Australia, Part 4: December 26-28, 2018

Welcome to the final part of our Australian adventure. On Boxing Day, we left Hobart and drove to Port Arthur, where we saw the historical site and learned about Australia’s convict past. It was really interesting, and I found myself reflecting on how the (sometimes revolutionary) methods of the 1800s have lived on in our current penal system.

At some point in its history, Port Arthur started using solitude instead of beatings, hoping that prisoners would reflect on the error of their ways and turn their lives around. Of course, we still have solitary confinement today, even though isolation has horrible effects on the human psyche. Port Arthur also sought to reform the men by educating them, which may have been a nice thought, but difficult to accomplish when they are also forced to work long days of hard labor.

The hard labor that the men did was also meant to help them learn a trade that would be useful if/when they were eventually released. One of those trades was boat/ship building. Now, you may think, “isn’t teaching convicts how to build transportation going to give them a way to escape?” A worthwhile question, the answer to which is yes. It was certainly attempted. I can’t remember if anyone was successful in their attempt.

After Port Arthur, we drove up the eastern coast of Tasmania, and it was absolutely beautiful. No pictures, because we were trying to get where we were going, but just imagine a vast ocean, rolling hills, hundreds of sheep grazing, etc. After about 4 hours of driving (with little radio and almost no cell service) we made it to our destination, where we checked in and got dinner.

The next morning, we drove out to see the Bay of Fires conservation area. The granite on this coastline is a vibrant orange color due to lichen. We spent the day lazing on the beach for a while before we called it quits and prepared for our departure.

On our last day in Tasmania, we drove back to Hobart and went to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). I think we’d both agree that it was mostly modern art, and that while we were definitely glad we went, it was hard to explain. The art had no informational plaques nearby, so you had to use your little device and headphones to learn about the art that was nearby. That part was pretty cool, because it knew where you were in the room, and you could refresh and read/listen at your leisure. At the same time, I’m a person who hates listening to information, so my headphones went largely unused. We didn’t really take pictures because a) I don’t love taking pictures of art, b) the art was pretty weird, and c) the lighting was so dim that no pictures would turn out anyway.

After that, we just flew back to Melbourne, then flew back to China! Our travel was much more pleasant on the way back, because we got a direct flight!

Next month, we’re headed to Cambodia and Laos. I’ll try to post updates in a timelier fashion, not wait 3 weeks like I did with these.

Australia, Part 3: December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Maybe that would’ve carried more weight if I’d blogged immediately instead of waiting 3 weeks. Oops.

Anyway, we woke up on Christmas morning at…I was going to say the crack of dawn, because that’s the expression, but nope. We woke up earlier than the crack of dawn. In fact, we woke up so we could drive up to Mt. Wellington and see the sunrise from the top of the mountain. We dragged a little bit and left later than we probably should have, but in our defense, it was 4-something in the morning.

As we made our journey to the mountain, we were welcomed by a friend on the side of the road.

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We actually saw two kangaroos. We saw one and failed to get a picture, and Thomas said something along the lines of, “well, that was our chance.” And 10 seconds later we saw this guy. He sat staring at us for a couple minutes before he hopped back into the brush.

We made our way up the mountain behind schedule. Eventually, we got to a lookout spot, where we stopped to get some photos.

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It was a really gorgeous view, but didn’t provide the panorama that we expected at the top, so we pushed onward.

By the time we got there, we’d pretty much missed the sunrise, but the sky was still tinged with some nice pastels, and the views of the city below were spectacular. I cursed myself a little for not having a wide angle lens, and therefore not being able to capture the full scope of what I was seeing. It was also bitterly bitterly cold in a way we weren’t expecting. I knew it would be chilly, but it felt like winter, and we were not prepared, especially after the last few days of heat and sunburn in Melbourne.

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We went back down the mountain to our Airbnb, took a little nap, and prepared ourselves for some more Christmas Day fun.

