Mid-autumn holiday Bucket List

We work in a “work hard play hard” school setting. When we are working, we are W-O-R-K-ing. Lil Jon style: GO! WORK! GO! WORK! While our professional lives have quickly moved into hyper-drive, we have realized the importance of our personal lives, and taking advantage of the breaks when they come. We have lengthy vacations interspersed between the madness – and that makes it all worth it. For Christmas break, we will be diving in the Philippines. For Chinese New Year, we will be diving in Thailand. Instead of, “our drinking team has a trivia problem”, Grant and I are “a teacher team with a diving problem” 🙂 For the mid-autumn break September 29th – October 7th, we decided to make a BUCKET LIST of the things we wanted to do in Qingdao – the things we don’t normally do when the pace of school amps up. Here is the bucket list we made when break began:

Not bad, eh?

The Friday BEFORE break was CISQD’s Sports Day. This is a fun competition between the four houses at the school. Various competitions occurred in the days leading up to Sports Day – volleyball on Tuesday, soccer on Wednesday, and basketball on Thursday. There were also board game competitions and, my favorite, a spicy noodle eating competition. Each event has a certain number of points associated with it. For example, the winning team for the spicy noodle competition earned 10 house points each, and the second place team earned their house 5 points each. The most points at the end of the sports week indicates the house who has won the Sports competitions. Overall, house points go into a large pot that each house is trying to earn. House points can be earned for helping a teacher, outstanding work on a test, not speaking English, and for this week, winning the 100 m dash or being on the winning basketball team. House points can be lost primarily for speaking Chinese.

There was one teacher event the entire week – the 4 x 100 m dash. Yes I ran for Meng Zi. Yes we won. Yes the pain in my hip flexors on Saturday and Sunday was all worth it.

Sports day images:

Leo in the stands with the Meng Zi flag. I HEART Meng Zi. Just look at these kids. The SWEETEST ever. Hey, why is Eddie in this frame? Get out of here, Yan Zi!
Grant and Alison at the Sports Day mural; show ’em how it’s done!
Jason (G1), me, and Jean (G2) – two awesome Meng Zi Biology students 🙂

Due to the exciting events of Sports Day (aka Alison’s strained hip flexors), the first Saturday and Sunday of break were very CALM. Saturday was our Beach Day. Thank goodness we went on Saturday as well. This holiday is nation-wide and throngs of people arrived for the week to the lovely beach town of Qingdao. Like the Cape Cod of China. I just realized that we live in the Cape Cod of China. Lots of seafood, good beer, mountains, and the beach. No wonder the place was so packed all week.

The first Sunday of break was school work day – to get it out of the way so we wouldn’t have to think about it for the week. I got in a baby run (30 min. at pace) but relaxed in order to be ready for Monday – half-marathon day 🙂

Hey! Are you here for the half marathon, too?

This was my first-ever half-marathon. There are two other female Science teachers at CISQD who are avid runners and have gotten me into it/signed up for races. I ran quite a bit during the summer before leaving for Qingdao, but have been in training mode since I signed up for this half. My goal was to KEEP GOING/2 hours, and I completed it in 1:59. Cuttin’ it a lil’ close there, eh? HA!

Started from the bottom – now we’re here.

Trust me, you don’t want to see the during or post-race photos. Struggle city! It was a great half-marathon though. They had a shower station to run through, frequent water stations, snacks, and a gift bag at the end. HAHA! Extrinsic motivators are clearly more important to me. I have two more halfs within this next month and am looking forward to them as well 🙂 My goal for the next one: beat 1:59 and, this time, not go into shock after the race.

On Tuesday, we walked along the board walk. I frequently run this, but Grant hadn’t yet seen the cool sights (and experienced the interesting smells) that the board walk had to offer.



We were walking in search of his holy-grail of cafe shops recommended by our friend. We found said cafe shop – but a hundred other people also found it. With the holiday, it was too packed to get in for a coffee and sandwich, so we found an alternative down the road.

