Typical teacher stuff, right? We make our students either draw or write reflections that tell about what they did over their summer vacation. Well…I figure, I should do something similar since my summer mirrored the past year…lots of fun and travel! This entry may not be in chronological order so bear with me…I will put the dates and photos up just to give you an idea of what was going on, but it may not be in a nice neat little package like you’ve become accustomed to, okay? Here are some highlights…
July…Radio Interview in Charlotte, North Carolina!
Having a name of Japanese origins, it has always been my dream to someday visit Japan. I finally got my chance. Myself and two colleagues, Saskia and Tigra, mapped out a plan to visit Tokyo (4 days), Kyoto (2 days), and Osaka (2 days) within 7 days time. (We were met on this trip by two other colleagues, Robin and Lubna as well. Robin and I would travel to Hanoi together just 3 weeks later.) This is/was no easy feat at all. It required a great deal of planning , subway and trip hopping, but we managed to do it. Japan is vastly different than China…the whole vibe is better, in my opinion. The air is clean, the streets are clean, and the natives are friendlier.
Yes, they sometimes look at us people of color with curiosity, they are far more polite and respectful towards you overall. They even line up in queue to get on the subway; no pushing and shoving going on over there. AMAZING!
Believe it or not, I am the one who suggested we try sleeping in the pods while in Kyoto. I figured two days of bunk style living wouldn’t kill us. It didn’t hurt at all. There is enough space to sleep well. The place where we stayed was really neat and clean. The genders are separated by floor and you have to be quiet at night. Reminded me of a college dorm situation. Two nights was enough for that experiment but I would definitely recommend it. The owner was a really nice lady who had spent some 15 years or so living in the United States.
Because it took me forever to get all these photos on…they are very much so out of order…please forgive me. I will edit and switch things around in a bit, but I figure you guys have waited long enough…next up…photos from Hanoi, Vietnam! I am getting there. Thanks for hanging in there with me! 🙂
My first Thanksgiving in Beijing was rather surreal and low key. Up until I went to the dinner I attended, it almost didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. I suppose those feelings came about as a result of not being with my family for the first time. In fact, work was kicking into high gear at this point and I was sooooo tired I almost backed out of going to this event. Glad I was convinced otherwise! Myself, along with three other colleagues attended this event and it was well organized, the catering was delicious and they even organized some games that helped us to bind at out respective tables. My table of ten people represented some 6-7 different countries. Made for a great night and lots of fun!
It has been many months since I have been here. Not the way I planned it or hoped it would be, but such is the case. Charge it to my head and not my heart. Many of you know when I returned to the US for Christmas all the things I had hoped I would do and all the people I had hoped I would see just didn’t come into fruition. I got sick…like violently ill sick. Like not being able to keep food down, I slept thru Christmas dinner, and was in bed at 4 pm on New Year’s Eve and missed the ball drop countdown, sick. Yeah. It was awful. I suppose that my digestion system is more set up for Chinese cuisine or food preparation, than I am US food now. I have never experienced such illness in my life…so, I don’t have a lot of photos to share from that time at all, but…it was good to be home with my family and friends; my daughter especially. She is so very mature and wise now. She was that way when I left her, but she has come into full blossom since my departure and I couldn’t be more proud of her!
February 2019 Happy Chinese New Year!
Source: Wikipedia CNY History
Chinese New Year[a] (or generally referred to as Lunar New Year globally) is the Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. The festival is usually referred to as the Spring Festival in mainland China,[b] and is one of several Lunar New Years in Asia. Observances traditionally take place from the evening preceding the first day of the year to the Lantern Festival, held on the 15th day of the year. The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February. In 2019, the first day of the Chinese New Year was on Tuesday, 5 February, initiating the Year of the Pig.
Chinese New Year is a major holiday in Greater China and has strongly influenced lunar new year celebrations of China’s neighbouring cultures, including the Korean New Year (seol), the Tết of Vietnam, and the Losar of Tibet. It is also celebrated worldwide in regions and countries with significant Overseas Chinese populations, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Mauritius, as well as many in North America and Europe.
