Saturday, September 8, 2018

I haven't written for so long I am sure no one is even reading anymore. However, I feel compelled to write some kind of an update.

For the years since returning from China so much has changed and happened!
1) I became a school administrator (a school principal, to be exact).
2) I studied for and received a Masters degree in education
3) Became a farmer! after 3 years of researching and deciding, have finally found a small hobby farm (to rent for now) to raise our own food on.
4) I fell in an out of love with a person I almost married (thankfully found out what a liar he was before I actually signed any paperwork).
5) I discovered I had breast cancer and have since recovered from surgery and recently found out my prognosis is very good and without any radiation/chemotherapy I will have a good survival rate.
6) Also, in this past year, things got really tough after my son was sexually assaulted and developed severe Post traumatic stress disorder in response to the level of violence of the attack. As a result of his illness he has had to be removed from school and is now being home schooled. Of course, to home school your son when you are a principal of a school is difficult so I had to resign my position for this school year. The school division I am working for has been incredibly supportive through my difficulties and offered me a position working from home managing their new home education program.

So I live in northern Alberta on a small hobby farm. I recently survived breast cancer and will spend the winter home schooling my son, managing a new home education program for a school division and researching how to buy and manage animals. I am thinking sheep, a cow and chickens to start. Some people talk about goats and alpacas but I don't know about those yet. My posts will be quite different than my world traipsing posts from before!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lucky me with my tech savvy brother

I'm back!
I've probably lost my 200+ readers after all these years but I've decided to transfer all my data from my blog back to here as there have been some issues with the hosting service for my website. Thanks to my brother for finding the old website! I feel so grateful not to have lost all that data. All my thoughts through 2 years gone. I had fun reliving all of this through all the cutting and pasting and picture saving and re posting!
I look forward to next adventures!

Currently I am on Prince Edward Island, visiting for an entire 3 weeks. I am hoping to go to the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton while Im here. I am almost finished my Masters of Education courses for this summer so after Wednesday I will be truly free of school work for a few weeks.

If there are any readers out there, I appreciate your tenacity!

Tianjin TEDA and administration jobs

I have been thinking about my blog for awhile and feeling very bad for not writing in it anymore. I really should do it more often.
Well, my 5 year old son and I have now been in Tianjin TEDA since August (3 months). I have to say, Tianjin is a way more livable city than Dalian. The food isn’t as good and the pollution is worse but for expats it is easier. You can buy almost anything here and if you cant get it here, you can go to Beijing on the fast train. It takes 45 minutes. I haven’t actually done it yet but keep promising myself I will soon. Today I am going into downtown Tianjin with people who know where they’re going.
I think being a foreigner in a place with lots of expats has good and bad things about it. We kind of miss the China experience here. One of the teachers at my school who also lived in China before calls this place “China lite’ because its more geared towards foreigners here. However, the people here are more educated on average and more accepting of foreigners. Usually. Although every once in awhile you meet someone who absolutely hates us awful, weird foreigner and treats us badly. A cab driver the other day did. Then my son almost got into a fist fight because another little kid told him that he wasn’t welcome here because he is a foreigner. I think everywhere there are lots of immigrants there is prejudice among certain sets of people. I have seen it in other big cities, its just never been directed at me before. (Not that it didn’t bother me, just did have quite the same effect)
The school I’m working in is a bit smaller. This one is only 1100 students as opposed to the one in Dalian,which was almost 3,000 students. There is only one campus so its easier to get around. And my son’s school is right on campus so everything is a lot easier. This year I have a new job though, I was accepted into the administration training program and am in the process of becoming a vice principal. I am starting my Masters degree in January and wanted to make sure that I chose the correct stream. I applied to the Educational Leadership program and before i threw myself into it fully, I wanted to make sure that 1) I liked having a leadership role 2) I would be good at it someday and 3) it suited me. So I am happy to report a yes on all three of those questions. I love admin work! It’s really hard, time consuming and all encompassing but I do love it. Some parts of the job suit me and some don’t, just like teaching. I feel like I’m part of the engine of a school and see things slightly differently now. I feel lucky to have a good principal this year because he’s a good person to learn from while I figure out what it means to be an administrator instead of a classroom teacher. I also have a very patient vice principal who explains things to me when I don’t quite understand why things are done that way.
So the decision is made for my future, I definitely want to become an administrator. However, Im not so sure I want to do it here in China anymore. I don’t think I realized before that women in China, even expat ones, are not treated quite the same as the men. It seems to be a systemic thing, so not something one could effectively fight against. I can’t say much more than that right now, just that it has given me pause to pursue my career down this particular admin path. So right now it’s possible, for this and other reasons, that I may be leaving next year for a classroom teaching job, waiting until the day I get my MEd and qualify for an admin job in Canada on that merit.
SO that’s about all that has happened in the past 6 months. I am going back to Canada in February now instead of Thailand like I originally planned. My son and I miss home and Tianjin was a lot more expensive than Dalian so I dont have enough money to traipse around Southeast Asia on holidays. I am also hoping to be able to work at a temp job when I am back there like i did last year. That could take some of the financial pressure off and also refocus me in where I want to live next year.
Well now you are all caught up! I look forward to comments or questions. I promise I will try to write more often!

