Our beautiful 3rd week in China

Derek and I had so much fun this past week. We spent a lot of time leaving the school campus and exploring the streets that are close to our school. It’s been raining a lot which is so different than what we are used to, but we are enjoying it and trying to get used to the fact that if it rains, it stays for a couple days, not a few hours.

The other night, we went shopping, and I found cute boots for 60 yuan, which is 10 US dollars, and cute shorts that actually fit me.. It’s hard for me to find shorts in the US since we don’t have many small sizes, but I am a size large here, so my size is EVERYWHERE. Derek got a nice jacket and a shirt. His jacket is a size XXXL and in the states he is a size medium. (HAHA!)

While we were shopping, we came across a place that had really loud techno music. I thought it was a poppin’ store or restaurant, but as we got closer we saw that it was a roller skating rink! We decided to tell the other volunteers and come back a different night as a group. So on friday night, a bunch of us went back and roller skated together. It was so much fun! Like with most things we do, we had a bunch of locals watching us, laughing at us, and snapping our photos. We are getting used to this celebrity type lifestyle by now.

I even made another new friend who belongs to the owners of the rink!

On Saturday, about 20 of us took a train ride to a neighboring city called Nanjing. Our head teacher, Jared, taught English there last year, so he wanted to take us there and show us around. The beauty of Nanjing did not disappoint. We walked around a city square called The Laumendong. It had a lot of fun shops and little restaurants, but the thing I enjoyed most about it was the architecture. It was so beautiful. I couldn’t stop snapping photos.


After walking around for a while, Derek and I decided that we wanted to get food at one of the restaurants. Most of the volunteers ate a burger joint, or grabbed street food, but we weren’t feeling it. We came across a restaurant that looked pretty fancy…but it said western menu (which means american) I looked at the menu, it was in English so I could actually read it! Two things grabbed my attention. CHEESE pizza, and Chicken and CHEESE enchiladas. Cheese isn’t common here in China, most locals don’t even eat dairy. I didn’t even care to look at the price, I had to eat there. Derek agreed.

I ordered the enchiladas and a latte, since I haven’t had great coffee since we left home. Derek got teriyaki chicken with vegetables and seasoned rice. We were in heaven. Our total was 130 yuen, which is only 20 US dollars for both of us! We were so happy with our decisions and full bellies. Like really…have you ever seen me happier?

After the Laumendong, we met up with the rest of the group and headed back on the metro to Zhongshan Mountain National Park. There we explored the ming tombs, a mausoleum, and enjoyed the beauty of the gardens.

We even came across this precious puppy. She was just running on the street, with no mother or owner in sight. She didn’t look like a stray, but even if she was I didn’t care. I had to snuggle her. Do you blame me?

She followed our group for about a half hour before running off to another one. I begged my family to lend me 2,000 dollars so I could bring her through customs in December. None of them replied to my text.

After the park, a lot of our group headed back to the school because they were exhausted. (We were out for 12 hours at this point…it was a long day) Six of us decided to head into downtown Nanjing and get dinner because we weren’t ready to leave this beautiful place.

Derek, Jared, Landon, Tanner, Lauren and I grabbed dinner, shopped at a 3 story Wal Mart (because we wanted to experience a Chinese Wal Mart) and ended our day with donuts and ice cream. I even found green mint chocolate chip, which if you know me is my guilty pleasure! I told Derek “today just keeps getting better and better.” We got back to the school at midnight and after being gone for 18 hours, I was actually excited to sleep in our hard, uncomfortable bed.

I woke up the next day and looked over at Derek looking so handsome while deep in sleep. I grabbed my phone, and scrolled through the hundreds of photos I took this week and thought, “Holy shit, this is really my life and I am so happy about it.” And the best part is, it’s only getting better. I hope everyone has the chance to experience that feeling at some point.

