No, my feet are not cold…and other bits of me

Things have been slowly warming up over here in the ‘Hai which means that I have already busted out the trademark flip-flops. This has wrought many a weird stare and off-hand comment like, ‘Girl you crazy!’ So…tonight’s slice is in response to the questioning stares…

A Few Things You Should Know About Me
a. i don’t like typing with capital letters…which makes being a teacher difficult 😉
b. i do not like shoes…of any kind…really…
c. my feet usually don’t get cold. more often it’s my arms that chill first, so i run around in summer with flip-flops, shorts and a hoodie…a lot!
d. i only wear flip-flops because i have to wear something (especially here in china as the streets are covered in i don’t want to know what)
e. yes, my feet are usually some shade of slightly blue-ish…it’s not because they’re cold, but that i don’t have the best circulation (especially in my small digits like fingers and toes)
f. i will easily find myself repeating the same song (many times some children’s song i use or have used for teaching) over and over and over and over and over and over and over…get the picture?
g. if i’m in the middle of a good book, i tend to neglect the finer points in life such as eating, sleeping, and generally taking care of myself
h. i loose my voice at least once a year (although with the aqi as high as it has been here, i might set a new record and loose it twice before june!)
i. if you haven’t noticed already, i really like to use the ellipse…hehehe…
j. if it weren’t for product and hair ties, my hair would continue to grow outward (not longer mind you) as the day wears on in this humid climate
k. i usually don’t wear green on st. patrick’s day because i firmly believe that those of us with green eyes have an automatic pinch pass
l. i was not raised on ‘traditional american food’ but on tempura, fondue and other ‘high class’ treats (thanks mom!)
m. no, i am not a twin…yet so many people think my sister erin and i look like it (i personally don’t see that much of a resemblance…not to offend erin, but we look distinct)
n. my favorite article of clothing is a pullover hoodie…i would wear one every day if i thought my principal wouldn’t eventually say something about it
o. my favorite flowers are morning glories and daisies
p. i do not have a favorite color, per se…it usually depends on my mood and what color pops off the wall that day
q. for those that inevitably want to ask…today my favorite color is green (a bright, emerald shade)
r. i am a sucker for good young adult series…i’m currently reading ‘percy jackson’ and ‘fable haven’
s. i am not a strong swimmer, but i am a fish! i love being in the water, and would stay all day if it wasn’t for those two pesky things: sunburn and dehydration
t. i don’t collect souvenirs from the places i travel to in the ‘normal’ sense of the word…instead i collect tea cups and art
u. speaking of ‘normal;, i do not like that word
v. i was born and raised in colorado, but i am not a fan of cold weather…we just don’t get along
w. my favorite tea is irish breakfast, but it is altogether non-existent in china…at least i have yet to find it here
x. i am deathly afraid of heights, but am an adrenaline junkie…two traits that consistently battle within me…i’m happy that the adrenaline junkie is slowly winning the war
y. i tend to overpack when traveling…and it’s usually because i bring a lot of books (or buy them as i go)
z. i have ocd tendencies…hence why i went all the way through the alphabet even though i had originally planned on only writing a few tidbits…but once i started i couldn’t stop until it was finished…and now it’s finished

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Pho Party!

One of the great things about living in Shanghai are the amazing and wonderfully diverse people that you meet! And the food that comes with is not to be overlooked either…

I have two good friends that are Hmong, and consider Pho (a Vietnamese style noodle soup) to be comfort food. I also have a cook friend who is working toward becoming a chef that loves to cook anything and everything. This combination of friends led to last night’s Pho Party. A gathering of 8-10 people from all over this globe, coming together over noodle soup!

The first impression that I had of the evening was the smell as I walked in the door. Many times we say that something smells mouth-watering, but this time…I had to consciously keep myself from drooling! The scent of slowly cooked meat permeated every crevice of my friend’s apartment. But, to many people’s dismay, there was still much to be done before dinner could be served. So we waited, and talked, and got to know each other better while our stomachs grew louder and louder.