Moving to Tianjin! - June 15, 2014

What a month! What a crazy, busy and exciting month. Since I left Thailand so much has changed!
A month ago I wasn’t even sure if I was going to stay in China next year. Before I left for Thailand I was all set to go back to Canada and even had a job lined up. However, once the threat of being dead passed, I felt differently about giving up on living overseas and the challenges it presents. I do not want to go back to Canada and spend the next ten years regretting it because I feel like I wasn’t quite finished with my adventure.
When I got back here I applied for a position at my school as an administrator. I had been working towards that job all year because I knew I was interested’, I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay here. On my way back I had to make a choice: Stay in China and go after a more challenging job or go back to Canada and continue as a teacher. I chose the admin job.
So I applied along with 5 other people. There were 3 jobs available. And guess what? That’s right…I didn’t get it. Well…I talked to some people and it turns out that another Maple Leaf school was also looking for an administrator and I fit what they needed at that school. So in August, I am moving to Tianjin!
Tianjin seems very exciting. It’s right in the middle of TEDA, which is a newer development of Tianjin. Apparently we are 45 minutes from Beijing on the bullet train and only 30 minutes from Tianjin. There is a huge expat community there and that means that it’s possible that I won’t need to only hang out with other Maple Leaf teachers all the time (not that there’s anything wrong with them…they are awesome. But it’s nice to have non-teacher friends too)
I’ve talked to my new principal this week and I am excited about working with a good, solid admin team who has such a clear vision for the school. It all sounds great and I am very happy to have the chance to move up into admin at such a great location with such amazing people.
So…in two weeks I am off to Canada for the summer. My daughter is flying to Vancouver and her, my son, and I are going to tent camp across Canada again. We are going only as far as Ontario this time and then my son and I will fly back to Vancouver before flying to our new city. It’s going to be a blur and I am looking forward to every minute of it.

