What Weekend?!

Life has been extremely busy lately, which is what I will blame the long intervals between blog posts for! Due to the schedule of my classes, the weekends are the busiest time of the week for me – typically a crazy whirlwind of metro rides, teaching, packed meals, and trips across the city. This is what a normal weekend looks like for me:

Saturday morning, rise and shine! Class starts at 9, which means I need to be at the office by 8:45, which means my alarm is usually set for 7:15. This gives me enough time to pack my bags and make a yummy and filling breakfast before hustling out the door. The morning commute to the office usually goes with no hiccups, and I arrive with enough time to collect myself and prepare the classroom for my first class. 9-12 on Saturday means I have my ELA 3 class – just three students now (up from one my first couple weeks!), and we have a lot of fun. They are all easy going and bright, so I can afford to do fun things with them in class. After class, I return to the teachers office to get ready for my next class and eat lunch. I always pack my lunch so that I don’t have to go out for food. My class from 1-4 is my ELA 4 class, 6th and 7th graders, eight boys and one girl. This class really drains me – they’re a lot of fun, but there is a ton of room for improvement in the behavior department. After class gets out, I decide what I need to take home (to grade, prepare, review) and what can stay at the office. I leave around 4:30PM and begin my trek to church. Since I’ve picked up an extra class on Sunday, I’ve been going to the Grace Extended service at 6PM on Saturday. The walk + metro ride + taxi ride it takes to get to AGIF puts me there right on time. After the service, I go over to Nhi’s (my unofficial godmother) for a relaxing night full of home cooking and a SUPER soft guest bed (have I ever mentioned the quality of the mattress at my apartment? Absolutely awful). I love spending time with her because it’s the closest thing I get to home over here.

Sunday morning I wake up around 6:30, dress in the work outfit I was carrying all day Saturday, and call a cab to take me from Nhi’s house in JinQiao to the nearest metro station, where I go directly to work. I enjoy my 9-12 ELA 5 class, they’re older and a little more mature – so class goes smoothly. After class, I have another break – but it’s always complicated for me to decide what to have for lunch. Since I don’t want to carry a lunch around with me for 30 hours, I usually don’t have my Sunday lunch with me when I leave the house Saturday. That means I can just wait it out, or I can go out and buy something. Since I’m usually (always) low on funds, I may get two hard-boiled eggs from Family Mart or just wait it out. Last week I subsisted on solely Halloween candy – so much processed sugar and I had a huge headache by the end of the day L. However, we do have a refrigerator at the office, so I don’t know why I haven’t thought to just bring my lunch on Saturday and keep it there until Sunday! I will try that tomorrow. From 1:30-3:30 I have two students in my SSAT cram class. The SSAT is just like the SAT, but students take it when they are applying for international middle schools or boarding schools in the United States (so intense!). I like my students and those two hours fly by. After class, I leave the office and head to the gym for an hour of workout(have been carrying my gym outfit and shoes with me all weekend), quick sauna sesh, and shower. From the gym I head to my small group bible study, which technically runs from 6:30-9:30 but I usually end up hanging out until 10:30 or later. By that time, I’m just so exhausted of working and running around and keeping everything together that I just want to relax and socialize. My small group offers me the perfect opportunity, and I don’t feel guilty about hanging out late because I have Monday off and can sleep in!

Finally, late Sunday evening, I return to my apartment. I semi-unpack everything, but mostly I just fall into bed, glad that the weekend is over.

 

P.S. I think there are going to be some pretty exciting things happening over here in the near future, so stay tuned! :)

Still making yummy, colorful breakfasts!

Still making yummy, colorful breakfasts!

This is one example of the delicious lunches I pack for work. :)

This is one example of the delicious lunches I pack for work. :)

Made my kids some halloween treats for class last week!

Made my kids some halloween treats for class last week!

Homemade pizza at Nhi's - yes!

Homemade pizza at Nhi’s – yes!

mmmmm... oats

mmmmm… oats

Getting my workout in at least 4 times a week!

Getting my workout in at least 4 times a week!

more oats of course!

more oats of course!

another packed lunch! (and snack)

another packed lunch! (and snack)

 

  1. The Metro

Athough my first few weeks in Shanghai were spent grumbling on about the fact that it takes me (minimum) thirty minutes to get anywhere, I’ve learned to use my (extensive) time on the subway productively. Wherever I go, I’m sure to have the book I’m reading at that time on me, and suddenly my thirty minute commutes turn into five engrossing pages and an almost missed stop. This isn’t even mentioning the fact that it costs me 6RMB ($1) to cross Shanghai, (remember, this city is the size of the state of Rhode Island!).

The Subway is the best place for people-watching. Chinese people all wear very interesting clothing! Meow

The Subway is the best place for people-watching. Chinese people all wear very interesting clothing! Meow

There is an awesome Metro app that makes metro travel very, very easy!

There is an awesome Metro app that makes metro travel very, very easy!

 

  1. Produce Markets

Yes, I have been trying to eat healthier since I moved overseas, and the produce markets you can find on virtually every corner make that quite easy. For a fraction of the price of produce in America, I can buy fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, even tofu and shrimp. Although visitors may be wary of the cleanliness and sanitation of said markets, a five minute walk is much preferred over a twenty minute commute to Carrefour for residents.

  1. Thnks to the new blender I couldn't afford but got anyways, I was able to make this AWESOME lunch. Green Machine smoothie bowl: two frozen bananas, one cup spinach, splash of milk! Topped with blueberries, dragon fruit, and chopped walnuts.

    Thnks to the new blender I couldn’t afford but got anyways, I was able to make this AWESOME lunch. Green Machine smoothie bowl: two frozen bananas, one cup spinach, splash of milk! Topped with blueberries, dragon fruit, and chopped walnuts.

 

so much fresh, cheap produce!

so much fresh, cheap produce!

