My new teaching position: Xiwai International School in Songjiang District

Xiwai_bannerHello Zombies,

I hope your summer is going well.  Its been a while since I have posted anything.  Why? I haven’t done anything interesting these past few months.  Except for a brief trip to Hangzhou (which I will make a post about soon), I have done little else besides work and search for my next job.  My time at Disney English has come to an end.  It is with bittersweet memories that I say ‘Zai Jian’…I will remember only the good times I am sure, because there were more of those than bad times.  I have also made some really good friends who I will miss seeing daily!  

Good things I will remember: 1.) I love singing all the time in the classroom – that never gets old.  2.) Cute, no, REALLY cute Chinese children.  They are adorable.  3.) Disney content is awesome!  The technology is top-notch.  4.) Amazing and talented staff who put in extra effort to make the “show” go on and off without a hitch.

Things I won’t miss: 1.) the grueling 12 hours Saturday schedule.  2.) the constant “performance” aspect of this job.  I am an educator not a performer.  I often say – “time for the clown show” as we are getting ready to go “on stage”.  3.) Working EVERY weekend.  4.) No summer break. 5.) the “edu-tainment” factor and constantly “entertaining” children so that they can speak a simple English sentence is exhausting!  To say the least!

Now for the exciting and good news….I have found my next adventure.  I will be teaching middle school (6th, 7th & 8th Grade) Social Studies and computer classes at Xiwai International School!

xiwai.1 It is actually my dream and desire to teach that subject matter to that age group.  I couldn’t ask for more really, except if this whole opportunity was in Austin, Texas and not Songjiang, China.  So what do I have to complain about?  Come on!  You know me…I’ll find something.  LOL!  Its far from where I live, that is my only worry at the moment.  Its in another town called Songjiang which is many kilometers from Shanghai.  It will take me 1.5 hours each way.  Maybe I can grade papers on the train??  

Here’s the website:  http://www.xw.sjedu.cn/

Songjiang.8

The Forbidden City

I recently had the pleasure of taking a very quick mini-vacation (2 days) to the capital city of Beijing.  I met my friend Donna, who lives in Wuhan, China and who also works for Disney.  She flew into Beijing.  I took a bullet train from Shanghai.  The train ride is a quick 5 hours and is very fast and efficient.  One funny little tidbit about the train, I accidentally sat in the wrong seat – in 1st class!  Yes, I sat down and then I said, “wow, these trains sure are nice!  I am going to travel like this more often.”  Then the train stewardess comes to check seats and she says, “you are in the wrong seat.”  Oops.  Back to coach for me.  The coach seating wasn’t that bad anyway.

me in the wrong seat happy as a lark

me in the wrong seat happy as a lark

We were staying a really great hostel called the Sanlitun Youth Sanlitun right in the heart of a cool bar area of Beijing.  Hostels are my new favorite thing.  In America, we don’t have hostels.  Its either a hotel or something similar, but no proper “hostels”.  The rest of the world has hostels and they are great!  They are usually way cheaper than hotels, they offer all kinds of coolness, like an attached bar, food, arranged tours, and very helpful concierge services.  I really love hostels.  This is the second time I have stayed in a hostel.  The first time was my trip to Xi’an.  The best place to find a hostel is www.hostelworld.com.

We immediately dropped our bags and took a taxi to the Forbidden City.  For those of your who aren’t up on your Chinese history (and let’s face it, not many people are) the Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the center of Beijing, China.  It was the grand palace for the Emperor’s of China.  But now it’s called the Working People’s Cultural Palace Museum.  And do you blame the Chinese?  Come on.  The Emperor lived like, well, a king, and most of China lived very poorly.  This went on for over 500 years.  Now, it belongs to the people.

