Teacher’s Day 2017 in Shenzhen, China

Teacher's Day Shenzhen China

Teacher’s Day at Shenzhen Bao’an Primary School

Let me tell you the nicest thing so far that has happened while teaching at my school. Walking into the school, greeting the parents and students at the gate, looking up and seeing a group of children singing a welcome song. Wow. “What is going on?” I asked. There were many teacher’s milling around, walking up to a billboard that was not there the day before. Pictures, pictures, pictures. Everyone was taking pictures. “Come Teacher,” another teacher called. I walked over and was invited to join the group of picture takers. “Today is teacher’s day!” Imagine my surprise. School has not been in session very long. We are already being celebrated as teachers. This is amazing and totally unheard of in the places I have visited.

I took pictures just like everyone else; with the rest of the teachers, with the students who were singing, by the billboard and of the school. A celebration of teachers! China gives me many opportunities to feel special, kinda like a celebrity. Most of the time, I enjoy the moment. All of the teachers received a beautiful flowers. We were also given a lovely potted plant to take home and some of the children handed out flowers to teachers as well. I was thankful that even though I have not been teaching at the school for very long, I was not left out.

After a mini program for teachers day out on the exercise ground, we continued on with the day. However, the festivities were not over. All of the teachers, and their families, were invited to go to a restaurant across town to eat a special meal of roasted pigeon. Most of the teachers at my school joined in and we all packed into two tour buses. Riding in a bus surrounded by teachers in a festive mood, I feel proud to call myself a teacher.

Arriving at the restaurant, I pity the teachers sit at the table with us. How hard will it will be for them to overcome their shyness and try to speak to two newcomers with their basic English? Instead of being shy, they speak anyway and told us the names of things in Chinese. We promptly began to butcher the language. One teacher shared that she enjoyed listening to Selena Gomez. I happened to have a song on my phone and we talked about that for a while.

A parent and the headmaster stood and made a toast to the school, the teachers and the day. We joined in. I was waiting for someone to break out and start karaoke, but it did not happen. We began our meal. If you have ever had a family style meal, it was very similar. The food kept coming and coming. We started out with soup and then had a variety of vegetables with rice and fried fish, followed up by the much awaited pigeon. Bean was willing to try most of the dishes. In China, often fish, chicken and duck are served with their head on, Bean will not eat it. For the end of the meal, we were served a special bread of the region. I was too full to want to carry left overs home, but many people were thrilled to fill a bag. I like being in a country were doggy bags are acceptable!

Waiting for the bus to take us back to the school, many teachers and their families decided to take a walk through the countryside. We joined them and walked with a teacher acts as my assistant. How likely is it to have an assistant who speaks english and who is herself a single mother? Not very, but it happened for me! We learned a little more about the area and made a date to get together with our children.

Before getting on the buses, a private company gave us cases of date milk. I was sceptical of taking home a large case of milk. What if I didn’t like it and Bean would not drink it? No sense in take something and wasting it. We tried one and loved it. That milk was gone within a few days.

Teachers Day turned out to be a pleasant surprise and an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. If more countries celebrated teachers the way that China does, maybe more young people would find it a job worth having! Bean says she is going to be a teacher when she grows up. I tell her, “That is an excellent choice.”

Education: East versus West

china school cafeteria

At the school cafeteria!

I have only been in China a short time,so I can not claim to know all of the differences in education between the East and West. I have been speaking with different native teachers from the area schools and in our conversations, I have found that maybe there is more to this subject than I originally thought.

There are a few similarities, such as
Teaching to the Test-
One of the first things we remarked on was how the teachers are teaching to the test. In the United States, teachers often get bent out of shape over the amount of time they must spend adapting their lessons to the latest standardized test. In China, I am not sure how often they change the tests,but the teachers all deliver information in a style that will guarantee the children will learn the information and pass the tests. You must pass a test to get into a good middle school, a test to get into a good high school and to go to college. Each test gets harder, so the amount of work the students must do is increasingly more difficult. Teaching to the test is a common practice, indeed it is the only thing to do.

Parental involvement- Parents pushing children their children to do well in school, enrolling them in after school activities, camps and additional learning centers. This phenomenon is not something that exists only in the United States. It is very prevalent in Asian countries. I have always felt sorry for poor sleep deprived children who must go back and forth from one activity to the next. It is the same worldwide I suppose.

