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!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lecture at the Chinese School

A teacher at the local senior high school here in Shekou had asked me to come in one day and give a lesson to his economics class. I thought it would be interesting to teach these students, so I eagerly agreed. All sorts of thought ran through my head about what type of economics lesson I could prepare for these students. They mainly have lecture based classes, so I wanted them to experience a different way of teaching.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to offer this. The teacher invited a few classes to join his and they filled up a small auditorium of about 75 students just to hear me speak. My name was placed on the marquis outside the school and there were several people in and out with cameras and videos. Yes, I'm quite the celebrity.

He had asked me to talk about the Sino-US trade relations as well as the appreciation of the RMB and the US arms deals with Taiwan. I thought the last one was a loaded question, so I decided to tip toe around it. I decided instead to introduce the students to the history of the diplomatic and trade relations between the US and China. I prepared a quick pre-test for the students and a quick 20 slide Powerpoint.

Did they understand me? Apparently, most of them did, but my translator and another helpful student said the students aren't used to speaking in class, so they were just very quiet and didn't respond much to my questions. I did have a couple of questions thrown my way by some more eager students. My presentation ran about 40 minutes and they actually extended the classtime so students could ask questions.

I think overall, it went pretty well and the Chinese teacher was pleased. Apparently, it is a big deal for them to have a westerner come in and talk to their class, so I guess it gave him some teacher points for the year. Most importantly, it put me on his side for my research. He was now more inclined to help me with my research by finding additional teachers and getting some important signatures for me.

Interesting experience and there was some talk of me giving another lecture to another school. I'm not sure I have time for it, but I would be up for it.

Chengdu - Sunday - Day 3

From Chengdu March 2010 Jamie

We woke up early again to catch a city bus that took us 2 hours to Leshan City, the site of the famous Giant Buddha. Another quick 30 minute bus ride took us to the entrance to the park where we climbed the steps to the top of the Giant Buddha.

The Leshan Giant Buddha was carved during the Tang dynasty beginning in 713 and ending in 803. It is carved from the mountain and sits facing the river and Mt. Emei. At 233 feet tall, it is the world's largest buddha statue. Jamie and I have seen several of the world's largest buddhas, but they are all made from different material, largest bronze, sitting, standing, etc.

You climb to the top of his head, look around at teh various monasteries that are at the top. One little site is a cave where it is said that the original carver stayed while working. You then work your way down a steep, narrow, and crowded path all the way down to the feet of the Buddha. You get to see up close his head, shoulders, hands, and legs. The Chinese government is apparently in the works of repairing this landmark, because as you can tell, it is quite dirty and has suffered from pollution and erosion.

To get out, we had to climb back up the stairs, then back down them and exit the park. A quick 15 minute cab ride dropped us off at the bus station where we took the 2 hour bus back to Chengdu, grabbed a quick lunch, and headed to the airport for our flight back to Shenzhen. We were back in our apartment by 9:00, pretty early for us after a trip.

Overall, this was a great weekend getaway. Chengdu is a very pleasant town. Very modern, yet does have this old city feel to it. We really enjoyed the panda reserve and highly recommend it to anyone who might be going to the area.

Be sure to check out our pictures of the Giant Buddha online in our photo gallery.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chengdu - Saturday - Day 2

From Chengdu March 2010 Jamie

Jamie and I started out early and had booked a tour (we were the only ones) with the hostel for the Chengdu Panda Research Base. China has a few of these research bases for panda bears, but this is probably the most easily accessible one for most tourists. It isn't the largest, but certainly has plenty of panda bears for you to see. We arrived early, before feeding time, and our guide explained all there was to know about the panda bears. Literally, just ask one of us about a panda bear next time and we'll tell you some obscure facts about them. You can do your own research if you are interested, but these bears are fascinating creatures that have been on the earth for about 8 million years.

We arrived just in time to see them walk out from their cages (GREAT VIDEO of this on our Chengdu 2010 Video album). They were fed a couple of slices of an apple and then promptly plopped down to start eating their bamboo. A panda will eat approximately 33 pounds of bamboo per day and spends 55% of their time eating, 43% sleeping, and only about 2% actually doing something. We saw 4 of the 5 stages of panda development and lots of pandas. They were more active in the morning, which was good, but by the time we were leaving about midday, they were starting to settle down for their one of many naps. The "kindergarten" pandas are probably the cutest because they are small, furry, and cuddly, but we enjoyed seeing the "adolescent" pandas that were just grouped together and eating their bamboo.

