Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Home Sweet Home

I'm home in Minnesota and this is my final blog entry.  Even though it was sad saying good bye to dear friends in Xi'an and the students at XJTU, it has also been great seeing friends and family.  I started a new position as Director of Personalized Learning and Interventions for Wayzata Public Schools.  It will be a little strange not being in an elementary school but I'm excited to work with the pre-k - 12 students and staff and I'm glad my office will be in a middle school so I'll still have opportunities to interact with students.

My new phone numbers are:  Cell 612-760-3522   Office  763-745-5094 
email will continue to be karla.thompson@wayzata.k12.mn.us or karlamthompson@gmail.com

Over the past year I had many learning and travel opportunities ... I lived in and explored all corners of Xi'an and visited the pandas in Chengdu, the silk road through Urumqi and Turpan (NW), Harbin (NE winter festival), Beijing, Shanghai, Yangtze River and Three Gorges Dam, canal cities around Hangzhou (East coast), many historical cities in the south between Guangzhou and Kunming / Dally, the southern most part of China in Haikou, Hong Kong, Lhasa in Tibet, and then a winter break trip to Vietnam and Cambodia.  The climate, culture, terrain, and scenery was very different in each area. I especially loved learning about the many ethnic groups in China and the vast historical treasures.  It was also very interesting to be in China during the US Presidential election and the change in political leadership in China ... very different processes and I was surprised at how well informed students were about the American political scene.  Many students watched debates, read speeches etc.  In addition, students were very interested in everything American ... including American TV ... I had to convince them that sitcoms don't always represent "typical" families or college life.  One of the professors from XJTU is in Minnesota studying at the University of Minnesota so I am excited to get together with her.  I will also get together later in July with another China teacher from Wisconsin.  

A great university with incredible students ... I learned so much my head is still spinning ... my Chinese stalled at a very "elementary" level because everywhere I went people wanted to practice English with me so it was hard to find time to "practice" my Chinese ... plus Chinese is difficult :-)
Relaxing in my "upgraded" business elite sleeper cabin ... a perk for being bumped in Beijing and rerouted through Tokyo.    It was a smooth and relaxing flight and I was grateful for a safe trip, especially after hearing about the crash in San Francisco.

As I reflect on the experiences of the past year, I am especially grateful for the many people I met and the new insights gained through their eyes.  I found the Chinese people to be wonderfully helpful, cheerful, family centered, and curious about the world beyond China.  I also gained a new appreciation for the vast freedoms we enjoy in this country as well as the many "conveniences."  It's fun to drive a car rather than pack into a bus or wait for long periods of time hoping to snag a taxi.   Cars aren't all honking, they stay in a lane or signal when changing lanes.  Crossing the street is no longer an obstacle course of dodging various kinds of vehicles going in various directions. It's a relief to speak and be understood without having to do a lot of "mime."  I'm also enjoying the fresh, clean air and blue skies, clean streets and sidewalks, and air conditioning.  I will definitely miss the people and the environment of learning ... their was always something new.  I will miss being in a classroom and the teaching opportunities of working with college students who were so eager and hard working.  I will miss the wonderful parks and all the people dancing, singing, and playing.  I will miss all the grandparents strolling with grandchildren and the many photo ops ... I've not been asked for my photo even once since returning to Minnesota. :-)  

Enjoy a little "year in review" as I sign off.  I hope you have enjoyed sharing in my many adventures. 
Beijing "Dress UP"

Zhangjiajie - China's Avatar Mountains

entrance to Muslim market
Great Wall was great hiking
Weekly massage will be greatly missed 
diaperless "potty training"

Village kids
goats on their way to "greener" pasture

Harbin Winter Snow and Ice Festival

Ankor Watt in Cambodia

Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an

Christmas with students ... their first "real" santa experience

Classroom visits
Wuzhen - city of canals
Siberian Tiger
Great students
Xi'an Circus
Mount Huashan
Yangtze River
Hanging Coffin

New Year Dragon Dance
Final Exams
Famen Temple
Lantern Festival
Veteran in the Park
Kunming Music Lesson

Xi'an city wall at night
Monkey Business in Sonya
Pandas in Chengdu

Yakking it up in Tibet
Potala Palace in Lassa
country biking

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hiking Mt Hua Shan 

Mount Hua Shan is about 75 miles from Xian and we took the early morning fast train which was very nice.  Hua Shan is called "the number one precipitous mountain under heaven" and is one of China's five sacred mountains with a long history of religious significance. The mountain has five main peaks and the highest is 7,070 ft.  The mountain is also home to several Taoist temples, where many emperors of past dynasties took part in Taoist activities and sacrificed to the god of the mountain, making it a holy land of Taoism.  The most popular way to hike is overnight so you can watch the sunrise from on top ... about a 6 hour hike straight up.  We didn't do this :-) but had a spectacular time hiking from peak to peak and some of the trails were very challenging / scary.  My legs are still sore because hiking in China is climbing up and down thousands of stairs ... killer!

Enjoying the train ride
beautiful views going straight up the mountain on the West cable care

Entering the mountain trails

thousands of locks and red ribbons ... binding your love etc.

We were tempted but decided not to take the plank walk ... you are in a harness but it's a long way down

lots of steep steps

Friends moving a couch from the apartment to their office .... China style!