Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Merry Little Chinese Christmas 2.0: The Man in the Hat is Back

Expat holidays can at times be downright depressing.    While many of my family members and friends posted photos of holiday celebrations, I (like many other expats) had to carry on business as usual.  As a laowai, I figure I had two ways of handling holiday induced feelings of loneliness and homesickness.  My first option was to bury myself in a bowl of tears and xiaolongbao (Chinese dumplings) while catching up with my Veep DVDs.  Or with the help of Chris “Kringle”, I could bring the party to Daning! I have to say, my school community loves to celebrate holidays!

A plastic Michael Jackson/ John Lennon Santa Claus greeted the kids for about a week before the big day.


We started the day with a round of "Jingle Bells" with my 5th graders. 
Santa gave each of them a personalized ornament.

In return, each of my students personalized an ornament for me.

Then it was time for Santa's dance party and limbo contest.

The kiddos had a pretty good time.

Between classes, Santa got mobbed by students whom were hungry for chocolate! Some of the kids got confused, walked up to him, and cried, "Trick or Treat!"

Santa got swarmed by my second graders and the iPhone paparazzi.  Kids of all ages wanted their pic with Santa. 

My second graders loved their Santa pins.

Some of my third graders questioned the authenticity of Santa's beard.

My third graders take a goofy group shot with Santa.

My fourth graders weren't as excited about Santa as my younger students, but they played along anyway.

One of my first graders announced that Santa wasn't real the Monday before Christmas.  When we introduced him to Santa from the North Pole, he kept saying, "Zhenda?  Zhenda?"  (Really?  Really?)  He was quite surprised.

One of my friends, Grace, helped Santa pass out Jingle Bells to the nice first graders.

These first graders were feeling the Christmas Spirit!

My English Corner kiddos showed Santa their best YMCA!

Then, they decorated ornaments!


Needless to say, Santa was beat after his rounds.  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, and wish you the happiest of new years!!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gingerbread Fun

When I was little, we never built gingerbread houses.  Instead my mom would build a beautiful castle out of sugar cubes, icing, and candy. 

This is the castle my mom would copy each year.  She originally found the idea in a Pillsbury Holiday cookbook.
While the sugar cube castles always turned out to be quite spectacular, I had always wanted to build a gingerbread house.  Thanks to the fine people at The Kitchen At, I was able to do that earlier this month. 


Located on Xiangyan Nan Lu, The Kitchen At... holds all kinds of cooking classes.

During the gingerbread house workshop, we built a gingerbread house from scratch with our new German friends.
Some sweet German kiddos built houses with us.
The adventure started with 150 g of butter at room temperature.  (That is about 1 1/2 sticks)

Then Chis smashed the butter with 500 g of cake flour.

Then we stirred in 1 tbsp ginger powder, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 g of clove, 1 tsp of baking soda, and 225 g of light soft brown sugar.

Then I beat 112g of golden syrup and 80g eggs into the flower/butter mixture.

Chris had a blast getting his hands dirty.

We then split the dough in three balls. 

After we had our dough balls, we started goofing around in the kitchen.  After they were juggled, the dough balls were refrigerated for 30 minutes and we cut out our house template.

We weren't the only ones who decided to monkey around.

After the dough was cool, we rolled it out and we cut out the and baked the frame of the house.
(Bake 8-10 Min at 200C)


While the house was baking and cooling, our friends played with a little leftover raw dough.    They called the raw dough gingerbread poop.  The youngest kiddo decided to eat a little of the poop.  His sister then spent the next 20 minutes singing, "N ate the poop!  N ate the poop!"

After the sides were cooled, we assembled the house with icing.  (450 g icing sugar  and 1-2 egg whites)

The kids brought out our inner goofiness.

After the sides were constructed, it was time to decorate the roof.




We decided to decorate our house with a snowball chic theme.
The almost finished product...
A few days after the workshop, I walked the gingerbread house three blocks back to my apartment.  I am happy to report despite the lack of covering, it arrived in one piece!


I was so relieved to get the house home in one piece.


The great thing about The Kitchen At is they have many different western and Chinese cooking classes.  They also hold summer cooking camps for kids.  I can’t wait to take a dumpling class there in a few weeks.  Bon Apetit!

For more information on The Kitchen At, click here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Graduating to Green


Chinese students are classified by the color of their uniform scarves.  At the start of the school year, first graders go scarf less, second graders wear green scarves, and third through fifth graders wear red scarves. One of the most exciting rites of passage for first graders is the scarf ceremony.   After learning the ropes of their new school for four months, my first graders finally received their green scarves.  I was so excited to finally attend the scarf ceremony with my kiddos!

My kiddos patiently wait for their scarves.

Some fifth grade leaders helped out with the rite of passage.

These are the ties traditionally worn by first and second graders.

The class supervisor modeled how to hold and put on the tie.
C tries on her tie with a little help.

Y puts on his tie as A looks on.

J had fun goofing off! 

My first graders hammed it up as a class!  They are too much fun!



Friday, December 6, 2013

Toxic Emissions


When I was little, I often wondered why my Mom would have to go to the local garage to have our car tested for environmental emissions.  Now I am living the reasons why these tests are so vital.

Over the past few days, the Shanghai Air Quality has been horrible.  I am not talking a little stench in the air, I am talking our lives are changing due to the smoot lingering around us levels of pollution.  A lack of wind and rain has me living in a climate that is 20 times more dangerous than what the World Health Organization recommends.

Like many other Chinese Elementary schools, my school has a “let’s keep the windows open and have no heat “ policy, so kiddos are exposed to the filth all day during their lessons. 

I broke down this morning and purchased a mask from a local pharmacy.  Unfortunately they were sold out of the "good masks" so I had to settle for less than super protection.

Fortunately, many teachers have closed their windows, but the air seeps through the doors.  Many of my kiddos learn the basics while wearing facemasks. 




I taught my kids about the gingerbread man today.  They had to create their own gingerbread men.    Notice the gingerbread man is sporting a mask!

This picture breaks my heart.
Many PE classes are now being held inside classrooms and students stay inside for their recess. 

My student Annie and I rock the masks.
What they don’t tell you in news articles is what it is like to live with pollution.  Imagine every time you went outside, the air smells like car exhaust and smoldering embers from a campfire.  When you walk, your throat itches, phlegm streams down the back of your throat, and tasks that were once simple like walking up a couple flights of stairs make you wonder if you are having a heart attack.  My husband Chris reports he has been having dreams where he picks up his old smoking habit.

If you look closely, you can find the sun without burning holes in your retinas.

Some idiot decided to set off fireworks on my way to work.  I felt like stopping the cab and slapping the man upside the head.

This is the view from my office during a typhoon.

This is the view from my office today.

FYI, the AQI of Chicago was 35 at this time.  LA had an AQI of 39.  We are living with 504.


If you are reading this, please do a wind/ rain dance or say a few prayers that Shanghai will get relief.  I am tired of breathing toxic air!!