English Corner on Our Campus: Food Night!

 

All across China, university and college campuses, city parks and small cafes host what has been termed as English Corner (EC). These are well-known gathering places where those interested in practicing their English skills can show up and join with others of the same interest at set times during the week. English Corners have been around for a long time in this country, and our campus is no exception.

Every Wednesday evening’ from 7 – 8 p.m. in Classroom 3203, we three foreign teachers gather to see who shows up for our EC activity night. Every month, we choose a different theme and build upon that to create an atmosphere for learning English. Sports, Family Relationships, and University Life have been a few of our topics from the past.

Those who attend are of all majors and English levels. We have those who can put together sentences fairly easily and others who can’t say more than a few words or even none at all. We have a mixture of guys and gals, with 20 participating one week and then 7 the next depending on their schedules and available free time.

Our topic for May has been food, and this past Wednesday night we planned for something special: making the all-American snack, peanut butter and jelly (or other additions) sandwiches.

The spread was one of great interest for our small group of 7: sliced bread, homemade and storebought peanut butter, marmalade and strawberry jam, sliced bananas, honey, potato chips, soda crackers and European biscuits (plain cookies).

 

After learning the vocabulary for the food items, and practicing to the point of perfection, the eager students watched as we three demonstrated making our favorite sandwiches. Angela made hers with homemade peanut butter, honey and banana. Geoff followed with the classic P&J, peanut butter and strawberry jam. I followed adding potato chips to mine and also creating a soda cracker peanut butter snack as well.

After that, plates were passed out and the students were released to make their own creations.   Drinks were added and then our intimate group sat together, sharing our thoughts about the tastiness of our newly-made ventures, which condiments were the favorites and which could be done without.

Because peanut butter can be bought in China, albeit not cheap ($4.00 for a 6 oz jar), as well as jams and jellies, it might be some of our participants might make this on their own some day. I suggested a P&J sandwich party in their dorm rooms where everyone could pitch in to purchase snacks. The 5 boys in attendance seemed particularly keen on this plan. The girls a tad hesitant, more concerned about their figures than their stomachs.

Next week’s EC will be a movie. We are contemplating what story centered around food would be a good choice. The romance Chocolat is one; the Disney animation Ratatouille another.  Chinese subtitles are a must since most of those attending can’t follow the English. In this way, everyone can enjoy no matter what their English language level is.

Until next post, hoping you are having good Memorial Day Weekend.

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Tales from Sichuan's Yangtze Rivertown, Travel | Leave a comment

An Old Building; Innovative Additions

The single teacher’s apartment building I live in, along with the Peace Corp folk, is one of the oldest on campus.  Plumbing is a mess.  Mold is a constant.  Electrical wiring is iffy.
You’ll also remember that during the summer, new gas lines for our burners were installed.  The plastic and rubber lines run every which way on the outside and inside of the building but it’s done and safer than before.

As mentioned before, the foreigner’s apartments have been re-done to look spiffy and up to a decent standard for living but when it came, 13 years ago, to update for Internet use, there was a dilemma.  How to get phone line connections for each apartment when many didn’t use phone lines?  Most just had cellphones.

This was the job of the China’s Telecom workers.  A daunting task to figure out modern communication for so many old buildings in Luzhou but they did it.  I was up and running efficiently when I first arrived and had the city’s ADSL Net installation acquired for my home.

13 years later?  Well, no wonder I’m having trouble!    (Thought I’d post this in a hurry before I was cut off, but I am thankful to have Internet connection at all.)

Our 5-story apartment building's Internet connection box.  Good luck finding your line!

Our 5-story apartment building’s Internet connection box. Good luck finding your line!

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Tales from The Yangtze River, Travel | Leave a comment

Mother’s Day Tales from Along the Yangtze

Note: Internet connection problems have delayed me for a week to post these. The China Telecom worker has been here to say that the telephone lines in my home are so old that they need to be replacing.  This is a huge problem. We’ve also had 3 days of no telephone usage in the administration offices until those were taken care of.  I’ll just do my best to post if I luckily get a connection, such as just now.

Ana Jarvis, the founder, advocate and later hater of America’s Mother’s Day, would have heartily approved of our church worship last Sunday. It was all about mothers: their strength, duties, love, and devotion to their children and families, as God is devoted to us.

No talk of buying Mom a present or spending money to compensate for all her hard work. The point was remember your indebtedness to your mom and make sure she hears it personally from you. The same goes for the Lord.

