This is all kind of lumped together because I don’t have a VPN on my computer so I have to use Aaron’s.

September 7-11, 2015

I’ll just do until Friday this week because I won’t have time to email on Sunday or Monday because we have district conference in Shanghai, so Aaron and I are going for Sunday and Monday (that’s our weekend here). But now that I think about it, I guess this week is kind of boring in writing because his whole week, we’ve been exploring the city! Pretty much every day we get up at like 7-8 and then lay around for a bit, attempt to read our scriptures, go on social media, read the news and then around 10 a.m. we get ready grab breakfast and hop on our bikes (the city bikes I told you about last week). The best part of this week’s exploring is that we saw three cats! They were so precious and I loved petting them. One of them lives with the owner of the stop and I make a point to stop by and say hi to the kitten. It can fit in the palm of my hand it’s so young! So precious. Aaron supports my decision to get a Siamese or Siamese mix because they are one of the most hypoallegenic cats. So that’s exciting. Maybe one day I’ll have a cat I can sit with all the time.

Pictures do a better job of showing what our week has been like, so I’ll include some with this email.

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September 2-6, 2015

Our internet broke last Sunday and I wasn’t able to get the letter out until too late!! I’m sorry!!! But I sent it to you on Tuesday. Do you only check your email once a week? Our apartment is super big! I think I wrote about it in the other email so see bellow (below your email). I included it in this thread, so just scroll down (past your email) and you should see it.
Wow it sounds like the weather in Seattle is going crazy. The more I travel, the more I feel blessed to have grown up in Seattle because it truly is the idea weather. We got to KunShan and it was UNBEARABLE! It’s so hot… Here in Kunshan it’s cooling down (slightlyish). I think it will still be pretty warm and humid, but lately (and by lately I mean this weekend) I’ve been really lucky because it rained and then it was super windy! I’m so relieved, because I honestly thought I was gonna die at some times. It’s so hot here. I can’t wait for the fall when everything will be put right (mainly I can wear pants, eat soup and all the mosquitos disappear, I’ve probably got at least 10-15 since being here).
Aaron teaches at three different schools and I teach at two schools. Either way, we both teach about 15-18 hours every week. The students are so cute. But I feel really bad for them because when they come here, they’ve already done at least 7-8 hours of school then after they’re at our supplement school they go home and do homework for both school and supplementary school. I think about my blissful childhood and am extremely grateful.
Wow, that drive must have been great to be a part of! I need to volunteer more when I get back to the States. I met a woman today (who lives in China) who adopted a little boy. She gets to take him home in about a month and is very excited. She has three extremely blonde girls already, but both her and her husband speak Chinese. It also reminded me of why I wanted to be an international studies major and work for a non-profit. There’s just so many people out there who need help. I wish I could volunteer at an orphanage, but I don’t know if they would allow me, or if there is an orphanage here in KunShan. The lady asked me for some tips on raising adopted kids (from the perspective of an adopted kid), but what are some tips you have, obviously, you know better than I do what would be helpful for her.
Monday we went to LineStart, one of our schools, and they showed us around the school. We also explored. That day was pretty eventful because our internet was down, and our liaison, Athena (the lady who’s supposed to help us communicate with the schools) went crazy because she couldn’t get a hold of us. We went to another couple’s apartment to try to use their wifi but they weren’t home. They live by a grocery store so we went and looked around there for a while before checking back. We were just on our way back to the bus to get on it and go home when they spotted us across the street. Our liaison was really worried that something bad had happened to us. She’s culturally, very different from us, but she’s really nice. We went and go bank cards (they put money on them for us to use to buy food), so that was nice.
