Tuesday, 30 September 2008

I followed a flag .........

Yes, I am ashamed to admit that today I followed a panda flag being carried by a tour guide with a microphone. I apologise if there are people reading this who enjoy those guided tours, I despise them, but there I was, wearing a panda sticker and trotting along behind 100 other snap happy tourists. The reason for this? Getting from Guilin to Yangshuo, what a beautiful trip it was too (the Chinese tourists thankfully remained safely in their seats, only to emerge on the deck when 'highlight' karst mountain appeared). Guilin was a great place but Yangshuo is just amazing, a little town (300,000 locals plus the 100 million Chinese tourists here for the National holiday!) nestled in amongst the karst moutains next to the Li River. I am doing 'homestay' in a local neighbourhood along with about 15 other travellers, all with great stories to tell. Tomorrow, I'm looking forward to a 25 km hike along the river with a German guy who was also embarrassed to be following the panda flag. I'm getting a real education in what Chinese food really is. No fried rice or sweet and sour pork here! I went out for a local meal with some other backpackers in Guilin last night, we decided to choose based on the grainy pictures and Chinese menu. Based on that decision, I can now say I have tried (and kept down) duck intestine, cow brain and snake wine. Yummo! Snails stuffed with mince are a local dish here too, lunch tomorrow! Here for 3 nights then back to Guilin for a night. Take care, Anna.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Reflecting on the first 4 weeks at EtonHouse....

We have reached the half way mark of Term 1 and are now on holidays, so I thought I'd share some thoughts on life at EtonHouse. It is certainly extremely different to MLC, but is a great change and just what I needed professionally. My class are great, the children (and their parents) are culturally very different, with totally different ideas and expectations, this is something that is a challenge for me as I try to incorporate text books into my teaching. The language barrier is another challenge and I'm really enjoying trying to get the message across in the clearest way possible. Everything seems to take a lot longer due to this, 2 days worth of planning is normally enough to get me through 3 or 4 days! Having only 9 children is wonderful, there are so many more opportunities for one on one teaching and discussion. The philosophies of the school are great - we don't spend time on administration during meetings, it is very curriculum focussed. Although we don't have as much release time as we did at MLC, teachers are supported very well - 'Meet the Teacher' times were held during the school day, interim reports were simple checklists - and the stress levels are minimised this way! 'Meet the Teacher' afternoon was interesting - 7 Korean mums, a translator and me! Thank goodness for the translator, Julie! So, life at EtonHouse is just as busy as MLC but in a very different way. We finished the week with my class hosting the assembly and I have attached a video of the gorgeous Year 4 Kookaburras singing the 'Kookaburra' song. For some of them, it's the most English they know! I'm thrilled to say that I have been offered the position of PYP Co-ordinator, a role which will be a huge job and a great challenge. In the next two years, the school will be working towards PYP accreditation, which will involve a lot of work for everyone at the school. The role is exactly what I have been working towards during my time at MLC and I'm really looking forward to the challenge. That said, we're now on holidays and I don't plan to do anything that challenging for my mind! I'm flying out to Guilin tonight and then boating down to Yangshuo, where I will spend the next week exploring the area on foot, bike and bamboo raft! Take care, Anna.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

A message from the (Green) Queen.....

I have an eye opening revelation for everyone..........China is not very environmentally friendly! There, I bet you didn't know that already?! Being the diligent tree hugger that I am, I thought it only right to dedicate a blog entry to the Green Queens and the environment in China. When I first decided to come to China, I knew it would be bad, but the pollution and the littering is horrible. The amount of packaging that is used here is unbelievable - from the supermarkets to the street stalls, everything is packaged. Being an environmental nerd, I have bought a tupperware container and when I buy street food for dinner, I always ask them to put it in that rather than the usual polystyrene box. The street vendors found it quite amusing the first few times but now when I forget it, I get a funny look! There is also no recycling here, I still feel bad when I throw out a cardboard box or plastic bottle. I can almost handle all of this, but the air pollution really is something else. The emissions coming from cars and other vehicles are like nothing I've ever seen - so black and thick, and so much of it! Since I have been riding my bike, I end each day with a sore throat and a headache from the pollution. It can't be good for the body. So, again being a nerd, I'm going to buy a respiratory mask. Whilst there is no prospect of a Green Queens group here at EtonHouse at the moment, who knows what the future will bring, can the Green Queens save China? Anyway, I'm off to buy that mask! Take care, Anna.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Out of Wuxi for the weekend.....

