Saturday, September 2, 2017

Editing, Mind Mapping, Wedding, Work...

About what I do here, I haven't written a whole heck of a lot, have I?  The past 2 months have been filled with 12 hour days and major changes. While foreign teachers seem to come and go quickly, the curriculum team members are the ones I spend most of my time with and they're amazing. I prefer teaching just a couple classes online a day, because there's so much to do in curriculum.  I need the teaching to keep my mind in what it's like for those who are teaching, but it's not my "thing."  Not this kind of teaching anyway, which has filled my head with ideas of how to improve...

This blog (sorry--I've mostly been posting on Google and Facebook) is dedicated to work and those I work with.  Where would any of us be w/o underpaid, overworked Amy and "Money?"  Teacher Trainers, by title, go-to people who continually put out fires and rescue hapless helpless types like me, in practice.
Images of the stacks of lessons I proof read wouldn't be interesting or appropriate to post. Have discovered I enjoy doing it, tho.  They're like puzzles (that I LIKE, since I don't care for puzzles) to figure out what is supposed to be communicated and what's actually in the lesson.  What matters and what doesn't.  It's not easy and I rely heavily on the internet to double check my thinking on terminology and spelling, especially since TAL uses curriculum based on the U.K.'s version of English.  Words like "lorry" and "lift," can stump an American like me.  I have friends here from the U.K., though, and Google has that gap covered, too.

Creating Mind Maps is really fun! It's an attempt to help the kids to catagorize words into sections--to see, at a glance, how they fit under a collective theme.  I'm used to seeing mind maps that look like kind of overwhelming spiderwebs of color and words.  To create something, using 20+ years of sign painting experience, that's more visually appealing, less dizzyingly complex, is the goal.
It's exciting to begin to understand what possibilities exist in
merging what I draw (but mostly find--not enough time to draw at the moment, 
always deadlines and I'm learning more useful stuff than I ever learned in college)
 with computer generated text and imagery. 
Google access is officially banned by China, but, 
coworkers have helped me bypass that.  
Can't do my job w/o it. Can't stay sane w/o it.   
The whole country is run on pirated software anyway.  True story.  
The creation of cultural lessons for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are on my to-do list.  Here's a page from Halloween:
When I finish the Mind Maps (there'll be around 30-40 pages of them, in total) and this round of cultural lessons, I've been asked to (insert drum roll here) 
create 10 story lessons, based on MY STORIES!
SO, life is VERY, VERY full and there's never enough time...I bring work home with me sometimes and will continue to do so.  This job is like an internship--I'm discovering and learning something new all of the time and, just as it was necessary to put in 16 hour days to complete a painting project on time and at the quality I'd feel good about, or write a paper for BYU, long hours aren't a burden when they're part of something you really want to do.

There won't be as many travelogues from here as I had time for in Sacheon, South Korea. But, that's ok, because I came here to work and that's what I'm doing. 

When you think of the hard-working, polite, and understated qualities you normally associate with people from Asia, they all work on curriculum developing.  It's an honor to work with them! I'm making a list of stuff I love here.  Someone said I could do the same for what I don't love.  Nope.  Too easy to see that stuff since by and large the people have been programmed to distrust foreigners.  Being glared at and cheated is more common than a smile.  I can't get my nails done in the colors I prefer or w/o being charged double unless I bring tall, strong-willed, Chinese co-worker "Hannah," who won't allow it.  Here's Hannah (who'd getting married this weekend!), "Cheng," & my nails:
China is DIVERSE. It bares very little resemblance to what people think of when they think of Asia. Many of the people here are as tall or taller than I am.  The geography is reflected in the people.  They'll yell, chastise, laugh, spit, and cut in line.  Others are more demure and keep their thoughts to themselves until they really trust you.  They're all "traditional" Chinese, just as there's no "typical" American. I realize that now.  Pearl S. Buck novels are an excellent insight into that fact, since Chinese was her first written language, I believe, and she wrote from a lifetime of experience, not hearsay. So, here are some more of the people who make stuff happen here:
Nancy, in the middle, the boss and head of festivities for TAL's 14th Birthday party a week ago.
Pamela is heading up our new Junior High lessons.  I'm a huge admirer of hers.  Brilliant lady.
Ran Wang, got me this job and I need another blog to write about her.  
But, let's end with images from her wedding yesterday, 
to her sweetheart and best friend since Junior High.
Me with my favorite Teacher Trainer, just before heading home!
Ran with new hubby and buddies from work, after the ceremony.
Queen for a day, Ran the bride, who was drop-dead gorgeous, despite herself! 
She hated all the fuss and did not want a big wedding, but BIG is what she got and 
she pulled it off like a royal.  Love her so much, I cried.
A romantic at heart, I love happy endings and have every confidence that the
ending of the crazy wedding day is the beginning
of happiness for Ran and Nan!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Random Reactions to Beijing

