So usually for me, May is the longest and most drawn out month of the entire year. In the previous two years (maybe more) you’ll see several posts I’ve made about this very topic. I was expecting this year to be the same. I was so wrong, which is why I sit here at the end of June making my first post since May 5.
This year, May was packed with events and work. Too much really to expound upon, but I’ll do my best. After our great Korean weekend, we spent the next week and weekend prepping for the Chili Cookoff. It was a bit of a bust and I don’t really want to talk about it. Last year’s was so fun and we were so close to winning. This year we had fun, but it was just Donnie and I, and the judges didn’t seem to like our chili style. We didn’t even place. So we scooped up our damaged egos and headed to the Hilton to swim away our sorrows with Paul. It ended up being a nice way to relax after the stress of the week.
After another blur of work for five days, it was time to celebrate Mother’s day. The past few years, we’ve gone to the Intercontinental in Shenzhen. But we decided to spend it at the Hilton this year. So two weekends in a row, we spent the day by the pool. They upgraded our room because it was Mother’s Day, and the boys spoiled me with flowers. It was a perfect antidote to the stress of work.
It was the start of the third week of May, and I was busy with teaching, curriculum writing, and taking the online PD to become the next IB coordinator at our school. I could barely keep my head above water at work, but luckily Week Without Walls was right around the corner. Usually I would be gearing up to spend the week doing activities with kids, maybe even traveling like I did to Nepal a few years ago. But this year, I was headed to Chengdu for the IBC meeting with the other QSI schools and then to finish up the curriculum that had been eating up all my extra time. I wasn’t due in Chengdu until Monday May 22, but Donnie and I decided to take advantage of the reason to travel, and decided to spend the weekend together there.
The boys flew out from HK and my flight from Shenzhen was delayed, so I didn’t meet up with them in Chengdu until close to 2am that Friday night. So our plans to get up early and see the pandas when they’re most active was a bust. We did gather ourselves and jump in a cab to head out there around 11:30am, and then wandered around the panda research center for a few hours. They were mostly sleeping, some of them even way high up in trees, but we did get to see a momma panda playing with her toddler cub and some red pandas feeding. I would say it was a successful trip and on the way back, we stopped for a late lunch at one of the few craft brew pubs in Chengdu, The Beer Nest. It was ok, and we had the place to ourselves, so we played some family foosball and then headed back to our hotel.
The next day, we slept in and had a big breakfast. The only thing that Donnie wanted to do while he was in Chendgu was eat Sichuan hot pot, so we packed up and headed out in search of some spicy hot pot. We found on online that looked promising, so we took a cab and arrived. There were no English menus, but at least there were pictures. Donnie did the ordering and the waitress actually told him to stop, I think because she knew we had no idea that we’d ordered too much food. I’d never done hot pot, let alone super spicy hot pot, so it was an adventure. It’s basically like fondue, you cook your food in boiling hot liquid, either broth or oil or both. Luckily for Paul, the broth in the center isn’t spicy, so we cooked his food in that. The outer ring was super hot, but soooo good. We washed it down with terrible Chinese beer and walked out happily full.
It was time for the boys to travel home, so we said our goodbyes on the street and they jetted off to the airport, and I got in a different one to go to the hotel that QSI had arranged for me. It’s hard to be away from my family, but I was glad we got to see the highlights of Chengdu together. The week was pretty uneventful. It was full of meetings, social outings and lots of work. I got to try Chengdu street food, a traditional meal, and even some TX BBQ. I had anticipated more down time, but there was only one night that I was by myself, and I opted to get some instant noodles and go to sleep early. Everybody was super friendly, and the grey skies even cleared for the latter half of the week. But I was never so happy to get back to my family on that Friday night.
It was clear and sunny in Shenzhen for the weekend when I got back, so what did we do? Yup, the Hilton again. It’s so quick and easy, and surprisingly inexpensive. I was so happy to be back in the company of Donnie and Paul, and to enjoy the warm almost-summer atmosphere of the pool. We made some friends, and took them over to enjoy a pint at the Bionic Pop-up in Shekou, which was sadly closing that week. We also made it out to Sihai Park on Sunday afternoon for an awesome Sunday Sesh. Paul worked on his frisbee skills with Donnie and some friends while I relaxed in the shade. It was a really fun weekend.
