Thursday, August 19, 2010

School It Up

I'm almost finished with my first full week of school. I can already tell it's going to be a fantastic year despite the fact that I've already given out two detentions. Yes, I'm THAT teacher.
Anyway, my excitement over the year is building. Seems strange since school's already started, but it's true. The more time I spend with my students, the more lesson plans I create, the more team teaching I do, the more travel plans I make, the more excited I get. I suppose it's a mix between starting with a clean slate with freshman students, actually knowing what I'm doing this year, and having time to do it all.

My freshman students tend to stare at me in wonder. I think it's mostly because they're not quite sure what to make of me yet. Am I funny? Am I scary? I'm just so loud and animated. But at least they laugh at my jokes. That's all I care about. :)

I'm getting to "team teach" this year. I'm only teaching one of the three sections of 9th grade World History so I've been working really closely with the other WH teacher. He's super smart and experienced in teaching the class so he has a ton of ideas and resources. It's nice to brain storm and have new things available. And he seems to enjoy working together too which is nice. Not everyone likes cooperative teaching.

I'm starting the trip planning part for MUN for this semester. We'll be going to Singapore and South Korea (for some reason, I almost wrote North). I actually KNOW what I'm doing!!! I know what students to choose, who deserves to go and who will be best. I know what hotel to stay at and how to get plane tickets. I know how to get to and from the airport. I have some ideas for sight seeing. I have chaperones planned and...well, it's just good.

On another note, I came home early today. Every day I've felt a little funny and today the cold hit full force. I cannot believe I'm sick during the first week of school. Ridiculous. I stayed for all my classes (it's just too much trouble to miss classes unless it's absolutely necessary) and left after my lunch meeting. It felt good to take a nap and watch a movie. I made a delicous dinner, mostly because that's all I'm doing these days, cooking. Even when I'm sick. A girl's got to eat. It's the dishes I hate. Those I will wait to do until tomorrow when my eyes aren't pounding.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Back To School

A week from tomorrow begins 9 months of craziness. Actually, that's not true. My school year starts tomorrow with an MUN conference in Beijing. That means I'll be traveling about 25-30 days this semester. I'll be going to Beijing twice, Singapore, Seoul and somewhere in China for a volleyball tournament. Thank goodness my classload is different this year.

Last year, I taught AP World History and MUN (Model United Nations). See here if you want to learn more about MUN. Both turned out to be full time jobs. That means 1 person doing 2 jobs. I averaged out my work time for the year and it turned out to be about 80 hours a week. That doesn't include additional meetings or the 1.5 hours a day spent in transit or coaching volleyball. It was a really tough year. I was teaching two classes, one that I just wasn't smart enough for (AP) and the other, all the students knew more than I did and were super loyal to the previous teacher (MUN). I've never worked so hard or felt so inept. I think part of it was that the students that I was (and will be) teaching are so different here than they are in the US.

In the States, it's all about relationships. Once they know and trust me, they might listen to what I have to teach them. But mostly, it was about just getting through the class. Loving them and getting to know them was much more important. I was working with kids who had been abandoned by their parents, raised by grandparents, students who had immediate family members in gangs or serving life sentences in prison, students who had parents that didn't care one iota about how they did in school, it was just a glorified babysitting job. You had to be rough and abrupt and fun and tell stories and play games and do activities.

But here, it is literally the complete opposite. My classes are about 90% Korean. The rest are mostly Westerners that have almost genius IQs. For them, it's all about Academics. The more the teacher knows, the more respect the students have. First academics, then the relationship. And they don't want to mess around with group work or activities (specifically my AP), they want all lecture all the time. Maybe some discussion. To lecture for 1.5 hours is very difficult. I had to stud 4-6 hours for every class period. And I still didn't feel ready.

Last year was kind of that I-don't-have-the-time-to-prepare-properly-so-everything's-going-to-suffer year. I was doing a halfway job in everything. I had to, that's the only way things got done. And I hated it.

Looking back though, I did have some success. Even though the individual classes didn't go well, I was able to take my MUNers on trips all over the world successfully, host a large conference in Qingdao and my APers did VERY well on their exam. 13 out of 15 got 3s or above ( six with 5s). And I feel like I've grown tremendously as a teacher. Last year stretched me professionally unlike any other year. I definitely wasn't able to coast like I have in previous jobs.

THIS year, things will be different. I now know what I'm doing in MUN. I will have actual lesson plans and activities. I will know how to plan the trips and what paperwork to fill out. I'm already working on the conference we host next February. And the biggest news...I'm NOT teaching AP anymore. Woohoo! Man, I loved the students- we spent a lot of time together (A LOT!) but I will not miss that class. Instead, I'll be teaching World History I to 9th graders. We can do fun stuff and take our time. I don't have to lecture everyday. I can't express how happy that makes me. :) Man, it's going to be so fun! And I'm incorporating a whole bunch of stuff including student blogs and current events and well, I don't know what else yet, but it's going to be AWESOME!

I'm really excited about school this year. Yay. I think it's going to be a great year. I'm finally getting to teach the same subject two years in a row and stay in the same classroom. That in and of itself is a big deal. Anyway, God is good (of course, He was even last year when things were hard).

The following is for my mother but you all are welcome to read.

Mom, here's my class schedule:

Odd days (1,3,5)- WH1 9am-11:30am; MUN 1:30pm-3pm
Even days (2,4,6)- MUN 8am-9:30am; MUN 11:30am-1pm

I know it looks like I'm not doing much but I have Chinese two hours a week and MUN takes up most of my other prep time. Plus I'll be doing volleyball during first quarter and then traveling 2nd quarter.

Friday, July 30, 2010

"China Day"

Today, one of the hottest days of the summer, I found myself without electricity. For the entire day. My complex is switching how they electrify each apartment and needed all day to rewire. As of today, I am on pay-as-you-go-power. We have a card that we recharge when it runs out. I have this little slot on the breaker box thingy, I just slide my card in there and it refills my power-holder with units (are you impressed with my technical terms?). A little less convenient but probably cheaper. This way, I can look at any time to see how much electricity I'm using and how much I have left, which is AWESOME. You know I'll be checking every day to see where I'm at. In fact, I can't wait until tomorrow just to see how many units I've used.

Anyway, back to the heat. It's been in the upper 90s this week with really high humidity. In fact, tomorrow with the humidity index, it's supposed to be 115 degrees. Barf. I HATE humidity. I don't even think "hate" is a strong enough word. Even in 70 degree weather humidity kills me. But with this crazy heat, I'm literally a slurpy mess all the time unless I've been inside for awhile and dried off. I've totally stopped doing my hair and makeup which means I'm looking like a 12 year old.

It's midnight in China right now and there are fireworks going off. Arg, drives me crazy.

Anyway...back to my more thing to whine about...