School Uniforms– I love uniforms for school. It reminds me of my elementary school days. In China, every student wears a uniform. Many workers wear uniforms too. In my opinion, it just makes life easier. I know everyone does not agree with me. However, I am thankful that as Bean and I get up in the morning and go through our routine, I do not need to tell her what she can and can not wear to school. It makes my life so much more peaceful and we get out of the house on time!

The many differences begin from here.
Modes of Education
In China, there is only one way, maybe two of educating children. You send them to the Chinese public school, or if you are rich, you send them to the international private school. You follow the program of learning for the school and you are thankful that you were able to get your child a seat in school. The population is steadily growing and the need for schools is outpacing the availability. I asked about home school and everyone that I have mentioned it to has been flabbergasted. “That’s illegal. Why would anyone do that? How can the child re-enter the system?” It apparently does not happen. I asked about drop outs, what would they do in order to finish their schooling? Apparently, that is unheard of also. Children are required to go to school until they are 15, or high school age. High school is not compulsory. So until then, the children MUST go to school. That’s it.

Student conduct-
Imagine my surprise to see the students left alone in the classroom to do as they please and running wild in between classes. They hit each other, wrestle, kick, yell, scream and run. It is amazing. I look around for an adult, a teacher, anyone to get them in order, but there is no one. This is the normal behavior of students in between classes. In fact, the teachers seem to disappear,showing up right on time for class. Initially I was shocked. I told my contact teacher, “If our students were doing this, everyone of them would be in the principal’s office.” But maybe this way is better? We tell our students walk, don’t run, no hitting and no violence. We have a violent and aggressive society. Here, the people are not aggressive. The children are allowed to run wild, but expected to reel it in when the time is right. It seems to work.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise- Every day, when it is not raining, the entire school comes out onto the playground/courtyard for morning exercises. The entire school body will march to their respective locations and do a series of exercises to get the day started. When they are done, they will orderly back to their classroom. I could not imagine an entire American school being able to have such order and precision every single day. It amazes me. Twice a day, the students will perform eye exercises after their lessons. They will also go outside for gym class. Many american schools are discontinuing their physical education programs, but these children participate in exercise all throughout their day. You also are not allowed to sit on the sidelines if you feel that gym is not your thing.Everyone participates…everyone.

Rote learning- There are pros and cons to every learning methodology,but rote learning seems to work very well. In Bean’s classes, she is ahead on some of the things she does, like math or reading. Even though she is ahead,it is not that she does the work really well on her level. She is not really interested in learning as I would like her to be. Rote learning works really well because she can know the facts and then one day, the light can come on and she will fall in love with all of the additional information. Rote learning helps the teachers teach the facts that the students need to know without adding too much fluff. In the United States, as a teacher, we share information for things that we love. Sometimes this is not information that a student needs in their future. It may be fun,it may be cool but it is not vital. We spend a lot of time making learning fun and as a country, our students are falling further and further behind. As a minimalist, I like cutting out the fluff and sticking only to the basics. The students can fill in the rest as they desire.

Respect for Teachers- Children will not talk back to the teacher or use violence on a teacher. I have heard of many teachers in western countries that are afraid to go to their schools every day. I have no fear. I know that I will not have trouble with a student disrespecting me EVER. I can go into class, expect to have my students listen to me and deliver my lesson. If I have any trouble with any student, all I need to do is say something to the head teacher and they will put the fear of God into that student. The problem is solved for good. I like it.

There are many more differences than I expected. Some that I haven’t even noticed or haven’t written here, but I will speak more about it in the future. Of course, as with everything and everyone, people are not content with what they have. Many Chinese with money are sending their children abroad to study and to learn in other countries. Will this be better for their children in the long run? I really don’t know. It is all a matter of debate and opinion. My educational background is different than many other foreign teachers, yet, we are all here in China. Many Chinese share the same background and education, and yet, they end up in the same places I visit. It is all about choices and life paths. We may not all take the same path, but at some point, we all end up in the same place.

Have you ever taught abroad? What were some of the differences you noticed in education? I would be interested in knowing your thoughts.

