“Where were you when . . .?”

My mom listens to NPR in the morning hours. Yesterday was no different aside from the subject matter: the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Interviews packed the a.m. program: memories of loved ones lost, experiences retold from those on the ground, reflections after visiting memorials. . . Interspersed between recorded segments were in-real-time broadcasts of commemoration ceremonies taking place.

“This is so much like Pearl Harbor,” my mom said. “I remember we were all sitting around the radio, listening to the shocking announcement of the bombings carried out by the Japanese. My dad signed up for military service not long after that. Only the Army would take him as a chaplain. Other armed forces didn’t want him due to his poor eyesight. From that day onward, we’d all ask ourselves the same question, ‘Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?’ The same with JFK’s assassination, and now with 9/11.”

My Experience of 9/11

It didn’t take me any time at all, like most of you, to remember that “Where were you when…” moment of 9/11.

I had finished my time in Taiwan at Wesley Girls High school where I had taught for 3 years. While I was satisfied with that position, my heart was never in Taiwan as much as it had been in China. I requested a move to the Mainland, to return to the Amity Foundation as an Amity teacher at the college or adult level, and it was granted.

The exciting part of this was landing in a brand new Amity placement.

To fully grasp all that my memories of September 11 had to offer, I turned to my emails to my parents, which my mom had printed out for my dad to read. She had done this from my first emails sent in 1996 all the way to my last email before I became “stuck” here in January, 2020.

Where are all these printed, detailed daily reports? In carefully labeled (by country, month and year) 3-ring-binder compilations, currently in 5 bins, in the garage.

I was in Hohhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia (yes, that’s a province of China), where I was placed along with Swede Lena, sent by the Lutheran Church. We were to teach at the Adult Language Training Center, among adults who were English teachers looking to further expand their language and teaching skills under Amity’s newly formed program.

As I scanned several printed entries of that first week in Hohhot, there was so much going on. Both of us had just arrived. We were getting to know one another, settling into our apartments in the foreigners’ guest house, excitedly exploring the city on our bikes, finding the best places to shop, meeting with the director of the program, discussing lesson plans, searching out decent books our students would need, making friends with the Chinese staff and other foreign teachers in the building . . .

All those detailed accounts were so vividly recorded! And 20 years later, as I read them, quite vividly relived.

The Day Before

9-11 Three


When I landed upon my September 11th entry, which would have been Sept. 10th for my Mom and Dad, it was full of frustrations concerning getting things ready for classes. It was Day 2 of teaching, my Internet was not yet connected to my apartment so I was using an Internet cafe. Then I had given reports of the students themselves, having just arrived for classes from their distant small towns and cities.

When I Did Hear

Since our Internet connection was not yet established in my apartment, I was delayed in checking emails or news reports.  I was so involved in my lesson planning and acclimating myself to my new home that I hadn’t had time. It was Lena who informed me, on our September 13, that something ominous had happened.

“Have you heard about the attacks?” she asked me that early morning, right before classes began at 8 a.m.  

“No,” I asked in surprise.  “What’s happened?”

Lena looked at me in astonishment.

“It’s terrible!” she replied. “Two planes hit the World Trade Center.  Also the Pentagon.  I’ve been hearing reports and watching all these stories.  People on cell phones, saying goodbye to loved ones.  People jumping from the towers.   The entire building collapsed.  I just couldn’t listen anymore.  It was too overwhelming.  You really have to go online to find out more.: 

At that point, it was time for class to begin.  Lena went to her classroom, I went to mine, all the while wondering what in the world was I missing.  Even my students mentioned it during the break, telling me how sorry they were for my country.

At noon, after our morning sessions had ended, I finally was able to quickly bike my way back to the guesthouse, grab my computer and head off to the Internet cafe. 

There I read the emails from my mom, describing the television coverage of the chaos and shock that ensued.  It also allowed me to read more online and send my own reply.

9-11 Four


15 September 2001

Hi, Mom and Dad!

Once again, it seems so odd to be here, far removed from the US while all this is going on. I don’t need any more information. It’s all on the Intnert and it’s overwhelming, especially the video tape versions. I’ve seen it all, from the trade center collapse to eye witness accounts and so on.

Monica emailed to say she was so sorry about the happenings in the US. She said Taiwan is very concerned and calling loved ones in America. She entitled her email, “God Bless You American”. That was sweet. Monica is such a nice person. She has been well-taught and always does/says the right things. I do miss her.

Well, life here has been mostly hovering in my apartment . . . “

After that, I went on to the daily news from my end, where I was far removed from what the US was experiencing.

Reflecting on that Email

After reading that page, I’d completely forgotten my best friend in Taiwan, “Monica” (Zhang Qiuhui), had sent me a note of concern. She and I taught together but she taught Chinese literature at Wesley Girls High School while I taught English. She was my first friend at the school and we did so many things together for 3 years: theater, hiking, swimming, eating out. I was always invited to all her family events. She was such a special person, a trusted companion and a true friend.

Monica was also one to be aware of others’ celebrations or tragedies, then send appropriate comments for the occasion. I see in this instance, she was fully informed, as always, and made sure that I knew she was thinking of me and my country.

As this 20th anniversary of 9/11 comes and goes, I hope there’s healing for those still feeling its devastating effects.

And for all those in the world suffering from catostrophic events, current and past, I wish you strength, courage and a comforting embrace.

From Illinois, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping an, Peace) for your upcoming week.

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Face-to-Face, 30 years later

In the previous post, I mentioned “Kevin” Hu , a former student of mine, who found me with a web search. Our connection is now complete on WeChat, where he and another classmate are trying to gather more of us together. He’s not been having much luck yet, mostly due to lack of technology 30 years ago.

In 1991, we had no cell phones or computers within our program. What Kevin has to go on is the below list of participants and their addresses, which he kept all these many years and attached in a text message.

It’s definitely a start but China no longer relies much on mailing addresses except for online ordering. Kevin and I also know that updated developments across the country during these past 30 years have been massive. Old city streets completely demolished to make way for high-rise buildings, countryside and small town families moving to bigger cities, and steadfast neighborhoods of old unrecognizable or no longer in existence.

While addresses may no longer exist, the names of participants haven’t changed. From that above list, I do remember that Kevin and his male classmates were incredibly tight. (See Kevin below, second from the left, during a party where he and “the guys” sang an English song to entertain us.)

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One of his best buds, I remember, was Daniel Ouyang.

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The year they spent together solidified a lifelong friendship. I do remember the two of them were very close, often pairing together as language partners, visiting my home for more English practice time and constantly studying from our textbooks or making a huge effort to take advantage of their full-time study of English.

Kevin mentioned the one classmate he’s kept in contact with over the years was “Daniel” Ouyang.

When Kevin contacted Daniel that he’d found me, Daniel went about setting up our WeChat Nanchang group after messaging me.

His text was much the same surprise note as Kevin’s.

“After 30 years , from Nanchang, do you remember me?” he wrote. “My English name was Daniel.”

We had several notes back and forth, including pictures. Daniel then asked if I’d be available to face-time with him. After checking our time differences, the day was set: evening for me, morning for him, a few weeks ago on a Thursday.

Our Call

Daniel was sitting in his living room, with his grand-daughter beside him, when he answered my call.  His daughter was beside him and his wife was bustling about on the balcony area, picking tomatoes from her garden plants.  Their home was in a high-rise apartment, neat and tidy with a beautiful embroidered goldfish wall hanging above the couch where he had positioned himself with his phone.

