Author Archives: bettinabennett2014

Laish? Warum? Pourquoi?

Why in any of the languages I barely or fluently know just doesn’t get to the heart of what many of us are really asking.  So far this year according to a CNN article there have been 44 school shootings in America (32 of them at elementary or secondary schools).  That is almost a shooting per week in the very structures we’ve designed to nurture and grow our future.

I love my students, not like I love my own children, but it is a maternal mix of pride and frustration cemented in the sometimes naïve belief that ‘my’ kids can achieve anything they set their minds to — with a little push from all of us.  I began my teaching career at what some might think as the worst place to teach:  a charter school for the kids who got kicked out of inner-city public schools.  Minority students were the few who did not have facial piercings, multiple gang tattoos, and/or parole officers.  Most of my afterschool meetings were not with parents, but with social workers, police officers and drug/violence counselors.

To say these kids were intimidating is an understatement, but they had me hooked by the end of the first week.  Somewhere along the line I earned their trust and respect, and they rewarded me with the children they were — and oh my goodness the high I got from seeing them learn and discover more than their failures.   I moved from that school to others, which eventually led me to overseas teaching, where I have had the opportunity to meet teenagers from all walks of life — from the uber privileged to the scorn of society and everything in between.

Those early years taught me that no matter how abused, how absurd, how unimaginably horrid students’ lives could be that they still had a light in them; they still had hope, and unlike many adults in their world they could still be reasoned with if given the chance.  In my 17 years of teaching I have met only three children who no longer had that light – one was the epitome of apathetic (and hopefully still reachable at some point in her life); two made my blood run cold.  Out of the thousands of adolescents I’ve worked with I have only met two that I’d bet money on were sociopaths — and yet, while I have no idea where their lives have taken them, they did not pick up a gun and shoot their peers during their high school years (who knows what they’ve done since then, but I have not seen their names in the headlines so inshallah they’ve found some sort of normalcy that doesn’t include damaging others).

The Santa Clarita school shooting was done by a child who showed no signs of trouble, other than he struggled with mourning the loss of his father two years prior. One witness described him as a cookie cutter kid.  On his 16th birthday, this child decided to pull out a gun, randomly shoot those in front of him and then shoot himself.

Within 16 seconds a child transitioned from a beacon of hope to a monster.  Whatever triggered him to do this has now caused irreparable damage to countless others, ending the lives of three children (himself included).  Our children are annihilating themselves (literally and figuratively), and this is not normal — not even for kids who witness or take part in violence and destruction on a daily basis (their violence is a misconceived code of survival, which is a whole other subject, but in essence does connect —- why are those children in that situation in the first place?).

Forgive me, but what in the fuck is wrong with us?

Why are we still tearing each other apart blaming this and that and not being the adults our kids deserve us to be?  Gun control isn’t our only issue here (although it is embarrassing that absolutely nothing has changed yet), we are an angry, frustrated lot caught up in a downward spiral of corruption, fear, coercion, bigotry and the poisoning of my profession.  That last bit must play into this because why else would so many of us cave to manipulative messaging and our base biases?  Educated, critical thinkers would know better than to allow that nonsense to rule our newsfeeds and conscience.

I remember my language arts standards used to include teaching the avoidance of accepting logical fallacies and the importance of objectivity: two concepts that feel as extinct as the Zanzibar leopard and the West African black rhino (just two of the many species dying off during our lifetimes).  Yeah I know that’s an awkward analogy, but let’s keep in mind our children — the incredible sponges of all around them — are growing in a world where life and logic are under attack.

Of course we still teach these things, but we’re mandated to focus on so many other things now because of test results or political expectations, which all connect to funding, which we need to do our jobs — and the mandates continually change without really changing, but the ‘changes’ take up so much of our time we get lost in the vocabulary and paperwork that goes with it all. We can only attempt to model rational thinking in an irrational world.  We teach our kids to do the right thing, but let’s be really honest with ourselves:  we are not practicing what we preach.  And I’m saying we because I am part of this problem as are you.

