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

BREAKFAST WITH OMA!
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.


PHONE
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.

STORE
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!

SCHOOL:
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.

CUTTBOW
Jon and Mike put in some hours and finished the Cuttbow CD.  10 songs are at http://www.reverbnation.com/cuttbow
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

Teaching.

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.

later.

First week of school 8/21/2011

Bang  -

Here is international school setting at its Asian concentrated finest.  Josephine jumps right in and is making tons of friends and very excited about Mr. Fisher's class.  Quinn and I are bug eyed and trying to figure it all out.  Bridget is a bit of both.  She's great with going with the flow yet with the family feeling the overwhelmingness of not only China but also the SAS environment.  She is choreographing the musical (Wizard of Oz) and will be editing and publishing the Elementary school yearbook.

Although She'll deny it, I believe our road trip pit stop this summer in Kansas to the Oz museum will be an added help to her interpretation of the classic story.

At this school, kids show up and sit down minutes before class start and are ready to learn.  Increasingly in the states, I had found my job as a math teacher to be that of enlightening kids to the importance of mathematics.  Forget that here.  Every kid has shown up with sharpened pencil in hand ready to go.  Not only that, but when you prose a problem, the pencils move at an amazing speed.

Most of the kids, and I mean a large most, are Asian.  This is a massive study in racial integration as we are the white minority.  We didn't quite expect this.  The students are from, for the most part, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and then America (of Asian Descent) and Australia (Of Asian Descent) and Europe.

Quinn tried out for Rugby, but I don't think she was too impressed.  We'll see as next week she scans the clubs and makes a choice.

John Vietch, the Head Boys Volley Ball Coach and new teacher from New Zealand, whom I've befriended, approached me about assisting him this year and I accepted.  We had try outs this weekend and picked 12 from a list of 40 to be our Varsity Team.  We (coaches after practice) did this over beers at the local pub. The sense of balance is well preached and well practiced here among the staff.  We will travel to Hong Kong and Korea for tournaments this year.  I haven't quite figured this one out - but once or twice a season the Varsity teams head to the airport and fly to various Asian countries for competition.  More later as I learn.  Right now my learning curve is steep in everything and now including Volleyball.

Today, Sunday, we headed out as a family to a local shopping mall.  There is this massive battle with language and taxi's and where the hell am I, are we, going.  Somehow made it to the mall after way too much time on research and practicing what to say.  However, we shopped till we dropped - Well I dropped by losing my cool  - but ended up at a great Tapas joint for a wonderful lunch.  Quinn splurged on the virgin Pina colada.

Quinn is being tested the most of us right now as she strives to fit in with friends and activities.  She is such a strong and wonderful girl, and it is hard to see her struggle with this knowing that anyone would struggle in such a situation.  She knows it is good for her in the long run, really doesn't complain, but isn't thrilled about being the new kid at the school with surprising very little new freshman.

She is becoming a beautiful little girls - her hobo tooth is all but in place and well, not really a hobo tooth anymore.  She is willing to do anything but trying to make good decisions the whole time.  There is so much to learn:  the social scene, the classes, technology, her computer, where people hang out, Rugby (or not Rugby) and what not.  What a great little girl she it.

We've been spending a good amount of time at our pool and that has been wonderful.  There is a gang of kids from the States, Holland, India, and what not that hang out there on a regular basis.  It is really a lovely setting surrounded by a pond and willows.  The kids play quite a bit.  It is funny there are these dudes who show up with there goggles for a lap workout but there are no lanes.  So they try to swim there laps but have to navigate the kids lost in game.  Sometimes they'll just swim right into the kids.  Sometimes the kids yield, and sometimes they don't.  I like it when they don't.  Then there are the kids of "Tiger Moms" who are only allowed in the pool if they are swimming laps.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

First day of school

Wednesday August 17th

We had a big rocking pep assembly in the HS gym this morning.  It was a treat to be at one of these and stare through the sea of student faces to find that of my daughter Quinn and her first day of High School. What a treat it is to have her pop into my room in between classes.  I've seen all of my kids and this school has some classes full of kids ready to go.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday August 15th:New Student Orientation at School.....FINALLY

The girls have been so patient and excited waiting to start school and meet new friends.  We are happy this day is here.  Due to some pump malfunctions, it is a high blood sugar day.  bummer.  None the less there is a fancy breakfast of juice, coffee, pastries, and yogurt at the PAC - Performing Arts Center on SAS Campus.  Josephine and Quinn get registered and Rob realizes he forgot to get the girls their medical check ups in the States.  I humbly let Bridget know about this and we find out that she'll need to run around to the  Chinese doctors tomorrow for screening.

