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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ESL Book Club

A couple of my students have started reading the book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. They heard about it because the movie is to be released in China soon. They were intrigued by the story & thought it would be an enjoyable way to practice their English.

When I was talking with them about it, they both made the comment that they had never read an entire book in English before, & although they were excited to try it, they were a bit uncertain about their ability to finish the book. Without any motivation to continue reading, it's likely that their fears would become reality.

So I suggested that we create a book club. I'll assign a chapter or two a week, & when we meet we'll discuss any problems they have with the language, as well as what they think of the story. They enthusiatically agreed, & as soon as we decided on a day & time, word spread around the school. Soon several other students wanted to join the club too. One of the other teachers even joined the group just for fun. Awesome.

We had our first meeting today. I could feel the excitement among the students as we introduced the book, talked about the movie a bit, & finally assigned the first 20 pages to read for next week. The most common comment was "Why didn't anyone think of this before?" 

I'm really excited about the new book club. Not only will a weekly meeting keep the students motivated to read, it will also be interesting for me to hear their thoughts on the book - divorce, gluttony, world travel, religion, finding yourself - all topics that Chinese people see much differently than we do in the US. I'm sure we'll have plenty of fascinating conversations as a result.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

10 Things to Consider When Choosing a Teaching Job

If you're thinking about teaching English abroad, be sure to check out my latest post on the GO! Overseas blog which lists ten important things to think about when deciding which job to take.

Here's the first thing on the list:


Do you speak the language of the country where your potential job is? If you’re going to a modern city where there are a lot of foreigners, there probably will be a lot of people there who speak English, and the locals will likely have at least a basic command of the language. But if you’re thinking of taking a job in a small town in the rural mountains of Japan, you can expect to be one of the very few people there who speaks English. Although you might have plans to use the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local language, not being able to speak with anyone at the beginning can leave you feeling isolated and lonely.

There are nine more essential things to consider when choosing a job teaching English abroad. Click here to find out what they are.

What do you think is the most important factor in choosing a teaching job overseas?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shanghai Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Last night we gathered with about 30 members of the Shanghai Vegetarians Club for a tasty Thanksgiving meal. Most of those that attended were not American - there were Chinese, Germans & Canadians in the mix - but everyone had a nice time sharing a yummy meal & lively conversation together.

We hired a local cafe to host the event. We gave them some recipe ideas & they whipped up a tremendous banquet for us. There was brown rice with pumpkin, garlic mashed potatoes, spiced apple cider, & even pumpkin pie. The meal was absolutely delicious, & it was wonderful to be able to spend Thanksgiving with a great group of people.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

This year I'm spending Thanksgiving far away from home, in a country not my own. My family will gather together to celebrate, sharing food, stories & laughter. My friends will spend the day with their loved ones, sharing the warmth in their hearts. They'll watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. They'll eat yummy Thanksgiving food. They'll take naps to the sounds of football on TV. They'll be together & I'll miss them terribly.

Yet I am so fortunate. I am free to explore this amazing world we live in. I have friends & family members that love me across oceans. I live in a city that has nearly everything that I want, & lots of things I never knew existed. I'm learning a new language & getting better at it all the time. I meet interesting people every day who teach me about life & about myself. & I have hopes for the future.

Thank you for letting me share this incredible journey with you.

What about you? How are you fortunate? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My favorite Seattleite is coming to Shanghai today!

Monday, November 22, 2010

10 Things Chinese Students Think About Life in the US

1. The cost of living is low.
2. Salaries are high.
3. Taxes are high.
4. Crime rates are high.
5. There's a good welfare system.
6. You can live in a house with a yard & a swimming pool.
7. You don't need to do homework.
8. You can feel free to do what you want.
9. There are lots of stars in Hollywood.
10.There are many different cultures in the US, so it's easy for people to accept each other.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Elevator Encounters

I step onto the elevator on the 21st floor. It's empty save for a bucket of dirty water in the corner. Where did it come from? Is it being sent down to someone below? Did someone forget it when they got off? The elevator stops on the 12th floor. A little boy about three skips on, tugging at his father's arm. He sees the bucket in the corner, points and says, 是什么 shi4 shen2 me? What's that? His father offers a patient explanation. The boy carries a Winnie the Pooh backpack & sways back & forth as we wait for the ground floor.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Be a Language Learning Role Model

I've just written a new post on the GO! Overseas blog about being a language learning role model for your students. Here's a quick peak:

In China, students see teachers as experts in their field, even if it’s obvious that they’re not. Many of my students tell me that their English teachers in high school told them to say X. Now I’m telling them to say Y, and they have a hard time reconciling the two, because even though their high school teacher is a non-native speaker, he or she is still a teacher – an expert. But you are an expert too, and most days what you say will trump any previous expert’s advice.

