The English Language Resource Center: Up and Running!!

It’s taken 15 years, but this past semester finally had the English Language Resource Center trickle into being.  

       I had plenty of help this time around instead of going it on my own, which I had at one point considered. I was advised, however, to let the school finance the Center so as not to create any embarrassment on the leaders’ part that their foreign teacher did this without their help.

       I completely agreed with that suggestion.  It was decided I would provide the resource materials with my US network of friends (that’s all of you!); the school would provide the furnishings and office equipment.

      Teacher Huang and Teacher Chen were my go-to guys in this venture.   They helped to complete school monetary request forms, receive official stamps from departmental offices, apply for school credit card use, accompany me on four trips to different office furniture stores, arrange for delivery of items and lastly, assist in moving things around for eventual room use.  I next invited students to help me clean, after which we stocked the shelves, cabinets and drawers with the many games and fun items so many of you have sent over the years.  All those boxes of supplies I’ve been dragging around for years are no longer taking up space in my apartment.  The contents have found a home!   

      In April, Zuri (our school’s U.S. Peace Corps teacher) and I were finally able to open the Center for our weekly English Corner night.   We also added private activity gatherings for our own students on other days of the week.   

      English Corner was especially well-attended, including not only the college students but some of our teachers who brought their children.  Among the kids, the card game Uno was a favorite along with Barrel-of-Monkeys and the Arts-and-Crafts area for drawing or coloring.  

      The college kids found the Center a great place to relax, spend time with their foreign teachers, browse through the displayed English books and magazines and enjoy playing language games not available in China.   

As you can see from the pictures below, we’re off to a great start!

Plans for Developing The Center

      My Center plans for the next semester include: Hosting a grand opening for teachers and leaders, having regular “Open Door” hours 3 times a week, enlisting student volunteers to help clean, monitor and assist in the room, and creating a classroom material development section.  That particular area I will constantly supply with free materials (English reward stickers, construction paper, glue, markers, crayons, tape) for the 3rd year English Education majors to use during their weeks of practice teaching, or what we in the States call Student Teaching.  Many create their own visual aids but have to pay for those out-of-pocket.  Not in the Center.  All materials will be free, with plenty of space for our future English teachers to develop their teaching aids with advice, suggestions or help from others.

       There are only two items I still wish for:  a flat-screen TV for showing English language movies (downloaded from the Net or chosen from my over-1,000 DVD collection) and a table-top printer/copier.  Discussions are underway if the school will provide these or not. I should know by October, after which I will decide how to proceed if the school feels it’s not within the budget to do so.

Here in the States:  Gathering Items to Take Back

I mentioned in the previous entry that I am currently in the States for my summer holiday.  I have  two weeks to go and am already stocking up on more games to take back with me to China for the Center.  I have collected some holiday banners from the Dollar Store and am cruising the Walmart kids’ aisles, thinking what games to add to the activity cabinet.   Such fun to be able to do this in person.

Closing with a Big Thank You for the Supply Gifts and Donations

While back, I have spoken at 2 churches (Morton UMC in Morton, IL and Mt. Carmel UMC in Mt. Carmel, IL) which I missed last summer.  Both congregations were very generous in donating items and funding for the Center so I am not only able to buy things but ship them back as well.  As some might know who have sent me things before, the cost of mailing is very, very high.  No longer does our US post office have surface mail available.  Everything goes airmail.

It ain’t cheap, folks!

What doesn’t go into the suitcase will be going  toward the postage of boxes headed for the post office.

But most exciting is I now have enough to purchase the TV and printer on my own!  If the school deems it necessary to cancel the request I’ve already placed for those two things, the gift money I have received will go toward getting them on my own.

Many, many thanks to you who have helped make that possible. Can’t wait to get started in stocking the room with more for the students to use and enjoy.

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A generous donation from Tremont UMC and Morton UMC (shown here at the church, including Pastor Gary Feldman to the left) has given me enough to see all my “wish list” items complete the Resource Center upon my return. Thank you all!!

Posted in China, From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories, Tales from Sichuan's Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou, Tales from The Yangtze River, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Striving for Most Excellent Vocational College Status

This gallery contains 22 photos.