Josephine finds out she is in Mr. Fisher's 4th grade class.  He is a new teacher and Josephine already knows all of the new teachers so she is psyched!  Quinn has to spend a good bit of the day taking a math placement test and a foreign language placement test.  She is faced with the difficult decision of whether to continue studying Spanish or to take Chinese at the school or on her own.  Not such a bad dilemma to have.  I'm getting my classroom in order and Bridget has just signed on to do the Choreography for the Wizard of Oz.  Thank god we stopped at the Oz museum 10 miles off of I-70 in nowhere Kansas this summer!!

The food at home is unreal.  Zhang made a chicken rice dish that was so fresh and tasty.  Zhang speaks no English but she and bridget and the google translator have been doing a great job of communicating.  It's good to have Zhang on your side too when the grocery dude is trying to dump an expired jug of milk on you cause she can tell him "Heck NO" in Mandarin.  Zhang's other delights have been a peanut chicken, Pork dumplings, and plenty of stir-fry.  It's a treat.

It's actually Tuesday right now, kind of late.  I just discovered that I can call the states for free using the google chat through gmail.  Nice!  bridget finally got us cell phones today.  We've been relying on the land line and no voicemail for almost three weeks.

Bridget took the girls to get their nails done at some salon in Zhudi.  The came home by the motorized bicycle cab.  There are these guys all over who ride these three wheel semi-motorized bikes and its like a cab.  Our first experience we gave the dude 50 yuan (about $7.50) and we should have given him 5  ($0.75)  So bridget gave him 5 this evening and he tried to explain that it was hard peddling with 3 xtra people.  J & Q don't weigh a thing and the darn thing is motorized....Bridget won that one!!


Saturday August 13th, A day in city

The thing about us being here in Shanghai is that we don't speak the language.  I know that is an obvious point.  We also don't understand the symbols.  Our plan for this day was to get to the subway and ride the Metro to the Bund - and see the Pudong (Pu - River, Dong = East, Xi =West...our School is in Puxi.) stretch of Shanghai - The Pearl TV tower and all on the River.  

We made it about a half mile to a coffee and pastry shop - somewhat westernized because they sell baguettes and pastries.  Quinn gets the hot dog pasrty.  hmmm.  hot dog pastry?  However, everything is written in Chinese and we still can't quite get a d-cof coffee for Bridget.  Wanting to save time we hop in a cab and the driver looks at me and probably says, "where to."  I look to him as if to say, "I have no idea how to tell you this."  I forgot my notes and struggle to point to the metro stop on the map.  Bridget remembered hers and helps me with what I need to say.   He finally nods his head in understanding and immediately takes off in the opposite direction.

BTW:  I spent a good bit of time on the road this summer perfecting a few Chinese phrases.  They include, "Excuse, may I please ask, do you speak English" and "I speak a little Chinese."  and "I don't speak Chinese very well." I love saying the last phrase because it is always followed with whoever I'm speaking Chinese to telling me in Chinese that "on no, you speak very well."  Then they go on to speak more Chinese, none of which I  understand.

Bridget is letting me know from the back seat that we're going the wrong way and I need to stop him.  I don't know if he misunderstood me or if he's taking us for a ride.  I repeat Xu Jing Xu Jing Xu Jing to him and he finally looks at me and says, "ah...Xu Jing!!"  and turns the car around and heads back toward Xu Jing.  hmmm.

Once at the subway station, we buy our tickets after 10 minutes of staring at the machine.  If you've ever gone to Denver's light rail and bought tickets after not riding it in a while you know that it takes time to figure out how that machine works.  It takes more time if it is written in Chinese symbols and everyone around you is pushing.

That is one thing about this big city.  People push.  It's not rude.  It's more so like there are 23.5 million of us and if you don't push you'll get left behind.

For example, we now have our subway tickets and we head toward the train.  Feels pretty normal as we wait for its arrival.  A bunch of people waiting for a train, kinda like at DIA.  Then the train comes and people prepare to board.  Now Pu Xing is the end of the line so this is an empty train we're getting on.  The train stops, the doors open and it's like the Who at Folsum Field...it is a mad rush for a seat.  People are sprinting into the train to grab a seat.  Why, I wonder there is plenty of room.  I soon get my answer.  By the very next stop the train is PACKED.  Standing room only.  I barely see Quinn and I can't see Bridget or Josephine.  It continues like this for 9 more stops.  When we finally get to the Peoples square stop it is a forceful push by all four of us to get out of the train by squeezing ourselves through the mass and out the doors before they slam shut and the train leaves.  Josephine claims she saw some dude get stuck while his family got off.  Guess he had to ride one more stop.

