Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My 4th Graders

I am already loving my kids and I want you all to meet them! For now I will just introduce you to my 4th graders. I have 2 classes of 6 each and here they are....
From left to right: Nicole, Gordon and Ethan(glasses), Trina, Steven and Nate

 Sweet Nicole... and Ethan
 Ethan.. He's a weirdo but I love him for his name ;)
 Me and Steven... he's a sassy pants
 Kitty.. she's so cute and super smart!
 Sam... he's trouble with a capital T
 Harry, my favorite

Exploring Changzhou

This past weekend was awesome! I got to go out and explore our amazing city all 3 days of the weekend with different groups of friends. The highlight was seeing the Pagodas! Here in Changzhou we have the tallest Pagoda in all of China! We got to see that one and enjoy the beautiful park that it's in. It was super crowded there though. Across the park we went to the older, ancient Pagoda that is tall but not as tall. It was only 5 kuai to go up to the top so we did that! The whole day was so fun and the views were breathtaking. Then we asked a random passerby where a good place to eat and we ate there! What an adventure haha everything is so fun! We also went to the mall and we danced around in public and took lots of pictures. The bummer is that I accidentally deleted all of my pictures from that day! So I only really have the ones off of my friend's camera.
Last night for dinner the Chinese teachers took us out for "Hot Pot." It was a feast! And it was SOOO delicious! First when we sat down, they poured us hot water as usual, in a shot glass. And that's all the water you'll get when you go out to eat. Most of us wait for it to cool off before we drink it. Then they brought out yummy pumpkin treats and these yummy rolls with sweetened condensed milk to dip them in. We asked for 5 more plates of that stuff because it was so good! We had fresh watermelon and the best peanuts in the world. Then we had all these other little snacks that I am not even sure what they were! They brought out these nice thin cuts of raw beef and we stuck them into the boiling broth in the middle of the table and cooked it ourselves and then we got to pick what sauces we wanted to dip them in. Throughout the meal they poured mushrooms, potatoes, pastas, meats and more into that pot and we just kept scooping stuff out and dipping it and it was all so good. By the end we were all super full and happy :)
Teaching has been going well! I'm getting used to it and definitely picking favorites with my kids. It's a lot of work but I know it will become really rewarding.

 The tallest Pagoda in China!

 The other, older Pagoda
 Me at the top!

February 21st

China so far has been amazing. I feel like I am on a mini mission! Before I left I knew that this was just the right thing for me, and I know that even more now. There are moments that I wish I could just be home, eating an eggo waffle, watching bachelor and using a normal toilet, let's be real. But those moments are brief and the kids definitely make the difference. When we walk through the cafeteria and all the kids give us high fives and hugs, there is nothing better!

So classes started this week and that was a huge thing! My fourth graders are easy to teach and it's fun. Those classes are 40 minutes each and I only have to teach 2. Each class has 6 kids in it, which is manageable and they are well behaved since they are older. Those classes will be fun because it's not hard to get them to talk, they know a lot of English. One of my classes has an Ethan and a Gordon in it! I told everyone I have to keep that class no matter what because it makes me happy to say those names :) Then there's first grade, craziness! We have them for 25 minute rotations, we teach the same lesson 4 times to 4 different groups. Each group has 9 kids in it, which makes things hectic especially because they have so much energy at that age! We also do opening exercises with them and a little closing thing at the end of rotations. We are exhausted by the end! They really don't know any English since it's their first year so that makes things even harder. It's hard to get them to speak and follow along in the lesson. We'll say things like "Stay in your chair" and they don't even know what we're saying so we have to SHOW them everything. It's like we are playing charades for 2 and a half hours every day haha! Saying "stand in a line" to a group of American kids might be effective but these Chinese kids don't understand us. The struggle. The names of my homeroom class are Anna, Steve, Richard, William, Katie, Brock, Lily, Frank and Helen. I will try to take a picture of them soon!!

Last night was super fun! Me and my roommate Jocelyn went out into the city together and explored! We just wandered around into different shops and street vendors and talked to lots of people. It is so fun learning to speak and putting ourselves out there with the few phrases we know. We get laughed at A LOT and stared at everywhere we go. We came across this huge open plaza where they were playing music and everyone was dancing! We didn't hesitate and jumped right in! We spun around that dance floor and tried to do what they were doing. We also showed them some American moves and they liked that. I haven't had that much fun in long time!!! I also tried a bunch of more foods and I love some things so much that I'm starting to think I'll gain weight here rather than lose it! Ahh haha anyways I gotta go! Love you all and miss you!

February 18th

Yesterday we went to this HUGE opening presentation put on by the kids! IT WAS UNREAL. I have never wanted to have my camera so bad in my whole life!!! Everything was in Chinese and it was hilarious! The kids were screaming into the mic and dancing and singing and it was in this huge auditorium with the whole school! They introduced us to their culture and there were lots of masks and costumes and dragons, all celebrating the Chinese New Year. It was so exciting to me! I have no words for it, you would have just had to be there. The best part was at the end they asked all of us ILP teachers to come up on stage and a row of Chinese kids walked out and handed us each a stuffed horse because it's the year of the horse. Every one of us almost cried and we thanked them and hugged them and talked about it all day. We'll always treasure our horses. I am so happy to be here working at this school, I feel like I was born to do this! Every time we walk through the cafeteria they all yell out "HELLO TEACHA!" and wave at us. It melts my heart! It makes me realize that I am their teacher and that I have a responsibility to them! I can't wait to start teaching. I already love those kids so much! We started planning lessons and I loved it, even that was fun for me! A lot of other people were struggling and I was helping them. We've got a full day ahead to prep for our first day tomorrow! Wish me luck! Love and miss you all. 

