The English Language Resource Center: A Campus Project Finally Underway

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Those of you on my newsletter list will most likely remember my Page 4 call-for-help on several items.  One of those was a photo of a sparsely-furnished room, with the caption “Help fill our new English Language Resource Center.  Email for details.”

So let me go ahead here, now that I have a little time in the Detroit airport before heading onto the flight to China.

Many Years Waiting

The English Language Resource Center has been my dream for 15 years, ever since moving to Luzhou (loo-joe) Vocational and Technical College to teach in 2002.  Our old campus had no rooms available for such things but with the move to a new campus last September, a large room was allotted to the foreign teachers to use as they wished. 

In my previous school in Guangxi, we had such a center which had been started by the VSO, Volunteer Service Organization. The volunteers who arrived with VSO are Canadians, Australians and Brits.  This is a government-run organization of the countries mentioned above.  In  America, we have the Peace Corp Volunteers.  Both groups do the same sort of thing, being sent to smaller schools in China to teach at the college level and raise the standards of education among the students they teach.

The English Center we had in my small town of Longzhou (lohng-jo) was a lovely set-up.  It was in one room, on the 7th floor of the main classroom building, and overlooked the mountains of the town.  The VSO teachers had equipped it with English books, DVDs, a TV set and DVD player, magazines and other items.  They created an English Center club of students who were in charge of the center, open every day from 4 – 6 p.m.  The students cleaned the room, made sure materials were returned after check-out, monitored those who came for visits, held special activities to promote the Center and hung out there with others to practice speaking English.

I added to this center during the 3 years I was there by asking for donations of games or money to buy what was needed.  Scrabble, Boggle, Monopoly, Uno, Magic 8 Ball and other fun items were carefully placed on the shelves for student use.  The biggest hit was the Magic 8 Ball (ask a “yes/no” question, shake it and receive an answer) and Uno.

This room also was the one where I met with students who wanted extra work for upcoming tests, to get to know me better in an informal situation or had questions about their language study. What a great use of my time!  And so convenient.

Plans for My College’s English Language Resource Center

For the 2016 Fall semester, Jackie Zubin (the Peace Corp volunteer) and I were too busy with the campus move to concentrate on organizing and filling the room which was allotted to us.  Actually, room we were given was designated as our office, not really a resource center, but we were told we could decorate and do whatever we wanted with our space so we decided the Center would be a great idea.  Another reason we put this on hold was due to money.  Funds were needed which we didn’t have. 

But here the Spring Semester has arrived, we’ve already settled in, and we are ready to get this project off the ground.  Not only do we have the time and energy, but funding as well.  While in America, I received several birthday monetary gifts and special “use-as-you-need” checks from many  United Methodist Women units and United Methodist churches who receive my newsletter.  These donations have certainly added up.  Now it’s time to put them to use to create a wonderful space for students and English language faculty alike. 

What’s the Set-up?

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Lots of space needing to be filled.

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Lots of supplies and equipment needed. We’ll soon be filling our Center with lots of goodies!

Jackie and I discussed last semester the room’s equipment inclusion and organization.  Via email, we are planning to devote all of March to getting this thing off the ground.  We’ll have volunteer students from the English Association to give input and suggest decore, plus sign up to run and monitor the room with our help. At present, we’d like to begin by purchasing two couches, 30 stackable stools, 3 more book cases (we have 4 at present), 5 foldable tables, 2 stow-away cots (for teachers living off-campus to have siesta time during our  daily 2 ½ hour lunch breaks), cleaning supplies for upkeep and decorative wall hangings to make the room look inviting.  At some point, we are hoping the school will pitch in and purchase a flatscreen TV for movie-watching.  We’ve been promised 2 new computers as well but that might take awhile. 

This special addition to the campus will bring great joy to all who use it and become the perfect place for everyone to enjoy in an atmosphere of learning, relaxation and fun.  I can’t wait to share the pictures of our new Center with those of you who follow my blog. 

