Readjustment and a New Gig

 

Well I have been back on US soil for exactly one month. It’s hard to believe it’s been a month already and it’s hard to believe that it has only been a month. Time flies and slows when you are unemployed.

Since arriving in Rochester I have caught up on some of the things I missed while in China:

  • using an oven
  • making bread
  • have more than 1 burner on a stove
  • having a gas stove
  • playing with my 3 pups (who missed me way more that my partner did)
  • eating cheese on bread in all forms (toasted with quark, bagels & schmere, grilled cheese, quesadillas, cheese & crackers, etc)
  • going to the market
  • Wegmans!
  • getting a bikini wax
  • homesteading (this is another entire post)
  • free and uninhibited Internet
  • clean air
  • drinking water out of the tap
  • seeing stars and sky
  • subscription services/Amazon (Stitch Fix, Chococurb, BarkBox)

Those are just a few of the joys I have experienced since being home. The downside of being state-side again, other than the turmoil that is the current political arena, is being unemployed. Don’t get me wrong, being unemployed and home all day has it’s benefits: I vacuum weekly, put clean sheets and towels on the bed more often then necessary, the dogs have lots of free time, home-cooked meals are made daily, and the house is slowly being put back into sorts after 3 years of feral DJH living here. However, after an entire month of being home-bound, I may be going stir crazy.

Living in Rochester means winters are cold and long; not having a job in the winter when you are locked in your house and car-less may be the worst. If it was Spring or Summer I could be out gardening and working the farm, but in winter….

Nonetheless it all come to an end. After 3 weeks of hearing nothing from the plethora of jobs I have been applying to I heard back from 3 in the course of a day. I did two interviews and from those two interviews I got a job offer and a follow-up interview/demo lesson. The job offer comes from the local BOCES. “BOCES is a public organization that was created by the New York State Legislature in 1948 to provide shared educational programs and services to school districts.” The second interview was for a charter school position. Now for personal reasons I opted for the part-time gig. It may not be the best financial decision I have made but it’s a job that excites me.

Background info: The charter school was looking for an apprentice teacher, something I am not, had long hours  (7am to 5:30pm with students), and is a charter school (something I am not sure meshes with my personal/professional beliefs about education.) The BOCES job the other hand, is for the Center for Workforce Development. I’ll be working with adults, mostly ESL learners, who work at Strong Memorial Hospital and are being provided ENglish lessons, specifically literacy based in order to improve their careers. Things I like about this gig are: ESOL, literacy, adults, improving specific people’s lives and careers, and the hours.

It may have taken 4 weeks to get to where I am now, but re-acculturation is a process and it’s not a fast one. I am only just beginning.

 

 

 

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Polite and Pretty Perth

Since I am turning 30 much sooner than not, it’s time to start crossing off some of the items on my 30 before 30 list. One of which has to hit my 4th continent. Being American, I have North America covered. I lived in Germany in high school and college, so Europe is taken care of and I have been living in China for 3 years, thus Asia is all off the list. Now being currently located in Asia, I decided Australia would be continent #4, as it is unlikely I’ll be in the vicinity again in the near future.

I started planning my visit to Australia last spring. I had planned to attend a conference in Russia and then fly from Russia to Sydney (cheap flights, already packed, convenient) But Russia denied my visa application and thus my trip to Russia and therefore Sydney was cancelled. Fortunately DJH and I had already booked a cruise leaving from Singapore in January, so I opted to tack a week in Australia to our cruise and hope that DJH could join me. I switched destinations to Perth because it was cheaper and DJH has visited Perth in the past on business. Hopefully we could combine his business trip with my vaca and come together. Well that didn’t happen but I made it!

Fortunately I found a delightful little apartment on AirBnB right on the Swan River. It had an awesome balcony view and I was able tot watch the sun set and rise from the comfort of my own balcony. There was also an amazing walking trail behind the building along the rover and I took advantage of the clean air and ran a couple days while I was there.

While I was unimpressed with Perth as a city, it’s beaches were well worth the trip. I spent 3 days in a row at Scarborough Beach, my favorite of the ones I visited. It was clean and had very little man-made interference. There was also very few people, which made it ideal after the mayhem of the Chinese population. It was beyond nice to be able to walk along in solitude in a bathing suit without being touched, prodded, or photographed!

