Sunday, April 25, 2010

100 Days

Joe got out the calendar today and calculated that 100 days from today, we'll be on a plane to Shanghai. That definitely motivates the transition activity! My father-in-law Frank suggests that we should adapt "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" as our theme song. We spent yesterday (a Saturday) in teacher improvement/professional development/pick your favorite euphemism. I started with a class on a particular type of creative software and, as one of my activities, chose a picture of Nanjing Street in Shanghai, which is the Times Square-type shopping street. Just seeing the picture made me feel lighter than air, and I was a bit obnoxious about making my colleagues look at the picture to see where I would be soon.

However, 100 days makes us realize how many things we still need to do. We've got to schedule our last medical exams so we can get all our necessary prescriptions filled. I have my regular stuff, but we were also cautioned to take an ample supply of antibiotics with us (Cipro was the recommended drug) to help with some of our "internal adjustments." (If you don't understand, all I can say is try eating some melon in Mexico, but that's another story entirely.) Joe's doctor suggested running a few blood tests and such just to make sure nothing will pop up. We already have dates with our dentist and eye doctor, both of whom are simply thrilled for us. It's nice to have such support, and our dentist even keeps electronic records, so we just get to download them to our computer and show them to a Chinese dentist if necessary. We will also get to visit a Chinese doctor for a health check when we arrive, and my email buddy Wendy says we will at least be diagnosed with "fatty liver," regardless of our actual health status.

We are continuing to read books about China and watch movies as well. For the movies, we started with "The Last Emperor," tried "Farewell, My Concubine" (lasted about 20 minutes on that one, but couldn't take the impromptu finger amputation), and saw "Raise the Red Lantern" last night. Stories about Chinese life seem to have unhappy endings. I've been reading "Red China Blues" about a Chinese-Canadian journalist who lived in Beijing during the early seventies, when she wanted to be a Maoist and then again in the late eighties. Her description of the events leading up to the massacre at Tienanmen Square are absolutely riveting, especially because she saw the whole thing from her balcony at a Beijing hotel right on site. We are also trying out some recipes from our Shanghai cookbook: Curried Beef is coming soon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What's In A Name?

I have carried an unusual last name all my life. I was born a Maywald, which doesn't look that complicated, but people got it wrong all the time, including the minister officiating at my father's funeral and the dean of my law school, which is another story entirely. Most of the men I dated had unusual last names as well, and when I married a Rauschenbach, I figured at least I wouldn't be confused with anyone else, especially not in China. Well, this week we blew that theory.

You may remember that Joe's new boss is named Tammy Rodabaugh. I got the link to my SCIS email and checked in this week to find 24 emails in my box. That seemed like a high number to me, and as I scanned them, I realized that the good folks at SCIS have been sending emails to "Tammy" without checking the last name, which is similar as well. I learned a lot about who had chicken pox, who was substitute teaching, and the names of new students. When I realized people were trying to set up meetings, I took a little action and contacted the IT department, as well as Ms. Rodabaugh, of course. We are hoping to have everything sorted out shortly, but in the meantime, I'm forwarding emails and contacting those who haven't figured out the problem.

We've had a few more interesting tidbits about our coming life. For instance, did you know that the denomination approved by the Chinese government for church services is Catholicsm? I wonder if the communists have caught up with that church's line on human rights, at least here in the US. Maybe they approve of the hierarchical structure. Also, my email buddy Wendy mentioned that many Chinese apartments do not have ovens, but she makes do with a toaster oven. Oh boy, lemon cheesecake and pumpkin bread are going to be difficult! Our new curriculum and instruction director, Nancy, tells me that Shanghai has some Mexican food restaurants that are not great, but "passable." Well, the point is to learn about Chinese culture, not to take my culture with me.

We had some good news about renting the house this week. A nice group of music students, recommended by our friend Beth, came over on Thursday and were very enthusiastic about living here in the fall, so we emailed our lease agreement. If everything works out, we'll have Dan (the trumpeter), Bryan (the euphonium), Jane (the percussionist) and Theresa (the clarinetist) as our renters in August. It's nice to have things falling into place, especially when time seems to be getting shorter.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How Many Email Buddies Does It Take...

... to make me feel like I have a handle on things? Well, I really am hearing from just about everyone in Shanghai, and that's bound to make a body feel good. I now have two staff email buddies (Wendy of language arts and Steve of orchestra), I have heard from the principal of the Upper School (Roger) and our Head of School (Michael), and today I got a note from our IT guy (Chris). Of course, Ms. Kasono (Jeff's secretary) continues to drop little helpful notes every now and then. The last one was the contact information for a shipping company that has a relationship with SCIS, so that makes me think that I might not have to squeeze my entire life into four suitcases (well, three, because I have to carry on my violin). I'm verifying that point with Ms. Kasono before I ship anything, though.

