Sunday, August 29, 2010

Long Week...

...A new one about to begin.

Last week marked the second week of our school year. I only had to teach for three days, however, because I was permitted to travel with Adam on his student council retreat. Adam is the adviser for student council this year--I think that he will do a very good job with it too!

We left at 6:30am on Thursday morning, and I returned home with half of the students on Saturday at 11pm. Adam didn't get home until Sunday morning because he had to take the over night train (one of the students didn't have his passport, which we knew about before hand so there was no trouble).

The retreat for student council was for all the ISC school to participate in by sending their teams, although one school opted not to send their student council because they had scheduled their fall camp on the same days.

The kids sat in many sessions learning about principles of leadership as well as how to plan and lead in student council. They had time to brainstorm, plan, and work together as well as time to face challenges on the high ropes course. Throughout Thursday, Friday and Saturday, they had many challenge course activities that looked like a lot of fun. Some were using the high ropes course at Spring Rock where we were staying. We were up in the mountains, somewhere outside of Beijing and Tianjin. Located in the mountains is a place where students or business people can go on retreats to learn about leadership and make their teams stronger. They also might learn other valuable lessons that could change the course of their lives. This place is situated in the heart of the small, rural, mountain communities in that area. It was interesting to see another facet of China. So different from any place that I had been before!

It was great to be get a chance to travel outside of Shenyang, to watch the SYIS students grow as individuals and as a team, and to see a new side of China. The beauty of the mountains was incredible to me. Especially after living in a cement city. The fruit stands were genuine fruit stands, and the people were especially humble and considerate. One of my favorite sights was seeing a cute 4 year old running down an ancient-looking alley with his Power Ranger sword, complete with White Ranger sound effects. I didn't even realize that Power Rangers were still in circulation!

On the way to Spring Rock, we were in Beijing for a few hours and were able to eat at Peter's. I had been to Peter's before when I was teaching in Chengdu. It's a Tex-Mex style restaurant that serves amazing Mexican/Western food. Adam had never been before, and I hadn't in a many months. One of the student council members was so committed to being able to take a detour to Peter's that she mapped out the course we should take, figured out which subway lines we needed to take, and made sure that enough time was allotted for us to eat before we had to meet up with the other ISC schools to drive to Spring Rock.

Traveling with Third Culture Kids (TCK's) is amazing. They are so comfortable while in transit. They understands airports, they can read a flight schedule faster than you could imagine, they know the fastest way to get from one location to the next--even if they have never been there before! They can navigate an enormous train station with hundreds of thousands of travelers without a hitch, and they are completely at ease about walking up to strangers to ask them questions in Chinese. They can call a restaurant while still on the fast train and make reservations in Chinese, without even knowing whether or not the restaurant has that sort of accommodation. They realize the importance of obtaining official receipts (fa piaos) and saving their ticket stubs. They can pack lightly, and are helpful in lugging their friends' suitcases around to give someone a break. If I ever want to go anywhere and I'm unsure about how to get there, I want to take TCK with me. They are incredible travelers! Did I mention that they are 14, 15, 16, and 17 years old? Incredible! I can't imagine doing that sort of thing at 14 years old.

The Food. Can't talk about China without mentioning the food. Between McDonalds, Peter's, and Burger King (Adam also at at Steak 'n Eggs on Saturday night because their train didn't leave until 10:30pm), the food was great! I can't remember the last time I ate at Burger King, but definitely not since coming to China. Shenyang still has no Burger Kings. I'm sorry to say that I enjoyed Burger King a lot more than I anticipated. It was delicious. It reminded me of the first time I ate McDonalds in Shenyang last December, or of when I used to buy a sundae and coffee at the McDonals across the street from CDIS in Chengdu. It was good, for no other reason that it was familiar. McDonalds and Burger King just taste better in China. The food at Spring Rock was excellent as well! Every meal was delicious--although my digestive system didn't really agree with having Chinese food at every meal.