In the afternoon, we drove to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

I’m not sure if I’ve expressed how absolutely beautiful Tasmania is, but oh my gosh, it was absolutely worth going to. Hobart, the capital, is a city of about 200,000 people. I kept telling Thomas it reminded me a little of my our Matagalpa, as they’re both cities nestled in the hilly mountains, with houses built up the hillside. Anyway, the city itself gave me a sense of nostalgia, but immediately outside it, the landscape starts to open up, and you get a sense of the remoteness of the place. This is my long-winded way of saying it was a very nice drive to the wildlife sanctuary.

Because we were there on Christmas Day, they were operating with a skeleton staff, so they obviously didn’t have the capacity to do all of their usual tours. We knew that going in, and we were fine guiding ourselves through to see the wildlife. We saw a lot of wildlife that is native to Australia, many species which are now extinct outside of Tasmania.

We got to feed some kangaroos out of our own hands, and I was living my best life.

I smacked myself in the face with my camera trying to give it to Thomas so he could take this picture. Had a nice red bump on my forehead for the rest of the day!
Kangaroo so tiny!
I highly recommend spending Christmas feeding kangaroos.
They like when you scratch their chest.

Bonorong is a wildlife sanctuary, meaning they rescue injured or abandoned animals and rehabilitate them so they can reenter the wild. This guy’s name is Randall, and he was attacked by a dog. His leg was injured so badly that they had to amputate it. Because he can no longer fight off predators, he’s a permanent resident here.

Can you tell that his front right leg was amputated?

Of course, no trip to Tasmania would be complete without seeing a Tasmanian devil or two.

Devils bite. Please do not feed, tease, or touch.
Look at this cute little guy!

Just as we were about to leave, the staff started to give wrapped gifts to some of the animals. The boxes were full of meat, and we got to watch them open them and get their treat. The devil that I watched was a baby, and it was more interested in the paper than the food. Adorable.

He doesn’t care about the meat on the ground. Back to play with the paper.

Of course, we also saw some other amazing animals, including some birds (many were in cages and the photos didn’t turn out very well).

So colorful.

We’d somehow missed the wombats when we first got there, and right as we were leaving we got to pet a baby one. This little guy was orphaned and left alone, so he’s being taken care of here until he can reenter the wild.

I’ll end this post with this little joey peeking out from his mama’s pouch.

I was absolutely losing it because this baby was so cute and curious!

In the next post, we’re leaving Hobart to explore Port Arthur and drive up the beautiful Tasmanian coast!

Australia, Part 2: December 23-24, 2018

If you missed part 1 of the Australia chronicles, feel free to check that out here.

On December 23, we reconnected with Andrea and started our day with a trip to St Kilda. We stopped for a picture or two in front of Luna Park, then took a nice stroll by the beach.

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We stopped and got some fish and chips for lunch (shocking, I know) and made our way to Brighton Beach to see the bath boxes.

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I made Thomas pose in front of this orange and yellow one.

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and this orange and purple one.

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And I asked him to take a picture of me in front of blue and red one, so I could bring the last primary color.

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Ay, Dios, have I ever slouched this bad in my entire life???

and I requested a photo where I could blend in with the vivid yellow.

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There was a fantastic Barbie-pink box, but I wasn’t patient enough to wait for the people to leave so I could get a picture.

Finally, we got to the Australia beach box, which looked like it could use some touch ups, but was worth a photo just the same. I let my hair down for at least a few seconds, and Andrea did the honors.

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Later, we strolled through some fancy-pants neighborhoods and popped into some shops, took the only photo in existence of the 3 of us, then we headed back to the hotel to get ready for Christmas Eve.

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On Christmas Eve morning, Andrea flew back home and we checked out of our Melbourne hotel. We had a few hours to kill, so we went to the National Gallery of Victoria location that we missed the first time around. If I remember correctly, this museum featured art by all Australian artists. We saw lots and lots of very different types of art, but naturally, I only took pictures of the indigenous art.

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And of course, Thomas admiring orange art.

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That afternoon, we ate lunch while we watched the Chiefs lose, then we hopped on a quick (delayed) flight to Tasmania, picked up our rental ute (a flatbed truck/utility vehicle) and prepared to wake up very very early on Christmas morning.

Prepare for part 3! Coming soon to a blog near you.

