Settling in

https://www.etsy.com/listing/123205210/

Hectic times! We arrived in Nerja and had about half a day on the beach before we were forced to urgently find a new place to live. Finding something bigger/better than S’s crappy bachelor flat was always on the agenda for after we arrived, but we did not realise just how awful his place was (picture an underground prison bunker), AND THEN WE GOT RATS (again)! M and I panicked and moved to a hotel, but with the cheapest hotels around €60 a night we were desperate for a place. With limited options available we jumped at a place that gave us the option of vacating with 2 months notice (it’s for sale). It’s grand to have a place again (and not have to listen to rats fighting above your head at night) but it’s a good 45 minute walk from town – hardly ideal when you’ve just arrived in a place and need to do large grocery shops, and buy things like bed frames and pot plants. As we’re on a strict budget while we live in Spain (at least until I get residencia and can work), we are trying to avoid getting a car, but the bus service is rubbish (€1 each way, and it’s 10 minutes walk to the bus stop, only goes on the hour, doesn’t go at all between about 130 and 430pm), so it’s been a little disheartening.

For instant happy, just buy plants:

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Roadschool Maths lesson today: how many more pots do we need, and how much will it cost to fill the pallet?

I’m not the only one who has discovered the calming properties of gardening. Just catching a glimpse out the window makes everything seem better. Then I googled “pallet gardens” and suddenly discovered we have a problem – pallets can have toxins in them (due to needing to be pressure treated to kills bugs) so aren’t great for growing food, unless they have a little “HT” on them, which means “Heat Treated” and safe. Our has this…

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We have the HT! But what else is lurking in the timber???

BUT if you aren’t sure what was carried or stored on the pallet, this could also lead to toxic poisoning. GAH! Considering S found this one on the roadside on his way home from work in the early hours of the morning, we will just grow flowers in this one!

Pallet garden advice here and here

Most apartments have terraces – usually more than one (our current place has FOUR), which is awesome. It’s cool to look out from the rooftop and see the ocean (considering we are a good hike from it!). The dream is to fill the terrace with cool plants and loungers, and spend our days up there…

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Terrace dreaming…

Similar to the UK, most places here are rented fully furnished – not empty like Oz. This is a plus, as we sold all our furniture before moving to China in 2014, and it gives us a breather from having to spend more of our savings on stuff.

Anyway, I was going to post about our trials so far with trying to get Spanish residencia, but this was much happier!

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¡Hola! España

We have arrived in Madrid – to flamenco, hot chocolate and churros, and the delicious freedom that comes with free, (hopefully…) unlimited wifi.

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Out the AirBnb window

We’re AirBnB-ing it near the Estación de Atocha (Madrid’s largest railway station). We were met by Ricardo, who is from Portugal. He has left his 2 children in Portugal because he had concerns they wouldn’t adapt or pick up the language (?!), so he was interested to know how Matilda has moved through life in Australia, China and now Spain. She moans constantly and her dream is to live in one big house surrounded by all her family, and she constantly makes me wonder if I am a cruel parent for dragging her round the world all these years.

Saying that, although she is all in a muddle after 2 months in Oz with family, I think the years are paying off now she is older. She turned 11 right before we flew, and this is the first overseas travel we’ve done where she has jumped straight back into it, and we’ve had none of the drama and tantrums (me) that have sometimes plagued our past travels.

I booked Madrid for a week as initially we thought we’d have paperwork that would be done more easily in the capital. That plan changed, but now we have a chance to explore before we transition to our new life as unemployed folks who cannot afford to travel!

I’ve been hit by terrible jetlag so our first few days have been slow, and yesterday (Monday) was bureaucratic – SIM card etc. We have discovered not much (business-wise) is open on the weekend in Spain. Also, similar to Asia, things don’t open until mid-morning (gah). Can’t say much about the evenings yet as I keep falling asleep at 5:30.

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Metro trumpet player

Getting around: we got a Madrid Metro Tourist Card on the first day. I am not sure we will end up taking enough travel to justify the €40,20 (1A/1C), mostly as the main line from our apartment to the city is closed for maintenance. We met a friendly local girl while we were trying to buy the ticket which made it all worth it. She is teaching English, has worked in Costa del Sol and was able to give me some advice. It made our first day a little bit special. On the 2nd day a random guy played the trumpet in the carriage for our entire trip. So the Metro has made our “good beginning” in Spain.