Fresh, delicious salad - YUM

Fresh, delicious salad – YUM

I have been making some awesome OATs for breakfast lately - so easy to dress up and make gorgeous!

I have been making some awesome OATs for breakfast lately – so easy to dress up and make gorgeous!

 

 

  1. Ohio State China Global Gateway

In a city where I have very few connections to my home life, the fact that the University I am now alumna of has an office located in Shanghai is amazing. Not only does the Global Gateway send out information on alumni events, such as game watch events (bloody marys and Ohio State football at 8AM Sunday morning – what could be better!?), but they also give me the opportunity to stay involved with OSU. This past Monday I was a representative for OSU at the Shixi High School university fair. It was quite an experience to see so many young, international students who, in most cases, had already heard of OSU and, in many cases, already were planning to apply! O-H!

O-H! Here I am with Ruth, representing OSU at the Shixi HS University fair.

O-H! Here I am with Ruth, representing OSU at the Shixi HS University fair.

 

  1. My AGIF Puxi Small Group

How lucky I am to have found a church that I feel so welcome at, and that has resources for me to further my faith outside of just church services. I was connected with a small group that usually meets just a few metro stops from my house, and that is filled with some really awesome people. Last Sunday I went to my first meeting. There were about nine of us, and we had some really great discussion – I was so comfortable immediately! It made me realize that I have always been lacking a friend group that has accepted let alone encouraged me to talk about my faith. Now I have that, and I already know I will be making some very close relationships with my new friends, while my relationship with God is strengthened!

Getting we-chats from my small group often make my day much brighter

Getting we-chats from my small group often make my day much brighter

 

  1. Baozi

Ok, so these carb and fat loaded buns of joy are not part of my clean eating plan, but that doesn’t mean I love them any less! They are the black sheep of my top 10 list, and even though I love them, I will only get one every two weeks or so. The baozi is a steamed bun with pork and vegetables inside of it, and the meat is g-r-e-asy. I think an accurate conversion for calories in to calories out would be one baozi (approx.. 4/5 bites) for every twenty minutes on the stair stepper(!!!). For that reason, I keep them as my special, occasional treat.

 

mmmm... baozi

mmmm… baozi

  1. Sprout Works

Although there are a ton of really yummy tasting foods that will add on two pants sizes, cause your cholesterol to skyrocket, and make you feel like an awful person for ingesting that into your body in general, (see number 5), Shanghai also has an amazing and expansive spread of restaurants to choose from. You could visit just one area and literally get whatever you wanted – Korean, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, American, Italian, you name it. Last week, I went to a restaurant that I sighted while I was in Xintiandi, named Sprout Works. Sprout Works is like a salad bar on steroids – and all of the food is so tasty. You start by deciding if you want to be ‘conservative’ and order half a salad (read: this ‘half salad’ fills up virtually the whole plate). I got the powerhouse salad, and went (again, ‘conservative’) with the smallest option for sides (two), and watched as my server piled soy sauce glazed sweet potoatoes and lentils with frisee duck onto my plate. Although there are further options (pesto salmon, lemon and basil chicken, soups, breads, etc), I exercised self control and stopped there. It was so tasty and for 60RMB, or $10, the take home box of leftovers was just an added perk.

SPROUT WORKS (works!)

SPROUT WORKS (works!)

 

  1. Second Chance Animal Aid

To be honest, I never would have expected an animal shelter-type organization in Shanghai. On the ten minute walk from the metro station to my apartment, I see on average three stray animals, and it’s pretty obvious that strays are just a thing here. However, the SCAA does provide hope and the prospect for potential forever homes to the few lucky animals that come to them. Plus, SCAA offer a great option for expats who are unsure about the amount of time they’ll be in Shanghai but who really want a cat! The SCAA doesn’t have a shelter by choice, which means that all the animals that come to them are placed in foster homes. It’s not difficult to apply to be a foster home, you really just need to have a love for animals and one Sunday every month free to attend Adoption Days (since there is no shelter, this is the main way animals are adopted). This past week, I was a ‘foster-foster mom’, watching a cute, fat, two year old tabby while her foster mom was out of town. Unfortunately, since I teach every Sunday, I can’t be a long-term foster mom, but with the holidays coming up, I won’t be surprised if I get a few more feline companions before the new year.

 

Cute Cleo! What a wonderful foster kitty!

Cute Cleo! What a wonderful foster kitty!

Cleoooooo

Cleoooooo

8. New Pathways

This seems like a kind of obvious one, but it wouldn’t be an accurate ‘top ten’ list if I didn’t throw my company in there. There are definitely some days and some classes that frustrate me, make me question my decision to teach, etc – but these are few and far between. For the most part, I love teaching and even more than that, I love the projects we are doing as a team here at NPE(can’t say too much about them yet!). Although I don’t really get to see people during the week, due to the different class schedule everyone has, I love Friday morning meetings because I get to catch up with the whole ELA team. Another thing that’s really cool is just how totally involved the ‘higher ups’ in the company are. The CEO of NPE can be seen walking around the office between classes, and the COO will take the time to thoroughly answer any question you have for him, at any point in time. It’s obvious they really care about their employees – which I learn to really value every time I go home and my roommate (who works for EF) can’t stop complaining about his day at work, coworkers, management, etc. To be frank, I quite like going into the office and coming up with lesson plans that I think the kids will enjoy. This weekend, I’m doing a fun activity (it involves candy!) to let them experience a little Halloween fun in class. Boo!

 

implementing an accelerated reader-type program at work

implementing an accelerated reader-type program at work

  1. Mopeds

Mopeds are a highly favored mode of transportation around here – when it comes to China, versatility is key. Mopeds can weave in and out of traffic, transport people, supplies, groceries or animals, and can and will be seen not only on the road but on sidewalks as well. For pedestrians, mopeds are probably not as popular, but I will ride a moped whenever the opportunity presents itself. Usually, this is when I am on my way somewhere and can’t get the whole way there by metro or foot. Church is a good example, I take the metro all the way to the jinqiao station, but the church itself would probably take an hour to walk to! Many people who have made ‘moped-taxiing’ their business know when the metro line stops short of popular destinations, and they wait outside the station. I could take a taxi, but for the same price, I can take a moped and get Shanghai’s dirty, polluted wind in my hair and my life endangered – and who wouldn’t want that!!!

