A video from The Piano Guys to celebrate the National Week (and the resulting break I have been enjoying because of it!).
Kristen and I went to Jay and Yang’s apartment to dine on delicious Hot Pot and toast in the Year of the Sheep (Ram, Goat, whatever). We went home after midnight, exhausted and very well-fed.
Update on my life: I just bought a spiffy new VPN. So while I wrote this post about a week ago, I’m just getting around to posting it. Hopefully posts will be a lot easier from here on out!…
A short while ago, in Bali…
Wow. December 30. I have never in my life been on a vacation this long. But, since December 13, I’ve been here on the island of Bali relaxing and enjoying the heat, the sky, and the blessed sun. I leave here on January 1 and am decidedly not looking forward to the cold, cloudy Chengdu that I’m heading back to. I can’t wait to see my kiddos again, but a large, pathetic part of me is counting down the days until Chinese New Year, when I can escape again and explore some other eastern port.
Life here in Bali is cheap (by western standards), although it’s a bit of a pill for me to figure out the exchange rate. I end up turning prices back into Chinese RMB then figuring out American prices from there. Basically, 100,000 rupiah is about $8. So pulling $80 bucks from an ATM gives me 1,000,000 rupiah…which is more than enough play money for a day or two. Most meals end up costing me about $10-$15, which is much more expensive than China, but infinitely cheaper than taking a vacation in the United States.
Accents here are also amazing. There are so many Australians around, staying here for a cheap holiday, that I can swoon while listening to them for a few moments, at least until they become incredibly obnoxious. And no, Australians currently splashing and shouting in the hotel pool, I’m not talking about you at all… (Do Aussies get as bad a rap as Americans when traveling?)
Our holiday commenced with four of us–Yang, Jay, Adam, and me–checking into hotels in Seminyak (northern Kuta). There we stayed about a block from the beach, passing by very small, very touristy shops every morning. We spent the first week in Bali soaking up the sun. We explored restaurants, strolled through the hot sand, and went dancing at night in local clubs. Adam got to surf one day and I learned how to play the game Euchre (and am currently on a major winning streak on my phone app of the game). The only downside was Jay and I both got sick with various ailments which had us laying low for a bit.
After Kuta, we traveled on up to the quieter Ubud. We randomly bumped into a couple who taught with QSI in Shenzhen our first morning there. While in Ubud, we took it easy but spent time exploring the monkey forest, rice terraces, a coffee plantation, and attending a local dance. We ate dinner almost every night at the same restaurant, becoming something like regulars in our very short time there. Alicia, Kerensa, and Thommy (all from Chengdu) also landed in Ubud during our stay. We spent one night hanging out with them, exploring the limited Ubud night life.
On Christmas Eve, Jay and Yang headed for the northern part of Bali while Adam and I headed back down to Kuta. It was a quite Christmas eve, filled with lots of walking, exploring the local beaches. On Christmas day, more walking. We went to a local mall and had sushi as our Christmas meal (which always makes a perfect holiday!). After a day of hanging out, Adam headed off to the airport and I went to mass. After church, I walked back to my hotel room (about a 40 minute stroll) and tucked myself in bed exhausted.
The day after Christmas was the only day of this vacation I had to myself (not that that’s a bad thing; I would much rather be around others). But I decided to take full advantage of it. I spent hours at a spa (my skin, I tell you, is still softer because of it) coming back only to order room service and fall into the most peaceful, angel-like sleep.
The following day, Saturday, I met back up with Jay and Yang at our new hotel, also in Kuta (central Kuta this time). I’ve been terribly lazy since meeting up with them. We spent most of yesterday shopping, but today I have only left the hotel to meander down the street to the nearby convenience store. Tonight, we are going out to dinner and then I’m meeting up with Kerensa and Alicia (who are down from Ubud) for drinks and dancing.