These are partial views from my apartment windows.  
It's a very old place, on the top of 6 fights of cement stairs (no elevator). 
 I love it! Haven't lived IN a big city since Tokyo, and the view makes climbing all those stairs and being stared at by Chinese neighbours who aren't accustomed to Westerners, worth it.

Inside, it's comfortable, but also kind of, umm, "interesting" in how the restoration of the place was done.  If you're inside and look around a bit, you'll see huge wholes filled in with plaster and uneven floor tiles, etc., but I don't look too closely.  It all works and feels charming!  It's a great place to come "home" to for a year.  I hear children singing at a near-by preschool every weekday morning, traffic pretty much all the time (which I can close the door to anytime and it becomes soft, white noise in the background), with kids and folks chatting and playing below, outside my kitchen window.  
Here's where I proof read, work on power points, etc.  A lot of what I want to do is blocked by China, so that's a hurdle to overcome.  I should FINALLY be able to do the teaching demo next week! Was supposed to do during the first week.  Too sick (having left the states taking antibiotics for pneumonia) and too overwhelmed by the new tech, lesson format, etc to accomplish the task any sooner, I was given more time.  Gettin' there!
Took the photo in the evening, but, during the day
 I'm surrounded by co-workers, 
which is great, since there's so much I don't know!
End of the day view, outside my building, while waiting for my bus.  A lot of the neon letters and images on the lighted billboards, unfortunately, 
won't show up on a photograph taken with my iPhone.

About Chinese food in reality.  Many things are mislabeled.  According to this packet of something like 12 flavored soy nuts, there are nearly 500 calories--yes, I converted Kj to calories--in these 2-3 bites.  The melon next to it (Tian Bao, I think?) is mildly sweet and 100% edible.  It's a happy new discovery!  But, what's served in most cafeterias and for dinner at our work is generally so full of sugar, msg, grease, other fillers, and what seems like fake food, I usually get sick again if I eat more than a third of what I'm served.
Rather than embarrass anyone by taking photos of my food, I found this image on line.  It looks a lot like something I like and eat (minus some of the unidentified stuff). But, that orange colored liquid is oil.  It sticks to your teeth, mouth, throat, and, it seems, my lungs.  I cough more at night, after eating any of these foods, than I do at the beginning of the week, when I've been careful to eat soup, honey and fruit over the weekend.  So, yes, the FOOD in Beijing is a rude surprise.  I believe that Chinese food, in its original form, IS healthier than American's tradition of meat and potatoes.  But not anymore.  I'd feel much better after a burger and salad on the side, even if it's just lettuce.  
So I can get over this nasty cough and recurring fever, I decided it's time to cook in my kitchen.  Since I'm still cash poor until payday, 
I go to Walmart (VERY different on the inside than an American story) 
bc they accept my credit card.  
These 2 boys helped me find the store yesterday.
They walked a mile out of their way to help the confused American woman! The long walk started off by my trying to find a bus that goes there (tired of paying for taxis--that's another blog.  Cheap, but "iffy" drivers.  The worse they are, the more you pay).  Ended up walking, seeing something of my neighborhood, and getting lost.  I am so impressed with the youth in China! 
Most people aged 30 and younger will do whatever they can to help you.  
The really old would too, but sadly, I don't speak Chinese. :-( 
Anyway, bought liver (I happen to love it, and it's rich in iron) 
& wheat noodles (the same kind I found in Korea! I was so excited!!) 
bc. they're so much richer in protein and everything else, than white rice or rice noodles.
Also, purchased raw, skinless chicken with no fat, and eggs. Adding these to the ingredients I brought home of Friday (cabbage, mushrooms, onion, tofu...), was able to make a super healthy soup. It's delicious!  Besides, determined to stop feeling so lousy for over 1/2 the time! If you ever come to Beijing, throw out the idea that you're coming to the land of healthy eating.  Not right now.  There's no regulation and, unless people suddenly start dying (like the time, I hear rumors, that baby powder laced baby formula started killing babies), no accountability for whatever nutrition is or isn't included in whatever you're served.  I'm not a picky eater. 
 I only noticed because of the direct correlation between 
feeling sicker after eating most of the foods available.  
Oh, and a lot of the water's pretty lousy.  Even after boiling it 10+ minutes, it doesn't taste ok.