I also visited quite a few tourist sites: the Perth Zoo, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and Fremantle Markets. The zoo was great. The bush path exhibit, which puts you within touching distance of kangaroos and koalas, was a highlight. Speaking with a  local volunteer from China about the orangutan habitat and hearing stories of escaped primates was also a highlight. Reminded me of the wonderful volunteers in the Seneca Park Zoo.

Of course I also enjoyed the local food, but not as much as I normally would have. I was more excited by the ease of getting Indian food delivered (I missed curry and naan so hard) and eating regular Western food (BrEaD, ICE CREAM, WiNe), that I didn’t partake of the local cuisine as much as I normally would have.

Overall my time in Perth was well worth the expense. I’d certainly visit again.

2017 New Year Resolutions

Monthly Goals for 2017

  • January: Explore Perth, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Re-integrate into the US.
  • February: Finances: Work on taxes, make a spending plan & budget, and GET A JOB
  • March: Celebrate DJH’s 30th! Spend the month rebuilding and developing our relationship.
  • April: Homesteading! Prepare to garden, raise poultry, start honeybees, and set up freezers and kitchen for intake.
  • May: Learn a new skill and work on self-growth
  • June: Reconnect with family in Germany and get DJH to Europe
  • July: Focus on free and fun outdoor activities in order to put more money into paying off debt. Plan on paying off credit cards and 1 student loan by the end of this month.
  • August: Work on the house. Finish any started projects, but avoid starting anything new.
  • September: Canning and packaging the harvest: Tomato Sauce, pickles, pie fillings, and greens for winter.
  • October: Clean and organize the house. Spend time going through each room and evaluating what we have and what we use/need. Eliminate the excess.
  • November: No eating out for the month of November, put the estimated money saved into a savings account.
  • December: buy Christmas gifts from ethical, local, and environmentally friendly companies. Wrap gifts in reusable materials.

 

Personal Goals for 2017

  • Read more than 300 books
  • Take the GRE
  • Study Chinese (take a class)
  • complete 30 before 30 list
  • Be healthier (more yoga, more gym time, better food choices, more dog walks)
  • Reconnect with Rochester and the people there

Looking Back at 2016

Having just watched New Zealand and Sydney bring in the new year, I thought it was time I looked back at 2016 before it’s over here in Northern China. Here are some of my best moments and memories from 2016.

Favorite Memories

  • Dinner with colleagues and friends
  • Seeing Pandas in Chengdu
  • Visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian
  • Traveling to Hong Kong with DJH
  • Any time spent with my fellow Fellows
  • Exploring new places
  • Catching up with old friends in Shanghai and in Almaty

Places I Visited

  • Rochester, NY
  • Canada
  • Jamaica
  • Grand Cayman
  • China: Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xian, Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong, Jiuzhaigou, Harbin, Guiyang, Shenyang
  • Hong Kong
  • Kazakhstan

People I Met

  • My wonderful students at Shenyang Normal
  • Some amazing human beings, talented and dedicated teachers, and global citizens: English Language Fellows
  • A bunch of motivated and professional Chinese English teachers who are making the best out of some of the worst environments (high stakes testing, large class sizes, minimal PD, challenging student home lives, student poverty, and apathetic atmospheres)

Things I am Grateful For

  • The ability to travel and work abroad
  • The ability to go home
  • New and adventurous food experiences

A Hard Lesson I Learned

No matter how organized and prepared I am, China will find new and interesting ways to challenge and test my neuroses. No matter how flexible or patient one is, China has a way of making one even more flexible and more patient!

Thing I Did This Year that I am Proud of

  • Developed multiple professional trainings and provided unique on-site feedback all over China
  • Created curriculum for 5 new courses
  • Worked with students to develop their English ability and hopefully motivated them to keep at it!
  • Made the decision to move stateside (at least for now)

A Fitting End and Beginning

Warning! To my secular friends, while this is a travel blog, today I am relating my travel to my faith. If uninterested don’t read 🙂

Advent Week 1: Hope

This whole year has sped by and once again Advent is upon us. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was visiting friends in Shanghai? (yes it was.) Didn’t I just see DJH in Hong Kong for my birthday in September? (yes I did.) Am I really coming up on 3 years in China? (YES I AM!) Time flies faster and faster every day it seems. It seems only fitting that my last month in China is also Advent. And as most Christians the world over, I have begun the waiting period:

Waiting to finish out the semester,

Waiting to travel to Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia,

Waiting to reunite with DJH,

Waiting to return home on a more permanent basis after 3 years abroad,

Waiting to see my family after over a year of bad connections and tech issues,

Waiting for Christmas,

Waiting for Christ.

