19 February 2013


I know it has been forever and a day since I posted last and I apologize but for a while there wasnt really much to post.  The life of a teacher, while dramatic and fulfilling and busy, is interesting in the moment but isnt really that interesting to sit down and write about.  With that being said about the day-to-day teacher stuff, I have had some pretty fun adventures in China and the Philippines.

The nicest thing about international schools is all of the breaks.  Now I know you might think Man, teachers get a lot of breaks! Do they ever work?!  Let me answer that for you simply: Yes. I work and I work a lot.  My weeks are devoted to school and I give myself Saturday to not think about work.  It has been fulfilling and wonderful to have a paycheck and a full time job that I enjoy.  It is stressful and overwhelming and sometimes I feel as though I am failing but I think that is all teachers.  We all feel as though we could be doing more than we are but I am doing what I can and doing it the best I can.

One of the things I have been doing at my school is coordinating events.  It is a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoy the stress and last-minute changes of it.  We have had a Halloween festival, an International Week full of events, and a Chinese New Year celebration that was fantastic.  There have also been smaller things throughout the year but those were the big ones.  We hope to have a Spring Festival but that wont be until later.  As you can tell, I am having a great time and I think that if I were to change professions, I would try and do some kind of event planning.  Although I dont have a lot of experience, the idea of it is entertaining.

Now, on to the breaks.  The first break  we had was at the end of September and that was to celebrate the Moon Festival.  We had a few days off and I spent it hanging out in Dongguan.  I went to a market that sold household/kitchen items (pots, pans, equipment, etc), drinks, and pets.  It wasnt a market as much as a street with specialty shops.  It was a bazaar combination of shops and incredibly sad to see those pets in confined cages and Im pretty sure most of them were illegal- birds, lizards, fish, etc.

That break there was a small festival that was happening outside of my house at a public square.  It was interesting to walk around and see some of the traditions that were taking place to celebrate the Moon.  However, I didnt really understand what was going on so it was more just looking at things.  It was nice to observe and next year I will know more of what is going on!

The next break we had was a fall break at the beginning of November.  Another teacher and myself who is also very interested in Service Learning flew up to Beijing to hear from Dr. Jane Goodall about the Roots and Shoots project.  She was incredibly interesting to listen to and an inspiration for dedicating your life to something you are so passionate about.  Through this Roots and Shoots project, we were able to meet with so many international schools and teachers!  It was a wonderful week and we came back with so, so, so, many ideas.  Also, because we are a brand new school, getting ideas from an established school was pretty awesome.  The schools I visited had so much tradition and history that it will be exciting to see how my school grows and begins traditions.  It is also thrilling and overwhelming to think that I am playing a part of creating those traditions!

While we were there, we were able to visit Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City! That was an awesome experience, so rich with history and influence, it was awe-inspiring.  The coworker/ good friend that I traveled with loves to try new foods.  She and I ate at so many different restaurants, it was great! Some of the food highlights were the street food that we had- some red bean pastries, veggie bread (?), and some other bread type stuff.  Another major, major highlight was the Beijing Duck we had! Oh my! It was delicious although A LOT of food! We basically ate a whole duck! Ugh, I felt so sick afterwards but it was so good.  We found this back alley and a restaurant that looked pretty decent and was also serving the duck.  It didnt look that fancy from the outside but inside was very traditional and we went at the perfect time because about 5 minutes after we sat down there was a long line outside.  And I just recently found a restaurant in Dongguan that serves Beijing duck- hopefully it will be as good as it was in Beijing!

The next trip we had was the Winter Break.  Two and a half weeks of freedom from all of the day to day stuff.  It was blissful!  And I got to go DIVING!!!  We traveled to Manila and spent one night in a decent enough hotel.  The next morning we woke up, walked around a bit before heading to the airport.  Apparently we didnt get there in time to get a seat so we got bumped to a flight for the next day.  The airline put us up in a hotel and gave us a free domestic flight (which I will be redeeming in March!).  It was annoying but it worked out fine.  We flew to Busuanga or Coron and spent 2 nights there before heading to paradise, also known as El Nido!  It was a perfect setting, beautiful, small and friendly!  Picture perfect beaches, sunsets and sunrises, and the diving wasnt that bad.

Diving was pretty great! We didnt go at the best time of the year because the visibility wasnt as great as was expected.  Because  my previous diving experience was in Turkey (more than a year before) and not over coral reefs, I was still pretty impressed with everything.  The visibility was about 5 meters and the water was kind of murky.  But I saw lots of beautiful fish and some pretty rare fish.  My dive master, Jeff from Palawan Divers, was AMAZING!  He was very patient and helpful. The other two I traveled with were getting certified, which helped me refresh how to dive.  It isnt hard and is pretty relaxing if you are confident about what is going on but it still takes a bit to get used to especially finding your buoyancy.

