My second year at ISD

I was very fortunate in August 2016 to get offered a teaching position at the International School of Dongguan. As my first teaching abroad employment, I had no idea what to expect nor if it was suitable for me. But as always, I followed my adventurous instinct, signed the contract and jumped on a plane to China! Well 2 years later I can tell you it was a good move: I am now an IB certified French and English teacher, I have taught to wonderful, smart cookies, I have developed close relationships with amazing colleagues and I have travelled in and out of China for school trips, conferences and workshops. Oh, and I was also getting paid to do all of this! 😉 My second year at ISD was definitely as busy and as exciting as the first one. Here are a few of my highlights:

*I had the chance to teach the same classes as last year: Secondary School French, IB French B and IB English B (’B’ meaning ‘as a second language’), which gave me the opportunity to tweak my lesson plans of last year in order to improve my teaching. I was also lucky to go to Jakarta in October for my second IB training workshop for the courses I teach. I hope one day I will pursue my career as an IB educator. As much as it is a rigorous program for the students (and teachers!) it is a curriculum that I have very enjoyed teaching.

*This year, I wanted to get more involve into the school life, so I took charge of our StuCo (Student Council). I have been very fortunate to be working with a group of 20 dedicated students (not bad for a small school!). We have organized several activities and fundraising events throughout the year to promote our school spirit. It brought me many souvenirs of my good old days when I was a member of the ‘Parlement Étudiant’ at my high school. We are currently planning our biggest event of the year: The Prom!

*With the initiative of one of my Canadian fellow colleague, we created ISD’s first swim team! We were able to gather 5 courageous swimmers so far this year and I’m positive that the team will continue to grow. It was great to be back on a pool deck, and of course it was the perfect opportunity to start swimming again!

*Finally, last month I had the chance to accompanying the grade 8 to 12 to their Week Without Walls (annual field trip where students get to visit a new region of China while discovering new outdoors and cultural activities). This year we spent one exciting and busy week in the province of Sichuan exploring the city of Chengdu and its surrounding. Camping, via ferrata, canyon hiking, tea plantations visit, hot pot dinner, mask changing opera, we definitely had the full Sichuan experience! It’s always a pleasure to be interacting with the students in a non-classroom setting while watching them getting out of their comfort zone and learning new skills. Everyone get to see a different side of each other. It’s a great bonding experience!

Now off I go into the last stretch of the school year! I cannot believe in less than two months I’ll be packing my bags to leave my beautiful adoptive city of Dongguan. Whether it was at work, in my social life or in my many travels, I believe I definitely made the most of my time here. You may wonder what’s next for me? Well I am still in the process of planning my next adventure, but I’ll give you one hint: I’m heading for the only continent I haven’t visited yet… 😉 (and no, Antartica doesn’t count!)

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Week Without Wall fun!

New Year Reflections

One of my life philosophies is to constantly challenge myself while striving to be the best person I can be. To be able to grow as human being, we must learn to reflect on the past in order to plan for the future. I have learned over the last few years the importance of setting goals as well as reflecting on myself. Discovering and accepting our weaknesses and strengths lead us to become a better person while guiding us in the right direction. I constantly have a personal objective to work for or an event to look forward to, whether it is to train for a race or to plan my next trip. It is my way of keeping me happy, passionate and driven.

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This year, I decided to teach my students the importance of reflecting on themselves as well as the value of setting goals. I did this reflecting activity with my classes at the beginning of January: Everyone wrote a list of their achievements and important events of 2017. Then, we envisaged our 2018 year by completing a list of writing prompts. We wrote everything on bits of paper that we posted on the classroom walls; acting as a reminder for the rest of the school year.

I thought about sharing with you my own personal reflections of this activity.

My year 2017 in a nutshell…

  1. I ran my first ultra-marathon
  2. I got my Advanced scuba diving course
  3. I became a vegetarian at home (and I’ve been improving a lot my cooking skills!)
  4. I have been meditating on a regular basis (and have introduced this practice in a few of my classes)
  5. I learned over 150 Chinese Characters (I am aiming to complete my ‘300 course’ by the end of the year)
  6. I attended the Category 2 of the IB Language B workshop in Jakarta
  7. I commuted to work by bike (almost) every single day (rain or shine, frost or flood!)
  8. I learned how to play rugby and played my first contact game
  9. I experienced simplicity, openness and mindfulness at Buddhafield Festival
  10. I changed decade!

