Saturday, February 21, 2015

What's New in Mandalay

I find it hard to believe that it's February 21, 2015.  Time seems to be flying by.  Nothing extraordinary has happened but I thought I'd fill you in on what I've been up to the last couple of weeks.

I continue to love having the new Citimart grocery store open.  The good news is they have a variety of western products, including cheese, ham, olives and more.  The downside is that they cost American (or more) prices.  When I shop at Mingalar, the produce market I prefer, I can spend $10 for all the food I can carry.  At Citimart, I can spend $40 for one bag of groceries.  Still worth it, though.

Teaching first grade is an adventure every day.  I work hard to keep it fresh for the kids and for myself.  Routine is good because kids that age like to know what to expect.  But, it's always good to have novelty and make it interesting.

Last week we had international tests for grades 3-10.  One of the grade 4 teachers asked if I was willing to do some shared stuff in the afternoons after their tests.  You bet!  The first afternoon, we played Science Jeopardy to help my kids prepare for their upcoming Unit 6 Science test.  My first graders proudly beat the socks off their grade 4 competitors.  Admittedly, my guys have been studying this stuff for the last few weeks and this was long ago info for the 4th graders.  It really didn't matter who won - there was learning going on and a lot of excitement and fun.

The country celebrated Chinese New Year last week.  At least 50% of people in Mandalay are of Chinese descent so it's a big deal.  So big, in fact, that only 6 of my 19 students showed up that day.

We started the day with the fourth grade again.  The seven students from their class joined ours and we created timelines of a typical day.  Wonderful to see the kids working so well together and helping each other.

It's customary to give gifts of food and cash on Chinese New Year.  Kids told me about receiving up to $100 from family and family friends.  One boy came in on the holiday with a grocery bag full of "snacks"  = cookies, chocolate, jellies, etc.  The bag was a gift from his Chinese tutor.  I asked if he planned to eat all of them (anticipating a major sugar high) but he assured me he only planned to eat two- one for each of our breaks.  He gave me one snack and another to Tr. May, our assistant teacher.  When he realized that only five other students were there that day, he realized that he had plenty of snacks to share with all the other students.  He told me before school he had a surprise - he was going to give everyone a snack.  All day, he kept reminding me of his surprise and I let him know it was up to him to decide when to share.  He happily waited until the end of the day when he announced his surprise to the class and shared his treats.  I was happy to hear the "thank yous" and see the appreciation.  The best treat of the day was at the very end of the day when this independent, creative, sweet little boy gave me a hug for letting him share his "surprise".

The same day, we had one period where the kids worked on a variety of projects in math and language arts.  When they finished their work, they got to read or draw.  One boy was drawing and proudly came up to give me the "project" he'd made for me.  He'd drawn a heart, colored it in and written the word "LOVE" in the center, then cut it out.  He gave it to me and told me it was because he loved me.  I love him, too, along with the rest of these amazing kids.

Since there were so few kids at school, for the last 30 minutes of the day I organized a kick ball game for all 3 first grade classes.  13 on one team, 12 on the other.  We didn't exactly go by the rules but everyone had a fabulous time.

On Friday, I went grocery shopping after school to one of the three modern grocery stores in the city.  While checking out a family asked if they could take their photo with me.  Sure.  Always nice to be a celebrity.

After shopping, a friend and I went out to dinner and then to the beauty salon for shampoo, blowdry, massage and mani/pedi.  Total for pizza, beer and spa was $14.  A great Friday night.

Next week is a full week of school and then on Saturday I'll fly to Bangkok for a visa run.  We've got three days off the following week so it will be short.  I'm looking forward to the break in Thailand but also to a week with my littles.  There's nothing better than seeing all that excitement and enthusiasm as the kids come in every morning.  Except, maybe, all the hugs I get every day.

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