 

Mopedssss

Mopedssss

  1. Facetime

Of course, Facetime is not specific to China, but it is one of my favorite things right now, and will probably continue to be until teleportation is invented. I spend a good amount of time facetiming people back home (mostly my parents and my friend Reece), and it’s the closest thing I get to solving my homesickness. I guess I wouldn’t say I’m homesick necessarily, but I do miss home every day. It’s not a crippling type of miss, it doesn’t impact my day to day actions or decisions, but it’s always there, in the back of my head – the desire to be hugging my parents or petting my dog. Every Friday morning I have a facetime session planned with Mom and Dad, and every meeting I actually make, is an awesome hour or two spent talking with my favorite parents. With my friends, it’s more sporadic – but what initially was meant to be a fifteen minute check in, easily turns into two hours of chatting and laughing.

 

How could you not miss this face!?

How could you not miss this face!?

Always love skype sessions with mommy and daddy

Always love skype sessions with mommy and daddy

October!

October in Shanghai is proving to be one of my favorite months in the city thus far. There has not been a single day that the weather hasn’t been just perfect. It’s sunny, but windy, and it’s getting cooler – you can definitely feel that fall is coming along. It will be interesting to see how cool it gets when winter comes around!

Yesterday I had my first class at Sonflowers, and it was really fun. Very different from the classes that I teach at New Pathways. Most of the girls that I work with at Sonflowers are at such fundamental levels that our entire session was spent on introductions and likes and dislikes. The kids all seem to love being at Sonflowers, they all play and run around, shrieking and laughing, which means that I’ll have to make sure that me lessons are entertaining (and brief)! One of my older girls has a particularly low speaking level, and the ayi shared with me that she really hates English class. She was my last student and so I invited her over and took it very slowly, by the end of the lesson we were singing Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ and giggling. Class with them Mondays and Wednesdays will be a hoot! Plus, I anticipate a lot of improvement from the kids over the next few months, which will be really rewarding for all parties involved. :)

This morning I had New Hire Orientation at New Pathways (had to find a sub for my Eden class though) which taught me a lot more about the company than I ever knew, and it was all very impressive. The session ended with a scavenger hunt around the office to find out little fun facts about our co-workers. As our meeting had ended, I was just going to go back to my office and get ready for class this afternoon, but I saw Ed working on it and my competitiveness kicked in. I think we were the only two who actually tried, and if I got more answers correct with him I get to have lunch with Danny (the COO) and the HR team. That would actually be pretty cool, plus, I met basically everyone who works at the Xujiahui office in the process!

I have some REALLY exciting news – probably the best news I have had since coming to Shanghai. There is an organization here, SCAA (Second Chance Animal Aid) and through them, there is the opportunity to FOSTER CATS! I’ve already talked to it about it with my roommates, and they’re super cool with it. I’m so excited and I’ve turned in my application – next time I post, I may have a furry friend by my side. :D

I would love to thank everyone who has supported me with graduation gifts – although I’m not home, it really means a lot and it’s all going towards helping me pay off my student loans. Particular thank you to Grandma and Grandpa Kim who have always supported me in everything I do and continue to do so.

Last Friday morning my oats celebrated with me!

Last Friday morning my oats celebrated with me!

Eden

Eden

Selling Eden jewelry at the American Club Shanghai coffee last week!

Selling Eden jewelry at the American Club Shanghai coffee last week!

Doing a lot of grocery shopping and cooking on my health kick -*

Doing a lot of grocery shopping and cooking on my health kick -*

Last weekend I went to a concert with Cookie - it was tons of fun!

Last weekend I went to a concert with Cookie – it was tons of fun!

Pork and Asparagus :)

Pork and Asparagus :)

 

Extracurriculars

Now that I’ve been in Shanghai for a month, I’ve had some time to settle in to my new life and explore some different activities and organizations that I can get involved with, aside from work. I have found a church, some volunteer organizations and have started making some great friends. Although there are many differences between life in America and life in Shanghai, there are a lot of similarities as well, if you are able to look at the bigger picture. My life consists of the same basic activities; working, socializing, exploring, etc – but it’s the destinations, relationships and scenery along the way that has changed. This is a good thing, in my opinion, as I believe young people should explore outside of the world they know. Of course, this is for some people, and very few regard my personal opinion, but I do think it provides an innumerable amount of experiences that can help shape your young adult life.

For the last month I have been regularly attending Abundant Grace International Fellowship (AGIF), which is the church that my family went to when we were here many years ago and the same church that I tried to get involved with over the summer (the commute was just ridiculous so that didn’t work out). I really love AGIF services. I go on Sunday afternoons at 3PM, which is good timing as my Sunday class gets out at 12:30 and it is about an hour commute. I can take time to eat lunch and make my way over to Pudong. My favorite part about the AGIF services is the music worship. We seeing more contemporary songs, and I always feel really moved when the congregation is singing with the praise team on stage. I also enjoy going to church because it allows me a regular time for me to see Nhi, my pseudo-mom (good family friends, she is great friends with mom and her daughters are close with Rachel and I). They often take me out to dinner and I get to get out of Puxi for an afternoon, which is nice.