It was a 1-hour sermon, one of our longest yet, that had us singing the infamous Chinese mothers’ song, “Ma-ma Hao” (Mother is Good), toward the end of the message. I know very few Chinese songs by heart but that children’s song is one of the first I learned. I felt very honored that I could join in with the congregation members with just as must gusto as they in thanking moms everywhere.­­

Ana Jarvis: A Tragic Tale

I mentioned that Ana Jarvis later became a hater of Mother’s Day.

After the second Sunday in May became a holiday, one of her pet peeves was how businesses capitalized on this day. Instead of remembering and spending time with Mother, it became a day to send presents and gifts which, Ms. Jarvis felt, was a cope-out to actually appreciating your parent. The following was taken from an Internet article I found about the poor woman and her eventual demise

“It is somewhat ironic that after all her efforts, Ana Jarvis ended up growing bitter over what she perceived as the corruption of the holiday she created. She abhorred the commercialization of the holiday and grew so enraged by it that she filed a lawsuit to stop a 1923 Mother’s Day festival and was even arrested for disturbing the peace at a war mothers’ convention where women sold white carnations — Jarvis’ symbol for mothers — to raise money. Ana Jarvis’ story is not a happy one. Things went from bad to worse and she eventually lost everything and everyone that was close to her. She died alone in a sanatorium in 1948. Shortly before her death, Jarvis told a reporter she was sorry she had ever started Mother’s Day.”

Perhaps in America, the day has become more about obligated gift-giving (a bit like Christmas) but here in China, in our 102-year-old church building, we Christians truly gave heartfelt thanks and love to our moms.

Like I said: I think Ana Jarvis would have approved.

A Day of No Electricity; A Day of Trouble

Our campus Mother’s Day was spent with no electricity, which brought with it a dire day for my 1st floor neighbors. The story is as follows:

It was 7:30 a.m. Everything was up and running just fine, including the microwave for heating up my coffee. I had just finished showering, and was sending my mom her Mother’s Day email before heading off to church worship, when the electricity went off at 8 a.m.

My Net connection was lost. My message was stalled. I needed to get to church. Thus I headed toward the front gate to catch Bus 262 downtown, about a 25- minute ride.

I thought along the way that, most likely, our campus “black-out” was the city working on electrical lines in our area. This tends to be on Sunday. No regular classes which means teachers won’t be using power point or other equipment requiring it, thus Sunday becomes the day for such repair work at our school.

3 hours later, I re-entered our front gate at noon to see the campus filled with students out and about. Sundays usually have everyone inside, either sleeping, using their computers or messing about with their cell phones. But when the electricity is off, people tend to either go someplace where there is electricity (shopping downtown) or go outside to enjoy nature while waiting for it to come back on.

Due to such an active campus, I surmised we were in for the long haul: a 12-hour halt rather than just a morning doing without.

My Neighbor in Need

It was upon my approach to my apartment building that I noticed our doing without had caused a tragic accident.

My elderly neighbor, Mr. Wang (84) on the first floor, was sitting outside in his wicker chair. He was moaning in pain, rocking back and forth, with a huge bloody knot on his forehead.

Our family housing building is one of the oldest on campus. My 3-room apartment was outfitted with florescent lighting, lovely white tile floors, painted walls and new wiring throughout. My neighbors, however, live with dingy cement floors, molded, unpainted walls, unsanitary plumbing, broken windows and lightbulbs dangling on cords attached to the ceiling.

When there is no electricity, their apartments are extremely dark. It’s difficult to see and I’m guessing this might have been why Mr. Wang tripped and fell. His wife managed to get him outside to sit in a chair after she called China’s emergency line, 120, for an ambulance. This had just happened and I seemed to be the first neighbor on the scene.

While I stayed outside with Mr. Wang, his wife was in her home, bustling about collecting her purse and cellphone. She grabbed her keys to come outside and sit with her husband while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. By that time, 4 concerned Chinese neighbors joined us to see if they could help.

One ran to the top of the steps that lead down to our building. There she kept watch for the medical personnel.

Another neighbor zipped inside her home to grab a wet cloth for Mr. Wang’s injury.

Our English Department bachelor, 45-year-old “William” Huang who lives upstairs, gave words of encouragement to the worried Mrs. Wang.

