Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I was lucky enough to see two Olympic events! On Thursday evening, I went to womens Handball semifinals. There were two matches. The first was Norway and South Korea and the second was Hungary and Russian Federation. The first match was so close and had a pretty emotional ending with the Norwegians getting a point at the last second and the Koreans staying on the court for about 25 minutes while the coach discussed the decision with the judges. I had never seen handball before and it was fun to watch! The biggest thrill though, was being in the Olympic Green and being so close to the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. They look amazing all lit up at night. There were also fountains where children were getting soaking wet playing around.

I also got to meet Li Ning, the Opening Ceremony torch lighter! Here I am with him and another new teacher, Mary. The next picture is me holding a real Olympic torch. The head of our school was asked to be a torch bearer this summer, so he brought his torch to share with us.

The second event was Track and Field finals on Saturday night. This was exciting because we got to see several medal ceremonies and the US won a few. This time I got to go inside the Bird's Nest and see the torch from the inside.

My favorite thing was being on the Green and seeing the venues all lit up. Around the Bird's Nest were little Birds' Nests covering the lights. Very cute.

I had not expected to be able to go to any Olympic events, so it was great to be able to go to two!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Massages, Medical Check Ups, and Noodles

I have a lot to catch up on posting. Tuesday evening I had a massage. For about $15 you too can have a former surgeon come to your house and give you an hour long massage! He had to stop being a surgeon when his eyesight began to deteriorate. It was a very firm, very good massage. He doesn't speak much English, only stand, sit, bed, chair, and too hard?

On Wednesday, all the new teachers had to get medical check ups. We had blood drawn, height and weight taken, blood pressure checked, ECG done, and a chest x-ray. The general consensus is that it is doubtful that we actually got a chest x-ray. The teachers that have been here a few years and the newbies all think that we stood in the x-ray bus and just heard a noise but that we didn't actually get x-rayed. Just a hunch.

Wednesday evening we our first lesson on Chinese culture. We learned about tea ceremonies, had a quick language lesson, learned some tai chi, and got a calligraphy lesson. Afterwards, we had a Chinese dinner with several traditional dishes. My favorite part was watching the noodle maker. I have no idea how he was able to quickly and easily make such thin uniform noodles. And they tasted so good!

We also were able to finally get sharp knives! The school had one of their local hires go to a warehouse which is holding all the knives until the government says they can be put back on shelves (probably not until after all the Olympic hub-bub is over).

Still to come in the next posts: Catherine wants to see my bike, video of my apartment, and lots of Olympic news!


Monday, August 18, 2008

My Classroom & the Playground

We finally visited the school today. I got to see my room:

The playground:

The school is absolutely amazing. The hallways and rooms are decorated with Chinese things (statues, wall hangings, furniture, etc.). The playground was redone recently and cost around 3 million dollars. That dragon blows smoke out of his nostrils. There is a lot more to the playground than what those four photos show. There is a waterfall, dinosaur bone dig area, greenhouse, several tennis courts, basketball courts, four gyms, lots of fields, 60-72 buses (I've heard different reports), a few cafeterias, 2 or 3 libraries, lounges, etc. The buses are not like school buses at home. These are nice charter buses in the school colors of blue and white.

Our lower elementary classrooms have SmartBoards, document cameras, PhonicEar with surround sound (lapel mics and hand-held microphones that project your voice all over the classroom), tons of books, manipulatives, and other supplies. There are at least 2 desktop computers and a teacher laptop per classroom and the school has several laptop carts for check out. The school is working on getting laptops for each student in the future.

I've been fighting the cough my darling sister gave me and a bit of jetlag. It's not too bad, I just want to go to bed at 8pm and wake up at 4am. I've been trying to stay up later but then I need a nap at around 6pm.

I still have some shopping I need to do. None of us were able to purchase sharp knives at IKEA or any other larger store in the past few days. We found out that it is because they were all taken off the shelves because of the incident last week. We should be able to get them after all the excitement dies down here.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Noodles and More Shopping

Here I am with all my luggage before flying out from San Francisco. Just so you know, most others here have shipped several boxes of things, so I did very well. I had to pay $270 to get my luggage here but I get to use the rest of the $3,000 they gave me for shipping to ship things home at the end of my contract.

Today we were picked up again for breakfast and afterwards went sim card shopping, grocery shopping, bike shopping, and exploring.

The number 4 is considered an unlucky number in China because of its similarity to the word for death. The number 8 is considered very lucky, which you probably have heard if you have watched any of the Olympics. When we went to get sim cards for our phones, we got to choose our phone numbers from a list posted on the wall. The more 8's in the number, the more expensive it is. We opted for some 4's. My number actually does have two 8's in it as well. There are no phone plans here so you get a sim card and then charge up your card to make calls and text messages.

After getting our phones working, we went grocery shopping at Jenny Lou's. It is largely an ex-pat visited store and the prices show. I bought some basic necessities but we planned to hit up a market for fruits and veggies later.

Next up was the bike shop. Nate - I wish you were there with me! I have never bought a bike in my life. I have owned a few that were given to me (a red one I learned on, a purple one from Dad, two discarded ones in college). I went with comfort. I am now the proud owner of a Giant Athena bike....with a bell and basket. I've got a nice comfortable seat and I don't have to lean over to reach the handlebars. Apparently, in Japan, some call the bike I got a "Mama Bike". It does have gears and hand brakes which none of my old bikes ever had! (I've always been all about the coaster brakes!) I also got a bell, basket, and lock. It cost me about $130 total. My school is giving us each a helmet.