Being part of a church group often offers so much more than just a place to worship, and AGIF is no different. A couple weeks ago I went to a showing of the documentary, Nefarious, which sheds light on the major issue of human trafficking. After the movie, there were speakers who worked at or ran organizations around Shanghai that focused on helping those who had been affected by human trafficking. Kacie was the first lady who spoke, on behalf of Eden, which is a company that provides restoration houses all around Asia, giving women who have come out of red-light districts the opportunity to learn, work and pray in a safe environment. She explained that they were looking for a volunteer English teacher, and I felt my skin raise. It seemed that God had let me right to this place – not only had He led me to an organization that I could volunteer with, but the need was one that I could confidently fill. Shona was another speaker, who runs Sonflowers, which is an afterschool program that shelters kids after schools, provides a meal, helps with homework and allows a safe place to play. The kids who come to Sonflowers are those who are either living in the brothels that their parents run, or who have parents who are involved with the Chinese mafia. Their homes are not suitable places for young kids to be growing up, which is why Sonflowers is such a great organization. They were also looking for an English teacher, and since I don’t have a very busy schedule at the moment, I knew this was another great way I could not only help others, but also become closer to God. My classes at Eden are just once a week, for an hour on Tuesday mornings. The English levels of these girls vary greatly, but for the most part are very poor. I have only had one class with them so far, but I am excited about thinking of ways that I can encourage them to speak English during the week, even when I’m not around. Audio recordings to me, and listening to American music is part of the homework I’ve assigned for them this week. My classes at Sonflowers haven’t started yet, but I would hesitate even to call them classes. I have one on one sessions for ten minutes with each child (there are about ten of them) two days a week. We can’t take a lot of their time, because they often have upwards of two or three hours of homework a week. I’m really excited about these opportunities, as I think they’ll be rewarding for the organizations as well as myself.

Another way I am working with Eden is by selling jewelry at bazaars and events hosted and attended mostly by expatriates. The central job that the girls have when they get to Eden is making jewelry by hand, which is where a lot of revenue comes in for Eden. Many girls also have a hand in designing the jewelry as well, and believe me – it is all beautiful! On Wednesday I went to an event hosted by ACS – American Club Shanghai, and while it wasn’t a huge event, we sold a good amount of jewelry. Plus, I met some really cool people, both customers as well as other vendors! There is another event tomorrow, and although I usually have to teach on Saturdays, we are still seeing schedule changes due to the National Holiday, which is great, because Eden is down a volunteer for the event.

Of course, work is still central in my day-to-day life, and there are a lot of fun projects that we are getting into, aside from physically teaching classes. The ELA team is working on creating a completely new, in-house curriculum, which has proven to be challenging, fun and rewarding all at the same time. My coworker Adam and I are working on putting together an Academic Decathlon of sorts for NPE ELA students at the end of this term. We get to think of all different themes, challenges and prizes, which is loads of fun and hardly feels like work. I’ve recently taken on a new class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, which means I’m up to four classes now.

Slowly but surely I see can see myself settling into my routine here. Growing comfortable with where you are is great, and once you’re comfortable you’re able to start doing things that make you uncomfortable, which is where the real fun starts.

 

 

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Seeing as most of China has at least a few days, if not the entire week, off work due to China’s National Day that was officially celebrated yesterday, I have some free time to sit down and catch up with all that’s been happening lately and give my readers a little more insight on my life in Shanghai. As you all know, I’ve by now found and moved into my apartment, and am really enjoying it. Immediately after I moved in, I was supposed to go to the local neighborhood police station and register myself as a resident. It was heavily stressed that this was an important thing to do, but I still managed to put it off for a little over a week. When I finally made it to the police station, I went with my roommate, who had also been procrastinating (for even longer than myself!). Similarly to how things go in America, you don’t expect it to go quickly if it has to do with the government. However, we had made things a little harder on ourselves since we waited, and instead of getting our registration and going, we were escorted into a back room of the police station, which was a first for us both! The police officer just kept repeating that since we had waited so long to come in, that he would have to “punish us”. This was so funny to us (although we probably shouldn’t have been laughing) because you could tell that it wasn’t really a serious matter, and being threatened with a ‘punishment’ was just silly and a result of the officer’s very limited English. There were a lot of forms that had to be filled out that we were assured ‘meant nothing’ but we signed our names on many pieces of paper that offered no English translation so for all I know we just sold our souls to China’s army. Two hours later we emerged, now legal aliens of the Xuhui district!

The apartment complex sits of the intersection of Kai Xuan Rd and An Shun Rd, which is always hustling and bustling. By now, I feel as though I know the stretch from my apartment to the metro station like the back of my hand, as I walk it at least twice a day if not more. Although I haven’t had a ton of time to explore the wider area, I have become familiar with many places and faces around the immediate area. Particularly, I have become quite good friends with a Mom and Pop who own a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that is not much bigger than my living room, located along the part of Kai Xuan Rd I mentioned earlier. The food is mediocre, and there has never been other customers in the store when I’ve been there, however, I noticed one day while I was walking to the metro station that there was a cat sitting on one of the stools at the table! This prompted me to return a few days later ‘for some food’ (but really to play with the kitten) which is when I first started talking to the owners. I mostly talk to the Mom, while the Dad cooks whatever food I’ve ordered. While I know that allowing kittens to walk around your store probably isn’t the most sanitary thing, I don’t really care and it’s obvious they don’t care either. I enjoy going because I get a chance to speak Chinese, as we’ve talked about a wide range of subjects from Shanghai’s safety to where her daughter is currently working.

Just a few stores down from this restaurant is a pet store that I have to pass everyday – however there is no way you can just ‘pass’ a pet store, and I budget at least three extra minutes into my commute so that I can say hello to the precious kittens that live there. A couple owns the store, the woman is very nice and friendly, but her husband always has a very grumpy look on his face. On my first visit, I asked if I could play with the kittens, and he gave me a very sharp “no”. However, I have a feeling he’ll change his mind soon, as they’ve gotten used to seeing me every day and sometimes he even gives me a small wave and a smile. Again a few stores from the pet shop (these business are packed like sardines into each and every block) there is a nail salon, where I got a pedicure a couple weeks ago. The girls are really nice and they have a store dog that will sit on your lap while you get your toenails painted! Not being able to have a pet of my own isn’t that bad when I can go to any of these places and pretend to have a one for a little bit.