2017 was… Mind-opening.

A quote that best represents my 2017 year: Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be. -Buddha

In 2018…

  • I want to go… on a silent retreat for the first time.
  • I want to do more…ultramarathons! Yes, I am hooked.
  • I want to do less… shopping. I want to reduce my consumption habits and move towards a minimalist lifestyle.
  • I want to read… The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Beach by Alex Garland and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  • I want to get… a tattoo!
  • I want to improve… my endurance. Yup, i want to be able to run for longer.
  • I want to change… my eating habits. I’m aiming to become a complete vegetarian by the end of the year! (Thank you to my inspiring sister!)
  • I want to learn… how to shuffle (dance) properly!
  • I want to be… more present and attentively listen to others. “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”
  • I want to imagine… falling in love.

A quote that will represent my 2018 year: Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself. -Oprah Winfrey

2018 will be …. Enriching.

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I came, I ran, (I suffered), I conquered!

It has been 3 years since I crossed the finish line of my last triathlon, the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. I used to be a pretty serious long distance triathlete/runner; getting up at 6am every morning, training 7 days a week, racing every month. It was my passion, my life. I put that lifestyle on standby when I decided to live abroad. However, my inner competitive athlete recently surfaced, eager to face a new challenge, to cross a new finish line. This is when the idea of running my first ultra-marathon came up. Without thinking too much, I signed up for the Lantau 50, a 54km trail run on the beautiful Lantau island in Hong Kong. I had 2 months to prepare for a running course that is renowned to be one of the most difficult in Asia (something I was thankfully not aware of before the race!). Go big or go home..

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Before my 24km trail run on Victoria Peak (Hong Kong)

Dongguan is unfortunately not the best city to train for an ultra-marathon. It’s a “normal” Chinese size city of 8 millions, where the pollution, the traffic and mostly the lack of trails made it difficult to prepare properly for this kind of race. I did the best I could with what I got: a few 40km+ runs (mostly on roads), one 24km trail running race in HK and lots of stairs repeat (living on the 25th floor of my building helped!). I still felt good leading up to the race.

The course consists of a 54km run along the very scenic Lantau trail, combining a variety of terrains (uphill, downhill, natural trails, stone steps, wooden stairs, roads) and going over the island’s highest peaks, Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak, for a total elevation gain of 3,500m. To put it briefly, Lantau 50 was NOT what I expected! It was much hillier, much longer and much harder than what I have imagined! Regardless, I crossed the finish line in 9h06, completely exhausted, but extremely proud of myself. Since it was my first ultra, I didn’t have much expectations except to finish. I learned a lot from that race, and one thing I surely know: it definitely won’t be the last one!

What I nailed:

-Pacing: This is one of my strength in training and races. I knew it would be a long day so I hold back for the first half of the race, I took it easy on the uphill, ran the downhills and still managed to ‘sprint’ the last km’s of the race!

-Nutrition: I ate and drank constantly, making sure I was well hydrated and that I kept that sugar level up! And I saved my favourite treat (a Snickers bar) for that last endless hour!

-Positive attitude: Just like an Ironman, an ultra-marathon requires as much physical than mental strength. I knew I would go through a rollercoaster of emotions. In those moments of doubts and weakness, my plan was to slow down if needed (but never dare to stop!), find a positive distraction (listen to music, chat with another runner, enjoy the scenery), look ahead and keep on running and running until that finish line.

What I could have done better:

-Train by time and not by distance (my longest training run of 4h didn’t help much for my 9h race!)

-There is no such thing as doing too much hill or stair repeats! (Especially for races in Hong Kong!)

-Get proper trail running shoes! (I not only destroyed my poor little running shoes but my feet were blistered and sore for over a week!)

-Duct tape does not fix everything! (I had to get a new camelback after mine fell apart…)

So, what’s next? A 100km 3 day ultra-marathon in Lijiang (Yunnan province in China) in April! Time to hit the trails!

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“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

The Land of Smiles

If there’s one thing I have learned from living in China for a year now, is to escape the country during any national holidays! To make sure I didn’t get caught up again into the China’s Great Migration, I planned a trip to beautiful sunny Thailand. Yes, it is one of the most touristic countries in Southeast Asia, but hey, within a 3h flight I can eat 1$ Pad Thai, watching the sunset on a beach, after a full day of scuba diving! I didn’t have to think twice before booking my plane ticket!

