Saturday, November 19, 2011

Organic Food and Farm in Shanghai

We've been eating fresh organic produce from Tony's farm since early September.  We got a deal where we paid up front ($15 a week for a the math).  Anyhow, we get great lettuce, spinach, cabbage, onions, garlic, ginger, interesting collection of potatoes, mushrooms, and a few unknowns delivered in a box each week.  It's nice and it's local and it's healthy.
Awesome Grow box, and this one was just for display
Josephine and Quinn pick their own lettuce and spinach
    Now although e have seen vegies everywhere we also have heard plenty about the pesticides and fertilizers that local growers use.  When we were in Zhouzhang we saw most people washing their vegies in the river that was the main canal in town - not the most sanitary thing.  Then they'd let the vegies dry on the sidewalk right outside their cafe and they'd try to lure you into their place by pointing at the vegies drying on the ground and give you a look like, "Ymm, these are good come on in and eat them."  Although they looked good, the canal-wash did not.  Made us glad we get tony's.
   So we had an opportunity the other day to visit Tony's farm and try the organic goods.  Rachel, the gal from Tony's who spoken very broken English told us just to take the subway to the other end of town and then catch a cab.  What wasn't clear was that it was a good 50km cab ride past the end of the subway.  Live and learn and sometimes pay a lot of money along the way.
The dinner we had at Tony's...Hot Pot style
    It was very refreshing to see the farm and all the modern growing techniques that they employ.  The treat their own water on site and employ the square foot planting routine.  Plenty of composting and its CLEAN.  Their are many local workers that help out.  It is way out in the South East corner of the Shanghai peninsula.

Why buy art work when you can paint it yourself?

Bridget works late into the night on the 2nd edition (on the right) of "The Life Series."
Quinn's "Untitled" Finally gets hung on our wall.
In late September the girls bought a bunch of canvasses and began painting.  We finally got these hung on our walls!  These paintings now decorate our walls.  I had to borrow a drill from my neighbor. Our walls are all cement so it was a loud hole to bore.  We've got a neighbor who smokes cigs and often the smell sneaks into our apartment. It is rather unpleasant.  Perhaps my drilling was bothering my indoor cig smoking neighbor. Regardless, we've now got some good art on the wall and by the end of the day tomorrow we'll have more.

Quinn had her second oral surgery today.  She's had these impacted canines that we've been watching mis-behave for the past few years and here in China things had finally gotten to be too much.  SO we found a good ortho, Dr. Ian, and a good oral surgeon, Dr. Gao, and now Quinn has a better mouth.

Currently, it is 10:40 PM (Day of surgery) and Quinn is hovered over 9  canvases painting something yellow.  I guess we'll find out later what it is.  I'm sure I could ask but the mystery is nice.  She has a beach theme in her room.

Ok, so now it is 12:40 early Sunday Morning and Quinn is finishing up and it is a glass of Lemonade. I'm tired and it is late and it is time for bed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas Shopping for...bugs, birds, and what not!

Bridget, Josephine and I took the subway into Shanghai last Sunday to do some mild Christmas shopping.  We thought we could get some ideas of things we could send home to family.  We were looking for this little Market that Bridget had found earlier in the year when we stumbled upon a bird, rabbit, rodent, and bug market.  Wow this place was happening.  The bugs were a hit.  Bugs of all sizes.  All Colors.  All LIVING.  Each in their own little bug container and for sale.  Men gather around the venders and discuss the varoius offerings like they were rare postage stamps for collecting.  Beetles, locust, grasshoppers, and plenty more.  Then there are the birds.  All types of parakeets, parrots, finches, love birds and on and on.  And they are squeeking and squaking all the while.  There are rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice, rats, chinchillas, and more!!

Christmas Shopping for...bugs, birds, and what not!

Bridget, Josephine and I took the subway into Shanghai last Sunday to do some mild Christmas shopping.  We thought we could get some ideas of things we could send home to family.  We were looking for this little Market that Bridget had found earlier in the year when we stumbled upon a bird, rabbit, rodent, and bug market.  Wow this place was happening.  The bugs were a hit.  Bugs of all sizes.  All Colors.  All LIVING.  Each in their own little bug container and for sale.  Men gather around the venders and discuss the varoius offerings like they were rare postage stamps for collecting.  Beetles, locust, grasshoppers, and plenty more.  Then there are the birds.  All types of parakeets, parrots, finches, love birds and on and on.  And they are squeeking and squaking all the while.  There are rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice, rats, chinchillas, and more!!


Bridget on the shores of West Lake, Hangzhou
"There's heaven, there's earth, and in between there is Hangzhou."  Or so the saying goes.  Bridget and I got to experience the most beautiful of what Hangzhou has to offer.  We stumbled upon an add looking for a family, or a single businessman to give up and couple of days and be filmed running around the various touristy spots of Hangzhou for a tourism video.  Bridget submitted our family but they ended up already having a family and wanted to use me as the business man.
Morning Fog on West Lake, Hangzhou
   What the heck?  The adventure began with Bridget and I catching a cab downtown Shanghai to the Fly Films studio where manager Xining (pronounced shee-nee) and fashion consultant DD took us to H & M to get fitted for costumes.  I brought a few shirts and pants with me, but they didn't like my stuff!  We spent that evening trying on clothes, sending pics of me in them to the director, who then gave his thumbs up or thumbs down.  We left with a few outfits picked out and a tour of their makeshift office in the French Concession, and two train tickets to Hangzou leaving on Friday 10/30 and returning Tuesday 11/2.
   We decided to leave our girls with the care of Mirjam (neighbors) with their own costumes and very specific trick or treating and what not intstructions (which Quinn interpreted with her own judgement...another story!)  Thus, a driver picks us up Sunday afternoon, takes us to the Hongqiao train station, and we board the bullet train for Hangzou!  This baby travels 311 KM/hour, making this 150 kilometer trip in much less than an hour - not bad.
Inside the "Bullet Train"

Notice the camera!  Hey My Sis Worked for Them!!
   We arrive in Hangzou to much smog and some confusion about where to find our connection. Although a touristy, small resort town on a lake, the city of Hangzou still has over 7 million people, and NO traffic control.  Once we got picked up it was the longest 1.5 hour 3 mile car ride I'd ever had.  We got checked into our hotel, met with Norman, the director, who gave us cash and a suggestion for dinner.   The place he recommended was hosting a wedding this evening.  It was a large buffett with tons of traditional Chinese food.  This ended up being a great opportunity for us to try some new food. Crab, clams, mussels, various fish, meat and veggies, and a bottle of beer.  Not bad.  We got back to the hotel and were to meet in the lobby the next morning for a 5:30 AM call.  Wow, that's early!
    We meet Norman, along with Adrian - the producer, Mark - the cameraman, and about a dozen crew members and support staff.  We pile into busses and head to the first location for a shoot, an old buddhist temple.  We have a small plastic bag filled with a modest breakfast.
     Norman, Adrian, and Mark, explain to us their over all concept for the shoot.  It will be a promotional tourism video for the city of Hangzou to be aired on CNN, Adrian's employer.  The idea is that Hangzou is so beautiful and relaxing that a businessman (me) could find time during his visit to wander around the many attractions of the area.
     We arrive at the temple, make up is applied, the crew sets up there stuff and I'm floored to see they're suing a RED camera!  Wow, I tell everyone I know that my sister used to work for RED and that I think it's the coolest thing in the world that I'm actually seeing a real RED camera.  Everyone is mildly impressed.
  It is cold and smokey due to the masses burning incense, but beautiful and a very impressive temple with a massive buddha.  Bridget and I get to hang out, enjoy the sights, and every now and then I have to "walkie walkie lookey lookey" as Adrian puts it.  After a few shots at the temple (Probably a total of 20 seconds for the film but 3 hours of work for these guys) we walk around the back side to the buddhist caves.  Again walkie lookey walkie lookey, but this time there are plenty of crowds.
    Next we move on to a national park or something.  We eat lunch here (taditional Chinese) and take more footage. We meet a local man, Alex, who is a liason for us with the hangzou government.  He has to play middle man for a few policeman who are curious in what's going on.  We soon pack up and head to the last location, a tea plantation.
Street Writer Patiently working the streets
THE Master non-asher!

