Thursday, July 10, 2014

Excuses, Excuses…

Now that school is out, I am finally in a place where I can reflect on the past year.  In preparation for my year in review post, I skimmed my blog entries from last year.  As I scrolled through my blog I realized that my writing has slowed down from last year…way down.  Even my mom has inquired as to why I’m not posting. I had no choice but to ask myself the big question...why? After much reflection, I have decided to make my excuses my year in review post.

I was busy moving.
After being left without a working fridge for one month and our landlord not responding to a horrible flood, we knew it was time to move.  So for the past month and a half or so, we played House Hunters International (again) and are finally settled into our new place! 

After months of neglecting our needs, we were quite ready to say goodbye to our old place. 
Finding the perfect place was not so easy this time around.  Many Tuesday and Saturday mornings were spent looking at some places like this.  No, this is not our new apartment, btw.
For those of you who are curious, here is the five-cent tour of the new apartment.

Here's the living room, complete with the curtains Maria used to make the Von Trapp children clothes in The Sound of Music. 
Here's the bedroom. 

Here's the dining room.

I am sad to say we no longer have a dishwasher in the kitchen, but we do have an oven.
Chris and I are sharing the home office. 

My apartment is complete.  I have a temperature controlled Japanese toilet. 
We also have a guest bedroom that is not ready to photograph thanks to a laundry bomb on the bed.  I am happy to report we are moved in and settled!

I was busy traveling.
Since last July, I ate dim sum in Hong Kong, gambled in Macau, trained teachers in Jiading, floated with bats in the Philippines, cuddled a koala in Australia, snuggled a panda in Chengdu, and lazed by the beach in Malaysia. 

In late July, I held a writing training for high school teachers in Jiading, a smallish town 45 minutes outside of Shanghai.

After Jiading, Chris took me to Hong Kong and Macau as my birthday present. 
We spent National Day week in the Philippines with a few friends.  In this picture, we were about to float into a bat infested cave. 

In January, I fulfilled two lifelong dreams; snuggling a koala and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  We then celebrated a quiet Chinese New Year in Shanghai.

In April, we traveled to Chengdu where we ate spicy hot pot and cuddled pandas.

In late May and early June, we spent some time relaxing on the beaches of Batu Ferrenghi.

I was busy learning.
After I was offered the opportunity to earn a Chinese proficiency certificate and my co-workers gave me no option but to speak Chinese at lunch, I was finally motivated to take my Mandarin lessons seriously.

My score wasn't pretty, but I passed my Level 2 HSK exam!
In addition to taking a more serious approach to my language lessons, I took two photography classes.  For 20 weeks, 3 hours per week my French photojournalism teacher, Franc, taught me how to get the best shot.

I took class from Franc (pictured on the right) at the Expat Learning Center.  I enjoyed his helpful tips and warped sense of humor. 
We had lots of fun shooting in the dark.

One week, we focused on shooting bubbles!

At times we went night shooting.  This is one of my better shots of the Jing 'An Temple at night.

I was busy teaching.
I am happy to say that I had a wonderful second year at Shanghai Daning International Elementary School!  While I was really sad to see my fifth graders graduate, I am looking forward to meeting my new first graders!

S takes a pic with the Yohan, who came all the way from Indiana to visit my school.

J and J pose after creating their trash bag fashion show masterpieces.

My fifth graders ham it up for their cookbook cover.
I was busy being grateful.
In April, I started participating in the 100 Happy DaysProject.   For the last 91 days, I have been posting a picture of something for which I am grateful every day on twitter.   According to the 100 happy days website, people who complete this challenge have an improved mood, become more optimistic, and realize how lucky they are to have the life they live.  The project has forced me to become even more creative and more of an optimist.

Shanghai no longer shocks me.
I am proud to say that I no longer break down when I enter a Carrefour grocery store.  I am not shocked when I see a little one being potty trained on the street.  I can handle being smashed in the metro and am no longer flattered when the cell phone paparazzi snap my pic. I have even mastered the art of using the squattie!  

While Shanghai usually doesn't shock me as much as when I first arrived, there are still some moments that remind me that this is China. 

Everyone needs a water cooler cover like the one above.  
I still wonder why grocery stores don't have a separate room for Durian, a fruit that smells like garbage. 
Someone at Carrefour had way too much time on their hands. 

One day, my cab driver got in a fist fight with a pedestrian because the pedestrian caused us to miss a red light. 

Watching Tai Chi in the park will always take my breath away. 

I feel almost comfortable saying I have seen it all, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.

I know this school year I will return to  Daning International Elementary.  After that, who knows!  All that I know is Chris and I will have some big decisions to make this year.  Stay tuned for more fun!