Earthquake!

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

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

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

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

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

Surprise Wake-up from the 9th Floor

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

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

On the top floors, it ain’t so low!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Curious

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

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

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

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

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

Next Morning

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Back in China: Starting the School Year Right

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

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

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

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

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

Freshmen Yet to Start

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

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

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

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

What does Military Training entail?  

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

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

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Freshmen Classes Soon to Begin

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

Meeting the Freshmen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teacher’s Day

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

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

Closing Off

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

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Heading Back to China

It’s time!

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

With Grateful Thanks:  Such a Blessing To Meet You!

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

My Itineration  Destinations  

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

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

Photo Journal of Memories

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

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

 

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Back again! Reporting from America

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New School Year:  Freshmen Arriving Soon!

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

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

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

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

“Your Eyes!  They are so blue!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Peace Corp Volunteer Soon to Arrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

The English Language Resource Center Yet to be Established

My office/resource center being cleaned by volunteer students.

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

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

Cross your fingers!

The floor was scrubbed with anticipation of furniture arriving.

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

Continuing Onward with my Illinois Travels

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Stanley’s Trip to the Countryside (Cont.)

 

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I (Stanley) visit the Chen family in the countryside.  Here I am with Zhu Li (Julie) Chen and her friends in her mom’s bedroom.

 

 

Please read the previous entry for explanation of Flat Stanley.  Here he continues his adventures in China, with a visit to the countryside. Stanley learns that  most city people have money but countryside folk do not.  There is a huge difference between the very well-educated who live in Luzhou and the Chinese farmers who live in countryside areas nearby.  It’s a hard life for them.

I (Stanley) Visit the Countryside

Connie took me to the countryside for a day visit to Mrs. Chen’s home.  It took us 2 hours to get to her house:  two bus-rides to a town called Tong Tan (40 minutes), 30 minutes’ walking through the town to the river, 30 minutes to wait for a ferry to take us across the river and then 15 minutes walking along trails to Chen’s home.

Mrs. Chen and her husband are farmers.   Farmers in China are very different than farmers in America.  They grow all their own food to live on, not so much to sell, so they don’t have a lot of money to live on.  They have no farm equipment.  They do everything by hand.

 Because they don’t have jobs to earn money, Mrs. Chen’s husband doesn’t live at home.  He finds construction jobs building buildings in different parts of the country so he can earn money for his wife and daughter. 

Their daughter (Zhu li, or we can say Julie) is 12 and goes to a good city school in Luzhou (loo-joe). Luzhou is where Connie lives.   Because Julie  lives too far away to come and go to school every day, she lives at the school in the school dormitories.  She goes home every month for 3 days to visit her mom.  School in China is free but not for living there.  It costs $1,200 a year for  Julie to attend the school.  That pays for her dormitory, her food costs, her books and other extras. 

This is why Julie’s dad leaves home to find construction work.  He can earn $20 a day if he builds buildings.  On his farm, he earns nothing.  He only comes home for Chinese New Year, in the winter, for about 2 weeks.  After that, he returns to other places to build buildings.  Building buildings is not steady work.  Sometimes, it takes him a few weeks to find a job.  He is 62 years old and no one wants to hire older people to work construction.  Many companies only want people under 50.  This makes it really hard for him to earn a living but he keeps trying. 

This is common for many farmers in China.  The men go to work construction in big cities and the women stay at home to do all the farming.

It is a hard life but both  want their daughter to have a good education.   Mrs. Chen and her husband didn’t finish junior high school.  They can’t read or write very well.  They grew up on a farm and had to stay home to help their parents with the farm work.  They know education is very, very important. 

Like all Chinese farmers, they want a better life for their children so  they are working hard to send Julie to school.

Their dream is for her to go to college and graduate with a profession to do. No one in the family has ever gone to college.  Then she can have a steady job in the city and live a better life than her mom and dad.  She can also take care of her mom and dad because she will have enough money to do that. 

Most Chinese children who grow up thank their parents in this way.  They take good care of their mom and dad for all their lives.  Julie will do this, too, when she grows up.

Mrs. Chen’s Life

Mrs. Chen fixed us lunch when we arrived. She used a wood-burning oven to cook with.  Most Chinese farmers use wood they collect every day to make fires so they can do their stir-fries.

We had stir-fried vegetables from her vegetable plots.  We had duck, too.    Mrs. Chen has a lot of ducks and chickens.  These are for eating, not for selling. 

