Holidays... bringing out the best in family dysfunction??

Most of my colleagues were buzzing with excitement this week to head back to the States to visit with family and friends for the Christmas holiday.  Some were less excited; others downright nervous.

Living overseas can be exciting, overwhelming, challenging, wonderful and horrible all at once.  It can be hard to articulate all of these feelings in the three sentences that most people allow you, when they ask "so how's ____?" (before glazing over in boredom).  

It can feel disappointing and confusing; to not share similar viewpoints with people you've known all your life, to feel like you've missed out on important life events, or to see people moving on with their lives without you.  

However, I think the most frustrating emotion is to see the people who are stuck in their same rut; just "hoping" for change.  For an expat who's life revolves around change, this is an extremely difficult dynamic to deal with.

In a moment of true bewilderment, we may begin to wonder why we wanted to come home in the first place, since home is now a foreign land, and our foreign land is now home.

With this in mind, I offer the following ideas to stay sane while visiting with relatives this holiday season.

Jet lag will inevitably make you more irritable.  Try to spend time in the sun to reset your body's clock.

Be patient with yourself.  It's normal to feel overwhelmed.

Ask a lot of questions about what's going on in their lives.  Try to limit stories about life overseas unless they ask.  Many people will mistake it for bragging or be so uninterested that you'll end up feeling hurt.

Keep visits frequent and short, and OUTSIDE of their homes.  You may end up feeling unfamiliar in a place that's "supposed" to be familiar; this can be painful.

Along the same lines, invite them to do errands (before or after coffee, breakfast, lunch, etc) to maximize your time back home. It goes FAST!

Alcohol could help ease the tension, but you know your family best!!  
At the very minimum, maybe you'll feel a little more relaxed after a glass of wine with dinner.  
Or some Baileys in the morning coffee, but I digress.

Stay in touch once you're back overseas via Whatsapp or FaceTime, instead of Facebook.  Whatsapp allows for a more intimate connection, whereas Facebook has the added social pressure of what random people from high school are doing with their lives. Assuming this looks extremely different from the life that you are currently living, this will stress you out.

So to my fellow Paula Pans, have no fear!  
You too will survive the holidays, and go back to the comfort of your globe-trotting ways very shortly.  
In the meantime, enjoy your family, embrace the experience, and eat well!

<3 paz.  amor.  felicidad  siempre


Please email/Tweet evidence of completed activities to Miss Fitz at:


laura.fitzgerald@concordiashanghai (dot) org

.  Students with the most completed challenges will win FANTASTIC prizes!  
One hint:  The prize is electronic!

My students shared their favorite Christmas movies with me.  Here are their top choices:

Miracle on 34th street
National Lampoon's Christmas vacation
Santa Clause
Home Alone
How the Grinch Stole Christmas cartoon version
The Muppets Christmas Carol
Charlie Brown Christmas
The Muppets Family Christmas
Home Alone 2
The Nutcracker Ballet--San Francisco Ballet
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Polar Express
Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978)
Garfield's Christmas
It's a Wonderful Life


APAC Dance 2013

This post is a bit late, but I wanted to share some highlights from the 2013 APAC Dance Festival that was held at the Western Academy of Beijing.  This year the festival had the highest number of participating schools and students.  Every student demonstrated infectious energy and diligent work ethic.  Between rehearsals and workshops, each student danced for 6 hours straight for four days in a row.  Exhausting!! 

Professionally, this festival has reinforced my passion for working with artists, and creating art.  I absolutely loved working with the fusion groups.  The process and experience of improvisation and choreography built a solid foundation of trust, teamwork and synergy, which led to their truly unique and inspiring final product.

I'd like to extend a warm thank you to the WAB team again for hosting the APAC dance event this year. They all worked tirelessly to put on a great festival.  We look forward to next year's festival, to be held in Manila at Brent International School.  Until then, we'll keep practicing 'til we make perfect!


Day One:  Dancing, dining and discovering weird things at the airport. 
Day Two:  Workshops and fusion group practice.

When you think you've reached your limits, think about this professional Chinese dancer who has only one arm!

Day Three:  Samba com Brasileros!!
Day Four:  SHOWTIME!!

A Miss Fitz and Ms. Pete production
Seniors! Stephanie, Victoria and Sydney.  Special recognition to Steph and Syd who both participated in all APAC dance festivals (dance was added to the APAC conference four years ago, when they were freshman).

Special recognition to Seniors!  To Victoria, Stephanie and Sydney, we will miss you soooo much!

Christmas Greetings from Shanghai!

Thanksgiving weekend travel to Wulingyuan

For Thanksgiving weekend, my colleagues and I traveled to Wulingyuan, in the Hunan providence in China.  In one word, Wulingyuan was AMAZING! We were treated to breath-taking views, clean air, warm sunshine and friendly locals, including our tour guide, Isabel.  