Filming at the temple
   This place was incredible.  Beautiful rolling hills and rows and rows of tea.  When we first get there, bridget asks a woman if she can get a couple of cups of tea to go for us.  This takes much translation, she isn't quite understanding until finally she walks up with two cups and a large thermous.  Great!  We take it with us and head up the hill to where the shoot is.  However, the tea woman is soon running after us..."Wait Wait, you have my tea cups!" in chinese.  Norman helps us explain everything and off we go. The producers have staged this and are paying 100 yuan ($15) each to a number of the local tea pickers (Women old enough to be grandmothers) who climb the hills and begin picking tea.  The filming begins and as I've realized, these three guys (Norman, Adrian, and Mark) have varying levels of perfectionism, Mark leading the pack, so MUCH care and time goes into each of these shots.  We work until close to dark when Mark is leading the crew - camera, rig, gaffs, and tons of equipment I don't know the name of, way way up up up this mountain looking for the ideal shot.  The crew is tired, smoking, and losing the good attitude when finally Norman shouts out "NO MORE" fortunately, before anyone lost it, we wrapped it up with good footage and headed back to the bus and to a GREAT place for dinner called Green Tea - really out in the middle of the hills outside of Hangzou.  Plenty of Chinese people on the crew to order good food for us.  One of the best meals Bridget and I have had since being here in China. Back to the hotel and to bed for another pre dawn call.
       The next morning we head to West Lake, the pride and joy of hangzou.  It really is something else.  As we are warming up and waiting for the crew to get set up (Mark and Norman were up at 4:30 climbing some mountain to get a good sunrise time lapse shot) Bridget and I see this older gentleman writing on the street.  He has a bucket of water which he dipped into the lake and what looks like a paint brush that is about 4 feet long.  He dips the brush in the bucket of water and writes incredibly meticulously constructed chinese characters about 1 foot in length each in straight lines and columns on the street.  People drive the motorcycles and walk all over them, but he just keeps on writing until he runs out of water in the bucket.  Then he packs up his stuff and leaves!
Reviewing a take up in the hills of tea country
  The first shoot of the day was to be of me walking by a tai-chi class and admiring it.  The crew had hired the local tai-chi master and about 5 others to perform for this.  The master was awesome.  he warmed up by lighting a cigarette and beginning his routine.  He went through the whole routine puffing on the butt, but never grabbing it and ashing.  As a result he had this HUGE ash on his cigarette, but it never fell due to his mastery smooth tai chi moves!
   After shots at the lake we ended the day at a tea house in the city.  After a late night, we were driven to the train station and back home to Shanghai via the bullet train in time to see Quinn to bed.  It should air on CNN in the next month or so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An interview with Josephine

Hi Josephine


What happened yesterday in school?


Anything special?

Yes, we had a "SO long ago" performance.

What is SO long ago?

Its a performance where each class is a different  Civilizaiton.

And which Civilization were you?

We were Asian.

What did you do as an Asian Civilization?

We got blue costumes with little knots to tie them together and we sung a chant about the Chinese land forms.

Who are your friends at school?

Emma, Andrea, Kathryn, and Lily.

Who is the funniest of them?



She is always making jokes.

What is your favorite subject in school?

Science and Reading.

What have you been reading?

I have recently finished a Series of Unfortunate Events.

How many books in that series?


Which one is the best?

um, 6, the Eratz Elevator.

What is your favorite part about your new school?

um, I like how we have healthy lunches.

What do you usually have for lunch?

Um, Some chicken or beef with a sauce and cucumbers, or a pizza, and watermellon.

What is the white mellon with black seeds?

Oh, it is also pink, it is called Dragon Fruit.

What activities are you doing outside of school?

I have Tennis at the British school where I just moved into the big, harder class.  My favorite part of tennis is the forehand because it is easy to do.

Do you like hitting the ball soft or hard?


What else are you doing?

I have violin on Mondays.

Do you like violin.

Yes, I like violin because it has a pretty sound when you learn how to do it beautifully.

Where are you going for Christmas?

We are going to the philippines.

Are you looking forward to it?

Yes!  very much.

Ok Josephine, thanks for talking to me.

You're welcome.  I'm going to read!

bye bye.

An Interview with Quinn

An Interview with Quinn:

Quinn, tell me a little about intramural soccer.

It's like this thing thats like a tournament inside the school.  There are 4 teams in the girls league. There are four teams, Barcelona, China, Liverpool, and I don't know the other one.  I'm Liverpool.  Every Monday we play an hour and 15 minute long game against one of the other teams.  At the end of the game we tell our score to the coach.  The jersey's are REALLY large.

What # are you?


What position do you play?

We switch mostly, but I usually play midfield, once I played goalie.  Midfield is my favorite.


Because I feel like I'm in a lot of control at mid field.  When I'm on offense I feel like I have to score a lot of goals, and on defense I am the last resort to save the ball.  But in midfield I can get a little bit of everything and it is alot of running which I like.

Is it just once a week?

Yes, Every Monday from 3:00 - 4:30.

And is there other soccer this season?

I have pre-season on Wednesdays.

And what is that?

Its basically um, training, for to get ready for the actual season of soccer, which is 3rd season, this is 2nd season right now.

How many girls are on pre-season soccer?

I'd say 15 to 20?

Who is the best girl out there?

There is a girl named, I forgot, she is a sophomore.

How about you?

I'm a freshman.

Yes, but are you any good?

Yes, I'm OK.  Some of the girls are beginners, Some of them have been playing all their life.  I'm pretty comfortable playing with them.

OK, Great.

So, moving on to your friends.  Who are your friends?

Femka.  We call her PHemka, becasue she is so PHat (which means cool.)  Adrienne, Lisa, Salus, Mikaela, Alica, Natalyn, Lexi, she is from Colorado.

Is Alicia the same Alicia that I have in Geometry?

Yes, Alicia Chen.

Who esle?

Thomas Ryde, he's from Denmark, and then Josh Singh.  He is a swimmer.

Who is the funniest of this crowd?

Salus can be pretty random, which is funny.  But then I'd probably say Adrienne.  Yep.

And how are your classes?

Um, I am liking all my classes.  PHysics was hard at first, but as I keep working and getting help I understand.  All my other classes are a general repeat of what I had before.  I just finished swimming in PE.