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I only had one week of holiday so I had to plan accordingly. I picked three destinations: Bangkok for the sightseeing, Koh Tao for the scuba diving and Koh Phangan for the legendary full moon party; which unfortunately got cancelled because of the King’s funeral that was held at the end of the month. As you probably know, the King died last October; a man who was greatly respected by his people. Thus, this October was a mourning month and the government was banning all sorts of festivities and outdoor entertainment, which made wacky Thailand a little quieter than usual. Regardless, I still had a very enjoyable trip. The weather was great, the sceneries stunning and I had wonderful encounters as I always do (the joys of traveling alone!). The Land Of Smiles lives up to its name.

So here’s a few of my highlights (and must-do if you come to Thailand):

Temple hopping in Bangkok: There are over 400 wats (temples) scattered around Bangkok. My favorite one was the Wat Pho. I went at the end of the day when the crowds were gone so I could fully enjoy the serenity of this complex. I walked around, admiring the hundreds of stupas and even took the time to meditate with some Buddhist monks in one of the temples. However, the highlight of the Wat Pho is the Reclining Buddha: a 46m long and 15m high statue illustrating the passing of the Buddha into nirvana (his death), very impressive!

-The never-ending nightlife on Khoa San Road: The “centre of the backpacking universe” as it is described in the book ’The Beach’. Khao San Road is a 1 km strip that comes alive at night. In one night, you can easily get a tattoo, a cheap foot massage, eat a scorpion, down a few buckets and finish off the night dancing on a table in a bar. (I did 4 out of 5)

-Doing my advanced scuba diving course in the wonderful underworld world of Koh Tao! This was the main reason why I came to Thailand; after 7 years of scuba diving, I finally got my advanced certification! Koh Tao is one of the world’s most popular diving destinations (and also one of the cheapest place to get certified!). There are over 50 scuba diving companies on this tiny island! Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the famous whale sharks (many other divers saw them during that week) but it was still some of the best diving I did! The marine life and the visibility were stunning!

-Beach hopping Koh Tao by scooter with my friend Jess! Apart from scuba diving, this small island offers incredible beaches where you can easily spend the day working on your tan while hitting a book and drinking a cold Chang. And of course, riding a scooter is a must when visiting Thailand!

-The « light version » of the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan: Even though it was cancelled, because of the high number of tourists on the island there was still a party (but no music!) on the infamous Hat Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach). The Full Moon Party is a monthly party (yes, held on the night of the full moon) where thousands of tourists from around the world come to dance on the beach from dusk to dawn. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to experience the real one!

-And of course, the amazing Thai food! Pad Thai, Green and Red Curry, Spicy Shrimp Soup, Green Papaya Salad, Fried Rice, the ‘Best’ Pancakes on Koh Tao, Coconut Ice Cream, Mango Smoothie, you name it, I had it and it was delicious! 🙂

Back on the other side

After a beautiful summer visiting my loved ones, enjoying northern Ontario fresh air and touristing around Europe, I’m now back on the other side of the world. I surely didn’t miss the pollution and the crowds of China, but Dongguan is now my second home. I was quite happy to return to my apartment, my classroom, my friends and my dear Qifeng Park! 😊

I’m very excited for this upcoming year. I’m lucky enough to be teaching the same courses as last year (Secondary French and IB language B) at the International School of Dongguan. I actually just came back from Jakarta where I attended a professional development workshop for the course I teach. It was great to meet and exchange with other IB (International Baccalaureate) teachers from across Asia. I also got back into running a little more seriously. Thus, I decided to challenge myself and registered for my first ultra marathon, a 54km trail run around Lantau Island (Hong Kong) in December. Let’s see what I still got in me! And of course, I already have many traveling plans for my future holidays. This year should be as enjoyable as the previous one! 😄

Leaving home is never easy and I don’t think it will never be. As much as I love to travel and live abroad, I always get emotional when it’s time to say goodbye. I’m at a stage in my life where my friends are getting married, having babies, buying new house while I’m planning where I’ll be living in a few months! It seems like everyone is settling down while I’m living my little life day by day on the other side of the world! Sometimes I do ask myself if I am doing it right. But you know what, there’s no ‘ideal’ way of living our life. As long as it makes us happy and helps us thrive as human beings, that’s the key. And well, that’s the case for me, for now. 😉

One last thing, I know I haven’t been the best blogger in the last few months. I apologise for my laziness! I took the resolution of writing on a monthly basis. It’s my way of feeling connected to home but also keeping you updated on my upcoming adventures! ✈️

再见! 👋🏻

Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be. 💚

 

Life in Dongguan

It’s been 8 months (already!) since I moved to China. Time flies when you’re having fun they say! I’ll definitely won’t disagree with this one.

