Uh Oh! I’ve been bitten by the golf “bug”. 10/29/13

As soon as Judy is out the door for school, I start checking the internet for another golf course.  There are several “members-only” courses, and some others that are way too expensive.  I finally find one that seems to be pretty nice, and reasonably priced.  I call to schedule a tee-time and no one speaks English.  At least yesterday, someone spoke enough English for us to struggle together.  I manage to get a tee-time scheduled (I think), and then I start trying to figure out how to get to the Beijing Huangguang International Golf Club.

The internet is not helpful with the address today due to slow speeds.  I finally use the iPad on 3G (not wifi), and find the course on the map.  It’s a little further out of town than I was expecting.  I pack up all my stuff and head out to find a taxi.  Using my iPad map, I convince a driver to take me.  Half an hour later, we drive up, and a new golf experience begins.

My clubs disappear when I get out of the taxi (swarmed by several caddies) and I’m given a small leather wallet with an expense ticket.  I go into the clubhouse, and they point me to a locker room.  It’s huge, and nicely decorated, with leather benches and a huge “bath” and hot tub.  I change into my golf shoes, and head back out to the desk.  They direct me outside.  A female caddie walks up, takes my expense ticket, loads my clubs on a pull-cart, and starts walking really fast.  I have to push my pace to keep up with this little girl.

Huanggang Bath area

The “bath” area at the Huanggang Golf Club

Same as yesterday, I hit the ball really well, so the golf is fun (not frustrating).  The caddie thing is nice.  She is cleaning my clubs after each shot, marking the ball on the green, fixing divots, and tending the pin.  She has the same limited “caddie” vocabulary of English phrases.  Since I’m playing a longer course today, she does have to try to be more descriptive.  There is lots of water, and bunkers, and I’m enjoying trying to understand what she’s saying.  My “Golfshot” app is working on this course, and her yardage is the same as the app, so I’m beginning to trust her course knowledge.

View from the tee box on #1

View from the tee box on #1

Huanggang 3

If you look closely, you may see a lot of dark spots. It’s leaves blowing from the trees.

Huanggang 2

It’s a glorious day.  I started out with a light windbreaker, but took it off after the first hole.  Once I started walking, it warmed up nicely.  The wind is only slight.  The leaves are beginning to change color, and it’s really pretty.  On CNN this morning, they were discussing the pollution.  The index had reached 371 (highest since July) around 2:00, but a cold front had blown in and by 7:00 am, the index was at 50.  It can change that fast.  There are only a few people on the course, and they are quick to let me play through, when required.  We finish the round in three hours.  I began to realize I was tired around hole 15.  I end up shooting 86, 14 shots over par.  It’s a respectable round for as little as I’ve played, and I’ve walked a long ways today.

Huanggang 5 Huanggang 4

It had occurred to me when I arrived that the golf course was out in the “boonies”, and there were no other taxis around.  I just figured they could call a company when I finished.  Apparently they didn’t know how to call a taxi, and didn’t have a procedure for it.  They kept asking me about my company private car?  This took about 15 minutes.  Finally, one of the receptionists showed me her phone and there was a listing for “private car”.  Like an idiot, I asked “how much”, like I had a choice (I did, I could walk).  I got a reasonable price after a phone call, and 10 minutes later, my clubs are being loaded in a car while I try to show the driver where we’re going.  The drive home was without incident, and I’m home by 2:30.

Judy has a night out with “the girls” at Pete’s Tex/Mex.   When she gets home, we get to trade stories.  She learned a lot more about the people she’s working with and about job searching internationally.  Plenty of intrigue exists about “who might be going where”, and everyone must declare by Monday, Nov. 4.  It’s going to be an interesting personnel week at BISS. 


Shaking the mothballs off my golf clubs, 10/28/13

Judy gets off to school, finally feeling normal again.  She’s just worried about having time to finish up the computer work she wasn’t able to complete this weekend (bad internet).

