Hello my Friends,
I appreciate all of you that have read the blog over the last few years. I have finally finished the ebook version and want to share it with you. In the ebook version, you don't just get my perspective, but the views of the rest of my family. Claire, Taylor and Cecelia have entries as well. I think you will find it refreshing and interesting. The link to the book is below. Thanks for continuing to read.
Monday, September 16, 2013
|One of my favorite places. It was amazingly serene.|
This final blog is going to focus on what we learned while we were in Southeast Asia. I am going to describe in words a few topics and then I have created a video to go along with those topics. I will warn you that trying to squeeze a retrospective of a year living in Southeast Asia into a video is a daunting task. I got it down to less than 20 minutes, but I think it will be worth your time. The link will be included at the end of the blog. With that said, I am going to dive into this final blog head first!!!!
|Many types of Sea Cucumbers|
Chinese New Year lived up to all that we had heard about. It is an experience that none of us will forget. My friends were excited to share with us about the traditions associated with this holiday.
Finally, it was fun to learn about the other holidays that we had not heard about, like the October and Dragon Boat Festival. We can honestly say that Moon Cake is probably the worst thing that all of us have eaten in our lives.
ADVENTURES OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY: Having traveled to Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and the Philippines while on our adventure,
FINAL THOUGHT: It is difficult to put into words all that we learned. I can only hope that as the year went along and I shared my thoughts with you that I was expressing newly learned knowledge. Finally, Cecelia and I agree that we have also learned to say NO to some things and to take time to really be mindful and rest. Who knew that it would take a trip to China for me to learn this lesson.
It has been a great pleasure sharing with you and I hope that I have inspired you to share your adventures with others as I have. Blessings to all of you.
BY THE WAY: A publisher has asked that we turn the blog into a book and add the journal content from emails that Cecelia was sending weekly and entries from both Claire and Taylor. Look for the O's Odyssey in a bookstore near you soon.
This is the link to my final video, enjoy!!! It is a little long, but worth it. It was difficult squeezing a year long adventure into a few moments. What We Learned in Pictures
Thursday, August 29, 2013
SCHOOL: Many people ask us the question about how was it teaching in China. Basically it was outstanding. Not for many of the reasons that you might think.
First: The schedules that we had were not anywhere near as taxing or demanding as what we do here in America. While my schedule was extremely light, Cecelia's was a bit more difficult. Despite the differences though, it gave us the opportunity to rest and recharge.
Next: While working with Southeast Asia students, we found them to be diligent and hard working, but yet they have a difficult time being creative and developing their own opinions. They are very good about parroting back information given to them, but ask them to think outside of the box and they will struggle.
Finally: Teachers and students gear themselves to learn the test. I mean they study the actual exams that they will be taking to either move to the next grade or to get into a college prepatory school. I experienced the worst form of teaching to the test for six weeks.
My message to teachers and administrators is as follows: I BELIEVE THAT I WORK IN ONE OF THE GREATEST EDUCATION SYSTEMS IN THE WORLD AND IT IS TIME TO QUIT LISTENING TO PEOPLE THAT DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. THOSE TELLING US THAT WE ARE BAD AT WHAT WE DO, DON'T REALLY KNOW WHAT WE DO. DON'T EVER LISTEN TO ANOTHER NEWS ARTICLE ABOUT HOW POOR WE DO IN COMPARISON TO SOUTHEAST ASIA IN MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE. OUR KIDS CAN THINK AND ARE CREATIVE. I WILL TAKE OUR BEST KIDS EVERYDAY OF THE WEEK AND TWICE ON SATURDAY AND SUNDAY OVER ANY OTHERS IN THE WORLD. TEACHERS YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB AND NO SYSTEM IS PERFECT, BUT I AM PROUD TO BE A TEACHER IN AMERICA!!!!!!
|Typical Central Coast Morning in August. The beauty is in the diversity of the area.|
ADVENTURES: Enough about education. I could have reflected more but there are more important things to focus on instead of school.