I would love to go back to El Nido for every vacation but it sucked to get there.  You have two options from Manila: 1. Fly to Busuanga and then take an 8 hour boat ride to El Nido.  Or 2. Fly to Puerto Princessa and take an 8 hour bus to El Nido.  We chose option 1 because we also wanted to see Coron but that boat ride left a lot to be desired.  I am sure that once Coron and El Nido become overrun with tourists and big hotels or resorts come in the boat ride between the two will be better.  I got sea sick both ways but the way back I was also just sick with a cold so it was not fun at all.  Totally worth it because El Nido is amazing but still not fun.

I had a relaxing and enjoyable time.  I celebrated Christmas on a beautiful beach, walked around to remote beaches, and just relaxed.  New Years I was sick and in bed by 10 but thats ok because I am not a big fan of New Years anyway.  It was a memorable trip and made me excited to go back to the Philippines again!  I was glad to be home and glad to have the routine back but loved the time I had there.

My next trip wasnt long after winter break.  We had a week off for Chinese New Year.  It was very exciting, at school we had a New Years Festival after school one day.  It was a lot of fun, parents brought in food, we had dragon dancers, a face changer- which is really cool to see, and some gymnasts.  It was a lot of fun and the whole school came out to celebrate!  It was the perfect way to celebrate with parents and students before going off on holiday.  (I say holiday instead of vacation now because Im so international. Hehe. That and people dont really understand vacation...)

So off we went again to the Philippines.  Instead of using our free domestic ticket (mainly because you can only redeem/book at the office in Manila) we decided just to go somewhere closer to Manila that had a beach and dive sites.  I am now addicted to diving and not sure of when I will have a vacation that doesnt include it.  We rode in style the whole way and even had a private boat pick us up to take us to the island.  It sounds really fancy and was but for the price and the less hassle it was completely worth it.  Im over backpacking now that I have a job! Ha! Not quite true because we are still staying at cheaper hotels, but paying a little more for an easier transit is something I can now afford to do.  I also dont have the transit time that I had when I was backpacking.  Spending a day getting buses and traveling for a day so I could save 50 dollars would be a day from a week's vacation that I would be lacking.  So to me, it is no longer worth it.

I feel a little like I have "sold out" the backpacking world and have changed from what I was doing a year ago.  But times and people change, I dont have endless months to travel and experience new countries.  I have weeks at a time to do those things.  Its a chapter of my life that has been closed and its sad but at the same time necessary.  I feel the need to have a job and be a "grown up."  I have to get my finances and student loans under control.  I need to start saving in case things happen.   These are things I never thought of before and now know they are important things in my life.  No worries though, I still laugh at farts and think talking about poop is entertaining so I am not a complete 'grown up.'  :)

Back to the Philippines, we went to a place near Puerto Galera and went diving with Scandi Divers.  They were awesome and completely helpful with everything.  I loved how the whole time we just had a 'tab' that we would put our breakfast or snacks on, diving and rental equipment.  It was a small part of an island called Little La Laguna Beach and we explored around.  This was probably the most relaxing vacation I have ever taken.  It was wonderful, we did what we wanted when we wanted, ate at a fancy restaurant while drinking wine one day and the next ate outside our cheap hotel some of the most delicious Filipino food I have had!  We dove a lot and rented a camera and took some awesome pictures!

This was the best diving I have ever experienced! We went to Verde Island, which was an hour away from our beach, and saw some fantastic underwater scenes! We saw an octopus!!! It was amazing, I took a few pictures of it and the next thing I know it disappeared into the rock by changing its coloration.  I still took a picture of that too but it really looks like the rocks.  It was crazy!  Then another time I was trying to take a picture of a lion fish when out of nowhere, a sea snake darted down in front of me.  I wasnt very scared of the snake because they only bite if you bother it but I was trying to get other peoples attention to show them the snake.  You cant talk underwater so it was completely hopeless trying to get someone's attention. But man, oh man, it was exciting!  It also felt like flying because the current was strong enough that it was almost a drift dive and the visibility was so fantastic that you could see for probably 20-30 meters around you!  Probably the best dive I have ever done.  Still havent seen a turtle and I am pretty sure there is a conspiracy hiding them from me....

So that was my last vacation and it has been back to work since then.  I am thoroughly enjoying my work and everyday is a new challenge and a new experience.  I have awesome ideas for the rest of the year and for next year.  This last break really energized me and in month, we get to have another break.  We have planned it out again and it will be smooth and easy travel once again!

My life is pretty awesome and moving to Dongguan was the right decision at the right time.  Everything has worked out and I am happier than ever! I am trying to just enjoy this and not think about "the other shoe dropping." 

I think that is it for now.  I wont let another 5 months go before I write in this again, I promise.  This summer I will have more adventures because I get to go to Malaysia to meet up with my Mom and Dad and the rest of the family!

I hope you all are happy, healthy, and enjoying life! Miss you all!
Lots of love!

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