Update Time!

It’s hard to believe how quickly 6 weeks can fly by!   After 5 weeks in Manitoba and then 1 week in Vancouver, it’s an understatement to say that I was happy to sleep in my own bed again!  Our cats were well cared for over the holiday and are happy as clams to have us home, back in our little routine.  Poe continues to act as my alarm clock and Hugo seems to be even more cuddly than ever!  Life is good here back in Suzhou!

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As you can see…she’s been VERY stressed…

Manitoba was a grand time.  We were able to catch up with friends, spend time with family and I even got to meet my nephew, Zachary, for the first time.  It’s funny because adults change so little from year to year, but the kids….WOW do they grow!  I’m convinced that at least 1 of my nephews is going to be taller than me next year!   My niece, Ellie, learned how to read over the past year and her little sister began talking…things change so much in their little lives while we’re away!

Our 5 weeks in Winnipeg were spent well.  We were able to see a Fringe Show, visit the Forks and even visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights!  Last year had been too rushed to stop by this architectural marvel, but I really enjoyed our afternoon there, learning new things and being reminded of things that shouldn’t be forgotten.

I organized a Paint Night with some of my favourite gals and that turned out to be a tonne of fun!  I’d recommend it as a fun night out to anyone who wishes they can paint or actually can paint!  I have artistic skills in that way and mine still turned out pretty well!  See!!!

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A good portion of my summer was spent outside.  I was able to play at the pool with my nieces and nephew, sit around bonfires and spend LOTS of time outside!  The air is so fresh and clean in Canada and the temperature is perfect for being outside.  Currently, it’s sitting at about 40 degrees Celsius in Suzhou, so I definitely miss the Prairie temperatures already!

Oddly enough, it was a game that took up most of our time in Manitoba!  Pokemon Go was all the rage back home and Dave and I spent countless hours walking around Steinbach and The Winnipeg Forks trying to catch a Pikachu or hatch a Snorlax.  I was never lucky on either of those counts, but my sister managed to catch 3 of the little yellow Pokemon!  I will forever be jealous, because Pokeman Go is banned in China.  It runs through Google Maps, which is blocked by the Great Fire Wall, so there is no Pokeman here for us to play.

We also had our yearly BBQ at St. Malo Provincial Park!  It was such a blast last year that we planned it out again this year.  We had loads of people come down and spent the day out in the sun with ys, playing in the water and enjoying WAYY Y too much food!

It’s hard to point to a ‘favourite’ memory of our 2016 trip home, but the most inspiring event was definitely Steinbach’s 1st Pride Parade.  Dave and I attended, expecting there to be a small crowd of maybe 100 or 200 people…little did we know that over 3500 people came in from all over the province for the event!  There were actually people who flew in all the way from Orlando for Steinbach’s first pride.  It was a pretty huge deal!

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The number of attendees was inspiring in of itself, but Steinbach’s reaction to the event was also good.  The Automobile City has caught a lot of flack over the last few years for their stance on LGBT rights and a variety of other subjects.  There have been issues within the school division over these matters and protests regarding bullying bills aimed at protecting LGBT students.  But instead of holding a protest or causing a fuss over the parade, Steinbach let it happen.

There were plenty of spectators there who were watching the parade and there was a tonne of support.  Many people in Steinbach have softened their views on homosexuality as they’ve grown to know people in the LGBT community or have learned that people in their own families are gay.  I saw many signs that said things like ‘proud parent’ or ‘supportive parent’.  It was really beautiful to see such acceptance  in a city that has previously been branded intolerant.  It was a huge step for Steinbach and although I know not everyone in the city agreed with the event…that’s not the point!  It’s ok not to agree with it…I’m just happy no one showed up with eggs or protest signs.  That’s what tolerance is, after all…accepting that people might thing differently than you.  You don’t have to agree with them, but you should give them the freedom to have their own beliefs.

So that is a very brief summary of our stay in Manitoba!  Our final week in Canada was spent in Vancouver, which I will be writing about soon!  I have 1 or 2 posts planned before I can get to our time on the West Coast, but I’m still off work until September 1st, so I should be able to get a fair amount of blogging in between now and then!

So, stay tuned for entertaining posts such as:

  • Beginning a new Semester in China…things teachers should know
  • Tips for new Expats living in Suzhou
  • Vivacious Vancouver: From Kits Beach to Stanley Park
  • Whale Watching off the West Coast of Canada

 

Catching up… August

It has been far too long since my last post, and I apologize to all my readers!  But, if it’s any consolation…the reason I haven’t been writing is a happy one!  I have been far too busy enjoying life to have the time to sit down and write about it!  But I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, so I better get to it!!