   Note:  I am currently enjoying some vacation time in America with my mom in Marshall, IL.  The semester has been crazy-busy, which has made me a bit lax on postings.  Let me update you a bit on some happenings from China, … Continue reading

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My Tomb Sweeping Holiday Plans

Today is a holiday, Qing Ming Jie, or Tombsweeping Festival.

Many families for the next 3 days will be traveling to the countryside to visit grave sites of family members.  They’ll clean the area, place incense and offerings of fruit or drinks to their loved ones, decorate the mounds with tissue-papered flags and set off firecrackers.

This tradition, April 5, used to be just that: a tradition.

Now, it’s a holiday with April 5 the official day off and April 6 added to extend to a 3-day “holiday”.  I say “holiday” because government offices and schools are required to make up the Friday (the unofficial holiday) on Sunday.  Thus no church for me this weekend since my Friday classes have been moved to Sunday.

After all these years in China, I still don’t quite get the “We have a 3-day holiday!” when, actually, it’s no holiday at all.  At our school, we are also required to make up the official holiday as well.  We do that on our own time, scheduling our classes whenever we can.

Defeats the purpose of having a holiday, in my opinion, but nothing much I can do about it.

Our weather at present is rainy.  After our sweltering, 80-degree heat with roasting sunshine these past few days, we have now turned dreary and dark and wet.  Not sure how many families will be traipsing along muddy pathways, wading through weeds and muck to get to those countryside graves.  At least, not today, anyway.

A Visit to Tong Tan on Saturday

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A visit to my friends’, Chen and Che

My holiday plans are to visit a farming family, Chen and Che, on Saturday if the weather clears up. I have mentioned them before in previous posts.  The family adopted an abandoned dog on my campus, which I had been trying to find a home for.  This was 3 years ago.  SP (Stairwell Puppy) now has a wonderful life in the countryside, enjoying plenty of freedom as a rural canine.

In exchange for this kind gesture to take in a dog, I have gathered together a few people, including my mom and myself, to make sure the couple’s 14-year-old daughter gets through school, from high school to college, if necessary. The family is extremely poor and having trouble making ends meet. I feel so grateful several of us are working together to help them in this manner.

Below are a few pictures from my last visit, taken with a former student, “Angel” Zhang. Mrs. Chen’s mother, 84, was also visiting at that time and so was the girl, “Julie”.  Usually, she is boarding at school in Luzhou (2 hours away) but for that particular weekend, she returned home to visit.

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Me, Angel (former student) and Julie (Che Liangyu)

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SP. A happy life in the countryside.

Julie and her grandma, at her home.

 

Angel hears the story of living in China 80 years ago: a hard, bitter life of hunger and poverty in rural China

 

SP, always by my side on every visit I make to the family

The new addition to the home, built  5 years ago, still has the family in debt.

This is the sod house which they lived in for 22 years. Now this is used as storage.

Mrs. Chen picks cabbages to send home with me.

Every visit, Mrs. Chen makes sure we get a home-cooked meal. Here she is with her husband, Che, and Angel

The outer sitting room of the new home is spacious and very typical of the new-style of housing for farmers.

The kitchen is still traditional: kindling is used to stoke the fire for stir-frying meals.

Chen and Che: A hard life, struggling to make ends meet and pay off debts by selling vegetables or getting nearby construction jobs.

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Chen, Che, SP and me: Saying farewell until my next visit

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

 

 

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Tales from The Yangtze River, Travel | 1 Comment

My Easter Celebrations

I’ve had two great Easter celebrations:  One in the classroom with my students, explaining to them the religious and secular traditions of this day, and then with the Chinese church community in Luzhou.

Easter lessons had us learning the meaning of this day for Christians, including religious symbols, and then the following week, taking care of the secular aspects of the day, such as the Easter bunny, chocolate eggs, coloring eggs, and Easter egg hunts.

My display at home, which were comprised of all my classroom props.

I took a lily stalk to class, which included a drawing to see who took home the lily. Everyone, however, received an Easter seal of a lily. Thank you to all who send those to me every year! They make everyone’s day.