Tell me more about PE

Every class we have to get 20 minutes in zone - like heart rate zone.  So far we've done, softball, fitness 1, swimming, and now we are on sex ed/health.

Do you feel like the PE class is getting you in good shape?

Um, actually yes I do!  I feel like I get good exercise doing it with friends.

Who is the cutest boy in the school?

Um, I think there is a jr that is really cute, but I don't know his name and I don't want to get to know him and I think he has a girlfriend.

What is your favorite class?

I love my study hall, but I like english class and Asian History.

How about art?

I love art and I have it with my friend thomas.  He and my other friend Stanly are always talking in Chinese and I don't know what they're saying.

You're turning 15 soon, what is the best part about being 14?

Um, I don't know.  I can't say I have more freedom than I did last year, but I don't.

Thanks for talking with us today Quinn!

You're welcome, thanks for interviewing me.  I'm going to do some homework.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Halloween time in Shanghai, in typical Chinese fashion, is celebrated by taking the one day holiday and stretching it over as many days as possible.  This year, it will span the long weekend.  The fun started last night, Friday night.  Josephine's costume is a headless horseman, without the horse.  Quinn, unfortunately had to have surgery to remove a tooth way up in the roof of her mouth so she didn't need a costume to generate any horror.  We thus didn't participate in the first day of trick or treating at the Shanghai Racket Club.  On the bright side, the surgery was a success and she just has a big hole in the roof of her mouth now.

So today was the big International fair at school, and because of the season it doubled as a halloween fair.  There were nearly 4,000 people at the school with all kinds of tents, games, vendors and tons of great food.  Bridget and I had awesome Indian Chicken, and Philly Cheese steaks made by one of the local chinese joints - go figure.

After the fair, we came home and Quinn and Femka got into their costumes - Quinn is Kesha and Femka is a gangsta.  Out we went with the headless Josephine to Rancho Santa Fe for Trick or Treating.  Rancho Santa Fe is this surreal compound of these beautiful narrow tree lines streets with Southwestern style Large single family homes.  I guess word got out that Saturday night (Tonight) the good trick or treating is at Rancho so the place was severely packed with Kids.  It is a large neighborhood so you could easily lose yourself running around searching for candy and we did.  The Kesha look is something I would ONLY let my daughter wear outside of the house on Halloween.  Good God, look at what she is wearing!

Bridget and I joined up with Eric and Mirjam (Femka's Folks) and walked with the three girls around Rancho.  Jose was receiving plenty of stares because, well, she had no head.  She also couldn't see very well and would fall down every other house.  Then while on her hands and knees she would feel all around to find her pumpkin basket that had her candy.  Is was comical for a while until she realized it was comical and hammed it all for all it was worth.

We ended the night with coffee at the Laauwen's.  Mirjam's folks are in town for a few months visiting from Holland.  We have had a few meals with them since they've been here and it is nice to visit with them.  They had just spent 4 days in Hangzhou - where bridget and I are going for 2 nights tomorrow so that was nice.  We will be traveling by train.  It is really an interesting story how this one unfolded so I'll have to share that next time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bridget rings bell at passing motorist

Whenever we are biking, there are always plenty of motorcycles and motor bicycles to share the road with. Plenty of them, along with the cars, like to honk their horn as they are passing you - not really to tell you to get out of the way, more so just to let you know that they are coming and you should beware.  Well this results in tons of horn honking.  Bridget decided she is going to take a stand and so whenever a motorcyclist, or a truck comes zooming by and blares their horn, she rings the bell on her bike. 

Wizard of Oz

Our boys played well enough to make it to the finals this evening against Brent - a school in Manila.  It will be streamed live and the video archived here:

the way these tournys work is for all twelve teams to gather for a long 4 day event.  We are broken into two divisions (Asia and Pacific) of 6 teams each and play round robin to determine seating.  Then a bracket tournament is devised and played out with hopefully the best from each division playing for the final.

Our team captain, Tom, had a very unfortunate death in his family last night and showed up ready to play this morning in the Semi-Final game.  The boys played like never before and really demolished the ISB team 3 - 0  that we had lost to twice before.

Our head coach has a real laid back attitude and his philosophy is really to let the boys play and direct themselves.  As a result they take a real ownership in the game.  It is a very different philosophy of coaching than what I've seen in team sports - mostly basketball and football where the coach is often in the kids face yelling and screaming to get them fired up.  Coach Veitch, instead, is smiling in the huddle and very calmly cracks a joke and asks them questions, leading them to discover the intended message on their own.  He does this even at 23-23 in the heat of a set when we've committed a few errors and need to shape up.

Me, I keep stats and support his mission.  I've got an XL program that a former student here (volley ball fan) created himself and it makes it easy to track.  Since our big win this morning, A couple of coaches have approached me wanting to know wheat I do and how my stats program works.  It's actually quite comical that they're asking me!

We had a very poor set the 3rd game of the tourny.  John gathered the kids in and calmly told them that they had played poorly and made way too many errors.  They looked down and listened and he said, "Mr. Matuschek has been studying the stats to that game and said they are the worst stats he has ever any math class he's ever taught!"  Said with a grin, the kids laugh and rebound quite efficiently.

So we head out in about 15 minutes here to take on the Brent school from Manila...gotta go!

...and now it is 5 hours later and the Brent School from Manila showed us a thing or two.  These guys could jump, hit and they had a more sophisticated offense.  Cheers to them and we leave with a 2nd place trophy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Exciting weekend:

This weekend is not only the performance of The Wizard of Oz at the high school but also the APAC (Asia Pacific Athletic Conference) Championship tournaments for Volleyball - Girls at our school and boys  in Seoul.

Bridget has been working with the Oz cast since early September and as with most shows it all came together at the end.  Josephine accompanied Bridget to most of the dress rehearsal's this week.  As with other musicals she's seen her mother work in the past, Josephine can recite any of the main characters  Two sold-out performances, one last night and one tonight.

Unfortunately, I'm with the boys in Korea and only got to see a dress rehearsal last weekend.

The APAC tourny involves 12 schools from China, Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Viet Nam, and Japan.  The host school provides housing for the athletes so while I'm away, Bridget, Quinn, and Josephine are hosting 2 girls from a Beijing School.  We went to a local fabric market last weekend to buy material to have sheets sewn for the futon for our guests.  That's another story.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My View on China - By Josephine Matuschek. A poem written before we landed in China.


