Updates from Connie: Where will be my next teaching placement?

For those who follow The Current, the UMC Illinois Great Rivers Conference monthly newspaper, you now know the full story. If you missed it, here it is below. (I’m on page 12.)

I also covered this topic in the March 26 entry on this website.

Briefly, China’s Amity Foundation (amityfoundation.org) has closed its English language teaching program. This means that my sending agency, the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (UMGBGM), no longer has a placement for me in that country as an English language teacher.

After 24 years,  my service there is no longer available.  

Request for another overseas placement

While I have been grateful these 3 years to be placed in America as the Mission Advocate for the North Central Jurisdiction, my heart has always been in the classroom.

With my 3-year contract ending in September, I have requested for another overseas assignment which can utilize my skills as an educator while allowing me to join with local Christians and churches to continue my position as a United Methodist Global Ministries missionary.  At present, Rev. Paul Kong (Asia regional director) and Rev. Judy Chung (Missionary Service director) are discussing which placements are available for me, either in Asia or other parts of the world.  

What’s the process? I’m finding out: Slow!!

I have learned there are a lot of steps in a new assignment through Global Ministries.

Once that decision has been made, there will be detailed job descriptions written, documents signed by GM and the partner organization, a visa to obtain (that takes months sometimes), air tickets to purchase, 6 months (or longer) language study in the country and perhaps some further university education classes needed, depending on what the placement requires.

My things in China at present are being moved to a friend’s apartment in Luzhou.  The school wants to empty out my college apartment on the campus before June 1.   Once I know where I’ll be going, I will return to ship off my weeded-down-to-bare-essentials things to my next home.

A busy summer as Mission Advocate

In the meantime, I continue with my USA assignment, Mission Advocate for the North Central Jurisdiction.  I am helping 10 conferences get ready for their Annual Conferences with materials needed, missionary video requests, power point creations and whatever else is asked of me to help advertise Global Ministries many service projects, programs and my overseas mission colleagues.  

Leading English Fellowship Hour via Zoom with some of our United Methodist GMFs

I am currently creating numerous power points to lead 6 sessions of an online English Fellowship Hour for our new Global Mission Fellows (GMFs). These are young people, ages 20 – 30, who have applied for United Methodist programs and will serve for 2 years in community development and agricultural projects to help poverty-stricken areas worldwide. There are currently 19 new GMFs but for some, their first language is not English. A retired missionary teacher , Jane Kies, and I will be preparing those with limited language skills for the  upcoming summer missionary orientation. The orientation is all in English due to the GM staff being mostly native English speakers. Jane and I will be having 6 in our Fellowship Hour from the following countries: Togo, the Congo, the Ivory Coast, South Korea, and Columbia.

Jane and I will be meeting with them every Thursday, 7 a.m – 8 a.m.. my Central USA time. We’ve already had our first session. Such lovely, mission-oriented, committed young people! It truly restores your hope in the world.

Attending Annual Conference

 I will be attending, manning the missionary table, and speaking at our Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference from June 8 – 10. One exciting (and a bit nervous) moment for me will be addressing the bishops, delegates and others during one of the meeting time slots. I have been asked to represent Global Ministries, send greetings from the staff and give thanks for all prayers and financial giving to our missionaries and many projects in the world. If you are watching online, you’ll be seeing me but I don’t know the day or time yet. I’ll post when I know!

Visiting Churches for Presentations

I also continue to visit supporting churches and UWF units to give updates.   If you want me, let me know! I already have several Sundays taken for May and June. July is fairly open.

In Closing

Watch this space for more news of rescue dogs Lucy and Beanie, still looking for homes.

Also following this entry will be another, concerning my obscene amount of things in China (over 100 boxes plus other “stuff” ) which will be soon moved to storage in Luzhou . . . . without me being there!!  Eventually, I will return to go through everything to scale down to a decent amount for shipping.  In the meantime, I am relying on a dear friend (Australian Geoff, age 70, in Luzhou) to help with this venture.

(See the previous entry about Geoff and his wife, Snow:  https://connieinchina.org/2020/02/24/my-friend-australian-geoff-gives-weekly-luzhou-updates-via-snows-site123-me/)

The date is Wednesday, 2 p.m. China time (China is 13 hours ahead of us in America).  Send good thoughts my way, and definitely Geoff’s as well.  


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Mother’s Day Entry


For Mother’s Day, my hometown church is having a Mothers-Daughters-Friends banquet with fun activities afterwards. I purchased 4 tickets for me, my mom, friend Beverly (same age as my mom – 89) and our church secretary, Pat. Both Bev and Pat have helped me out so much with my newsletter mailings, copying and stuffing envelopes, so I wanted to treat them to something special.

After the dinner, the entertainment is to deck oneself in various hats, leis, hair clips and beads, go about to different photography stations and take pictures using your own personal cell phone. Before we begin our photo-taking sessions, one of our members (a professional photographer) will give a short program how to pose yourself, family members and what settings to use on your phone camera to make your pictures spectacular.

