Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gym Time!

After 11 months I have finally decided to join a gym. Im a pretty active person and usually try to run or walk outside everyday, but it is really hard to motivate myself somedays and the heat and humidity here is just too much!

The gym I joined is right across from my garden and about $50 for a month. Its like a hotel gym...there are 3 treadmills, 2 bikes, 2 ellipticals, some weight lifting machines and free weights. All of the equipment is pretty outdated and there is no way to clean machines after you are done using them.

I joined last Monday and have gone almost everyday this week. It is amazing how empty the gym is considering that thousands and thousands of people live in the 4 residences that belong to Le Parc (the club)

I also noticed that the people who do workout there dress up in fashionable workout clothes don't really workout!

The gym is on the third floor of a complex that includes an english training center, a spa, classrooms, a ping pong table area, a pool area and an organic store. I get a lot of attention when i run there because the gym is enclosed by glass windows. But it feels so nice to be on a treadmill again!

Not much else is new of my coworkers got married this weekend! We are going to the beach Tuesday to celebrate. Two of my best friends here are leaving this week so we are having a huge going away dinner tomorrow night. Work will not be the same without charlotte...I am relieved i have such a short amount of time left.

I am in AWE looking at the Blackhawk parade photos! It makes choosing a city to live in when i get back really easy. I miss chicago and all of my friends! and family of course!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Volunteering in China

My internet has stopped working at my apartment and I still have yet to take care of it which is EXTREMELY frustrating. It's amazing how cut off from the world I feel without constant access to wifi!

Yesterday on my day off I volunteered with an organization that people from my training center started (and eventually--once my company realized it would be good for publicity and marketing, backed them up). We went to a school (government funded) where students with Austism can work on their motor skills. Some of the higher functioning students go to school at a public school during the day, then come to this school after. Others who are not high functioning come here for the whole day.

We were there for 2 hours and got to do three classes with the kids: gym, handwriting//motor skills practice, and then art class. The kids we worked with were probably ages 7-10. They did not speak any english so I was a little lost in most of the classes, but the kids responded to simple encouragement and hi fives.

It was a really good feeling to be doing something that wasn't centered around money, selling classes, or doing every little task to make sure that the parents would be pleased.

I have never worked with autistic kids so I was really nervous and had no idea what to expect. Many of  kids had a parent or grandparent with them. The gym class we passed a basketball back and forth with a child. The one that i passed with was higher functioning and wanted to show off his skills.

Next we went into a room where students were doing tasks to help with motor skills. The first kid i sat next to was just writing a simple X over and over again with the help of his grandma. He got REALLY excited and kept looking at me and screaming. He couldn't write anymore and put an eraser in his mouth. I wasn't really sure what to do and he started running around and screaming so i moved to another kid. This kid was high functioning as we did handwriting sheets and puzzles. His biggest problem was his posture while he was writing. It was amazing to see what a struggle it was for him to trace the curvy lines and sit up straight.

After that we went into an art class where the teacher drew a picture, step by step, on the board and the kids had to follow directions and copy the picture. Some of the kids did it perfectly while others were in their own world. The kid i sat next to loved the encouragement especially the hi-fives. After every line he drew he would wait for a high five.

After volunteering i am interested to learn more about autism to help them more and know how to deal with certain situations. Next month i will volunteer with kids with down syndrome.

In America since students with disabilities are mainstreamed (inclusion) I think a course on different disabilities would be really helpful to teachers. Although there is supposed to be an intervention specialist with them teachers should be more knowledgeable about disabilities and ways that they can make their classroom more comfortable for the student.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What's Next!

Teaching English in Shenzhen has been such an interesting//good experience as my first "real" job. While there are many aspects of the job that I am dissatisfied with, I have learned so much from teaching here and gotten a lot of good experience. Teaching English can be really frustrating because

1. I don't know or understand grammar that well. I just know what tense to use and when (I had to teach a class past perfect last week and it was a STRUGGLE).

2. The hours suckkkkk! (I teach until 9pm on Friday nights then come in and teach from 8:30-6:30 Saturday and Sunday) It can be really hard to meet people that live normal lives with normal weekends.