Ambulance Arrives

Mr. Wang being looked after by the arrival of the ambulance medical team.  The nurse is dressing Mr. Wang's head; the doctor talking to Mr. Huang about his injury.

Mr. Wang being looked after by the arrival of the ambulance medical team. The nurse is dressing Mr. Wang’s head; the doctor calling the hospital about his injury.

I truly had little faith that medical assistance would arrive very quickly.

I had just returned from downtown where the traffic was horrendous. Maneuvering through all those cars on our narrow streets would be extremely difficult. Also, in China, cars don’t stop, slow down or pull over for the ambulance, fire trucks or police cars. Drivers just continue to mind their own business, sometimes even stubbornly refusing to pay attention to flashing lights which (according to law) require them to allow passage of any emergency vehicle.

Glad to say, I was wrong.

Within 15 minutes, the ambulance arrived. 2 nurses, a doctor and driver appeared to take care of my injured neighbor. He was placed on a stretcher and carried up the steep steps. Soon, they were on their way for him to receive immediate hospital care.

The Canadian Methodist Mission and the China Inland Mission to Thank

It is now 6 days later.   I have learned that my neighbor’s fall was most likely caused by a stroke, although the darkness in the home didn’t help. He is recuperating in the hospital and should be back in a few weeks.

I always knew the city’s medical facilities were excellent, and with Mr. Wang, this proves to have been so.

We have a renowned Medical College with two campuses in our midst, one of which caters directly to students from developing countries. Then there is the affiliated Medical College Hospital in the city center, very near the church. A partnering Dental Hospital is also included. Both hospitals have an ongoing staff of visiting overseas’ doctors, medical professionals and instructors, many of whom work for Christian-sponsored agencies. And let’s not forget the Gospel Hospital of Luzhou which is run by the church in cooperation with the local government.

With the Luzhou missionary diaries in hand, as well as Internet history postings about the Canadian Methodist and China Inland Mission’s work here, I have discovered that these two organizations were the first in Luzhou to set up a Western and Chinese medical clinic and dispensary along the alleyway that leads to the church. In 1911, the dispensary opened. By 1915, the Canadian doctors were treating patients in a standard-equipped building. A nursing school was likewise opened a few years later.

This set the foundation for what we have today in the city, including excellent cooperation between the overseas’ medical professionals and the Chinese. Quite an achievement for  those foreigners who came to China those many years ago. Truly inspiring!

From Luzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your weekend.

 

 

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories, Travel | 1 Comment

It’s Mother’s Day Along the Yangtze

All week has been about one thing and one thing only in my English language classroom: Mothers!
Yes, the year has rolled around again for another Mother’s Day culture lesson, shared with my first and second year students. This has included a history of Mother’s Day, readings about mothers and making cards for Mom. Because my students will one day be teachers themselves, and because Mother’s Day has now become quite popular in China, learning about and understanding this American holiday is a must.

In 1914, with the great efforts of a Pennsylvanian school teacher, Ana Jarvis, and her supporters, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The date itself was the anniversary of Ana Jarvis’ mother, a woman she greatly admired and respected. Celebrations began in Ana Jarvis’ church worship service in 1908, where congregation members honored their moms that second Sunday in May. Later, Ana and others pressed for a national Mother’s Day and in just 6 short years, the holiday was instated.

Since then, Mother’s Day has spread around the world to be celebrated by many other countries, including Turkey, Finland, Belgium, Denmark and now even China.

Recognizing Mothers in America and China

In America, many of you are gearing up for Mother/Daughter/Friend banquets in your churches or communities. Restaurants are most likely hiring extra staff for the weekend. It’s reported that restaurants in America are the busiest on Mother’s Day, more than any other day of the year. 680 million cards are sent, flower shops are overrun with orders to moms and jewelry sales see a 7% increase. In other words, Mother’s Day in America is not only a hugely popular affair but a profitable one as well.

In China, things are still a bit low key for this newly adopted remembrance of moms. Most students just send a text message to their parent, wishing them a Happy Mother’s Day. However, with the recent increase of Internet buying by the college crowd, I do know several who have ordered things online for their moms, clothes more than anything else.

In My English Language Classroom

In my classroom, it’s card-making that has taken up the second half of my 2-hour periods with my students.

The students are first required to translate into Chinese the following: “Mother’s Day in America is the second Sunday in May. This is a day to thank mothers for all their love and care. Today in my English class, my teacher asked me to make a card for a mother. I chose you. Happy Mother’s Day!”

