city full of concubines and power. The Emperors were not allowed to leave the City and they often ruled with an iron fist. The Forbidden City is HUGE. We had two hours to walk around and I used every minute of that time. We walked throughout the whole complex, which ended into Tiananmen Square. It is the largest square in the world, apparently three times as big as the Red Square in Moscow. It was unreal how large it was and how many people were there. Sadly, we couldn't see Mao in his mausoleum because it is only open during the morning. After spending the majority of the afternoon in these two famous places, we went into a pedestrian zone with lots of great shopping and food. There was a foreign bookstore and I bought 7 soft cover books (Rushdie, Queen Noor, The Federalist Papers, Dumas, Hardy, Sinclair, and Bono) for like $40; I'm so excited to have good reading material for the upcoming weeks and months. I think one of my favorite things in China will be eating from the street vendors. I had another great dinner off the street tonight, complete with an ice cream bar, what more could I want in life right now? (Of course, other than my teaching assignment...)
While I'm on the topic, our group leaves Beijing tomorrow afternoon to fly to Wuxi, which is maybe two hours outside of Shanghai. Tomorrow night I will get settled into my new apartment and then Saturday will be spent getting acclimated to the city and hopefully doing some shopping to make the apartment livable. We still don't know if there is an International Fellowship in Wuxi, so our options for church on Sunday may be limited. There are so many pieces of this giant puzzle that still have to come together that worrying about the details is impossible anymore. This coming transition is huge, but I welcome the chance to place roots yet again, even if only for ten months. I just started reading Eugene Peterson's X Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A conversation in spiritual theology and he writes, "J is working at the center. J is far more active than any one of us; it is J who provides the energy" (p. 19). What encouragement!

This picture is actually taken from a park that overlooks the Forbidden City. The haze/pollution is normal for Beijing and most bigger Chinese cities.

The beautiful architecture of the outside walls of the Forbidden City.

Yet another interesting translation (these are all real signs!)

The heads of the dragons spew water when it rains (this place was made famous to me by a wonderful movie called Big Bird in China).

Only of a handful of the 1.something billion people that make up China (this is taken from outside of the Forbidden City looking over towards Tiananmen).

The haze makes the sun look like the moon.

China is so unbelievably proud to be hosting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. There are signs everywhere with the mascots and the official sponsors for the Games. Only 722 more days until the opening ceremonies!

This is in Tiananmen Square looking back towards the huge picture of Mao and the Forbidden City.

A smattering of bikes waiting at the busy intersection between Tiananmen and the Forbidden City. Many people do use bikes as their primary mode of transportation.

A street vendor selling octopus legs (left corner) and crabs/crab legs (right corner) to fry for dinner. I had a wonderful bowl of noodles from a nearby vendor.

Good night from Beijing!

PS-It could be a while before I have time/an internet connection to be able to post again. Just FYI!

15 August 2006

The Great Wall

Today my history soul was made happy. We visited the Great Wall! Mulan, as much as I love that movie, does not do justice to the Wall. It's funny, after having studied German for so long and always learning about the Berlin Wall, to have been at a very different wall built for a very different purpose very long ago. It was weird being a tourist. I think I've come to the conclusion that I love traveling, but I love meaningful travel, with cross-cultural experiences and good conversations, even more. I'm just not a good tourist. This all being said, it was awesome! We took a cable car (The Fray, anyone?) up to the top and walked around a huge portion of it. It was in the 90's today and I got sunburned as it was in the mountains about an hour from where we are in Beijing. I rarely miss home, but when I see such beautiful mountains, my heart aches. The funniest thing was taking an alpine slide down to the bottom. I don't think I've ever ridden a slide like that and to think that my first time was in China. Group dynamics are going to be interesting. Tomorrow starts our more official training where we learn about the company and maybe even about the school. I think part of our time tomorrow will be spent doing team building, so I'm excited to get to know the other members. Still no word on the teaching assignments yet. That's all folks!
Good night from Beijing,

This is the double rainbow we saw coming out of the airport. A great reminder of the OT promises and how they are still true today.

A view from our cable car going up the mountain. Check out the Wall on the right.

The beautiful mountains and a town tucked away in the valley.

The Great Wall (Most of what is visible is the section we walked today...I have never walked up and down so many stairs before!)

The Wall and I, we're friends now, even if I don't speak Chinese that well (really, I don't speak it at all)

This is my attempt at artsy photography. I think this is my favorite picture from the whole day. It was taken inside of the guardtowers looking out onto the wall.

An Ode to Rice Pizza and Coconut Macaroons

To celebrate my last night in Tianjin, tradition had to be followed:

This is Chinese-style rice pizza, complete with sticky rice steamed in a cooker.

Coconut macaroons (AKA Gluten-free nuggets of love) and Catan, what could be better?

So I have arrived in Beijing. I had a "nice car" drive me to the airport to meet up with my group yesterday afternoon. It truly was a nice car, which also meant that the driver drove in a calm way as to protect his nice car...a very welcomed change from riding in the taxis. The paradoxes of China continue to strike me. As we pulled up to a toll booth, a huge truck pulled up next to us, completely full of chickens. Mind you, these chickens were in little plastic containers all stacked up together, like they were just arriving from the country or something. I have issues with meat and food preparation and this country is not helping matters. Neither is the meat section at the grocery store.

I'll try to post pictures of our team at the Great Wall today in a bit. Right now we're off for some yummy (real) Chinese food.

12 August 2006

11 Pictures for 11 Days

Here's some pictures to add a visual to my previous post. They are in chronological order, but just spread out over the past little while.

1. Leaving GR with 15 pieces of luggage, three adults, and four children

2. Awesome sign part I

3. I love my new digital camera...how cool is this?!? (It's a praying mantis on the playground equipment at our hotel in Beijing)

4. The old and new China (OR bicycles and busses)

5. The Four Seasons of the Grand Haven Lighthouse (see previous post, bullet #5)

6. Awesome sign part II (AKA Don't fall asleep at the wheel)

7. The Golden Arches--Chinese style

8. Wal-Mart (this picture is dedicated to my sister, Joy) [Random sidenote: I really had little reason to step foot in either of these institutions in the US, but after just a few days here, I am suddenly much less picky]

9. Shopping for fabric for the Kennedy's apt. There were so many beautiful choices!

10. Mah jong, a game similar to dominos (I think) These men were just lounging around at the fabric market...I love their pace of life!

11. The Tianjin TV tower (It's no Berlin TV tower, but I can't complain.) On a good day (ie, not huge amounts of pollution), it is visible from the apt. Note the construction in the background--China is rapidly developing, as projects like that demonstrate.