How I Spent My Summer Vacation

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!


Radio Interview, Charlotte, NCradio pic



Japan…Spring Break 2019

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!  🙂



Thanksgiving in Beijing 2018

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!

Hello…It’s Me!


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!


December 2018

The Christmas Crew. Kayla, Kaz, Yoshi and Jayna
I am not quite sure whose idea this was but since I am officially the outlier in the family (due to my living in another country), I am not sure I got a say! All of us had onesies for Christmas and Kayla took on the job of ordering them for us and included Smokey, our beloved Cocker Spaniel, as well! It was the silliest, loveliest thing we’ve done in a long time!
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Even Smokey got in on the act.  Little did I know, that this visit him would be my last time seeing him.  He passed away in February. Definitely a devastating loss.


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.[2] 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.[3] It is also celebrated worldwide in regions and countries with significant Overseas Chinese populations, including Singapore,[4] Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar,[5] Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines,[6] and Mauritius,[7] as well as many in North America and Europe.[8][9][10]

Chinese New Year is associated with several myths and customs. The festival was traditionally a time to honour deities as well as ancestors.[11] Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the New Year vary widely,[12] 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!


Place where the white dinner was held on our last night in Bali.
Fabulous art!
This arch way lead to our villas!  The name of the place was Sally Villa.
All white dinner.
This gentleman owns a business (cafe) not far from the villa where we stayed.  A number of folks in our group had met him.  He has a book published on his life story.  Tough roots in the UK but has overcome it all to be a successful business man, husband and father.  I wanted the book but he had no spare copies in the cafe.  Amazon…here I come.  He was so delightful and energetic.  Great spirit!  LaTondra is an American as well.  She teaches here in Beijing and also makes her own soaps!
Wall of the cafe!
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People in Bali are very talented..from the looks of these bottle openers…too talented!  LOL Yes, they are shaped into the object that you are thinking… your eyes are NOT decieving you!
Old phone
Very cool sign outside a cafe!
How cool is this old flyer?
We were headed to a temple to see a dance performance and had a chance to admire this beautiful scenery.
Paper Lantern lighting and release.  Rhianna (trip organizer and her new fiancé, Cliff…he proposed on this trip) are next to me.
Nothing like a Pina Colada inside one of these.  Cool and refreshing!
I was showing off my more slender figure…lol
You cannot really see it but around my waist I have an orange scarf tied.  Because we were entering a sacred temple we had to do so out of respect.  If your legs were showing then you had to put on a purple skirt they provided to cover up.  This went for both the men and the women.
The youngster behind me is named Kayla.  She is far more gregarious than the one I gave birth too but she is sweet just the same!
The day after learning my father had died the beach trip happened.  I was there physically but mentally, I was elsewhere.  It was so unexpected and shocking…I was just in a daze that whole time.
The end of an amazing night…and the end of an unforgettable trip.
Yes…this place made me smile…A LOT!


This open area is in the villa where 5 of us stayed.  Breakfast and another food we ordered was brought and served to us here everyday.  This is the group BBQ we had.  The pool was conveniently located outside of me and Tigra’s room, just steps away.
Those flowers kept falling in the pool, so I had to make use of them.
Me and the neon glasses!  There were tons of those glow sticks.  After the BBQ, they were all thrown in the pool.  While it looked good, they couldn’t stay there.  Luckily a few people pitched in to get them out!


Tigra from Texas.  She was my roomie (we”d also travel together to Japan after this) and prayer partner when the news of my father’s passing came in.  She’s nutty but a kind soul.  Definitely keeps me together with her craziness. I am glad we have grown close.  She’s like a daughter to me.
After seeing this woman move these bricks this way…no one should ever complain about heat and working hard in it ever again.  Enough said!
#24kBali BBQ We had a great time!

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Cool restaurant with a pool!

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My room
Dining area just outside our room.
Night view of the pool outside my room.
Kitchen area




See how close the pool is from my sliding glass door?


I was not brave enough to get on this swing!


I forgot the name of this animal but the interesting thing about it is that it’s poop makes for great coffee in Bali.   I would not know…I didn’t try it.
Sunset at the Temple after the Indonesian Dance Performance.


Indonesian Theater performance


The Beach where the white dinner was held.
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…







Scenes from Beijing

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*



A Day at the Parks… Chaoyang Park and Olympic Village


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!


Abu Dhabi/Dubai

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!

The Great Wall of China Camping Trip

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.

The good guys…All American Boys!

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.