Monday, November 4, 2013

The last few weeks in the classroom have been a struggle. Lots of behavior problems that lead to chaotic lessons. It's really easy to just get frustrated with the kids and leave class feeling like a mean person for spending 35 minutes having a yelling contest and getting onto them every 5 seconds. Every class has those one or two bad kids that really just make matters worse. They are the ones it's REALLY easy to get angry with because they hold so much more power over the class than I do. However, lately I've been finding some things out about these "problem" students and it has help me put some things into perspective.
One of my little boys is a bully and gets in fights in class. His Chinese teacher's cant control him either. His dad is abusive (it's been seen happening at school) so it's easy to see where he get's his anger from. I saw him the other day crying hysterically and begging his home room teacher not to call someone, I'm guessing his parents? It makes me wonder what happens at home when he gets in trouble at school.
Another boy is always causing a ruckus in class- bothering his classmates, playing with his things, talking, just generally doing anything but sitting quietly and listening. He is always behind in his homework with his Chinese teachers and doesn't even finish tests when I give them. He just doesn't care. Well, I found out last week that the lady I thought was his mom all last year is in fact his dad's employee. She brings him to school, picks him up, takes care of him on the weekends and comes to his school events. His parents don't live in Beijing. I don't know where they are, but not here.
Yet another boy (all my problem students are boys) doesn't try in class and most of the time has his had on his desk. Anytime I ask him how he is he says, "I'm very bad." About a month ago I was out walking on the school track on a Saturday and saw him and 2 other boys with a dorm mother, which means he stayed at school all weekend. The next weekend I asked him if he was going home and he said no, I will stay here. I asked where his parents were. He said his dad works in America. I don't know about his mom.
It breaks my heart to think how different their lives would be if they were just loved and given attention by their parents. These kids are from wealthy families. Their parents pay a lot of money to send them to school here and they probably get whatever toys or electronics they want, but they're missing what they need the most right now. Knowing this doesn't really make my classes any easier- I still leave some days feeling like I've been run over by a mob of crazy children- but it does help me think about all of my children differently. You never really know what's going on in people's lives that makes them act the way they do.
I have this verse on my desk to help me remember how to deal with life, and it applies so well to these dear children:

"Let all that you do be done in love."
1 Corinthians 16:14

Here are some picture of the little ones at a flea market we had at school last week...

These two are all boy!

Sally (on the left) is a quiet, sweet little girl. Lily is cute as can be but quite a handful!

Melissa and Irene are great students and kind hearted little girls.

These boys are best buds but nothing alike. Fred is a sweet little student and Jerry is a trouble maker!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I got this text from my sister this morning-
"You should start blogging again. I feel so disconnected from you life."
So Lyd, this is for you.
I must confess that writing is not my favorite thing to do, nor my second favorite, and if we're being honest it's not even my 100th favorite, but I'll try to be more consistent.

About this time last year I wrote a post about our boss coming back from holiday and surprising everyone with the announcement that she had gotten married to a teacher at school no one knew she was dating. Well, it's kind of happened again.

Picture with me a girl who is engaged to be married and has a wedding date set and in the works. She is also looking for a new job. In the US, it would play out something like this...

The girl goes in for a job interview. One of the first things she says is, "I'm getting married on such-and-such day and I'll need this much time off." If they don't agree she'll probably keep looking for a job elsewhere. If they do, she'll start her new job with her wedding vacation already scheduled, and in the months leading up to her wedding a lot of the talk with her co-workers will revolve around her big day. They may throw her an office shower. She will probably invite some of them to her wedding. She will probably have asked off for a few days before the wedding and a whole week after for the honeymoon, of course. Before she takes her leave of absence everyone will be wishing her well. When she gets back, everyone will want to see pictures and hear every detail of how everything went. She will probably be on a "just married" high for a few weeks.

And here's how it goes in China...