Its quite a lot of walking.  Its a very big place.  Lots of open space and buildings.  I think children might find it boring because they can’t appreciate the cultural and historical significance of it all.  But while I was there, I just kept imagining what it was like when the city was full of the workers and the palace staff and the Emperor.  I really enjoyed it.  Plus, I made a really goofy video of me flying through the city and bought this gorgeous artwork.  My students call me the Monkey King, so when I saw this, I had to have it.  And the second painting is Yin and Yang.  Funny story, right after I bought these art pieces, I walked out of the shop and slipped and fell down about 5 stairs right on top of the fish painting!  Luckily, its a lacquer on wood piece and wasn’t damaged at all.

So here is a gallery of some of the pictures we took that day inside the Forbidden City. Enjoy! Look for my next post – Tienanmen Square, the Great Wall of China and Scary-A$$ Doll Head, aka SAD.  She’s Donna’s travel totem which we had a blast taking pictures with.  SAD even flew through the Forbidden City in Donna’s video.

 

Here’s a short video clip too!

Flying through the Forbidden City

Are you are having a bad day, this might make it a little better.  Yes, for a mere 80 rmb, you too can film yourself flying through the Forbidden City.  I look like a complete idiot.  I will post some more pictures of my amazing Beijing vacation later (the Great Wall, Tianamen Square).  I have run out of time, thanks to China’s amazing internet.  It only took me 3 days to upload this video!

A Visit to the Terracotta Warriors site in Xi’an, China, Shaanxi Province

Me in front of Pit 2 at the Bing Ma Yong excavation site

Me in front of Pit 2 at the Bing Ma Yong excavation site

One of the best things about teaching in China is the two week break most teachers receive during Chinese New Year.  This is a time when the locals visit family and friends in their hometowns, and when teachers and foreigners get to travel!  For my first trip outside of Shanghai, we (my roommate, a co-worker and I) decided to go to Xi’an.  Xi’an (Chinese: 西安; pinyin: Xī’ān) is the capital of Shaanxi Province and one of the oldest cities in China.  It has more than 3000 years of history and is known as one of the Four Great Capitals of China, having held the honor as capital of China during the Zhou, Qin, Han,Sui, and Tang dynasties. Xi’an is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.  And for all those reasons, I knew it would be worth visiting this ancient city to experience these wonders for myself.   On our first day there, we went to see the Terracotta Warriors.  For those of you who don’t know what these amazing statues are, From Wikipedia:

The Terracotta Army or the “Terracotta Warriors and Horses”, is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.

The figures, dating from around the late third century BC, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers who were digging for a well. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits near by Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were also found in other pits and they include officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.

Pit 1 - the Army

Pit 1 – the Army

My Experience at the Site:

We waited in a line of hundreds of people (mostly Chinese) for over an hour to board the bus that took us to the burial site.  Its about an hour outside of Xi’an.  You can take a bus for 7 rmb each way.  It cost 130 rmb to enter the attraction.  I rented an audio guide for 30 rmb which is supposed to tell you interesting tidbits and explain things in English, but I don’t recommend it.  There were hardly any places to use the device and I had to hurry back at the end of the trip to return it in order to get my 200 rmb deposit back.  Its easier to just read the exhibit plaques and experience the attraction.  It is a 10 minute walk to actually get to the sites.  There are three main building attractions – a museum and exhibition hall which talks about the statues and the establishment of the site in detail, Pit 1, which contains the biggest lot of the soldiers all lined up and then Pits 2 and 3 which contain more horses and chariots and other types of figures.  The Pits are the really exciting parts of the exhibit.  Pit 1 is where they are all lined up facing East – row after row, hundreds of soldiers.  I had to fight my way to the railing to see and to take the picture you see above.  There were so many people crowding around that exhibit!  Note: Chinese New Year is a very crowded time to go traveling in China.  It is also a time when many restaurants and stores are closed as well, so be prepared for that.

The statues are pretty self explanatory but the hugeness of it all is pretty hard to explain in words.  There are different ranking soldiers – smaller ones are the middle ranking soldiers and the taller ones with a bun are the highest ranking officers.  The sheer number of them is what is amazing.  Additionally, the expertise in restoring and preserving them is also something to be admired. Its truly quite remarkable.

