My friend, Australian Geoff, gives Weekly Luzhou Updates

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Geoff and Snow in Luzhou, along the Yangtze

The story of Australian Geoff and his Chinese wife (a Luzhou native), English teacher “Snow” Xue, is a long one. Let me give you as brief a history as I can muster.  I might have missed a few important facts but I think I’ve gotten the best bits.

Geoff, An Australian on Walk-about Who Lands in China

Geoff is a history teacher out of Australia who left his country to teach in Africa for a number of years.  A divorcee, he adopted a young African girl as his daughter. She later was schooled in Australia, graduated from University and now has a wonderful job working in a public relations company in Australia.

Geoff’s strong ties to Africa ended when he decided to try teaching in China.  He landed in Luzhou, my city, where he taught English at several schools and at different grade levels:  college, junior high and high school.  One of those schools employed English teacher Ms. Xue, whose English name was Snow.  She was also divorced with a teenage daughter at that time who was being raised by Snow’s mother-in-law.

Snow was a vibrant, energetic, warm-hearted woman in her 40s whose personality drew everyone into her presence.  Even the grumpiest, nastiest of people melted under her charms.  She was always a bright spot in the day of whoever met her, an endearing soul whom we all admired, loved, respected and adored.

Wherever she went, she gathered people around her of all ages.  She organized school outings, parties for the foreigners in Luzhou, and gatherings in her apartment for any and all who wanted to visit.  She was constantly on-the-go, even teaching for free (or with a small fee) night English classes or special weekend English classes to children, their parents and even the very wealthy (and not-so-wealthy) of Luzhou.  (See my blog entry “The Ladies who Lunch”, June 30, 2016)

Her enthusiastic helpfulness and friendliness were fully extended to Geoff, a newcomer to China, who was having difficulty adjusting to a country which was very unlike Africa.  The language, the culture, the customs, the mind-thought of the Chinese, the bureaucracy of the system — all of these were taking a toll on Geoff’s sanity until Snow stepped in to advise, aid, guide and gently introduce him to her beloved China.

Their Time in Africa as English Teachers

Over the next few years, a special relationship developed between the two:  that of romance. Then, surprise! The two were married.  After the marriage, Snow applied for  a 2-year leave of absence from her school to travel with Geoff to Africa where they enrolled in the Australian version of the Peace Corps. They both taught English in Uganda.

After their 2-year commitment ended, they returned to China with Geoff coming and going throughout the next few years (Australia, China, Africa) while Snow continued to teach English at her junior high school.  The plan was for Snow to reach the age of 55 (retirement age in China for women) so she could then receive her pension.  After that, she and Geoff planned to travel the world, perhaps even settling down in Uganda for a few years.

The Devastating Stroke

3 years ago, when Snow was 51 years old, the Chinese New Year holidays arrived.   Geoff and Snow decided to spend their vacation time in Uganda to re-connect with old friends and students they had taught those many years ago as volunteers.  The trip was  about 5 weeks and included many countryside outings, hiking and once again being reunited with  the people they had come to love.

A few days before they were to return to China, they landed in Kampala, where they were to fly out of, to rest up a bit before the long trip back to Luzhou.  It was there, in the hostel, that Snow had a massive stroke while in the room where they were staying.  Geoff just happened to walk in the door as she suddenly stumbled out of the bathroom, saying, “Geoff, I think I’m having a heart attack.”  After that, she fell into his arms.

It was pure luck that Geoff was able to immediately rush her by taxi to the Kampala hospital, a few blocks away, where the best neurosurgeon in the country happened to be visiting.  She was in a coma for 10 days.  No one knew if she would wake up or not.  No one knew what brain damage had been done: Would she be able to talk, to move, to know what was going on around her, to function at all, or have any true quality of life?  It was a very difficult, emotionally draining time for Geoff as he visited the hospital, day after day, remaining by her side and praying, hoping for the best.

Those of us who were their friends received daily updates via emails from Geoff about her progress.  These updates began from her stay in Africa to her eventual move to an Australian nursing home for over a year and now, her return to Luzhou.

Her recovery was, needless to say, incredible, verging on miraculous, although she still has limitations.  She is confined to a wheelchair most of the time but has managed to walk a bit with unaided help. Through all these difficulties and challenges, Geoff has been by her side, reporting on a regular basis about his life with Snow.

Luzhou on Lockdown:  Geoff’s Musings and Stories   

I am in touch with many in Luzhou but those are Chinese, who have limited vocabulary to fully express what is happening and whose opinions are not fully voiced.

Geoff, on the other hand, has a lot of insight and gives a very different update that I receive from Chinese nationals.  His weekly updates can be found at:  snows.site123.me

Here are a few excerpts:

February 16:  Geoff Reports

By mid-week it was apparent that bio-security measures were becoming even more rigorous with recreational areas being cordoned off to further discourage people from going out – the whole riverside promenade on which I normally run 2 or 3 mornings a week is now a no go; no swimming, kite flying, jogging, strolling, etc. See the photo of the deserted area – we were passing by as it was being roped off. Also, the extensive park near the downtown area now completely closed as well small alleyways blocked off. 

For the first time on Thursday I saw workers dressed in full white bio-security suites with goggles walking the streets as well as the first evidence of army medics being deployed, with a PLA medical vehicle stationed outside a hospital.