Soon enough, everything was prepared and we were ready to dig in! This was my first home experience with Pho, but the instructions were simple enough: start adding what sounds good to you, and mix to taste. So, I was a good student, and did just that! I started grabbing the various ingredients that were laid out on the table before me, mixed them in, tasted, added more, and eventually came up with a savory noodle soup that was the right balance of spice and tang.

The next few moments of dinner were quite quiet as we filled our bellies and ate. As we become more and more full, the conversation picked up again and became increasingly lively. The rest of the night was a wonderful buzz of conversation, Madden 2013, soft ’80s ballads, and the warmth of friendship. I think Pho has secured its place as a comfort food to me…it will forever hold this memory, and the friendships that grew with it!

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Second Time Around

Ever have that moment when you get so excited to eat your leftovers because the meal was uber delicious the first time………aaand then you end disappointed? Well, that was my dinner tonight. I had gone to brunch with a friend and ordered a savory gallette with potatoes, onions, and cheese. I was not able to finish it all, so I took what was left home ‘dao bao’ style thinking I would have a great dinner, too. Well, it wasn’t as good the second time around. The potatoes were lacking, the onions were slimy, and the whole effect was just lost in translation.

So, now I’m here at home, after having finished the not-as-impressive encore, still hungry and wanting to order Sherpas. I think I’ll read and hit the hay early instead…save me a few rmb, and lose myself in a good mystery! Night all.

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I survived!

If anyone ever thought they knew or understood the chaos theory, they’ve clearly not taken a class of 13 international 2nd graders on a field trip in China! While my kids had a lot of fun, and behaved themselves well…I’m glad to say I don’t do this often! From the first moment of having to stop at two separate offices to even get entrance tickets, to that last moment of returning so late the kids stepped off one bus only to get back on another, this day will forever be remembered as my induction into the ‘survivors club.’

Walking through mediocre exhibits, with pairs of overly stimulated (and easily distractible) 9 year olds is exhausting work. We were all done with the tiresome organisms arranged in not-as-realistic-as-one-would-hope ecosystems well before our normal lunch hour…so we quickly finished up our morning classroom connections by quickly engaging with a ‘photosynthesis car’ (which the nerd in me cannot wait to research about more!) and headed out into the zoo to refuel before the afternoon.

Now, when I say zoo I’m not referring to the one in which our school currently resides. I am simply trying to create the best picture that I can for you of what the hallways of this museum looked like with more school groups than I can count, all eating on plastic garbage bags with their shoes off, and several members chasing each other round and around at full throttle.

We found a small piece of empty real estate at the top/bottom of a staircase, and the kiddos slumped to the ground with hungry sighs of relief. *I do have to add a particularly interesting side note here: all the western kids brought sandwiches, while all the Korean kids brought kimbap.* While we merrily ate our way through whatever delicious treats our backpacks relinquished, my class decided today would be a good day to be risk takers in the culinary field. I happened to bring a series of snacky things in lieu of an actual meal (and anyone who knows me, knows this is not atypical). One of these tasty items happened to be wasabi coated peas (a favorite of mine, but not loved by all). One of my kids took the first step, partially because he had little to eat of his own. He tentatively took one small little legume, popped it into his mouth, and smiled. Sensation! Next thing I know, all of my students just had to try this funny, unknown delicacy that Ms. Brittany brought to school…simply because he had tried, and liked, it! After the 3rd or 4th shocked expression sprung up, the enthusiasm wore off. We soon finished our lunches and set off to see what adventures the afternoon had in store.

Suffice it to say, the other ‘connections’ we had planned fizzled out, so we decided to give the class a treat and took them to the rainbow room. Now, if I had thought that the hallways were a zoo over lunch…I have no words to fully encompass what was experienced here. What I can leave you with is a lingering sense of anxiety and a tenseness in the shoulders that can only be released with the help of a refreshing beer. Suffice it to say, after a half hour of ‘Alice in Wonderland Madness’ and one frantic search for missing persons (not really missing, just not corralled yet), we headed back to reality and into the innovation room to calm down before the hour and a half bus ride back to school.