Australia, Part 1: December 20-22, 2018

Many of you may know that for Christmas, Thomas and I went to Australia. We want to aprovechar the wonderful opportunity that living and working in China has given us, so while we’re here, we’ll use our generous school breaks to travel to parts of the world that neither of us thought we’d ever see. Australia was one of many places on our list, and we chose to go now because we had a Peace Corps friend who was living there. We wanted to see her (she’s the first and only other Peace Corps Nicaragua volunteer we’ve seen since our evacuation 8 months ago!) and she was happy to show us around Melbourne.

Our flight was hellish, but we arrived in Melbourne on the afternoon of December 20th. We checked into our hotel, ordered room service, and slept.

The next morning, we met up with Andrea and started our day with a brunch at Abbotsford Convent.

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The convent is to the right, but I was struck by the vividness of the purple on this tree.

I didn’t get any pictures (oops) but we ate some delicious tropical pancakes, and I drank some hot chocolate spiked with a shot of ginger. Highly recommend.

Next, we went and saw some street art.

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We did a little more exploring and ended the day with some fish and chips. (I’d just had fish and chips for room service the night before, and I’d have fish and chips again on this trip.) I have no regrets.

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The next day, Thomas and I were on our own to explore. We walked over 20,000 steps by the end of the day (and both got sunburnt. Word to the wise, lather on the sunscreen every day. That Australian sun is no joke.)

First we walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens.

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A functional floral clock guarded by a statue of King Edward VII.

I immediately became enamored by the flowers. As we passed the statue of King Edward VII on his horse, I regaled Thomas with a fun fact that my engagement ring is from the Edwardian period (so named because it was made in 1905, smack dab in the middle of King Edward’s reign). Thomas likely already knew this, as we have been engaged/together every day for the last 6 months, and as I have been rambling about my love of antique jewelry for far longer than that.

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Around every corner, there was something new and beautiful to experience. I’ve always claimed not to be “big on flowers” but I’m beginning to see that I’ve been lying to myself. I think the problem is that I need a garden, not just a bouquet that will die quickly.

After the botanic gardens (and after the heat started to creep into the afternoon) we went to one of two locations of the National Gallery of Victoria.

It was an art museum. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate art museums, but nothing really hit me over the head until we got to the very top floor, which had an exhibit called William Wegman: Being Human. We walked in, and I thought the photographs were interesting. Dogs dressed up like people. As I moved through the gallery, I was struck by the creativity of photographing the same subject so many times and in so many ways. I was intrigued by the way that art theory and history influenced Wegman’s work. From the NGV website:

For Wegman, his dogs, as his muses, have been both the object of an artist’s obsessive gaze, and at other times participants in a collaborative act. His world may revolve around his celebrated dogs, but Wegman’s choices of sets, costumes and props reveal a fascination with art history – cubism, colour field painting, abstract expressionism, constructivism, conceptualism and, of course, photography itself.

I don’t know how many of Wegman’s photographs we saw that day (at the time, it felt endless) but I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. I went in with no expectations, and at the end, Thomas and I agreed that we just needed to leave the museum because we wanted to end on a high note! Here are just a few of many photos we saw:

 

One of these is now my phone background. Anyone wanna guess which one it is?

I’m going to wrap up this part of the blog here. Seems like this Australia trip may be 3 or 4 parts, so stay tuned!

2018

For 2016 and 2017, I recapped my year through photos that had never been posted. The only rules were that I had to be in each photo, and I had to share at least one photo from each month. I’m doing it again for 2018, even though I think it’s getting weaker every year. Enjoy!

 

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Dec. 26 – Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia: Forever struggling to take pics together.

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Dec. 25 – Tasmania, Australia: Living my best life feeding kangaroos at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

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Nov. 25 – Shenzhen, China: I don’t know the lyrics to “Frosty the Snowman.”

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Oct. 31 – Shenzhen, China: My foot is in this picture so it counts. Apparently this is the only photo I had in October? We watched Monster House and someone was a bit scared.

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Sept. 20 – I haven’t been great at documenting my life this year, so this is my only photo from September. A gift from a sweet student (pictured under my desk above.)

