Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Days and Heartache

I am a teacher.  Each autumn, I get excited about new school supplies, squeaky-clean classrooms, and the prospect of seeing how much my kids have grown.  I get pumped for the first days of quality professional development, and love planning what my kids will learn during the school year. I am called to be a teacher, and the classroom is my home.







This year is a little different.  For the first time in 30+ years, I won’t be in the classroom this fall.  Yesterday, I had the agonizing task of passing my materials and expertise to my replacement.  I am fortunate to have the opportunity to say goodbye to many of my incredibly supportive colleagues, and to ensure my successor’s transition will be smooth.  I am very happy to report my replacement is an amazing teacher who will be great for our kids.  However deep down inside, selfish me is heartbroken.  I want to be the teacher who works with them for one more year.






Many people have asked what I plan on doing when we return to the States.  My honest answer is “I don’t know.”  While I would love to find a new school home, I know that I won’t get back to work immediately due to the timing of our move.  I know before I am able to be a good teacher, I need to find our family a new home, see family and friends, and find a position that will be a best fit for me and my future kids.  I may not find my new home immediately, but I do have faith that I will be called to my new school when the time is right.







In the meantime I’ll pack some boxes, binge watch Netflix, and enjoy my last days in Shanghai.  I wish my kids all over the world a happy and productive school year!  I miss y’all!!!




Monday, August 24, 2015

My Apps

When I first moved to Shanghai, I wrote about how my iPhone 4S was my best friend.  Three years and multiple updates later, I still use my 4S to navigate wild Shanghai.   While I’ve been here, I have found 12 apps that have made my life in Shanghai SO much easier.  Before moving to Shanghai, I highly recommend downloading these apps.

Shanghai Bloggers

Price: Free
Why I love it:  Moving to a new country is MUCH easier if you can find someone else who has similar hobbies, passions, and experiences.  The Shanghai Bloggers App connects readers to bloggers who share similar interests by providing links to blogs, and provides blog updates without having to dig through the blogosphere.   I highly suggest using it to find some interesting blogs.




BonApp


Price: Free
Why I love it: Bon App does a great job of answering the questions “Where should we go to eat?”,  “Have you eaten there?”, and “What’s good there?” This dining social media contains restaurant listings with reviews by ordinary folks.  It has restaurant recommendations based on your ratings; directions to the venues, and a new “meet” feature that lets foodies meet up with like-minded individuals.




Smart Shanghai


Price: $1.99
Why I love it:  I have used and loved Smart Shanghai for the entire time we’ve lived here.  The app contains the addresses of 95% of the locations I have visited, and some great pointers for those who are new to Shanghai.  I frequently depend on the cab cards.  It is a must have for anyone in Shanghai.

Uber


Price: Free
Why I love it:  Nothing is worse than standing in the rain waiting for a cab.  Instead of soaking, stay inside and order an Uber.  Many of their drivers speak English, the cars are clean, and People’s Ubers are cheaper than cabs.  Keep an eye on your emails for special discounts.

Metroman Shanghai


Price:  Free
Why I love it:  If you plan on using the Metro in Shanghai, this is your app.  This super easy app will help you navigate the Metro.   Even if you don’t plan on using the Metro on a regular basis, download this app.  You will need it one day.

Youku


Price:  Free
Why I love it:  Youku is the Chinese equivalent of You Tube.  If your VPN is down, check out some of the latest and greatest Western and Eastern TV shows on this app.  You can also watch your fill of cute puppy videos.

Pleco


Price:  Free with in app purchases
Why I love it:  Pleco is a great Chinese/English dictionary that actually uses words in context.  I highly recommend purchasing the OCR and Flash Card plugins.  They are a huge help for studying Mandarin!

Fields


Price: Free
Why I love it:  The Fields App allows you to grocery shop on the go!

Magic Jack


Price: Free with in app purchases
Why I love it:  After you get your account, you can make free calls to the US.  This is SUPER handy for when you need to call the US. 

WeChat


Price: Free, with in app purchases
Why I love it:  If you plan on communicating with friends and colleagues in China, you will more than likely use WeChat.  WeChat is really handy for text messaging, social networking, and even video chatting.  The translate feature makes it really easy to communicate with non English speakers.  It’s a must have if you plan on living in China.

Google Translate


Price: Free
Why I love it:  While it’s not perfect, Google Translate helps me translate text messages.  It’s important to know that you will need a VPN to use in Mainland China.

Shanghai Air


Price: Free
Why I love it: Many days I have wondered if I was sick, or if the Shanghai Air Quality was horrible.  I trust this app because it uses data from the US Embassy. 

I know there are many more apps that are out there, but these are a start.  Fellow Shanghai expats, which apps can’t you live without?  Please share below!!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Big News

When we signed up for this gig in 2012, we knew that our time in Shanghai wouldn’t last forever.  Last year, Chris signed on for another year in Shanghai with the understanding that if a better offer within his company came along, we could move early.

We NEVER thought another opportunity would present itself this soon.  When Chris’ great grand boss presented him an opportunity that aligned with his professional and personal goals, we had to jump at the chance.  So, we have an announcement.

To make the announcement a little fun, I created this word puzzle for my parents.  Feel free to solve it if you have a little time on your hands.


If you are feeling lazy, and want to see my parent’s reaction to our news, watch the clip below.
SPOILER ALERT:  THIS VIDEO CONTAINS DETAILS ABOUT OUR NEXT ADVENTURE!!!