Going back to my first years at the inner, inner city school.  While I was a novice teacher, some of my best teaching took place there because I had the freedom (ah there’s a word that’s feeling a bit shallow these days) to tailor my curriculum to meet the needs of my students, and then guide them to their next levels — all with outdated materials, incompetent management, and unsafe classrooms.  Before I lose you, I am not saying teachers should be left alone to do whatever we like.  We need standards, we need continual training, we need guidance —- just like our kids do.  We also need to be included in the decision making that impacts what we’re constantly being told to do or not do.

Just like our kids, if you throw too much at us and you don’t give us a chance to share what we’ve learned in the way we need to share it (don’t even get me started on the paperwork trail we have to follow to prove we’re collaborating, assessing and incorporating rigor into our worlds) we get confused, lose our focus, and, sometimes, implode.  We’re old; exploding takes too much energy for us. Some of us give up and just go through the motions or leave the profession.  Others become militant with their words — mostly through teacher chat boards or in faculty break away corners (we don’t really use our break rooms for breaks anymore).  A few lose their shit with the kids.

And that’s just my profession, which I do so very much still love, regardless of not always understanding the way it’s managed (and that’s not to say the folk managing it are the bad guys; they too are being pulled this way and that and running backwards on a treadmill trying to do the right thing). I’m sure it’s the same in other professions.  Are we at a time where the cogs are destroying the folk who turn them?

How many of us go home deflated, disenfranchised to bury ourselves into the distractions our phones, TVs, or computers provide?  How many turn to drugs (legal or not) or booze to put some calm into the crazy?  I’m not judging:  lord knows I love my wine and champagne and my Netflix.  I’m currently writing in my blog (while ignoring my husband and dog) to work through my shit now, which I will share to distract you with — all thanks to the same technology I sometimes blame for our bad.

My point is that while we the people have always struggled with the balance between the work world and our real worlds, it feels that maybe the crazy has taken over a bit too much.  We can debate until the cows come home, but come on we all know something is very, very wrong — just as Hamlet knew about Denmark (I cannot believe I’m at a time in my life where I’m seeing literary characters I thought of as weak and sniveling in my own being).

Our children do too.

This wrong begins with our us versus them mentality.  It’s definitely wrapped with greed, politics, climate change (yep), and all the uglies that continue to surround us, but it’s rooted within our divide.

I’m not smart enough to know how to fix any of this, BUT the teacher, mother, critical thinker in me knows that we will remain impotent to preventing the death of our children, our future, until we realize that the them we blame for all of this is us.  We cannot keep sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to cure what ails us.

Our school shootings have become the metaphor for our own crazy.  We have got to figure out a way to make this stop.  And, yeah, I know my little rant in my little blog won’t change anything, BUT it’s done.  I’ve taken my first step and posted it despite the fact that I try so hard to keep my views private because I just don’t want to bother with the fallout from folk who might not agree with me or like what I say. I like playing it safe and keeping my shit to myself.  I am not here to blame you; I’m here to say come on people we can do this.  We can hold our leaders — in all aspects of our lives — accountable and tell them to act like the adults we teach our children to be.  We can remind them that they are just as accountable for doing their jobs and fulfilling their mandates as we are ours.  We can change the goddamned cogs if they are destroying the essence of who we are.

Our babies need us to do this.  We need us to do this.

 

Fall Break!

I’m off for a week and spending most of it in Germany.  Woo hoo!  I sooooooo need this time off to breathe and reflect and enjoy the beauty of living.  Joe and I joined some friends for a long but fun drive to Munich where we spent the weekend sipping, strolling and eating.  Today, Joe is off to Prague with the friends, and I am off to Hamburg to spend time with family.

I always love being in Germany, and I still hope to one day find myself getting transferred to a school here.  It won’t be much closer to most of my family since none of our locations are up north, but Stuttgart is near my niece and sister — so, fingers crossed, one day.

That is not to say I don’t also love Belgium.  Germany is just so much easier for me since, well, some of it is in my DNA.  I’m more at home here.

We were blessed with beautiful weather yesterday.  Munich is ablaze with autumn colors.

But the long, dark, cold, wet days are right around the corner.  I’m okay with those too because it means candles, hearty stews and soups (a fat girl’s heaven), and the holiday season — whoop whoop!

