2014 in review! Hey check it out Zombies…I am hugely popular in China and Brazil…and of course, USA. Well, its been a cool year. I will try to blog more in 2015. Happy New Year!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Let It Be

iloveG&D

Mother Mary comforts me…speaking words of wisdom, let it be, let it be.

This is one of my favorite memories of all time.  One day, my daughter Daniella and I were eating lunch at a Whole Foods in Austin, Texas. There was a singer there playing music for the lunch crowd.  He asked if anyone would like to come up and sing.  She said yes, and the rest is history.  Daniella was 10 years old at the time.  She’s now 13 years old (almost 14) and an 8th grader at Walsh Middle School!  Not only is she beautiful, she loves to cook (still learning!) plays cello, and gets good grades.  She’s an awesome young lady.  I miss you Daniella!

Daniella, 2013

Daniella, 2013

Gabriella & Gidget, 2013

Gabriella & Gidget, 2013

And not to be outdone or forgotten is Gabriella, my oldest daughter, 15 years old in 3 more days.  I can’t believe you are a sophomore this year at Stony Point High School. Not only is she beautiful, she plays the violin, is joining golf team this year and gets good grades – I’m very proud of you, Gabby!  Here’s an old video of her when she was first learning to play the violin.  She’s playing along with her Daddy.  I miss you girl.

 

I am counting the days until I get to come home and see you girls again.  For now, Mother Mary comforts me.  Let it Be.

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

Let It Go! Let It Go! – here’s some Disney magic for you.

We were challenged by Disney to make a video for the Academy Award winning song “Let It Go!”  So here it is.  This is what my job is like.  I sing and play with children while I teach them English.  All. Day. Long. Its fun!  One minute in, you’ll see me singing too.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

The Great Wall of China – Its amazing!

I love Gabby and Dani written on the Great Wall of China!

I love Gabby and Dani written on the Great Wall of China!

During the month of March, I had the opportunity to go to Beijing for a very fast but  fun adventure to the capital city of Beijing, China!  Now, I know what you are thinking – was it smoggy?  And they answer to that question is a resounding “NO!”  The sky was a bright blue and there was not a trace of smog the whole time we were there.  This is in alignment with my theory that China is a very beautiful place when the factories and industry here are not polluting the heck out of it!  Another theory we had was that the government was holding off on smogging up the place because Michelle Obama was going to to be visiting just a few days after Donna and I were there.  Thanks Michelle!  We don’t know if that’s exactly true or not, but it benefited us nonetheless.

Blue skies!

Blue skies!

On day 2 of this awesome mini-vacation, we booked a tour to the Great Wall through our hostel, Sanlitun Youth Hostel for 180 rmb.  Its a two hour bus ride to the Wall, with 3 hours of hiking on the wall, lunch and a ride back.  The bus leaves at 8:00 am (Yikes! early if you stay out late the night before) and comes back by 4 pm.  Free breakfast in the hostel starting at 7 am (which was very good, by the way).

So the area of the wall we hiked was called Mutianyu. A brief history on this section of the wall is included below.

Mutianyu (Chinese: 慕田峪; pinyin: Mùtiányù) is a section of the Great Wall of China located in Huairou County, 70 km northeast of central Beijing. The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is connected with Jiankou in the west and Lianhuachi in the east. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs.

First built in the mid-6th century during the Northern Qi, Mutianyu Great Wall is older than the Badaling section of the Great Wall. In the Ming dynasty, under the supervision of General Xu Da, construction of the present wall began on the foundation of the wall of Northern Qi. In 1404, a pass was built in the wall. In 1569, the Mutianyu Great Wall was rebuilt and till today most parts of it are well preserved. The Mutianyu Great Wall has the largest construction scale and best quality among all sections of Great Wall. (information taken from our friends at Wikipedia on April 8th, 2014).

We took a ski-lift gondola up the mountain and hiked for 3 hours.  The views were amazing!  The actual steepness of this section of the wall is hard to describe in words and the pictures don’t do it justice.  We also got to hike past the well-preserved tourist areas of the wall and walk along the un-maintained areas.  This was very cool.  I saw a pheasant fly by and crumbling pieces of the wall.  And that is where I sneakily wrote “I love G & D” on the Wall in chalk (which was actually the crumbling cement that was used to hold the stones together).  There were watchtowers along the way where the guards lived when this wall was in its prime.  It was beautiful.  The amazing and industrious Chinese have once again astounded me with their tenacity.  Had this wall been commissioned to be built today, it would have been a difficult task.  Just imagine what it took to build this wall in the 1400’s?  And the wall goes on and on…as far as the eyes can see…

Another really fun thing to do is to take a toboggan down the mountain.  My friends from Colorado know all about this type of activity.  We call it the Alpine Slide and its what we do on the mountains of Colorado during the summer when there’s no snow.  I also enjoyed being harassed by the toboggan operator.  He was coming at me carnival worker style and was a cheeky little brat who spoke pretty good English.  He wouldn’t let me go down the mountain for like 10 minutes while he grilled me and took pictures.  If you come to China, this is a must-see experience and one shouldn’t leave China without going there at least once.  I liked it so much, I might go back.  There are many other sections of the wall to see, not just Mutianyu.  I only wish you were here with me.  I’ve added a little video below of me all out of breath on Watch Tower 1.

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!