Saying Goodbye

We left Guiyang on August 3rd and I finished my class at 8pm on August 2nd.  I knew it was going to be hard; I’d grown quite attached to my monkeys…but I didn’t realize just HOW hard.  It took everything for me not to cry and in the end, it was the apology and the hug from my boss, Huang, that did me in.  She thanked me for all my hard work and told me that she had been very wrong about me when she thought I was a bad teacher.  That meant more than I can really explain.

Huang and I at the goodbye dinner the school held for us
Huang and I at the goodbye dinner the school held for us. She and I came a long way…
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Second last day with my babies. I miss this guys so much! I still get voice notes from many of them on WeChat…China’s bbm. It makes me smile every time I hear their little voices telling me how much they love me and miss me.

My final day at Interlingua was the hardest, because I taught most of my favorite classes on Sundays.  My Reading and Writing class was particularly difficult because I loved teaching them so much.  The mood in the class was blue, and I ended up bringing in Sylvester…the school’s kitten…to cheer them up.  It worked for a little bit, but eventually the bell rang and we had to say goodbye.

The most surprising thing for me was the parents…I expected to feel sad about saying goodbye to my students.  They are who I was closest to.  But Some of the parents are the ones that made me truly well up.

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This is Jason. He started off in my kindergarten class and eventually graduated into the level 1 primary school level. His dad had tried to get him to switch teachers at the beginning of last term, because the other teacher’s time table suited him better. Jason tried it out and then begged his dad to come back to me. This little boy…for whatever reason…thought I was the cat’s meow. I guess his dad started paying attention more after that, because on my last day, Jason’s parents came in, with a speech they’d written me (in English!) to thank me for all the hard work I’d done and how I’d helped Jason so much with his confidence. They said that I was a big part of why he’d won a speaking contest at his school recently and they showed me his performance. Talk about a rewarding job!!! I miss Jason a lot.
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This is me with Martha’s grandmother. Martha has always been special to me…she started off so sweet and shy…afraid to say a word in English class. But after some time, she blossomed into this funny, quirky, confident kid. Her grandmother feels like it was me who brought her out of her shell, and she broke down and cried a few minutes after this picture was taken. She was more upset that I was leaving that even Martha was….and Martha didn’t take it all that well either…
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She didn’t cry. She just wrapped her little arms around me and wouldn’t let go until she had to. She sends me messages through her grandmother’s WeChat account every week and I love getting them and responding. She’s such a great kid. I’m so happy she’s in my friend Chris’ class now… Chris is an awesome teacher and I know he’ll keep her out of her shell and keep her confidence up.

After saying goodbye to my wonderful K2 class, Dave and I head down to Trip Smith’s for a few final beers with the staff from the school.  Before we knew it, it was 2pm the next day and we were boarding our plane to Hong Kong.  From there….we were on our way home…

Our Trip Home to Canada

Goodness it was good to be home!  We only had 3 weeks, but WOW did we make the most of it!!  We were able to meet up with everyone who put in an effort to meet up with us and got to spend lots of great time with our wonderful families and friends.  The only downside to our trip home was the food poisoning I had for the last 5 days of our trip.  Other than that, we had a magnificent time and can’t wait to return again next year!!! (For a longer stay!!)

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I was so happy to see my grandparents, who drove out from Quebec to visit with the family while we were home! I love those two so much and it was so great to spend that time with them!..
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Our fantastically wonderful friends Nathan and Dianne. We had such great Friday nights with these two…cooking and playing Charades. I miss them both so much already!
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The only picture I got of Kathleen, and it doesn’t even have her fabulous hubby, Cory in it! They put in such a huge effort to spend time with us while we were home and it was so great going for Dim Sum with them and seeing them at our bbq
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My beautiful siblings and I. Ellie decided to photobomb us!  It was my sisters and my brother Josh planned our whole BBQ along with my BFF, Jamie. Although Dave and I showed up 2 hours late (the cost of keeping it a surprise!!! haha!!), we had a wonderful time that afternoon!!!
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I honestly don’t know if I could have gotten through last year without this girl in my life. My best friend in the world, Jamie, and our boys. Life is good when you have a friend who is always able to help you see the positives…but who knows when to let you rant!! LOVE YOU TO BITS!!!
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Another dear friend, Veronique. I don’t see her nearly often enough, but when I do, it’s as though we were never apart.
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Jamie and I with our friend Tiffany, who is about as good of people as you can find! These gals are too fabulous for words!
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A beautiful shot of my beautiful girls, Ellie and Addyson 🙂
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I missed this kid more than anyone else over the last year. My gorgeous niece, Ellie
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Being an Auntie is one of the best parts of my life. I love these kids to bits and I can’t wait to see them all again next year!!!
My mum and I at Pepere's birthday party. I'd love to have a picture of my dad too, but he's so 'anti-camera' that I learned years ago that it's best not to try...unless he's not looking. Then all bets are off!!
My mum and I at Pepere’s birthday party. I’d love to have a picture of my dad too, but he’s so ‘anti-camera’ that I learned years ago that it’s best not to try…unless he’s not looking. Then all bets are off!!