This is pretty normal I find out.  These people are calm cool and collect the whole time...calm cool and collect but pretty darned determined to get where they want to go whether you're in the way or not.

Fall for the old Tea scam.
Once off the train we are in People's square.  Bridget thrives on the pulse of this clean and incredibly visually pleasing city.  I'm in shock.  The girls are giddy.  We walk to the square and a woman starts polishing my shoes.  I soon realize that I will owe her a fee so I walk away.  She kinda crab craw-walks and continues to polish my shoes as I'm trying to get away.  I say politely, "no Thanks"  and she polishes harder and whips off a few Mandarin paragraphs.  I finally start walking circles around a tree until she finally gets the point.  

Twenty seconds after she leaves Three college age kids approach us and start speaking enthusiastically in English.  They are friendly enough (Really how just about everyone is here) so I try my Mandarin on them.  The seven of us enthusiastically converse for about 20 minutes - I'm skeptical of what their up to but don't really care.  Another twenty minutes later and we are in some ornately decorated small room sitting around a traditional chinese tea table somewhere in the neighborhood enjoying a tea ceremony with them.  Six different types of tea, all different types of protocols, plenty of laughs and entertainment. They buy a bunch of extra tea and I agree (begrudgingly) to split the tab.  We finally get out of there with bellies full of tea and a bit less cash in my wallet than one would expect and in desperate need of a bathroom.  We part ways and I'm a bit sore at myself for being overly generous!

We walk to the bund and see the sights...Wow, it is truly spectacular.  We are in awe and taking many photos of the scene.  The other people there are in awe and taking many photos of us!  Being the only white American looking folk around we soon find that we are more of a spectacle than the Shanghai architecture.  Incredible!  Women ask if their youngins can stand next to Quinn and Josephine for a photo op.  It really is an eye opening experience and a learning time as Quinn talks about the "melting pot of America" where we see so many people of so many different races nothing is odd.  At this particular time being the massive racial minority was a new joint for us all.  

We stumble upon Shanghai Grandmother Restaurant.  Josephine orders some yummy sweet corn pancakes and I get a small bowl of spicy beef stew which ends up being a few gallons worth.  Not the best food in Shanghai.  Grandma ought to get out of the kitchen.

Next stop is a foreign language bookstore, a nice treat for us because English is the foreign language of choice.  Now I don't want to sound closed here.  I'm learning some Mandarin and excited for the prospects, but every now and then it's nice to be able to read something.

The rain starts to dump like buckets and we run through the streets with umbrellas out through ankle deep water back to the subway.  Fortunately the cars are not as packed on the way back.  Josephine makes a friend with a 3 year old girl by speaking Mandarin to her and the girl shares her cookie with Josephine.  

Back home exhausted, Bridget and I head back out for the mile walk to RT mart in Zhudi town to exchange our purple door mat for a red one.  Zhudi, although on the outskirts of Shanghai, is a happening place.  All kind of street food and people all over the place on this Saturday night.  We manage to get back home and get to bed.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Saturday August 13th...An Adventure and an Education

The thing about us being here in Shanghai is that we don't speak the language.  I know that is an obvious point.  We also don't understand the symbols.  Our plan for this day was to get to the subway and ride the Metro to the Bund - and see the Pudong (Pu - River, Dong = East, Xi =West...our School is in Puxi.) stretch of Shanghai - The Pearl TV tower and all on the River.

We made it about a half mile to a coffee and pastry shop - somewhat westernized because they see baquettes and croisants.  Still everything is written in Chinese and we still can't quite get a d-cof coffee for Bridget.  Wanting to save time we hop in a cab and the driver looks at me as if to say, "where to."  I look to him as if to say, "I have no idea how to tell you this."  I forgot my notes and struggle to point to the metro stop on the map.  He finally nods his head in understanding and immediately takes off in the opposite direction.

Bridget is letting me know from the back seat that we're going the wrong way and I need to stop him.  I don't know if he misunderstood me or if he's taking us for a ride.  I repeat Xu Jing Xu Jing Xu Jing to him and he finally looks at me and says, "ah...Xu Jing!!"  and turns the car around and heads back toward Xu Jing.

We buy our tickets after 10 minutes of staring at the machine.  If you've ever gone to Denver's light rail and bought tickets after not riding it in a while you know that it takes time to figure out how that machine works.  It takes more time if it is written in Chinese symbols and everyone around you is pushing.

That is one thing about this big city.  People push.  It's not rude.  It's more so like there are 23.5 million of us and if you don't push you'll get left behind.

