|From Jamie's Philippines Pics|
We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.
We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.
Thanks for checking us out!
- Mark Twain
- Maya Angelou
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Afterwards, we just walked around Shekou and found a great little park with a large pond. Once again, no camera, but we'll definately go back and I'll take pictures. We found ourselves near Wal-mart again and took the bus home.
Speaking of cameras, I am looking for a new DSLR camera. I've done some research and actually looked at some in Hong Kong the other day. They come with some bundles of stuff like camera bags, extra batteries, and memory. I'll be a beginner, so I'm looking for a beginning DSLR camera that won't set me back a fortune. They had a Canon DSLR that the guy said was an entry level for about $700 with all the accessories. Seemed to be very reasonable considering they are going for that alone on Amazon and 3rd parties. If any of you have any experience or have recently purchased one, let me know. Shoot me an email. I think with all of our travels, it'll be a nice purchase and great investment.
Second week of school starts tomorrow. We're ready and refreshed from quite an enjoyable weekend. I'm excited about my Vols playing on Monday night, but wish I could watch them live. I'll be teaching 1st - 3rd periods.
Have a great Sunday!
Saturday, August 30, 2008
I'll go ahead and warn you, this might be a long post. Jamie and I went into Hong Kong today. I have placed a slideshow at the bottom of the blog that will be up for a while. The pictures tell our journey in order. We woke up at 5:00 and ate breakfast at a little western hotel breakfast buffet across the street. We met a family at the Shekou ferry terminal so the ferry cost would be cheaper. If you have 3 or more people in your group, you get a discount from $160 rmb to $110 rmb per ticket ($23 to $16). On the ferry ride, I was able to take some amazing photos of the port. You can easily see all of the cranes that lift the tractor trailor size crates on and off the barges. These type ports are all over the place on the 45 minute ferry ride to Hong Kong Central. Literally, miles and miles and miles of cranes, barges, and crates. As we approached Hong Kong, thousands of boats and barges were waiting to be loaded up or unloaded in the Bay.
Jamie and I really didn't have a set schedule. We had to be back on the ferry by 6:00 pm, so we had the entire day. We took off looking for an English bookstore and figured we'd be able to see the city in the meantime. At the bookstore, I was helped by a nice lady who helped me purchase a great map and guide us in the direction of the the long long long escalator than ascends up the hill of the city. I've been told it's the world's longest escalator, but I think Japan has built a longer one. I was able to take a couple of pictures of us on this escalator. Victoria Peak in Hong Kong is about 700 feet above sea level and the city is built on the side of this mountain. The escalator probaby ascends about 600 feet of that. It stops at every street level and all on either side are shops, restaurants, and businesses to visit. Pretty cool little experience.
Once we reached the top of the escalator, we decided to check out the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. It was nice, free, and gave us some shade for the hottest part of the morning. I have taken several pictures of some monkeys, flowers, and the best are from the fountain, like the one taken in the photo above. Quite proud of those. The Hong Kong skyline can dominate every picture you take and you should allow it to do so. Simply amazing.
A history and economics lesson. Hong Kong is practically a true market economy. This can be both good and bad. Positives include providing businesses free realm to open and close and control the business the way they want with almost true profit. The negative of this is that there is no safety net for those business, so fortunes are made and lost almost daily. What this means is that all of these pictures you see, the skyline, the massive skyscraper, have all been built within the past 25 years. Hong Kong was a major port, but still basically a fishing village in the early 70s.
After lunch (an amazing Spanish restaurant called Rico's), we then went over to a section of the city that the map called the "western distict" where the streets are steep and hundreds of small shop criss cross throughout a street called Ladder Street. By that time, we only had about 3 hours remaining, so we made our way back to the ferry terminal area and went back to that same bookstore to purchase some books. I found a David Baldacci, but Jamie was unable to find anything she liked. She settled on a couple of magazines.
We bought some gelato and then rested while we waited for our ferry back to Shekou. I can comment on every photo, but I took over 80 and deleted about 10. Just ask me what certain things are and I will be happy to tell you. Hong Kong is a must see. Our goal is go about once per month while we are here. Everything is in Chinese and English and getting around is easy and cheap. Public transportation is top notch. The only bad side of the city is the cost. Everything New York City dollars or the equivilent to Tennessee/Georgia prices times about 15%. Our lunch was a 4 course meal for about $30. Not too bad, but would've been about $20 back home.
So much to write about today. I'm just skipping around but hopefully with this post and the pictures below, it'll give you quite a bit to read and view. Let me know if you have an comments or questions.
As I type this out, Jamie is napping getting ready to watch UGA/Georgia Southern on pay per view. I decided to stay up and write this and watch College Gameday. Her alarm clock will go off at midnight! She'll watch the game (I'll watch until I get tire), then we'll wake up and be at the school Sunday morning to watch some games with some co-workers on Jamie's projector using Slingbox. We even had the sense of mind to save some pizza from the middle schools social Friday for the occasion.
Have a great Saturday everyone!
Friday, August 29, 2008
Our first week with the students came to a close this week. I am still really happy about teaching here, and I think Jamie is slowly warming up the the younger kids. They are just so well behaved, which is refreshing. The rowdiest student is one which literally may be working on another assignment or reading silently rather than working on your assignment. All you have to do is begin to walk over to their desk and they will immediately get back on task.
