Update on things and Biome Projects

Trip Start Aug 29, 2011
Trip End Jul 12, 2012

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Flag of China  , Shanghai Shi,
Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hello there all,

Welp, it's been a while since I have written anything here, but thats because technically this is a travel blog and I haven't really done any travelling lately! Apart from a trip to Suzhou at Halloween, I have been staying put since we went to Xinjiang. That's not to say things haven't been very busy around here! I have purchased tickets to the Philippines for the Spring Festival holiday in January which I am very excited about. We arrive in Manila on the 14th of January, and come back to Shanghai on February 5th. The plan is fairly loose so far, but the trip will definitely include stops in Donsol during the Whale shark migration, and to the island of Palawan. I will be going with my friends and colleagues Richard (and probably Wes), and will be meeting my buddy Simon there as well. I will eventually post a map showing these places on here. As for the last month since Halloween, we have had many events and incidents here to keep us more than busy. November is always a busy month as we have the BC inspection team come visit the school, and it is a report card month, so those things alone keep things pretty hectic. In addition, we had our schools symphony orchestra have a performance, the school celebrated its 110th anniversary, one of our staff members sadly left us, we welcomed a new staff member, my Science class completed a pretty fun project, we had a darts tournament, we had the Movember and Giving Tree charity events, and one of our staff members who moonlights as a theater stage manager had a performance at a local venue which we all attended. Phew! Lets start with the schools anniversary. 
I regrettably have been making a habit of forgetting to bringing my camera to things lately, so I don't have pictures from many of these events, but the schools "birthday" was a sight to behold. I find it interesting that we are constantly battling to get funding for various academic related items (and functioning technology) and are usually told there isn't enough money, yet the school here can somehow afford to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for an inanimate objects "birthday". Classic China. All about image. Big screen televisions, high end graphic displays, an infinite number of flowers, and hundreds of gifts adorned our school near the start of the month for this celebration (which by the way took place on a Saturday morning and was mandatory for all staff to attend). The schools symphony orchestra played as well as several alumni singers and the performance were indeed impressive. Probably rehearsed during school time for months I imagine. We also got to endure about 2 hours of speeches spoken entirely in Chinese! YAY! As you might have guessed from my tone, I was less than enthused about these festivities. If only they put this much time, effort, and money into things that really mattered. On the plus side, we were each given a gift to remember this glorious occasion including Nanyang ties (still attached to 400 yuan price tags), and commemorative books, and wooden plaques. I would trade all of it for a projector in my classroom that projected something.  On a sad note, one of our colleagues, and good buddy, Craig had to leave us last week. Craig and his wife Kristen are both teachers at our school and have been teaching in China for almost ten years. They have raised two children here and were planning on making this their last year in China. As it turned out, Craig got a job opportunity in Canada that he couldn't pass up, so he had to make the difficult decision to leave. Kristen and the kids will stick it out the rest of the year here and head back to join him after this year. Craig is what you could call the quintessential glue guy. One of those guys who really brings everybody together and his company was enjoyed by all of us. It was a sad day when we all had to say goodbye. Fortunately, before he left we had an epic Darts tournament at a local watering hole that was a really good time. Craig went to a local tailor with all of our measurements and had matching darts shirts made for us (see the picture of a picture) complete with embroidered dartboards and nicknames. I went with Trevy Triple. I unfortunately did no fare well in said tournament, but it was still a great time. Wes was ultimately crowned the victor. This was one of those times I sadly forgot my camera. Richard has pictures though and I will get my hands on them eventually. For now, a picture I took of a picture he took will have to do. This is also the only picture I have with all of us handsomely wearing our Movember mustaches. I think I won that contest at least ;) I can't grow a beard for the life of me, but at least I can grow a stellar duster. While we have lost a great part of our staff in Craig, we at least gain a new member to our staff. Her name is Sara and she is actually best friends with the younger sister of my colleague Daniella. She seems really nice, and I think she will fit in quite well. 
Movember was fairly humorous as usual, we all looked pretty ugly, but our fundraising event didn't quite go as planned. The idea was that each homeroom would donate money for cancer and the classes who raised the most money would get the chance to shave off the mustache of a teacher of their choice at a concluding assembly. Well, the fundraising was somewhat of a disappointment and the assembly never even took place because the domestic program scheduled a singing and dancing competition at the exact same time as our assembly (that was planned a month in advance) and all of our students were told about the competition and told to go to that. Embarrassingly, we went to our assembly hall with the students we managed to convince that we actually did indeed have an assembly, only to find that the doors were locked, and we didn't have a key because the only key belongs to the "key guy". It was shortly afterwards that we were informed of this other event. In China, miss-communications, or rather un-communications like these are common place. Don't get me wrong, in general this school is very good to us, but these type of things are so avoidable it never ceases to amaze me that they actually happen!
Our other event, the Giving Tree, has been going much better. Daniella is the coordinator of this, and it is a really cool idea. Each student in our program and all of the staff are given a bag with a profile for an elementary school student in Shanghai that comes from an underprivileged home. The profile includes information about the child's size, age, favorite color, favorite toy, shoe size, etc. The idea is that each bag gets filled with about 200 yuan worth of school supplies, warm clothing, shoes, toys, etc that will help make the holiday season a little better for these kids. I love it. In a week or so, Daniella and Greg and some of the students will deliver all the bags to the school where these kids attend. I am looking forward to seeing the video. 
To conclude this uncharacteristically long write-up, my grade ten science students recently completed a project for the biome unit of Science 10. The project was to be done on their own time, and brought back to school at the deadline. I gave them a rough outline and told them to be creative, and that they were! I was very impressed. The idea was to make a "Biome Box". They were asked to create a model of their assigned biome inside the box, and on the outside of the box they were to add information about that biomes plant and animal life, climate characteristics, physical features, and location on the earth. Included in this entry are pictures of the students with their completed projects. Very cool!
Until next time, hope everybody is having a good time back home, and Merry Christmas to you all! Will be thinking of all of you this holiday season.

Take care.
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