Teaching English in China

teaching english in shenzhen, china

Teaching English in Shenzhen, China

“Teacher, Why you black?” This was the first question that I was asked on my first day as an English Teacher in China. I have been teaching China for a few weeks and I am thrilled. I am back in the environment that I enjoy so much. American parents and teachers get all bent out of shape over class size. Here, the average class size is 50! I can hardly believe that I am teaching 600 students!

Growing up, adults always asked if I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I always said no. That was not exciting! I loved school. I loved the smell of the halls, sitting in class, the activities, the kids running around, discussions and learning. In time, I discovered I am a teacher.

There is so much to love and I am constantly challenged. I was not expecting to have an assistant to help teach my classes. In every class, there is another teacher, acting as an assistant, who translates what I am saying to the children. I stand there telling the students what to do and the assistant is saying something else in Chinese. Depending on which class I am teaching and who is helping me, she may continue talking for a while after I have finished speaking. I know she isn’t saying everything that I have said. Sometimes, I stand there for a few minutes waiting until she stops talking. If she is telling them they better be good and listen to me, I certainly don’t want to interrupt!!

I feel very blessed to have my job. As a westerner, I am treated with respect by the staff and the students. I do not speak the language yet, but even so, it is not something that is treated with derision. I have not had anyone refuse to help me because I can not speak Chinese. In fact, they will go out of their way to find someone who can be of assistance. I am given liberty in what I do in the classroom, as long as I get the kids speaking English.
As a westerner, I am paid as much as a teacher who has been on the job for 15 years or more. For me, that is humbling. I know that if these teachers were to come to America and teach the same subjects in our schools, they would not be rewarded with higher salaries. It makes me want to do a good job designing and delivering a good lesson.

The main challenge that I face as a teacher is my expectations versus the school’s. The parents and the children just want to say a few words in English. That is progress. I really want to get the students talking and having conversations. For me that is progress. I am a language learner myself, so I know that it is possible to speak well in a short amount of time. However, the difference is the school setting versus being in an independent setting. Somehow, we will reach a compromise and find the right road together.

While there are some similarities between western and eastern schools, there is a lot of differences. Next week, I will discuss them. Right now, I better go plan a lesson!

Settling into Shenzhen

Shenzhen China

On the street where we live

I really do not like to use the term settle down. I feel as if settling down means that I am stuck. As I once heard it described, to settle down is like the sand when it floats to the bottom of the ocean. So, I rarely use the term. But for the lack of a better one, we are settling in to our routine in Shenzhen.

I gave us one month to get used to the daily life and rituals in Shenzhen: have our apartment looking presentable and to feel at home. I am happy to say it took a little over 2 weeks. I was surprised at how swiftly we have both adjusted to our new environment. I believe the number one thing that helped was to focus on all of the similarities to the other places that we have visited.

Language differences– I reminded Bean that when we went to France, she didn’t understand what the people were saying. At the beggining it was hard. By the end, she understood everything and can now speak French. Remembering this fact has kept tension down for both of us when we have no idea what we are reading or what someone is saying. I also recite the fact that our brains are really smart. Even if we do not know what is going on word for word, our brains can help us figure out what is being said. That is why I can be seen standing at a market stall, hotel or with the motorcycle taxi drivers having a conversation about what we want to buy, how much we will pay and where we are going. They are speaking Chinese, I am speaking English and we are both speaking in Sign Language. It works!

Stores– Though I am still astounded at the sheer number of malls here in China, finding stores that we have known in other countries has helped me to quiet my concern about differences in quality. I normally feel it is important to buy local, but when local sheets are paper thin and Ikea sheets are not, I would rather go across town and find an Ikea. Grocery store chains are helpful as well. Knowing that I can have good Irish butter and French bread if I want it, I relax if I mistakenly buy a meal that I can not imagine eating.

Public Transportation– Every city that has public transportation runs the systems about the same. I am thrilled because here in China, I feel very safe. The trains have a security checkpoint before EVERY entrance. I have no fear of guns, bombs or knife attacks. The buses and trains are extremely clean. The people will stand up and let the children and old people have a seat. Getting around has been a breeze.

Daily Interactions– I told Bean that in China we are celebrities. How else can I explain all of the people who stare at us and talk about us to our face? There are people who want to take our pictures and to touch our hair. We have continued to be open and friendly. It has won us several new friends already. Bean invites talkative people to eat dinner with us, and it works. We have been on a few dinner dates already and I see many more in our future.