After the bike shopping, Brian, George, and I decided to check out a market again. This time we knew where to go and explored a large market just down the street from us. We took a taxi this time, but it will probably only take about 10 minutes to ride there on our bikes in the future. I bought a bunch of veggies and a dozen eggs for about $4 (broccoli, cucumbers, tomato, asparagus, and eggs). We bought some noodles and beers for a late lunch and were pleasantly surprised to find that our three heaping bowls of delicious noodles, one plate of edamame, and three beers cost us about $1 each.
Tomorrow we finally get to go to our new school and get a tour of the campus. As promised, here are some pictures of my apartment:


Saturday, August 16, 2008


When we arrived at our apartments, we were each given 7,055 yuan (a little over $1,000) for spending money until we get our first paycheck in two weeks. They really are taking good care of us. So, yesterday was a shopping day to get anything we needed for our apartments. First, we got breakfast at an American-owned restaurant called "Steak and Eggs". Breakfast also gave us a chance to get to know some of the other new hires and greet our administrators again.

After breakfast, we headed over to IKEA. We had two and a half hours to do all our shopping at IKEA and an electronics store and get back on the bus. It was like Supermarket Sweep. I ended up filling my cart and after putting it all into bags, needed two carts for all my IKEA stuff. I spent a little less than half my money there. After unloading our IKEA stuff, we headed over to the electronics store.

At the electronics store, you found the item you wanted and told an employee who wrote you up a receipt. This was made a little more complicated since there was only one employee in the store who spoke any English. He was a busy guy when all our 20-something new hires descended on his store! One new hire kept being given a time-out sign from an employee. It was great. After you got your receipts for everything you wanted to buy, you took your stack of receipts over to a counter where two girls were working and about a dozen were sitting, having lunch, and watching. The girl at the counter rang you up and you paid. Next, you had to take your receipts back to each place where you got them and the person would then give you what you purchased. We didn't all make it back to the bus on time. I spent about $100 at this store on a cell phone, iron, converter, and hair dryer.

After the shopping, we were brought back to our apartments and were free the rest of the day. We (Brian, George, and I) got some beers and lunch and then decided to go swimming. We lasted seconds in the freezing water and decided to go exploring instead. The school had given us a Taxi Book, which is about the size of a deck of cards and has places all over Beijing listed. The idea is to show the taxi driver where you want to go and they can read the Chinese and take you there. We wanted to go to a market of some sort, the guys wanted to eat something off a stick. We pointed and after first being taking to the grocery store, we made it to a market area. Not exactly what we were looking for, but the guys did eat some kind of meat kabob. We had dinner at a restaurant and then came home.

This is a pretty long post but I'm sure Mom and others will like reading about what I did. Also, I couldn't go back to sleep so this kept me occupied. Today we do more shopping (groceries, bikes, and computer stuff) and then we might try going down to the Olympic Green and checking out what's going on there. I'll get some pictures up today or tomorrow.


Friday, August 15, 2008

In Beijing!

I made it to Beijing! I was able to sleep for about 5 hours on the plane since no one else was in my row and I could lie down across three seats! We got in early and made it through customs and baggage to meet up with the group my school sent to pick us up. They took us to our apartments and talked us through several things that I have started to forget already.

My apartment has two bedrooms and two full bathrooms. My bedroom has a king-sized bed and there are two twin-sized beds in the spare room. I have a living room with a couch, two armchairs, a coffee table, two end tables, a TV, and some cabinets. My dining room has a table and four chairs. The kitchen has an oven, stove, washing machine/dryer, microwave, and fridge.

The people from my school have made everything very easy. They even put some snacks in my fridge and on the kitchen counter and the apartment people brought me a basket of fruit! The school has given me some spending money which will be used to do some shopping tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the bus picks us up and takes us to breakfast at a diner (school pays for breakfast) and then we go to IKEA and an electronics store where I can buy a cell phone. I have a home phone number too and I will send out an email with that.

I can't believe I'm here. The weather is gorgeous outside. They had a big storm last night that cleaned everything up so I had great views coming in on the plane. It is in the upper 80s and sunny and clear. Now, I need to unpack all my stuff into my giant closet, take a shower, explore the complex a little (maybe), and go to bed early.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Cozumel 2008

Jessica and I took off to Cozumel on July 30th and returned home on August 9th. We both had a great time. I did 22 dives and Jessica did a few less than that. The hotel where we stayed had a great pool and we both spent some time there (Jessica a little more).

I was there to compete in the Ultimate Diver Challenge and made it to the top ten divers! I also competed in the photo challenge and won a prize for this photo of Jessica and a turtle:

Another benefit of participating in the photo challenge was learning the names of more fish. One part of the challenge was to find and take a picture of 20 different fish, about half of which I didn't know until this trip. I learned about other fish which were not part of the challenge as well, like this secretary blenny:

He was tiny, his little head smaller than my little finger nail. I think my underwater photography in general improved quite a bit on this trip. I definitely paid a lot more attention to how I should set up shots and use my flash. So, in a few days, check out my flickr site again and check out the photos! Also, all the Roatan photos will be up very soon on flickr.

--Sarah-- (3 days to go!)