Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In A Word

In India... short on time...
one word summary:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Beginning of an Adventure...

In just a couple of hours Kim, Katie, Brad and I will be getting on a train headed for Beijing. Traveling in China is never easy as it sounds and such has already been the case.

We have plane tickets in our hands for India. The plan was to fly to Sri Lanka and spend a couple of days before flying on to India. To travel to India you need a visa. We sent our passports and applications with a friend to Beijing, but unfortunately we cannot get our visas before we leave. We tried everything we knew. We have called everybody we could think of that might could help. No luck...

To get into Sri Lanka you need a visa as well, but can get it upon arrival to the country. So the new plan... On Sunday we will fly to Sri Lanka. Monday we will take our passports and try to get an Indian visa. We might end up staying in Sri Lanka longer than planned, but does not matter all that much. We are just really hoping to get on to India as soon as we can. Please keep this situation in your Thoughts.

Tomorrow after getting into Beijing,Brad and I will travel on to Tianjin. We will be visiting our friend Chen Tao. We will head back to Beijing on Saturday in time for our flight on Sunday.

I am not sure when I will update again, but will try to as much along the way as I can. Traveling is always an adventure and well this has already started out as one.

Holiday Memory

Well I finished grades and such. Now I am procrastinating from packing and cleaning my house. Using the blog jar again...

What is your worst holiday memory?

My worst holiday memory took place in high school. One morning I was sitting in the car waiting for my dad to drive me to school. My little sisters came running out saying Dad was on the radio. I ran back inside the house. Apparently, my father was in some trivia competition and could win one of three prizes... a trip to Disney World, a new truck and something else. I screamed truck because I was just about to get my license. The trivia question was about the Beatles and whatever it was I knew the answer. I went dancing around the house thinking I was going to win a new car! Dad even paused on phone for commercial break while I frantically searched for radio station on stereo. Before I could find it Dad was acting all excited. We got the question right! I was getting a new truck. I got back in the car hardly able to stand it. I could not wait to tell my friends. Another sister came running out saying Dad wanted me in the house. I went back inside and everybody screamed "April Fools!" I cried all the way to school and pretty sure I had nothing nice to say. It is funny now, but at the time it was my worst holiday.

In other news leaving for Beijing tomorrow night. The past few days have been nuts! Travel plans in China are always complicated. Sunday we should be headed to India. Well actually, we are going to Sri Lanka for a couple of days. And because we don't have our Indian visas yet that might be as far as we go. Keep our visas in your Thoughts. We need them by Friday!

Monday, January 7, 2008

All In A Name

For Christmas Sandra gave us a bag of homemade goodies. One was a jar of 100 things to blog about. Such a creative idea! I thought I would take a 10 minute break from grading (yea end of semester finally!!!) and use my jar for a little bloggy inspiration.

What is your Chinese name? What does it mean?

My Chinese name is Ke Huai Xing (可怀星)It was given to me by Ally, a former student who also works in our Foreign Affairs office.

Ke is the family name. Amy and Peach also have this as there family name. Fitting. It means "artistic conception."

Huai means to "cherish" or to "think fondly of home and relatives." (This was when I first came to China and was a little homesick. I talk about my family a lot.)

Xing means "starlight." Ally says my eyes remind her of the stars. (The Chinese people tends to be "fluffy poetic"... they like to say things to touch people's "heartstrings.")

Altogether my name means something like "the light that shines though a big tree branch at night." Something beautiful, artistic, and makes you think of home.

