Beating Jet Lag (With Brass Knuckles If I Could)

Jet lag. I hate those two words, but they seem to find me several times a year and cuddle up beside me in bed while I stare at the ceiling at 3 am. I  returned recently from a 3 week trip abroad for work to Taiwan and South Korea. Since I’ve been back, my family, friends, and co-workers have all asked how my trip was and how I’m doing now that I’m back. My reply is usually that I am tired and grumpy because jet lag woke me up too early this morning,and that my body is confused so I ate the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich I was craving for breakfast. I discovered that many don’t know what jet lag is, because they haven’t traveled through time zones, so they don’t understand why I want to take a 5 hour “nap” or can’t go to bed until 4 am when I come back from a trip abroad. Please allow me to graciously explain so that you’re not offended next time jet lag causes me to snap at you. (No really, it’s not me!)

According to the Mayo Clinic, jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder when the body’s internal clock is confused about when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep. Additionally, the body is confused about when it is time to eat.

If I arrive in Taiwan at 11 am, because of the 12 hour time difference, my body thinks it’s 11 pm and wants to go to sleep. When it’s 6 am and time to eat breakfast, my body thinks it’s 6 pm and dinner time and wants some pizza.

There’s also a general feeling of sickness. Many people compare it to having a hangover- a slight headache, nausea, a general feeling of unwellness. But imagine having a hangover for 2 weeks! Many sufferers also complain of stomach problems and difficulty concentrating.

Doctors say that it takes one day for your body to readjust for every hour of time zone change you go through. Taiwan was 12 hours ahead, and South Korea was 13 hours ahead, so it should take me about 2 weeks to fully get rid of my jet lag. I will admit that the first week is the absolute worst though.

Usually when I am on the trip, I do better with jet lag because I am there for a purpose, have things to accomplish, and am generally excited to be there. When I come home though and have to go back to the daily grind, it’s much harder to readjust.

So here are a few tips I have for beating jet lag.

– When you get to your destination, if it’s night, you must go to sleep even if you’re not tired. If it’s day, you must stay awake, even if you’re about to pass out. You need to get your internal clock adjusted to the time at your destination. This also means trying to take as few naps as possible, which trust me, is SO hard!

– Get as much sunlight as possible. This will help your body produce more melatonin to regulate cells in your body. It’s all very scientific. Don’t ask me the details; just get more sunlight!

– Cool it on the caffeine. Caffeine messes up sleep, so it’s no wonder this can enhance the symptoms of jet lag. Also, drink as much water as possible. Dehydration makes jet lag worse.

– Take sleep aids. But, be careful with this one. Usually for the first 2 or 3 nights I’ve crossed a considerable amount of time zones, I take a few Tylenol PMs or the like to help myself sleep through the night. If I don’t, I’ll wake up at 3 or 4 am no matter how tired I am. Doing this helps me sleep until at least 6.

Well, I’ve been back from my trip for about a week now. I’m still consistently waking up at 6 am, but at least I’m not taking naps at 7 pm anymore, because I just can’t keep my eyes open for a single second longer. I’ve been eating breakfast food for breakfast and dinner food at dinner time. I don’t feel nauseous for no reason, and I haven’t yelled at anyone today because I’m grumpy. I’d say I’m on the up and up!

Until next time, jet lag. Until next time.

United Airlines 777

Eastern vs. Western Learning and Education

I’ve had a few requests to share what I do to help train teachers to go to China. This is my 5th year helping with this training. It’s the program that I went to China with way back in 2006. They help teachers find jobs in China and train them to go. The training includes things like the history and culture of China, information on living in China, and teaching in China. To be a teacher in China, you need a bachelor’s degree in any subject area. It doesn’t have to be in education. However, in the last few years, many provinces in China are starting to require either a teaching background, teaching experience, or a TEFL certificate. Therefore, we now require all our teachers to go through some sort of online TEFL training that China will recognize.

So, my job at orientation is to give them detailed information on teaching ESL, and, more specifically, teaching English in China. I do four sessions that are about an hour each.

In the first session I teach, I try to help the teachers understand the different mentality between the east and west when it comes to teaching, learning, and education. The difference is quite vast!

For example, the concept of the teacher is extremely different between the East and the West. In America and Europe, the teacher is more of a facilitator. The teacher leads a discussion, as opposed to dominating it.  In opposition, in Asia, the teacher is “the sage on the stage”. The teacher is the authority on everything and shouldn’t be questioned. That was such a strange concept to me as an American teaching in China. I could literally write the word “kat” on the board and no one would dare correct me.