I think we are going out tonight with some other co-workers to play some pool and hang out. Early morning for us, so it won't be too late of a night. Hong Kong, here we come!!! I've waited 8 months for this.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
We are winding down our first week with the students and getting into a routine. We will receive our passports and year work visas tomorrow, so we will be able to go into Hong Kong. We are both excited about going to Hong Kong. For me, I just want to see the city. For Jamie, she is excited about going to an English bookstore. Please pray that she will not spend all of our money on English books.
The students continue to amaze me at their ability and eagerness to learn. They are so well behaved and are truly a delight to teach. I have started my Mock Trial "specials" class, and it is going fairly well. They are amazed at the American legal system, although I'm not sure they understand their own legal system. Nonetheless, we are putting Roy L. Kingsman on trial for agitating Humpty Dumpty enough that he fell off of the wall. Of course, all of the King's horses and all of the King's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I'll let you know how my students decided the fate of Roy L. Kingsman.
I have a percentage of the students who are attending QSI Shekou this year. There are 47 nationalities represented. The nationalities break down as follows:
11% European Union (8 countries)
6% Hong Kong
For those looking for Chinese students, the school is not allowed to enroll Chinese nationals. Not sure why, but I'll ask. Why so many Koreans? Well, aparently, the Koreans are the builders of the world now, so they are moving all over the world to build factories, high rises, and other buildings. The Korean students are very well behaved and are excellent at Math. They are eager to learn English, and I will often get responses on their papers that mention they can't wait until the master or perfect the English language. Many also want to "make their parents' proud." How many American students would write that down as one of their "3 wishes."
Thanks for those who have been posting comments. I really enjoy reading them and the emails you send. It keeps me closer to home. Feel free to drop me an email anytime. If you really want to correspond, you'll download Skype on your computer. We can then correspond for free. Google Talk is also a way to do this, but I've never used it. Let me know if you get Skype and I'll add you to my contacts. It is quite amazing to watch via webcam and listen to someone 7000 miles away.
Long post but I've slacked lately as I've gotten busy with school. Things will settle down a little bit. We are 100% positive we want to go to Cambodia for our first break. We will be flying into the capital, Phnom Penh, and then taking a boat across a lake to Siem Reap. From Siem Reap, we'll be able to see the world's largest religious temple of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat was the capital and center of the Khymer Empire of Southeast Asia. It was only uncovered in 1861. Truly amazing! I will take more pictures than I can snap and will share all of them until Google shuts me down. I'll keep you posted. We won't go until the end of September, but I'm down right giddy thinking about it. How many people do you know have been do Cambodia?
Have a great day America! College football starts Thursday night! GO VOLS!!!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Secondly, I'm loving teaching here at QSI Shekou. The kids are respectful, quiet, and will do anything you ask without complaining, whining, or griping. Simply amazing! Jamie and I were talking today about what we spend out time discussing about school. Prior to this year, we spent 90% of our time venting about the various discipline problems we had at school for the day or frustrations with certain students. So far here, we've spent 95% of our time planning our lessons and discussing the best way the students will learn from our instruction. Once we get our supplies, the sky is the limit with how we will teach.
While this will never happen because of cost (especially if a Republican stays in office), American schools can learn a valuable lesson concerning class size. Sure, most states have a required minimum of 28 or so students, and some might even have a minimum of 20. There is so much more you can do with only 12 students in the room. Even some of my worst students I taught back home could be controlled if there were only 12 of them in the classroom. Plus, with the exception of one classroom I know, (i.e. L. Hall if you are reading this), most classrooms do not have 12 major discipline problems in it anyway.
I guess I'm coming off the top here, but I'm amazed at behavior of the students so far. Perhaps they are scared to death of the Appalachian American and his weird accent. Perhaps they will unleash the fury next week. I'm seriously doubting and hoping not.
Feel free to post any comments in the comment section or email me. I get random emails from people but would love to hear from my family, friends, and previous co-workers.
Sleep tight America!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
We got the chance to explore the mall after supper. We only checked out a small corner of it that housed a grocery store and I did discover . . . PRE-PACKAGED fruit. I'm not sure if I can stress my excitement over this. Since moving here I have had to learn how to shop and cook all over again. Gone are the days of pre-washed, packaged lettuce mixes and baby carrots. No more pre-cut celery or broccoli-woccli. But today I found pre-cut and neatly packaged pineapple, watermelon, and honeydew! I grabbed a pack and happily enjoyed a delicious piece of pineapple as soon as I arrived back at the apartment. And, it's cheaper than in the States, which makes it even better.
This was a wonderful evening and I have a new favorite store.
Oh, and Eric may have bruised a rib playing basketball so he's not feeling well (lots of moaning and groaning).
Monday, August 25, 2008
Catching on to the RMB has been difficult, and we are constantly determining how much it is in U.S. dollars. Of course, we are still paid in U.S. dollars and have to convert it to RMB at a local money exchange place. The money exchange consists of a small store where they are just known to exchange money. We always count it right in front of them to make sure. We exchanged today for $1.00 to 6.78 RMB. Not too bad and the dollar has bounced back since we've been here.
Back to school. We still are having some supply issues, but we'll manage. They have the supplies (globes, overhead projectors, transparencies, colored pencils, markers, etc.); they just haven't distributed them because of the chaos of switching schools. I'm sure after a few weeks, it'll all settle out. The 12 year old teachers do have their own para pros, which is nice because they work really hard. Some of these people have their Bachelor degrees but are simply working at QSI to sharpen up their English skills prior to taking a job working for an American company.