Chinese New Year is associated with several myths and customs. The festival was traditionally a time to honour deities as well as ancestors. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the New Year vary widely, and the evening preceding Chinese New Year’s Day is frequently regarded as an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly clean their house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck. Another custom is the decoration of windows and doors with red paper-cuts and couplets. Popular themes among these paper-cuts and couplets include that of good fortune or happiness, wealth, and longevity. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. For the northern regions of China, dumplings are featured prominently in meals celebrating the festival.
Bali, Indonesia. Chinese New Year Holiday
Just after the New Year, I returned to Beijing, still not my best, but definitely on the mend. I was about 15 pounds lighter, but as they say…the show must go on. I resettled myself in my own space and at work, knowing that it would be only a matter of weeks before another national holiday and another vacation…this time in Bali, Indonesia! This trip was arrange by only 2-3 people who have become great sources of inspiration and information here in Beijing. A group of 17 of us; mostly educators (a few were significant others of the educators). Not many of us knew one another very well. We had networked over the course of time and attended various events that would bring us together (particularly women of color) every now and then. We stepped on on faith …we trusted that we would have a great time on this week long adventure…and we did! Bali is the place to be. Loads of photos! Enjoy!
Enjoying the pool
You would find these arrangements outside of doors; both residential and commercial. They have to be some symbol of good luck and prosperity.
This archway lead to our villas….so beautiful!
This one shot, this one moment probably best described the way I felt on this vacation…even with the news of my father’s passing. I have never felt more free and grown up in my life! A beautiful place…glad I got to see it! Everyone should experience this place at least once. I hope to get back there again with someone special!
February, 2019. The passing of my father Guy E. Braxton and an unexpected trip to Ecuador
The night of my second day in Bali, I got word from my twin sister Yoshi that my father had suddenly passed away in Ecuador. I was in complete shock. I knew over the past few months that he was having some issues with his health. My sister would keep me updated periodically with what was going on. You see, for several months prior to my coming to Beijing, my dad and me were not on speaking terms. Periodically, throughout my 50 years on this planet…we’ve had a tough go of things. It hit the highest level of tough (or lowest level perhaps) just before my departure and I had to make the decision to “put him in time out”. (This was a phrase that we used when we had to sever communication for a bit.) It was necessary and I have no regrets about my decision. Sometimes you just get tired of being tired…even with family members. I am glad he is no longer suffering and I take comfort in knowing that I gave all that I could to him, for us, for as long as I could.
Out of respect, I won’t air the dirty laundry here, but I felt it necessary to share this because it is my blog and his passing impacted my timeline/travel plans, so it is quite appropriate. So, without much more on what was or wasn’t between us, my twin sister Yoshi and I got on planes from our respective locations (she in NJ; me in Beijing) and headed to oversee my fathers affairs and residence in Ecuador. Mind you, I finished my vacation in Bali, because it was economically advantageous to do so. I had previously planned to travel to Vietnam the following week, so I cancelled those plans and booked a ticket to Ecuador. I returned to Beijing for two days, repacked and headed out again. (Thank God for the Chinese New Year holiday…I had two weeks off and subsequently took bereavement leave after my return from Ecuador to recover.)
Yoshi and I met up in Houston, Texas for the long journey over…a total of 3 planes for her and a total of 4 for me… we were greeted and cared for by his neighbors, who in many respects, were like family. They looked after him and his property; in sickness and in health. Upon arrival, we were given that same wonderful hospitality each and everyday. They were there every day, every step of the way assisting us with navigating through the town, interpreting (thank God for my three years of Spanish in high school), running from office to office in order to do all that we needed to do. Here are a few photos of our time in Ecuador… we are grateful for the ongoing support from the neighbors during a very difficult time. Keep us in your prayers…we still have work to do…
One of the last times I would see my father…an oldies concert in Philadelphia. The Ojays and the Whispers. Music was the thing that could bring us together when things were together.
