The Busiest of Days

October is usually a really busy month, wrapping up soccer, October break, Halloween, but then November comes and I’m generally less busy, the days go a little slower, inching towards winter break. It didn’t feel like that this year though, November was just as packed as October, and our December break is a week earlier this year. It’s been a whirlwind of activity and working hard to keep up with teaching my classes. We made it to our December break with what felt like breakneck speed, so now I finally have some time to fill in the gaps between our October break and now (thanks to jetlag, which has woken us all up at 4am today). 🙂

Captivating Gala

On the day of my last post, I wrote about preparing for our first Captivating Gala. It  was fun getting all dressed up and seeing everybody else get all dolled up as well. We ran into our old friends, the Mattersons, and lots of people we worked with, as well as soccer and brewing friends. It was a fun evening, but after bidding and spending a little too much money, we were ready to head home.

The next week was spirit week at school leading up to Halloween weekend. It was fun! I dressed up a few days including twin day and decades day. Donnie even twinned with the other DI in his building. And Paul got to rock his Jedi costume to school. We didn’t end up going trick or treating because it was such a busy weekend (fall festival and soccer tournament), but he did have fun doing some trick or treating and playing at school.

That weekend (the last one of October) was the last tournament for the MS girls team I’d been coaching. I was pretty tired and so were the girls, but they were excited for their last opportunity to play as a team. The tournament was only one day, just the Saturday, and they were expected to play 4 games that day. It was very warm that day, and humid and Callie and I were on our toes to keep the girls drinking water and gatorade. Donnie and Paul came out for a few games, and a friend from soccer was coaching her team too, so it was fun to have so many people supporting us. Our team made us proud. We didn’t lose a single game that day, and emerged not only champions, but also winners of sportsmanship. It was so fulfilling to see the girls stand up there, so proud of what they’d accomplished. It really was the best year of soccer coaching yet. I will really miss this group of girls and their chemistry on the field, they were really fun. A lot of them will be moving up to the HS next year, so hopefully I’ll see them around.

And then it was November! I expected to see my time expand exponentially because I didn’t have to race off 4 days a week to coach. It was essentially getting 8 hours of my work week back, but those hours were absorbed quite quickly. I can’t even explain how, but it didn’t help that we had to take a day off the very next week to go to HK to get Paul a new passport. It sounds a little like I’m complaining, but actually besides the extra work for missing work, it was a nice midweek break.

We crossed the border after school on Wednesday and took a cab to central. Our passport appointment at the U.S. consulate was  the next morning, so we took the opportunity to enjoy a meal at The Globe, a place we’d never tried before. It was good! After a night of sleep at a Soho hotel, we took our time with breakfast and then made our way to the Consulate. It was unusually easy. I was worried because our first time getting Paul a passport was torture. He was just over a year old, and we had to wait around the passport office in San Antonio for 5 hours. Paul’s happy attitude was waning by the time we finally got called to process the paperwork, only to find that his passport picture did not fit the expectation. By this time he was crying and we managed to get a passable picture from their passport picture guy, but Paul has been stuck with a crying baby passport since then. It’s kind of funny to remember it, but it was not any fun at the time. This time was so much smoother. We showed up a little early for our appointment with all our paperwork and pictures in order, and we were processed and out of there in 15 minutes. Even before our scheduled appointment. We had time to go grab lunch at our fav Texas BBQ place and watch the final innings of the world series. We did some last minute shopping and then grabbed our bags from the hotel and went to grab the ferry home. It was an enjoyable trip.

When I got home that evening, I rested for a bit, but then headed out to meet up with Lariska! She lives in Moldova now, but was in town dealing with some shipping stuff and visiting friends. I was exhausted, but it was fun to share a few drinks with her and catch up with how she’d been doing in her new school. She seems to love it, and I’m happy for her. Hopefully she’ll visit again soon!


The weekend came quickly, and Donnie and I spent it getting ready for the Shenzhen Craft Beer Fest, which was rapidly approaching. We were planning on bringing 4 kegs of our best, solid IPA and expected to have none left. So we brewed a batch to have ready after the fest, and kegged the rest to bring for the next weekend. I also designed some stickers and posters for the fest, which was super fun. That’s when living in China is awesome, you can design something, and see it made within a week! So awesome.

The very next weekend was the 2nd annual Shenzhen Beer Fest. I wrote about the last one in one of my previous posts…(  It’d been about 1.5 years since the last one and our small homebrew tent had grown to be many more people and much more professional. I am proud to be among the first members of the Shenzhen Homebrewers. This time, the fest was taking place over 2 days in a different, more difficult location. After school on Friday, we left Paul to play with Amy and we carted our kegs and equipment out to the fest. There were so many brewers there this time, from all over mainland China. Friday night was actually kind of chilly, perfect beer fest weather. We spent most of the night trading beer with the other brewers and enjoying the reactions of people when they tasted our beer. One of the most common questions was, “Where’s your brewery?” And our answer for all the homebrewers was “Our house.” Some people didn’t believe us or didn’t understand, but I just though it was funny. The crowd on Friday wasn’t too bad, and we wrapped up and headed home around 11pm.

