Monthly Archives: March 2015

Broken Chinese + Charades- SOL #17

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Ring, ring, ring…”Ni hao,” I said as I answered the phone that’s connected to the front door of my apartment building. I had just ordered dinner, and although it seemed too soon for my food to be here, I was hopeful.

A frantic voice on the other end began shouting something in Chinese, desperate to get me to understand what he was saying.

“Sherpa’s ma?” I questioned, wondering if this was my food delivery guy.

More shouting, without confirmation that my food was here.

Thinking that maybe this guy just needed in the building, I pushed the key to let him in. About a minute later, there was a knock at my door. Opening it, I found a security guard yelling in Chinese about something, but I had no clue what he was trying to say.

“Shenme?” I asked, like even if he told me what was going on, I’d actually understand.

At this point, the Chinese was accompanied by charades. I got that he was talking about a bicycle or e-bike by the handlebar gestures.

“Yes, I have a bike,” I said as I nodded, wondering if he was trying to tell me that my bike needed to be moved or that it had been stolen.

Then, he began making the “crazy” gesture, you know the one, where you spin your finger around and around near your ear. Alternating between charades for a bike and crazy, I was so confused. My bike is crazy? You think a crazy person stole my bike? I’m crazy for having a bike?

Realizing he wouldn’t leave, I put on shoes and a coat and followed him downstairs. Once outside, I pointed to my bike, letting him know it was, in fact, still there. And nope, it didn’t look crazy to me. Another security guard joined the party, pointing in the opposite direction, yelling something I couldn’t understand. I continued pointing to my bike saying, “Wo de.” Mine.

Then I heard it. The annoying sound of a bike alarm blaring, over and over. Ohhhh…they thought the bike alarm incessantly going off was mine. The crazy gesture must have had something to do with the sound (or was it that they were going crazy because of it? :)).

Realizing that he called me outside for nothing, I was waved off with a “Dui bu qi.” Sorry.

“Mei guanxi.” No worries. It happens.

And this is why I really should learn more Chinese.

 

A Slice About Not Slicing- SOL #16

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This is my fifth year to join the Slice of Life Challenge. In 2011, I sliced, but not every day, and I was OK with that since I was a newbie. During my second year, I sliced every day- all 31 days- and felt really good about it! It was tough, but the fact that I proved to myself I could do it was really rewarding. I continued my 31-day streak in both 2013 and 2014, and was excited to once again finish strong, with a perfect 31/31 record. But, I messed up.

Let me start from the beginning. Prior to the start of the Challenge, I was going through a lot and knew that this commitment might be hard to keep, but I was determined not to let anything get in the way. I sliced through some really tough days, and it came out in my writing. I guess you can say I wrote through the pain and, while therapeutic, there were days I wasn’t sure I’d have time to slice, but I powered through anyway. Then, on day 11, the fog started to clear and I was starting to get back to the old me. My slice was about just that, getting back to who I am and seeing the positive side again.

Well…day 12 came along and I took a beating. I looked for a positive aspect that day, some sliver of something good to slice about, but nothing came. I couldn’t write about something negative right after I’d just posted this “everything’s gonna be alright” post, could I? I decided to sleep on it, and write about something in the morning (being in China and 12 hours ahead means I can technically post 12PM-12PM, so halfway between days), figuring that something would happen to give me an idea to write about. From the time I got to school, it was nonstop! I actually had a really good day, full of slice ideas, but it wasn’t until after lunch, when my Head of School asked me to take a quick walk down the block to buy a Coke, that it hit me. He asked me, “So, how’s your writing coming along?” Really great, I told him, suddenly remembering I still needed to slice for yesterday. Glancing at my phone, I realized it was nearly 1PM. Man! I just missed the deadline to post today! Surprisingly, I didn’t feel defeated then, but it’s been weighing on me ever since, bothering me every time I slice and my SOL# in my title is one less than the date. I know I need to forgive myself and not be so hard on myself, but I made a commitment to slice 31 out of 31 days, and I failed. Writing about it has helped, and it isn’t the end of the world. I’m looking forward to next year, when I’ll once again slice all 31 days!

One of Those Mornings- SOL #15

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You ever have one of those mornings where things don’t always go as planned? Of course you have! Everyone has them from time to time. Well today was one of those mornings for me! I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed, despite the fact that I went to bed early. I was soooo tired! I finally peeled myself out of the bed at the last possible second that I knew would give me just enough time to get ready for work.

All was going ok, and I got to work just before 7:45, but when I reached into my bag to swipe my card into the building, I realized I didn’t have my lanyard, the one with my badge and keys! With the warmer weather today, I switched to a lighter jacket, forgetting that I put my lanyard in my coat pocket yesterday when I left school. Ugh! Now I can’t get into my office. My office that contains my computer and notebook and everything I need to function at work today. Scrambling around, I tried to find someone with an extra key. Since this being a new building that we just moved into last week, the systems and people to go to aren’t all ironed out yet. Frazzled, I cancelled my 8 o’clock and headed out the gate to run home and grab my lanyard. Just when I got outside, someone told me that the guards have a key. Whew!