Thank you so much for your interest in my website and also to those who sent monetary gifts my way in the month of January.  Email at any time! (corneliaw2000@hotmail.com)

Blessings and Ping Ahn (Peace)!

 

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Heading back to China!

My Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) vacation in the States is nearing to an end.

I will be flying out tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 7) from Indianapolis to Detroit to Beijing to Chengdu.  In Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, I will stay a few days before heading back to Luzhou, 3 1/2 hours away, on Saturday the 11th.  Saturday officially marks the end of Chinese Spring Festival with the Lantern Festival.   I can imagine dragging my luggage along  with thousands of our students who will likewise be returning to school after a restful holiday.

Classes begin on Monday, the 13th, and will continue until June 3rd, the end of our Spring semester.

Last Day in Marshall

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My mom, walking Lao-lao uptown to cast our penny ballots for the Best Pet Contest.

My last day in Marshall had my mom and me walking Lao-lao uptown in our mild-weathered 50-degrees to alight in the newspaper office.

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My mom and I get ready to give our votes to Lao-lao with my bag of change.

I had with me a bag of pennies and small change which I planned to place in Lao-lao’s coffee can for the Best Pet Contest.

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The coffee cans of pets entered in the contest await filling.

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Here’s Lao-lao’s can, sandwiched between a ferret and a dachshound.

My mom felt that filling Lao-lao’s can with change was cheating.

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My mom has reservations about us voting for Lao-lao.

“Shouldn’t we vote for someone else’s dog?” she said with embarrassment as I gleefully encouraged her to dump my coin bag into his can.

Well, he’s our dog!  Why can’t we vote for him?  It’s not like he gets the money.  All voting funds go to our local animal rescue group.  That’s the most important thing, in my opinion.

In other words, no shame here for filling his can with votes.  He’s rescue, too, after all.  And an immigrant to boot.   He should help raise money for his American brothers and sisters still looking and hoping for a forever home.  He found his happy home with us.  Now we can help others find theirs.

And I wasn’t the only one voting for Lao-lao, I will tell you.

While standing in line at the Marshall Post Office, I was waiting to mail a big box to China when someone noticed the heavy bag of coins I was clutching.

“What have you done?  Emptied the bank?” the woman behind me joked.

“Oh, you know that pet contest that the newspaper is holding?” I explained. “One penny per vote. I entered my rescue dog from China who is living here in Marshall. After I’m done here, I’m walking over to put all this into the voting jars.  All the money goes to Rescue Me Clifford, our local rescue group.”

The woman nodded.

“Oh, yeah!” the man behind her piped up. “I saw those in the paper.  Real cute.  Which dog is yours?”

“He’s a Chihuahua, Little Old.    Chinese name is Lao-lao,” I continued. “I figured since he’s an immigrant and a rescue himself, he should help raise money for our community’s American strays, abandoned or lost critters.  That’s why I entered him.”

Several affirmative murmurs followed that remark.

Finally, my turn at the counter was up.  It took awhile for my box to be processed because a lot  of computer entry is necessary  for international mailing but eventually, I was able to go.

As I turned to head out the door, those I passed stopped me.

“Hey! Put this in your voting jar,” three in the line said while digging into pockets and throwing  their loose change in with mine.  “Good luck!”

How nice!  I’ll take as many pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters as I can get.

Like I said, no shame here in voting for my dog, Lao-lao.  He’s well worth it.

Here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.  Next entry,  from Luzhou in China!

 

 

 

 

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Luzhou Vocational and Technical College Celebrates 115 years

As mentioned before, my busy semester had me scrambling away with hardly enough time to get to bed before 11 p.m.  Very little space in my day was available for website updating so let me remedy that a bit with this news concerning closing off 2016.

The School’s New Year’s/Anniversary Gala

2016 marked the year when Luzhou Vocational and Technical College celebrated 115 years since its founding in 1901.  This was a huge deal, especially since we had just moved to a new campus, and the administration wanted a celebration to mark this milestone.