To prevent you from seeing our news on this screen, I am going to post pictures of my darling nieces and nephew.

Annabelle enjoys her first Den Pop at Purdue.
Amelia cruises around the driveway.
Hank plays with gravity on his first birthday.

If you opted to not solve my cryptoquip or watch my video, the big news is we are relocating to Florence, Kentucky (Suburban Cincinnati, OH) in a little over a month.

For me, the move is met with mixed emotions.  Part of me is elated.  For the first time since we married, Chris and I will be only a 4-6 hour drive from our families.  I will more than likely be able to attend my 20th high school class reunion, and will be able to celebrate holidays with my family and friends.  Food will be cheap, air will be clean, and I will be able to convey a simple idea without playing charades.  We are leaving knowing this is the best move for our family.

However, there is so much of Shanghai I will miss.  The days of traveling to exotic locales, services that deliver pretty much anything, and having an Ayi who takes care of our needs are OVER.  I am also heartbroken to be leaving my family of friends, many of who supported us from the time we walked off the plane that crazy day in the summer of 2012. Worst of all, for the first time in 33 years I will be spending the school year outside a place I am meant to be…school.  I’m going to miss my kids.

While leaving is bittersweet, I am grateful that we are leaving the party while the party is fun.  I haven’t reached the disgruntled expat stage of the overseas experience, and I am excited about the future that awaits us in the Midwest.  I have faith that I will find what I am called to do while I am there, and look forward to sharing my American adventures!!!! 

In the meantime, please keep us in your prayers.  Repatriation isn’t going to be easy.  I look forward to sharing my final Chinese experiences over the next 40 days, and will reveal my new website in the near future!  (I have decided I’m not quitting blogging, but I do need a new domain.)


Most importantly, thanks for reading!!  Stay tuned for the next chapter!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Seeing Shanghai

If I were to start my time in Shanghai all over again, I would have taken a tour of the city the first month I lived here.  If you are new, bus tours are an affordable way to get your bearings.  If you are a veteran, they help you see the city with fresh eyes.

After we moved to our new apartment last summer, I noticed there were many tour busses that cruised my neighborhood.  One year later, I decided to hop on and explore!

The two tour busses that cruise my hood are the China Spring Tour bus company and the Big Bus Company.

If you are low on cash, and want to see the city, then perhaps the China Spring Tour Bus is for you.  For 50 RMB, you can get a 48-hour bus pass around the city.  Some of the busses are equipped with headphone jacks that broadcast a tour in Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, and German.   Keep in mind that the same folks who bring us Spring Airlines run this tour, so if you are looking for an individualized tour, this may not be the tour for you. 

For the most part, the double decker busses were quite comfy.
Tourists can plug in their complementary headphones and listen to the tour. 

While the tour had some fun facts, the soundtrack would keep jumping around so we never got the full story on all of the stops.  Also, if the narration stopped, Kenny G would blare through the earphones.  I found that not all of the busses had narrated tours. 
The ticket allowed us to hop on and off whenever we wanted, however sometimes it took us upwards of 45 minutes to catch a connecting bus.  This tour is best for those with flexible schedules. 
Despite the minor annoyances, the tour was a great way to cruise around town.
If you are willing to spring a little more cash, I would recommend taking Big Bus Tours.  For 100 RMB, you can get a 48-hour hop on hop off ticket around the city.  Like Spring Bus Tours, they have headphone jacks that broadcast tours in a variety of languages.  Unlike Spring Bus Tours, their audio commentary was continuous and extremely informative.  While they have fewer routes than Spring, they do stop at many of the same sites. 

We had a lot of fun on our Big Bus tour.
We traveled during the week when the busses were much less crowded.
The upper deck allowed us to take shots we normally wouldn't have captured on a traditional tour.
Sit in the front seat on the top of the bus for the best views.

Fortunately, the Big Bus tour had interesting, uninterrupted narration during the tour.  It was also significantly easier to transfer bus lines.  Our longest wait for a connecting bus was 20 min.
If you are more of a thrill seeker, and have a little money to burn, I HIGHLY recommend seeing Shanghai by sidecar.

My favorite tour of  Shanghai was a sidecar tour of the French Concession with Shanghai Insiders.  For 1500 RMB+, tourists are whisked around the city in the sidecar of a 1931 BMW motorcycle. 

Before the ride, tourists complete a brief questionnaire.  The tour guide creates an itinerary based on the responses.

My tour guide Tomas picked me up at the Andaz Hotel, and whisked me around the French Concession and Old Town for two hours.
At first I was a little nervous riding so close to the ground.  By the end of the tour, I didn't want to get out of the side car. 
For a little extra, travelers can rent go pro cameras, purchase champagne, have special magnets made for the outside of the sidecar, and purchase insurance.  I decided to splurge for the Tattinger which I drank in a quiet courtyard outside a tiny art gallery.  I enjoyed sipping and looking at the paintings! 
I really enjoyed cruising around town!
I indicated that I enjoyed art museums and photography, so Tomas took me to a little art gallery hidden in the French Concession.  We also stopped at the Music Conservatory, and a little inn tucked away on Fenyang Lu.  We finished the tour with a ride around Old Town.

When we were finished, Tomas dropped me off at my apartment. While the bike tour was a little pricey, it was well worth the money.  Happy exploring!