When you exit the exhibit, you will be directed down a long walk-way that has seller after seller hawking souvenirs.  Be ready to bargain!  I bought a set of terracotta warriors for 20 rmb, when they originally offered it to me for 500 rmb, and then when I went down the Hawkers Alley, a lady offered it to me for 5 rmb!  Ugh.  Shopping in China is a whole other story and something reserved for another post!  They really do have quite a lot of cool trinkets to choose from – from big to small, expensive to cheap, you will find it all right there.  There is food down that walkway as well.

Here’s a link to all of the pictures I took that day: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lngnqrsffmp6zu2/9xiKPohPvr

Me as a Terracotta Warrior!

Me as a Terracotta Warrior!

Terra Cotta Warrior #1

It took hundreds of workers almost 40 years to construct the soldiers and the various other amazing art pieces found in his burial site.  His actual tomb has yet to be opened and examined.  They say it will be an amazing find full of precious stones, and gold.  If you have time, I recommend watching this wonderful documentary from National Geographic which explains in detail why these statues are so unique and how they were actually made which defied technology and ability for its time.

Happy Chinese New Year! The prosperous year of the horse

Last night was Spring Eve and the first day of the 14 day long celebration foreigners call Chinese New Year and the Chinese call Spring Festival.  Me and my two good friends, Naomi from Australia and Heather from Las Vegas were in for the night watching Saving Mr. Banks, Mary Poppins and Frozen (yeah, we just can’t get enough Disney!) while all around us firecrackers and fireworks were blazing and popping.  It was really cool but after about 4 hours of this…I was starting to feel like I was in WWII bombing raids.  

keep calm and carry onThe phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” kept coming to mind.  According to our good friends at Wikipedia, Keep Calm and Carry On was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939, several months before the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the aftermath of widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities. It had only limited distribution with no public display, and thus was little known. It was rediscovered in 2000, has been re-issued by a number of private companies, and has been used as the decorative theme for a range of products. It was believed there were only two known surviving examples of the poster outside government archives until a collection of 20 originals was brought in to the Antiques Roadshow in 2012 by the daughter of an ex-Royal Observer Corps member.   [Gotta love the fun spin offs of the original – this zombie one is for you!]keep calm and avoid zombies

It is the year of the horse.  As a child I was always fascinated by the zodiac.  I would check my horoscope everyday and even found out my Chinese zodiac sign and read all about that too.  Whether you believe in it or not, looking at your zodiac is just plain fun.  I am a Scorpio-Pig and according to Primal Astrology.com this is what a Scorpio-Pig is like – apparently a Squid!  Who knew?!

Scorpio born during the Year of the Pig…

Scorpios born during the Chinese Zodiac’s Year of the Pig are represented in Primal Astrology by the Squid. The Pig brings a loving and caring side to Scorpio who also benefits from Pig’s determination and confidence. Squids dislike arguing because they are always right but nobody else is smart enough to realize it. Scorpio will try to keep its tough side up, but the Pig will be breaking down the wall as it’s being built. 

by photo.elsoar.com

by photo.elsoar.com

For more fun with the zodiac Travel Guide China.com has a fun little webpage that explains the strengths and weaknesses of the horse and shows other signs that are compatible with horse folk, among other things. Check it out here: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/horse.htm 