This last weekend we spent some time relaxing a bit. The first week of school and golf practice found us pushing pretty hard to get back in the swing of things. So, we took some time and went to surprise our friend Julie Amodei in Cambria. She was having a remembrance for her late husband and our good friend John Amodei. John passed away at too young of an age from Melanoma. Julie had planned the event a few weeks ago, but with getting back in the house and getting ready for school, we were not sure that we would be able to make it. In the end, we felt like we needed to take some down time and this would be the perfect opportunity to do so. We were supposed to RSVP, but we figured it wouldn't be a big deal if we crashed the party.
|An area near Harmony|
Fortunately we did leave and made our way to the party to see our friends in Harmony. It was a great time and we really did surprise Julie. She was so grateful and appreciative that we came. We were remaniscing about the last time that we were there at her place. It was almost exactly a year to the weekend that we came and visited with her, just before we got on a plane to China.
|Lacy is so Zen!!!|
After dinner, we headed out to try and find a hotel for the night. All of the rooms were booked in the beach towns and Paso Robles, so we ended up staying at a Comfort Inn that I knew about in Atascadero.
|Warming the feet by the fire after a swim!!|
Next week will be the beginning of the end. So sad, but it has been totally worth it. Enjoy the last few weeks.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
|A nice warm rock for the end of summer|
SCHOOL: This week Cecelia and I spent time off and on trying to prepare for our classes. On Monday, Cecelia went to her classroom to begin the process of unpacking, and I met with my friend Bob Collins to discuss my new E.A.S.T. ( Environmental And Spacial Technology) class. Wednesday, Cecelia had to officially report for meetings at her school. I was then submitted to the same agony on Thursday. I know, I can tease about having to be back at school, but we were both greeted warmly and spent a bit of time presenting to our respective staffs about what we learned while teaching in China. The thing that we both emphasized was that we believe that we work with some of the best teachers in the world and wanted to encourage them to keep doing what they do, because they make a big difference in kids' lives everyday.
The rest of the weekend was spent getting bulletin boards and other items up in our new classrooms so that we could feel at home. We were both looking to the beginning of the new school year.
|The last of summer Freedom!!!!!!!!|
|One last plunge!!|
|On top of Fresno Dome with our new friends Travis and Johnny from China|
|Uncle Mark and the girls|
Tuesday morning, we got up and met some new Chinese friends. Their names are Travis and Johnny. Travis is from the upper Mongolian region of China and Johnny lives in Shanghai. They are a couple of boys that are staying here and attending our high school this year. I had volunteered to introduce them to our surrounding mountain area and took them on a hike to the top of Fresno Dome. So after packing a lunch for Mark, the girls and I, we headed up to the mountain.
|Is there a giant statue at the top????|
Later that evening when Cecelia arrived home, it was time for me to say goodbye to Mark and Morgan. I had to leave for a special treat that my good friend Fred Clevenger had arranged for me to share the next day in San Francisco. So I departed with a kiss from my wife and girls and headed to Sacramento to spend the evening with my brother Paul and his wife Shannon. I made it to their home in time to have some awesome white bean Chili, Bree Bread, and Beer. It was an outstanding way to end an incredible day.
So Wednesday I woke up very early and headed for San Francisco to meet my friend Fred. I was picking him up near Fisherman's Wharf and then heading to The Olympic Club to play golf. Fred had been invited to play the club while I was away in China and was told that he could bring a friend. I of course was that friend. I can't tell you how grateful and excited I was to be playing the golf course that held the U.S. Open a few years ago. I just wanted to have a great experience and play well. I achieved both. The company was outstanding and I only shot two over par. I couldn't have asked for a better day. After our golf experience, I dropped Fred off in the city and then I headed for home. I couldn't stay the night, because I had to be ready to be at school first thing in the morning for meetings.
The rest of the week I described in the SCHOOL section, but I did want to tell you a proud father story.
|Great form kid!!!|
|Lining it up for Birdie|
|Tay preparing for next time.|
I must tell you, it truly is a miracle and gift from God to have the opportunity to watch your kids grow and mature in front of your eyes. I feel blessed to have these experiences and to be given the awareness to appreciate the moments as well. I know many of you that are parents have experienced these feelings, but it is truly an amazing feeling that cannot be replaced by anything.