Overall, it was a good trip. I was so proud of SYIS's student council and of Adam. It also felt very long...I was so tired this morning! There were two teachers from another ISC school staying at our apartment while we were away. They were visiting Shenyang. I was glad to open up our home to them. However, after they left at noon today, Adam and I fell asleep for 4 hours. I only have language arts planned for tomorrow, but when I woke up, it was too late to go to school to plan. This means that we definitely have to wake up at 4:30 am tomorrow so that we can go to school early. I need to plan the rest of my subjects out for the week and prepare for my Monday lessons.

I also have the High School drama elective after school---which means I wont get home until 5:30 pm. Long day tomorrow. Lots of coffee will be necessary, that's for sure! I think that we will start reading the script for Treasure Island tomorrow. I'm allowing the students in my class to read the script before auditions so that they can help me to write character descriptions for the rest of the school--this helps students when preparing for auditions, especially since they don't have access to the script and many are unfamiliar with the story line/characters.

Adam will be going with his middle school students on their annual Fall Camp retreat on Thursday--Saturday this week as well. This means that I'll have some more alone time and maybe an opportunity for a girls movie night!

I have some pictures from our time in Beijing/Spring Rock. SYIS has a policy that prohibits teachers from posting pictures of students on the internet. So my pictures will have to be reduced to mostly inanimate objects or Adam. Because of this policy, I made sure to take plenty of pictures that contained zero student faces. Having a blog or facebook with this policy is a little frustrating at first (since I would love to post pictures of my students and the fun things that we do together at school), but it's breeding a new mindset it me. I am beginning to take pictures that I wouldn't normally think of just because then I will have a picture that I can actually post online.

Adam--reading on the train to Beijing.

Four hour train ride to Beijing!

Adam---excited about Peter's!


Drinking out of a jar at Peter's.

Adam--Eating his burrito!

Chicken Enchiladas

The appetizers that Adam bought for us. He was very generous and paid for all the kids.

Waiting for the Airport Express train after eating at Peter's. We met the other students/advisers at the airport.

First morning at Spring Rock--so beautiful!

At Spring Rock--some men building a rock wall on the side of the road. The roads were so steep there! My calves certainly got an intense workout walking around in their village.

Renting horses to take a ride is one of the ways the people there make their income. They were always asking us, "Qi ma ba?"

I'm guessing that this was some sort of farm implement or other type of machine.

Harnesses that the students wore for safety during their rope course challenges.

A section of the high ropes course.

Adam learning how to help the high ropes course instructors.

Adam wanted to try the high ropes course so much--but this was as close as he got to it.

A very interesting tree that grows up in the mountains. Looks like inspiration to Dr. Suess to me!

See...I'm getting better at not including students in pictures! Here, Adam is encouraging his students to keep going!

It was so sunny--I ended up getting slightly sun burned. All better now!

Adam started writing on rocks.

So, remember how I always apologize for my camera's fuzzy pictures? My little canon was supposedly on its last leg. While I was sitting for almost 5 hours at the high ropes course, watching the kids work on their challenges, I realized that my camera has been on a low ISO setting for two years. Apparently it defaults to that setting. Voila! My camera is fixed!

Fixed camera! Yay! Now I don't have to apologize for blurry pictures, or worry about buying a new one!
We walked through the village, and then up/down some steep roads to get to a dam that was about a 30-minute walk away. The students went swimming in the warm, clear water. Here are some pictures from the village.

Man butchering one of his goats on the side of the road. You can see the goat's head (white) on the ground near the hand of the person who was walking in front of me.

Butcher man taking some guts to who knows where. Maybe to feed animals, or maybe to feed people, or maybe to throw away. Who knows?

Garden wall with thatch and feed corn behind it.

The dam far below us!

Advertisement on the side of the road for Chinese laser tag that is somewhere in the area. At least that's what I think is a picture of!

Farm house we walked past. Or at least it smelled like a farm!


Rake and wild flowers on the side of the dirt road

I'm not sure what this little structure is used for, but maybe it is where Piglet lives when he vacations in China.

One way to keep a tree supported.

This dragon fly landed on me six or seven times. I was a little disturbed.

Adam swimming across the dam to the other side!

Adam returning from the other side of the dam.

Raisin fingers!

bucket of blood that I noticed on the way back--same place the goat was butchered.

Very tall feed corn

Produce wheel barrow.