新年快乐给你
Xīnnián kuàilè gěi nǐ
“Happy New Year to you” in Mandarin Chinese

Shopping in Shanghai – its different

One of the first things that you need to know when you arrive in China is how to shop.  How to find the things you are looking for without losing your mind is important.  And this post is dedicated to enlightening the typical American.  There are no “big box stores”.  Sure, there is a place called “Wal-Mart” and yes, it may even be owned by Wal-Mart Corp., but don’t get excited.  It doesn’t have anything in there that you will want.  [this is similar to Wal-Mart in America – it looks promising, but don’t get excited.  It holds very little of what you need or want…]  There are no Target stores here either, which is a bummer because I LOVE Target.  Shanghai has an IKEA and that is awesome.  And yes, the IKEA is packed day and night just like it is in America.  There is no Macy’s, Dillards, JCPenneys or large department stores.  What you have here are little shops for each specific brand – the Addidas store, the Lancome store, the Clarins store, the Levi’s store, the New Balance store, etc…With that being said, you can find almost any brand named item you may need here in Shanghai – for a price!  Remember, it will be considered a foreign import.  Taxed to the gills on top of designer prices.  This stuff is NOT cheap.  If you want cheap, you must go to what we call the “fake market” where you are supposed to bargain, bargain bargain.  This is where I have heard the saying “Lady, you crazy.  Come on” in perfect English while I was “bargaining”.  What they do have are huge shopping malls.  But don’t picture urban sprawl, picture skyscraper.  A typical mall is 9 stories high, plus a basement and hopefully that basement hooks into a metro line stop.  Today I went to Joy City Mall (Metro Line 8, Qufu Lu stop).  Its in Zhabei district which is where I live.

Joy City

This doesn’t really look like a mall, does it?  It seems like a nightclub or a strange office building.  But no, this is it.  Its full of little shops.  Namely, H&M, Uniqlo, Levi’s, etc…plus many other little Chinese shops.  There is a food court, but mostly Chinese food. (and not the Chinese food you get in America either – its different) and a Subway Sandwich Shop.  Food is also located on the top floors of any mall.  As well as any movie theaters.  They are always at the top of the mall too.  Who knew, right?  And Starbucks will usually be located on the street level entrance.  You can find Starbucks all over Shanghai.  Its not rare at all.  Neither is McDonalds (which you can get delivered to you 24 hours a day for 8 RMB delivery fee plus the cost of food).  Another thing that you must get used to is that you can buy beauty products at a place called Watsons drug store or the grocery store.  But any types of medicine other than Ibuprofen and some other small items MUST be purchased at a pharmacy.

joy city 3

Remember, think specialized stores.  Each store has its specialty.  I remember when we first got to Shanghai and a fellow on-boarder from New York City was looking for first aid bandages – large sized and gauze, etc.  We just couldn’t find it anywhere.  We would look at this grocery store and that grocery store, and Watsons.  We just didn’t even think to look at a pharmacy.  But that’s where it was.  Duh.  You can find your contact solution here though.  Where?  Where else? – the glasses/contact store.  Think specialty stores.  Need something for your eyes?  Well, its at the “eye store”.

watsons2

Also, don’t forget that any personal hair care products – shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, hair spray, make up (bring your cheap make-up – expensive make-up is easy to find!), deodorant (especially deodorant – Chinese don’t use it), medicine (nose spray, Benadryl, Advil), perfume, etc…BRING WITH YOU!   Don’t expect to come to China and find the same things you love back home.  And if you do, be prepared to pay way more for those items because they will now be foreign imports here and they cost twice as much.

Also, if you wear over a size C cup, bring your bras!!  If you wear over a size 8, bring your shoes!!!  You especially need your shoes!  Size 8 and smaller – the world is your oyster when it comes to shoes.  Anything bigger, forget about it.  You are looking at having to purchase men’s shoes.  I will post more on shoes later (its a big deal to me here since I wear a ladies size 10!)

All Disney employees arrive in Shanghai to get trained and processed.  We all stay at the JinJiang Inn at Zhongshan Park and Cloud 9 Mall.  Make friends with Zhongshan Park area.  Do not hate it.  Explore Cloud 9 Mall.  There is a Carrefour (a french grocery store loaded with Chinese stuff and some Western stuff) a movie theater at the very top of that mall, food places (both Western and Chinese), H&M, a cool bar down the street called JoJos and easy access to Line 2 attractions (the Bund, Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Shopping street, Jing’An Temple, and nightlife galore).  I have a saying when it comes to China…

“Everything is here, you just can’t see it.”