Next week will be the beginning of the end of The O's Odyssey to China. The first week will focus on comparing the first week of school and education to that in China. The final week will be a compilation of things that we saw and pictures that I did not have a chance to share in other blogs. See you next week.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
|The newest addition to the family|
SCHOOL: Cecelia and I began the process of going back to school and preparing for the upcoming year. Usually as a high school teacher I don't make my way back to campus until the week before, but this year is different. I have a couple of new subjects and instead of one classroom to get ready, I have two. The reason I have two is because I am teaching math, which is typical for me, and I am teaching a class called E.A.S.T.. Before your imagination runs wild with the E.A.S.T. acronym, it is not an on campus covert spy operation. The acronym means Environmental and Spacial Technology. The class is basically an open technology class in which students use their talents to do projects for non profits and community activities. I am really excited about teaching this class. It is the kind of class that allows my creative and entrepreneureal juices to flow together.
|The girls and their new dog|
Enough about school.
ADVENTURES: The week started off with us having a surprise guest. As I was sitting down to have a cup of coffee and peruse my email and various social media sites, I heard a big commotion in the horse corral. So, I ran down to investigate. Sometimes we have coyotes that come and cause trouble with the horses so I expected to just chase them off as usual. When I arrived at the corral the horses were there and then to my surprise there was a baby fawn as well. Apparently the coyotes were trying to get the fawn and the horses protected it. As I approached the corral the horses came up to me and to my amazement so did the fawn. I petted the horses and then reach down to see if I could pet the fawn. Not only could I pet it, but it came up and began sucking on my fingers. At this point I began looking around to see if the mom was anywhere. I could not find her so I picked the fawn up and took it up to the house. I was concerned that the coyotes were lurking nearby and I didn't want to give them an easy meal.
|Now this is the way to Party!!!!!|
At our home we have created an atmosphere that is open and spacious. So after spending the last three weeks cleaning and fixing, the way we like to celebrate is with an Open House Party. The party this week was for all of our friends that wanted to come and hang out to either learn about China or to just have some Thai food. It wasn't all Thai food, Taylor made home bouza's and a number of friends brought a variety of different foods. We had a wonderful time and it was great just hanging out with some of our friends that we had not seen since our return.
A really big bonus to the week and to the party was the family that came and stayed in the Caboose. They were the Baily family from Riverside. When they arrived, we introduced ourselves and immediately the kids hit it off and we shared stories like we were old friends. Now the real ironic thing about this family is that not only do they have two blonde daughters, (Julia and Elizabeth) but the parents were also school teachers. Now that might seem like a big deal to most people, but the eerie thing is that the husbands name is Rusty and he was a high school teacher and coach. His wife Judy (You thought I was going to say Cecelia didn't you?) was an elementary and jr. high teacher as well. They are no longer teachers because Rusty has moved onto other interesting areas, namely being the new Mayor of Riverside. His wife stays at home to take care of the girls and be the support staff for the mayor. It was great getting to know them and we promised to either visit them in Riverside or have them come back to stay. For Mayor Rusty, we told him that he could consider this his camp Rusty. (You know, like camp David is for the President.)
Finally, late that evening my brother Mark arrived with his daughter Morgan. They had come for a visit for a few days.
So, what might seem like a crazy weekend actually helped us to feel like home was getting back to normal. We built our house with sweat, tears, blood and love. It doesn't truly feel like home unless we are sharing food, drink and laughter with family and friends. There is nothing better!!!!!
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
|The Guest House|
SCHOOL: It's back. For those of you that have been following along, this section has been missing for a few weeks. But alas, it must return. Even though it has returned, it isn't all that exciting. The only thing to report is the coaches' meeting that I had to attend on Thursday evening. Even though it feels a little soon to be jumping back into the fray, I have felt the internal excitement that I get this time of year to see my girls golf team and begin the process of steering the girls toward being good golfers and fine young women in our community. Despite being gone for the year, we have a promising outlook to repeat as league champions once again. This would be our tenth in a row.
|My Old Project|
Cecelia continued her quest to get our house back into shape. With new carpet and light bulbs replaced, she went on a quest to wash or paint every square inch on the inside of the house. By the end of the weekend, she only had two rooms to finish.
Taylor spent the week doing technology things, like setting up two computers in her room on her own. She did ask me for help at one point, but I was busy and then the next thing I know she didn't need my help after all. She had them connected and hooked without me.