This idea was actually my mom’s so we’ll see how it turns out.

My mom’s Newspaper column for Mother’s Day

(My mom writes a weekly column for the newspaper, called Walk with Me. I’ll include the below which she had published yesterday, in honor of mothers.)

The only thing I can say about our last few weeks of colder and windier than normal weather is that we have had a longer than usual time to enjoy the flowering trees and bushes. Even the early blooming flowers have hung around longer. I hope you haven’t missed some of the local spectacular floral displays. Now it is time to put in those summer bedding plants as the ground is finally getting warm enough.

This week we all have walked right into Mothers Day, a day that includes grandmothers, sisters, mothers-in law and really, all women. If we haven’t been a mother, we all have had mothers. In our culture, it is a women-inclusive day. Recently I read that more phone calls are made on Mothers Day than any other time during the year. It is also the time when flower sales are highest. I learned from the National Retail Federation that over 312 billion dollars are spent on gifts for this special day with an average of 245 dollars spent on each gift.

Wow! 245 dollars for a Mothers Day gift carries a pretty heft price tag. I can recall a few of the gifts I gave my own mother but the price tag wasn’t anyway near that. Often the gift was a small vial of Evening in Paris cologne from the local Five and Dime . Those cobalt blue vials with the blue tassels looked really uptown to me and besides, they were within my price range.

One year as a gift, I vividly remember spending over an hour reading labels on 78 rpm vinyl records trying to decide which one to purchase. Our family had just acquired a record player and I wanted to add to our small collection of discs. I seem to recall it was a Decca label with a recording of Roy Rodgers singing something. Looking back now, I realize Roy Rogers was not really to my mother’s musical taste, but I am sure she appreciated the well-intentioned effort.

One year, for some strange reason, the family (husband Bill, son Paul and little Connie) and I decided to take both grandmothers to our nearby Lincoln Trail State Park for a grand cook-out and walk around. I’m not sure what we were thinking because both of those women were definitely not the outdoor type. Oh, they did appreciate nature as long as they didn’t have to spend too much time in it. It was a very warm day and as I remember, there wasn’t a lot of shade because the trees’ dense foliage had not yet fully developed. In addition to the lack of shade, the gnats were beginning to swarm. I don’t think either of the grandmothers enjoyed the great outdoors that year. The food, yes. Nature, no!

I don’t have too many memories of gifts I received on this great day. There were, of course, many hand- made cards carefully constructed in various of the children’s school classrooms, thanks to caring teachers. However, one special gift will never be forgotten. Connie and I still laugh about it today. That was the year I was trying to eat a low fat diet. For Mothers Day, husband Bill made a special, intentional grocery trip. Imagine my surprise when I opened the fridge to find it filled with a lot more food than usual. Every item had been wrapped in paper bags and labeled: Celery, carrots, lettuce and other veggies considered “healthy” were identified as “low fat.” His favorite ham, bologna, margarine tub and various meats (as well as ice cream in the freezer ) bore the words “high fat.”

For 30 minutes, I had great fun revealing from the paper bags what Bill had so carefully prepared but it took us several weeks to eat through this bounty of food. I will say that surprise gift has since become our most remembered, and favorite retold, Mothers Day story.

We all have wonderful stories to share but I include this last note concerning those mothers you don’t know: When you are celebrating Mothers Day with your friends and family, please take time to remember those mothers who are in war zones all over the world. Their day will not be as pleasant as ours. We should all acknowledge this and not forget them. Peace

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Rescue Dogs from China: Awaiting a new home

My three rescue dogs in China have finally arrived in America.

1) rescues coming to America

Chihuahua Little Sister, terrier Little Bean and sweet campus stray, Lucy, are adjusting well in my smalltown community after over 3 years being away from me.

These three had been kenneled in Luzhou, my Chinese city, since I left in 2020 on what was to be my 1-month winter break as a college teacher. Unexpectedly,  my four-week holiday ballooned into over 3 years when China’s strict Covid lockdown policies went into effect.  Foreigners and Chinese alike were stranded overseas and not allowed to return.  Despite my best efforts from afar to place my pets, none of my Chinese friends would take them.

On March 15, China finally threw open its doors to full international travel but my placement as an English language teacher with the Amity Foundation closed. I had expected to return to start up the new school year but that will not be happening.

Instead, I will be assigned to a new teaching position overseas, in another country. This news left somewhat of a dilemma concerning two things:

  1. When to get back to China to pack up over 30 years worth of household things in the school’s apartment (still working on that one)
  2. What to do with my four fostered animals.

Three-legged Three Finds a Home

Three at 6 months

I had been asking numerous friends to adopt my 4 foster animals left behind with kennel staff but only one person took me up on the offer. Just recently, Three, 3-legged kitty, found his way into one of my former student’s home along with her husband. “Angel” has been sending numerous pictures of fat and sassy Three flopped on her floor, cuddled under covers or hanging out at a kitty-friendly coffee shop she and husband, Wolf, patron quite often.