Eating– Food in China was and was not what I expected. The saying is that the Cantonese will eat anything and that scared me. I knew they ate a lot of vegetables and of course rice at every meal. Keeping it simple, we have adopted a primarily rice and vegetable diet. There are a few special foods that we like to try, so I give them a special day in the week to eat them. Because the vegetables and pretty much everything else is cooked in loads of oil, which surprised me, when I find a restaurant where the food is good, we go back. Being a repeat customer and a foreigner we are treated well.
Why don’t I cook? Because it is cheaper to eat out! Bean and I can eat 3 good meals a day for under $10. Why would I burden myself with cooking and grocery shopping? I am enjoying the freedom from unnecessary household chores. Having fruit and a few staples around the house in case of emergency is working so far.

I believe the most important reason that we have adjusted so well and so quickly is that I am working a full time job again. Traveling around from one place to the next, we were able to keep our own personal routine, but that did not always match the community we were visiting. Being on the same schedule as everyone else around us has given us friends, acquaintances and a sense of community much quicker. Then again, maybe the Chinese are more open than the French. What do you think?

Hong Kong-Part 2

Lantau Island Hong Kong

Lantau Island, Hong Kong

A twenty hour flight. I have flown that long before but I was flying alone. Traveling around the world with Bean on a flight that would last over twenty hours is something entirely different. But I knew we could do it. I just was not sure how we would be holding up at the end. I did everything that I have been doing since we have been traveling: let her choose her activities,eat as much as she likes and take things easy. The trip was long, but not hard.

When we arrived at our last layover in Taiwan,I was once again impressed with foreign airports. Why don’t American airports provide children with a play area? Our favorite thing to do at the airport is find the children’s play area so that Bean can let off some steam. THe Taipae airport was the best I have visited to date. Besides the normal restaurants and play area,there was an exercise area with equipment, shower rooms, nap rooms, massage chairs, a tasting corner for treats and more. I have never seen anything like it. If we were stuck here, it would be a pleasure to spend the day in it.

Finally making it to Hong Kong,we needed to find our hotel.I get around pretty good in all of the countries we visit. They have letters that we can recognize! I was concerned about Asia because I can not read the characters. I shouldn’t have worried. It seems that most people in Hong Kong speak English. I exaggerate a little. However,I did not have any trouble with anything that I needed during our entire stay.

Riding the train was simple. Taking money from the atm, no problem. Getting to the hotel, a little more challenging. We stayed in a guesthouse that had good reviews. It was the tiniest room we have ever been in! However, we were happy to have a bed to sleep on after such a long journey.

Before coming to Hong Kong, I thought spending a lot of time in New York this summer might have prepared me for the size and the amount of people in Hong Kong. It didn’t. I can’t get over is the shopping…the malls…the restaurants. Ever corner,every street, everywhere you looked, there was a mall. Huge malls, loaded with people. Brand name clothing,watches,cars, luxury items and more. I walked around wondering “How can there be enough people wanting all of this stuff?” Then I see the people. People everywhere. The easiest way to imagine it is the mall on the day before Christmas, or a sold out concert/ sporting event; every single day.

Bean and I took a few excursions to quieter areas of the city. We were brave and road in a cable car up to Ngong Ping, Lantau Island. We spent time at Po Lin Monestary, ate lunch and visited the Giant Buddha. We watched the drumming ceremony enjoyed walking around.

Another day, we went up to The Peak, one of the highest points of Hong Kong. The views were beautiful, but the day was hot. We found a hilarious museum, The Trickeye Museum, and took some hilarious photos. We walked and walked, discovered parks near the hotel. The light show could also be seen at night near the Science Museum not far from where we were staying.

The city is so big! I am glad Hong Kong is just a train ride away from where we will be staying in Shenzhen. I look forward to going back and exploring some more.

Hong Kong- Part 1

Spending time in Hong Kong was a great adventure. I walked around much of the time going “I have never seen anything like this.” Which is obviously true, since I have never been here before. We spent a few days having a great time!

Hong Kong

Hong Kong by day

buses in hong kong

We definitely road the double decker buses!

Lantau Island Hong Kong

Big Buddha of Ngong Ping, Lantau Island

The Peak, Hong Kong

At The Peak, taking in the views of Hong Kong

Trickeye Museum

The Trickeye Museum were we took LOTS of silly pictures!

More to come!!!