I on the other hand did what I do best. I played golf four days in a row and made a deal to start our newest project. I am not going to tell you what it is, but I will include a picture and you can guess.
|Guess What this is going to be!!!!!|
I am a little saddened by the approaching end to my blog. I have never really enjoyed writing, but it has given me a pleasure that I never thought I would experience. The last blog will be a recap of our experience and some thoughts on what we have learned from our adventure.
I have a couple of requests before I end the blog. The first is to ask you to share the blog with your friends. I have a selfish reason behind this request and it doesn't have anything to do with anything, other than my own pleasure. When I started the blog, I didn't really think that anyone would read it other than my friends back home. But over time, I have made many new friends world wide and I have received some great comments from people I had never met. Their comments helped to inspire me to keep writing. So with that being said I would like to end the blog with 10,000 reads worldwide. It is not a big number at all in the big scheme of things, but it would give me a real sense of satisfaction. Other blogs get hundreds of thousands of readers and followers in comparison so I am asking for help with this one little thing.
The other request I will be describing to you in the next couple of weeks is going to be about helping with a project in the Philippines.
So until next week, I leave you with the puzzle of what my next project at home will be.
Monday, July 29, 2013
|Time to go surfing!!!|
After sharing with you last week in which we went to the beach and visited with cousins, we had an outstanding time with Mom and Dad the rest of the week.
Claire and I took Dad to the local executive golf course. Dad had not played golf in a year and a half. It was great to see him walking up and down the hills feeling confident in his balance. He hit some good shots and really spent the time easing back into the game. Being on the golf course with him is always a time that I cherish. I guess you could say that it has been our regular man time together. Having Claire with us didn't take away from our time together, it actually enhanced it. Claire and I had a match against each other and she was playing well, so grandpa had a great time watching her and giving her encouragement when the match came down to the finish. Claire beat me soundly and I had to pay up by taking her to Jamba Juice.
|I'll Race Coach|
Joan Bear has been a family friend for many years. She and her husband, Ted were very significant people in our lives when we met and dated. Ted was the Deacon that did my annulment so that we could get married at St. James. He and I had many heart to heart discussions about faith, love and family. He was an outstanding man and I am the better man for our meeting. Joan and Ted always treated Cecelia and me like we were family. We have loved every opportunity to spend time with them.
After that, we finished with a nice meal at a local fish house that Mom and Dad love to go to for fish tacos.
|Aw, that's a good boy|
Cecelia had appointments with her brother and sister to take care of orthodontics and osteopathy. She did have time to come and have lunch with us. It was a great time and went a long way to helping us transition back to reality.
The next morning, we awoke and went to the barn with Joan. Even though her new horse did not arrive, we had a chance to spend some time in the stables with the race horses. Matt Chew, the trainer from Chew racing spent quite a bit of time with us. He was outstanding and answered all of our rookie questions. He even put Claire and Taylor up on the back of an old race horse called "Freckles". They posed as if they were Jockeys. We even had a chance to meet one of the Jockeys that races for his team. Her name was Cecily Evans. She had just come to Del Mar after winning her first race at Hollywood Park.
We then departed the barns and headed for home. We had a quiet afternoon and were going to have dinner with Joan, but she got really bad allergies from being in the barn and had to pass.
|Can you understand why I like to visit my hometown!!!!|
On Wednesday, we had a nice quiet morning before going to the races with Joan. The kids went over to the cousins and Cecelia and I visited with our long time friend Cindy Reiner. Cindy and her family have kept in contact with us ever since we moved to Oakhurst in 1996. I used to teach her children when I was teaching in Del Mar and she was a big part of helping me to propose to Cecelia before we got married. She also helped with the rehearsal dinner. We have always considered her and her husband to be role models and family.
|"And Their Off!!!!"|
|Dad and Claire studying their racing forum.|
|Let's Get Ready to Race!!!!|
After our various appointments, we jumped in the car, said our goodbyes, and headed for home. The drive was nice, but we still had to deal with traffic on the way home. Some things just never change.
The best thing about our trip was that we spent a lot of quality time with Mom and Dad. It also allowed us to get into a good sleeping pattern and finally get over the jet lag from our return home. Cecelia and I could also relax without thinking about things that we need to do at home. We were refreshed and ready to tackle home.
Finally, the girls had an opportunity to have Grandma's great homemade refried beans. The one thing that you can't get in China is good Mexican food.
Next week I will give you an update on how we are progressing toward getting ready for school here at home.