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Aug. 13 – Glen Allen, VA: A successful group call with some of my favorite people on the planet.

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Jul. 3 – Springfield, MO: We got engaged on June 25 but didn’t tell anyone until we got back from Ohio and had a ring to wave around.

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Jun. 28 – Ashville, OH: Doing puzzles with the family and being secretly engaged.

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May 28 – Ohio: Sharing a Coke

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May 1 – Springfield, MO: Jasmine sent me an old map of Nicaragua when we were evacuated. 

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Apr. 4 – New York, NY: Even sans original cast, Hamilton didn’t disappoint.

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Mar. 10 – Matiguas, Matagalpa, Nicaragua: Favorite shirt and favorite cat, both tragically left behind in Nicaragua.

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Feb. 25 – Matiguas: Best friends.

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Feb. 4 – Matiguas: I can still remember how warm, tiny, and milk-fat he felt in my hand.

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Jan. 30 – Matiguas: After his siblings died, I devoted my time to making sure he survived. I still love him so much.

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Jan. 16 – Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua: Peace Corps family ❤

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Jan. 1 –  Playa Gigante, Rivas, Nicaragua: RIP to all of the clothes we left in Nicaragua. Also, gotta say I love ringing in all the years with this guy.

Okay, now that the photo part is over, time for a reflection of what I’ve gathered from this journey. First, I’ve noticed I have so many photos from the first half of the year, but almost none from China. It’s not just that I don’t have pictures of me; I just don’t have many at all. I’ve found that one of my biggest struggles in the latter half of the year is maintaining a work-life balance that makes me happy. I find that far too much of my “free” time is spent thinking about work, doing work, or feeling guilty that I’m not being productive enough. Such is the life of a teacher, I guess, but I can’t say I love it. So I’m calling attention to it here and challenging myself to find better ways to compartmentalize?

Another thing (and maybe a continuing trend) is that I wish terribly that I’d taken more photos in Nicaragua. I have waaaaay more from Nicaragua than China, but in the wake of my evacuation, I’m left wishing I’d pulled out my camera and photographed anything and everything. There are people I love who I don’t have pictures of, and who I won’t have pictures of unless and until I go back. At the time, a) I was just living my life and not worrying about documentation, and b) felt like I had plenty of time left to do all this and get proper closure.

This was a hard year. A wonderful year, but a hard one. I said goodbye (but not really) to a place I love and people I love, had some unexpected but joyous reunions with family and friends, and was thrust rather abruptly into a challenging new job and culture. In the middle of all that, Thomas and I got engaged and started planning a wedding from afar.

I honestly have no idea what 2019 will bring (beyond getting married, anyway) and I’m a little terrified about it. I suspect it’ll be a pretty pivotal year, and one that may hold some tough decisions and changes. That said, I’m going to try to roll with it as best I can and embrace the opportunities that come my way.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2019.

Commuting joys

If I could have one superpower, it would be the power to apparate/teleport. Even if I couldn’t travel the world that way, I’d love being able to just pop to work or the grocery store in a snap. That said, if I could apparate, I’d miss out on some of the little joys of my commute. So here are 5 things that make me smile on my way to work:

The tai chi ladies: Most mornings, there’s a group of seniors doing tai chi in the empty walkways by our apartment.

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The two tiny best friend dogs. They’re tethered together and often frolic past us, side by side.

Catching the 7:06 train. It always has lots of empty seats, and there’s nothing I love more than sitting on my way to work.

Standing a step above Thomas on the escalator so we’re roughly the same height and I can look into his eyeballs. They’re very nice eyeballs.

Making up songs and attempting to whistle tunes as we walk.

A couple of those are more things I like about Thomas than things I like about commuting, but we go to work together so it’s pretty hard to compartmentalize.

A Tale of Two Teaching Days

“Yesterday my day started with two kids fighting and ended with one puking on the carpet, so at least I know tomorrow can’t be worse.” – Wednesday Jade

This week, my co-teacher told me that she’d be gone for two days: Tuesday and Thursday. Now, I may have mentioned that my second graders are a challenge, so I am always grateful to have a second teacher in the room, particularly one who speaks their first language. I won’t say that I was dreading teaching alone, but I certainly wasn’t thrilled about it. I’ve had one other solo teaching day this year–if I remember correctly, it was like the first week of school, and I gotta say, it was not one of my favorite days ever.

