Friday, February 18, 2011

Varsity Basketball

As some of you already know, Adam has been coaching the high school boys basketball team this year. He helped out last year and really enjoyed the whole season. One of the ways that they often practice is through scrimmaging the teachers on staff who like to play basketball. The day before the team left for their tournament in Wuhan, they invited the whole school to come watch their scrimmage--they had some half-time activities and music playing, and concessions. Someone kept score, and someone kept stats. It was almost like an official high school game, which we see nothing of usually--complete with an honorary "coach" and a mascot (a girl on student council dressed up in a tiger costume). Even though it was very late notice, quite a few people associated with our school showed up. It was fun to see elementary and middle school students watching the game, as well as high schoolers taking a break from their mountains of homework. Parents, families, and teachers, with a few other random folks showed up for the event. It was a lot of fun--and I hope it happens again in the future!

Right now, the basketball team is in Wuhan. I had a call from Adam who informed me that they lost 3 of their four games today. I guess they suffered several injuries and were not really able to play their best until the very end. That's how it goes at these tournaments, though. There's so much pressure to play well. In one sense it's a great opportunity for all the schools in our company to get together and compete against each other. But it is unfortunate that the students don't receive more opportunities to play in official matches. There's another day of competition ahead for them. I hope that they have lots of fun!

In other news, I miss Adam! I like having the house to myself, but life isn't as fun when Adam is gone.

Ok, it was really hard to take pictures in this gym--but I did manage to get a few cool shots. Sadly, they are of the students playing so I can't share them here.

Some of our loyal teachers who gave the high school boys some hard competition.

Taking a rest...warming the bench.

There goes Adam! He's so fast and can jump so high! That's one of the first things I noticed about him, back in the day. Haha. Well, I think age might be catching up with him a little. He feels the strain a bit more these days.

My fun baby friend! She loves to yell--and this was the perfect place to use her lungs!

More teacher friends! I love these girls!

This gym, in case you were wondering, does not belong to our school. It is located in our apartment complex in the "Club for the Elite". It has a swimming pool and fitness area as well. Sometimes the school rents the gym for practices, since it is far too cold to practice outside during the winter in Shenyang.

Here is the "coach" with another cute baby.

Afterwards, the team wanted to go our for kao rou, also known as Korean Barbeque. Basically, you order plates of meat, and vegetables too, but mostly meat--and grill it over hot coals on your table. The best part is the peanut sauce they give you---lots of garlic and onions and ginger. Yum. Sometimes we order "ban fan" which is the Chinese version of Korea's "pancheon". It's rice with lots of veggies and an egg on top. I like it because of the spicy Korean barbeque sauce, "gochijan" that they put on it. I have no idea how to spell these words!

Here are two more teacher/coaches at kao rou. I got to tag along because of Adam. I was out of element.

Something new Adam ordered based on the picture menu, which didn't turn out the best. Bacon wrapped around little mushrooms of some variety.

Oh, here's more proof of Adam's growing culinary creativity. I came home on Monday after a long day of teaching and rehearsing to find a delicious meal prepared. What was it? We're not sure--he made it up. It included rice, tomatoes, silantro, pizza sauce, chicken, cheese and red onions. Probably a lot of other ingredients too--Adam has had to become a cook for the purpose of survival. This baby has had me nauseous or exhausted, usually both...or unable to walk because of back pain...too often in the last few months. Thanks to Adam, we have not starved.

Does it look good to you? It was very tasty!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week 19

Sometimes throughout the day, I feel our baby moving right now...What an amazing feeling! It's hard for me to fathom that I will be able to hold this little person in my arms soon. I am learning to love this baby more and more--I'm thankful for the time to prepare and reflect upon a new life that's just beginning. There's a whole lot of my life that our baby has missed, but I'm excited to pour the rest of my years out for our baby.