For example, we now have our subway tickets and we head toward the train.  Feels pretty normal as we wait for its arrival.  A bunch of people waiting for a train, kinda like at DIA.  Then the train comes and people prepare to board.  Now Pu Xing is the end of the line so this is an empty train we're getting on.  The train stops, the doors open and it's like the Who at Folsum Field...it is a mad rush for a seat.  People are sprinting into the train to grab a seat.  Why, I wonder there is plenty of room.  I soon get my answer.  By the very next stop the train is PACKED.  Standing room only.  I barely see Quinn and I can't see Bridget or Josephine.  It continues like this for 9 more stops.  When we finally get to the Peoples square stop it is a forceful push by all four of us to get out of the train by squeezing ourselves through the mass and out the doors before they slam shut and the train leaves.  Josephine claims she saw some dude get stuck while his family got off.  Guess he had to ride one more stop.

This is pretty normal I find out.  These people are calm cool and collect the whole time...calm cool and collect but pretty darned determined to get where they want to go whether you're in the way or not.

Fall for the old Tea scam.
Once off the train we are in People's square.  Bridget thrives on the pulse of this clean and incredibly visually pleasing city.  I'm in shock.  The girls are giddy.  We walk to the square and a woman starts polishing my shoes.  I soon realize that I will owe her a fee so I walk away.  She kinda crab craw-walks and continues to polish my shoes as I'm trying to get away.  I say politely, "no Thanks"  and she polishes harder and whips off a few Mandarin paragraphs.  I finally start walking circles around a tree until she finally gets the point.

Twenty seconds after she leaves Three college age kids approach us and start speaking enthusiastically in English.  They are friendly enough (Really how just about everyone is here) so I try my Mandarin on them.  The seven of us enthusiastically converse for about 20 minutes - I'm skeptical of what their up to but don't really care.  Another twenty minutes later and we are in some ornately decorated small room sitting around a traditional chinese tea table somewhere in the neighborhood enjoying a tea ceremony with them.  Six different types of tea, all different types of protocols, plenty of laughs and entertainment. They buy a bunch of extra tea and I agree (begrudgingly) to split the tab.  We finally get out of there with bellies full of tea and a bit less cash in my wallet than one would expect and in desperate need of a bathroom.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"THE VIEW" By Bridget


First Week
The eagle has landed! We are the newest recruits to SAS. The fighting Eagles!! Like Philadelphia, like Shanghai!? Nothing but excitement here. No sleep for the first three days, but now as we explore the city and smile at people on the street (this is the only possible communication) we are starting to get our china legs, so no more late nights of cereal and children's movies. We are all sleeping better. The girls are adjusting well, even through a few tears. We have had our share of overcoming... but we are learning.

-No language, but Chinese classes are helping a bit- I tried to ask for the bathroom and they pointed out a 12 pack of water bottles to me. Pronunciation is not easy.

-No understanding of Yuan. It is easiest to understand if you move the decimal to the left and add half! 45.5 is the same as 6.75+ American dollars (but not exactly) Quinn is very helpful in this regard.

-No Internet or connection- resolved. Though very slow and at times not a great connection.

-Nothing in the house. We have had several shopping excursions and though there might not be some items we need or like in most stores, there is a good selection at the Australian market. Very expensive for some items- chocolate chips cost around 10.00 and of course we need comfort food so we bought them! 

-I will not be driving here! The first Carrefour trip someone drove over my foot with a moped. The laws don't apply to them so they are on every sidewalk, and street. They don't stop for anyone! I am always on guard with Josephine and Quinn. 

-Some places you might not want to eat in!! But the shirtless locals like them and they might become our favorites in time?? We had an amazing meal today cooked in front of us and everything went in the pot, even the lettuce. Quinn did not appreciate pulling out the chicken foot.

-It's smoggy for sure, but every few days we get a sunny sky. I think we have had one full day of sunshine with a rain shower in the afternoon. Umbrellas have been good here. We are waiting for Typhoon Muifa to hit and so far nothing. It is expected between 3am- 3pm. don’t think we are going anywhere tomorrow.



Some other thoughts about setting up shop-
-We got our internet hooked up late but it’s working now. Every project takes muccch longer with our inability to communicate! 


-The first week is full of emotions- mostly excitement. It has been difficult without the comfort of familiarity. We were not used to the time change and slept straight for two days, especially flying from Spain.
Since here, the school activities have been keeping us very busy and tired. SAS has done a remarkable job helping us adjust socially- welcoming breakfast, happy hour, bus rides to the local Carrefour and tours of the area we live in. We are slowly meeting people and feeling like we ARE home. BTW- Josephine has already had a play date and sleep over so she is doing just fine in that regard!


