Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hangzhou

So... I have been to a lot of cities but I think Hangzhou (Hong-joe) tops them all! Although Boston, San Diego and San Francisco all come in as close seconds. This place is beautiful! Pictures don't really do it justice. There is so so much to do in this city! It has the perfect mix of ancient culture, nature and busy city life. The whole city is centered around the gorgeous West Lake. Everything is upscale and clean. It was so nice to spend the last 5 days in this city with much much less pollution and perfect weather! Our first vacation was a huge success!

As I mentioned before, we were supposed to go to Zhangjiajie and see the famous Avatar mountains and Tianmen mountain. Plans changed when we completely missed our 20 hour train! It was super disappointing and for a while we thought we either wouldn't get refunds or we wouldn't have a vacation at all! That was the worst feeling in the world, frantically running through the train station with our luggage and trying to understand the Chinese people as they told us where to go. We won't ever miss a train again! Good news is that we got most of our money back in a refund and we also were able to buy tickets to the amazing city of Hangzhou that was only a few hours away and super cheap! The train left about 15 minutes later. Things worked out so well and we were all super happy about it :) We agreed that it happened for a reason.

Before we even missed the train, we stopped for an hour in Shanghai and that was super exciting! I could have died of happiness! I love new places. We walked up and down East Nanjing Road. It was amazing!


The next 4 days were filled with delicious food, a festival, super cool hostels, foreign friends, pictures, a Pagoda, nighttime walks, riding bikes, dancing, amazing outdoor markets, ancient ruins, hiking, tea museum, Buddhist temple and the zoo. It was so so so much fun! I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. We were having the time of our lives! I love everyone in our group and I think we all got along really well which made traveling easier. We did the perfect mix of activities between being active and relaxing. It was just awesome.

Over and over I had the thought that I could live in hostels for the rest of my life and be the happiest girl. Seriously though, anyone down to go backpacking through Europe?! The first hostel we stayed in was like something from a movie. I was so happy to be there... it was decked with bare hanging light bulbs, doors covered in writing, rustic signs and lots of wood with pops of color. (Cassie: it was like mucho mucho). We met tons of Chinese people on our way to, from and around the city. A lot of them tell us that they have never seen an American before.. but they tell us in almost perfect English. It's crazy! We were like celebrities to them. On one of our trains we ran up and down the aisles making music videos. It was so much fun :)

Me at the flower festival



View from the balcony at the hostel

Peanut noodles every day... so good!




Sunset over West Lake...



Me and the cutest little girl that wanted a picture with me!


I took this for you Ethan...




















Fun day at the zoo...




Today it was back to the regular schedule but we only have to teach 2 days this week and then we leave on Friday for Shanghai again! We'll be there until Sunday night for the church YSA conference. I can't wait!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Good, Bad and Awesome

My Thursday was pretty eventful! The day started with my fourth graders who are my favorite! They are so cute and they’ll run up to me before class and talk to me, give me hugs and they’ll remember everything I’ve ever told them. They’ll be like “Teacha! Do you bring picture?” If I said that I’d bring pictures to show them. It makes me so happy! After all the work I put into teaching, it is super rewarding when the kids notice! I had them do a writing activity where they had to practice writing complete sentences. I told them they could make up funny sentences about me and this is what they wrote…

Nate: Teacher Brynn is very beautiful. Teacher Brynn is very smart. I see teacher Brynn on Monday to Thursday.
Trina: Teacher Brynn is beautiful. I like her smile so much. She is a very good teacher. We all like her.
Harry: My teacher is a good teacher! My teacher has a boyfriend. My teacher likes candys so much! I like my beautiful teacher!
Lisa: Teacher is a very very very good teacher! She’s teacher Brynn. My teacher likes candy and dance very much. You is a nice teacher. I love you.
Kitty: My teacher is a girl. Her name is Brynn. She is beautiful and she likes dance.
Randy: My teacher is a good teacher. She is very beautiful. Her name is teacher Brynn. I love my teacher.

I have no idea how they all ended up writing the same things! And I don’t know why Harry thinks I have a boyfriend. I have told them many times that I don’t! We still have a lot of room for improvement on sentence structure but I love everything they wrote. It made me super happy!