The apartment I moved into is fantastic. Slap some paint on the walls and just about any place looks nice. But with any apartment in China comes some "must fix" stuff. My kitchen and bathroom need some serious work. When we signed the lease, it was under the condition that we would build more cabinet space in the kitchen. I met with a cabinet guy the first week I moved in here. He only spoke Chinese and at that point I knew about 200 less words. Not that any of my new words have anything to do with "shelves, cupboards, width" and such. So, I spent my time motioning and grunting. I thought I communicated what I wanted. When the workers showed up today to install them, well, they're not what I was expecting. My entire kitchen is white. White walls, white counters, white cabinets. Not my favorite but not as bad as it could be (think smurf blue and sunshine yellow metal). So, following the theme, I asked the guy to make the cabinets white. Apparently, they don't have white (which I was never told) so he brought another color. Now, sometimes in China, one has to just suck it up and deal with things. This would usually be one of them, but I just can't bring myself to have one type of cabinets installed in the top part of my kitchen and another type in the bottom. So, now I have about 6 wall units all over the dining room floor. I'm so thankful that I get new storage in my kitchen. Talk to anyone here and it's a pretty special thing. But if we're going to do it, it should be done the right way. If possible. And if it can't be fixed, I'll deal with it...until I can paint them :).

Between the heat, non-electricity and cabinet mess, it was what we foreigners refer to as a "China Day". The kind of day where things happen that probably wouldn't happen in your home country and definitely not all in one day. Like..."it's the dead of summer and we're going turn your electricity off" or "we're out of that color so we're going to give you something different without consulting you" or "you don't have an elevator to get to the 5th floor so you get to melt from the heat on the way up". These days rarely ever occur, mostly because things don't often get to me here. I just kind of expect life to be a little harder than it should be. But I think the heat is making me grumpy these days.

There were some good things that happened today. I was able to go back to sleep after the workers left this morning. I went all the way into town, ate lunch, got a frappachino, and went back out to my apartment all for 6 kuai (about $1). I spent some time with friends and met a new co-worker. And my apartment is a cool 72 degrees and electrified as I type this.

I have high hopes for tomorrow...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

One Down...

(on the plane on my way to China for the 1st time...crazy eyes)

Today is my 1 year anniversary of moving to China. I arrived here on July 25, 2010 sometime in the morning, a Saturday I think, feeling a little crazy from sleep deprivation. I have no doubt I looked a mess. I remember very clearly what the airport looked like, the drive to my apartment, the unexpected beauty of Qingdao and more specifically my apartment. I remember where I ate that night for dinner and who I hung out with. It was the first time I tried bubble tea (Taiwanese) and ate dak galbi (Korean). My feet were raw and blistered from my mishaps in the airport the day before (read here) and we walked a couple miles to and from dinner. Honestly, I think the thing I remember the most, it is literally almost palpable, was how overwhelmed I felt. I knew so little and had so far to go to even survive. In China and in my job.

Today, I think was a great picture of how far I've come in this last year.

This morning, I led worship at my fellowship. That is a BIG deal. Ask anyone who's worked with me closely in music and they know what an idiot I become on stage. I forget words and what comes next. I'm not a great public speaker, I talk too fast and my words get all mixed up. And yet, here I am, choosing songs, working on the flow, finding Scripture to read, bossing a band around, and leading people in worship. Now, I love to sing on a worship team. I love the involvement of corporate worship, hearing the congregation sing familiar songs so loudly, watching them raise their hands or bow their heads or close their eyes as they sing or cry or whisper to God. It is an intense and beautiful thing. I love singing harmony with other people and making up our own music. And I love it when everything clicks- the sound, the band, the words, the fluid motion of worship. That is a great thing. But, I do not enjoy leading. Well, that’s not completely true. I’ve co-led for a couple of different teams and I really enjoy that. I get to give input, help choose songs, sing lead sometimes, but I’m not responsible for the entire service. I love being in that position. Leading, however, is totally different. I map out the songs, how many times we do a chorus or verse, when someone prays or reads the Bible, what songs are chosen, how the band sounds…if I mess up, it’s completely noticeable (something that happens often but it’s just who I am so I deal with it). There's a lot to think about and keep track of, especially up on stage. I know I’m coming across as completely un-Spiritual. Many of you are reading this and thinking “Where does the Holy Spirit fit into this? Is it really all about you?” And my answer is “No, it’s not about me at all.” That’s the thing. If it was about me and my abilities, honestly, every time I led, it would be a major disaster. Things would never come together. Songs would get all mixed up, words would come out wrong and I definitely wouldn’t come in on the right key. But every week, things come together. Songs go (mostly) smoothly. Notes and beats are usually right on track. And people are actually able to focus on the real reason we’re there, to sing and pray and listen about who He is and what He’s doing for us. I say this completely outside of myself. It absolutely has nothing to do with me. God has me doing this truly terrifying thing, something that a year ago wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to do. Seriously, it was never even a thought in my head until about 6 months ago to ever step into this kind of position. And here I am, doing it. I love that I’m learning and being stretched in an area that I’m passionate about. Today’s praise and worship was fun and worshipful and most importantly, I think God was glorified.

Okay, so after fellowship, a few of us went to lunch together and then decided to go to Computer City. Computer City is like a mall but instead of having all different types of stores, it only has electronic stores. You can get just about anything your electronic loving little heart desires. CC is where I bought my iPod Touch last September and since a couple of my friends were wanting to buy one, that’s where I took them. Now if you’ve read my last blog or so, you know I’ve been taking Chinese classes for the last 4 weeks. I’ve gone from about 150 words to 400-500 probably. Well, the last time I was at CC getting my iPod, I knew about 4 words. Literally. A friend took me, one who had only been here a year but has a great grasp of the language, and helped me bargain for mine. And here I was a year later helping friends bargain for theirs. I wasn’t great, and thankfully the guy we were talking to was so very patient, but we were able to understand each other and a plan was made (we weren’t able to buy because they didn’t have any in stock so instead we made a plan to meet in town tomorrow to buy them…such is China...that arrangement is even harder to get across than just buying the dang thing). Anyway, it was a proud moment. In fact, I think I hi-fived a couple of people afterwards. I, of course, have SO FAR to go in my language study but it was exciting to be able to something as unimportant as that. You English-speakers living in English-speaking countries, you have no idea what it’s like to live in a place for a year and not EVER be able to communicate with someone properly. It gets very frustrating. And to know that it’ll be another 2-3 years before I’m even able to really have a decent conversation…arg.