3. The school is a training center so it is centered around making money. Which can be frustrating when you are more concerned about your students and showing growth in their learning.

4. Showing flashcards and asking whatsssss this! differs dramatically from being able to have upper level conversations with students and build up the critical thinking ladder. (Although I am going to miss teaching my 4-5 year olds the most!)

I am overqualified for the position as well. This has motivated me to search and search for a job that would help me gain RELEVANT experience to my certification...teaching Social Studies! Jobs in Social Studies education are not easy to find right now.

When I was offered a position to teach American Studies in Northern China to 10th grade students at a Chinese public school, I had to jump at the opportunity. It is a perfect chance to gain experience and I would much rather live in China with access to travel all over Asia and China than to move to some town in the middle of no-where Ohio.

My last day at work will be July 31st. I am planning on traveling within China between jobs (when else will I be able to?!) and then will move to a smaller city that is in between Shanghai and Beijing (it's called Jinan). This will be a huge adjustment! And I know I will miss family and friends more than ever, but with Skype and email it's not hard to stay up to date with what is going on in their lives. Also I would be the happiest person if anyone would like to come visit China or would like to plan a vacation in Asia...Boracay? Thailand? :D:D

I have so many goals and things that i want to do in the next few years and I really think this decision will help me get to where I want to be eventually. Eek! Wish me luck!

With that said I only have a month in a half in Shenzhen! I am planning on spending time with the amazing friends that I have made here...and doing all the little things that I haven't gotten a chance to do around the city. I made a little bucket list on my wall...hopefully I will get a chance to do everything on it!

Before I head out for the night I have to post about this book that a friend here recommended to me and let me borrow: The Defining Decade. It is written by Meg Jay, a psychologist who specializes in the "twenty-something" years. I would highly recommend it to all has given me so much clarity on my life and how to get to the life that I envisioned for myself after graduating from Ohio State. 

Thanks to my family and friends for so much love and support! <3 <3 

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Little Things!

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I ordered a bunch of food from a delivery website that carries loads of imported food. A bit of a splurge but well worth it! I have to laugh a little at how excited i was about these items...things that i could easily get in the US on a day to day basis. Here you can get hummus and mac and cheese and brownies at western restaurants, but since they are expensive i don't eat out often.

Its hard to believe I've survived almost 10 months without hummus or pickles or a selection of diet sodas...somethings that i used to eat/drink DAILY. 

Its weird that i really don't care for laffy taffys, mac and cheese shapes, brownies, or reeses peanut butter cups that much, but since i haven't had them in so long they looked extremely appealing. 

Now i just got to find an oven to cook those brownies in! 

Happy Monday :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Eating out with Confidence

Ordering out or eating at a restaurant in China is very very cheap (at a typical chinese restaurant). However food sanitation and the guarantee that your beef is actually beef and that your chicken won't have millions of bones in it is not so great (did i mention i went vegetarian for a few months here? and that there was a recent scandal where a chain of people were caught selling rat meat as lamb?) Also I'm never sure if the oil used to cook my food in is straight from a clean bottle or cooked in a clean pan free of bugs.

You know those little food rating signs you see in the corner of restaurants? Even starbucks has a red rating. McDonalds is one of the few places i have seen that has a green food safety sign. 

One place that I always feel confident that i am eating safe food is in one of the many bakeries and bread shops that line almost every other street in Shenzhen. They smell amazing and sell a variety of breads and drinks. One of my favorite bakeries is Cafe 85 which also sells decent priced coffee (about half the price of Starbucks here) 

I always try new pastries with caution--they are either sweet like you'd expect them to be or they have meat in them//on them. The middle one in the middle row has shredded pork all over it. My first time trying that one was not pleasant! 

They also have tons of cake. Cake here tastes a little different from at home and cake in chinese is 蛋糕 (dan gao) which translates into egg cream...eewww

every bakery has egg tarts

and lots of hot dogs

haha a little promiscuous to see in china

its really rare to find cheap iced coffee besides at starbucks--it kinda freaked me out that they put a plastic layer of the top of it (and made it challenging to put in creamer or sugar in...i guess ill have to figure out how to tell them before i take the order!) 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ohh joy, paying the bills!