My father…resting in peace. They managed to get him buried before we arrived because they do not embalm bodies in Ecuador. Time clearly is of the essence there.
The sign that greeted us upon our arrival…brought me to tears.
My father’s home…5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms…4 acres or so. His dream home!
The neighbors keep calling this our house…I can’t wrap my mind around it although technically and legally that might be true.
Beautiful scenery at the beach near the airport. We stopped here to eat after finally arriving.
Church in the downtown area
Airport in Manta. We had to fly 45 mins from Quito to this spot and still take a 45 minute ride to the house.
The boys…two of them are brothers…the other a first cousin. The little one is Leo. He wanted hang everyday! Side note…they were out of school for two months starting about the time we arrived. The don’t get summer off…their time off is calculated by farming season.
My dad’s attorney and his wife. This was our last day in the country and we had a number of things to get finished. They were with us every step of them way…even if it meant riding in a cab this way for some of the stops.
The neighbors insisted we take a break and go to the beach. I am glad they did…we got to relax, enjoy the breeze, ate great Mango being sold out there a great lunch too!
Yummy… shrimp and rice made right on the beach!
Leo with a big coconut.
Here’s Leo again!
Me enjoying the day off from handling business.
on the beach.
My father’s front yard.
Getting ready to leave the beach. It was about an hour long ride.
Wanted to ride this horse but he stayed busy picking up passengers.
My ride or die…we managed to accomplish a great deal with so little information and access to stuff going in to it.
This is an ass…don’t be an ass. LOL. Sorry couldn’t resist!
This is a famous Chinese artist who is known for painting tiny intricate designs inside bottles. He sell them at the market and will customize them w names if you want. I will go back and get one soon. He’s amazing to watch.
(L) Robin/Texas, (Back) Tiffany/Australia, Me and Dan the man… field trip coordinator! Lol. This was week two for me at the market!
Meeeeeeeee happy and freeeee
It’s been a while since I have updated this… sorry… work had been kicking my butt for a few months. I have taken some pics that give you a glimpse of life here…my colleagues, work, and play. I look forward to the heading home to the States for Christmas to spend time with family and friends. Enjoy the view! Happy Holidays to all of you. I thank you for your support and encouragement these last five months!
The following scenes are from my trip to Pearl Market (super duper flea market), my first time in the subway with my colleagues, the rooftop of the flea market during my second weekend at Pearl Market and just enjoying time with the great people with whom I work. This cast of characters come from South Africa, North Carolina, Texas, Ireland, and Australia and England. Talk about international , huh?
*click on the photos to get the captions*
Martin the crazy English PE teacher. They hold classes outside no matter how cold it is!
My first subway ride! Matthew is from South Africa… one of the sweetest guys ever! So helpful.
Shopping til we drop.
The hallowed halls of the market.
Lots of deals
Tee shirts galore.
Inside the subway. Not as crowded on weekends.
Subway station; my first time ever!
No straps to hang from,,, fancy plastic hangers for subway riders to hold.
Roisin is from Ireland and Daniel is from North Carolina!
Eoghan (pronounced Ian) Roisin’s beau, also from Ireland, Matthew from South Africa and Nerina, Indian but reared in South Africa
The dancers outside in the freezing cold… newly renovated park next to my building.
Oct 18…we took the entire fifth grade out to see the local structures (buildings and sculptures) to get some information and inspiration on planning and designing ones of their own. It was a great day with lots to see. Chaoyang Park is huge…designed for walking, relaxing, as well as home to an amusement park. Olympic Village was filled with visitors, but nothing close to what could be going on there if there happened to be an actual event going on. Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics…this place will be crazy then!