Anyway, today was a good “full-circle” day to celebrate my life in China. I’m still happy to be here. I’m still in love with the country. I’m still sure this is where I’m supposed to be. After all the crazy and wonderful and extremely difficult things I’ve done and been through this year, I can’t wait to see what God’s preparing me for in the future. The unknown…it’s exciting and oh so terrifying all at the same time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Southern Gate

My apartment has two gates, one in the front and one in the back. I live close to the back so I almost always use that gate. I love using this entrance. It's on a calm street, lined with green trees and quiet apartment complexes- very Western-feeling, very peaceful and very convenient. One of my favorite things about this back gate is that at any given time there are at least one, usually two or three Chinese families sitting out by the road, selling freshly picked fruits and vegetables. It's a convenient way for me to get some of my grocery shopping done the Chinese way- buying a little bit every day. I know this goes against all Sam Club memberships and those of you who buy groceries for a week at a time, but here in China, when you're walking up 5 flights of stairs (have I mentioned I don't have an elevator?), it's next to impossible to carry a big load. Only a couple of bags are practical. Therefore, I buy a few fruits or vegetables every day, sometimes twice a day depending on my coming and going. Right now in my fridge I have cucumbers, carrots, nectarines, grapes, and apricots. I must say China has the best fruit and such a variety. If I had a better camera (hint, hint) I would be displaying lovely pictures of said fresh goodness.

Besides the deliciousness of this routine, it also gives me a great opportunity to practice my Chinese. “How much is that per jin?” and “What kind of fruit is that?” and sometimes simple conversational stuff like “I’m from America.” and “I love living in China.” It’s fun to be able to use my words that I so rarely have an opportunity to use in my Western bubble of friends.

And that leads me to my favorite thing about this Southern gate. I get to interact with everyday-Chinese people. I know that may shock you. “You live in China, Jen. Of course, you interact with Chinese people.” And you’re right. I do. I take the bus and taxis. I shop at stores and buy things. But it’s not often that I get to have daily interaction with the same people over and over again- to smile at them and say “hello” even when I’m not shopping at their little market. I’m excited about this opportunity to make friends with these few lovely Chinese people. It’s been a long awaited moment, mostly because of the language barrier. But, as I learn more, I hope to make some non-English speaking Chinese friends right outside my home. How’s that for getting out of the bubble?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Moving Along

So, we're all just going to move on and forget about any other blogs that might have anything to do with my trip this summer. I wrote the promised second post but accidentally deleted it and have been avoiding blogging since. It was either avoidance or my computer thrown through the window...moving right is my clean-slate day.

Some exciting things have happened since we last talked.

I moved to a new place. My new apartment is awesome. It's beautiful and cozy and decorated just how I like it. Most importantly of course, it's all mine. That's right boys and girls, I've finally become an adult and have a place of my own. I've been busy decorating and moving and unpacking. It's taken awhile to figure out where I want to put things. You know, when you have a roommate, you always have to compromise where the dishes go or where stuff is stored. So now that it's totally my decision, well, it's a little overwhelming. I'm still shifting things around trying to find out where I want to them to go. I'll post pictures at some point so you can see the new abode. It's just not quite ready to be seen by the public.

The move has quite drastically changed my life. You know, in America, when you make an in-town move, it's a little inconvenient but usually no big deal. Here, it's literally life-changing. I've had to learn my location and how to get there. And how to tell a taxi driver how to get there. In another language. It's all new vocabulary. I've had to find new stores to buy food in and then actually find the food I like, not always easy. It's a lot of work to create new schedules and new routines. My bus picks me up at a different time than what I'm used to. I have to add in the extra minutes of walking down my FIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS when I'm trying to catch that bus. Everything's just so much harder now and takes longer. I know it'll get easier (it already has) as I learn the area and get used to this new life. But for now, it can be a tad bit frustrating. It's like starting all over again. At least it's during the summer and not school. That would be almost unbearable. It sounds like I'm complaining but I'm NOT. :) I love the complex I live in and the places I have to shop in. Even though I'm farther away from a lot of my friends and the center of town, I'm a lot closer to school and I have a group of friends that moved with me here. I'm still close to the beach, it's only a block away and have I mentioned that I don't have a roommate? :)

The other major thing going on in my life right now is my Chinese class. So, it's a requirement that we take 2 hours of Chinese every week during the school year and every other summer we do a month-long intensive course. We have a four book (10 chapters each) curriculum. By the end of Book 4, one should be able to hold a decent conversation and know a couple hundred characters. In my 9 months at school, I only made it through the "pinyin" (pronunciation) and chapters 1-3 in Book 1. I'm pulling the "it was too hard to focus on Chinese with so much travling in my job" card but I think it's mostly laziness. Studying language is EXHAUSTING. Anyway, I made the commitment at the beginning of this 4 week intensive that I wanted to finish chapters 4-10. I'm on my last week of study and I have ch 9 and 10 to finish. I'm oh so close but there's so much left for me to do in the next three days. It's exciting though. I've learned hundreds of words and can actually speak in sentences...sometimes. The problem is, the words don't often come to me fast enough to sound like an intelligent person. I still have a LONG WAY to go but it's progress.

Life seems to be moving along. Vacation in Europe- check. Moved to new apartment- check. Chinese language course- almost check. School starts in 22 days...arg. TOO FAST!!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Euro Trip- Part 1

So, I'm splitting this blog up into at least two different posts. Mostly for you because I don't think any sane person will want to read a 15 page long diatribe/description of my blundering through Europe. The other reason is because my brain will need a break. Do not fear though, I took notes during my trip so I should be able to remember everything important. If you'd like to see pictures, please go to my facebook, that's where I'm uploading them. So far I've only gotten throughTaiwan (I realize that's not in Europe but it was a pre-trip to my Euro Touro) and Vienna. I'm am currently working on Prague and the rest will be on there shortly.

You may be wondering why I haven't written yet and why it's taken so long for me to get anything posted. I have two main excuses including 1. I didn't take my laptop with me on my trip and 2. I don't have internet at my house as I'm in the process of moving. There's other excuses I could add like tired, busy, blah, blah, blah.

Let me set up the trip for you. I left on Saturday, June 5 for Taiwan where I met up with some good friends that I worked for/with in South Florida. He was my boss at the school in Hollywood and she was the HS English teacher. We were great friends and had so much fun when we worked together. In fact, he helped set me up with the man who gave me my job here in China. Anyway, they had been invited by a higher up in Taiwan's Department of Education to speak at several colleges in Taipei. It, of course, was not a possibility for them to be so close without seeing them so I flew down for 4 days to spent some good quality time with them. We had a wonderful time together. We laughed and shopped and talked and ate and made new friends. It was totally worth the quick trip. I left on Tuesday, flew back to Qingdao, stayed in the airport because 3 hours later, I flew back to Beijing. I stayed the night in Beijing and flew out to Vienna on Wednesday, June 9th. I took with me only a backpack with as few clothes as possible, and left behind my brush, blowdryer, facewash, and laptop. Only the bare essentials were taken. My route was 3 nights in Vienna, 3 nights in Prague, 3 nights in Krakow, 3 nights in Budapest and then I wasn't sure what I was going to do for the last two nights of my trip (which ended up being an additional night in Budapest and a night in Bratislava).