Yesterday saw the roll out of the harshest Wuhan-like restrictions across the city by the municipal authorities – each household must register with the housing complex manager to get pass outs which allow only 1 person from the household to leave the complex for 2 hours every 2nd day to buy food. (However, we were told that we would be allowed to go together because we are a special case.)

Exits will be recorded – the complex managers being responsible for the system’s administration. People will have their passes checked at the entry to supermarkets before being allowed in. 

February 21st, Friday:  Geoff Reports

The 3 year mark (since Snow’s stroke) passed a little after midnight this morning here. For some reason I stayed up last night until 12, which is very unusual for me, so I was just drifting off to sleep with Snow when the time slipped by. To sustain the level of care required, I’ve had to adopt a strict daily regimen of sleeping 11 to 7, getting Snow up at 7.30, giving her breakfast and toileting her before I get myself out to exercise by 9 every other day to maintain my fitness. This week, because of the restrictions on going out, I’ve been doing circuits of the stairwell – 17 floors x 4 times (run up; lift down) followed by jogging around the courtyard (100m) 10 times, about the best I can do in considering the circumstances.

However, things did start to relax mid-week. Apparently an instruction had been issued from Beijing on Thursday a week ago after a meeting of senior leaders to call for all areas to adopt measures similar to Wuhan. This led to the frantic activity on Friday to implement such stringent procedures which took effect on Saturday. But it would seem that some municipalities, including Luzhou, were over–zealous in their interpretation of the edict and it was wound back after a few days – apparently local governments were notified during the week from Beijing that they could now take steps appropriate to their situation and as there had been no new cases in Luzhou in the 6 days up to Wednesday the draconian measures were lifted. We can now go out whenever we want but are still encouraged to do so only when necessary – however people from other housing complexes are still barred from entering and temperature screening is continuing at entrances to all housing complexes, as well as at the entry to shops.

By yesterday some of the temporary barriers that had been erected to funnel people passed screening posts were being removed and a sprinkling of businesses beginning to re-open.

– a few mobile phone stores, a copy shop, a couple of clothing shops, a small hardware store, some hairdressing salons and a motor repair garage, an essential service to maintain considering the spluttering bus that passed by us the other day. Nevertheless, business must be very slow as there are still relatively few people out and about but I expect that things may pick up tomorrow as the prefecture government has given the green light for most businesses to re-open, the exception being anything to do with entertainment – restaurants, bars, KTV, tea houses and the like – any place where people might congregate in groups. For that reason, schools and colleges will remain closed for longer. Photos – Snow outside our local mini-market with a motor workshop open next door; a women’s clothing store readying their display; a hardware shop with a disinfectant sprayer about to mount his motor bike.

Taking a walk along the river yesterday afternoon it was pretty much back to normal, with the winter swimmers again bracing the icy conditions and the kite flyers back at it as well as numerous people out for a stroll.

A Return to Normalcy on the Verge?

I would say that last report from Geoff  seems to indicate that Luzhou is starting to open up a bit more. That is some relief.  I hope as the weeks progress, more news of a return to normalcy will emerge.

Here I leave you with a couple of pictures of Geoff, Snow and myself after their return to Luzhou.

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In the Luzhou Protestant Church.  The two arrived to enjoy a special church program rehearsal

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Geoff and Snow came for my college’s 117th year anniversary gala performance.  Yes, I was in full gala attire for a poetry reading performance with my Chinese colleagues.

 

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It’s my greatest joy to schedule Christmas Open Houses in my home for students, colleagues and friends.  This was my night for friends, with Geoff bringing Snow.

 

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Love you, Snow!!

Posted in China, coronavirus, From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Travel, Visit To The States | 1 Comment

Newsletter Recipients, Take Notice! Itineration changes — March 1 – April 13

This posting regards my most recent newsletter, which was sent out today.

For those who are not aware of my snail-mail updates, I send out 2 newsletters a year:  Winter and Spring.  This newsletter is formatted, run off, stuffed and sealed by my hometown church and helpers, then mailed out to (currently) 877 on my newsletter list.  I have my own NGO mailing code so the cost of mailing is very reasonable, a total of $163 this time around.  Paper, envelopes, colored ink costs add about $225 for a total of around $400 per mailing.  This is paid for by many of you who donate to my newsletter fund and also by  funding from the United Methodist GBGM.

The Current Newsletter

When I landed on Jan. 9, I immediately began the process of getting this out to everyone.  I hate waiting until the last minute and wanted the news to get to people ASAP.

Within 8 days, my newsletter was ready to go and about to be mailed.  However, all the preparation work involved was before the virus was truly problematic.  I had 877 newsletters with updates that appeared all of China was normal and I would be returning on time to begin the school year as always.

A Late Mailing; Changes in Updates

Also reported in that newsletter was my itineration (visiting) dates in the summer to do presentations and talks about Amity and China.  I do this every 3 years as a part of my contract before it is renewed.  Little did I know that I would be immediately “stuck” in the States for at least 2 or 3 months, even longer, until US flights began to return to China.

Rather than throw away 877 sealed newsletters to change the dates, and give virus news,  I left the updates as-is and held off mailing hem until today.