My sister Angie and some of her family are visiting from Virginia; we’ll meet up again today.  Her first few days here I was so busy with work I didn’t get much chance to enjoy time with them, so the next few days will be all about fun, family time.  We head back to Belgium on Halloween where I’m sure more fun will be had, and when they leave Shannan arrives to spend a few weeks with us.

Sooooo, I’ve got plenty of cheer ahead of me.

My only complaint is I won’t get to spend Halloween again with this little guy..

But, isn’t he adorable in the space suit I bought this summer?!  Cannot wait to see him in December!  He’s hobbling along now, so he’ll be running all over the Christmas markets.

Well, I’ve got to pack up and get myself ready for the train ride to airport.  Happy Halloween and Harvest cheers to all of you!

p.s. I’m including this photo only because it’s a rare good one of me (lol I’d make a terrible model with my crazy facial expressions).  Thanks to Joe for knowing the right angle to snap his wife at! AND, hello?  I’m outside in Munich this time of year without a jacket on — in short sleeves!

Rain & Rainbows

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It’s been way too long since I’ve posted, and, of course, a lot has happened since August.  Work is super busy, and whenever I try to upload photos to this blog it seems to take me forever no matter what I do.  In big part it’s because of my shitty wifi.  I love where I live, but it has its issues.

Since I’ve last posted, I’ve had a visit from my Al Ain neighbor Haneefa (back in August), and we had fun on a weekend trip discovering Rotterdam.

Cubed houses and interesting street art just to name a few things to find in that city.

And, we’ve gotten plenty of play time right here in Belgium.  Mons had its annual Tanks in Town event, which is always a good time.

Plus, we’ve gone to plenty of fun dinners, concerts, fests on base (including Octoberfest!) and God only knows what other local shenanigans.  There’s always something going on; I just wish I took the time to post about them while they were happening.

The weather has been literally rainbows and rain, but the temps are still lovely.  Today it’s in the 70s (fahrenheit).  It makes for a good metaphor for my life as well.  Nothing bad has happened, but it’s that time of year when I’m just so slammed with work stuff.  It never seems to end, but it’s all good.  Kids are learning, and I’m still energized by them.IMG_E1327

Although sometimes it’s a little too much zap because I’m also exhausted!

I do so love this time of year though because you can feel the shift in season.  The chill is making its way in, and the days are darker longer.  I’m also getting ready for a bunch of visitors and festivities.  My sister and part of her family arrive Oct 23, then we’re off to Germany for a bit, then Shannan arrives for a good visit, and whallah we’ve got Thanksgiving and Christmas time upon us.  Aaron arrives Dec 16, and Kaylene and her crew arrive Dec 23, sooooo I’m all a jingle with holiday planning.

All of which gave me an excuse to visit Champagne country again.  Oh, how I love Epernay and Reims as well.

When there’s so much champagne to sip, water comes in warning bottles.

I’m totally in love with my new champagne bucket/table from the ‘widow.’ Veuve Clicquot champagne is famous thanks to a woman who made the best out of her husband’s passing, so, you know, I’m totally a fan (not that I want to off my husband).

AND for all my visitors, I’m all stocked up on most excellent champagne and wine.

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Oh and there’s goodies in my fridge and cave (basement storage room) too.  Bring on the good cheer!

Badger is hanging in there, but old age is kicking his hind quarters a bit, so we’ve ordered a doggie sling for him to help when he has to use our stairs.  That’s right folks, I’m buying handles, so I can carry my dog like a suitcase.  I’ll update his blog in a bit too since we want to get as many shots of him loving life while he is.  If the doctor keeps giving him morphine, I imagine he’ll hang in for quite a bit longer.  That dog totally digs being stoned.

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He’s also a lush because he keeps wanting to go to the bar across the street from Park du Poo.

Well, I’m sorry I’ve not shared too many details this time around on our travels or expat life.  Like normal life, sometimes we’ve just gotta hunker down and focus on what pays for all that fun.

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It’s all good though when the path we’re on is loaded with colors and cobblestone — and cafe sipping.  Good God do I love cafe sipping, even in the rain.