Nothing is guaranteed in life, except for salvation. My dad has told me this several times, I think the last time was when I got engaged 3 years ago. Haha. Well, I am just torn with deep desire that our baby will come to KNOW the Eternal One who is the Creator and Sustainer of his/her life.

I have a check-up next week--more tests--and we will hopefully discover the mystery of our baby's gender. Names are chosen....but you'll just have to wait and find out.

Baby--there's lots that awaits you in this world. I hope it includes many blessings, but when suffering comes I pray that you will cling to the Father and his everlasting promises. I will try my best to protect you from evil, but I promise to not shelter you from world. To be in the world, but not of it--we will learn what that means together. Loving people, upholding His truth, and surrendering to His call on your life. I will always love you! Stay safe and keep kicking away.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Wig

Proof of why I should never have this color hair. Apparently, wigs are a pretty big deal in China. When you pass a wig shop, you might not be inclined to step inside or even consider buying a wig. At least that is how it was for me. But after going into a few in search of a wig for "Treasure Island", I realized that I would probably buy a wig for myself. There are so many cool hairstyles. If it wasn't freaky to change the length and style of your hair everyday, and so strange to put fake hair on my head, I would probably do it. Natural is best...but some of those wigs are really tempting! Believe me, this wig looks 100 degrees better on the young lady who is supposed to wear it.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Every day that slips by brings us closer to opening night for "Treasure Island". I've started having the worst nightmares about "Treasure Island". I think these dreams are made worse because of all these pregnancy hormones. Last night, I dreamed that all of these people from different schools (which are non-existent in reality) kept coming to sit and watch our rehearsal on Saturday--I couldn't get anyone to leave, no matter how much I yelled and screamed into a microphone that wouldn't work. I wouldn't generally mind people watching, but there were over a 100 people and they were being very loud and rude. We couldn't even practice. After two hours, we had only gotten through 2 minutes of the play. I kept trying to kick people out and then resorted to charging them 20 kuai to stay. It felt very real.

Now that I am awake, I have to keep reminding myself that "Treasure Island" will be a great show. There's so many more people helping out this year--some people I haven't even met yet. There is still a lot left to do--but I think it can be accomplished....

Adam has been playing a lot of video games this Chun Jie break. He has borrowed "Mass Effect 2" which is a sci-fi game that allows you to "become" a character and build relationships with other characters. Not a lot of fighting--mostly talking, collecting elements, and trying to solve the mystery. It's like an interactive movie and very addicting. Hopefully he'll get this kind of game out of his system--it is break after all--and once our baby comes the 360 will hopefully become less and less of a priority.

The Green Bay Packers won the Super bowl! I'm such a bad wife--I didn't watch the game (I don't understand the rules). Adam was up bright and early to watch his team. I was happy for him that the Packers won. He wore his Packers jersey all day.

I was just thinking about how fast the school year is slipping by. I will probably stop teaching a few weeks before school is out in order to fly to America before I am too far along in my 3rd trimester. We also have spring break in after Chun Jie break is over, I think that I will only have to teach for 13 more weeks. I have a lot more to do with these kids before they're ready for 4th grade! They are still so cute and small that I can hardly imagine that they are ready for 4th grade! Hopefully the grow taller and more mature over the next few months.


How to Create Work For Yourself

Be very careful when working with 8 and 9 year olds, because if you're not, you'll end up making promises. Their cheers and nods of approval are very satisfying, but then the reality sets in and you realize that you've just created more work for yourself. However, it's not until after you actually start fulfilling your promises that you realize how much work you're in for.

I generally try to stay far away from project promises. It's not fun to follow through with these little work projects and it is ultimately unnecessary. The only person it pushes is the teacher--and the teacher has no time or sanity for carrying these tasks through. Throughout the whole month of January, we spent approximately 75 minutes working on poetry everyday. You can imagine that a lot of poetry was produced....and you are right.

The vain promise: "I will type all of your poem into a document before Chun Jie for you so that you can have your own poetry collection to keep forever".