Every day is a challenge with my class. As a group, they are a challenge, and I have some individuals who challenge me. Anyway, moving on.

Tuesday

I showed up to school, optimistic and prepared. Mornings are easily our best time as a class, but it was rough. I had a whole writing lesson planned: Reading and discussing a book, making a chart of adjectives, writing stories, and adding adjectives. In the hour, all we did was read the book, and maybe a quarter of students were actually engaged. Why on earth would it take an hour to read a picture book, you ask? Let me paint you a picture. One student refuses to sit down, thinks it’s funny to run around and sit in teachers’ chairs and sit on other students’ heads. Most students are distracted by this behavior. Student 2 wants to chase Student 1. Student 3 is lying on the floor. Students 4-8 are talking. I get (almost) everyone’s attention and have a quiet moment to restate expectations and consequences. I start to read page 1 again, and the process repeats. Some people have given me advice to just stop what I’m doing until they demonstrate the expected behavior. I’ve tried, and this group will just run around and yell all day long.

Anyway, on any given day, at any point in the day, the boys in my class will be hitting and kicking each other, most of the students are saying mean things to each other in Chinese, and when I’m the only teacher in class, that becomes way more difficult to manage. It’s currently Thursday, so I don’t remember the specifics of Tuesday morning’s fight, but I’ll just note that there was one.

The day continued at 11 a.m, when the school librarian came up to help me. We read another book, which if I remember, went a little better, but only because the librarian took Student 1 out of the room (he’d been running around the classroom and then sliding his body under my chair and sticking his head out from between my legs as students yelled at me “TEACHER! MS. JADE! [NAME REDACTED!] [NAME REDACTED!] I know second graders are still learning a lot about the world, but dear sweet babies, you gotta know that I notice a child’s body invading my personal space.

Anyway, we finished the book and had time for about one discussion question (the entire purpose of reading this story was to learn how to infer details from context.)

I’ll skip to the end of the day. It was around 3 p.m, and I turned my back to students for a minute, and next thing I know, I hear “TEACHER! [NAME REDACTED] THREW UP!”

And so he had. Right on the carpet where we have all those fond memories of not being able to listen through a whole page of a book.

When I was explaining this situation to a coworker on Wednesday, he said, “and it’s not like you could go get an ayi to help clean it up, because you don’t speak Chinese.” And I was like, “No, I couldn’t get an ayi because all of my class wanted to step in it and I couldn’t leave them unattended.”

For the record, after many warnings and telling them to sit in their chairs and NOT step on the carpet, one of them DEFINITELY ON PURPOSE STEPPED RIGHT INTO IT TO BE FUNNY.

When I told my coworker on Wednesday that at least Thursday couldn’t be worse, I really and truly meant it.

Thursday

On Thursday, I started my class out with a morning meeting. It took them a while to calm down and show they were ready, but I had them greet each other in a circle by whispering, and until the end, they did a really good job! We played telephone a little later, and Student 1/[Name Redacted], after staying home sick on Wednesday, actually let me whisper a word in his ear, and he maybe even continued the telephone line to the person next to him (actually, behind him, because of course this circle did not resemble a circle.) The morning meeting took about…an hour. It was ridiculous. I had them do a worksheet after, and I had to send one of my model students to get the principal because Student 1 was again running around the class and hitting and kicking everyone. I should mention that while I did the morning message, he sat in front of me and kicked and hit me for several minutes to try to get the attention of his classmates.

Fast forward 20 minutes to recess time.

I went down to recess for a minute and pretty much immediately, one of my students ran up to me and tried to communicate some sort of problem. At the same time, the principal came down because he wanted to have a meeting with Student 1. Then, simultaneously, we see two of my students had gotten into some sort of toxic masculinity competition and one of them had a long cut down the side of his cheek. We temporarily put that fire into someone else’s hands, then went back up to have our meeting about Student 1.