The General Board of Global Ministries, and the Amity Foundation, have all approved of a different plan:  I am now itineration from March 1 – April 13, maybe even further onward.

The contact person is the same but the dates are not so those of you who are on the newsletter list, and happen to check this website, be aware of this.

Want A Visit? March 1 – April 13 —  Who to Contact

My contact person is the same person in the newsletter.  Only the dates have changed.

If you want to be on my itineration schedule, please contact:   Carolyn Yockey at CLPY508@aol.com; Telephone 309-452-3936.   Address:  508 Normal Avenue, Normal IL  61761. 

A Few Other Notes

I’ve had several people ask me where Wuhan, the virus epicenter, is located compared to my city, Luzhou,  in Sichuan Province.  See below:  Wuhan first photo; Luzhou (near Zigong), second photo

The two are 700 miles apart but at present, all cities are on lockdown with no one going in or out of city limits.  Self-Quarantine is necessary if you are going from city to city for any reason. In many cases, national highway police will not allow private cars on toll roads unless necessary.  Trucks, long distance buses, and emergency vehicles  are all fine with signed, proper paperwork allowing them road use..

Closing Things Off

It’s been years since I’ve been home for Valentine’s Day so February 14th became a fun event in my home.  My mom and I prepared our Valentines for one another with goodies, chocolates and cards.

Bridget’s First Valentine’s Day in America

Who came away on top? It was Miss B, Little Bridget!  Our Chinese rescue had her very first Valentine’s Day celebration in her adopted country, complete with a Valentine’s Day  bear gift (Dollar Store, so great!) ………

and plenty of lovin’.

Now there is one very lucky, spoiled little Chinese immigrant.

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

Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, China, coronavirus, coronavirus situation in China, From Along the Yangtze, Illinois, Luzhou, Smalltown American Life, Travel | Tagged | Leave a comment

In China: Can’t go out due to the virus? No Worries! Online everything is available

Chinese have always been adept at online anything using their phones.  Banking, Net ordering of goods, transferring money, bookings (bus, train, plane, theater), payment of services or things needed (house repairs, remodeling apartments, furniture, cars, etc), posting and sharing videos, pictures, friend chats, company business and so on. So it is not unusual that in this time of staying at home, the Chinese have amped up their phone use to a new level.  This is definitely apparent when it comes to my profession, that of education.

According to the new  schedule, teachers were to return to campus this weekend with the teachers’ meetings beginning on Feb. 17 to prepare for the new school year.

However, the return of students to campus on February 22 has been nixed.  All teachers are to go to online teaching, which I’m sure will be addressed this week as teachers come back to their departmental offices.

Online Teaching:  It will be a challenge!

So much new technology is involved in online teaching, including downloading Apps, instillation, instruction by our tech staff, and how to maneuver through the system, that it will be a huge endeavor to get everyone on the same page.  We have excellent computer experts on our campus who deal with all our classroom computers, updating and repairing programs, addressing viruses and questions.  They are overworked on just a regular basis keeping up with everything.   This last-minute complete change-over is really going to send them into overdrive to get new software installed, teach everyone the use of the new system, how to access it from your phone or personal computer, how to do classroom teaching with video and whatever else needs taken care of.

I was not asked to participate in such a venture but I think that is a wise move.  I do not think China wants anything coming out of America, even if it is as innocent as a teaching tool for college students.  One never knows what is being reported or said from my country.  I would not want to cause my school to be scrutinized as to what teacher Connie is saying or doing from America if I join into the online teaching system.

Teachers, workers, staff returning:  Their own problems

While a majority of our teachers have been in Luzhou the entire winter holiday, there were a few who traveled home before the city lockdown occurred in earnest around Jan. 26.  A ban was also lifted for those in government jobs and companies, asking them to return to work this past week.  But people are still requested to remain at home.

According to today’s posting, more than 780 million people are currently living under various forms of travel restrictions as authorities race to contain the spread of the virus.

I was wondering how this travel situation would unfold as my colleagues, administrators, office staff and campus workers returned. Quite a few of our teachers now have private cars, which (in the past) they enjoyed driving all about the city or to outer-lying areas on day trips or countryside outings.  Car usage is now at a minimum.  City roads and streets are empty.  Parking lots are vacant. Residents are encouraged not to go out often, thus vehicular traffic is extremely limited.

A message from a colleague at my college came in this morning, answering a few of my questions:  “Now, the teachers and staff who are returning from other cities should be in quarantine for 2 weeks (14 days).  First, their temperatures are monitored and other phenomena, and can only order take-away food 3 meals a day from the school canteen.”

From this, I gather traveling teachers who live on campus are not allowed to leave their apartments for an entire 2 weeks, even to go shopping.  As for campus workers (cafeteria staff, grounds keepers, electricians and other repair folk),  I am unsure where they would be staying.  Most live in dormitory-style housing units at the school.  Will they be placed together for a 2-week period and not allowed to go out?

And it seems that even getting back to cities of employment by China’s toll-road highways, which were closed for some time but just re-opened,  is becoming a mess.

“Drivers were held up on highways for 15 days without food and beds.”