Fingers crossed I’ll post again soon.  Cheers to all of you!

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There’s no place like home

The thing about having moved too many times to count is you’re perpetually homesick for somewhere.  This ache for a place you once called home and then the joy of revisiting it is a constant see saw of emotions and memories.

We returned to Belgium on Sunday, and we’re so glad to be back.  We missed our dog, our bed, our life here.  But, it comes at a cost because we will now go back to missing our loved ones ‘back home.’

I cherished my time with my kids, and I’m glad Joe and I got to travel around so much of the U.S. this summer.  I have not been on American soil for that long of a time since I moved overseas.  In 5 weeks we got to visit our nation’s capital, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana.  Here’s a quick rundown of our highlights.

Arizona

Staying in Phoenix in the summer at homes without pools is tough.  I missed my pool more than ever during this visit.  I’m an outdoor kind of girl who loves to sip her coffee with the birds and, well, the bees (or flies).  It’s hard to do that when you’re melting (I used to sit in my pool and sip coffee), but it’s all good I did get a little pool time in during our vacay.  Besides this trip was truly about soaking up family time, and I got to spend time in each of my children’s homes.

I also got to sip coffee outside in northern Arizona over the July 4 holiday weekend (at a lovely house we rented in Oak Creek Canyon) and another weekend in Flagstaff.  I loved that I got to whoop up the 4th with this crew!


For some reason I can no longer format the way my photos post — argh.  I’ll figure out how to fix that next post.




It was also fun visiting Flagstaff, Williams and Prescott.  It’s just way too hot to stay in Phoenix in the summer.  And, I did get to play with Torin in a pool.

Little monster is just too too cute.  I miss him dearly.

New Mexico

We drove from Flagstaff to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I got to catch up with an old friend.  We stayed at a lovely hotel in the art center area.  It was beautiful, and we so wish we could have stayed an extra night.

I’m really annoyed by photo editing right now, so it’s messing up my writerly vibe as well.  But, oh well,  you see that plate full of green goo — OMG I crave that  now.  I’ve discovered hatch chiles and christmas sauce.  I may have to go back just to eat that meal again!

Colorado

It was so good to visit Kyle and Kendra in Castle Rock.  The only thing missing during our July 4 feast was these two.  Plus, you can’t go wrong visiting the big C during summer.  It’s always gorgeous there.

Kansas

From Colorado we headed to Indiana to visit Joe’s sister.  We spent a night in Kansas next to a truck stop.  Lol there’s really not much I can say about Kansas (although we didn’t explore much).  The highlight for me was taking a side trip to the Oz museum and Oz winery.  Those snazzy slippers that start this blog were bought there — love them!

Indiana

Before reaching Indiana we spent a night in Missouri near Columbia.  We regret not taking an extra day to explore the Ozarks (especially since we love the show set there), but perhaps another time.  Again we didn’t do much sight seeing, but we did spend a lot of time having fun with Joe’s sister, who lives in a Disneyesque town called Carmel.  LOL I swear they even pipe in the wildlife because while we were sitting at the fire pit we were entertained by racoons, foxes and a possum.  During the day blue jays and cardinals stopped by to peek at us peeking at them.  No need to do much exploring when it’s all right there.

I loved the artwork all over the town center, and a cool restaurant had my favorite bathroom ever. Who knew Indiana was so progressive?!

We spent a day sitting waterside sipping bevies, which was wonderful.  It made me miss living by a lake (but that was several lifetimes ago!).

And then our road trip was over.  We flew back to Phoenix for a few days, packed up and returned to Brussels.  Luckily we totally missed the heat wave.  I cannot imagine attempting sleep in my third-floor, non air-conditioned apartment in 106 degree temps.

I wish I would have taken the time to write the many reflections I’ve had during this trip, so that I could share the good ones with you, but I didn’t and now that I’m typing I can’t think of any of them.

I am torn between wanting to move back to the states to be closer to my kids (and their kids) and staying here where I’m in a bipolar relationship of peace and wonder and frustration and WTF (you never get used to eets a problame, which basically means “bitch you’re gonna wait another week, two, three or maybe four before this shit gets fixed”).