The girl goes in for a job interview. She says nothing about her wedding and she is hired. The job is high stress with lots of expectations and demands, and because she is new she decides to keep the wedding a secret so no one will think her wedding is affecting her job performance. A few weeks before the wedding she tells one foreign teacher of her secret plans. The Friday of her rehearsal, she has a meeting that lasts until 5:30 pm. Her rehearsal starts at 8 across town. She leaves work, goes to rehearsal, gets married the next morning, spends one and a half days as a married woman, then comes back to work on Monday morning like nothing happened. She announces her marriage to her co-workers by giving them candy. No one really talks about it, and life goes on as normal. There is no honeymoon.

This happened with my new co-teacher last weekend. I don't know if it's good or bad, probably a little of both, but it's definitely different. It didn't seem to phase her, or anyone else in the office, and with all the surprise weddings going around I don't suppose it should.

So that's my story for today. Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter: China vs. America

I'd say the biggest difference I experienced on Easter would definitely be... CLOTHES.
In America, Easter is a day for girls to wear something new and fancy. Get all dressed up! Ditch the jeans and wear a cute dress for once. Bring out those sassy heals. Going to Church on Easter is something like a fashion show. And that's totally doable, because even if its 50 degrees outside and your dress is sleeveless, or you can barely walk in those sassy heals you've got on, all you really have to do is walk a few steps to your warm car, a few more to get inside the warm Church, and then back out to your warm car and home again.

Not so in China! As I got dressed yesterday morning I thought, oh, wouldn't it be nice to wear something cute today? My white lace skirt? Maybe that one pair of heals I brought but haven't even thought about wearing yet? And then I considered what it took to get to Church. First, a 15 minute walk to the subway in 40 degree weather. A 40+ minute ride. Another 10 minute walk from the subway to Church. Get to Church and it's cold inside (there is a pre-determined date for turning off the heat, and that was 2 weeks ago). Then reverse that all on the way home. After considering all of this I decided on Toms (those are cute, right?), jeans, and a somewhat cute shirt that no one saw because I was never warm enough to remove my jacket.

The good news is, NONE OF THAT MATTERS! The Savior has still risen and is alive today!
I had a wonderful Easter Sunday, surrounded by brothers and sisters from all over the world who came together to celebrate the Good News. To end the day, I went over to some friends apartment at a nearby college campus to eat waffles, decorate eggs and cookies, and have a good time. About half way through the evening we all stopped our talking and decorating to listen to a Chinese brother tell the Easter story in his own language. Although I have no idea what exact words he used, I know the story, and I was so honored at that very moment to be in China, at that school, in that apartment, with all of those dear students.

If I had to sum up my China vs. America Easter experience in a few words, I'd have to say...
"Same same, but different."
While on the outside things might look a little different, everything that matters is still the same:
He is risen! He is risen indeed.  

These are two of my precious boys, Andy and Danny, proudly displaying their Easter artwork.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

James 1:27

Around Christmas time my teammates and I had the wonderful opportunity to help out at a Christmas party that some of our friends put on for a group of blind orphans that live down the street from us. We had been hearing about the orphanage all semester but hadn't had the chance to meet the children yet. There are 3 girls and 6 boys who live in a special apartment setting and attend a school for the blind.

About a week before the party we went to a Christmas concert at a local Church and heard the children sing. It was by far the highlight of the concert for me. They sang several Christmas carols in English and you could tell they were loving every minute of it! Their enthusiasm and joy was so moving and I'm pretty sure there were a lot wet eyes around the room during their performance. At the Christmas party we had the chance to hear them sing again and again it brought tears to my eyes. These children love music and they have no fear of singing their hearts out! The room where we held the party has a baby grand piano and there were always 2 or 3 children sitting at the piano picking out tunes they knew. It wasn't an especially beautiful sound, seeing as how there were several songs going on simultaneously, but I loved watching them play.

Through all of this I found out that two of the boys were taking piano lessons and several more of them wanted to take, but their teacher didn't have anymore time available. So she asked me, would I be willing to teach some of them? Oh dear. Yes, I've been teaching piano for years, but teaching a blind student is a whole different ball game and there isn't a whole lot of instruction out there to guide you, especially for kids who have no access to braille music. But I thought, hey, its this or nothing, and it would be a good learning experience for both of us. So I said yes!