I do know that Jan. 26 began a full ban for vehicles on highways across the country so I am guessing she means some people became stuck on closed highways and were just released through toll stations after their 15 days of seclusion.  Those reports I have not heard on our US media networks so I can’t confirm but what a nightmare that would have been!  Surely someone would have delivered water and food to these people, not to mention officials walking the many miles of lined up cars, trucks and buses to take people’s temperatures.

I have seen on the news and heard that temperature checks are a must by official temperature-takers at public places (supermarkets, hospitals, banks) and even on my campus, officials go door-t0-door in my apartment building to check temperatures of those living there.

The Luzhou Church Goes to Online Services

The Luzhou Protestant Church

Worship services usually have 400 in attendance. Sunday morning, traditional service from 9 – 11 a.m.; contemporary from 7:30 – 9 p.m.

 

I am a member of the Everlasting Love Choir at the Luzhou Protestant Church, which is a solely Chinese language church, attended by the Chinese.  Although all foreigners are welcome to come to church, rarely do overseas’ Christians join in the worship.  I am the only regular one who comes. (Yes,  foreigners in Luzhou can attend church  with Chinese Christians and are always welcomed with open minds and open hearts.)

I have been singing with our church choir for 3 years now, which includes attending practices (twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday from 7 – 9 p.m.), worship on Sunday morning (8 – 11:30 a.m.),  numerous rehearsals for special events such as Christmas and Easter, Bible studies and fun fellowship outings which the choir often arranges.

As reported before, the virus has greatly affected those of any religion who often gathered together to worship:  Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Doaists …  Temples and church leaders have been asked not to hold regular gatherings and ask their members to stay at home.

Our choir practices ended the week of January 20th with Luzhou church services halted from January 25 onward.

I received a notice via my phone that as of February 16, yesterday, services will now be held online.  The announcement was as follows, with instructions on using Alibaba’s 钉钉 (Ding Ding, or Ding Talk) App.

“In order to ensure that more brothers and sisters at home can participate in the worship of the Lord on the network platform of our church, during this special period of the epidemic, today the church has begun to build the “Dingding” group. With Dingding group, you can participate in live worship online with thousands of people and can participate in Luzhou church online worship on Sunday.  Please tell each other.  Help each other to install the Ding Talk movie phone software.  If you can’t install the software, please entrust a family member to help you.  Click the link below to install the software and register.”

Wikipedia explains this software as follows:  “Ding Talk is an enterprise communication and collaboration platform Developed by Alibaba Group.   It was founded in 2014. By 2018 it was one of the world’s largest professional communication and management mobile app in China with over 100 million users.  International market intentions were announced in 2018.  Ding Talk provides iOS and Android apps as well as Mac and PC clients.”

Unfortunately for me, I am not able to join this group because my cell phone telephone number only works in China. To join the group, security codes must be accessed via text messages which I can’t get in America.  So I will just be content in knowing that my Chinese church family is able to continue with their shared faith in online worship.

I leave you with my prayer for today, which I just posted in our choir WeChat group:

“Today’s Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for giving my life purpose and meaning.  In this difficult time, guide me to send help where it I needed.  Use me to spread your love.  Let me be your instrument here on Earth.  In your name I pray, Amen.”

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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in A Visit Home to Marshall, China, coronavirus, From Along the Yangtze, Tales from The Yangtze River, Tales of China, Travel | Leave a comment

Continued News from China: My friends report

It has now become a national pastime in China:  Check the “in-real-time” app map (from Johns Hopkins CSSE, which stands for  “computing curriculum software engineering”) which reports minute-by-minute all coronavirus cases not only in China but around the world.  The map lists numbers of deaths, confirmed virus cases, and those recovered by regions and countries.  So it seems gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com is now the place to go for a look at how the battle against coronavirus is progressing.

I, also, am a current visitor to this site.  Although my city of Luzhou is not listed, I have heard the cases announced are 18 at present.

Friends in Tongtan:  Countryside Life Amidst the Virus Scare

While Luzhou city (pop. 5 million)  has 18 cases, I heard yet another infected individual has been reported in the small town of  Tongtan, a 20-minute drive from Luzhou.

The new part of Tongtan, a small town located 30 miles from Luzhou.

Somewhat deserted, old Tongtan which is still standing (about 30 residents) and leads farmers to and from the ferry which takes them across the river to their homes.

This concerns me in many ways because of my farming friends, Mrs. Chen and her husband, Che, and their 17-year-old daughter, Liangyu.  They live in the terraced farmlands surrounding Tongtan, located along the Tuo River, a tributary of the Yangtze.

Over the years, I have taken many of my friends to visit Chen and Che, including our Peace Corp volunteers and Chinese friends.  While getting from Luzhou to the new part of town  is fairly straightforward by the Luzhou city bus, trekking to their farmhouse takes a bit more time, bringing a total journey (from the moment I leave my campus apartment to Chen and Che’s home) to about 3 hours — See pictures below.

Currently, their daughter Liangyu has not returned to school due to the virus. She is still keeping very busy doing mountains upon mountains of  winter homework assignments.  These are a means of agony for all junior high and high school students in China.  No one during the Chinese New Year holidays, or the summer holidays, has a true vacation.  Instead, every day of vacation has numerous homework pages that must be completed and ready for review on the first day back to school. From what I have heard, Liangyu’s teachers have been adding to the winter homework list via cell phone text messages and WeChat notes since returning to school has been delayed.  As the virus rages onward, there is also talk of online teaching, something new for Chinese school systems at the primary and secondary school levels.