The shopping excursions are helping us settle, after walking into a house with four bowls, plates and silverware, bed, bureau, night stand, two lamps, a TV, a TV stand and a coffee table, not to mention the blankets provided which were like oversized towels- The deal was that if Jos gave up her blankie, then Rob and I did not have to share a washcloth for warmth and Josey got a brand new IKEA comforter, (She is planning her room and bath to be filled with everything blue). The girls love that they have their own bathrooms and really cool bedrooms. 

We are not moving in too fast as we watch the other families at Carrefour or the grocery store load up on food and goods. We have realized that we should be thinking of our own personal objectives. After a very stressful trip to the big Carrefour yesterday, a 35 low BG and being a little on edge from a week here and the BIG storm coming in, we realized that the only thing that matters very much is health, happiness and food!
We are all homesick for the food we typically eat but little by little the surroundings are not as daunting with these side trips and with communication from home. 

I am hoping we can rely on each other more, get what we need done and slowly figure out the rest. That said we are getting my doctor set up next week, orthodontists for the kids and a few more items for the house. Rob is running and we are all swimming in the pool we see from the house!

August 12th

Friday August 12th big day of professional development at school.  Ran into an school teacher at the conference this morning who has been teaching overseas with his wife for 30+ years.  His kids are in college and he owns a home in the state which he returns to every summer for about a month. He recently bought land in Nicaragua where he spends summer time as well.

We've met a large number of families who have made international teaching their career.  Kenya, Chile, Thailand, Viet Nam, Bulgaria, China, the list is endless.  Their is a large community out there.

We had a speaker today, Yong Zhao, author of a book I'm reading, "Catching up or leading way."  Dr. Zhao is a dynamic speaker whose got a great message about what's working in chinese and American Education.

Friday, August 12, 2011

More thoughts!


VPN = virtual private network = a must for internet access in china.  Many sites have been blocked and we now have the access we want at home!  We have been here for nearly two weeks and have settled in a bit.  So really, it hasn't been until now that I've been able to get to this blog!!  Plus, much of my writings I had saved on the lap top which is now gone....see below  :)

Crazy Story:  I woke up Monday morning and looked at the time on the lap top - 6:40 AM.  Left to go for a jog.  The glass door out of the kitchen to the laundry room was left unlocked overnight which was a bit of a mistake because the back door out to the stair well has had a broken lock for three days now.  Oh well I think and leave for a nice 20 minute jaunt around Westwood Green (our apartment complex) and then out to the neighborhood.  I ran down the road a bit and entered the "Rancho Sante Fe" the posh adjacent neighborhood for those who really like to live well - single family NICE adobes with beautifully landscaped surroundings make for a great jog.  

So I return at 7:00 up the stairs and back in the kitchen.  I go to check the time on the computer and....its gone!  OH no!!  Somehow it is gone.  Josephine doesn't have it, she's watching a moving in her room.  Quinn doesn't have it - she is asleep - Bridget is asleep - where the HELL is the computer!?  Quinn wakes up and looks with me for a half hour - no computer.  I wake Bridget and break the news that somehow, someway, someone in this incredibly safe city and incredibly secure apartment complex has entered our house and nabbed the laptop off of the Kitchen table.  

I make the uncomfortable call to the AP at the high school while Bridget reports the incident to the management office.  Soon there is a translator and a dozen security guards and policemen.  It is CSI Shanghai.  The lead detective and Bridget are inspecting the floor and lifting footprints.  EVERYONE in the SAS community is stunned - this kind of thing NEVER has happened before.  I am flabbergasted.  We don't really feel that sense of violation that we should feel, but what the heck?  The AP, Michael, the principal, ED, and the Head of School, Alan, are all very supportive and helpful.  They replace my laptop within hours.  Bridget spends a long morning dealing with the police, translator and security guards, and gets back home in time for lunch with the kids and to meet our new ayi, Zhang, and meet the locksmith.  What a day.

Getting into the thick of it at school:
Had my first department meeting today.  The math department at SAS is 9 teaching (counting me).  There are 650+ students in the high school.  3 of them are in Algebra I.  The rest are in Geometry or higher.  At OHS, there were 650+ kids in Algebra I.  Different scene.  I'm confident in my new role as Head of the Department and it is a wonderful challenge to step right in as a leader for this very respectable group of professional math teachers.  So thankful for the experience of working with the OHS Math crew for so many years.  