Today I took care of our rent and utilities.

Rent is pretty agent gave me his bank account number so I can just put my bank card into the ATM and transfer our rent straight to his account. He then transfers it to the apartment owners agent who gets the money to the owners.

Utilities are just a pain to take care of. We have this lovely bank book to pay them.

So it tells you (from the far left) the date, what utility it was, how much was withdrawn, how much was deposited, and then the current balance. 

It took awhile to figure out how much we needed to put in each month and when. We didn't want the balance to run out but we had no idea when money was being taken out and what for. 

I finally sat down with our agent in December to go over it...AFTER our electricity was turned off because it wasn't paid (there wasn't enough money in our account) 

Basically we pay a gas bill and a management fee every month (which is about 800 RMB or $130) and then an electric bill every other month (which is usually 1600 RMB or $245) 

It really still makes no sense to me because if you look at the withdrawals there are random amounts here and there--i have started waiting to get the electric bill on off months just to see how much we actually owe. 

This would be so much easier if we could just pay our bills online...but because of the monitoring of internet sites here, nothing is really done online. 

Somehow I always feel like were being slightly ripped off! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dragon Boat Festival

Think of American holidays off school. What days do they usually fall on?

In the US most holidays or days off fall on a Monday or Friday so it doesn't interfere with the students' school day (they aren't randomly dispersed in the middle of the week).

Since holidays in China are based on the lunar calendar and are rooted in a long long history, they fall on random days.

Today is the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month (June 12th). As I mentioned in my last post, the Shenzhen Government changed the kids' school days around so they went to school on saturday and sunday, and then got Monday and Tuesday off (and Wednsday is a holiday) so they could have three consecutive days off. Even though this has happened many times, it still annoys me that we find out so last minute and our schedule is rearranged.

Anyways, Dragon Boat is celebrated because of Qu Yuan, who conquered someone in the 300 BC's and then committed suicide by jumping in a river. People threw rice that had reeds connected to it to scare the fish away.

Dragon Boat festival is celebrated with dragon boat racing (which looks really neat--but sadly there is nothing going on in Shenzhen and I am too exhausted to travel to Guangzhou or HK). People also eat the traditional rice dumping (called zongzi) which was inspired by the rice-reeds that were thrown in the river for Qu Yuan. These are EVERYWHERE. Zongzi are considered chinese tamales in the west.

Zongzi is sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf. In the South there is usually egg and meat in the middle, in the North zongzi is more dessert like and there is usually red bean paste or taro (a root similar to sweet potato) in the middle. 

I think its funny//interesting because these zongzi are also sold at street food stands where they are unlabeled--when i ask my chinese coworker if they know whats in the middle they have no idea, but that doesn't stop them from buying it! 

It FREAKS me out that there is meat in the middle of these and they aren't refrigerated! 

Yesterday at work our company brought in some zongzi for everyone to try. I put it aside because i was still a little grossed out. During the 10 minute break of my 4:20-6:30 class i was STARVING and decided to try it. I heated it up in the microwave for about 4 minutes. 

It reminded me of a chipotle burrito--but with banana leaf instead of aluminum. Most chinese people don't use any utensils but i had to use a spoon. 

The sticky rice was REALLY good. When I mentioned the egg tasted different i found out it was duck egg--i ended up spooning most of the yolk into the trash haha. My coworkers also warned me there was pork fat in it--which is supposed to melt and make it taste really good. That was spooned out too. 

Overall the sticky rice was really good! I probably would never buy one on my own because I'm still a little freaked out by the surprise of whats in it and that its not refrigerated. 

Happy Dragon Boat Festival! 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunshine and smiles

Since Dragon Boat Festival is this coming Wednesday, the Shenzhen government has moved around the children's school days so they went to school on Saturday and Sunday so they could have a three day weekend. That means I got Friday and Saturday off this week and am working today and tomorrow.