One of the really nice things I heard from Wendy has to do with our first week in Shanghai. A school administrator will pick us up at the airport and take us to our apartment, which will have a fruit basket (ooh, like a tropical vacation!) and some basic food supplies. During the week, we will take guided trips to the bank, the grocery (the big one is called Carrefour), and a big shopping trip to Ikea, where we will buy everything not already provided in our apartment (or maybe shipped ahead). Neither Joe nor I have been to Ikea, so we are a little uncertain about that part, but one of our friends explained how the store works and I think we can do some advance planning through the Ikea website (assuming, of course, that whatever we see on the website is available in China and not just made there).

We didn't do much for our Chinese adventure this week, because we were getting our house water leak repaired, and that meant construction all week and painting all weekend (and into next week as well). I have a nice string tie folder with all our SCIS documentation and anything else I think will be useful, and at this point I couldn't tell you where it is, which is somewhat unnerving since our passports are in there. I have a general idea, so I hope I find it before Joe does so I can put it someplace familiar. I did manage to create a beaded watchband from some of my copper beads, so my Arizona jewelry collection has begun, and I will post a picture if I ever figure out how. If the furniture gets back to normal, I'll try starting my Arizona necklace, having created a general design.

We are still working on the two big issues: renting the house and finding a home for Jack. We have two or three potential groups to rent the house, so we just need to get our lease hammered out and find the best match. One group is four music majors from the university, another is a family from up our street, and a third is a mom and daughter to whom we haven't actually spoken, but heard about from a construction guy who knows our construction guy. I am going to miss the haphazard yet efficient social networking of the small town!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What a Week!

It's hard to know where to start, but how about this: in four months, we will be on a plane to Shanghai. We've had quite an exciting week with lots of communications from just about everyone, so here's what happened.

Sunday night (last week), our nice college girls called to say that they can't rent the house after all. One girl's scholarship covers only on-campus housing and trying to move off is not going to work, so they are going to stay together on campus, and we are going to look for new renters. We've talked to a student teacher who knows nice music students, and we have a few other ideas.

On Monday afternoon, we got the list of all the FUSD teachers and administrators who will receive RIF notices on April 15. We are both on the list, which is not too surprising, but what a lovely way to end a Monday.

On Tuesday morning, Joe and I both got an email from the lady in charge of the visa processing, and we are the only new hires who have submitted all of our documents. I'm not sure what everyone else is doing, but I like being ahead of the curve (yes, thanks Rhonda!). However, I got an additional email from the principal of the upper school (grades 6-12), just a very newsy "here's what's happening for the rest of the school year." I checked with Joe, who didn't get this email, despite our assumption that he would be the upper school counselor, so I wrote back to the principal to see whether he had intended to write to the other Rauschenbach or whether we were confused about our assignments. He wrote back (the same day) to say that there is some confusion about our assignments. Joe is to be the lower school (grades 1-5) counselor and I'll be doing something (as yet unspecified) in the upper school. Huh?

Joe got an email from Tammy Rodebaugh, his lower school principal, on Thursday, with her version of school events and he was listed, big as life, as the lower school counselor. We have had a pretty good laugh about how Joe already has one boss named Tammy.... On Thursday night, we went to a birthday party and met the NAU coordinator for Asian students. Joe talked to her for well over an hour and had a great time. He also got some good financial advice regarding our Roth IRA investments. What a planner!

On Friday morning, I got an email from my music email buddy, and he had lots of great things to say. First, he mentioned that it's hard to tell what I will actually be doing. He has taught at SCIS for five years and has done everything from general music for three year olds to PE to beginning strings to yearbook to video production. He is teaching the high school orchestra right now and was very encouraging about the collegial nature of the music department, so I actually feel a bit better, even if I don't know what I'm doing. Also, he says there are quite a few playing opportunities for both of us, including jazz and Latin bands for Joe!

We spent the weekend in Prescott, playing and singing for the Easter services at Trinity Presbyterian. It was so great to spend time with friends, and we recommend the game "Balderdash" with five stars, because we laughed our heads off. Jack tried to behave himself, Joe got his fantasy baseball league set up, thanks to dear Andrew, and we celebrated Easter dinner at the Texas Roadhouse, which beats a ham anyday in my book. Next year, who knows what we'll have for Easter dinner?