Shanghai Struggles: A BBC Interview with Two Delivery Riders

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There was hope for Shanghai yesterday.
It was the first time that the city had reached Zero-Covid status for residents outside of quarantine centers. But today, after another daily round of Covid testing, brought 58 positive cases to the forefront from those not within highly secured and watched quarantine isolation buildings.

Disappointment, despair and a sense of defeat followed.

There had been hope that negatively-tested residents would be allowed to at least walk out of their apartments for some fresh air. One section of the city was released from confinement but with these newly-discovered Covid positives, it might be everyone sealed back inside again.

There haven’t been many published interviews of those stuck in this situation but the BBC managed these two with riders who deliver bulk food to the masses. It sounds like an incredibly difficult job, one that has riders homeless and sleeping on the streets, unable to go home and unable to get inside beds anywhere in the city as authorities deny them entry for fear they’ve been too exposed to the virus.

This is a fascinating read. See what you think and give some feedback.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-61270253

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The Current Covid Situation in Shanghai, China: Sixth Tone updates

I’ve been spending a lot of time searching the latest news of Shanghai as the city struggles to control its virus cases. When positive cases exploded 4 weeks ago, a majority of Shanghainese felt the Zero-Covid police would not be so strictly enforced. Authorities calmed their concerns by telling residents not to hoard groceries, to continue as normal, they’d handle everything smoothly and efficiently.

But in just a matter of 3 days, things went from calm to panic as orders came down from Beijing to get the disastrous situation under control.. . . immediately.

More than 10 officials were sacked for not reigning in spiraling positive cases sooner. Lockdowns ensued immediately with barriers set up on streets and around apartment complexes, not allowing anyone out unless it was for daily mandatory testing. Make-shift quarantine buildings hastily were prepared to house the positive cases who were not allowed to quarantine in their homes. To make room for the tens of thousands of positive cases, convention halls, schools, hospitals, gymnasiums, empty apartment complexes and even already rented apartments (some residents were evicted and sent to other areas of the city to be housed) have been hastily prepared with rows of cots to accommodate all who test positive.

My first news updates are those found either online or from Chinese news outlets. This one is the most recent.

Article from The Sixth Tone

I subscribe to The Sixth Tone, a great news resource out of China which I have on my phone. Articles range from all across the country as well as more local news from my own city, Luzhou. The following I found quite interesting, concerning truck drivers who have found themselves “stuck” in Shanghai:

“When truck drivers drop to Shanghai in late March, little did they know that many of them would be unable to return to their home provinces for weeks.

Since the Covid-19 lockdown started March 28, truckers from neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces said they have faced several difficulties. Som are struggling with limited consignments from the city, while others find it difficult in obtaining permits to leave Shanghai.

Those stuck in Shanghai have turned their trucks into makeshift homes. But they’re running out of food, and their truck batteries are either dying or dead.

As Shanghai enters its third week of lockdown, the truck drivers and their vehicles have become immobile — just like the city itself.”

Other Sixth Tone Articles

A few other articles highlighted ordering food online.

With 26 million people needing food, cell phones went into overdrive as residents spent a majority of their time trying desperately to place orders. Some downloaded as many as 20 different grocery Apps on their phones, working their way through App after App trying to get just one simple order of groceries accepted. Starting at 6 a.m. in the morning, phone users worked throughout the day (sometimes not even able to get in an hour) before announcements of “No more food orders are being accepted” messages became a constant.

The most desperate situation reported dealt with the elderly, many of whom were not very adept at cell phone use and some who had no cell phone at all. One woman in her 80’s, living alone, had gone without food for 4 days.

A heartwarming story emerged of a young couple who posted a written note at the entrance of their apartment complex for the elderly to read when they emerged for their daily Covid tests. They gave their phone number and apartment number, announcing to any who needed help in getting food to please contact them. This simple act of kindness immediately gained them 7 elderly couples who called or knocked on their door, asking for assistance. The couple then began taking bulk orders to cut down on too many deliveries, which worked out quite well. Working together on two separate phones, the couple was able to get supplies for everyone and distribute them evenly among those who needed it.