We discussed our expectations for behavior, asked him what he needs, what challenges he has, etc. He was very calm and seemed somewhat receptive. Of course, we got back to class and his behavior remained the same, and spoiler alert: he ended up going home early.

So back to the recess boys. On Tuesday, we’d gotten an email from a mom explaining that her son felt bullied and excluded from a certain popular boy’s friend group. Both of those kids were the ones involved in this recess incident.

Now, I didn’t witness the actual incident, just the aftermath. I often see boys hitting and kicking and wrestling, and it’s sometimes hard to know if it’s well intentioned/playful, or malicious. Sometimes (especially with certain students and in certain situations) it’s obvious, but there are a lot of times when I honestly can’t tell, and I try to err on the side of “how about we just don’t hit each other ever because even if you think you’re having fun, the person you’re hitting may disagree.”

The teacher who broke up the incident said they were wrestling, and some adults questioned whether it was like, play wrestling or angry wrestling. Without witnessing the fight, I was pretty confident that it was angry wrestling. Witness teacher held up a little thorn thing and said that it had cut the boy’s face, but that he was unsure whether it was an accidental cut from rolling in the plants or if the thorn had been used as a weapon. I don’t like to assume the worst, but I was assuming the worst.

We were eventually able to get the boys together and talk a little about their conflict. Boy with the scratch had been reluctant to give any information when he was with the nurse (he actually said that he didn’t know how it happened, just pointed to where it happened.) From what we’ve gathered, Boy A felt excluded/bullied and felt like he needed to assert his dominance before Boy B could hurt him first. So he initiated the fight and Boy B bit his leg in response, and Boy A used the thorn thing to cut Boy B. He says it was an accident, and I do believe that he didn’t think through the consequences/intend to hurt Boy B in that way,  (I’m specifically remembering a time when my nephew touched a sharp knife out of curiosity) but I’m going to make a blanket statement that all of my boys need to learn how to handle feelings of anger and sadness and rejection. They also need to learn how to play nicely and be inclusive. I’m hoping that we can start to take some productive steps towards learning these lessons, because the direction we’re headed is pretty bleak.

We had some additional challenges throughout the day, but nobody ended up bleeding because of them, so I’ll end the story there. By 2 p.m, 3 of my boys had gone home. I have to believe that tomorrow will be better, and that the next day will be better than that. Well, the next day is Saturday, so it’ll obviously better than any workday, but you catch my drift.

On the plus side of all of this, I feel like I’m seeing progress in the process even if some students are regressing. I’ve gotten a lot of support from a lot of people at school, and I feel like we’re starting to work out how to help some individuals get the support they need, which may impact the dynamic of the whole group.

I think I’ll have 2-3 solo teaching days next week (and maybe the week after that? I honestly have no idea), so pray for me and for my 20 kiddos who are still trying to figure out kindness and friendship and respect.

 

Apartment tour

I thought you may be curious about where we live, so I took a few quick pictures of our apartment.

We’ll start with the living room. We finally got our TV today, which is pretty exciting. Our apartment came furnished with just about everything we need.

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We have a washing machine and sink on the balcony. I’ve missed having a dryer, but at least it’s been hot enough that the clothes dry fairly quickly on the line.

We have a kitchen (not pictured) with a fridge that should be big enough for two people, but is somehow full at all times.

We have a dining room table that we’ve never eaten at. It has 6 chairs, presumably for all of the people we have over.

And a guest room in need of guests.

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The guest room is lit by my favorite light in the house.

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We were lucky enough to get a corner apartment with nothing obstructing our nice city views.

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Some people may come into our apartment and not see anything all that special, but the first night we walked in, both Thomas and I were blown away. After living with families in Nicaragua, we’re thrilled to have a space to ourselves, a bathroom with a door and hot water, wifi, and a kitchen that we can use as often as we want. We even have air conditioning and maybe even heat? To be determined when it’s actually cold outside.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this super brief tour of our apartment. Maybe eventually we’ll have a visitor who can sleep in our guest room 🙂

 

 

We’re Engaged!

Okay, so we’ve been engaged since June, but NOW we have fancy fotos to prove it. I meant to share these on the blog ages ago, but, as usual, saved a draft of the post and never published it.