We are not challenged yet with the language barriers, but some cultural aspects of our students will always be foreign to us. Today, we went around the room and stated our favorite food. When I mentioned some Mexican dishes, the Asians had no idea what I was talking about just as I had no idea what they were talking about with their dishes.
We are learning that the Koreans work extremely hard. Many of these students go all day to QSI, then go 5 or more hours to Korean school when they leave QSI. They then go back home to work on homework, sometimes until 1:00 am. Quite a bit to put on an 12 year old. Because of this, our homework assignments won't be too strenuous.
Jamie is still hesitant about the age group because she has only taught high school students before. Since I started in middle school, I have more experience. I think we'll both settle down and really enjoy teaching this age group after a while. I'll continue to keep you all informed as to the different aspect of our jobs teaching in an international school.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Here is a couple of billboard size signs that are posted in Shekou. Keeping to Chinese efficiency, the Chinese government wants to remind people not be lazy and keep working hard. These are the only two signs we've seen, but I'm willing to bet there are several more. Interesting propaganda. I wonder what signs in the U.S. would say? Anyone want to take a stab in the comments section on this post?
Jamie and I couldn't find the steps for the entrace to the mountain, so we decided to just walk around Shekou instead. We walked for a couple of hours and actually ended up at Wal-Mart, which just goes to show that all roads lead to Wal-Mart.
I took a few pictures including the two here of some sites in Shekou, and I have added them to China Album 2 at the bottom and even put them at the front of the slideshow. Be sure to check them out.
We are now watching the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games. It has been a great one and one that I'm sure people will not forget. Jamie and I will never forget it as we remember every four years for the Olympic Games where we were in 2008. Great show so far and somewhat sad as the games come to a close. If you get a chance to watch it in primetime in the states, be sure to check it out.
Tomorrow is our first full day with students, and we are quite excited and anxious to get started. We both went in to work for several hours this weekend to get things straigtened away. Wish us luck!
Friday, August 22, 2008
I'll write back later this evening and let you all know about our day today. We are planning on possibly going to Windows of the World tomorrow in Shenzhen. I'll be taking a TON of pictures there and will have them posted by Sunday night. Have a good Friday...
We went to our favorite "6" restaurant last night after a trip to A.Best. A.Best is a grocery/convenience store just down the street. We found some decent deals on some food, but it is basically the same prices. They have funny English signs, and I hope to remember to take my camera the next time I go. The store is on the 2nd and 3rd level of the building. You take an escalator to the 2nd floor for groceries and another to the 3rd for household goods. No big deal, except we started on the 2nd floor, the realized they would not let us take our cart to the 3rd. We'll know from now on that you have to go up the 3rd first, then take the escalator ramp down the 2nd. Such is the small details we've had to learn while living in China. We continue to learn small things like this every day.
There is a hill/mountain in Shekou that is popular to climb. The city has actually built stairs to the top and it loops around to the other side of the city. Jamie and I are thinking Sunday would be a good morning to do that. We'll get up early, although it doesn't matter because the humidity will be a million anyway. If I thought I could carry 4 gallons of water, I would.
Nonetheless, we'll let you know of any excursions we go on this weekend.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
For those that do not know, a typhoon is basically a hurricane in the Pacific Ocean. There are different types, none of which I will describe here. Typhoon Nuri is approaching Hong Kong as I type this morning and has already killed 7 people in the Philippines.
Don't worry, we are only expected to get some high winds and rain and have been told to stay inside because debris might be flying around. As of 7:36 this morning, there has been no rain or wind. Because of what you see in the picture above, school was canceled last night for today. Check out the red blob just south of Hong Kong.
This is certainly a new one for a boy from East Tennessee and a girl from Northwest Georgia. Funny that it happened on the 2nd day of school.
For those curious, we'll be safe. They sometimes ask people to place boards over their windows in the apartments, but we are surrounded by a billion tons of concrete that they use to construct these apartments. We'll be fine. As long as we don't go walking around outside, it'll be fine.
I'll keep you posted throughout the day if we have any major changes.
The morning was regular first day of school stuff: rules, consequences, grading policy, etc. We then went upstairs to the open area on the 3rd floor and heard from the middle school director, counselors, and athletic director. It was hot, humid, and we all grossly sweated. The students left immediately after this gathering, and Jamie and I worked in our rooms the rest of the day.
Another schedule change, our third today only and probably 10th in about a week.
Because of scheduling issues, each teacher who was scheduled to teacher a period of "study hall," "resource," or "Model UN," was asked to create a class that will keep the students occupied during this time. I had 6 of those on my schedule with various students coming to me each time.
Jamie and I have chosen to do a "Mock Trial" class for a while. We're not sure how long this class will last, but we also might do "Literary Circles (Book Club)" with them. One teacher, whose idea I might steal, is doing a "Blogging Class." Another teacher, whose idea I won't steal, is doing a drama performance class. This is all quite exciting yet we all had mixed feelings about this.
For one, there is no curriculum for what we will be doing. The administration wants the parents to think that we are not just babysitting for those classes, and the students' time will be well spent making them more rounded. The lack of structure will be an issue after a while and our workload will increase substantially having to prepare for these classes.
It is however, a decent idea. The teachers at this school particularly bring various expertise to their jobs. Many are teaching out of field, and it will allow them to have a sense of purpose and fully be creative with teaching a home-made class. I for one am excited about the mock trial class and believe it can be successful.
