Yeah, yeah, corny I know, but I couldn’t help myself. So this year’s spring break was pretty doggone amazing and the first stop was Athens, Greece. I spent a total of 4 days and 3 nights in Athens. Two were spent at the beginning of the trip and one at the end. And I’m actually mad at myself for not spending more time. See, I chose the number of days based on the recommendations of others who stated that two days was all you really needed in Athens. Now, I’m wondering what on Earth those people were doing or not doing to think so little time is needed to enjoy the city and all it’s wonderful cultural offerings? Advice: Be prepared to be disappointed by other people’s suggestions. Always base how you navigate your travels on the kind of traveler you are. Continue reading “It’s All Greek to Me!”
“Unromantic Realities of Teaching in a Foreign Land”
I thought about this piece while walking to work this morning. The lone unicorn walking down these China streets powering through the stares and scowls of those around me. When I first made the decision to move abroad I was at the juncture in my life where I knew that if I didn’t change something and in a very big way, I was going to leave the world of academia behind altogether. My life in the U.S. was fine, but something always seemed to be missing or askew or just not quite right. And the constant threat upon my black skin from sources concrete and abstract made living there scary and seemingly dangerous. So like the romantic that I am, I decided living and teaching in a new country would be the answer. I fantasized about the impact I would make, the lessons I would perform and how I would grow to the heavens in my teaching practice. I imagined myself and my daughter in our exotic new locale indulging in new foods, visiting new countries and learning new languages. And while the things that I’ve imagined have, in fact, taken place, my main reason for living in China has been the most challenging aspect of our new journey.
You see, teaching in China has many more challenges than I anticipated. Aside from the obvious challenge of a language barrier, there have been three distinct challenges with which I have had to contend: unrealistic expectations from parents, lazy, under-motivated students and lack of resources. Teachers everywhere are reading that thinking, “I deal with the same issues!” Believe me, I know. Like many teachers, I thought teaching abroad would be a teacher’s utopia. And I especially thought teaching in China would be easier. I was a victim of the same preconceived notions as many other Americans are, “Chinese students work hard”, “Chinese students are naturally motivated”, “Chinese students are blah, blah, blah. Just wonderful”. The truth is Chinese students are, well, students, merely children who suffer from many of the same ailments and conditions as other children – laziness, self-indulgence, self-centeredness and just plain incorrigibility. Now, of course, it’s not all students all of the time, but the model student that many of us believed existed in China is in actuality a rarity not the norm.
The good thing about this realization is that being a trained, certified, experienced teacher in the U.S. properly prepared me to successfully handle this reality. Therefore, it is business as usual in my classroom. I simply employed the same strategies and expectations that I would in my American classroom. The biggest difference is having a teaching assistant/translator. Somewhat similar to the co-teaching model without the collaborative planning. Of course, many of us who have had co-teachers know that collaborative planning doesn’t always happen either.
Nonetheless, those realities aren’t enough to make me regret my decision to teach abroad, especially since I would be dealing with the exact same issues in the U.S. Moreover, just like back home, the students always make it worth it. I have students with big personalities, students who are exceptionally quiet, some who are extraordinarily loud and some who love drama. There are comedians, fighters, actors and natural leaders. Their personalities are just as varied as any group of young people would be and so are their academic levels. They definitely have helped to make this journey quite interesting.
Where should we go? HELP!
I’ve tossed and turned and had many a sleepless night on Skyscanner, Ctrip, TripAdvisor and Facebook trying to decide where the mini and I should go for the December holiday break. Of course, I’ve come up with a multitude of destinations. All of which would be new or newish to both of us. Yet, I still cannot make a final decision as to where to go, so I’m asking for your help. I’ve created a poll and I need for my readers to tell me where they think I should go. I chose places based on access to a beach, duration of flights and cost of visa. If you feel I’ve overlooked a destination, please share it in the comments. Soooo…where should we go??
To Bangkok with Love Part 2- A Happy Surprise
I remember asking some people how much time one should plan to spend in Bangkok and being told two days max. Admittedly, my perspective of Bangkok was a bit skewed due in part to the stories and feedback of others’ and largely the Hangover movie. I had a picture in my mind of a place with tons of garbage and grunge and lady boys and lots of sex for sale wherever you turned. I got the impression that absolutely anything goes and that two days was more than I could take in a place that offered up cheap booty and anal invasions even to those who weren’t the least bit interested. Needless to say, I was wrong and hella glad of it. Continue reading “To Bangkok with Love Part 2- A Happy Surprise”
To Bangkok with Love (Pt. 1)
Thailand has been on my “list” since my first experience with Thai food at this cute, quaint Thai restaurant several years ago in Atlanta. I wish I could remember the name of the place, but it escapes me at this time. Nonetheless, I remember thinking to myself that if the food was this good here in Atlanta, then it would have to be 100 times better in the local area of Thailand. So…yes, food fueled my desire to get to Thailand and well, their epic Full Moon party, but that’s another story. Needless to say, the moment I confirmed that I would be living in China for the at least the next year I started planning our trip to Thailand. Initially, it was going to be our Christmas holiday trip, but when the Mid-Autumn Fall Break rolled around, I decided I couldn’t wait to find refuge in a different foreign land. And I desperately needed a place much different than my current country of residence. Bangkok gave me all that I needed and then some.
Familiarity and Nostalgia
Our first night there we discovered a comprehensive dining guide in our modern and well-appointed rental apartment which was located in Circle 12 Condominiums on Sukhumvit Soi 12. It wasn’t my intent to do much restaurant eating as I am a street food fanatic, but my daughter saw that there was a Krispy Kreme in the Emporium shopping center and, being the doughnut aficionado she is, nearly lost her mind. At that moment, our mission became to find the doughnuts, after eating dinner and getting massages of course. So we officially began our trip with dinner at Stable Lodge where indulged in traditional Thai fare, followed by two wonderful full body scrubs with massages from a little place on Soi 8 called Relax…and something else. Honestly, the name doesn’t matter much. It was the only place on the street that did full body scrubs. Now, as far as extras, I don’t know anything about that, but our place seemed legit and while it was a bit shabby, the body work was the bomb and the price was super cheap.
One of the great things we discovered, soon after arrival, is that navigating Bangkok was 10 times easier than navigating Foshan. We didn’t face the same language barriers, the public transportation system was easy to understand and use and there dozens of familiar shops and restaurants. Krispy Kreme just happened to be one of them. So after we bought the Krispy Kreme we explored the multitude of shops, restaurants and stalls in Emporium and Terminal 21. We saw everything from Louis Vuitton to Sephora to Payless Shoes to Wine Market and even a boutique grocery store in the mall. The food courts in these places were absolutely amazing. Fine dining to fast food to stalls that resembled those at the night markets were all there. It was shopping and foodie heaven!
But the thing that made us miss home the most, the thing that caused the throat knot and the misty eyes, was the sight of Krispy Kreme. I don’t know how the Creator knew that we needed that little piece of home, but it was right on time. Honestly, Bangkok was right on time in many more ways.