Because of the Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday, we just finally had our first lesson this past Friday. My friend Paula, who teaches the two other students, had been trying to communicate with the children's Ayi (the lady that takes care of them) to find out exactly who wanted to take, but she hadn't really gotten that far. So we just decided I would show up and teach whoever was ready. I had a one hour time slot to teach. Well, I got to the children's apartment, and there were six children sitting around the kitchen table, ALL excited to start piano lessons! Again, oh dear. Since I obviously didn't have time to teach all six of them, Paula and the Ayi decided I would start with two, a little girl named Katie (or maybe Kitty? it depends on who says it) and a little boy named Allan. I was a little intimidated because these children were two of the weakest English speakers, but we had bigger problems than this anyway so might as well just jump in.

Surprise surprise, the lessons went really well! Sweet Allan smiled the ENTIRE lesson. I had read that information needed to be given in small amounts and it was good to stop every once in a while and just let them play and explore the piano. I tried to do that several times with Allan, but he wasn't having it! He was super focused the whole lesson and somehow we communicated just fine. Katie, however, did need a few breaks to play the only song she knows on the piano, Row Row Row Your Boat. She also did great and our communication was a little tougher, but by the end of the lesson we had it figured out.

Over all, first day was a success! It's still a little scary... I feel completely unqualified for this, but these children are so sweet and excited to learn so we will just have to learn together.
Thoughts appreciated!!

Here are a few pictures of the children from the Christmas party... 

Katie is the one in the middle. Three songs going on at one time! Katie is more than likely playing Row Your Boat. :)

The children are having a Christmas tree decorating competition. They did really well!

Saturday, March 9, 2013


During the Chinese Spring Festival we took a little vacation to Thailand.  Our ultimate destination was our company's annual conference in Chiang Mai, but first we spent a week with our friends at the beach. Instead of writing a long story I thought I'd post some pictures. I'm not so great at writing anyway.
 Hope you enjoy!

 Our first stop was Phukett. We spent 2 nights there waiting for our friends to arrive so we could all go over to the island together. And we rode elephants!! Pretty cool experience. We bought bananas to feed our elephant and he was really greedy and ate them all in about 5 minutes. :)
 After our ride we watched a little elephant show. Meshea played soccer with this elephant, then we all got "elephant massages." Don't worry, the elephant barely tapped my back. I'm sure it could have ended horribly and this probably wouldn't be allowed in the good ol' USA, but it was fun, it made for a good picture, and I'm still alive!
 Our next stop was Phi Phi Island! When we left Beijing it had been below freezing for about a month so this was a wonderful change of scenery and weather. To get to the island we had to take a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride.
 One day we hiked up to a lookout point. It was pretty miserably hot but the view was worth it. We stayed on the beach on the right side.
 At night the tide went out and the beach grew a lot! Unfortunately you couldn't see the sunrise or sunset from our beach, but it was still beautiful.
 One of Thailand's famous foods is banana roti. They call it a pancake but its not anything like our pancakes. Its basically really thin dough with bananas wrapped inside, fried, and topped with whatever you choose. I tried nutella and sweetened condensed milk. They were both delicious!
 A whole bunch of us went on a half day (that turned into a whole day) snorkeling trip. I've never been snorkeling in the US but I'm sure its much different than in Thailand. Our driver stopped the boat and said, "Ok! Jump in!" And that was all the instruction we got all day. It was a lot of fun, besides our boat almost flipping and throwing Meshea into the ocean. The water was really rough that day.
 After snorkeling they took us to a tiny beach and we had a cook out. Really good food, but then the boat that was supposed to take us back to our island broke down and we were stranded for about 2 hours. We still had fun!
 This is the whole group on Phi Phi. These wonderful friends teach in Nanchang and Taiyuan. We had a great time hearing all about each others semesters and just getting to know each other better. Awesome people!
 Our final stop was Chiang Mai, for the conference. Our first night we ate at Miguels. I had eaten there 3 years ago when I was in Chiang Mai working at a similar conference. That week was when this journey really started for me, so it was really cool to be back in this city and eat delicious Mexican food!
 The last night of conference we had a big banquet at the Shangri La. The food was delicious and Travis Cottrell performed and lead us in song. It was a chance for all of us to get dressed up and, of course, take lots of pictures! It was a great way to close out the conference.