For the better part of a year, I have been dying to get to Abu Dhabi to visit my friend who lives there…I finally got the chance! On October 1-7, China had it’s first national holiday, Mid Autumn Festival where basically everything shuts down and people enjoy the country and all it has to offer in terms of tourism sites or they opt to leave and go on vacation. I opted for vacation! 😁✈️ Gotta start collecting those passport stamps!
From Beijing, the flight to Dubai is 8 hours long. Abu Dhabi is an hour drive away from there. Boy, was it cold on that plane! I had a cap, jacket, long sleeve shirt and all, but it was like a refrigerator! While much of my trip was rest and relaxation… it was much needed. I work long hours so my body gave in to sleeping late and/or taking naps all week. The temperature during the day was about 90 degrees. So I was happy to work on my final tan of the year! One of the highlights was finding out an old friend of mine from Asbury Park, NJ was there, working for the Embassy! We had an incredible night out together catching up. We had dinner for half price on Ladies Night at a hotel and they served FREE drinks to us as part of the deal! Unheard of!
I encourage everyone to visit this land of opulence… just once. It’s incredible!
Be sure to click on the photo to get a little info!
This is an amazing waterfall in the Dubai Mall.
Outside the Dubai Mall
Me at the Dubai Mall in front of the Burj
Food truck park…amazing
More of the food truck park
Great place with all kinds of food choices
The Burj Al Arab one of the most luxurious hotels in all of the world. 56 floors Although 39% of it is unoccupied space!
Aquarium inside the mall… you can go inside the tank w the fish and sharks!
Ice rink inside the famous Dubai Mall.
Entrance to the food truck park.
The Burj Khakila…tallest building in the world
The Poolside view of two of the three towers where I stayed.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be living and working in China when I began teaching almost 20 years ago. China was never a place on my radar, however, in just this short period of time I am glad and quite grateful for the opportunity to see and experience it. The following photos are of my one night camping trip at The Great Wall… it was unreal. We hiked and climbed the Lakeview Section of the Wall. That took us about 3 hours! After that we had to pitch our tents, eat and try to relax. Such was not the case for many of the kids…they were awake most of the night! I survived my first foray w the “squatty potty” which was fine when the thing was somewhat clean. At least they were private ones and not ones in which you had several in one place, but no partitions as is normally the case w public toliets here. Overall, it was a very surreal and spiritual time and I’m grateful to be a part of this magic.
This long cloth ran for miles on the stairs of the wall. The fabric had prints of footprints on it.
Light at the end of the tunnel as we end our trip.
Jeffrey (on the left) is like me, a NJ native and I can consider him a God-send. He was in one of my WeChat groups ( the way most communication is done here in China) and was quite helpful in giving me solid advice long before I was set to arrive. I knew he worked for the same company, but didn’t expect that we would meet so soon. He came into my building as I was preparing to exit and board the shuttle for immigration and handing over my passport this morning. Typical me, I said hello to everyone in his group that passed me and it never dawns on me that he was the guy from the group. Lol As luck would have it, he reached out later to see how things were going and to tell me he was at my campus for a mtg. I was like, was that you this morning that passed me by ? Lol Too funny! I told him we had to do a pic together and he was gonna make my blog. Lol Good sport…
The second fella is Daniel… I call him Boy Wonder because he got to a Beijing a whole week in advance just to take in the sights and wander around a bit. He fears nothing. He hails from Raleigh, North Carolina and is an Art Teacher in my building. I love his spirit of curiosity and his lack of fear. He just goes…he loves to explore. He is also very helpful to us gals. He is also very funny! Never a dull moment when he’s around. Today he was one of the people w me going to immigration services and the only one of the handful who had to have his bag checked after it failed the X-ray machine. What did he have in it? A tool kit which looked to have a pair of scissors in there as well because he was going to assist another colleague with something after work. Too funny. he didn’t get into trouble, but they held the tools outside until we were done with our business. I tell him there is always THAT one… Daniel with his big heart, nomadic spirit and helpful soul.