We were sort of on the fence about getting photos done, but we thought it would be worthwhile to get used to working with our photographer before the big day. We both happened to be in Richmond for two overlapping days, so we had a chance to do an engagement shoot. I’m so glad we did, because the photos are truly gorgeous, and maybe we got a little bit more used to the camera. We had a little direction, but mostly we just did our normal thing (talking and laughing the entire time, obviously) and I’m so pleased with the results! If we’re Facebook friends, you’ve seen these before, but if not, here you go! Enjoy!

 

Our new way home

I come bearing good news.

Thomas and I, after six long and arduous weeks of school, finally have some time off. This week China celebrates its National Day, which celebrates the formation of the People’s Republic of China. We have the whole week off school, and while most of our colleagues are jet-setting around Asia, we are taking the week to relax, recharge, and clean our apartment.

One thing you may not know about our neighborhood: we love it, but it’s a bit of a commute to work. Most of our coworkers live one metro stop/a ten minute walk from school, but we have a 15-minute walk plus 5 metro stops, so at a brisk pace, we can get there in 35 minutes (sweaty by the time we arrive.) Also, our area is newly developed, meaning that I don’t think very many people live in our building (though there’s a cute toddler who lives across the hall) and the delivery people will get lost on the way a fair amount of the time. We are lucky that we have a method of ordering most things we need online…but unfortunately, food options are extremely lacking. There are so many days, especially if we’re coming home late after a faculty meeting or something, when we just want to order from a restaurant and have it delivered to our door.

There are a few hiccups with this plan: Firstly, we don’t know Chinese, and secondly, there are no restaurants nearby. We had pizza delivered once, but they charged an outrageous delivery fee because we live so far away (but it was raining, and we weren’t about to walk 15-20 minutes to the nearest grocery store.)

The last 3 Fridays, Thomas and I, as a reward of getting through the week, have stopped at McDonald’s on our way home. I typically order a Big Mac meal (with seasoned waffle fries!), chicken nuggets, an iced coffee, and a McFlurry. Thomas usually orders a more reasonable human amount of food.

So the process goes like this: We get off work, walk down to the metro, and go 4 stops. We exit the metro, go to McDonalds, and order a mountain of food and drinks. We go back to the metro, go one more stop, and then walk 15-20 minutes to our apartment, and then put our fries and nuggets in the toaster oven, because of course they’re cold at that point.

Anyway, the point of this story is that we decided to investigate a slightly different way home yesterday. We’d spotted a bridge that seemed a teensy bit more convenient than our usual route, and we took it, not knowing exactly where it may lead.

We passed this.

 

We walked a little more and saw a different angle of the view from our bedroom window.

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We walked a little further, into what I can only assume will be part of some sort of financial district. The whole plaza was unfinished, and as we passed each building we looked into the big windows and saw emptiness. Vacant buildings, in the final stages of construction, waiting for the ribbon to be cut so they can open their doors as the next investment bank or whatever.

Then, in the distance, I saw a familiar image. I yelled at Thomas.

“Starbucks!”

“What?”

“There’s a Starbucks! I saw it! It’s up ahead!”

I walked excitedly ahead, anxious to show Thomas what I’d seen, and that’s when it happened.

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A McDonald’s, not quite ready to open its doors, but beckoning us all the same. We exchanged a moment of silence, not quite believing our eyes, imagining a world where we were within a 5-minute walk of all the McFlurries our hearts desired.

We pressed onward.

And in the distance, the Starbucks.

 

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I’m not even much of a coffee drinker, but I’m excited to have options at my fingertips.

People told us that Shenzhen was rapidly growing, and that our area would probably be the Next Big Thing, but I don’t think it really hit us until today.

It’s only a matter of time before these paths are crowded and businesses roll in. I’m excited for the possibilities. They seem endless now.

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I’ll leave you with the view from my bedroom window. If I walk a few minutes along that purple line, on the other side of the long black building, I will find all my dreams coming true. Maybe one day, if I’m really lucky, I might even get someone to deliver those dreams right to my door.