Keep looking.  Its like looking at a Monet, close up its a big ol’ mess.  But from far away it looks perfect.  At first when you get here, you will have Monet eyes…however, slowly it starts to clear and you can see the beauty of the place you have come to.  Just keep looking and you will find it.cloud nine 2

Cloud Nine

Xuijiahui Cathedral – Shanghai, China

Yesterday we had a rare Sunday off from Disney English.  That doesn’t happen often since our main working days are the weekends because that is when the children are not in school and the parents are not working.  So a couple of us went to mass at St. Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui district.   The original church was built in 1851 but was torn down in the 1980’s to make way for the new headquarters of the Shanghai Diocese.  For more information on the history of the church, see below.

We attended noon English speaking mass.  And true to Catholicism everywhere in the world, the mass was exactly as it always is – the order of the mass does not change, the prayers are the same and the faith remains.  The only thing that differs are the melodies with which the songs are sung and the people that you will see.  The main differences that I found were that the holy water was brown and frozen in the font!  There was no heat at all in the Cathedral (sing with gusto to warm yourself!)  and the pews were very rustic.

Take metro line 1 to Xujiahui metro stop.  Exit on Puxi Road.

St. Ignatius Cathedral - Xujiahui District, Shanghai, China

St. Ignatius Cathedral – Xujiahui District, Shanghai, China

History of the Church:

(taken from Wikipedia on 12.30.13) 

With the growth of Zikawei as a center of Catholicism, a new, larger church was commissioned. Designed by English architect William Doyle, and built by French Jesuits between 1905 and 1910, it is said to have once been known as “the grandest church in the Far East.” It can accommodate 2,500 worshipers at the same time.

In 1960, after the Communist takeover of Shanghai and the arrest and imprisonment of the leaders of the Shanghai Diocese, the cathedral of the Bishop of Shanghai was moved from the older but smaller Cathedral of St Francis Xavier at Dongjiadu to St Ignatius, and Xujiahui became the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shanghai.

In 1966, at the opening of the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards from Beijing vandalized the cathedral, tearing down its spires and ceiling, and smashing its roughly 300 square meters of stained glass. Red Guards also beat up priests and nuns at the church. Powerless to resist, Bishop Aloysius Zhang Jiashu knelt at the altar and prayed until he was dragged away – for the duration of the Cultural Revolution, he was “sent down” for labour, repairing umbrellas and washing bottles. For the next ten years the Cathedral served as a state-owned grain warehouse.  In 1978 the cathedral was re-opened, and the spires were restored in the early 1980s

The side courtyard gardens

The side courtyard gardens

Anissa - Dec. 29th, 2013 12 o'clock mass Feast of the Holy Family

Anissa – Dec. 29th, 2013 12 o’clock mass Feast of the Holy Family

Dec. 29th, 2013 - Xujiahui Cathedral

Dec. 29th, 2013 – Xujiahui Cathedral

St. Ignatius Cathedral

St. Ignatius Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are in Shanghai, and you are looking for a place to go to mass, below are the options you will find here in this huge city.

ST. PETER’S CHURCH (SPC)

270 S. Chongqing Rd.
English SATURDAY 5pm & SUNDAY 11am
Jan. 1 11am
German Jan. 19 3pm
Korean SUNDAY 5pm Jan. 1 4pm

ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH (SFX)
175 Dongjiadu Rd
SATURDAY 5pm
SUNDAY 10:30am & 12:30pm
Jan. 1 11:30am

SACRED HEART CHURCH (SHJ)
151 Hongfeng Rd., Pudong
SATURDAY 5pm & SUNDAY 10:30am

ST. IGNATIUS CATHEDRAL (SII)
158 Puxi Rd.
SUNDAY 12 noon


CONFESSION: 30 minutes before mass or call for appt.:
. English (SPC) Fr. Chen 1391-778-6322
. English (SFX) Fr. Lu 13585635651
. English (SHJ) Fr. Fang 13817503946
. English (SII) Fr. Lan 13122407347
. French Fr. Tian 13122747939
. German Fr. Bauer 13774310216
. Korean Fr. Lim 15800899686
. Spanish Fr. Francisco 1371-764-9701