We were back at the beer tents by 1pm the next day, this time with Paul in tow and ready to spend the day there. Paul had a blast! His friend Connor was there, so they played soccer and ate ice cream and generally got into trouble, but it was all good fun. Amy came to get Paul when it got dark, and Donnie and I stayed on socializing and sharing our beer for a few more hours. But mostly we were just exhausted. I was a little disappointed because our beer, the Hale Yeah IPA, wasn’t as popular as the other homebrewers’ beer, but I was also happy that our tent seemed to be so crowded all the time. I’ve learned that the fancier your beer name, the more people will try it. Our super solid, delicious IPA wasn’t fancy, but it was good. It didn’t draw as much attention because it wasn’t smokey, or special in some way. Next year, we’ll make our name better and add a twist in some way. But over all it was fun. It’s always fun with that crowd and like I said before I’m really grateful for the group and the chance to have a circle of friends outside of work that enjoy our hobbies.

The next week was short I worked for 3 days, then got a sub to write curriculum for one of my classes for all day Thursday and Friday. Saturday was PD at work, so the weekend was reduced to 1 day. It was a quick day of relaxation, no brewing, although we had intended to. We blinked and it was Monday again, this time of Thanksgiving week!

Thanksgiving was low key, Amy helped me fix up our usual meal of carrots, stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy. I had made 2 apple pies the night before, so I warmed them up for dessert. We invited Callie and Billy (his family had already gone home). It was a quick meal, because I went to see the Secondary play that night, which was cute, but took me back to my HS days and working on drama productions. It was a really pleasant evening.

I noted something this year that I hadn’t felt in the years we’ve been in China. I always get November blues, in years past, I’ve felt sad around this time of year. I’m missing times that are so special, meals with family, the beginning of the Christmas season, a week off at Thanksgiving. But this year that feeling didn’t set in, there were moments of it, but they were fleeting. I was happy in my family traditions for this week, happy to have my little family unit, a few good friends to share the meal with, and I actually forgot that I used to get that week off at home. It’s our 4th year, and it finally feels normal to go to work on Thanksgiving.

I took the Friday after Thanksgiving off to retrieve Paul’s passport from HK. It was a leisurely day, but took way to long to travel to and from central. A total of 5 hours to and from Shenzhen, which is too much for one day. But Paul’s passport was easy to get and it was relatively easy travel, up until I spent over an hour at the border trying to get back. Donnie picked me up from the border and we headed to Taps where we were invited to a spur of the moment beer tasting. Daniel (who owns Taps) was kind enough to share his latest shipment of his personal stock of weird and yummy beers. It ended up being too much for me to handle, and I was very sick the next day. Too sick to join Paul and Donnie at our Friendsgiving at Sara and Jason’s house. But it was fun in the moment for sure.

The following week was already the beginning December! It was filled with concerts and treats and a couple of cool days. Paul did excellent at his concert, he had to go as a reindeer and it was difficult to find brown clothing. Luckily his song was a hip hop song, so his oversized camo shirt sort of worked….sort of. 😉 He’s come so far in his concert behavior, from a shy, crying little guy, to a confident dancer and singer. I love the transformation.

The last weekend before break was suddenly upon us, and Donnie was fighting off a really bad respiratory infection. While he stayed in bed and tried to sleep it out, Paul and I ran some errands around Shekou. We went to Starbucks and McDonald’s, hit the international stores and made some cookies! Donnie wasn’t feeling much better when evening came, but he rallied and we went out for a night on the town on Saturday night.

We went to the opening party for the new pop-up location of Bionic in Shekou, and then went to my friend Laura’s birthday party. It was a really fun evening, but we called it quits early because Donnie was still under the weather. Sunday was a low key day, and it was finally the last 5 days before break.

At the risk of becoming redundant, I will say it was another busy week. In Paul’s class, they opened a restaurant. I wasn’t able to get away, but Donnie visited their opening. Paul was the manager, and Donnie said he did an excellent job with making sure things ran smoothly. Since I missed the opening, we made pizzas together while Donnie was out with his staff for their holiday dinner.

We also made it to Paul’s class on Thursday to have a small party for his birthday. This is the first time he’s ever had a school party, and the night before he and I spend about an hour coloring special Paw Patrol cupcake toppers. It was really nice to see him in his class setting with his friends all wishing him a happy birthday. 🙂

And that brings us to our December break. I’ll post separately about all of these adventures. We’re in Vienna now, fighting with jetlag and enjoying the Christmas spirit. We’re headed to see our friends the Sanders tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited. 🙂 Happy holidays! Love to all. J

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