In Week 5 of the lockdown, the couple continue to order food for those in need with more young people in other apartment complexes around the city following their lead. Aside from groceries, online ordering has even branched off to getting much-needed medicine for “grandma and grandpa”, since they are not able to go to shops or hospitals to pick up what is needed.

The biggest difficulty deals with rising prices, it seems. One woman outside of Shanghai spent her days trying to order for her father who was a Shanghai resident. After 2 days on her phone, she managed to get 60 eggs and a small bag of rice, paying $62 US, delivered to her dad.

And on a more personal note, one of my former students whose friend is in Shanghai was able to buy 4 piddly little cucumbers, usually available for 50 cents in the grocery, for a whopping $5.

One does wonder what happens to those who have little or no money, or haven’t set up payment via their cell phones like a majority of Chinese have. I do know that when Covid hit, many went to direct payment from bank account Apps as money was considered a virus spreader.

From what I have heard, in today’s China, paper money is rarely seen, used or wanted.

Next Report:  What My Friends Are WeChatting About

I’ll let you all continue to search and read more about Shanghai on your own.

I will say that in my area of China, all is calm with people going about life as always. Some are not even wearing masks anymore, including in the classroom at my college. Most have told me that Shanghai’s problem came with officials not keeping a close enough eye on the virus spread. While they sympathize, quite a few are taking pride in their towns and districts that have made sure a single case or two is taken care of immediately, even if there is a bit of inconvenience involved with shutdowns or required constant testing.

When referring to the Chinese, I’d say a majority of those I know would agree this old saying goes over quite well: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

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Easter Celebrations in My Hometown: Collecting Photos for my Chinese Students

The last full-blown Easter traditions and reports I remember came via email from my mom, 3 years ago while I was in China. She described a meaningful cross-walk with parishioner members on Good Friday, a church Easter egg hunt for the kids, a potluck supper in the church basement, a well-sung Easter anthem which she led as choir director on Easter Sunday and the many lilies, tulips and hyacinths that graced the sanctuary in remembrance or honor of others.

In contrast, I shared my own Easter celebrations.

Among my students, I held traditional events in the English Center , including students, colleagues and their kids coloring hard-boiled eggs. I organized 6 of my first year classes to have an egg hunt in the classroom by hiding colored construction-paper eggs which could be exchanged for prizes. (The gold egg was worth 50 yuan, about $9 US, while other colors were chocolate, rabbit stuffed animals and flowers.).

In my Chinese church, weeks of choir practices had us busy preparing for our special Easter anthems and looking forward to the 50 + baptisms of new believers during the service. I remember we choir members arrived at the church for warm-up and prayers at 7:30 a.m. with worship beginning at 8:30. Pastor Liao had managed to reserve the Luzhou Christian drumming troop to welcome in Easter with a parade down the alleyway into the sanctuary. Baptisms started at 10 a.m. followed at 11:30 with communion with our new brothers and sisters in Christ. A substantial meal in containers full of rice and stir fried meat and vegetables, including a hardboiled Easter egg, was served to all 700 present. Parishioner members also carried free meals to all the shopkeepers nearby to share in our happiness. No one went home hungry on Easter Sunday, that’s for sure!

In 2019, Easter for me and my mom, located halfway around the world, had been very meaningful, joyful and spiritually rewarding.

Then came Covid-19, which stranded me here in the States while China went into full lockdown, even today not allowing foreign teachers such as myself to return.

In-person services ended for two Easters in my small-town USA church for 2020 and 2021, with only one Easter service going to online in Luzhou in 2020.

But here we are two years later and Easter in Marshall is here again in full swing.

Pictures galore for my Chinese Students and Friends

These weeks leading up to Easter have given me the opportunity to collect numerous pictures to share with my students. Palm Sunday, egg hunts, potlucks and church events have had my cell phone collecting hundreds of photos and recordings which I’ve been posting in my Chinese WeChat groups and blogs. My computer is full of theme-centered folders, all awaiting the day when I can put together powerpoints to share back in my Chinese college classroom.

China can’t stay closed forever. When my college can authorize my invitation letter to return, I plan to be ready.

Want to see a little sampling of what I’ve collected and posted so far? Here you go!

