Last Minute Chengdu Walmart Shopping Brings Surprise

Couldn’t resist this parting Chengdu entry as I am about ready to head off to Luzhou.

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After an early morning swim at 6:30 a.m., I hightailed it back to my area for a Walmart stop-in. Butter was needed, the last thing on my list.

Imagine my surprise to find one section, once filled with Mid-Autumn mooncakes, now completely stocked with Halloween items.

Halloween has never been a well-known celebration in China until just recently, within the past 10 years.  Hard to find such items in small Luzhou but they do appear from time to time.  The capital city, Chengdu, is s different story.

The area I stay in happens to be just a few blocks from the US Consulate, which has a huge American staff that includes lots of US families as well.  With the Walmart a mere 5-minutes’ walk from the Consulate entrance, Walmart here stocks up on all the Halloween favorites that every American child would love.

The Chinese likewise buy items for their kids who attend weekend English language schools.  These schools are popping up all over China, in every city, and charge quite a bit  to have kids attend their Sat. and Sunday programs.  The children learn English in a fun environment that includes birthday parties and other “foreigner” celebrations, such as Christmas and Halloween.

I imagine that the Walmart’s Halloween offerings will be gone close to October 31.  Of course, I couldn’t resist adding to my already plentiful Halloween culture box for my upcoming Halloween lessons.  I purchased some trick-or-treat containers and a couple new witches’ hats as well as pumpkin puppets.  These should come in handy for the English Association’s Halloween Party the end of the month.

After that, I’ll be starting  on Thanksgiving along with digging into my butter stash for holiday baking.

Hard to believe it’ll be time to deck the halls before long.

Time to load all my things into the taxi.  How did I ever manage to buy so much stuff??!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Holiday Ended: Heading Back to Luzhou

It’s time.

Hard to believe my Golden Week is about over.

Tomorrow, I head back to Luzhou to start up my teaching once again on Monday.  While it’s been nice to get away, the dreaded part of this 1-week off is that I am required to make up all the classes that I’ve missed.  This is a standard practice in China but most schools get off official National Holidays and don’t have to make up the workload.

I mean, isn’t that the definition of a holiday?

But at our school, the 5 days off is not a luxury.  I will be adding 14 extra hours into my teaching schedule at some point to make up for the courses I missed this past week.  This is really a pain to do.  I have to check with all my monitors to see when the class is free, compare it to when I am free, and then stick  in the lessons missed wherever I can.

Just adds a great burden onto both teachers and students  but nothing much to do about it.
If I were in America, I’d go on strike, probably along with  the entire school student population and my colleagues to boot.

The key phrase being “If I were in America, . . . ”

But I’m not, so I do as all the Chinese do:  “Eat bitterness” (a phrase used quite often here), hunker down, don’t cause trouble, accept my sad plight and do what I’m told.

Yes, teaching in China is not for everyone!

 “Anyone for a Buck-fifty Haircut?”

Just had to add this:  Golden Week brought out a few private groups to cash in on the hustle and bustle of those on holiday.  This included a hair dresser whose salon had a great idea of giving hair-cuts on the street.

They set up in front of the Walmart:  10 yuan ($1.50) a cut.  What a bargain!  As you can see, their sanitation was quite impressive.  They’ve already folded up shop but while they were here, in such a great location next to the Walmart’s entrance, they did quite well.

Someone was thinking!

Little Beanie on the Mend

IMG_2973Little Beanie (Xiao Dou-dou), is on the mend from her spay and hernia repair.  This little dog needs a happy, forever home. Her information has already been posted by friends and rescue groups so let’s hope she finds a wonderful family to adopt her.

Take care, everyone!  Until next entry, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your upcoming weekend.

 

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Golden Week in Full Swing

After only meeting with my freshmen students for 2 weeks, suddenly it’s holiday time.

We are on holiday at the moment for a full week commemorating the founding of the PRC on Oct. 1, 1949.  This is what is known in China as Golden Week.  From October 1 – 8, the whole of China is traveling, shopping, hanging out at home or gathering together with friends while enjoying their days off.