Medical Exam:
Bridget has hers tomorrow.  She was fortunate enough to have missed the first one.  A group of about 30 of us new teachers piled onto a bus in the rain and headed somewhere into Shanghai.  We piled into the medical center and I ended up first in line.  "Go to room 108" I'm told.  Once there I quickly fill out a somewhat typical medical form.  My number comes up on the screen to head to room 113.  "Take off shirt and shoes, put on robe, put clothes in locker" I'm told as a female 3rd grade teacher piles in after me and is told the same thing.  At least there is a changing room which resembles the dressing room at TJ Maxx.  

"Go Room 111" and I get weighed, & measured.  "Room 114" I get my blood pressure checked.  "Room 116" I lie down and am hooked to a bunch of wires aka Frankenstein, but a thorough EKG...I'm healthy!  "Room 112" chest x-ray.  "Room 113" eye exam... and a question from the physician, "Surgery? where?"  "right knee"..."hmmm" as the eye doctor examines my right knee, the only one of the whole bunch to read and respond to what I had filled out.  "Room 106" where I get my first untra-sound and they are not gentle here!  poke prod poke prod, "Roll Over" and then I'm tossed a kleenix with some typ of directive to wipe the untra sound cream off of myself.  

This place is no B.S.  They got 30 of us full examinations in about 1.5 hours...pretty impressive!

We'll have to see how Bridget does tomorrow.  She's been warned that on top of all of that, she will get her boobs squeezed.  

Partying Crew:
Our first week was very cush.  I started work on Tuesday the 2nd.  We had a bus trip (with beer filled cooler) to the restaurant district the next night, and a happy hour at the "MONK" local american pub two nights later.  Principal's dinner on campus that Sunday Night was cancelled because of Typhoon Muifa,  but happy hour at Ed the principal's house was wonderful two nights later.  Ed Kidd and his wife Hanna are wonderful hosts and have been so supportive and positive this whole time.  Josephine buddied up with their daughter Mia who kindly offered a sleepover the fifth night we were here.  Mia was over playing at  our pad today.  Good thing we have Josephine to forge these relationships for the family.

First few days!


Sunday July 24
I left Colorado this afternoon with my house packed into my new garage and headed for Laguna Beach, CA. Bridget and the girls have been in Spain with Marta’s family for a week now.  They are seeing so much of the country and the Sarmiento way of life.

I get to Jenn’s apartment around 4:30.  She is sailing so I walk to the beach for a well deserved frolic in the waves.  We head out that night for drinks with Scott Olivet at the Montage.  It is great to see Scott and catch up after, what, 35 years?

Jenn and I stop off at La Sirena Grille for killer fish tacos and a good night’s sleep.


Monday July 25
Jenn has signed us up for a sea kayak tour of the region.   We take off from a beach in a small cove she had taken Bridget, the girls, and me too during our visit in October.  It is familiar and good to see again.  We paddle around enjoying the calm water, the Laguna sights, and a large kelp forest. 

Later we have sea food and beers at the Beach House and then hook up with Jenn’s bud Rachel for beers at the “Dirty Bird” to the sounds of local band, “The originalites” and their cover of Mirror in the Bathroom.

Tuesday July 26
Jenn friend Marc Abdou quit his job at Red and now lives on his 27-foot Catalina at the Dana Point Harbor.  We show up at noon with fish tacos and a 12 pack of Pacifico and he takes us out on a sail for a few hours.  Marc has plans to sail from Laguna to Costa Rico this Fall.  He plans to leave just ahead of a large regatta heading to Cabo so he can blend in with a fleet of boats for safe border crossing. 

We are fortunate enough to see dozens of dolphins and a Mako Shark – very cool.  Marc is a great spirit, loves sailing, and is a pleasure to be around.  Jenn has recently learned to sail and has been learning quite a bit from him.  We head back to sure and Marc loans us a couple of  Paddle boards – Stand up paddling is very popular around here.  We end the night with a run to Walmart for some needed China supplies .

Thursday July 28
Packed up and ready to go Jenn drops me off at LAX after a great Laguna visit.  Eastern China airlines.  A long flight, 14 HOURS!  They have an open bar in back and plenty of hot meals…but 14 hours,!

Friday July 29
Hello Shanghai!  I arrive right on time and am met by a driver from SAS.  Soon to appear is Helene Reiter, the lovely HR director whom I’ve been in so much contact with up until this point.  It is so nice to meet her and feel welcome.  Ed Kidd, the principal soon follows with another hardy welcome.  We wait for another new arrival, Evan  Cooper, flying in from Bengla Desh.  Evan could not come with his family because he had to fly with the dog.  His wife, two kids, and his mother are meeting him in Shanghai.