I will certainly keep everyone updated as to our continued surprises and issues at school. We were told the day we interviewed for this job that we would have to be flexible. Since Jamie and I are teaching Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics (all out of our field and comfort zone), I think we are being quite flexible. Everyone in the school is practically in the same boat. Even veteran teachers have had to adjust.
Interesting first day and one I won't ever forget!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
We had our final step today for receiving our 1 year visas. We had to travel about 40 minutes to a district police station and then wait for about an hour for a 2 minute paperwork process. They say we'll have our passports and visas back by next Thursday, and we'll be able to travel. Thank goodness.
We finalize our bare and scarce rooms and feel pretty prepared for tomorrow save some copying that we'll do in the morning. I'll take pictures of our rooms soon and send them. Nothing much at which to look.
Back to work tomorrow!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The rest of our day was spent in morning meetings and getting our room prepared for school. Jamie's room was changed today and she is now directly across the room from me. Now she'll be able to hear my kids singing Rocky Top across the hall. Jamie did receive a SmartBoard in her room. For those unfamiliar with SmartBoard, join the club, as most schools cannot afford to have them. Sonoraville High School had several of them and our school is trying to encourage teachers to use them. I would have loved one although I do not know how to use it. Can't be that hard.
I'm hoping to get an LCD projector in my room so I can continue to use PowerPoints for my notes and classroom activities. If not, I'll resort to what I did my first 2 years of teaching with the overhead projector (seems so archaic now).
Our visas should be processed and ready to go by next Thursday, so we'll be able to travel outside the country. Our first stop will be Hong Kong probably for a Saturday getaway.
Don't forget to leave comments in the comment section. I have to review these, so don't worry if yours doesn't show up for about 12 hours. I guess I don't have to review them, but I will for a while since I have only received about 4.
I'm playing with the gadgets on the right side. Google has opened up a lot more gadgets for blogspot, but only about half of them actually work.
Have a great day. Keep sharing our blog with those you know who know us.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Our schedules were completely changed again today. Jamie now has cultural studies instead of earth science. We are not both teaching a Model United Nations class. I also have a cultural studies. We both are collaborating teachers for a math teacher and have some Intensive English resource classes as well as some Study Hall classes. Crazy schedule and it will take me months to remember it. Our classrooms are not too bad. They will not be decorated because we have nothing to decorate with. That's ok, because my room has never really been all that cutesy anyway.
We had committee meetings today. Jamie is on the International Baccalaureate (IB) committee and I am on the Technology committee. More on those to come later. We both have our visa interviews with the Chinese government tomorrow. I'm interested to see the type of questions they ask. We've been told it can be quite an experience. Nothing really to worry about other than deportation. I think they give us a rubber raft to float across the Pacific on. I'll tell you all tomorrow how that went. The form we had to fill out for it was 4 pages long.
Jamie and I found a new dish at the Red Lantern (a great Chinese food place). It was chicken (boneless thank goodness) with stir fry vegetables and paprika. We had it with rice (of course) and another dish that is basically fried green beans and some other stuff in there I don't know. It is all great food, very filling, and all for about $8.00.
About all of the news. I'll write quite a bit tomorrow as I tell you more about our planning, schedules, classroom, and particularly the visa interview.
Have a great day America!
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Jamie and I wanted it college football games. We'll be watching them on early Sunday mornings over here. I am quite impressed at how it all works and how well it works. We'll continue to tinker with the settings to get the best picture available. Supposedly, there is a way to get it in HD, but I have my extreme doubts on that. We bought this box which costs only $150 instead of paying for cable over here. Cable over here is not too bad though; but this way, we know we'll be able to watch our teams' games.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
The school sent the new faculty to Xiaomeisha Beach this morning for a day in the sun. I found this little article on Xiaomeisha Beach and Damiesha Beach in Shenzhen. It was a beautiful day we we relaxed after quite a stressful week of learning all there is to know about our jobs. The picture above is at the entrance to the beach of Jamie and I. I have dedicated a brand new slideshow at the bottom of the blog just for Xiaomeisha Beach today. Be sure to check it out. I have also added just a couple of more pictures from our balcony of Sea World and the harbor on a particularly clear afternoon.
The first couple of pictures in the Beach album are on the way to the beach. We were able to pass by one of the ports which unloads the huge cargo ships. I couldn't do the photo much justice, but it was a site to see. If you look closely in the background of the first 2 photos, you can see giant cranes which lift the crates off of the barges. The entire port stretched for about 3 miles. Amazing! Gives a new meaning to Made in China!
By the way, if you haven't checked out the women's trampoline event for the Olympics, it is pretty fascinating. I remember girls doing flips on the trampolines growing up, but never quite like this. Not sure if they'll air it in the states, but I'm sure you can find videos online or YouTube. Be sure to check out our photos and keep emailing us. I really do enjoy it when I receive emails from family, friends, and previous co-workers. If you can, spread the word about the blog to anyone who might be interested.
Friday, August 15, 2008
The brand new middle school they have had to convert into a middle school will work quite well. Brand new facilities with brand new computer labs and classrooms. They do not have LCD projectors in the classrooms which is both a bummer and a surprise considering how much money they spend on other resources. Jamie and I are used to using PowerPoint almost every day. We'll work it out nonetheless.