To encourage traveling, expressway tolls are waived, sending millions of private car owners out onto the highways to visit scenic spots.  National landmark sites likewise are free with no ticket payment required.  This boosts the crowds even more as excited families and Chinese tourists tromp their way to destinations that boast beautiful scenery, fascinating history and special drawing interests from food to specialty items in local areas.

An extra added bonus to this year’s Golden Week is that Mid-Autumn Festival, also an official national holiday, happens to fall directly in the pathway of this week.  In other words, festivity excitement has truly doubled up this year.

Mid-autumn Festival is a lunar calendar holiday, which means it changes every year.  Sometimes, we have this in September but this year, it is October 4th.  Families are to gather together to watch the full moon, watch Mid-Autumn Festival TV galas commemorating togetherness, eat moon cakes (traditional pastries filled with all sorts of interesting heavy ingredients, both sweet and salty varieties) and the in-season fall fruit, youzi (In English, we call these pomelos, which look and taste somewhat like gigantic grapefruit.)

Where am I?

As always, I am in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, for my 1-week break.  This is my hang-out every year at this time.  No traveling for me anymore.  Spending hours in traffic, standing in lines at scenic spots, fighting the crowds at airports, bus and train stations are not my idea of a holiday.

For me, staying put and relaxing are my thing and Chengdu is my place.

Here I am enjoying meeting up with friends, swimming in the magnificent Meng Zhui Wan Natatorium , sleeping in late and shopping for items still hard to find in Luzhou.  This is my time to stock up on Christmas baking items since I most likely will not be back again before Christmas.  Butter is cheaper here (only $4 a cup) but in Luzhou, the price is now $10 a cup for the same brands we can get in Chengdu.  Before, we were the same as the capital city but for some reason, that has changed.

$10 is a bit too pricey for me so looks like I’ll be taking home quite a lot of butter this time around.  I usually freeze my stash until November when it’s baking time.  (Sooner than you think, Christmas will be here, folks!)

Mooncake Mania:  Past and Present

One of my favorite buying sprees at this time of year is mooncakes.

I love buying mooncakes!  I don’t care much for eating them, but giving them away is so much fun.

Perhaps I mentioned when I first came to China in 1991, the mooncakes available were only the large, round ones and came in only about 4 different filling varieties:  coconut, mixed pine nuts/walnuts/peanuts in red bean paste, dried meat strips in read bean paste and red bean paste with one cooked egg yoke (sometimes partially cooked — yikes!) in the middle.

They were disgusting, not because of the strange-to-the-foreigners’-taste-buds fillings, but mostly because of the sanitary conditions where they were baked.  We foreigners would often buy them (very, very cheap –just a few cents or a nickel each) just to cut them open and joke about what sickness we’d get if we ate them.  Inside, we’d find long black hairs of those who’d prepared them or dead, crystalized insects that had landed in the batter.

Most were lightly covered in thin dust, grim and grit from the nearby stands where they were sold. Mooncakes were not individually wrapped at that time, or even covered for protection, but often left out in the open along roadsides where the sellers would pick them up with their dirty fingers to place into a plastic sack for customers to take home.

Those of us who’d been in China for a year or so knew better than to eat them, especially when the students bestowed upon us gifts of these in great abundance.  I remember warning the new foreign teachers to China:  “Best to watch out when eating these. They have a strong kick to them after consumption so you might want to wisely pass them up.”

“Why?” many of our do-as-the-Romans-do newcomers would haughtily reply.  “I don’t have a problem trying Chinese snack foods. I already ate the coconut ones.  They’re pretty good. And the nutty ones are also nice.   I did try the eggy one, just because I felt I should.  Didn’t care for it much but it’s edible.”

Well, they might be good going down but not so much coming up that evening, or out the next day, if you know what I mean.

I learned my lesson about mooncakes my first year in China.  Not to be repeated again.

But I must say, mooncakes today are a different story.