To get to the metro station, you come out our apartment complex and turn right, however if you were to turn left, you would walk down the street to see a few (surprise) storefronts. These stores are not the interesting part, it’s what is tucked behind them. Turning down a small alley where there are people selling anything you could want, you will come upon a huge semi-enclosed opening that resembles a warehouse. This is a market where you can get all your groceries (if you’re brave enough). They have meats (poultry, seafood, any and everything), all kinds of produce, dry goods (i.e. spices, nuts, sauces), noodles, breads, eggs. I’ve only gotten fruits and vegetables from here, but I think I may gather my courage and see if I can’t figure out how to really use this pseudo grocery store to my advantage and start buying a lot of my groceries here. For now, I take the metro just one stop to YiShan Rd, where there is a Carrefour. I get all the groceries I need here and the cab ride home is never more than 14RMB.

The gym that I attend is not within walking distance from my house, but a 5 minute metro ride is nothing to complain about. Although there are Will’s all over, and actually I think there is one that is closer to the apartment, I really like the staff at this particular Will’s. The salesman who ‘adopted’ me as his client when I first started at Will’s, has been working closely with me to encourage me to purchase a membership once my two week guest pass had run out (I used this when I first arrived in Shanghai and was staying at the hotel right down the street). Andy (the employee) has worked to get me really good prices, and I am paying about 200RMB less per month than the standard rate. When I did purchase the month membership last week, I asked Andy if his boss was present, and he told me that he was. I asked Andy if I could talk to him, and Andy was curious and questioned why I wanted to talk to his boss. I explained that I thought he was a really great employee and that I was really pleased with the service I’d received. However, Andy told me that this was not customary and that I probably shouldn’t talk to his boss. I was confused, because I thought this would be great for Andy, but after I told him that this is what we did in America, he explained to me how it was different in China. He basically said that, “If the boss likes you and thinks you’re a good employee… then he likes you and thinks you’re a good employee. If he doesn’t he fires you. It doesn’t matter what other people say to him”. How different things work here in China than they do in America! Every day I learn something new about China and the way they do things.

 

He asked me if I wanted to buy some. I said, "I don't know how to cook these! They are alive now, and then I kill them - they will cry!" He laughed at me and said "no cry!"

He asked me if I wanted to buy some. I said, “I don’t know how to cook these! They are alive now, and then I kill them – they will cry!” He laughed at me and said “no cry!”

riiiiiiice

riiiiiiice

hand pulled noods

hand pulled noods

Anything you want, you can find at the open air market

Anything you want, you can find at the open air market

Another picture of the view from my apartment

Another picture of the view from my apartment

my gym offers fitness classes, like yoga!

my gym offers fitness classes, like yoga!

Smoggy Shanghai

Smoggy Shanghai

At my intersection

At my intersection

So cute!!

So cute!!

The kitten, an only reason I go to this restaurant

The kitten, an only reason I go to this restaurant

Got to visit my middle school while spending some time in Pudong!

Got to visit my middle school while spending some time in Pudong!

You can see some of the apartment buildings above the trees

You can see some of the apartment buildings above the trees

Downtown Pudong

Downtown Pudong

 

Who said life was made of sugar and spice and everything nice?

I hope that my blog is fun to read. If I’m doing a good job, it should at least be interesting, because my life in Shanghai shows me new, phenomenal, amazing things everyday. However, fitting an entire week of stories and events into a single blog post means I am only showcasing the really awesome things that I want to share with my readers. While these are super important (hence why I choose to write about them), I want to be sure that on my personal blog, I am indeed giving an accurate impression and representation of my personal life.

It’s easy, as we’ve read in studies and see in our own personal experience, for people to project an impression that they are one hundred percent ecstatic, 24/7, on their social media accounts. In every case, that is not true. This is not to say that I am unhappy, but it’s to draw attention to the fact that although I am having a wonderful time, there are tough days too. Every day I feel blessed to be where I am. Every so often, I also allow myself a few moments to miss home and feel sorry for myself. Right now, at 9:12 PM on a Friday night, I am lying in bed, browsing youku (China’s version of Hulu) for anything I can understand. I can only imagine what antics I’d be getting into with my friends who are still enjoying their time in college. I am getting along swimmingly with my coworkers, and my roommates are both cool too. However there’s no comfort in the shallow relationships I have with these people. These people haven’t known me for years, don’t have an obvious, shared interest and they all lead lives of their own. Although it’s really cool to have a ‘big girl job’, it’s also really hard to not be able to come home to your parents, thus forcing you to be a ‘big girl’ all the time. Transitioning from college to adult life is difficult on it’s own. When you force yourself to make a transition in every other facet of your life, it’s incredibly difficult on all aspects of your being – physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual.

I know that all I need is time; time to find a good group of friends, time to settle in with my church family, time to find stability in my schedule, so on and so forth. I’m super lucky that I’m happy with my work and that I have such an awesome support group of old friends here who have assumed the roles of second moms, mentors and friends. It’s really awesome that Ohio State has a global gateway office here in Shanghai so that I can touch base with my alma mater every so often. Most importantly, it’s awesome that God is good and can be a part of your life no matter where you are in the world. It’s hard to admit that things aren’t always perfect. It’s natural to want to exude confidence and happiness all the time, in an attempt to influence people’s perception of you. I am grateful that I feel comfortable enough with myself that when things aren’t perfect, I can share that too. I hope everyone has a productive way to reflect on the little things that happen that sometimes make for tough days. I also want to remind people that it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and under qualified for some of the curveballs life throws at you.