I think I’m going to cave and also pay €31 to do the Madrid Tourist Bus. These are good for getting a feel for a place, and the city does feel like it is kinda sprawling. I also want to get Matilda excited about the history, and it’ll sound better coming through headphones than from me!

SIM card: Spain’s prepaid mobile plans are even more rubbish than Australia. I really thought Telstra had the monopoly on “world’s worst Telco”, but there you go. €15 for 28 days with 1.5 paltry GB, 50 mins talk and NO SMS with Vodafone. Other options are apparently Orange and Movistar.

So, it’s been less museums and history and more bureaucracy and falling asleep on the couch at 5:30pm so far!

Viva la adventure lol.

Roadschooling

We’ve come back to Bundaberg for a week with Nanna, and this is a chance to get stuck into our roadschooling adventure. The enormous challenge at the moment is the absence of wifi. Mum doesn’t have it, and Telstra being the monopolied rip-off merchants they are don’t offer a prepaid service that meets our needs. They also have very interesting methods of calculating data use. How the heck they think I used up 6GB in 1 week checking email, social media and using Google Maps, The End, is beyond me?

Anyway, we’ve made use of the Bundaberg Library, which is a lovely space (today they randomly had a highschool brass band playing) and I’ve finally been able to subscribe to Mathletics. On the road I have also purchased a bunch of workbooks which, given the state of flux we are in puts my mind at rest for the time being. My biggest challenge at the moment is finding a free online curriculum organiser that will help me keep track of things.

Our rough curriculum at the moment is focussed on getting into a routine.

Maths

I’m being very boring with an hour of Maths each day, starting with revision: New Wave Mental Maths (who have helped us uncover some main problem issues), followed by a unit in Nelson Maths. Now we have Mathletics we might focus on that as I think she’ll be more motivated there. I’m still stuck in teacher-mode, worrying about which grade she should be doing, but trying all the time to shift my thinking to the level where she is being challenged, but not being completely overwhelmed.

Language

An hour if we can, letting Matilda choose the language: English, Spanish, Chinese. I added about half an hour of grammar to this today with a Grammar Rules workbook I picked up in the local newsagents (much to her disgust). Once we get to Spain she will focus on Spanish and I will need to keep an eye on English. Chinese is a little more problematic. I think we are going to have to rely on a serendipitous encounter for this.

Units of Inquiry

We’re not doing so well on this as we haven’t had time. We’re focussing on Australia, makes sense as we are here, but although she is discovering a lot of new things (museums, art galleries, rainforest walks), we have not had time to follow it up. She has collected about 3000 brochures and the plan is to put them together into a sort of journal/record of the trip, but this is a bit low on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Science, Society & Environment, Geography etc

This is a bit annoying as I have to do more work before she can. I’ve decided to check out the ACARA (Australian Curriculum) and Scottish curriculum topics and see what she should cover as these are the most likely curriculums she will end up in for Secondary. I want to try to incorporate these into the UOI as much as possible.

Music

Gah, don’t even speak to me. Only plus is that she is missing it and keen to start learning again when we get to Spain.

All in all, it feels like it’s more work for 1 student than for a class HAHAHA

Chengdu chill #blogjune 27

245am before we finally crawled into bed after foolishly booking late flight, which was delayed, then half an hour in taxi line before picking lunatic driver who said yes, yes, yes and took us in the wrong direction 😭 

We’re feeling it today. Lessons learned: 

  • wheeled suitcases are great. Just because you have a fancy backpack doesn’t mean you need to use it
  • Late flights are just silly
  • Overnight sleeper trains vary according to train class. No more K trains!
  • Luggage lockers only appear when you don’t need them. If you need one because your back is about to break and you are sweating up a storm and wishing for death, then Nanjing local government will build 2 new railways and NOT install luggage store

Good news is there’s no hurry. We don’t really have to be anywhere. So we wandered Chengdu this morning, ate some pancake flatbread thing for breakfast, washed down with hand squeezed orange juice outside a Buddhist university. 

