Reflection on 2017

I was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers & my recent injuries to stop and take a moment to reflect on 2017. This was a year full of life changing moments that I know will continue to shape us in 2018.

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January

The year started off with a ton of fun. I had a fun weekend in Shanghai with my (at the time) fiance riding Mobikes around the city and drinking milk teas. I went to the annual EF conference in Wuzhen with my coworkers and won the Best New Teacher award. My favorite part of January was experiencing my ever Chinese New Year with Harry’s family. It was the first time many of them met me, the infamous foreigner who would soon be a part of their family. I was greeted with so much love, kindness, food (so much food), and even red envelopes.

 

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February

February was all about preparing for our wedding registration. We needed certificates. We needed photos. And of course we needed a nice dress. Besides wedding prep, Harry and I had a very romantic Valentine’s Day date in Shanghai where Harry took me out to eat Western food (what I always craved) and then took me to see La La Land which I LOVED. We were lucky we caught it because it had such a limited release in China. I still listen to the soundtrack every time I need to feel inspired.

 

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March

We got married! On March 7th, Harry and I became officially married at the courthouse in his home province. His mother and cousin were our witnesses. There wasn’t any big party (that would come later), just us deciding we’re in this for the long haul. As soon as the ceremony was over, we hit the ground running on preparing all the documentation for Harry’s green card.

Other special memories this month were celebrating my friend Warren’s birthday in Shanghai, meeting more of my husband’s friends, and making ice cream sandwiches with one of my more difficult classes. I had been struggling with this particular group since I started teaching and this was a turning point for our class.

 

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April

April was filled with lots of traveling. My husband and I took a trip to South Korea at the start of the month. We couldn’t have picked a better time to go. The bitter winter weather was finally ending and the cherry blossoms were already starting to bloom. It was absolutely perfect. The street food, the clothes, the cosmetics, the BBQ, the FRIED CHICKEN!? I had a blast and can’t wait to go back.

Next I took a trip to Guangzhou alone to visit the U.S. Embassy and to turn in our petition for Harry’s green card. The embassy portion of the trip went smoothly (praise the Lord!) but the rest of my trip did not go as smoothly. I hope one day I can go back to Guangzhou with Harry and explore more. I really liked the vibe of the city. It felt so different from where I was living.

April was also when I shot my first ever paid video. It was also my first video ever made in a foreign country. A very exciting moment creatively.

 

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May 

May was so busy because we were preparing to leave China and had so much to do to get ready for America. At the start of the month, Harry and I went to Suzhou and met up with his college friends. I took a really fun trip to Anji with my friends to celebrate Apple’s birthday. Mike & Kelly came to visit China! I got food poisoning and thought I was going to die in a Chinese hospital. Finally, I said goodbye to so many amazing coworkers, students, and friends. During all of this, we were also packing up our apartment and mailing boxes to America.

After I said goodbye to Jiaxing, we went back up to Harry’s hometown and held a wedding ceremony. We had over 200 guests that came and celebrated with us. I got to wear a lovely red dress (the traditional wedding dress color in China) that I had picked out with Harry’s mom earlier that month. After lots of red envelopes, hugs, dinners, and fireworks, Harry and I set off on a mini honeymoon to Japan.

 

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June

June meant returning back to where it all began. Harry and I took a trip back to the city we met, Okayama, only this time we were married! It was so surreal and beautiful to be back there as husband and wife. I had the opportunity to visit my former Junior High School students who were now in their final year. They were so surprised and excited to see me and meet Harry. After Okayama, we traveled to Kyoto and met up with John & Sierra. We also got to see Tom and Mac! In Kyoto, Harry and I said a tearful but hopeful goodbye knowing we wouldn’t see each other again until he had his green card. Then I traveled to Tokyo and stayed with our friend Ray, met up with old friends, and had a ton of fun sightseeing and enjoying the country I use to call home.