We were gifted a random Tuesday off thanks to Dragon Boat Festival, so we spent it brewing and going to the brew meeting in Baishizhou. Since it was a holiday, it was Paul’s first time to attend with us! I think he had fun playing and hanging out with the crew. A few of our founding members are moving on this summer, so it was a bittersweet meeting with them. One of them is even leaving teaching and going to be the head brewer at a brewery elsewhere in China. Congrats, Kevin!
And then all of a sudden it was June! I couldn’t believe it, and I was still buried in work. I had to finish up all of my projects and pack up my classroom before the end of the year. June 2nd was prom, and I was invited to chaperone, so I dressed up and headed back over to the Hilton to monitor all the shenanigans of the seniors this year. It was actually a really classy event, and aside from sneaking a few drinks before they came, the students were actually really tame. They also all looked great! It was fun to see them all dressed up and celebrating having finished high school. I’ve added a pic from my prom, not quite as cool as these kids were, but I thought I looked good. 😉
The next morning, we were up early and packing for another hotel stay. This time we were going back to the Intercontinental, actually for the first time this school year. Our friends, the Halls, had invited us to stay and play for the weekend as a family. Their family mirrors our own, with the exception that Paul is 2 years younger than their son Connor. It was supposed to be a rainy weekend, but we lucked out with sun on Saturday, and then had a low key Sunday at the indoor pool. The Halls have been our friends for the entire time we’ve lived in China, and we’ve gotten pretty close to them in the past couple years. They are moving on though, out of China and QSI to a school in Dubai. I’m excited for them, but I really will miss having them to laugh with. Our weekend was a great way to spend time together and I am so glad we were able to do it.
The next week was in full swing, when we got some terrible news. We’d have to move out of our house. We hadn’t really expected to get to stay more than a year, but had been told in April, that actually the landlord would let us stay. The house is in really terrible shape, but I had been so relieved at the thought of not having to pack up and find a new place to live. My relief evaporated when we got the news on Thursday afternoon. We jumped right into gear and spent from 4pm-10pm apartment hunting in Shekou. There were so many places that were almost right. One or two key things were wrong, like it was missing two bathrooms, the patio was too small for our brew equipment, the location wasn’t ok, all of these things made us feel pretty discouraged. Luckily, there was a landlord who was willing to work with us on a few of the issues we saw in their place, and we ended up finding a pretty nice place. It’s soooo much smaller than the house, but it’s newer and will be better for us in the long run. However the stress of having to pack and finish the year seemed too much to bear. It was exhausting, but we got most of it done. I hope we don’t have to move again soon (unless it’s to Europe, then that’s ok).
In the midst of all that stress, we were wrapping up the school year. This included graduation, goodbye/birthday parties, and general social festivities to add onto our already insanely busy schedules. I finished up my last hikes with my friend Annie, and continued to run the sweaty streets of Shekou. I also managed to coordinate a pretty killer project for my students in the last week of school during a typhoon. Needless to say, it was a really busy last week of school. One of the highlights was going to Connor’s birthday party at a trampoline play place. Paul had a blast, and I couldn’t help but enjoy bouncing around and remembering doing that as a child myself.
The school year was finally over! But we still had so much work to do on the house. We spent most of the weekend and next days packing and cleaning to prep our stuff to be moved while we are here in Spain. I got most of it done, but it was literally 20 hours of hard labor. Hopefully it all gets moved without much damage.
On Monday (last week) I went for one last training session with my trainer, and then we met up with the Halls for one last hurrah. We had a delicious dinner at Volfoni, and then went for foot massages. It was their last, but my first! It was super relaxing and exactly what we all needed due to the stress of moving. We said our goodbyes and I hope we’ll see them around the world somewhere!
We left Tuesday afternoon to go to HK to get fingerprinted and decided to stay because we were flying to Spain from there the next day. I left the house in as best shape as I could, and I was so relieved to walk away from that. What will be, will be.
We’ve been in Spain now for 5 or 6 days, and have completely immersed ourselves in relaxation. I’ll post again in few days about the first part of our trip, but it’s time to head to the beach now!
Lots of love, j