Volunteers write their sentences on the board, the class checks the translation to make sure it’s accurate and then everyone writes this translation on one side of the card. On the other side of the card, students write “Happy Mother’s Day!” in English.

After that, it’s time for decorating. Colored markers are passed around to make the card pretty, with an extra fun element as well: thousands of sticker selections to add a more festive look for Mom.

Anyone reading who faithfully sends stickers as requested on my newsletter wish list? In the below photos, those are your prized gifts being squealed over, snatched at, passed around and painstakingly positioned on cards going to Chinese mothers all over Sichuan. Many, many thanks for that!

Entering the Modern Age of Card-giving

21 years ago, when I first did this lesson in my Chinese classroom, the students brought envelopes to mail to their mothers while I provided the stamps. I remember some students who lived in distant areas didn’t even have house addresses. Packages or letters had to be sent to community centers in their areas for pick up.

But in today’s China, snail mail is no longer the best and only option to send greetings.

For our classroom Mother’s Day celebrations, my students now take cell phone pictures of themselves with their cards to send to Mom. Everyone in China has a cell phone, with some even having more than one. Even the elderly have picked up on the modern technology with great enthusiasm, learning how to text, take photos, save data, join chat groups and even surf the Net using their phones.

How China has changed!

In Closing

The photos below will show you our card-making efforts and how we honor mothers in my Luzhou classroom. Here’s wishing those of you who are mothers, or take on the role of a mother for someone, a very Happy Mother’s Day and Ping An (peace) for your special Sunday in May.

 

A Mother's Day skit, with thank yous given to Mom (in straw hat, to the far left) by family members.

A Mother’s Day skit, with thank yous given to Mom (in straw hat, to the far left) by family members.

Students busy creating their cards, using decorative stickers to add more color

Students busy creating their cards, using decorative stickers to add more color

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Choosing just the right colors are important for a card.

Choosing just the right colors are important for a card.

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Students took cell phone photos to send to their moms.

Students took cell phone photos to send to their moms.

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Everyone was very proud of their cards.

Everyone was very proud of what was produced.

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Of course, I get to make a card, too, for my mom.

Of course, I get to make a card, too, for my mom.  Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories, Tales of China, Travel | 1 Comment

News from Luzhou . . . Finally!

 

Swamped in Make-up Classes, and More Make-up Classes, and More Make-up Classes

This semester’s continuity has been continuously compromised since the last update, nearing Easter Sunday. We’ve had Tomb Sweeping (April 5 with April 6 off), canceled Friday classes due to our college entrance exam for high school students taking place, three days for Sports Meeting April 15 – 17 (students compete in events with one another), an upcoming May 1st International Labor Day holiday and then 2 weeks off for 2nd year English major students who are participating in a “How to Start Your Own Business” credited course run by the government.

All of the classes missed, we as teachers are required to make up whenever we can fit them in so I’ve been doing my best to squeeze in evenings and weekends to fulfill this requirement. Add to this the 2 weeks I missed coming late to school, also cramming more extra classes into my schedule, and there has been really little time to post an update.

I’ll see if I can remedy that today

Annual Physical Exam for Visa

A few weeks ago, the Sports Meeting allowed me to disappear from campus for a few days to receive my physical exam in Chengdu to renew my visa. I have reported on this numerous times in the past, including the visit where it was announced I had syphilis! (Obvious mistake, as the second blood test showed a definite negative reading for any STD.)

As you can imagine, annual trips to Sichuan’s Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine clinic, where these physicals are given, gives me some anxiety during the 3-day wait for the results. “ What will I end up having this time around?” I keep wondering.

As it turned out, I was cleared and have my official certificate in hand to accompany the visa application process when it’s tim.

Delivery of American Goods

The Chengdu visit also allowed me to drop off items which my Chinese friends had requested I bring from America.

Mrs. Zhao, dog-walking friend and mother of poodle Hairy Bean, had wanted Joint Boosters. A 2-for-1 online health store allowed me to buy her 4 bottles (each is $80 in the States, impossible to find in China) for only $160. Of course, I am re-imbursed for such purchases. She now has enough to last her and her husband 6 months.

Mrs. He, my former dog’s sitter, received her Estee Lauder $100 de-wrinkle cream for herself and fish oil gel and lecithin tablets for her husband.

There in itself is a story.

