Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Night Market

We were blessed with very cool head teachers.  They are a married couple from Texas, not too much older than us, and tons of fun to be around!  On Tuesday night they took us to the night market, and we've been back every night since!

It is seriously so close to our apartments.  Probably like a 10 minute walk.  At this night market you can find socks, underwear, plants, cell phone accessories, and food.  Did I mention food?!  Seriously, so much food.  All of it is super cheap, and from what we tried, all of it is pretty delicious!

Picture courtesy of my cute new friend Shey, whose blog can be found here.

It has been tough eating at the cafeteria knowing that we could just walk down the street and get a couple of exceptional and inexpensive meals.  So we've just been picking at our cafeteria food and then eating everything at the night market just a few hours later.  We've eaten flavorful flatbread, Chinese burrito things, noodles, potstickers, french fries, dumpling soup, and of course, fried squid on sticks.  Delicious!

We get a lot of funny looks as a group of white kids, but everyone is super friendly to us.  This one guy was making waffle cone-type things, and we spent a good 8 minutes trying to explain that we wanted to only buy one, instead of the whole bagful he was trying to sell us.  He really didn't understand, so then a huge group of people started gathering, trying to help, and other vendors were yelling to the cone guy, also trying to help.  He finally understood what we were asking and said, "one??  FREE!" and cheerfully gave us a whole cone for free.  What a nice guy.  It was tasty.  But everyone on that row was laughing at us.

Tonight I bought some adorable socks.  One pair has little sailors on them, and the other pair has cows and fences.  I'm obsessed with socks!  After some haggling, I bought the most beautiful embroidered blue tunic shirt for 40 kuai (about $6) which I'm very happy about.  I also bought some earmuffs because that's what all the cool Asians are doing these days.

The fun does't end there!  I've never seen games at Chinese markets, but I guess it is a thing!  For just 10 kuai you can get an armload - and I seriously mean an armload, packed from shoulder to wrist, of wooden rings which you can throw on objects.  Whatever your ring encircles, you get to grab and keep!  I won two teapots on the first night, and Bailey and I both won a couple more things tonight!  How could you say no to 10 kuai games is what I'm wondering, especially when you can get some sweet teapots!

Bailey also shot some balloons with airsoft guns.  The prizes weren't as cool for that game (he won a deck of cards), but he likes those shooting kinds of games.

Oh how I love the night market!  That's all I have to say about it for now, but I'm sure we will be back!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Church: A 12-Hour Ordeal

Yes.  Church was a 12 hour ordeal today.

We woke up before light, 5am to be exact.  We met our group (about 15 of us wanted to go to church) and we were out by 5:40am.

First we walked to the bus stop.  Luckily yesterday's adventures prepared us with the knowledge that we needed to get everyone to the right stop.  And luckily Rachel (seriously the best person to travel with) had done the research on what stop to get off for the railway station.

We got off our stop and started walking... we walked for quite a while then learned from the locals that we were probably going the wrong way.  Of course, we couldn't know for sure because we don't actually speak Chinese, but in the end it turned out that the station was much closer to where the bus dropped us off than we thought.

We found the right train tickets to buy without much problem, and were soon on a bullet train.  It was super nice and went 175 mph!  It was crazy fast!  It was fun to watch out the window, but when other trains passed us coming from the opposite way, missing us by no more than an inch, I seriously thought we would fly off the tracks.

After we got off the train we headed to the subway station.  We were stuck at the machines there for a little bit, once again held up by our lack of Mandarin speaking, when a gift from the heavens appeared to us!  Brother Keebler (I think that was his name), a member from our international branch, spotted us, a group of dressed up white kids, and knew exactly what to do.  He helped us get our tickets, took us on the two different subways, and then on a little bit of a walk.  At 9:30 we found ourselves in a nice home in beautiful Suzhou, sitting down for sacrament meeting!

Church was very interesting and enjoyable.  There is no intermingling of Chinese Nationals and foreigners allowed when it comes to religious affairs, so it was just a whole bunch of people from around the world in there.  A girl from Thailand spoke as did a woman from the Phillipines.  It was a very cool experience to be there with members from all different places, and very comforting to have a meeting just like the ones we have at home!