China China so far away
China China where I will stay
Fortune Cookies, beans, and rice
Boy this country is so nice
Panda Bears and Tigers wow
A little rain and some snow
The great wall is so cool
It makes you want to jump in a pool
History burned alot of books
Earthquakes Earthquakes really shook.
Confucious said, "To learn and use is a joy"
Most things are made there, even a toy
So like I said this country so great
You should really visit there and have a date
China China really pretty
it has a bunch of beautiful cities.
China China toys of fun
Not once has there been a gun

Quinn's Take 1

I remember when Mom and Dad first told us that we might be moving somewhere overseas, I obviously never imagined that now, today, life would feel so normal here. In fact, sometimes I even forget that I am in China, except for the constantly smoggy days. Exactly two and a half months since we got here, and it still seems like we have been here two weeks. School started, and at first I was feeling pretty lost because the schedule at the school took some getting used to, and I did not know many people. Slowly, things started to get easier, and my classes did as well. Now, at the end of the first quarter, my grades are five A’s, one B-, and one C.
The week break that our family just got back from was spent biking to the Watertown Zhou Zhuang, a small town next to a lake, which branched out into small streams that wove through the village. Long gondolas, which carried mainly tourists, came through the town often, and stone bridges went over the water. Restaurants in the city were mainly Chinese cuisine, all selling about exactly the same thing, but were two American cafĂ©’s and many snack shops. We stayed for three nights in to different hotels. On the third day, we rode to a different water town, but did not get the same feel as in Zhou Zhuang. Zhou Zhuang felt real, and was exciting with all the many types of people. Most of the people in the village stared at us, the foreign Americans, and many of the tourists took pictures of us, and with us. At first, it was embarrassing, but then Josephine and I started to have some fun with it. We were happy, and sad to leave, but on the trip home, Josephine and I mastered the art of riding our bikes with NO hands, hahahaaa. Luckily, no injuries, we got home safely. It just felt so good to be home.
On the last day of the break, I bought a bed from my friend, and also got a free desk and chair from her as well, so I was able to redo my room. Then, last night, our down comforters that Oma had sent arrived! All four of us had a very comfortable and warm sleep last night. J

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bridget's Eyes-Matuschek bike Trip

We had a really nice time traveling back in time, 1000 years. We went to Zhouzhuang water town, half present day and half preserved "Ancient Town". It is self proclaimed "the #1 water town" and not sure it deserves the distinction, but it was classic. 
We took off Wednesday morning 7:30 ish, Josephine had some nerves (her stomach was fluttering). "I have never been on a biking trip, this is my first one!" Said with a ton of enthusiasm. She and Quinn were exceptional on the road. They made it 50 km the first day into Zhouzhuang with Josephine leading us the entire way. She wanted to get there so badly by the end she kept hollering back "we can do it", "let's go!!!!", or "Come on Matuscheks!" Or once in a while a large WAHOOOOOO! 

Being on the road is a bit different than being close to the safety of our little compound. There are no rules, bikes mopeds motorcycles go every which way they want. Picture construction on a four lane highway, the bike lane is blocked as we enter onto the congested road and a woman is toodling toward us into the approaching traffic, no room so we just sit. The road was pretty flat and very much under construction almost the entire route. Riding wasn't bad once we developed the strategy that I am Josephine's shield from the rather large, flat front,  blue trucks, letting out piercing belches when they passed us. It is true everyone uses their horns, more than necessary here. To reduce the stress and surprise of the thousands of speeding motorized vehicles speeding by us, honking, Quinn and I have taken to ringing our bells right back at them. It remains funny and is necessary to keeping my sanity! Perhaps they don't hear us, sometimes they turn around disgruntled but always smile when they see us smiling and waving to them.

The rest of the trip was spent between two hotels, the entirely chinese family homestead- everything cooked and washed river side?? and the peaceful zen like 4 star experience for the last two nights. We were immersed in chinese culture. Eating wontons for breakfast in the cleanest little chinese kitchen, and happily finding an "american" type cafe for dinner. The owners remarked to us, after three meals there, "Have you eaten ANY chinese yet?" He was happy to have us, as by then the town emptied out after the national holiday and no one remained to eat his food. We had had some chinese, but when you see a bunch of belly up fish in the fish tanks it doesn't make you want to order a bunch. 

This town was mostly set up for tourists, little shops with pecking chickens(ask the girls) and chinese candies, ink stamps and bicycles, both of which Jos purchased. QUinn really liked the fig breads, a specialty there, no idea the chinese name, but they were flat, covered in sesame seeds and spread thin inside with what we discovered was fig. I was glad that my kids were eating at all. It was especially hard for Jos to eat wonton (basically chicken noodle soup) for breakfast, when the sign said Western breakfast served- no dice. Quinn by the end wanted a big ol Mexican meal. 

I have to say, the nature of people is no different even though they are entirely different in their customs. Every connection we made, was from our smiling and being welcoming to the shop owners. We would get large smiles and a chinese conversation, mostly pantomimed on our part. We made friends with an old weaver, who enjoyed smiling at Jos and the man next door to her who was entirely impressed that Jos traveled to and from Shanghai and then made the side trip trip to Tongli (another 30 km round trip). he kept telling other shop keepers about our trips. Saturday as we were leaving town, we parked our bikes and started loading up to leave, (BTW-we bought a pannier (on Rob's bike) and basket for me.). As we wnet in and out of the hotel, friends started gathering, trying out our bikes and lifting them up and trying to understand how my 1979 style bike worked (back pedal brakes). One came over and the conversation centered on how we would get home. I said Josephine is faster than me with my big heavy bike. Jos piped in quai quai de, meaning fast and the whole group laughed. They continue to think she is the world. She left there feeling like everyone loved us. At a cake maker in Tongli, the woman kept touching her face, saying so beautiful, then beautiful eyes, beautiful skin. White skin is desired here and blue eyes don't exist, so Quinn is always getting her picture taken with man woman and child! By the end of a trip like this, we all start feeling like "please stop staring at us"! Generally we don't mind, but when we need comfort and our home, it's the staring and the honking that most gets to me and I think I can speak for the kids too. Now, we are glad to be home and surrounded by some things we know. BTW- Jos thought maybe we were biking home to CO!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Went to Hong Kong

I did fly to Hong Kong with the Volley ball team.  It was a bit hard to wrap my mind around this concept. Instead of throwing the kids on a bus and driving an hour to Boulder for competition, or even overnight to Glenwood Springs for a xc race in Aspen, we MET the kids at the airport, dressed in uniform we (7 coaches and 48 kids) flew to Hong Kong.  Coaches stayed at a hotel downtown and the kids each stay with a host family of a kid from the Hong Kong school.

Now although I went to Hong Kong, I mostly saw the school and my hotel room. Speaking of, my hotel room was way up on the 35th floor and was about 8 feet by 8 feet square.  My ankles hung over the side of the bed.  There was no room for anything in this room at all.   It had a killer view, though.  I definitely want to go back with Bridget when there is more time to explore the city.  We played 6 vball matches in 3 days.

Nonetheless, Hong Kong is quite a city.  Quite different from Shanghai.

Bike Trip Pictures

Big news, Josephine learned to ride a bike with no hands.
...and so did Quinn...

The biggest difference is that in the US, when a car honks at you, it means "get out of the way!"  Here, when a car honks it means, "Hi, I see you.  Just keep going like you're going.  I'll swerve way around you.  I may go over into the oncoming traffic, but you just stay where you are.  Don't change what you're doing."

It sounds crazy, but it's true.  So you hear these horns blasting at you but you just keep riding and everything is cool.

Dig the load on this dudes bike:
After he passed, I turned back to see more folk.  There was the dude at the handlebars.  The dude on top.  Then a gaggle of kids tucked in the leaves and branches hanging on the back.

For the most part there was a good size bike lane to ride on as seen above.  Bridget and I took turns leading the ride and following behind.  No joke, Josephine was the power horse.  She got some wild hair and decided she wanted to ride fast.  No lack of energy there. 

They fish alot and they eat alot of fish.  In fact, everywhere we've gone around this town, Shanghai and all, people fish ALL over the place.  Not quite sure what they're pulling out of the waters, but they also eat alot of fish.