Americans are very individualistic as a whole. We focus more on me, me, me. In the educational world, this translates to being very competitive in the classroom. In the Eastern world, students are more group-oriented. They work together more and help each other more often. This also translates to more cheating, because they feel the need to help their classmates.

In China, students are most often respectful and polite in the classroom. Students are eager to please the teacher. As we know, Americans are like this when they are very young, but, usually, after elementary school, this sadly disappears.

In the West, students are taught to think outside the box, to do their own thinking, and to challenge existing ideas. Whereas, in the East, students usually memorize, usually take official answers without questioning them, and have trouble being creative in the classroom.

These are just a few of the differences in learning and education between the East and the West. If you plan to go to Asia to teach, knowing these differences is extremely essential. You might try a teaching method or a way of managing your classroom and it just doesn’t work and you don’t get why. Culture affects learning. Expectations affect learning. Learn these differences before you go and teach. These concepts are also helpful even if you teach in the US and have Asian students in your classroom.

More teacher training to come!

My Photo is Hanging in Random People’s Homes

One thing that really surprised me about living in China is all the attention that I got just for being a foreigner. I couldn’t walk down the street without someone shouting “HELLO!” in their loudest and best English. I’d shop in Wu-Mei, the neighborhood grocery store, and people would stop to look in my cart to get a glimpse of what Americans buy. While eating at any restaurant, the diners at the table next to me would stare at my chopstick skills the whole meal. What can I say? I am  a walking, talking circus act! :]

This superstar mentality for foreigners in China may fade away in the next few decades since China is becoming more and more open. But until then, it causes random people to want to take photos with me, like I’m Angelina Jolie. If I happened to have my camera with me when someone asked me to pose for a picture, I’d usually snap one too. I know there are several 100 that I don’t have a copy of though. I imagine I am sitting on the mantle in a picture frame of many Chinese people’s homes, and during Chinese New Year the family sits around and talks about that one time they met that crazy, curly-haired American girl.

Here are a few of my favorite photos with strangers.

Many people would often ask me to hold their babies. This should be a cute and cuddly time. However, Chinese babies wear split pants. Never heard of split pants? Well, instead of diapers, the babies wear pants with a hole in the back, so they can use the facilities whenever they have the need. Supposedly, they are trained to go when their mom whistles, whether that be over a trash can, a sewer drain, straight up on the bus, or most rarely, over an actual toilet. So back to the photo and me holding that cute, cuddly little baby. In the photo below I am enjoying holding that little bao bao, but I am also a bit worried that someone is going to start whistling.

Chinese baby

Chinese baby

Split pants

Is this not the biggest baby you have ever seen?! So cute!

Is this not the biggest baby you have ever seen?! So cute!

I was so excited to go to the Great Wall in Beijing. I wasn’t expecting to get stopped every few minutes for photo ops though.

American and Chinese on Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China tourist

Xianjiang is the most western region of China. It borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is more like one of the “stan” countries than part of China. So the people there look very different than the Han Chinese people. They often go to other parts of China to sell special foods or crafts. When on a trip in Nanjing, my friend and I bought some street food off of a really nice man from Xinjiang. He asked if we could take a picture together. I told him sure. He said he didn’t have a camera, so my camera would do. Why did he want the picture when he would never see it again? I don’t know, but I’m glad I got a photo with such an interesting guy. Would you have guessed that he is Chinese?

American and Uyghur

And sometimes it’s whole groups of people who want a picture. A few weeks after arriving in China, the vice president of our school took the foreign teachers to a restaurant downtown. Before a shift at a restaurant in China, you’ll often see the manager gather all the employees and give them a pep talk. A photo with the foreigners was the pep talk that day.

Americans at restaurant in China

It’s strange being back in America. People don’t chase me down on the street to try and talk to me. People don’t secretly take photos of me on their cell phones during class. People aren’t throwing their babies at me to kiss like I’m a politician. The strange thing is….I kinda miss it all. Life is weird.

As always, please share on your social media sites if you enjoyed this post. Thanks!

Chinese Pigs Say “No, No, No!”