But, I do so love my home here and my job and the life, so it’ll be a while before I go back (unless my employer has other plans for me).

I am also heartbroken and enraged that a few days ago I messaged my children that I loved them and to please, please be safe and vigilant. All of the places where mass shootings take place could include any of us.  We love festivals, shopping, drinking and getting educated.  The story of the young mother dying in Walmart while shielding her infant crushed me.  The only saving grace is that wouldn’t be my daughter since she probably owns stock in Amazon by now, but why oh why are we so violent?  America I love you, and all my people there.  I truly believe there are more good of us than bad, so please, please, please let’s get our shit together and quit letting shit talkers stir it up (and noooo I’m not blaming politicians for the murders, but our leaders aren’t helping make change for the better, and we’re getting caught in the web with our own arguments and circular reasoning.  Bottom line: conservatives and liberals want the same for their children:  safety, growth, freedom and opportunities).  We know how to get along and play nice in the sandbox, so let’s get to it.  And, yes, that includes me.

Okay, this isn’t a blog about my country’s issues, so let me get back to the whole point of this post.  It was great to go home for a bit, and it’s just as great to come home!  I loved time with my people, but most of all my absolute favorite thing was rocking and singing my grandson to sleep.  OMG it is amazing how much a baby can fill your soul with love and hope. (um, maybe we need to all rock babies before problem solving?)

 

This is America

Time keeps rolling on by…

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As is typical I’ve been busy with guests, work and fun day trips.  In two weeks it’ll finally be School’s Out for Summer!  I’m so looking forward to that.  Our trip to China and Korea seems like forever ago, but it was just last month.

I promised a post on South Korea and Hong Kong, so here’s a quick snapshot of the fun we had.

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Seoul and Hong Kong were our favourite places.  In part because they’re just easier to navigate.  There’s no strict visa process or censorship, there’s more English spoken, and our credit cards easily worked.  Seoul was the friendliest, quirkiest city we visited.  You’d think taking a tour to DMZ would be a somber event, but once you get over the barbed wire alongside the road (to keep North Korean soldiers from swimming in for an attack — a plan gone wrong for those swimmers) your bus pulls into, I shit you not, an amusement park.  Our guide told us it was for the young children of families visiting the area to either mourn the loss of relatives or feel closer to loved ones still on the other side.

The tour we took included a stroll into an infiltration tunnel (you can’t take pics), which I was really excited about until a few minutes in I realised I was going to have to walk like a hunchback for too long a time.  Um, those tunnels were not made for the tall folk.  But, it’s all good because our exhausted selves got to be entertained by our singing tour guide.

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Yep, we dodged mines listening to “Gangham style” and “I did it my way!’   It was so odd to be in such a serious, tense place (there are rules to follow and soldiers to do their thing) surrounded by so much touristy/silly things, but I think that might sum up Korea — mix in the fun with the serious.

We also got to go to a Korean baseball game (way fun and so much energy) and a Korean barbeque (yum yum!).  And, yes, we got to use high tech toilets (the fan is oddly refreshing) and see K-pop fashion.

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Hong Kong was oh so cosmopolitan and gorgeous.  We had an amazing day touring their Big Buddha and surrounding areas.  It was just stunning.

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There’s so much more I could tell you, but I’m tired from a day at work, so the pics will  have to tell the tale.  We’re hoping to visit both Hong Kong and Seoul again and do more touring around.  This trip was just a quick taste of what it was like, plus a chance to whoop it up with Jordy & Wilber and my buds based near (a few hours away) Hong Kong.

Before I close out, though, I do have to share some of the bizarre signs we saw.  LOL definitely lost in translation (or not …)

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But my favourite all time pic is this one from our last night in Korea.

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What you don’t see is the metal pole with a latch on the top. This is on the 9th floor of our hotel near the elevator.  Basically, if there’s a fire you’re supposed to hook yourself up to that rope, trust the metal pole and repel to safety.  Um, I guess it’s first man first live; everyone else gets to jump.

Next up?  Bonnie and Michael visit, and then we’re off to our summer travels.  Oh and Dou Dou fest is also just around the corner — another week of mayhem and dragons.