Liangyu’s dad, Mr. Che, along with thousands of other farmers, returned from his migrant work in southern China.  He is not returning anytime soon due to factory closures and the continued pressure by local authorities for people to stay home.  I wonder if Tongtan’s infected individual is one those migrant workers who came home for the holidays a few weeks ago.  All farm families in the area have been told to stay at home and not travel too far. Even walking into the small town to sell vegetables or heading into the big city of Luzhou is discouraged.  This certainly will impact their livelihoods, as you can imagine.

My relationship with this family began 5 years ago, with, of all things, a dog.  Continue reading, if you are interested in knowing more.

The Story of SP

The Chen-Che family had had a big dog for many years to protect the house but it suddenly disappeared around wintertime.  This is not uncommon in the countryside of China, where eating dog meat is thought to warm the body and make a person stronger during the cold winter months.

Although I knew of the dangers of countryside dogs, SP (Stairwell Puppy, an abandoned young dog on my college campus) was also in danger of being either run off or killed by poison due to her behavior.  She was getting territorial in the stairwell where she was hiding, sometimes barking or growling at our college teachers and children as they hiked up the stairs to return to their apartments.  SP, still timid and somewhat approachable,  had become attached to me but I couldn’t take her in myself so I made it my mission to find her a good home.  After announcing a need for an SP family among my many Chinese friends, an English teacher (“Snow” Xue) at a local junior high school found a farm family in the Tongtan looking for a dog.

SP’s new home in the countryside: Chen and Che’s house is in the distance.

And what a wonderful family it was!  No dog was on the menu at Chen and Che’s farmhouse.  She was accepted as one of the family.

SP lounges in her new countryside home.

SP proved herself to be a wonderful watchdog and a stalwart companion for Mrs. Chen, whose husband, Che, spent months at a time in Guangdong Province, getting work at construction sites when he could.  Mrs. Chen worked the farm on her own throughout the year.

When I sent SP to her 5 years ago, she was 49 years old, the same age as I, but her health was always a constant issue.  So many aches and pains riddled her thin frame.  Her husband, 10 years older than she, was having difficulty finding jobs as a migrant worker.  Many factories and construction sites prefer younger people, 50 and under.  A nearly 60-year-old man is not desirable yet he tried his luck, anyway, despite sometimes having to wait weeks before a foreman would hire him.

For 3 years, I visited SP and enjoyed getting to know Mrs. Chen on a more personal basis.  My friends and I would arrive to a home cooked meal, after which we’d walk the countryside with SP tagging along.

SP leads the way on our countryside walks.

Mrs. Chen’s infamous meals — all fresh ingredients grown by hand on her farmland.

Mrs. Chen busy in her kitchen, woking up meals for my visits.

Chen’s mom, 84, feeds the kitchen fire with kindling as her daughter cooks.

Daughter Liangyu, Mrs. Chen and I enjoy a courtyard lunch on one of my many visits to their home.

Educating The Daughter:  A Financial Burden

Her daughter’s schooling was an issue, however.  To get Liangyu the best education possible, Mrs. Chen enrolled her in  Luzhou city rather than the lower-standard school  in the tiny town of Tongtan.  The 3-hour journey to Luzhou, as mentioned before, was a tedious one.  It demanded a 15-minute walk to the ferry from their home, waiting for the ferry’s arrival, 25-minute walk to the main county road, a public bus ride through the countryside into the city, a change to the city bus and a final arrival at the school.

The distance being too great for daily treks to and from school, Liangyu stayed in the dormitory on her junior high school’s campus with other students like her whose parents were also from the surrounding countryside.  Although tuition was free, housing, school books, food and other living expenses were not.  The yearly 12,000 yuan (roughly $1,700 US) required for Liangyu’s education had to be paid out-of-pocket.

Coming up with the money was a difficult task for Chen and Che, who had little income aside from what Che could manage as a migrant worker.  His age made it difficult to hold a job on a regular basis.  Sometimes, his 2-month income was a mere 2,000 – 4,000 yuan ($300 – $600).  Mrs. Chen added what she could by selling vegetables in a Luzhou market.  The 2 1/2 hour daily trips into the city, and the 2 1/2 hours back again, supplied her with roughly $5 a day, one dollar of which was used for bus and ferry transportation. The journey was taking it’s toll as she was also responsible for all the farm work, which included not only farming but taking care of the chickens and ducks she raised.

It was Mrs. Chen who pushed for her child’s expensive education in the city although her husband, Che, didn’t often agree. Convincing him of the value of such an education for a farm girl was a constant sore spot in their relationship.  At one point, Chen wanted to call it quits for the girl and not allow her to further her education into high school.

That’s where I stepped in.

In appreciation of their help with SP, I gathered together friends willing to help out with the education of Liangyu.  We have been doing this now for 5 years, with Liangyu now completing her junior year in high school.  Such an accomplishment for her parents, who never made it beyond primary school.  Our hope is that she will be the first in her family to go to college and graduate with a promising future in whatever field she chooses to enter.  She is a very bright young girl whose English is very impressive.

Liangyu with her high-grade award certificates. She is making us very proud of her accomplishments!