Palm Sunday

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First UMC Easter Egg Hunt

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Potluck Thursday Evening Dinner

Carry-the-Cross Walk for Good Friday: Sponsored by Marshall First UMC

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Being Grateful

I attended a 2-day Creation Justice virtual meeting session with those from all over the States. This was shared during one of our closure sessions. I share it with you here, now, to give you a little lift for your week. Blessings!

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Spring Brings out an Act of Thievery

It was all my mom’s doing. She put the idea in my head.

As warmer weather approaches, my mom has been surveying her new garden, established last year at this new little house of hers, to see what has survived and what plans to re-appear. We had received permission from the house owner of her former home, a man who cares nothing for flowers or keeping up a yard, that she could dig up whatever she wanted for transplanting. (See old house below)

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We collected bluebells, lily-of-the-valley, 2 rose bushes, 5 lilies, a clump of hostas, grape hyacinths, the white violets (a treasured, rare collection that clumped under the backyard tree), the clematis vine, spider plant seeds and numerous other whatevers that I can’t remember the names of.

In the past 2 weeks, I’ve found her mid-mornings stooping over the bare earth along the back fence to see what has managed to survive.

One row of tulips never did make an appearance. She dug around to find the bulbs with no luck. She fears the squirrels got to them although another row miraculously are doing very well.

The white violets are there, much to our relief. The rose bushes survived and the clematis has tiny green leaves making their way from all the straw-like, twiggy dead stalks of winter. We didn’t find any lily-of-the-valley but the bluebells seem to be happily making this their new home.

While I was perfectly satisfied with Nature’s offerings in our new back yard, my mom wasn’t.

“I should have dug up the poppies,” she announced with irritation after returning with the dog from her morning walk. “I went by the old house and it’s a complete mess. It took me 25 years to create that garden and now it’s just going to pot. Those poppies are going to be gorgeous but no one will appreciate them..”

She frowned.

“Well, if you feel that way, why not just go and dig up those poppies? And might as well get more lily-of-the-valley, while you’re at it. I’m sure he doesn’t care.”

She looked thoughtful.

“He did say to us come over at any time and take whatever else you wanted,” I further encouraged. “I doubt he’ll even know anything’s missing.”

And so it was that my mom and her enabler (me!) came about to being thieves of springtime.

We completed our mission yesterday at the old house, taking bins and pots, the shovel and clippers, to hack our way through the brush to find what she wanted. Despite the fact we had been given permission a year ago to do so, we did wait until the big white truck was no longer in the driveway before stealthily, and swiftly, pillaging her former garden.

We left with more grape hyacinths, another clematis vine, lily-of-the-valley clumps and the poppies.

Now all are transplanted and safely positioned in the soil alongside the outside of the back fence.

Poppies

Hopefully, they will survive the journey and joyfully make this their new home.

As for the mother-daughter burglary team, I think that pretty much takes care of our acts of unlawful behavior. . . Well, at least for this year, anyway. Who knows about Spring of 2023, after her inspection here a year from now of what took and what didn’t? I wonder how long her old house owner’s open invitation to dig up plants will be considered valid?

Guess if a future entry details a visit to the county jail, you’ll have your answer.

Enjoy your spring, everyone! We’re certainly enjoying ours

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A Three-fold Remembrance Post

Why does personal distressing news, or even personal luck, seem to come in threes?

This last week, at least for me, seems to have followed in this number 3 pattern. From the last post, I listed 2, not expecting a 3rd. In a shocking email just a few days ago, sad to say, it came. Let me explain:

China Eastern Flight 5735

As a follow-up: My Chinese students and friends kept their messages coming with condolences for the victims and families of China’s Eastern Airline crash. The first black box was found but it was becoming more difficult to find the second due to heavy rains and the heavy vegetation of the Guangxi mountainsides. How well I know those jagged mountainsides because I lived in a rural southern Guangxi Province area for 3 years.

Ground crews expanded their search to within 30 miles of the crash site and finally came upon the second flight box recorder unit on Sunday, March 27, at 9:20 a.m. according to one article I read.