We did, however, have one eerie moment. On Saturday night, I was hanging out in the hotel pool with Jay and an Australian. The wind started to blow and lightening crackled in the distance. I was contemplating whether or not to get out of the pool when the Aussie pointed out the lightening. “It never seems to amount to much, though,” Jay said. I stayed in the pool a while after Jay, getting out only when Yang wanted to go try a restaurant nearby. After a late dinner, I fell asleep, waking up to a heavy rain crashing down around 7am. The skies cleared a bit later, but already flight 8501, which took off from nearby Java island, had crashed. Since then there have been heavy periods of rain that roll through and, as we remember the victims of this accident, it’s also a little chilling to know that in two days, at about the same departure time, we’re flying the same airline back to Chengdu.
With all that’s been going on trying to get ready to move to the other side of the world, I didn’t realize how long it had been since I had written anything on here. But between being a tad busy, getting a new laptop, and having my former phone fall to pieces, I suppose it has been a while since I’ve been in contact. Today I got an email from a friend who closed her letter by saying:
How on earth are things going?! It’s so exciting! Haha, maybe you’ll have some down time closer to Christmas and you can send out one of those e-newsletter Christmas cards! Well, I miss you Katie and I look forward to hearing from you whenever you get a chance!
I hope, Carolyn, that you does not mind if I respond to your email in blog form and send you a more personal response when I get to China. Life has been…well, insane to say the least. It’s kept me busy, stressed, and exhausted. I find myself looking forward to just being in China so I can sleep for a day or two without worrying about packing, closing down the townhouse, or not getting to really say “See you later!” to someone I care about.
On July 12, my old roommate, Diana, married her fiancé, Dan, in Johnstown, PA. So I spent a lovely weekend in Western Pennsylvania being a bridesmaid, meeting new people, and learning what a cookie table was. As soon as I returned to Virginia, my great-aunt from Philadelphia came down to visit for nearly a week. It was a fairly relaxing week, hanging out with family and showing my aunt downtown Fredericksburg. As soon as I dropped her off at the train station, however, I jumped in my car and drove down to Virginia Beach to spend a weekend with old friends from William & Mary.
Since then, I’ve stayed around town, trying to spend time with people and pack. With the help of both family and friends, I was able to get completely moved out of my town house, have a little goodbye gathering with way too much Chinese food (my parents like to over plan), and make many trips around town to buy various necessities. This week, my Floridian Aunt Kris and her family came into town for a few nights before driving off to Tennessee this morning. I also had the chance to have lunch with my fellow (former fellow…that’s sad) 5th grade teachers. Tomorrow I should be seeing my Aunt Cindy and Uncle John who are visiting the east coast from Texas as well as meeting up with some friends from my first year teaching.
I can’t believe I leave on Tuesday. Less than a week. It doesn’t feel real yet…like I could be leaving that soon. Am I nervous? Eh, no, not about the move itself. I would definitely accept some prayers for a safe flight, though. I still just feel a tad overwhelmed. I’m trying to tell myself that this really is not much different than that time I randomly moved to Puerto Rico for six months. China, Puerto Rico, practically neighbors, right? I have yet to convince myself.
I plan to write at least once before my flight takes off, but you definitely should expect to hear a lot more from me on the other side of the world!
Ah, the blessed end of a school year. As a child, the last week of school brought with it a clever kind of hope that summer would be brimming with pools and playgrounds, the sound of ice cream trucks, and late nights releasing fireworks and catching fireflies. Summertime. It’s like stepping into a jungle, ready to experience the vast, unexplored, unstructured time to come…
Of course, some summers are wilder than others. Some summers, you don’t just recuperate and get ready for the next year. Some summers you transition and step…up to the big leagues or out of your comfort zone. Some summers transform your life.
We are, at least in my opinion, at such a summer this year. My co-blogger, tumblr fanatic, Teen-Wolf-Glee-Broadway loving sister graduated high school today. And in August, she moves to Richmond. If I weren’t also moving at that time, I am certain I would feel a particular loss with the increase of distance.
I need to stop looking ahead.
Every year, the Commonwealth Governor’s School (eh, not going to go into what it is) holds a banquet for graduating seniors. This year, they asked me to give a short speech to the students since I am an alumna and was in the first graduating class to spend four high school years at CGS. It was a rather touching night. After 16 years with CGS, my family has no more kids to send through the program.