Mr. He’s health has been deteriorating for several years. Whenever I visit their home for a home-cooked meal, usually 4 times a year, I see either his progress or decline.

This time around, he was less foggy than before and could carry on a conversation quite well but the tumor on the side of his neck was noticeably larger. I have never asked about what it is but I suspect cancer.

When it comes to such things in China, we don’t usually openly discuss it unless the subject is brought up by those who wish to share.

About 7 years ago, when Mr. He first began failing, we were sitting around the table having a meal when he out-of-the-blue brought up that he tried to commit suicide. He was in wonderful health before, a strong man with a tanned physique from outdoor swimming and playing golf. He was an engineer who had actually spent several years in the Middle East with his company.

He said he became depressed, quit his job and was receiving treatment. What kind of treatment, I don’t know but that was the start of his illness.

One does wonder if the tumor, not visible at that time, was affecting his system to cause such a mood swing from a man who was so full of life before.

I do remember that Little Flower’s death hit him very hard. Whenever my little dog came for her stay with the He family, it was Mr. He who took great care of her. They went walking together. He prepared her food, including hotdog snacks. She sat with him on the couch. She played with her toys with him. And once, she needed daily visits to the vet’s for 10 days. He was the one to take her for her injections and make sure she was getting better.

My little dog was, and still is, missed by all of us.

Labor Day Holiday Upon Us; Another Chengdu Trip

I am planning another trip to Chengdu this weekend, without any official duties aside from meeting up with friends again.

Mrs. Zhao and her dog-walking companions await. Perhaps another dinner with the He’s is also possible. A former Luzhou student, Ji Ke (Jason), has already asked for a meet-up. He is in the process of receiving his tourism license to officially tour foreigners in China. Frank (Gao Pei), a Sichuan University senior, is yet another who I’ll be checking in with. Frank will be off to America this summer to study for his MA in International Finance. Quite an amazing, bright and focused young man that I spent a year with walking the campus every day while he practiced his English.

After that, May will head up in full with more evening and weekend make-up classes before the semester finally ends in mid-June.

I will do my best to add a few more entries before then. For now, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Tales from Sichuan's Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou, Tales of China | 2 Comments

Trekking to the Luzhou Church on Sunday: Not for the Weak of Stomach

I have to wonder if our pioneering Methodist Canadian missionaries had the same feelings as I sometimes do when, in 1913, they made their way down the narrow alleyways leading to their newly-built, pristine worship center and sanctuary.

The China Inland Mission Canadian Methodist missionaries, including Luzhou church founders, Rev. Charles Joliffe (standing third from the left) and his wife, Gertrude (seated second from right, looking down at child)

The China Inland Mission Canadian Methodist missionaries, including Luzhou church founders, Rev. Charles Joliffe (standing third from the left) and his wife, Gertrude (seated second from right, looking down at child)

I especially wonder this as Easter arrives tomorrow. Here we are to be full of the joy and excitement of Christ’s resurrection, taking on a happy gait on our way to church. This is for most of you in America, witnessing pretty green lawns and spring flowers popping up around the church landscape.

Not exactly so for Christians heading off to Easter celebrations here in Luzhou.

Old Luzhou Still has Its Hold on New Luzhou

From the missionary diaries I’ve recently been reading, the area chosen for the church was certainly something! Open sewage canals lining the walkways, the odors of unwashed human bodies inside and outside the church, stinky, mangy strays searching desperately for food along streets, the stench of pickled vegetables piled high in baskets for selling, meaty animal carcasses dangling from butchers’ hooks, and blood-splattered ground where recently killed, plucked and lifeless chickens awaiting buyers.

Today, the protestant church is the last historical building left standing in the old district of Luzhou. Beautifully tiled sidewalks, wider roadways, highrise apartment complexes and fancy store fronts have completely overtaken what used to be a Chinese culture that knew nothing of the outside, modern world and its vast technologies.

The Luzhou Protestant Church is found nestled below the tall apartment complexes in the distance.

The Luzhou Protestant Church is found nestled below the tall apartment complexes in the distance.

Despite our newly-emerging Western look, walking down that stretch of alley to church, as those Canadian missionaries once did, is still not something for the weak of stomach.

It seems that in China, outdoor markets tend to hold fast to their locations, even those established 100 years ago. And so it is that the Luzhou church is right smack dab in the middle of a century-old open-air market.

