Substitute teaching 10-14-11

Oct. 14, 2011

It has been an eventful week since we returned to Shanghai from Korea. We returned on Friday, October 7th. We were a little bit tired of Korean food. We had not had many good restaurant experiences in Korea. So when we returned to good old Shanghai, we immediately went to a great restaurant called Coconut Grove, which had delectable Thai curries with coconut milk. Yummy!

I had some assignments due Sunday for my online class. It was also Conference weekend for Asia. Saturday Jeff had to work. All of China had the week off, but to make up for it, everyone has to work on Saturday and Sunday. Jeff took off Sunday so we could go to conference. Saturday he went to work, and I worked on my class assignments. Sunday we went to watch conference at a different place than usual. We usually have church on the Pudong (East) side of the river in a very nice BMW dealership with a large beautiful auditorium. That is great, but our branch is the Puxi (west) side of the river. On conference day, we met at the clubhouse of one of the apartment complexes in Hongqiao, where most of our branch lives. It is about a 45 minute commute for us to get there since it is further to the west of us. We enjoyed the conference very much, especially hearing our bishop from Tucker ward, Elder Cornish, speak. He is now in one of the seventies quorums. We also enjoyed hearing Elder Clayton talk about his mission to Peru, since that is where Mark is now serving his mission.

Monday and Tuesday I substitute taught at a school in Hongqiao. My friend from church was on vacation in America, so I substituted for her kindergarten class. It was fun! The principal offered me a job the first day I taught there. They are opening a new English immersion class for third graders whose English needs more attention. I’m not really interested in working fulltime because then I can’t travel with Jeff. Still, it was very interest-ing to me to know that if I want a full time job, I can get one easily. The pay is very similar to my pay back in the states, maybe a little higher. Substituting is also about the same pay as subs back home. If Jeff’s job extends to a second year, I can get a job here. We’d probably move further west in the city so that I wouldn’t have a 45 minute commute to work.

The school actually curves around behind me.

I subbed for the kindergarten here

I enjoyed teaching at this school. I had 17 kindergarteners (they call them Primary Reception). The school is somewhat unique. It is an international school which follows the international baccalaureate curri-culum. It is also the only international school which is allowed to enroll national Chinese students. The students in “my” class all speak primarily Chinese at home, except for one boy whose mother is Philippino and father is Danish. There were only 17 students in the class, which was a very comfortable size for kindergarteners. I’m told the classes can get up to 23 students in them. The school is bilingual. Instruction is in English for most of the day, with one hour of mandarin instruction every day. The Mandarin teacher is there most of the day for translation support when needed. There is also a full-time ayi (maid) in each class. She cleans the classroom and provides support with paperwork and children as needed. She does not speak any English, and does not do instruction, but helps with crowd control.


The children are very bright. Even though English is their second language, they are learning how to read and write in both English and Chinese. They all know their letters, and can copy a sentence from the board. They are working on their short easy word reading right now, which is excellent progress for October of their kindergarten year. There is plenty of prep time because the children have music, art, computer, and Chinese specials. In fact, there are only 2-3 hours of homeroom instruction per day, depending on which specials they have that day. Having a second teacher in the room, and having students who aren’t fluent in English gives the teacher a little less control than I would like, but overall it was enjoyable to teach there. If we end up staying a second year, I would consider teaching there, or at another international school, or teaching English to college students. There are plenty of jobs available if you happen to speak English and have a white face. Rents here are very expensive, though. We have a western standard apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms for $1700 per month.

Tuesday afternoon Curtis and Julie Fullmer came into town! We were excited to have some more time with them. We saw them in Seoul and then again in Shanghai. I took a taxi from the school in Hongqiao to the shopping mecca at east Nanjing road where Julie and Curtis met me. It was great to see them again. We looked around, dropped their backpacks in our apartment, then met Jeff at Lost Heaven for a wonderful dinner. That evening we went to the bund and took pictures of the spectacularly lit skyline we took the ferry over to the Pudong side to see the buildings up close. Wednesday Jeff and Curtis had to work, Jeff at his office and Curtis from his computer, so Julie and I went to see the bund up close and personal. We met Jeff for lunch, then we went to the Aquarium, and then went up the tallest building in China, the World Financial Tower.

