Thursday, September 14, 2017

Summer Explorations

Exploring More of... Nebraska. 

This summer, I enjoyed getting to know my youngest nephew more and regular dates with my older 'Good Life' niece and nephew. 

It feel like I met up with everyone I've ever known, twice in many cases. It's always a rich time going 'home' which can make the withdrawals a little uncomfortable. 

I enjoyed lots of coffees with friends and foods I've missed living in China.  I ate my yearly share of foods like bagels, donuts, and easy access to ice cream.

One of my Midwest summer highlights was road tripping with two of my best friends around Nebraska. 

My sister and I also had a lot of fun conquering a Jack fruit. We had some little helpers.  

Exploring Northern California. 

I also squeezed in a visit to Northern California. I rented a car for the first time and enjoyed the freedom it gave me. It enabled me to stop at Clear Lake and have a wonderful visit with my great aunt as well as spend quality time with my dad.

Back in China.

Now, I've been back in China for 7 weeks. My, how time flies!  I have a lovely new first grade class and I've revisited some of my favorite local haunts despite the heat and humidity.  

Xiamen is beautiful and I am glad I live here, but I am feeling an itch to explore beyond.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Phuket, Shenzhen and Dragon Boat Time

Schools out for summer! But not forever.

It's summertime. The international school I teach at, in Xiamen, got out earlier than local schools (which is great if you want to do some summer travel within China), but later than Nebraskan schools. I've been seeing my 'Good Life' teacher friends posting about school being out for weeks. This summer, I headed back to the 'Heartland' the day after school got out. I'll return to China at the end of July.

I just ate pork belly.

Duanwu or Dragon Boat Festival was celebrated in May. Here's what I know about it: The holiday commemorates a talented poet who loved his country so much he took his own life. He lived during a time when different factions were fighting for control of the nation. He fell out of favor with the king and became so distraught over the state of his country that he drowned himself in a river. Though it is hard for me to understand admiring this act, the people loved him. It is said they wrapped rice inside bamboo and threw the triangular packages into the water, for the fish to eat. They did this in an attempt to distract the fish from eating the poet's body. Those I asked did not seem to know why people race boats decorated with dragon heads, at this holiday time, but it is now a solid tradition.

Now, at the annual celebration people eat zongzi, rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, race long boats and retell the story of the poet. I didn't make it to a boat race this year but I did received several zongzi as gifts. I got a sweet version and the local pork type. After eating them, I looked up a common recipe and, yep, I ate parts of the pig I didn't know you could eat. Generally, I stick to vegetarian choices for that reason. You just don't know what part of an animal you are eating. I did feel honored to receive the gifts though.


Megacity Shenzhen is famous for its theme parks and its fast growth. A megacity is a metropolitan area with more than ten million people. Hong Kong's neighbor had only around 30,000 residents in 1979, but now it has more than 18 million!

It's often considerably cheaper to fly out of Hong Kong than Xiamen when booking an international flight. That was the case with the most recent ticket I booked to Phuket, Thailand. I have taken the high speed train to Hong Kong, for that reason, several times. Each time I actually take the train to Shenzhen where I disembark, cross the border, and transfer to Hong Kong. This time I thought I'd actually check out Shenzhen. I ended up spending most of the day at Window of the World, an amusement park showcasing famous monuments and natural wonders from around the world.

They had the Kuwait towers!, and a large Eiffel tower you could climb, which I have yet to see in person. Because of this Shenzhen park, I also got to see the Sydney bridge and the Shwedagon pagoda(the real one is located in Myanmar) twice this year!

Phuket, Thailand

Thailand is amazing and I thoroughly plan to spend more time there in the future, but for this mini-vacation I chose to visit Phuket.

I spent the first of my two-days, exploring temples, viewing beautiful city views and going to a show. Before the show(which, btw, was pretty great), I had the chance to feed an elephant.

The second day, I went on a boat and canoe tour of Phang Nga Bay. Though not the highlight, it included the famous James Bond Island, which appeared in the 1974 James Bond movie. My highlight was canoeing through caves and a mangrove. Amazing. I also got to try rambutan fruit.


Celebrating a great year.

What a great way to end this amazing school year abroad. I celebrate the completion of my first year living in China and teaching grade 1. I am definitely using my English as Second Language and Reading Specialist training, but I am very happy to still be teaching in the general classroom. I was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed teaching the younger children, as well.

Here are a couple of my favorite 'advice' letters from the last day of school.