SP Disappears; A New Rescue Joins the Chen and Che Family

I am heartbroken to say SP disappeared a year ago in October.  We all miss her very much and still speak of her with fond memories and longing.  Mrs. Chen, meanwhile, was in need of another dog and one just happened to land on my doorstep last October, a full year since SP left their home.

A small puppy with one 6-toed paw was dumped in front of the teachers’ apartment building where I live.  I am guessing one of the college students bought him for a few dollars in a pet market uptown, thinking he could be hidden in the dorm room.  Of course, keeping pets in the dorm is forbidden but many students try it, anyway.  When the animal is discovered, the students throw the poor thing out with the hope the abandoned animal will  join the many other strays around our school and somehow survive.

Little 6 lands on my doorstep, looking for a good home.

Xiao Liu-liu (Little 6) was a perfect dog for the countryside and Mrs. Chen was excited to have him.  I sent him to her in October and just visited him before returning to America in January.  What a big boy he has become!  With the help of former Peace Corp volunteer, Brian, and my former Chinese student, Angel, we carried 4 bags of dog food which I felt was enough to keep him well-fed until my next hoped-for visit in March, after the New Year’s holidays ended.

Look at how big our Little 6 has grown! She was a happy, playful 8-month-old when I left.  Now she’ll be close to 9 months.

News from Tongtan

As I write today, my contact person, Angel, (seen above) has sent news that all the family are back at home.  Mr. Che returned from Yunnan Province at about the time when the virus scare was surging, January 20.  Since then, he has remained on the farm to help his wife with the many chores required of farmers in China.  Factories are still closed, cross-country transportation is still limited and workers are requested to stay where they are for the time being.

Liangyu is also at home, continuing with her homework assignments as given by her teachers.

Mrs. Chen remains in good spirits, with Little Six joined by another rescue, the stocky male, Big Flower.  The two dogs continue to enjoy a happy country lifestyle along with black kitty who comes and goes as he pleases.

I have heard nothing concerning more virus cases in Tongtan.  Let us hope it remains that way.

How I am looking forward to a return visit to Tongtan, when masks are not required and Little Six and I can wander the trails together once again.  It will come to pass, I am sure, but just not as soon as we’d all like.

From Illinois, until the next report, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn), Peace, for your day.

 

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爱德基金会向武汉运送了紧急救援物资 (The Amity Foundation sends emergency supplies to Wuhan)

Today’s virus updates pertain to my sponsoring organization in China, The Amity Foundation.  I am an Amity Foundation English Language teacher, and have been for 24 years with my US sending agency being the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (UMGBGM).

Amity is a Chinese social service organization whose offices are in Nanjing, China.  Aside from the many projects and programs Amity promotes in China (and around the world), one vital component of the organization is Amity’s emergency relief division, which brings aid to those in need. Amity’s emergency relief division is incredibly fast.  They were one of the first on the scene during the Sichuan 2008 earthquake, and are consistently bringing supplies to disaster areas difficult to reach in the country.

Once again, Amity has come to the aid of the Chinese people, this time focusing on Wuhan and Hubei Province. Posted on the Amity English Website (amityfoundation.org) was the following:

English Article taken from Website:  amityfoundation.org

The Amity Foundation has expanded its emergency relief response in containing the coronavirus outbreak. We support various hospitals and communities in Hubei Province in fighting the virus. Thereby, we receive continuous strong support from local companies and the general public.

January 29 to February 2:

As of February 2, 2020, Amity Foundation has received a total of RMB 35.57 Million yuan donation, or  $5.3 million US dollars (including committed donation) from companies, organizations, online fundraising and individuals, and has transported nearly 300 tons of various disinfectants, 10,700 medical protective screens, 713 boxes of various disinfection supplies, 3000 goggles, 43,000 masks, 250,000 pairs of medical examination gloves, and food (including instant noodles and instant rice packages) to the Hubei Province, the province that is most affected by the coronavirus.

To support the work of Hubei’s local social organizations, to promote sector advocacy on fighting against the coronavirus, and to explore international network, Amity Foundation, One Foundation, Narada Foundation, China Merchants Charitable Foundation, Zhenron Foundation, China Social Welfare Foundation, Beijing Pinglan Foundation, China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, Beijing Normal University Research Center for Risk Governance and Innovation, and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) officially launched the China NGO Consortium for 2019-nCOV (CNC-2019nCOV).

Christians in China are supporting Amity’s emergency relief operations. Chinese churches have raised more than 1.07 million RMB ($150,000 US dollars) to support Amity’s relief efforts in containing the coronavirus, according to the official CCC/TSPM website.

The coronavirus outbreak has also affected Jiangsu Province, where Amity Foundation’s headquarters is located. It becomes common for medical staff in Nanjing’s hospitals, especially in the local community hospitals, to have no time to go out for meals. Since Jan 29, the Amity Medical Health Fund, which is jointly established by Amity and Nanjing University, supports the doctors in local community hospitals and provide meals for them.

 

A Visual Look

From the Amity Foundation website, look at the great work Amity is doing!

Not only that, but our United Methodist’s UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) has sent $10,000 to help the Amity Foundation with below supplies.

On a Personal Note

我为能成为一名英语爱德基金会老师而感到自豪!  (I am so very proud to be an Amity Foundation English Teacher!)