We had a nice evening at our Director's house as he provided the new faculty with Papa John's pizza and some beverages. Tomorrow we are going to Damasha Beach which is the closest nice beach about an hour and a half away; although it might be another beach that I can't remember the name. It is amazing how much the school will pay for these trips and accommodations. Jamie and I have our Visa interview next Tuesday and Wednesday, so please check back on those days to see how it goes. It is apparently a hoot!
Jamie and I have decided not to get an IE (which we have not determined is a word, initials, or what) but it is a housekeeper. A family of 6 here has a lady come over almost every day and clean, do laundry, and she cooks them meals a couple of times per week for only $15 per week. Simply amazing. Despite the fact that our IE would not even be half this much, we've decided to pass our our 2 bedroom apartment. We'll have to hire one to keep care of our pets whenever we go on vacations and back home for the summer.
I was going to post some statistics about our school but decided to save that for another post when I do not have a lot to say; not that I really have anything to say this time. Our British/New Zealand/Australian commentators for basketball have not gotten any better an actually said the other day that Duke was near Boston and one of the oldest American universities. I seem to remember another school in Boston that might make that claim.
I've added a pretty cool little world clock over to the side. Blogspot has opened up a ton of new gadgets for me to add here, but only some of them work. I'll try them out. I can tell how many "page impressions" there are per day, but really haven't gotten much feedback from people about the blog. I had 30 yesterday, 42 the day before. I know 2 of these are mine because I have to make sure the ads are appropriate, 2 more from Jamie's parents, 2 more from my parents on average per day. I hope everyone is enjoying reading this.
We'll be up early going to a Chinese beach. I'll be sure and take pictures. Not sure how special it will be, but we'll tomorrow. I think Jamie and I are sold on going to either Bangkok or Phuket Thailand or both for our first break. The visas entry into the country is really easy and the couples whom we have spoken to have rave reviews about it. I will certainly keep everyone posted on this.
On a side note, my friend Joshua Holmes writes a celebrity/news blog called Bumpshack. He will be attending the debate with press credentials and live blogging at the Obama/McCain civil debate held at Rick Warren's church. He has told me that he will have a video of the debate and events afterwards. The debate will be Saturday night at 8:00 eastern standard time. For those that know about the Bumpshack, it sure has come a long way to be included in a presidential debate along side of CNN, Fox(wannabe)News, and other major news networks. Be sure to check out Josh's website and live blogging of the events at Bumpshack.
Please email if you are reading. Some have, some haven't. We'd be ecstatic to hear from some of you concerning the events of back home, Georgia or Tennessee. Our emails are at the top of the page.
Have a great Friday America!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Nonetheless, Jamie and I are still teaching 12 year olds. We'll be in a brand new school building that was meant for elementary school students. The beam running down the middle of my classroom on the ceiling is about 6 inches above my head. I won't be doing jumping jacks. Still, brand new dell computers in a lab, brand new one for me, and excellent facilities.
I thought it was funny today when we went over the emergency plans. Regular stuff like what to do at school in case of a typhoon, civil unrest, earthquake. It did provide a whole new meaning to the term Chinese Fire Drill (ha, I crack myself up!).
Jamie and I are learning our new curriculum. We are a bit anxious to see how teaching reading and language arts will be. For those who do not know, Jamie has been a high school social studies teacher for 4 years. She will now teach 12 year old reading, language arts, earth science, and intensive English. We were told that we would need to be flexible when taking this job. She is definitely turned into a pretzel over this.
Stay classy America!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Jamie and I went with some new co-workers out to a local Chinese food restaurant. I believe I have found my new place. I told you before about a place called Garwon's, a Chinese fast food restaurant. The place tonight I don't believe has a name. You basically go in, point to some vegetables that will be stir fried with pork and they bring you a bowl of rice. Plenty of food! It was amazing. Our hosts decided to foot the bill for us and their 2 kids. Total costs for the 6 of us... $5.22.
The picture above holds the funniest story of the evening. Our hosts for the evening sent their 2 boys, 11 and 8, across the street to this store. This picture was taken from our seats at the restaurant. When the boys got over there, they had an odd look on their face and came immediately back. Immediately, our host determined what was the cause for their quick return. I won't post the full picture here, but you can see it at the end of China Album 2 at the bottom of the screen. I will tell you that the part blocking the wall was the word "sex." We all had a good laugh and laughed harder when our friend asked his youngest boy, "Did you find anything you liked over there?" I'm laughing now as I type this.
Only in China!!! We're off to bed. More adventures I'm sure tomorrow.
We learned today more about the scoring system for our school. Like I mentioned before, they use a "nothing below an A or a B. We have assessments at the end of each unit. 10 units total, 10 assessments, 10 grades. That is it, 10 grades only. For educators reading this, have you ever been able to predict what a student will make in your class after one month based on their performance and willingness to do the work? Have you ever wished you had additional time for that particular unit. Pacing in most U.S. schools becomes demanding because of the standardized tests which must be administered. With no standardized tests mandatory, our students will be able to pace themselves each unit and complete it with mastery before moving on. Sure, we can give those students who refuse a grade of a "D" which means "deficient," but those cases are few and far between from what we understand.
What does this translate into? No set gradebook and many hours of averaging grades, putting them into the computer and numbers crunching. Either the student mastered the unit with exceptional work and knowledge with an A, or mastered the unit with above average work and knowledge and receive a B. We establish the rubrics and elements of assessing that mastery.