Sanitation has improved 100% over the past 25 years, not to mention packaging of these and also the variety additions.  Traditional mooncakes are favorites but more interesting fillings have been added:  strawberry, pineapple, melon, chocolate, and there are now even ice-cream mooncakes sold.  Hagaan Daz, for example, has taken the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival market by storm and created some very unique, and very, very expensive, ice cream mooncakes which are bought by big-city, upper class folk who have the money to do so.  Those are a novelty item, for sure, but I never felt $5 US worth the money for just a meagre, tiny mouthful, which is about the size of them.

Mini-Mooncakes on the Rise

Now the favorites to purchase are the mini-mooncakes.  These are smaller versions, individually wrapped for individual eating.  Big mooncakes are usually cut into pieces and shared by family members but mini-mooncakes are much more convenient and more fun to pick through.  You can eat several kinds without having to eat an entire big one before moving on to the next flavor or kind.

In the Walmart up the road from my room rental, I entered a few days ago to find the entire exit area filled with mini-mooncakes, all varieties, with a “Buy a pound; Get a pound free!” signs posted everywhere.  Piled high in bins, the temptation to purchase these at such a bargain rate was too tempting.

The place was hopping with customers, shoving mooncakes into bags and having them weighed before getting their pre-weighed, pre-packaged free pound.

Some mooncakes were more expensive than others, depending on the brand.  The cheapest sold for about $1.50 a pound and the most expensive was $8.  Mooncakes are heavy, too, so it doesn’t take much to easily get a pound, or two or three before you know it.

My Mooncake Buying Spree

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I mentioned before that I do love mooncakes but that’s as a give-away item.

It is my yearly custom to buy these up and then hand them out.  I give them to taxi drivers, bus drivers, shop owners that I know (or even don’t know but buy something from them) and anyone else I meet or have a strong relationship with.

I have already loaded up with 10 pounds of these at the Walmart.  5 pounds I paid for, 5 pounds for free.  You can see how addictive that “Buy 1, Get one Free” can be.  I certainly didn’t intend to buy 5 pounds worth and take home 10 but . . . .

I bet those of you who have been to the Walmart have had that same experience.  At the check-out, once things start to be rung up, you pass the $25 mark and comment, “You know, I just came here to buy one thing!  How did I end up with all this stuff?”

Too much temptation.

My Give-away Has Already Begun

Yesterday, I gave away my first mooncakes to taxi drivers I took to and from the swimming pool.  There was also the gateman at the apt. complex I am staying at.   I of course handed over a small bag to the woman I rent from and her family.  Also given away was to the animal hospital staff and Drs. Wang and Tong.  This close-knit group  has helped me with several Luzhou animal rescues in the past animals which I brought to Chengdu for treatment since our Luzhou vets are truly pretty awful.

Below you will find a few pictures of rescues which the staff at Wang and Tong’s Glory Animal Clinic have helped me with, including little Yorkie, Stinky, who was adopted by the vets themselves!  Wang and Tong (the veterinarian couple who own the clinic) gave Stinky the complicated surgeries he needed (pro-bono) and now he is the clinic dog. Their little girl, whose named herself Monica, adores him!  What a happy life for an abandoned special-needs little guy.

A current rescue is Little Beanie, seen here with me after her spay. Now we are looking for a home for her.

 

Of course, the pool staff will be getting a nice offering of these as well but tomorrow, Wednesday, which is Mid-Autumn Festival Day itself.

I always feel bad for those who work at the natatorium.  Lifeguards, managers, front desk attendants and cleaning workers never get a day off as the pool is open every day, even during Chinese New Year.  The pool opens at 6:30 a.m. – 1:40 p.m., then opens again later on from 7 – 10 p.m.

Not much time to enjoy with family for holidays so I like to bring a little extra treat to brighten their day.