The park also has 20 red, or lesser, pandas that are also truly amazing creatures. These are a cross between a raccoon, a cat, and a panda bear. They are more active and and lively and Jamie took a great video of one climbing all the way up a tree.

We are panda fans now as this was a great adventure and the highlight of the trip. It costs a ton of money to pet a panda and even more to hug a panda, but we decided against that. Seeing and learning about them was good enough for us.

After our panda visit, we ate at one of the famous Sichuan hot pot restaurants. This restaurant is similar to the one in which we go to here in Shekou, but it has more Sichuan spices and flavor. It is most famous for being VERY spicy. Jamie and I ordered the wrong thing (of course), so we didn't get to taste the very spicy stuff. It was good though.

After lunch was a 3 hour nap prior to heading out to see the Sichuan opera. The Sichuan opera is a little different that the Peking opera and much more enjoyable. The simply have dancing shows and a stage, hand puppets, and of course, the world famous face changing performance. We were able to get some pretty decent video of these performances. The face changing guy even came out to my seat and shook hands with me as he changed one of his faces. Pretty cool!

We had read about a pretty cool nightlife spot in Chengdu called Bookworm, so we journeyed after the opera to see find it for a quick bite to eat. We began walking, took a 4 block bus ride, got off too early on the bus, and had to then walk another 4 blocks before finding it. Such is the way we travel. The Bookworm didn't disappoint and had good western food and shelves full of books you could read and exchange. Even the menus were cleverly designed in the form of a book with all of the menu items named after famous authors.

Tomorrow is the Leshan Giant Buddha, the world's largest buddha...

TONS of pictures in our Chengdu Albums, so be sure to check them out.

Chengdu - Friday - Day 1

From Chengdu March 2010 Jamie

Jamie and I left early this morning on a 7:30 flight to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province in China. This province was in the news a couple of years ago because of the terrible 8.0 earthquake that claimed the lives of about 68,000 people. It is also known for its beautiful national parks and varied landscapes. Another reason for our journey is for their world renowned panda bears.

We checked in to our hostel, Chengdu Traffic Inn, around 11:30 and then hit the town to see some of the sites. We had seen a Tex-Mex restaurant on the map, so we headed toward it first to see if it was any good. Chengdu is sort of in the middle of the country, so we didn't think that their tex-mex would be that good. We were surprised when it was actually quite tasty. We walked to Tianfu Square and then bussed around the city and toured through the Qingyang Taoist Temple. This was the first Taoist temple Jamie and I have been through. This one was nice enough, although it looked somewhat cheap and touristy. I'll let you do your own research into the Taoist belief system, but I will tell you that it is most famous for the belief and symbol the yin and the yang.

We simply could not find a bus or a taxi that took us back to our hotel, so we just walked the whole way back, probably about 3 miles across the city. No big deal; but since I had been sick, we were exhausted. I went straight to bed without dinner and slept for 13 hours straight. Certainly needed due to our last few days. Plus we wanted to be rested for the pandas the next day.

Parent-Teacher Conference

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday all day, we had student led parent-teacher conferences. The students are responsible for coming with their parents and leading them in the successes and improvements of their work throughout the year.

Our students did a great job and it was actually really nice to hear them explain to their parents the work they do in our classes.

It was exhausting because I had 32 conferences and Jamie almost as many. Most were only about 15 minutes, but we both had 10 - 12 in a row sometimes. Not much time to catch your breath.

A lot of hard work and we are off to Chengdu for a much needed and deserved vacation for the weekend.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

5K in the Books!

After 10 weeks, Jamie and I completed our first 5K. We have been waking up at 5:00 am 3 days a week and using this training program entitled Personal Running Trainer. It is an audio program that provides music and has steps for running by telling you when to walk and when to run. You progress through weeks until you are finally running about a 5K. Jamie and I started back in January and due to illness, travel, and alarms, we have taken 10 weeks instead of the recommended 8 weeks. That was fine with us considering we both definitely aren't runners, usually hate to do it, and didn't want to burn out.

We are just proud of ourselves for sticking to it. Our next goal is to continue running and increase our speed with the 5K and perhaps move on to a 10K.

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