For Three, life now is finally once again full of love, attention and family.

Wolf and Three

My uncle to the rescue

 But the dogs, after 3 years, had yet to be taken in.

On many phone calls to my uncle, my mother’s brother, I had spoken of missing my pets and how distraught I was as to what to do. When I broke the news I was not to return to China as a teacher, he said, “Connie, you need your pets with you. I know how much my little fuzzy doggie means to me so just bring them back and I’ll take care of the cost.”

A Fascinating Journey

After an American friend put me in touch with DD Pet Relocation Service, an animal shipping company out of China, I arranged for their arrival. It took a total of 16 days with quite a round-about travel: private van pick-up from. my Luzhou kennel to the Chongqing Airport (2 hours away), flight to southern Guangzhou Province (2 hours), a 3-day wait there for overseas documents, a flight to Turkey first (16 hours) with Serbian caretaker Dusan, then to Serbia, after which Dusan was put in charge of getting their US paperwork completed. That took 7 days. Next came the flight to America–Serbia to Turkey to Chicago (18 hours) –after which Dusan immediately loaded them into a rented van to bring them directly to my doorstep in Marshall, Illinois.

They landed at 1:30 a.m. and have been here ever since.

Connie and Serbian Dusan, who delivered her pets to her doorstep

Sister will stay with me.  But my fervent hope is that someone in Marshall, or the surrounding area, will welcome terrier Little Bean and campus stray Lucy into their homes as fosters or permanent family members. I would love to see the two stay together as they are best friends.  Please think on it, either for yourself or someone you know, as you read their stories.

Little Bean, the Terrier

On a main street near my college was a veterinarian clinic.  Unwanted pets or sick street animals were often dumped at this facility because no one wanted to pay for their care. They were thrown into rusted cages in an unlit back room.  Aside from being fed, they were basically ignored. Some died; others clung desperately to life.

One day, a compassionate staff member waved me in, showed me the back room and wondered if I’d ask friends to adopt any of the cats or dogs there.  I did manage to find loving owners for two but the rest were problematic.  In the end, I took the ones in greatest need:  Three, the three-legged kitten with a mangled limb, Stinky the Yorkie with a leaking urinary tract, and Little Bean, the terrier with a horrific case of mange.   I hustled Three and Stinky to Chengdu, a city 4 hours away by bus, to an excellent veterinarian hospital.  They had the operations necessary to give them normal lives.  Three accompanied me back to Luzhou and Stinky stayed in Chengdu with an American couple.   

Beanie, meanwhile, remained with me, Sister and Three.  After several months of medicated shampoos, good nutrition and a lot of comforting care, she was added to our little clan.

 Sweet Lucy, the Campus Stray

My college campus was full of strays.  Dogs of all sizes wandered through the gates, looking for food or shelter, until they were chased away by the school’s security guards.  One was Blackie, who was looked after by several campus workers.  When she had a litter of 2 puppies, which I named Linus and Lucy, tolerance of her presence changed. Student safety became an issue as more animals appeared. Edicts came down from school leaders to get rid of all homeless dogs and cats by any means possible.  Blackie, Linus and numerous others were poisoned.  Lucy managed to escape the poisoning but not the harsh methods used by the workers to evict any dog in sight.  I found her cowering under a bush, her front leg snapped in two.  Without hesitation, I scooped her up, carried her to my apartment and the next day, took her to one of the better veterinarian clinics in my city.

The X-ray showed a nasty break, one that could be stabolized with an implanted metal rod.  After a successful surgery, Lucy recovered to her full, happy self.  She joined Beanie, Sister, Three, and me to complete our contented, peaceful little household.

Hanging Out in the Wieck Household

Terrier Beanie, Chichuahua Sister and campus stray, Lucy Lou, enjoy their first day in America.

As you read this article, our migrants are happily playing in the back yard, enjoying the sunshine.  Three, however, did not join his canine siblings.  

Will someone reading this consider offering Little Bean and Lucy a similar happy ending as Three?  Please contact me at corneliaw2000@hotmail.com.  I’ll be happy to answer questions and discuss foster or adoption details.  Working together, let’s welcome our newly arrived immigrants with the best homes imaginable.

Connie with her Chinese immingrants

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Connie’s Updates of Returning to China as an Amity Foundation Teacher

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The message from my Chinese college’s foreign affairs director was heartbreaking. 

 “Connie,” it read.  “We are so sorry.  Amity has ended the teaching program. We will not invite you back.” 

For 24 years, the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries partnered with China’s Christian-founded service organization, the Amity Foundation, to place me as an educator at struggling colleges in China.   

