Saturday there was a middle school dodge ball tournament at our school. My 11th and 12th grade Recreation Leadership class helped put it together. We had 30 students on 5 teams. They were mixed by classes, gender and athletic ability using a highly scientific method – me. I swear I didn’t stack the team trying to make it so that Jordan’s team would win – and they almost didn’t. Here are some photos from the event…
I forgot to take pictures until the last two teams were playing so they are a little monotonous and pretty Jordan-centric. Overall, the event went well and many of the kids were glad to have the opportunity to play.
Sure, it is almost 1/4 of the way through 2013, but it isn’t too late to do a year in review is it?
We rang in 2012 on our winter break trip. New Year’s Day was spent in Bagan, Myanmar. (Blog post still needed!) But our escape from Mongolian winter was short and we were soon back to work. In February I went to Suzhou, China to chaperon the basketball team in their tournament which the girl’s team placed first in. Pepper threw a great birthday party for me which is looking to become an annual event. (The type of party – I know birthdays are annual!) We got the first of our two cats – Mitten. I zipped back to the US for a week to conduct the ceremony for Kevin and Trina. I was really sick for two days of the trip but it was great to see the family. In March I went on another trip to China to participate in a conference along with the principal and counselor.
Our spring break had to be cut short because I had yet another trip to China to coach our girl’s soccer team. For the break we had our favorite driver Enkhe take us to Amarbayasgalant Monastery with coworkers Jay, Shannon, Nicole, Leanne, Grant and Deborah. The highlights were playing soccer with the monks, cooking on our own ger stove, and waking to a spring snowfall. Pepper and I made an emergency trip to Thailand for medical care. My cynicism about insurance increases. In mid June, school ended with a flurry of exams and activity days. The weather became consistently warmer and nicer even though we had snow in mid-May. We then headed toward Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. After stops in Irkutsk and Suzdal (blog posts still needed!) we spent a few days in Moscow and St. Petersburg (yet more blogging needed). Pepper and Jordan then headed to Seattle to hit her sister’s 10th anniversary party and I spent a week with my family. Much of my time was spent working on felling trees behind the house and putting in a new sliding glass door in the living room. I visited with family in Pennsylvania. By mid July we were all in Petersburg despite a few travel glitches, changed flights and other minor hassles.
The summer flew by. Pepper spent about two weeks in Juneau with Rachel just before her baby arrived and I spent time working on many projects around the house. Plumbing repairs had me under the house for two days. I put siding up on one side of the shed, put a railing up at the top of the stairs in the shed, built storage shelves for my collections of supplies and lumber, made and sold things at the Market, sold off items at a garage sale, resealed the driveway and did a lot of cleanup of the property. (I don’t have any blog posts for any of that but do have some photos so may get around to them eventually.) Grant and Leanne visited us in Petersburg and it was great for me to see my Petersburg friends while home.
By mid-August we were returning to Mongolia and lucked into a business class upgrade for the long flight. We reunited with our Mongolian friends and met new co-workers. The fall flew by quickly also. We hosted the volleyball tournament and my boy’s team earned the sportsmanship award for the second year in a row. I really feel like I have learned a lot about the game and hope they have too. We figured out a good format for our rotations and positions and I think next year the team will excel. Sadly I will not be here to see it. Much of our fall was spent seeking positions at a new school. For our fall break we did a week-long drive from Ulaanbaatar, down to the Gobi desert and back to UB. (Yes, blog post coming some day.) We went with coworkers Jay, Shannon and Maggie.
We stayed in Mongolia for almost a week of the winter break and Mike VanElzakker arrived for us to show around and then we headed to Sri Lanka for a two week tour of the country where we spent New Years on a great beach. (More blog posts coming about this – man, I have a lot of work to do!)
Overall a great year. My first full year spent living abroad. Financially, we were able to get well settled but the unpaid summer was a little difficult. 2013 is shaping up to be full of many more adventures!
I have taken my PE classes to the Zaisan Memorial – that’s how close it is to our school. There is good information about the monument on Atlas Obscura and Wikipedia. We last went there when Mike was here in late December.
Thursday I completed the National Archery in the Schools Program instructor training. Teachers from the International School of Ulaanbaatar were also present. It was a day-long course that involved learning how to set up and run a range, equipment care and maintenance, and a fair bit of shooting technique.
Our school plans to purchase 10 bows along with targets, arrows and all the other essential equipment for beginning an archery program in our school. It will become part of the PE program and probably also be used for after school activities.
At the training center there were past Olympic athletes as well as quite a few hopefuls. Archery is one of Mongolia’s national sports (along with horseback riding and wrestling). Our instructor had provided training for the Mongolian Archery Association and was in from Bend, Oregon where he has an indoor range and archery pro shop.
I did run an archery range at Camp Cutler for the scout program about 20 years ago but it has probably been since then that I last shot a bow. I am incredibly excited about the potential to offer this as part of our classes in the future. The kids are going to love it.