I have decided today is the day I’ll be breaking out my golf clubs.  Everyone keeps telling us that it’s about to get really cold, and will stay that way until March.  If I’m going to play golf, it’s now or never.  The weather is supposed to be nice and warm today (mid 60’s) with low winds.  The pollution index reading is 317, the highest we had in Beijing, but I haven’t noticed any issues for myself relating to the pollution.  I call and get a tee-time (no small accomplishment, considering the language barrier).  I find the address on my “Taxi Card” app, and it’s only about a 15-minute drive.  I arrive in plenty of time to loosen up on the driving range.

There are no riding carts for golfers on this course, so I’ll be walking.  Thankfully, caddies are available (they may be required, not sure).  It’s not crowded, and the course is very short. It’s only nine holes.  There are six par-3’s, and three par-4’s.  It only takes an hour to play the course, so we go around again.

Chaoyang Golf Club3

Golf near downtown Beijing. It’s a short course, but plenty of traps and water to make it interesting.

Chaoyang Golf Club2 Chaoyang Golf Club1

I’ve never had a caddie before, so I’m lovin’ it.  He doesn’t speak English, except to say “nice”, or “good shot”.  If he knows any negative phrases, he’s at least smart enough not to use them.  I didn’t give him too many chances for bad phrases today.  I hit the ball really well, but my putting was not good.  For those of you who might be interested, I shot 11 over.  Considering I haven’t walked a golf course in 11 or 12 years, I did pretty well.  I’m tired, but it’s a “good” tired.

Internet Blahs, 10/27/13

One week ago today, Judy was really sick.  She’s back to normal, so we’re feeling really good about life.  The single issue bothering us today is the inconsistency of our internet.  We both have jobs that require some internet access.  It’s been bad for several days.  Today, we are sooooo slow, it takes almost two minutes for the Yahoo home page to open.  I’ve been trying to finish some updates that are tied to the “Maverick” update on my laptop.  The downloads freeze after two or three minutes.  When we Facetime family, it won’t even open up.

Judy has several school assignments related to grading that won’t open.  We’re told by people that have lived here a while that it will be slow for a few days, then speed back up.  Even at top speed, it seems only slightly better than dial-up.  We’ll be glad to see a quicker internet, and the sooner the better.

A pink Bentley?, 10/26/13

Judy is obviously much better.  She has the strength to go to Ikea today.  She has moved the rug from our living room to her classroom, and needs a replacement for the apartment.  She has a successful trip, and we are looking pretty good around the apartment.

I spend most of the day trying to upgrade my computer to the new operating system.  I’ve been dabbling with downloading some updates the last few days, but our download speed is so slow right now, it takes forever. 

Deb and Graham text us about getting a hamburger, and reluctantly (yeah, right) we agree.  We meet them at the train and travel to a spot I ate back in August.  “The Local” is a sports bar with the required foods, burgers, pizza, wings, etc.  We get to walk through some new areas enroute and discovered some new places to eat we’re going to explore another time.  Every time we’re out, we find new and different places.  We’re never going to get to all of them.  We’re certainly going to have fun trying.

Pink Bentley2

While we were walking to “The Local”, we spotted this pink Bentley. Yes, really! A pink Bentley!

Pink Bentley1

You can’t get too many pictures of a PINK Bentley.

Hidden City Statue

Judy just had to have a picture with this statue. It was outside a gorgeous courtyard dining area with 10 or more fun looking restaurants. The area was called 1949 Hidden City.


How about a little celebration? 10/25/13

Celebration day at BISS.  The preliminary accreditation report is very good.  “Arts” receives a commendation, so they are struttin’ around pretty good.  Of course the students don’t know what’s been going on, except the teachers have been a little more wired up than usual, and there have been a lot of visitors in and out of classes.  There is huge relief all over the campus.

The trains are better today for me.  Of course, it’s not “prime time” when I’m travelling, so that helps.  Grades are due today, so I’m figuring out how to input everything into yet another confusing grading program.  The hardest thing is to write a personal comment about each student.  With only two classes a week and 13 total class sessions, I haven’t managed to tie all the names to their faces.  I recognize the “trouble-makers” and the active participants.  The majority of the students are quiet and attentive, so they’re lost in obscurity.