In the evening we went to dinner with Jeff, then visited the Yu Yuan Garden shopping area, where all the buildings are in ancient Chinese architecture, with the curving roof lines. Also, for our viewing pleasure, the roofs are lit with Ming Dynasty LED lights 🙂

Thursday we took a train to Suzhou and saw the beautiful Humble Administrator’s Garden and Tiger Hill. The Garden is so lush and lovely—a private heaven started in the 1400’s. Oriental gardens are different from European or American gardens. They are arranged to give the viewer many different kinds of views. They use three elements to form the views: rockeries (using rocks from Lake Taihu riddled with holes), lakes, and plants. I had never seen lotus plants before. They are like lily pads on steroids. The leaves stand up three feet or more from the water surface, and they are 2-3 feet across. The rocks from Lake Taihu are in piles as high as 20 feet, reminiscent of mountains. Then we went to Tiger Hill, where an 8-story Pagoda stands in a complex that reminded us of Monkey palace from Jungle Book. The view was beautiful, but wilder. The pagoda tilts at a 3.59 degree angle, like an Asian leaning tower of Pisa.

I was worried about my ability to navigate the train station on my own. Before, Jeff was always there to read the Chinese. Train station boards are completely in characters. The people there don’t speak any English. I was able to get us to and from Suzhou, although the return trip went to a different Shanghai train station than I thought. It was no further from our apartment then the train station we planned to take, so it worked out fine anyway.

Friday morning, we flew to Minneapolis for Jeff to attend the AIChE Conference. Busy week!

Jogging on the Bund 11-2-2011

November 2, 2011

Last Thursday Jeff had a great idea. I often get up at 6:00 to run on the sidewalks in a pretty place called Xintiendi. I have to be done by 7:00 because the streets start to get too crowded for running by then. Jeff decided we could take a taxi to the Bund and run on the wide walkway by the river where the old European stone buildings line the West side of the river, and the modernistic skyscrapers line the east side. He woke me up at 5:50 and said, “time to go run!” My alarm was set for 6:00, so I ignored him until 6:00. Then he told me the great idea to go jogging on the bund. It was beautiful. We saw many kite fliers with their lovely large kites way up high. Kite flying is a hobby not of children, but of men here. They have big round professional reels of string. The kites are large and beautiful. They go way, way up high. We also saw some other walkers and joggers, including one old man in his pajamas. Local folks think pajamas are great leisure wear. You will see pajama clad people in the stores, walking around, and on the sidewalk in the morning doing tai qi (slow motion exercises Jeff calls “mystic motions”).

After we jogged on the bund, we left the elevated wide boardwalk and went to the sidewalks, intent on taking a taxi or the subway home. On the way we had some “pancakes” which are fried, salty, and sometimes have green onions in them. It was a yummy breakfast, and a great idea to go jogging on the bund!

I had a Bible study group with some of the women in our congregation. It takes me about 45 minutes to get there. I take the metro for about 30 minutes, then walk about 15 minutes. It is worth it, though. The ladies are very kind, and we had a great lesson by my visiting teaching companion.

After the Bible study, we all piled into cars and went to a wholesaler who specializes in imported foods. We were so excited to see items we can’t easily find in stores, like cheese, butter, tortillas, cocoa powder, coconut milk, pasta, maple syrup, and Raisin Bran! We shared wheels of gouda and mozzarella. The small shop was in a sort of warehouse. All ten of us filled it up. Since we were joining together to buy wheels of cheese and cases of tortillas, it was somewhat complicated The shop workers were certainly glad to get rid of us! It will be less confusing next time because we will know the prices and collect orders ahead of time. The shop was a goodly drive south of the city, but it was worth it! I got one fourth of a wheel of gouda for about $10!