 

Students in English Corner hear about Easter culture celebrations

Drawing symbols of Easter on the board is a great way to remember our lesson

 

Palm-Passion Sunday and Easter Sunday

The Luzhou Protestant Church, built in 1913 and still going strong today.

Once again, being a member of the choir truly made my celebrations for Easter extremely special.

Our Chinese Luzhou church now has Palm-Passion Sunday, which was quite moving.  We had many readings by 5 pastors, 2 who were visiting, and our two choirs (the elderly choir and our adult choir) gave our well-rehearsed anthems.

Our adult choir really had to work hard on that one:  2 1/2 hours of practice on Thursday night, then an extra hour in the morning from 8:30 – 9:30 before our director felt we were truly prepared and ready for worship.

The  Palm-Passion service ran 3 hours.  Many of the congregation and choir were so moved by the readings and our fervent prayers that they cried.  We had many packets of tissues being passed throughout the choir and the congregation during our Passion-Palm Sunday.

Here are a few visuals.

Easter Sunday 

The entire week before Easter had worship being held every morning, at 9:30, for those who could attend.  Choir practice was held for us as usual on Thursday night.  No special services that evening, just the choir going over the anthem for Sunday.  Fortunately for me, our choir was singing a medley of familiar hymn tunes for me:  He Arose, He Lives and The Old Rugged Cross.  Just getting through the Chinese characters was a challenge, as always.  Interestingly enough, the choir members had trouble not with the Chinese but with the tunes.  Some Western tunes are not as familiar to the Chinese as they are for us.  While the men struggled (and I mean really struggled!) to get the notes, I was the lead for the sopranos as I had all the right notes just not the right words sometimes.

Our cooperative efforts worked out well for practice but I must say that for our actual worship, we fell flat, literally and figuratively.

Such are choirs everywhere, I’m sure.

Practice before our Easter Sunday service had us ironing out the right notes for our medley.

Easter itself, despite our anthem errors, was jubilant, especially as we had an exuberant message, baptisms, communion and stir-fried rice noodles plus a hard-boiled Easter egg were served to the entire congregation afterwards.

We started earlier on Easter Sunday so as to finish by noon.   Over 800 were in attendance.

42 adults were baptized.

Our communion went very fast, with plenty of communion ushers serving everyone in the sanctuary.

Our church ladies certainly were busy cooking up huge vats of rice noodles all morning, plus boiling over 1,000 eggs the day before so everyone could receive an Easter egg before they left.

There was also the regular evening service for the young people from 7 – 9 p.m. I don’t usually attend the evening service but I received video and photo postings on my phone of the service.

In other words, a really bustling Eastertime at the Luzhou Protestant Church.

Hope all of you had a great Easter, too.

Posted in Easter Celebrations in China, From Along the Yangtze, Tales from Sichuan's Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou, Travel | 1 Comment

Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

This posting is mostly for my Chinese students and friends.

This morning, my mom and I spent 3 hours enjoying the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park Observatory.

Short Introduction

Lincoln Park Zoo, a 35-acre area located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, was founded in 1868, making it among the oldest of zoos in North America. It is also one of a few free admission zoos in the United States. Only 10% of the funding for this zoo comes from the city of Chicago. Other funding comes from private donations, sales in the zoo shop and special venue rentals and sponsorship of animals by local citizens.

Lincoln Park Zoo is home to a wide variety of animals. The zoo’s exhibits include big cats, polar bears, penguins, gorillas, reptiles, monkeys, birds, reptiles and  other species totalling about 1,100 animals from some 200 species.

Our Findings

In the winter, my mom and I wondered if visiting the zoo was worth it or not. Would the animals be out and about?  Would all the inside housing areas for the animals be open?  Would we really enjoy our outing or feel bad seeing animals in small enclosures and unhappy?

As it turned out, it was definitely not a waste of time.  We easily rode the bus from our hotel area, landed at the zoo, picked up a map and off we went.  The greatest treat was seeing animals up close and personal, with plenty of opportunities to take pictures.