Some shit you should know before going to China…

 

IMG_9168We’re back into our real world again readjusting to our Belgian rhythm, and when I have more time this weekend I will tell you more about our trip.  While stuck in the airport (no offence China, but we will do our best to avoid ever having to layover in Beijing again), I wrote up my list of things you should know before going to China.  I’m sharing these bits to spare you from embarrassing moments like the one I had on our very hot, noisy, long, stiff-seated flight to China on a Chinese airline.

A parched me was overjoyed to see the flight attendant strolling the aisle with a tray full of water cups.  “Yes please,” I croak, only to find out it was a steaming hot cup of water — no tea, no coffee, just scalding water.  My crabby self didn’t edit or think when a little too loudly I blurted out “Why in the fuck would I want hot water?”

Turns out hot water with a slice of lemon is as common as ice water is to we Westerners.   It’s what you’ll get at restaurants too (although Westerners should stick to bottled water because our bellies can’t handle what comes out of the tap).

Be careful of the ice too.  A refreshing gin and tonic at a cafe bar in Beijing will not make (the next day) for a comfortable hike on the Great Wall —- trust me on this one.

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Which didn’t stop me from posing — lol going by my hand placement I’m not entirely sure I’ve got it under control. LOL nor is Joe, but hey we’re smiling!

img_9702Spitting and sucking one’s teeth is common place; chewing gum is low class or something rude like that.  Sitting next to men swishing spit between their teeth (or hacking it out on the sidewalk) was gross to me , but I’m sure there’s shit I did that they considered gross as well (eating with forks perhaps?).  Culture is a finicky cat —- oh and it’s totally cool to wear a bubble backpack and shove your cat in it while you stroll the city.  Don’t have a cat?  Go to one of the many cat cafes (also popular in Seoul and Hong Kong).  Cats are cool here!

And so are you!  OMG if you’re tall, fat, light eyed, light haired or black you will be stared at.  If you’re more than one of these things you will get pointed at.  You will also have couples come up to you begging for a selfie.  Others will still snap your picture, thinking you’re too high up to notice the camera is pointed your way.  Joe and I are Chinese Social Media super stars.  I’m sure there’s captions like “Look!  You can put lipstick on a Godzilla,” or “Fee Fi Fo Fum he didn’t eat me.”

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LOL even fat Buddha and his minions get stared at by standing Buddha…

If you book a hotel because you’re wowed by its pool pictures, do know that you will be expected to wear bathing caps while in that pool.  If the pool man says, “you want new or borrowed?” go for new.  We thought he meant disposable caps, but what we got were two wet bathing caps.

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And yeah you look like this —- new wouldn’t have helped us on this one.  Joe might divorce me for posting this pic.

Ladies work out your thighs.  Squatty potties are real; toilet paper is not.

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And food is racist…

Last but not least:  Don’t be fooled by the adorable little old ladies hobbling near you. They will smack you on the bum or push you in the belly to get ahead.  Turns out there’s old lady karma too because I accidentally pawed one in the face when she was trying to whiz past me going up the stairs to the Grand Buddha.  I had no idea she was down there.  I felt bad then, but by the time we got to our layover in Beijing I was so disgusted by being pushed and prodded.  All I wanted to do was windmill my arms to take out as many as I could.

Crowds are everywhere … it can be pretty intense

I always do my best to respect another culture, and I get that my way of doing things is not THE way of doing things.  But, I do not get what we experienced at the mosh pit of hell trying to board our plane.  I also do not appreciate the dirty looks I got from some passengers on the crowded, loud plane —- especially considering that these same folk were half my size and took up twice as much space and would not stop moving and talking.  So, yeah, I guess I’m still a little bitter about getting pushed.

Things we knew but also should be stressed:  Google maps or translate will not work in China, nor will your social media.  I downloaded WeChat so that I could communicate with my friends there. The language barrier is also as vast as the Great Wall. Traveling in China is not easy if you don’t know Mandarin.