Then today, Meghan graduated. She also, prolifically, gave an address to the seniors which, quite frankly, puts my speech to shame. (She can be seen in this video at 1:17:00.) She graduated, we celebrated. All in all, a wonderful day spent with family.
There are still a few more days of school for me, a few more meetings, and the necessity to get this 5th grade slideshow completed. Then, hopefully, I too can enjoy this transformative summer.
I was trying to capture the memories of 2013 in an effort to use this blog as a time capsule of sorts. I got as far as listing the few adventures I had over the past year. But one post will hardly help me reminisce about my year a few months from now when I’m trying to remember what on earth happened in 2013…
So, the first 13 letters of the alphabet help me with my ABC memories…
A=Adventures. Post already done. Moving on.
B=Babies. Jenni and Ryan gave birth to a beautiful girl, Rachel and Drew are expecting a boy in February, and a bunch of coworkers had a child this year or are anxiously counting down to their due date. Between the baby showers, the babysitting, and the random lunch dates with cute children, there was a lot of tiny goodness to fill up this year.
C=Chilling. I spent a lot of down time this year just hanging with friends. Whether I was at Peter’s house watching Breaking Bad, grabbing sushi with old coworkers, or going on walks by the river with old roommates, I spent a lot of peaceful time enjoying the quiet moments of life.
Both these pictures were taking on evening strolls around the city with Diana.
D=Drinks. No longer am I in any sort of bar-hopping phase, but a couple of my great nights this year did involve conversation over a good drink. Whether it was giggling with champagne or more serious conversation with a Hefeweizen, I got to know a lot of things about a lot of people over a drink. I even tried Scotch this year…although I think I can manage quite well without it.
E=Encore. In July, I got to go back up to New Hartford, CT to volunteer at Trinita. Peer groups, family time, community meals, Olympics, campfires, pool time, basketball, volleyball, lodge nights, birthday parties, and just…fun, faith, and togetherness. My heart is so happy here.
F=Family. On the way up to Trinita, I got to visit my Aunt Barbara in Philadelphia. On the way south, I picked her up and drove her back with me to Fredericksburg. We ate at my mother’s favorite restaurant, explored Monticello, and just enjoyed her company.
G=Graduation. This year, the students I had taught for two years graduated and moved onto middle school. While it was rough to say goodbye to them, I really got a class of incredibly endearing children to make up for their leaving. One of them, I student-taught when he was in first grade. He said he had been hoping to get me because he knew me back with I was a “young thing, fresh outta college.” Oh, the things children say…
H=Housemates. In August, Diana and Hoang both moved out to be closer to their jobs. While I miss conversation with them, searching for batteries for the fire alarm at 2am, junk food runs to Food Lion, and girls’ nights, I didn’t have to wait long to find a roommate. About 3 weeks after the girls moved out, Chris moved in. Yeah for roommate hunting made easy!
I=Intermissions. In November, I tricked my brother, Sean. I had my brother, Ryan, text us asking us to come listen to a speech he was giving in Richmond. Ryan really outdid himself in the text and Sean really thought we were being dragged down to Richmond to listen to some college transfer fair spiel and give feedback. (Sounded far-fetched to me, but hey, it worked.) In reality, I had purchased tickets to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute. We had great seats, it was a great show, and Sean was thoroughly surprised and pleased.
J=July Fourth. Regrettably, I didn’t get to spend much time with my age-old college friends this year. That’s what made the Fourth of July so special. I spent the holiday in Virginia Beach, spending time with Maria, Yianni, and the cutest Greek baby ever. We spent the night of the Fourth of July watching fireworks on the beach and just enjoying the amazing weather. Nostalgia!
K=Knoxville! More people I don’t see enough…family. Ryan, Sean, and I drove to Knoxville in June. We spent time with family in Knoxville before heading out to Jamestown, TN to go on a family picnic with my Uncle Kenny, Aunt Donna, and Cousin Sara. We were so spoiled in Tennessee. Relatives took us in for meals, let us play with their children, and just spent quality time with us. This was one of the most low-key, amazing vacations I’ve had in a very, very long time.