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

A high school student who comes to my classroom twice a week to aid started to help the process get going. But after she had worked about 6 hours on typing, the collections were still unfinished. So, I started pitching in as well--after 10 hours of me working on the collections, they were still unfinished. There goes the "before Chun Jie" clause. There was no way that it could be finished!

So. Not only do I have to read all their poem and write feedback on their drafts, I have to put their grades into our online portal AND type them into a document. This is taking forever! Each student has dozens upon dozens of different kinds of poems and responses.

During Chun Jie, I have continued plugging away at this mindless project and now have collections for each student that are over 30 pages long each. I wonder how many hours were spent on this altogether? Who did this directly benefit educationally? Not me. Not my aide. Not my students (even though they can have a fun keepsake now). So, how could it be improved for the future--because I still like the idea of making collections. Third graders can't type fast enough and stapling their drafts together is not the most attractive concept.

At least I will be able to print out their collections, bind them nicely, and hand them out next Monday morning so they can start illustrating.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Thanks, Lauren!

Last year, one of the most stressful jobs for me in pulling "Secret Garden" together, was looking for all the props we needed. Some had to be made, others were bought, and some were borrowed. It's not very easy to find period props around our city, where there are no thrift stores, second hand shops, or antique places around. A much different strategy is needed, and it exhausted me! This year we are working on a production of "Treasure Island" and there are a lot of props and fake weapons to buy.

My good friend Lauren has been a hero--she came on board as the prop finder and she has done a great job! She has committed herself to working the crazy market scenes on the weekends and accumulating random weapons during the week on China's version of Ebay. She has organized our prop room and made it easy for all the 28 students to find and put their props away quickly. I could definitely not do this without her! She's saving this tired, crazy lady a lot of stress in the prop division!

Lauren hard at work, bargaining at Wu Ai.


Baby Daddy

I think that Adam has always been good with kids, although babies might intimidate him a little bit. Lately, he has been such a good playmate to the babies on our team--preparing for our little baby that's on his/her way!

Such a sweet baby girl! She bounces and "claps" her feet together when she's excited and happy. Lots of excited feet clapping when rolling the basketball with Adam. :)

This little boy is learning how to laugh and smile so readily! Our friends have been taking care of him for the last few months.


War Zone

Before the post starts, here are some pictures from last year.

Last Year [Chun Jie]
Adam bought several firework boxes and needed to blow them off before they became "illegal". So, we went out to the frozen river and watched them fizzle away. Because it was the last night to blow off fireworks, there was lots of noise that night.

A different night with a different box.

See Mao in the center of that roundabout? He is actually quite a giant statue.

This Year [Chun Jie]

It is somewhat surprising when you come from a State that doesn't allow the average person to buy fire crackers to see what people can get their hands on in the street stalls for Chinese New Year. Last year, Adam bought several fairly large firework boxes. They are "relatively" inexpensive, especially in comparison to their American counterparts. This year, Adam has been good about not buying any fireworks. As his mom said, now is not the time to be blowing up money. Plus, everyone else in our city of several million seems to have bought fireworks of all kinds, so it's not like we have to pitch in order to have a spectacular New Year. This has been really hard for Adam, as he's had to avoid the temptation of many firework stands. These fireworks are special to him because I don't think they would be legal in America. They are much to big and explosive. They are closer to professional grade than anything, and are not your normal 4th of July experience.

Chinese people seem to have a set tradition for celebrating New Year. Some have to work on Lunar New Year's Eve, but usually by mid-afternoon they are all with their families, eating food and celebrating with each other. For some families, this might be the only time in the whole year that they get to see each other. They watch CCTV together for a few hours. I tried watching the variety shows put on by CCTV this year and last year, but I think its an acquired taste. It also helps if you can actually understand what they are singing. It's basically one fantastic musical number with extravagant costumes after another. There's a large audience sitting at tables, watching the spectacle, and I wonder how much you have to pay to be there. Probably hundreds of millions of people are watching this broadcast to celebrate New Year, so I suppose it's the booking to get if you are a performer of some kind. Chinese people might light off smaller displays throughout the day, and lots of noisy firecrackers too. Around 9 or 10 pm, they start lighting off the big guns and then take a break at midnight to eat jaozi which they prepare together that day. Yum!!! Jaozi is another word for pot stickers, which some people in America have eaten before at different Asian restaurants.