During this time of waiting I reflect on the changes that have occurred or are occurring in my life. So much has changed and yet so much has remained the same. As I “wait” out my time in China, I think of all that I have accomplished and all I have yet to do.

But I must also consider all that I have to hope for as I begin the next chapter/stage of my life.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

This poem has always been religious in meaning for me. Advent is hope. Waiting for the birth of Christ, who himself brings hope. Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me. Sola fida! This year it has extra meaning as I prepare not only for Christmas, but my return to the US after an extended extension of my time in China. What was supposed to be a 10 month contract in Russia turned into three 10 month contracts in China, a country I never expected to visit let alone reside in. (It’s always shocking to me where I end up.)

SO as I prepare to wait my return home, I think of all the great things I have to hope for in the New Year.

Today’s Advent reading is from Isaiah. Sermon is from Pastor Jen.

God Bless.

November 2016

Since it’s the month of Thanksgiving and it is too much of a challenge to participate in No Eat Out November in China. (I do some form of eating out everyday here for many reasons: lack of kitchen, convenience during travel, cost, need for heat/wifi.) SO while DJH is at home avoiding Taco Bell and I’m here eating dumplings, I thought I’d spend the month of November saying what I am thankful during my last 61 days in Shenyang.

November 1

I am thankful for long informal conversations with students in my favorite Shenyang Coffee Shop.

November 2

Feeling grateful for the ability to sleep in late on a weekday. Having afternoon classes has been great.

November 320161105_192803

Blessed to have an amazing local coffee shop I can visit with students, get work done, use their wifi, and eat delicious waffles in.

November 4

Unbelievably happy to have the ability to go to lunch and laugh so loud and hard over stories shared over a “Chinese casserole”. Thanks to Vicky for the great lunch date.

November 5

Books! Love having a day to read, even if I should be doing other things. I’m so grateful for Kindle Unlimited and the ability to read for pleasure.

November 6

Thankful for friends to see movies with and so glad that the Chinese love superhero films!

November 7

The Best Spouse Ever Award continues to go to mine. I sent him a pinterest pin and he immediately sketched and started to plan out the new bed we(he) are going to make out of pallets and apple crates.

November 8

Feeling lucky to have met such am amazing people during my time in Shanghai. Love that we can catch up at a moment’s notice on wechat as if no time at all has passed.

November 9

Loving my students who have gotten so interested and engaged in this election. Cannot believe how interested they have been throughout the whole election. It’s been amazing to see things through their eyes and their thoughts. I love being able to take them to the Consulate Election Day Viewing Party.

November 10

Walking through campus on rainy days, avoiding puddles, and students’ umbrellas. Taking in my last few months here at SNU.

November 11

Grateful for country music to keep me company in my office on cold winter days in the Shen. Oh and candles for the ambiance and delight students have when they arrive in my office to the smells of Christmas!

November 12

Enjoying spending evenings conversing about the Chinese educational system with Chinese minorities in Tibetan restaurants. The diversity of a seemingly homogeneous culture gets me every time!

November 13

Yet another cultural dinner adventure! Dinner at a TexMex restaurant in Shenyang, China with a Canadian in which we only speak in German. Sometimes I forget how unique my life really is!

November 14

Today I am grateful for the school’s faculty dining. On day’s like today when I run from meeting to meeting and class to class, it’s great to be able to drop in, eat a warm meal, and get back to work.

November 15

Had a new experience today. This evening a student came for a scheduled meeting in my office. At the end of the meeting she asked me if the rumors were true, I wouldn’t be here for the spring semester. Upon hearing that I would be leaving at the end of the semester, she burst into tears. Apparently I have made an impression on her and she will miss me. Grateful to be loved and appreciated for my hard work.

November 16

Feeling grateful for delicious malatong on cold days.

November 17

A job that allows me to travel on a regular basis has always been a dream of mine, so grateful for the opportunities that being a Fellow has provided.

November 18

Another great workshop! Spent the day with 200+ teachers in Zhaoqing talking about reading and using authentic texts. Blessed to have such unique opportunities and got in the local paper.

November 19

Love surreal days like today. I went from swimming in Guangzhou in 27 degree weather to slipping and sliding on ice in -6 degree weather in Shenyang.

