January 12th was my birthday.
At 45, I had so much to celebrate. New placement, new friends, a new life in yet another part of China, which I love – A lot to be grateful and thankful for.
But this year, my birthday brought with it memories of yet another kind: That of the Sichuan earthquake from May of 2008.
As you are all aware, Haiti’s own devastating 7.1 quake hit on my birthday just last week. From the United Methodist head offices, three of our UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) individuals were caught in the crush of buildings. Rev. Sam Dixon, head of UMCOR, and Rev. Cling Rabb, who led UMCOR’s voluntary mission service, lost their lives due to this tragedy. Rev. James Gulley survived.
(If you are interested in reading the full article of James Gulley’s account of his rescue, please go to this site: http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=5636)
While the news of our UMCOR staff did bring the disaster a little closer to home for me, it was actually my experiences with the Sichuan earthquake that further spur me into deep worry and prayer for those still trying to survive under great distruction.
In Sichuan, the Chinese government’s excellent infrastructure, strong manpower and organizational skills allowed it to quickly coordinate relief efforts from around the world and meet the needs of the earthquake survivors, their families and also the dead. Even rebuilding was begun and, in many cases, completed in a timely manner.
But Haiti had no such infrastructure to begin with. This lack of organization and stable environment hits our TV and Net reports with a vengeance. It makes me truly realize how very fortunate and blessed we all are to live in our cozy surroundings.
Even my Chinese students, wrapped up in finals and the excitement of returning home for Spring Festival, have great sympathy and concern for those far away.
It’s heartwarming that they care.
My Term Finally Ends
The students have yet another 2 weeks before the semester closes but for myself, today marks the end. Tests have been taken, grades calculated and handed out, and safe journeys given for the upcoming travels home.
I am officially done, with packing yet to do and tidying up before I leave Longzhou in two-days time.
Monday will have me in Nanning at the Amity Winter Conference where we teachers and Amity staff gather for informational discussions about the organization and our teaching terms. There will also be a day of visiting Amity rural development projects in the nearby area. This is something we all look forward to. Last year, I reported on the bio-gas and solar panel projects of remote northern Gansu villages. This year, we’ll see what other great projects are in store for our Amity rural development visits here, far to the south.
Saying Thank you: A Western Soup Dinner
As always, it’s nice to say thank you to those who have been extremely helpful in settling the new foreign teacher into her new home. Vice-dean Liang Ling and my co-teacher, Kate, joined me on Friday evening for a homemade vegetable soup dinner, my treat.
Of course, soup in China is not at all considered a meal, no matter how thick or hearty it is. I wouldn’t be surprised if they left my place to return home and gobble down several bowls of rice to fill in the cracks. But it was the experience and the thought that counted, and that’s what we all enjoyed.
Both had never tasted butter before, which was to be used for our rolls. Butter is not a customary food item in China. We can only get it in the provincial capital city, Nanning, and I did load up in November for my Christmas baking. I was fortunate to have some left over for other purposes, including this gathering for dinner.
I always enjoy sharing my Western-style meals with others and also teaching the Chinese good table manners. My guests learned how to gently tear pieces of bread off the roll, use their own knife to spread the butter on and then eat without noisily smacking their lips. Most Chinese will saw the roll in half, slap a huge 1-inch slab of butter inside, squash it together to make a sandwich and chomp away. I see a lot of that from the Chinese on the airplane during our in-flight meals.
It’s a little disconcerting for one who was raised by a very finicky mother who really nailed home the polite way to eat. (Yes, when it comes to table manners, I am the first to admit I’m a snob.) I do have great forgiveness, however, when it comes to the Chinese. Since no one educated my Asian brothers and sisters in dining etiquette, how can I possibly expect them to know what to do? So when I get the chance to share my expertise, I’ll do it, mostly because I feel it’s my duty as a foreigner but also because of my mother’s influence.
We ladies certainly had a nice time together, chatting about women’s matters and such. We parted with smiles on our faces and best wishes for the upcoming Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as we say here, wherever we might be.
And on that happy note, here’s wishing you Ping An (peace) for your weekend with my next update from Nanning, at the Amity winter conference.