Since 1987, Amity has been inviting foreign language teachers to teach at  small universities and junior colleges whose budgets couldn’t pay top salaries for a foreigner. Colleges in China offer majors in business, international trade and English education. Furthermore, Chinese PhD candidates wishing to study overseas or those doing research, hoping to be published in international journals, must have their articles written in English, the common language for such publications. All of this requires students choosing from numerous selected courses in our language, thus the importance of dedicated, qualified English language teachers in the country. Many higher educational institutions in China can’t afford insurance, flight fees and bonuses which larger, more prominent Chinese universities can.    Thus Amity has stepped in by offering an Amity Foundation Teacher, one committed to service rather than wealth. 

I have been very honored to be a teacher through this uplifting, vital program.  When I became stranded in the States due to Covid, with China closing its borders during the pandemic, it was devastating.  While I’ve been very grateful to my denomination for giving me a USA position (Mission Advocate for the North Central Jurisdiction), it hasn’t been the same as teaching.  

Now China has finally opened.  But after anxiously awaiting for 3 years to return to Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, I have been told the Amity Teaching program has come to an end.  

In a recent Zoom meeting, it was fully explained the reasons behind this. 

First, the Amity Foundation status at sponsoring schools is becoming problematic.   China is divided into 31 provinces, which are similar to America’s 50 states.  During these 3 years of Covid, without my presence, my position as an Amity Foundation teacher was not reinstated in Sichuan Province.  In fact, I was told the provincial government denied Amity’s application because the officials didn’t understand why an organization located in Jiangsu Province was requesting to have a foreign teacher employed in Sichuan Province.  The strong ties Amity had with government officials in Sichuan since 2001 had, sadly, disintegrated during the Covid years.  

Secondly, the number of Amity teachers has dwindled.  We used to have 40 to 50  instructors from all over the world who taught in this program.  But over the years, this has not been the case. Many teachers couldn’t commit to living several years overseas without adequate salaries.  Advertising among denominations and service organizations for possible Amity teachers in China also diminished.  Plus the request by colleges for Amity teachers plummeted as China became more prosperous, with schools becoming financially sound enough  to hire their own teachers at competitive pay scale.  In 2020, I was the last Amity Foundation teacher left standing.  All of my colleagues had left due to retirement, health reasons or monetary constraints. 

Thirdly, Amity staff is stretched too thin.  The Amity Teaching Program is  a minuscule part of Amity’s education division.  The cost of the program, staff involvement, and paperwork involved was just not feasible for only one person, myself. 

 Lastly, Global Ministries  requires partnership between its in-country organizations and our placements. If the placement ends, or is no longer viable or needed, we move on to where we can be of better service.

Discussions are underway of sending me to a different country where my skills as an English teacher can be of more help.  I should know where that will be in a few weeks. So exciting!!

As for my apartment on my college campus in China, when the time comes,  I will be returning to clear out, pack up and send my things onward to my next teaching position. I will have the ability to say goodbye, sing with my church choir once again, enjoy numerous farewell banquets, and lead a few English language seminars for interested students and colleagues.  Absolutely, I will have the necessary closure to emotionally, mentally and spiritually depart from the country and people that have so warmly embraced me these many years.

Be following this space for more news from me! (See below our recently taken church directory photo: me, China rescue Bridget and my mom, Priscilla. Yes, I’m still living with Mom in her “new” little house. And, yes, I am a VERY grateful, and feel extremely blessed, to have such a wonderful mother.)


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My Meeting with Jimmy Carter

This article, “Tongue-tied before my hero,” by Marshall, Illinois native Connie Wieck, was published in the October 11, 2012 issue of The Christian Science Monitor’s Home Forum section. As Jimmy Carter is now in hospice, I share it with you here.

I recently received an email from my mother concerning an interview she’d heard with Jimmy Carter

“I’m sure you can catch it online,” she wrote, then added, “Remember when you met Jimmy Carter?”

Leave it to a mother to start rattling skeletons in her daughter’s closet. Although there are plenty to rattle, my face-to-face meeting with Mr. Carter has always been a particularly embarrassing experience to recall.

In 1997, I was staying near the campus of  Emory University in Atlanta, attending a three-month orientation program for overseas work. Our small group of participants was fairly representative of the global village: Some were first-time visitors to America. Others were residents or US citizens. But we all knew about Jimmy Carter. I took great pride in my former US president, a man whom I greatly admired for his humanitarian work both in my country and around the world.

The final days of our program had been hectic. I’d had no time to return several books to the university library, so I found myself heading out on a chilly December evening to do so.

I arrived on a campus that was oddly quiet. With final exams beginning the next day, students were absorbed in their studies.

While taking a shortcut through the student union, I came across a posted announcement: “Today from 4 to 6 p.m., Jimmy Carter book signing. Join us!”

My heart sank. Of all the worthwhile campus events I had carefully scheduled in my calendar, this one had slipped my notice. It was well past six o’clock. I’d missed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet a legend.

In irritation, I made my way down the corridor leading outside. As I passed a meeting room, I glimpsed a white-haired man at a long table.