According to the report, it was deeply buried under an astounding 5 feet of soil, which certainly proves the diligence, care and determination of search crews to find it. I can also imagine how devastating it was to sift through pieces of the plane, with personal items (ID cards, purses, pieces of cellphones) being picked through as well.

The last fatal China air crash in 2010 (42 passengers) took several years for a final report to be issued. While families and the public are eager to discover what happened, the analysis of both boxes will not reveal answers anytime soon.

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Luzhou Choir Member, Sister Xiao Liu

In my last post, I mentioned one of our choir members who has gone to be with the Lord and car pick-up information for those who wanted to attend the funeral. I contacted one of the members to receive more information about Sister Liu and here was her response:

“Here is her picture, from her WeChat, a beautiful girl. She was a good daughter of our Lord, and she was leader of our praise team. She had a history of cervical cancer, and after a period of remission, it may have returned, affecting her kidneys, liver, heart and other major organs. She sang so beautifully. She loved the Lord so passionately, and at the end of her life, she kept on leading the praise team — singing, praying, and praising. It was a pity. “

I added my note, saying, “Thank you so much for sharing her story with me. She lived a longer life because of her faith, to strengthen her every day. I am sure her family is saddened by her departure from this world. I will pray for them.”

Another in the group continued with this prayerful message: “Thank you, Lord, for taking away her burden of labor in the world and carrying her soul home, home into the sky.”

Bless you, Sister Liu, as you joyfully sing in a choir once again, a choir in heaven.

And in America: We Mission Intern Program (MIP) Alums say Farewell One of Our Own

To close off the above-mentioned threes comes the last one: Nzingha Nia.

From 1988-1991, I joined in the United Methodist’s Mission Intern Program (MIP) along with 14 others. We were between the ages of 22 – 30, a majority of us being in our early 20s and straight out of college. Our two placements, 1 1/2 years overseas and 1 1/2 years in America, were those of peace-and-justice positions, spread throughout the world. My overseas’ position was teaching afternoon and evening English classes for women and children, plus participating in women’s programs at the Kyoto Japan YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association). My USA post was working in Washington DC, assigned to legislative issues which had been designated by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society as being important for church advocacy.

We MIPs were a close-knit group, having spent a full month of orientation, first at a conference center in Stoney Point, NY, next at Drew University and finally a week stay in NYC visiting 475 Riverside Drive, known as the “God Box,” which housed our Global Ministries headquarters at that time. (Now it is in Atlanta, GA).

I knew Nzingha Nia as one of elegant beauty and firmly grounded in her commitment to justice in the world.

When her daughter, Jendayi, last week contacted another in our alum group to share that her mom was in hospice, we were in shock. A mailing address was given if we wanted to send a card or note. I immediately sat down to write mine, although after I mailed it, Jendayi announced that her mom was no longer with us.

Although Nzingha will not be reading my letter herself, I pray that her family will find some comfort knowing how much she touched my life. I imagine others in my MIP group will add their stories as well about “our” Nzingha.

I leave you with the below, closing off my “comes in threes” post. The photo is of Nzingha’s daughter, which was shared recently by one in our group who visited her yesterday. We are waiting to hear about the memorial service. Such a lovely young woman, like her mom.

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Letter to Nzingha Nia

Dear Nzingha,

This is Connie, one of your MIP groupmates.  Jill sent the address for us to send you a card so here you are!

I wanted to tell you that your name has been in my heart for so many, many years because of its uniqueness.  I remember when you first said to the group, “I’m Nzingha Nia” that I was blown away by the beauty of not only the name, but the person who carried it (you!).  Now Nzingha reigns high among other wonderful people I have come to know and admire:  Nkemba, Mbwizu, Tende, Ruhong, Precious,  . . . . the list goes on.

After so many years, I did a little digging and found out why Nzingha is such a majestic and appropriate name, although you obviously already knew this. It is the name of a great seventeenth century African warrior queen, known for her brilliance as an administrator and organizer, and unstinting commitment to peace.  Oh, how well that fits!!

Know that I am thinking of you, and sending God’s grace and blessings to you and your family.

