Trip to Guilin and Yangshuo(桂林和阳朔)

On China National Day, our family joined a few friends on a trip to Guilin. It was one of the most beautiful places we have visited so far in China. The mountains all around were very dramatic limestone formations. The cave we visited took 2 hours to meander through, where we started at the bottom and gradually found ourselves high above the rock and formations we had just seen. I hope these pictures help to give some idea of what it was like.


Hangzhou City

Welcome to our beautiful city! The place we have called home for over 5 years. This enchanted city has been captured here in an amazing pop-up book my friend Shawn Wu. After the short AD you can see the original copy, and please stay tuned here to find out how you can help us get this book published!


Alemayehu Paul Annual Spelling Bee Competition

2013 Spelling Bee ChampionSince the year 2010, the Paul family has sponsored the “Alemayehu Paul Annual Spelling Bee Competition” at ShengDa Unniversity in Zhengzhou, China. The fourth annual contest was held in November 28th, 2013. Over 150 students took part in the preliminary judging, with 60 students chosen for the second round. Students prepared word lists relevant to their studies with lists of words chosen from TEM4 & 8 examination vocabulary. We are very happy to sponsor this yearly event, and hope that it will encourage ShengDa students to always work hard! We would like to thank the staff and directors at ShengDa without whom this event would not be possible. We would especially like to thank Mr. Frank Zhang张保培 (Zhang Bao-Pei) for his tireless efforts, to stage this event every year.

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 1.28.36 PMCONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNERS!
Pictured above is our first prize winner 杨培培 (Angel).

1st place 1000RMB and a trophy
2nd place 700RMB and a trophy
3rd place 500RMB and a trophy
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In the Heart of the Dragon — Life in China


My short life has been eventful. Born on the island of the sun, raised in the eye of the eagle and living now in the heart of the dragon. Life in China is not the same as New York, or Barbados. Each transition meant lots of adjusting. Moving at 18 years old away from a large family on the small island paradise of Barbados to a huge metropolis was quite a transition. Then, after finishing my art degree in New York, getting married and bearing our son, we moved again to China. Our days are our families nights, and the differences in cultural traditions can be just as stark. My life condition also changed drastically as a new mother and wife complete with a new last name. I have often joked with my friends that each new place we move to I have a new name, and new identity it seems.


We have lived in China for 5 years so our experiences go a little beyond the traveling foreigner. In fact, the only home our son knows is China. After several tries with the insanely difficult written exam (see my earlier post) I recently got my driver’s license and have been driving here for about 4 months now. I’ve had 3 (small) accidents and I’m still not totally comfortable on the roads. I learned to drive in New York, which has a pretty bad reputation in America, especially because of Manhattan taxi drivers. Well let me tell you, they ain’t got nuttin’ on the average driver here. I’m working on developing my “balls of steel”. It really takes guts to drive here. Guts and a huge dose of patience, but mostly guts. Patience might get you flattened. It’s that serious. What American drivers call “chicken” is a regular driving tactic in Zhengzhou where we used to live. Hangzhou is much better, but I still say a short pray before and after driving, just in case.


I had another really interesting experience recently, surgery. Having never gone under the knife before, I had no idea what to expect. I needed to have a fibroid removed, a fairly common procedure it seems. Family have since told me that with laser surgery the process can even be done in a day or so. I’m not sure why that option was not available for me. Maybe I just don’t know how to ask the right questions. I was in the hospital for 8 days. The number eight is a very lucky number in China, so in fact I didn’t mind. I also happened to be living on the eighth floor in the eighth bed! 888, really, really lucky.


While in the hospital, I discovered something wonderful. I have lots of great friends in China. Several of the mothers of my students came to visit with fruit, gifts, and encouraging words. Almost all revealed that they also have or had a fibroid. Their enthusiastic greetings really cheered my soul at what I thought would have been quite a difficult time.

One student’s father is a doctor of internal medicine, Doctor Lu Wen. He was kind enough to inform his colleague of my situation. As a result the director of the department Professor Tong was my chief surgeon. His reputation precedes him, and rightly so. I am living proof of his handy work. I will be rocking a bikini this summer. You can check the pictures then and see for yourself (wink). Professor Tong has a sweet, calm spirit, and he really is an inspiration for what he has been able to accomplish in such a short time, as he is only a few years my senior. He has invited me to teach his son and his sister’s son, an offer I was very happy to accept.

Besides the gracious Professor Tong, the other new friends I made during that week were also quite special. I shared the room with 3 other very interesting women. I’ve added some pictures below. I just today started talking to the daughter of one of my roommates, and I think it will also be an important relationship 🙂


The most amazing part of my stay was my husband. He visited every day with home cooked meals and juices, clothing and whatever I needed. He spent one uncomfortable night in a cot made for people much smaller than him (thanks to Alex’s mom Feila for providing the cot without which I don’t know how he would have managed.) He helped to keep me fed, clean and entertained everyday, while taking care of our home and son. Thanks are also due to one of his students Candy, who took Alemayehu to her hometown for 5 days which was a great help, and who acted as my main translator for the hospital and insurance company.

I left the hospital healthier, rested, and spirits high, after one week of celebrity status. It really was a surprisingly up-lifting experience. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by lots of caring people. I’m especially happy to be with a partner who is willing to go so far out of his way to make sure I am comfortable. This experience is certainly one that will stay with me, close to my heart, and I hope sharing these experiences here helps my readers learn more of what it means to live in the heart of the dragon.

Carnival in China!

Mass in ShanghaiI have lived in China for 5 years now, so you can bet I jumped at the chance to play mass in Shanghai! On Saturday 14th September 2013, led by Trinidadian–born Band Leader, Ansel Wong, the Tsingtac Mas Band, performed for the fifth year in China promoting Carnival; and for the first time this year the band was joined by Steel Pan on the streets of Shanghai performing to a live street audience as well as a TV audience, all together over 200 million Chinese viewers.

The Shanghai Tourism Festival, with a collage of flamboyant color, echoing sounds and a mix of competition and celebration, is an event like no other!  Though similar in essence to the carnivals of both Port-of-Spain and London, the organization and scale of the event was fascinating, a beautiful a night-time spectacle!  The most discernible difference was the entourage of over 30 large competing and mesmerizing mobile floats beautifully illuminated and adorned with hundreds of halogen bulbs.  They depicted cultures within China and around the world, with native scenes and characters such as giant moving crabs (fake, not curried)!

My costume was the dress used for “Unraveled-The Other Half” performance piece, with some modifications for the ease of mobility. The best part of the whole experience was the interaction with the folks from London and reconnecting with the carnival spirit. Thanks to my dear friend and costume designer Khisha Clarke for making these connections possible and for my fabulous head dress!

Mas and Pan in China was a success. Dr Shen Shanzhou, Vice Chairman of The Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration praised the band for its performances and presented it with an award of commendation. In return, the Band presented the officials of the City Administration with bottles of Angostura 1824, Mount Gay Extra Old and copies of the T&T Gold Book.

It was my pleasure to have participated in this grand spectacle, and I look forward to similar performances in the future.


Shuren University’s International Food Festival

Guyana Representing!The International Food Festival at Shuren University, the school where Lester teaches and where we reside, was the brainchild of Vincent Chen, our dear friend and colleague at the university. For the pilot version of the festival, all the foreign teachers at Shuren first provided general information about their countries which was used to create large posters, placed outside the library. The teachers also provided information about their local cuisine. Everyone then chose a few dished and prepared them for the student body to sample.

The festival was great success, hugely popular with both students and staff and we hope it will become a annual event!