“Tell me all about yourself!” I started.  “Are you teaching now during Covid?”

“No,” Daniel responded. “I couldn’t find a teaching job after I left Nanchang.  I didn’t have the teaching certificate.”

That was true for several in our program.  The stipulation to study for a year had been that enrollment was only for teachers, not for adults wanting to learn English.  However, the difficulty had been that many schools refused to let their teachers go for an entire year.  We needed to fill the program because Amity was insistent that if the organization helped get the foreign teachers, then there had to be at least 30 to make the project worthwhile.  When the number of teachers didn’t reach the desired amount, the provincial government opened up enrollment to others.  Yes, the majority were teachers but we did have a few that weren’t. They paid for their study (housing and materials) on their own with no financial help from the education bureau.  These are the ones I remembered most:  Philip (32, wanting to spend 100% of his time studying to pass his PhD application test  and not bother with teaching), a 17-year-old whose parents wanted her to learn English, a young woman yearning to get out of the countryside and saw English as a means of doing that, and  a few others whose stories escape me.

Interestingly enough, Director Xi, in charge of the Adult Training Center and the supervisor, was careful not to reveal those who were not teachers.  His fear was that Amity would get whiff of it and criticize him.  Donna and I often didn’t find out the truth until months later, and even well into that second semester.  Yes, a few of our students let slip they weren’t really teachers but just hoping to get a better job with their newfound language skills.

Needless to say, this was the case with Daniel.

Daniel Today

During our time together, Daniel (age 58) told me that he hasn’t used his English since leaving Nanchang, 30 years ago. He had wanted to get a teaching job but as he didn’t have the education to continue in that profession. He owns his own events staging company.

What’s that?

Whenever companies, schools or organizations hold entertainment or big meeting events, they need staging facilities with high-tech lighting and sound equipment. For such events, private staging companies would be hired to do this. Daniel set up his business with several workers hired to be such an event-planning and staging company. Contests, meetings, celebrations: These are just a few of the events he’s held:

But when Covid became widespread in China, beginning in January 2020, his business stagnated.  No one was allowed to hold big venues.  The country went on lockdown.  He found himself staying at home with his wife, not even visiting much with his daughter and grand-daughter (across town) or his son who was working in another city.

A Trickling Business 

 When we spoke on the phone, he mentioned that things have also slowed down as more and more schools, hotels and companies have bought their own equipment for holding such events.  There is no need to hire out anymore so he is considering selling to someone else and retiring.

I will say that his story sounds very similar to my college,  Luzhou Vocational and Technical College.  Before moving to the new campus in 2016, our many departments and student organizations that held contests or special celebrations had a local company they hired which would set up an outside stage and bring in the lighting equipment, recording and sound system plus workers to get everything professionally done.  But when we moved to the new campus, the school bought the necessary equipment needed for such events.  Our huge auditorium came with everything that was needed, thus no need to hire locally.  Event-planning companies who had contracted with our school for years were let go.  It saved the school a lot of money in the long-run but didn’t help support  local businesses as it had before, which was sad.

Ending our Conversation

Before closing, his grand-daughter and daughter popped onto my phone screen.  Both struggled to speak a few English words.  Daniel’s wife quickly entered into the scene, exuberantly saying “Hello!  Hello!”, adding in Chinese her welcome for me to visit when I could finally return to China

Our 22-minute meeting was one I didn’t want to end.  We left with promises of continuing our WeChat texting, of searching for more classmates and Chinese training center staff, of not losing touch ever again.  I’m guessing we’ll have another face-time conversation in the near future.  

In the meantime, I’ve been jumping the gun a bit by looking up hotels in Nanchang nearby Jiangxi Normal University.  I don’t recognize the city at all on the websites, nor the university which has merged with another in 2003, but that’s to be expected. So many changes in 3 decades!  

Well, even if there are just 5 of us getting together in 2023, it will still be well worth it.  

Until next entry, here’s wishing you peace (平安), ping-ahn, for your upcoming week.


Posted in A 30-plus Year Reunion in China, China, Luzhou, Tales from Sichuan's Yangtze Rivertown, Tales of China, Travel, Waiting it out during Covid | 1 Comment

A 30-plus Year Reunion in the Works

     This WordPress blog is mostly viewed by American friends.  But on rare occasions, I get a surprise note from someone who has found me after many years.   

      “Teacher Connie, this is Kevin Hu,” read my inbox.  “I was your student in Nanchang,  30 years ago.  Do you remember me?”

      How could I possibly forget one of my first students in China?!

The Amity Foundation Adult Training Program    

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Kevin (second photo, first row, seated in vest, middle) and his 29 adult classmates were teachers from the rural countryside.  The 1-year program he was enrolled in, sponsored by the provincial government  and  the Amity Foundation, was created specifically for language educators from poor areas. 

At that time in China, many teachers had had little more than a year or two of college education due to the Cultural Revolution. That time period of 10 years had educated no one except in the teachings of Chairman Mao. Schools and colleges did little in basic education or teaching skills. Just indoctrination of China’s Communist Party greatness with young Red Guards marching about, making signs and reporting, punishing and ridiculing those adults whom they deemed the insidious capitalists. When this devastating time period ended in 1979, China realized they had no qualified teachers to instruct the youth. Crash courses ensued for teachers in numerous subject areas, with the brightest young people (some of them as young as 14) chosen to study under the expertise of previously criticized educators.

For those who became English teachers, their language skills were especially limited. No foreign teachers (actually, very few foreigners at all) had been in China to teach them in those early years of the Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door Policy, which ended the Cultural Revolution’s grip on the country. Most students had just stumbled along in their language studies, some excelling while others floundered

Thus began Amity’s teaching program, which was created in 1986 under the request of provincial education bureaus throughout China. In partnership with Chinese colleges being the hosts, and funding from the provincial education departments, the Amity Foundation helped to bring foreigners to China for 2 years to teach English at Normal colleges or adult education training centers. There was also a language request for Japanese teachers, which Amity also provided from Japan.

Newbies to China: The Foreigners Arrive

In 1991, six overseas teachers (myself, American Donna Brown, Brits Anne and Mick Kavanaugh, Canadians Jeanette and Todd Hanson) came to Jiangxi Province as Amity Foundation English teachers to lead classes in English listening, speaking, writing, teaching methodology and culture. Donna and I were in Nanchang city, Anne and Mick taught at a college 10 miles from the city center and Todd and Jeanette were in Jiujiang, a small town 2-hours train journey from where we lived. Two other Amity teachers from Japan taught Japanese at a college across town from us.


Donna and I were placed in the Adult Training Center at Nanchang Normal University. 

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Our students, ages 18 to 57, had traveled great distances to commit to this unique learning opportunity.  We all stayed on campus, the students living in somewhat primitive dormitory conditions while we teachers stayed in the gated, quite adequate foriegners guesthouse.  In total, we had 6 Americans with 4 being sent by ELIC, English Language Institute of China. The ELIC were employed to teach the college students and were not involved in our adult program. (Below are 2 ELIC teachers and myself, with our guesthouse workers who cleaned our rooms and took care of Chinese and foreign visitors who stayed at the housing facility for a few nights.)

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Living Conditions in the Guesthouse:  Adequate and Homey

All the foreign teachers had our own 2-room mini-apartment, with bathroom and a fridgerator, but no cooking facilities.