Connie

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A Follow-up of China Eastern Flight 5735: “A Mother, A Fiance, A Friend.” (Including sad news from the Luzhou church choir)

This article arrived in my inbox today. I thought it makes for a fitting addition to the previous post.

And Yet Other Sad news, from the Luzhou Church Choir

Aside from references to the crash, my WeChat messages added another 54 notices this morning, with a majority of those being from the Luzhou Church Choir’s soprano group.

It’s not unusual at this time of year, during Lent, for so many messages to go flying. There are announcements of Easter anthems we’ll be singing, photo copies of the music, recordings to listen to, discussions of what went wrong during rehearsals that need fixing, reminders about wearing the black Mary Jane uniform shoes (not sandals) for upcoming worship services, those asking leave for various reasons and replies that notices having been received and recorded. (Yes, the Luzhou Church choir members take their rehearsals and Sunday worship very seriously, including excused or non-excused absences being marked and the roll taken at every practice.)

But these were regarding sad news, as posted by Choir Monitor (leader) Zhang in Chinese. I give you the translated version below:

“Choir Family Members: Sister Liu Xiao, who has been serving and working with us for so many years, was picked up by the Lord this morning because of illness.My heart is very sad but the Lord is never wrong in His decision. At the request of her family, the memorial service is scheduled to start tomorrow (Thursday, March 24) at 3 p.m. at Yangqiao South Funeral Home. We beseech the Father to comfort her family and all others. We pray the Heavenly Father to remember Sister Xiao for all her Christian service. We implore the Lord to lead tomorrow’s ministry as we remember her life. For those who have time, please go to see Sister Xiao off on her final earthly journey.”

This was followed by those adding their blessings and condolences to the group, with several continuing with determination:

“I’m going.”

“Yes, I also. Wish Sister Xiao RIP all the way.”
“My car can take us. It holds 3.”

” I can take 2 more. Meet me at Zhongshan Road at the Medical College.”

“Contact me for seating.”

And a last note from Monitor Zhang, which was so touching: “Brothers and Sisters, for those who can go to the memorial service tomorrow, please bring the song “The Incarnation,” “Golden Jerusalem” and “He cares for me.” We will sing for Sister Xiao and send her to the Lord in song.”

This was followed by numerous choir members eagerly responding:

“All right. “

“I can pick up all music at the church. Message me.”

“Copy that!”

“May the Lord bless our efforts.”
“Amen.”

And from America, while still waiting to return to my school and beloved choir family in Luzhou, I add the same: Amen!



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About China’s Recent Plane Crash: It wasn’t Longzhou or Luzhou, Folks

At 7:30 a.m. this morning, I sleepily wandered into the kitchen where my mom was listening to NPR, eating her breakfast. She’s a very early riser but not so much me and always turns on the radio for the latest news

“There was a plane crash in China,” she announced while slurping away at her oatmeal. “I think it was Longzhou, way in the south. Something like 200 were on board. Isn’t that where you lived before?”

Well, that certainly woke me up!

Yes, I spent 3 years in Longzhou, a tiny town in Guangxi near the Vietnam border. My school was Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities. After 3 years teaching in this remote town of 700,000, a different campus moved to the larger city of Chongzuo. 8 foreign teachers had already been recruited to teach there so the Amity Foundation and I felt I was no longer needed. In Longzhou, not only was I the only foreign teacher at our small school or 2,000 students but I was the only foreigner within a 50 mile radius.

I loved every minute of it! Along with my rescue Chihuahua, Little Flower, I had the time of my life: smaller classes (I actually knew the names of all my students), being able to walk from one end of the town to the other (just 20 minutes), getting to know all the small shop owners, enjoying a tight-knit group of Christians at the local church (we had about 20 in attendance every Sunday), enjoying a gigantic apartment (4 bedrooms, sitting room, inside kitchen, bathroom and balcony) and hosting activities in the English Center which was located on the 7th floor of Classroom Building 3. The spectacular view of the vast mountain landscape from the window was well worth the climb as we had no elevators.

When my mom mentioned Longzhou, those were the memories that immediately came to mind. But the idea that a plane crashed there was a bit of a mystery as there was no airport in Longzhou when I was there, and Longzhou is not on anyone’s flight path yet one never knows.