I think it sounds pretty cool and allows the teacher flexibility. No worry on percentages or giving students nothing less than a 50 (hello Bartow County).
I was really excited today when they discussed traveling today. Jamie and I are going to discuss and probably book our first vacation (last week of September and first of October) very soon. We're undecided, but the possibilities are endless. Strongly considering Thailand first. I get downright giddy thinking about it.
Much more on our school, but too much to type for one post. We've spent a great deal of time discussing our health care plan, travel, salary stuff, etc. Our administration wants everyone to be relieved of all personal matters so we can solely focus on teaching before the year begins. I'm continually impressed with our Director. His experience in international teaching makes him perfect for this job, but his administrative skill would be an absolute incredible asset to any school system in the U.S.
Have a great Wednesday America. Most of you will waking up soon. Keep reading and let me know if you have any questions.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Jamie and I received our classrooms and class schedules today. Just about everyone in the school teaches Reading 1st period, Language Arts 2nd period, and Math 3rd period. If you are not teaching, you are helping with the Intensive English students. The structure of the school is amazing; and despite turnaround in administration and teachers, everything seems to be coming together.
Both Jamie and I are teaching 12 year olds. They call them by age at QSI instead of grade level. In addition to Reading, L.A., and helping in a Math, I am teaching a couple of periods of cultural studies (social studies) and one period of study hall. Jamie's schedule is more diverse. She teaches Reading, L.A., helping in a Science, and a Science class on her own. She also teaches an Intensive English (I.E.) pullout class. Our largest class is only 13 students.
The main struggle will be teaching the I.E. students. Although few, we will have some students with very limited to no English language skills. We are also teaching mastery learning, so that means that the students receive only A's and B's for the work they earn. If they do not attain an A or B, we will reteach the unit, and they will retake another form of assessment. Other students in the classroom are working on what could be called enrichment assignments.
There is so much to add concerning our teaching. I'll try and add a little at a time. If you have any questions, just email me and I can get back with you. It is amazing to see the differences and similarities of what we are used to in Georgia and what they do here. Many things much much better, but some not.
The picture above was posted at the bottom of our elevator. Some English issues, but the funniest one is the last line that discusses "refueling."
Monday, August 11, 2008
I've added a few more pictures to China Album 2. Jamie went on a walking tour of Shekou on Sunday and took a couple of pictures of old downtown Shekou's food market. They call it the Wet Market because they constantly hose it down to keep it clean.
I've also added another album of some pictures provided to us by Kathy (Jamie's mom) of our day before and day of our departure flight from Atlanta. Thanks Kathy for sending these and sorry I am tardy about putting them on here. The photo album below is entitled Leaving on a Jet Plane. I'm trying a new slideshow look so let me know if you like it or the other format for the old ones better. I've been singing all night the famous song written and performed by E. Brown entitled "Leaving on a Jet Plane to China."
We watched the USA Women's basketball team handily beat the Chinese team tonight. We listened to the same bad British commentators. J. Holmes would be sick and as amused as I was at listening to them. I guess they were just doing their jobs. I am convinced that after commentating the men's game last night, they went out and got hammered before tonight's commentary for the women's game because they were twice as bad.
Good night America. Hopefully you don't have a case of the "Mondays" (Office Space fans anyone?)
In the immortal words of Billy Madison...
"Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad that I'm not a fool,
I've got my lunch packed up, my shoes tied tight,
I hope I don't get in a fight,
Oh, Back to School..."
Jamie and I had our first day at our new school. Quality Schools International has about 39 schools in 26 nations across the globe. It was started by 2 college roommates from Seattle whose first international school was in Yemen. QSI is based around mastery learning and performance based standards, a practice that almost all school system in the U.S. preach but cannot practice due to size, politics, culture, training, money, faculty willingness, as well as a plethora of other factors that I could list, but I feel would be too preachy. It is what the No Child Left Behind (NCLB), or the "No Child Left a Dime" wants to be but just simply can't be. Nonetheless, we were slowly indoctrinated into the QSI practices today for our opening day new teacher orientation.
For those educators reading this blog, it was a typical first day orientation; however, the strengths and weaknesses, and thus the level of boring/not boring all depends upon the leadership at the school. From what we have seen so far, we have some very gifted administrators who have embraced the QSI philosophies and portray them to the staff in a way that does in fact adhere to the "practice what you preach" mentality. Our Director (principal) is a gifted people person which goes to show why the Shekou QSI has almost doubled in size since he has been there.
Jamie and I will continue to go through the new teacher orientation this week. Honestly, any anxiety that Jamie and I have had concerning our move to China for this new job was erased today.
One aspect that was brought to our attention was our VISA interview with the Chinese police. We have been told that this process is fairly painless but some have actually "failed" their interview and been denied Visas. We hope that does not happen to us. That is the nature of the cartoon above. I will let you know about this process when we have our interview. We are scheduled some time this week for it, which should finalize our year long visa and allow us to travel. Our first destination... Hong Kong... pending we pass our interview with the People's Republic of China Communist Police Authority.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
As I sit here now, the Chinese basketball team is hanging with the American team. The funniest part is listening to the British commentators who know as much about basketball as I know about building a NASA space shuttle. The do appear to be able to get the names of the players correct and the score. The rest of the world has learned how to play basketball and their talent almost matches that of the Americans as is evident of the last 2 Olympics and other World Games that the U.S. has actually lost. I guess it makes the 1992 Dream Team all that more special. You have to wonder how much they would annihilate the international teams of today.