Carolyn 4.0

Somehow, over the last twenty-one years, I have become an adult. Of course, I would be fooling not only my readers but myself as well if I were to pretend that while assuming this role as ‘adult’ that I have any idea what I’m doing. Still, day-to-day, I’ll catch myself thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing this right now”, surprising myself with my adult-y actions. Most recently was in my ELA 5 class this morning. While my students were taking their TRP I was grading their vocabulary quizzes. One of my students achieved a perfect score, and I wrote “Awesome job!” with three stars in my red grading pen. Another one of my students gave a very poor excuse for effort on his quiz, meriting a ☹ sad face from me. I looked at my papers and reveled in the fact that I was now becoming my grade school teachers. I now had the power to issue smiley faces and stars that students (similarly to myself) would go home to happily boast about to their mother. Another instance of this was earlier this week when I was setting up my bank accounts. Since I can remember, my father has helped me manage every aspect of my finances, so to go to set up not one but two bank accounts, in Shanghai nonetheless, was pretty funny to me. Thankfully, the bank tellers spoke English, because if I were to rely on my Chinese skills I have no idea what I would have ended up with. I moved into my new apartment last week, but the hunt itself was relatively difficult due to the requirements I (and my mother) had for the new place. Most important was location. Now that I have a job that actually requires me to be at an office, relatively early, five days a week, I wanted to make sure my apartment made didn’t make it too hard for me. A ten minute walk down KaiXuan Rd will put you at the metro station, with 3 lines running through it (10, 4 and 3). My work is ust three stops on the line 10, followed by a ten minute walk to the office, putting my daily commute at an easy half hour. The other great thing is that with such easy access to lines 4 and 3, getting anywhere in Shanghai is pretty convenient. It was also important to me that somewhere along my daily commute or by my apartment there was a gym, my banks, and a grocery store. The office covers two of the three, as both my banks have branches directly across from our building, and on my way to the subway station there is a Carrefour. I have two flatmates, who are both American and also are both teachers. They are really nice but I rarely see them – which is okay, because it’s like I have a huge apartment to myself! Another requirement I had was that it was on a higher floor. With apartments on floors 5 and below you have to worry about safety a well as hygine (there are a lot of issues with mold on lower floors). Since I am newly graduated and have just started working, I was trying to be relatively frugal with my apartment budget. Initially I gave myself 2,000-2,500 RMB and was seeking out local realtors to show me around. I learned my lesson very quickly, as all the apartments, while in great locations, were run down, old, broken or gross. After that, I used a site called SmartShanghai that is targeted towards expats to help in all aspects of living. This was how I found Jae, who moved me into my new apartment(for a mere 500RMB over budget)! One of the greatest things that my local realtor friends did show me, was the great fun that comes from riding around on a moped/motorcycle. My first time on the back of a Chinese moped was when my realtors picking me up from the subway stations to take me to these neighborhoods. Now, mopeds are my favorite way to travel!! Before, I would come out of subway entrances and there would be people waiting their with their mopeds, offering rides. I always thought it was shady and I avoided them at all costs. I have now realized that they are all friendly – and for the same price as a taxi (15RMB) you can complete your trip, often saving yourself anywhere from half an hour or more of walking! One of the greatest things about being back has been the opportunity to catch up with everyone. Last week I was able to reconnect with my Chinese tutor from middle school, Cookie. She recently moved back to Shanghai and invited me out to dinner with her and her parents. They were seriously so cute, they loved that I was able to speak Chinese and were laughing and smiling the whole night. The dinner was absolutely awesome, my favorite dish was lotus roots stuffed with foie gras, and during dinner I also tried chicken feet, which were surprisingly delicious! They promised that the next time I came over, Cookie’s dad would teach me to paint bamboo and her mother would teach me how to make dumplings. Friday night I went over to Liyan’s house, who you may remember was dad’s coworker in China and hosted me during my first week in Shanghai. We had Ayi’s amazing dumplings, as well as pickled hard-boiled eggs and a qpicy yet refreshing cucumber dish. Seriously, I would move into their building if I could come over for dinner every night. After a long day of teaching on Saturday and Sunday morning, I took the subway over to Pudong to meet the Arslains. The Arslains are very close friends of my family, their daughters are best friends with Rachel and I. Their parents are back in Shanghai for work and they also attend AGIF, Abundant Grace International Fellowship, a church that my family attended while we were here in middle school. I was so glad to attend the service, and afterwards, AGIF was showing the movie Nefarious. We attended the movie which spoke to us about the issue of human trafficking. It was incredibly powerful and also opened up a couple volunteering opportunities teaching English at restoration houses in Shanghai. There’s still a lot of details that need to be worked out but I’m really excited about the possibility of finding a great group to start volunteering with. Everything has really been coming together quite nicely. Of course, not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss my friends and family at home. I know it will be a while until I see them again, but that really makes me appreciate the support group I have here even more. Also, Fall is on it’s way, and the weather in Shanghai has been absolutely gorgeous. Recently I haven’t been able to even make it two steps outside without grinning foolishly, as the temperature is low and the air is surprisingly fresh due to a strong breeze. This has been wonderful for my mood, and really helps me to feel utterly blessed every day.

 

 

taking the above-ground subway trains are my favorite because you get a great view of the city from an uncommon angle!

taking the above-ground subway trains are my favorite because you get a great view of the city from an uncommon angle!

Got sheets for my bed made just down the street from my apartment! (10USD)

Got sheets for my bed made just down the street from my apartment! (10USD)

The view from my new apartment's balcony!

The view from my new apartment’s balcony!

There is a pet shop on the street  I live on... I stop by every day and the owners now know me.

There is a pet shop on the street I live on… I stop by every day and the owners now know me.

They are just so darn cute!

They are just so darn cute!

The best new way to get around!

The best new way to get around!

Duck and Shrimp and Chicken feet, oh my!

Duck and Shrimp and Chicken feet, oh my!

What have I become?! (also, this was the first week so I expect that 1/15 to never happen again...)

What have I become?! (also, this was the first week so I expect that 1/15 to never happen again…)

Honey, I’m Home!