We arrived in Sri Lanka late on Friday the 21st of December. Our driver – Ashoka – picked us up at the airport and drove us to our hotel in Negombo. Jay and Shannon had arrived the previous day. Jay had chilled some beer to celebrate our arrival. Making things sort of strange was that he and Shannon had met with Mike during his layover in Seoul so they already had met him. Regardless, it was a great gathering even if it had been less than a week since we had all seen each other.
The next day we took tuk-tuks to the Negombo fish market.
This was the kind of place I could have hung out all day taking pictures. The fishermen, the people selling and butchering fish and the people drying fish just ignored us and went on with their work.
After Mike spent a few days with us in December, we flew to Beijing for a brief overnight layover before our continuation to Thailand and Sri Lanka. We landed and went through the special line for transit visas. This was just a few days before three-day visas on arrival were beginning for Beijing. (And Shanghai?) We grabbed our bags and took a longer taxi drive than I expected to get to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express.
(A few notes – always be sure to have print outs of your continuation flights when you’re getting any visa on arrival. Also, whenever possible you should have a printout in Chinese characters for any destinations you will give to taxi drivers. “Holiday Inn Express” seems like it would work fine when given to a taxi driver that picks you up at the airport. Fortunately we were prepared.)
The hotel was actually in a nice spot to be able to grab some dinner. We checked in (which always takes forever in China – it is like they are surprised you showed up) and then had a meal at a dumpling shop. Pepper and Jordan headed to bed and Mike and I took a taxi to Tienanmen Square to make the most of his few hours in China. It had snowed an inch or two since our arrival. The Square itself was cordoned off but the Gate of Heavenly Peace had work crews clearing the snow.
Mike and I wandered around the are of the square more but it was clear that by this hour (after 11PM) nothing was going to be open and few things were even lit. We started to walk toward the street that has really strange street foods like roasted starfish, deep fried birds nest, all sorts of insects on a stick, stinky tofu, and just about any other strange food eaten in Asia. We took a side route and by the time we got there it was completely shut down and cleaned up.
We decided to trek back toward the square except one block further east to try and find a taxi back to the hotel. Almost two hours later we were in a cab that we didn’t have enough money to pay for the ride for. Apparently the taxi rates skyrocket late at night. Beijing always has something to teach me!
Yesterday and Friday after school the International School of Mongolia hosted a tournament that our students and students from Elite school (also in Ulaanbaatar) participated in. Events were for grades 4 and higher and included chess, badminton, and table tennis.
Our school had a number of kids participate – nearly 50. We had huge turnout for middle school and primary divisions of badminton and table tennis. Jordan competed in the chess tournament and tied for third in his group of middle school students.
It was a nice event for the kids to be active on a weekend… next weekend we’ll be having a middle school dodgeball tournament!
I have had our 10th grade classes carrying around a fake baby for over three weeks now. The body is a bag of flour and then there is an egg taped to the bag as a head. Everyone has a partner that they are doing this project with. I am allowing the students to leave the “babies” at school overnight and during the weekends. All they really have to do is carry it around between classes and not leave it in their locker or in a class or on a bench unattended.
Some of them are not doing well in my spot checks. Some are taking it very seriously. Each week I have asked them to bring me their thoughts on the project. I ask for a minimum of three sentences. One student last week went much further. I asked their permission to share this…
During the elementary lunch break it is somewhat depressing at times to see a long row of kids playing on their cell phones and tablets. Yes, there are just as many kids playing table tennis. And there is also an equal number playing soccer outside. I recognize that not every kid wants to spend their off time being athletic too. It is sad that some of the kids tapping away on their touchscreens have a few inches of bare belly showing as they sit on those benches. I don’t remember what I did with lunch time during elementary school but I know that in high school it was spent kicking a hackey sack or with a hand full of cards playing euchre.
I have a fundamental problem with punishing kids that are bad with exercise (“You’re late! Take a lap!”) and rewarding people with junk food. (“Let’s have a class party! Cake! Cookies! Soda!”) The subconscious message is that bad people exercise and good people eat junk food. But I had to do something…
Today, in the middle of the row of boys gaming away, there was one girl sitting and reading a book! I did a double-take. I shuffled into Pepper’s classroom, just 50 feet away, and asked her for candy. She always has candy. I told her that I needed to reward the one kid that was reading a book amid all the gaming. She found me a bag of odd candies and I went out and offered the girl a piece of candy “For being the only one reading a book during lunch around all these other students just playing video games.”
The first thing she asked was if her friend next to her – but not gaming on any device – could have one too. This kid is full of surprises! I told her that she could have two and if she wanted to give one to a friend that I was fine with it.
Faith in the future restored. Thank you little girl!
Last year Pepper and I went on a walk specifically to photograph some of the street art we have seen around town. I have shot some since and wanted to gather some of the work. This spring we’ll go out on another photo walk because we have passed by some cool pieces in the months since we went for that walk.
There is a nice combination of stencil work and freehand spray painting.