Tuesday Aaron and I went back to Line Start. We were supposed to teach for about 3 hours, but since no students came, we just ended up learning how to play Weiqi (Go) and played that. We also got bike cards! Basically they have these little stands around the city (like starbucks or McDonalds frequency) and they have bikes in these little machines. You scan your card and it allows you to take a bike out and then when you get to your destination, you put it back in a little machine and scan your card again. It’s free to ride for an hour and so convenient. We ride our bikes a lot and are learning how to navigate traffic safely.  Many of the middle-large sized cities have the bikes, and even some cities in the U.S. have started using them (SLC). Such a good idea!
On Wednesday, we taught at Scholastic for the first time. The schedule at Scholastic is pretty structured and strict and there’s a computer that does a lot of the talking so it’s kind of boring and you feel a bit like a robot. Aaron and I hate teaching there and also the class lengths are really long. Like 1.5-2.5 hours for kids anywhere from 4-8 years old. That’s too long for kids so young. They get squirmy. I know that immersion is really important, but when you’re basically doing school, not playing for some of that time, the kids get so unfocused. Luckily for my 2.5 hour class with 6-7 year olds (I think) we had a half an hour break. I also needed that break, haha.
Thursday a couple of the teachers were being moved that weekend because the school they were teaching out was loco crazy. They wanted this girl to teach 2 year olds for four hours. So we had a big family style dinner with almost all of the teachers in our area. This year it’s the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2, and the Chinese had a huge parade to commemorate China triumphing over imperial Japan. The parade has been largely criticized because the communists didn’t do most of the fighting, the KuoMingTang did (the government before the Chinese Communisty Party-CCP). But the whole country was supposed to have like three days off (Wednesday-Friday). But our school (LineStart) wanted us to come because it’s a training center (supplemental school). They told us we should just come and play, but really we ended up teaching short demo lessons to kids while their parents watched (to decide if they wanted to send their kids to the school’s devil supplemental lessons). The lessons were only about 10-15 minutes long, which was bliss compared to teaching for an hour or longer.
Friday was pretty fun, we went to Tinglin park, there’s so much to do there and it’s huge! There’s tons of places to walk around and quite a few museums to explore inside the park. The best part is the admission is only 20 yuan (about 3 dollars). We’ll have to go back, we met at 8 but by 10:30 a.m. it was really too hot and humid to be out and about so we went back to air conditioning, haha…
Saturday was a long day of teaching at Scholastic. So as you can imagine, Aaron and I were drained by the time it went by. Aaron taught 2 2.5 hours classes and 1 1 hour class and I taught two 1.5 hour classes, (I usually have one more 1.5 hour class but it was canceled that day). It was fortunate for sure. The thing is, we have a couple breaks, but they want us to grade papers and schmooze with the parents who can speak English so our breaks aren’t really breaks so we pretty much are working from 9-5:30 p.m. teaching little kids. Imagine having sharing time, singing time or teaching a primary lesson for about 8 hours, and then realize that they can’t fully understand everything you say. Teaching a class is a lot of ups and downs. The kids are super cute, but sometimes they can be devil’s. The best times is when they get really excited about learning something or doing active activities with them (like singing) because they get so giggly. It’s adorable honestly. I love it, it’s just very emotionally draining, haha.