The same scenes that greeted the first missionaries those many years ago also greet all of us Christians trekking to worship every Sunday. First we have the quacking (and quaking) live ducks in their rusted cages, ready for the slaughter. Their fate is ostentatiously displayed on wooden boards where former friends lay side by side, throats slit and plucked feathers scattered below. Fattened pigeons and chickens are also present, ready to join the fowl clan on adjacent tables.

If you arrive early enough for the 9:30 service, you’ll be greeted by their death throws. This likewise goes for the squeals and grunts from the pork and beef sections closer to the church entrance. Here you’ll find rows of unrefridgerated, swaying, skeletal remains of cow and pig.

The newly-tiled walkway, leading to the Luzhou Protestant Church, also leads one to fresh hunks of meat.

The newly-tiled walkway, leading to the Luzhou Protestant Church, also leads one to fresh hunks of meat.

Ribs, anyone?

Leaving the church, you might want to pick up your Sunday dinner.  Ribs, anyone?

And do I dare mention the big, fluffy, sweet and docile bunnies thrown into the fray?

That is just too, too sad for this American, especially to dwell upon for Easter.

Outside, Queasy Views; Inside, Celebratory Mood

Despite the above report on the stomach-churning scenes outside of the church, I will say that inside the sanctuary tomorrow will be just as joyful as yours in America, perhaps even more so.

It is the custom in China for Easter Sunday to baptize new believers into the Christian faith (usually 40 or more at the Luzhou church) and to have our first communion together as a church family. Afterwards, as we leave, we are presented with sweet bread buns and hard-boiled eggs as our Easter surprise. I’m not sure if this custom is followed in other churches but in Luzhou, it is one of the highlights of our festivities and one I’m looking forward to. Those bread buns are fantastic!

A Holiday Spirit Throughout China: Tomb Sweeping Festival is Upon Us!

It doesn’t happen often but this Easter,  not only will the Chinese Christians be in high spirits but all of China as well.  This Easter weekend corresponds with a well-known Chinese holiday, Tomb Sweeping Festival (Qing Ming Jie).

April 6 is the time when families return home to tend the graves of their loved ones. They tidy up the gravesites, which are often far into the countryside, burn paper money for the dead to buy what they’d like in heaven and leave offerings of fruit, cigarettes, beer or cola for the deceased being honored.

This is a national holiday so all schools are closed on Monday, giving everyone a 3-day weekend, including our college.  Many of my students have gone home so the campus is fairly quiet aside from a those who live too far away to be able to reunite with loved ones.

For myself, it’s time to catch up on items left unattended, including this website entry. After returning to China over a month ago, I’ve been trying to complete make-up classes in the evenings (the ones I missed due to my late arrival) as well as tackle my usual teaching schedule, not to mention pool swims and emailing.

Our roasting temperatures, skyrocketing into the 90s, have left students and staff a bit tired and sleepy during the daytime hours. This sort of weather usually starts toward the end of April, not the beginning, so it’s been somewhat of a surprise for many of us to be suffering through hot, sticky classrooms this early in the semester. It’s probably one of the reasons this 3-day weekend is so welcomed. Being at home or enjoying nature under shady trees sure beats the heat of a stuffy school building, although students hanging around are taking advantage of the great weather to wash clothes.  That includes laying out their bedding to air out.

On a sunny day, outside college dormitories all across China you'll see students airing out their musty bedding in the bright sunshine.

On a sunny day, outside college dormitories all across China you’ll see students airing out their musty bedding in the bright sunshine.

Students wash clothes and sheets by hand in small basins.  There are no dryers in China so  our 90 degree weather, while miserably hot, does have a plus side -- makes for a quick dry!

Students wash clothes and sheets by hand in small basins. There are no dryers in China so our 90 degree weather, while miserably hot, does have a plus side — makes for a quick dry!

Yet even if some of us are doing housekeeping chores, we are still definitely enjoying our days off.

Until next report, here’s wishing you all Happy Easter, Happy Spring and Ping An (Peace) for your day.

In my home, it's "Happy Easter!  Happy Spring!"

In my home, it’s “Happy Easter! Happy Spring!”

 

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Tales of China, Travel | 3 Comments

Last Notes from Illinois Before Taking Off

The Big Snow of Last Weekend

The Wieck House, covered in last week's March 1st snowfall

The Wieck House, covered in last week’s March 1st snowfall

With the prediction of snow last weekend, Saturday had our local Walmart teaming with people loading up on supplies.  Then it was a matter of waiting for the flakes to fall, which started at around 8 p.m. that evening.