Tonight, the drama teacher at BISS, Kelly, is celebrating her birthday.  She works closely with Judy on the musical “Annie”.  She’s invited several of the faculty to join her for dinner.  We meet at “Flamme”, a restaurant specializing in steaks and other “western” specialities.  The food is great and we have a blast.  The accreditation stress is gone, so everyone’s “hair is down”.  There is lots of talk about things that went on during the week.  Also, some of the faculty are beginning to reveal their decision about whether or not they’ll be returning to BISS next year.  Many are undecided.  They feel the lure of a new destination, but fear the uncertainty of cutting their ties at BISS.  It could be March or April before they have a chance at a job, if they get a chance at all.  There’s no guarantee the next assignment will be better.  It’s just another of aspect of international teaching. 

Tough Train Day, 10/24/13

More meetings are held today with the accreditation team at BISS.  Judy is considered MYP (middle years program), and also PYP (primary years program).  She gets to attend meetings for both levels.  How fun!

She’s been busy getting ready for the holiday season.  The choir at BISS is already scheduled for two performances at local hotels.  They’ll be performing at a Rotary Club benefit at one site.  At the other, they’ll be performing at a tree-lighting .  She’s scrambling trying to find where to buy antlers and elf hats.  She thinks she’s found a source, but until it arrives, you’re not really sure.

The school is decorated for Halloween, and the music classes are singing “Pumpkin” songs.  Judy’s years of experience are really paying off.  She’s got so many fun things to do with the students that none of them have ever seen before.  Students and faculty are all humming and whistling the new stuff.

BHSFIC is gearing up for mid-term tests.  It’s very serious for the students, and they are having problems staying awake in classes (not just my classes, according to the other teachers).  Sunday is a make-up day from a holiday earlier in the semester, so testing will begin Sunday.  It continues Monday and Tuesday.  The students will meet regular classes on Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday, all the 11th graders will participate in a team-building activity on a “ropes-course” outside of Beijing.  For me, I’ll only have one class next week, unless I decide to accompany the group on their trip.

My arrangement for the flute/sax quartet works pretty well.  Now all I need is to arrange one more ensemble for my brass players and two left-over saxes. 

Today’s “fun” is mostly associated with my travel.  The trains are really something today.  Twice, the trains just quit running and everyone stood patiently waiting for them to start up again.  The first time I was on the platform, and the 2nd time, I was on the train.  We were jammed like sardines, and must have waited 15 minutes before we moved.  All you can do is look around and grin.  You can’t move anywhere.  I couldn’t even get off the train.  Since the doors remained open, new passengers kept walking up and pushing their way on.    The trains normally run every 3 minutes during “prime time”, so you can imagine how passengers were anxious to board.  I was never so glad to see my station tonight.  My McDonald’s ice cream tasted really good on the walk home from the station.

Judy’s leveling out! 10/22-23/13

TUESDAY, 10/22/13

Well, Judy is marginally better today.  She didn’t have a great night.  Sleep was intermittent.  Her first class doesn’t meet until 10:00, so she slept in late.  The accreditation team is at BISS the next three days, so she will figure out a way to teach her classes.

Of course, my own important plans are completely blown apart.  Judy’s illness has been very inconvenient.  On the days I don’t have classes (Mon – Wed), I listen to ESPN streaming radio, while I drink coffee and Facetime with family, until I feel the need to shower.  If I need to do any grocery shopping, that’s usually my next activity.  I try to get out and walk somewhere every day.  Then I began my class preparation activities. 

I’m working on Blues History this week.  Since I don’t know much about Blues History, this is requiring some research on my part.  If the internet were faster, my research might be a little less frustrating.  Some days, everything works so well, and other days I can’t get Safari to open..

When Judy gets home, she is worn out.  The nausea was not a problem today, but she is weak, and hasn’t eaten much.  She is tired of crackers, but we’re still afraid of anything much stronger.

WEDNESDAY, 10/23/13

Judy slept through the whole night!  Now if we can just figure out something she can safely eat.  She’s still weak and a little fearful of her stomach.   Thankfully her day goes well!  When she gets home, she has enough energy to talk about her day, and the accreditation team meetings.