I did some tallying (just for the European part) and here's what I came up with:
  • I spent about 85 hours traveling or waiting to travel
  • I was in 4 airports (x2), 3 train stations and 4 bus stations
  • I Was in 5 cities (plus the Moscow airport which I think should count since I was there for really long layovers both there and back).
  • Had at least 15 different roommates.
  • Used 6 different currencies.
  • Learned how to use metros, subways, trams, buses, electric buses, cabs and trains all over Europe
  • Ate American, Thai, Italian, Greek, Mexian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovakian food
  • Made friends from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Poland, Hungary, America, the U.K., Wales, Russia, the Philippines

After quite a long trip (6 hour layover in Moscow), I finally arrived in Vienna. I walk off the plane, semi-dazed (because I usually become comatose when flying and it's hard for me to wake up when I arrive somewhere and I'm sure my crazy eye was out in full force) but super excited, grab my bag and walk outside. It's. Blazing. Hot. Like, put-my-hair-up-in-a-ponytail-and-wished-I'd-lathered-on-an-extra-layer-of-deoderant hot. And those of you who know me, know how I feel about being hot. Normally, it wouldn't even be that big of a deal EXCEPT I had PLANNED for 70 degree weather. I only had pants and layers to wear. My clothing was very limited because of my backpack size, I planned oh so carefully and the WEATHER WAS NOT COOPERATING!!!! No worries, I was sure I could cool down at my hostel. Nope, no air conditioning. Maybe at Starbucks...nope, no airconditioning. Apparently, hell showed up on Vienna's doorstep with out any warning and I was going to have to suffer. And suffer I did for the next three days. I sweated my way through Vienna and had the dry skin to prove it. My face was actually chafed from being wiped so much as I slicked away the sweat. Gross but true.

My impressions of Vienna...beautiful but totally stuck up. Unless you have a lot of money or are there on a honeymoon, it's really rather pointless. It's super expensive and very touristy. It's lost all of it own culture and has turned into this money making theme park. I'm sure the country of Austria is absolutely lovely and I WISHED I had gone to Salzburg and sung through the Alps. I'm not saying it was a waste of time because honestly, it really had some beautiful architecture and things to see but I wouldn't go back. And the truth is, I didn't realize I didn't like it until I'd been to a couple of other cities that had the same cobble stone streets, old buildings, beautiful churches and insanely long histories AND managed to keep some of it's own culture. Now, it's totally possible that this might be the anger from the blazing heat talking or from the fact that I didn't make one friend the entire time I was in Vienna or maybe from the pure exhaustion of finishing up school and then going straight to "vacation" where I walked every day for 10-12 hours out in the heat, who knows. Take it for what it's worth. I will say that in spite of the millions of Western tourists, the jacked-up prices and the fake rebuilt buildings, it was still possible to get lost on a little side street or alleyway and find yourself able to imagine what it was like 200 years ago. And I did find a really neat clothing boutique that I wish I could live in.

After three-unairconditioned nights in Vienna, I made my way to Prague. Traveling to the next city was always a little adventure within itself. I only planned a day in advance and usually went with whatever was cheaper. And cheap it was. I only spent about $175 on all of my buses and trains getting around Europe. Most of the time it was clean, convenient, safe and pretty easy to figure out. I just asked my hostel what was best, used a map, found the station, bought the ticket and went on with my sightseeing for the day. The next day, I packed up and headed out a couple of hours before my train/bus left. My bus from Vienna to Prague was about 4 hours and only cost about $15. My American mindset has a hard time grasping the fact that I can travel to ANOTHER COUNTRY for $15. Insane!!!

On my trip to Prague, we drove through an insane rain and hail storm. It was rather intense for a few minutes but made it safely. I'd only wished I'd brought snacks for the trip. Mostly, me and my narcolespy-ness slept. Oh, and I read a some. I have an app on my iPod that has over 100 classic novels that I can read at any time so I spent a lot of my traveling time reading. I think I got through 4 books on my trip.

(Just took a snack and coffee break...have I mentioned that I'm in Starbucks?)

Prague...was beautiful and has a lot of really neat places to go (The castle, the river, my hostel). First, let me say that both Vienna and Prague are really easy to get around in. Super user friendly. Just buy a day pass and you can use it for the bus, trams and metro. And as long as you can read a map, you can get around. This is a good thing because my hostel in Prague was a little out of the main area so I had to take the tram or subway or bus to get anywhere important. In spite of BAZILLIONS of tourist groups (I honestly don't mind individual tourists. It's the groups that drive me crazy. Because they travel in such large groups, they just kind of run everyone over and ruin any peaceful/beautiful place within seconds of arriving. They just kind of steamroll everyone). The Prage castle with it's view, a trip down the Vltava River, live music, delicious food, quaint shops and homey feel helped me to recover a little from Vienna's madness. At this point in my trip, the architecture was still totally enthralling (at some point it all just started to run together. I didn't have to be anywhere exciting, a good park bench would do. I spent a lot of time watching people, staring at hundreds of years of history and imagining what it would've been like to live during another time.

As I close up this blog, I'll leave you with a few random thoughts/events that occurred during my time in Vienna and Prague...

  • For all my Springfield friends, there was an Aldi's in Vienna
  • Oh, and literally every city I went to had an IKEA.
  • In the underground metro system in Prague, a guy as high as a kite offered to sell me his watch.
  • When I ordered my ticket to Prague (which I did online but should've done in person), I ordered the ticket for the wrong day. When I'm not in school and/or working, I have a really hard time keeping track of the days. It was a lot of ma fan to change the stupid thing. I went from being so proud of myself one moment to wanting to scratch out my own eyes in the next.
  • After living in a place where I am my own tourist attraction, it was so nice to just have people assume that I was from the area.
  • I cried in the first church I visited in Vienna. It's been so long since I've been in a place made for worship and it just felt so quiet and was very impacting. I'm not going to be able to explain why but for some reason I could still cry over it. We Americans and the West in general, we don't realize how "lucky" it is that we have the priveledge of choosing between 100 different churches, to find a place of worship that fits who we are, to have structural reminders on every street corner of God and how he has worked in our history. To have a religious structure that's remained for hundreds of years, that is still being used as a place of worship, that is incredible. Anyway, that was probably one of the favorite things of my trip, going to churches and just enjoying the beauty and peace found there.
  • Speaking of crying...the enormous amounts of beautiful men all over Europe almost brought on tears of joy. Now, I don't know if it's that there truly is a LARGE portion of extremely attractive men in Europe or if it's just me being deprived for so long but WOOOOOooooooohweeeee.
  • So, in Vienna, I went to a concert. We'll call it a concert anyway. It was supposed to be Opera, strings and ballet. And if I took that at it most literal terms, it was all those things. But mostly it was mess. Four musicians kind of dressed up in period outfits, a ballet couple dancing on a stage with a piano and 3 other instrumentalists that was the size of my twin bed. And an Opera singer who...was okay. Needless to say, I wasted $60 and left at intermission...along with half of the audience. It really wasn't that bad. I mostly just chalked it up to a funny experience.
  • Two major things in Prague- graffiti and Americans. Every building in every reachable space (outside of old town) was covered in graffiti. I would also say that Prague had the most Americans of any of the cities that I went to.

