Sunday, June 29, 2008

We're Home Again!

It was with great sadness and great expectations that we left China to go back to our home in Arizona.  We will sorely miss the wonderful people we Coming Home 154met during our year there - the good friends we made, the hardworking students we taught, and all of the people that helped us and looked after us so well!

Flying over Prescott, and later, driving around and doing some shopping, the first thing I noticed was the complete lack of PEOPLE!  True, it was a Sunday night, but I drove to the grocery store on nearly deserted roads, and saw perhaps 20 other people shopping in the local Fry's store - so BIG and CLEAN!
What a pleasure it was to get into my sparkling car and drive around listening to a radio Coming Home 151station playing a song whose words I knew!  The few cars I did see obeyed the traffic laws and of course no one honked!  I bought a few supplies, and although being able to read the labels was SO CONVENIENT,  I found I also missed the challenge of searching for what I wanted.  I felt completely anonymous as I relished using the automatic checkout kiosk, paying with my debit card instead of wads of cash. Not a single person stared at me.

When we walked into our house, the first thing that struck us was that it was SO BIG!  For a year, the 5 of us lived in a space that is about the size of our master bedroom and bathroom, and by the end of the year, it seemed completely normal!  We laid on our BIG COUCH - one that can easily hold 5 people and laughed about the tiny sofa in our Chinese apartment that we had always sat on "cheek-to-cheek".
We stayed up until our normal bed-time in Prescott to catch up to our new time zone - finally going to bed after getting up 31 hours earlier in Hangzhou.  I opened the window, turned out the lights and climbed into my soft bed, listening to a few crickets chirp outside - what a delight!  We heard no honking, unmuffled engines, shouting in the street, building construction, or distant celebratory fireworks - just quiet!  Though we will miss the frenetic pace of China, the peace and blue skies of Prescott are a wonderful welcome home.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Patriotic Haircut

I couldn't post this earlier because Jack wanted to surprise our family back in the U.S. with his new haircut.  Also it took me a couple of days to get my internet service re-established.  In a previous blog, you may remember a little boy who had "2008" and the Olympic Torch cut into his hair.  This gave Jack the idea to do a US theme with his own hair.

First, getting the flag cut into the back...
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... and of course "U S A" cut into the top of his head.
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Lookin' good there, baldy!
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Now for the dye...
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Some of Sue's students, who came to the barber shop with us to help with translation...
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The flag is complete!
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... Now here's Jack with Sue's students - with his new 'doo.  Ready to come home!
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Goodbye to Jiliang Campus!

On Thursday, I gave my final and turned in my grades!  Friday we had a final visit to campus where we said our goodbyes to our friends and students.  The boys are very popular with the students as they don't have much chance to interact with foreign children.  Here we are with some of my students.

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Jack and Peter with two of my students, Sarah and Anna...
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Overall, we had such a wonderful time at Jiliang University.  We met so many wonderful people and we will miss all of our students! 

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sophie's Goodbye Party

It has been a week of goodbyes, and one of them was completed today at Sophie's preschool.  We stopped on the way there to get a cake for 35 little squirts and of course a milk-tea for the boys.  Peter and Jack posed for me in front of the milk-tea store.

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We made it to the school, and Sue, Peter and Jack took their place of honor with Sophie, who was ready to hand out cake to all of the children.
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Here's one of Sophie's teacher who's a real joy.
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A view of the cake, before it was devoured.  With 35 kids in the class, and 4 teachers, not a scrap was left!
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Peter and Jack were LESS THAN THRILLED to be at a 3-year-old goodbye party, but we made them go anyway.  This is one of those "Smile or I'll smack you" pictures :) 
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Sophie served cake to all of her classmates.
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Finally, Sophie got to enjoy her own.  Yum!
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Here are Peter, Jack and Sue with all the 2 teachers and 2 helpers for the classroom.  Sophie will miss them!  So will we!
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Sophie has had such a great year at this kindergarten.  The teachers have been so lovely and patient with ALL OF US and our limited ability to communicate.  They have also taught Sophie a lot of Chinese, and now she plays in Chinese as well as English.  Sophie will miss all of her Chinese chums as well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hangzhou Rock Garden

While I finished up the last of my classes today, Sue took the boys to the Hangzhou Rock Garden with our friend Laura.
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Jack loves taking close-ups, as he took of this flower...
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Sue enjoyed this small field of purple flowers.  I'm sure some of you botanists out there can tell me what they are, but I have no idea!
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Some scenic views at the edge of West Lake...
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Jack caught this caterpillar on the edge of a leaf. 
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... and another shot without the flash.  A dramatic difference!
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Wandering the rock garden paths...
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And here are the boys afterwards with our advanced Audio-Visual system.  My laptop and a couple of pairs of headphones. 