August 25,-September 1, 2015

Mother dearest,
Wow Lauren’s mission call is to NC! That’s crazy! She leaves pretty soon.
Honestly, Jacobs wedding sounds really unique. Did all the shades of green match? Or were they carrying degrees? They’re cupcake idea is probably pretty convenient because you don’t have to worry about the mess when cutting the cake. Did they shove cake in each others’ faces? That’s so repulsive to me. But good for them if they like it.
I’m sorry sharing time was so disastrous. But that’s nice the missionary phone is so quiet. It’s probably really stressful. Is shots rally different from IV? They’re both needles. Have you ever given a shot? I think giving shots to like 5-year-olds would be the worst because they would just cry and cry.
We were still in Beijing during Aaron’s birthday so we were still kind of on duty for training the new teachers.
Last week was so busy between finishing up days in Beijing and moving to KunShan. The city we will be living for the next four months. Pronounced kuen-Shan (not a hard A sound).
Last Monday we visited the Summer Palace. It was still beautiful (as this is the second time I’ve been to it) and has so many things to look at you have to visit more than once. Definitely. Tuesday we went to the Temple of Heaven and looked around. After we went to the Pearl Market (this huge tower of goods you can bargain for (most of them are knock off) before returning back to our hotel and resting.
Wednesday was pretty fun. We just had a lot of free time and then in the evening went to the exotic food market in Beijing. Obviously, not everyone in China eats scorpions and star fish and all of that. In fact, not even very many Chinese people would eat that. I’m not even sure how the market came to Beijing. But we did eat these really tasty kabobs. They have all this different fruit that’s like fruit skewers, and then they pour this really hot sugar mixture, and then let it harden on the fruit and it turns into candied fruit. It’s so tasty. Aaron and I had a strawberry one and it was so delicious. Later that night we went to Kareoke With the rest of the mentors which was pretty fun. For some reason, Americans really don’t like Kareoke. But Asians like love it. So there’s Kareoke TV (KTV) places all over the place in China, Korea and Japan.
Thursday we had training for a couple hours, and then had some free time. So during the free time we went back to the Christian woodcutter to show some of our friends. This woodcutter is probably one of the only people who carved nativities in China. He also does a lot of stuff with the tree of life. He gets a lot of Mormons in his shop, just through word of mouth. On our way back to the subway stop, we just wandered through the Hutongs (Alleyways) around the area. The Hutongs are where a lot of people live locally, and they’re often very old. So it’s pretty fun to just wander around. The next day we had a lot of free time and since Aaron was feeling a little sick, I went with some of the mentors to the Pearl Market to just shop. I also didn’t really bring a bag, so I bought one there.
On Friday we finally got on the train (at 9 a.m.) to go to KunShan. Our liaison is really nice and friendly. She gave me a hug when I got to the station and said, “Welcome Home!” I wasn’t really sure what to say, so I just said, “Thank you!” She’s really friendly and helped us get wifi right away. We we’re going to to be all gung ho and clean everything, but after we ate, I fell asleep (I’ve had a slight cold for the last week or so. Nothing big just a runny nose and a bit of a sore throat).
Saturday we got up and went to the bank (we figured out regional banks won’t let us take money out because we have an American card) and store and bought cleaning and supplies for our apartment. Our apartment is pretty nice. It is on the 7th floor (with no elevator) but oh well, we’ll just have monster calves by the time we end our time here. The apartment has three bedrooms! So big! It also has a kitchen, fridge bathroom and washroom. It’s pretty nice, a little dirty and old, but pretty comfortable. We also have a well working AC unit, so I’m especially grateful for that because it’s very humid here. We met a couple of the nearby teachers for lunch and then went back to our apartment to relax before dinner.
We had only been home for a few minutes when someone knocked at our door. The people bellow us wanted to get their plant in the balcony (we’re on the top floor). They have a key to our house (they’re the landlords) so they said if we accidentally lock ourselves out they can open our door. They also said to make sure to lock all our doors and windows because sometimes things get stolen. They told us several times and visibly showed us How to lock the doors and windows properly. They were so sweet and welcoming. I didn’t understand everything the lady said, but she was really patient with me and helped me out when I didn’t understand. The man I had a very hard time understanding. His accent was very unfamiliar to me, and was very thick. Imagine you didn’t speak English very well, and then going to they south where they slur the words and the pronunciation is off. So hard! But I’m excited to get to know them. They seemed really nice and patient and I hopefully can practice Chinese with them.
That night we had dinner with some of the other teachers and mostly sat around chatting. We didn’t find somewhere to eat right away because we met up with them in a different area than we live and it’s really stressful when you’re leading around 5-6 other foreigners and you don’t know where you’re going. Because everyone is relying on you. When it’s just Aaron and I, if we just walk around for a while or if we go the wrong way it’s no problem because it’s just the two of us. But I feel bad when it’s like we’re leading this group, but we don’t know where we’re going. Probably how it feels to be a parent sometimes, haha.
On Sunday we tried to go to church, we got up at 6:30 and left at like 7:10 and we got on the bus and then we were told by Google Maps that it was only a mile. So confident, we set out. We walked a while, but it didn’t look like we were headed in the right direction. So we hailed a cab and it took us to the right train station (there’s two in Kunshan) and we met the rest of the teachers there. Thankfully, they all got there alright. We got to the SuZhou subway and met up with some SuZhou teachers, but unfortunately, the directions we had were not super helpful because there was a lot of construction. We ended up walking around for a hour and splitting up, before we finally hailed a cab, and it was (then) around the corner. So annoying! But we at least attended part of Sunday school and relief society/priesthood. There was a linger longer after and then we went back to KunShan. All in all, usual church days will take about 2.5 hours. So I’ll really appreciate the 5 minute drive/walk to church when I’m back in the states. That’s all for now!
Love love love, “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22”
P.S my birthday passed uneventfully. I actually forgot about it until Aaron said happy birthday in the morning. The rest of the teachers in my school were really nice and all said happy birthday.
August 20-24, 2015