I am now sitting at home, curled up in my bed, reading, writing, and passing the time before I head out to grab the aforementioned beer…a survivor of ‘The Full Day Field Trip’ in the ‘Hai.

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Writer’s Block

As I sit at the kitchen table trying to write today’s slice…I find myself struggling. So, I am going to fall back on one trick that a great writing teacher and friend taught me a little over a year ago:

Write From a Word – Inspiration accredited to the lovely Ms. J.K.

Baking
Baking is a pastime that I find entertaining. Favorite recipes, and experimentation all boil down to one simple thing: putting together parts in order to make something new. I grew up taking things apart in order to discover how they work, and baking is similar in its approach. You are taking distinct tastes, and assembling them to work together in a gastro-symphony. Sometimes the product is awe-inspiring, other times it needs a tweak or two. Overall it is a process of mind and body that combines unique parts of who you are with the flavors you mix together. At first baking seems ordinary, plain, a simple task. But after a few years of working with certain highlights and textures you begin to take risks, get messy, figure new things out. This is when baking becomes an adrenaline rush…that moment of exhilaration when you are at the top of the highest hill, not knowing exactly when the ride is going to drop you. It might turn out to be a bust, an old trick, or it might just take your breath away! When that happens, you can only hope to get everything so you can recreate it later. Baking takes time, patience and effort. It is not a task to be undertaken lightly. It can lift a person’s spirits, or brighten the darkest of days. Baking is comfort food…there when you just need a pick me up! Thanks, mom, for teaching me to love something that will last me a lifetime. You rock!

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Friends

‘Ok…what to write about today…’ I muse to myself.

*Burp* ‘You could write about my burping. That’s interesting.,’ comes the response from across the table.

My life is full of interesting people…

I have this knack for meeting some of the most unique people ever, and they have a knack for sticking around. And yet, I wouldn’t (nay, couldn’t) have it any other way. These are the people that keep my life entertaining, spontaneous, and forever young at heart. These are the people who I can call upon at any hour of the day and they will do what they can to help/listen/hang/chat. These are my extended family (even if there’s no blood relation), my home.

This is a short post, but it’s a shout out to all of the characters that I am blessed to call FRIENDS!

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Oh my…

I have a wonderful mix of personalities and learners in my class this year. Among the usual suspects are a few day dreamers, some over achievers, and your run-o-the-mill studious features. One of the stronger personalities is a lovely young man who is highly intelligent, yet none too eager to play the responsibility card.

Suffice it to say, this young man has a positive reinforcement plan that involves teachers throughout the day dolling out pluses for working independently and following directions. While there are days in which even this tends to fail, over all he likes the attention it brings and will usually work harder the more you (as the teacher) remember to add those fun, pink + signs…and yet…the daily goal seems to be an illusive beast!

‘Something’s not clicking,’ ‘Maybe it’s just not enough,’ or even ‘He just doesn’t care’ tend to be the thoughts and reactions when faced with this dilemma…and truthfully I would usually be in accord, but not in this case.

No. In this scene, we have a boy who generally wants to please and definitely wants that 10 minutes of iPad free time at the end of the day. ‘So what’s holding him back?’ you ask.

Memory!

I cannot find a way to get this student to remember to take his clipboard with him to single subjects, recess or Chinese! No doubt in my mind that he would reach his goal on a regular basis if only he could remember to take that clipboard with him! Upon discussing this with him today he responded with, ‘Well…I guess…I don’t know. Maybe tomorrow I try again.’ With a shrug, and a grin, he walked out of the room to get his backpack and jacket to go home…with me inevitably trailing behind spouting my daily rhetoric, ‘You forgot your homework folder!’