Although I am out of the country at the moment, I will continue to update those of you in America about the  Amity’s ongoing commitment to help those affected.  I will also continue to pass along stories of those in Luzhou and elsewhere, myself students and friends, who send news of their lives in this increasingly challenging, and worrying, situation.

From China, here’s wishing you peace, 平安 (ping ahn), for your day.

 

 

Posted in A Visit Home to America, China, coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus situation in China, From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Tales of China, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another Morning of Cell Phone Checks

Once again, I am on my phone to hear how things are faring in Luzhou.

One of the Wuhan doctors, who in December first blew the whistle of the virus via text messages to friends, has died.  If you have been keeping up on his story, Dr. Li was criticized by Wuhan police and government officials after he contacted some of his health professional colleagues and friends about a patient with a SARS-like illness. Within a few hours, his texts had been forwarded by those who received them, reaching further into the populous.  Wuhan police came knocking on his door,  admonishing him for spreading rumors and causing unnecessary panic.  He was asked to sign a statement he was illegally spreading  lies and untruths, and would stop doing so, before he was allowed to be released. No signature; no release.   He signed  under pressure and continued with his medical care duties in a hospital that, soon after, began filling fast with virus patients.

He contracted the virus, even passing it on to his family members, after caring for so many patients.  From his hospital bed, he gave several interviews on CNN before he finally succumbed to pneumonia.  The country’s citizens are currently up-in-arms about his death.  They are sending messages of outrage, anger and condolences to his family.  Heartbreaking!

A morning note from one of my seniors

I sent this message to one of my graduating seniors yesterday.  She is in her hometown, still waiting to return to school by Feb. 24.  Her reply came this morning:

Connie:  The virus is spreading.  What have the health officials told you?  Our news is reporting a lot.  I worry about you and your family.  My mom says try to keep healthy and safe. Me, too!

My student:  Thanks, Connie and your mom.  Children and young adults are not susceptible to the virus.

Oh, honey!  That is an absolute falsehood, although it is true that a majority who are younger and have the virus survive after the illness has run its course.

My College’s Plans for Lindsey’s and My Classes the upcoming semester

Before we left, Lindsey and I had already received our courses for this coming semester.

Lindsey was to continue teaching conversation to 217 sophomores with a specialized primary school methodology education class (about 30) who were chosen from another department.  She’d taught them before and the school was so pleased with the results that the leaders agreed she should do it again.

I was to have my usual 5 classes of freshmen with about 30 extras who had requested a change of major to English Education.  The total was 270. Also, a teaching methodology class for all the sophomores, which totaled 217.

Our school is strict about students being in the classroom, studying.

In cases where a teacher does not teach due to official conferences or educational meetings, school-sanctioned travels, campus-wide events in which students are required to participate and not have classes, and numerous other situations, the teacher is required to make up the classes.  Make-up classes are a bear to deal with.  Trying to squeeze extra classes into your already busy schedule and also the students’ full schedules is a challenge.  Coordinating free times in between our booked-solid days demands patience and careful scrutiny of empty time slots.  Paperwork signed by the teacher and department dean is also required, which is then sent to the teaching affairs office for final approval.

I did wonder if I would be required to make up all the classes I’d be missing due to this virus.  I was preparing myself to deal with this scenario but it seems my department has already considered the fact that I might not be returning anytime soon.

I have just been contacted by one of the young teachers in my department (Teacher Li) who will be taking over my classes and those of Lindsey’s.  Her voicemail sounded upbeat, full of hope that the delayed school year was to start up as usual on Feb. 24.

Li:  “Hey, Connie!  I have been informed that I will take some of your classes, maybe Lindsey’s classes as well, so do you have any teaching plans that I can refer to? Do you have any suggestions?”

How grateful I am that I have all my teaching plans right here on my computer and can easily shoot those back to her.  I told her that my textbooks for the new course and the freshmen were in my home, and that my neighbor had my apartment key.  He would let her in to pick those up so she could begin preparing now.

Li:  “OK.  But since the campus is restricted right now, and I can’t get to school, I will have to rely on whatever you can send me by email.  This is a very nice opportunity for me to get to know your students and your teaching materials.”

Teacher Li is a very capable young woman, with excellent English, so I am sure she can get along fine with my classes.  I am just sorry she has to take on such a heavy burden to teach so many students and be bogged down for so many teaching hours in a week.

When this virus threat is finally over, and I can return to China once again, I am bringing all those who helped with our course loads  an American gift goodie bag, filled with all sorts of fun things from my country.  It’s the least I can do for my colleagues, still hopeful that students will soon return, the school year will resume and all will revert back to normal.

 

From Illinois, here’s wishing you Peace, 平安 (ping ahn) for your day.

 

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

More Coronavirus China News: “It will be over soon”

“Are you on your phone again?!” my 86-year-old mother disdainfully utters as, throughout the day, I constantly check messages from China.

She is not an avid or adept cell phone user, although she now has finally updated to a smart phone.  I am so used to mobile phone mania in China, where people of every age are always on their phones.  In America, it is still not quite as prevalent as in China.

Usually, on my winter break in the States, I try my best to put my phone aside to concentrate on spending quality time with my mom.  But since the coronavirus first emerged as a threat, I have been somewhat distracted, depending on my phone and computer for all the latest news.