Closing Off

This afternoon, I’ll be meeting up with two  former students.  The first is Jason (Ji Ke), who is a tour guide.  Tomorrow, he’ll be heading out with a tour group of foreigners from several different countries and this will continue until the 20th, he told me. Today is about his only free day here in Chengdu, his home base.  I haven’t seen Jason since before the summer so it’ll be nice to get the latest news from him.

The second is Stacey and her new baby boy, 7 months.  She and Jason were in the same class together.  I haven’t seen her since she graduated, 12 years ago!

Should be a very happy reunion for all 3 of us.  The perfect way to spend the day before Mid-Autumn Festival, which is meant for family reunions and togetherness. Very appropriate timing, wouldn’t you say?

Until next report, many good wishes for the week.  Ping An, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Earthquake!

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The teachers’ apartment building, with me on the 9th floor, gave us quite a fright a few days ago.

I’ve been through several earthquakes during my lifetime, each one causing my nerves to rattle a little more as the severity increased.

The first experienced was in my hometown (Marshall, IL) when I was 9.  The house shook and I raced to the back kitchen door to watch the telephone lines weaving up and down our side street, Hickory.  Our church organist (Marilyn Fitzgerald) always told her earthquake story of practicing her worship music at that time and watching the stained glass windows undulate inward and outward.  No panes cracked but the glass pieces were loosened from their adjoining attachments.

The next one was in Taiwan, the 1999 quake in the south part of the island, which killed 2,000 people.   Collapsed buildings killed many, bringing to the forefront shoddy construction due to skipped safety protocol and skimping on using better materials and designs.  That one sent my blinds rattling at 2:42 a.m.

The biggie was the Wenchuan 2008 Sichuan earthquake, 2:36 p.m., in which tens of thousands lost their lives.  Once again, a scary experience for me but I was on the first floor of an apartment building in Chengdu.  Easy to race outside quickly, as well as come and go freely every time a tremor hit that caused the building to shake too much.

Surprise Wake-up from the 9th Floor

In Luzhou, we’ve had several low-level shakings since then but this last one, 2 nights ago at close to 1 a.m., was definitely not pleasant.

Now that I live on the 9th floor, the highest I’ve ever lived in China, I now understand why people really panic when a seemingly Richter-scale low (3.6) hits.

On the top floors, it ain’t so low!

I was awakened by the entire building shaking for close to 10 seconds, with my vases falling over and my scrolls clanking against the wall.  I immediately scrambled out of bed and crouched in my sitting room archway, not that it would help me any if the building came tumbling down.

There was silence for a few seconds after it stopped until I heard my neighbors to either side of me come out.

Chinese teachers Leon and Chip (roommates) were outside in the hallway, getting ready to hop into the elevator and go down to the first floor.

“Did you feel the earthquake?!” Leon said. “Maybe it’s not safe to stay in.  We are going outside.”

Both had their cellphones in hand and were checking news reports for announcements of the epicenter and the quake size.  They were also getting ready to call relatives and friends about what they’d experienced.

I told Leon that usually, the big quake is all we’ll get.  After that, everything else is pretty tame.  And also, not a wise decision to use the elevator.

“You should go down the stairs,” I suggested. “You don’t know if the elevator is safe or not.”

Leon and Chip, however, weren’t about ready to hike down the stairs.

“Oh, yes,” Leon said as he and his roommate stepped into the elevator.  “You are right.  Maybe it’s not safe.  We will see.”

As the elevator doors closed on them, I just wondered if they’d go crashing down to the 1st floor.  I certainly wasn’t going to trust the elevator yet.  I took the stairs down.

Just Curious

I actually didn’t go outside for safety purposes but because I didn’t want to miss out on anything.

There was a huge sound of students shouting and stampeding down stairs to congregate in front of their dormitories.  The dorms reach 6 floors, no elevators but stairwells, so they all managed to get out in a hurry.

Our security folk in their flashing red-light golf cart came speeding to the dorms to calm the students.  I later heard that many of our young people, especially the freshmen, wanted to sleep outside on the sports field but they weren’t allowed. All were told to return to their rooms, which they didn’t do until 2:30 a.m., according to my seniors whom I had in class the next day.