<still no photos because VPN can’t handle the upload>

Currently sitting in the Bookworm cafe, one of the longest serving western establishments in Chengdu. The concept is cool – what’s not to love about a cafe inside a bookstore? It seems the sort of place where you could hide in a corner with your laptop and never have to fear being moved along. Service is awkward and slow (they just came to let me know I can’t have a cappuccino because there is ‘something wrong with the machine) but staff are sweet and the food is good. Times like these I really should improve my TripAdvisor reviewing abilities…seeing how much I rely on them for advice. But I just want to lie here with my new book…

China farewell #blogjune

Languishing in Nanjing airport. Blog June has fallen by the wayside as I’ve frantically raced to pack, ship, trash, clean, book flights, trains, hotels, cars, arrange gifts, attend farewells and send ‘last emails’. Oh, and finish my Library Annual Report. Can’t believe I managed to do it. It’s not 100% but I did it in such a short timeframe and in spite of being told nobody cares and I shouldn’t bother by just about every staff member)

Our Farewell China tour commenced with an overnight hard sleeper train from Qingdao to Nanjing which I am bitterly regretting right about now. NB – don’t forget trains in China decline not only in speed, but in amenities, cleanliness and general passenger behaviour the further down the train heirarchy you fall. My daughter is obsessed with hard sleeper (6 berth, no door) so I thought we’d try just one. But foolishly booked a K TRAIN!!

On arrival in Nanjing our plans took a dive as both railway stations are being upgraded and don’t have storage facilities. Ludicrously I decided we’d both carry backpacks on this trip so after 2 hours we got on the train to the airport, where I am currently trying to stay awake until our 9pm flight to Chengdu. I could try to get us on an earlier flight but I don’t think I have the mental capacity right now 😁

You’ll have to imagine photos as my tired, cranky brain cannot deal with slow China Internet today. 

Moving on #blogjune 21

I’ve been dreaming of leaving this job since about 3 days after I started. I try not to think of anything as a “mistake” (because everything’s a learning experience, right?) but that’s certainly what it felt like here for about…oh, the first 12 months.

Preschool storytime 2016
Action Shot

Yet now, as I sift through work files and school event photos on my laptop and start to Trash and Burn, I have a sudden rush of … feelings.

This is the second-longest job I’ve held. Not necessarily because I have a short attention span – sometimes I’ve moved on in a hurry, but general Life events have also played their part (study, travel, child rearing). My last job before this I stayed 3 years, and it was the first time I left a position because it was the right thing to do, rather than to escape a tyrannical boss or poor working conditions. I was wholly unprepared for how leaving would feel. In the past I had left under cover of darkness, or in such rage against the machine that there was no room for feelings of sadness.

Primary library lesson
Listening intently, which students always do, whenever I speak lolololololololol

Here is a little of the latter, but it has been a long period of my life. And there have been some great moments, and some fantastic people – coworkers, students, random old ayis in the street. It’s also my last school-based teaching job (although, never say never as my teaching college buddy always said). At least by choice. And possibly my last librarian job for a little while. In a few days I will officially be unemployed.

So it’s all a bit emotional. And it will be a bittersweet farewell to China and all who sail in her.

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Not the most inspirational 21st century library environment, but I’ve stared at it every day since August 2014. Incidentally, what is it with me and getting jobs in ugly libraries? (Ayi joining the shot…)

Final week #blogjune 20

Last week at school. Racing to get my bi-annual report done before Friday, book my tickets for our 2 week train jaunt around China, pack our bags, prepare gifts, clean the house, finish updating the Library policy, clear my desk…

And I get this page:

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What do you think the Chinese Government have against infographics? Every single site seems to be blocked. I’m even trying with the VPN on (which we are not supposed to use at school) and it still won’t load. *cry cry cry*

At least I have an outline for my bi-annual report – I’m borrowing the headings from my Library Policy, which I think is a stroke of genius but is more likely biting off more than I can chew (a particular skill of mine):

Library Mission, Aims, Goals etc

  • community profile

Library Services

  • Teaching and learning (or curriculum)
    • Overview
    • Library orientation
    • Collaborative teaching
    • Development of resources
    • professional development/training
  • Reader Services
    • Book Week
    • Panda Book Awards
    • Displays
    • Book talks, discussions, book groups
    • Reading lists
    • Classroom support e.g. guided reading
  • Tech support
    • ICT lab
    • laptop / ipad loans
    • Library website
    • Recommended sites and tools
    • Training
  • Use of library space
    • Bookings

Collection development

  • Collection snapshot
    • new books
    • new collections (home language, graphic novel)
    • new digital resources

Circulation

  • circ stats e.g. top 10 primary, top 10 secondary
  • top borrowing homerooms

Staffing

  • Snapshot
  • Professional development and training attended

Evaluation and Goals – moving forward

  • Library services
  • Collection
  • Circulation
  • Staffing

Can I finish for this for Friday?? If not, I will blame the internet 🙂

“Staff quarter handbook” and other mysteries of Life #blogjune 19

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How I feel about packing…

There is a funny set up here where the school is divided down the middle, with “academic” staff on one side, and “everyone else” on the other. While the Principals have authority over the ‘academic’ side of things, there is Someone Else who is in charge of the rest. This department is ironically known as: “Support Division”.