My mom is slowly becoming used to the sight of my daily ritual: early morning in my nightgown and robe, me crouching over my  small phone screen while I scan, read, reply and voicemail my Chinese friends, students and colleagues.

Here are the latest updates I gleaned this morning.

Our US Peace Corps Volunteers:  Gone from China; Waiting it out in Thailand; Soon to arrive in America

During these past few weeks, I’ve been in touch with our China US Peace Corp Volunteers, who had been sequestered in Thailand from January 26.  The early stages of the virus outbreak, which seemed mild at the time,  had the over 170 PCVs returning to China on February 27 to begin their school years as college English teachers.  After 2 weeks in Thailand, with no one getting sick, they are now on the travel no-threat list.  Their hope of a China return was nixed (for obvious reasons) and they will be on their way back to the States, as early as tomorrow.

This is such a sad ending to a worthwhile program.

Originally, China Peace Corps was scheduled to end  in 2021 after 27 years in the country.  That in itself was a disheartening  announcement.  Lindsey, who had just arrived at my college for her 2-year assignment, was counting on finishing her contract as expected.  With the current virus situation, however, the D.C. Peace Corps director announced that all China volunteers will have their time in China immediately terminated.  Peace Corps China is officially closed, and the volunteers will be returning to America on February 7, flying to their different homes throughout the country.

Within the US, Lindsey told me, it was advised 4 hours be given for connecting flights.  Passengers are being checked for temperature spikes and those especially who have been in China are to expect longer delays as they are examined more thoroughly.

I am not sure if offers were given to the China volunteers to choose another PC world placement.  Lindsey and her colleagues were too distraught to say much.  They just sent short messages of their surprise, disappointment and frustration that a return to China after the virus calmed down was not still on the table.

Luzhou’s Virus Cases Rise;  Efforts of containment are drastic

From Luzhou, I hear that virus cases have risen to 12.  With the increase, the Luzhou city government (as well as other cities across China) has gone on full lock-down.  My Chinese friend, Jenny, in Luzhou texts:

“Right now, the virus controlling is  top emergency.  All highways and city normal roads are blocked.  Long distance buses are banned.  More infections have been found. According to officials, these days are critical for the virus, and if the disease progresses further, school starts may be delayed again. Now people must wear mouth masks when they travel, ands many residential areas have been closed. People must be isolated.”

Jenny also told of trying to leave the city to visit her friend in the city Chongqing (pop. 30 million), which is 2 1/2 hours from Luzhou: “I liked to drive to see some friends in Chongqing.  I was stopped by traffic control, unable to leave the city.”

After hearing one of my American friends had barely escaped Luzhou’s crackdown of travelers to fly home, Jenny continued: “I hear that many airport check points had been set up for body temperature examination.  If anyone had a high body temperature or even a cough, he should be sent to quarantine.”

At our school: “Meanwhile, every day, the school is sterilizing corridors, classrooms, dorms and outside of buildings.”

One of the city’s official health officials disinfects a student dormitory hallway, despite the fact that most dorms are empty.

Why this would make a difference is beyond me.  Our campus, that usually bustles with 11,000 students, has been almost completely empty since January 15. A very few students, who opted to stay in Luzhou and work for the holidays, most likely have gone home already before they were advised not to.

The only permanent residents at our school are some teachers and their families.  I would guess perhaps 100 are here at present.  Some left for their hometowns before the government urged people to remain where they were.

The one apartment complex for single teachers and small families on my campus has 11 floors and 66 apartment units. I would guess about 100 are still here.

Then we have the 23 South African students, our first overseas’ students.  They have been on a China-African friendship study scholarship to learn cell phone design and assembly.  The program. had them doing classroom study on our campus for 3 months and then, on Feb. 3,  they were to begin a 1-year internship in a local cell phone factory.

Naturally, these plans have changed with the closing, for the time being, of all factories due to the virus.  The Africans are currently confined to their rooms, only going out to eat at the school cafeteria which was opened specifically to feed them since they can’t leave the campus, or even the country, so it seems.  I’m wondering if their sponsoring China-African Friendship scholarship directors, whoever they might be, originally told them to stay put, under the protection and responsibility of our school.  That might have been a mistake.  I know my school leaders well and I am certain they are very concerned about the well-being of these young Africans under their care, as well as our college students who are still scheduled to return on Feb. 22.

I do not believe that will happen.

Despite the fact the South Africans  haven’t been out into the city’s population since January 5, when they went to visit the factory they were to intern at, they are given daily temperature checks to make sure they don’t have the virus.  Better safe than sorry.

Our first overseas’ students, 23 South Africans (9 women; 14 men) are not allowed to leave their rooms except to eat in the cafeteria. They wear their masks outside but not inside the dorms. As you can see, they looked a bit distraught and frustrated.

An end in sight?  

Jenny’s final notes before going to bed:  “It is said there has been an antidote found.  The virus may be gone in a few days.  We are all expecting that.  It is possible!”

Oh, Jenny.  Ye of great faith; me of little.

From Marshall, here’s wishing you peace (Ping ahn) for your day.

 

 

 

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories, Tales from The Yangtze River, Tales of China, Travel | Leave a comment