The guard, shaking his head, turned around to head upstairs to sift through his keys and find the one that would open room 304A. While I don’t have my badge, I am happy I was able to get into my room. 🙂 Hoping the rest of the day is better!

Birthday Lunch- SOL #14

Even though her birthday isn’t until next weekend, the two of us celebrated today. Michelle has been with me since 2010 when I first moved to Shanghai. She and I are colleagues and friends, and I wanted to spend some quality time- just us- for her birthday. It’s Restaurant Week in Shanghai right now, so I booked us a table for lunch at Porcini, a restaurant in the Radisson Blu hotel in Pudong. After a starter of spicy bread, we enjoyed a lovely 3-course meal.

I had the carrot ginger soup with herb croutons and crab meat. Even though I’m not a big fan of ginger, the soup was really tasty! 🙂

For my main course, I had the Mackerel with a creamy caper sauce and spinach risotto. The fish was okay, but I was a little turned off by the skin and bones left in it. I picked at it a little bit. The risotto was nice though. My drink was a Fun Calypso, their take on a pina colada, sans rum.

For dessert, I had the New York cheesecake. It wasn’t too sweet, but it was creamy and tasty. The strawberries were a nice complement. After dessert, we had a nice conversation, catching up on what’s new in our lives. I’m not sure how much time I have left to spend with Michelle, but I’ll definitely miss her when we no longer live in the same place!

As we were leaving, we found this random thumb statue…kinda weird, but we (well, I) couldn’t resist a thumb selfie! 🙂

So Many People!- SOL #13

Living in Shanghai, where the population is about 24 million people, is busy. People are everywhere. You get pushed around sometimes. You have to fight for your part of the sidewalk sometimes. There are long lines- well, that is if there’s a line at all; we’re still working on that concept. After living here nearly 5 years, you get used to the crowds and busyness all around, and most of the time it’s manageable. Except for IKEA. On a Saturday. I know not to do it. I know what it’s like. I know to avoid it like the plague, but I couldn’t avoid it today. I just had to get some stuff for my new office at work and haven’t been able to make it over there in the evenings. So I mustered up the strength to brave the crowds and went for it. As expected, I was there with about 10,000 of my closest friends, many of whom just came for the free heating and cheap food in the canteen- can you say 1 kuai ice cream cones?!? As I made my way through the maze of furniture and people, I kept my sanity by listening to music. This helped drown out the sound and gave me a little peace. I also avoided going against the crowd. When you’re shopping, sometimes you pass a section by, only to realize you forgot to pick something up, so you turn around and head back. Oh no…doing that here is akin to a lonely fish trying to swim upstream with a school of bigger fish coming their way. It’s something to avoid at all costs. I passed up a few items, but today, they remained at IKEA and not in my basket. Frankly, it wasn’t worth it. Once you make it to the warehouse, you breathe a sign of relief, knowing it’s almost over. Walking in, I had to chuckle when I saw the kid on the leash. And you can’t tell from this picture, but the dad was pulling on him, much like you pull on a dog’s leash when they get out of line and you’re trying to show them who’s boss. The checkout lines are insane! Every one of them open- thankfully- they are full of people just waiting to take their goods home. Once I made it through the checkout lines, I still wasn’t done. I had to wait in another line for delivery. There’s no way I was going to wait in a long taxi line, in the rain, to schlep my unbuilt furniture to school today. No thanks. I’ll pay the 100 kuai for them to bring it to me on Monday. After that, I have to wait in another line to get a fapiao, or an official receipt, so that I can be reimbursed from school. With all my tasks completed, I headed home, ready to relax for the remainder of the afternoon. I had survived.

Sweet Little Ones- SOL #12

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I love this part of my job- I got to meet a bunch of sweet little 2-year-olds today! Our newest class at school, Early Years D, opens on Monday, and we had an orientation for the families today. Ms. CJ and Ms. May, the EYD teachers, have been busily getting their room ready in anticipation of their arrival, and their room looks great! When you walk in, you see splashes of bright colors, a cozy reading nook, a kitchen corner complete with tiny dishes, tables with puzzles and coloring, just waiting to be played with, and a dress up corner full of hats, scarves, and clothing.

As the families arrived, with smiles and excitement on their faces, Ms. CJ and Ms. May welcomed them to the room and began getting to know the students and parents. They were both naturals! With their warm disposition and friendly demeanor, the families felt right at home. The students began exploring the classroom, some more timid than others at first, and the teachers began circulating the room, having one-on-one conversations with the parents.

As the principal, my part of the orientation was to welcome them, explain relevant handbook details, and take them on a school tour. On the tour, the kids loved exploring the playroom, where they quickly let got of their parents’ hands and began climbing on the equipment, scooting around in the cars, and sliding down the slide. Moving on, we traveled up the stairs to the library, where they immediately gravitated to the shelves, choosing a book and sitting down to read. I was amazed at their level of independence and confidence, especially since this was their first school experience.