By 9 p.m., the inches were accumulating to the point where I pulled out the shovel to make a pathway over the deck, down to the yard stepping stones and out to the dog’s favorite tree. Lao-lao gingerly hopped down the back steps and swaggered along his cleared-off trail, a happy camper,  until 11:30 p.m. when one last toilet run was needed before bed.  Yet another shovel clearing by me proceeded with the packed banks on either side being higher than the dog.

Sunday Morning: A March 1st Surprise

By 7 a.m., the snow had stopped and left our entire town with about 6-8 inches on the ground.

Sure, it was a great morning to sleep in but my mom and I have been attending choir practice at our church.  We knew that Paula, our director, would be in need of voices for our introit and anthem.  And since we live in town, about a 10-minute walk from our church, we didn’t even bother digging the car out from under all the snow.  Donning high boots, we trudged along the snow-plowed streets to get to church.

Walking along our snowy Marshall streets was a wintry  fairyland experience.

Walking to church along our town roads was a fairyland experience.

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My mom, approaching the Marshall UMC on the left.

My mom, approaching the Marshall UMC on the left.

Our church men, out early to plow out car-parking for those who dared drive to worship.

Our church men, out early to plow out car-parking for those who dared drive to worship.

Our choir had 8 of us present, about half the usual number, with around 40 in attendance in the pews.  Many of the country churches in our area closed because no one could get to worship.  Everyone was snowed in.

15 minutes before service, this was our congregation.  A total of 42, including the choir, came in time for our 9 a.m. service.

15 minutes before service, this was our congregation. A total of 42, including the choir, came in time for our 9 a.m. service.

Despite the slim numbers, our choir’s anthem sounded quite good.  Everyone stepped up to cover the parts that stronger singers (not present) usually take over.

The early birds has a practice in the choir room before church.  My mom, Priscilla, is on the right and I'm next to her.

The early birds had a practice in the choir room before church. My mom, Priscilla, is on the right and I’m next to her.

Thank the Lord our organist made it!  We're very proud of our 1911 organ, and in awe of anyone who can play it.

Thank the Lord our organist made it! We’re very proud of our 1911 organ, and in awe of anyone who can play it.

Melting Down; Heading Off

It was nice to have a bit of snow toward the end of to my time in Illinois. Now the Midwest is sliding higher into what my temperatures are in China, 50s – 60s. Slush has overtaken our Marshall sidewalks and roads, causing Lao-lao to sidestep muddy puddles on our afternoon walks. Looks like all my new spring outfits I recently purchased will be making their debute next week when I’m back in the classroom again.  Can’t wait!

If you’re interested in my upcoming flight plan:

Monday, I’ll be flying out of Indianapolis to Detroit, changing planes to continue  onward to Shanghai.  An overnight in Shanghai at my favorite airport hotel will next have me on a morning flight bound directly to Luzhou and our small airport there.

After disembarking into a hazy 60-something predicted forecast, a 20-minute, $10 taxi ride will have me whizzing along dusty country roads that skirt the Yangtze before crossing the river bridge that leads into the city.  From there, it’s a 5-minute steep climb up Wa Yao Ba Road, through the entrance of my school and a drop-off in front of my apartment building.

I imagine being gleefully greeted by SP (Stairwell Puppy), who is an abandoned stray still with the community after the holiday break.  I’ve already been told via emails from Peace Corp folk Angela and Geoff that she is now the neighborhood pet, being fed leftovers by concerned individuals worried she’s hungry and too thin. (Don’t think that will ever be a problem.)

I have been emailed my schedule already so I know which classes I’ll be teaching on Monday, March 16, when I finally return to the classroom.  I’ll  be arranging make-up classes during the weekends and evenings for the 2 weeks I’ve missed.  This is normal in China for teachers who haven’t been in the classroom due to sickness, work-related or personal family absences.  No substitutes.  You just put in the hours needed by coordinating with the students what’s a good time to do so.

As you can see, I’m eager to get back to work and catch up on the latest gossip from colleagues and friends. Be checking out stories and news of my Spring semester in a few weeks.

In closing, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day and a very Happy Spring!

Farewell, Illinois!  (None of this weather in sight where I'm goin', thank goodness!)

Farewell, Illinois! (None of this weather in sight where I’m goin’, thank goodness!)

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