The weather this weekend was absolutely GORGEOUS. Goodbye seasonal depression! The humidity has gone down a bit and the sun is shining. So naturally I spent some time both Friday and Saturday laying out in the sun.

In China the sun is avoided. People walk around under umbrellas to avoid getting any color. Being white is valued here because if you are tan it means that you work in the sun which means that you are poor.


So you can imagine how unusual it is for people to see me laying out enjoying the sunshine. Even the pool at my garden has a canopy blocking the sunshine, so searching for a good spot to lay out is challenging! But i recently discovered this overhead walkway from the civic center to linhua mountain park.

I layed out my towel, put in music, ignored all the stares and read my book. On Friday no one bothered me because i had headphones in. On Saturday I forgot my music so this older man started talking to me in very broken english. He was under a tree and said i should come sit in the shade, but i told him (did some charades) that i was trying to get a tan. He decided to come sit next to me in the sun. After about 40 minutes I couldn't take it anymore and had to tell him I had to go. Next time ill have to make sure my headphones are in...

Friday, June 7, 2013



Thursday was a CRAZY day! I had to get to the police station to get a new registration form (since my passport was stolen i need to get a new visa). This took about an hour and a half but i met a phillipino woman there who i chatted with the whole time--she also spoke chinese so she helped me communicate with the police! After that I had to head over to kodak to get pictures for the visa. To get from one place to the other I decided to use the bus system. 

This is a CHALLENGE because all of the stops are written in chinese and i don't know what the name of the stops are...I just know that I want to go West on Hongli Road. But after two buses I managed to get to China Post and then Kodak. 

Before I went to Kodak, I stopped by a China Post because I got this little slip on my desk on Tuesday to let me know the post office had my package: 

Yeah...decoding this was a pain. Even my local coworkers were telling me different things... but I searched on the computer (in english) where my coworkers thought the post office was at that had my package and found a place about a half a mile away from my school down the main road. I showed them my slip and she told me it wasn't here...that it was near Shuibao (A department store right by my school). 

So I headed back and stopped at every China post on the walk...after about 5 China Posts I was really discouraged and frustrated. I had to be into work by 1 for summer training so I had to give up. 

After training my private student cancelled so I asked all of my local coworkers to help me find the post station. It turns out it was on the street right behind our school. I headed over but got shut down because i didn't have my passport. I ran back to the school, grabbed my passport, and FINALLY got my package. (If only they could have just delivered it to my school! haha what a HASSEL!) 

The package had a beautiful handmade card (compliments of my mama--check out her "creative rumblings" 


American magazines! Those of you who know me know that i am OBSESSED with magazines. Sometimes the only thing that motivated me to go workout at the ARC was knowing they had a fantastic up-to-date stand of magazines. You can get them in Hong Kong but they are 10-12 USDs (YIKE)

and a book that i have heard is really good! 

The package also had butterfingers in it--none of my coworkers from Europe (or China) had ever tried a butterfingers before...those disappeared quickly! 

This was sent back in October but the same thing probably happened and i never got the little package! Thanks Mom!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Bankcard...New Bank Account

Now that I have a passport, I could go to get a new bankcard yesterday. I imagined that the bank could simply cancel my old card and issue me a new one that was linked to my account.

Easy, efficient...not in China.

When I got there the bank employee at the front went and got the manager. I explained to him that i need a new bank card and that mine had been stolen. He sat me down and started going through the paperwork which seemed like an unusual amount of paperwork for such an easy thing to fix...

Then I gave him my passport and there was a huge issue that my old passport number was not the same as my new passport number. I explained and showed him all the papers--that my passport was stolen with my bankcard, that it took 2 weeks to replace...the bank owner acted like it was a big dilemma. Three more bank employees and 20 minutes later the owner asked me to follow him.

They let me cut the line of people waiting and lead me to the "elite services" window. The woman did all the paperwork for me and just simply told me to sign off at certain places. After an hour an a lot of paperwork the woman put all of the money in my account in front of me. She explained they had to completely close out my bank account and open a new one for me since my passport number was different.

After another hour and more paperwork she issued me a new bankcard and put my money into a new account.