Then later I was able to give them candy for their participation and they loved that. At the end we played Uno which was really entertaining and they all gave me hugs :) I graded their spelling tests and they almost all got 100%! Proud teacher moment.

The day took a turn for the worse when I got a low score on my evaluation and had a really rough time teaching my 1st grade lesson. But my kids were giving me hugs and saying cute things to me which I love. After school my friends and I went out into town where we met and talked to a bunch of Chinese girls! My friend Madi heard music coming from this second story building and I ran inside and up the staircase in the back of this store. At the top we found this dance studio and a group of about 10 girls were just finishing their hip hop class! IT WAS AWESOME! Seriously I have no words to describe it! The Chinese girls were so excited to see us and we were so excited to meet them! They invited us to join their class every week so we are going to do it! Also, we got free bracelets from this Chinese lady who was super nice to us. It was a good day! I’m packed up and ready to get on the train tomorrow for vacation! It’s going to be amazing! Zaijian! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Kids

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My kids walking by and yelling "Hello Teacha Brynn!" My favorite thing!
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My kids today when I walked into class... Some group hug action :)
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 Rex and Willow almost kissing

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Massage Video

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A Long Update


I feel like there is so much to write! First off, I want to go through the days of this past week and tell you all what happened!
On Sunday we tried going to church but weren’t able to get there so we went back home and Skyped into church instead. It has been an amazing experience listening to church over Skype. The spirit is very strong and you can feel the dedication of the Saints that call in from all over China and other places. It’s really nice to have that opportunity.
Monday was a normal teaching day and my lessons and teaching are starting to go better. What helps is that I know my kids better and I am growing to love them all. Tuesday most of the volunteers out here were sick so we had the day off for resting. I have not been sick once since I got here! (Knock on wood) I feel super lucky! I haven’t had a stomachache, a cough, NOTHING. Wednesday was pretty normal and Thursday night we all went out to WalMart which was quite a journey and… not really worth it. We discovered that WalMart here is about just as good as Tesco or worse. Not very many American products at all. The weirdest thing happened though! I saw an American guy in the store! It was honestly the weirdest feeling! I had to do a triple take it was so shocking! That moment made me realize that I’m really used to things here. I’m used to seeing Chinese people all day every day (aside from the 19 Americans in my group).
Friday I taught an ELE class in the morning and it was awesome! The kids in that class don’t take our regular English classes every day, so they only see us once a week. They LOVE me! It’s sooo fun teaching a class that is so ready to learn! It’s hard though because they don’t know any English. I guess that gives us a lot to work on! We are supposed to be teaching “greetings” and so far they know “How are you?” with the responses “I’m good, I’m fine thank you, I’m okay and I’m not good,” “What’s your name?,” “Where are you from?,” “Nice to meet you,” “How old are you?” and “Hello/Hey/Hi.” They know those but it’s hard for them to remember so we always review. This week I’m going to teach them “What’s up.” When I walked in the door on Friday it was like I was a celebrity! Like a swarm of insects they all jumped out of their seats and rushed the doorway, mobbing me until I almost fell over! Just picture 40 cute, crazy Chinese kids pulling on my legs and giving me the biggest group hug! I loved it! Those moments really make everything worth it for me. Throughout class the kids were coming up to me and asking for my name, asking for hugs, peeking in my notebook, etc. It was so cute!
Next we had clubs to teach, which is pretty much anything we want. They are supposed to be more fun and less language oriented. So Jocelyn and I taught our kids “What does the fox say?” with lyrics and motions! I will try to get a video soon J Friday night the Chinese teachers took us out to see a movie at the Jackie Chan theater! My group had tickets to The Hobbit and the most exciting thing from that night was the carpet! That theater was the first carpeted place I’ve seen since… the airport? I think! It’s something I never thought I’d miss but I do! Tile/marble floors just get really old after a while!
We stayed up late that night playing games and watching movies. Our whole group loves to stay up doing those things. It’s really fun! Dan and Patty (the married couple) have a projector set up in their room with stadium seating couches so it’s perfect for movies and video games. Everyone always gathers in there for games, etc. Our favorite one has been Werewolves. If you haven’t played this game, you have to find it! It comes in a deck of cards and it’s tricky the first few times you play but then it’s super fun! Actually if you haven’t played it, then wait until I come home so you can play with me J
Saturday we bought our vacation train tickets which was a 3 hour long nightmare, but we got it done! After that we needed massages and that was a really entertaining experience! The Chinese people were slapping us and throwing us around, contorting us in every possible way! We were all dying laughing. We got neck, arm, back and foot massages for only $5 American dollars.
We stayed up all night that night too and then woke up at 5 for church! It was a really great day! If you know me, you know how much I love seeing new things. So riding that train was very exciting for me! I loved watching China go by out the window. It was our first time leaving the city since we got here! Church was super nice. It was in this beautiful house where the first 3 stories are similar to a church building back home and the family lives on the 4th and 5th floors.  It was small but perfect. Talking to all the Americans made us feel like we were back home. They even had a western toilet HALLELUJAH! The congregation was small, about 40 people total and many of them were from all over the world. It was a great experience and we hope to go again soon.
After church, our Branch President Okeson had us over for dinner and it was like heaven on Earth. We were SO excited to have a real American Sunday dinner. They made a ton of food too so we got to have seconds and thirds! It was spaghetti with garlic bread, corn, green beans, salad with ranch dressing and cinnamon cake for dessert. We thanked them about a million times. We were so so so happy! Then our journey home took forever. We took a bus for about 30 minutes and then rode a metro for about 15 minutes, another hour long metro, (the song “riding on the metroooooo” kept playing in my head), then we had to wait in a long line for an hour just to buy train tickets. After we had the tickets we had to wait another hour and half before we could leave. The train ride was 30 minutes, then we took another bus for over an hour. It was kind of miserable by the end but we all slept really well!