While living in China,  I discovered that Chinese people say that animals make different noises than we Americans say they make. It always made me laugh, so on my most recent trip to China, I made sure to capture some of those differences on video. And since then, I’ve discovered that most countries differ in the noises they hear animals make. Enjoy! And feel free to share on Facebook or other sites or reblog if you enjoy!

“Your Hair is Like the Fine Silk”

I need my hair cut. I’ve put it off for a few months, mostly because it’s hard to schedule an appointment and keep it. I miss the days when I was in China, and I could literally get my hair cut on campus. However, my favorite hair salon was the one right outside my school gate, a mere 10 minute walk from my on-campus apartment that all the foreign teachers lived in.

Teaching ESL in China

My university with the row of restaurants, shops, and my hair salon in the front. The salon is the one that is glowing.

I remember the first time I went to that hair salon. It was my first hair cut in China. I took one of my Chinese friends, Grace, with me to translate, and we soon found out that I was the first foreigner to get her hair cut there. One interesting thing about getting your hair cut in China is that about 95% of the stylists are male. So, I sit in the chair of one of the guys, and he just stares at me with a confused look on his face. Before I know it, the entire staff of the hair salon are gathered around me, touching curly hair for what I’m sure was the first time. And then they then proceeded to have a conference about what to do with my hair. As they were rapidly speaking Chinese, I had no idea what they were saying until Grace said, “He wants me to tell you something. He said your hair is like the fine silk.” Ok, I’ll take that unique compliment!

I got my hair cut that day with no problem and for only about 3 US dollars! Soon my fellow teacher Heidi and I started going to the hair salon all the time. We’d just pop in after dinner to get our hair straightened for about $2. We became friends with all the stylists there and gave them English names. They didn’t speak a word of English, so it was really good for our Chinese language practice! Also, they liked practicing their English on us. And their hair…oh how I love their hair! Young Chinese guys have really crazy hair styles, and the stylists were the kings of crazy!

Expat in China

Me, Heidi, and the stylists

Chinese hair stylist

Shawn’s hair styles were always my favorite!

I got brave  and started trying things other than a simple cut. I had read online that a perm can loosen the curls of people who have really curly hair, so I thought I’d give it a go. It actually turned out pretty well and calmed my hair down a bit. However, the methods cracked me up. I had my hair hooked up to a machine that looked like it was sucking my brain out. It is one of my all-time favorite China pictures. Then they put this trough-type thing around my neck. It was an epic experience.


Here is an alien sucking out my brain, er, me getting a perm.


Here is my perm trough!

Soon, I started taking every other foreigner there that was wanting to get a hair cut. Soon this salon became THE foreign hair salon. They should have given me a cut of the profits!

hair salon in China

I took my Canadian friend Don to get his hair cut. Notice how they wash your hair in the regular chair then take you to the sink to rinse. Also, they give you a nice massage!

Some people go abroad, especially to a place like China, and aren’t adventurous. Some of my fellow teachers wouldn’t dare to get their hair cut in China. They would wait a whole year until they went home. Come on people! Be a part of the culture you’re in. Participate and enjoy. Learn and make friends while you’re at it. It just might be some of the best memories you have.

Hair salon in China

Andy was the guy that always did my hair. I may have had a crush on him. Maybe.

TEFL Bloggers

I’m excited to be a permanent feature on the TEFL Bloggers website. It’s a website that promotes blogs of people who are teaching English abroad.

There are some great blogs here!  Check them out and follow if you want to know more about what it’s like to teach abroad or just want to read about everyone’s crazy adventures.

Please read and “like” my page on the site as well!

Thanks TEFL Bloggers!


Sayonara Japan

My time was ending in Japan. I had spent almost 2 full weeks in Tokyo, and experienced so many new things. And I had just a few more things to see and experience before I left…

I took a few last field trips with my students. We went to Tokyo Tower, a tv tower that looks just like an orange Eiffel Tower. It is painted orange as an air safety regulation. The observation deck we went to is about 500 feet up, and we got a nice view of the city. Tokyo Tower is Tokyo’s major landmark and is used to set the scene in movies and tv shows. And apparently Godzilla has destroyed it a time or two.  That Godzilla is elusive. I didn’t see him even once while in Tokyo!

Tokyo, Japan Tokyo, JapanTokyo, JapanSkyscapers

We also go to go to the Asakusa area of Tokyo, which has a really famous temple called the Senso-ji Temple. The main gate to the temple is known for the HUGE lantern hanging there, which is a popular photo-op. I couldn’t even get a picture that didn’t have 20 or 30 people in it. After going through the gate, but before getting to the actual temple, there is a huge shopping street! This is where I bought a few souvenirs and also my sesame ice cream. The most interesting thing about the temple itself was the incense area. People would get as close as they could and waft the smoke onto them so they could receive purification.