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We had meals served in a communal dining area by a gruff and formidable cook, a former Communist revolutionary war soldier.

The Training Center staff were always very helpful, including booking the university car to pick up our boxes from the local post office downtown. My first year in China, I went overboard in mailing myself 7 boxes from America. Surface mail was still offered, and these took 3 months to reach me. Before leaving for China, I asked those who were already in country what I’d need, thus the 7 boxes you see below. Comfort foods, school supplies, classroom materials, winter clothes, American culture visuals (Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving) . . . Even today, I still have some of those same treasured items I used in Nanchang in my apartment in Luzhou, waiting to once again make an appearance in my China classroom.

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Like most Chinese, we foreigners had only bicycles to do our shopping around town. I was so proud of mine! A Red Lion (about the only brand in China at that time), which I bought brand new for an equivalent of $25, half my monthly pay. Here I am with my treasured transportation vehicle, in the guesthouse courtyard.

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Learning to Be A Family

There was no heat (lows of 10 degrees), no air-conditioning (highs of 90 degrees), no washing machines, no modernized classroom equipment (just a blackboard and the classic cassette tape machine), few usable textbooks, and yet, priceless learning took place.  Despite physical discomforts and our cultural differences, by the end of that year, we had formed a close-knit family.  

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Kevin and I are now eager to find more former students.  So far, we’ve connected with 5. We are currently working on widening that circle to include those enrolled during my second and third years in that program.  Our plan is to have the classes of ’91, ’92 and ’93 meet for a weekend reunion in the school that hosted us, Nanchang Normal University in Jiangxi Province.  When I return to China, we’ll begin in earnest for a tentative 2023 gathering.  For now, we’re working on increasing that contact list to at least 25, out of a total of about 90 in the program.  With such powerful  technology tools at our fingertips, I’m confident we can get there.

Anyone else out there who remembers us? We’re waiting for you!!

Until next entry, here’s wishing you Peace (平安) for your day.

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A Chinese Farmers’ Daughter: Heartbreaking Disappointment

Mrs. Chen and daughter, Liangyu

18-year-old Liangyu began her summer rejoicing, along with her dad (Che) and mom (Chen). Her year of exhausting study as a senior in high school was finally over. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school, and was expecting to be the first to attend college in the Fall.

In celebration of her upcoming freshman year, her mom bought her a smartphone so she’d fit right in with all her new college classmates. This gift is common in China as a high school graduation gift, usually because the senior year of study is so intense that some secondary school teachers and administrators ban phones from use. No phones in the classroom, in backpacks, on your person or even on the school grounds are allowed.

“Concentrate only on doing well in your studies,” is the stern, strict message reiterated again and again.

I remember one of my teenage friends who told me that, at his school, the punishment for seniors having a phone was to confiscate it until the end of the year. Much to his dismay, and some of his classmates, they’d snuck in their phones and were caught. He was forced to give up 6 months of texting, chatting and virtual game-playing until he finally graduated.

Despite the unpleasantness of doing without his much-beloved communication device, he actually felt himself lucky. One teacher had a devastating solution for a second-time offender. The teacher found a student with a second smartphone, an upgraded new one he’d purchased when the old was confiscated. The teacher angrily snatched the phone away, threw it onto the floor and stomped on it!

Needless to say, that pretty much put the kibosh on anyone else’s ideas of breaking the cellphone rules in school.

Sometimes the off-to-college reward is a computer, but for a majority of students, it’s a new phone that accompanies them on their higher education journey.

And so it was with Liangyu, whose August departure as a college freshman was right at her fingertips. . . . or so we all thought.

The Background Story


I’ve actually told this story before in a previous post but let me just give you the shortened version.

  My relationship with Liangyu and her parents, farmers in the countryside, began in 2016. “Snow” Xue, a junior high school English teacher, invited me to visit Che and Chen on what she called “an adventurous Saturday outing.”

After 3-hours travel via bus, ferry and foot, we arrived at a typical Chinese farmhouse, nestled amid lush, green rice fields.

Che and Chen greeted us at their doorway. We enjoyed a home-cooked meal, heard stories of their difficult life, and were led to visit nearby neighbors, many of whom asked about their daughter. Without a secondary school nearby, the two had sent 13-year-old Liangyu to Luzhou to study but the cost of room and board, book and activity fee, and other expenses were too much of a burden. Che wanted her to stay at home and help her mother on the farm. Chen wanted her to be educated. That’s where Snow and I stepped in. We offered assistance, with a promise to supplement her education with what the parents couldn’t afford.

Five Years Later . . .

After 5 years of financial help from Snow, myself and a few in America, Liangyu joined her classmates on June 7 to take the nerve-racking 2-day gaokao, the college entrance exam. This standardized, national test is necessary for all wishing to go on to higher education. Liangyu’s score, 517 out of 750, placed her at the lower end for university enrollment.

” Have you decided what you want to study?” I texted Liangyu in July, after her results were known.

“Yes! I want to be a Chinese or English teacher, like you and Teacher Xue. My mom says I can also try to be a doctor. I will decide by the schools that choose me.”

“What schools have you applied to?”

“There are 9,” Liangyu replied. “Here are my choices.”

With that, she sent me the link to her 9 choices. They popped up on my phone with each university giving the number of freshmen that are accepted into a chosen program, the entrance exam score required, and the difficulty of the course of study chosen: Low, average and difficult.

Here were her choices with her intended study hopes, all second-tier universities.

Sichuan Nationalities College in Kanding (Chinese major); North Sichuan Medical College in Nantong (English major); Sichuan Tourism College in Chengdu (Business English major); Panzhihua College in Panzhihua, Sichuan Province (Chinese language and literature major); Anqing Normal University in Anqing, Anhui Province (Chinese language and literature major); Qufu Normal University in Rhizao, Shandong Province (Chinese language and literature major); Hunan agricultural University in Changsha, Hunan Province (English major); Yunnan Agricultural University in Kunming, Yunnan Province (Business English major); Shanghai Normal College in Shangrao, Jiangxi Province ( English translation major)

All of the above were within her scores, with some listed slightly higher than her 517 but she felt confident she was close enough.

Sad to say, the competition must have been quite fierce. None of her 9 accepted her.

Choices Few; A Determined Decision Made

It goes without saying Liangyu was devastated. For several weeks, she didn’t have the heart to tell me what had transpired. I can imagine her giving a good sob into her mother’s arms and feeling inconsolable. She must have felt she let down so many: Her teachers, her parents, Teacher Xue, those of us in America who have seen her through with financial help, herself . . . .

Two options remained: give up her college dream and join her parents on the farm or repeat her senior year of high school, with the hope that her 2022 gaokao score would be higher.

Liangyu’s determination won out. She chose the latter.

It will be another year of grueling high school study: 7-days-a-week, morning to late-night classes, for a full year but she’ll have the continued encouragement and support from those of us who care. She’ll also have the benefit of studying at a higher level school. She has enrolled in Luxian No. 2 High School, the second best school in Luzhou city. This should give her a better chance of reaching her desired entrance exam scores next year.

Despite this heartbreaking setback, Liangyu, we are very proud of you for continuing onward.

As we say in Chinese: 加油! 加油! (Jia-you, Jia-you!) You go for it!!