Getting a Home Base

Being on the road for the last year or so has been great. Bean and I have learned so much about the world and different ways of life. The number one thing I have learned: I have lots more to learn. And I like it. It keeps me interested in the world and people around me. While we have enjoyed traveling from one destination to another, it was not my Plan A. Plan A was always to teach in a foreign country and travel while there.

There are many things that we haven’t done in the past year that Bean and I are looking forward to. Bean has been talking about pets for months. Every time we pass stray dogs and cats, she wants to talk to them and adopt them.I have had to tell her more times than I wish to count, that they are dirty and have fleas and can not come with us. That doesn’t stop her. She will do her best to make friends with them.

Once, in Morocco, we were shelling peas. Inside of one pea pods a caterpillar was living. Bean adopted him for several days;taking him outside to play with her. She let him sleep in the bowl by her bed. She might have named him. He stayed with us until he started to turn a different color. I convinced her that he would be happier outside and she finally let him go.

The latest is a snail that was on grapes that we were washing. Bean is very good about giving it leaves to eat. I have to tell her not to take it everywhere because that is not what snails would like to do. All of her adopting strange pets let me know it is time to have a home base for a while.

I had forgotten how much I like to decorate. Simple, minimalist and pretty decorations that Bean and I can be proud to show others that this is where we live. I have redecorated and rearranged different lodgings in my mind for many months, letting me know that it is time for me to find somewhere and indulge my interests.

There has been no need to cook or clean for so long it may take some effort to get into the habit again. Where we are going, restaurant meals are super cheap. Bean prefers to eat out because we are around other people.I am happy not to wash dishes every day. As for cleaning, if everything has a place and everything stays in its place, cleaning should be simple. The most difficult thing will be finding a place for all of our few things.

I am excited to be able to try a few things that I have thought about and read about over the last year. For example, spending nothing. Getting all the paperwork necessary to go to China has seemed to be one long series of handing out money. Going back and forth to the consulate meant travelling four hours one way. Gas, car rental, more for the papers needed to process our visas, airplane tickets, items we may not find in China, eating on the road and on and on the money flows from my hands. I feel like I am acting as if money grows on trees the way that I am spending it. I will be glad to spending nothing for a time just because I have no need to spend money.

And if I am spending nothing, that means I am buying nothing. I know that I must buy things that we need. We need things. Bean needs clothes. I need shoes. We need food and soap and shampoo. Like I wrote previously,it is not so much about buying the things we need, it is the amount of time we spend in stores. It seems unavoidable, because as we travel, it is necessary to find a store that has what we are looking for. We spend a lot of time looking for things we need. Even though we may be shopping at a mega store, it may not carry the same items that American mega stores carry. We may need to go to somewhere else to find deodorant or tea tree oil or baking soda. I will be so glad to get all of things we need and stop shopping for a while. Bean asks to go to the mall. As a minimalist, that is not what I am trying to show to my child.

I would like to experiment with no waste as well. There are stores that sell only fruit and vegetables. Street vendors who sell meals and set tables and chairs in front of their booth. Electric kettles are widely used to boil water and I don’t need to buy bottled water. The list goes on and I am ready to see if we can successfully create less waste.

I have used a type of capsule dressing for the last year or so. There is just no way to have one suitcase and lots of clothes. I would like to try uniform dressing. The school children all wear uniforms. Bean will not need to think about what she will be wearing every day, I believe I will benefit from that as well. As our schedules will be demanding at the beginning, for my peace of mind, uniform dressing just may be the key.

We are excited about what this opportunity is bringing us. There is always something to discover. If you would like to know about something in particular about what we plan to do, leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer you!

The Next Step

on the road again

On the Road Again!

I wrote last year about the Waiting Place. That uncomfortable time of life when you are waiting for the next big thing to happen. You are ready to go and begin new adventures, but life tells you, you must sit here a while. I don’t know if this will be a yearly thing, or if it is just in the cycle of life, I have been in the waiting place again.

I was contacted earlier this year about a teaching position. I felt that I was ready to see another part of the world on someone else’s dime, so I said yes. I signed the contract, sent it back and that was the easiest part. I didn’t know I was going to be sending myself to the waiting room.