If you'd like to read the rest of the post & learn more about how teachers can motivate language students to study more, click here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Expat Explorer Survey

The 2010 HSBC Expat Explorer Survey was recently published. It compiles answers from over 4000 expats living in 25 countries about their lifestyles, including topics like finances, social ties and family life. It’s an interesting – albeit simplified – view of life as a foreigner in various countries.

One thing that caught my attention was that the biggest concern for all expats was being able to establish a social life in the new country, & that women more than men worried about making local friends.

Here’s the summary from the report:

Moving abroad can understandably be daunting for any potential expats and this year’s report reveals that emotive worries cause much greater concern than practical issues. The most common concern for expats ahead of moving to their new country is re-establishing a social life (41%), feeling lonely and missing friends and family (34%).

The same worries are also much more prominent for female expats. Nearly half of female expats surveyed (48%) shared concerns about re-establishing their social life in their new country, compared to only 37% of men and 44% of female expats shared concerns about missing their friends and family, compared to less than one third (29%) of men.

This was definitely one of my main concerns when I was getting ready to leave the US. I was worried about leaving my friends behind, knowing I would miss them terribly. I made sure I saw everyone at least one last time before I boarded the plane to Vietnam. I hugged them tight, tears slipping down my cheeks as I finally said goodbye.

Once in Vietnam, I found that it was difficult to make local friends. Try as I might, my American friend-making approach just didn’t work there. Vietnam is not included on HSBC’s survey, but if it were, it would probably be near the bottom of the list for “Local Integration”.

China as it turns out ranks 17th out of 25 countries for ease of integration with the local population, which is also rather low. In the ten months that I have lived in Shanghai, I have made one or two local friends, but our relationship is not close. Again, I’ve tried everything I know to meet locals & form friendships, but I haven’t quite cracked the friendship code here yet.

One thing I have discovered, though, is that people see friends & friendships differently here in China than we do in the US. Back home, my friends are people that I like, people that I want to hang out with, go to a movie with or have a drink with after work. They’re people I respect & admire, who are my role models & my inspiration.

In China, on the other hand, friends are seen as people who can help you, people who can introduce you to business associates or boyfriends. They’re not necessarily people that you like, but they have been your friend since you were a child. The ties are strong, enduring & often unbreakable.

So it’s difficult to make local friends in China because friendship is just different here. Chinese people don’t seek out new friends once they become adults – they have enough of them already – which means the foreigners who come here tend to spend a lot of time with other foreigners.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bored Laowai

I’ve been reading Rachel DeWoskin’s Foreign Babes in Beijing, about her experiences working on the set of a Chinese soap opera. She tells her story with wit & charm, & I find myself smiling & nodding as I read because her story is more about life as a foreigner in China than about being a soap star, & I can relate to a lot of what she says.

I was sitting at Starbucks on my day off, quietly chuckling to myself as I read her take on conversations with other foreigners:

Expatriate small talk ran a predictable gamut. There was “How long have you been in Beijing?” usually accompanied by the subtext “I’ve been here longer.” Or the more direct “How is your Chinese?” which carried with it the thinly veiled “Mine is better.” Finally, I dreaded most the “What are you doing in China?” and my embarrassed response that I was working in public relations.

I’ve had this same conversation with countless foreigners. Of course I substitute “teaching English” for “working in public relations”, but I feel the same condescension from other expats as DeWoskin did.

It seems that if you’re teaching English in China, you’re considered an inexperienced newbie, fresh off the fabled boat. You haven’t yet found something more worthwhile to do – like starting an import-export company or opening a bar where you can hire karaoke bands & flirt with the locals.

As I sat at Starbucks sipping my coffee, Christmas music wafting through the sound system, a gingerbread cookie warm in my belly, a good-looking guy, 50-something, sat at the table next to mine & pulled out his MacBook.

