11-21-2011 The week before Thanksgiving

Statue from the Longhua temple

Monument to the Martyrs in Longuah, SW Shanghai

Monument to the Martyrs of the Revolution

Pagoda in Southwest Shanghai 11/19/11

The Longhau pagoda is near a temple complex and the Monument to the Martyrs museum in Shanghai

November21, 2011

Last week on Monday I substituted in the sixth grade at the same school where I taught before. It was kind of fun. I had wondered about the history and literature curricula. I looked through a history book and saw solid ancient world history. In English class, they were studying some of the same mythology that Classical School studies in second and third grade. These myths are about the right level of solid literature for students who started learning English in kindergarten when they were five years old.

It is flu season, so there was another teacher sick the same day. As I was writing my notes to the English teacher, another teacher came running in and asked me to substitute for a science class. They were studying volcanoes, a good earth science topic. I had taught about plate techtonics in the fourth grade class I taught the week before, so I had something pertinent to teach them while we waited for another student to get the video from the library. These students didn’t remember studying plate techtonics in fourth grade. I wonder if the curriculum has changed in the last two years, or if they just didn’t remember what they had been taught.

The school follows the IB program, which I am interested in because it has a good reputation. If I end up teaching here in Shanghai next year, I would like to see all the different topics that the schools here teach. I think many of them follow the IB program. I’m also interested in the Singapore and British schools, which also teach in English, and which are reputed to have strong academics.

The next day, I was sick myself. The school called me to substitute again, but since I couldn’t really talk, I stayed in bed. I am almost over the cold I had. Dad had a cold, which he cured in three days with zinc. Alas, my cold did not relent to the zinc prescription. I have had the cold for a little over a week. It is almost over now. I just have a bit of a cough left.

Saturday Dad and I went to a pagoda called Longhua Pagoda. There was a seven story pagoda, plus a temple complex with a bunch of temples with cool statues incense burning. I have decided that I don’t like the smell of incense, but Dad does. After we walked around in there we went to the neighboring park which is called the monument to the martyrs. It is dedicated to some revolutionary Maoists who were executed on the spot. The park is really beautiful even if you don’t agree with the politics. At the end of the park there is a huge statue of a man half buried in the grass. His arm is reaching out of the sod. He has a lot of muscles, but I guess he is one of the dying martyrs. The landscaping is peaceful and lovely, with treed areas, and open areas marked by walls of tall shrubs.

After that we went to Ikea, a large home products store with inexpensive furniture and housewares. We bought some silverware, plates, glasses, bathmats, a laundry hamper, spice bottles, and baking pans, and a small toaster oven. It is nice to have all these little things that make life easier. I finally have a little oven where I can bake if I want to. I haven’t used it yet. The business model of Ikea is interesting. Once you get in, you follow a serpentine path through the whole store. In the middle was a cafeteria. Theoretically, if you got lost and couldn’t find your way out you at least would have food to eat. While we were there we found the cheap bedroom set our landlord used for our bedroom. We took the subway home carrying all our purchases and then I started cooking for dinner the next day because we invited a cool family with three boys and one girl. They have grown up almost their whole lives in China. They could be you if Dad had moved us here fifteen years ago.

Yesterday was Sunday, and I taught Relief Society on signs of the Second Coming of the Savior. I loved some of the scriptures I read, like this one from Doctrine and Covenants 88:96-97 “and the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened: and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven.”

And as I was reading, I also saw scriptures which made me think of you on your mission, verse 84, “Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected in your ministry to go forth among the Gentiles for the last time, as many as the mouth of the Lord shall name, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony, and to prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come.”

After church we had the delightful family for dinner. I was a bit worried about how to cook in my little kitchen with only two burners and a pressure cooker. I decided to make green bean casserole with a mashed potato top. The potatoes here are kind of different from the white potatoes we use to make mashed potatoes in the U.S. The potatoes are a bit gooey, like red potatoes. At first they tasted really weird to me, but after I put enough salt and butter in them they were okay.

This week is Thanksgiving. It won’t be the same without all my children and grandchildren. We will have dinner Thursday with some friends, and a different dinner Saturday with some friends. We have so much to be grateful for. We are the most blessed parents in the world to have you and your brothers for our children. Now we have three lovely daughters by marriage, and three adorable grandchildren. It is a wonderful life.

Substituting Again

Me inside a cathedral next to the observatory on Sheshan mountain.

Fourth graders I substitute taught.

Our friend at China's first telescope. Now a museum, it has been replaced by a bigger telescope on the same hill.

November 13, 2011

This last week was kind of busy. I substituted in fourth grade for Monday and Tuesday, which then was stretched through Thursday because the teacher I was in for was still sick. I think I am bad luck, because the last time I substituted for the kindergarten class, the Chinese co-teacher was ill, but just toughed it out and came to help me. This time, the Chinese teacher was also ill. She came the first day to help me, but then had to stay home, and I was on my own for the next two days. Wah, wah. Nobody at Classical School where I taught before has a coteacher, so what’s the big deal, right?