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Animal rescue groups receive a shocking announcement concerning pet transport from China to the US

Leaving Luzhou, LO's trip, Club swimming 108

As mentioned before, my animal-loving heart has credited me with numerous dog and cat rescues in China over the years. It’s been money and time well-spent to see all the doggies and kitties pulled from suffering through a tragic life on the streets or succumbing to horrendous deaths. It was a privilege for me to get them healthy and later find their forever homes with Chinese friends or, in some instances, pay for humane euthanization due to debilitating injuries or illnesses. I’ve never regretted inviting a little one into my home to make sure they were cared for in some way or other. That includes bringing two to the States: broken-jawed Chihuahua Little Old, in 2009, and currently mixed-Chi Bridget, in 2019. Both were easily brought to America, tucked safely in a carrier under my airline seat. It was not a difficult process: Health check-ups completed, authorized papers in hand, vaccinations proven, air-tickets purchased, airline procedures followed . . . A smooth landing into the country, a quick once-over by a customs’ officer and off we went on our continued journey to eventually land in Marshall, Illinois.

Here below see Bridget’s journey to America in 2019, followed by Lao-lao in 2009.

No quarantine. No lengthy wait in line. No hassles or questioning.

But recently, one of my animal rescue friends in Luzhou sent me a WeChat text and the link to our United States CDC announcement. She prefaced with, “Did you know about this?”

No. I didn’t.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announces a temporary suspension in the importation of dogs from high-risk rabies-enzootic countries (hereinafter referred to as high-risk country or countries) into the United States. Due to the unprecedented global response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and limited availability of public health resources at the Federal, state, and local level, this action is necessary to protect the public health against the reintroduction of canine rabies virus variant (CRVV) into the United States and to ensure the welfare of dogs being imported into the U.S. This suspension, with limited exceptions, includes dogs imported from low-risk or CRVV-free countries if the dogs have been in any high-risk countries during the previous six months. The notice is effective July 14, 2021.”

It was also mentioned this temporary suspension would be in effect for an entire year.

133 countries were listed as high-risk, and China was among them.

My further research explained the reasons why. I read that, during Covid, animals entering the US had rabies despite their vaccination certificates seeming to be updated and health documents saying otherwise. Whether the rabies vaccines given were fake or certificates were inaccurate, the result was animals having to be euthanized at the airport or left in cages due to non-release policies and abandonment.

While the ban is fully understandable, I can’t tell you how such a devastating announcement will vitally affect rescues out of China. Most shelters in China are privately run by citizens who care about animals. Other so-called shelters are for the dog-eating market, still quite prevalent thoughout the country, especially in the winter. It is believed that dog meat will help keep a person warm in the winter. No matter how skinny or scrawny the animal is, dog meat is still a big selling point in China.

My Experience: A lesson learned about cultural sensitivity

My experience in the south with dogs sold as meat was a hard one for me to swallow. I had a 3-year placement in Guangxi Province, in a small town next to the Vietnam border where eating dog was as common as eating chicken or pork.

Upon arriving at my new home in Longzhou, my first day had me excitedly going to the open air market. It was a joyful event wandering the fruit booths to see southern offerings I’d never seen before: dragon fruit, star fruit, mangos, miniature bananas, lichee. . . Wow! This area of China was fantastic! I was going to love it here.

And then I meandered into the meat section of the market. The typical freshly butchered pigs, cows and plucked chickens lay across the wide wooden slabs of the sellers. I was used to that. But then came something I’d not seen prominently displayed in China’s central and northern markets, where my placements had been before.

In a far corner, next to the “exotic” animals’ cages crammed with hedgehogs, rats, and snakes, were the puppies and dogs.

I did my best to reason with this notion of “man’s best friend” being considered food.

Vietnam, not more than a 40-minute drive from my new home in Longzhou, had the same custom of consuming the unthinkable. With the two cultures being so near to one another, the southern Chinese and the Vietnamese, both would naturally follow similar habits of hoisting cooked canines onto the dinner table.

It made sense but it still didn’t sit well with Connie the animal lover.

Before that moment, I had prided myself in being able to adjust to any Chinese environment. So many years had I been in China! There was great confidence I could endure whatever was thrown at me with grace, understanding and tolerance. But I must say, that first venture into the Longzhou open-air market threw all my self-satisfied, cultural sensitivity smugness right out the window.

For the next 3 years I was teaching in the town, I never, ever went into that corner of the market again. I didn’t even caste my eyes in that direction. And if my students or friends came shopping with me, I made it a point to steer them in the opposite direction of where the dog-meat aisle was located, even if it would take us out of our way to our intended destination.

In Closing

My greatest hope is that the ban will lift sooner than a year on importing rescues into the US.  The 133 countries on the ban list are the ones where dogs and cats are in dire need of help.  I would say the selected nations are without adequate funding for shelters, have few laws in place for animal protection and have more pressing concerns concentrating on people stricken by poverty.   I absolutely understand the need to take care of people who are suffering but I hope we can find room to improve the lives of God’s little creatures as well, especially the rescues.

From Illinois, here’s wishing you Peace for your weekend, and snuggles with your favorite furry friend, if you have one. 



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Bridget to Enter People Magazine’s World’s Cutest Rescue Dog Contest: Help us!

Within the past few months, my mom has been receiving People Magazine for free. It seems every so often, complimentary subscriptions are sent out in hopes of enticing new readership and new sales. While my mom is not a fan of such frivolous fluff, that of celebrity woes, angst and celebrations, it’s still fun to read a bit about the Hollywood scene. And since my niece, Meredith Wieck, works out of Hollywood as the Vice-president of Lionsgate motion picture studio, best to have a stockpile of common subject matter we can discuss when a phone call comes.

But in this last issue, something else caught my eye that had nothing to do with the latest entertainment gossip: People Magazine‘s World’s Cutest Rescue Dog Contest.

“Do you have the world’s cutest rescue dog?” the page headline read. “People wants to turn your furry friend into a star!”

That’s all it took for me. After going to the website, people.com/rescuedogcontest, I read all the information required to enter Bridget. A photo, a write-up of her story and owner information was all that was required.

Last year, over 10,000 entries were received. This year, who knows how many will participate?

According to the contest information, entries can be received between June 30 – August 11. Editors are to select 10 finalists, readers narrow down the pool to the top 3 with the eventual winner to be selected by People, Pedigree and two celebrity judges. The grand prize is: A custom photo shoot, A feature in People magazine and on people.com, a year’s supply of dog food from the Pedigree brand and a $1,000 donation to the pet-rescue organization of the winner’s choice.

The Photo:  Please Help us!  Choose your favorite prize-worthy entry 

I have finished Bridget’s write-up, which I will share with you later, but here’s where I’ve run into some difficulty.  I’ve had numerous photo shoots with Bridget, trying to find just the right one.  Here are the selections below.  Any thoughts on which you’d choose to enter?  My mom and I have our favorite.  Let’s see if you agree as well. Although  I have until August 11,  I’d like to get her in by the end of the month.    Help us out, folks!  Send me a note via the website or email me at corneliaw2000@hotmail.com. We’d love to make Bridget’s chances of being a top 10 finalist the best possible.  

This is Connie and Priscilla, in Marshall, Illinois, anxiously waiting for your response!  


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China’s 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party in China: A Quick History

CNN has done an excellent job of giving a timeline of the 10 pivotal moments in the country’s Party development and progression. July 1st marked the celebrations surrounding this momentous occasion. I hope this helps with your understanding of China and the Party’s importance in the country.