This weekend, I left Wuxi and headed for the big smoke of Shanghai to visit Ashley and Tim, who was in China for work. It was great to get out of Wuxi for the weekend and see different places and different people. We spent much of Saturday afternoon/evening sitting on the 6th floor of a backpacker's hostel on the Bund, with the most amazing views over the river and the Pudong area. Thanks to Tim, I finally worked out how to take decent night shots on my little camera - pretty happy with the results, I hope you all enjoy! Sunday morning was spent wandering around the French Concession area and having brunch at a restaurant called Sashas, where they have a lovely big courtyard. I must say that I am kind of happy not to be living in Shanghai, it is so expensive compared to Wuxi and so many places to go out, I would spend a fortune out and about drinking! There are also so many Westerners, it doesn't really feel like the 'real' China experience. Having said that, it will be a great place to go every now and again when I need to get out of Wuxi. It is so easy to get to, the train is fairly cheap, extremely comfortable and only takes 50 minutes. Now it's into a busy week at school - we have 'Meet the Teacher' afternoon this week as well as preparations for a big concert the whole school is singing in. However, I have the Grand Final to look forward to on Saturday and then on Sunday night, I fly out on my first proper China adventure - Guilin and Yangshou. Take care, Anna.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Surviving the daily battlefields....

I recently learnt that Wuxi is currently the fastest growing city in the world, more and more people are flocking here (and why wouldn't you....the smog is beautiful!) and the rate of construction is unbelievable. Every day, there is something new happening - either a building being torn down or a new one going up. Currently, they are ripping up the road we travel on to get to school, the whole road is covered with small holes that prove to be a challenging maze as we cycle around them, trying to avoid being jolted out of our seats. Only in China would you actually be allowed to cycle through these areas - the whole area is filled with jackhammers, big catepillar trucks and men digging. Each morning and afternoon when we cycle through, there are many shouts of 'hello!' The two men in the pictures were saying hello but then got all shy when I asked them for a photo. The top photo is me trying to convince them to have their picture taken. People are so friendly here. Well, another Friday is here and I'm off to Shanghai for the weekend to visit Ashley and Tim, who is here for the weekend. Looking forward to escaping Wuxi for a couple of days. Take care, Anna.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Living it up as an expat!

Happy Mid Autumn Festival all! You have to love Mid Autumn Festival, after all, it is an excuse to eat moon cakes (some yummy, some not so) and have a long weekend! And I have spent it in true expat style. I decided to abandon travel plans (saving myself for the upcoming month or so - Can't wait for you to get here Rob!) for a lazy weekend and must say I feel extremely relaxed now! The weekend began with tepanyaki washed down with Asashi beer, followed by a lazy Saturday morning - I quite possibly need to be treated for an addiction to Sex and the City, why have I not discovered this earlier?! Saturday afternoon called for the Australian flag to be brought out as I supported Australia in the Bledisloe Cup final (surrounded by Kiwis unfortunately!) The Kiwis weren't brave enough to stick around for the real sport, the AFL! It was great to watch the game on a big screen, didn't think I'd miss Saturday night footy so much. Can't wait for the grand final now. Then the true expat luxury set in - foot massages and beer at 11pm on a Saturday night, only to be followed up on Sunday night by a facial and haircut ($2.50 for a hair cut!). It was a slightly nerve racking experience letting several Chinese hairdressers loose on my hair, but I had the phrase book in hand and quickly memorised 'Not too short!' and had 'I should have never let you near me!' up my sleeve (this literally translates as 'What will I tell my parents?'). Just as I had relaxed and thought all was under control, out came the thinning scissors! My hair needs to be thicker, not thinner! But I was too relaxed from the facial to argue, so let them get on with it. Luckily I came out looking relatively normal! I awoke on the bonus weekend day to rain, so a few of us wandered down to the fabric markets, there are some really beautiful materials for ridiculously, will get some clothes made up soon. So tomorrow it's back to reality - 4 days of work before heading into Shanghai to catch up with Ash and Tim (coming from Melbourne). Ahh, I think it might be nice to go for a head massage now, see you!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Laowais out and about

We celebrated the end of the first week of teaching in style here in Wuxi. The weekend began with a beautiful Thai dinner (that's where the fruity hats fit in! You never know what you'll find in the women's toilets!) followed by much drinking and dancing (on a bouncy floor mind you! How much fun!) and ended on Sunday with a seafood and bubbles brunch at a 5 star hotel. And in between that, much lying on the couch feeling a little tired and seedy. What an experience Chinese night clubs are! Much dancing of course and dice games?? How odd! Into week 2 it is, today we have our first swimming lessons, which should be interesting - many of the students have not been swimming before. We have a long weekend this weekend which I'm really looking forward to - more fun and frivolity and hopefully, Ashley will make it down to Wuxi for some fun and sightseeing. Take care, Anna.

Monday, 1 September 2008

First day at school.........

What a lovely first day at school! Having 9 children in the class is absolute heaven, it will be wonderful to be able to do lots of one on one teaching. They are gorgeous children (especially when they were imitating kookaburras!), albeit a little cheeky! It is kind of strange being part of such a small school (81 children) after life at MLC but it is quite nice. It's a lovely community here at EtonHouse, everyone is so friendly and happy! I'm having great fun playing around with the interactive whiteboard, will be a very useful tool in the classroom. I survived the bike ride to and from school, I've discovered that the trick is not to make eye contact with anyone coming your direction, hold your breath and just go! Take care, Anna.