I stopped.

Was that who I thought it was?

I stealthily peered through the open doorway.

Carter was methodically signing a pile of books. A formidable bodyguard in a neatly pressed suit stood nearby. No one else was in sight.

I dashed to the adjacent student union bookstore, snatched Carter’s book from the shelf, paid the cashier, and sprinted back to the conference room. As I ran, I rehearsed what I’d say: I’d ooze words of admiration, spout intelligent remarks, pose profound questions. This meeting was to be a highlight of my life. I wanted it to be perfect.

I stepped inside the room. With feigned calm, I approached the man who had so inspired me. He looked up with that famous wide smile of his. I opened my mouth and out came … nothing.

“Mr. Carter,” I finally squeaked, “I admire you so much!”

“Why, thank you,” he said kindly, prying the book from my nervous grip.

He slowly opened to the front cover.

“And are you a student here?” he asked politely.

“Uh, no.”

He waited for further explanation. I frantically searched for something to say and miraculously managed a complete sentence.

“I’m attending an orientation.”

He nodded.

“Overseas work.”

He looked interested.


He smiled encouragingly.

“In Taiwan, ” I added.

“And do you speak Chinese?” he asked while signing my book with a quick stroke of his pen.

“A little.”

There was a pause, meant for me to display some of my language expertise. But for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a single word to say in my own language, much less another.

“Well, that’s good,” he continued. “I wish you the best of luck.”

“Uh, thank you. Thank you very much.”

I took back my book, wanting desperately to say more. Instead, I watched Carter turn back to signing the pile of books as I made a speedy getaway.

I’ve relived that meeting many times. In those encounters, I don’t try to impress with brilliant statements and intellectual chatter. Carter and I simply talk about sensitizing others to the world’s cultural differences and establishing understanding among nations. In that meeting, I discover what it takes to be a Nobel Piece Prize winner and, years later, can reflect upon a remarkable conversation with a man who has brought the world’s people a little closer to unity and peace.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Rare Sighting at Lincoln Trail State Park

My mother, along with Bridget the dog, and I often go walking at our nearby Lincoln Trail State Park. Our exercise routine has been made even more enjoyable with all the winter wildlife that has been recently found calling the park home.

Last week, we enjoyed the flocks of duck, Canadian geese and swan that were hanging out on their journeys. There were thousands! Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my cell phone to get a picture. Today, I thought to remedy that but, alas, when we arrived, all had disappeared. Only a measly few stragglers (5 swan, 1 goose and 2 ducks) were left swimming their way on the water’s surface.

How disappointing.

We regretted losing the moment last week but rather than waste our trip, we turned to the winter campground road (now empty of visitors) to march our way close to the woods before heading down the walkway trail we so much enjoy.

It was on our brisk walk that we saw thi white speck in the distance.

At first, we thought it was a dog. But as we crept slowly toward it, closer and closer and closer, we realized it was . . . . a deer.

Yes, a pure white albino deer. The lack of pigmentation showed a white hide, pink nose and white hooves. I didn’t make it close enough to check the eyes before he darted away but I’m guessing the eyes were pink, as is customary for this kind of unusual, rare genetic condition.

I did some research later and discovered one in 30,000 deer is an albino. Considering how infrequently such an animal comes into being, I would say my mom and I are so very fortunate to be seeing one in person. My mom is 89 and this is the first time she’s ever seen one.

What a remarkable, amazing surprise for our day!

I also found there are several superstitions surrounding an albino deer. One states that if a hunter kills an albino deer, the hunter will experience bad luck in hunting for the rest of his life.

Native American lore suggests that white animals are a sign of prophecy, a message from the Great Spirit to be discussed among the tribal elders: “The role of the white deer is to remind us of our spirituality. ‘This white one represents the sacredness of all living things and they should be left alone, never hunted or bothered. When we see them, we should take notice of our own spirituality and think about where we are with it.’ “

As for me and my mom, we just felt very honored that Mother Nature gave us this moment to see the beauty and astounding diversity of the many creatures on the earth. And I was grateful to have my i-phone with me to get the pictures!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Year of the Rabbit is Here!

Yes, the Year of the Rabbit is nearly upon us!

Today, January 21 (Saturday), is Spring Festival Eve (Chinese New Year Eve), celebrated by Chinese all around the world, with January 22nd beginning the Year of the Rabbit.

At present, it’s just after midnight in China, a time when everyone stays up late to watch TV gala performances of celebrities and well-known talk show hosts usher in the new year. In other words, people are up and diligently engaged in celebrating.

My former students, friends and Chinese church choir members are rapidly exploding my WeChat text messages with greetings.

兔年快乐!Happy Year of the Rabbit!
愿好运和好运伴随着你来年。May good luck and fortune be with you in the coming year.
新年快乐!Happy New Year!