Anyway, that about sums up the first half of my trip. The last be continued.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's All Coming Together

Monday will start my last week of school. I'll blog about all of that later. What I really want to talk about is everything that's happening after school is out.

It's 11:30pm on Saturday night, I am leading worship tomorrow at fellowship, I have to get up early and yet, I can't fall asleep. I don't even feel tired. Why? Because I'm so excited about next weekend. What's next weekend?

I have good friends from America headed this way. My first and possibly only friends to make it to this side of the world and I'm going to see them. They will be in Taiwan doing some guest speaking for the something something of Taiwan's education something something. Very important stuff. I'm flying down to meet them for the weekendish. It's a quick trip really but totally worth it. I have no idea what we're going to do. I hope they're planning it because I don't even have a clue. I'm hoping that I can use some of my Mandarin there. The problem is, they use traditional characters and I'm not sure how that pans out in the spoken language. And I'm not sure about the accent. Qingdao has a very specific accent and pronunciation of words. When we went to western China they could barely understand us. I have no idea how that'll work in Taiwan. I'm going to assume though that there will be a lot more English speakers there. But who knows? I really have no idea what to expect.

THEN...when I get back from Taiwan, I leave the next day for Europe. I've been planning all day today. I've reserved 4 of my hostels and started to pin down what I want to do while I'm in each city. Here's what I have so far...

  • go to a palace or two
  • listen to something musical like an orchestra or symphony...something classical
  • have some coffee
  • visit a museum and see old paintings
  • shop
  • attend a church service
  • eat a sausage and/or weiner schnitzel


  • walk around or maybe take a segway (I seriously doubt I have the balance for it) around the city
  • sit in a cathedral
  • walk through a castle
  • see the town square
  • study communism
  • listen to an opera


  • walk around the Jewish district
  • make a trip out to Auschwitz
  • tour a basilica
  • visit Old Town


  • take a ride down the Danube River
  • study communism some more
  • go on a tour of the city

There will be a few things added I'm sure. I'm trying not to plan too much because one of the benefits of traveling in such small numbers is that I can change my plan any time I want to.

I'm excited to get away and be on my own. I can talk to people if I want to or I can go days without saying a word. I'll be living a phone free, laptop free life. I'll be staying in hostels with tons of other people just like me and have the opportunity to make a bunch of new friends. I get to see all the places I've taught about for years. Places that have hundreds of years of history. Places where really important things happened. Beautiful buildings, historical aritfacts, incredible stories. New experiences, new people, new places. Oh, the excitment.

And the cool thing is, it's really inexpensive. I'm staying in hostels and it's only going to cost me about $18 per night. And they're nice places. Sure, I'll be surrounded by strangers but that just adds to the adventure. I'm taking earplugs, my iPod and a padlock. Keeps out the noise at night, keeps out the noise during the day, and keeps my stuff safe.

I'll be traveling by train to all of these places. Another nice thing about Europe is that it only takes a couple of hours to get from one country to the next. I think the longest train ride is from Prague to Krakow and it's only 4 hours or so. Amazing. And I'm traveling by backpack so it'll be super easy to get around.

And while I'm gone on this hoped-to-be-fabulous-trip, I'll be moved into a new apartment. Yay. It's been found, it just has to be approved by the board. I haven't seen it yet but my friend on the housing board picked it out and I totally trust her. I'm so excited.

AND I know what I'm teaching next year. Finally. MUN and 9th grade World History. It basically covers the beginning of time to the 1500's. The idea of having an entire year to cover all of that makes me happy. It's a regular class so I won't have to lecture all year. I'll get to do fun stuff like group work and games and videos and projects. Can't wait!

See? It's all coming together.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dear Mom

I'm sitting on my bed 6,423 miles away from you (exactly...I Googled it), it's Mother's Day and I wish I were closer to you. I was trying to think of the last time I was home for this special occasion and I think it was 1999. Courtnii Almanzar and I decided to make a surprise "weekend" trip home to see our moms. Wow, that was a long time ago. Anyway, I've been thinking about you all day. Oh to be home and making you lunch or going to your favorite restaurant, giving you a gift, watching a movie with you.

Do you know I talk about you all the time? I tell people about how funny you are and what a good woman you are. You love your husband and kids more than they deserve. You are charming and thoughful and someday, I hope to be like you. These are the things I tell people.

Okay, and a few other things. Like how when you were a kid and stuffed a kitten into a paint can and put the lid on it thinking it would be a great way to carry a cat around. Or how you snuck into a neighbor's house and stole a popcicle only to get caught under a bed when they unexpectedly arrived home. Or how when you would help me with my math in junior high and we laughed and laughed about "rr". And that when we laugh together, it's the exactly the same, mine's just a little higher pitched. We harmonize well.

I also tell them, mostly my students, about how you threw candy AT us in school instead of TO us, many a poked eye were the results. That's always followed with how cool you were and how my friends loved you and that you were my favorite teacher.

You are a wonderful woman. I wish I was close enough to give you a long hug right now but I suppose that'll have to wait another year. Just know that I was thinking about you on this Mother's Day. I love you mom.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not Funny

So, I was reading through some of my old posts from my other blog and I used to be so much funnier. What has happened to me? I'm mean I wasn't hi-larious, but definitely had a bit more wit with my words. And I told a lot more stories. Surely, I haven't told all my stories...dang it. I've got to get some pep in my step. Just wait, some day soon, I'm going to bedazzle you with my awesome tales of adventure and..stuff...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Checking In and Some Thoughtful Thoughts