It was decided that a grand 2-hour performance celebration would take place in the new auditorium (seating 1,000) on Dec. 30, 7 p.m., before the new year was upon us.  For 3 months, students and faculty prepared for this grand affair, and what a show! Over 100 teachers volunteered for the big choir number for our opening.  This was directed by one of the music teachers.  Students prepared traditional dance numbers.  We had poetry reading with a power-point slideshow in the background of historical pictures and current ones of the new campus.  The art department’s teachers gave us a lot of laughs with  a humorous skit.  The retired teachers (all women, ages 55 – 75) added their talents with an intriguing, cute, and quite difficult, choreographed dance routine.  The finale included everyone lining the auditorium aisles, singing with gusto as our operatic teachers from the music department belted out a patriotic number from the stage.

Quite a memorable performance!

Here are a few photos of the evening.  Certainly puts to shame anything a US college would have put together, that’s for sure.  Seeing such school pride displayed by students, faculty and administrators alike was truly inspiring.  Looking at the pictures below, I think you’ll agree.

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In a country where immigrants are at risk, our Chinese immigrant (小老老, Little Old-old) Thrives

In America’s current climate where immigrants are at risk, my family’s diminuative Chinese immigrant might very well come out on top.

Every year, my local hometown paper in Marshall, Ilinois, has a seasonal contest (usually in the winter) in which residents vote for a winner by placing pennies into a contestant’s container.  The container with the most money is the winner, with prizes being donated by various Marshall businesses and the penny donations going to a local charity.

For several years, the contest has been limited to only men with The Best Beard Contest.

During the opening day of the contest, photos of our community’s hefty guys with well-endowed, tidy, full beards filled The Marshall Advocate’s pages for the opening day.  After that, citizens were invited to stop into the newspaper office to vote.  Large plastic pickle jars, with each contestant’s name and picture posted on each one, lined the Advocate’s front desk.  Residents were then encouraged to drop by and toss in their pennies (as many as desired) to select who they felt should win the grand prize.  This usually went on the entire month of February, after which tallies were totaled, the top 3 place winners announced, prizes given and proceeds sent to the chosen charity,

This year, the paper’s editor and staff took a different path.  Instead of a contest of beards, we have a contest of furry, feathery or scaly critters.  Yes, it’s the Best Pet Ever Contest!

From January 16 to 31, entries have been flooding the newspaper, including the one I sent for Lao-lao.  Requirements included a photo and 50 words (max) telling people what’s special about our little guy.  Hard to limit his unique, and ornery, personality to 50 words but my mom and I came up with what we hope is a good summing-up of his most desirable characteristics.

The penny voting jars will be open from Feb. 3 – 24, with winners announced in the February 28th edition of The Marshall Advocate. This can be viewed online at strohmnews.com, for anyone interested.

I must say the prizes are pretty desirable.  The winner will receive $675 worth of pet merchandise, gift baskets and gift certificates from local restaurants, flower shops and even the veterinarian clinic.  Second place receives $50 cash and 3rd place receives $25.

But the most rewarding prize of all will be the donations in the jars, sent to our local animal rescue group, Rescue Me Clifford.

My mom and I are hoping that our Lao-lao will pull ahead of the pack in pennies because of his town celebrity stardom.  He’s been featured in the newspaper several times for his immigrant story, that of surviving the Sichuan 2008 earthquake and his remarkable journey to America after I scooped him up off the streets of China, broken jaw and all.  He also has his own children’s book in our public library, a book which I have as yet to find a publisher for.

And if he doesn’t win?  Not a top priority on our list.  It’s really  just the fun and joy of entering.  My mom and I hope that Lao-lao’s jar will fill up with enough monetary donations that the group receiving the funds, Rescue Me Clifford, will greatly benefit.  Being a rescue himself, it’s only fitting that our little Chi should give back to his American brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom here.  He’s very proud to be a part of our USA small town and wants to help in every way possible.

Wish him luck!  And Ping An (Peace) in his happy home life.

Our Entry

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What’s Special about Lao-lao in 50 words or less?

