Saturday, September 20, 2008

Holiday Weekend

We had a three day weekend for the Moon Festival in the middle of September and took this opportunity to finally do a bit of sightseeing. On Sunday afternoon, we had Jessica, our first babysitter ever, come to our house at 3:00 and Michael and I headed to the Bund. We took a taxi to the nearest subway station (about 20 minutes away) and then took the subway to the Bund. This seems to be the easiest way to get into the city. Michael and I spent a couple of hours wandering around the Bund shopping area and then walked to the viewpoint and looked at the Pearl Tower and buildings in the Pudong area across the river. It was raining and fairly miserable, but it was nice to get out. We then stopped at a local Chinese restaurant where no one spoke English and had a disappointing meal. When we arrived home, the kids were in bed and the house was clean.

Heading to the Subway Station

Nanjing Road East -- Pedestrian Shopping Area

Pearl Tower in Pudong

On Monday, Michael participated in an SAS golf tournament so I decided to take the kids to the Shanghai Zoo. It rained on the way to the zoo, but stopped by the time we arrived. The zoo is quite big and has a lot of animals. We saw pandas, snakes, lions, tigers, and we even attended an elephant show. After two hours of wandering around, we were all hot, tired and cranky so we slowly made our way to the exit and fortunately found a quick taxi home.

Elephant Show

Pandas at the Zoo

The Duck Pond at the Zoo

We arrived home just in time for a huge storm to start. There was heavy rainfall, lightning and thunder. The storm caused Michael's golf game to end early and also caused a power outage in our apartment for three hours. The kids took a bath by candlelight which was a new experience and the power went on just in time for bed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Settling into China

We arrived in China over a month ago and I am finally setting up our family blog. It has been quite a roller coaster month, but we are very happy here. We have not yet been able to do much sightseeing, unless you consider Carrefour and Ikea tourist destinations. For the most part, it has been shopping, working, playing and meeting new friends.

Our first challenge was communicating with our nanny, Mrs. Chen. She does speak a bit of English, but we have had many misunderstandings as we have tried to communicate with each other. Fortunately, our school secretary is always willing to act as translator. One of our biggest miscommunications came on Benjamin's first day of school. We had told Mrs. Chen that she would be staying that night until 10 or 11 pm because we were going to go out to dinner for the first time since our arrival. She understood that we did not need her to come in until 10 or 11 in the morning. Needless to say, we started Benjamin's first day a bit stressed. I didn't even get pictures of him on his first day of kindergarten. As time has passed, though, we have become happy with Mrs. Chen and feel she will be a nice addition to our family. The kids like her, she is teaching them Chinese, she cooks Chinese food for us twice a week, and she is a kind and gentle woman.

The kids are handling the transition quite well. The first day Mrs. Chen showed up at our home, Benjamin wanted to stay home with her. They continue to amaze me with their flexibility and courage as they face new challenges. It hasn't all been easy, though, as they both had a rough transition to the beginning of school. Molly started school first and had a very tough adjustment period. She is attending nursery school at the Shanghai Racquet Club which is near to our school and to where we live. Her first day was great. I dropped her off and played with her for a bit of time and she happily went off with Ms. Rachel, her teacher. The trouble started on her second day, though, when she had a very hard time adjusting. It was difficult to explain to Mrs. Chen that Molly did not get to stay home from school just because she did not want to go. She is now in her fourth week of school and she finally had her first day without crying. Once she is there, she loves it and we are happy with the school and with her teachers. She gets quite a bit of Chinese each day and even came home singing her first Chinese song the other day.

Benjamin has also had a tough time getting into the school routine. He is in kindergarten at our school so I am able to drop him off each day. We are still waiting for a day without crying. He does get better each day and now only sniffles a bit when I drop him off. We really like his teacher, who is also new to the school. She has been very patient and supportive. I am the tech integration specialist for his grade so I get to work with his class at least once a week. I am really looking forward to that. It is so much fun seeing him every day, although I usually hide when I see him coming because he tends to burst into tears. Benjamin just started playing on a soccer team last weekend and after half an hour of watching from the sidelines, Michael was able to convince him that it might be fun to actually play. Once he got involved he had a great time. Benjamin has made a good friend who is also new to Shanghai and lives across the street from us. This has been a great help in his adjustment.

So far the jobs have been good for both of us. Michael is teaching grade 9 English and doing yearbook and I am the technology integration specialist at the elementary school. We have both been busy trying to figure out the workings of our new school, but are happy with our jobs. I know I will remain challenged as I work to help the teachers integrate technology into their existing curriculum and as I conduct training sessions with my teaching partner, Jeff. The first month included a lot of learning on my part, but I am finally feeling somewhat caught up. The teachers I am working with are very dedicated and open about using technology and they have some great ideas.

We are making some friends, especially with some of the new teachers who arrived with us. There are two other new kindergarten boys who live down the street. Benjamin gets along well with them. They spend quite a bit of time together after school. We like all of the new teachers and there are many families here, which has been fun for us. We all have bikes and we ride around the neighborhood after school and on weekends. Benjamin is learning to ride and Molly has a seat on the back of our bikes for long trips. Michael and I ride our bikes to school which is very different from the cars we had in Dubai.

Overall it has been a fairly smooth transition and I am sure we will continue to meet many new challenges as our year progresses.
Elementary School