The common cafe has a few fish tanks as you walk in.  Like 10.  Josephine walked into the first cafe in Zhouzhuang and said, "Cool, a pet store."  We were looking at the lunch specials in various tanks.  

The first hotel (Inn?) we stayed at the elder parents cooked us dinner.  Pig Hip and Whitefish.  The fish was incredible but boney as all get out.  So tender and full of taste but each bite was a journey in pickin-bones out of the mouth. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Went Dancing tonight

There is a real nice park near us, Zhudi Park.  It has a large circular

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Going on a bike trip

We leave today for the 50 km bike trip to Zhouzhang.  We'll stay three nights there and explore the various water towns by bike and foot, then return on Saturday.  I'll update upon return.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday

My birthday was last Friday.  Something was planned for me right after school.  Then Quinn got detention (4 tardies!!) and then wanted to go to the Volley ball game with friends and Josephine was invited to a 3-way sleepover.  That left Just Bridget and I and that was just wonderful!  We took a cab to the subway and then downtown.  The cab ride was unique because the driver didn't understand my directions to the Metro Station.  Although far from fluent I'm getting pretty good at saying the word for the the station.  This fellow acted like he'd never heard of it so we showed him on a chinese map - still nothing. So we drive around in circles for a while and he finally asks some people for help.  This happens twice and we finally are heading in the right direction.

Now where we live has only one road to and from the Metro station.  It is an old dirt road with an old bridget that has only one lane.  During the busy part of the day it is PACKED with people, walking, biking, driving, standing, setting up shop to sell their good, dogs, geese, you name it.  This rookie taxi driver apparently is also mr. polite as he let everyone go first over the bridge.  You just don't do that here.  People try hard enough on their own to got first, they don't need any "help" so we sat for a while and visited until he finally got us across the bridge.

Once at the station we had a nice ride downtown, had a drink atop the the glass windowed Rotating 47th floor of the Raddison hotel, and then pizza in pudong.  What a great way to turn 45!


Some celebrated event took place on Wednesday night.  Josephine was supposed to be in bed sleeping and started hooting about something. I ran over to tell her to fall asleep when she pointed out the fire works.  Whatever the event, it was worth celebrating with a bang after her bed time.  Fireworks are kind of a big deal here.  At least once a week there is a long series of bang bang bang that goes on somewhere around us.  We will most likely be hear for Chinese New year when firecrackers are a real big deal.

Weekend Bike Ride

Bridget and I went out riding last Sunday.  We rode about 30 km (We're totally into the metric thing) northwest of where we live through some farmlands and rice fields.  A couple in the neighborhood has been hear a while and bikes a lot so we had a guide.  There is quite a bit of farming in Shanghai but witht he massive development it has moved further and further out.  This guy here was standing in about 2 feet of water harvesting crop.

Anyhow once out of town we rode on these small paths that wind through farms and peoples homes following canals and waterways.  Eric and Mariam (These are parents of a friend of Quinns) led us through  these roads some were new to them as well.  It seems like you could get lost quite easily but as Eric says, just head back East and you'll hit the highway soon enough.

We saw plenty of make shift homes where the laborers live.  Not the most ideal living conditions.  Ya get a good sense of the population density out here.  Structures on farms with many families and many generations living in them.  Bridget had a low BG at one point and we stopped for a snack outside someones home.  Slowly the family comes out to say hi and see who the newcomers are.  Soon a fellow shows up on his truck-bike with a delivery of fresh garlic for the family.  They little boy comes out and gathers a large armful of garlic from the peddler, some cash changes hand, friendly gestures our way and he moves on.

 No one seems concerned about tress passing, you just go where you want. Eric says, well the state owns all the land, but at the same time you see people who have financially benefited quite a bit by selling some of their land - or at least I hear of this...improv communism.

Besides lots and lots of rice, we saw corn, spinach, cucumber, gords, lettuce, some fruit trees, and more rice.  Not to many machines though.  Most of the work looks like it is done by hand round here.  Workers out in the field squatting down.
We found a farm that we like for ourselves.  It is completely organic.  They deliver a big bunch or organic chinese vegetables to our door every Monday for about $15 a week.  All kinds of funky potatoes, lettuce, onion garlic, peppers, okra, eggplant (lots of okra and eggplant), beans, peas, and it varies from week to week.  It really is not a bad deal.  The farm is in Pudong and it's called "tony's farm."  Bridget met them and said the farm workers didn't look like anyone named Tony.  Creative Marketing.  The other funny thing is that you pay a year in advance.  So we forked over like $750 for a year's worth of vegies.  Some dude who doesn't speak chinese showed up at my door two weeks ago on his bike with a ton of vegies and I sent him on his way with a ton of cash.  I guess the organic chinese farmers with american names are very trustworthy 'cause he showed up this week too.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How stuff gets done in China

China sends in the A team for everything all the time.  If a job needs done around here three times as many people as necessary show up and knock it out in record time.  When our computer got stolen - 12 police and security guards were on location.  When we needed the toilet seat installed (needed?) the team of three showed up.  Two showed up to remove hair from our drain.  I've seen 15 gardeners at the school to plant grass pods in a small strip near the school building.  People here talk about how 10 years ago there were no cars in shanghai and only bikes.  You wouldn't believe it now based on the traffic and massive elevated highways.  Apparently these huge highways were built in record time, probably because of the sheer numbers on the work force they had.

Look at the photo below.  This is how my classroom gets cleaned every day.  A team of 3 ayis show up to do the cleaning and trash emptying.  Now I teach high school math.  I don't have any sparkles, or paint, or construction paper cutting remnants, or glue.  I have some eraser rubber on the floor that you would never see and maybe a scrap piece of paper or two.  But this team of three is in there watta boom watta bang every classroom.  Notice the security guard supervising.  I guess he's there to make sure they're working, or  not doing anything they shouldn't.


We finally got ourselves some bicyles.  We caught  the local shuttle  to a metro stop.  Metro to the Brilliance West mall where we scoped out the scene at the local sproting goods store (A french shop called Decathelon) and then headed over to the Giant and Trek dealers.  Bridget scored big time with a classic HUGE candy apple red beach cruiser with no hand brakes - gotta pedal backwards to stop this baby.  Guy at the store claimed it was the only one in Shanghai, we'll see about that.  None the less, she is styling  around on this sweet ride..

  Jo and Quinn each got these little kid mnt bikes.  Quinn was easy to find a good bike for, Josephine had more discrimintating tastes but found a sky blue 24" giant.  The shop owner was trying to get me into a mountain bike right away showing me how nice the latest in disc break and front suspension technology was.   I'm thinking, "I've mountained biked all over Colorado, I know when I need a mountain bike."  I found a "city bike" that I liked - like a hybrid with 700 wheels but a mnt frame - no suspension.   So all is happy and we were too tired to ride them home so the salesman called a "truck" and I sent the girls home in a cab.  The truck is like a cab but his meter is just more expensive.  We carefully loaded the four bikes in his truck and he drove me home as he smoked chinese cigs.