After a few surreptitious glances in my direction, he leaned over & asked me what I was reading. I showed him the book cover & he said, “Oh… Isn’t that a bored laowai (foreigner) book?” What do you mean?, I asked. “Isn’t that just like every other book about China – you know, with stories about taxi drivers & street food?” I thought of my blog & quickly looked away.

The cloud I had been soaring on because I had found a book that understood me slowly drifted back to earth & deposited me there. How embarrassing to be called out as the newbie that I am. I pretended to continue reading, but couldn’t stop thinking of what he had said.

I’ve been in China for less than a year – a newbie indeed. But for me, most of the joy of living life abroad is the newness of it – discovering things that are different from home, & gaining a new perspective on my own life while I’m at it.

Perhaps what’s really regrettable is getting over that feeling of excitement & wonder – to lose that feeling of inexperience in a foreign country. My friend at the coffee shop may be a “bored laowai” who knows more about living in China than I do, but at least I can still appreciate the taxi drivers & street food. I think life in China is fascinating, & I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

China Census 2010

I trudged home after a long day at work. It was dark outside & the hallways in my apartment building were dim. I got off the elevator, climbed the last flight of stairs, & turned the corner toward my apartment.

Suddenly a man appeared out of the shadows speaking to me in Chinese. I was startled at first, but then remembered that in China stalkers & rapists are not likely to be lurking outside my apartment door. I didn't understand what he was saying - & I was tired - so I gave him my standard "I don't want to talk to you" answer: 没有 mei2 you3, Don't have.

But he was persistent. He approached me with a clipboard & an ID badge slung from a lanyard around his neck. It looked important. I finally took a look at his creditials & discovered that he was from the China Census Bureau, & he wanted to count me.

He asked for my passport & handed me a short form in English to fill out. I explained to him that my family name came last (in China, your family name is first), & told him that I was an English teacher. I signed the form, he thanked me, & I waved to him a friendly 再见 zai4 jian4, See you again.

Apparently, the Chinese government is damn serious about this year's census. They've sent six million people door to door trying to get the most accurate count possible of the Chinese population - & they think they can get it all done in two weeks.

I don't know about the other 5 million some-odd census volunteers, but my guy was on the ball. He didn't take no for an answer & he got the job done. Perhaps for the first time in history we'll know how many Chinese people there really are.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


We’ve all heard of the concept of “face”, that all-important facet of Asian society, which must be protected at all costs. When we hear about this “face”, we often think of it as something unique to Asian culture, which we have to make a special effort to respect if we ever visit an Asian country. Even the Vietnamese & Chinese people that I have met seem to think that “face” is an idea that is exclusive to the East.

But really, there is nothing distinctly Asian about “face”. We all want to protect the image that we show to the public, no matter what country we’re from. No one likes to look stupid or feel embarrassed in front of others – that’s a universal sentiment. We all want people to think we’re nice or generous or badass, & none of us wants that public image to be tarnished.

Everyone has a persona that we show to others, our various masks – or faces – that we put on & take off depending on who we’re with. At work I put on my “teacher” face – I’m responsible, organized, & knowledgeable. When I’m out with friends, I put on my “friend” face – I tell jokes & laugh easily, & I try to be accommodating. When I’m with strangers, I even have a “stranger” face – I’m kind & considerate without being invasive. These are the “faces” that everyone has & that everyone tries to protect.

If you trip & fall in public, how do you feel? That’s the feeling of losing face. If you make a big mistake at work & get fired, you feel embarrassed, ashamed, & rejected. That’s what it feels like to lose a lot of face. It’s the same the world over. In Asia they call it “losing face”, in the West, we call it “feeling stupid”.

Just like in the West, losing face – or looking stupid – in Asia is not such a big deal. You might make mistakes, as everyone does, but you & everybody else soon get over it & move on with your lives.

So why do we use this word "face" when we talk about being embarrassed in Asia? Probably because there's no one word in English that describes it as concisely - the English language is known for borrowing words when it doesn't have its own that are suitable. But no matter what you call it, we all have it & we can all lose it occasionally.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dear Monkey!

I just finished reading the famous tale of the Monkey King. What a great story!

I first heard of this mischievous creature when I lived in Vietnam, where the story was played over & over again on Vietnamese TV. At the time, I didn't know what it was all about, but after I moved to China, I found out that it's a well-known Chinese tale. Everyone in the East knows who the Monkey King is, just as everyone in the West knows who Cinderella is. So I decided that since I'm living in China, I should try reading it.