During the whole day, lots of noisy fire crackers are lit of on sidewalks and in the streets. They make a lot of noise, and leave a lot of debris and smoke. This Lunar New Year was not a very good year for taking pictures because it was such a smoggy day. Before the fireworks even started, the air was already filled with pollution and a thick layer of clouds.

People shooting firecrackers out their apartment windows. Doesn't seem like the best idea ever--we saw a few fire trucks come our direction.

Can you see how smoggy it was?

As it starts to get dark, the noise making fire crackers are blown off less and less, and the big show starts--lots of fireworks purchased by families, businesses, and everyone else that has a few hundred kuai saved up for New Year. As foreigners, it's our duty to observe in surprise the sheer number of explosions that fill the sky. To be outdoors during Chun Jie means that you are surrounded by loud explosions and thick odors...gunpowder. I suppose that the Chinese deserve to fill their atmosphere with gunpowder--they discovered it after all.

Adam and I stayed in a hotel with some friends and watched the firework display from the 10th story windows of our rooms. We played games and went out for dinner. It was a fun way to celebrate---we also made it to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Yum!

Our hotel room--relatively cheap for how nice and large it was!

We had a very nice bathroom in our hotel room and a walk in closet...I wish we had a walk in closet in our apartment! The baby and I--this shirt disguises my bump very nicely.

Eating dinner with our friends in an "irish pub". We had to wait for our food for a while, but we used our time well and played banangrams while we waited. I had a little guacamole with my food--oh so good and hard to come by!

It's hard to explain the smells, the sounds, and the sights of Chun Jie until you've experienced it for yourself. For me, it's like a town's 4th of July show, times several hundred, and it lasts until the wee hours of the morning....and then continues for the next several days. One of the nice things about staying in a hotel is that the walls are a little more soundproof, so I was able to sleep through all the noise. In our apartment complex, if someone lights of a box of fireworks in our courtyard it echoes through our whole building. In the morning, in the afternoon, and especially at night, we hear lots of fireworks. I think at a certain point, fireworks are not allowed to be shot off anymore. There is a deadline to the merriment. Young and old love their fireworks in China!

Our good Shenyang friends.

Starbucks in can order in English.

Have a cup of prosperity! Happy New Year!

Week 18

Starting with usual list of complaints: back pain; exhaustion; sleeping poorly; dry skin and eczema....However, Wednesday morning I awoke very early on account of some uncomfortable pains. It was hard for me to fall asleep again after that because I became paranoid and worried. There were no other accompanying symptoms, so I decided to just hold tight until later on. Several hours later with the pain still bothering me, we called our doctor who was very reassuring. It's hard to know what is "normal" sometimes, no matter how much you read and experience pregnancy. I'm sure that it's just the ligaments around my stomach getting cramped as they stretch over my cantaloupe sized uterus.

Other than that little episode of paranoia, everything has continued to progress well and the baby and I are both healthy. I think that we might be able to find out the gender of our baby in the next few weeks--so that's exciting!

This week, our baby is growing a lot--but I was amazed to read that finger prints and toe prints are developing now. So cool. Adam and I were just talking about how interesting it is that people track their pregnancies by weeks now instead of months. Our culture is inundated with the desire to know what's going on exactly, all the time, as much as possible. You can get all sorts of trackers to put on your desktop that remind you of how many days you are pregnant and what's happening with you and your baby right now---you can get on email lists that will do the same thing. And there's no end to all the material online. Gone are the days when people would ask an expectant mother, "how far along are you" and she would respond "about 4 months".