Saturday, April 5, 2014

April 6, 2014- Tianjin.

I had completely forgotten about this blog. It's been almost 4 years to the date since the last post. I may just begin to use it again. Below is a pic of the new waterpark about a half hour away from our apt. in Meijiang. Actually, this is a pic of the construction. As soon as I transfer my tablet pics I will add some more....maybe.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 18, 2010 Spring is slowly coming to Tianjin!

Greetings. Hope all is well in the US. Our Facebook friends keep track of just about everything
and so it almost feels archaic to keep a blog, since it may seem a bit redundant. However, I think for journalling purposes it helps me to be a little but more reflective than just providing snapshot details
here and there.

First, some have asked about support and how we are making it here. Financially, I support our family through my job at TIS. I do not earn a salary per se, but get a stipend for living expenses which is adequate for our Chinese neighborhood.  I am not permitted under law to hold any other job. The way one gets approved to come and live in China is that -in education-there must be a direct need for a company. In my case, I am here on a residential visa which I qualified for because China granted me a foreign expert certificate. The majority of students at TIS are Korean. In order to be a student at TIS they must be pretty fluent in English already. The reputation TIS has is that it is difficult to get into because the English requirement is so high. Our student classes are small and really the school is extremely tight on space. I have to move around and teach my classes in various locations in the building. That is the only real drawback here....I have been blessed in the past by always having my own classroom.

Anyway, this week there is an accreditation visit and no doubt tensions will be running high--but not mine.
I am too new. We are approaching the 4 month mark here. Vince S. flew over last weekend along with Tom from Chuck Swindoll's church. There were a few planning meetings for the English camps that will take place over the summer. This will be the fourth year for the camp and we will be extending it from one week to two weeks. Logistically, it will be better for the 1st through 5th for one week and secondary for the second week.

Aaron went to his first high school banquet last Monday night. He looked very good in his "tailor-made" suit....the first suit he has ever owned. It was made by Mr. Chen's tailor--the same one who came over to the hotel and made all of shirts last summer. Mrs. Chen went with us to create the order.
Andrew went on a planting trees field trip which looked like a photo op for all involved.

Kelsey finished up her play/musical Schoolhouse Rock. She had a great time doing it and she looked great in her orange hair. Master Andrew is taking a little bit of Karate lessons on Friday after school and plays ping pong on Tuesdays after school. Susan's major accomplishment was getting customized window seats created for the living room and bedroom. As Susan stated--the process was a lot like building a sofa...minus the frame.

I have joined the rest of the faculty who decided to form an after school soccer league which plays on Fridays until the end of the school year. Let's just say that it has taken me a full day and a half to recover.
Underused muscles and the aging process equals at least two Advils after every game. But it is generally fun.

I still have yet to buy a bike. I need to exchange some money. Aaron is going to Qingdao (CHING DOW) this week for a few days to participate in a Model UN activity. He gets dresses up and they try to pass resolutions and stuff.

Andrew, Susan and I went around the corner to the Tianjin Zoo a few weekends ago. It was a pretty big walking zoo; needs a little TLC with the animals. Overall, we enjoyed the differences. It was Andrew's first visit to a "real" zoo.


INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN CITY: Aaron is back at the hotel as usual!

                                                       FATHER AND DAUGHTER IN FORBIDDEN CITY

Just one more Forbidden City Picture!



Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 14, 2010

Well, here we sit in the apartment. We have just finished listening to a sermon by DJ and listened to Carl talk about the demon spirits jumping into the swine, from the call in show this past week. Last week we visited Beijing once again—first time for family on bullet train-- and met up with our favorite local pastor and attended the service and sent greetings on behalf of everyone in our cbc family.

Beware of the Ides of March!
March takes on new meaning as the heat officially gets turned off on March 15th. The apt. buildings are fed from central locations controlled by the state so unless it is terminally cold, we must supplement our heat with space heaters, sweatshirts and comforters, I reckon.

Filling in the gaps as time passes

Some bullet items so I can just get it done—things we have done:

  •   Commuting to school daily via bus…but Brian walks home so he can work out-exercise at the Saixiang Hotel.
  •     Susan is shopping, venturing out on her own in taxis. Walking through traffic in prayer. Finding things is her job.
  •   Kids are doing their thing. Aaron did a lock in—so did Kelsey—I lip synched “J” train by Toby Mac on Friday night for the fun of it for the middle schoolers.
  •    Andrew now has a bike, with training wheels.
  •   We will buy bikes soon as the weather gets up to around 50 I imagine.
  •  We have acquired a box freezer, made in Denmark, from the Ogden’s. It now sits in the ping ti and will be used very well by ayi Wo Mae and Susan. I picture it as an ice cream and seafood storage unit. The fridges here are small but energy efficient, so the addition of the freezer feels like home (size of a small dryer).
  • End of 3rd quarter is coming up. Something different here is student led conferences. Parents with translators sit in the conference and show the parent what is good and bad about their subjects via their portfolios. Right after Easter break. Should be interesting.
  • Working in a faith based school here is really dynamic. Character development and small classes with high achieving, highly motivated students and faculty make it a pleasure to come to work. This past week I got an email from a student who wasn’t pleased with his score. Yes!
  •   Of course we miss Beaufort, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. We celebrate with you in Beaufort--the arrival of the new Dunkin’ Donuts. My mother worked at one for a few years when I grew up in Norwood—a  suburb of Philly. She used to bring home dozens of leftovers at the end of the shift—no good ones just those plain ones with the little handle which sold by the name -Dunkin’ Donut. That may explain why two of my brothers ended up in law enforcement.  But none of us drink coffee. Go figure.

Mid February Update 2010

From Spring Break: February 8th to the 21st

FuKang Firework Stand—the big stuff is under cover around the back.

Beijing: Trip to Temple of Heaven
I got to go to Beijing with my friend Peter. The family stayed back and I basically learned how to get to the east train station and take the Intercity Railway to Bejing. We took the bullet train and arrived in Beijing in about 25 minutes. Typically a 2 hour drive by car or van, the bullet train reached a speed of about 326 kph (a little over 200 mph) and the train was smooth as can be and just a great experience. It has the feel of being on an airplane…there are even female attendants who walk up and down the train checking on things and there bottled water is included in the 58 yuan ticket (about $8).  We got off at the South Station and then took the connecting subway to the Temple Fair. This fair was held at the Temple of the Earth, which was constructed around the early 1500s. It is Buddhist in design and the people there in the inner courtyard were bringing their incense sticks and saying their prayers while bowing before each of the 11 gods that were represented. The entrance to the Temple of the Earth is adorned with red lanterns and everywhere you go you see the red lanterns hanging from the branches of the trees over the walkways. The walkways are lined with vendors selling fun things like bracelets, stuffed dolls, masks, goofy wigs, toys—you name it, a lot like a flea market carnival atmosphere. There was even a freak show of some entertainers who put snakes up their nose and whatnot. At least that was what was advertised on the curtains that were put up to block the show from public site. For my east coast friends, it was sort of like Atlantic city without the boardwalk and ocean. To say that the crowd was thick would be an understatement.  

New Acoustic Guitar
Anyway, after trapsing around and checking things out we ended up at Wangfujing where I ended up buying a new acoustic guitar at my favorite Chinese music store—I can't write the name because I don’t have the character translation—so I call it The Music store.

Patrick and Pastor Li and Pastor Li
Peter and I met up with Patrick Li at the subway stop near the embassy row off of line one. Pastor Li, Patrick and his mom were there and they greeted us with Chunjie gifts for both of us. That was on Thursday, the fifth day of Chunjie, which is a special day of additional fireworks celebration which was pretty cool going home at night thoughout Beijing with all of these tremendous fireworks displays. What you would need a permit for in the States is being ignited in somebody’s parking lot out on the street or wherever they can get it level.  Pastor Li drove us to the South Station and we took the bullet train home.

A quick shot of “Ancient Culture Street” which is a modern 
reconstruction of  what a typical Tianjin 
market street may feel like. Kind of like Epcot, touristy, but fun.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Days Going by...

Here is my update for Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Well, looking back this week and being off from work allowed us to do things we haven’t done since we got here. No real tourist like activities, but just normal everyday routine things. Nothing worth noting. We celebrated Valentines Day and Chinese New Year simultaneously. I spent most of my day in bed with sinus congestion. Watching a DVD and sleeping.

Friends and food

We have had visitors to our apartment and have been sharing various cultural similarities and differences with our new friends. I ate my first Tianjin cooked fish from Phoenix’ husband Ling. She said that it was called a hairtail and that it is from the sea. Lotsa little bones but it was cooked and seasoned well. Chopsticks allow you to pick at the fish in a better and more efficient way.

Common food (off of the top of my head) familiar with us in the USA would be eggs, all fruit, milk, Coke and the like, water—only from the tong, not faucet- bread….bacon, seafood and Lay’s products, French fries. What would I like to have? American hot dog….yellow or brown mustard. I can find mayonnaise, ketchup, even thousand island dressing but cannot find mustard, maybe at Jenny Lou’s (caters to expats--expensive imports). We are eating way too much bread, and there is so much good variety, IMHO. Pasta can be found, tends to be a little pricy but you can find it cheap too if you know what aisle to look.