Mrs. Chen also served us her homegrown rice.  Farmers harvest rice once a year and have to harvest enough to eat on for the entire year.  If they don’t harvest enough, they have to buy the rice from stores.  That’s too expensive. 

They also grow rapeseed.  Rapeseed is used to make vegetable oil to cook with.  It is also harvested once a year, which is in May.  The plants have tiny, tiny seeds.  These are beaten out of the plants with special bamboo tools and the seeds are put into bags.  Farmers have their own hand-cranked machines to squeeze the seeds into oil and put into plastic bottles. This is the oil they use for the entire year to cook with.

While we visited, Mrs. Chen was beating the rapeseed plants so the seed pods would open and she could collect the seeds.  She was doing this all by herself because her husband was not there.  It was really hot outside and the sun was strong but she didn’t stop for a long time.  I tried to help her but she just laughed at me.  I couldn’t do it very well.  And I got tired in a hurry. 

I would make a really bad Chinese farmer if I lived with her.

Five days a week, Mrs. Chen goes into the city to sell her vegetables so she can have a little money to give to her daughter.  It takes her 2 hours to get to the city, placing all her vegetables in a basket which she carries on her back.  It’s a very heavy basket.  She has to walk an hour to get to the bus stop.  Because of this, her back hurts a lot, she said.

In the city outdoor market, she sits with other farmers and sells her vegetables to the city people.  She can make $5.00 a day doing this but it costs $2 for her to take the bus and ferry to and from the city.  So really, she only makes $3 a day for all her efforts.  She can give this to her daughter for spending money or  buy  some clothes for her to wear at school.

On Our Visit

On our visit, Julie was home for the weekend.  She and her friends were watching TV in the new part of their home.  4 years ago, the Chens borrowed money to build a concrete house.  Before, they lived in a sod (dirt) house for 22 years.  There were very few windows  and it was pretty awful inside.  The sod house is now used for farm storage and they live in the concrete house.   The conditions are so much better than before.  I was happy to see the family could enjoy a better home life than before.

We Walked the Trails

After lunch, Mrs. Chen went back to farm work.  Connie and I walked the trails and visited other farmers who were out in their fields.  We were led on the trails by Mrs. Chen’s dog, SP (Stairwell Puppy).  SP used to live on Connie’s school campus and was abandoned in a stairwell.  No one wanted SP because she was a big dog.  Most Chinese are afraid of big dogs so Connie sent her to live with Mrs. Chen and her family.  SP now is free to roam everywhere by herself.  She protects Mrs. Chen and barks if strangers come to the house.  She is always happy to see Connie and enjoys following her around.

Little Sister, the Chihuahua, also comes for visits to Mrs. Chen’s home. On our visit, the farmers had never seen such a little dog before.  They only know about big farm dogs, not little dogs like Chihuahuas.

“Is that a cat?” one farmer asked. 

“No,” Connie said in Chinese. “That is a dog.”

He was amazed that a dog could be so small.

“It’s really cute,” the farmer said, smiling. 

All the other farmers agreed.  Sister wagged her tail, then gave a bark.  She was proving she was a dog, not a cat.

Leaving Mrs. Chen’s Home

We left at 5 p.m. because the ferry stops running at 6 p.m.  It comes every 30 minutes so the last ferry across the river leaves at 5:30.  If we miss the last ferry, we can’t get across the river to return to Luzhou.

Mrs. Chen gave us lots of vegetables as a gift before we left.  We had cabbage, potatoes, and green leafy things to stirfry.  Julie and her friends came to wave us off as we stepped onto the ferry.

It was a really nice day.  I was happy to visit and learn about life for farmers in China.  It is so different than in America.  Maybe farmers in America used to work like that 100 years ago but not today.  It’s really a hard life, I think. 

Closing Off My Visit

Thanks for sending me, Marlee!  I had a lot of fun with Connie but I was ready to return to America.  Where will you send me next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Flat Stanley Comes for a Visit

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Those of you who are teachers, or are young enough to remember participating in this geography lesson, will know the familiar name of Flat Stanley.

This is an elementary school project that has been floating around for awhile.  The project’s name comes from the character of the children’s book Flat Stanley.  This book was written in 1964 by American author, Jeff Brown  The book centers around the life of character Stanley Lambchop, a boy who is accidentally flattened.  In the book, Stanley gets squashed flat by a falling bulletin board. His parents roll him up, put him in an envelope and mail him to his friend in California.

The Flat Stanley Project is an educational project that was started in 1995 by Dale Hubert, a third grade schoolteacher  in London, Ontario, Canada. The project features paper cut-outs based on the title character of Brown’s 1964 Flat Stanley children’s book

Hubert designed the original unit to facilitate the improvement of the reading and writing skills of his elementary students while also promoting an interest in learning about different people and places.