However, the story was written in the 16th century, & is more than 1000 pages long in PDF form (!), so I was hesitant to get started on it. Luckily, one of the other teachers at my school came to work one day with a copy of the story in a 350-page novel. Now that I could handle.

The book is a 1942 abridged translation of the story by Arthur Waley, the most widely available version of the tale in English, & was a surprisingly quick read. The story is full of the adventures & misadventures of the Monkey King & his companions as they travel 108 leagues (a lucky number) from China to India to retrieve the holy scriptures of Buddhism. In the end, the Monkey King reaches enlightenment as a result of his efforts.

The story is entertaining, with lots of action (fighting off dragons & the like), along with some crazy magic (Monkey can pull out one of his hairs & turn it into anything he wants), as well as a little bit of humor (they hide some Taoist idols in the outhouse). But my favorite part, at least of this version of the story, is that Waley says "Dear Monkey!" every time Monkey is about to do something amazing. Ha!

Have you ever read this story before? What did you think of it?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living Simply is Not Simple

I'm discovering that it's way too easy to accumulate things.

I've been trying for a while now to reduce my possessions to a manageable amount, so that I can be free to travel around the world without the burden of stuff. But somehow more stuff just keeps appearing, cluttering up my space. My consumer habits have been surprisingly difficult to change, even though I really want to change them.

When I left the US, I had four different yard sales to get rid of all the stuff that I couldn't take with me on my journey. A lot of it was just junk that I had accumulated over the years, but it was still difficult to decide what to get rid of & what to keep.

The process was like peeling an onion. At first, I went through my house & found lots of things that I didn't use or didn't need & got rid of them. Once all of that was gone, I started to see more things that I could live without. Another pile of stuff formed. With that gone, yet more stuff presented itself as needless.

Perhaps as I went through the process of getting rid of things, my attitude toward my stuff started changing. What I thought I needed at the first go-round didn't seem so essential when I looked at it a second or third time. It was fun - scary, but exciting to let go of things, to test my own limitations, to find my boundaries - & I found that those boundaries kept changing as I peeled the onion.

After the Great Purge, I moved to Vietnam where I taught English. When I left there after seven months, I also left a mountain of stuff behind with one of my Vietnamese friends. She was astonished to see how much I was leaving with her - & so was I. Another layer peeled.

Now, after ten months in Shanghai, I look around my apartment & see lots of books, clothing, & other miscellaneous items that I didn't have when I arrived here. I don't have as much extraneous stuff as I did when I left Vietnam, & nowhere near the amount that I had when I left the US. Still, how is it possible that I've acquired so much in such a short time?

I really want to live with less stuff, but I find that it's just not that easy to do. I buy a stack of books, telling myself that I will be able to read them all before I need to move again, so it's okay. Then I do the same thing with something else - that cute sweater in the shop window (it's going to get cold here soon), or the colorful handmade shoulder bag (I need something to carry all those books in). It's so easy to add more things to the pile, especially if I stay in one place for a while.

Living simply just isn't that simple to do, but I haven't given up trying. It's a lengthy process extracting myself from under the pile of stuff. I'm still working on it, one layer of the onion at a time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Learning a Language with Lang-8

I just discovered a great language learning tool!

Lang-8 is a cool website where you can post your writing in the language that you're learning (whatever it is), & native-speaking members will make corrections for you. The best part is that it's totally FREE!

I've been writing on Lang-8 for a couple of weeks now, both in Chinese & Spanish, & have gotten a lot of great feedback from other members on the site, which I can use when I'm writing future entries. If you're curious, you can see what I've been writing here.

It's a lot of fun to try to write something in Chinese. It helps me step out just beyond my comfort zone, which is important for language learning. & I get almost immediate feedback on what I write, when it's still fresh in my mind.

It's also interesting to be writing in Spanish after almost a year & a half away from it. I miss speaking Spanish, & it's interesting to see the mistakes I'm making now. This is a great way to get back to using the language on a daily basis while interacting with native speakers again.

You may be thinking, "I wouldn't know what to write." Don't worry - you can write anything you want. Even if you just write something short, like what you had for breakfast, it's fine - & people will correct you!

You might try writing something as long as a college essay if you're so inclined. However, I've found that I prefer to read & make corrections on other people's writing when it's shorter. It's much easier & more interesting for me to manage a short writing than trying to read a long essay.