If you leave the touristy areas make sure you have lots of cash on you because no matter how good your travel credit or debit card is it will not work in much of China.  Luckily we had friends who picked up our tab more than once and booked all of our didi (their version of Uber) rides.  We did not pull out enough cash, so shame on us for that one.

For Americans, the visa process can be complicated, BUT if you stay in Beijing for less than 72 hours (maybe it’s higher than that) and leave for another country (say Korea) and then pop back into Shanghai for less than 144 hours you will not need a visa.  You can get a transfer visa at the airport, but don’t expect friendly agents (then again isn’t that common in most airports?).

But it is all worth it to see sights like this and experience a life different than ours.

We’re still glad we went, and so glad we caught up with friends.  Spending time with our peeps, hiking the Great Wall (even with an angry digestive track), sipping champagne at the Hyatt rooftop bar in Shanghai, walking through the shopping village in Wuxi and spending the day at a Buddha park were all worth the inconvenience of being aliens in a place far from our own.  And we also met  many friendly, helpful locals who made us feel welcome in their land.  So thank you China for sharing your corner of the planet with us for a few days.

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Up next: Korea, Hong Kong and some of the oddities we met along the way.

Cheers from China!

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Today is our last full day in Wuxi, China.  We’ve been having a fantastic time.  Last week we landed in Beijing and toured the Forbidden City and Great Wall and stayed at a wonderful hotel where we were spoiled.  The Great Wall was so worth the long flight to China.  It’s a must do if you can do it!  Then we took off to spend some time with Jordan and Wilber in S. Korea, then took off for Shanghai and Wuxi.  I don’t have much time to write because we’re off on another adventure in a few minutes.

Yesterday we went to a Buddha “amusement” park, The Grand Buddha at Ling Shan, which was such a nice surprise.  The Buddha in itself is worth the trip, but there are garden trails and pagodas and other goodies throughout the park.  And, of course, we’ve been feasting and sipping all sorts of goodies.

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Including bubbly at the top of the Hyatt in Shanghai!

Okay, I’m rushed, so here’s your photo blast of some of the cool stuff we’ve gotten to see.  I’ll write more and post later —- including a Seoul post.

Beijing shots ….

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More Beijing — lol can you find Joe in the crowd?  And loved the pool at our hotel.  Below are Shanghai and Wuxi pics — including riding the subway.  LOL the hanging handrails kept bopping us in the face.  We also got to ride a bullet train, so that was fun.  You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the madness of public transport when you can’t read, write or speak the language — or use google translate.

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Oh, how I wish I could tell you more, but my crew is ready to get out and about.  So, next time I pop in I’ll give you more story.

Bottoms up…

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Shame on me for not posting most of February and all of March.  Work and life have been busy (I know you’re tired of hearing that excuse, but it’s true).  We’ve whooped it up around Belgium and Paris with friends who were visiting, we’ve gone to a few wine tastings and lots of dinners and local outings.

Same old, same old … but never dull!  Even a trip to the flower market could turn into bubbly on the curb — especially when the sun is out!

The Grand Place is all decked out for Easter, including a big ferris wheel, which I’d like to post pics of, but I’m sure it’ll be down before I get to it.  We’re leaving on Saturday for our big trip to Asia.  I’m really excited about it.  We begin in Beijing where we’ll see the Great Wall and Forbidden City, then we’re off to South Korea where we’ll whoop it up with Jordan and Wilbur and watch a Korean baseball game, imbibe at a Korean BBQ, do a DMZ tour and check out Seoul, then it’s off to Shanghai and then Hong Kong.  Every stop except Beijing includes fun time with friends, some of whom I haven’t seen since moving away from the UAE.  So, a busy, good time will be had.

Another thing I’m excited about is it’s Spring!  Days are blessedly longer and work is winding down (I’m already planning away for next year).  When we return from Spring Break, we have Game of Thrones parties, more friends visiting, weekend trips, Dou Dou fest (before that the Beer Fest!), more dinners and plenty of Grand Place adventures to look forward to.  And then it’s time to fly back to the states for the summer where I’ll get to swim with the grand baby, my kids and friends.  Let the warm days of fun begin!

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And while I like this picture: Adieu to the long dark days of winter.  LOL Winter is NOT coming here  — until November.