L=Love. Over the course of one week in September, I kept getting big, life-changing messages. Friends found out they were pregnant, found out the gender of their baby, or got engaged. What a whirlwind week. One of those women to get engaged was…my old roommate, Diana! Woot! Her wedding is scheduled for July 2014 and I’m so tickled that I get to be a part of it!
And finally, the thirteenth letter of the alphabet…M
M=Meghan. Some of the best memories this year involve my little sister…and being dragged places by her. In January, she made me take her up to DC to see the Struck by Lightning premier. She worked backstage in her high school’s spring musical, Once On This Island, we started a sister blog in June (okay, that was kinda more my thing), and she made me take her to see Legally Blonde, the Musical in November down in Charlottesville, where I suavely got us in to an all-but-sold-out show, skipping about 60 people who were in the queue before us. So, I’ll end with a picture that typifies my little sister…
We are hours away from 2013 and, as I was thinking about the past year…well, it was probably the best year of my life thus far. I’m going to post, therefore, my top 12 memories of 2012. These are not in order of importance or how much they meant to me…it’s more a timeline of my year.
12) On January 1, 2012, I was dating a French man. I joyfully brought in the New Year’s in France then journeyed up to London that night. To have been in Europe both for New Year’s and my birthday (today!) was a thrilling occasion. I also got to ride in the Chunnel, crossing a very old goal off my bucket-list.
11) I did spend a lot of incredible moments with my family this year. We saw the Lion King on stage, sampled restaurants, went apple picking, etc. But one of the funnest memories was heading down to Orlando over Spring Break. I stayed with my friend, Jennifer, while my mom, my dad, and my sister stayed at a resort near Disney World. I met up with them a few days and we explored Harry Potter World together, toasting with Butterbeer. My sister, Jennifer, and I also rode Spiderman like 30 times in a row, by-passing lines by hopping in the single rider’s lane. It was a glorious night!
10) Also in the spring, my co-worker turned friend, Heather, and I ran the Color-Me-Rad 5k in VA Beach. It was easily the best 5k ever created. While down there, I got to spend time talking to Heather (really, our first time hanging out). I also got to meet up with my high-school friend, Rachel, and meet her boyfriend, Drew.
9) In early May, Colin–my youngest brother–graduated from VCU with a masters and a bachelors, so the family went down to Richmond to celebrate. Meghan and I filled out an amazing tribute book in Colin’s program and we ate at the really interesting meat-on-a-stick place whose name completely eludes me. Hmmm.
8) I had one of the greatest summers of my adult life this year, traveling up to Connecticut to volunteer with inner-city families at Trinita. I met some amazing individuals and, I will admit, cried like a baby when I had to leave. I am definitely going back this year and, perhaps, bringing a sibling along.
7) In August, I returned to school. This year, the transition back was so smooth…because I was teaching the same students as last year! I also have the same team to work with! Consistency makes life easy for both me and the children.
6) In August and September, it was also time to celebrate the fact…that I am really old. I didn’t attend my regular high school reunion; I was busy helping Rachel stuff wedding invitations. Yep! Her boyfriend was now her fiance! In early September, I did attend my 10-year Governor’s School reunion though. This was a 3-day event, orchestrated by a very talented classmate. Due to everyone I know having bridal or baby showers, I couldn’t make it to all 3 days, but I did attend a very nice dinner at a downtown restaurant and a cookout the next day at a nearby park. The cookout was also a time to see old classmates’ parents and children for the first time in years….or the first time ever.
5) In October, I flew out to California to see Andrew. One day, not needed at his house, we journeyed down to Mexico. It was his first time despite living so close his entire life. We ate at a Tijuana restaurant, saw a lovely church that was being renovated, took pictures and videos, and one of us even was bitten by a dog. (I won’t say names, but it wasn’t me). The trip ended with us standing in line for over an hour to get back into the USA. What an awesomely, incredibly-stupid day trip.
4) My co-worker turned friend, Karen, also went on some great trips with me this year. We went scrapbooking up in Sugarcreek, Ohio, toured Skyline Drive, visited random counties for sweet apple cider and honey, and spent a glorious day in Williamsburg, buying candles, eating at the Cheese Shop, spending too much money at the bookstore, and seeing my old alma mater.