After church we got the subways, train, and the bus back home.  It was an extra long journey because places tend to be busier in the afternoon than at 5am...

But of course, taking the time to travel back and forth from church was worth it.  I actually can't wait to go back when we have more time to explore Suzhou!

Downtown Changzhou

All week we have been so curious about downtown Changzhou!  We didn't think it could be too far away, but I don't think any of us were prepared for how big Changzhou really is.  So Bailey and I decided to check it out, along with 2 other married couples that we befriended (Sheyanne and Petro, as well as Rachel and Spencer).

Rachel did some research on how to get to the city, but we couldn't find the bus we were supposed to get on.  So, instead of bus 320 we hopped on bus 302 because those are basically the same numbers, right?  We hopped off when Rachel's phone said we were by a Wal Mart, because a Wal Mart is obviously the mark of a downtown center.

Instead of going to Wal Mart, though, we went through an odd looking alleyway which opened up to a beautiful park!  It had a temple with some cool golden statues in them, lots of other amazing buildings, more statues, an exercise park, old ladies dancing, and of course, men gambling.  We didn't explore it all, so we need to go back!

We then found a McDonald's, which to the boys meant food, and to the girls it meant ice cream!  Mmm!  It was in a mall, and also in the mall was a creepy monkey looking dude.  He had us get a picture with him, but then started asking for money to pay him for it.  Definitely an awkward situation when there's a huge language gap.  With the help of some local teenage girls, we found out that he was asking 100 kuai (about $14)!  What?!  Definitely a tourist price.  Shey and Petro were super smart and booked it right after the picture was taken, but the rest of us didn't anticipate the monkey wanting money.  Luckily, he was satisfied with watching me delete the pictures off my phone.  He followed us for a little bit to see if Petro and Shey would appear, as he knew they had pictures too, and it was a huge relief when we lost that creepy dude.

Next we found Changzhou's ancient city wall!  It was beautiful!  That is one amazing thing about China.  There's so much city and urban life everywhere, but there are also always reminders of China's rich ancient history.

We also found a cool bridge (there's lots of rivers and canals all over this place) and some old looking buildings with cool shops in them.  I wish I could have spent more time at that art supplies shop!  But the sun was starting to go down, and we wanted to find a Wal Mart before heading back home.  So at that, we called it a day!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Our Students

We thought we would have another day to adjust to the China life, but nope... the principal wanted us to get in our classrooms right away!  Of course we didn't have anything prepared, so it was mostly just playing games with and getting to know the students.

Bailey and I both have been assigned to 9am 6th grade classes.  Later in the day I teach 1st grade and Bailey teaches 4th.  I'm not so comfortable with 6th graders... they are old and sassy and honestly kind of intimidating.  But oh my gosh, I'm already in love with each of these little 1st graders!

I seriously lucked out with my angel class.  Apparently the other first graders were sucker punching each other and putting their hands in other people's pants(??)  That's a little nerve wracking considering that rotations start next week, but at least my home class is good.  Little Diego keeps them in line - literally!  She stands at the front of the line, and when she turns around and sees her classmates not standing in a perfectly straight line, she will go and nudge every child and move them so that it is perfect.

Bailey is loving his older grades.  He is super excited that they speak English well, because he will be able to teach them lots!

We start actual classes on Monday... so wish us luck!  I'll leave you with this picture of my super awesome classroom.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Moving to Changzhou

Tuesday morning we quickly finished up our packing, and headed off with Bailey's mom to the Salt Lake City airport!  We said goodbye to our beautiful mountains, as we won't see them again until the summer.

Our first flight was to Seattle.  In Seattle we grabbed a quick lunch and hopped on our 12 hour flight to Shanghai!  It was a long flight, but really not as bad as we expected.  Yeah, we were kind of squished, and yeah there was a fight on the plane that almost made us have to reroute to Anchorage to drop off the troublemaker (he had tried to steal the watch right off of someone's wrist??), but all in all it wasn't too bad.  We got plenty of food and snacks, and enjoyed the time to watch our own little TVs.