What is Thailand Like? - May 1, 2014

Thailand is the land of the polite people. What a huge cultural difference from China! People actually wait in lines here when getting on the skytrain instead of trying their best to shove the little kids and old people out of the way so they can secure a seat (Like they do in China). People bow to you wherever you go because it’s polite to welcome someone into your store/restaurant/hotel before you try to sell them something. Same with when you leave…the manners are important here.
However, I don’t know how they manage to be so polite all the time. At times, when sweat was dripping off of every surface of me and my face was flushed from heat and I was tired from being in a new country, I could not imagine how these amazing people could manage to be so nice all the time.
I have a hard time describing this city. It definitely defies pictures although perhaps I’m just not a good enough photographer. There are sex toys for sale on the street alongside the purses and dresses. There are ‘lady boys’ for sale on the street and the men who react badly to them (guess which country those people are from?). Food and drink and toys and clothes are incredibly cheap, even more cheap than China. Everywhere I go, men are trying to figure out if I’m available or not. I thought it was flattering until I was in the hospital, awaiting surgery, and had some old Arab men hitting on me. Gross. (Not the Arab part…the old part and the ‘waiting for surgery’ part). This place is beautiful, it is open, and it is religious. There are the Asian women in short skirts shopping alongside the Arab women who only have their eyes showing in the slits in their headdress (HOW do they manage to smell so good in this heat? I want their secret!) There are religious symbols and places to pray, light incense and commune with God, on every street corner. It is green and lush and yet parts of it has rats and smells like “garbage juice”, as my son describes it. There are gold palaces and temples, vast air conditioned markets and streets packed with people trying to make deals and make a living. There are babies being used on the street corner, begging for Baht (money), used so that the foreigner will feel more sorry. I don’t know how they keep those little kids sleepy all day (actually, I have a pretty good idea…)
There is even more of a downside to this culture too: Sex is everywhere. Now I know I am from a fairly repressed country and that is not healthy either. Usually I don’t judge but I saw a young girl about 10 years old the other day for sale on the street so I AM judging. Shame on the men that bought her virginity and shame on her parents for not protecting her from this life. Also for a culture and country that is allowing such horrors to take place on a regular basis. Also, in the downtown core there are these low-lifes that slink around the downtown core, trying to snare Marks for their various cons and schemes. I’m judging them too.
Then there are the hospitals. Medical tourism is very popular in places like Thailand. Surgery is cheap (my surgery cost $8000 and in Canada it would have been four times that). Treatment is cheap. You can choose one of the international hospitals or one of the street side ‘plastic surgery’ stands. People come from all over the world to access the best medical care in the world. Tests happen fast, doctors are super careful and hospitals like Bumrungrad have built an international reputation on being safe, effective, efficient and good.. However, that being said, when I was in the pre-operation room, I overheard the young woman next to me NEGOTIATING the price of her new boobs. She was pre-op too and I, personally, was terrified. She came in wide-eyed and scared and i was horrified as I overheard this doctor taking advantage. I could not believe she went under the knife under those conditions. So maybe it’s not all good…before she went under…she was still trying to make sure the doctor gave her the right size instead of making sure she came out the other side of it ALIVE.
Well that is the good, the terrible and the ugly. I kind of wish I had been more adventurous on this trip because now it’s over and all I’ve seen are the night market, the cheap (Bargain for it) mall and the nightlife. I have a feeling there is way more. I never did get to see the palaces or the temples. I spent the first week too worried about surgery and the second week recovering from it.

I am so looking forward to seeing my son tomorrow. I do NOT look forward to the familiar challenges of China and the wealth of things I need to do once I get there.
Thanks for reading!

