Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kristin's Kapers go Worldwide

While I have had many international capers throughout my life none of them have been chronicled in this blog. I started this blog originally to chronicle my adventures in Kobuk and when I went to Europe the summer after living in Kobuk, I didn't even think about blogging about it. Then I took a hiatus and didn't publish at all during my time in Nome. After deciding to move to California I began posting again and was really excited last January when I decided to go to Europe this summer because I would blog about my adventures in Europe and I will, but first, I have a big announcement.

This August I am moving to Beijing China!

Yes, I am returning to China. I have accepted a position teaching chemistry at 请华附中国家学校。If you cannot read Chinese that is Tsinghua International School. The school is a grade 1-12 school that opened with a few grades (I'm afraid I don't remember which ones) for the 2015-2016 school. If you google Tsinghua International School you'll probably find our sister school. There are three schools connected to Tsinghua University (one of the two most famous and prestigious universities in China): Tsinghua Affiliated High School and 2 Tsinghua International Schools. The other one was founded in 2008 and is only for students with a foreign (i.e. non-Chinese) passport and mine which is for Chinese students. In the lower grades, the students are taught by bilingual Chinese teachers in a percentage (I don't remember the numbers) of the time in Chinese and a percentage of the time in English. In the high school grades, they are taught fully in English.
In the 2015-2016 school year, the high school only had grade 10. This upcoming year it will include every grade except 12. The school will also not have grade 8 this year.  Last year, all the students took biology. This will be the first year that the school offers chemistry. I was hired in large part to design the Chemistry curriculum and will get to have a say in the books, lab equipment etc.
I must admit I am both nervous and excited. I am excited about the opportunity to really design the curriculum and start things from scratch (the school follows U.S. curriculum and standards and uses U.S. textbooks, etc.), but also nervous because they are just now building the chemistry lab and I don't know what complications will arise trying to teach U.S. curriculum in China.
I'm also nervous, excited and at times overwhelmed with the prospect of returning to China. I am excited about returning to China (after all I chose to accept a job in Beijing). I am excited to visit my Chinese friends again and continue to improve my Mandarin skills. I'm also excited about the adventure of a new school, a new city etc. I'm nervous though because sometimes I feel like while I should know exactly what I'm getting into because I have not only lived in China for 3 years but also have gone back to visit twice (for 2 months and 1 month, respectively), I really don't know. China changes very rapidly and Beijing is very different from Baotou. I think I really will acclimate quickly, but I know there are things that will catch me by surprise.
I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I have to do. I need to sell most everything in my apartment here in California. I need to sell my car in Anchorage (if anyone knows someone looking for a car in either the LA or Anchorage areas let me know). I'm working on my visa. The process for a work visa has gotten a lot more complicated than it was when I worked there before. There are a lot more hurdles to jump through. I took a personal day today to work on accomplishing those things. I think I have most done (I still have to get my physical completed, but after many phone calls I have an appointment for next week). Over the next 2-3 months, I will continue to post with both updates on my China adventure are tales of my other adventures (After all I still have that trip to Europe between now and then).

Great Wall of China at Badaling (I went here with my sister)

This is a picture from 2004 of me at the Forbidden City.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Kristin goes to Disneyland

A little over a week ago I went to Disneyland and California Adventures with a group from school. I had so much fun! It was my first time ever going to Disneyland (I have been to Disney World twice, but the most recent time was 20 years ago - hard to believe my junior year of high school was 20 years ago). One of my students had heard it was my first time and so he brought be his first-time button. I wore it for a while and then I went to City Hall on Main Street and got my own (one of the few things i
n Disneyland that are complimentary). I proudly wore my button for the rest of the day.
Disneyland has a great system now called fast passes. You can get one fast pass at a time. However, what I quickly realized is that you are eligible for a new pass when your current pass is available for use, but you have a one-hour time frame in which to use it. Thus, I (and a student most of the time) would go and get fast passes right before we would get on whatever ride we had a fast pass for. The other great thing is that with the Disneyland app we could check out wait times and the availability of fast passes (and what time they were good for) and make our decisions appropriately.
I got to ride everything I wanted to ride, many of them twice. I think my favorite part was the Tower of Terror over at California Adventures (we had park hopper tickets). The Tower of Terror is basically an elevator that goes up and then in the dark plunges down and flies back up and so forth. On the ride, you're frequently changing directions and free falling. I had just recently been teaching about projectile motion which is similar to free fall (the vertical component of projectile motion is free fall). As a result, I found myself thinking about the physics of it each time we rode it.
We were also able to get tickets for the World of Color show at California Adventure (fast pass tickets, but they don't count toward your one ticket at a time you're allowed to have). Then we decided to go early and wait so that we could get front-row seats. We got them. We were standing right on the edge of the water. This also meant we got wet. The World of Color is a neat show (See the video below) it uses water fountains, water screens, projection, fire, music video, lights and more. When I lived in Baotou (Inner Mongolia, China) they had two parks with nightly shows. One was a water screen where they projected video and the other was a fountain with lights synced to music. The World of Color was like these two combined, but so much more!
World of Color

The videos are of 1) The World of Color Show, 2) The California Screamer roller coaster - note this one might be problematic if you have a weak stomach and 3) a Newsies presentation at California Adventures.