We were exhausted by the time we made it to Shanghai.  By then we had gathered as a little group of ILP volunteers, which made everyone feel more comfortable.

The bus ride from Shanghai to Changzhou was very long.  Probably about three hours.  We all slept and froze at the same time, and finally we made it to campus.  It was a blessed sight.

We basically skipped a whole day, as we landed in Shanghai on the night of the 15th.  We were given today to settle in, to unpack and explore the city.  We needed water ASAP, because the school forgot to order us some jugs, so it was off to the supermarket for many of us!  Just going to the market was an adventure, it was so fun to see all of the Chinese treats and things!

We also explored our campus.  It is super nice!  It is gated so we feel super safe here.  We have to check in and out with the security guards (including one who hit on me - very awkward.  Anyone know how to say in Mandarin, "the guy next to me is my husband"?) every time we leave.  One of my favorite parts of campus is the garden! It is so cute and there's always this little gardener out there picking food for the cafeteria.  Our coordinator told us that we are welcome to pick and eat whatever we'd like!

So far we love it here!  I can't believe how big our city is, we have yet to find the downtown area.  But we have already made some friends and found some cool places.  I can't wait to discover everything we can during our time here!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Things That Happened in February

We are off to China tomorrow, so these past two weeks consisted of finishing things up around here, like work, and saying "see you later" to friends and family!

First, though, Bailey was invited by Representative Cory Maloy to join him on the house floor.  My Bailey looked so cute!  Later that day, Cory posted to his Facebook page a selfie he got of them, haha.

Bailey and I both had awesome jobs, so we had an impromptu crafting night in Bailey's mom's living room to write some thank you cards.  She has an impressive supply of cute craft stuff!

Leaving my work was so hard last Thursday!  Tears were shed as I left this family who I've grown to love so much.  What an amazing experience nannying has been!
We told Nadia to do a "princess smile" and this is what we got.

Of course, the ever-thoughtful Julie wasn't about to let me leave without stocking me up on doTERRA goods (she wants me to avoid Chinese hospitals and said, "if you don't have your health, what do you have?!" which I thought was a good point).  Creative Anika set up a raffle for the goods and surprise!  As she read the numbers off of her foot, I had all three of the winning tickets!

Saying goodbye to Ayla was also emotional, because the girl will be walking by the time I get back!  Crazy!  And I'll miss my mom, Grandma, Kylie, and Jen so much too!  Everyone took the day off on Friday so we could have a ladies day of sorts.  It included face masks and nail painting.  We even painted Ayla's nails!

I'm really glad Allie, Kess, and our boys all had time for us to get together for breakfast on Saturday.  Even Ethan was able to come along!  This group is so much fun and I'm really going to miss them all!

Sarah and I were able to catch up over some delicious Starbucks.  We don't actually know when we will see each other again, because she is probably going to head off to boot camp in the spring or early summer (she joined the Navy)!  She is a consistent inspiration to me, and I'm so excited to see where her life takes her!

Alli had her birthday dinner early so that Bailey and I could come!  It was so great to be able to see that side of the family and tell them, "see you at Obon practice!" (I'll be home just a few days before practice starts.)

Friday, February 3, 2017

February = Valentine's Day

People are so rude to Valentine's Day!  So what if you think it's just a commercial holiday - that doesn't mean you have to go buy a million flowers and chocolates!  I don't know.  I just think it is ridiculous that people get so worked up about the holiday.  Personally, I quite like Valentine's day because
1. Winter sucks and it needs something cute and
2. Why shouldn't we celebrate love?  Love is awesome!

Bailey and I are actually flying off to China on Valentine's day itself, but that didn't stop us from decorating!  I made us some heart garlands, because honestly, I'm kind of drawn to pink.

We added some cozy lights that I picked up from Target.  I actually bought them to take to China, because they're battery powered!  Isn't that cool?

We've even gotten some surprises for each other.  Well, not really surprises, but we did buy for each other things we've been wanting and haven't had an excuse to by yet (monk strap dress shoes for Bailey and a diffuser for me!)  This exotic toothpaste was definitely a surprise though.  Haha!  I have a fun husband.

Happy Valentine's Day to all!