Back on my stomping grounds, and it feels great! I’ve been back in Shanghai for just four days now, but have quickly settled back into my groove – at least in regards to being in the city. It’s amazing how little things stay with you after they’ve become part of your routine, like taking the correct exit out of the subway or remembering exact change for your favorite yogurt at Family Mart. The trip over was, no surprise, extremely long – I think I spent about 28 hours in either an airport or airplane, but I arrived safely so no complaints here. When I did arrive at PVG, I met my driver who was holding up a sign that said “Carolyn Schneller”, which was very exciting for me (it’s the little things, people). We drove for about 45 minutes before arriving at the hotel I will be staying at for two weeks until I am able to find an apartment. Since I had slept for a large majority of the plane ride, my jetlag was a little worse than it has been in the past. It didn’t take me long to fall asleep, but Sunday morning I woke up at 4AM. I spent the day doing much of nothing; exploring the area, going on a short run, and unpacking, before exhaustion hit me like a brick wall. With no seemingly no ounce of will power in my body, I allowed myself to drift into a deep sleep at 7PM, a huge no-no for those trying to overcome jetlag. So it was not to my surprise when I woke up at 3:30AM with no prospect of falling back to sleep on Monday. The previous day, while I was exploring, I found a small 24-hour café that I decided to check out. I wasn’t 100% confident that it was actually 24-hours, as believe it or not those are pretty rare in Shanghai, and often times things boast faulty advertisements, but sure enough it was open and even had two other patrons (sleeping) at one of the tables. Thus, I enjoyed my first 4:30AM bowl of noodles.

I managed to lay back down from 7 to 8, as I had already been up for four hours and didn’t have to leave for work until 9:30. It wasn’t really a sleep, but it at least gave me the attitude that I was allowing myself to be more rested before my very first day of my grown-up job!! I was so excited as I was getting ready for work, I felt a little silly (but not really) because I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face! I arrived at the Pudong office 45 minutes early, because I wanted to give myself plenty of time to find the place, as this was where I had my second interview (with my now-boss) that I had gotten lost to and ended up showing up twenty minutes late! The rest of the day was spent on-boarding with Peter, who is the head of the English Language Arts section of New Pathways. Most of the other new teachers had arrived in Shanghai two weeks prior to start their training, so we immediately started cramming a lot of knowledge into my head (I took a lot of notes). My first classes are this weekend, four, three hour classes over Saturday and Sunday, so I’ve really got to get the concept down and I’ve already started working on my lesson plans. This is kind of the first time I’ve really done anything like this, so I’m pretty darn nervous. However, I’m also really, really excited which I think bodes well. So often while Peter was talking to me about things we do in class, or material we had to teach, it was like my mind was constantly working, just spitting out ideas of ways I could do something, how I can make it fun or interesting. Hopefully I can harness this excitement and execute some really great ideas in the classroom!

New Pathway isn’t a school, in the strictest sense, so it’s not like I am a middle school teacher in a school. We do prep for SAT, ACT, and SSAT, along with offering small (no more than 12 students) classes (kids from international schools, international division in local schools, and our lower levels have kids from local schools) to improve English in all aspects of the language. For this reason, the schedule is pretty random, as we have to find time to have our classes when the students aren’t in their normal class. Yesterday I met and worked with a new teacher on how to teach SSAT classes (yes… there is a math section), which is like the SAT for middle school children who are trying to get into private or boarding schools. I’m glad I don’t have any SSAT classes scheduled just yet, because I think teaching ELA will give me a little more room for creativity and allow me to establish my footing as a teacher before having to do into material that may be a little drier.

I’ve joined a gym here (which was incredibly complicated and took a long time and lots of lost conversation), Will’s, that has been a great outlet for me as I have been feeling super stressed the past couple days. Believe it or not, it’s possible to be having a ton of fun and still be feeling super stressed! At this moment in time, there are simply a lot of moving pieces – working on completing my TEFL certification, compiling all my documents to get to HR for my work visa, finding housing, logistical stuff that all new employees need to go through, all while trying to prepare for my first ever classes this weekend! Even though I’ve been SUPER lazy lately (before Sunday I couldn’t have told you what the inside of a gym looked like), it’s felt really great to be able to sweat out a lot of my worries. I wasn’t thinking about any differences there might be between gyms in China and America, until I reached 14 something minutes on the treadmill and my distance read 2.4! I thought to myself, “Wow, I’ve ran two miles already??? I feel awesome!” then, slowly, everything started coming to me – “Wait, two miles? 14 minutes…? That doesn’t seem quite right. China doesn’t use the same units of measurements as America. Ahhhhh….”. The realization that I had not been running two miles at a ten minute pace, but that I had run two kilometers at a 6.5k/hr pace hit me! The fact that I’d only run half of what I thought I did wasn’t as depressing as the realization of how slowly I was running! J Still, I finished out my 5k and felt super.

Spending time with friends is also a great way to relieve some stress. Last night I met for dinner with a long time friend, Cookie, my Chinese tutor from middle school! Besides a brief vacation she took to the US in 2009, it’d been seven years since I’d really hung out with her! She took me to an awesome xiaolongbao place (my favorite!) and then spent some time helping me navigate some Chinese apartment-hunting websites. Cookie has been awesome in helping me get settled so far, and she’s one of those friends who would do just about anything to help you. I’m lucky to have many friends like that in Shanghai!

Although I’ve only been working for two days, today I have a day off. Peter wants me to be able to do some apartment shopping and make sure I’m rested. He’s really awesome, just like everyone I’ve met thus far at NPE. I am really looking forward to my time here! I have a feeling it is going to be awesome.

Concluding Thoughts

The final week in Shanghai was truly a whirlwind, a good representation of my unimaginably fast-paced summer abroad. I’ve subconsciously been putting off writing my final post, because I’ve wanted to keep a small part of my experience with me, and writing and publishing about my time as it ends makes it really permanent. However, as I finally sit down to complete my post, it seems silly that I would be worried about losing memories of my time in Shanghai. The relationships that I made this summer and the knowledge I’ve learned will undoubtably stick with me forever.

