It’s been a whirlwind past couple of weeks! Where did November and December go? Now that my classes are finished (as in my classes were co-opted for test review), I actually have free time to blog.
The AYC Thanksgiving this year was held by my friends, Dani and Rachael, as is the tradition for the foreign teachers at Erzhong (#2 High School) the past four years or so to host Thanksgiving dinner. AYC is the Peace-Corps-like American nonprofit that stationed us in various towns in China as EA’s or “educational ambassadors.” This was actually my first Thanksgiving in Lishui as I had spent the previous Thanksgiving in Wenzhou with some lovely girls making shrimp tacos and Pico de Gallo from whatever ingredients we could get at a local wet market – an open or covered market with live seafood and fresh vegetables, etc.
This year, Thanksgiving was much more traditional. Dani and Rachael had three ovens(!), a luxury in China for sure, that allowed us to bake! With the magical delivery powers of Taobao and the expensive international food we could get at the Wandi Mall (they now have blocks of real cheddar cheese!!!!), we were able to put together an amazing spread.
Tis the Season!
The first weekend of December, the five of us American girls in Lishui had a fun little white elephant exchange to get into the holiday season.We listened to cheerful Christmas music, had breakfast for dinner, baked and decorated cookies with Bere’s amazing tubs of homemade butter creme frosting, and ended the night with a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity.
I also had the opportunity to guest teach a High School class at a vocational high school! It was pretty interesting – the campus was far out of town, so I had to drive a bit on unpaved roads on my electric scooter. The school itself had a gorgeous backdrop of the mountains (great fengshui I was told).
A bunch of teachers from the school came to watch me lecture, which was a little nerve-wracking. I honestly just talked a bit about the US and myself, but I found out later in that school’s newsfeed that it said I praised the school as having the most beautiful campus in Lishui, and that I informed everyone about the state of education in the USA. Whatever floats their boat, I guess. I can now say I’ve taught at virtually every grade level, though! 😀
Bringing the Holidays into the Classroom
I know how touchy China gets about the Western holiday season, so I made sure to ask how much of the holiday I could talk about. Once I was given permission, so I promptly (and gleefully) jumped right in.
What amazes me is that you see Christmas decorations everywhere! There are a plethora of big to little Christmas trees and paper Santa window decorations everywhere from the smallest mom and pop shops to chains like KFC, but my students didn’t know who Santa was! I had to remedy this.
I taught about Santa and various family traditions people do for Christmas. At the end of my lesson, I let the 7th graders watch part of Home Alone – they REALLY zeroed in on the part where Kevin’s brother tells him to “kiss his ass.” Imagine a chorus of “ass!” right after that scene, haha.
With the younger 5th grade students, I had them make holiday cards and told them about Hanukah and Kwanza. I had some trouble playing Home Alone on the class computer, so we watched the Jim Carey Grinch movie instead, which they found entertaining and a little confusing.
Off to Shanghai to fetch my Husband!
I took a few days off to pick up Mark, the love of my life, at the Shanghai airport. I really missed him! I love how it feels like time hasn’t passed whenever we see each other again. Being in a long-distance relationship has its ups and downs, but I always feel like life is good whenever when we can just slip effortlessly into a routine side by side anywhere we are in life.
Shanghai Propaganda Museum
Mark and I spent the next day meandering around Shanghai. We visited the small privately-owned Communist Propaganda Poster Museum (25 Kuai) located within a small two-roomed basement in the former French Concession area of Shanghai. It’s fascinating to not only see the development in artistic skill of the posters, but also to reflect back on their messages and how times have drastically changed. There are some dating as far back as 1910, when the Qing Dynasty was on its last legs!
We had lunch at Al’s Diner, which was a huge treat for me as I had been craving good American-style pancakes for forever. They had salt and pepper on the tables, and no chopsticks in sight! It honestly felt like an old-fashioned American diner, and the portions were American-sized, too!
Aurora Museum, located in the swanky Aurora Hotel, was pretty cool and worth the 60 kuai entry fee. It houses lots of ancient artifacts and each of the six floors had its own theme like ancient pottery or jade works, etc.
It was very relaxing and uncrowded with dim lighting and lots of benches to sit on. Almost all the placards had English descriptions, and there were English subtitles on their video displays. My favorite item was the jade burial suit made of 2,903 tiles sewn together with gold wire.
As we were walking back to the metro from Aurora Museum, we happened upon a sign for a Paulaner Brauhaus. It being the holiday season and all, we decided to splurge on some good Bavarian beer and a pretzel.The beer was good, but we felt the pretzels didn’t hold a candle to the actual beerhauses we’d been to on our honeymoon two years ago now.
Mark remembered Yang’s Dumplings fondly, or the “Exploding dumplings” as he likes to call them. We made sure to get him some before we headed out of town.
Back to Lishui
Getting into Lishui by Gaotie, the high speed railway, was smooth and uneventful. We settled in and decided since students were really looking forward to meeting him that Mark would teach my hellishly early five Friday classes.
Mark was a trooper! The kids enjoyed listening and asking random questions about his hometown of Alamogordo and various hobbies. Some were super excited about what video games he played, most were amazed he knew about Minecraft. Others wanted to know about our relationship. The younger students were more shy and would whisper to me about Mark having a “big nose,” haha. FYI big noses are considered a good trait in China and very noble!
William, my AYC coordinator, organized a dinner for us with the other English teachers at the Primary School. Even though I only work mainly with William currently out this group of teachers, it was fun to see everyone again. Poor William, Mark, and a random other male English teacher who never spoke, had to sit through as the female teachers complained heatedly about everything from second pregnancies to period woes.
An Early Christmas
I waited until Mark arrived to decorate my Christmas tree. We made a fun night of it, hanging ornaments and stringing lights while wearing matching reindeer headbands. With Christmas music and a peppermint candle lit, it felt pretty Christmas-y.
We decided to open presents and stockings early the next morning rather than wait for Christmas day not only because I wanted Mark to have the warm thermals I bought him while he was here, but also because we were traveling out of town for Christmas to China’s northernmost province, HeilongJiang, to its capital city of Harbin!!!!
Next post will be on our Harbin adventure!