Law-abiding (legal immigrant, from China), low-maintenance (sleeps 24/7 with minimal breaks for food and walks), quiet (one bark per year), safety-approved (no biting capability due to limited teeth), self-cleaning (grooms daily), economical (licks plates clean), abstains from promiscuous behavior (neutered), compact (fits easily in a totebag), crowd-pleaser (just darn cute!)

小老老  Xiao Lao-lao (Little Old-old)

 

 

 

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My 2016 Christmas Open Houses

I’m still playing catch-up after such a long silence.

I wanted to share these pictures of my Christmas parties for students, faculty and friends.  Mostly, I am very proud of all those decorations!  Being in a new apartment, it was quite the task to unpack my Christmas hoard of celebratory items (all 5 boxes of them) and try to arrange them for the first time in my new home.

Usually, decorating takes about 3 days, from beginning to end, but this year it was 7.  I was fortunate to have Jackie, the Peace Corp volunteer, to consult with about where things should go and give advice (not to mention help) in lining the walls with lights, posters, sparkly roping and whatever else necessary to fill in vacant spaces. (Many thanks to you, Jackie!)

The end result was magnificent!  Everyone who entered received quite a taste of Connie’s Christmas bananza.  In Jackie’s words, “I love coming into your home.  It just makes me  so . . . . happy!!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Hope you feel happy, too, after seeing all the below photos.  Enjoy!

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A Trip to the Windy City

The following photos are for a few of my Chinese followers who were asking about Chicago and what my mom and I did there.  Here are a few visuals from our trip which we took a week ago.

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Nearing the Year of the Rooster

The Chinese Spring Festival, the Year of the Rooster, is January 27  and is nearly upon us.  My college’s Fall semester ended January 9, and finally, I find a moment to breath.  All I can say is:  What a crazy, chaotic, topsy-turvy semester!

Let me start with  catch-up news, of which there is plenty. It started with doing without.

The New Campus:  Unprepared and Unfinished

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The 11-story faculty apartment building for single teachers looked great from a distance but inside, a lot needed to be taken care of during those first months of the Fall semester.

No consistently working elevators.  No Internet. No hot water. No washing machine.  No gas for cooking.  No remote for the air-conditioning units.  No nearby grocery stores for shopping.

There was an even further dilemma of trash control.  There were no bins or trashcans yet on campus so rubbish from the the student dorms, cafeteria, and offices  was piling high in the most unusual places.

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One of those huge heaps was near our building.

Eventually, a giant iron garbage bin was hauled in to be plopped in the middle of our campus roadway.  Some improvement not to have to step over and through all that had been discarded but  I can tell you, the smell (and the sight of this) was pretty disgusting.

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Yes, it was a challenging move to the new campus (at the outskirts of Luzhou), for Jackie Zubin (a Peace Corp volunteer)  and myself.

 

Moving Into a Building Not Yet Ready

Our new faculty apartment building for single teachers, with 66 units of apartments (6 on each floor), was fairly empty the month of September because no one wanted to move into a building that wasn’t yet truly ready for inhabiting. It was the last building to hastily go up before the school opened, thus the one that had the most problems.  Many of the teachers held off moving in until December, when things finally settled down.

Wise move.

We two foreign teachers, however, had no choice.

Our  lease was up at the posh apartments we were temporarily housed at and the landlords refused to allow us to stay longer.  Also, the school administrators wanted us on campus for safety reasons, with no commuting from far away distances to reach the school.

Thus off Jackie and I went, a full two days of the 3-man-company movers coming back and forth in their small truck, loading and unloading our furniture, boxes, heavy appliances and other items we had.

Luckily on that day, one elevator was working  to haul everything to the 9th floor where we  finally settled into.

However, as we soon found out, there were many things that were not yet taken care of.

We had no hot water or gas hook-up for cooking for 3 weeks.  We had no washing machine usage for 6 weeks (The workers were too busy to connect our machines for us).  We had no Internet for 6 1/2 weeks until the school finally  negotiated  Internet terms with China Telecom. The students all  had WiFi connection via the entire campus system, as did all the offices, but the wiring in our building was defective.   We later learned that finding where in the building the faulty line was located would be next to impossible without electricians tearing through the entire network, located in the walls.