Especially fun was seeing so many little kids (pre-school, kindergarten and grade school) taking Friday field trips with their teachers or parents.  Watching their faces light up while seeing the animals was priceless!

 

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Our walking tour through Lincoln Park also included the Lincoln Park Observatory.   This is a Victorian Era glass house, built in the late nineteenth century. It contains four rooms displaying exotic plants from around the world.

 

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We managed the entire zoo quite comfortably within 3 hours, which was just enough time to return and rest up for our evening taking in another theater show, 1/2 price tickets which we purchased from Hot Tix.

A nice way to close our last full day in Chicago.

Saturday it’s heading back down south on the Amtrak where we’ll be picking up Little Lao-lao at the kennels.  Weather reports have us from 40 to 50 degrees for Saturday and Sunday.  No worries of ice for a dog pick-up this time around. Guess I can leave my mom’s shoe-cleats in the closet.  What a relief!  I’d rather not have a repeat of last week’s harrowing icy experience in the vet’s parking lot.  I’m sure Lao-lao doesn’t, either, nor Christina.

Next reports will be a few dog stories from China, in honor of the Year of the Dog.  Ping An (Peace), everyone!

 

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An Update from Chicago

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Just thought I’d give a brief update from the Windy City, which has had wonderful weather after an icy Marshall, Illinois, start 5 days ago.

Smooth sailing from there on for me and my mom.

We’ve taken in a few half-price ticket shows and gone on some free or low-price tours.  One of those was at the Chicago Theater, a premier movie theater for silent movies when it opened in 1921, seating 5,000.

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Our tour guide, Harold, was a recently-graduated theater major who was aspiring to become an actor.  He was a wealth of information and the 4 of us on the tour for that day were very fortunate to have him.

 

Especially interesting was to see backstage where the signatures of many famous performers were written up and down the walls.  This tradition began with Frank Sinatra who signed his name when he gave the first performance in the newly renovated theater in 1986.

 

 

Meeting Up with Old Friends

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Today at noon, we had our yearly meet-up with Barb Ziemba.

Barb ( a Chicagoan) used to work as the secretary at the infamous Chicago Temple, the largest UMC in the world.  In 1992, I walked into the Chicago Temple while my parents and I were visiting Chicago.  I attended a UMW meeting and afterwards, visited the pastor’s office.  Although Rev. Eugene Winkler was out, a friendly Barb greeted me.  I left my newsletter, putting the church on my newsletter list and later, added Barb herself.

Over the years, we have kept in touch with Barb enthusiastically collecting loads of things for me which she mailed to my home in Marshall.  Every time I visit my mom, there is Barb’s stash of pencils, notepads, calendars, bookmarks, and cultural materials waiting for me.  She is such a joy to be with, and one of the many women I feel so lucky to have met through our United Methodist Church connection those many years ago.

Finishing Off our Chicago Week

Tomorrow is our last full day in Chicago before leaving on Saturday.  We are planning to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, a first for us, where many inside exhibits will keep out the cold.

Tomorrow is also the first day of Spring Festival (Chinese New Year),the Year of the Dog.

At our hotel, there is one member in the housekeeping staff who is Chinese. Her English name is Sally.  I tracked her down and made sure her day was a good one with a Chinese hong bag (red envelope) filled with a monetary gift thanking her for servicing our hotel room.

For Valentine’s Day, my mom and I surprised each other with small Valentine gifts, but we also surprised the hotel staff (anyone we saw) with Hershey kisses and Lindt chocolates.

 

 

Everyone deserves a little “thank you” on Valentine’s Day, and chocolate is a great way to do it.

From Chicago, here’s sending you Ping An (Peace) for your day and an auspicious first day in the Year of the Dog

 

 

Posted in A Grand Chinese New Year Vacation, A Visit Home to America, China, From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories, Smalltown American Life | 3 Comments

Mom and Daughter Trip: Heading Off to Chicago. The weather? Yikes!

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It’s soon to be the Year of the Dog, beginning February 15 (Thursday).  My mom and I are taking a trip to Chicago for a fun mother-and-daughter week, our initial journey beginning today, so I will just post this note here in case I am too busy to write later from the hotel.