Onto the next adventure, Wren

1st Timers & 2nd Week in China

This week was filled with many firsts for Derek and I. It was our first week teaching our students. A lot of volunteers made it seem like teaching would be very difficult and that the kids were the spawn of Satan themselves. To our surprise, Derek and I both really enjoyed teaching, and the kids are the cutest little things. Just look at them!

I am not saying teaching is easy. It never is. Kids are hard, they are crazy, and not being able to communicate with them fully makes it even harder, but overall we enjoyed our first week of teaching. These kids are the reason why we are in China anyways.

They call me “teacha” Wren, but I have been called tiny teacha, yellow hair teacha, and even crazy american. Derek’s students call him “teacha” D, and they LOVE him. We will be walking around campus and randomly hear “teacha D! Hello teacha D!” It’s only been a week, but we already know that we are going to miss them when we head back home.

We also made a new friend by the name of Ada. She is a Chinese teacher at the school who teaches English. She took Derek and I, and another volunteer named Bryn out to dinner this week. We went to an american food restaurant. She says american food is her favorite. (But who knows if that is true) Pasta, cheese fries, and a burger have never tasted better!

She also took us to a nice mall and a super market, and then we hung out at her apartment for a while. It was so much fun to see into a person’s life here in China. She said next time we will go to a Mexican food restaurant, so I am already excited to hangout with her again!

Besides teaching, witnessing our first sunset in China, seeing the inside of a Chinese apartment, getting used to the squatters, and adjusting to the new food, Derek and I experienced our first time getting lost in China! Getting lost in a new city is always nerve wrecking, but when you can’t ask anyone anything, it makes it even more scary. (And funny!)

Over the weekend, I decided that I wanted to go to a lake that was about 7 miles from the school. I put the address in my phone and we google mapped the directions. A few other volunteers decided to join us on our adventure. Long story short, it was quite an adventure. We ended up getting on the wrong bus and ended up in a city called Jintan that was 2 hours away from the school!

As I sat on the bus and watched us pass the stop that we were supposed to stop at, I decided to get up and ask the bus driver why we didn’t stop there. He didn’t speak any English. Instead, he just looked at the map on my phone and just laughed at me. We all decided that this was in fact, funny. When we arrived in Jintan, we walked around for a while. The town was filled with cute flower stores, coffee shops, and had a lot of dogs that were pets and not strays! I was actually happy to be there. This one reminded us of Harvey. vvv

We found a little restaurant to eat lunch at and were happy with the food and company. So far, Derek and I have really enjoyed the food here. I do miss crepes, pizza, and Mexican food, but we expected the food to be much worse than it has been.

After lunch, we ran into an older Chinese guy who was pushing around a metal cage. I could tell that the cage was filled with some sort of animal. As we got closer, I noticed that they were PUPPIES. My heart instantly broke when I made eye contact with their sad little souls. They were so crammed together, and so tiny!



I kept saying they should be with their mother. The guy just smiled at us, having no idea how upset we were. One of the other volunteers decided to open the cage door and we all took one puppy to hold. It was a horrible idea. I choked up as I walked away thinking that I couldn’t save them, or at least one of them, and not knowing if he was selling them for pets or food. I think that was by far the worst thing that I’ve ever seen in China… or ever.

After trying to communicate with the language barrier, and attempting to read the road signs with our translator for about a hour, we finally found the correct bus station. And after another two hours, we were back by the school. It was quite the experience, but we learned a lot of lessons about public transit, and now have a funny story to tell. Plus are you even living in a new city if you don’t get lost every once in a while?

On Sunday, Derek and I had home visits with a few students from our school. Which means we get to go spend the day with them and their parents. There was 7 students, and all of them were in 5th grade, so Derek and I actually don’t teach any of them in our classes, but them and their parents welcomed us with open arms for the day. They tried so hard to impress us with their English and had such great hospitality. It was such a fun day!