Asakusa, Tokyo Tokyo Temples Asakusa, Tokyo Tokyo, Temples



I had an excellent time in Japan. I got to see a lot of exciting sights, meet a ton of great people, have some new teaching experiences, and learn about Japan and its culture. It has definitely peaked my interest to learn more about the country’s history, its people, its music, and so many other things about Japan. I hope I have the chance to go back and spend time in some other cities as well. 2 weeks is too short of a time to spend in a new-to-you country! But, knowing that I still had South Korea on my itinerary made me somewhat eager to leave. Also, the 12 hour work days, the high humidity, and those eerie crows that seemed to follow me around the city pushed me out the door as well. Well, Sayonara Japan. Thanks for having me, and I hope to see you again soon!

Head, and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!

There’s a first time for everything, right? Right. I had the chance to teach elementary students English for the first time in Shiojiri in Nagano prefecture, which was a 3 hour bus ride from Tokyo. It was good for me to get to see what Japan is like outside of the capital city. Shiojiri is a smaller city that even has some countryside to it, including rice paddies!

Japan countryside

Rice paddy

Shiojiri, Japan

I taught at a juku, or learning center/cram school. Students go here after school or on the weekends to learn and study even more than they do during the school day. They study various subjects, but the most popular subject for jukus is English. This juku was very modern and nice!

The room I taught in

So this was a special session on a Saturday that was advertised as “learning joyful English” from an American and learning about studying abroad.


I hope this advertisement said some good things about me!

Teaching these kids was a hard task because I didn’t have a translator, and they hardly knew any English. So, I thought singing some sort of the song would be the best route. I decided on teaching the parts of the body using the song “Head, and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. I had a PowerPoint that I used to show a cartoon picture of each body part in the song. I said the word while pointing to the body part, then had us say it together, and they had the students say it on their own. We did that with each body part and then sang the song. About 8 times. Haha. It wore me out! We also did the hokey pokey, which, in hind-sight, may have been a bit too difficult for them. Oh well. You live and learn. I think they enjoyed it and hopefully will now remember the parts of the body.

Teaching ESL elementary

The elementary students

I did have a little mishap while I was there. I was in the bathroom right before it was time for me to teach, I used the facility, flushed, and then was washing my hands. As I was washing my hands, there was a knock on the door. I was thinking- give me a minute, will ya?! Then a lady came in and said in broken English, “Are you ok?” I told her I was fine and was very puzzled as to why she was asking. When we exited the bathroom together, there were 2 security guards with very concerned looks on their faces. Apparently, when I thought I was flushing the toilet, I instead pushed the emergency help button. My bad. They probably thought I was idiot, but hey, I can’t read Japanese, and I’m not used to having emergency buttons in the bathroom! Whoops! All’s well that ends well, right?

This was a good day for me filled with many new experiences, so I’m really glad I had the chance to go to Shiojiri. And next time I go there I’ll be more careful about what buttons I push in the bathroom!


Chowing Down in Japan

Eating has been an interesting experience for me  in Japan.

First, let’s talk about seafood. Sadly, I don’t like seafood. And too bad for me, since Japan is an island everyone is always eating seafood! They absolutely can’t believe it when I say I don’t like seafood. In fact, they always ask why not. How do you even answer that? I have seen a lot of seafood dishes that look pretty tempting, but alas, I only like fish. I have had some good salmon here, but I’ll pass on the shrimp, eel, octopus, and crab.


Convenience store eating is such a phenomenon here! There are popular convenience stores such as Lawson, Family Mart, and 7-Eleven. (I think 7-Eleven is more popular in Asia than in America!) People will go in here to grab a quick meal, and surprisingly, it’s actually pretty good food! They even advertise the food on tv.  You can get sushi, sandwiches, cold noodles, salads, and so much more! I’ve had a couple convenience store meals so far when I was in a hurry, and it was decent.

The food here is way more expensive than I imagined! For example, tonight I bought a simple bowl of noodles, and it was 9 bucks! I guess I am just used to China, where a bowl of noodles costs less than 2 bucks! The food prices are killing me!

Japanese Food

Ramen, and that junk was SPICY!