I, in return, have already sent out my own greeting via video which my mom helped me prepare. I have numerous remarks already, of how great my mom looks (89) and how much I am missed. Here is our video below:

For a rescue from China, Bridget doesn’t seem all too enthusiastic about the upcoming holiday, which will last 15 days until the Lantern Festival ends the celebrations and all go back to work.

Updates about my Return

At present, my college will not be in session again until February 6 when students return to start up a new semester.  At that time, my Chinese organization’s (The Amity Foundation) Education Division Director, “Olivia” Chen,  will once again be discussing with college leaders when they can send my invitation letter to once again return to teach.  This has been ongoing since November and I’m not sure why it is taking so long.  I believe the college wants to re-negotiate the strict contract which all Amity teachers follow:  16 teaching hours a week, only English Education Majors (not business or tourism) and participation in the 3-self church if we wish.

A different China than when I left

During these past 3 years, China has greatly changed and become more inwardly focused.  The English language, while a mandatory subject in elementary, junior and senior high school, is now not considered as vital as before.  This means less students who will major in teaching English and more students going into the tourism and business fields. 

While this has always been somewhat of a struggle between Amity’s criteria and colleges applying for an Amity teacher, the colleges mostly are happy to follow such guidelines because they will receive qualified, experienced teachers and our salary follows that of the Chinese teachers:  We receive 4,200 yuan (roughly $700 US) a month whereas most native-speaking foreign teachers with NO experience or background in English education receive $2,000 – 4,000 a month, plus free housing and bonuses. These are from private children’s language schools who have very wealthy parents, not public government colleges which Amity only associates with. Of course, for that high amount, schools often take advantage and give teachers work schedules of teaching every day (6-7 days a week), 8 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m., evening hours being assigned for parents willing to pay that extra for private lessons. Children at such private institutions usually range in age from 2 years old (!!) to 12.

Personally speaking, I think we become more of a babysitter than a teacher under such circumstances but that’s my own opinion.

It really just depends on the contract and what was agreed upon how the school wishes to use the foreign teacher.  Many times, though, the contract is not honored and the foreign teacher is stuck at the school.  He or she can’t leave because the visa is tied to the school.  Leaving one school and going to another requires a lot of paperwork, uprooting and new certifications or documents needed which the teacher has to pay for.

In Closing: Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Having said all of that, I am hoping that my college will agree to Amity’s mission, which is to educate the future teachers of China, and allow me to continue as their only foreign language teacher.  If not, there are other schools in China which are wanting an Amity teacher and since I’m the LAST one left, I guess I’ll have my pick!

If you have time, folks, go to your local Chinese restaurant and wish those there a Happy New Year.  They’ll be so pleased you remembered them on their special day.

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Catching Up: My WeChat Holiday Postings to Students, Colleagues and Friends in China

For the past 3 years, while in the States, I’ve made sure to keep in constant contact with my Chinese friends, former students, teaching colleagues, school leaders and my Chinese church community at the Luzhou Protestant Church. We communicate daily on China’s WeChat, a network I describe as a combination of Facebook and What’s App.

WeChat posts for me include voice mails, videos, mini-blogs and lots of pictures. What received the most notice for December were all the activities my mom and I did for the holidays: Christmas tree buying, house decorating, church worship services, choir practices, baking cookies and delivering these to neighbors, shoveling snow (Sichuan, where I teach, rarely has freezing temperatures or snow), my town’s tour of Christmas lights, and Christmas Day happenings, including coming to the free community turkey dinner which had 100 attending.

What gained the most comments, however, was my yearly Christmas and New Year’s video featuring myself, my mom and my older brother.

Our first one in 2021 was an arm-twisting venture on my part.

I was expecting that I’d be back in China the next year so I somewhat blackmailed my mom and brother into doing a holiday greeting to my Chinese students as: “This will never, ever happen again as I doubt I’ll be in America for another Christmas anytime soon. Please, please do this for me?”

Despite their complaints and heavy sighs of “Oh, all right! Let’s get it over with,” both were eager to watch it over and over again after I sent out to over 40 in China, including numerous chat groups I belong to. For a week after, I had so many comments made about our video, from how young my mom looked to what a great singer my brother was to how cute the dog acted.

On a daily basis, my mom would ask, “So what did someone have to say about our video this morning?” (See below’s 2021 Greeting)

This Year’s Greeting

Now we come to this past Christmas, with me still being here and my once-again ask of mom and elder brother for yet another recording of a holiday message for 2022.

There were moans and groans, eye-rolling and the previous year’s “Well, let’s hurry up and get it over with,” but I noticed that after it was done, they both seemed pleased not only with our performance but with the many responses it received.

See what you think of our 2022 family holiday video. It was VERY well-received in China, accompanied by “Connie, welcome you to come back soon!” from my Chinese contacts.