It takes a while to get to the bus and another hour drive to my apartment.  I am exhausted but thrilled to be at my new home and see Bridget and the girls after a few weeks!

Saturday July 30
Bridget and I wake up early and head out for a walk in Zhudi Town – the small village in outer Shanghai.  Now I know there is a Starbucks somewhere, but this place sure does not look like America.  Chinese shops and people out on the street everywhere.  Tons of little noodle joints and what not.  We find a breakfast place, “Resurrection” which is somewhat Americanized – there are ham and eggs on the menu – but no one speaks English and we struggle to order.  Bridget’s D-caf cappuccino comes as a d-caf coffee and another mug of cappuccino.  

We run into Alan Knoblach there who is the Head of School who interviewed and hired us in San Francisco in February.  Great to see him and we have a long chat.  We drop by “Pines” an oasis of a somewhat western grocery store, pick up a few items and head through the village back home.  We get the girls and head to the school for a tour.  Ed meets us with Michael Sheehan, the asst principal.  Both these guys are great energy, very happy to have us and take us on a very dusty tour of the facility which is just about entirely under construction.  We return to our bad and go for a dip in the pool which is visible from our living room.

We manage to cook some kind of Stir fry with the little groceries we have.

Sunday August  31
The school has provided us with the bare minimum at our Apartment, Westwood Green.  We have three beds and four bedrooms.  Each bed has one sheet and a small blanket which is really a large towel.  We each have a dresser.  There is a desk, a couch and easy chair, coffee table, end table, lamp, and dinning room table with chairs.  In the kitchen there are four bowls, plates, glasses, mugs, and silver ware.   That said, we need some stuff! 

We take a shuttle bus to Carrefore, (think French Walmart in China.)  Very crowded, no English and everything is written in Chinese symbols.  We still manage to pick up some basics and a great experience.  

Monday August 1
Today we manage to catch the school bus filled with new teachers to shanghai and off to IKEA we go.  Again another great chance to get stuff for the pad.  I’ve never been to IKEA before so I’m experiencing IKEA culture shock as well as China culture shock.  We manage to get some well needed hangers, hampers, and a little more and meet some of our new neighbors as well.

Part of this bus trip is a tour of Zhudi town and a stop at a street market and little joint that has wonderful Zhudi dumplings, great food!!

Tuesday August 2
First day of work for me kicks off with breakfast in the cafeteria.  Facilities at SAS are wonderful.  A massive open air cafeteria for the high and middle schoolers  is adjacent to the elementary school cafeteria.  Great food and a good message from the administration.  After work, we pike into a bus equipped with a large cooler of beer and head into town for dinner.  We end up at a great chinese brew and a thai place for dinner, returning to the bus, beers, and festivities.  Great first day of work!!



Wednesday 8/3
 Josephine is jumping right in with both feet.  She met a buddy, Mia, right away and has a play date and sleep over already.  She makes quick friends with the adults.  Quinn is a bit more reserved.  Had a rough night thinking about all she is missing back home.  She hasn't been in colorado for a few weeks and there isn't much for her here, yet.  Very few of the other families in our neighborhood have returned from summer break at this point.  Quinn is reflective but is in much better spirits this morning.  We've struggled to get a VPN for our internet hook up which means, not facebook for her.  She's been relying on email to connect with friends back home.  



Saturday 8/6
The Matuscheks got out today for a grand walk around Zhudi Town.  We probably covered about 5 miles and saw many shops, restaurants in dirt-road garages and plenty of people out and about.  Had a great lunch at a joint near the dumpling place.  They have a hot pot in the center of the table and they brought out a large cauldron of broth.  They then toss a whole cut-up chicken, potatoes, tofu, lettuce, spinach, tofu, and what not in and you watch it cook.  They give you ladles so you just give yourself a scoop whenever you want.  It was priceless to watch Quinn scoop out some soup only to find a chicken foot staring her in the face!!

Sunday 8/7
We waited all day for Typhoon Muifa to attack but NOTHING!?  We were actually looking forward to a day huddled on the couch watching out our balcony window as the wicked wind whipped the trees of Westwood Green around with massive torrents of Eastern Pacific Rain pelting us….but NO!  It was actually sunny for a good part of the day and rather pleasant.  We had a quiet day skyping and hanging around the pad.  Quinn made a batch of Chocolate Chip cookies, probably cost us about $50 (chips $10, flour $10, vanilla $10, etc!!)