What many don’t know about being a Communist Party Member

Many who are not Chinese don’t realize that not everyone in China is a Communist Party Member. I certainly didn’t when I first arrived in China in 1991. Out of 1.4 billion people, according to the 2020 CCP (China Communist Party) roster, membership is 91,914,000.

That certainly doesn’t make every adult a Party member, especially since there are reported to be about 1.1 billion adults in China.

How does a person become a member?

I can only speak from my experience of knowing Party members and having asked them. From their explanation, it’s a bit like belonging to a strict organization which vets its members quite carefully.

The first step is to find a Party member who will recommend you to join and be your mentor through the process. I remember at my school, there were announcements made for any student interested in joining the Party to come to an introduction meeting. The process was a year, there were tests involved, dues to pay and a formal ceremony of new initiates. It was a very serious matter and one of great pride. My students who went through the steps to be Party members were responsible individuals, very good in their studies and had a great feeling of duty to country and school.

One of my best friends who is a Party member told me Party members are to set good examples. They shouldn’t be seen playing mahjong, considered a frivolous activity, or drinking too much and making a scene in public. They should be respectable people who are seen to be charitable toward others, have a compassionate heart, be law-abiding citizens and be good role models for others, especially China’s youth.

Party members should not belong to any religion so as not show favoritism toward that religious body or be associated with it. Why not associated with it? Think on that a bit. If someone wants to get in good with a Party member who might hold a position of power, he or she might curry favor by joining groups that the Party member belongs to.

From what I was told, it doesn’t necessarily have to be religion. It could be any special group which might make the Party member seem to place that organization above other worthy organizations.

Party members also pay monthly dues to the Party leadership they belong to according to their city or region. I am uncertain how much the dues are now but they are not so high that it’s difficult to pay.

Here’s a fun story concerning Party membership dues: You remember “Snow” Xue, whom I wrote about in the last entry? She is in a wheelchair due to a stroke. About 6 years ago, when Snow was a go-getter individual, she took a group of us to the countryside where there was an abandoned school from 2014 that was on the site of a Buddhist temple. The school was located in the middle of nowhere, was a boarding school and had teachers’ apartments as well as dormitories and buildings. When we went, it was overgrown with weeds and the entire thing completely desolate with sad-looking, empty and lonely buildings which once held life and an enthusiasm of learning. The school’s offices were left with doors wide open with a vast amount of paperwork strewn about. Stacks had been rained on and scattered around the floor, on top of desks or were overflowing from open drawers.

Snow, ever the curious one, began picking through the documents, pulling out interesting bits and pieces from among what she found. In one of those, she discovered someone’s Party dues booklet, listing his name and his monthly dues he’d paid from 1984. What a find!

Snow’s eyes lit up with wonder as she pointed out to me the amounts and told me how small they were compared to today. The dues amounted to 3 yuan (about 50 cents today) every month. Whoever it was had carefully, diligently recorded the amounts, within the pages for over a year. Snow, ever a good teacher, squirreled the booklet away in her backpack, along with other things of interest, so she could present a history lesson to her students at her junior high. She felt the materials she found would be excellent visual aids for the kids.

I wonder today if she was able to do that lesson as it wasn’t too long after that she and Geoff left for Africa, where she had her stroke.

In Closing

I’ve heard there are many activities and events taking place from July to December to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the CCP. I mentioned a few of my college students and teaching colleagues had entered an English speech contest surrounding this theme and topic. I haven’t heard how well they did but I do know the prizes were quite substantial. It would be such a great honor, even to be in the runner-up categories.

I wish them the best of luck, and hope you’ve learned a little from my limited understanding and knowledge of Party membership.

Next entry will hold some very special connections I’ve made in the past few days. It’s a huge surprise and one which I’m sure you’ll enjoy hearing all about.

Until next time, here’s wishing you 平安, Ping An (Peace), for your upcoming week.

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Phone calls from Friends: Interesting Updates

I’ve just had a very enlightening conversation on the phone with Australian Geoff, concerning several issues of interest to me. I continue to troll the Internet to learn more details about the lift of the ban for returning teachers, but my most accurate information comes from those on the ground, in China itself. Geoff is one of them.

If you haven’t been following my site, here’s a brief introduction to this 70-year-old gentleman and his wife, Teacher Xue.


In his late 50’s, Geoff came to Luzhou to be a teacher at a junior high school. He fell in love with a Chinese English teacher there (“Snow”, Ms. Xue), the two married (second marriage for both) with Snow’s daughter at that time being 16. The two planned their future, eventually wanting to spend Snow’s retirement years traveling the world. Retirement age in China is 55 for women; 60 for men. She was in good health, although she didn’t pay attention to her doctor’s warnings that her blood pressure was very high. That was her greatest regret. She was only 51 when she suffered a major stroke while the two were traveling in Africa, where they’d spent 2 years with the VSO (Volunteer Service Organization), considered the UK’s equivalent of the Peace Corps.

After 2 years of extensive re-habilitation in Australia, Geoff managed to get her back to Luzhou 2 years ago, right before Covid struck. They have a small apartment in the city and don’t plan on leaving China anytime soon. Snow is confined to a wheelchair with some assisted walking mobility but not much. Geoff is her sole caretaker with Snow being the translator since Geoff speaks no Chinese.

Fortunately for both, Snow retained her English language skills despite the stroke that left her in a coma for 14 days. There was little hope she’d wake up or even be able to communicate, so this is a miracle of sorts that she can function as well as she does. It’s obvious the credit of her recovery must be given to Geoff’s excellent care of her, and the doctors in Uganda, where she was hospitalized until leaving for Australia.

Vaccinations Completing for Chinese Citizens; Foreigners are next

The goal of 20 million vaccinations a day continues and seems to be moving along at a very strong pace to reach the 70% vaccination goal by September. Most of my Chinese friends in Luzhou, a smaller Tier 4 city of 5 million, told me they’d had their vaccinations already. A few months ago, I read that schools can expect to have invitation letters approved more and more with a majority being authorized from October to December. However, what was holding me back on hope was the fact that the foreigners had not yet been offered the vaccine. Once the foreigners begin to be vaccinated, that would signal the tail end of the ban.

Geoff’s call the other day was somewhat uplifting.

He and Snow flew to the far north, the city of Qingdao, to visit friends this past week. While there, he was called by local Luzhou health officials wanting to know detailed information for what Geoff assumes will be vaccinations. He mentioned that in Qingdao, there is a large foreigner enclave and they had all been vaccinated.

He was expecting upon his Luzhou return to have more news about when his vaccination would take place, as well as that of his wife. Due to her disability, her doctors recommended she wait before being given her shots.

A Rather Hectic Arrival Experience

Interestingly enough, when the two landed at the Luzhou Airport in a plane of 200+ people, Geoff was immediately targeted as the one and only foreigner who might be bringing the virus into the city. The worried officials speedily shot onto the plane, beelined down the aisle toward Geoff and quickly took him off while others waited to disembark. The dilemma came when they discovered he was traveling with his disabled wife and they had no way of getting her off the plane in a hurry. Eventually, one of the health officials hoisted her onto his back and carried her down the steep stairs outside of the plane to get the two to a mini-van. The van shot them off to an isolated room where Geoff had to show his phone QR “Green” code, necessary for travel during Covid, and fill out numerous papers in English to show that he hadn’t been outside of the country, was a resident of Luzhou, and all the dates involved for his travel as well as his physical health.