The astronomical cost and timely feasibility of correcting the error was pretty much dismissed as not doable.  Thus it was decided that each apartment unit would have to be connected to the city’s communication’s system, China Telecom.  For the foreigners, the school took up the cost of monthly payments but for the other Chinese teachers living in our building, they would have to pay the $200 US a year on their own.

Many decided not to bother and just use the campus WiFi once they stepped within the campus WiFi network.

And while the air-conditioning wall units had been installed, the remote controls were nowhere to be found as they were tucked away in someone’s office drawer.  We sweltered away in Luzhou’s horrible September heat for a good week before they finally were thrust into our hot little hands.

God Bless Elevators!

 We struggled through all the above with great fortitude and understanding . . . .  until it came to the elevators.

After our first week, suddenly, the two elevators were turned off.

I admit, the turning off was partly my fault.

I was actually stuck in one of them on the 1st floor and had to call out for help.  A worker came and jumped up and down on the top of it  (the entire compartment shaking and rattling as he did so) until the doors slowly jiggled opened.

Needless to say, I didn’t step back into that elevator again.

Not a problem in doing so again because once the word got out that the foreign teacher had been stuck inside, both were immediately turned off until a proper inspection could take place.  This left  me and Jackie to hike up and down 9 flights of stairs  every day for 3 days.

It would have been longer except I decided enough was enough.

I sent out 5 text messages to 5 different leaders.  I profusely apologized for bothering them but I was an old lady (in my 50’s), very tired from teaching so many, and walking up and down 9 flights of stairs every day was very difficult for me.

Could someone please turn on at least one elevator for old foreign teacher, Connie?  It would be greatly appreciated.

Within 1 hour of those texts, in the drizzling rain, 3 administrators arrived to my building:  English Dean Horace He, Mr. Liu (foreign affairs director) and  housing affairs director Mr. Chen with  the elevator key.  All gathered around the right-hand elevator while Mr. Chen ceremoniously placed his key into the lock and turned it on.  After that,  we all took turns going up and down  3 times to make sure it was in proper working order.

Mr. Chen posted a Chinese sign on the outside of the elevator  that said if something went wrong, call him.  (Why on the outside, I’m not sure because if you’re stuck on the inside, how would you know his number?)  I was then cautioned to bring my cell phone with me at all times so I could call for help.

Didn’t exactly restore my faith in the elevator but as long as I didn’t have to hike up 9 flights of stairs several times a day, I wasn’t going to complain.  I learned my lesson the first time!

 Settling In

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November finally had  Jackie and me settling in nicely, although here it is in January  and I still have many boxes yet to dig through. There just was no time in between teaching, swimming, church choir ( a huge commitment), 4 animal rescues (too many to report quickly), decorating and baking for the holidays, Christmas open houses (12 in total) and end-of-term testing plus grading.

Visiting the States

                Unpacking those boxes, by the way, is certainly not on the agenda today.

I’m back in Illinois, visiting my mom for my Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) holidays.  We’ve just returned from a trip to the Windy City where we enjoyed the lyric opera (The Magic Flute), Broadway’s “Hamilton”, a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, as well as a few shopping ventures plus lunch in the Walnut Room,  located in what is now Macy’s but before Marshall Field’s.

Now it’s back to smalltown living where I am getting my newsletter in order and repacking the suitcase for my return to China on Feb. 7.  It is a very short holiday this year, only 4 weeks, so not much recuperation time from last semester.

This next semester won’t be any easier than last, either.

Our school’s second Peace Corp volunteer, Garett the lawyer, didn’t return after the summer holiday last August.  His surprising exit meant that all of his courses had to be divided between Jackie and me.  It was a bit of a chore but we managed and will be doing the same this coming Spring.

It’s added a lot of extra hours that we haven’t had before, thus the very long silence on my website.  Most likely, after I return to China, the same will happen but for now, just thought I’d update a bit.

As always, wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your upcoming weekend and smooth sailing into the Year of the Rooster.

 

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