3) The highlight of October was definitely being a part of Rachel and Drew’s wedding. What a whirlwind year for the two of them! The wedding was lovely and, afterwards, we journeyed to a gorgeous clubhouse on a lake for the reception. Wedding festivities ensued. And, as I couldn’t make it to Alex’s wedding in California over the summer, I got my wedding fix for a while. The best part, though, was obviously seeing how happy Rachel was.
2) Also in autumn, my roommate and I were eating at my favorite restaurant, Kappa Gardens Sushi Bistro, and they completely named a sushi roll after me. I was tickled, especially when Jong Sung, the chef, gave me a picture of it and hung it on the wall as a menu option. Fantastic. Deliciously, deliriously fantastic.
1) Although, I didn’t see my college friends this year as much as I would have liked, we did have a chance to get together over the summer at Maria and Yianni’s house by the beach. We spent time at the beach, played board games (I really know nothing about movies) and fell asleep ridiculously early (proving how old we are). In November, however, Maria and Yianni had a son. While I have yet to see him, he has the cutest pictures ever. And I really, really cannot wait to meet this little guy.
Ahh, 2012. You rocked. 2013, let’s see what you can do!
Hurricane Sandy has officially arrived. Millions in the Mid-Atlantic Region are without power. Aside from wind and lots and lots of rain, this storm hasn’t been too bad here. Yesterday, after I heard school was cancelled today, I drove to my parents’ house across town. I’ve been camping out here ever since. School is out again tomorrow due to flooding of county roads. But with a 100% chance of rain tomorrow, I don’t know how well the area will be able to dry up.
My thoughts are also with Rachel and Drew, who got married on Saturday. Fortunately, Sandy stayed away long enough for them to have a gorgeous wedding day. But now they are honeymooning in the Poconos which I’m sure is getting plenty of this lovely weather. Stay dry, friends!
For now, I’m just enjoying the time off of work and feeling very, very grateful that I am not without power.
An opened door, a winning smile, a chance encounter. Conversation follows. Maybe dancing, hand holding, kissing, proposing. A wedding reception, entertainment, whirling life. A calm respite, then expecting, waiting…until children, crying, then laughing, walking, running, learning, growing. And yearning for their own chance encounter.
Life is not so much an even circle as a waterwheel. We are propelled by those who have come before us, working to enhance the lives of those unknown to come after us. All the while, the wheel turns and we hang on for the ride, looking, if we can, for someone to join hands with. Someone who makes us feel not so alone in this constant revolution. Friendships are born of convenience and empathy and lovers reach across distances to ensure each other’s happiness. But only until death. Nothing on this wheel is eternal. We can’t take friendships, lovers with us. In the end, we all die alone. And we can only hope we have done enough to keep the wheel turning smoothly for the next generation.
Although this post sounds full of meandering thoughts, I spent this weekend celebrating the soon-to-be arrival of a baby boy. My friend, Maria, is due in November and I am so tickled that I will get to see her bring a life into the world. So thrilled and full of joy that someone I think so highly of will have a little one that she (and her husband) can pass on wisdom to. Over the years, I have celebrated a few milestones with her: She went to pharmacy school, graduated, married, bought a lovely townhouse, and is now going to have a son. In comparison, I’ve done nothing. This brings about self-reflection more than anything. I contemplate the meaning of life. If I never get married, if I never have children, will I still have found a way to leave this world a better place than when I got here? I don’t need to leave a legacy, I need to make a difference. The hours I spend each day with children…do they change anything? Are students crafted into better people because I taught them?
I don’t know.
What I do know is I had a great time at the baby shower yesterday.
What I do know is my friends deserve every happiness.
What I do know is my friends will make fantastic parents and their baby will be/is so very lucky.
Here’s to working again! Okay, so…not really. Next year, all the fourth grade teachers in my school are moving up to fifth grade. I’m excited about this (we work really well together), I’m nervous about this (it’s a completely different curriculum), and I’m now thinking about this. One of my teammates and I went to a training service yesterday on how to implement the county’s new writing curriculum. It was just an overview and, overall, I like it. Tweaks will have to be made, sure, but it teaches kids how to really write, not just the mechanics of writing. I’m still working everything out in my mind.