It would be impossible to choose just 1 highlight from our trip back home, but if I absolutely had to choose, it might be the day we spent in St. Malo park with our families and a few friends.  Even though we were late for our surprise party, it was such a blast and when I think back to our time in Canada, that’s always the memory that sticks out.  I grew up in St. Malo and it was so wonderful being back there, at the provincial park, walking the same stone paths that I walked with my dog, Trace, as a teenager.  I love my country and when I think of Canada, this is what I think of.  This is home to me.

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Nothing quite like a sunset over St. Malo lake. Better yet…there was a family of geese hanging out in the water. I walked along the shore with them for a while. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so calm and relaxed.
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When you grow up with this as your surroundings…it’s hard to get used to life in a city as loud and dirty as Guiyang. The fresh air here did me so much good.

The rest of the scenery we saw in Canada was fantastic as well.  I missed the big skies and the open fields that make Manitoba the beautiful province that it is.

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There’s nothing quite like a Manitoba sunset!
Loved seeing so many sunflowers and adored seeing the fields back home!
Loved seeing so many sunflowers and adored seeing the fields back home!

Our trip home was finished far too soon and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye again.  Next year we plan to be home for closer to 6 weeks (twice as long) so perhaps we’ll be able to find time for a camping trip at Rushing River.  I’m so grateful that so many people took the time to spend their time with us while we were home and I really can’t wait to for July of next year when we can do it all again 🙂

The Trip to our New Home

We arrived in Suzhou on August 27th after a long trip back to China.  We got to know the LeQiao area of Suzhou, which is actually a lot like the nicer parts of Guiyang.  We quickly found the essentials…a BBQ place, a noodle place and a milk tea place.

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Our favorite “Nai Cha” joint from Guiyang is everywhere in Suzhou!
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We craved these the entire time we were in Canada
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I forgot to take a picture of the BBQ place but I did get one of the walk there.

We spent our first day in Suzhou apartment hunting.  Eight apartments and three real estate agents later, we found our new home.  We are SO thrilled with it!!!  The building is gorgeous and secure and the area is quiet and very modern.  Just outside our apartment building is a EuroMart, which sells everything from blue cheese to port wine to taco seasoning (all things we’d never seen in China before!).

The first thing you see when you walk into our apartment. Yes...we have 2 floors :)
The first thing you see when you walk into our apartment. Yes…we have 2 floors 🙂
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This is the upstairs bathroom. Do you notice that there’s no telephone line running through it???
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We have two bathrooms. The downstairs one has a western style washing machine. Quite the upgrade from our laundry facilities in Guiyang, which basically required us to hand wash all our clothes!!!
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Our gorgeous, clean and USABLE kitchen!!!  We even have hot water in the sink!!
Our bedroom. The bed is super comfortable and King Sized :)
Our bedroom. The bed is super comfortable and King Sized 🙂
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One of my favorite features of the apartment. This is the desk in our bedroom…
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It opens up!!!
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Our dining room tables folds out into double this size. And that big thing beside it is a heater/AC. We have 4 of them in our apartment….fantastic! Also…I love the bay windows we have!!!
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My office/ Yoga Room. It leads out to the balcony, which is nice 🙂
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My office is also the extra bedroom, so if anyone’s planning on visiting us…………..this whole space can be yours!!!!
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The daytime view from our balcony. You can see the lake and even one of Suzhou’s many canals from there 🙂
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Dave discussing the details of our apartment with Jean. Notice the couch? IT’S NOT A WOODEN BENCH!!!!!!!
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Our gigantic TV 🙂 It’s actually a flat screen! First time in my life I’ve had one!! We have used it a whopping 1 time in the last month lol!!
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Our upstairs ‘den’ that we turned into an office for Dave. The landlord bought us this desk when Dave wasn’t happy with the size of the one that was originally up there. He also bought a brand new Air conditioner/heater for the room so that Dave would be comfortable working there.

I should also note that both our landlords and our real estate agent are amazing.  It was Jean (the agent) that suggested the air conditioner in the upstairs den and the landlady had 2 women come in and clean the place til it was spotless before we moved in.  And we moved in the day after we saw the place, so she did that with very little notice.

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The view from our balcony at night

The whole process of moving out here has been so easy.  Last year, we arrived to find a run down apartment with mold and bug issues and when I asked for some help getting it set up I was called negative and told that I shouldn’t complain so much.  This year, I’ve been welcomed to Suzhou with a clean apartment, kind coworkers and wonderful students.

But I’ll have more on that in my next post!  And I promise it won’t take me 2 months to write it next time!!!