Well, toward the end of this post, the U.S. has a 13 point lead at halftime and has dunked the ball more than a child dunks French fries in ketchup. Not the cleanest basketball ever, but it'll work.
Good night America. Good day to you!
Saturday, August 9, 2008
I'm not sure if the U.S. is broadcasting the Olympics live tonight or not, but Michael Phelps just shattered the World Record and won gold in the 400 meter individual medley. The announcers here was stating that this first event for him was where he would tell the other swimmers what kind of shape he is in. It looks as though the other swimmers will be swimming for 2nd. Amazing!
My uncle just sent me a Phelps Tracker from USA Today. It compares his progress to that of Mark Spitz and provides you with his schedule of events.
Check it out here... Phelps Tracker
Jamie and I start work on Monday with pre-planning for new teachers to QSI. We are looking forward to it, but have enjoyed our summer preparing for China and the last 9 days in China. We are settling in quite nicely and really enjoying it. The people are nice, it is easy to get around, and we learn a little bit more each day concerning where to go and what to do. We've heard that we might get our full work visas at the end of the month which will enable us to go into Hong Kong.
I have done some research on Slingbox. For those who do not know what Slingbox is, it is a way for you to watch you television away from home via the Internet. For us, we'll buy the Slingbox and have someone at home connect it to their television and Internet router. We'll then be able to access their television shows and mainly the college football games this fall. I'll let you all know if we get it and if it works well. It has gotten pretty good reviews, so we'll see.
We have also checked into the Rosetta Stone for Mandarin Chinese. It is quite expensive, but should be worth it as we try and learn the language. We've heard that the Rosetta Stone works very well. We'll see. I'm gonna begin another slide show at the bottom of blog. Some of the early pictures will be of some blueberry Extra gum, a Sprite can, me sporting my UT visor, Wal-Mart, a fast food Chinese restaurant, and some more Chinese English translation signs. Not sure if I can add captions to them or not, so just shoot me an email if you have any questions. By the way, Jamie and I ate at Garwon, a Chinese fast food restaurant today for $2.50. Sweet! It is just right out our apartment door too. I guess if times get tough, there will always be that place. Have a good day America!
Friday, August 8, 2008
We are off this morning to a pancake breakfast hosted by our Director (principal). It'll be nice to have an American breakfast this morning (Are pancakes American?).
I was going to do a run down of all of the performances and such of the opening ceremony, but decided against it because they were truly amazing to watch, so I don't want to spoil it for you. If you can, watch some of the opening. It is by far the best opening ceremony that I have watched. It is rather lengthy, so settle in with some food and your choice of a beverage. You can always take a break when the countries walk into the stadium. At minimum, watch the first hour. The Chinese have gone far and beyond what any other country has done as far as artistry and aesthetics for these games. I believe they want to shut up the skeptics in what they can do as a country and just how "one" they really are. There were over 20,000 volunteers in the opening ceremony, and from what I hear around here, volunteering for the Chinese is just something that is not done. Many of the performances are ones that have never before been seen and are spectacular. I'm not sure how many U.S. stations carried the games that early in the morning, but everyone should watch them on Friday night. I believe the coverage begins for you all at 7:30 and goes until midnight for the lighting of the torch.
The picture above is of the flags that were hanging at Sea World. As I type this at 1:00 am, there are still plenty of people down there celebrating.
Email me and let me know if you thought it was as cool as I thought. It may just be because everyone around here is caught up in the fever. The closest Olympic event in in Hong Kong for some equestrian. Everything else is in or around Beijing, clear across the country. We can't go into Hong Kong because of our single entry work visa. I'm sure the stations around here even on our basic cable will be telecasting many of the events though.
Slow day for Jamie and I, but we are resting up to go out somewhere and watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Many of you have asked if we'd be able to see any of the Olympic events. With new teachers reporting on Monday at school and us just getting our bearings, it is highly unlikely. Plus, it is clear across the country to Beijing. It would take a 24 hour train ride to get there. I'm sure with some previous additional planning on my part, we could have pulled it off, but I'm not that smart I guess.
Shekou is a sleepy little town during the day as pedestrians crowd the streets walking to and from work. At night, though, the city booms to life as people end their day with a bang. There really isn't a weekend over here, so Friday night isn't like it is in the states; however, I'm sure this Friday night and weekend with the Olympics will be special for the Chinese. We'll walk around and see what is happening, but I think we'll end up at McCawley's (ironically an Irish bar) or Ghost Bar (more of a night club/restaurant/bar in Chinese style). I will post late tonight or in the morning with the events of the Olympics in China.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Today the man finally came by and installed our DSL, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to beef up the site a little bit. My uncle emailed me and notified me that you can have our blog on an rss feed, so feel free to do that so you can take us wherever you go on your mobile phone. Pretty cool huh?
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
We had a jam packed day on Wednesday. After our morning Internet ritual at Starbucks, a group of new teachers had to meet at the school for a couple of Chinese government adventures. The first included getting our passport size picture taken for the afternoon trip to a health clinic. Afterwards, we paid for our DSL which will be installed on Wednesday at "24 hours from now." QSI then treated us for lunch back at the school. It was traditional Chinese pork with some rice and veggies. As usual, the Chinese food was excellent. After returning back to the photo shop to receive our 8 photos and signed receipt, we arrive back at QSI for a trip to a health clinic in Shenzhen.