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Running…

So many thoughts are running through my head right now…
-What needs to be done tomorrow
-Friends, family and other relationships
-What next year (or even next week) might bring
-What’s happening with my life
-How did I get here
-What’s He have in store for me next
-Frustrations, fears, fine lines, and feelings

So many thoughts are running through my head right now, and all I want to do is run, hide, and wait until it passes…

But that’s not a possibility, and something (a piece of me) that I am trying to release and lay down. I am working through this thing called ‘deal with it’ one tiny, baby step at a time and it is exhausting. It is a draining. It is daunting. It is overwhelming. It is a prospect that I cannot hope to work through on my own…I am thankful, grateful beyond words, that I am not alone!

I have a Helper, a Friend, a Counselor, a Guide that walks this path of life with me. He is by my side through everything I face, and He even carries me when He knows that it has become too much. He knows me better than I know myself, and He is a constant fount of strength, grace, peace, and comfort. It is upon Him that I am relying today. It is beneath His wings that I take my refuge and rest amidst the storm.

So many thoughts are running through my head right now…
Me? I’m running straight to Him.

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Love and Surrender

I’ve been back in the ‘Hai for a little over two months now, and it has been life alterring! Fun, food and thought provoking challenges seem to be the flavour of Shanghai, Year 2. He is moving…and in some pretty astonishing ways!
Work has been uber busy! While this year seems to be a lot smoother and much more engaging, I also have been feeling like I’m slightly behind more often. Not to say that’s a bad thing! My class is full of great kiddos, my team and I seem to work wonderfully together and I get to teach some powerful units that my class are truly buying into in big ways! We just finished an entire unit on the uniqueness of Earth, the other planets and our solar system. The kids did wonderfully well, were overly excited about all we did, and showed off their fabulous creativity by creating their own unique planets! They were even quite disappointed to hear that when we get back from break that we have to wrap up and move on to the next unit. Yet, I have a great feeling that they will be just as excited about our next unit when they get to explore different types of journeys with some help from Roald Dahl’s adventurous friend James! I am excited to see what they dig into and to hear about some of the journeys they have taken themselves!
Work has also presented itself with some challenges for me (both physically with my recent food cleanse, and personally/professionally combined). He is moving mountains in my life, and has communicated two particular things for this year. One is patience and forgiveness. I have a tendency to sometimes be short and flustered with people in my classroom. He has placed this tendency on my heart and is calling me to take a step back, breathe and give grace like I myself have received. He is also calling me out to ask for forgiveness for those times that I don’t catch myself and become snippy. This has been a good point of reflection and growth for me. It has shown me one of my weaknesses and an area in my life where I can be a better example of His love. By His grace and power, I have been able to let go of some of the things that don’t always go the way I would like and have been able to connect more with those I work with! The other challenge He has presented at work is how I interact with my coworkers. He has been challenging me to step out of my comfort zone, set aside my need to be ‘accepted’ and really live out my my values in a way that is noticable. This is not always something overtly noticeable, but it is always a thought in the back of my mind and has kept me accountable in what I say and do around the people I work with. This has also presented me with several opportunities to share authentically more about Him and His calling for my life. This has shown me that all I need to do is live out my love for Him and His people. I only hope that He continues to present those opportunities and can use me for His purpose!
At home, He has been teaching me many things about love, surrender and going deeper with Him from a few different sources. A couple of those sources happen to be books that I am reading through. One is focused on relationships and how to repair/refresh the relationships I already have, and how to appropriately build new relationships with people that He brings into my life. This book has been refreshing as it really challenges me to focus on my familial relationships and those friendships that are oldest and closest. It has also given me a fresh perspective on how to approach relationships with my guy friends…which has been highly beneficial and healthy for me! The other book is on discipleship, and I have been going through this with a couple of the girls in my cell group. This has not only challenged me to reflect on my relationship with Him, but it has given me the opportunity to go deeper and do life more authentically with those two gals! I am truly blessed to be in a place where I can go through life honestly with a couple of women who are clearly chasing after His heart! It has also taught me that I need to be, and easily can be, more of a servant to those in my life daily. The last, and most recently fresh way that He has challenged me is through a two day conference on going deeper with Him! During this conference, He brought something clearly to my attention that has been on my heart lately: I need to let Him search my heart deeply and allow Him to fix/cleanse/restore what needs fixing/cleansing/restoring. The greatest part of this conference…it gave me some very practical tools to do just that! I am excited to put these things into practice and see what wonderful things He then has in store for me!
So, after this most recent novelita of mine, I can only end with one last thought and request. He is good and faithful! Never forget that , and doubt that! Also, please join me in asking for wisdom on His next steps for my life…this year will soon be done, and I am truly looking forward to what He has planned next! 🙂