I was so happy the trip turned out to be a great success, considering things can either go really well, or really terribly here in China (squatty potties, spitting, screaming matches come to mind).  It was actually very easy to get around, and we only had minor communication mishaps.  It was definitely a good idea to use the guide, as she was able to get us in and around the three parks relatively quickly and brought us on some paths that were definitely the paths less traveled.  

If you find yourself in Wulingyuan, please be sure to check this restaurant out, on the main road to the National Park entrance.

The logistics:

We flew into the Zhangjiajie airport.  Make sure you arrange transport in advance, because we were ripped off by the taxis on our way to the airport, since they refused to use the meter.  We stayed at the Wulingyuan Jianghan Hotel, which was basic and somewhat clean.  The breakfast was terrible, so buy fruit on the street (close to the restaurant listed above).  Also, the dinner at the hotel was rustic, as we sat at outdoor patio tables with fire pits underneath, and had many choices of unidentified meat to choose from.  Luckily, the wait staff were very patient with us, as we entered the kitchen to physically show them which vegetables we wanted to eat, along with which spices/garlic/oil we wanted them to use.  

Ahhh.... only in China!

T minus 10 days until my Christmas trip to Bali!  WoowhoO!

Hope you and yours are enjoying the holiday season! 

True Christmas Spirit

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
― Mother Teresa

Please help support a local charity this Christmas season!  If you're in Shanghai, be sure to check out the great work The Giving Tree is doing!

This is it.. the APOCALYPSE???

The song, "Radioactive" by the Imagine Dragons should totally be the theme song for Shanghai.     There are people walking around the city dressed like this:

Just like the song lyrics, "I'm waking up to ash and dust, I'm breathing in the chemicals, this is it--THE APOCALYPSE".

This was the view on my way to work this morning.

This was the AQI reading during my lunch break.  On other applications and websites, the AQI is approximately 523.

If I don't die from respiratory failure, I think I might die from sadness. How is this possible?? What is wrong with this world? Governments are putting greed for money and power over the health and well being of 23 million people in the metro Shanghai area? I DON'T GET IT!

The solution is more simple than it seems.  The West needs to stop demanding the cheap goods made in China, then the Chinese factories will produce less pollution, then the people will be able to breathe.

Although according to Shanghai Daily, the solution offered by the city weather bureau is to hang on tight until the acid rain comes, and the polluted wind from the north in Beijing blows this week's problem away.   

I am really sad to live here today. 

I hope wherever you are, you can see a bright blue sky and feel the sunshine on your face.

An idea worth spreading..

The cultural values of food in the US should be considered abnormal to the rest of the world because we have distorted our priorities.  The importance of individual satisfaction and pleasure along with the greed of profit and power has overcome the importance of treating each and every American with dignity and respect, and providing fair access to healthy food, regardless of socio-economic status. Our constant demand for more and more in the States allows retailers to inflate prices unnecessarily on most consumer goods, but most painfully, on food.  Our excessive demand for meat has lead to the decay of agriculture in the States.  A disproportionate amount of arable land in the US is now solely dedicated to producing soy and corn products to feed livestock.

In a nation that is as wealthy as the US, there is no rhyme or reason to have such a high rate of obesity and perpetuate such an extreme disconnect from nature and what we naturally need in our diets.

Instead of fighting a war on obesity, we should be fighting for healthier food choices in all public places. Americans need better access to locally grown, seasonal, fresh produce on every street corner, in every 7-11, restaurant, cafe, etc. I personally don't eat meat and try to avoid processed foods, which means it’s nearly impossible for me to eat on the run in the States.

Here in Shanghai there are wet markets on almost every street corner.  These wet markets offer locally grown, seasonal and affordable produce from local Chinese farmers.  In Spain, I also find it easier to access locally grown, seasonal and affordable produce from local farmers.  Given our global evolution to being outside the home more frequently than ever, it only makes sense to increase the availability and access to healthy food choices beyond traditional supermarkets.

Increasing the availability and access to healthy food choices is urgently true for children in public schools.  Every child should be taught nutrition, every child should learn how to prepare basic and healthy recipes, and every child's lunch plate should be a rainbow of color, not 4 different shades of white (french fries, pizza, mac and cheese and/or PB&J).

Students should be practicing the components of wellness in developmentally appropriate ways throughout their K-12 education. Students should also be measured for body composition and then referred to the child study team/have an IEP written like any other learning/behavioral/emotional disorder to correct unhealthy behavior and habits.

This is an idea worth spreading; buy produce locally, buy produce in the most natural form, and buy produce when it’s in season.  Lastly, please always seek alternatives to meat and processed food products.  It’s more important for our planet, health and future generations than you probably realize!

Wishing you and yours a healthy Thursday!