China News Today

Today is January 8th, the true opening of China. 10-day hotel quarantines and cell phone App Covid negative codes are no longer required for any incoming flights from overseas. The Chinese wealthy, and those itching to get out of the country to either tour or visit overseas relatives, have booked flights to Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Europe, Indonesia, America, Australia, Canada . . . and the list goes on. With the approach of Chinese New Year (January 22) and the 7-day holiday that follows, travel outside the country has really picked up and will continue to do so for the next month. Although the spread of Covid is horrendous at present due to the open-up policy, with almost all of those I know either infected with Covid or recovering from Covid, this doesn’t seem to stop anyone from leaving home, eating out, visiting friends or relatives or engaging in domestic and international travel.

The young seem to be faring well after getting Covid but the death toll is very high among the elderly, with only 40% having been fully vaccinated. This low number was due to a lax push for the older communities to get vaccinated and also suspicion of Western-style approaches (vaccinations and overseas medicine) vs. Chinese traditional methods of healing (herbal based and accupuncture).

Shocking videos have inundated the Internet on overseas websites: hospitals overwhelmed with the sick, worried relatives attending patient-filled cots lining medical center hallways, long lines outside of pharmacies for any much-needed, in-short-supply drugs, body bags piling high in freezer units or warehouses, and crematoriums working 24/7 to deal with the growing number of dead. Grieving relatives are having to book cremation and funeral space 10 days in advance (or longer). In the meantime, I have no idea where their deceased loved ones are being held while the wait for cremation and funerals commences.

There are so many heart-wrenching stories and videos. These are not being highlighted at all in the Chinese public. The government reports only 22 have so far died of Covid. We all know that is not true, the Chinese included. Most likely, the true number of infections and deaths will never be announced with accuracy, this year or in the future.

What about Connie’s Return?

Now that China is opening up, I’m anxiously waiting for announcements about when I can get back to my teaching placement at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College.

At present, my partner organization (The Amity Foundation) is working directly with my college in Luzhou for an official invite for me to return. From what I understand, the Amity director is needing to re-negotiate and re-instate my status as an Amity Foundation Teacher with the school before I can begin the process of applying for my visa and prepare to get back to my classroom and students. Rest assured, Amity is earnestly working with my school leaders and the college’s foreign affairs office to see everything is in order, documents properly prepared, so I can smoothly slide into my teaching position once again.

I have been told to be patient.

I expect with Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) approaching, and the usual 7-day holiday from January 22 – January 30, plus students not returning to school until Feb. 6 to start up the new semester, nothing much will probably be done.

Keep watching this space, and hope for that announcement within the next month of my hoped-for rejoining of my college staff in 2023. What a joyful announcement that will be!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Luzhou Protestant Church: Renovation Project in Full Swing, Almost Completed

(This post was created the first week of December. More information yet to come. I’ve been blocked from my Word Press account until today! Whew. Nice to be back with you all.)

New roof, plastering and repainting of walls, installing fancy light fixtures, adding office space and updating toilet facilities – The pictures I received of renovations taking place in Luzhou’s 1913 Protestant church were quite the project. 

The last time this was done was in 2003 and took 3 months to complete.  When I heard of the current changes, my greatest concern was the destruction of the original 110-year-old Christian-influenced design on the front wall of the sanctuary. But in the photos Pastor Liao sent to me, I see parishioner members are just as nostalgic as I in keeping the history of the church intact as well as the memory of the Canadian Methodist missionaries who founded it. 

Below find the sanctuary in black-and-white from 1913, and then 2020, right before I left, with the same floral design on the front-wall worship center as 109 years before.

And here below, the updating. What a mess!

I asked when completion of this project was expected and she gave me a 1-week time frame.  In the meantime, there is a larger open area on the 3rd floor of the adjacent Luzhou Gospel Hospital which might be designated as the alternative site for church activities.  In 2003, when a more extensive 3-month project took place,  people brought plastic stools and scrunched together to continue Sunday services in that space.  I remember it was a tight squeeze for over 300 but we made it.   

Since only 1 week of construction for this latest updating , it might be different plans have been made. Here below is what the new additions to the present building will look like, along with an upscaling of the Luzhou Gospel Hospital next to it.

Luzhou Plans

I did ask about the cost, if money was still needed or if donations were allowed.  I would like to help if I can.  Pastor Liao’s response was a hefty 400,000 yuan ($58,000 US) but her main concern regarded donation giving for the new church fund. 

There is a second, new church complex which has been in the works for over 5 years now in another part of town.  The Amity Foundation set up a fund for this where Chinese donors can send money via the organization’s website specifically for that project.  Pastor Liao mentioned “millions” still being needed to continue construction for the 3-building complex:  1) Church   2) Christian Education Center, with dormitories and classrooms being used for lay leader training and continuing education of pastors and church leaders  3) New and improved Luzhou Gospel Hospital.

These plans were drawn up 5 years ago, with the digging-the-foundation photo having been taken in November of 2019.  I don’t think much has been done since then, due to Covid lockdowns, and also due to a faltering fundraising drive.  The millions needed just haven’t come in.