Once home, Bridget and I went for a quick ride around the neighborhood while the girls crashed - dead tired...too much shopping.  The whole bike deal probably took a good 4 hours.  So B and I are riding and she's just cruising along on these tires of hers that are 26 inch diameter but like 3 inches thick so she's not feeling any of the bumps our cobble-stone neighborhood streets are throwing at us.  Meanwhile I'm getting all jostled around, feeling every bump and soon realize that although Shanghai is flat, it is bumpy as all get out.  Plus the traffic is insane so the start and stop ease of a mnt bike is what I want!!  Woops.  So we get back and I call Tim, the Chinese Trek dealer and explain my situation.  He says that tomorrow is the big full moon holiday and as long as I can get the bike to him by 5:30 CLEAN he'll swap it out for a mnt bike.  SO, I take one of these Truck Cabs BACK to his shop and find a mnt bike.  "I told you 'Mountain bike'" he says to me.  "yes, yes"  I Chinese.

This time I ride home.  18 km through Western Shanghai - Puxi.  What a great way to see the city.  Negotiating traffic is a bit hairy but doable and tons of fun.  I get back to Zhudi where I'm supposed to meet the girls at a market where they're buying costumes for the Founders Festival at school - we're supposed to dress up like 1912.   Soon I'm in so deep with pedestrians, other cyclists, motorcyclists, bike taxis, cars trucks, food, animals, kids all over the place and what not.  Cant move at all - just a mass in the street.  Glad I have a mnt bike. I spot Josephine over by the live fish (ewwww! she says, but they do look cool) and we have a nice ride home once we get out of the crowd.  The pic above shows the local market and then our nice bike ride home.  In the pic below, you can see the bike taxi ahead of bridget - it's like a scooter/bike and can fit two adults or 4 kids in the bake.  This has been our main transportation around Zhudo....UNTIL NOW!!!

Josephine now rides her bike to school.  It is so nice to see them because we really can explore around us  so much more and boy there sure is alot quite around us.  It is a big city.  My neighbor, Eric, says that you can be out in the country in rice paddies and what not within a 10 minute bike ride - I'm anxious to see that.

We got bikes

Woke up sunday morning and decided it was time to get some wheels.  Headed by local shuttle bus to the metro and by metro to the mall.  The French sporting good

Josephine is taking tennis lessons

Josephine is taking tennis lesson at a neigboring school through a kids rec program.  She's got a little tennis racket but it fits her well.  This is on Thursday afternoons.  She and Quinn and I took a monster walk in 90 degree heat and 135% humidity to get her there.  I'm not kidding, well maybe hyperbole. It didn't rain but it was so humid it felt like walking through egg yolk.  I had parent teacher conferences that night and was wearing full gear pants, shirt, and tie.  Q & I laid on the grass and watched her lesson for an hour while I worked up a sweat.  Josephine worked up a sweat as well.  Bridget took her by bicycle the following lesson as it really is a bit too far to walk.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

These guys fishing for cuttbow?

Walked to a Doctor's appt after school today and saw these dudes fishing.  If you look you can see the length of the left hand fellows 15'+ pole is nothing to shake a stick at.  Not sure what they were pulling out of there, and not sure that I'd like to eat it, but I do wish I brought my fly gear.  Equally interesting is the "wet market" directly accross the street from the river here sells all type of vegies and meats out on the outdoor venues.  The seafood section is the most interesting with more fish than a pet store and frogs, turtles, eels, funky snails, clams, and crustaceans galore.  I wonder if these dudes just walk their catch accross the street.  On the back side of the wet market is a row of about 20 noodle shops.  They just throw open the steel rolling door each morning and begin cooking.  The whole block is alive with aromas as the day progesses.  This is directly accross the street from the school.  The food is cooked both in and out of doors.  As evening rolls around the places start filling up and by dark it is alive with all ages  running around.  Everyone seems to be eating and there is plenty of food on the bar-b-que all evening long.  Little kids run around and grandmas and grandpas sit in chairs watching. All taking place on the sidewalk.  One shop will have noodles, another, rice, all with plenty of veggies and fixins' then the next shop they'll be remodeling with some type of gypsum and tile.  It's all closed and cleaned when I go to school in the morning and all back up and running by afternoon.  I keep thinking we live in a small town, (Zhudi Town) but after all, it is part of Shanghai and the bigillion folk that live all over the place.

Josephine had a play date with her friend Emma.  Bridget and I went to get her about 6:30 in the evening.  We grabbed a rickshaw - an electric powered bicycle with room for two in the back.  This has become our favorite means of transportation.  About 75 cents for a ride down JinFeng Road dodging traffic is well worth it.

By the way - this is what traffic is like on JinFeng Lu.  If you've ever skiied down Cranmer (or similar main artery blue run) at about 3:10 where skiiers and borders are everywhere and you're very aware cause there just is this flow of everyone going a different speed and trying not to get hit.  That is what traffic is like on JinFeng Lu.  There are big old cement trucks, minivans, sedans, motorcycles, and tons of electric bycicles, scooters, and manual bicycles.  All of them going their own speed and all of them using their own interpretation of what exactly a red light means...because it sure the hell doesn't mean stop.  People execute turns and THEN manuver around whoever is in the way.  You just need to keep your eyes open.

Bridget and Quinn got out of this electric bike the other day with bug eyes after crossing 4 lanes of traffic  in both directions by Methusala-esque pilot.

Anyhow, Bridget and I take the rickshaw to Forrest Manor which is a gated community of very large houses and the security guards won't let the bicyle on the grounds.  So we have to walk at the gate.  It is getting dark as we start looking for unit 2-136.  Within 20 minutes it is pitch black and we can't find a darn thing.  These roads wind and wind and the houses look larger and darker and darker and you can only find the address if you squint from 2 inches at the mailbox.  The signs are misleading but we finally find the house.  Once in, it is a lovely house decorated with Emma's grandfather's modern art work.  The family is from Denmark.  We grab Josephine and embark on the journey home.  Covered a few miles by foot as well as electric bicycle taxi that night.

We didn't get home until 8:45 but just in time to open the wonderful care package from Auntie Mari and Uncle Art. Lots of joy to be had - almost Christmas time.  Lots of Grand Lake goodies as well as plenty of items we've not been able to find in China.  What a great punctuation to a long day and and long week.

Bridget ran into a gal Marlene Hesse from Lone tree last week.  She and her husband Jim had just moved to Shanghai one month ago.  The have two daughters in 5th and 9th grade.  Small world.  They live about 20 minutes away and had us over for dinner last Saturday night.  He is a business man and is working on a number of projects.  One of the more interesting ones is with the Russian brothers from Daz Bog Coffee.  The idea comes from a US immigration law that allows access to a green card if you have a pre set business model with proven results.  Thus the move is to set up a few - not a lot - of Daz Bog coffee shops in Shanghai as a marketing tool to express to a motivated Chinese entrepreneur that if you like this coffee shop and you think you could run one in the US, you can get set up in a franchise and move your family to the US.  It helps Daz Bog find motivated owners of their franchise.

Land of Opportunity
It made me think about how relative the "land of opportunity" is.  Jim was promoting the idea that there are plenty of Chinese who would be interested in moving their family to the US where they would have access to a better life - run a business (Daz Bog?), have their children learn proper English, and have the opportunity to go to an American University.

On the other hand, I work with some teachers (a married couple) - good teachers - who are here because they were struggling to land decent jobs in the US with a strong administration and paycheck.  They come to Shanghai where they are paid very well as a teacher, can send their kids to a great private school and have opportunities they struggled to get back home.

