November and December were so busy for us that I completely forgot to update my posts for MONTHS. We were enjoying more relaxed COVID regulations, having all of our staff finally show up on campus, and visiting fun places like the Great Wall and Shanghai!
November started to get cold, but we were too excited and had fun anyway. The school arranged for a bunch of teachers to go to a section of the Great Wall in Badaling that I had never been to before. This is the third section of the Great Wall that we have been to, but I still can’t get over it (like my dear husband). I always dreamed of walking on the Wall and there is still that sense of adventure as you walk on a wall that is over 500 years old and seems to go on forever. This is also the part of the Great Wall that is most visited by tourists because of its close proximity to the city of Beijing. So my son and friends decided to brave the wall in November and have a great time! It took at least an hour to get there and some of us did not dress warmly enough (me). But as we climbed the wall, we warmed up enough to enjoy the wall.
The wall was SUPER crowded and that was not at all surprising. It was the weekend and on the most touristy part of the Great Wall. We could see tourists along the west wall for MILES. The other wall was considerably less crowded and we opted to go that way, many of us splitting into groups. Calvin and I went with another family of expats whose girls are in the same grade as him. It was a long and good hike, with some of the stairs needing to be climbed up because of how steep they were. We eventually figured out why our section of the wall was significantly less crowded. We hiked to a part where the wall was completely closed off and guarded by an attendant. It wasn’t terribly inconvenient because we were tired anyway, but it was really cool to see the Great Wall completely empty, I even snapped a picture of it! The wind on the wall eventually made us hurry back to our starting point and wait for the others to arrive.
A few weeks later our newest family member to Kaiwen finally arrived! Mr. Beagle had been working for us since May teaching online, but had a hard time getting here from South Korea due to COVID. He had problems with paperwork, Covid testing, pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong. I am so happy that he stuck it out and finally made it to China! The poor guy had just finished up 2 weeks in quarantine with his 2 kids under the age of 5 and his wife. Due to his arrival time, they couldn’t get out of quarantine until very late in the evening and arrived at the school around midnight on a Friday. Luckily for them, his team members were at the school waiting with dinner and a bunch of goodies for him and the kiddos. We had been talking to him so long via email and WeChat that it was still hard to believe that this was the first time we were meeting him in-person. We got them fed and settled, then spent the next two weeks taking them out to enjoy Beijing! I am so glad that my team is finally complete! Thank goodness too, because the border closed again to expat dependents shortly after their arrival.
Later, the school’s marketing department asked me to attend an event where schools show off to prospective parents and their kids. I had never been asked before so I said “Of course I will go!” It was on a Sunday and they picked me up from the school and took me to the event. There were a ton of stalls set up from both national and international schools. There were even other expat teachers there to answer questions from the English-speaking parents (which there were quite a few of!). Imagine my surprise when we get to the Haidian Kaiwen booth and there is a giant picture of MY FACE on the back! There were pictures of other teachers from the school too, but I couldn’t believe they had used one of the pictures taken in my class as the model for their backdrop. I was both honored and a little freaked out, there had to have been a better picture right?! Either way, it was a wonderful day and I learned more about the school’s admission process and why parents wanted their kids to go there.
Finally, we moved on into December and started to see Christmas items EVERYWHERE! You have to remember, although China doesn’t celebrate Christmas, it is certainly aware of it in expat areas like Beijing and Shanghai. Bakeries make Santa cakes, students are singing Christmas songs, and every store has plastic Christmas trees up! It was really getting us into the spirit because this would be our second Christmas away from home 😦 We didn’t let that keep us down, though. We decided to make the most out of it by having fun with friends and colleagues! I decided to take my Social Studies group out to an Escape Room as a fun, team-building activity. It was harder than heck to find a place that did the room in English, but we finally found a place nearby that had 2 rooms! So we split up and tried to beat the other team! It was a great time, although neither group proved to be smart enough to escape their room in time. The next day, all of the secondary school teachers were invited by Kaiwen admin to go out and celebrate at Pyro’s Pizza in Wukesong. That party got….crazy, to say the least. So many memories made that weekend!
Because we couldn’t go home for the holidays, we decided to make this Christmas awesome! Our original Shanghai trip in January 2020 was cancelled because of COVID’s sudden arrival. December seemed a perfect time to make up for that lost trip and added a few friends and Disney! We took a group of 10 friends to Shanghai for a 5-day Christmas vacation and it was AMAZING. Far too amazing to cover at the end of the monthly post. Be sure to look out for our next post about Shanghai!