As for my Chinese neighbors, three sets of families carried their bedding down and slept outside in their cars and SUVs the rest of the night.  Others just stood or sat on the curbside, texting friends or calling people, until they tired of that and went back to their homes.

As for me, after about 30 minutes, I got bored and returned to my apartment using the stairs, once again.  It was quite a long hike up but better safe than sorry.

Next Morning

I was happy to hear the next morning that the earthquake was slight enough that it did little damage and no deaths.   That was a relief!  And since the elevators were working fairly well, without anyone plunging to their deaths, I gave in and started using them again.

What I am not looking forward to is another one of those quakes happening again.

Luzhou usually is not on a fault line that will cause a lot of damage or fear when it comes to an earthquake but this last one, especially being on the 9th floor, wasn’t my idea of fun at all.

Hope my next entry is a little less exciting than this one. I am too old for that sort of excitement!

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

 

 

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Back in China: Starting the School Year Right

I’ve been back in Luzhou for a full 2 weeks now, and it’s been busy!

My first week was spent getting over jet lag and also putting together my textbooks for my seniors.  I compile all my own materials so it was just a matter of picking and choosing from among lesson plans which I wanted to include for my teaching methodology course with my 150 soon-to-graduate students.

This had to be done fairly quickly, including copying, by September 4 when my first class met.  I picked up the textbooks on a Saturday and the students had them in hand on Sunday night, after class monitors and their volunteers came to my home to pick them up.

It was so nice to see everyone back in the classroom, this time not as sophomores but as 3rd year students.   (As a reminder, this is a 3-year college so my 3rd years are considered seniors.). All seemed excited to continue with their studies but I could see senioritis is already settling in.

Quite a few had great difficulty putting down their cell phones during my lessons.  Lots of texting going on to friends and video-watching while in my class.  This is normal and difficult to control so I do my best by keeping everyone so busy they have no time to mess about with their addictive hand-held technology.

Freshmen Yet to Start

My next set of classes are yet to start.  High school and college freshmen in China are required to have 2 weeks of what is called Military Training.  Soldiers from the local army units in the city lead these for all high schools and colleges throughout Luzhou.

Students are placed into platoons according to their majors and their class.  They have special uniforms they wear, some with camouflaged T-shirts and others with departmental T-shirts, and wear sneakers for comfort.  Their day starts at 7 a.m. and finishes at 6 p.m., when they are allowed to return to their dorms to rest.

Sometimes, they have evening meetings to discuss college policies or continue with their training.

There are 3 classes of English Education majors (50 each class with a total of 15) and 1 class of Applied English Majors (50 students) who I’ll be teaching starting Sept. 18.

What does Military Training entail?  

At present, all freshmen are marching about the sports field, getting instructions on  living harmoniously together with classmates and dorm mates, how to follow the school rules and how to study as college students.  They have little time to be homesick, which is one purpose of the military training exercises, and the group dynamics force them to make friends and bond with one another.

Their platoon leaders are often soldiers who are just a few years older than they are, which helps with the sharing of fears and concerns which these young people have.  In almost all cases, these 1st years have never been away from home before.  They need a lot of reassurance that all will be well and that they can, indeed, survive on their own once the training ends.  Their military leader becomes a friend and a confidante, which is nice to see, especially for those who really struggle with their new surroundings.

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Freshmen Classes Soon to Begin

September 18, Monday, will be the beginning of my full teaching schedule when I will have another 8 hours and 200 students added to my teaching schedule.  I am at present putting together their textbook, which I entitle “In the Classroom with my Foreign Language Teacher”, and expect to have it ready to go by this coming Friday for pick-up.

Meeting the Freshmen

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Under the English Association club tent, I met my freshmen English Education majors for the first time.  Many were too shy to talk but these few had enough courage to strike up a conversation.

In the meantime, I have been seeing these new freshmen from time to time as they come to our school club sign-up tents during the evening hours.  I’ve been hanging out a few times at the English Association tent in the hopes of getting our incoming freshmen English majors to sign up for this association.