Home Depot Shopping Trip

I almost forgot. Susan and I went to The Home Depot of Tianjin. There is one. Apparently, a company copied Home Depot so well that the real Home Depot bought them out here. It even smells like a HD, signage is also almost similar. I bought some Stanley products like pliers, screwdrivers and whatnot. We also bought 2 lamps and a small carpet….all without language skills. Yippee! I do have a pic or two here.

Merry Water World

Susan and I with Kelsey and Andrew, went to Beijing one day with a hired driver named Jeff to Merry Water World. We went with another family who were in a different car, the Brents. After several failed attempts at finding the place, including some back alleys that were quite interesting, we finally found the place. Everyone must wear swimming caps!

Pre New Years Eve

On Friday night we headed to the Emart (Magnetic Shopping center) to eat at a Pizza Hut. Yes, just so you know this was our first trip to the local Pizza Hut. The only real difference is that they don’t put very much pizza sauce on their pizzas, otherwise you can tell that it is a Pizza Hut pizza. We met up with the Culps—Jeff is my boss—middle school principal—this year. In July, Jeff takes over for Dr. Finnamore as the head principal for TIS and Scott Finnamore becomes the superintendent over all 6 ISC. Jeff bought a bunch of fireworks that we lit up when we went back to their new apartment. The aerial fireworks that you can buy for about $12 are the kind you see at professional displays back at home. The one Jeff lit had about 20 mortars in a rectangular box. Quite the show, but that was only the beginning on Friday night. Saturday night was the beginning of New Year’s Eve fireworks. I will try to post some of the clips on here. I am writing this on my MacBook but will transfer onto my PC laptop where I file my video clips. I just found out that I can't upload video on this blog :(

NEW YEARS EVE: Fireworks as posted in Facebook Click here.(soon)
Monday Morning Feb. 15th

Out in front of our apt building: Selling fish and fruit.
The fruit vendors take over a lane of traffic until they get kicked out.

Anyway, it is Monday morning here and I am fighting sinus problems for the second day. Kelsey is fighting a 102 degree fever. Aaron has a little bit of a throat thing and Susan is fighting a runny nose. Acclimating to the urban environs has had its drawback and hopefully He will help us through these typical hurdles. Tis the season for sickness.

Entertainment and Edification

During the break, I have watched a DVD/ TV series called Wooster and Jeeves, from the BBC back in the early 90’s. Takes place during the roaring 20’s, corny but fun; I had not even heard of it ‘til I found it here. Anyway, I have been listening to Carl on podcasts as well as Alistar Begg. I have also been listening and working on my Mandarin language. I have it on the laptop, on my IPOD and in the streets, as well as with new friends. I am picking up some, and losing some, but after break we will begin formal instruction.

This week ahead:

This Tuesday I am scheduled to Skype with my niece’s Karleigh 6th Grade social studies class. I must remember this! I also have to read for my English class and communication skills class. I am hoping to have a reunion with several of my Beijing friends and that will have to happen after the 16th I believe.

Our Kitchen-Our Classroom!

The pictures below will show you how we have used our kitchen tiles. We use a dry erase marker to
write down our language work and also use it with Wu Mae --our ayi--or auntie!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Ok, I missed an update last week. I think I was just busy in other areas and sitting and writing was the last thing to complete.

Phase 1: Settling in…

We are considered to be in the “settling in” phase of our experience here. It has been just over a month. I think one of the most helpful things in our family experience in the past has been when we have been on vacation and spent time in villas. Those times were actually practice (you know its really hard to write your spouse is trying to talk to you) being in a small area together for an extended period of time. Like writing this blog. I have found that sitting in the living room and writing is beneficial because I pay more attention to my writing because of the clamor that I have to block out. No rugs means that sounds bounce off of walls—acoustically speaking –not good.

Apartment Life

Anyway, apartment living has been our real focus in addition to the school transition. The mid term progress reports were due this week.


Aaron is doing well. He despises art—not because of the teacher, who is a great guy-but because of his interest. He is acing Bible and History, and doing okay in the other academics. Aaron has a few friends he hangs out with and last night they got together to shop for fireworks in the FuKang neighborhood. Tonight he will go to the youth group as he usually does. They seem to have fun and from what I can tell he really enjoys it. In his free time here in the apartment Aaron is on his laptop in the living room. The internet signal doesn’t carry well through the concrete walls and I have to buy a device that carries the wireless into the rest of the apartment.