Guess what?  Knives aren't sold commonly.  They're considered to be weapons.  
I couldn't even find a table knife to help me chop up stuff for my soup.  
Instead, I found this. 
Yep, it's a pie server! I felt the edges--sharp and rough.  This'll work, I thought.  It does! Craziness. 
 I could easily off someone with this thing....shhhhh! I didn't say that!
These are a few "modern" rickshaws, that can be seen everywhere, carrying everything and everyone that might fit into or on them.  You'll notice that some are pedalled manually.  Most are motorised. They all have 3 wheels.  A silver one carries people (I took this photo in the parking lot). 
This one has plants and flowers for sale. The lady in the back buys some.
Here's a bright teal-colored tiny version of a truck/wagon.  The driver's napping.
And the streets are swept up by the kind you see in this photo. I was waiting for my bus.  
So cool!  I love 'em!  One of these days, I'll get up the nerve to ride in one 
(when I'm sure I have cash and time to get lost, maybe)
Let's end with some photos of traditional architecture tucked in here and there in a mostly modern city.  I'm delighted whenever I see little touches like this.  I don't want to be anywhere in any city.
China is where I am and what I want to see!  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

BEIJING BOUND, thanks to so many...!

AAAAAnd, I have my VISA! BEIJING bound so so soon! Indeed, it's been a "forbidden city" for me, 
until NOW! Just to clarify "WHY China?" (I have to focus on getting ready to skedaddle.) The position is to be a curriculum developer for the company's new on-line TESOL program, along with editing content and training, plus teaching a couple hours a day. Hoping/planning to turn it into a long-term gig, working remotely as on-line teaching spreads across Asia. 
Perfect outlet for art, stories and music, so China's the place for me next!
I want to post first about what it took to get my Z Visa to work in China.  This is fairly new for the company I'm going to work for, so I had to figure it out on my own.  If you find yourself in the same position, I want to highly recommend, after you've obtained your official documents from the company you're going to work for (they should be able to walk you through what to do up to that point), 
contact these people:
They're in the same building, on the 3rd floor up from the Chinese consulate.  
Everyone knows them and they KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING!  Even better, they're so nice!
The place was crazy busy and crowded pretty much all day 
(they're open regular business hours), but no one ever seemed annoyed or impatient.
Get your visa photos taken THERE, but don't expect to look pretty.  
You want to get the visa, right? Trust the photographer!