Even though Dongguan is a “small” city of 8 millions, it feels way too often like a small town. Dongcheng, the neighborhood where I live, is also the home of almost every other expat in the city. It’s now a normal thing for me to walk into a pub on a Friday night and know half of the people. Who knew living in China could feel like Hearst, my small hometown in northern Ontario?! 😆

Western restaurants, bars and shops are also found at every corner in Dongcheng. Believe it or not, I did find myself drinking Moosehead and eating poutine! Ok, it wasn’t real squeaky St-Albert cheese curds, but still! It’s almost impossible to feel homesick when you can find (almost) everything you want at your doorstep! And if you can’t, it’s definitely on Taobao (one of the world’s largest shopping websites).

Apart from teaching and drinking, I do still take the time to stay fit! 😝 I’m very grateful to have the Qifeng Park 5 minutes away from my apartment. It quickly became my running paradise where I can easily escape in the nature, away from the city buzz. I also cycle to work every single day, rain or shine (or flood!) averaging around 100km a week. Ok, it’s not Ironman training, but I’m enjoying my daily commute and my traffic riding skills are quite the shit by now! 👊🏻 Finally, last October, one of my colleague hooked me up with the Dongguan Bulldogs rugby team. Perfect occasion to try something new and meet people. Since then, well, I’ve learned how to catch, throw, tackle, score tries, and drink from the left hand! (Google: Buffalo Club)

And lastly, how’s my Chinese? Well, it’s slowly, slowly getting there. Wǒ huì shuō yīdiǎn zhōngwén (I can speak a little Chinese). I’ve learned over 70 characters by now (thanks to http://www.yoyochinese.com!). I can also order píjiǔ (beer), jiǎozi (dumplings) and jīròu chǎofàn (chicken fried rice) at a restaurant and I can get home safely in a taxi after a late night out…. what else do you need? 😛

My life in Dongguan has been good to me so far. Of course I had my ups and downs, including a few trips at the hospital, but I’m still happy with my decision of renewing my contract at ISD for a second year. Oh, and I also met this cute French guy, another good reason to stay! 😊

I did it!

Breaking news: Juliane Lacroix has officially resigned from her teaching position in Ottawa.

It’s official, I left my job. Yes, I left my work security. Yes, I left my pension. Yes, I’m almost 30. And yes, it feels great! 🙂

Earlier this year, I had to make the important decision of renewing my contract in Dongguan or finally coming back to my teaching position in Canada. One more time, I took the leap of faith.

Why?

It’s quite simple, I found the perfect job! I get to live in a new country every two year, I have the chance to work with incredible teachers and students from all around the world, I have way too many holidays (= travel, travel, travel!), AND I get paid to do so! 😀 To be honest, the decision wasn’t that difficult, but I’ll admit I was a little nervous announcing the news to my parents.

First thing my mom asked me:

-“Are you happy with your decision?”

-“Yes, of course!”

-“Then, we are happy for you! Congratulations on this new life path!”

My dad’s answer:

-“Under one condition, next time please pick a country we haven’t visited yet!”

God, I love them. Thank you mom and dad for being the most supportive parents a daughter can ask for. You are the reason I’m here now. You are the reason I became this independent, fulfilled woman. Merci! xo

Yes, I did resign from my job in Ottawa but for me it’s no big deal. I’m not saying goodbye to my country, my family, my friends. I’m just moving abroad for a few years, doing what I love, doing what makes me happy. Maybe I’ll be back after two years and I’ll have to start over, and it’s ok. Or maybe I will love this lifestyle too much that I will keep teaching and traveling abroad for the next 15 years! Who knows? Who cares? I’m living one year at a time for the first time in my life and it feels great. No stress, no pressure, no expectation, just focusing on enjoying life as much as I can.

It’s never to late to make life changing decisions, trust me. If you want to change something in your life, you can do it. It’s ok to take risk. It’s ok to listen to your heart. It’s ok to change path. This is what life is all about. This is how we grow as human beings. There will always be some excuses, so do yourself a favor, please don’t wait. There’s no time for this. We have only one life to live, make sure to live it well. #yolo #cheesypost

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Great things never came from comfort zones.