It is interesting working in a bilingual school. The students are so smart to know two languages. I am impressed by them. At the same time, I don’t see the rich literature in the curriculum that I would like. Maybe the students are doing well just to learn the English language and they leave literature for later years. I might find out tomorrow. I am supposed to substitute for a sixth grade teacher. She teaches two English classes and one maths class. That’s no typo. They call it “maths” here. I think it is the British influence. I also haven’t seen any history. It would be hard to make a history curriculum in an international school. Whose history would you teach? Still, I’m interested to see what history they teach.

It is possible that I won’t be teaching, though. I woke up with a bad cold on Saturday. We had a full day planned, so I just went on the planned outings, but then I was much worse this morning and canceled out of teaching Primary and having guests for dinner. I don’t know yet if I’ll be teaching tomorrow. I could probably just tough it out. I just don’t want to sneeze on the students!

Yesterday, Saturday, Jeff and I went shopping for food for the guests we ended up not having. I was going to make microwave lasagna. Then we went out to a western suburb of Shanghai to meet with two nice professors who are married to each other. She is a professor of nuclear science, and he is a professor of electrical science. They are pretty impressive. We went out to see them once before and they took us to a lovely restaurant near their apartment. Jeff called them Friday to tell them we were planning to be in their area, and would they like to get together. He told them it would be nice to have lunch together, and reminded them that it was our turn to pay. They made arrangements to go to the same restaurant we liked the last time. It was a lovely dinner. We spoke mostly Chinese, with a little English thrown in. Good practice. I suspected that they would try to pay the bill because they had made the arrangements for the dinner. At the end of dinner I said that I wanted to get a card for the restaurant so we could come back. While at the counter, I said I wanted to pay. While I was trying to pay, Madame host came over and pushed me away. I protested that it was our turn to pay, but it made no effect on her. She pushed me back to the table, but I held her hand so she couldn’t pay either. It must have looked rather comical to see two grown women in a shoving match for who gets to pay the bill. I lost. It stands to reason that she would be trickier than I am. She has a Ph.D. and I only have a master’s :).

After lunch they drove us out about 45 minutes away from their house to a hill on which there is the oldest astronomical observatory in China. It is no longer functioning, because they built a new one on the same hill. Next to the observatory is a Catholic cathedral which is in such good repair that I thought it was newly built. While we were there we saw some Koreans in a prayer service outside, and Chinese in a prayer service inside. The hill was lovely, with a nice view. The area has an amusement park with at least two decent looking roller coasters. The area also boats a golf course, a botanical garden, and a sculpture garden. Also, from the hill we could see a subdivision of mansions. The head of Jeff’s company lives in a mansion in that neighborhood. Supposedly, the most expensive villa in Shanghai is on the hill, although we didn’t see it. It was a lovely November day, and I realized that our temperatures in the 60’s were like temperatures our friends in Wisconsin had in September. I like that our warm fall weather.

After the hill, they dropped us off at the nearby subway line. There is a metro stop very close. That is good news because we can go back and see the other attractions without riding in Jiang Xiaomin’s car. Strangely, the metro is often faster than a car. We were able to get to our evening appointment in plenty of time. We had planned to have dinner with a friend who is Jeff’s Chinese teacher. We get together periodically with Frank and his wife, Ruby. Frank spent time living in the U.S., so he has perfect English, but he speaks in clear slow Mandarin so we can practice our Chinese. Our first choice of a restaurant, Coconut Paradise (Thai) was full, so we went to a vegetarian place instead. The food was pretty good, but not my favorite. I prefer vegetarian cuisine when it can include cheese, which Chinese restaurants don’t have. Dad was ecstatic about it. He has been looking for a vegetarian restaurant for some time, but every time we try to go to one, it is gone. Vegetarian restaurants don’t have a big clientele here where the Chinese really enjoy MEAT! We had a lovely visit, but my cold was getting progressively worse and I was going through lots of tissues. I didn’t touch any of the serving spoons and asked Jeff to put food on my plate in an effort not to contaminate someone.

The pollution here is visibly worse this week. Today I saw white when I looked out the window. The beautiful Oriental Pearl tower and the World Financial Center tower I love to see out my dining room window were obscured by a white haze, as if we had ascended into a cloud. I remember my Mom and Dad talking about the pollution that was in Nepal from people burning things to keep warm, or to cook. Stephen experienced the same thing in Buenos Aires. I wonder if that is the source of the worsening air quality now that it is getting cooler at night. Hmmm.

Life is good for us here, though. We don’t notice any lung problems from the pollution, and our health has been very good in general. My cold is the first health problem we have had. We can’t complain.