So Thursday we got to the airport at like 8-9 p.m. so there isn’t anything that happened that day. Friday morning, we had language and ESL training. The sky in Beijing was really blue! Which was great, and pretty rare. We had steamed wheat dumplings for breakfast and went to the Pearl Market to bargain. Fun story, Aaron was thinking about buying a new suitcase because his is falling apart, and he just asked the lady what the price was. Huge mistake. Bargaining in China is such a fun activity. But they can be pretty persistent. So Aaron asks this lady what the price is, but that was all he wanted. The lady wouldn’t leave him alone, he walked away from his stall and came back towards our little group of 4-5 people and kept making offers. Finally, Aaron had to go up one floor for her to leave her alone. So that was the highlight of our day.

Friday we mostly had training. But also saw this Chinese acrobatic show and it was so funny, because we went to the same theater and (some of) the same acts we saw two years ago when we saw at the acrobatic theater. And in a couple days, there’s a optional Kung Fu show, and I asked and it’s the same Kung Fu show we saw two years ago at the Red Theater as well! So funny.

Sunday we went to church, which was really nostalgic. I saw Sabrina and Ted, two Chinese speakers who have continued to live in Beijing for the past couple of years (not married) and mostly did training for the rest of the year. We took the subway to Church, and it was so nostalgic. Like dejavu. The subway stops were so familiar and being on the different subway lines was crazy! We also saw Sister Shen, one of the Chinese teachers, with the BYU–Idaho study abroad group at Church. Luckily, I was able to understand everything she said. Which was a relief. Because she did strike up a conversation with me and chatted with me for a little bit.

On the subway over, the girl I was standing next to kept bumping the guy on the seat and she kept saying “I’m sorry,” in English, so I taught her how to say “不好意思,” which is basically what you say when you bump into someone or step on someone’s foot on accident. And I was explaining to her some of the situation when you would use that phrase. Then the guy she was sitting next to asked me if she was a college student. It was pretty hard the first couple things he said to me, because I didn’t understand his accent. But I finally started to understand him a bit and I asked him where he was from.

He’s from Henan province, which is right underneath the province Beijing is surrounded by. Henan is a pretty poor province and it’s pretty rural, so their accent is a lot deeper, they slur their words and the pronunciation is much different. But after hearing a few sentences I was able to understand it better. He’s in Beijing for work. He has a 12-year-old son who is able to speak English (he’s studying it in school) and he asked me where I was from and I told him I was from Xiamen but moved to the United States when I was about 1-year-old. I kind of try to avoid telling people I’m adopted if I can help it, because it often gets a little awkward. But it was alright (I think) and we continued on with our conversation for a little bit.