Sunday, December 26, 2004


Wishing you and your loved ones a safe, happy and joyful Christmas!
Lots of love, Bonnie :)

Friday, December 24, 2004

Holiday Love from Urumqi (ooo-roo-moo-chee)

Ok, only now have i had a decent amount of time to sit down and write a proper journal entry.

How am I suppose to explain what has happened to me in the past few weeks? It has been a whirlwind of emotions, all high and higher. I am still stunned and shocked at the beauty with what has been presented to me, unexpectedly and so in its entire wonderment.

So to answer some of your pleas for more detail, his name’s Matthew. He’s from Jersey (the English island near France), has traveled extensively, worked for the UN for several years, heavily into sports (especially water ones!), speaks fluent Japanese and better Mandarin than me, is currently working as a Project Manager for the renewable energy project for Shell, distributing solar systems to nomadic families around Xinjiang (mainly Uyghur and Kazakh people). That’s the just of it, and I feel a bit weird posting his life resume here so I guess I will just have to tell you via personal emails or phone calls.
But believe me when I say I’m over the moon. Magic.

I cannot believe that another year has come and gone just like that. It seems like my time with Katimavik was so long and distant ago, and yet I hear from my participants from time to time and I absolutely LOVE it. I love being able to be a part of their lives, even though time zones apart and time between us. We can talk and communicate and wish each other well in such sincere and simple manners. We are blessed to have met in our lives and to linger on to that special relationship. I wish you all well, and miss your energy (and spontaneous naughtiness) a lot. I felt alive with them, in that role, as tough and heart-wrenching as it was at times, but I learned a lot this year. From my participants, from my loving colleagues, from my friends with whom I reconnected with in Ottawa. I love you all dearly, you have given me such courage and faith in myself and how I absolutely need to do things for myself in this lifetime. It is a matter of faith, discipline and adaptability.

It’s holiday season, and these past two days I have grown quite nostalgic about home and just the feelings associated with this time of year. I don’t know, it’s the first time I have honestly felt this way. It’s not what I would call text book ‘homesickness’, but more of a reflective stage where I realize that friends and family back home are currently gathering together to celebrate another year of success and joy, and perhaps to remember some of the sorrows too. I am off this week for 3 days (thurs, fri and sat) for xmas, and we have the same days off next week too for New Year’s. Tomorrow Susi and I will be hosting a Xmas party at our place for all of the EF staff, our friends around town.. and whoever else they may bring. We cleaned a bit tonight, spray painted our windows with ‘snow’ stencils (however, we were disappointed that the spray can we bought only allowed us to spray about 3 and a half stencils – Chinese quality at its best!!). Tomorrow will be dedicated to baking and baking and buying lots of booze!! ;)

I think part of my nostalgia is due in part to the fact that this is the first time in my life where I am NOT in Canada but overseas where there is snow during Christmas time. Usually if I’m away during the holiday season, it was in a tropical warm climate. SO I think the snow and the frost has me thinking, and fooled, that I should infact be at ‘home’ in Canada celebrating amongst friends and family. But I have to admit, my surrogate family here, comprised of the most bizarre and eccentric (but absolutely beautiful) people I have ever come across, provide me with some of the utmost joy and love I have ever received so readily in life. I cannot say how much I truly love and appreciate this team I have that surrounds me everyday. We are not just a team at work, but a network of support and communication for each other. Not out of necessity either. I mean we are all extremely stubborn in our own ways, and we all come from very diverse backgrounds, but I can say wholeheartedly that none of us would spend time with the others if we didn’t want it in the first place. What I’m trying to say I guess is that we have chosen to enjoy each other’s company and friendship. It’s times like tonight where I sit holed up in my room on Dong Hou Jie (the street name of where I live), baking in my incredibly hot and dry flat, writing these endearing words on my brightly lit laptop screen surrounded by candles. Read on if you can bear with me...

