Posted by: thelocaldialect | February 27, 2010

The First Week

This week was my first week back and work and also our first week with our niece living with us as a nanny/housekeeper. Both have been going well, with a few snags along the way, as was expected.

Actually, I shouldn’t complain at all about work because when I went to pick up my schedule on Monday I got a huge surprise — I’m only teaching eight hours this semester! This happened due to the convergence of two circumstances, the first being that my graduating seniors are focusing on their math and science subjects this semester in preparation for their AP exams and taking fewer English courses, having already finished taking the TOEFL, the English language exam they need to get into colleges in America, the second being that while I was on maternity leave the school hired a part time teacher to cover my classes and now that I’m back and another full time teacher (a good friend of mine from Kunming, in fact, someone who used to work at the school I started there) is arriving, there’s a surplus of teachers. The school could have let the part-timer go, but they wanted to keep him around just in case, since decent foreign teachers aren’t easy to come by. So what that all means is that I am working eight hours a week. I have several days where I only teach a class or two, and on Thursdays I have no classes. I really couldn’t have asked for a better schedule to start back at work again. To top it all off, four of my eight hours are teaching a “preparation for overseas study” course that was sort of my own creation. It is a fun class where I go in and talk to my graduating seniors about what they can expect from life in America, cultural differences, college and campus culture, and stuff like registering for courses and getting along with your roomates. It is a lot of fun and they have loads of questions and are very curious about what to expect.

However, work is work, and it has been hard to leave my baby at home when she’s so small, even if it is only for a few hours a week. I know that I’m very lucky in that department though, because so many working mothers have 40 or 50 hour weeks, like I used to have at my original Beijing job, and this job, which allows me to work so few hours for the same amount of pay is really something I shouldn’t take for granted.

Another something we should try hard not to take for granted is the presence of our niece who has come to help us take care of our kids and look after our house. Cui Yu is seventeen years old and this is her first time being well and truly out of the home. She does a pretty good job so far, although I have to say that I feel a twinge of jealousy when she takes my daughter and gets her happy and smiling, which is silly, but I feel like already her bond with me is becoming less and less her only real bond, and more and more she’s opening up to more people. This is, of course, a good thing, but I did sort of cherish that time when I was her everything. Cui Yu has been taking Dylan out to the park too and she’s told me that people ask if he is her son, which makes me a bit territorial. I feel ridiculous feeling like I’m competing with a seventeen year old for my kids’ affection, but I am sure it is a combination of things — going back to work, Annika being so small, and having to share our space with someone new. In any case, Cui Yu, when all is said and done, is good with the kids but she’s still young and has a lot to learn. She has a tendancy to spend too much time chatting on the internet and I had to talk to her about holding the baby more when she is left with her, rather than just putting her in the bouncy chair or in her swing. Annika is a relatively laid back baby and she’s happy to sit in her bouncy chair for what seems like hours, but that doesn’t mean that it is the optimal place for her, especially when someone is available who could be holding her and interacting with her. My husband has gotten a bit short with Cui Yu several times as well because she lacks initiative. She’ll sleep in the morning until we actively wake her (which I told my husband he needs to do. If you want her up and helping, wake her up and get her out of bed) and she’ll put off cooking lunch until she’s asked to cook, rather than just taking the initiative and getting lunch started. There have been a few times too where she’s gotten Dylan worked up over something just by speaking without thinking — for example, teasing him by telling him it is bathtime when it isn’t, in fact, bathtime. Dylan loves bathtime more than anything in the whole entire world and the mere mention of the word “bath” can send him into a frenzy. When this happens at dinnertime it is quite inconvenient. We decided that in the future, whoever gets the toddler excited about taking a bath at innapropriate times gets to give the toddler a bath at an inappropriate time. Overall though, these are minor issues though and I think things are going well. Tomorrow we are giving Cui Yu the day off so we’ll see if she choses to go out and do something rather than spend the entire day chatting on the internet.

All in all I’d say this week has been a success. Let’s hope the next week goes relatively smoothly now that we’re all getting accustomed to our new setups and transitioning into a new routine.


  1. wow. Sounds like all said and done things are going pretty well. Here’s to the continuation of that. Love your work schedule- sounds like a dream!

  2. “Preparation for Overseas Living” class?? What a dream. You scare their pants off! What fun! Wow… where do you work? What a great school…! I’m sure it’s somewhere on the site…but do you write about where your school is and all??

    anyway the class sounds like a blast to teach!

    • It really is a fun class! We discuss all sorts of things, from how to get along with your college roomate to how to keep safe on campus (never let your drink out of your sight at parties, that sort of thing) to educational differences between China and America. It is all quite useful for them and they are pretty interested in the course.

      I’m teaching in the AP high school at 21st Century Experimental School in Beijing. Overall I really like my school and my students. I’ve been with my kids for awhile now and it is really great seeing them accomplish their goals and head off to their new lives in America.

  3. In Beijing… ? From the picture on the sidebar of the site it looks like you are in Yunnan. I guess I should read more, sorry. But you have a unique perspective being a western woman married to a Chinese man. I’m married to a Shanghainese… I wonder how different our experiences are or how similar!?

    • When I started this blog we were living in Kunming. I lived in Kunming from 2003-2008, and my husband is from a small town (I guess it has recently been promoted to town status, it used to be a village) about 100km outside of Kunming. We moved to Beijing in search of more opportunity (read: higher salaries) although returning to Yunnan at some point in the future is always a possibility and something I’d like to do.

      I think one of the major differences between my relationship and other relationships I see, mostly foreign men with Chinese women, seems to be that my husband is not nearly as concered as most about what other people think or what Chinese society thinks in general, even his own family. My husband is a musician. When I used to ask him if he minded getting stared at being out with a foreign woman he would laugh and say that he’d been getting stared at for at least 15 years — he had hair halfway down his back way back in 1996 when he started out as a singer! We also bypassed most of the family/in-law drama that follows other international couples, since my mother in law died before my husband and I met, and my father in law died in 2007, a few months before our son was born. So I think in some ways my relationship with my husband is fairly atypical. Most of the foreign women married to Chinese men who I know have married men who are unconventional in some way.

  4. Fascinating. Sorry to hear about so much loss. I’ll be reading more of your site!

  5. I’m so glad that, generally, Cui Yu is working out. You know, the lack of initiative you describe reminds me of so many discussions my husband and I have had about people we know in China. Anyhow, it’s great that you have the support (but, even though I don’t have children, I can imagine the twinges of jealousy you’re having).

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