But really, it doesn't matter what you write, just that you're writing in the language that you're studying. It's up to you how you practice.

Here's my entry on Halloween in Chinese:

Once it's posted, other members on the site will read & correct it - for FREE! Sometimes there are differences of opinion, so more than one person will post a correction, which helps you understand even more how the language works.

It looks like I made a few mistakes on this one. The corrections are here in red.

Of course, it's a community of language learners, so you can pay back those that help you by making corrections on whatever they write in English. You might even make some friends while you're at it. I've already "friended" several people who live in Shanghai through the website. Maybe one day soon we can get together for a face-to-face language exchange.

Go try it & tell me what you think!

(By the way, I don't work for Lang-8, nor do I get any compensation for saying how awesome they are.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010


You may have noticed that I've been posting current photos of the view from my apartment at various times of the day on the left-hand side bar (<-- over there). If you are reading this post on Facebook or through an RSS feed, you can click here to go to my homepage to see the latest photo posted every couple of days.

Check out the one I took this morning. This is probably the worst smog I've seen since I arrived in Shanghai in January. Some people say that now that the World Expo is over, the government won't be cracking down so hard on the factories, & whatever semblance of clean air that we enjoyed over the summer will be a fond memory.

The Shanghai government lists the air quality records here. Notice that the day after the Expo closed (Oct 31), the stats for nasty chemicals in the air shot up from about 50 to over 150. Doesn't that make you feel good about driving that hybrid you just bought?

Friday, November 5, 2010


Thanksgiving 1985

I live in China – Shanghai. It’s been a year & a half since I left the US, & I usually don’t really think about the fact that I live in another country. Daily life here is pretty much like living at home – going to work, grocery shopping, hanging out at the coffee shop.

But sometimes I get homesick. Like today. It’s the start of the holiday season at home, my favorite time of year – that time between Halloween & New Years when the air cools & the heart warms. It’s a time when I get to see my friends more often, when I travel to see my family, when I eat pumpkin pie & ginger cookies, when I share love & good times with those that are important to me. But this year I’m spending it here in Shanghai, among people who don't understand my nostalgia.

This is my paradox. I’m so fortune to be able to experience living in another country, & I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Really. But I still miss my home, especially during the holidays. It would be so nice to have both worlds in one place. Or that teleportation device I keep talking about. Now that would be perfect.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


You may remember that I love books. When I was getting rid of all my stuff so that I could be a world traveler, the hardest part of it was giving up my books. Even after several yard sales & book donations, as I was getting ready to go to Vietnam, I packed one entire suitcase full of books. Of course, that suitcase was way over the airline weight limit, so I had to leave most of those books with my brother at the airport in Los Angeles.

In Vietnam it was really difficult to find books in English. For weeks, I read & re-read the five books that survived the book purge at LAX. I felt like I was wilting without mental nurishment - I needed more books! One of my happiest days in Vietnam was the day I got a package from my friend Debra filled with dozens of books. She knew exactly what I needed.

Here in Shanghai, it's much easier to find books in English. There are several foreign language bookstores in the city with a wide variety of current titles. However, those books come with Western prices. The average novel costs around 200 RMB (about US $30), & since I go through so many books, that's out of my price range.

Instead, I prefer to buy books from the copy book sellers that show up on the street corners at night. Their offerings are much cheaper at around 20 RMB (about US $3) each, & they're surprisingly high quality printings - you have to look close to even tell that it's a copy. But there isn't much variety on the book carts. I can normally only find one or two books there that I want to read. The rest are usually how-to books about business & marketing. Yuck.

So I was excited to stumble across Shanghai Secondhand. They buy & sell everything an expat might need, from furniture to pots & pans to bicycles - & they have tons & tons of books!

The day that I went there, I realized that the address was someone's apartment. I called to confirm the location, & the owner Jane said to come on up. She kindly showed me into her home, & when I told her I was looking for books, she pointed around the corner to a room where she had three tall bookshelves filled with books in English. What a sight! 

By the time I was finished looking through her collection, I had made a tall stack of books to take home with me - 16 in all, including Foreign Babes in Beijing, which I've been looking for for a while now. The total bill came to 340 RMB (about US $50).

I should be good on books for a while now, but if I finish all of these too quickly, I know where to go for more.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Poll Results: Where Next?

The poll is now closed & it looks like New Zealand is the winner!