Today’s Updates:  For the New Year, 2023

During the month of December, so many changes happened in China:  Zero-Covid policy was suddenly abolished; Covid spread like wildfire and continues to do so; Church services are now online and not in person due to the virus infection rate ripping throughout the country; January 8 opening date for China with no more quarantine required for those entering the country; Schools all going online and not in person because of so many getting sick; the Chinese New Year holidays approaching, from January 22 to Feb. 6.

I will report about my hoped-for China return in a few days.  I’ll be hearing soon from China’s Amity Foundation, my sponsoring agency, this week.  Be watching this space for exciting news, I hope!

And Happy New Year, everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Promised from Last Entry: My Conversation with “Nancy”

I left you all with the cliffhanger of the interesting conversation I had with Nancy, one of my first students in China. She is currently staff manager of the Four Seasons Hotel in Guangzhou, seen here below. (Nancy sent me the pictures of her food servers and chefs during a restaurant instructional meeting, along with a food-tasting experience, gourmet pizza)

Below are some photos Nancy sent of her trip she and her husband took to the Gobi Dessert, along with pictures of her beloved Border Collie.

The Reports from Nancy:  Number 1 — Hotels are Full

With very few foreign business folk or wealthy foreigners entering the country, you might be wondering who exactly can afford paying US $250-and-up a night for such a swanky hotel room in her  Four Seasons. (Other Four Season Hotels in other Chinese cities are $450 or more)

None other than wealthy and upper middle class Chinese.

According to Nancy, Covid restrictions on traveling around the country have kept many couples and families in their residential cities, meaning they have no place to go.  Thus they’ve been booking highclass hotels for one night to have a little respite from apartment living.  They can use all the amenities, order room service or enjoy  dinners and buffets in the hotel restaurants (usually there are 2 or 3 to meet the needs of various Western and Chinese tastebuds), sit in the ostentatiously decorated lobbies to people-watch, enjoy night views from the outside rooftop,  or go to the sports’ areas to play ping-pong, badminton, basketball (yes, some have outside basketball courts) and swimming.

Nancy also mentioned her hotel in Guangzhou is always booked solid for the lunch.  Chinese love to eat and the $35-50 per person buffet is one which is highly desirable for the 2-hour lunch break many have.

Nancy’s hotel offers “casual dining” at the 72nd floor Italian restaurant, Caffe Mondo.

Evening meals will run a person $150 – 200 per couple. Reservations are definitely required.

Mental Health Facilities at Capacity

Another of Nancy’s interesting mentions dealt with mental hospitals.  

The Zero-Covid has done a number on China’s economy, people’s freedom and way of life.  With so many lockdowns (unable to leave homes for weeks at a time), limits on travel (tourism at a stand-still in many areas),  shutting down of factories (meaning migrant workers have no means of supporting family back on the farm),  job losses (so many small businesses closed their doors, unable to bounce back from unending lockdown procedures), young people unable to find employment, and at one time stable, middle-aged couples with kids losing their jobs as well, it’s been a nightmare.

The mental health of many has reached an all-time desperation low.  Depression has set in. People now are looking for help by checking into mental hospitals.  

I remember when the 2008 earthquake hit and how unprepared China’s mental health professionals were to adequately counsel  those suffering from the after-effects of such a horrendous tragedy. Chinese are not used to “bearing all” to strangers and many psychologists did not have updated, modernized methods how to truly help those who experienced trauma.

The Amity Foundation, aside from attending to the physical needs of earthquake victims, sent well-trained psychologists from Nanjing, the organization’s headquarters,  to the hard-hit areas.  These individuals worked with local mental health professionals to lead seminars which trained how to give the best possible mental healing to those feeling utter hopelessness.   

In today’s Covid situation, I do know suicide has been on the rise with many feeling there is no end in sight.  An increase in domestic violence has been a huge issue as well due to  family members  being stuck at home together, money being scarce, the looming fear of getting Covid, changing temperaments and an inability to “get away” due to constant lockdowns. 

Luzhou has a mental hospital, very near the Number 6 Middle School swimming pool I used to exercise in every day.  I wonder if it is likewise full of patients affected by the current Covid restrictions over the past 3 years?  Be interesting to find out.

Closing Off

The bright side is that in my area of China, things are back to normal.  

My college is now open, with students having returned after the October holidays.  They are attending in-person classes.  Residents are only required to do Covid testing once a week.  My Luzhou Church has finished a major renovation of the 1913 building, which I will report on in the next post.  Worship is open to all and the church choir has been holding regular practices twice a week as always.

Foreign English teachers are being hired by private pre-schools and getting into the country.  I know of 3 who have landed this week and are in quarantine.

It might be my school leaders will be willing to invite me back in for 2023.  Send lots of good thoughts my way for that!

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

Posted in coronavirus, coronavirus situation in China, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories, Tales of China, Travel | Leave a comment