As we left the library, I felt a little hand in mine. George had run up to grab my hand as we headed down the stairs. It was just so sweet! Already feeling like they owned the school, some of the more independent ones even ran ahead of me, like they knew where we were headed next! Once we were back in the classroom, they gathered their things to leave. Ka Ne, a very inquisitive boy with an obvious independent streak, turned to his grandma and said, “This is not your school! This is my school!” Guess he’s ready for Monday morning! 😉

 

Getting Back to the Old Me- SOL #11

Anyone who knows me or has read some of my posts this month knows I’ve been having a hard time lately. Lots of things beyond my control have been very frustrating and have consumed my life for the past few weeks. I haven’t liked who I’ve been lately. I’ve been extremely sad, irritable, and angry, and my usual social self has retreated from my friends. I was letting the situation control me. I was forgetting the advice my dad has always told me, “You can only control what you do. You can’t control what anyone else does.” And he’s right, but dammit, sometimes I just want to control everything and make it turn out the way I want it to!

Beginning Monday, the fog has started to lift. Each day I find myself happier and more like me. I am smiling more, laughing more, and connecting more. I am looking forward to tomorrow, rather than dreading it. I am finding the joy in life again, both at work and in my social life. My OLW for this year is intentional. To be honest, I haven’t been living intentionally lately; I’ve been living in reaction to the people and situations surrounding me. But that’s all beginning to change. I’m starting to own my intentionality again. I know that there are still going to be bumps along the way, but I’m going to be more intentional with my choices, leading to a happier, healthier me!

IMG_4752_originalThank you to everyone who has supported me during this time! I’ve received loads of love from friends, family, and the TWT community of writers. You guys make my heart happy! 🙂 So as I begin the business of getting back to the old me, I am looking forward to the adventures and fun that lie ahead. I’m excited to be traveling with this lady (and Heather!) in just a few short weeks! Bring on the sun!

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My Morning Commute- SOL #10

My morning commute is probably very different from yours. Most likely, you drive your own car, carpool with friends, or take public transport, such as a taxi, a bus, or the metro/subway. Sometimes I take a taxi to work, particularly when it’s raining, but now that my new school campus is so close to home, it’s great for me to be able to ride my e-bike in to work.

Today’s commute was sooooo cold! With the temperature at 1 degree Celsius, I made sure to bundle up! In addition to my sweater, I wore a thin down jacket, my big down jacket, a scarf, hat, gloves, and my new favorite thing…my bike blanket! I’ve embraced the local Shanghainese culture and succumbed to the bike snuggie look. 😉 Yes, I look ridiculous, but I like to think of it as ridiculously warm. Not only does it protect my hands from the wind and cold, the blanket keeps the wind off of my legs, too.

On my ride to work, which takes about 10 minutes, I tend to drive like the locals do, meaning that traffic laws are more suggestions than rules. The light’s red? Well, let’s slow down, look both ways, and proceed through the intersection if there are no cars in the way. Someone’s in my way or about to be in my way or looks at me funny, BEEEEEEP! Honking your horn is just what you do here. Turn signals are rarely used, but horns…those are a necessity used many times a day.

Today, I passed the man making jianbing from his shack on the corner of Wuzhong Lu and Zhongshan Lu, several buses stopping just long enough for people to hop on and off, many Chinese shops lining the streets selling all manner of goods, the little old Chinese lady who is always on her morning walk, the security guard having a smoke break on the corner, and lots of commuters, bundled up against the cold, dressed all in black, like an army walking, heads down, toward the metro.

I long for warmer days, where my face doesn’t burn from the cold wind, but I’m thankful for my little e-bike and the freedom it gives me! 🙂

Writing Can Change the World- SOL #9

It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this video, I fall in love with it every time.

Lucy Calkins, one of the most inspirational and influential writers and writing teachers of our time, shares some nuggets of wisdom with writers the world over. She reminds us to read our writing like it’s gold. What a difference that makes. Honoring our words by reading them like they’re gold really does make the difference. Finding the parts that work and keeping them, and reworking the parts that need a little tweaking is how we improve our writing. And writing can change the world. Words carry so much meaning and depth and they have the power to move mountains. It makes me wonder how I will choose my words carefully, how I will change the world with my words.

As I participate in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge, I am reminded again that writing can change the world, and that when we write, we share a little piece of who we are. So, no matter how rushed we might be when we write, no matter how much we think we could have done better, we must read our writing like it’s gold. All of us deserve to honor our own writing and the writing of others.

This writing community has been just what I’ve needed this month, during what has proven to be the most difficult time of my life thus far. Thank you all for your comments. They may not have changed the world, but they have changed me, and I truly appreciate it!

Head Too Full- SOL #8

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My head is so full, it feels like
an overfilled balloon that can’t handle one more puff of air
a can of biscuits left out on the counter too long
your belly after Thanksgiving dinner when you wore tight skinny jeans
a rusty pipe, whose screws have lost their strength, trying to hold back the dam
a stick of dynamite, lit and ready to blow