The Weather is Not Cooperating!!

Icy roads today have us a tad concerned about getting to Mattoon this afternoon (we spend the night) for our train travel tomorrow on the Saluki line to Chicago.  We were both up early, early to drop off the dog at the kennels (local vet’s office) before heading to church.  We are in the choir and our director, Paula Ross, wanted everyone there to practice with the children as we were doing a joint number with the kids:  This Little Light of Mine.

She was quite adamant at Wednesday night’s practice about our 8:15 rehearsal time before church at 9 a.m. Being good- girl choir members, we wanted to oblige.

The Dog Drop-off:  A Careful Affair

I had cleared with the vet already concerning the dog. I was to take our Chinese rescue Chihuahua, Little Lao-lao (Old-old), over at 8 a.m. where Sara (a high school girl hired by the clinic) would let me in for drop-off.  She was in charge of kennel duty during the weekend.

However, upon getting up, we saw the roads were quite icy with no hint of warming up.  My mom pulled out her heavy-duty, plastic shoe slip-ons with cleats.  I was the one to tromp around outside onto the back deck, filling up the bird feeders and later making my way to the car to warm it up for defrosting.

Our side street was pure ice but Route 1, which runs in front of us, was slowly clearing off as more and more traffic appeared, albeit a car every 30 minutes at best.

Eventually, it was time to load up  all of Lao-lao’s supplies (1-page instructions on care, food, bedding, pre-cooked frozen chicken tenderloins, supplement food, mouth pet wipes, mouth spray) and the pooch himself. Since Lao-lao is a “special needs” dog, having had a broken jaw and most of his teeth gone, he is a bit more challenging to care for than just a regular canine.  Thus the long instruction sheet and supplies.

IMG_5715 I re-cleated myself and drove over to the clinic, only to find Sara hadn’t arrived yet.

The vet’s parking lot was a sheet of ice so I waited on the gravel entryway before our gal arrived.  This ended up being Christina instead, who works the front desk.  Seems Sara’s dad didn’t want her to drive in the ice as she’d just gotten her driver’s license.  That is understandable but Christina was pregnant and not too happy about dealing with a slippery parking lot to take care of the kenneled critters inside.

I pulled up alongside her, opened my door and told her my plan:  I’d slide her  my mom’s cleated shoe boots so she could at least make it to the building’s door to unlock it.  She’d then slide them back to me so I could carry Lao-lao to the side entrance and back again for his supplies.

During this carefully maneuvering by us humans, the dog decided he wasn’t happy in the car and before I could stop him, he jumped out!  He didn’t get very far as he slipped and slid, finally realizing his escape wasn’t doing him any good, so he just sat, looking pathetic and waiting for me to pick him up.

My mistake was trying to scramble out of the door to catch him before he took off, which he wasn’t able to do, anyway, due to all the ice.  Without the cleats, which Christina still had on, I had a touch-and-go moment where I thought I’d end up like the dog:  flat on my behind, unable to move.

Luckily, I managed to balance well enough to scoop him up but I will say I came mighty darn close to landing on my bum alongside him.

Eventually, Christina and I were safely inside the building with Lao-lao finally settled into his cage.  I carefully clogged and cleated my way back to the car, drove VERY slowly along our slick streets, clomped  into the house at 8:40, and proudly proclaimed, “Hey, mom, I’m back!  We can head off to church!  I’m ready to go.”

That’s when my mom shouted down to me from upstairs.

“Paula called!” she announced.  “Church is canceled.  Too much ice.”

Heading Off at 1 p.m.

The drive to Mattoon should be fine as long as we stay on the main roads and not take our usual fast route through the countryside.  That scenic journey is iffy, winding curves popping up right and left, dips and rises . . .  just too nerve-racking for me!

I’m sure we will make it just fine to the overnight in Mattoon and the morning departure to the train station.

So for now, wishing you Ping An (Peace) and safe travels to all, including those heading home for Chinese New Year holidays across China.

Happy Year of the Dog, Everyone!

 

 

 

 

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