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When 3Yuan Becomes 300…

While sitting here in the hotel lobby waiting to go to the airport back to Shanghai, I have time to reflect on this year’s spring break. And a couple of things have jumped out at me in surprising ways…
First, I seem to have fallen in love with Beijing! Whether it is a false sense of enjoyment since I have only seen the surface, or something deeper, I have thought about it a lot the past couple of days and can almost say (again, almost say…) that I like Beijing more than Shanghai. That’s a big statement in my opinion! Shanghai is such an easy city to live in, and there is never a lack of things to do, but Beijing caught my attention when I wasn’t expecting it! The city has such rich, deep history (which appeals to that part of me) and yet, it is also trying to make its way in the modern world. It is almost like a teenager who grew up in Jane Austin’s English world, and is trying to find their place in 21st century America. That to me speaks a courage that inspires.
At the same time, though, I am torn and my heart breaks for the city (and the nation as a whole). There is a shadow over Beijing, and it is not likely to be easily lifted unless something drastic happens in how things are run. While this is true, I also was given a glimmer of hope and inspiration! I cannot go into details about the source of this inspiration here, but know that I had the privilege of seeing His power and His love for this nation (and this city in particular) in a real, tangible way. I have seen the desire, and innate need, to share with this people about who He is, and it moved me…Compelled me ask on a consistent basis since for Him to instill that sense of urgency and passion in me!
Second, first impressions can often be a hindrance to any good being done in a place. This stems from my not so pleasant first hour or so in Xi’an. I don’t think that I’ve been able to yet say that I’ve had a truly bad China day as we call them here…I’ve had days that weren’t easy, but never a truly bad China day where I just wanted to leave and not look back. That was my introduction and first impression of Xi’an! Not so much in the sense that I wanted to leave China, but I definitely did not want to stay in Xi’an…I just wanted to go back to Shanghai! After getting a few hours of sleep and a hot shower though, I decided I would try to make the best out of my stay. So, I began wandering around the streets here, watching people and seeing what I could see without having to spend 3+ hours on a bus to be swept up in yet another tourist mob.
While wandering around trying to find the Muslim quarter (since several coworkers had said the food there was not to be passed up) I passed by a woman whose face has stuck in my mind. She looked sad as she walked down the street…not sad due to a major event, but sad as if it were the norm in her life. That brought me back to the passion I had witnessed earlier in the week, and I immediately lifted her up to Him. I don’t know why she has stuck with me, but her sad face has been a reminder to me that even though I might not ever enjoy Xi’an the way that it could be due to first impressions, the people in this city are still His that He loves and longs to be reconciled to! My first impression almost made me write off an entire city of people who need Him just as much as I do! And it is my hope that I will never be so jaded by a few misfortunes again…the price is too high!
And these two things bring me to why I entitled this the way I did. First, because of one such adventure I had in Beijing where a rickshaw driver tried to cheat me out of (in this country) a lot of money by quoting 3 yuan for the trip then asking for 300 when he dropped me off. And second, because who am I to determine the value of any one person, let alone a whole city. He has called me to love ALL of His children, and He can turn 3 yuan into 300…whether I help Him or not. So, in the words of one woman who had that concept figured out, I am asking Him to use me no matter how uncomfortable I might feel.
“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” ~ Mother Teresa

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