The English Association is in charge of English contests, parties, English Corner and other activities related to English events on our campus.  Each member pays 20 yuan ($3) to belong. The money is then used to pay for materials needed for the events.

All clubs have their $3 membership fees. The more members, the more money the clubs have to spend so it’s important to recruit as many as possible.

I made sure our booth had free candy to give away and extra money to buy the candy for the 4 days the booths could remain on the sidewalks.  Because of all the competition, we needed  as much drawing power as possible.

Other clubs we have been up against are the Japanese/Chinese Animation Club (dress in well-known animation characters and have meetings in your costumes), the Electric Car Science Club (making battery-operated race cars and entering competitions throughout the province), the Hip-hop Club (very popular, learning sexy dances from routines posted on the Internet), Rock Band Club with Vocals, Guitar Club, Zither Club (Chinese harped instrument), Ping-Pong Club, Basketball Club, Student Association, Chinese Chess Club and numerous others.

Last year, the membership reached 200, giving quite a bit of money for the association to spend.

This year, however, our membership drive has been very slim.  The last count was about 30 members, which is very disappointing compared to 2016-2017.

Halt to the Club Drive:  China’s Core Socialist Value Campaign

Our clubs were shut down recently just 2 days after we started recruitment due to China’s Core Socialist Value Campaign.  This is a nation-wide and city-wide sweep of inspections to make sure all Chinese are in touch with their core value system, as designated by the Communist Party in 2012 at the government leaders’ yearly National Congress meeting.

This new campaign push is to remind people of these values and to make sure they are followed.  Inspections of schools, local shops, chain grocery stores, companies, traffic and roads and beautification of these places are taking place as I write.  This is to last the entire month, leading up to China National Day from Oct. 1 – 7, which is when China became the PRC on Oct. 1, 1949.

And, beware!  If you see anyone with a Core Socialist Value red armband, those individuals can stop you at any time, in any place, and require you to say your 12 core values.  If you can’t, you will be chastised and criticized for your lack of patriotism.

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Assigned Socialist Value “police” are all over the city of Luzhou at present.  Anyone with a red armband can quiz the public at any time to recite the 12 core values.

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Many of our students have volunteered  to make sure people follow the 12 core values.  Dressed in their vests, hats and armbands, they patrol the school campus throughout the day  to pick up trash, report bad behavior or poor building upkeep and remind students to be civil to one another.  This is a great honor to be accepted for such duties.  The students take it very seriously!

If you’re interested, the 24-character, 12-word values are:  prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship.

These words and important slogans are being piped throughout the city and our campus via loudspeakers or other means.  Inspectors have been cruising the streets, warning store shop owners to remove their items from the sidewalk areas in front of their stores. City beautification procedures are being met, uprooting dead trees and replacing them with new ones, as well as posting  placards with the 12 values in Chinese throughout the city and local thoroughfares.

It’s quite something to see these go up overnight, including in front of the gate of our school.

Teacher’s Day

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In the midst of all this, we did have Teacher’s Day on Sept. 8 which is a UN holiday.  Zuri, the new Peace Corp teacher, and I were presented with flowers by Dean Horace and Bruce Li, our liaison teacher.  Both surprised us in our homes on Friday evening to give us our gifts.  (Notice my attire wasn’t exactly as professional as I’d have liked!  Zuri, on the other hand, looked great.)

So nice to be welcomed and appreciated in this way. Already, my students have been texting me their good wishes as well.

Closing Off

Until next entry, wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day!

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Heading Back to China

It’s time!

After 11 weeks of being in the US, including 8 weeks of driving about the countryside backroads and Interstates of Illinois, I am heading back to Asia.  I met so many wonderful people and thoroughly enjoyed sharing stories of being an Amity Foundation teacher in China.  I only do these sorts of speaking engagements every 3 years.  This has been my 9th itineration, having started my first in 1996, and I hope to have many more to come.  What made this particular visit so enjoyable was meeting many for the first time, plus driving the most miles ever, a total of 3,600,  in my mom’s car which she so graciously allowed me to use.  (Much appreciated, Mom!)