I am very independent. I have always been. Some of it has to do with my birth order, the middle child. Some of it is my nature and my circumstances. To sit around waiting for the next big thing is torture. I must incorporate every technique I know in order to mentally accept what is happening to me. I spent a lot of time this summer journaling, counting to 10, looking for activities that give me joy, counting my blessings and writing them down, and more. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I had to phone a friend on occasion and vent. If you were that friend, thank you!

Waiting really should not have been that hard. I traveled: New York, Chicago, Baton Rouge, Daufuskie Island, South Padre Island, Austin and too many times in Houston. I wasn’t bored. I kept busy. I made plans with friends. I went to restaurants, celebrated birthdays and had a few girl’s night outs. Bean was spending time with her father, her cousins, her grandparents and other family members. It was good for her to make memories with family. That is just as important as making memories seeing new countries and speaking new languages.

But I admit, it was HARD. It is hard to know what you want to do and be ready to do it and then you must wait. I had all of my papers ready. I sent them to all of the people who were supposed to receive them. I talked to everyone with whom I thought I needed to speak. I asked questions and took notes…and yet, I had to wait.

I met other single moms who travel, online and off. I offered my advise and watched as one took off on her own great adventure. I am so proud of her. But I was stuck. I couldn’t move until I received the “Go” light from the consulate.

I have spent so much time this summer trying to be positive. Finding ways to stay positive, especially since I didn’t expect to spend so much of my summer in the United States. I feel active and useful when I am traveling to new countries, meeting new people, butchering other languages. I did my best to fight self pity. I said “shut up” to myself several times when I wanted to complain about staying in my parents house and feeling like I was 16 again. “Focus on the positive,” I said over and over.

Finally, it has all paid off. The light is green for go! We are on our way and our new adventure begins right away. Bean is as excited as I am.

We are going to China!!

Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

A gullah cabin

A Gullah Cabin
Sea Island, South Carolina

When we attended my Aunt Margaret’s memorial in December, my family planned to release her ashes into the Atlantic Ocean at her request. They decide that the summertime, around her birthday would be ideal. I had no intentions of attending. I thought I would be in France, helping another friend with her newborn and other children. Things didn’t work out the way that I imagined and I am glad.

When I arrived in South Carolina, adjusting to life on an island was quite a mental exercise. I had just come from big cities, being on my own, hanging with friends to being with family for a somber occasion. I was not sure the state of everyone’s emotions. I was not ready to sit around and cry. I wanted to explore and discover the island. Fortunately for me, so did many other family members.

We learned that the most recent history of the island was that of a resort. The developers attempted to turn the place into a golf camp for young people. Something in their plans went seriously wrong. One ended up in jail, another committed suicide and another fled the country. There were big event centers on the island that were just closed and everything was left on the table as if the staff where coming back again the next day to prepare for a big dinner. It was the perfect place for ghost story.

In fact, the whole island was like stepping back into time. Daufuskie Island first gained some popularity many years ago after Pat Conroy wrote The Water Is Wide. He wrote about a place that was cut off from the other parts of the world. Anyone seeking to go into or come off of the island needed to access it by boat. Like much of the south, the people of color were disadvantaged and answered to the ruling class. He poured his heart into helping the children of the island to gain some education about the simplest things. They could barely read, write or do math. They could barely speak good English. Their parents were superstitious. The world outside would eat them alive.

A farmer's market on daufuskie

A Farmer’s Market on Daufuskie

As we went around the island, I had not yet read the book. However, my brother and I had a few discusssions about what we felt was truth versus what we were told by others. I felt a little uncomfortable during my entire stay, (some of that was because I was watching Underground every night). As I travel, there is always an awareness that in order for big resorts to be built, someone needs to have given up their land in order for it to happen. In the back of my mind, I am always thinking “was it voluntary?” Sometimes it is, and sometimes, it isn’t. There is a lot of information available about the Gullah people who inhabited the sea islands of South Carolina. Looking around me at the “progress” of Daufuskie Island, I hope that they don’t make so much progress that they become extinct.

Overall, we made new memories with our family. Aunt Margaret’s send off was a success and touching. We swayed to Stevie Wonder singing “All I Do” as we released her to be free and fly. The dolphins came around and swam alongside our boat. In the evening we toasted marshmallows, looked for nesting turtles and played campfire games.

History has its time and place. Our story is being lived here and now. Let’s make great ones with the people who are around us.

