Sunday, August 5, 2012

Teacher Beth




There are times when I miss being a teacher in China so much that it takes everything I have to not start crying. 
I miss my students. I miss their little faces and hugs and giggles and constant shouts of "Teeeecha Chelsieee." I miss the way they would light up when they saw me coming to tuck them in or play with them on the play ground. I miss working my tail off in order to give them the best education I could.
I miss being a teacher in China.

And my head teacher posted this photo today of one of my favorite students, Beth. This was one of the last days of teaching and I let her wear the apron and be "Teacher Beth" for the day. She was ecstatic, and so incredibly helpful! She kept on telling everyone else "English Only!" and wanting to give out strikes to those who spoke Chinese.

And I saw this photo and felt a physical ache in my heart where she, and the rest of my second graders are supposed to be.

Being her teacher (and sometimes letting her being the teacher) was one of the greatest things I've ever done. And I'm feeling pretty lost without my students these days.

Friday, July 6, 2012

America!

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL!

Being in America is surreal and awesome and awkward. I love eating hotdogs and driving my car and being barefoot without worrying about what possible poop I may step in. I love speaking in English and not having to gesture in weird dance moves to try and get my point across. I love my mattress. I love Wal Mart and Market Basket and Dunkin Donuts. I just love America!

But at the same time, I miss Chinese food, and walking to the Jia Jia and eating family style and taking the 30 downtown on a Friday night to visit the DVD store. And I miss my kids, more than I'll ever be able to express.

I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who has followed my journey in China and who has supported me and encouraged me throughout my adventures. Even by simply reading this blog has been such a comfort and support to me. China was one of the greatest things I've ever done with my life and I loved every moment of it and the reason I was able to achieve this great dream and goal of mine is because of the incredible support system I have had. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This will probably be my last entry on this blog (unless I decide to go back to China, which I'll never rule out), but for those who find entertainment in reading about my adventures, feel free to follow me on my personal blog, Into the Wild, where I've been blogging for the last three years!

Thank you again!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Observations on my last night in China

I can't find my customs form, even though I saw it a week ago and specifically put it somewhere safe so I wouldn't have this problem. I know I'll probably find it tucked away in some obscure corner of my suitcase when I'm unpacking, but after shuffling things around in my suitcase so many times today to evenly distribute the weight, I'm done. I'll just fill out another one tomorrow before flying home.

Home.

The saying goes: "Home is where the heart is." And for my whole life, I've been saying: "My heart belongs to New England." Because it does. My family, my house, my doctors, my best friends, and the experiences I am built out of are all in New England. And there is something about the woods and the roads and rocks and lakes just sets my soul on fire. I've been looking forward to breathing clean and fres New England air for a while now (and even more so after spending two and a half days in Beijing).

But as I sit here in my empty apartment, on my flat-board bed in the heart of Weihai, China, I realize that not all of my heart belongs to New England anymore. Truth is, half of my heart resides here, within the halls of my teaching building, in the walls of my classroom and in the hands of every one of my 60 students.

I came to China to see the world; to prove to myself that I am capable of overcoming the limits cancer had put on me and to see if I'm really meant to teach. I came to China for myself and with the thought that I might be able to change a couple of lives.

And then I lived in China. And I fell in love with the people and the culture and my job and my students. And I learned so much from being here. I learned how to work hard in order to be a good teacher and how to sacrifice everything I had to be even better. I learned how to give more of myself than ever so that I could better their lives. I learned what it felt like to have bad days and how to push through them. I learned how to revel in small victories and how to recognize the rewards of being a teacher. I don't know if I changed many lives, although I like to think I did. Without a doubt, though, my life has been changed in every way possible. I learned how to love unconditionally; for I love my students in a way that I never understood, nor thought I was capable of. It's like I discovered a whole new chamber of my heart that I didn't know existed and it has now been filled over capacity with love for my kids.

Unconditionally.

That's the kind of love that my students have shown me here. No matter who I put in Chinese chair, sent to the teacher or punished, at the end of the day, all of my students still loved me. They didn't see my faults or flaws or imperfections. They didn't judge me for my scars or even ask questions. They didn't know my background or my story. They just loved me; and they loved me in a way I've never been loved before. Simple, pure and honest. And although I don't feel like I'm worthy of that kind of love, it has motivated me to be that kind of person that is. And that is what I am walking away with from this experience:

I want to be the kind of person who is worthy of the unconditional love that my students have shown me.

Warning: Heart Wrenching Photos Ahead:

The hardest day of all of China:

The last day of teaching.
Our kids were devastated; and once they started crying, we started crying.
And there was a lot of crying.








After about 40 minutes of endless wailing, we decided we didn't want out last memories of our kids to be them in tears, so we worked hard to cheer them up (a lot of candy and kool-aid) and we were able to snap some of these happier photos during the last part of class:







Beijing: Tiana'men Square, Forbidden City and The Great Wall

After an emotional last day of teaching (which you can read about in the post above) we all packed up and headed to the bus station to catch our sleeper bus to Beijing. I love traveling by sleeper bus! I wish we had them in the states:


We got into Beijing the next morning at 5:30 AM. We couldn't check into our hostel, so we just dropped out stuff off, caught the metro and then explored Tiana'men Square. IT IS HUGE! It's the largest public square in the world!


Being American in China automatically puts us to minor celebrity status. We were stopped and asked if we could take photos with different groups and families easily 15 times. 


This is the People's Monument in Tian'amen Square.


Later, we got to wander around the Forbidden City! We even got in for 20 RMB instead of 60 because we showed them our student ID. WOO! The Forbidden City is HUGE! It was really cool to see, but we were really tired from all of the walking and without having a tour guide, a lot of the stuff looked the same by the end of the day. It was still really cool to see, though! SO much history.



The next day, we took a bus through our hostel to THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA! The part that we went to isn't restored, so there are almost no tourists or hawkers on it. It was so cool to be on a REAL part of the Great Wall! Unfortunately, the weather wasn't that great so we didn't get to see the whole expanse of it, but I still hiked up it. IT was SO steep and quite the accomplishment for me and my knee, but worth it!



I AM A SURVIVOR! AND I STOOD ON TOP OF THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA!


Cyndi and I walked down together and suffered from super shaky legs.


Soooo steep!


The next day, we spent all day at the Silk Street and Pearl Market. Six floors of shopping, shopping and more shopping! We had a bit of a stressful time getting back to the bus station (we had a hard time catching a cab and ended up having to take the metro) but once we got on, we all slept soundly on our way back to Weihai. 

It was a quick and exhausting trip, but so much fun! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Entering the last week of teaching



These are the two classes I teach (second and third grade) and tomorrow is my last day with them.
And I think it's safe to say that leaving them will be the hardest thing I'll have to do in China.
These kids light up my life; they make me laugh and they keep me on my toes
and I love them.

They have changed my life.