Thailand - May 1, 2014

Hello there readers (if there are any after the terrible way I have been keeping up my writing):
I am currently in Bangkok Thailand after undergoing surgery for a rather large thyroid gland tumour. There have been some tense moments in the past few months, mostly due to that. When I announced I would be going back to Canada back in January, I had just received the news from the doctor that I might have cancer and that leaving the tumour inside me was not advisable.
So I went back to China intent on getting back to Canada and having surgery. However, since then I have discovered that it is faster, cheaper and better to get surgery in Thailand so I came here. What did I do with my son, you ask? Some very kind hearted souls in China have taken him under their wing in a team effort and he has been staying with colleagues and friends while I am away.
Good news first: It was not cancer! I found out three days ago, after the surgery was completed. Right up to the surgery, despite a biopsy, they did not know for sure. They found hurthle cells neoplasm in the tumour and couldn’t be certain if it was malignant or not until they tested the tumour itself.
I must say, this was, by far, the scariest and loneliest thing I have ever done. Travelling to a new country by myself to have surgery…terrifying. Leaving my son behind while I did it…well I don’t even think there is a word in English to describe that. It was awful. Scary. Heartbreaking. It was hard. Nope…none of those words are good enough.
So I have a dilemma and I don’t know how to decide. I have a choice between Canada and China for next year. The offer is on the table now and I have to decide fast. I have been tearing myself up over this again and again for months now. I do not know what to do.
On one hand: I love myself as an expat (free!) and I love being able to give my son these amazing experiences. I would love to bring him to Thailand next holiday and show him monkeys, bananas on trees, palm trees, fruit vendors, the lovely Thai people. I would also like him to see other things in the world and I hate for him to give up his learning of Chinese. This is the last year he could be in the Chinese kindergarten school and it is an opportunity lost. For myself…I would have a chance to get into administrative work in the school I am in. I would be able to learn a new job and even if I didn’t suit it, it would give me insight on schools and education that I cannot get any other way. The people at the school I am in now have been so supportive. People who barely know me took my son in and looked after him. We were treated as though we were family. I feel incredibly guilty even thinking of leaving after all they did for me because they are hoping that I will stay. Then there’s the money thing. I make a LOT more money here in China because the cost of living is so low. Technically…I could end the awful cycle of debt I’ve been caught in for years if I stayed for a while longer.
On the other hand: this other job I have been offered today is also an opportunity that probably won’t come around again. I accepted the job back in January when I thought I might have cancer and needed to have surgery. I am afraid that disappointing them may lead to me losing the opportunity ever again. It’s not necessarily the job I would be losing that bothers me, its the opportunity to have a job in Canada if I ever want to move back. Right now I’ve known that its kind of available and it’s comforting to know I can go back anytime I want to. Also…life in Canada is infinitely better in so many ways. I have a car there, my family is there, I could go running and breathe clean air, etc. Also, the job would require far less hours than what I have to work right now, leaving more time for my son and I to spend together. As for the job itself…it’s working with students who really need good teachers in a community where they accept you as their own once you are there. On the other side of this: China isn’t the greatest place to be. The air and country is dirty. I struggle to understand basic things almost everyday and my learning of Chinese is super slow. Also…this was the scariest, loneliest thing I have ever been through and I do NOT want to be this alone again.
There are a multitude of reasons why this job is good or bad and the same with the other one. It has been an impossible decision so far and now I need to make it fast.
People have offered the following advice:
1) “Do what is best for you and your son.” Okay…no problem. Priorities realigned. Now what’s best for us? Is it learning a new culture and not being ignorant people in this world or is it building cultural capital in my own country? Is it having halloween and Xmas or is it experiencing new places every few months?
2) “Choose the one that makes you feel the most excited/least disappointed”. I cannot use this criteria because how I feel about either one changes everyday. One day Im excited about building my life in Canada and the next I am excited about expat life in China.
3) “Where do you want to live?” I don’t know! Maybe neither of these options are good enough. I just don’t know.
You get the idea.
I’ve tried rolling dice. I’ve tried giving myself a set amount of time to make a decision. I’ve tried almost everything I can think of and I still don’t know what’s best. Neither of them? Both of them?
Anyway dear reader…I wanted to give you some insights into the struggles of expats.

Vacation in Canada - January 27, 2014

We are currently in British Columbia, Canada. Enjoying a month off from work in China. Today I made the difficult and somewhat heartbreaking decision to move back to Canada for the next school year. This has been a difficult choice because I was starting to enjoy China and am extraordinarily proud of having succeeded despite some huge obstacles.
Some of the things I am proud of:
-a year ago I knew exactly one Chinese word: Nihao. Now we know many words and can order in a restaurant, order a cab, and navigate seamlessly around in the country with little difficulty. In less than a year. Months really.
-my son is becoming fluent in Mandarin and I am VERY proud of him. I regret that he will not be able to continue when we move and this was a huge part of why I was going to stay. However, I’m not sure his fluency would stay with him anyway since he is so young.
-We both made it through culture shock! From the first stage of enchantment (which was like being on a drug!) to the second stage of unhappiness and discomfort all the way through to acceptance and admiration. We both made it and I have noticed some big differences in how my son perceives CHina now. He went from crying in the car on the way to the airport to telling me that “China is good. Canada is good. They are both good and bad”. Big wisdom for a five year old.
-I can negotiate and bargain at markets. I love going to the market in our little town and next year I am going to miss it so much.
So why would I want to leave? Well some of it is obvious: the air is terrible and even considered hazardous. It’s dirty and uncomfortable there most of the time. It’s hard to be a single mother overseas alone, especially in a country where single parenthood is unheard of. The biggest reason I am coming here is for a job. I was offered a job at a school that really needs talented teachers and they tried their best to recruit me while I was here.
In hindsight I will laugh at the words ‘heartbreaking’ I’m sure, because no decision and no move is ever totally final. Things in life ebb and flow and change so I know that this decision is really only for 10 months and things will change and I will make decisions through this year. For some reason it felt like some kind of a failure though and I’m not sure why. I was so set on staying in China for another year before i left and to have changed my mind so completely in just a couple of weeks…that is hard to imagine.
Anyway…I have been so terrible about keeping this blog up to date that I thought I would try a little bit today. Until next time!