This month has created so many memories for my family and I. We have seen the weather go from cold to freezing cold, competed in school competitions, and have finally moved into our new apartment.
We moved into our new apartment the last week of November and have gotten used to it pretty quickly! It has been so nice to be within walking distance of a grocery store and mall. We have been able to save a lot of money not hiring a didi every time we have a few heavy groceries. There is also a bus that picks up the teachers across the street from my apartment complex and takes us to and from school. I even saw my first case of road rage on the bus! A car kept trying to get around us and then sped up to stop in front of us. Then he got out of his car and yelled at our driver for not being aware of his existence until then. Keep in mind, with the constant honking and traffic, I am surprised I have made it four months without seeing someone freak out like that. Road rage is fairly common in the U.S. by comparison and it was pretty amazing to not see a single instance of it until now. Anyways, we are saving money and getting used to the routine in the new place. The internet is so much better here too and we are able to binge our favorite shows and movies without the hassle of a VPN that won’t connect. If you have read my past blogs, you know that our old apartment had an elderly man doing kung fu outside my bedroom window every morning. Well, no worries here! He has been quickly replaced by sword-wielding grandmas!! Calvin and I have passed these ladies every morning on our way to the bus. They stand in the center of the complex courtyard and do what I think is Tai Chi holding actual swords. As you can probably guess, it is awesome.
I have spent a lot of this month going to events. At the beginning of the month, myself, a few students and teachers went to a seminar that interviewed Jane Goodall. The students and us even had the chance to meet her before the event started, she was so nice and so exhausted. You could tell she had just arrived to Beijing that day but she was a great speaker. The topic of the seminar was women and the struggles they face when going into male-dominated positions. She talked about her life growing up and her mother that always inspired her to do her best, even if that meant sleeping in the wild all on her own. She was an awesome speaker and I am really happy we got the chance to see her speak. A few weeks later I went and had a girls night with a bunch of my teacher friends! It was amazing. We saw Frozen 2 and went out to an amazing dumplings dinner. We finished the night off with three hours of KTV. Seriously, that will be one of the things I miss most when I leave China, the Karaoke! I know I have mentioned KTV before, but it really is so much fun. You get a small room with the option of both English and Chinese songs. It is perfect for my group that is a mix of both English and Chinese-speakers. If you ever get the chance, try it out, you won’t regret it. I have also started playing a role-playing game on Tuesdays with a bunch of other teachers called Pathfinders. Basically, my weeks and weekends have been busy!
Also earlier this month, our students had a Spelling Bee amongst the middle school students, 6th-8th. All 200 students had the opportunity to participate in the first round of the competition and was eventually whittled down to the top eight. I am happy to say that the ‘Top Eight’ included my boy, Calvin. He competed with the other seven in front of all of secondary school. They all did great and Calvin ended up getting second place in the competition! The teachers were all talking about it for the next week and decided to have our own competition! I and 12 other teachers competed a few weeks later and had a great time! I even got second place! I guess the spelling smarts run in the genes. It was great because it showed the students that failure is no reason to stop from trying your best! Plus, I felt like a god when I spelled electroluminescent correctly. Does quite a bit of good for my self-esteem when I had a whole audience going “woah!”
As for the big holiday, this was our first Thanksgiving in China. I can honestly say that we weren’t planning on celebrating this year. We kind of thought that because it was an American holiday, we wouldn’t find anywhere to celebrate, much less find a turkey. But luckily for us, Beijing is such an awesome and diverse city. Our amazing coworker found a restaurant that was hosting a Thanksgiving dinner and invited us and 26 other teachers to take part in the Thanksgiving festivities. It was a little on the expensive side, but we were able to drive to the other part of the city and have a big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings! They had everything from chorizo stuffing to garlic mashed potatoes and gravy. It was nice to celebrate like we would have back home. It was even better that we were able to celebrate with all of our friends and my family. There were plenty of other groups there too enjoying the festive atmosphere and stuffing themselves with turkey. It may have taken 1.5 hours to get there, but it was more than worth it!
Another thing that we have been doing the past week is getting to know our new neighborhood! Unlike our old apartment, we are surrounded by restaurants, wet markets, bakeries, etc. It has been awesome to just look at it all. We even managed to find an underground vegetable market. I don’t mean illegal, I mean it is literally underground. We saw people going down the back stairs inside a little liquor store and noticed no one was stopping them or yelling at them. We decided to follow and found a whole little world down there! There were vegetables, fish, meat, and even chocolate milk for sale by vendors. We think we may start shopping there to avoid the huge lines at the Wumart
(yes Wumart, not Walmart). Also, there are bakeries EVERYWHERE. We have already counted three within walking distance and are enjoying getting fat on goodies. There are even fudge-filled chocolate cupcakes. I am in heaven. Also, China has a little obsession with cute food. As in, almost everything is in the shape of a cutesie animals. I have seen examples of this at Starbucks, bakeries, and restaurants. It seems to be a big cultural thing and I really like it. Also, the bakeries aren’t just full of sweets, but a lot of savory options as well. There are a ton of breakfast options with American hotdogs in it I have noticed. They even have garlic bread *happy dance*.
Last but certainly not least, has been the change in weather! We are from the center of Arizona, so we don’t see things like leaves changing colors or snow much. It has been so beautiful to see the leaves change from green to red..and then die and fall off. No one really talks about that part I guess? Anyways, the weather has gotten real cold here over the last month. We even got snow last night! My son has never seen snow fall from the sky before. So when my husband called me from outside and told me it was snowing, we threw on our jackets and raced out of the house. We were so excited in fact, I forgot my keys! Thankfully Korey had his. We raced around the courtyard and stayed outside for about an hour, walking through the streets and watching the whiteness pile up! It was a memory I don’t think any of us will ever forget. It really made me reflect on my time in China and made me realize how lucky we are for the opportunities that we have had here. Next month, we will be spending Christmas in Thailand, a sentence I have never thought I would be able to say! I can’t wait to see what other adventures are in store for us! See you in December!