Geoff mentioned this was the first time he’d been through such a thorough and panicked landing in Luzhou. According to later rumors, there had been a Covid case in Luzhou 2 weeks before and that was the reason for the strict monitoring system which the city government put into place.

The Chinese passengers, however, had no such interrogation and were able to disembark without any fanfare.His story is helpful to me, especially as I am certain such an experience is awaiting me upon my own entry into Luzhou City. However, mine will be more of a production. Although I will have a mandatory 2-3 week hotel quarantine upon entry into the country, there most likely will be another 2 weeks added onto that once I get to Luzhou. Hopefully, I ca do that in my school apartment but I honestly don’t know that for certain.

I will prepare myself. I’m sure there will be moments of anxiety on my part, perhaps even tears, when officials tag me as a threat and might want to send me back.


News from Shannon

Another phone call , immediately after Geoff’s, came from my Canadian friend, Shannon.

Shannon is the one who rescued Bridget (our dog) 2 years ago in Chengdu and contacted me about adoption. She found her under a park bridge near her apartment, thus the name Bridget. She had mange, was skin and bones, tied by a shoestring to a rock and living in her own feces. No food or water. Shanon said she looked both ways over her shoulders, no one in sight, and basically, stole the dog. I was put in touch with her by a rescue group after I said I was looking for a dog to replace the one who had just passed away, Little Lao-lao, that I brought from China 9 years ago. Thus it happened that Bridget came into my care.

Ever since, we’ve been in touch so I could share the wonderful life Bridget now has in America.

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Shannon’s call was one checking up on Bridget but it also was quite informative, about her situation the capital city of Sichuan.

Shannon teaches at a prestigious private junior and senior high school in Chengdu. This school enrolls those from wealthy families who are looking to send their children abroad to study at the high school and college level. All instruction is in English and follows the British system, which Shannon (being a Canadian teacher) is quite familiar with.

Since she didn’t leave for winter holidays, as some of us did, she’d been able to continue with her work at the school and live through all the China Covid lockdowns, virtual teaching stints and then the final opening up again.

Her report: Covid has wrecked havoc on the faculty and the enrollment. All those students who graduated last year and this year were not able to get visas to study overseas because a majority of UK, Australian, US and Canadian schools are not accepting them. At both the high school and college level, payment was asked for online coursework, something which was not desirable for the parents. Why pay all that money to have the child study in China, with online courses and no interaction with others?

Enrollment has gone down, according to Shannon, as wealthy Chinese parents try to navigate the effects of Covid on their children’s education.

The pressure of Covid has also caused quite a few of the foreign teachers to decide to end their service at the school. Shannon considered leaving herself but she’d already signed a 2-year contract. Also, her students will be graduating next year and she didn’t want to leave them after she’d been their homeroom teacher for 2 full years. Leaving them now would be heartbreaking!

Her news of vaccinating the foreigners in Chengdu had yet another positive report: They’d be getting their vaccinations in July, or so the administration had told them. I’m sure she’ll inform me next month if that happens or not.

What to do about the foreign teacher’s apartment?

Another call revealed great concern over the long wait our schools have had to have us back in our classrooms. Like me, we left our apartments full of things, with the thought we’d return in February, ready to start up the new school year after a month of vacation.

That was 19 months ago.

For myself, I live in the school’s faculty housing apartment building where no rent is needed. Leaving my belongings costs the school nothing. (See views of my China home below, on the 9th floor.)

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But for other schools, swanky apartments had been rented for the foreign teacher. Most leases are for a year, with schools paying $300 – 400 per month. Breaking the contract leads to fines. Ending the contract at the end of the lease obviously means vacating the premises

But since so many foreign teachers haven’t been able to return, meaning all their things are still in those rented apartments, this has created a huge dilemma. Some schools signed another lease for yet another year, not knowing how to handle a foreigner’s things and not wanting the hassles of dealing with another person’s stuff. Other schools canceled the lease and required the Chinese teachers to box up the foreign teacher’s things and store at the school. The greatest headache has been for those foreign teachers who rented apartments on their own with stipends from their schools. No more stipends as they aren’t working in country. Do they continue to pay for their apartment while waiting overseas? And if not, who is responsible for moving their things, storing their things, collecting their key money (money returned at the end of a lease if no repairs are needed) and signing the papers to close off their rental obligations?

If you have a really close and kind Chinese friend to do that, you’ve got it made. But if you don’t, what do you do?

Just Being Thankful

How fortunate for me that my school is so willing to keep me on, despite the fact I am not there at the moment. I am also sure there will be much paperwork, extra registration protocol, and many other headaches to deal with which is needed for someone overseas to work in the city. China is very strict concerning Covid.

My apartment continues to remain empty, locked up tight since I left it January 6, 2020. I did ask one of my colleagues to empty out the freezer of the chicken breasts I left there. I still remember one of my Chinese neighbors who left for 5 weeks on summer vacation and when she returned, the refrigerator had broken on her. The stench of what was in her defrosted freezer was unbelievable!! That smell lingered in the hallway and the elevator for a full day when she emptied the rotten contents into plastic bags to carry to the outside dumpsters.

That is one thing I do NOT want to greet me when I finally walk through my door, especially if I am required to quarantine for 2 weeks in my home. Living in stench for 2 weeks would certainly put a damper on any joy I had in getting back to my school.

Closing off for now. Here’s wishing you a peaceful weekend and a very happy upcoming July 4th.

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The Luzhou Protestant Church: Changes to the Sanctuary

Most of my connection with the Luzhou church is that of joining: joining in worship, joining in song, joining in prayer . . . Even while being stuck in America, through my WeChat phone App (China’s equivalent of Facebook), I’ve been frequently communicating with the choir members or Pastor Liao for over a year now.

Aside from posting the daily English prayer for the choir, my expertise as an English language teacher doesn’t usually come into play within my Chinese religious community. But that changed recently when I received an English voice message from one of the Luzhou choir members, Miss Yi.

“Connie, I am worried. We are directing many new things and there will be many changes in our building (i.e., sanctuary), many words posted. It is the history of the church. Our preacher wanted it translated into English. They sent the Chinese to me and I translated it into English, but not all my (own) words. First, I translated it into the tools of Google translation and then, according to the translation of Google, I changed it. But I think the translation of this history of the church is not perfect. So I send it to you. I need your help. Please help me to check it. If you want to change or find some errors, please tell me or you can also translate it yourself.”

In the Luzhou Gospel Hospital, similar introduction panels were displayed but those were all in Chinese (See below). The church, however, had no such information posted, in Chinese or in English.

My first thoughts? “Wow!! I feel so honored. The church needs me!! I have something special to give.”

Within an hour, the text was in my inbox and I got down to business, scanning Ms. Yi’s email content.

Most likely, this is a way for the church to commemorate the founding of the Communist Party, 100 years ago. Many institutions, companies, schools, and religious bodies are currently celebrating this monumental occasion through patriotic events, contests, and performances. These are to take place in July and continue onward to the end of the year.

According to what was sent, there will be 3 panel sections posted in Chinese and English: Church history, Service to the Country, Service to the People.

The Luzhou Church is planning an addition to the church, thus the 3 panels.

Why Translated into English?