The name is special because Ally gave it to me. I consider that a great honor. Now I just need to learn how to say it correctly. Maybe I could spend another 10 minutes on that and not have to run back to grading... ;)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Joy of Teaching

When I was in high school I wrote an essay about why I wanted to be a teacher. A counselor sent it in to some Papa Johns scholarship contest. I had forgotten about the whole thing because of all the scholarships I applied for. One day while sitting in Pre-Cal class the assistant principal of our school walked in looking upset. (He already was pretty scary... looked like an evil Santa Claus) He went on and on about how he could not believe that one of his students would do something so unbelievable. Two Papa Johns workers came in carrying loads of pizza. Mr.Kaplan said someone had ordered all these pizzas and charged them to the school. I thought it was pretty funny... a senior prank. Funny until he called my name to stand up. I am not sure all of what he said, but I knew I was being blamed because I was senior class secretary. (Why that was my logic I am not sure... president should get blame...) I was crying and one of my classmates, Joseph was holding my hand. In my mind I was going over how to explain to my father that I had to pay for pizza... Papa Johns... pizza I do not even like! Mr. Kaplan got done with his rant and gave me a pizza box saying that the bill was inside. I opened it and almost passed out. $1,500! For pizza... When looking more closely, I noticed that it was not a bill, but rather one of those giant checks you see on TV, made out to me! I had received the scholarship based on my essay and everybody in my class got to eat pizza.

I write all that to say that once upon a time, teaching was something I really wanted to do. In college, teaching just seemed to fit me. Children's ministry did not work out because of classes such as Critical Intro. which made me cry every time I went in. There was nothing at the time I was really passionate about either. Student teaching at Glenview was my dream job! My first graders added so much joy to my life, that there was not a day that I did not want to get to work. Then I taught 5th grade and teaching became something I did not enjoy and to some degree even hated. I did not get the job at Glenview that I wanted and was crushed. However, that made it possible for my next move... China.

My first month or two teaching was a lot of fun. I had a lot to get used to...speaking slower, flexible schedules, etc. but I enjoyed it. My students were nice. Then came first semester exam time. All the problems I encountered made me want to go home screaming. Second semester went by alright, but I did not enjoy teaching the IELTS class because it was teaching to a test. Exam time once again nightmare. Then this semester came. Beth's joy of teaching... almost a zero. I even felt bad because I could see my students could tell to some degree. I loved spending time with students outside the classroom, but inside...yikes! Something needed to change.

One day I decided to blow my lesson plans. Last year Amy and I did an activity in our classes where the students had to predict 10 years from now where would they be and where would their teacher be. I decided to do that again, but kick it up a notch. After my students shared their responses, I pulled out a scarf, huge hoop earrings, and the globe to one of my lights in my house. I became Madame Elizabeth and I made up silly predictions about where my students would be 10 years from now. First female president of China, Houston Rockets coach, etc. My student White changed his name to Black and became a famous fashion designer... All kinds of silliness. The students loved it and it changed the rest of the semester for me. I challenged them to do something that inspires them. When I got my evaluations the other day a student said "Beth teaches my imagination to grow." I consider that to be one of the highest praises I could get.

Currently, I am reading Three Cups of Tea. It is a book about Greg Mortenson and his quest for building schools in Pakistan. I cannot help, but think about how blessed I am to be in a place where learning is possible. I think I received a great education (and I still am...). Even here in China my students are blessed compared to some. It is really frustrating sometimes because education systems are different. Grades I give students might be changed. My class is missed for things such as basketball practice. All kinds of things that would make any teacher upset. However, I am given the chance to make an impression on hundreds of students. I can let the joy of teaching slip away and they will go on with life as normal. Or I can be excited about English, encourage them to go out and do more and maybe they will at least begin to dream. This book I am reading is making me realize why I ever wanted to be a teacher in the first place. Mortenson says this in the forward of his book "Encourage them to be curious and compassionate about our world, and inspire them to find their own unique way to make a positive difference. It is possible to change the world one penny, one pencil, and one child at a time." I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to see just how education can changes lives of a country or any teacher that might be a little burned out.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Last year you might remember that I made several New Years resolutions... Out of 3, I stuck with 1. However, I do believe that it was a great accomplishment. My New Years resolution was to make one new recipe each week. So here is the list of 52 things I made...