The first thing teachers learn is that staff in this division are never, ever, ever at fault. If the shifu (handyman) sets up the entire Assembly hall for an activity that occurs a month from now instead of your major event that takes place in an hour, this is your fault. If the purchasing person orders a CD version of a book (in a school without CD players), this is also your fault. And if you ever want anything to get done, you must play along with this farce, because when I said they are in charge of everything not academic – I meant everything: broken door handles, blocked toilets, drinking water, air filters, purchasing, security, visas, lifting heavy things, your salary…

They also manage foreign teacher apartments, so you may see where I am going with this? Fall out with them over the CD incident mentioned above, and you may find that when your fuse box blows up and you’re sitting in darkness they suddenly can’t hear their phones.

Saying that, there are staff in this department who have gone above and beyond to help us out, (dropped my bankcard down a toilet, dropped my electricity card in the middle of a busy road) and for that we are very grateful. I still think the school should consider making everybody happy by employing a staff member to act as “foreign staff liaison”.

Anyway, I’ve been searching for the staff apartment “exit procedure” for a while, and have finally received a reply that refers me to a handbook that – as far as I can make out – doesn’t exist. I hope this reflects the amount of effort they put into inventory of the apartment when we leave!

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I’m hoping if the inspection person notices the change in toaster they will consider it an upgrade…

Logistics #blogjune 17-18

Falling behind with #blogjune but I have an excuse! We have finally found a way to ship some boxes of stuff to Spain. I’m not sure how confident I am it will actually arrive. All the stuff for shipping is slowly being stockpiled in the lounge room:

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Mostly I seem to be shipping suitcases. How many suitcases does a person actually need? I think I have around 15…and that’s not counting those half handbag/half carry on bags!

We are flying AirNZ to Australia (squee!). They’ve always been one of my favourite airlines, but sadly leapt out of my price range when they started emulating budget airlines with a ridiculous Seat+Bag+Meal pricing model. Somehow by stopping over in Auckland for a few nights en route we managed to find the cheapest flight home. Yes, I realise I will spend those $$$ anyway by staying in Auckland, but it’s been too long between NZ visits! Ironically, given price moan above, they are letting us bring 2 x 23kg bags EACH. What on earth? I’ve scoured the web to see if I can get this deal going to Spain, but so far nope. I even considered ditching the shipping and paying extra to fly AirNZ to Europe, but I have a hatstand and a rug and can’t see that getting stowed by any airline.

As we are backpacking south China for 2 weeks before we fly to Australia we’re going to leave our big bags in the apartment until we get back from our Yunnan/Guizhou/Sichuan adventure. Speaking of which, I haven’t kept up with blogging due to the pain of trying to book that trip. If only China had a rail pass for travellers! But as with everything, why on earth would they try to create new markets when there are already 2 billion people chasing the product?

Exit strategy #blogjune 16

Only 6 1/2 days of school to go. I’m tidying my desk, my Inbox, my Documents folder…and I’m sifting through the “Things I Started But Quickly Discovered Nobody Cared About So I Stopped” pile. It’s an unfortunate side effect of this role that I have developed a Very Bad Habit that goes completely against my character: I have stopped completing some tasks I know to be important when I’ve learned nobody cares about them, or worse, if I learn that other staff, or managers, mock me for doing them. It’s last minute, but I am so disappointed to make this realisation that I am going to try to rectify it to some extent by setting myself the challenge of creating an annual report for the Library using infographics.

I’m testing these sites:

Canva (can’t get the templates to load without VPN *cry cry cry*)

Piktochart (like a lot. Easy to use, pretty templates, loads without VPN)

Infogram (could be great, but templates won’t load without VPN)

Easelly (already annoying because weird layout and templates won’t load without VPN)

So I reckon I’m pretty much stuck with Piktochart, but that’s cool because it is cool! There’s some excellent advice about creating interesting annual reports here and here.

While I was playing about with them, it suddenly occurred to me that an infographic would make an awesome CV. It seems I am not the only person to have this thought! There are even companies who you can pay to create amazing graphic CVs for you, like Story Resumes, the people who created my favourite below:

lucyin