Beijing Expat: August 2020

With school starting the last day of this month, I spent most of my time teaching summer school, enjoying the last days of summer, and meeting new colleagues. We celebrated being in China for a full year and still can’t believe how much has changed and how many adventures we have already been on. Calvin will be starting 7th grade this year and celebrated his 12th birthday! We were sad to not have had the chance to return home to the U.S. for this momentous occasion, but with the borders still closed we do not know when we may get to visit next.

Beijing Hutongs late at night

This month has been very similar to the other summer months in terms of weather, which means it has been raining A LOT! We have had rain that lasts all day and rain that comes in for 30 minutes and leaves. I still haven’t gotten quite used to it, although I have gotten into the habit of carrying an umbrella with me everywhere I go. Even walking to the cafeteria during one of these bouts of rain can soak you through, it is not pleasant. Have you ever walked around with wet socks and shoes? It really sucks. Not only that, but the bugs and critters have grown to their full size and are everywhere! I hear giant cicadas, try to avoid stepping on snail migrations, and watch in wonder as millipedes scuttle by. All of the water has really brought them out in full force! It is a pretty sight to be sure, especially when I am more accustomed to scorpions or spiders in Arizona.

The beginning of the month included both work and play. We had just got back from our amazing Hainan trip with the school, but went right into summer school! My friend Maxine and I spent the first two weeks of August helping catch a few students up to speed so that they would be successful in the upcoming school year. All went well and it was a good way to prepare us teachers for being back in the classroom after so many months online. We also celebrated our boy Calvin’s 12th birthday! It was quite a bit different than Calvin’s past birthdays. Back home in Arizona, we usually have a huge party with 20-30 of his family members and closest friends. Because we were not able to make it back to the states, we had to compromise and threw Calvin a bit of a surprise party instead. He has been very into Dungeons and Dragons lately, making the characters and studying the maps. A few of my friends who are teachers at the school worked with me to create character sheets and a game for our 12-year old. We held the party in my classroom and ended up playing over 8 hours! It was a lot of fun, but the birthday boy ended up sacrificing himself to save us all in the end. So valiant!

We been spending our weekends going out to different parts of Beijing that we have never been to before and trying new foods. We have been here a year and have explored a lot, but there are still so many places unexplored. We were invited to an Italian place that we had never been before and it was awesome. Calvin ordered a seafood pasta that was cooked with pizza crust on top of it! It was magical looking to say the least. It still blows my mind that there has been so much that we haven’t seen! I have just heard about a few bar streets and tourist areas that are about 30 minutes away from where we live, we plan to take some time during September and October to explore with our friends. As our new colleagues have been coming into Beijing, we have been taking them to new places and making new friends. I am even more excited for the rest of the teachers to get here, they should be able to make it into China around October! I am so ready to meet them in person, our Kaiwen family feels incomplete without them.

There have also been exciting changes to my weekly schedules. After being tired of all of my quarantine weight, I decided to join a gym with my son and friend. It is called Sunshine fitness and its about a 15 minute drive away from my house. Calvin and I have been going several times a week and I have even started taking private boxing lessons! I have made new friends at the gym and have a great coach that I see twice a week. It has been awesome to put working out back into my routine and I can feel myself getting stronger. You are probably wondering if my coach can speak English… and the answer is no, not really. He is picking up words as we go, but are mostly using mirroring to communicate the moves and punches. There are sometimes hilarious misunderstandings, but we are getting along great. The exercise has come just in time, too. Now that Covid has calmed down so significantly, new flagships are opening in Beijing like Shake Shack and Taco Bell. I need to keep the weight off as we enjoy these familiar fast foods!

Not only have new businesses opened up, but also my favorite entertainment…KTV!! I love going to Karaoke with my girls, especially the way KTV does it. You rent a room with your friends and are able to pick songs in both English and Chinese from the most popular artists. No fear of embarrassment, no worry about making it onto the Chinese equivalent of Youtube. We had been waiting patiently for the reopening and it was finally here!! Most other places have been opened for months, but entertainment was the very last thing to open. Reason being, it is hard to prevent the spread of a virus in such a small environment, especially when passing a mic around and singing/screaming our heads off! But the time was finally here and we were more than ready for it! We celebrated Maxine’s birthday with a small girls night out and ended up at KTV until 3 in the morning. It was a blast! I can foresee many KTV nights in the future as our colleagues get into China!

The last 2 weeks of August were spent at school, preparing for our first day on the 31st. I was recently promoted to Head of Department (thank you, thank you) and was there to support the new staff as well as take on all my new duties. I led a professional development on Life in Beijing, which I must say, writing this blog has thoroughly prepared me for. It was great, I think I helped a lot of the new teachers get their bearings and know where to get help if they needed it. I have been talking to some of these new teachers for the past few months, so it was awesome to meet them finally! We went out to lunch with the new teachers at Hai Di Lao and then I took my own Social Studies teachers (old and new) out to lunch to get to know each other better. With all our fun, moving our classrooms, and preparing for the new school year, it was the end of our 2 weeks before we knew it. We were finally in our last weekend in August, the weekend before our first day of school!

Korey and I tried to celebrate the end of summer with a really nice hike with his friend Ablikim. He took us to a park only 10 minutes away from our house that we had no idea it existed! It is called Badachu, or ‘Eight Big Spots’. Basically there are eight different scenic spots in the park that you can visit and we got to see at least 5 of them. While we did see most of the temples, our biggest goal was to hike to the top of the mountain. It hasn’t been our hardest hike in Beijing, but it was a pretty good one! We could see all the fun stuff they had to offer including cable cars, slides going down the mountain, and lighting incense at the Buddha statues. We were even there in time to see the Buddhist monks chanting around 9 am in the morning. I still can’t believe that there was a giant green area in the middle of a city of 21 million, and I had no clue that it was there! It was a beautiful hike and worth going! On the way down, Ablikim suggested we stop by a tea shop at the bottom of the mountain. I hadn’t had any authentic Chinese tea whilst here, so we gave it a shot. We had Pu’er tea and ordered hot sesame paste noodles. It was the perfect ending after a long hike. A great workout and a great morning!

Finally, it was August 31st: the first day of school. We had been preparing for it most of the month, but it was finally here. I am very thankful that we were able to begin the year with in-person learning. China has been doing wonders to handle Covid and we knew it was safe enough to bring the students back to school. Calvin dressed up in his brand new school uniforms and we headed out to the school bus that picks us up just across the street. We both had a great first day, meeting all of the students (Calvin has quite a few new classmates) and being with all of our friends. Because we still have a few teachers out of China (both old and new), we still had to continue with online learning for a few classes. We handled this the same way we did it before schools closed down again in July. The international teacher abroad is on Classin and projected on the front board, while the kids are on their computers and able to interact with the teacher. These teachers are still working on their Chinese visas but will hopefully be in the country and done with quarantine by October!

We hope to have a great September, working towards a great school year. We have a trip planned in the middle of the month to the birthplace of Kung Fu and I can’t wait to share that trip with you all! I hope all of my old students are doing well during online learning, I know it isn’t easy. Good luck to all of the kids this year and hope to see my out-of-country colleagues soon!

Ba Da Chu park

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