And I haven’t eaten many vegetables since being here. The only vegetable I’ve really had is raw cabbage. It’s served with almost every set meal. I’ve had  a lot of meat. Especially deep fried meat. And of course rice.

Miso Soup

Pork cutlet, rice, miso soup, and some pickled vegetables

There have only been a few times when I had to eat by myself, but a lot of the menus either have a little English or have menus. The craziest thing is the plastic food. Outside each restaurant, they have fake food so that you can see what they have. It’s definitely helpful to me!

This food is all fake!

And of course, when in Japan, you’ve got to have sushi! Although I’m not a big raw fish fan, I tried some. I do love vegetable sushi though. (And yes, it’s still sushi, haters!) I loved going to the sushi conveyor belt restaurant where you just grab what you want as it goes by. At the end they add up your bill based on the color and amount of the plates you have in front of you.


Kaiten-zushi (sushi conveyor belt)

Japanese food

Cucumber sushi



And Asian desserts are always, um, interesting…Red beans are used in many of the desserts in Japan, much like in China. I can’t stop thinking that beans are for dinner, not for a sweet snack. There are some other strange flavors, like a lot of green tea flavored things, such as a green tea (ma cha) frappuccinos at Starbucks. I tried one, and although I do like green tea a lot, I didn’t like it. What about green tea ice cream? Tofu ice cream? Sesame flavor? I tried a sesame cone, and I actually liked it. However, it just seemed wrong eating black ice cream.

Green tea ice cream

Overall, I enjoyed Japanese food. I tired some new things, and became a big fan of miso soup. I hope if you get a chance to go to Japan, that you now know a little more of what to expect! Well, I’m going to go eat some red bean cake now!

Apparently 16 Year Old Japanese Boys Love Me

Today I had my first experience with a Japanese school. I went to Teisei Gakuen Junior and Senior High School in Tokyo. When I first arrived, we were ushered to a room to wait for the principal. He arrived with a few other teachers, and after a lot of bowing and a great deal of business card exchanging, we were on our way for a tour of the school. We walked the halls and they opened the classroom doors for me to peak in the rooms. I caused quite the distraction, I discovered, as students waved at me and one student stood up while the teacher was teaching so he could get a better look at me and then got smacked on the head with a stack of papers! Haha.

Next, we went to the lecture hall where I would speak. 80 students attended my class along with about 10 teachers (no pressure at all). I had no idea what level of English these students would have. Well, does it tell you anything that the English teacher at the school had to translate everything I said sentence by sentence? It’s so hard to do an interactive English lesson when no one can understand you! We made it through though and even had time to do a few tongue twisters. (Why did I choose one with an r-l combination?! Whoops!)  There was someone there to take pictures during my lesson, so I felt a bit  like I was at a press conference or that the paparazzi was stalking me.

After I was finished, we had a short question and answer period. Several students simply asked, “How can I improve my English?” Yes, I have a master’s degree in teaching ESL, but how in the world can I answer that question in a one minute answer?! There were also some general questions about how many siblings I have, what was my favorite subject in school, etc. Then it was asked if I had a boyfriend. Then the following conversation took place between me and a brave and bold 16 year old student:

Boy- “What is your ideal man?”

Me- “Someone who is kind and funny.”

Boy- “Um, is height a factor for you?”

I almost died!

When I finished the lesson (and also before I started), the entire group stood up, said something in unison and bowed to me. How interesting! And also, they presented me with a gift to thank me for my lesson. They were all too sweet! I got to spend a little time with some of them afterwards chatting and taking a few pictures.

After leaving the school, we went to eat with one of the teachers. He’s the one that gave us the tour of the school. I like that I never know the plan and never know what’s going on, because it’s all said in Japanese. We were just walking (to what I assumed was the subway station) when all of a sudden we are in a restaurant. I’m just like a little duck following her mommy sometimes while I’m here. I guess the teacher had asked Mr. M ahead of time what food I like, because all the dishes had been pre-ordered and arrived as soon as we sat down. There were probably 7 courses, and at the end, the head chef brought us out ice cream and shook my hand. It was SUCH a good meal!

So I had a pretty good day over here in Nihon. (That’s Japan in Japanese in case you didn’t know!) Tomorrow I’ll teach my 2 conversation classes again. In one class, we will be traveling to the Imperial Palace!

Japanese High School Students

ESLTeaching in JapanESL Teaching in Japan