I reached for my phone to contact a young man who used to come to my apartment with his friends when he was in junior high. His English name is Joe and he graduated from the university 2 years ago and is still searching for a job in accounting. It hasn’t been easy. He tried in the capital city of Guangxi Province, Nanning, but wasn’t having much luck due to the virus and other applicants having better qualification. He returned home last month to hang out with his family and continue searching online where next to send out his resume.

“Hey, Joe!” I texted on WeChat. “My mom heard there was a plane crash in Longzhou. I didn’t know there was an airport in Longzhou. Did she get the right name?”

Our time difference is 14 hours ahead of me, being around 9:30 p.m. his time, and I figured he’d be up. Sure enough, he was.

“Not Longzhou,” Joe immediately replied. “In Wuzhou. I’m watching the news now.”

Then he attached a video, one of many which local residents near Wuzhou posted. His was of a distant plane plummeting head first into the ground, smoke billowing upwards with distressing cries from those recording.

If you’re wondering about distances, here is the distance between Longhou and Wuzhou.

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And another from Luzhou (7 million), my current teaching placement (which does have a new international airport) and Wuzhou.

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I’ve now read it was a China Eastern plane carrying 132 people. The last major crash in China was in August of 2010, where 42 people were killed. That is quite a good track record considering that in the 1990s, when I first arrived in China, a string of crashes gave mainland China the reputation of being the most dangerous country for air travel. With a complete overhaul of planes and pilot training, that changed the entire airline industry entering into the new century.

Now the safety of China’s flights is the highest in the world so this current crash has really sent the entire country into shock. I am already receiving messages from Chinese friends, former and current students, also my church choir members, if I’ve heard about their recent tragedy.

Some of my students are posting videos of the crash or notes of concern.

My colleagues and friends are including screen shots of news reports.

The choir members in our WeChat group are including prayers for the victims and soothing words of solidarity for their families.

Zhou Yan, a Luzhou friend who is an extremely successful businesswoman, wrote: “Yet another bad thing happens in my country. We are watching the news now about the plane crash. So many people died but still searching for the survivors. I wish everything is normal. I wish you can return soon. I am waiting for that day! Please take care of yourself.”

“Yes,” I texted back to Zhou Yan. “I wish the same: to return to Luzhou, for everything to be normal, to end tragedy and the virus and the war. We just have to remain hopeful, keep in touch and support one another. That is important.”

She replied with a heart emoji, I returned with a dove. Thus ended our messaging for the day: her late evening, sending world hopes of love; my early morning, with those of peace.

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The Campus Pool at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College: Finally Open . . . . . Without Me

It’s been a tough 24 months away from “my” China, for numerous reasons: No in-person contact with beloved students, colleagues and friends; missing my campus apartment with all the homey comforts (and really neat clothes that always dazzled my students!); greatly increasing the teaching load my Chinese colleagues, who are taking over my courses since there’s no one to sub for me ; not being able to sing with my Chinese church choir; putting on hold, yet again, all my holiday activity events (including Easter egg hunts, which were everyone’s favorite Spring activity); Plus not being able to fully utilize the English Language Resource Center for movie night, student lesson planning sessions, useful classroom arts-and-crafts demonstrations, Tuesday and Thursday game time and hoisting down boxes from shelves to pull out seasonal decorating items. (See below an evening game night.)

A Die-hard Swimmer Bemoans her Current Fate

But most distressing has been the opening of the school’s first natatorium. I’m a die-hard swimmer, and have been all my life. I tell people I’ve spent more time in the water than on land. I started splashing about at our local summer pool when I was 3, joined teams all the way through college and continued onward to keep in shape even to my current age of 57. (Ah, those years of summer swimming team!) I’m Age 6, 1971, in the first picture, then moving on in years from there through to high school.

When the indoor pool finally opened, without me, on the school’s campus in May of 2020, I was devastated.

Anticipating the Grand Opening

For 3 years, I’d watched it being built along with the basketball stadium. Every day, I’d walk to the sports field to take a look at the progress of our college’s 50-meter pool complex. I marveled at the workers’ 2-story temporary housing go up, watched with anticipation the empty expanse of land being dug out, witnessed bulldozers, flatbeds of iron girders and other equipment come and go, marveled at the rise of the impressive criss-crossing steel frame of the building itself and reveled in the eventual completion of the spectators’ stands as well as the actual filling of the pool.

