Librarian in China December Update


Wow! I can’t believe it’s been almost 5 months since we moved to China! Everything here is going very well. We love China and hope to stay here for quite awhile.


The boys have adjusted to school and have had so many great experiences there already. Jonathan spun plates at his Circus Club performance at the Suzhou Cultural Center, and Kyle played the cello in the school’s Christmas concert. Kyle is very excited to be in the Junior School production of “Alice in Wonderland” in a few weeks–they have been working on this since September, even having some practices for a few hours on Sunday mornings.

Both boys have been “Star of the Week” for their classes, and academically, both have made HUGE leaps in performance. Kyle is actually challenged in his math class (finally!), and Jonathan has improved so much in every class. We can really see now how much his dyslexia and the large USA class sizes have held him back. He now has dyslexia class four hours each week, and the improvements in his reading and handwriting have been incredible. His regular classes are small–only about 15 students–so his teachers are better able to work with him individually.


We just returned from our first vacation as “real” expats! Last week, we traveled to Bali, Indonesia, where we had a slew of new experiences including:

  • Riding elephants
  • Feeding elephants by hand
  • Holding 2 pythons around my neck at the same time
  • Feeding wild monkeys
  • Having said monkeys climb on me
  • Getting my first monkey bite–twice! OUCH!
  • Swimming in the Indian Ocean
  • Snorkeling close enough to touch the coral reef
  • Drinking luwak coffee (which is made via animal poop)
  • Held hands with a gibbon at the zoo
  • Tried lots of new Balinese and Indonesian foods

The boys didn’t want to leave Bali, which was just wild and beautiful and so, so green. They both want us to get jobs there so they can snorkel and feed elephants every day. All of the pictures at the top of this post were taken last week in Bali.


Our Christmas tree!

It’s Christmas-time, and believe it or not, this area of China definitely gets into the Christmas spirit! We see Christmas trees lighting up street corners and sales–without the huge Black Friday crowds!–at Toys-R-Us. It’s still nothing like in the USA, I’ve been told that this expat-friendly area of China is picking up more and more Christmas traditions every year.


We had no trouble finding a Christmas tree and decorations for our apartment, but wrapping paper has been MUCH more difficult. I went to buy some on Taobao (like EBay or Amazon in China), and many of the rolls I selected were sold out.

My husband had a great idea to make tins of Christmas cookies and give them to the men working at the guard gate outside our apartment and to the kind people who work at the little store right outside our apartment. We also plan to give some to the two or three homeless men who walk around at Singa Plaza. There aren’t many homeless people walking around Suzhou, and I bet they would love a mug of hot coffee and some Christmas cookies.

It’s cold here in December! Daily highs right now average around 5-10 degrees C (about 40-48 degrees F), but it feels much colder than that with our damp air. Add the fact that we are outside quite a bit walking or riding buses or ebikes, and we really have to bundle up!


The “Pants Building”

Since I wrecked my ebike (long story, but no injuries), I have started riding the city buses more and more. I love that we have good public transportation here! We ride the buses and metro (subway) regularly now and have found them to be clean, efficient, and at times, quite crowded. They are planning three new metro lines in the next couple of years, one of which has a proposed stop very near our apartment. We look quite forward to that! 


We are elbows-deep into our genrefication project. Since I genrefied my previous library, this one has gone much more smoothly as I know how I want things and what I want to change. We have 15 genres–3 fewer than at my previous school. They are pretty much the same genres except I removed Mermaids-Witches-Fae and made them part of the Paranormal genre. I also don’t have a Steampunk genre yet (not enough Steampunk in my library, but I’m working on that). Right now, Steampunk is shelved with Science Fiction. Instead of Animal Fantasy, I now have a Classics section, which has (surprisingly) gotten lots of use so far. I also renamed the Fairytales genre to “Spin-Offs” (though I am considering changing that to Retellings).

The library has experienced a lot of changes this year, and my students and administrators have responded very well to them. We still have quite a long way to go (genrefication isn’t a quick process), but I am really very happy with how it’s gone so far. I am also excited to receive a huge Follett order (about 350 new books!) in January, which will definitely help with those January blues I always get. 


As my blog is primarily for librarians and book lovers (and not a travel blog), I only post expat stuff occasionally. If you want more frequent updates to our expat adventures, please “Like” my FaceBook page, Mrs. Collazo’s Adventures in China. I post photos and updates there regularly.

As always, I will say that if you are
following me because you are thinking about moving to China or teaching internationally, please feel
free to drop me an email at mrsreaderpants [at] gmail [dot] com. I am very happy to answer any questions you might have on how to get started and what is involved. I could
never have taken this leap if I hadn’t already known another family who
did it. My best advice is to do your research and ask lots and lots of questions.

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