The bank employees kept bringing me water, i was a little surprised at such good customer service in China. I understand all the rules and regulations they must follow...but it was a little crazy how much of  a process this was.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Guangzhou Day Trip

Last Wednesday the US Consulate emailed me that my passport is ready and that I could pick it up whenever. Since i did not have the money at the time to take the fast rail both ways, I had to wait until my weekend (Monday).

Yesterday I headed to GZ. i took the fast rail train there which took about an hour and a half. The fast rail is very easy and convenient. The stations are connected to the metro so its easy to get to. The worst part is waiting because chinese people don't understand how to stand in line!

i got there right when the Embassy closed for lunch hour so I did some shopping. One hilarious thing about IKEA in China is that people make themselves at home. Usually during the long lunch break there are loads of businessmen taking a nap on the sofas or beds.

The Embassy is HIDDEN. The building isn't labeled and then the US Embassy is impossible to get to since it is on the 5th floor and you have to take certain escalators up (the one on the right on the first and second floor, the one on the left from the second to the third...) Since I had already been to the embassy 2 weeks ago i quickly found it, checked my bag for 30 RMB (I almost left it a FREE locker at IKEA--so ridiculous to check it for so much!)

After I got my passport I walked around the city a little bit. I walked through a gorgeous park and went to a pedestrian shopping street that was well known. Guangzhou is pretty similar to Shenzhen--there are a lot of parks and greenery and a lot of shopping. Guangzhou has a lot more history though. While I was shopping on the pedestrian street there was a huge 3D map of Guangzhou during the Qing dynasty. There are also many temples and museums around the city. I couldn't find a temple that i had wanted to see and wasn't in the mood to ask for help so I just decided to head back.

The People's Park

These guys were yelling and screaming at each other over a game of cards

I went to the East Train station and followed the signs for the station. When i got there it didn't look how i remembered, but i figured i came to a different part of the large station. I bought a ticket and got my passport out to show them but she said she didn't need it. My ticket was about 10 RMB less than it should have been and when i walked to the waiting room, i noticed there were coach buses parked outside. WHOOPS!

I should have just refunded the ticket but i didn't want to bother and my bus was about to leave. There were only 3 other people on it...they were laughing hysterically while i was trying to find my seat number.

The fast rail train home only takes about 40 minutes to an hour. The bus took almost three hours and it was impossible to relax because chinese drivers are the WORST. and of course the last hour was in pouring rain.

Needless to say i made it home safely! I was planning on going to Macau today but it turns out I can't because I need to replace my visa first...if I had gone to Macau I wouldn't be allowed back in the mainland :(

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Children's Day

Yesterday was Children's Day in China.

Naturally the only thing that kids got to do for children's day was skip between their english lessons and math lessons and then top it all off with homework.

School and the education system in China is so competitive. Parents often live near a top Primary school so their child can attend the top Primary School. After Primary School//Middle School, students take a test to determine which high school they will go to. In High School, students take the gaokao, which is similar to the SAT and will dictate if they can get into a top university in China.

If students do not do well on the Gaokao and they can afford to study abroad, they will take the SAT or another country's required test and apply to colleges abroad. If students know in advance they want to study abroad, they will prepare for the SAT or other country required tests instead of the gaokao or even go abroad as early as high school. Many students that I teach want to go abroad, but they do not have money restraints. I know obtaining a student visa can be difficult if you do not come from a wealthy family. The Chinese government does not give out loans--instead people can borrow money from friends.

The competition and preparation starts at a young age. Since many families only have one kid, there is intense pressure on the child. Kids spend their evenings and weekends taking private lessons or tutoring sessions or doing an absurd amount of homework. Little emphasis is placed on the importance of extracurriculars or fun activities outside of school.

When students come in on Saturday and Sunday it is almost depressing to ask them how their weekend is going. Over holidays where students get weeks off school, they tell me they would rather be in school because they have so much homework and other lessons.

With that said, I had a full schedule of classes yesterday. My students told me they did not like Children's Day. In my 1:30 class of 7 year olds, many came with tears in their eyes because they had to leave Children's Palace to come to class.

Some of my littles!