With Grateful Thanks:  Such a Blessing To Meet You!

I want to give a huge thank you to all who invited me to speak, included housing if needed and also for those who provided everyone with such amazing breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack spreads.  What a treat!  As we all know, Methodists know how to eat (and eat well).  It is one among many of our best hospitality qualities.   You all certainly didn’t disappoint.

My Itineration  Destinations  

If you are interested in where I’ve been:   My out-of-state visits were our United Methodist new offices (Atlanta, GA), Clemson UMC  (Clemson, SC), St. Mark UMC (Charleston, SC) and a UMW district gathering at Bluff Springs UMC (Canton, MO).

In Illinois, my speaking engagements were:   Marshall First UMC, O’Fallon UMC, Watson UMW,  Normal First UMC,  Carrollton/Christ UMW (White Hall), Wesley Chapel UMC and Fourth Street UMC (Shelbyville), Paris First UMW, Marshall retired teachers, Decatur Grace UMC, Illiopolis UMW gathering , Mission U (Springfield, IL), Forsyth UMC, Epworth UMW (Mt. Vernon),  Wesley UMC (Bloomington), Christ  UMC (East Moline), Long Point UMC, Bushnell UMC, Carthage UMC, Island Grove UMW (New Berlin), Carterville UMW, Champaign First UMC, Faith UMC (Champaign), and Charleston Wesley UMC.

Photo Journal of Memories

Here let me post a slideshow of all my visits.  My most current newsletter gave you many of these already but I did have a few groups toward the end who weren’t included on my photo page.  I was eager to get the newsletter copied and mailed out before I left, not waiting to the last minute when I knew I wouldn’t have time to get it all done.   I hope those omitted find yourselves in these pictures.  You certainly haven’t been forgotten!

Can’t wait to see you all again in the summer of 2020.  Mark your calendars!  I certainly have.  Ping An (Peace!)

 

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Back again! Reporting from America

It’s been quite some time since updating my website.

Computer problems and then just being extremely busy during the Spring school semester delayed my blog reports.  The computer has now been replaced as of 3 days ago (Best Buy to the rescue!) and I have a lull day here in America so I will give a few items of current interest.

Still Traveling!   Talking about My Experiences as an Amity Foundation Teacher

My first presentation this year: Clemson UMC at Clemson, SC

Those of you who are in the United Methodist Church communities know that every 3 years, I return to the States for 3 months to talk about the Amity Foundation (a United Methodist Advance).  I share my experiences as a teacher in China and also a church-goer at the Luzhou Protestant Church where I openly attend worship on Sundays with other Chinese Christians.

I began this itineration journey on  June 22 and will complete my visits on August 20, at my brother’s home church in Charleston, IL.  August 24 I leave for China to continue my teaching position at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College.  The school year begins Sept. 4, giving me a full week to recover from jet lag.

The New School Year:  Freshmen Arriving Soon!

My freshmen students (these from 2015) are always excited to have classes with their first foreign teacher.  Selfies and pictures are a must!

Already, I know my teaching schedule which will be taking care of two courses:  Teaching Methodology and Classroom Activities (3rd year students, 152 of them) and the integrated conversation course for incoming freshmen (another 150).

Teaching the first years is always so much fun and I can hardly wait to meet them!  Most come from farming families and are the first to be college-educated.  A majority of their parents are illiterate and never studied beyond junior high school.  For many of these young people, this is the first time for them to be away from home. They suffer from homesickness those first few weeks and those in my English education classes struggle to keep up with me, their first foreign teacher.

It can be frustrating and frightening, having a foreign teacher whose English is fluently spoken more quickly than their Chinese English teachers, but by the end of the semester, all is well.

“Your Eyes!  They are so blue!”