Let me break from the story to describe to you a little bit about Chinese culture and government. Everything is very precise, so when they say "24 hours from now," they literally mean that. If they say you'll need 8 passport photos, you'll need all of them, and if they say sign the receipt, you dang well better do it. Most of it, of course, is Communist formalities, but they are very specific and efficient nonetheless.
The trip to the health clinic took us straight through Shenzhen. It is compose of high rise after high rise after high rise after another. I'm not quite sure I can express to you in words how large this city actually is. Yes, New York City has its share of high rises, but it is fairly compact. Imagine 4 NYCs put together. All of the 1.3 billion Chinese have to live somewhere and they have perfected the art of the high rise apartment and office buildings. Some of them are fairly crappy and others are quite beautiful. Nonetheless, there are 1000s of them.
Another break from our story to discuss to you about driving, walking, and biking in China. Unless you are 4th generation Chinese, you do not dare drive. The rules for driving are very slack. By slack, I mean yield doesn't necessarily mean yield, stop doesn't mean stop, and those little striped lines that tell you to yield to pedestrians (FORGET IT!). If you are walking, do not assume under any circumstances that the cars or busses will stop for you. I fully expect in my time here to get drilled by a car at least once. I'm just bracing myself and brushing up on my Frogger skills. Lane changes are rapid and as long as another vehicle heading straight on isn't withing 3 inches, cars will pass one another in other lanes. It is truly a spectacle. We got our share as our little short bus made it across Shenzhen to the health clinic.
Remember Chinese Communist efficiency. It is in just about everything they do. Factories, government, education. This includes the health inspection that we had to go through on Tuesday afternoon. To sum up a rather lengthy but efficient process, they give us a number and then herd us from one room to the next check our pulse, blood pressure, sonogram, x-rays, dentals, ears, height, weight, blood test, and the "optional" urine sample. Please keep in mind that there are hundreds of people in this hallway doing the exact same thing, roaming from one room to the next and getting their little sheets signed off on by what you could call candy stripers. If you'll notice the pictures at the bottom toward the end of the slideshow, you can see some of the workers. I was only able to take a few pictures because I was asked to stop.
Last but not least, we went downstairs for the urine sample. Easy enough, but the drop off spot was a tray outside both the men's and women's restrooms where you dropped your cup. No cover on any of the cups. It was quite disgusting but I'm sure sterile.
That afternoon, we ran into a little bit of bad luck and had to go to the ATM. To our surprise, there was not only 2 security guards at the ATM, but also a fully armed soldier with what looked to be a cross between a shotgun and an UZI. We quickly got our money and went home.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Yesterday (today for you all) we went to hook up our mobile phones and DSL. Quite an adventure as it took almost 4 hours. The phone place was especially slow, but we ended up buying the cheapest phone they had with a pay as you go program. See above for how you'll be able to contact us. I'll try and set up the Skype account with a local number soon, but when I went to Skype's site, it was in Chinese. Didn't do me any good. The DSL is a 3 day process. Sign up first day, pay 2nd day, and they will hook up the 3rd day. Chinese efficiency.
Today we have another adventure of getting our picture taken and going to the hospital for some sort of physical. We've heard it is quite an experience. I'll post tomorrow and let you know how it went. Email me with questions if you have any. We have been talking to our parents via Skype a couple of times and filling them in. Once we get the DSL in our apartment, we'll be able to post/email back more.
The sky yesterday was extremely hazy/smoggy. Our view of the bay and mountains was not much of a view. I forgot to take a picture, but I'm sure it'll happen again. It rained last night for the first time, so I'm sure that settled some of the haze for today. It was as hot as usual though.
We'll, off to get ready for another day!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
We've been resting up the last 2 days and readying our apartment by going to Wal-Mart. I finally have the pictures for you to see below. My uncle emailed me and was able to track down exactly where we live on Google Earth. If you can find the Starbucks in Shekou at Sea World on Google Earth, we live in those apartments right next to it. We ate at McDonald's this morning. I had an egg McMuffin. Tasted like an egg McMuffin.
We go this morning to hook up our DSL, so hopefully the days of coming to Starbucks will be over and I can post more often. I think we'll also sign up for a mobile phone today. Here is how that will work. We'll sign up for a SkypeOut account and apply for a local phone number in Georgia (678, 770, 404: something like that). As long as you can call that number for free, it won't cost you anything. If you use that number, it'll forward it to our Skype account and then to our mobile phone. Cool huh? It'll cost us 2 cents per minute, so we would prefer you sign up for a Skype account and just call us from it.
We'll get that number later and I'll post it. Spread the word on this blog. I fully expect to be an international sensation by next week because of it. I really do appreciate all of the emails. I'll be trying to respond as best as I can, so be patient with me. Now that I am better, I'll be trying to take some more pictures of interesting things like the night life here, Americanized products, and funny things.
Thanks for reading!
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I'm posting some pictures of our apartment and view. They should be there by this afternoon. We slept most of the day today trying to rest. My head cold is about gone. I haven't ran into any sites that have been blocked and am grateful that this blog isn't. Keep checking back for updates.
Friday, August 1, 2008
We're off to Wal Mart to get some things for our apartment. I'll try and post some pictures soon either as a post or at the bottom. The people here are so nice and the energy and pace is fast. I hope we keep up. Until next time...