Students involved in The Flat Stanley Project are read the story of Flat Stanley and afterwards given black-and-white cut-outs of him for them to color.

The students send their  Flat Stanley character to a family member or someone living outside of the child’s town.  The recipient, after being contacted for permission,  take him about on daily routine outings:  to the gym, to the store, to work, to the park and so on.

After a week or two, Stanley’s newfound friend writes about his visit and/or takes pictures of him wandering about.  Stanley returns to the classroom via mail or being handed over to the child where he is posted in the room along with the stories of his visit.

Years ago, I had a young person send me a Flat Stanley in China during my first years in this country.    No computers, no cell phones, no readily-available fax machines and only one phone on the entire campus  that connected overseas.  Flat Stanley came as all communication from America came:  via snail-mail (the post office).  It took about 3 weeks for him to arrive, hang out for a week and then another month for him to return.  I later heard he came in the summer, when school had finished already and the child had moved on to the next grade.

Oh, well!

Today’s Overseas’ Stanleys

20 years later, a new world has emerged full of technology.  This includes China, where literally everyone (including the elderly) has the latest updated cell phone with a majority of people having computers.  Scanning, copying, photographing, texting, emailing all take place in an instant.

21st Century Stanleys visiting overseas no longer have to suffer through the agony of weeks crumpled and folded up in an envelope, then spend weeks coming back.  There was  also the possibility of being accidentally lost in the US or Chinese postal system, a fate no one would wish on anyone.

Stanleys today go the modern route: electronically.

Marlee Heighton’s Stanley

 A few weeks ago, from my hometown (Marshall, IL), I received an email from Dad Garry Heighton, whose mother (Karen) is a long-time friend of my mom.  Garry’s daughter, Marlee, was doing a Flat Stanley project in her classroom.  Would it be possible for me to help her out with Stanley coming to China?

Stanley was attached along with the explanation letter.  Electronically, he could be printed out and scanned for a return along with his stories.  Would I be willing to host Stanley?

Hey!  Why not?  Sounds like fun!

Stanley’s Visit

For about 2 weeks now, Stanley has accompanied me through my daily routines.  He’s gone to the fitness center, walked along the Yangtze, visited farmers in the countryside, come to my English classes to meet my students, walked the campus and numerous other activities.

His date of China departure was marked May 8 but we had to delay that a bit due to Internet difficulties. I apologize to Marlee, who has been waiting eagerly for his pictures and reports to share with her classmates, but here it is.

Enjoy the slideshow!  Better let him rest up a bit.  He had a really busy 2 weeks.

And Stanley, and I, send you a Ping An (Peace) for your day.

I (Stanley) Come to China to Visit Connie

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 Connie’s Home at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College

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My First Day with Connie

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A Trip to the Countryside (To Be Continued)

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Tales of China, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time for an Update!

Time for catching up

The last entry left you all hanging concerning the return to China after the Chinese New Year holidays.

How is the English Center coming along?  How has the new semester been going?  What worthwhile events have taken place?

As always, time gets away from me.  I’ll lead this new entry with the English Resource Center

The English Resource Center Still Not Developed

In February, Jackie and I landed  back at school with great intentions of getting our English Resource Center (which is also our office space) cleaned and furnished.   I had the funds; we both had the drive.  Time to go shopping!

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But then the English office teachers Mr. Yang and Mr. Huang threw a surprise at us:  The school will provide everything for the Resource room which also combines as our office.  Whatever we need, make a list and after approval, it’ll be ours.

Wow!  Such generosity!  What a wonderful gift!

Yang, Huang, Jackie and I sat down together to go over the list.  Mr. Huang had been so enthused that he drew 3 diagrams to show where all the furnishings would go.  Yang pulled us into our sad-looking, dirty office space to discuss  things we wanted and where they’d go.  The two young men even pulled out a tape measure and began eagerly measuring the room.

“List as many things as possible,” Huang suggested.  “Maybe not all will be allowed but the more, the better.  And you must give the measurements.  We must provide the list, all with details, to the correct office.  If it is accepted, then the school officials will buy what you want.”

“Well, can’t we go to buy the things with the person in charge?” I asked.  “That way, we can get exactly what we need.”

Yang and Huang paused, thinking and finally frowning.

“No, that is impossible.  The school will buy,” Huang said solemnly.  “It is the way we do things. It is best if you take pictures of what you want, give exact measurements,  send to Yang and he will send to the person who will buy the things.  That is important.”