By mid-June, I was back in America, united with my family! Harry had his green card interview in Guangzhou which he passed with flying colors. We knew we would be reunited again soon.

 

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July

After a few weeks readjusting to life in America, it was time to get to work on making a home for us here. I found us an apartment in Austin and started my search for a job. I was having a lot of trouble finding work but I kept myself occupied catching up on American films I’d missed and by hanging out with my niece and nephew.

 

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August

August was a huge month because Harry arrived in America!!! I had so much fun introducing him to all my favorite Texas/American things like P.Terry’s and Whataburger. Right after his arrival, the hurricane hit Texas. Austin hardly received any damage but it was crazy to see the mob mentality in action as stores everywhere started to run out of water, gas, and bread.

Other highlights were visiting the Magnolia Market in Waco and seeing Joe & Jen.

 

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September

By September, I hadn’t found a solid gig so I started working three part-time jobs. I was teaching film to elementary school students through Austin Film Society. I was teaching students at a daycare. And  I was making mini-documentaries for an upcoming website aimed at inspiring young adults.

Harry and I took our first trip in America! We went to Santa Cruz to celebrate Kay & Austin’s wedding. Then we drove down the smokey coast and hung out in LA for a few days.

My birthday is September 16 and in 2017 I turned the big 3-0. I had a nice celebration with my family and Harry eating pizza and cake in countryside.

Other highlights were volunteering at Fantastic Fest. I had so much fun despite the controversy surrounding this year’s festival. I hope I can volunteer again next year.

 

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October

In October, Harry and I traveled up to Dallas to go to the Texas State Fair with our friends Mike & Kelly. Unbeknownst to us, we picked the busiest weekend to go. I had no idea there was a rivalry between UT and OU.

I also got to see my friend Nick when he came into town. He edited the film Coming to My Senses which screened at the Austin Film Fest. The film is about Aaron Baker, a man who spent 15 years fighting for his ability to walk after a terrible motocross accident. I had the privilege of meeting Aaron and his wife who are every bit as lovely and inspiring as they are on film.

Other highlights were shooting another mini-doc and helping Harry adjust to life in America.

 

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November

By November, Harry and I began looking for work in LA. I landed a producing job with an animation studio so off we went to sunny California!  spent my first week in LA with Kay & Austin which was a lot of fun. They are simply the best hosts. We came back to Austin for Thanksgiving and to shoot a video I had already scheduled. Then it was right back to LA.

 

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December

December was spent getting readjusted to the LA lifestyle again, making new friends, reuniting with old ones, and working! I spent many late nights at work only to come home to more work (i.e. editing). I spent my weekends editing while Harry studied for the GMAT.  I did have a few moments of fun though. Going to 29 rooms with Lari and friends. Hot Pot night with Brian and his wife. Experiencing my first Escape Room with Debbie and my coworkers at State.Then the 22nd finally came and we flew back to Austin for Christmas with the family.

Two days before New Years, I was in a terrible accident. I walked into a shop and just as I walked in, a car came plowing through the front of the store. Thank baby Jesus I was just to the right of the car or I wouldn’t be here writing this today. I was injured though and spent the last two days of 2017 in the hospital. Not at all how I thought the year would end!

 

 

Even though the accident was terrible and we’re still dealing with the aftermath, it has made me so thankful for the moments I have been given. I plan to take this “second chance” use it as motivation to work harder in 2018.

Thanks for taking the time to reflect back with me. I really recommend taking the time and doing the same. What are your favorite memories of 2017?

♥︎K

 

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Education in Japan

Both of my parents work in education and one of the things I like about working in education myself is that now I can talk to my parents like a peer in the same industry.

Education is one of the toughest fields around. Being a teacher is easy, but being a good teacher takes years of dedication and a passion to help students. And patience. A saintly kind of patience. But before you can begin to teach, you need a student who’s willing to learn.