February 16th

You guys! I am having the most amazing time already! Seriously I had so much fun tonight! It’s like fun I’ve never had before! Everything is so exciting! So today we were able to chill and unpack and catch our breath a bit. Then we had lunch which was gross again, fish with BONES, lots and lots of them. Also another meat which some of us think was duck. It was good but also full of bones. Then just rice and the same green veggies which are okay. They don’t have drinks in the cafeteria so I’ve learned to bring my water or a coke. Then we had a meeting and I found out that I’m teaching 1st and 4th grade!!! I am THRILLED! I also got my team, it’s Kimmie (one of the triplets), Jordan (super cool guy) and Charitee (super nice cool girl). We got some of the best news ever…. We don’t have to teach until WEDNESDAY and we thought we had to start Monday so everyone is stoked we have a few extra days to prepare.  We also found out that our schedule for the semester rocks. The head teachers were ecstatic about it because when they did the program before their schedule was not as good. They told us we are super lucky. We get 4 vacations, each 4 days long!! It’s perfect. Our last day of teaching will be June 20th which means we either get a few days to travel or to pack up and stuff, either way it’s really nice. Another new thing is that instead of teaching on Fridays we are just going to do clubs for 2 hours! The kids will get to decide what activities they want to do and we’ll let them join our “clubs” which will be like learning to dance, or singing or something. Since we’re off early on Fridays we can start our travels earlier for the weekends. My schedule will be like this Monday-Thursday: Teach 4th grade from 11:50-1:10, have a break and then teach 1st graders from 2:30-5 in 20ish minute rotations. So I will teach the same lesson 4 times to different groups of kids. Then… this is the best part! We went to the night market tonight. I just got back and it was AWESOME!! We went last night too but it was better tonight because there were less people and it was more familiar to me. I am so proud, I am already holding little conversations with the Chinese people! So I was able to ask how much this little bread thing was and I bought it. THEN my friend Maddie was like wanting this blanket and so we went over to this place and I was able to say “Doe shou jien?” (I’m spelling it how it’s pronounced kind of) which means how much.. then she told me it was 70 yuan for 2 blankets and last night the guy there was selling one for 25. Maddie was way confused about how much to give her so I stepped up and was like “Tai gway la” which means that’s expensive. Then she said 30 for one blanket and I was able to barter her down to 25 because I know my numbers. Then I was able to say sorry to people and no thank you because I am learning fast! LOOK AT ME NOW. After we walked around and took pictures with the Asians, we decided to try taking a tuk tuk home! We hopped in and told her “Ching Ying” Which is how you say the name of our school, it was just around a couple blocks. She took us right there and it was soooo funny! The tuk tuks are sketchy little small things like taxis but they only have one wheel. You can barely fit 3 people in there! But we did it! And it was so fun! 

February 14th: Arrival

I have arrived! I miss you guys so much already but I am so thrilled to be here experiencing so many new things. It has been overwhelming, it's just a lot to take in! Let's review what has happened...

So we landed in Shanghai and we were informed that there were 2 more volunteers flying in from San Francisco that would arrive around 6 that night and it was only 11AM. So basically our first day was spent in the airport. It was kinda sucky not being able to go outside or anything. I wore the same outfit for like ever it felt. We saw this huge engagement in the airport, all these Asians were holding rainbow balloons and there was a violinist and flowers and all this stuff it was so cool! I bought some sweet Chinese bread and had KFC which was kinda yucky to be honest. Then we left and got on the bus and had to ride 3 hours to our school and that was miserable! It was freezing and I was beyond exhausted but then we made it. We walked in the door of our building and it was pitch black, couldn't see a thing! We don't have any lights in the stairwell or hallways and so we carried all of our luggage up to the 6th floor and that is a LOT of stairs! Then we realized that all of the thermostats on our floor (the girls floor) are broken! SO AWESOME. No, it's really not that bad though, just uncomfortable. Our temp thing said it was 1 degree celcius in our room! The room is nice but dirty, like I have never been so grateful for clorox wipes in my whole life! I slept in fuzzy socks, slippers, sweats, a shirt, a jacket and my big coat and gloves and 2 layers of blankets. I was fine and slept like a baby! Then we got up and had some delicious bread that was in our rooms when we got here, it's sooo good. Then I tried drinking some of the milk from a bag which was delicious but difficult haha I spilled it like 3 times. Then me and my roommate Jocelyn, who I love, walked around the campus together and explored with Dan, one of our head teachers. Then we got ready and had a meeting and went to lunch which was kinda not so great but bearable. We took some pictures and then went out and took a big trip to Tesco. That is a whole separate email in and of itself! It was sooo crazy there like not being able to read or understand anything! Shopping in China is hard haha but it was fun! I'm just going with the flow. Got some essential stuff and talked to some Asians, got stared at and laughed at and told I was beautiful. What an experience that was, I really have no words! Then we came back and had another meeting and then went to the night market. There were tons of fireworks going off, actually I can still hear them outside my window right now! Some people got to light lanterns and let them float away into the night and that was soo pretty watching them fill up the sky. I've already seen some crazy food! I love the hustle and bustle of the city, it's overwhelming at first but once I get used to it I think I'll love it here! There are 10 single girl teachers, 5 single guy teachers and then a married couple. I have already hit it off with pretty much everyone! It's going well! I feel like there is so much to say but I just don't have much time. I love you all soooo much!!!