Before you read the below, you might be wondering why Pastor Liao is so  keen on having an English version included with the Chinese.  There are several reasons for this.

First, Luzhou has the prominent Southwest Medical University located in the city.  For over 10 years, overseas’ students have been accepted to study both Chinese and Western medicine here.  There are about 200 students from Nepal, Pakistan, India, some African countries, and other  developing nations who are enrolled in the medical program.  Their instruction is in English but they do take Chinese language classes so they can complete their internships in China, if they wish to do so.  Those who are Christians have attended the church worship in the past but most didn’t understand enough Chinese to participate.  Usually, they came only for Christmas Eve services.    I have been the only regular foreigner church goer, something which has concerned Pastor Liao for many years.  My opinion is that Pastor Liao wants the English to at least make those who don’t understand Chinese to feel more at home and at least understand a little about the church history and involvement in the community.

Secondly, it doesn’t happen often but we do have a few foreign visitors come to church who don’t speak much Chinese.  Some are passing through, others have jobs in Luzhou as teachers or company workers.  And every year, Luzhou has a huge liquor exhibition where representatives from all over the world arrive for a week to set up wine and whiskey displays.  Luzhou is famous for a certain type of whiskey, thus the reason Luzhou city hosts the 1-week yearly event.  World liquor producers come to the city to highlight their alcoholic wares.  In fact, some of my students in the past have been selected to work in the exhibition hall itself, in hotels or placed at the airport or train station to translate for their overseas guests.   The relationships they build with their guests from abroad have been very strong and have lasted for years.  

And lastly, we have had groups or individuals come with Amity staff  to my college and city.  Due to the many years of partnership Amity has had with the school, Luzhou is sometimes on the site list for visiting overseas guests who have relationships with Amity.  Since these guests are Christians, there is always a visit to the church where Pastor Liao leads everyone through the sanctuary, the hospital and explains the importance of Christian outreach.   I imagine the Chinese-English  panels will be much appreciated by such visitors.  (See Pastor Liao below, leading Amity visitors through the hospital and new church building site in 2019)

The Finished Product

So now that I’ve gone on quite some time about what I was asked to translate, I’ll post it here, the first in Chinese and the second in English.  

泸州基督教堂需要翻译成英语的中文资料 (Luzhou Church needs these materials translated into English)





History of The Luzhou Christian Church 

In January 1890, Christianity was introduced to Luzhou.  It went through a long and arduous process, from the initial public dislike of a “foreign religion” to the “conflict between people and religion.” Yet later, it won the favor and support of believers and other people. The church strengthened the training of local preachers by spreading the gospel to Xuyong, Gulin and other places.  This was done through itinerant evangelism with the help of local Christian partners, especially those in the Miao ethnic minority regions. The gospel quickly spread and helped to establish the Miao church in Guizhou Province. This cooperative effort of itinerant evangelists and local Christians furthered the reach and expansion of the gospel to the borders between Sichuan and Guizhou. 

Today’s Luzhou church, through influence of the distinguished traditional culture of the Chinese nation, has evolved into a patriotic religious organization that is grounded in China and continues to function as an independent and self-governing entity. 





A Century of Patriotic Inheritance 

According to a published 2011 document entitled “Luzhou History,” No. 2 (36), page 41, the following note was made on the social responsibilities of the Luzhou Church: “Luzhou Christianity has made positive contributions to the development of Luzhou society:  During wartime, it set up hospitals to relieve both the wounded in the army and those who were civilians, it enhanced education and training skills among citizens, it provided a place for the Communist Party to liberate Luzhou, it donated to the People’s government, and it gave strong support to the initial  advancement of area colleges and universities.” 

Looking back on a hundred years of history, we can see that the Luzhou Church holds high the banner of patriotism, walks side by side with the Party, champions the motherland, and contributes to society with the spirit of “making salt and light.” (Matthew 5: 13) 




Social Service:  Practice Love 

The Bible, our Christian guidebook for living, can be summed up in one word:  Love.   This love among Christians is explained in this way: God, out of love for us humans, sacrificed his only beloved Son (Jesus Christ) for the world.  His son’s blood was shed not for a few, but for the entire world, for all people.  We believe God’s love is unconditional. Therefore, Christian service should also be unconditional, all about love.  

As a starting point, we Christians not only pay attention to church members, but also care for other people in the world.  The teaching of love in the Bible requires us to perform actions through our love for others. Christianity is a societal group of believers. Christians, as members of society who work through communal service, convey not evil but love.  The Bible states: “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”  (Romans 12: 17 ESV.)  

Everyone contemplates beautiful things. We Christians must be careful to consider doing beautiful things through action. We believe: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:19) This is in perfect harmony with China’s traditional culture which advocates the benevolent to love others and to promote goodness.  This is the concept of public welfare and charity. Through social service, considered the most important element of modern civilization, we can provide such welfare and charity to those in greatest need.  Through actively carrying out such humanitarian works, the Luzhou Church implements the sinicization of Christianity through practice. 

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In Closing Today’s Entry

My proof-checking efforts were sent 2 weeks ago.  I have already told Ms. Yi that when the panels are completed, please take pictures and let me see how they turned out.  I am so sorry I won’t be there for the grand unveiling.  However, I’m excited to know I had a small part of making sure visiting overseas Christians will have a better understanding of the Luzhou church, from the missionary founders who came before to the current Chinese Christian involvement today.      I can’t wait to return and see the new  addition in person!

Until the next entry, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.  

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Surprising Announcement from China: The 3-child policy

The sudden news out of China came last week, while my mom and I were listening to an NPR report: Want three kids? Go ahead!

I’ve taken bits and pieces from an online BBC article, “China allows three children in major policy shift,” to outline the following:

“The Chinese Communist Party’s top leadership made the decision to permit couples to have up to three children at a meeting Monday, though state media reports did not say when the policy change would be implemented. It comes just three weeks after Beijing published its 2020 census, which showed China’s population was growing at its slowest rate in decades.”

“The census, released in May, showed that around 12 million babies were born last year – a significant decrease from the 18 million in 2016, and the lowest number of births recorded since the 1960s.”

“That’s putting major pressure on an economy that relies on a young workforce to support an aging population and keep up high levels of growth. China’s one-child policy, first in effect in 1979, was in place for more than 35 years as Beijing tried to address overpopulation and alleviate poverty.  This loosened in 2016 to 2 children and now, 3 children per family is being officially sanctioned.”

Do Chinese Young people Really Want More than One Child?

According to a majority of articles I’ve read, the answer is a resounding “no.”

The reasons are numerous: no time, a busy work schedule, financial burdens of medical care (healthcare is NOT free and insurance polices can be limited depending on employment), basic necessities (clothing, food) with the highest costs being education, from pre-school to the university.

How true is this?

Well, I couldn’t help but text message a few of my Chinese friends and colleagues I know who have one child and ask. I received a lot of responses but I’ll showcase only one.

Remember Bruce Li, the English teacher in charge of translation at my school and who holds my bank card to help pay my bills? I’ll use him and his wife as an example of why a young couple would be content with one child.

Bruce’s little boy is now 5 years old. Bruce’s mother lives with them and has been taking care of the little one since he was born.

Bruce and family

When I texted Bruce about this policy and asked if he’d consider having another child, or maybe even a 3rd, he echoed almost all of the above points the article mentioned mentioned.