We played board games, made home made spring rolls and dumplings, and played at a nearby park. Their parents cooked us a HUGE meal for lunch that included a few Chinese dishes, spaghetti, steak, potatoes, corn, and salad. It felt like Thanksgiving. It was a very cool experience to not be able to communicate with language, but only with food, and smiles.


After lunch we went to an amusement park place and played mini golf, laser tag, and bowling. We also went through a giant maze (that I couldn’t get out of, so the kids laughed at me) and a haunted house. All of the kids chickened out last minute, so Derek and I went through the haunted house alone. It was actually quite scary! We got dropped off at the school just in time for an afternoon nap, dinner, and game night with the rest of the volunteers.

This week opened our eyes a lot. We are finally feeling settled, comfortable, and more at “home”. We are even getting good at our basic Chinese. We’ve experienced so many new things and have learned so much, but we know there will always be more to learn that we will be constantly working on(especially public transit). We are so happy to be on this adventure together!

Onto the next one, Wren

Ni Hao from our new home!

It’s been an extremely long week to say the least. Right now it is currently 9:25am on September 10, but back home it’s 7:25pm on the 9th.  In the last few days, Derek and I have said goodbye to everything and everyone we have ever known, traveled 7,000 miles to our new home in China, and have done our best to adjusting to the new experiences that will be our life for the next four months.

We have experienced jet lag for our first time, culture shock, and every emotion possible. Until we arrived at our school, we thought we were headed to the kindergarten school in Changzhou, but they switched us last minute to elementary since our visas got delayed last week. So now, we will be teaching 1st and 2nd grade, but we are still in the same city. We start teaching tomorrow!

I think we are doing very well adjusting so far considering that only a week ago, we were in our comfort zone back home. We are missing our friends and family terribly, especially at night time when we don’t have Harvey in the middle of us, but knowing that this is only temporary, and that we’re following our dreams makes it easier. Plus, missing everyone has made us feel so blessed. How lucky are we to have so many people(and dogs) to miss?

We are finally all settled into our new home. We live at the school along with 30 other English teaching volunteers. Our “home” is the size of a hotel room, or college dorm. We have our own bathroom, but share a laundry room and kitchen. Everyone here has been so nice to us since we are the “new people”(thanks to our visas for making us a week late) they have been so helpful showing us around and making us feel more comfortable.

Yesterday, we joined a group of other volunteers and experienced a Buddhist temple, went to a beautiful park, and explored the night market. It is so much different here, but I think that is what makes this adventure so exciting for us. We are so excited for what’s to come!


Things we are currently trying to adjust to:

Our bed- I would best describe it as a piece of plywood with a thin blanket.

Public restrooms- In china, they use squatters (google them) so they don’t have toilets, toilet paper, paper towels, or soap. (Thankfully we have a toilet in our home)

The sky- it is always grey or white. We are missing our stars, clouds, and especially sunsets.

The stray animals- there are so many dogs and cats living on the streets, I just about burst in tears every time I see one. (I don’t know if it’s cause I’m sad for them, or I miss Harvey) I keep joking with Derek that I am going to fill my suitcases with them and leave my stuff here when we head home.

The water & food- Not being able to just drink out of the tap when I am dying of thirst or trying to order food by pointing, and hoping for the best makes this experience a little crazy.












The humidity-my nails and hair are loving this 98% humidity, but my sensitive skin is breaking out. Everyone has been complaining about the weather, but Derek and I are actually enjoying it.

The language barrier- having to google how to say anything to someone, how to read a menu, or read directions makes leaving the school a little scary, but it is definitely fun and something that I think we will eventually get used to!

Obviously, there are so many more things that we are adjusting to. Those are just a few of the main ones that have made this experience so far exciting, scary, funny, and new. We are so happy to finally be here though, and are so excited for this adventure!

I am going to try to write at least once a week while we are in China, since I am sure my weeks will be filled with stories, experiences, and obviously photos. 😉

With adventure comes change, and with change comes growth.

Onto the next adventure, Wren