Not being able to shop for all we hoped for  was a bit disappointing but Jackie and I weren’t about to turn down free everything.  Obviously, the school felt this was important for the foreigners and the students so money was set aside just for this purpose.

Jackie and I  busily collected  photos and measurements of what we wanted, including several bookshelves, a huge flat-screen TV, stackable stools, desks, 2 couches, air-conditioning/heater unit, water dispenser and whatever else we could think of.

The outcome of this enthusiastic gung-ho excitement on our part?

Nothing.

All that frenzied fuss was 3 weeks ago. We haven’t heard a word since.

As always in China, requests sit on a desk for days, weeks, even months before (suddenly, miraculously), things get done.  We imagine a phone call coming out-of-the-blue to announce, “Connie!  Jackie!  The furnishings are here.  Please come to unlock your office door and the furniture company movers will come to put them into the office.  You can tell them where to place the things.”

Jackie and I will then be dashing to our office building, frantically trying to figure out where shelves, desks, TV, and everything else should go.  We have a rough idea but hard to place things until you actually see them and know how they’ll look in the room.

So that is where we are right now:  Waiting.

Probably More Waiting

I expect there will be even more waiting as we’re having a 3-day holiday at the moment, Qing Ming Jie (Tomb Sweeping Festival).  That ends on Tuesday with us starting up classes on Wednesday.

That’s not the end, either, of a hiatus in our teachign schedules.

Next week, we will be having the annual Sports Meeting from April 12 – 14.  This is a mini-campus Olympics with a grand showing of all students parading around the field for opening ceremonies.  These are complete with intricate dance routines and choreographed formations, plus many speeches by the school leaders.  After that, Thursday and Friday follow with numerous sports activities and races.  Track and Field, basketball matches, ping-pong and even silly exercise games for the teachers are in the line-up.  Not everyone participates as you have to sign up but almost everyone comes out to cheer on their favorites.  It’s quite a big deal and something every school in China does, from elementary to university.

No classes are held during this time but we as teachers are expected to make up the classes that are missed.  We just have to go over student schedules and fit them in whenever students, and we, are free. It’s rather a pain to do make-up classes for all holidays and school functions but that is the way things are done here in China.

We can moan and groan about it (which we all do) but nothing to be done so we endure.

Looking Forward to One Particular Make-up Class:  Easter Activity Night!

For myself, one particular make-up class I’m planning is actually not going to be such a painful experience .

My first years are doing our Easter lessons at the moment. Last week, we completed the religious part of this Christian celebration which leaves my Part 2 lesson for this one, the more enjoyable American traditions of Easter.

On Friday evening, for my make-up classes for both the Sports Meeting and Tomb Sweeping Festival, I am having a combined class for all  150 freshmen education majors that I have.  We will be doing the U.S. customs for  Easter, including egg coloring, the jelly bean contest (How many jelly beans in the bottle? The one who guesses the closest wins all!) and an Easter egg hunt of sorts in the classroom we’ll be using.

My plan is to place egg cut-outs under numerous seats.  After enjoying all the activities planned, students will be instructed to search the room for the cut-outs.  Only 1 cut-out per student.  One person can’t hoard or collect all of them because  that’s not fair.

The cut-outs they will give to me and in return, receive a chocolate, tin-foil wrapped ladybug (Couldn’t find the chocolate eggs here).  I bought three small containers of these in Chengdu at a speciality chocolate store.  They’ve been imported from Germany and are they good!

In total, there will be  30 cut-out eggs to find, which should be enough to keep the excitement of the search going for at least 5 minutes.

But the grand prize will be the gold egg paper cut-out.  That one is worth a 50 yuan ($8) note.

This grand prize is due to a tradition in my hometown for children.  We hold an Easter egg hunt, sponsored by the city, every year in the city park.  There are many eggs to be found but the gold egg is worth 50 dollars.

My students and I have already gone over this tradition in our lessons so students understand the concept of the egg hunt.  They just don’t know yet that they’ll actually be doing it, albeit in China and in a classroom.  Wait until they find out the gold egg is worth 50 yuan!  I can imagine all the shrieks of excitement and racing around the room as they look frantically for where that gold egg might be.

As I said before: Make-up classes are a real pain, and absolutely nothing we students or instructors ever look forward to in fitting into a busy weekly schedule.  But in this case, my Easter activity night will be one make-up class no one is ever going to  regret attending.

Until next entry, Ping An (Peace), along with many, many Easter blessings sent your way.

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