When I left for my Chinese New Year holiday in January of 2020, there were leaking issues the workers were dealing with so it continued to be closed, much to my disappointment. But I figured by my return after just a month in America, I’d alight on February 14, 2020, to a grand opening. I was determined to be the first in. I wanted to wow the lifeguards, my students and administrators with my swimming prowess. I was especially looking forward to our school’s 3-day Sports Day in April, a yearly campus-wide mini-Olympics, where I promised students I’d coach those who wanted to enter the swimming competitions. As for myself, the teachers in our Foreign Language Department already had me down to enter the faculty competitions, where we all knew I’d give us a glorious outcome over the other departments. Finally, the first time in our school’s history, the PE teachers wouldn’t stand a chance against the College of International Studies’ foreign teacher, Connie. They might be able to defeat us in basketball, ping-pong, badminton, volleyball, and track & field but in the water, that was the foreign teacher’s domain.

How I was looking to walking 5 minutes to the pool from my campus apartment home rather than spending 30-minutes to taxi across town for my daily workout at the city’s new natatorium, where I had a year pass. There I met with the older crowd, all die-hard swimmers like myself. The water was heated but not the pool deck area, which made for a very chilly walk to and from the locker rooms.

School Pool Opens, Closes due to Covid, Re-opens to Date

While many areas of China have recently been struggling to keep the country’s Zero-Covid strategy in place, Luzhou (6 million, Sichuan Province) is proving itself Covid-free . . . at least for now. My students are posting pictures of folks maskless, lovely spring flowers throughout the campus, outings into the countryside with friends, eating out at crowded restaurants, sports events taking place, as well as contests and performances going on in the fully packed auditorium. Campus venues likewise remained fully operational, including the sports stadium and the natatorium.

I received word of the grandness of our new water-sport addition from Australian, Geoff, who recently turned 70. I once featured him and his disabled wife (Chinese, whose English name is Snow, 56) in a previous post. The two of them visited my campus recently to take a look at our nice facilities. They sent these pictures.

Quite impressive, isn’t it?


The gentleman giving the “thumbs up” signal was meant for me. He and I swam together every day at Zhangba Park Natatorium, where I had a year pass. Now he is swimming at my college pool, which is open to the Public for a $4 US fee per swim or you can purchase a year pass, as I absolutely will do when I return.

How I miss all my swimming buddies, including times I was asked to give swimming stroke advice for freestyle and butterfly, two of my areas of expertise. Looks like upon my arrival to my Luzhou home, whenever that can take place, I’ll have a lot to look forward to: new swimming friends and just a 3-minute walk from home, up the roadway incline to my favorite hang-out place of all time, the swimming pool. Can’t wait!

Next report: China is struggling as Omicron variant runs wild Updates will be personal stories from former students about the current Covid situation who live in: Shanghai, Jilin (Beijing district), Shenzhen, Nanjing (our Amity Foundation headquarters), tiny town Longzhou (my 3-year placement from 2009-12, along the Vietnam border) and Hong Kong.

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On this Ash Wednesday: Reflect and Pray

I No Longer Pray for Peace

On the edge of war, one foot already in,

I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.

I pray that stone hearts will turn
to tenderheartedness,
and evil intentions will turn
to mercifulness,
and all the soldiers already deployed
will be snatched out of harm’s way,
and the whole world will be
astounded onto its knees.

I pray that all the “God talk”
will take bones,
and stand up and shed
its cloak of faithlessness,
and walk again in its powerful truth.

I pray that the whole world might
sit down together and share
its bread and its wine.

Some say there is no hope,
but then I’ve always applauded the holy fools
who never seem to give up on
the scandalousness of our faith:
that we are loved by God……
that we can truly love one another.

I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.

Poem by Ann Weems, a Presbyterian elder and poet
written for Ash Wednesday 2003
https://www.squanlife.com/squanlife/2013/01/i-no-longer-pray-for-peace.html

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