Who am i? I am thinking about what my future has ahead of me. What kind of year will 2005 be? Tomorrow is xmas eve, but our celebration will be mainly one filled with love and food and joy and laughter, surrounded by my surrogate family here, my Xinjiang friends. Gathered from different walks of life, coming together by some force, some fluke, some destiny. We are all wanderers in this world, some have traveled further distances than others, some have treaded through more difficult passages than some, and others have worked hard to achieve what they currently have to end up in this delightful city in Central Asia.

Other things that I’ve been doing since my last entry:
- Got together with one of the local teacher’s students for some Western food. Susi made spaghetti bolognaise and I of course offered my banana bread baking skills. Get this: we microwaved the cake! Yes, there are microwaves here in China (and probably elsewhere in the world, but I do not know of any place so if you do, please let me know!) where you can actually MICROWAVE a cake within 5 minutes. I was shocked still.

-Gathered with some non-EF expats one night to swap music, mp3’s mainly. I love expanding my music collection and I love it more because it’s free! Next get together should be a book swapping I say.

-My favourite class which I teach on Sunday afternoons, a group of 13-15 year olds who are at a pretty high level, were covering a unit on Protests. And so of course, being me, I egged on a lot of controversial topics, asking and probing them to think actively and to question society’s norms and standards. After discussing and telling them stories about “sit-ins, hunger strikes, petitions, campaigns…”, we held our own protest around the EF corridors. It was awesome!!!!!!! Here are some pictures. I was so incredibly proud, so PROUD! My kids (ok, I just have to call them ‘kids’ this one time) decided amongst themselves that they wanted to protest against doing homework at EF, and to stage the message that they deserve more free time. They made banners, flyers, petitions, signs that hung around their necks. Their chant was “Make us Free!” “No Homework! No Exams!” “We want sunshine!” I videotaped them while another (new) teacher who was shadowing my class, Fatima, was the “journalist” and was taking pictures. I’ll be sure to post them soon.

We went to every classroom(I of course forewarned the teachers), interrupted their lesson with our shouts of anti-homework, had the students sign the petition if they agreed, handed out some candy, and carried on our merry way. At the end of the class, we discussed how we felt during the protest. I was surprised and honestly touched to hear some of their responses. A lot of them focused on the point that each student had a certain role to play but that they were all working towards the same mission/goal. One of my students, Sophia, made some side comment that “Bonnie was the craziest EF teacher at the school!” So be it, I just may well be, but at least there was enormous learning that day, and it wasn’t just English vocab and grammar! Needless to say, I granted them their wish and assigned no homework that week.

The new teachers who have arrived are fitting in just nicely.

Ron, British bloke from London, worked for Marks and Spencers for the past twenty years, has been to Tunisia 15 times, loves Turkish anything and played Santa Claus at our adult Xmas party. Now Ron is quite short and tiny and you have to imagine a blue eyed St.Nick dressed in red and white and literally hopping around like a bunny just in order for people to see and notice him! It was hilarious!

Mikael, Czech guy, 30, tallest guy ever, and even taller due to his slim stature. His girlfriend Camilla arrived a few days ago, perhaps to stay long term (?) but not as an EF teacher, not yet at least, and is just so insanely nice and a great gentleman. He has been so helpful to Peta, for example, since she dislocated her knee in class (story to follow); he cooked us crepes for dinner, piggybacks her everywhere and anywhere, etc… and just generally always willing to lend a hand. Like Ian put it, “at least there’s a gentleman amongst us!” Amen to that!

Fatima, 23, born and raised in El Salvador, is running/marathon queen and works out religiously, studied Global Economics and Latin American studies, has such a wacky sense of humour and uses “dude” to address anything that has two arms, two legs and a head. My goal is to NOT use that term of endearment here. I’ve already picked up ‘bloke’ and ‘mate’ from my British and Auzzie buds.

Ulrike, or Ullie for short, 32, quit a job of doing promotion for large companies or something like that in Germany, well it was a stuffy office job that she saw was really not her cup of tea so she got out of it. Good on her, many say they will leave a dead-end job with no challenges, however many don’t do anything about it. She’s left and is here and is fitting in just nicely. I love her approach to life and is bringing a lot of stability and laughter and creativity to our growing team.