  • Since the last time I wrote, I've hosted an MUN (Model United Nations) conference here in Qingdao. We had 9 schools, 2 from other cities in China and 2 from Korea with a total of 170 students and teachers involved. It was a 3 day event and included an opening ceremony, hundreds of snacks and lunches, hotel rooms, formal debating, sightseeing, several trips to the airport, hundreds of phones calls, thousands of papers being printed, a lack of sleep and some serious stress. After spending about 6 months planning it, things went fairly well. There is a long list of improvements to be made for next year but it was a huge check off my list of things to do. Yay!
  • I've been leading worship at my fellowship and am really enjoying it. I had a friend recently ask me why I didn't end up doing something in music and I said, "I never really thought about it." She looked at me like I was an idiot but it's true. I never thought about doing anything in music. It was always something I was passionate about but, I don't know, I just never had the guts (maybe?) to do anything with it. Anyway, this leading thing is a great growing experiences. I have an amazing band that is good to forgive me when I screw up and everyone's super flexible...I don't know, it's just fun. A lot of fun. It makes me want to do it more often. Who knows what the future holds?
  • I'm going to Europe this summer. It's like a third of the price to go there than to go home. And since I make about 1/4 of what I made last year, it's all about saving as much money as possible. So, I'm flying to Vienna, Austria and from there, I'll train to (as of right now) Prague-Czech Republic, Krackow-Poland, Budapest-Hungary, and Bratislava-Slovakia. I'm backpacking for two weeks and the plan is to stay in super cheap (but safe, mom) hostels. I'm really excited about it. It'll be nice to get away and have some time really reflect on/evaluate this last year.
  • We have 24 days until school is over. That makes me happy. This has been a crazy year.
  • I get my own apartment next year. I cannot express the joy that fills my heart when I think about it.
  • I'm missing the conveniences of America. There's this one side of me that loves the fact that I don't have a car- no maintainance (big deal for me), no payments, no insurace, that I don't pay my own bills (the school does it for me), that I can't understand what's being said around me...and then there's this other side of me that HATES that I don't have the freedom to go when and where I want to, that I don't really know how much of my check goes to bills, that I can barely communicate with the millions of people around me. It drives me crazy that I can't just call and order a pizza. Or that I can't just "run" to the grocery store (or Walgreens). Everything's this big process. It's frustrating sometimes. Most days, I don't even think about it, it's just my life. But yesterday, yesterday, not so much. I miss being able to go for a ride or being on my own or ordering in. I know, that's all trivial stuff. It's just, every once in awhile, the inconvenience hits me right in the face.
  • My language acquisition has completely halted. It's dead. I have stopped learning new words. Not purposely. Just between the crazy travel and the insane business of my life, I haven't had time. I'm so excited about our intense language training this summer. Seriously, two hours a day, five days a week for four weeks, it's going to be crazy but so totally worth it.

This is going to be a hard summer not coming home. I actually chose this fabulous trip to keep my mind off of not being there. So much change is happening. We all move on with our lives which is of course, expected. But soon, we've moved so far from what it once was, it's no longer familiar to those who've been absent. I have friends getting engaged, getting married, having babies...nothing new I suppose, except because I'm not there to witness it, it's almost like it never happened. Until I see them in a couple of years and then there's nothing left in common except a few fun memories.

When I moved to China, that's one of the things that hit me the hardest, mourning for the things that will be lost by being so far away. I'm missing out on all those new memories. Yes, I'm making new ones of my own, but they're with a whole different group of people. My old already seems so far away. And I hate it. I hate that a couple of my closest friends are getting married and I won't be there to see it. By the time I do see them, it will have been a year. Old hat. They'll be moving on to babies and families and I'll still be grappeling with this new reality.

Why don't I come home, you ask? Besides the money, it's just easier this way. Too many people to see, too many places to go and not enough time. It would be a whirlwind of unsatisfying activity. It wouldn't be restful or easy. A day or two here, a day or two there...I think it would hurt more than it would help. So, instead, I'm going on an amazing vacation and pretending like it's not all happening. I'll just deal with it when I come home next summer. Super healthy, I know.

Oh, and please don't misunderstand me. I'm happy for my friends and family that are starting these new adventures. I'm just being completely selfish and don't care for the idea that life goes on without me. How dare it! :)

On another note, I've been looking at cities in western China. Turpan, Urumqi, Kashgar...who knows what'll happen after my contract is up here? I have no idea if I'll resign or not. I work for an amazing company and it's a great school but whatever God wants, I'm in. Just keeping my options open and myself informed. I'm hoping to go out there next fall or winter to visit, maybe meet some friends of friends. It's never too early to start networking.

A totally different note, spring has finally sprung. It's time. We haven't had temps above 40 degrees since early November. Finally, on Friday it was in the 60's. Now, if you know me, you know how much I love winter. I'm all about snow and cold but this has been going on way too long. Even in Colorado, we have beautiful weather for a day or two of and on in the winter. Not here. No such thing as a break. So, as much as I love winter, I'm more than happy to say "Farwell, old friend". I need to get my tan on!

One last note, and I realize there are only two of you who've made it this far...I have tomorrow off of school. My only plans are to go grocery shopping, maybe do some grading and go to a friends for dinner. :) Happy day.

And seriously, one final note...I realize I've used the word "happy" about 20 times. Deal with it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Egyptian Adventure

I just got back from a school trip to Cairo. I (and another chaperone) took 7 students to an MUN conference in Egypt. I've never been to the Middle East (I realize it's in Africa but trust me, it's much more M. E. than African) before so I wasn't sure what to expect. And honestly, I was so busy before I left that I didn't really have time to formulate any expectations. But anything I thought I might think I knew about Egypt was completely and totally not even close to what it really was. I don't even think that sentence made sense but hopefully it shows how utterly lost I was when we arrived. I'll come back to this.

We left Qingdao, flew to Seoul, stayed overnight in an airport hotel, then headed to Cairo via Uzbekistan (Tashkent Airport, apparently a major stopping point but not something you can tell from looking at the airport itself which was the size of my apartment. Literally.) We landed in Cairo about 24 hours after we left Qingdao. It was actually a really nice trip. There was a lot of extra room on the planes so we were all able to spread out. We arrived in Cairo late at night and were met by the hosting school at the airport. We had the pleasure of staying at an Intercontinental for the conference...if you've never done so, you are missing out! It's a beautiful 5 star hotel and take care of us they did. It's actually spoiled every hotel for me from here on out. I'll never be able to afford to stay there again on my own but I'll always wish I could. The conference went...okay. There were a few bumps and babbles, some our fault, some out of our control. Some of our students shined, some not so much but I think it was a good learning experience all around. The conference organizers also planned a few outings for us including a trip to the pyramids, a visit to the Egyptian musem, shopping at a famous bazaar, a couple of parties in the evenings and a visit to an United Nations organization in Cairo. Again, some were awesome (the pyramids and the museum), some were not partaken of (shopping- our kids were too tired, the jet lag about killed us), and some were flops (a dance party and the UN was super boring).