I still remember last year’s freshmen, one student in particular who (during our first classroom spoken exercise) stared and stared and stared at me for the entire first period.  As I moved around the room, joining groups for their discussions, her eyes followed me in astonishment.  So absorbed was she in my appearance that I began to feel paranoid.

It got to the point where I was wondering, “Is my lipstick on straight?  Did I accidentally mark my face with my pen?  Is my blouse on right?”

When I finally got to her group, I sat myself down in a chair next to hers and she suddenly blurted out what she’d been marveling about for 45 minutes.

“Your eyes,” she finally announced.  “They are so blue, so beautiful!”

Actually, my eyes are not that blue but the blue top and blue earrings made them pop a bit more than usual.

“Well, thank you,” I replied.  “I’m glad you appreciate my eyes.  Yours are pretty, too.”

At that, her group-mates laughed and I continued on my discussion rounds.

I expect I’ll have more such encounters that first week of class as my freshmen fill the room, eager to get started in beginning their college experience with a native-English speaker.

New Peace Corp Volunteer Soon to Arrive

Jackie Zubin, the former Peace Corp Volunteer, here visits my home for the first time in 2015. Farewell, Jackie! Best of luck in your future.

The college has always had a strong relationship with our US Peace Corp Volunteer program.  Since 2002,  PC volunteers have come to the school as teachers.  There was a 10-year break from that due to the SARS epidemic in 2003. The US government pulled out all volunteers during that time period and closed all Peace Corp placements, some for several years, as in the case of Luzhou Vocational and Technical College.   In 2013, Peace Corp brought back their volunteers to the college and have continued ever since.

Jackie completed her PC assignment this past June and now a new individual will come to take her place.  I have already met the new volunteer, Zuri, via WeChat (the Chinese Facebook).  She is a recently-graduated  anthropology/sociology major and is currently finishing up the PC orientation program in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, which is 3 1/2 hours away from Luzhou.

The Peace Corp have about 160  volunteers in China with about 68 being newcomers for the 2017-2019 class.  They have an 8-week orientation which includes Chinese language study, workshops on the PC rules and regulations (there are a lot of them), culture sensitivity lectures and teaching methodology courses which include teaching practice.

Because many are not trained teachers, the teaching practice is one which demands a lot of prep work, team-teaching co-operation and lesson planning to be approved of and assessed.  Their training also includes observations and feedback of their teaching during scheduled lessons with guinea-pig Chinese students.  The sessions are critiqued by professional EFL (English as a Foreign Language)  instructors on the PC staff.

By the time they enter the college classroom on their own, they at least know how to prepare and execute a decent lesson plan but many are still unprepared for the reality of teaching in China.  It can be a very stressful, frustrating time period that first semester, so I sometimes step into the role of mentor or guide if needed.

The English Language Resource Center Yet to be Established

My office/resource center being cleaned by volunteer students.

Mostly,  I figure Zuri and I will be joining together as partners for leading our weekly English Corners  and then (finally, hopefully, I fervently pray) that we’ll be establishing the English Language Resource Center that was promised me several years ago by the English department.  That is still something that has as yet to  materialize.

I have been allotted a room for the the foreign teachers’ office space,  but just not the things which the school has said will be provided.  Grant money from the provincial government is holding us up (not yet released) but I was told this next semester, getting the funding would be a top priority.

Cross your fingers!

The floor was scrubbed with anticipation of furniture arriving.

My volunteer cleaners pose for a picture but the Center still remains fairly empty as grant money is still being processed.

Continuing Onward with my Illinois Travels

After speaking at my hometown’s  retired teachers’ luncheon, I met my former junior high principal, Doris Shawler (standing) and my 6th grade teacher, Mary Irwin (seated, 95 years old!)

I will close off now from my current stopping point, Galesburg, IL. In a few hours,  I am off to Bushnell, just south of this city, for an evening presentation and then will be heading onward in these  northern Illinois visits before taking a deep dive down south, next to Carbondale, on Thursday.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in 2017 Summer Itineration, A Visit Home to America | 3 Comments