pizza, pumpkin bread, hot chicken dip, pumpkin curry soup, peppermint cake roll, poptarts, bagels, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, bbq pork, jambalaya, sister schubert rolls, cucumber sandwiches, italian chicken, nana's chicken and rice, grasshopper pie, no bake cookies, tang cu liji (sweet and sour pork), cola chicken, duck sauce, sourdough starter, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pancakes, fried noodles (variety of flavors), italian bread bowls, mexican rice, veggie cornish pasties, fudge pie, bread, tortillas, cheesecake*, crab alfredo, chicken and dumplings, chinese dumplings, chicken noodle soup, mexican cream cheese dip, girls soup, honey pecan chicken, chocolate peppermint cookies, chocolate pudding, blonde brownies*, sloppy does (deer meat), chess pie, chicken enchiladas, salsa, mamaw's white cake, peanut butter cookies, asian orange chicken, chicken curry salad, worth-the-mafan potato salad, granola, italian roast beef, and apple crisp

*denotes a horrible recipe that I will never make again

Most of these things I made while in China which can be very frustrating. I had to substitute a lot of things, brush up on my math skills and come to accept the fact that things would not taste exactly like they do in the US. I have really come to love being in the kitchen though and find it to be a great outlet in those moments where I am not too happy. Thanks to all of those who choked down the horrible things, washed lots of dishes and expressed gratitude every single time.

This year I have 5 resolutions so maybe 2 will be successful. :)

1) Do something for my sisters each week. Because I have several sisters I may not can do something for all of them each week, but at least one of them. I miss my sisters more than I ever thought I would and I want them to know how much I do love them. This is a start.

2) 52 new recipes. This is a continuation from last year's. Why quit something you enjoy?

3) Be a better Chinese student. Last year I made a resolution similar to this that I did not keep. This term I have slacked off in my studies. I hope to do better so I can be a better Worker.

4) Do something I am really scared to do. Often times I find myself too scared to try things. If I ever do get around to doing them, most of the time I enjoy it....example: cliff jumping... this year if there is something I am scared of, I am going to try it without hesitating as much. (Note: this does not apply to roller coasters... those that ride with me will also appreciate that!)

5) Share Good News with at least one person each week. I am going to try to step outside of that comfort zone and do the work that I was put on this earth to do. My aim is to reach someone new each week.

After sitting down and thinking about this, there are lots of things in my life that I want to do differently or better. These are just 5 things that I want to really put into action. I have also made financial, spiritual, and emotional-based goals that I hope you will pr*y about for me. While some think it is silly to make resolutions, I think it helps us to at least keep things more in the fore-front of our minds.

Going to go make Hot Pockets/calzones which goes with resolution #2...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Apple Drop of 08

On Monday, 11 foreigners arrived in Yichang in hopes of attending the 2nd Annual, Getting-More-Famous-Each-Year, Apple Drop! Folks came from Shiyan, Wuhan, and Jingzhou for the big soiree.
First, we all participated in a big photo/video scavenger hunt around Yichang. We made westerns, danced in the square, interviewed McDonald's employees. We filmed kung fu movies on moving buses. I taught the whole 2nd floor of our McDonald's "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." Brad did a fabulous portrayal of Rose from Titanic. (The painting scene...hehehe!) All in all one heck of a fun beginning. (Special props to Gaudy Gaugler for making such a fun hunt!!)
We met up at Pizza Hut for dinner. We made Yichang's largest straw by hooking 10 together. I did drink Pepsi with it! It was nice being able to talk to some new friends. Many of the people that came we had never met before. It is always interesting to hear what else is going on in different places and Works of China. After dinner we went back to Kim and Katie's to hang out.
After watching the videos, it was time for the main event. You think NYC is the place to be on New Years Eve, but you'd be wrong. (I have been there!) Nothing beats a good old apple dropping down a chopstick in Yichang. Last year that is exactly what it was, but this year it was improved. The apple had the character for luck on it and there were sparklers sticking out. It was great! (Props to Captain Ellis for this!!!) We closed the evening by singing which was really uplifting to so many of us.
I will be posting about resolutions soon, but wanted to share with you our celebration this year. I am so thankful for friends, Family and fellow Workers here. I wouldn't want to ring in the New Year any other way. :)