The race was neck & neck there for a while, with Argentina in the lead at the beginning of the month, but it eventually slipped back into third place with a tally of 14 votes. Surprisingly, Indonesia came in second with 18 votes. Perhaps you were thinking of visiting me in Bali? But our winner, New Zealand, garnered 26 votes, a comfortable lead ahead of the rest.

Thanks to everyone who voted. I'll start researching job possibilities on the Kiwi Islands. I hear they have lots of Chinese immigrants there who need to learn English. Maybe my experience in China will give me a leg up.

Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

World Expo: That's a Wrap

The Shanghai World Expo came to a close on October 31st. There was a big to-do that was broadcast on all the TV stations & in public areas around the city with dancing & singing, & foreign dignitaries offering Shanghai congratulations on a job well done. It was all pretty typical for a closing ceremony. Now that it's done, I think I speak for almost everyone when I say, thank goodness that's over with.

In the six months that the Expo was open, I went twice, once by myself & once with my parents. The first time I went, I was excited to see all the countries' pavilions - the architecture of the buildings & the displays inside each of them. I had visions of taking a mini world tour right here in Shanghai, & I think that's what it was originally intended to be.

But then the people came - millions of them. We're in China, after all. They came from far & wide, pushing & shoving their way to the front of the line so they could get a stamp in their Expo passports.

Many people had stacks of ten or twenty of the passports, which they took to as many pavilions as they could, sticking out their elbows to keep their place in front of the stamping stations. Some of my students said that the people with bundles of passports would probably then sell them to those who couldn't afford the 160 RMB (about US $25) ticket price to go to actually the Expo.

Amid all this stamping & stomping, no one seemed to be looking at any of the pavilions themselves. They snapped a quick photo - look, I'm in front of the Qatar pavilion - & then hurried on to the next building to get another stamp.

The only pavilions that people seemed to take notice of were those with 3-D movies or acrobats flying through the air. People wanted entertainment & they were willing to wait in line for hours to get it.

Throughout the six month run of the Expo, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia & Japan consistently had four-hour wait times to get inside. I couldn't imagine what could be inside those pavilions that would be worth waiting half the day for. What's so special about 3-D movies & acrobat shows? But many Chinese people have never seen any of those kinds of spectacles, & the Expo was likely their only opportunity to see anything like that first-hand.

Instead of waiting in those crazy lines, I chose to visit the pavilions with no wait time at all. I saw the displays at the Maldives, Timor-Leste, & Kyrgyz Republic pavilions - all very low-key but interesting nonetheless. I was happy to casually browse their exhibits & be away from the mad crowd.

That first time at the Expo, I spent about seven hours walking around & visiting pavilions with no lines while the rest of the crowd waited hours to see the bigger-than-life baby inside the Spanish pavilion. I went home exhausted but satisfied with my visit. I can't imagine how those people felt who waited in line all day.

My second time at the Expo, I went with my parents who were here in Shanghai visiting me. My dad had the idea to just go & walk around looking at the buildings & the people rather than trying to shove our way inside any of the pavilions. What a great idea! The weather was perfect that day - the sun was shining & the temperature was pleasant. We spent the morning strolling around the Expo site & didn't have to deal with any of the crowds because they were all waiting in line.

When I ask other people about the Expo, "How'd you like the it?", they invariably answer something like, "It was okay - crowded." But I wonder if you could ever have an event like this in China that wasn't crowded. I mean, there are people everywhere here. It's too bad because it had such potential to be great.

Or maybe it *was* great. It gave millions of people the opportunity to see something they would never otherwise see, & it brought a lot of attention & investments to Shanghai. China is growing by leaps & bounds, & the Expo was just a small part of the bigger picture.

Monday, November 1, 2010

EF Halloween Party

This weekend we had a Halloween party at my school. Over 100 students showed up, many of them in Halloween costumes. We played traditional games like musical chairs & tug of war, we carved pumpkins & wrapped each other in toilet paper to see who could make the best mummy. It was loads of fun!

I was surprised at how the students really got into all the festivities. Halloween isn't celebrated in China, & most people have just a vague understanding of what the holiday is about. But I guess you don't need to know the history of Halloween to dress up in a crazy outfit & walk around wrapped in toilet paper. That's just plain fun no matter where you are.

This is a pretty creative Jack-o-Lantern for a group of first-time pumpkin carvers.