Making it in New York City

One World Trade Center NYC

One World Trade Center

I have been to NYC many times in the last few years. My first trip to New York City happened years ago and I was visiting with people from New Jersey. They did not like the city. They could see it from their backyard and were not impressed. Begrudgingly, they took me around and showed me a few things they could tolerate to visit whenever they happened to be in the area. After that, I decided that I would never visit anywhere with someone who did not want to be there. Slowly, with every trip I have made to New York City, my experiences have expanded and improved. I am finding that I am falling in love with the city that never sleeps.

Bean and I are able to follow our schedule when we visit. We get up in the morning and meet a friend, or explore the city on our own, depending on the nature of our trip. There is so much to see and do, we have a wide variety of options. I still like going running every morning.

The last time we were there together, I went running in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I was having a great time. Enjoying watching people fall behind me, seeing the diversity of runners, feeling the breeze on my face and the smoothness of the asphalt beneath my feet. I decided that I did not want to go back on the same path on which I entered the park. I took a path that was not far and seemed to curve back in the same direction. I ran and ran. I took a detour through the woods. I ran some more. I looked around and everything looked pretty much the same as it did before, but why was I not back at the entrance. I ran a little further. I passed a girl riding a horse through the woods. I saw a man talking on his phone in Spanish. I really wanted to ask him where was the exit. I started walking along the path that I thought I came in on, and everyone was really into their workout. I couldn’t interrupt them. It was a beautiful sunny morning, so I decided to just enjoy my time in nature. I started walking in the direction that I thought was the exit. Finally, I saw a mom running with her two kids in a jogging stroller. I asked, “How can I get out of here?” She told me stay on the path and turn here and then turn there and walk this way and I would be out.

Coney Island

Coney Island

I started off in the direction she mentioned, and I must have done something wrong. I have been to the park many times, once for the farmers market, another time just to walk around a little. I had no idea how big the park was when I took off for a run. I finally made my way out and found myself on the far southern end of the park. I had no idea how close I was to the hotel. I spent another 20 minutes walking back to the entrance with which I was familiar. I had to laugh at myself. I got so caught up in the moment and enjoying myself in New York City, that I got lost in the park. It wasn’t the first time it happened and I am sure it will not be the last, but for someone who has a good sense of direction, it is always a surprise.

Another thing I enjoy to do in The City is go on walking tours. Actually, in any city, I like to take a tour either by bus or foot to get a feel of the place. New York City being as big as it is, I often don’t feel like I will ever know it well. I also never know when I am going back, so I try to do as much as I can when I am there and spend some time getting to know the place better. I have a friend who is a tour guide there and he has shown me some very interesting places like the African National Burial Ground.
This time I did a FreeToursByFoot to Harlem and their six hour Manhattan tour. I am writing about them because I enjoy the tours. I find tour guides fascinating because of their knowledge of a place. I asked these guys if they had other jobs and they said no because both of their tours are special. The Harlem tour, no one else wanted to do it. The six hour walking tour, no one wanted that either! Maybe when I grow up, I will become a tour guide!

After my tours were finished, I spent some time walking around on my own. I saw a sign for dancing in Marcus Garvey Park. I took dancing lessons last year before I left Chicago and loved it. I decided to try it and LOVED it! We did the Argentinian Tango. I have never tangoed before. As with all of my previous dance lessons, I make sure to apologize to my partner beforehand for all of the times I will be stepping on his toes. They are very understanding. By the end of the session, I was whirling around the floor like someone who knew what she was doing! That gives me hope for my future as a dancer.

I went back to Marcus Garvey Park for The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production of The Three Musketeers. It was amazing. The costumes, the dialogue, the music, dance and just the whole production was truly a delight. I wish I had more time in New York City, I would have seen this play at least once a week. I think New Yorkers are definitely spoiled because they get these types of performances so often that they don’t come out in big numbers to see them. I think tourist are just too timid to find diamonds like these. They don’t know what they are missing.

I have tried to only share a few things about this great city, but as I am writing, there is just so much more to share. New York is truly a place that doesn’t sleep and there is always something exciting and interesting to do. I feel that if people are sitting around lonely and sad in a city like this, it can only be to the lack of imagination. I look forward to visiting again and again, getting to know this place better. Why not? People already think I live there.

Have you ever been to NYC? What was your greatest experience? What do you plan to do the next time?