After the trip to the wholesaler a few of us went to the fabric market. It is a three-story building where you can pick an item of clothing and a fabric and they will make it for you. I needed a winter coat, so I went to the market and picked a coat style and a gray cashmere cloth. Now it is a week later and I picked it up. It fits really well. You have to bargain with them when you order the coat. I got this for about $75.

Friday and Saturday, Jeff and I went to Suzhou to see some more gardens. He has only seen the Humble Administrator’s Garden, and a temple/monastery/pagoda complex. Suzhou has many more gardens. We stayed overnight in downtown Suzhou. There are lots of great hotels there with large rooms and great reviews. I picked a Holiday Inn, which was really good. Large rooms right near a folk village next to the canal. There were lights on the buildings and lots of shops. It was fun to wander through them. I needed a purse, and found a nice one that was about $21. Jeff found a Jeep coat. It’s a casual brown coat with ARMS LONG ENOUGH! We were pretty happy. It is an XXXL . The arms are long enough, but it definitely would not fit a big wide man. I don’t think wide people can find anything ready made for them here.

Saturday we went to Lion’s Grove garden, which has huge rockeries, including a very cool labyrinth of rock passages. We also saw Lingering Garden, Tiger Hill, the Silk Museum and Beizi Ta (a pagoda). Last time we went we spent all afternoon on one garden because Jeff loves to take pictures so much. This time we decided to step up the pace so we could see more . I liked all of the sights, but the Silk Museum was most interesting. The cocoons that the silkworms make are soaked for 8 hours. Then, to find the end of the thread, a brush is gently swished among the cocoons. Like magic, up come a bunch of the thread ends from the cocoons, stuck on the brush. The thread ends are hooked to spindles, one for each cocoon. The spindles turn, and the thread from the cocoon slowly unwinds. I was also interested in the double cocoons. Sometimes, two silkworms are in one large cocoon. The threads are impossible to unravel because the two thread lines are intertwined. The silk from these cocoons is used to stuff quilts. We bought just such a quilt in ZhiuJiajiao, a water town Frank and Ruby took us to. I thought it was a terrible waste of silk, but we only paid either 180 or 280 yuan (less than $50) These quilts are supposed to be warmer and nicer than down comforters.

The silk for the inside of the comforter is stretched out in flat layers. Many layers make the inside of the quilt. Here’s how they make the thin layers of silk. The double cocoons are soaked for 8 hours. Then the worker removes the two dead silkworms. These are used to make face creams (ugh). Then she puts her fingers inside the cocoon and gently stretches it over a flat shape. The fibers separate a bit. Then she takes the fibers off the flat form and puts them over a bigger flat form. Finally, she takes the fiber mat off the bigger flat form and stretches them over a final biggest flat form. This makes the layer very thin. The thin layer of fibers is laid on the other fiber mats, and they put it in the quilt. Lovely! I bought a silk scarf at the museum store. Later, my Chinese tutor (who used to be a tour guide at the shop) told me the scarf is only a silk blend. She can get that quality of scarf for 40 rmb (less than $7.00). I paid 180 rmb (about $30).

This week Jeff went to Indonesia. I wanted to go, but his boss thought it wouldn’t work this time. Fortunately, he will be able to go back, and I should be able to go the next time.

We have a temple trip this weekend. We will leave tomorrow evening after work (Friday) and fly to Shenzhen, which is right next to Hong Kong. Flights and hotels in Shenzhen are much cheaper than in Hong Kong. We have a nice five star hotel for about $75. The flights only cost us about $250 each. Of course, that is still kind of pricey for a temple trip. I think there are only four families going from our branch. The youth will do baptisms, though. That will be a wonderful experience for them. We come back Saturday night, so it will be a whirlwind trip! I’m excited to go to the temple again. I always get a lift from the spirit that is there.

We have been having high temps about 70. It has been really nice. Tonight we went to the ultra modern Xintiandi area for dinner. It is only one subway stop away. It’s actually walking distance, too. It is where I run in the mornings sometimes.

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