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.