The biggest problem I've faced, over the past few months, 
is that no one seems to no anything.  It's cost me time, money and stress...
Nearly everyone I've talked to, even within the consulate (once I finally found it--
the Utah based company, recommended by my former college, 
sent me to the wrong address. The photos they took of me were wrong, too.  
Place to avoid: The Travel Broker in SLC, UT.), 
had differing opinions on what was required and what wasn't! 
Maybe there's someone in Utah who can actually be helpful, 
but, no one I've met.  So, again--go with this agency, Oasis China Visa Services.  
There may be others, but this one I know. I have several of their cards.
The guy drove me to and from my rental car and the Raegan National Airport is 
something of a philosopher, who's designing purses and listens to classical music.
A gentle, calming influence for a crazy trip.
Heaven bless the Charles family, for being an oasis and home-away-from home when I'm
in Maryland.  Surrounded by bird song, foliage and a lake, each day dawned with a sense of optimism 
and ended in peace. Having been there herself, Mel Charles is the one who 
gave me a heads up for what to expect at the consulate, and that my destination was NOT 
the embassy on International Place, but nearer to the National Cathedral.  
Thank you, Mel--for so many things!!
Oh, and here are some photos to help YOU find the consulate, or Visa Section of the Chinese Embassy, too.  
I had to pull over and stop an honest, kind-looking stranger on the street, who walked me to the place.  
He was one of the many earth-angels who helped me make it through this rushed, last-minute DC trip, successfully.
Here's the front of the Visa Section of the Chinese Embassy building: 
2201 Wisconsin Avenue, N. W., Suite 110,
Washington, D. C.  20007
No one there has time to answer a phone call or email, so don't try. Or try.  Go for it.  Things change.
But, that's why I'm not including a phone number for the embassy.  
Google maps on your phone will take you right to this place, but 
you won't see it if you don't know what you're looking for.
They are only available Monday through Friday, 
10 am to 3 pm, with an hour lunch break from 12:30 to 2:30 pm.  
You take a number and wait. Bring something to do to keep yourself sane.  
Here's what the front doors look like--you'll see this when you're right in front, not before.
 And here's a clue that you're almost there:
The guy on the street, who helped me, said he works in this building and that he knew there was some kind of consulate in it, because he'd been asked for directions on the street before!  He's that kinda guy--just nice.  He even told me where to park to avoid cost.  Just about 3 lights up from here, and around the corner, 
there's a recreation center and ball park with free parking--most days. 
Here's what you'll see across the street.  If you don't find anyone as nice and accommodating to direct you, like I did.
Speaking of awesome, helpful-for-no-good-reason people, the security guards inside, other agencies' workers, 
and this courier all made the obtaining of my visa possible:
Ron Green shared his number in line with me, and coached me through what to say and what not to say, which got me in that day, at least a couple hours early, and maybe even kept me from having to come back the following day.  
Everyone knows Ron, and he's usually smiling--not accustomed to being photographed!
Anyway, I have to pack and tackle my "to do" list.  
It was staggering before this 4000+ mile side trip, and even more so now.  
Lizzy's happily being a doggie with Chewie--who's moving away on the 26th.  
Big changes coming, which neither or them know anything about.  But, Lizzy loves and is beloved by
The doggie daycare people and pooches who frequent there. 
I'll cry. She'll get filthy dirty.
All's is well.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Just a Few more "T"s to cross and "I"s to dot until I have my Visa... work in Beijing.  I'm excited, nervous, and so many things...  
The chance to combine art, writing stories, songs, and lesson plans, is too good to pass up, 
even though I'll have to leave my adored Lizzy behind for a year. 😓
The new job will primarily involve developing lessons and editing, 
helping with the making of videos for the school, 
as well as teaching on line a couple of hours a day. 
Toward that end, they asked me to design a lesson for upcoming Mothers' Day.
Using a story and music from an idea that's been in my head for years,
here are some excerpts:
The only human images are photos, like this one of my son and I.  
He's the very best thing that ever happened to me.
Every living thing has babies, and every baby has a mom.
From there it's easy to pull from critters which follow the alphabet, like "A" is for Ant:
and "B" is for Butterfly:
"C" is for many things, but of course, what's cuter than a Cow and her Calf?
...and so forth and so on, including the letter "E"
and "F."  Did you know a Fish baby's a "Fry?"  Starts me wondering about some of the names we choose for food, hmm?
Naturally, we want to focus on what mom's do for us: 
Mommy cleans with me.
Mommy reads with me.
Mommy teaches me and holds me when I’m sad.
Mommy takes care of, plays with, and sings to me.
Mommy makes me happy!
Each of us loves our mom because she loves us.