  1. We are too busy”

Bruce and his wife, whose English name is Summer, are both educators in the School for International Studies (the glorified name for our college’s language department).

The duties of teaching at a Chinese college are surprisingly exhausting. No one is immune from just teaching. Everyone has office assignments, either assigned by the department or by the college’s administrators. It’s usually the younger teachers, those who are single or newly married couples, who are tasked with the most work. Those closer to retirement ( 55 for women; 60 for men) have an easier schedule as they slide into the end of their teaching career. Of course, they’ve already put in their many years of hard work so it’s only fair they get a rest.

Bruce especially has been given a heavy load. This past year, he’s been teaching the core classes to the English Education majors and the Business English majors. This is 6 hours a week, with assigned homework to check. “Six hours a week?! Hardly anything,” you say. Read on!

Next, Bruce (as mentioned before) deals with all the official Chinese-English translations for the college. This is a rather nerve-racking duty as it requires everything to be exact and correct. The pressure is on not to make mistakes and have the leaders (or your college) lose face over inaccurate or odd English translations. This is where I can be of help and why Bruce contacts me whenever he is in doubt of his abilities. He also is involved with writing English letters to our partner schools overseas, of which we currently have 5: Germany, South Africa, the US, India and the UK. Germany is the most active, with visiting teachers coming to teach mechanical skills or give German language tests to the German majors. Covid has stopped this now for 1 1/2 years but it will be active once more when bans are lifted. The other schools are merely partners on paper wit no exchanges yet.

Aside from dealing with all school Chinese-English translations, Bruce is also assigned as Student Club manager. What does this entail? He is in charge of: club application by students (all paperwork must be in order to officially register as a club, which includes having a faculty sponsor), getting all the official stamps for approval of registration, handling permission applications for club events, keeping registration of all student names and majors who sign up for clubs, processing club fund application requests, meeting with club presidents to discuss campus rules regarding holding events, and writing reports of each club to be handed in to the extra-curricular activities office. How many clubs do we have? A lot! Here are a few: English reading, English Association, Chinese calligraphy, guitar, skateboarding, rollerblading, hip-hop dancing, ballroom dancing, singing (today’s most recent pop artists), art (Chinese classical and modern), student volunteers (serving the community), basketball, soccer, badminton . . . . Every year, more are added according to the desire of the students. The more clubs, the more work for Bruce.

He also updates the school website for the English department. Every week, he adds photos and write-ups of departmental activities (contests, student achievements, special events, faculty accomplishments). It is Bruce’s job to make the department shine so the administrators are impressed. One more burden to his position working for the college.

And once a semester, he must spend a week sleeping in a dormitory room with the male students to keep an eye on them. Every Chinese teacher has this duty, with every floor having one monitoring teacher once a month at night. (I can tell you that the teachers get VERY little sleep that week. No one looks forward to it.)

Bruce’s wife, Summer, is also an English teacher but her responsibilities are not quite as time-consuming as Bruce’s. She can sometimes manage her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. office hours, Monday to Friday, but then she has a week of evenings (7 – 9 p.m.) once a month to monitor mandatory evening study hours. Evening study hours, every night except Friday, are a requirement for every department and students must stay in the classroom to do these unless permission slips are signed to allow them to be free that evening.

Bruce often doesn’t get home until 9 p.m. He also has Saturday and Sunday evenings as well.

How fortunate that Bruce and Summer live on campus. A majority of the teachers do not and have to commute to and from their apartment complexes across town. Some take busses while others drive their private cars. Either way, heavy traffic in Luzhou adds an extra hour or two to their day.

All college teachers know how busy they will be at our school, especially those who are parents. Thus the need for Grandma or Grandpa to live with them and help raise the child. This is why Bruce’s mom stays with them.

2). “It is very expensive to raise a child”

Bruce in the past has commented to me on his little boy’s many common ailments which often plague all little kids: colds, stomach aches, sore throats, fevers, vaccinations, check-ups, rashes . . . . His little boy is covered under his insurance policy but the cost of visiting the doctor and getting the medicine needed is still not cheap nor 100% covered.

Unlike in America, where children are given an aspirin or nursed through simple childhood illnesses, the Chinese parent takes the child immediately to see the doctor in the hospital. There are very few small clinics and those are usually not very reliable. In China, hospitals serve as both clinics for the masses and as specialty healthcare for more serious physical problems.

Luzhou has many hospitals, some larger than others, some more prestigious than others, some more expensive than others. Of course, Bruce takes his child to the most prestigious and most expensive hospital so his little boy will receive the best care.

If he has yet another child or even a third child, imagine how many hospital trips that will entail throughout his children’s dependency years. Then imagine how much that will cost.

Bruce and Summer have steady jobs and healthcare under the college’s family insurance policies. Imagine migrant workers, small shop owners, or farmers who do not have adequate coverage (or any coverage) to help with such costs. I can’t image them wanting a third child.

3). “Our pre-school costs are very high.”

Education is free under the government system but there is a choice of the best education possible as opposed to so-so. The best is expensive.

Bruce sends his little boy to an all-day pre-school (8 – 5 p.m. 5 days a week), which is not free. At the pre-school he chose, his little boy receives numerous classes in math, art, music, science, PE, English, Chinese reading and writing. His son has homework to do when he comes home. The yearly fees for this pre-school, which began at age 3, is 20,000 yuan (roughly $3,170) a year. This includes the child’s education, uniform, books, materials, field trips, morning and afternoon snacks and lunch (I believe).

Could Bruce enroll his child in a cheaper daycare center, or opt not to bother at all? Sure, but this well-educated young man and his wife are looking to give their boy as great a head start as possible for his future. A smart child, able to pass exams with high marks, is destined for a high-ranking college and a great career. What parent doesn’t want that for his/her only child?

I’m fairly certain at age 6, when elementary school begins, Bruce will send his son to the most prestigious public school in the city that’s available. Public schools require all the usual fees: tuition (small or large, depending on the type of school), books, and uniform. Some schools are less than others. Some can range as little as $100 US each semester to $3,000 or more. It will be interesting to see where Bruce’s little boy ends up after a year.

In Closing

I could continue onward with more stories of the same but I’ll end with Bruce.

 I will say I received a few comments from some of my women friends who are single. They told me they had no desire to get married, nor jeopardize their career with employers who didn’t want to pay for maternity leave.  Under Chinese law, women can ask for maternity leave up to 98 days and in some provinces, 128 days to a full year. The company is required to pay maternity insurance as well which will give a monthly allotment of government funds to the mother.  However, if the monthly company salary of the woman exceeds  what the government   pays in maternity insurance, then the employer has to make up the difference.  In other words, the mother is supposed to receive her full monthly pay although she’s not working.

Company interviewers are very pointed about asking, “Are you married?  How many children do you have?  Are you planning on having more?  How can you have time for the duties of our company and raise a child as well?”  There seems to be no law regarding asking such personal questions.  Those women who refuse to answer have no call-backs, or those that appear to possibly having a future child (or children)  are never even considered.  

So while the 3rd child policy sounds great, it might be presenting even more problems  than before, not only for couples but also for women of any marital status trying to enter the workforce.  The next year will present more on this subject, I’m sure.  When I get back to China, I’ll let you know my findings.

Here’s wishing you 平安 (Ping An),  Peace, for your day

Posted in China, Luzhou, Tales from The Yangtze River, Tales of China, Travel | 1 Comment