Our new school in Urumqi has opened as of last weekend. Apparently it was a success. A few dudes (ah, I did it!! Crap, it was totally instinctive too!) from head office in Shanghai were here to observe and we got heaps (an Auzzie word for A LOT which I picked up) of compliments for a job well done. Lots of shoulder and back patting were going around this week, that’s for sure! Yay.

So Peta dislocated her knee. Here’s the story: she was talking with her class about stunts and flexibility. Her students asked if she could do the splits. She said yes, because apparently she can. Our carpets in the classroom are actually one foot square carpets, which are removable. So she goes down to show her eager students that she can do the splits and one of the carpets comes up, sending her knee into spasms and twists that caused her to curse and swear in such colourful language that her students at first thought she was kidding and playing around. It was only until a few seconds later that she really started to scream and point to her knee, that one of them got on her cellphone quickly to call the ambulance.

So the ambulance came, sirens blaring and all, whisked her away to the hospital and now she is in a crotch-to-toe cast, only capable of hopping on her right leg, which is proving to be quite strong I might add. All this happened while I was teaching nearby in the next room!! I don’t know how I could not have heard all the commotion!

The whole thing is quite ironic, as we discussed afterwards, while she was being pampered with people bringing flowers and get well wishes, because Dora (her ex) had broken her ankle in several places just a month ago, and although she has left China, will require about 6 months to heal properly. Ditto for Peta now.

Our declared lesson of the week: Be careful for what you wish for.

We held an adult EF Christmas party on Dec.21 at one of Urumqi’s 5-star hotels. Great food, pretty decent entertainment (magician, Uyghur dancing and singing), and some acts from students and some pretty bad carroling from teachers!

On boxing day we will have the kids xmas party, at the same hotel.. this is going to be quite the mad zoo I’m told, as we have over 200 kids coming to pretty much be babysat. Let the fun and games begin!

Susi and I are have been getting closer these past few days. There were a few tense moments, and I’m sure more to come, as I am entering a new relationship which means I can direct less energy towards our friendship.

I don’t want to hurt her most of all, and Peta too, because the two of them have been my pillar of strength and the ones I’m closest to here. There is a balance, a fine one, to walk.

I am certain we can do it, but that requires open communication, and it took a few days for me to honestly open up to each of them individually.

Of course I want them involved in my life as much as possible and I want to feel that I can talk to them, and vice versa, so here I am attempting to manage some excellent friendships while a relationship is blossoming from the inside.

ok, it's getting on 4:30 am (Beijingtime), I should get some beauty sleep so that I can properly host a party tomorrow evening! It shall be fun. We told everyone to bring a twenty yuan present so we can do a Kris Kringle exchange thing. Youppee!! I love surprises!

ps. thanks wendy for your advice - i have taken off my mailing address. Folks, let me know if you want it via email instead.

Monday, December 20, 2004


Well, it's been a while since i've last updated... a few brief things that have occurred:
I have received my working visa and my resident card - yay!
But the most recent development is that i've fallen madly in love... more to come later...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

happy happy happy!

Guess where i am? sitting in a smoke-filled underground hall with about a hundred computers in north-west Urumqi.

Surrounding me are Chinese young adults and teens utterly absorbed in their virtual world of "O-ICQ" or "MSN" or this popular computer game called "Pow Pow Tang", which from the looks of it, involves a little cartoon bonhomme dressed in a red mousesuit going around and racking up points through this maze-thing. I dunno.

I'm with my VIP student, LiYan, who takes me out every Wednesday on a day trip somewhere in Urumqi. It's a great way to see this local culture that i would not voluntarily do on my own free will.

In any case, this gives me a good chance to update the journal. The week's been full of great moments: went for an overnight trip to Heavenly Lake, clubbing till 6:30 on a MONDAY night, attended a Uyghur wedding on Saturday (see photos), but i must run now. Our time is up here.

Huge snowfall this morning, absolutely gorgeous!