As Kevin, Schuyler, Stephanie and I prepared for our final group farewell dinner, working on putting together a short video of our time abroad, it struck me how lasting an impact my summer will have on me. The people I have been studying with all summer are from all over the US – from California, to Texas, to Boston, to Louisiana, to Maryland, (to Kazakstan), and they each brought their own uniqueness to the program, and opened their lives to the twenty-some other students who were suddenly thrust into their lives. I learned a lot outside of the classroom, from Californian slang, to how to say “hello” in Russian. We were able to travel together, seeing new cities like Suzhou, Xiamen, and Huangshan, working together to have the best possible weekends away. The most important thing I feel we learned this summer though, was the importance of exploration, inclusion, and independence. For some, this was their first big trip away from home. For this, in a new country with completely different customs than those in the states, they had to rely heavily on the support of their classmates in this awesome experiences. For others, like myself, this summer was an amazing preview of an exciting life after college.

I can’t say enough good things about my time studying abroad with the Alliance for Global Education. The entire staff truly took care of us and showed us the ropes of living in Shanghai, while also giving us the freedom and encouraging us to find our own paths. The teachers for our classes were absolutely wonderful, and the strong friendship I made with my Chinese professor is one I feel will continue for years to come. The Alliance made it so that I had a safe and comfortable home during my time in Shanghai, while simultaneously allowing me to navigate the many different aspects of the city on my own.

Being in Shanghai for the summer was an invaluable experience for my life after college. Besides everything I learned, and the wonderful time I had to end out my college career, I was able to secure a job that will allow me to return to Shanghai this fall. I have accepted a job offer and will be teaching English at a prep school, called New Pathways Education and Technology Group. I return to Shanghai at the beginning of the September, and will work on a year-long contract. I have the OSU global-gateway to partially thank for this, as well as Ohio States incredible alumni network, as the former was able to put me in touch with New Pathways head of HR – an Ohio State alumna.

 

For now, I am enjoying a wonderful week in Hawaii with my family. A great atmosphere and great company to distract me from the fact that I am not with the small family I formed and have been living with for the past two months (not to mention – no jet lag!). I am working to get my tourist visa in line, and also beginning to mentally prepare for my first year as an OSU grad. I want to thank everyone, my family in particular, for the incredible support I have received in my journey thus far, and I hope my readers will continue to enjoy my updates as a working girl in Shanghai!

Beginning to Wrap Up

This next week will be our last week in Shanghai, and there have been a lot of menial, logistical tasks we’ve had to do to prepare for our return to the states. Most annoying and time consuming of these tasks have been figuring out what to do about the fact that my visa that expires tomorrow, and my flight out of country isn’t until a week from now. I should be in Xi’an right now, but due to last minute scrambling, I wasn’t able to go. However, I am happy and relaxed, because after a frustrating experience with the government office on Wednesday, I was able to return on Friday and get everything sorted out. Additionally, I am not being forced to leave the country earlier than I had planned, and I am also not in HongKong staying in am over-priced hostel for the next four days so that I can get a new 30-day tourist visa. So, many hours, 6 subway transfers, and 940RMB later, I am able to legally leave the country on planned day.

The other positive side about not being able to travel this weekend, is that I get to spend some quality time with my new, and now very dear, friends. Since this is the last weekend we will all be together, we’re all trying really hard to take advantage of it. Tonight a group of us are going to a restaurant on the Bund for good food and great company. Last night, we went to KTV for karaoke. It was so much fun – people in China take their karaoke very seriously. You get a group together (we had eight) and rent a room. The room is soundproof, with plush sofas lining the walls, which are made of mirrors. There is a little stage, with an old fashioned mic stand, and then you are also given two hand microphones. The lights are dimmed, but there are a lot of colored lights everywhere. The best thing about the rooms is that you get to control the AC. Singing is a lot of hard work, and being able to turn the AC down to 17 degrees Celsius was definitely a perk. The selection of songs was awesome. We sang Eminem, Kanye West, Leona Lewis, (LOTS of) Taylor Swift, and even the theme song from Frozen…. we sang late into the night (even though we all basically sounded really awful). Ciara was the only one with a voice that I wouldn’t mind listening to in any other situation – she sang some Chinese songs and sounded wonderful.

Besides the episode at Yu Yuan on Wednesday, the week went on as usual. I’ve been working on my final projects for my classes, which takes a long time, but offers me a cool opportunity to do some new research and also recap on a lot of what I’ve learned this summer. Friday morning we had our exit exam – a test that doesn’t count towards our grade, but is used to measure what level we’re at with our Chinese. It’s the exact same test as the entrance exam we got our first week here, and I was so pleased with the progress I could see in my work! I recognized so many characters and was able to write more than what I did for my entrance essay, which was “I can’t write Chinese characters”. I’ll be curious to see in numbers, how much I’ve improved. That afternoon we had a meeting to discuss check out procedure and readjustment to being back in the states. During that meeting I realized that come next week, I’m really going to be very sad! I’ve grown close to so many of my classmates this summer, and it’s going to be hard to have to leave them. What is so great about the program, is that most of the people here are here partially because they really love traveling, and there have already been discussions about traveling to meet up with each other in the future.

Although leaving will be hard, the seven-day countdown until my flight back to the states is also making my very excited. I can’t wait to see my family, Rachel especially, and on top of that, I’ll be flying back to meet them in Hawaii! I can’t wait to enjoy a week of vacation with my family as well as my mom’s side of the family. I always have such a good time with my family, and I can’t wait to share my pictures and experiences with them, and hear about what’s been going on in their lives. After that I’ll be happy to be back home to see my friends and definitely our dog. I don’t have a lot of plans for when I get back, I’ll just want to relax and hangout with mom and dad – but I think I’m going to a concert with one of my best friends, which is a perfect, low-key, very-American cap to an amazing summer abroad.