Saturday, November 28, 2009

Contrasts and Contradictions

Today I decided that the thing I love most about Beijing is its constant state of contrasts and contradictions.   There are highly modern and sophisticated buildings neighbouring hutongs.  A hutong, by the way, is an alley.  In there you will find an eclectic mix of shops, desolate third worldly residences, and comfortable western cafes.  In western countries the old and new, poor and rich, are usually in distinct locations somewhat apart from the other.  In Beijing a beautiful restaurant might have a bathroom that Canadians would consider worthy only of a campground; a dingy, out of sight alley will lead you to a fabulous club. It is an experience that is ever changing the way I think about the world. I've learned not to attach myself to any one place or idea because Beijing is perpetually shifting and evolving around me.  I've discovered the pleasure in expecting the unexpected and am loving every minute of it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Surprise Package

They arrived today completely unexpected.  I felt a surge of excitement when Caroline, a fellow CIS teacher, told me there was a package in my mailbox.  A care package from home you suppose? No- I knew it could only be one thing. The one thing that I wasn't expecting to arrive until early December.  The one thing that could make my pulse quicken and my blood run warm.  I opened the package with anticipation.  And there they were- the four books I ordered from Amazon about two weeks ago.  Four brand spanking new books that I hope will help me become a better writer and a better writing teacher.  All four books are about writers notebooks and the writing process.  My hope is that two of them will help me think about teaching writing in a new and inspiring ways, and two are for me to share with my students.  These are the moments I realize that teaching is what I am meant to be doing.  It helps me get through the times when the administration duties and politics of the job are overwhelming.   I can't wait to get reading (and writing)!

p.s. my cough is much, much, better!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sleepy Snowy Sundays

I knew I was going to miss the snow while living in Beijing, so I was ecstatic when I woke up this morning to see Beijing covered in a thick blanket of snow. Despite the previous nights' exposure, I had that cozy first snow of the year feeling that I can't fully explain but get every first snow. It was a little stronger here since I'm told it doesn't snow very often, and the other teachers have never seen that much snow at once. We read that the snow was artificially induced to help combat the drought in Northern China:

No matter how the snow came to be, the warm and cozy first snow feeling was wonderful. My friend Melissa and I made crepes, doused in real maple syrup that she brought with her from her hometown in Quebec. We ate them and watched some of the teachers and their children playing in the snow. Even the guards were getting into the spirit of things! They were throwing snowballs, helping with the snowmen and lending their gloves to the snowmen builders. Later in the afternoon I went to Yashow market, bought a gucci knock off purse, and a prada knock off purse, some chopsticks to send home for gifts and a couple of picture frames. I love shopping, although it sucks when the vendor won't go down in price and you KNOW they are really trying to rip you off. I really have learned not to get to attached to any one item, and to just walk away from the really grouchy merchants. Mostly shopping is really fun, especially when you are dealing with a funny/friendly vendor and manage to bargain a great deal! AFterwards we stopped for coffee, which was the prefect ending to a snowy Sunday afternoon of shopping.

Notice the brooms they are using to sweep the snow?


The night began with the funniest floor crawl I have ever been on. Each floor had a brilliant theme. First was fifth floor with a redneck wedding theme. But they didn’t just have a redneck theme- they staged an entire redneck-wedding. It included a drunk and pregnant bride, a cheating groom, programs and buckets of beer at the end of every ‘pew’ (school bench). It was a riot. Next came the Mexican floor, with music, sombreros and tequila. Then my floor, Junior Prom ’94 where everyone enjoyed spiked punch, cheesy 90’s music, voting for prom king and queen and posing under a banner. Last was the Channel 4 team theme (from Ron Burgundy). Afterwards we headed out to find the best Halloween party in town. The clubs were a little to packed, (I am pretty sure any Canadian fire marshall would have a field day in there), but the DJ was really good and the music kept us dancing until there was just no room to move.

The walk home from the bar was another matter. No one was dressed for or expecting snow. To our surprise we were met with gigantic snowflakes outside after the club.   Since we were all in our Halloween costumes, we were terribly underdressed for the weather. I was wearing sandals, so fortunately we didn’t have to spend very much time outside! The walk from the bar to the road to catch a taxi was a nightmare because the snow was melting as it hit the pavement, and we were often walking in a half-inch or so of cold, dirty water- yuck! At least we stopped at fish nation which has the best french fries I've had in Beijing, and enjoyed some chicken sticks from the only street vendor I'd dare to eat from. After all was said and done, we had a great time. I love Halloween!