Monday 8/8
What a day!  Woke up this morning, checked the time on the lap top – 6:40 – set the computer back down on the kitchen table and left out the back door (which we had left unlocked all night) for a morning jog.  Cane back at 7:00 to find the computer missing.  Josephine was in her room watching a movie and Quinn and Bridget were asleep.  Only explanation is that someone walked into the unlocked door while the girls slept and removed the computer from our table!! Good God!  What an invasion.  We called the school and the management office.  Police came over and lifted footprints off of our floor – CSI Shanghai!!

Alan, Michael, Ed, Helene, Amy Ding, all were very supportive and acted quickly to help us out, but what the heck!?  What a scary invasion of privacy.  Lock your doors!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10th...FINALLY got a vpn and now have access!

VPN = virtual private network = a must for internet access in china.  Many sites have been blocked and we now have the access we want at home!  We have been here for nearly two weeks and have settled in a bit.

Crazy Story:  I woke up Monday morning and looked at the time on the lap top - 6:40 AM.  Left to go for a jog.  The glass door out of the kitchen to the laundry room was left unlocked overnight which was a bit of a mistake because the back door out to the stair well has had a broken lock for three days now.  Oh well I think and leave for a nice 20 minute jaunt around Westwood Green (our apartment complex) and then out to the neighborhood.  I ran down the road a bit and entered the "Rancho Sante Fe" the posh adjacent neighborhood for those who really like to live well - single family NICE adobes with beautifully landscaped surroundings make for a great jog.

So I return at 7:00 up the stairs and back in the kitchen.  I go to check the time on the computer and....its gone!  OH no!!  Somehow it is gone.  Josephine doesn't have it, she's watching a moving in her room.  Quinn doesn't have it - she is asleep - Bridget is asleep - where the HELL is the computer!?  Quinn wakes up and looks with me for a half hour - no computer.  I wake Bridget and break the news that somehow, someway, someone in this incredibly safe city and incredibly secure apartment complex has entered our house and nabbed the laptop off of the Kitchen table.

I make the uncomfortable call to the AP at the high school while Bridget reports the incident to the management office.  Soon there is a translator and a dozen security guards and policemen.  It is CSI Shanghai.  The lead detective and Bridget are inspecting the floor and lifting footprints.  EVERYONE in the SAS community is stunned - this kind of thing NEVER has happened before.  I am flabbergasted.  We don't really feel that sense of violation that we should feel, but what the heck?  The AP, Michael, the principal, ED, and the Head of School, Alan, are all very supportive and helpful.  They replace my laptop within hours.  Bridget spends a long morning dealing with the police, translator and security guards, and gets back home in time for lunch with the kids and to meet our new ayi, Zhang, and meet the locksmith.  What a day.

Getting into the thick of it at school:
Had my first department meeting today.  The math department at SAS is 9 teaching (counting me).  There are 650+ students in the high school.  3 of them are in Algebra I.  The rest are in Geometry or higher.  At OHS, there were 650+ kids in Algebra I.  Different scene.  I'm confident in my new role as Head of the Department and it is a wonderful challenge to step right in as a leader for this very respectable group of professional math teachers.  So thankful for the experience of working with the OHS Math crew for so many years.

Medical Exam:
Bridget has hers tomorrow.  She was fortunate enough to have missed the first one.  A group of about 30 of us new teachers piled onto a bus in the rain and headed somewhere into Shanghai.  We piled into the medical center and I ended up first in line.  "Go to room 108" I'm told.  Once there I quickly fill out a somewhat typical medical form.  My number comes up on the screen to head to room 113.  "Take off shirt and shoes, put on robe, put clothes in locker" I'm told as a female 3rd grade teacher piles in after me and is told the same thing.  At least there is a changing room which resembles the dressing room at TJ Maxx.

"Go Room 111" and I get weighed, & measured.  "Room 114" I get my blood pressure checked.  "Room 116" I lie down and am hooked to a bunch of wires aka Frankenstein, but a thorough EKG...I'm healthy!  "Room 112" chest x-ray.  "Room 113" eye exam... and a question from the physician, "Surgery? where?"  "right knee"..."hmmm" as the eye doctor examines my right knee, the only one of the whole bunch to read and respond to what I had filled out.  "Room 106" where I get my first untra-sound and they are not gentle here!  poke prod poke prod, "Roll Over" and then I'm tossed a kleenix with some typ of directive to wipe the untra sound cream off of myself.

This place is no B.S.  They got 30 of us full examinations in about 1.5 hours...pretty impressive!

We'll have to see how Bridget does tomorrow.  She's been warned that on top of all of that, she will get her boobs squeezed.

Partying Crew:
Our first week was very cush.  I started work on Tuesday the 2nd.  We had a bus trip to the restaurant district the next night