Our very last day in Thailand we went to Tiger Kingdom to play with baby tigers. You could also go in the cage with adult tigers but none of us were quite that adventurous. We got to pet these little guys and feed them.

And that is the end of our adventures! We're now back at school and settled into our teaching routine. Vacation was wonderful and warm, but I was very excited to see all my sweet little Chinese babies again. 
Thanks for reading! See you all soon!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mr. President

A few months ago, before the election, I had a funny/strange/somewhat disturbing conversation with Julie, one of our co-teachers who sits across from me in the office. It went something like this...

Julie- "Rachel, (lots of words I don't understand) you like (more words I don't understand) Obama."
Thinking she was asking if I liked Obama, I replied, "Um, not really, he's not my favorite person."
Julie-"No, no! (this time with hand motions) Your face... it is like Obama."
Me- "WHAT? I LOOK like Obama?"
Julie-"Yes, yes! Your face is like Obama."
Me- "Ok... I'm not sure... I don't really see that... oh dear..."

Meshea and her co-teacher Mr. Wang were listening in on our little chat and I looked over and saw them laughing hysterically.  Ever since then Mr. Wang has referred to me as Mr. President and even wrote me a little note on the day of the election that says "Congratulations! You win again." The other day I came into the office to find a student doing some work at my desk. Mr. Wang walked up to him and said, "How dare you sit in the President's chair!"

I'm not sure Julie thinks its funny.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chinese Fieldtrip

Confession... I wrote this about a month ago and had internet issues and never got around to posting it. So it wasn't actually yesterday...

Yesterday we experienced a Chinese field trip with our kiddos. We’ve been hearing about this for a while, and even had one planned but it got cancelled for kind of known but also unknown reasons.
Monday we heard the news that on Thursday we would have a field trip. This means… no class!! And one less lesson plan to write for next week. So although it was short notice, as usual, we were all pretty excited. Plus we would all get to spend the day with our students.

I set out yesterday morning with one of my co-teachers, Shirley, and class 8. All four of my classes went on the trip but I was assigned to class 8 for the day. We left at 8:45 for the nature/science museum.  It’s really cold here, like highs in the 30s, so all the little ones were bundled up and cute as could be!

Within the first 15 minutes at the museum there were at least 50 pictures taken by the other teachers. Every 2 or 3 minutes we had to stop for a picture. I was worried the whole day would be like that but they eventually calmed down. At one point the head teacher made us stop to get a teacher’s-only picture and all the kids just kept going and left us behind! We had to run to catch up and make sure they didn’t get lost. 

The most entertaining part of the day was definitely lunch. I had heard stories about how all the kids bring TONS of snacks from home for field trips, and how they try to stuff it all in your face! On Monday when we went to class we saw huge black trash bags full of food. Actually, that’s how we found out about the field trip. Yesterday all the kids had backpacks full of food. 

As I was walking around with the kids we ran into another one of my classes who had set up camp on the floor of the museum. There was food everywhere! As soon as I walked over to say hello they started handing me food and putting food in my mouth. At first I tried to be brave and taste the things they handed me, then I gave up because it was just coming at me too fast. In just a few seconds I had my arms full of food and it was falling all over the floor. They were handing me hand fulls of chips! Those ended up smashed all over my shirt. I got away as quickly as possible.

Around 10:30 my class decided it was time for lunch so we found an empty floor space and sat down. They started handing me food immediately but this time I had a bag and I was ready. I got more chips, some sausage, a lot of things I can’t identify, and tons of suckers. At one point the kids were just throwing food at me! When they were done eating they started handing me all the things they didn’t want. I said to Shirley, “I think the kids are just giving me all the food they don’t want,” and she said, “Oh, you can understand them?” Apparently they were saying to each other, “Just give it to Miss Rachel!” Somewhere along the way we ran into another one of my classes and I was showered with even more food. I ended up throwing about half of it away while the kids weren’t looking and still had a book bag full. 

It turns out lunch was kind of the main event of the field trip. After it was over we killed some time and then loaded the childrens back on the bus and back to school we went. We have another field trip to look forward to in the spring which means… more Chinese snacks!! Can’t wait.