I’ve almost got my Blues History lessons figured out.  I’ve also been working on another arrangement for some of the orchestra students.  Naturally, I run into a few software issues (mostly my lack of understanding of how to run the software).  When the day ends, Judy is nearing normalility, and I have all my plans and music ready for classes the next two days.

Monday, 10/21/13

Judy’s a little better, but is still running a little temp.  She decides to go to school, anyway.  It’s a BIG week for BISS.  There is an accreditation team coming in, and they have been preparing for this visit for over a year.  “All hands on deck”!  She doesn’t feel like she can miss, unless she’s in a hospital bed.

At school, they find out that Antony, the MYP (IB middle years program) coordinator won’t be here this week.  His mother in Greece died suddenly.

Judy makes it through most of the day, only really struggling the last hour.  She comes home worn out, and heads straight to bed.  It’s not long before she’s snoring away.

I spend the day trying to figure “what’s next” for my music classes, and struggling with musical ideas for the orchestra.  When I get bogged down, I head over to BHG market for groceries.  I decide to make some soup for Judy, and I need chicken and vegetables.  Purchases made, I return home and start cooking.  It’s ready for her when she hits the door, and immediately goes to sleep.  I’m beginning to get dishpan hands.

About the time I’ve got everything cleaned up, and headed to bed, Judy wakes up hungry.  I pull out the soup and reheat it.   She handles it fairly well.  She also wants some toast.  This is problematic, since we don’t have any kind of an oven.  I end up cooking the toast in a skillet, and it seems to work.  Of course, the kitchen is a mess again.  I clean up again, and now it’s bedtime  “for real”.

A Weekend Non-Digital Virus, 10/19-20/13


For the first time, we have an issue with illness.  Judy is up and out for a haircut.  I catch up on some of our financial stuff.  When she gets back, she walks over to the mall for some school items (organizing drawers).  When she gets back she is really worn out, and gets a little nap.  After the nap, she is achy and nauseous.  It’s obvious this is more than just fatigue.  She starts up an ibuprofen / acetaminophen  regimen.  It’s a long night.


Judy isn’t any better when she wakes up.  It’s never fun to suffer through this.  The nausea is constant, and won’t go away.  She’s feverish.  We’re assuming she has a virus and needs to “ride it out”.  By the end of the day, her temperature is normalizing and the nausea not so prevalent.  She’s ready for some relief.

I spend most of my day trying to make sure she’s comfortable.  I run over to Metro and pick up some food items that may or may not help.  She finally gets to sleep, hoping Monday will be better.

Thursday & Friday, 10/17-18/13


We had a “slow” day of teaching.  Judy is getting a better feel for her students and how to plan.  My class goes well (rhythm performances), and I was also being observed for “assessment”.

The arrangement I’ve been working on for the orchestra worked well.  My biggest problem is the wide diversity of abilities.  Several of the students “read it down”, and others were struggling with fingerings.  I’ve got to find a way to challenge everyone and still include everyone in something.  I may have to organize several smaller ensembles that match individual student levels better.


Judy’s Friday is always a big day.  All the classes meet, and it’s really busy.  At the end of the day, the musical “Annie” rehearses, and Judy is the musical director.  She’s working with 3 other faculty members to pull it all together.  They perform in February, but with only one rehearsal a week, they needed an early start.

Annie Rehearsal

Annie Rehearsal

After my classes, I meet with my principal for my “post-observation” interview.  It goes well, and she had some fun watching the students perform for the class.  The “guitar club”, meets Thursday and Friday during lunch, and I’ve mostly been watching them make decisions on what they wanted to work on.  They settled on “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, by Green Day.  I used “GarageBand” to put together a drum track they could take home and practice with.  I also broke down the phrases of the tune to make their rehearsals and home practice a little more efficient.

We finish the day at the pub with the BISS Friday “wind down”.  It’s always fun to catch up on the gossip.  International Schools begin their hiring process in November, especially smaller schools like BISS.  Teachers have already had to turn in their preliminary commitment statements, and several teachers and administrators are moving to other schools next year.  There is much discussion about possible replacements, and all the possible staff adjustments created by the vacancies.