Good teacher training too!

November 20

Today I am grateful for long conversations with DJH and the knowledge that I’ll see him in only 54 days!

November 21

Grateful for homemade cookies and caramel machiatos while grading.

November 22

Enjoying the cold winter Shenyang weather and feeling lucky that I am not shoveling in NY this year.

November 23

Grateful for having a decent apartment to host student activities when the school facilities fail me. Happy to have students who are willing to accommodate me.

November 24

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I am so thrilled to be heading to Shanghai today to spend Thanksgiving with my Shanghai Fambam! It has been far too long since I have seen them and I am looking forward to our reunion!

November 25

Reunited with Brandon, Kay, and Nat and it feels so good! Woke up and boiled potatoes on a gas stove and washed dishes in a kitchen sink! Major life highlight!

November 26

Potlucks with expats, wine with friends, cooking on a gas stove, western grocery stores, and custard filled creme puffs!

November 27

Meeting up with old friends while walking around downtown after eating a breakfast burrito makes for a great afternoon.

November 28

Thrilled and blessed to have had an amazing reunion with some of my favorite people in Shanghai. Loved having the weekend to cook for, eat with, work out, spend time, and drink with the most amazing of friends. Looking forward to our next adventure together. Loving that no matter how long it has been between visits we can just catch up and reconnect as if no time has passed.

November 29

The flexibility and patience that life in China has given me may be the greatest blessing of my experience here. For example, today when the power went out while I was using the PPT and a video, I sighed and then adjusted for a new activity.

November 30

Cannot believe that today is the last day of November. I am so grateful for the speed at which this month has flown by. One more month left in my China experience, I cannot believe I have spent 29 months in China. It’s been a long, frustrating, exhilarating, delicious, time-consuming, life-altering experience. It’s time for the next adventure. 32 days till end of contract 3 in China!!!!

 

This may not have been the most exciting of blog posts, but it was pretty meaningful to me. Some days were harder than others and many days were super easy and took no thought at all. I really am very blessed. I have a wonderful life and family and while there are things I would/could/should change, for the most part life doesn’t get much better than this.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

NSave

Enlightenment in Almaty

“Sie sind so jung, so vor allem Anfang, und ich möchte Sie, so gut ich es kann, bitten, lieber Herr, Geduld zu haben gegen alles Ungelöste in Ihrem Herzen und zu versuchen, die Fragen selbst liebzuhaben wie verschlossene Stuben und wie Bücher, die in einer sehr fremden Sprache geschrieben sind. Forschen Sie jetzt nicht nach den Antworten, die Ihnen nicht gegeben werden können, weil Sie sie nicht leben könnten. Und es handelt sich darum, alles zu leben. Leben Sie jetzt die Fragen. Vielleicht leben Sie dann allmählich, ohne es zu merken, eines fernen Tages in die Antwort hinein.Rainer Maria Rilke

One of the greatest parts of traveling abroad is meeting other expats. Expat communities are unique in that they are a taste of home but also not. As an expat among other expats you have automatic friends. Friends with similar beliefs, lifestyles, and careers, but by no means a homogeneous group. It takes a certain kind of person to live their life abroad and being one of them means I have friends all over the world I have yet to meet.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with one of these new friends. Talking about our lives at home and abroad we found many commonalities. Once through the introductory portion of the conversation we began to get deeper in to topics most people wouldn’t discuss with someone they had only met the day before. As we talked about the current US Presidential election, charting your fertility cycle using NFP or FAM, and religious conversions it struck me that there are very few people at home in the States with whom I could have these conversations openly but there are many expats who I just met or barely know with whom I have spoken in depth about such”taboo” issues.

As we delved further into our conversation she told me about an essay she wrote for a literary magazine she works for, Topology Magazine. In this essay, she speaks about margin-dwellers, “in permaculture there exists the “edge effect,” an ecological concept that illustrates how in the space where two ecosystems overlap the most life flourishes. Here, there are species present from both ecosystems and even more, a third, unique to the overlapping territory.” She names this third species margin-dwellers.

Expats are margin-dwellers. We belong neither to our countries of origin nor to the countries/cultures we have adopted. The only space where we truly fit in is among other margin-dwellers, other expats.

Perhaps this is why we never feel at home when we are at home. Our true home is among our own kind. Fortunately, expats are everywhere, welcoming newbies and returnees alike.