Get ya’ popcorn shrimp on 🙂

On Wednesday, we went DIVING 🙂 in the Yellow Sea on an island off the coast. We always see this island from the beach, and we dove on the side cliffs of the island. It was a beautiful ride out and back with “Blue Honor Dive Shop”. We left our house around 7am and arrived back around 5pm. It felt great to get in the water for two dives – 74 F water temperature was great; it was the first time I haven’t felt cold diving. Of the two dives, the first was the better one because not as much sediment was kicked up before lunch. We saw a lot of bright blue starfish, sea urchins, small Goby fish, and some striped sergeant-major-looking fish. After lunch, the dive was short because the murkiness made it hard to see each other and creatures around. SIDE NOTE: biggest fear realized – losing Grant under water. Photos from the diving day:


Lone fisherman out at sea



On Thursday, we had a play date with our favorite Kiwis – Charlotte and Tom. We took the train “down town” (like it’s all down town to me, I’m not sure how one part is uptown and one part is down town, oh well, no matter) to lunch at a cafe called “Meet Van Gogh” and then walked along the board walk. We had intended to visit an old German castle that sits along the board walk – but one thousand other people also had this idea in mind. We’ll go back there some day when it’s not the national holiday. So then we walked to Zhongshan Park and took the gondola rides to see other parts of the city.

Charlotte had made a reservation for the first cinema in Qingdao – called 1907 – so we took a Didi there. Didi is a taxi app on your phone. Quite cool and an inexpensive way to get around the city. Didi is the Chinese version of Uber. Gregory and Ellene met us there for dinner, craft beers, and a cinematic adventure.

Celine Dion Friendship Fund – Gregory, Grant, Alison, Charlotte, Tom, Ellene
Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. (First calzone in China)

Then we watched a movie in the theater space that we had rented out. This cinema is part of the German District of town.


Charlotte: “I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want… these comfy complimentary slippers.”

The architecture of the cinema and surrounding buildings are a giveaway that the area was developed when Germany controlled Qingdao. This location hosts many weddings and social events, has a restaurant, and has movie rooms to rent out. The rooms are suitable for 2, 4, 6, and 12 people. We watched a documentary called Meru (highly recommended) and then took the scenic walk back to the Metro station.

Pier shot at night #artsyfartsy

On Friday, Grant and I did some errands and planning for our upcoming trips. We went to Punk Taproom for a couple craft brews that evening. Wow, this is sounding more and more like a week of craft brew tours. When IPAs are involved, how can you blame us?

On Saturday, Grant and I went for an EPIC climb up Fushan Mountain. Qingdao is B-E-A-U-tiful because it has this gorgeous beach coast line hugged by jetting mountains on all sides. Fushan was a short walk from our home – and was a sweet hike. The juxtaposition between city and nature was incredible. We left the highway and hundreds of apartment buildings and suddenly found ourselves on dirt with so much life and a thriving ecosystem. Within the first fifteen minutes of the hike, we saw a HUGE black snake cross the road in front of us. UMMMMMM what? How is it possible that such a thriving ecosystem can exist (with apex predators and all) right in the middle of a huge city? As Grant said, “Life finds a way.”


Mountain Man 🙂

IMG_0988We made our way to the top, and braved some sketchy/interesting terrain to get there. Well worth the hike for these views, and we will be back shortly.


Note #1 – See how there isn’t actually a clear hiking trail to the top? Right, that’s because there isn’t one. Note #2 – I call this a CT – crop top. Please observe the man in front with his shirt pulled up halfway. A Chinese man-kini. Prevalent in Qingdao and deeply concerning.


This is LITERALLY the last photo I have of this hat. “It’s your sacrifice to the mountain gods” says Grant. “Nope, just the wind,” says me.

Post the hike, we celebrated at SuperBowl (Grant’s fave pizza spot).

Why does my avocado smoothie have lucky charms in it? “TIC Alison. TIC,” says Grant. (TIC = This Is China)


6 thoughts on “Mid-autumn holiday Bucket List

  1. Wow! Hogwarts inspired house points? or is this were JK Rowling got the idea. Loving all your posts. What an adventure!


  2. Fantastic to hear do many details about your week off! In the photo of Qingdao from the boat during your dive day, is one of the buildings your apartment building?


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