What a difference a day makes

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A view from our lobby window.  I absolutely LOVE The Hague.  Next time Joe and I go, we’ll stay at the beach.

I had a meltdown yesterday outside a clinic during a snow/rain storm, which really wasn’t a smart idea — who cries in the freezing rain?!  This morning I woke to a sunny morning: walked the dog, then snuggled up with my favorite blankie and a cup of coffee on my favorite chair, and just inhaled the peace and quiet.  I am once again happy to be alive and where I am in the world, but yesterday morning not so much.

Last week was one wave after another of highs and lows.  Two teachers and I took 27 students to The Hague for its annual Model United Nations conference.  It is an amazing experience for students; a complete drain on their teachers (but worth it when you see how much good it has to give our young).  Basically each kid there has a role to play, and they do it for an entire week.  Most of our kids were mock UN delegates for Peru or Armenia, two of them were also ambassadors for each country.  We also had a chair and a press photographer. Our kids, who are already part of an international school setting (with primarily European and North American countries), got to work with kids from all over the globe including South Korea, Egypt, Oman, Zimbabwe, etc. etc.  One of our kids was ecstatic he got to co-write a resolution with a Netherlands princess, the future queen — how cool is that?  But, just as enlightening, was the ability to work with kids from countries where the threat of violence, starvation, humanity’s uglies are all too real (and in today’s uncertain times I guess that includes us all, but you know what I mean).

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Go babies go!  Ambassadors from the countries and organizations they represented during the week.

I cannot tell you how much it fed my soul to see teenagers on crowded trams and busses or at corner cafes lobbying/debating/co-writing resolutions with other teens, some of whom they just met that day.  Like in the real world, their jobs did not end at 5 p.m.  These kids were coming up with solutions to real-world issues — if only they could take the reigns away from some of their adult counterparts, we might not be in the sticky wickets we are in today (let me have my pollyanna moment).

During closing ceremony speeches one boy stated that he got to work with a young man from a rival country.  He pointed to his committee teammate and said, “if war breaks out, I will not fight my brother.”  Moments prior I saw the breaking news flash on my phone about nuclear treaty breaks.

How is it that I live in a world where teenagers are the more mature ones?  And, I know it’s easier for them because they’re not in control of the real world.  It is just words and practice, but why can our politicians/leaders/whatevers not see each other as brothers and sisters and find a better way to resolve conflict?  I get it; life beats us up with real-world crap, but come on folks we can do this better.  We can model what we preach to our kids.

So, why the waves you ask?  Well, they are human teenagers and with that comes their drama (okay so maybe not so much different than adults), so we had a few mini crises to facilitate — none of which included drugs, alcohol or sex (thank God!).   And, then sadly we had a big tragedy that affected us all.  There was a death back  ‘home.’  We teachers had to quickly become stand ins for their parents and grief counsellors until we could bring them home (all the while working with parents, counsellors and admins via technology).  Families were told it was okay to come get their kids, but our students decided to finish off the week, so we all powered through, but it wasn’t easy.   We also had two sick kids and one sick teacher (me).

My breakdown at the clinic happened because I just needed some antibiotics but because I never made the time to register at the health clinic on base they cannot help me until Monday when they can put me into the system.  It’s totally my fault for not going there sooner.  I’ve been here a year and a half — hello? bitch, get your affairs in order.  I also could have gone to a local clinic (and friends offered to drive me), but I was so beat and the roads were tricky that I just didn’t have it in me.  Caving in to my inner drama queen:  I’d rather cry and be miserable, which is okay because Nurse Badger is keeping an eye on me — and honestly my thing is such a minor problem.

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And, yes, my Christmas tree is still up.  I’ll finally take the time to put it all away next weekend.  

It’s all good, I’ll get it taken care of tomorrow.  I’m still a very lucky woman because I do not get ill often, and when I do it’s nothing major.  I also had two friends come over last night to enjoy Indian take out and much-needed talk and laughter.  Life is good, even when it has its bad moments.  And, Good God, our young will one day take over and hopefully put us on a better path.

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Tomorrow these will be their seats for reals!
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