Last Friday, Ying Yin (Catherine), from our school’s Foreign Affairs office, asked me to stop by and pick up something.
“Ah! Another mail bag of books for our English language resource library!” I thought to myself.
The donated books several groups and individuals have sent this semester often land in Catherine’s office. The most recent arrivals to stock the shelves were from Wesley UMC’s mission committee in Canton, IL and two big ones from Clemson UMC in South Carolina.
It’s always a thrill for me to begin unloading these canvas bags, seeing what titles will now grace yet another bookcase in the English departmental office. But this trip to the Foreign Affair’s office brought on a different kind of excitement.
Catherine was proud to present to me an official greeting and letter from the Sichuan Provincial Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. It seems that I have been chosen to receive the province’s highest honor given to foreign experts, the Jinding Award.
According to the letter, the Sichuan Jinding Award was established by the People’s Government of Sichuan Province to thank and commend foreign experts for their contributions and dedication to the training of Chinese personnel. These professionals, from a wide variety of fields, have contributed to Sichuan’s social development, economic, scientific, technological, educational and cultural construction. They were chosen through nomination from their work unit, the recommendation of their local city government and the approval of the Jinding Award committee.
I was chosen along with six other foreign experts of various fields to receive the honor for the year 2007. Our award ceremony is to be held on November 20 in Chengdu and is being combined with the 2008 winners.
Looking over the list of honorees, I saw 5 of us are from America, 2 from Germany and one each from Italy, Israel, India and Holland. 7 are from the capital city, Chengdu, while the rest of us are from smaller cities in the province. While it’s difficult to tell which field everyone is in (only their work units are mentioned), it looks like I’m the only teacher. The others are hosted by government agencies in health, agriculture and science.
One of the most surprising discoveries for me was that I’m the only woman! Looks like I’ll have no difficulty standing out among so many distinguished gentlemen. And being a rather vain woman, of course the first thing that popped into my head was, “Gracious! What in the world am I going to wear?!” We’re to be toured about the city, televised and featured in several newspapers so it had better be something spectacular.
Vanity aside, this is a truly a great honor, not only for myself but for the Amity Foundation, the United Methodist Board and my small Luzhou college. I honestly credit this award a great deal to my school, whose administrators and English language staff are always willing to listen to my ideas and help implement these within the curriculum. So often foreign language teachers here become frustrated because their Chinese colleagues and school show little interest in their efforts. The foreign teacher asks for help but the response is quickly dismissed with, “It’s too difficult” or “Not such a good idea.” My school is always happy to read over my proposals, give suggestions about do-ability and work with me to see things happen. It might be as simple as helping arrange a one-week use of an audio-visual classroom to more daunting tasks, such as regulating a city-wide English language speech contest. When a professional in my EFL field is given this kind of support and enthusiasm from her Chinese college, her students and her colleagues, it makes it easy to become an above-average educator.
Because I will be leaving next Tuesday for the 2 days of activities scheduled for us “experts,” this week I’m making up my classes I’ll be missing next week. It’s a bit of a shuffle to squeeze in an extra 8 hours. I feel so sorry for my students who are having to cram in yet more classroom time into their already busy schedules but they have been so kind about it. I expected my 2nd years to drag themselves (moaning and groaning) into Room 4203 this evening for our arranged 7-9 p.m. make-up. Instead, they bounded in with high spirits, laughing and quite talky. They were very gracious about helping me out in this way. Their positive, upbeat attitude really made our time together full of fun.
Most of next week will be spent in Chengdu as I load up the dog and head off to the capital city on Tuesday, returning on Sunday. Little Flower will be staying with Jalin’s family while I’m busy with the city tours and the ceremony the government is arranging for us. Our hotel accommodations are also taken care of by the provincial government. I certainly will be spoiled after an overnight in a fancy hotel.
Thursday to Sunday, I will move back to my small hotel near Jalin’s family where I can enjoy home-cooked meals every night once again. I am so much looking forward to seeing Jalin and her parents. It’s been a month and I miss them.
Be watching for updates on the rest of the week, including this Saturday’s city-wide English language speech contest. Our school is hosting the event for area college students in the morning and high school students in the afternoon. I’m the judge for the high school competition and am really looking forward to some excellent performances from Luzhou’s teenagers. Quite a few of these young language learners really are truly remarkable in their command of English. I’m sure they won’t disappoint any of us judging.
Until next time, here’s sending you a “Ping An!” (Peace) for your day.