We did some serious waiting all week. Anytime we went anywhere as a group with the conference (about 500 people) we had to wait enormous amounts of time. Egypt has a Ministry of Tourism and a Tourism police. Because we were such a large group of foreigners, we had to have special permission to go anywhere and then we all had to leave together. Along with that, we had to have a policemen on several of the buses with us. It was basically all about their time schedule so it didn't matter if we were all ready. We had to wait on their approval. And then, we'd finally get on the road after waiting for 2 hours only to sit in traffic for another hour or so. Next time, I know to go with the expectation that we will be doing a lot of waiting and I don't think it'll bother me as much.

We stayed an additional two days after the conference so we could do some more sight-seeing. We went to the famous bazaar, the Khan el Khalili, sailed on a faluca down the Nile (the coolest thing we did on the trip), did a lot of shopping at a big mall (we don't really have malls here in China), saw a movie (Alice and Wonderland), toured a couple of mosques, went back to the pyramids for a night show and...did school work. Yes, that's right. Our students took about 5 hours and did homework. HOMEWORK!! Overachievers. Actually, a lot of it was for my AP World History class. I'm a slave driver. Anyway, we spent half a day at a learning center so they could have some quiet work time. Boring.

We left the next morning and headed back home the same way we came. It was an amazing trip. One I hope to make again in the future. With or without students.

Some thoughts on Cairo and the Egyptian people. It'll kind of be in list form so forgive the randomness.

The people there were totally unexpected. I don't really know if I have a stereo-type of Middle Eastern people. I've never really known any so I didn't know what to expect. The best way I can explain them is if you were to take the open gawking of the Chinese, the intensity and passion of an Italian and the abrasiveness of what t.v. shows a New Yorker as being, you would have an Egyptian. They are loud, proud, fun, sweet-talking, confrontational, and totally intimidating (at least the men are, I didn't have much interaction with the women. I'll get to that later).

The overwhelmingness (yes, it's a word) started the moment we stepped through the security gate at the airport. There were men everywhere. Many, many men. A few women, some covered, most covered but so many men. And they all stared at us. Now, living in China, I'm used to being stared at but this, this was a totally different kind of look. The Chinese stare at me out of curiousity, I suppose. But these Egyptian men...I don't even know if I can put it into words. They weren't happy looks or mad looks, just intense. Really, really intense. Like "eat you up" intense. It was one of the most intimidating moments I've ever experienced. Needless to say, this intensity followed us everywhere.

Egypt (at least Cairo, I suppose I can't speak for the whole country) has a "man-driven" society. Not surprising I suppose, given some of the Muslim expectations for women but I don't know that I've ever experienced anything like what I experienced there. Every store we went into, even women department stores, was run by mostly men. There were a few women working here and there but not many. In fact, there were so few, it was always noticeable when there was a women. This applied to fast food, restaurants, the mall, any tourist spot...again, totally overwhelming. I'm assuming that once a woman is married, they no longer work out of the home. I'm not sure if that is a personal choice or if it's social or religious. Most of the women were covered up but all to different degrees. Some wore just a head covering, some wore burkas, some had even their eyes covered. Even those that didn't cover themselves still dressed VERY modestly. Pants, long-sleeve shirts and high collars. They were still stylish, just very covered.

I'm not sure what to think of the women covering up. Christine (the other chaperone) and I discussed it quite a bit. At first, the women in burkas were a little intimidating but the more time we spent there, the easier it was to accept. I wonder if it is their choice or if they are being forced by a husband or father? I wonder if they mind or if because it's all they've ever known, it doesn't matter. Or maybe because it's so accepted in society, they don't care. I've always had this impression that women in Muslim countries were mistreated and oppressed. And I have no doubt that that is the case in many places. But seeing how the Egyptian men treated their women, even those in made it all...not as big of a deal. It seems, from an outsiders point of view, that they were loved and cared for. Even those completely covered would walk next to their husbands holding hands, talking, shopping together. I don't know. It just changed my impression of what I perceived to be the Muslim mind-set.

I was proposed to twice. The first time, I was offered 5,000,000 camels, a lotus flower farm and a visit to mother's. The second time, I was offered 10,000,000 camels (he was trying to one-up the other guy) and a seat on his lap. Both I turned down.

Cairo is a very dirty city. With the pollution (one of the most polluted cities in the world) and the sand, everything is covered in dirt. The buildings were filthy. There was trash everywhere. So many cars and not enough streets. We would ride with the windows down and when we got out of the car, you could feel the dirt in your hair. One of the things that stuck out to me the most was how nicely dressed the people were. Bright, clean clothes, freshly pressed. This applied to everyone from the glass maker to the bank teller. And the women with their colorful scarves and long robes, it was a beautiful contrast really.

It was a tip-based society. Everyone was working for a bigger tip. I've never really been to a place with that kind of attitude. Everything had to be bargained for. I don't know what I would've done if I hadn't come from a place like China where I barter all the time. It was very overwhelming. We had to haggle everything from the taxis to help with directions. Pretty frustrating actually because just when you think someone is helping you out of the goodness of their heart, no, they're just waiting for payment. And if they feel you didn't pay them enough, they won't leave you alone until you do or until you have the courage to yell back and walk off (we actually had to do that with a taxi driver and made quite the scene).

For our last three nights in the city, we stayed at a different hotel. It was an Egyptian version of a Chinese hotel (my China friends should understand that). Everything is pretty worn and dingy but filled with character. You ignore the stains on the carpet and the mold in the bathroom because that is real life. You smile and look past the obtrusive questions of the bellhop because they are just doing their job. We had to report to the front desk where we were going to be and how long we were going to be there per the tourism police. I haven't quite decided if it was a good or bad thing that they knew. I suppose good if anything happened to us but bad if they were the ones to do it. I'm pretty sure we were followed or at least kept track of the entire time we were there. Again, not sure if it was a good or bad thing. Anyway, the people were friendly in a very flirty almost uncomfortable sort of way.

That's the thing with the men there. They were always friendly, on the verge of being too friendly-flirty so you never quite knew if you were safe or not. They were always crossing or coming close to crossing that imaginary boundary that we women like to put up to keep track of our surroundings. I never felt UNsafe neccessarily, I just never felt protected.

We had a couple of really frustrating things happen on the trip. One being that there isn't a bank or money converting place that will except Chinese RMB. China!, the second leading world power and their money is worth nothing in Cairo! Arg. Kind of puts a damper on things when all you have is RMB and a very limited school credit card. Needless to say, my American bank account is running VERY low right now. Thank goodness I had enough to get us through.

The second really irritating thing was the don't-even-try-to-make-plans-because-it-will-NEVER-work-out-so-there's-really-no-point-in-even-talking-about-it mindset. Every day, we would make a plan or at least talk about what we wanted to do and not one day did it happen like we wanted it to. Now, I can be a pretty flexible person and I've had to learn to be even more so living here in China. I can go with the flow and even enjoy the ride. I like the adventure of it. But sometimes, enough is enough. We would have to make a plan, remake a plan, remake it again, and still change it at least one more time. Sometimes, this would happen hourly. It wouldn't have been a big deal if I was there on my own but because I had a group I was responsible for, it got to be quite frustrating. The students were great though. They were very adaptable, which really made it easier for me to deal with.