I have been told that what’s more interesting to hear about is the little things… So here are some things you might find interesting!
Laundry: There is a water faucet on the wall that I attach a plastic hose to and then I place my clothes in a bin and make sure the drains are closed at the bottom. I fill it with water and soap and then place a lid on top and let it swish my clothes around for about 15 minutes. Then when I come back it is soapy so I drain all the water out and then attach the hose again to rinse everything. It is soaking wet so then I ring it out. Next I place it in a spinner that rings the clothes out so they aren’t soaking. They are still wet so then I hang them up to dry!
Eating: I am now willing to try almost anything. I have grown to love eating things that I hated the first time I tried them. I am an expert with chopsticks ;)
My bed: Let’s just say I dream about my bed back at home.
Water: The water jugs are extremely heavy and must be carried up about 100 stairs.
The city: There are no traffic rules, people just drive wherever they want and then honk so that others clear the way. When the crosswalks signal for us to walk, it still is not safe because cars and tuk tuks and scooters will still be flying through the intersection even though it’s not their turn. There aren’t a whole lot of trash cans so people just drop trash as they go... in fact, I do it too! It is heavily polluted. We were super excited this week when we could see the stars! We hadn’t seen them since we got here! It’s rare when we see the sun or the moon, I think it’s only happened a few times.

I love you all and I’m so thankful to be here! I love your support and I apologize that I don’t have much time to communicate with you! Let me know if there’s anything you want me to write about!
After the massage, one of the salon owners wanted me to take a picture with his dog.
This dog was sooo cute, it reminded me of Gordon!

Me on the train headed to SuZhou for church!

NO, I don't really eat these chicken feet.
 I have had like 2 bites. They scare me!

These ones are duck feet... note that they are webbed.
I had a few bites of this and then ate all the tofu next to them.

First Graders part 2

This is classic Rex... He's crazy but I love him! He's one of my favorites.
Wanda and April
Rex and Wanda
Andrew.. He's crazy but also very smart
Yoki, Brady and Eiga
Brady and Eiga are in love! They refuse to sit anywhere but next to each other.
They are always holding hands or putting their arms around each other during class!
It's super funny and pretty cute too haha
My homeroom! I have them for the longest amount of time each day
and I do "store" with them so they get to pick out prizes
to buy with the tickets they earn in class. These ones 
are my favorites!!!

Anna, Helen, Katie, Brock, Frank, William, Richard and Lily 
(Steve was sick this day)