Kelsey is bellowing right now as I try to continue to write here. Speaking of Kelsey, she is doing an excellent job in her academics and is right now getting ready to spend the day with her friend Josie and Maddie. Josie has just moved to a new apartment across town. So, what will happen is that Josie’s mom Kim, will come over in a taxi and meet Kelsey at the Harvest gate. The Harvest gate is a spot where we have access to the street. It has a guard who sits in his little box and we have to walk though a tiny que gate. We call it Harvest because the Harvest coffee shop is there and that is where I go to English corner every Friday night from 6:30 to 9:30. There Kelsey will get in a taxi and they will probably pick up another friend Maddie who lives in their old FuKang neighborhood. Then its back to Josie’s new apartment complex which is translated in English as Sunshine 100. Kelsey now has a cell phone which is a necessity for independence in Tianjin or anywhere in china.


Andrew has a low grade fever. He is cranky at times. He is on the other laptop right now using SPROUT from Nick Jr.’s website. Andrew has been our TV kid and coming to PRC he has done well moving away from the shows he used to watch. But many of the familiar things are available on the internet. So again technology eases the tension in the adjustment. He does say that he misses Oakley and his cousins and his dog.

Transition accomplishments for this week

Sunday: Spent two hours at China Mobile and successfully set up monthly cell phone plans for the four of us with Peter (met at English corner) who translated for me. Our plan is each one of us has 200 minutes and 300 texts for 50 Yuan ($7) so for 4 phones the total is just about $30. The bill must be paid in person at the end of the month. I can and probably will prepay for the rest of the year just to avoid the paying in person part. Its that or have our ayi do it for us. Part of Wu Mae’s job is to take our bills and basically stand in line for us to pay our various utilities, electric, water, and phone. She is such a big help and a terrific cook. Susan is learning how to communicate with her more effectively everyday. Right now she comes to use 3 days a week. Kind of a Chinese Alice from the Brady Bunch. Where would the Brady Bunch be without Alice? You remember how she would buy meat from Sam? Well, Wu Mae has found us good deals on chicken at cheaper prices, among other things, from a local market.

Monday: Came home from work and went to the local Ren Ren Le department/grocery store to price out a TV set. I went by myself and then got into a language problem so I phoned Peter to translate for me. When I discovered that it would take them 3 days to get the TV delivered to my apt. across the street, I decided that I would not buy there. I then went out via taxi and met up with Peter at E-Mart. E-Mart is a shopping area that is Korean owned. They had a stockpile of the brand and TV I researched and wanted, and I walked out with Peter with a 32 inch LED Flatscreen ChangHong Brand. It costs about $350—on sale because of Chun Jie. I treated Peter to KFC and came home ate and set up the TV. Peter had to leave as it was around 9PM at this point. It took me about 30 minutes to discover what the button functions were and how to hook up the DVD. Some of the function buttons are similar to home and some are not, the Chinese characters are of no use to me as I am illiterate as they come at this point. But by 9:20 PM we christened out new TV by watching the BBC’s Planet Earth DVD series.

Tuesday Night: Ate pizza and watched more of the Planet Earth. This pastime was better than home because we had the pizza delivered to our apt. door. Susan spent her whole day at school helping with data entry for the science fair. She felt useful and Dee & Steve were appreciative. I use Steve’s classroom as my homebase since I teach both of my English classes there. His wife Dee is a high school science teacher.

I had several meetings this week-nothing to write about really. On the good news front, the company endorses the work I have done in Beijing and I may continue to assist with CBC at Kuanjie church this summer. We have also opened up the opportunity to any interested partied here in Tianjin who may want to assist. I think that Vince likes this idea too.
Friday was China day. This is the day when the Chinese staff organize local Chinese activities under one roof and it becomes a celebration of the culture. We have some pictures. Faculty and students are encourage to wear traditional Chinese clothes.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Friday Night Live

One of my 8th Grade English Classes

Some of my students attend the Korean Academy 7 days a week and
will start their homework (for both schools) at 10PM and get to bed by 1AM or so.
No kidding.

I no longer complain that my workload is too much...for a variety of reasons.

The End of the Week.

For the past two Friday evenings I have participated in what is locally referred to as an English corner at the Harvest café, right outside our apartment building here in Jiu Hua Li.

The phrase English Corner commonly applies to informal periods of instruction in English held at schools and colleges in China. These sessions are sometimes led by native Chinese teachers or less often by teachers who are native speakers of English. The emphasis in these sessions is on improving the oral English skills of the participants. Often the activities in primary and secondary schools focus on cultural activities such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas among other festivals and holidays common in English speaking countries. As an informal session the topics can be far ranging. Usually English Corner activities are held on Friday afternoons after lunch in many schools.

Alice (daughter) and Crystal were just a few of many visitors last Friday….small crowd I am told. However, this past Friday, was pretty packed out with a few high school, and mostly college age and working adults who want to meet people and improve their English. The café closes at 9:30—believe it or not—I am all talked out by then….am trying to listen more. We cover a variety of topics and all issues are on the board. Very compelling.

Love to All--Brian