September 16th 2011 marks the 99th year and the beginning of the celebration year of the first century of Shanghai American School.  It also marks Chris Rieber's and my 45th birthday.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Volley ball tourny for the Puxi Eagles on Saturday at Concordia International School.  There were 4 Shanghai international schools at the tourny.  Concordia is on the other side of the river - about a 40 minute drive to Pudong.  Our team is good

Play Ball

Friday the 2nd was the opening game for HS baseball.  The SAS Puxi Eagles (us) hosted our crosstown sibling rival the SAS Pudong Eagles.  The pitching was good, fielding fair,  the baseball entertaining as we won 8-1. It was a festive day as there were free hot dogs and pop during the pre game party.  A Canadian run Chinese school creating Americana to the T.  Josephine brought home 3 friends - (Really Bridget helped out a sick mom by watching her kids.)  All of them wandered over to the field after school.  Quinn had to stay after school for PE (Forgot her uniform one day and had to run on the treadmill for an hour as a result.)

Bridget and I sat along the 1st base line and watched the game with Jin Feng Road right behind us and the sounds of Zhudi town chinese all around.  We later got up on the roof of the new classroom building witch runs along the 3rd base line and got a spectacular view of the ball field.  We left after 7 innings, found our kids running around somewhere and went home.

One of the nicest things we've found is that we live a mere 10 minute walk through a chinese village from our school. Being a K-12 campus, the social life there is part of all four of us.  If I stay late at school I'm still home in time for Dinner, homework time after school and maybe a walk through Zhudi Town. Pic is of one of the many canals running through zhudi.  had I brought my fly rod, I'd be on the banks of this place.   I see fisherman on it all the time.  They use these ultra long rods - like 15', and I'll have to report back on the bait.  Not sure I'd eat what comes out of there.  Good place for catch and release.
There are a few teachers that live in our apartment complex but not many.  I don't see my students at the apartments.  There are a lot of Chinese and ex pat business folk there - many with kids, many not.  As a result the home neighborhood community is different from the school community.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kids These Days!!!!

So Quinn pops into my classroom yesterday at the beginning of lunch (about 1:00 PM Shanghai Time) holding her computer open and says, "Dad say hi to Annie."  She turns the computer toward me and her friend Annie says hi to me on skype from Colorado (about 11:00 PM the night before.)  I have a nice little chat with Annie about her freshman year at Regis and tell her to say hi to her dad (what's he think of all this?).  Quinn then runs out of my classroom with her computer still open, Annie still on board, and says "Bye Dad, Annie is going to lunch with me!"

Later I find out that while sitting in her previous class with her lap top open for classwork,  Auntie Jenn buzzes Quinn on skype (Which she had left open) to ask for our address.  Quinn quickly replies.  Then friend Annie skypes Quinn and Quinn tells her "I can't talk now, I'm in class," So Annie tells Quinn to put her on mute so she can watch class.  Annie thus observes Quinn in her class for the next 20 minutes, then joins her to say hi to me and off to lunch.

I don't recall doing that kind of thing in High School.

Although I thought it was pretty cool, I felt obliged to give Quinn a little talking to about inappropriate use of her computer.  What would I do as teacher in that case?  "Quinn, tell your friend from Colorado she's not allowed to watch this lesson on related rates!"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wednesday August 31, 2011

In classic American style, three generations of Matuscheks sat down for Breakfast in Shanghai with Oma on skype...Look at the computer screen and see her smiling face!  It is nice to have the time to visit. In fact, morning time has become very popular skype time.  The girls skyped Mike, Gina, and Hadley yesterday morning, then during the high school break, Quinn was in my office trying to print something and Auntie Jenn skyped her, so we had a nice chat!  There are some perks to living in the 21st century.

So we bought new phones and with them bought Sim cards from China Mobile to activate the phone.  Then found out that China Unicom has better service so we bought new China Unicom Sim Cards with new phone #'s.  We set up a monthly plan and needed to get more money "on the phone" to do so.  So I went back to the store yesterday and bought "phone cards" which are 50 RMB each ($7.50).  Each card has a passcode on it.  You call China Unicom on your phone and tell them the passcode and they add the cash to your card.  Then you throw the card away.  Mass consumerism! It's cheap...huge internet and phone service for $15 a month and a bunch of used cards.

By the way, the store is this crammed little shop in Zhudi town that sells cigarettes, beer, pop, phones, and phone cards.  The dude there now knows me and my family by face and my chinese is getting better with him.  I think he lives above the shop with his family.  When I was there last night the door front (a large sliding glass door) was open and the windows on the side were wide open (corner shop.)  As I was talking to him an empty water bottle or 2 came flying through the open window followed by children's laughter and I saw little 6 or 7 year olds running away.  The proprietor looked to me as if to say "Are they yours?"  I said no, we both shrugged our shoulders and laughed.  Typical night in Zhudi Town.

Tuesday Evening

Bridget is out and about.  She had a Dr. Appointment this morning.  That meant taking the bus to the Subway and then to downtown.  Her Appt was at 11:00 AM and I know she want so explore the city.  Josephine's Homework is done, she's watching a movie and Quinn is working on Homework.  I'm watching Zhang (try "jong" with a soft j) finish cooking dinner.  She doesn't speak English but is happy to listen to me ramble on in broken Chinese.  Josephine has made the most progress with her.  It smells great. In here

I came home and took care of a bill and there isn't anything pressing.  No lawn or house to fix.  I played a few games of chess with Josephine before she wanted to watch the flick.  It is my day off of practice, so I have the afternoon free.

Tuesday 8/30/2011

Picture on the bund:  This is the family Matuschek on the Bund - the road along the Huangpujang - the river that separates Shanghai into Puxi (River West) and Pudong (river east).  Note that we were nearly the only Caucasians around that day so that Josephine and Quinn were a bit more popular than this spectacular view.  The Pearl TV tower in the background is tall - like really tall - look it up!

We visited it at night this past weekend.  It is quite a site at night so many lights.  We took a cab into the city Saturday night to St. Stephen's Cathedral for a catholic Mass.  Definitely NOT father Pat, and we miss him, but none the less interesting.  We left the church and decided to head through the streets to the river.  This was about a 2 mile meander through the streets of Shanghai, parks, cafe's, watermelon on a stick, Jing Ling Lu (home of many a guitar shop I plan to return to) and finally the river.  Technology today is something else. I think nothing of wandering the streets of this Asian metropolis with my family armed with a smart phone. Link to the web and follow my nose while holding various hands in route.   We got caught feeling very hungry in the middle of an international trendy restaurant area and spent a bit too much for soup and small dishes.  $9 for a bottle of sparkling water.  Very good!

There is a very well defined academic culture here.  You can sense it the moment I make a move as a teacher to get something done.  The atmosphere suggests that each kid intends on not missing a thing I do.  I've been in classrooms before where no kid cared about Anything I did.  High schoolers do homework like 3rd graders do - just because it's there and this is how you learn!

It is a very Asian population.  Although it is international - and it it - most of these families are international families of Asian descent.  And they all have very american first names.  Quinn stands out with her name.  Unlike Overland, there aren't any ethnic names beyond Daniel and Tiffany.  The classes are very homogeneous and focused like all get out.

