Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Final Blog?

Well, we're home now. I'm not sure who is still checking this blog, but if you are, I hope you enjoyed it. I probably won't be updating it anymore - it was more of a "China thing".

We are so thankful for the friends we met in Shanghai. If not for the kind and helpful people that we met there, our year would have been filled with struggle. We will never forget the friendships that we formed with our SMIC family.

Thanks to everyone who wrote or called us over the past year. You will never know how exciting it was to receive mail or calls from the States. It was always helpful to know that we would be coming back to friends and family who care so much about us.

Bye for now...

One Final Trip

For our last weekend in China we decided to take one last trip before we had to come home. We chose Hainan - a little island south of the mainland, known as the Hawaii of China. It was gorgeous and just what we needed before the hectic voyage back to the States. It was a perfect weekend of lounging and swimming. The only drawback was the second and third degree burns that I suffered over 75% of my body. Sunscreen doesn't really work so well in tropical environments.

A Trip to the Orphanage

A few weeks before we left China, we accompanied a group from the company to a local orphanage. Our purpose was to play and sing with the kids because they don't get a lot of attention from people. Most of the kids were developmentally or physically handicapped in some way. We fell in love with these kids and had a tough time leaving them when it came time to go.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Guys' Night

On just about every Thursday evening this school year we've held Guys Night at my buddy Dan Henderson's apartment. Four of us (a fifth was added later in the year) would get together, eat pizza, watch DVDs, but most importantly we would play ping pong. Early in the year I was given a jersey with my nickname (The Senator) on it by Dan and Brian Bates. Then it got serious.

Let's meet the players:
"The Gentleman": Dan Henderson: probably the best player of the bunch. It's his table and he's tough to beat on it. He got his nickname because of the motion that he makes after he serves a ball - he sort of sweeps his left hand around his body as if he's opening a door for someone.

"The Rebel": Brian Bates: We gave him this nickname because he runs around the ping pong table like Andre Agassi. Agassi was a spokesman for The Rebel camera back in his playing days. The Rebel has a bad back, so it's tough for him to play, but he gives it all he has.

"The Sarge": Tim Kao: Tim is a member of the administrative team at the middle/high school, so he's the highest ranking member of the club, hence the name. Tim has both a power and finesse game. He and I try to unseat The Gentleman every Thursday as the number one seeded player.

"The Kid": Jeff Chen: Jeff lives in Dan's building but didn't start coming to play until the last half of the year. He's by far the most improved player, but has yet to record his first victory on the table. It could come soon.

"The Senator": John Taylor: I got this name because at the beginning of the year I was in a picture wearing a tie as I was running around the athletic track during Sports Day at the school. People told me that I looked like a politician on the campaign trail - thus, The Senator was born. I am also the only player who utilizes a two-handed backhand at certain times during a match. This is usually followed by my catch phrase, "Thanks for your vote."

The Great Wall of Ping Pong. The Kid was late for picture night.

Guys night always begins with a large BBQ Chicken pizza from Papa John's. The meal of champions.

Henderson Memorial Gardens

I'd think twice before messing with these two on a ping pong table.

People have told me that my game reminds them of a "violent ballet" - powerful yet beautiful at the same time. That's sheer athleticism, folks.

When The Gentleman gets that windmill of a forehand going, he's tough to beat.

The Rebel has battled some back injuries this season, but he's a fiesty competitor.

The Sarge can cover a lot of ground - catlike quickness is the key to his game.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Last Week of School

It's the last week of school and it's bittersweet. It's always great to be finished with another school year, but this year is different. I'm going to miss these kids more than I thought I ever would - a lot more.

Today I introduced my freshman class to the world famous Dave Taylor Pretzel Sundae. I'm sure people have added pretzels to vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, but I always like to believe that my dad made the discovery. I had been describing this treat to my freshies all year long, and today I finally let them experience this unparalleled treat for themselves. I think they enjoyed them. Even if they didn't, these kids are way too polite to tell me they didn't.

My sophomores read the play Our Town earlier this quarter. They had mentioned that they would like to perform it. I was thinking that this idea would pass, so I didn't say anything for a while. Well, they didn't let it drop. We ended up performing the third act for the entire student body today. I can't believe how excellent a job they did with it. They memorized every line without any problems. I didn't assign this, they just wanted to do it for themselves - that's what kind of kids these are. I ended up performing with them, and even though I was completely terrified that I would screw up my lines, I'm really glad that I did it.

The stars of the show. Back row (left to right): Michael Chen, Gloria Yoo, Jessica Pelaschier, Yours Truly, Hsiang Lin. Front row (left to right): Tiffany Chen, Eileen Hu, Min Chen, Grace Yoo

Trip to Yangshuo

Last weekend we took a trip to Yangshuo with our friends and fellow teachers Brian and Bethany Bates. Yangshuo is about a two hour plane trip southwest of Shanghai in the Guanxi province. It was one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen! Luckily for us, Brian and Bethany had been there about four other times, so they knew where to take us. We rented scooters (electric ones, so mine didn't go very fast) every day and just cruised around the city. They took us out to an amazing spot where we could swim in a river and do some bridge jumping. We also went on a cave tour and got to swim in a mud pool. It was our favorite trip so far.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A busy few weeks

It's been an eventful few weeks. A former student of mine at Mahtomedi, Kira Nelson, was in town for a business class, so she stayed with us for a few days before she flew to Beijing to travel with her aunt and uncle who are teachers there. We showed her around a little bit - she experienced the eyeglass market and bought three pair.

Last week was the athletic banquet at the company. All of the athletes from the middle and high school were there - great to see so many kids come out. Brian Bates, one of the physical education teachers, made a movie wrapping up the year. He did an amazing job with it.

Last Saturday was International Day for the elementary kids. Each class picks a country to research and they need to put on some kind of performance. Mandy chose Ireland (because we know that Irish people are the best). Her kids learned a lot and the classroom looked amazing. I wish I could have had Mandy as a first grade teacher!

Last Friday night Tim Kao, head of student affairs and math teacher, put on an acoustic show of his music in the school auditorium. I've seen him perform with his band before and was impressed, but this show was really great! He writes all of his own music and lyrics - a very talented guy. He brought up students to play and sing with him as well as members of the faculty. A great show. He's leaving SMIC after four years to live in the States - keep your eyes open for him, he's talented enough to make it in the music business.

The fact that we're going to be leaving in a few weeks is really starting to sink in. I'm excited to get back home, but leaving people here is going to be really tough, especially the kids. I started a facebook page so that I could keep in touch with them easier next year. I've had both of my classes for the entire year and have gotten to be pretty close to them. These are the nicest, smartest, most lovable kids I've ever met. I wish I could take them all to the States with me. I'm really going to miss them.

Very happy Americans. Dan Henderson made the trip with us.

I haven't seen Mandy this excited in a long time - if anyone knows her at all, they know that the key to her heart is through her stomach.

Mandy and Kira trying a new look at the eyeglass market.

Tim Kao performing one of his songs. It was an impressive show.

Mandy's class performed "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling".

Mrs. Taylor's classroom was transformed into an Irish castle on International Day.

Coach Rob Perdue talks about his varsity boys basketball team. They won the regular season championship and were a lot of fun to watch.

Heather Couch and Brian Bates presenting the awards at the banquet. Heather is leaving SMIC after three years as athletic director.