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And finally, one more leach picture that Jack took at Tian Mu Shan. So Cute!
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We are packing up our apartment now and trying to fit everything into our bags - what a mess!  It's amazing that in a few days this giant pile of stuff will fit into just a few bags!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tian Mu Shan and the Leeches

The graduate department of our university put together a wonderful trip to Tianmushan, a mountain nature preserve that has two peaks approximately 1500 meters high. The department arranged a bus and allowed me to fill it with some friends and past students.  Here we are:  Amery, Chris, Peter, Tim, Anita, Sophie, Rebecca, Jack, Sue, Danny, Lisa, Sarah, Jenny, Vincent, Sara and Blue!

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Xiao Zhou has been so great all year - I send him all of my copies via email every week and he has them printed and ready to go for me every Tuesday morning!  I feel quite spoiled as all of the other teachers have to make their own copies.
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Sue, with my student Lisa, a 2nd year law student.  Since this is a preserved area, there are many large trees and it is SO green!  It was also very hot today, probably 90 degrees, and cloudy.  Very humid and warm!
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Sue found some sort of chrysalis from some long gone resident.  We saw these all over the place, and the forest was abundant with butterflies.
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Maybe this fuzzy fellow will build one too!
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Xiao Zhou, and another one of my past students, "Blue".  I think she always wore blue in my classes, but today she wore red!
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Peter and Jack took a break and hung out by one of the many waterfalls we passed on the way up the mountain.
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"Sara" and "Lisa", two of my law students...
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Peter and Jack talked to Chris, who is studying for his masters in Precision Measurement.  He is also a very fast runner and is the fastest hurdles runner in Zhejiang province.   They like the same video game, Warcraft 3, so they had plenty to discuss.
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Rebecca and Anita came with us too, and it's always a pleasure to have them around.  They get on so well with the boys and Sophie LOVES them!
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Peter with Jenny.  He is now about the same size as most of my students :).
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Here he is again... I think he's now taller than Rebecca and Anita.
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... but he hasn't passed me up... YET!
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Jack found a creative way to get across the stream - shimmy across a fallen piece of bamboo.  I was SURE he was going to go into the water but he made it across without a problem.
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Here's Chen Ye, "Sara" next to one of the large trees in this dense forest!

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Sue and Anita admiring the foliage...
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Now we're half-way up and it's very warm out.  Everyone is soaked to the bone with sweat and we're all hot as you can see from our red faces!
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We found a nice resting spot beside the trail and sat down for some lunch.  They brought a spread of duck-wings, some sandwich fixings, cookies and other munchies for lunch.
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Then Peter noticed something on Jack's leg.  It was a LEECH!  Yuck!  I managed to pry it off of him with my fingernail.  Here it is stuck to a chopstick.  One of the other teachers at the university warned me that leeches are prevalent at Tianmushan and I should take great care to wear long pants.  I took it as so much Chinese folklore and thanked her for the advice -- but it was TRUE!
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When we got home tonight, Sue pulled off her socks to find a leech had bitten her through her sock and her wound bled for quite awhile.  They are really amazing creatures.  They put some kind of anesthetic on the bite area, so you don't feel them bite.  Their saliva contains anti-coagulants so the wound bleeds and bleeds.  Sue's was still bleeding a couple of hours after we got home and treated it! 

The green path that we were walking on - so tranquil - it looks deceptively cool, but it was so HOT!
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Sophie found a little fountain and tried to splash me the best she could!
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The fountain comes down this bamboo trough that originates near the waterfall.  Many people drank from it but I wasn't going to risk it only 7 days before going home!
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We did however put our heads under it, and it felt GOOOOD.  Thank goodness for short hair.  The girls with all of that long black hair decided not to have a go.
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Taking my turn... so refreshing!
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We took a little side-trip to a really stunning waterfall...
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Here we all our for a group shot!
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Making our way up the slippery rocks...
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All the more difficult with Sophie on my shoulders.  She decided that riding was more fun than walking.  I can't say I blame her!
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... a view up the ultra-green path!
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Finally a break at the lookout point.  It was a bit cloudy so the view wasn't that good, but it sure felt good to rest after carrying Sophie up here!
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Anita, having a break after a tiring hike!
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... and here we are, 2/3 of the way done!  Rebecca and Anita are standing in front of a tree that died about 80 years ago and is more than 2,300 years old!
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We're all egging Sophie on. "Sophie, can't you please WALK?  You're so LAZY!"
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We made it back to the bus down the mountain and transferred to our bus back to Hangzhou.  We all had a great time today being out in nature!