I'm the assistant volley ball coach.  Varsity sports are allowed 4 contacts per week - 3 practices and a game on Saturdays.  JV are allowed 3 contacts.  This is to promote balance.  Practices must be no more than 2 hours and we honor that. The head coach, John Vietch is an experienced and good coach from New Zealand.  After try outs we ended up with 12 athletes on Varsity.  One Sr.  We are not tall.  Two kids at maybe 6' 1"  (although they'll tell you it is 1.85 and then you realize its metric...oh yeah) We've got one white kid - the tallest kid.  I told Vietch I've got no Volley Ball experience and he laughed and is kindly helping me out as I learn.  We have a tourny with local international schools this weekend and will head to Hong Kong for a tourny in late sept - perk of the job?

It is quite a treat to see Quinn at High School.  She pops in each day to my classroom and either needs help with something or is just saying hi.  She joined the photography club, the eggchange (community service) club and is considering yoga.  She is plowing ahead and trying to fit in.  Josephine, working on her strokes with Bridget, tried out for the heavily competitive swim team.  I was mighty proud of her, showing up in a bikini and going for it.  She has improved quite a bit as a swimmer but not enough to make the cut.  She is enjoying her classes, friends, Mr. Fisher, and her chinese class.  She speaks Chinese with our ayi while at home.

Jon and Mike put in some hours and finished the Cuttbow CD.  10 songs are at
So good to listen to this and so painful to not continue AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
For some reason the site is often blocked here in China - Must be because Cuttbow is so powerful and controversial in the state that the Chinese government isn't sure what to think!  Anyhow, great music and keeps me smiling listening to it.  We covered a Ted Rosenzweig song - Silent Kind of Girl - which he and his band have developed their own version of so it showed be good to hear the Last Train verison of this Ted Classic.

Bidget and I are looking at our pad and figuring how to move forward.  We enjoy the minimal expanse it has become and don't want to change that just yet.  She is trying to commission Quinn to do some artwork for us and we'd both like some more plants.  It is clean and simple.  We have some Janet McShain originals that need to be hung.

Toilet Seat:
The toilet seat in the wash room broke and she called the management company.  (They fix everything here.)  As usual they sent about 4 people on the job.  Communicated to Bridget that all they had was the wooden toilet seat and would she prefer that over the plastic one?  Of course she would!!  So the next day the team showed up to install the wooden toilette seat and left. Well the wooden toilette seat is shaped and lovely and completely unsanded.  We're talking #4 grain wild wood.  No one in their right mind would sit on this baby although Josephine and I wanted to try - We held off.  The next day they brought the more desired plastic toilette seat.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wednesday August 24th


The bell rings and every kid is already in their seat pencils out laptops open and logged in.  Every kid has completed every problem of the previous nights homework which will be graded and recorded but does not count at all toward their final grade. Students check their work with the solution document I posted to the web site. As soon as I speak everyone is quiet and listening.  I throw a challenge problem out to the class and everyone begins working on it, discussing it with their peers with pencils moving at a hearty pace.  They can check their work against the posted solution. I have a two page document (that I just received in an email) I want them to have to use as a reference.  Instead of printing it and scanning it, I upload the pdf to the class website while I'm taking attendance and tell them to view it after they have handed in their homework.  I then post a question on the site's forum and ask them to respond.  My screen is projected for the class to see and within minutes each student can see each other's thoughts without speaking.

Running out of time, I copied answers from an old key and posted these as HW solutions before checking the work myself.  The only questions from students regarding the HW assignment were in reference to errors on the old answer key.  A learning moment for all of us.

I notice that one student hasn't commented.  I look over and see him struggling to log on.  He raises his hand and quietly asks if he can go to the "Mac Store."  I say yes and he returns 5 minutes later with his lap top fixed, logs in and joins the rest of us.  It is 15 minutes into class.  I say "Lap tops down" and the kids close their screens and I begin a lecture and discussion on the next lesson.

I haven't heard one student throw an F-bomb anywhere yet.   I've not heard, "Mister do you have a pencil?"  It is the second week of school and nobody has been absent in any of my 5 classes.

Some teachers here new to the school from the states have been describing the teaching situation they left in the states.  Overcrowded classrooms, inattentive students, weak administration, lack of support, low pay, etc.  Of course we are not comparing apples to apples here.  The parents of the students at this school pay a very hearty sum in tuition.  Their is a massive application process and a waiting list.  The school serves a majority Asian community (not nec. Chinese) with a cultural bias toward hard work in education.

Compare that to the typical public school in the states that serves every kid that walks in the door.  Some have very supportive parents some have no parents.  Many come from a culture rich with education, many don't.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Monday August 22nd

August 22nd - My parents were married 52 years ago toady!

New day new view.  Quinn did some thinking on her own and concluded she is not a Rugby player after all.  Although try-outs were successful for her last week, she wants to explore other options for now.  There is an activities fair this week and she is excited about what lies ahead.  She also made the decision on her own to continue studying Spanish.  It is good to see her make these on her own although painful to watch her muddle through them.  What a great kid!

I listened to the raw mix of the Cuttbow studio take last night.  I sure miss the band and now a month without any guitar I see the calluses slowly leaving my fingertips.  I've been communicating with Jon and Mike quite a bit and Jon heads to the Master Mixer Wednesday night - very stoked to hear the final cut.  Wish like crazy I had more time to spend on that project and even more..., well, enough said.  Will make sure the final cut is posted on the Cuttbow facebook page and reverbnation.  good Rockin.

Troy says the sprinklers on S Grant St. that I spent way too much time on in June are acting up again.  It is funny to be sitting in Shanghai and thinking about the sprinklers in Englewood.  I woke up the other night thinking, "Oh I'll just dig around the back yard tomorrow and figure out what is wrong."  Then quickly realized that I actually wont be doing that any time soon at all.  Will call in re-enforcements.

There is a powerful  Habitat for Humanity group here that works locally and takes trips all over the world.  It is headed by Rob Burke - Math Teacher and seems to be a pretty strong group.  He has been a great help and inspiration as a teacher for me here these first few weeks.  It is inspiring to see how active this community is here.  In the spring there is a school wide function called China Live which seems pretty similar to the immersions at Challenge.  Various groups go all over China for a week in the spring.

Bridget and I have started a pretty rigorous log for her blood sugars.  We keep it on an xl spread sheet and update daily.  It has been helpful for her and as time goes on we will be able to use it more and more.  She has an appt with an endocrinologist this weekend and that will be the first.  We still are not sure what direction the care here will head.  She has plenty of pump supplies for a few months.

One nice new change is that I am able to eat breakfast with the family before going to work.  It is a mere 10 minute walk to campus.  The school isn't nec alive so early in the morning and much of the morning work can be accomplished at home by computer.  So we wake and I eat a quick meal with the family and then head out a little ahead of the girls. Q, J and I start school at 8:10.  We eat in the same cafeteria although different wings and at different times.  Q and I eat together, or at least at the same time.  I'm still flying by the seat of my pants for these first few days so I haven't had quite enough time to casually eat lunch.

Bridget walks the girls to school and then has some time during the day for herself.  She has taken on some responsibilities for the school - choreographing wiz of oz and editing the elem. school yearbook and so she'll be on campus a bit.  I must have missed her this morning but she delivered a banana to my door handle which I must have forgotten on my way out the door.

It is starting to get a bit cooler in Shanghai - not much - but a bit. It has not been in the high 90's last few days and that is alright by me.