I have no idea what kind of impression I'm giving you of the people or the culture there. Let me say, it was an adventure. A totally break-you-out-of-your-box kind of adventure. I encourage you to go if you want to experience something you've never experienced before. Just be prepared for...

  • using lots of cash and not getting any receipts (not good for a school trip)

  • lovely people who like to tease and laugh (I had a blast with the bartering. It helps if you can flirt. Just sayin')

  • loud music, car honking, yelling, and a lot of horse-play (even by grown men)

  • interesting smells (mostly good), delicious food, and bottled water

  • crazy driving (China doesn't even compare)

  • everyone trying to take advantage of you (if you go in with that mindset, it's a lot easier to avoid and accept)
  • beautiful crafts and artwork (some made right here in China so beware of the fake stuff)

  • a "chance" meeting with an "improptu" guide (they might be a lifesaver and make the day totally worth the large tip at the end)

I leave you with some pictures.

Mountain range in Uzbekistan

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Hotel room at the Intercontinental

Camel rides

Egyptian Museum

Giza Pyramids

The Sphinx

The city

Hotel room at the Cosmopolitian

My first marriage proposal

Spice market

Ibn Barquq Mosque- Beautiful!

The smaller building is the footwashing area

On top of the mosque. The Citadel
is in the background.

The city

My second marriage proposal.

Khan el Khalili Bazaar

Sailboat (faluca) on the Nile

A strange mix of old and new

I'm such a dork

Where Uzbekistan gets their spirit from...

If you'd like to see more pictures, I've posted
them on facebook.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


My name is Jen Brown and I attended the 1st internationa Vida in Qingdao, where the mountains meet the sea. I was super-duper privledged to sing on the worship team because "He is the music in me".

Okay, if you've been to Vida, you understand the above statement. Well, except for the end. I didn't get to sit at a table, so I made up my own thing.

For those of you who don't know, Vida is a retreat created for students to have an intense weekend-long connecting with Christ. We study His death, burial, resurrection, and several other key ingredients in our relatioship with Him. Communion is taken, repentance is sought, praise and worship is sung (sometimes yelled and sometimes whispered), servanthood is's an amazing experience.

To see high schoolers with so much potential, oozing with leadership and a desire to serve Christ, man, it is a powerful thing.

On our first night, after learning about Christ's death, the students are taken into a room where there is a wooden cross in the middle of the room surrounded by hammers and nails. After prayer and scripture reading, they have the opportunity to write down sins that they've asked forgiveness for, take that paper and nail it to the cross. When they are finished, they walk to the front of the room and have their hands washed by someone. Probably one of the most touching moments all weekend was having my hands washed by a young woman who was weeping as she washed. She "got it". She understood the symbol of what she was doing. It was so moving to me, to see a young woman truly understand what Christ has done for us. I don't think it happens very often. I don't think we often "get it".

There are many more things that happened but I don't want to spoil the surprise...

Needless to say, it was a wonderfully exhausting weekend. De Colores!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I'm a traveling maniac these days. I've been to Beijing twice and a ladies retreat in the last week. I leave for another retreat on Friday. I will be home for two days and then leave for Egypt on Wednesday. I have two partially full suitecases sitting on my floor waiting to be unpacked or repacked depending on how un-lazy I am (they're going to be there forever). It's irritating because I'm constantly tripping over them. You would think that would motivate me to put them away, but no, I just work on being more careful.

This is a crazy time for me right now. Besides all the traveling, I'm involved in a Women's group, leading worship at my fellowship, sponsoring an after school club, leading up and planning for our school's biggest event- our MUN conference, and teaching an AP World History course and three MUN classes. My plate is FULL.

I've been told by many people that I need to let some of my responsibilities go so that life isn't such a whirlwind. I look at that list and I see nothing that I can get rid of. I have to do my job (traveling, AP course, conference planning, club) and well, the ministry stuff is too important to me. Yes, I get that I don't have to do the church stuff. I could let leading worship or the study go. They would go on very successfully without me. It's just...I refuse to allow my job to become my life. I refuse to let it take everything from me. Don't get me wrong, I like my job (most of the time), but I want to have other things to do, things I enjoy doing. I want to have ministry outside of school. It's kind of rebellious, I suppose. I would rather have too much to do than allow my life to only consist of my job. The outside stuff is what keeps me sane, not just because of what it is, but because it allows me a break from my work. A much needed break.

Some of you are thinking, "Well, your job is your ministry." Yes, true. Teaching is a ministry but it's also a lot of work. A lot of stress. A lot more than I bargained for. But my passion is church ministry, it always has been. So, I'm keeping it. I'm doing the extra stuff. I'm going to run myself ragged. The end is in sight. I can last another 7 weeks. It is hard but it's not TOO hard...or maybe it is. But it'll get done. And hopefully, it'll get done well. HE's been faithful so far. HE's provided helpers and circumstances and encouragement all along the way. I have no doubt that HE'll see me through.

I realize this post makes no sense but these are my thoughts these days and I need to flesh (right context?) them out.

Some side notes...

I went to BEIJING for several days last week with my students for an MUN conference. We were supposed to get home Sunday night but due to SNOW!, our flight was canceled and we came back yesterday. I would just like to mention that I was able to get tickets for 18 people, check our baggage, get correct information, refund 18 tickets, get our baggage back, purchase new tickets, get transportation and lodging on a moment's notice, get back to the airport, get on the plane and home all within a foreign country. Yes, I had chaperones that helped but it was a freeing moment. One of those, "Wow, I really can do this. I can live here and survive even in an incredibly frustrating circumstance. And I can make it work."

Also on the trip to Beijing, I had two ladies helping me chaperone, both I didn't know extrememly well. We had an amazing time together. I have never laughed so much in such a short time in my life. You know me, I love to laugh. But this was not normal. We were hysterical, tears streaming, mouths agape, faces red, falling down lauging for most of the trip. Over nothing most of the time. It was a very exhausting and stressful weekend so I suppose it was either laugh or cry. And laugh we did. It was oh, so much fun.

We leave for Egypt next week. I. Can't. Wait. We're only taking 7 students and we have grand plans. We'll be going to an MUN conference, visiting the Giza pyramids, shopping at Bazzaars, walking through mosques, floating down the Nile in falucas (boats)...I have an amazing job.

I'm considering cutting my hair. Any suggestions?

Did you know it's like 90 degrees in Cairo right now?

I have three tubes of carmex by my bed right now. How sad is that?

Enough. Goodnight my friends!

P.S. I think someone from Apopka, FL is blogger-stalking me?