Now, I’ve worked in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and dealt with a wide range of personality types. I’ve dealt with demanding clients with ridiculous expectations and even more ridiculous deadlines. It was demanding. It was stressful. But give me room of surly 10 year olds…. that’s a hell of a lot scarier.

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*No teachers or children were harmed in the making of this photo* Halloween Night

I’ve had many talks with my mom about the differences between the education system in Japan versus in Texas. Now I’m not saying Japan has all the answers, but I can tell you, my experience teaching there was a dream compared to what my parents deal with everyday.

There are a few key things I noticed in the Japanese public school system that I believe lead to stronger, more disciplined students.

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Students looking captivated by my English lesson

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1. Students walk to school

There are no buses. There is no line of parents dropping students off by car. Students are expected to walk to school rain or shine. When you reach junior high school age, then you’re allowed to ride a bicycle to school.

Now I know the distance that American students live to school makes this kind of arrangement impossible, but it’s still interesting to observe.

2. Students are greeted every morning by fellow students

When I arrived at school each day, there were 3 or 4 students whose job it was to tell me good morning and give me a high five. This is such a small gesture but it makes you feel like you are coming to a place where you are wanted. A place where you belong. I don’t know if I ever felt that while I was in school. This starts in elementary school and continues up through junior high school.

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3. Students serve each other lunch and eat in their classrooms

Each day, students wash their hands, walk to the kitchen area of the school, and pick up large pots and pans with that day’s lunch. Students carry it back up the stairs to their classroom and begin to serve food to their classmates. Other students help by handing out trays and preparing the desks.

No one can begin eating until everyone has food. Then, everyone claps their hands together and says, “Itadakimasu!” which roughly means, “I humbly accept this food” and everyone eats!

When everyone is finished, students return their trays and bowls themselves and carry it back down to the kitchen where they will be washed later by the staff.

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Photo borrowed from online

 

4. Lunch is healthy 

No french fries and pizza found here. These meals are prepared by community members (often retired grandmas) for the students from fresh ingredients. There is rarely anything with sugar. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a small piece of fruit as dessert. Students are also required to finish everything on their trays. No exceptions.

I’ve posted before about the delicious lunches I ate while in Japan. I still dream about school lunch…

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5. Students are responsible for cleaning their school

Each day, there is a 30 minute window where every student takes out a broom or a rag and cleans their school. They clean the classrooms. Their desks. The bathrooms. The hallways. The courtyards. The teacher’s room. There are no janitors. This begins as young as 1st grade.

Now most of the first graders just run through giggling and don’t really clean so an older student is assigned to help. But either way, the students learn from day 1 that this school is their property and they need to take care of it.

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Borrowed from online

6. Students perform for their parents 

At least twice a year, students host a special performance day on the weekend where family is invited to watch each student’s performance. There’s usually a song, or a play, or some kind of talent show.

Students and teachers work very hard on this performance for months. This is on top of their regular school work. Students are given a lot of responsibility for the execution of this day and they deliver.

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7. Students support their fellow students

When the 6th graders were moving on to junior high school, the students in grades 1st-5th put together the most beautiful graduation ceremony/performance for them.

They were given flower necklaces to wear. Each grade prepared a song or a dance. There were banners and speeches. There was a video made by the teachers of their photos from 1st grade until now. Anyone could see how much this small school cared about their students. I’m not going to lie, I cried like a baby. It was a beautiful ceremony.

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My adorable 6th graders

There’s a few other things like wearing summer uniforms year round in classrooms without heaters that I could add, but these are the things that come to mind at the moment.

I hope teacher’s in America realize how important their job is to the future of the world. I truly believe education can solve 95% of the world’s problems. Don’t give up. Realize that you’re not alone and connect with your fellow teacher’s. If your school isn’t supporting you, connect with teacher’s around the world! Anything that will help you realize there is a community out there who wants to help you do your job well.

 

Hang in there.

♥︎K